Archive for ◊ November, 2008 ◊

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• Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends, virtual friends, and loved ones. We’re spending the holiday with family, so today’s post will be short and sweet — my 2008 “Top Ten” list of things I’m thankful for.

(10) A safe, comfortable place to call home.
(9) A pantry filled with food enough to share.
(8) Clothes that fit … albeit in bigger than pre-baby sizes.
(7) The mostly-safe arrival of our household goods — comprised mostly of our treasured library — from Korea.
(6) Coffee, chocolate, and candles.
(5) The two furballs sitting by my feet.
(4) Extended family (and their tolerance of all the stuff we have packed in their closets, attics, garages, etc. until hubby gets out of the Army and we settle somewhere semi-permanently).
(3) The safe arrival of our precious baby girl this past summer.
(2) My dear husband.
(1) A personal relationship with the One who not only knows, but also controls the future — a bastion of certainty in even the most uncertain of times.

Author:
• Friday, November 21st, 2008

Annyeong hasseyo, my Korean friends. Bonjour, Guten Tag, ¡Hola!, Konichiwa, and Ni Hao.

There. If ten people read this entry, I’ve discharged my holiday duties for Friday, November 22nd, 2008.

Yes, folks, it’s World Hello Day.

Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. Neither had I until a couple of days ago. But in my quest to find something more recent than the signing of the Mayflower Compact, and more exciting than the invention of the phonograph, I turned to Google and discovered World Hello Day.

In fact, this year is the 36th anniversary of World Hello Day, an initiative designed to emphasize the “importance of personal communication for preserving world peace.” Want to participate? Simply greet ten people. Don’t greet them in The Princess Bride vein, though. Following the word “Hello” with “My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!” sort of flies in the face of the whole world peace thing. …

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• Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Today’s holiday spotlight goes to the 33rd annual Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. And before anyone tunes me out, please hear me out. The Great American Smokeout is not a “bash smokers” day. If you are over a certain age (18 here in the U.S.), you have the legal right to purchase and use tobacco products. Having watched my grandfather succumb to lung cancer, that’s not a right I’ll be exercising. But as a strong proponent of limited government and personal freedom, it’s one I’ll defend.

Now, back to the Great American Smokeout. First of all, what is it? It’s an opportunity for smokers to go tobacco-free for 24 hours. For those who want to break the cigarette habit, it’s the ideal jumping-off point. Instead of going through the process alone, you can begin your journey to a smoke-free lifestyle in the company of literally millions of other Americans. And even if you’re not ready to part ways with tobacco permanently, the Great American Smokeout allows you to prove to yourself and others that you CAN make it through a day smoke-free should you choose to do so.

For non-smokers, the Great American Smokeout is a chance for you to support friends and loved ones who are giving up smoking for the day. Offer them a stick of gum, a cup of coffee, a (preferably healthy) snack, a listening ear. And if they choose to continue working toward a smoke-free lifestyle, make sure your support continues for as long as thet need it.

On an unrelated note, November 20th is also Universal Children’s Day, a UN-sanctioned observance to promote child welfare. While celebrating the child or children in your life, you might want to share a book — or several. Why? Because the third week of November is also Canada’s Children’s Book Week. (Traditionally, the U.S. observed Children’s Book Week the week before Thanksgiving as well. This year, however, the observance moved to a new spot on the calendar and now falls during the month of May.)

At 4 1/2 months, my daughter is still a bit young for the works of Anne of Green Gables creator Lucy Maud Montgomery, my favorite Canadian children’s author. So we’ll celebrate with the works of runner-up Robert Munsch instead. After all, a girl is never too young to be introduced to The Paper Bag Princess, and Love You Forever is an essential part of every baby’s library.

Finally, today is the 66th bithday of Vice President-elect Joe Biden. Sorry, folks, it’s too late to send a card. But if you’re looking for an excuse to eat cake and ice cream …

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• Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Yep, you read that correctly. November 19th is indeed a global celebration of the humble toilet.

I’ll admit that I’ve enountered a few memorable toilets over the years. First, there was the eccentric elderly neighbor who deemed certain bodily functions inappopriate for the great indoors and relegated them to a ramshackle old outhouse that had seen as many or more years than she herself had. Then there were the restrooms at a certain state park in Upstate South Carolina, made remarkable not by the fixtures but by the “natural” surroundings … complete with a six-foot long black snake that slowly began uncoiling itself from the base of “my” toilet about the time I — as a 10-year-old — became aware of its presence. A few years down the road came the pay toilets of Europe — particularly the lavatory outside Versailles. (After all, one would think the maintainers of one of the world’s most gilded palaces, situated in one of the wealthiest suberbs of Paris, could provide free “accomodations” for visitors!) Then came the squat toilets of Asia — odd at first, but arguably more hygenic than their seated counterparts if properly maintained.

But World Toilet Day isn’t about functional toilets, however strange or humble. It’s part of the World Toilet Organization’s efforts to create a healthier world by providing toilets to impoverished areas and improving sanitation worldwide. According to the World Toilet Organization, some 2.6 million people worldwide live without toilets. Your donation of even $1 can help improve sanitation in impoverished areas and reduce the spread of disease.

November 19th also marks the the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s delivering the Gettysburg Address, the death of the Ford Edsel, the first Cold War meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and the beginning of the end for lip-syncing pop group Milli Vanilli.

Finally, November 19th was the birth date of Ruby Inez White. Can’t place that name in your memory of world events? That’s OK. The eldest of a sharecropper’s 13 children, Ruby White didn’t make the history books. But she did make her way all the way through school during the Great Depression and on through nurses’ training in an era when few higher education opportunities were available to women (especially poor women). Most important to me, however, she went on to marry a certain Parker Holliday, give birth to my mother, and become a beloved grandmother.

Grandmama Holliday passed away in 1989. But during the fourteen years she was a part of my life, she taught me to celebrate not just the holidays, but life itself. Thanks, Grandmama. I love you.

Author:
• Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Break out the party hats and turn up the music. America’s favorite rodent turns 80 today (and, no, we’re not talking about any of the rats on Capital Hill).

Although the November 18, 1928, release of Steamboat Willie actually marked Mickey Mouse’s third appearance on the silver screen, this is the date Disney Corporations has dubbed as Mickey Mouse’s “official” birthday. So why are we celebrating it? Well, because there’s not really much else of note that occurred on November 18th … unless you want to break out the William Tell Overture. Tradition suggests that this was the date on which Tell shot the apple off his son’s head.

I prefer the Mickey Mouse angle, though. I mean, you’ve got to have a certain regard for anyone (or anything) that’s managed to captivate four generations of children without developing a single gray hair in the process.

Author:
• Monday, November 17th, 2008

Got an apron and a mixing bowl handy? I hope so, because today is none other than Homemade Bread Day.

Homemade Bread Day holds a special place in my heart because I grew up on homemade bread. Wonder Bread and the ilk never darkened the door of my mother’s pantry. In fact, she had a small room off the kitchen dedicated to the art of breadmaking, with storage space for a couple of hundred pounds of wheat, solid wood doors that helped dull the roar of her Magic Mill III, and a 2-inch thick butcher block countertop that’s seen about as many baked goods over the years as your average small-town bakery.

After moving out, I had to forego the freshly-ground flour for a few years — in part because hard white winter wheat berries are nigh impossible to find in rural South Korea — but continued to bake my own honey wheat bread with organic stone-ground whole wheat flour, olive oil, sea salt, honey, Saf-Instant yeast, and occasionally-added cinnamon, raisins, and dried apple dices. Though not quite as good as the original, it was passable.

Nonetheless, when the the U.S. Army returned my husband and me to American soil, one of the first things I sought out was a source of wheat. Soon after, Mom supplied me with a wheat mill so that I could return to baking “real” bread. Unfortunately, her timing coincided with the birth of our first child … which greatly curtailed both my kitchen and web development time. This evening, however, hubby will be greeted by the smell of fresh-baked cranberry banana spice bread when he walks in door.

Giving credit where it’s due, the following is adapted from the low-fat banana bread recipe in Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, one of my favorite vegan cookbooks.

Cranberry-Banana Spice Bread

Mix together:
2 large or 3 small ripe bananas, well-mashed
4 oz. apple sauce
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. molasses

Stir in:
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (I prefer freshly-grated)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. unbleached flour OR 1 1/4 c. unbleached flour and 1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. quick oats or oat bran
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Add:
1/4 c. dried cranberries steeped in 1/4 c. orange juice* until soft (with liquid)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour mixture into a lightly-grease 9 x 5 (1 1/2 pound) loaf pan, and bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.

By the way, this recipe is best mixed by hand. For best results, do not use an electric mixer.

*I prefer to throw a whole washed clementine orange (including peel) into the blender, pureeing it, heating it, then steeping the cranberries in it. This gives you yummy bits of orange peel in the bread as well.

Author:
• Sunday, November 16th, 2008

If you asked me to name my favorite season, I’d be hard-pressed to do so. You see, my favorite time of the year encompasses the end of autumn and the beginning of winter — mid-November through the end of December, to be exact. And not just because I happen to operate a holiday website.

I enjoy most holidays. But I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. So much, in fact, that Christmas has come early to our house. In years past, the tree has gone up the weekend after Thanksgiving. This time around, though, Hubby set the Christmas tree up for me last night — in part because we’ll spend Thanksgiving weekend at his parents house this year and in part because we needed to get the tree out of the car trunk!

While hubby assembled the tree, I rummaged through our still-packed household goods and found most of the the Christmas decorations we’d had in Korea. Unfortunately, the angel tree-topper apparently didn’t make it back with us, and the nativity set I’ve never liked did. (Lyrics of “Some Children See Him” notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure the Christ-child didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes!) Minor issues aside, the living room now sports a festive look, and the rest of the house is beginning to take shape as well.

Now, to finish shopping and start in on holiday goodies!