Friday, September 30, 2011

The New Normal

It’s interesting how the things that used to make sense now seem to make no sense.  Judging by news reports, I think it must be opposite day and abnormal is the new normal. Take the seismic activity for instance, have we always had this many earthquakes in a two year time span? Somebody must be tracking these events. Weather-wise our hurricanes seem stronger and we’ve talked enough about the extraordinary thunderstorms. I just got caught in another crazy one yesterday. And as we discussed in an earlier post, even the Catatumbo Lightning is a-changing.  What is going on?
Here’s something else outside the norm: the number of abandoned retail establishments. Borders? Closed. The Petco in our area? Closing. Jonn’s furniture stores? On it’s way out. Say it ain’t so, Joe! I frequented these businesses, and their closures are turning my world topsy-turvy. How many vacant building will there be? Take Borders, for example, people have spent Saturday nights there browsing bookshelves with a mocha latte something. I bet some people even slept there, treating the store like a second home. Economists suggest that there’s a rational explanation for these closings, in the spirit of the 1992 presidential election, “It’s the economy, stupid.” OK I’ll buy that, but I’m not stupid, something else is going happening.
I think our culture is changing in unprecedented ways and I’m experiencing culture shock! Things that used to be the norm are no longer normal.  I find myself constantly looking around and wondering, “What in the world is going on?” I believe that’s just what these gentlemen are thinking in this video:
Change is inevitable; culture will continue to change whether we like it or not. The key is how we handle it. We can laugh at the absurd, be angry at the injustice and promise to make a difference.  What’s the long-term prognosis for our world? From your perspective, over the next twenty years, will things improve or deteriorate? Why? 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Foodie's Tips

Welcome to this week’s foodie tips. In case you’re wondering, a foodie is someone who loves eating, discussing and cooking food. I enjoy the first two, but the cooking part—not really.  I’d much rather watch someone else cook. Fortunately for me, my kids inherited their grandmother’s and their father’s love for cooking. They plan to be professional chefs so I foresee many wonderful meals in my future. Until then, you’ll find me cooking out of necessity, and when I’m in the kitchen, I keep it quick and simple.
What’s easier to make than French toast? Actually, I can think of a lot of things—soup for one, especially if it’s right from the can, but that was last week’s post. We’re moving on. Tell me, is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy piping, hot French toast for breakfast?  Start with the right bread and your dish will be fabulous. I like to use cinnamon bread, with or without raisins. I call it Double Cinnamon French Toast because there’s tasty cinnamon swirled throughout the bread and then it’s dipped in a cinnamony-egg mixture just before frying. What a yummy treat!  By the way, cinnamon is more than delicious, it’s healthy, too. Nutritional experts call cinnamon a super food because the spice helps lower cholesterol levels. So, for tip number one: use cinnamon bread. But since this is a two-for-one deal, I have a second tip for you.
 Last month when we were on vacation, I discovered a great way to improve on your classic French toast. With limited frying pans, I could only cook one piece of French toast at a time. Once I finished the first piece, I popped it in the oven to stay warm while the next piece cooked on top of the stove. I’ve read a few recipes that describe how to make French toast in the oven, but if you prepare it on the stove and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about seven minutes—you’ve got your own little plate of heaven.  I’m not usually proud of my cooking, but that was the best French toast I’ve ever made, pure oven-toasted, cinnamon-laden, crunchy goodness.
I know these aren’t revolutionary tips, but sometimes our best ideas come from our most unexpected sources and experiences. Here’s an opportunity to pick up a few tips from a lady who’s experienced a long, long life:     

What’s the best life tip you’ve ever received?        

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pho Satisfaction

Have you noticed your diet changing as you age? It’s a slow process, but before long friends will question your identity. You’ll hear things like, “Aren’t you the same person who used to eat a whole cake? Now you won’t touch sugar and you only use Splenda?” I supposed it happens to the best of us.   
One day, while discussing our morning routines, an older relative and I shared what we ate for breakfast.  I used to eat very little for breakfast, but with kids in the house, my morning meals have ramped up to include anything from scrambled eggs to French toast or waffles, and don’t forget the fruit and/or yogurt. My relative remarked that he often ate oatmeal, and sometimes…soup! I didn’t see that coming. But later I started thinking, “Why get locked into the same, old routine?” Shake things up a bit—go ahead and have soup for breakfast. Actually, I haven’t eaten it for breakfast yet, but I am reaching for soup more often. It’s light, yet filling. Last year I discovered a wonderful, new soup. If you’re ready for something a little different, try a bowl of pho.                         
Beef Pho (pronounced “fuh”) noodle soup is a Vietnamese dish. Our community has several new Vietnamese restaurants and, from what I’ve seen, some of the Vietnamese dishes resemble Chinese food, but pho is special. The hot, rich, brown broth hides a tasty mound of rice noodles, and you get to order one or two types of thinly-sliced beef such as brisket or flank steak to include in your soup.
Fresh basil, lime, chili peppers and bean sprouts comes on a separate plate so that you can add them to the pho as you wish. Usually Vietnamese restaurants keep several sauces like Hoisin ( a sort of Chinese barbecue sauce) and Sriracha (a flavorful hot sauce) on the tables to enhance the food. Mixing these sauces into your pho adds layers of flavor and gives the soup a savory, spicy kick.
Still looking to add adventure to your meals? Imagine yourself dining with these people at Trump Towers in NYC:    

I never encounter scenes like this when I’m out for lunch. Improv Everywhere filmed this prank for the Today Show, look closely and you’ll see Ann Curry.    
Despite the warnings to cut back on salt, sugar, fat and various meats, there are some foods we’re just not giving up. It’s interesting how we can become emotionally connected to certain foods and many times our favorite meals evoke our best (childhood?) memories. So, what’s your favorite food and why?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don’t Count on It

From last week’s post we learned about a special light show that occurs over the Catatumbo River and Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, South America.  For centuries, people living near these two bodies of water have experienced over 150 lightning storms per year with each event lasting about 10 hours per night. If you researched this unusual weather, then you know the prior post skipped over an interesting tidbit.
Are you ready for this? Between January and April of 2010, the lightning ceased. We’re talking nothing, nada. Incredible! I can imagine puzzled people peeking outdoors and searching the night sky for a tiny sign of “normalcy.” Scientists offer differing theories for the lightning’s presence and its temporary absence. Some experts believe geography and gases from the surrounding waters cause the lightning so when the lake and river dried up due to drought, the gases also disappeared—no gas, no lightning. Let’s visit Venezuela to hear what the local people think.   

Was it more startling to learn that this lightning show has existed for centuries or to hear that it stopped?  Do you think people in this part of Venezuela have expressions based on their lightning? For instance, we might say, “As sure as day follows night, I’ll return,” but people living near the Catatumbo phenomenon might say, “As sure as the lightning comes, I’ll return.” Some things you can count on and other things you thought you could count on. After all these years, even Catatumbo lightning is undependable.
In our culture where people, places and things change at lightning speed, who or what can you depend on?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Dirty Side

Alas, I’m not the weather expert I thought I was. During all of our extreme weather conditions, I learned two new weather-related phenomena. Even if you’re not a regular weather follower, you’ll be surprised by these discoveries.   
Did you know that in a section of Venezuela, South America a lightning storm, with little or no thunder, lasts ten hours per night 140 days a year? Scientists believe rising gases cause this activity called Catatumbo lightning.  The region’s local people have witnessed this natural night light display for centuries. After hearing the story on TV, I thought, “What? That’s amazing! How could I not know about this?”
Then, a short time later, with the onslaught of Irene, I learned about the “dirty side” of a hurricane. It refers to the right or easterly side of the storm that carries with it extra power, more rain, and stronger winds. So how come I’ve never heard that term used in any other hurricane-related news before now?  
I thought I had a good handle on weather-related information, but apparently not. Aren’t we like that sometimes? We think we know ourselves until an incident or event occurs and we’re stunned by our ignorance or our responses. Oh yeah, others may say we’re nice, but I believe anyone is capable of anything at any time.  You’ve seen the news reports where neighbors describe the criminal as “the nicest person the block.” Whether we admit it or not, we all have socially undesirable “dirty sides.”
Let’s do some self-discovery. Have you ever taken a personality test? Its reliability may be questionable, but the tests can still be fun, interesting and informative. Grab a pen and paper and try this one:

Did the outcome surprise you? If you’re willing to hang onto a tiger, prepare for a wild journey. Speaking of wild, regardless of the reason, does it seem like there’s a rise in socially unacceptable behavior these days? I know you’re not a part of the problem, so what helps you keep your “dirty side” in check?