Archive for the ‘Who Knows What All’ Category.

Cookies Make It All Better

What is it about cookies? Cookies, cookies, cookies. We love them so.

I’ve been massaging a new cookie recipe for a few months, attempting to create a really yummy vegetarian chocolate chip cookie. As usual, none of the recipes I found in my books or online were quite what I was looking for. I wanted to eliminate butter and eggs and refined sugar, as well as white flour.

Wait, what? There is nothing left, you say?! Oh ho! I say not so fast, Cookie Monster (c’mon, you know you are). Observe:

Holly’s Vegetarian Chocolate Chippers


Egg replacer:

  • 3 Tbsp finely ground flax seeds
  • 4 Tbsp water


  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • ¼ c. vital wheat gluten
  • 1 c. finely grated coconut
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt


  • ½ c. corn oil
  • ½ c. honey
  • ¼ c. pure maple syrup
  • ¼ c. dark molasses
  • ¼ c. Florida Crystals natural sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • 1 package Sunspire grain-sweetened chocolate chips
  • ½ c. chopped nuts of your choice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil two large cookie sheets.

2. Place flax seeds and water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, stir together wet ingredients and the flax seed mixture.

5. Add half the dry ingredients at a time to the wet mixture and blend till just combined.

6. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts or other goodies (if using).

7. Scoop 2 Tbsp portions onto a cookie sheet. The cookies will spread some. Try to keep the chips in toward the center of the dough so the chocolate doesn’t scorch.

8. Bake 15-18 minutes, till desired doneness. Longer baking time will result in crispier edges, but be careful not to over bake. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

9. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes: 24 cookies


These babies are chewy and yummerific enough to totally satisfy the cookie monster in anyone, so give this recipe a try. Heck, you may want to try it over and over over. Because perfecting a recipe is an excellent excuse to bake a lot of cookies. You know, in the name of science.

Bonus: Eating this dough raw is perfectly safe, since there are no raw eggs to worry about. Just don’t eat *too* much, or you might get a tummy ache anyway!

A Blog with a Stuffy Accent

Surfing around reading various news sites and blogs on the ‘net, like ya do, I stumbled across Stephen Fry’s blog. Mm-hmm, you read that correctly, Stephen Fry has a blog.

Yes, the delightful British actor of stage, movies, and television. Who, for example, played Oscar Wilde. And had a hilarious show with Hugh Laurie, oh so many years ago. And played the painfully funny Mybug in one of my favorite movies, Cold Comfort Farm.

Okay, so maybe it’s not such a big deal that he has a blog. Heck, I have a blog, for goodness’ sake. But wait, it’s not like that! Mr. Fry, apparently, is a longtime tech geek and gadgetophile. Who knew? I enjoyed reading his blog articles with titles such as “Social networking through the ages,” and especially (since I have been doing a lot of camera research lately) “Compact cameras have arrived at That Stage.” I didn’t find any earth-shattering news, just entirely fun stuff with an across-the-pond twist, particularly when read using Mr. Fry’s haughtiest inflections in your head. Trust me on that part.

For what garden-variety Yankee can resist a slyly snide phrase like “barely sentient” and the completely nontechnical yet highly enjoyable “far more capacity than could ever be sanely used” when spoken in snooty British comedy show tones? Americans don’t talk (or, God knows, blog) like this, and thus I found the content to be only half the fun. The language alone kept me reading. And laughing. Case in point:

What is wrong with that Ixus I bought three years ago? That old Pentax Optio will see me through to my old age, won’t it? No! No, you crazed enemy of freedom, you wild-eyed anti-capitalist, you deranged luddite. Haven’t you heard of Face Detection Technology? Smile Capture? Best Shot Automatic YouTube Uploading?

If you’ve enjoyed Mr. Fry’s work, do follow the Wikipedia link (oh dear, have I just lapsed into a fake accent?!). I did not know how multi-talented a guy he is, nor how much difficulty he has coped with in his life. It just helps me appreciate him all the more. Indeed.

How to Make a Killer Fire in the Wood Stove

I’m sure everybody else who has a wood stove has thought of these techniques already, but nobody ever told me. I’ve finally ironed this out after two months of building fires here at Murray Creek. I am hereby sharing my brilliant ideas with you so that you may become, like me, a fire goddess (or god).

Instructions for Making a Killer Fire:

  • When the person bagging your items at the grocery store asks, “Paper or plastic?” say, “Paper, please.” Smiling is good, too, although it doesn’t help with your fire directly. One might argue that your fire has a better chance of success if you yourself are in a good mood as a result of smiling at everybody and thus apt to use more care and attention in starting your fire, but I digress (as usual).
  • Continue reading ‘How to Make a Killer Fire in the Wood Stove’ »

Fanciful (and Amazing) Paper Art

The genius of Peter Callesen’s paper art caught my attention courtesy of an email from my painting teacher, Joni. Many of Peter’s creations are made from a single sheet of paper.

Not all his works are small. Check out the big stuff. Life-sized stairways made of paper??! Wow.

Some of Peter’s thoughts on his work with standard (A4) paper:

“I find the A4 sheet of paper interesting to work with, because it probably still is the most common and consumed media and format for carrying information today, and in that sense it is something very loaded. This means that we rarely notice the actual materiality of the A4 paper. By removing all the information and starting from scratch using the blank white 80gsm A4 paper as a base for my creations, I feel that I have found a material which, on one hand, we all are able to relate to, and which on the other hand is non-loaded and neutral and therefore easier to fill with different meanings. The thin white paper also gives the paper sculptures a fragility which underlines the tragic and romantic theme of the works.”

A bit of browsing through Peter’s various installations and performances makes me smile. Peter is my favorite kind of artist: one who challenges my assumptions about my world in completely new and arresting ways, not just visually and aesthetically, but culturally, socially, emotionally. Some of his stuff pushes my buttons and makes me real uncomfortable (OMG, now he’s scaring the kids!). I love art in that role ~ poking at my assumptions and making me think and question and rethink. And smile.

Astounding LOTR Nerd Creation

My daughter’s livejournal pointed me to this orc-a-licious post. Words fail me. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Choosing to Shop at Wal-Mart (or Not)

Although I’m not often vocal about my views on the matter, people who know me well know that I purposefully avoid Wal-Mart. I have yet to set foot in one of their stores, and my intention is to take my business elsewhere. Always. My resolve is tested more strenuously living here at Murray Creek, in that the Wal-Mart store in Jackson is by far the closest big box store to home. Target is a half hour further away in El Dorado Hills, along with my favorite big box store, Costco. So far, though, relative convenience of location has not tempted me to shop at Wal-Mart.

Last night, I finally got around to watching Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, a 2005 documentary film by director Robert Greenwald. The movie paints a rather grim picture of Wal-Mart’s policies through interviews and stories of people impacted by them, including business owners forced to close their stores after Wal-Mart opened nearby, and who were upset about huge tax subsidies paid to Wal-Mart, about employees kept to part time hours or forced to work overtime for no pay, whose paychecks were not enough to feed their families and pay medical insurance premiums, of the drastic measures taken by the company to thwart efforts of workers to unionize, about small towns whose business districts were decimated by Wal-Mart, and about discriminatory practices against women and minorities, to name some of the topics. If only half of what is reported in the movie is true or indicative of real systemic problems, it would still be a deeply disturbing tale.

The movie ends with stories of people working to stop Wal-Mart stores from being opened in their neighborhoods, and invites us to take action as well. Overall, the impression the movie gave me was that Wal-Mart is a monster that must be stopped. Note the movie poster pictured here, which further illustrates this perspective.

Although I have made my choice not to support Wal-Mart, I don’t think it’s quite so cut and dry as Wal-Mart=Evil.

Continue reading ‘Choosing to Shop at Wal-Mart (or Not)’ »

Solar Dreams

Today is the rainiest day I remember here at Murray Creek since April. It is more like a Seattle day than a California day. I smiled to notice that the Google weather forecast icons and temperatures for here and for Seattle are almost identical for this week. It has been raining non-stop since last night, including one period of extra heavy rainfall today that resulted in new baby creeks forming all of a sudden on the hill behind our house. Thankfully, our erosion control efforts are paying off and the chocolate-colored water is being diverted past the house with no harm done, other than a muddy driveway.

I’m snuggled up near the wood stove with the lappy. Being able to heat the house using wood we salvage from the property is pretty awesome, and gets me thinking about other ways to go “off the grid.” Conal and I are interested in solar power, and had heard from a friend that there were technological advances afoot. Turns out, they are afoot practically in our back yard.

When we not-very-seriously considered installing a solar system at our house last summer, the price was much higher than we had hoped it would be. Our considerings were quickly downgraded to never mind. But perhaps the cost of solar is about to get a lot less prohibitive.

I’ve just been reading about Nanosolar, a company based in Silicon Valley that today made its first commercial shipments of thin-film solar cells, according to a press release. I’m excited and inspired by this company’s story, and by what the future may hold for them and us. The new solar cells are no thicker than a layer of paint, and could be built into lots of surfaces. Home roofing materials, sure, but how about the roofs of trucks and cars? Neat!

I came across this wonderful quote a few days ago, and I just love it. It seems apt here:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

The folks at Nanosolar aren’t spending time grumbling about our addiction to fossil fuels or the high cost of alternative energy. They mapped out a daring path to make the old model obsolete, and seem to be well on their way to doing just that.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying listening to the rain and imagining what the world might look like if - I guess I should say when - affordable thin-film solar cells are readily available and in wide use.

No Meat No Mo’

“If you gave me a million, zillion dollars and said give me a plant that doesn’t have E. coli, I couldn’t do it,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not about the will. It’s about the ability.”

The quote above from this New York Times article (user account may be required), illustrates just one of the reasons for my shift away from a meat-centric diet. Mr. Osterholm is referring to the difficulty of preventing disease from entering the beef production system due to the bacteria-ridden, utterly icky process of high volume, factory farm butchery. Even if I didn’t get the shivers over the cruelty of factory farming, the yuck factor regarding the mud and poop that can’t help but be part of the process would scare me off steak anyway.

I’ve eliminated all beef and chicken, and nearly all dairy, from my diet. I have eaten an eensy bit of shrimp, halibut, and salmon in the last month or two, although I’m sticking almost entirely to fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This evening for dinner, for example, I made a lovely green salad with nuts and dried fruits, steamed baby peas, and sweet potatoes with vegan buttery spread (Earth Balance — so awesomely deelish, non-GMO, and organic). I don’t miss cow one bit.

Veggie BrainI’ve read that the amount of plant energy and water required to raise a cow is many times that required to sustain me directly. I like knowing that by choosing a vegetarian diet I’m consuming substantially less resources. Once raised, the cow of course then has to be butchered and shipped to me, consuming still more resources, including fossil fuels. And ultimately, the end product may be contaminated with poop! Ay carumba.

I adore animals and have enjoyed my friendships with a wide variety of pets including horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, sheep, doves, pigeons, and goldfish. Although I’ve never owned a cow or a pig, I got to hang around those species as well through friends and as part of 4-H activities and fairs and such. I enjoyed them all. As a kid, a friend and I once scared the pants off our parents by running away from home because we were mad about my friend’s cow being butchered. My family dabbled in raising chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for meat. I ate the meat, and remember feeling unsettled and weird about it, aside from the unpleasantness of the butchering process itself.

When I think of the animal that a piece of meat came from, I really have no desire to eat it. It’s important to me to make conscious decisions in my life, and I think I’ve just been choosing to remain unconscious about eating meat. I don’t envision myself as militant about it, just more in touch with my own compassion for other creatures and my concern for making choices that result in a decreased environmental impact.

And back to the poop thing, I’m struck by how industrial farming encourages disease. Consider this excerpt from the Vegetarianism article on Wikipedia:

In 2003, an article in the Journal of Dairy Science found that between 30 and 80 percent of cattle carry E. coli O157:H7.[47] In that same journal article, a quick fix was pointed out: Cows that are switched from a grain diet to a forage diet saw, within 5 days, a 1,000 fold decrease in the abundance of strain O157. But until changes like this are made, the source of many E. coli outbreaks will continue to be high-yield (industrial) meat and dairy farms.[48]

More likely, rather than change the way cattle are fed or raised on industrial farms there will instead be pressure to find technological solutions like food irradiation, plans for HACCP, or simply cooking burgers longer. Suggestions like this have led some experts, like Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley, Michael Pollan, to suggest that “All of these solutions treat E. coli O157:H7 as an unavoidable fact of life rather than what it is: a fact of industrial agriculture.”[49]

So, the meat industry apparently recognizes that, as part of the industrial model of production, poop happens–especially when frightened animals face horrific death and in some cases torture. Allowing animals to forage isn’t profitable, so hey, how about irradiating meat? Just get over it and cook my meat longer? Yikes.

How about instead I just say, “No meat no mo’!”



Napkins of Glory

Courtesy of Lifehacker, I am now enamored of the Napkin Folding Guide. In order to wow my dinner guests I just need some of those thick, deluxe napkins and a can of fabric starch. I especially like the ones that are folded so that the silverware nestles into the napkin. They look so snuggly in there.

There is just one wrinkle (ahem). I have no dinner guests. Oh, wait–I have no dinner table, either!! Sigh.

Please don’t add me to your joke list, but…

Sometimes the jokes that are forwarded to me in email actually make me laugh.

A group of friars opened a florist shop to help with their belfry payments. Everyone liked to buy flowers from the Men of God, so their business flourished A rival florist became upset that his business was suffering because people felt compelled to buy from the Friars, so he asked the Friars to cut back hours or close down. The Friars refused. The florist went to them and begged that they shut down.

Again, they refused. Therefore, the florist hired the biggest meanest thug in town, whose name was Hugh McTeague. He went to the Friars’ shop, beat them up, destroyed their flowers, trashed their shop, and said that if they did not close, he would be back. Well, very terrified, the Friars closed up shop and hid in their rooms. This proved that Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.