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Above the pines the moon was slowly drifting . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

. . . . when I got out of bed at about 2:30 a.m. to check out the winter solstice lunar eclipse.

The moon was a moody dark orange with a bright penumbra of light. Brilliant stars spread across the cloudless night sky, our birch tree a white skeleton. Behind it the forest of tall red pines soughed in the wind, laden with snow. The air was so cold it sparkled and tingled in my nose.

I was not here the last time this happened. I'm not at all likely to be around the next time it occurs either.

And so yes, it was worth stumbling out of bed, sliding my feet into my sheepskin slippers, wrapping myself in my dark green dressing gown and stepping out onto the back deck.

Yes, it was.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 12/22/2010 9:36PM

    Your words are picturesque. When I looked outside, it was happening, all was really dark - but it was too cold for me to venture out. My husband who works night shift saw it though and told me about it. Your words are lovely, thank you for sharing.
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TEENY_BIKINI 12/22/2010 7:54PM

    That was so beautiful - I could "see" every detail as you described it.

I can only imagine how amazing it was in person.

Well done :)


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COLONELD1 12/22/2010 9:59AM

    We had cloud cover, where I live(CO) I stumbled out of bed and it was dark...but at 0400 Mr Moon was shining brightly through the windows, illuminating the pines and just beautiful emoticon

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TRYINGHARD1948 12/22/2010 1:40AM

    We had cloud cover but your description was so beautiful I could almost see it. Thank you.

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FRACTALMYTH 12/21/2010 8:36PM

    The sun hadn't set here yet, and the crescent moon swam in and out of clouds. You could not see anything spectacular... but the rest of the night and into the early morning she swam serenely through the skies, full and brightly polished, every detail of her face lit up in high detail. It was like she was making up for lost time :P

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PHEBESS 12/21/2010 6:40PM

    Now I really regret not having gotten up for this!

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HARISHABAD 12/21/2010 5:46PM

    Ah, I was wondering if this was all happening at the same time, or if it depended on where you were...your blog answered my question.

In the west, the event started at 10:30 and totality was at 12:07. I got out of bed, bundled up at 11:20 and was so grateful for the clear night. No fog, what a treat, in Oregon, in December yet!

The moon was high in the sky and yes, not full but a beautiful curving crescent. I snuggled back into bed and and got back up right before midnight, waking the family. Everyone came out and looked but daughter Rachel, who crawled back into bed. By that time it was much darker, and the disk of the moon was almost obscured.

What a treat! I mused that this event must have caused many witches to be burned in 1638, the last time around. How much, and so little, the world has changed.

Peace, and Happy Solstice to you!

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VALERIEMAHA 12/21/2010 5:22PM

    Oh my, like DG I got no views here. And your prose so beautifully describes a viewing of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing that.

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    Mmmm.... I just read this through several times. Every word was perfectly chosen and perfectly ordered.

When I rose I could see nothing but the snow storm.... so I caught some of the flakes on my tough, said hello to all my friends around the world who were looking up at the same time, said a little prayer for peace and went back to bed.

I am so happy you shared your better view with me.
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Golden Shortbread: the Short Story

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Those who check out my blogs regularly will know: I'm not very domesticated.

But: amazingly, this far before the 25th, I have already decorated the tree, set up my Victorian village in billows of cotton wool on our living room mantel, and this morning actually baked shortbread.

Shortbread are DH's faves. The recipe is simple. No rice flour, no white sugar, no icing sugar, no cornstarch: none of these. Just good ol' salted butter, brown sugar, white flour (almost never used in my kitchen any other time of the year) and a touch of pure vanilla. Just like my Scottish ancestors made them . . . yeah! No red and green sprinkles or maraschino cherry bits on top, no chocolate chips or pecans baked in. Basic buttery goodness with just enough flour to hold it together.

(And I know there will be many for whom the quintessential shortbread and all the memories are baked up differently, but these are the ones that do it for us).

Of course DH likes them rolled out and cut into little shapes: that's fussier. But, once a year and seeing as how it's him -- why not?

So here's the recipe:

5 cups all purpose flour
1 pound (2 cups) salted butter, room temperature
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract

Cream the butter and the brown sugar till fluffy; add the vanilla. Incorporate the flour gradually until the dough comes together. Roll out small portions on lightly floured board, about 1/4 inch thick, using as little extra flour as possible: cut out the shapes, bake at 325 for about 20 minutes (until very lightly golden). Reroll and repeat with the scraps (I chill the dough while I"m waiting for the first batch to bake). Cool on wire racks and then store in closed tin with layers separated with wax paper.

Makes about 60 small shortbread cookies. Calories/fat/carbs??? We don't wanna know.

Now, that lightly golden part? Charlie NEVER ever helps himself to anything off a counter or off the table -- not even a juicy rare steak (I don't eat these, but the resident carnivores certainly do . . . ). Charlie is a gentleman who waits to be offered anything special. With the occasional exception of . . . butter.

But: these ARE mostly butter. And if they are "lightly golden" that would have to mean that they were specially baked for the golden, right?

I could not believe my eyes when I came back to the kitchen to pack away the second batch only to discover a number of shortbreads missing from the cooling racks, the remaining cookies in disarray and tell tale crumbs on the counter and on the floor!! Looked over at Charlie who wagged at me forgivingly . . .

"Shoulda used the dog bone cookie cutter . . . but that was clearly just an oversight. Still quite acceptable, thank you."

Oh, Charlie. Guess they're your faves too!! And it was kind of you to take only a few!!

Since I had a couple myself -- gotta get to the gym for a little extra cardio burn! And after that, I should probably run Charlie around the block as well!!.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KMICHA 12/19/2010 8:49PM

    Yummy! A good friend just gave me some shortbread cookies today with some hot fudge sauce to dip them in . . . Yours sound delisious . . . I have some from a box! Still yummy by not like home made!!! I have 3 "Charlies" at my house! LOL!!!

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DONNACFIT 12/19/2010 8:25PM

    Your recipe sounds just like my late mom's shortbread recipe except for the vanilla. |She always shaped them into a square log, then made them look like bread shape and slice and bake :)

Merry Christmas!!!

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TRYINGHARD1948 12/19/2010 5:11PM

    emoticon, love how Charlie stole the show, and the shortbread.

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LUNADRAGON 12/19/2010 4:50PM

    Thank you for the recipe! It may come in handy!
I remember my sister-in-law's dog decided to eat the salt dough ornaments I had made - after I had painted them yet! Amazing what some pooches will munch!
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WALKINGANNIE 12/19/2010 4:01PM

    Gotta love Charlie!

The shortbead seems to be everyone's favourite. The recipe sounds yummy.

Love the, "Calories/fat/carbs??? We don't wanna know. " Well it is Christmas!

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FRACTALMYTH 12/19/2010 3:33PM

    ROFL Cheeky Charlie! Yay you for making Shortbread - they sound YUMMY!

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ETAGGEL 12/19/2010 2:36PM

    As I am from Scotland, I am addicted to shortbread, The true butter shortbread! Every New Year it is one of the favorite goodies. I cannot eat just one piece so unfortunately, I have to leave it alone!

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JHADZHIA 12/19/2010 1:25PM

    I don't cook anything except potatoes, but this sounds really neat. I do love shortbread on the occasions I have seen some available -usually at bridge tourneys when they trot out the home made cookies, fortunately I don't go to them anymore..
They are one long snack fest LOL.
Enjoy your holiday spirit! I actually decorated a tree for the first time sincee I was a kid lol.

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LORTHOM2001 12/19/2010 12:36PM

    cool post...thx.

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Vegetable Stew

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My usual Saturday morning soup-making venture -- checking to see what needs to be used from the vegetable crisper before I go grocery shopping -- resulted today in an amazing rainbow production too robust to be characterized as a mere soup. This is hearty!

Purple cabbage; two cans diced tomatoes (low sodium); five ribs of celery; about twenty baby carrots; a little brown rice, a little barley, a can of black beans rinsed carefully (all from the pantry, of course); a small yellow pepper, a small orange pepper, a small red pepper, a large green pepper; and a cup of fresh green beans. Plus a big whack of oregano, some red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, and a small amount of salt.

All simmering away and ready when I got back from getting my hair trimmed (so that it looks just the same way it always does . . . exciting, no, but that's the goal).

Now, suitably warmed up, (having enjoyed two cups of chocolate almond coffee as well) I can head out and buy a few Christmas presents!

I like to think that I'm a reasonably modest person about most things -- I have a lot to be modest about, actually.

But: my soups are so good. I cannot deny that I am a veritable star at soup making!! And there's supper probably for most of next week (depending upon how greedy I get) -- ready to reheat in the microwave when I walk in the door.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WALKINGANNIE 12/13/2010 5:04PM

    Mmmm. Comfort food of the best kind. Sounds perfect for the cold, snowy weather that we've got just now.

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EPIPHANYANGEL 12/12/2010 5:43AM

    sounds lovely. emoticon

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TRYINGHARD1948 12/11/2010 7:16PM

    Ellen, your soups are so good I can smell them here. So tasty, so tantalising with such a wonderful variety of smell sensations, it almost makes me wish it was cold here just so that I could have some soup. Hugs.

PS. You are a supremo in the soup kitchen. emoticon

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PHEBESS 12/11/2010 5:57PM

    Sounds like a wonderful stoup!!!!!

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FRACTALMYTH 12/11/2010 4:11PM

    MMmmmm my mouth is watering! Nobody here likes soups much so they never get made :( I never used to be a soup fan myself, but I think my tastes have changed, because they keep sounding SO yummy!

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DREMARGRL 12/11/2010 12:59PM

    I could only wish I were invited for lunch!! Sounds great and I love a good homemade soup. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have fun doing your Christmas shopping.
Wishing you and yours a glorious holiday season,
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LINDAW64 12/11/2010 12:36PM

    That soup sounds good emoticon

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FYRCOP 12/11/2010 12:27PM

    I love stew. I'll give your recipe a try. Last night I made a killer chili!

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Slouching towards Bethlehem

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas is coming . There is lots and lots and LOTS of snow here -- and although the work is piled as high on my windowsills as that snow, still I see Christmas in the not-so-distant future, and a bit of a breather at the end of the month.

So: I'm not really slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. More like staggering towards Christmas when I plan to spend several days curled up in my armchair in front of the fireplace, toasting my toes and reading something that is not remotely related to any case or file or work-related topic.

Yessssss. Skiing downhill towards Bethlehem!! Whoooosh!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TEENY_BIKINI 12/11/2010 8:28AM

    Wow. You are too cool for school.

I actually read that twice :) It is short but so well - expressed.

Sitting in front of a fireplace sounds great right now.


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TRYINGHARD1948 12/10/2010 4:14AM

    Smiling broadly, what a way you have with words Ellen, love it.

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FRACTALMYTH 12/10/2010 2:36AM

    Yay for snow! I wish we could swap for a few hours every now and then lol... why has no one invented a teleport machine yet??? I could visit and build a snowman... and you could come here for... well... we did have a lovely sunny afternoon! I'm also slightly jealous of your workload LOL... but I have an appointment with a careers assessment officer on Monday where I get to put my case for working part time and then I get referred to a specialist employment agency, so things may start happening soon :D

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Multivitamin and Weight Loss

Monday, November 29, 2010

An article in today's Toronto Star says that taking a multivitamin helps with weight loss. Here's the link if you want to read the whole article:


In a nutshell, women who took a standard multi for 6 months lost 8 pounds more than women who took placebos. The theory is that taking the multi fills in nutritional "gaps" and revs the metabolism by some 6% while increasing satiety and reducing binge eating. The multi also reduces risk of heart attack some 41% by discouraging plaque buildup in the blood vessels, reducing inflammation and increasing arterial flexibility.

The key is to choose a multi which provides 100% of recommended daily nutrients, and then to supplement that with some additional Vitamin D3 because most multis don't provide the recently adjusted recommended amounts.

With my depodge programme, I have been eating at the low end of my calorie range. I do eat very carefully: lots of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low or no fat dairy, whole grains: but 1200 calories makes it difficult to get the optimal nutrition in all categories every day. (In addition to calories/fat/protein/carbs I also track sodium, calcium, Vitamins A, C, D, E, folate, magnesium, etc.). So because I was noticing deficits, I had recently started taking a multi, additional calcium plus additional D3. (Recent research indicates D3 may help prevent cancer recurrence, particularly for persons living in northern climates where we tend to be sunshine deprived in winter).

The depodge is going well - I'm eying that black leather pencil skirt size 6 and thinking that any day now . . . . -- so maybe it's been the attention to micronutrients represented by the multi ++ which has been assisting as much as the low range calorie intake.

And that PGX supplement for fibre/satiety/blood sugar constancy continues to be of great assistance: this is product I really swear by when things feel like they're getting a little out of hand. It's a mulberry-derived University of Toronto "invention", so maybe not widely available outside Canada? I've mentioned it here a couple of times and would be interested to hear about others' experience with it if there's anyone else out there who has also tried it.

With my two rounds of flu, I haven't been getting in regular gym workouts -- but much as I love the gym for toning/mood control/strengthening, I know that the key to weight loss for me is nutrition tracking. And I also know that I always get right back to the gym when I'm well, so I don't worry too much about temporary interruptions.

A daily multivitamin: this is a pretty easy and low cost thing to do, especially if it helps with weight loss and weight loss maintenance. The Star article says it will: and from my own recent experience, I think maybe for me it does.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FRACTALMYTH 12/3/2010 1:01PM

    I couldn't do without my vitamins - they are a vital part of my day lol!

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PENNYAN45 12/2/2010 8:37PM

    I always feel better when I take my vitamins too. Thanks for the info.

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WALKINGANNIE 12/1/2010 3:24PM

    Thanks for the link - interesting.

Glad the depodge is going well and look forward to a photo of the leather skirt in action - or a report about it at the very least. emoticon

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PHEBESS 12/1/2010 10:41AM

    I'm a big fan of vitamins - not massive doses, just the basics. Makes a big difference, especially given the quality of produce at this time of year!

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BILBY4 11/30/2010 9:04PM

    I'm suspicious of writers who refer to 'research' and then don't state explicitly, even with a footnote, what the research was. Sorry, that's sloppy and unconvincing. Even if we don't think they made the whole thing up, why confidence should we have that they have drawn accurate conclusions from the studies?
"Thatís one reason we still recommend a multi." And the other might be the income from GoogleAds in the side panel? Just wondering.
Vitamins can only be of benefit if the diet is deficient. To my mind it's a more positive approach to consider improving the fundamentals of the diet rather than chucking a multi on top.
Hope the flu is behind you soon!
Wishing you well with your program,

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STLRZGRRL 11/30/2010 7:52PM

    Oh, I take HANDFULS of vitamins and stuff... but I have no PGX... now I must find some...

You know I am a great believer in better living through chemistry, El!!

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TRYINGHARD1948 11/30/2010 5:51PM

    that's really interesting. I do take a variety of vitamins and minerals but had not heard of the D3 - must look into it. Thanks Ellen for sharing.

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TBANMAN 11/29/2010 10:58PM

    Now I have reason to be more vigilant about taking my multi/omega 3/vit D combo. Thanks. :)

I have tried PGX without much success. Glad it works for you tho.

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DBCLARINET 11/29/2010 9:25PM

    Oooh, black leather pencil skirt... you're my hero!

Interesting article you mention. I just read something that seems to say the same thing, but from a different angle. Essentially, your body is hungry for nutrients, and if you consume a meal that doesn't provide your body the nutrients it needs, you will get "hungry" as your body attempts to make you consume the nutrients it needs. I have to imagine vitamin and mineral supplements would then also make it easier to avoid overeating.

I've been tracking a whole host of vitamins and minerals, too, and finding that I don't get the full amount in my diet, either. But I don't take a multi, I just supplement some vitamins and take a multi-mineral. Not sure if that's better, though.

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KALIGIRL 11/29/2010 9:16PM

    I don't know about helping with weight loss, but I feel much better when I take my vitamins. Extra D is a must!

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IPA-RAY 11/29/2010 9:14PM

    I never take vitamins but I can now see a New year's resolution in my future to start taking a multivitamin.

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JOPAPGH 11/29/2010 9:08PM

    Sounds like you are back making good progress. I have been traveling too much on business and the nutrition tracking has suffered. I need to get things back in line...

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