I Love my Soda Stream

I am not paid by Soda Stream, and I receive no kick-backs or discounts from them (I wish!), but I’ve had my Soda Stream now for 5 months and I’m as happy with it now as I was when I first found it at that estate sale.

Point of fact, if I had known how happy I would be with the Soda Stream I would have bought one new for myself. Continuing the fact-revealing here, I have purchased brand new Soda Streams as gifts for family members (can’t afford to gift friends, but I can trumpet how much I love the machine and share the beverages I make from it).

There was this article in today’s ABC news about the Soda Stream, and it was sort of luke-warm about the benefits of carbonated water, and a bit negative regarding the syrups from Soda Stream.

That’s OK, I don’t like Soda Stream syrups, either. They are too sweet, and they contain non-sugar sweeteners and artificial colors and flavors, and I’m not down with that.

I make my own flavorings, and they aren’t all sweet.

During the heat of summer, I really enjoyed carbonated pickle juice and carbonated balsamic vinegars (the fig was my favorite). A little of the juice or vinegar went a long way in the glass, and what thirst quenchers they were. I look forward to drinking them again when it warms up.

During the party season, the Soda Stream was excellent for making the tonic waters that go into Gin and Tonic (with a splash of cranberry juice or grenadine for a festive red color), and a Sloe Gin Fizz, and other such drinks.

Making your simple syrup is incredibly easy, as is making fruit and herb juice concentrates. Sparkling lavender lemonade, minted rose sodas, tarragon tonic, gingerbread bubbly, and more are at your fingertips with a Soda Stream.

These flavors are so satisfying I don’t drink as much soda as I once mindlessly did. I used to drink an entire 2 liter bottle of soda without thought. Now, I drink one 12 -14 ounce glass of home made soda a day and enjoy every sip in ways I never did commercial sodas.

The ease of making your sodas to your specific taste – and the ability to quickly and easily make different sodas for everyone – is a huge bonus for having a Soda Stream.

The fact that having the Soda Stream also reduces the amount of plastic bottles thrown away is important, but what matters is how easy it is to make this one small environmental difference. You won’t even notice it, you won’t miss the many bottles you once bought and tossed. This is by far the nicest and easiest way to make a big difference for the environment.

I kinda feel like I want to be the lemonade man from the 17th C. mentioned in the article, only with a Soda Stream and a cart full of flavorings.

Monthly Tea: Edible Parlor Game

Today, we had the first of this year’s Monthly Teas.

The Tea was about a specific parlor game that has transcended the nursery and parlor and become a popular tournament sport: Tea Dueling.

Tea Dueling has become the genteel sport of competitive cookie dunking.

At its simplest, it’s a test of wit and will between two people to see who can refrain from eating their cookie the longest without the cookie falling apart after it’s dunked in tea.

It can also be played in a more formal setting, or even in tournament form.

Fully formal, Tea Dueling has a referee, a Brew Master, a Weapons Master, the duelists and their seconds. There are fouls and Bad Behavior (Menacing, Use of Projectile Weapons, Physical Interference, Bagging, and more).

Honor can be upheld, as well, when duelists have a difference of opinion to settle.

However it’s done, it’s always fun.

For those who can’t have gluten, there are a couple of gluten-free cookies that will work. Decaf tea can be used. It’s adaptable. The goal is to have fun.

Below are some pictures of one challenge, with a few explanatory poses:

Tea Dueling

From left to right:

The Weapons: Pepperidge Farm Chessment cookies and Shortbread cookies, and the new Keebler Simply Made Butter Cookies.

The uniform sized challenge cups behind the Weapons Platter.

The amendments of sugars and cream.

The OctoPot and tea strainers.

The napkins, plates and spoons behind Baron O, and additional cups if we have many challengers.

Tea Dueling

Poised to challenge.

Tea Dueling

A close-up of the grip.

Tea Dueling

The dunk – it lasts to a slow count of 5.

Tea Dueling

The Wait, as the Dunkers talk and perhaps engage in some witty repartee.

Tea Dueling

Oh, no! A Splodge! You can’t see it, but half her Weapon fell onto her hand, causing her to lose the round.

Tea Dueling

And another loss as she noms first.

Tea Dueling

And the winner, with her prize – a jar of loose-leaf Prince of Wales tea.

Itzl was present, but did not participate.

The full rules for the official Tea Duelling (they use British spelling – we didn’t because we used Okie Rules and weren’t “official”) can be found here. The American Tea Duelling Society is here. And there’s a book out on it here.

Okie Cold

Things did not get extremely cold here.

Yes, it got cold, but the cold was no worse than it has been in previous winters. We haven’t dropped below 0ºF, which we have done a time or two in the past.

We haven’t had lots of snow, which we’ve also had in the past.

Then:
Snow Shoveled A Bit

This year:
Itzl in Snow

And the ice we got was negligible – something I can’t say for previous years.

Then:

Dance of the Frozen Tree

This year:
Ice Storm 2013

With the winter-proofing and such I’ve been doing to my house over the years, the coldest it now gets indoors is about 40ºF – that’s when the outside temp is 6ºF and the windchills are well below zero. Caulking, weather-stripping, blankets, carpet over the interior of the doors, threshold gaskets, and plastic over the windows makes a tremendous difference.

With the heated sofa (an electric mattress pad under a sofa cover, with blankets on top), it was warm enough to leave Xoco and Nigel at home this year.

In past years, when the weather was bad, I brought all the dogs to work with me, just in case, because the interior of the house would get down into the 20’s. It’s chilly, but not deadly now.

Xoco adores being left at home. She really doesn’t like going anywhere at all. She loves car rides and loves going to drive-thrus for snacks (the Gyro Place is her all time favorite because she not only loves Gyro meat, she now recognizes and loves the man who runs the little gyro stand and he loves her).

Nigel has no choice but to stay home. He is too high energy and hyperactive to take to work with me, too big to fit on top of my desk, plus he will bark. I haven’t been able to train him out of that. He barks a lot less than he used to, because neither Itzl nor Xoco bark, but he will still bark, and his voice is deep enough I can hear it (mostly). I have hopes that he will eventually stop barking entirely.

I also have hopes that he will learn his name, learn to sit on command, learn to come when called.

He stays home because he’s not well-behaved enough to go out in public.

Itzl accompanies me everywhere.

OK, that’s no longer entirely true.

I have a friend who lives on the second floor of a condo with outside steps. Those stairs scare me. They are set so I have to take really large steps to get up them and they feel shaky, as if they will pull away from the top at any minute. The railing is also tenuously attached and jiggles when you hold onto it. I am terrified of carrying Itzl up those stairs, especially when they are covered with ice (I now bring pet friendly ice melt with me because they do not de-ice those stairs), so when I visit her, I will not risk Itzl on those stairs.

When possible, I arrange to meet her elsewhere – the library, the clubhouse at her condos, a coffee shop, the park…

So, on the whole, it’s been a pleasant winter so far. A bit chilly, but not unreasonable.

It hasn’t been cold enough for long enough to justify a pot of Back Burner Stew. We don’t get many winters that mild.

At a Glance

I was led to this site to peruse this list in order to “improve” my finances.

I would like to take a moment to respond to this list.

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. – That’s because the wealthy don’t live in food deserts and can afford to eat healthier, better meals. They have the luxury of enough money and space to buy in bulk and store the better quality food, and usually someone else to prepare it for them. When they eat out, they don’t hope they can afford the dollar menu and get the largest quantity of food for that dollar, they dine at $$$ restaurants. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble. When they don’t make much money, all they have left or hopes and dreams. and enough people win the lottery to keep that hope, however tenuous, alive. The rich don’t need the fantasy as much.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this. How do they measure this? Almost all the people I know, and they are all below the median income, are focused on staying alive. It’s a pretty consuming goal.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this. That’s because the poor don’t inhabit gyms where such exercise is measured. They are walking the streets, pounding pavement, looking for work, doing manual labor if they can get it – all while eating what food they can get – cheap, filling junk foods that don’t give them the right kind of calories they need to make wiser decisions.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people. That’s probably because most poor people can’t afford the equipment to listen to audio books or have hearing issues that make listening to audio books difficult, or don’t have safe, comfy commutes, and need to remain alert to potential dangers. Kind of hard to pay attention to an audio book when you’re concerned you might be mugged for what little you have.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor. Again, how do they know this? Many poor people keep such lists in their heads because they don’t have the luxury of being able to sit somewhere quiet and make the lists, or somewhere safe to keep the lists. When your list consists of “Stay alive” pretty much everything else has to struggle to make it onto the list.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor. Again, how do they know this for a fact? Also, poor people read less than the wealthy because they lack time. Much of their leisurely reading time is spent trying to earn enough to stay alive.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor. That’s because the poor people are sending their children out to earn money, volunteering is a luxury many can’t afford.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor. That’s because the poor people say their Happy Birthdays in person, or would rather just skip it because they can’t afford to help their friends celebrate.

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor. Why bother writing down your goal when it contains one item – Survive?

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor. Again, poor people don’t have the luxury of having the time to read. And really, what books are written for poverty careers – Better Waitressing? The Janitors Guide to Cleaners? How to Smile in Retail Sales?

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor. If poor people said what was on their mind, they’d lose their job – fired by those outspoken wealthy people.

12. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor. I suppose it depends on their definition of “network”. Poor people don’t have business cards printed up to pass around, don’t attend fundraisers or social events where networking as the wealthy define it occurs – they can’t afford that sort of networking. Nope, poor people network through word of mouth as they pass one another while busing tables, filing reports, scrubbing toilets, making beds, mopping floors, draining oil, loading up lawn mowers, in the quiet moments between ringing customer purchases up on the register.

13. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor. Having the TV on doesn’t necessarily mean you’re watching it.

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor. again, having the TV on doesn’t mean they are actually watching it.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor. Of course, the wealthy don’t arrive at work before 9:00 am. Many poor people are at work around 7:00 am and will work as late or later than the wealthy. Definitely later if they then go to a second job.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor. Time is one big factor here. The other factor here is education. The poor can’t teach what they haven’t been taught and haven’t learned.

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor. Poor people know it’s more who you know than what you know that creates opportunities and luck.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor. The poor know that it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s who they don’t know that creates their bad luck.

19. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor. The poor believe this, too, they just can’t afford to indulge in it.

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor. Again, how do they know? the poor people don’t have as much opportunity to learn to love reading as the wealthy do.

Every item on this list screams “privilege”, and it’s all privilege that the wealthy automatically have because money bought them the time to indulge in them, bought them the education, bought them the resources.

So, no, this was not helpful for poverty finances at all.

Pics for the Fun of It

Seen above my back yard:

Hot Air Balloon

One of the trophies we gave at OctopodiCon 2:

Masquerade trophy 2013

Back at work:

Itzl

An inch of ice:

December 2013 Ice Stprm

Nigel hated the snow, but loves the ice:

December Ice 013

Xoco’s favorite winter spot:

Cold November Day

Enjoying the Guthrie Victorian Walk:

2013 Victorian Walk in Guthrie

2013 Victorian Walk in Guthrie

2013 Victorian Walk in Guthrie

And enjoying tea in the Victorian Tea Room:

The Crew at the Tea Room

Manipulation

Remember when the list of traits for Indigo Children and Rainbow Children and Millennials and other such New Agey children were passed around?

Well, there’s a new list for “Awakening Souls” and it mimics much of these lists in tone if not in words. Like those other lists, it attempts to make the reader feel special and part of a select group of people who are different and better than the rest of mankind.

I’ve always had a fascination for these lists and their explanations of the traits they list as being so special. I enjoy analyzing them and have been contemplating creating a counter list. First, I have to determine what what the list’s purpose would be. Empowering people would be a good start. These lists do anything but that.

Let’s go through the most recent one, shall we?

1) Being in public places is sometimes overwhelming.

There’s more, of course, but this is just the gist. It goes on to say that the walls between the reader and others is dissolving, and so the reader isn’t able to differentiate between themselves and others and will take on other people’s emotions, particularly the negative ones. They advocate meditation, retreats, and chide the reader for their excess empathy.

This is the opening move in selling something to the reader. Subtle, but nonetheless present. Will they be selling books, classes on meditation, seminars, a clothing line for “awakened souls”? Only time will tell.

This trait is such a generalized one that it can apply to introverts and shy or timid people. It can also apply to people who want to belief they are sensitive. This is why some variant of it appears on every one of the New Age-type lists that seek to make money off the gullible.

2) We know things without having to intellectually figure them out.

This is also a rather common claim. It’s actually a disguised insult that will make the reader more susceptible to the sales pitch that may be attached to this when the reader investigates deeper. This is written to appeal particularly to intelligent people who have not been well educated, who lack critical thinking skills but have heightened observation skills and a disorganized memory. This makes it easier for them to believe that they are making intuitive leaps of knowledge when their minds are actually making connections between bits of knowledge they may have forgotten they knew.

The reader is intelligent, just not a disciplined intelligence. This sort of erroneous flattery further opens the way to being conned. They will use this to convince the reader that s/he is precognitive, special.

3. Watching television or most of main stream media, including newspapers and many Hollywood movies is very distasteful to us.

While this is an indication of intelligence (ye ghods! Most intelligent people find TV and most of mainstream media to be distasteful and a waste of time), the author goes on to tie it in with sensitivity and empathy, and not the intellectual paucity of decent programming. It is basically an appeal to the reader, softening him/her up to better accept what they are pushing. And this is only the third of 21 traits. There will be a lot more softening up. This is one of the methods of neurolinguistic programming, to sway you over to their way of thinking. Even people with well regulated intellects could fall prey to this method. Bandler and Grinder explored this aspect of the manipulatory capabilities of NP. The original purpose of NP was to help people, but I’ve seen sales people trained in this to make better sales. These traits lists are no different. The people who generate them are selling something and they want you to buy it all.

4. Lying to us is nearly impossible.

The author carefully leads the reader into thinking this is a form of ESP and dismisses their observation skills and knowledge, or that this ability is also a trait of mothers, teachers, and others who observe and work with others. But by mentioning the most likely reason for people to be able to discern truth and emotions of others through observation, then implying to the reader that their ability is so much more, is part of the psychic abilities they are developing as an “awakening soul”, the author is playing the reader. We’ll see where this leads.

5. We may pick up symptoms of your cold, just like men who get morning sickness when their wives are pregnant.

Ah, now we are getting to a stronger form of manipulation. The author has gained the reader’s trust through the previous statements, and is now free to plant suggestions in the reader’s mind and to start to hint at what they will offer the reader – probably for pay. In this case, it would be grounding techniques. The author hasn’t reached the actual pitch yet, they are still leading the reader on, but they’ve now laid the groundwork and mentioned a technique they can offer that would help the reader cope with being an “awakening soul”.

6. We tend to root for the underdog, those without voices, those who have been beaten down by the matrix, etc.

Oh, well played! This is just the right time for an affirmation. And what better affirmation than to reassure the reader of their compassion, and to give a form to why people share things with them? The author doesn’t tell you this is a common trait among civilized people, they make it seem as if it were extraordinary, special, and the reader is unique for having this trait.

7. If we don’t learn how to set proper boundaries, we can get tired easily from taking on other people’s emotions.

This one does double, perhaps triple, duty. It demonizes others, isolates the reader and makes them doubt their relationships – subtly – while urging vigilance. Then it implies the reader is too sensitive to set those boundaries on their own. This sets the reader up to rely on the author for guidance and assistance. It makes he reader weak.

This also redirects the reader’s attention away from all the many other more empowering routes for the reader to acquire control of themselves: yoga, meditation, prayer, dance, running, tai chi, and even religions such as Buddhism, Wicca, and some sects of Christianity.

It is just as well played and wellplaced as #6. It also reinforces #1 and #5.

8. Unfortunately, sensitives or empaths often turn to drug abuse or alcohol to block some of their emotions and to ‘protect’ themselves from feeling the pain of others.

This one seems to make its way into so many New Age character trait lists and it is the biggest sign that the list is full of hooey, hokum, and pure shit. It reinforces #s 1, 5, and 7 while giving the reader an excuse for indulging him/herself. It tells them they are helpless to control an addiction.

It also subtly opens the reader to taking whatever potions the author plans to sell – vitamins, herbal supplements, special waters. It also caters to the weakness within the person and increases their dependency. Any character trait list that gives people a loophole for being addicted to anything is the biggest warning sign of a scam.

9. We are all becoming healers.

Oddly enough, they don’t list any legitimate healing fields such as pharmacology, surgery, gastrointestinal medicine, primary care. No, what they list as healing are holistic medicine, herbs, and food as the path to healing, along with new age methods of reiki, and suggests that the reader turn away from traditional healing methods.

There is so much wrong here with this and by this point, the reader accepts it as inevitable and proper. They can’t see just how badly this weakens them, opens them to being prey, and prepares them to open their pockets to whatever scams the author cares to perpetrate upon them.

I am an herbalist and I am an advocate for spiritual healing, but not for giving up traditional medicine. There is a place for traditional, spiritual, and alternative healing methods to work together instead of in an either/or opposition. Anyone who suggests abandoning a proven path of healing for unproven ones is unscrupulous. But then, we already knew this.

10. We see the possibilities before others do.

Another affirmation, one that puffs up the reader by comparing them to Copernicus and others who worked hard to envision the possibilities rather than intuit them. This plays into #2 and #4, and is particularly appealing to people who are intelligent but lack good critical thinking skills. There’s much to be said for an excellent education. It encourages laziness intellectually because the author doesn’t want the reader to gain acute critical thinking skills. They can’t sell this tripe to people who understand logic, research, and analysis and are willing to ask questions.

We’re halfway through, and by now the reader has nodded so many times, and told themselves “yes, this is so” that they’ve begun to really buy into this, to believe they are an “awakening soul” and they need guidance to finish the process and fully awaken.

Now, watch as the author hooks them in the rest of the way. They will do it with a series of flattering affirmations that sound marvelous on the surface but contain no true substance, then they’ll offer a secret and special task only they, the “awakening souls” can do. By buying books and attending costly seminars and retreats and classes. Let’s see, shall we?

11. We are creative. We sing, dance, paint, invent, or write. We have amazing imaginations.

Anyone can be creative, not just “awakening souls”, but by now, the reader is convinced that they are creative because they are one of those “awakening souls”, not because it is a normal condition for practically everyone. This is pure flattery, flattery the reader has now become highly susceptible to. The reader will look with eagerness on what other good things the author has to say about them, and will be more willing to pay to hear more.

12. We require more solitude than the average person.

What a perfect affirmation to make the reader feel special and to (again) subtly hint at the reader’s need for retreats and meditations. Which the author will probably be offering for a nice fee. It’s also a great way to isolate the reader from people who might break the growing enchantment and attachment the reader is forming with the author.

13. We might get bored easily, but we are really good at entertaining ourselves.

Shades of Walter Mitty! This is again a back-handed sort of affirmation. It makes the reader feel good because they can nod, “Yes, other people and events bore me, but I am vastly entertaining.” Ultimately it helps set the reader up to feel they are special, superior, to others. It’s another isolation ploy disguised as an affirmation. By this point, the reader is so open to what the author is suggesting. A few more nails to solidify the feelings and cement the reader to the author’s expensive “gift”.

14. We have a difficult time doing things we don’t want to do or don’t really enjoy.

Another affirmation to make the reader feel special. This one relates back to #8. While it makes the reader feel special, it also a back-handed insult as it goes on to tell the reader they aren’t lazy, just discerning! It’s clever – the reader is being called lazy while believing they are being told they are special and important, that they are too good to be responsible for all those little acts that connect them to their families and friends and society. It’s a perfect affirmation to set the reader up for failure which they can remedy by taking the author’s seminars and retreats. This one gives the reader an excuse to shirk their responsibilities while shelling out big bucks to be told how special they are, how superior, and how they were meant for greater things. Remembering to scoop the cat’s litter box is such a drag when they could be saving the world! Never mind that saving the world starts with the little responsibilities like scooping the cat litter or remembering your child is buckled into the car seat in back and should be dropped off at day care.

Yeah, this is a terrible thing to tell gullible people desperate to belong.

15. We are obsessed with bringing the truth to light.

Like the previous trait, this one also reads as an affirmation. It’s written as one. The problem with this is that when an undisciplined mind goes digging for the truth, they most often devolve into a witch hunt. They will follow false trails, and turn to the author to help them. It’s a lot lie people trying to do science without applying the scientific method, which leads to lots of pseudo-science out there. It’s why so many people believe cavemen rode dinosaurs while hunting. There’s truth, and there’s truthiness, and what the author is promoting is truthiness. It also gives the reader permission to be cruel and dismissive of facts and other people. Only the author, and therefor the reader, really knows what the Truth is.

16. We can’t keep track of time.

This relates back to #s 5, 7, 8, and 14 – an affirmation that is also an excuse for antisocial behavior that will lead the reader to failure, which will cause the reader to seek help from the author, most likely through books, seminars, retreats, classes, and other things. Of course, the author will expect the readers to be prompt and will penalize them in a number of ways both psychological and financial. But not yet, because the author is still working the reader.

17. We abhor routine.

And this is another affirmation that is an excuse for antisocial behavior and has the potential to lead to failure. It’s in the same vein as #s 5, 7, 8, 14, and 16. One of the first things the author will do is create a routine for the reader to follow, and then offer counseling when the reader can’t maintain that routine – for a fee, of course.

18. We often disagree with authority.

This is another affirmation that allows the reader to feel rebellious with permission. In reality, we all have issues with authority at times. As individuated corporeal beings, we have free will and sometimes we make bad choices – either as leaders or as followers. Unfortunately, this affirmation does not give the reader a route to becoming a leader, and prevents them from being a good follower. It is, like #s 5, 7, 8, 14, 16, and 17, a selling affirmation. There is no real substance to it, and it sets the reader up to experience difficulties in their life. Difficulties the author will attribute to the reader being an “awakening soul”, and the author will be there to help the reader.

19. We will often be kind, but if you are egotistical or rude, we won’t spend much time with you or find an excuse to not hang out with people who are obsessed with themselves.

This one is written as an affirmation, but it is just plain mean. At this point, though, the reader just accepts it at face value. Parse it down, though. It makes the reader feel special, that their actions are kind and well-meant, but that other people will be egotistical and rude, therefore the reader will be justified in shunning them. After all, the reader is an “awakening soul” and they aren’t. Great way to isolate the reader from society, by making others into at best a block to spiritual advancement and at worst into enemies.

20. We may be vegan or vegetarian because we can sense a certain energy of the food we eat.

This seems to be a standard in almost every trait list for practically every kind of New Age personality. They have a twist on it by making the claim that an “awakening soul” can taste and feel the difference between humanely and inhumanely killed animals. Yet they don’t make the same claim for vegetables. Science is coming to the conclusion that plants communicate and can feel, and they are farmed under rather inhumane conditions – smothered in pesticides, brutally harvested. They should be advocating breathtarianism to “awakening souls”.

And here is the final trait, the hook, the closer that will reel the reader in to something the author will want the reader to do.

21. We wear our own emotions on our sleeves and have a hard time ‘pretending’ to be happy if we aren’t. We avoid confrontation, But will quietly go about changing the world in ways you can’t even see.

This is a classic neurolinguistic programming format: two or three statements that sound true, followed by a suggestion the author wants the reader to follow, something that will inspire action. So, “we wear our hearts on our sleeves” (we are extremely sensitive flowers),”we avoid confrontation”(see how sensitive we are?), and then the closer – “we go quietly about changing the world in ways you can’t even see” (and now the reader needs to know how to be a part of the cadre who invisibly changes the world).

After going through this list, the reader will feel they are unique, part of a special group of people, with a task to change the world from behind the scenes, guardians, people who will “awaken” (for why else are the “awakening”?). They now have an identity, and if the reader has an undisciplined but intelligent mind, a feeling of alienation, a recent loss of a loved one, or feelings of loneliness, these traits will read like some sort of salvation to them, a place they can call home and a group of people with whom they belong. They have been softened up and guided to think they need what the author is selling (in this case, books and yoga at the least).

The problem is that this list of traits in composed of affirmations woven between generalized statements and presented to encourage a suspension of critical thinking. It encourages the reader to engage in behaviors that will set the reader up for failure, then to turn to the author to fix things. And the author will be happy to attempt to do so by selling the reader books, classes, seminars, counseling sessions, and who knows what else. And none of it will ever actually help the reader.

The reader is set up to fail and fail and fail, so will try harder and harder to do whatever the author wants so they can succeed at being this “awakening soul”, will do whatever it costs, whatever it takes.

Look, in this series of traits, the reader is told they are addictive, hypersensitive, easily bored, incapable of being responsible, on time, or commit to a routine. The reader is rebellious without a cause, judgmental, cruel, emotional, and too weak to function with the author’s constant affirmations.

And yet, the reader is being told they are so special they are secretly manipulating the world to make it abetter place. Really? How? When the reader can’t think clearly, can’t take responsibility, be on time, lead or follow, be disciplined, or loving?

It’s a scam. Even if the reader never buys the books and such, it will still encourage the reader to believe things that could be spiritually and personally harmful and societally damaging. It can alienate the reader even further.

I loathe these kinds of trait lists. I hated it when it was “Indigo Children” and that “Prosperity Gospel” and “The Secret” and the ones which taught “shamanism”. There’s a long history of these sorts of scams and people continue to buy into them.

Coherency

When advocating a cause or attempting to set forth a persuasive argument, coherency is essential.

I just read an opinion piece in a news site that failed to make a point. I wasn’t quite sure what the point was. The author seemed to alternate between being proud of tent cities and demanding they be abolished. Even the conclusion was muddled.

I can’t believe this passed editorial muster.

If I cherry pick this opinion piece, I can get either a “we must eliminate all tent cities” or a “we must keep them as an example”. Only once did the author refer to the need for economic reform.

Me, I am all for economic reform, starting with living wages, fair and affordable housing (this includes a more realistic zoning system), creating advanced and interconnected public transportation, WiFi as a regulated public utility, universal healthcare, and a better management system for unused (and often discarded) food to get it to the people who need it.

I don’t want to return to earlier days. Those days weren’t as golden as so many people seem to think it was. But there were aspects of the past that we’ve abandoned that should be brought forward and modernized.

Our food system is one of them. We would rather throw away perfectly good food than use it to feed hungry people – and punish the hungry for sneaking the food out of the trash.

Same for housing. We require too many expensive restrictions on being housed, many of which including zoning restrictions and requirements that don’t do anything but penalize the inhabitant (things like flying a flag, or putting up a birthday party banner or growing tomatoes in the front yard or painting the house in some unapproved color or pattern). We would rather homes stand empty than make them affordable for inhabitants, and punish the people who try to find shelter as best they can be it in tents, cars, or even squatting in abandoned buildings.

I don’t know what the author of that opinion piece hoped to accomplish, as muddled as it was.

What I have been working towards for more than a decade is reducing hunger and empowering people to find/grow/make their own food. That’s where my small skills lie.

I only have a small voice when it comes to housing, but I say we do what it takes to keep people housed, fed, healthy and paid a living wage because a society whose members can sleep safe at night, can eat enough to not starve, is healthy, and can earn a fair and living wage is a society that is productive and has things to work towards.

Mary Poppins Was Right

Not that he knew it was scary, and really, now that it’s over and he’s well, it is a rather rich source of amusement and tacky jokes.

See, day before yesterday, Itzl suffered from canine paraphimosis.

You can google it, but for those who want to hear the whole story: paraphimosis is when the penis gets stuck and can’t retract back into its sheath. It starts to dry out and swell, becomes inflamed and painful, and can lead to a slow and agonizing death if left untreated. The most common treatment for it is surgery to cut the sheath and slide the penis back inside.

It can be caused by several things, one of which is not trimming his “merkin”. Who knew? His groomer never warned me about this, and we never did anything about it. We trimmed his bloomers to prevent poop getting caught there, but never once his merkin. This is what caused Itzl’s problem and we can prevent it now that we know.

I was at work when I noticed the condition. He was lethargic, seemed to be hurting, and while he alerted, he was slow in doing so and not his usual happy self. That’s when I checked him out, thinking he might have developed a bleeding ulcer – one of the side effects from when his vet accidentally overdosed him on pain meds after his knee surgery. That’s when I saw his penis protruding and swollen. And I was thinking “hernia”. I’d never heard of paraphimosis.

So I immediately called his vet. This is an impossible week to get away from work, and the next 2 weeks, the place will be pretty empty with nearly everyone else taking vacation, so getting away to get him to the vet would be – difficult, at best.

The vet said it sounded like paraphimosis, described it and what it could do, then suggested a home remedy, one that had a good chance of working since I’d caught the condition early on.

I was kind of skeptical – I do rely a lot on home remedies, but this sounded unbelievable. The vet called it “The Mary Poppins Cure”.

OK.

The home remedy worked! Itzl didn’t need surgery after all, but if he had, the money was in his vet account. I wouldn’t have to freak out and beg money from family and friends to keep him alive.

The remedy? A 50/50 mix of sugar and warm water, poured onto his penis.

That’s it.

Really.

Apparently the sugar water gets absorbed by the delicate penile flesh, reducing inflammation and swelling and encouraging lubrication so the penis slides back into the sheath where it belongs. It encourages the dog to lick, which also increases lubrication,and voila! The dog lives! No surgery needed!

Mary Poppins was right, a spoonful of sugar helps cure you.

And Itzl is back to alerting with all his usual vim and vigor.

Gifts for Men and Women

This time of year is flooded with gifts for women and gifts for men, and gifts for boys and gifts for girls.

Most of the time,the gifts for women consist of jewelry and tools for cleaning house while the gifts for men usually consist of booze and games.

There’s something wrong here.

Let’s see – on the list for women is candles, for men, a hand crank emergency radio. I think women would like the hand-crank radio, too, because they also need to receive information during power outages. And I think men might like candles for lighting as atmosphere or for emergencies.

Women: towels; men: liquor flask. So, men don’t bathe and women don’t drink?

Women: Serving tray; men: fancy corkscrews. Women serve, men drink.

Women: shopping bag; men: puzzles.

Women: socks; men: golf clubs

Women: scented dish soap; men: a fancy game of Clue

Women: sugar scrubs; men: a game of mind tricks

Women: a vacuum; men: racing gloves

Women: A key rack; men: collectible playing cards

Women: paper notebooks; men: iPad.

Really, I think there’s no actual gender difference. I think many men would be pleased with the gifts named for women, and the women with the gifts named for men.

Why have separate lists? Why not just give the people in your lives the things they actually want and not pick from a random, gender-centric list?

I personally am not interested in gifts, but Itzl loves them. He doesn’t care if they are for a holiday or a birthday or for no reason at all.

He has a wallet filled with gift cards to places like PetsMart, his favorite restaurants, Amazon for things like his grooming, toys for giving to Xoco and Nigel, and sharing the snackies he gets from the restaurants. The Amazon gift card gets the dogs their booties and collars and leashes. And friends give us fabric scraps that become costumes and jackets and sweaters.

He doesn’t particularly care about gifts to his vet, but after yesterday’s scare, I am highly appreciative of him having money in his veterinary fund! (That is worthy of a post all its own!)

And Itzl doesn’t care if those gifts come to him at any special time. He’s just happy to use them when he needs them.

I think all gifting should be that way and not saved up so everyone gifts everyone else all at once. Things get overwhelmed and lost in the deluge.

Back to the Land

I’ve heard about the whole “back to the land” movement since the 60’s.

It puzzled me then, and it puzzles me now. We’re already on the land. Even in densely concrete cities, there’s land, growing things, and places to grow food. It’s not like we’re living on the Enterprise or in the space station. Land is everywhere. There’s no need to move to someplace with land; we’re there.

And the whole “back” part is just plain silly wishful thinking. Not only can we not go back in time. those times weren’t as good as nostalgia paints them. Living on a farm was not easy. It took lots of time and was hard physical labor. You were always one season away from starvation and disaster.

I grew up on a rural farm, with pigs, cows, chickens, geese, vegetable gardens and orchards. We had no electricity, no running water. It was grueling work even for the young children. I started my day in shivery darkness, lighting a candle to dress by (and get some slight warmth), eating a slice of buttered bread before running off to get the day’s water from the well that was a mile away, then milking the cows, collecting eggs, and getting breakfast (fried potatoes and eggs, pork sausage, soup, with more bread and butter), then weeding before going to school, coming home at lunch to do more weeding, then taking the geese for a walk to get “pasture” food. after that was house chores – washing, cleaning, scrubbing the wood stove, getting more water is we ran out, bringing in coal and oil to heat the stove and lamps for tomorrow, and finally, by lamplight, doing homework.

It wasn’t easy. We got cold a lot. We got hot. We got cuts and bruises from the work, chilblains on our hands and feet from having to work in the wintry cold, heat rash and heat exhaustion from working in the summer heat. We got seriously hurt in falls and with equipment we were using to farm. We struggled in storms to secure things and hope the weather didn’t destroy what we would need to survive – or injure us. We died of wounds, infections, disease.

It wasn’t easy.

Most of the time, it was such hard work we didn’t have time for anything else but survival.

Sure, there were holidays and seasonal breaks. Why do you think harvest festivals and spring plantings were such crowded times for holidays? It’s when we had the time to think ahead a little, to count the bounty to get us through the winter or the seed to plant so we’d live to see another harvest. We got a bit crazy during those times because we could. The rest of the time, we’d be working from before sunrise until well past sunset, scrabbling to make sure we had what we needed to survive.

It wasn’t easy.

I love homesteading in the city, though. It’s much. much easier. I have access to electricity, plumbing (flushing toilet,s hot and cold running water!), and the internet. Friends and shopping are minutes away, not hours. I can work for money (to pay for housing and utilities and transportation and insurance) and still provide most of my own food, make my own clothes, and live sustainably and all that. I am less likely to be critically wounded, to live and work in serious weather conditions, can get weather predictions to help prepare for the worst, and so much more.

It’s really the best of both worlds, modernized.

I would not like to go back to the days when I didn’t have indoor plumbing (have you any idea how cold it is in an outhouse at 4:00 am when there’s 6 feet of snow under a layer of ice? Or how rank the outhouse is when the temps exceed 80ºF in the hot summer? Or how much hassle it is to get the outhouse pumped empty so we can fill it up again, and how disease ridden an outhouse can be?), or without electricity (I like having the internet, thank you, and lights, and my power tools which make citified homesteading so quick, safe, and easy), or far from neighbors and help and employment to pay for those things I can’t make for myself.

No, going “back to the land” isn’t for me, even if homesteading and living sustainably is.

And even if I do gripe about mowing all the time (speaking of which, I need to mow before the next cold front hits…)

Nature or Nurture?

I tend to lean towards “nurture” in the debate of small dogs being more aggressive than larger ones.

Too many people get small dogs and then try to treat them as if they were either toys or big dogs. Both approaches are wrong for dogs whose adult size will be less than 10 pounds.

Little dogs are aggressive because they are afraid. The world is huge and they know they are small and fragile. Aggression is a camouflage for their fear, a display to intimidate that which scares them.

Therefore, training needs to be geared towards teaching them they are safe, and giving them the tools they need to feel safe.

These small dogs need to be trained where the human trainer is near their height level. That means either the human trains while lying down, or the puppies are elevated and trained atop a desk or table or counter (with safeguards so they don’t fall off). After they learn at a decent level, they can be lowered until they are learning from the floor, but their initial training needs to be at easy eye contact level.

Eye contact in training is important and tiny dogs are at a disadvantage because of their size and distance from the human’s face. Eye contact lets them feel they are communicating. Communication helps them feel safe and builds confidence in the tiny dog.

Slower movements in training is also essential. The puppies need warning when movement will happen until they learn to anticipate it and that it’s not going to hurt them. Repeating the movement in slow motion lets them learn the movement is a safe one. Slowly speeding it up teaches them confidence that this movement won’t hurt them. It reassures their fears and helps them feel safe.

A softer, slower tone of voice also inspires confidence in the tiny dog and teaches it to be calmer and quieter, too. This is another aspect of feeling safe.

Teaching the tiny dog hand signals and sign language, and responding to the dog’s signals builds confidence. It’s part of the communication between human and dog, and it helps the tiny dog feel safe.

Providing the tiny dog with a safe place that it can retreat to and know it will be left alone also helps eliminate aggressive responses. Tiny dogs love cave beds and crates because they feel safe in them. In agility training, dogs are given a pause box or pause table, and it helps to have one of those for tiny dogs. They learn they are safe on that spot and by using a pause spot for giving treats and teaching new tricks, the tiny dogs learn to love that spot.

Tiny dogs also need a job. They aren’t just ornamental. They often have higher energy levels, and need a way to use that energy so it doesn’t become nervous or aggressive energy. Jobs that tiny dogs excel at are things like alerting to timers, picking up small objects and putting them in a basket, doing certain tasks or tricks when a timer goes off, separate recycling, put laundry in a basket, open and close curtains, close drawers and cabinet doors, turn lights on and off, giving back massages, and other small tasks. Some of these tasks the dog can do while you are gone, and others the dog can do for you.

My service dog has all the work he can handle, and staying focused on his tasks helps him feel useful and increases his feelings of safety and confidence.

The two pet dogs have been taught a series of tasks that they can do throughout the day – picking up toys and seeking hidden treats, opening and closing curtains, filing their nails on their scratching board, getting their lunch when the timer goes off, lining up at the door when I get home, that sort of thing.

This keeps them busy all day, they don’t have much time to get bored, and they know when I’m coming home and what to do. Knowing what is going to happen next keeps them confident, and helps them feel safe and useful.

Remove fear and tiny dogs can be as calm and well behaved as larger dogs.

I sincerely believe nurture has far more to do with aggression in tiny dogs than nature.

Duck!

I love duck for winter holidays.

It all began when I first learned to hunt, and bagged my very first kill – a duck.

My aunt walked me through each step of preparing that duck, and we ate it for our Erntedankfest. Duck has always been associated with holidays and festivals since.

So many people shy away from preparing duck, probably because of the dreaded Peking Duck that is touted as the most delicious and difficult way to prepare a duck. Truth is, duck is not only delicious, it’s easy to prepare.

It’s really easy to prepare. Easier than turkey, and then you get all that lovely rendered duck fat. It takes about 5 hours, but most of that time you could do other things. This is a great dish to prepare when you are doing laundry, playing video games, weeding the garden, cleaning house…

Buy your duck. Thaw it out because (at least around here) all duck are frozen. Once it’s thawed (or if you were lucky enough to score a fresh, unfrozen duck), pat it dry all over. If it came with gizzards and innards, pull those out and set aside for now. Rinse the juices out of the inside of the duck.

It does not need to be marinated or brined (although it does well with these, especially the breast, which might dry out a bit).

Heat the oven to 300ºF. Do not use the convection setting if your oven has one – it will blow duck fat all over inside your oven and create a gruesome mess to clean up. You will hate duck forever more if you use the convection setting.

Completely dry the duck. Use paper towels. I don’t often advocate using disposable products, but the best way to know your duck is completely dry is to use paper towels in drying it inside and out. Cloth towels aren’t absorbent enough, and people (read: I am) are often tempted to use the towel even after it’s damp, and that leaves dampness on the duck. It just doesn’t get completely dry.

Of course, you could air-dry it, but that takes long enough that the meat of the duck begins to dry out and you don’t want that to happen.

Then score the skin across the breast in a cross hatch pattern – only the skin. Don’t cut the meat, just the skin and some of the fat beneath it. Prick the skin over all areas that are fatty (again, just the skin and fat, not into the meat).

Season the bird inside and out with

Tie the legs together and tuck the wings behind the duck.

Place it back-side down on a rack in a roasting pan. Tent some foil over it but don’t completely seal it, leave the ends open. You want to catch and contain fat splatters, but not steam the duck.

Now, put the duck into the 300ºF oven and leave it for 1 hour.

At the end of that first hour, pull aside the foil tent, prick any fatty spots on the duck where the fat isn’t draining out, then flip it over onto its breast. Re-tent the foil and roast another hour.

At the end of the second hour, repeat: pull aside the foil tent, prick any fatty ares that aren’t draining, and flip the duck over onto its back. Re-tent the foil and roast another hour.

At the end of the third hour, repeat the process again: pull aside the foil tent, prick any non-draining fatty spots, flip the duck onto its breast side, re-tent the foil, and cook another hour.

At the end of the fourth hour, turn the heat up to 400ºF, remove the foil tent, flip the duck onto its back, and let the duck’s skin crisp up for about 10 minutes (maybe 15 – check it).

Now, if you want a pretty, shiny duck, you need to glaze it. Most people glaze with a blend of honey, molasses (1/4 cup each), and orange juice (2 tablespoons) simmered for 5 minutes, but any glazing will do.

Brush the glaze on the duck and return to the hot oven for 5 minutes (be careful – the glaze can burn quickly, so keep a close eye on it at this point).

Now, remove the duck from the oven and out of the roasting pan onto a board or platter so it can rest a few minutes.

Pour off the duck fat into a wide mouthed sterilized mason jar (a half pint or pint sized jar, depending on the amount of fat your duck gave up) and let it cool down before sealing it and storing it in the refrigerator to use later for duck fat fried potatoes and other tasty dishes.

Once the duck has rested a few minutes, cut off the wings, chop out the backbone, then remove the legs and thighs, and slice off the breast meat. Be sure to leave the crisp skin on when you serve it (in other words, don’t be greedy and eat the skin before serving…).

It pairs up well with a vinegar-based potato salad, green beans or peas, and a squash mash (cooked squash – pumpkin, summer squash, butternut…mashed with butter and seasonings). Those could be cooked the final roasting hour of the duck.

See how simple that is? And you’ll be rewarded with not just a tasty duck, but the carcass bits to make duck stock for soup, and the duck fat for frying potatoes and eggs. Or use it to replace the vegetable shortening in making pie crusts for savory pies (pot pies!). Spread it like butter on rye bread and sprinkle on a bit of salt and sliced radishes for an open-faced sandwich (or tiny cocktail rye breads for hors d’oeuvres, with pearl onion, radish, olive, or scallion toppings, and maybe a thin slice of duck). Use it in a roux for making gumbo, pot pies, jambalaya, stews, or a sauce. Use it to make fried rice. Use duck fat to roast Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, asparagus, kale chips, mushrooms, or rutabagas. Use duck fat for making duck confit (and then using the re-rendered fat to braise red cabbage and apples, mushrooms, green beans, potatoes, as a topping for toasts served with the duck, for scrambling eggs, or making savory quiches). Duck fat has lots and lots of uses.

So, anyway, once the fat is rendered and saved, and the duck is rested – serve it forth.

Duck is the perfect winter dish, where you want the oven on a long time for the warmth it adds to the house. It’s great for a romantic dinner for 2.

And oh my gosh – if you roast your own duck, you get that amazing duck fat! Duck may seem a little expensive when you buy it, because it costs more than turkey or chicken, but with all its many, many uses and the many ways you can then serve the duck, it becomes a very frugal dish.

You get to enjoy it freshly roasted, with its crisp, delicious skin. Then you get the leftover slices to serve as appetizers or sandwiches or for fried rice or to put in egg rolls. Then you can make a stock from the bones. Then you have the duck fat for sandwiches or sauteeing or pie making or sauces or the roux for stews or frying rice.

Two people can eat well off of a duck for at least a week, and often for two weeks. It’s a provident gourmet dish!

This Man Makes More Than I Do

And he lives in a place with a comparable cost of living. Yet he’s struggling.

It makes me wonder what we are all doing differently.

He can barely afford a one-room apartment with a roommate. I bought a house. Granted, it’s a small house, but it’s still brick and on a small bit of land.

He works 60 hours a week, so do I.

He can’t save money, yet I was able to send my children to college (debt-free), to donate to charity, save enough to have a comfortable retirement, and indulge in a rather costly hobby.

I don’t know what his total bills are, but mine average (with mortgage, gas, electric, water, internet, and phone) about $900 a month – or just over 2 weeks’ pay. Food, gasoline, insurance, vet bills, pet food, and other expenses round out the third week’s pay, leaving one week’s pay to bank and play with (now, anyway – before, it was used to pay college expenses for my kids and to bankroll my daughter when she wanted to start her own business). Not a lot, I grant you, but over time, it does add up. Any bonus money (gift money, windfalls, garage sale money, collecting and selling aluminum and recyclables, selling stuff on craigslist, etc.) gets banked with it.

If he’s splitting expenses, he should actually be in better financial shape than I am.

So what are we doing differently that he’s struggling on the same wages I’m comfortable on?

Cookie Day

Cookie Day is December 12 (twelfth day of twelfth month).

For us, it has meaning beyond delicious cookies to share. It is one of our most important religious holy days, signifying bounty, love, companionship, caring, community, connection, and divinity.

The story of how Cookie Day came into existence is both old and new.

In 1946, a group of soldiers and their friends and families gathered to start a religious study group. They studied as many religions as they could find (not so easy in 1946 as it is now), trying to find answers to spiritual questions they had and along the way, discovered they weren’t really Christian after all. So they started a new religion, one that owed parentage to many different religions, making it (they hoped) a uniquely American religion.

They studied the celebrations of other religions, dissected them to see what made them last through the centuries, what gave them meaning, what made them important. They used the knowledge gained to craft celebrations that adapted to the hearts and spirits of their fellow Americans.

I joined them in 1957, bringing my knowledge of German mythology and the festivals of rural Germany. We had lots of celebrations (Zwiebelfest, Shuetzenfests, Erntedankfest, Wurstmarkt, Gaeubodenfest, Tollwood, Drachenstich, Tag der Kranken…), but the one that evoked the greatest response was Keksmarkt.

Every village and town in Germany has its particular folk festival special and unique to it. The village I grew up in celebrated the festivals of nearby towns (mostly by traveling there and drinking their beers and eating their wursts and street foods and dancing and visiting their merchants and playing their games), and they would come to ours.

Ours translates to “Cookie Market”, except it wasn’t just a market, it was also a swap.

How it was organized: in the days before the Keksmarkt, everyone would be busy baking their family’s best cookies – and every family had at least one cookie recipe that they zealously guarded. My family’s recipes (we inherited several from WWI and WWII) were a “snowfire drop” cookie (a cross between a Russian Teacake cookie and a pfeffernusse – richly spicy as the pfeffernusse, but melt-in-your-mouth delicate like a Russian Teacake), a fruity drop cookie, and savory red and green pinwheel cookies.

Snowfire Drops

Fruitcake Cookies

Savory Pinwheels

Everyone baked their special cookies – lots and lots and lots of them, enough to pile high on a trestle table.

Late December 11th, trestle tables were set up in front of everyone’s home. More tables and a stage for the musicians were set up down in the village square (where the baker, the butcher, the big church, the hairdresser, the three taverns, and the pharmacist had shops and where the bergermeister’s house and the cemetery were). The taverns set their benches and tables out so people would have places to sit and drink beer when they weren’t dancing.

Early December 12th, the villagers set their cookies out on the tables, and, baskets on our arms, we’d go from table to table, filling our baskets with other people’s cookies. Because we could only fill one basket for each person (parents could fill for their children and elderly parents and some people would fill baskets for the elderly and sick who had no one to fill their baskets) and we wanted some of everyone’s cookies, that was self-limiting on how many cookies we took from each table.

There would be piles of cookies left. About then, people from the other villages began arriving with their cookies and setting up on the tables set up for them.

Merchants selling wursts and pomme frits and trinkets would also set up, and the oompah bands began arriving and tuning up.

We’d have lunch, and wander through the booths, buying trinkets and listening to the bands and dancing – and checking out the cookies the others brought to our village. We’d carry two baskets – one filled with our own special cookies and one to fill with their cookies. We’d check them out then offer a one-for-one trade of our cookies for theirs. When our cookie basket was empty, we could fill it by getting more of our cookies to trade – or buying their cookies after we ran out of ours.

When all the cookie tables were emptied and all the baskets of cookies stored away, the festival began in earnest, the bands firing up, the beer coming out, and dancing. The trinket merchants did their best business after the cookies were gone, and the wurst and pomme frits and other food booth merchants did well, too.

It was the sharing and the trading of the cookies that appealed to the new American religion (it didn’t have a name back then – it wasn’t until the late 70’s that it got the name “Numenous Way” and the adherents called themselves “Numenists”). This aspect resonated strongly with them, and it became a holy day.

It wasn’t until the Bounty Ministry, and the philosophy of the cornucopia became so important that Cookie Day took on new significance. The combination of the three created the most holy and sacred day in the Numenous calendar.

We’ve never had the numbers to do a full-on German village style Keksmarkt, but wherever two or more Numenists gather on December 12th, we have Cookie Day – tables filled with specialty cookies that we eat and share. We fast from cookies entirely between Thanksgiving and Cookie Day so cookies are especially meaningful when tied in with the philosophy of the cornucopia and our Bounty Ministry. The baskets that we use are cornucopia shaped, and in filling them with the cookies baked by others, we are reminded that our inner resources are nourished by our community – our family and friends, and in the Bounty Ministry, our strength and wealth come from them, too, just as theirs comes from us.

And when our personal cornucopia baskets are filled, we fill baskets for those who are in need. These cookies are added to the other items we give to the needy with a note that we wish them to do more than survive, we wish them to thrive.

Cookie Day is a day to remember that we are all a community, that we rely on one another, and not one of us could succeed without the work that others have done before us, and with us. Each bite of every cookie that we eat and share each winter is a taste of that love.

In TX and OK, You Need Government Permission

to celebrate the winter holidays, but those holidays can only be “Christmas”.

They totally exclude Krampusnacht, St. Nick’s Day, Cookie Day, Solstice, Yule, Festivus, Hogswatch, Winterfest, Chalica, Bodhi Day, St. Lucia’s Day, Mother’s Night, Hogmanay, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, or New Year’s Eve – because all those holy days (and more) are included in “Happy Holidays” and excluded in “Merry Christmas”.

They have legislated that trees erected and decorated for winter holidays be “Christmas” trees and the ornaments adorning them be “Christmas” ornaments, and winter holiday songs be deemed “Christmas” songs.

It’s ridiculous and a waste of tax dollars. Our legislators should be considering far more important things than what we call trees, ornaments, holidays, songs, activities.

It’s called the “Merry Christmas Law” in Texas, while it’s still just a bill here in OK, but I have absolutely no doubts that my tax dollars will be spent passing this absurd, exclusionist law.

It’s hate parading as Christianity. Or these Christians exposing their hatred of all things not theirs under secular laws. However, you look at it, it’s hatred.

I am tired of these Christians (in America, anyway) trying to shove their Christianity down the throats of every American using secular laws to do so. Apparently the Blue Laws weren’t enough for them. Now they have to force us to use their religious words for a religious rite that belongs to their religion alone..

If their Christianity is so weak their adherents won’t obey their religious dictates, mandates, regulations, etc. without demanding that secular laws and punishments be exacted not only on their adherents, but everyone else, too, then perhaps they need to find out why their worshippers aren’t obeying their religion’s commandments. Forcing the secular laws to impose those commandments is wrong on so many levels.

We do not need laws forcing us to use terms that are exclusionary.

I am not happy about a law that actively tries to exclude all other winter holy days.

In rebellion, I am going to wish them whatever that day’s holy day really is. Today, for example, is Saint Lucy’s Day, so Happy Santa Lucia!

Having a Child Does Not End Loneliness

It doesn’t even make it feel a bit better.

Britney Spears is deluding herself if she thinks having a daughter, a “mini-me” as she calls this as-yet-to-be-conceived daughter, will cure her loneliness.

If a husband and two sons didn’t cure her loneliness, adding yet another child won’t do it, either.

Her loneliness probably has deeper causes that adding another child may exacerbate rather than alleviate. She should explore that before she adds a child that has an extremely high chance of not being like her at all.

If this hypothetical daughter is conceived and born, and isn’t an identical clone of Ms. Spears, how will that affect her loneliness?

What happens if this 3rd child is another son? Will she keep trying until she finally has a daughter? My mother’s friend did that, and had 17 boys before they finally had a daughter. By then, she was too tired and too old to really enjoy the little girl and left most of the girl’s upbringing to her older sons and their wives.

Ms. Spears isn’t alone in thinking that a child is a cure for whatever ails them, and will probably join the many, many people who learned otherwise – often to the detriment of the child upon whom they pinned their dreams and hopes.

Neck Deep in Snow

Nigel does not like snow.

He ran for and pottied inside one of the trash cans, then waited for me to go carry him back into the house.

Snow

Look at how sad he is when I let him outside, even though I shoveled the snow off the ground in the spot closest to the house. There’s more that I shoveled off out of camera view, so they had a good run area, but he stayed in this spot close to the house and acted all pitiful.

Snow

Xoco blends into the snow so well that I don’t think I have any pictures of her. At least, if I do, she’s not visible enough in them.

Itzl was light enough that he walked on top of the ice and snow. Of course, he has booties, and Nigel doesn’t (yet).

Itzl

The snow got to be around 5″ in the center of my back yard, so that’s neck deep for Itzl, over Xoco’s head, and belly deep for Nigel.

Superfoods are Poverty Foods

The foods I eat most often are cheap: oats, eggs, potatoes, cabbage, tuna, beans, rice, bananas.

Turns out these are considered “superfoods”. They add fiber, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and essential fats as well as being cheap.

Except for the potatoes (and possibly the eggs), they can be purchased in a readily edible state – beans and tuna come canned, bananas, cabbage, and eggs can be eaten raw, oats and rice simply require hot water to pour over (and then cover and let soak for 10 [oats] – 40 minutes [rice]). Eggs and potatoes do require some cooking, which means access to a heat source and a container in which to cook them.

This means that these “superfoods” are accessible and affordable for the poor and/or homeless.

It’s not the best diet, limiting yourself to just 8 foods, but it’s certainly a diet that will keep you alive.

I think it needs the addition of lemons, limes, or oranges to complete it, and I don’t know why these weren’t added in. They are cheap and portable and prevent scurvy. They are versatile – used to make beverages, to perk up rice, beans, tuna, and cabbages, and eaten out of hand (I’ve seen people eat lemon and limes the way I eat oranges – I shudder to think of it, but they do and they love it).

I keep tuna, canned beans, rice, and oats at work and in my car as emergency foods in case of getting iced in. I also have rice noodles (they only need hot water poured over them, like the oats and rice, to be edible). If I have access to hot water (boiling temp hot), I can eat well, if somewhat boringly, for very little money.

And tomatoes can be cheap, in season. Those, too, add strong health benefits to a diet as well as a tasty variation. Plus, they can be eaten raw or cooked.

It’s good to know that being homeless or poor doesn’t mean eating badly or starving.

It would be better to know that we don’t have so many homeless or poor people, and that we took care of them somehow.

Snow At Work

As essential personnel, we have to be at work regardless of the weather and road conditions. While everyone else gets to enjoy a snow day, we are navigating icy roads and hazardous driving conditions to get to work. The buses are not running today.

So, Itzl and I get to work.

He’s dressed for going outside:

Itzl

And here he is, enjoying a  walk in the lee of the building, where the snow is at its shallowest.

Itzl

As you can see from the dots, it’s still snowing.

Here’s Itzl making sure the plowed walkways are wide enough for people to walk down:

Itzl

Shortly after this, he braved the deeper snow out in the open – 4″ – the snow came up to his shoulder. No pics because he moved too fast, and between his speed and the glare, all I got were blurs. Bad ones where all you saw was what looked like bloody snow (the red in his sweater).

And just because, here’s a picture of Nigel on his new favorite perch, the top of the chair:

Nigel

Xoco is snug under blankets and won’t even poke her nose out for a picture, so no pics of her.

Stolen Service Dogs

Service dogs have full accessibility – they get to go where their human partner goes (with very limited exceptions – surgery, the X-ray room, the MRI room…).

According to the newest ADA guidelines and regulations, service dogs, when out in public, must be kept within 3 feet of their handler/partner. There are some exceptions if the dogs is actively performing a task for their human partner that requires them to move beyond the 3 foot limit, but for the most part, 3 feet is it. Our service dog leashes are short.

This inquiring mind wants to know why the people who were teamed up with these service dogs left them behind when they went into the stores where their service dogs were stolen.

There have been two recent instances of a service dog left behind when their handler went inside a store. One tied her dog up outside as if it were a pet.  The other left it in the car, again, as if it were a pet.

Service dogs are not pets.

Dogs that are treated like pets in some instances and not in others are not service dogs.

Either the dog is a service dog, and is treated like one, kept within 3 feet of the handler in public, full access, and all, or it is a pet and is tied up outside stores, left in cars, left at home, has no access rights at all. There is no middle ground of a dog that is sometimes a service dog and sometimes a pet dog.

We can’t have it both ways.  I know it’s sometimes inconvenient to attach that leash to the harness and wrangle the dog out of the car for short trips, but either the dog is a service dog and stays with you to provide that service, or it’s a pet dog and should stay home or in pet-friendly areas.

I know sometimes facing the world with a service dog by your side can be intimidating because other people make it a nerve-wracking experience, but wussing out and leaving the dog behind does no one any good at all. The dog expects to be by your side all the time. When you sometimes take the dog and sometimes leave it, you are sending mixed messages to the dog, weakening its training, and making it less able to be a service dog. If we want our lives back, with full access and activities, and that means relying on a dog to help us, then we need to suck it up and take that dog everywhere.

No halfsies.

If you needed a wheelchair to get around, would you tie it up outside because you didn’t want to deal with it in the store?

If you needed an oxygen tank to breathe, would you leave it in the car because it was too much hassle hauling it out of the car and into the store?

If you wouldn’t do those, then why do you leave your essential service dog tied up outside the store, or in the car?

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