September 22, 2017

Forgive me for my summer long absence.  Hot sunny days in Oregon are such a rarity that to spend them in front of my computer any more than necessary seems a crime.  But now Oregon is back to being Oregon again, aka chilly and cloudy, and I am back to Wendy’s Opinion on Just About Everything.

Fall also means High Holiday services and the rereading of the Torah passage where Abraham, at his wife Sarah’s request, expels  his servant Hagar, mother of his son Ishmael, from their settlement.  Hagar and Ishmael wander the desert, dying of thirst, until God hears their cries and provides water (or, you might interpret it, opens Hagar’s eyes so she sees the water that was there all along).  I’ve discussed this passage for many a year but this was the first year our rabbi presented it from Hagar’s point of view.    In light of that, we discussed what it means to bear witness to other people.

Various members of the congregation brought up the usual suspects:  the disabled, the powerless, the privilege-less, or whoever we define that way.  OK.  But it seems to me, that to define someone as powerless is not to witness them.  It’s a way, however kind it may appear, to define other people, to separate yourself from them, to establish yourself in the position of privilege at the same time you profess shame for the privilege.  To witness them maybe it is better to lose the concept of power entirely and recognize that every person has an interior world as vast and as important as your own, their own fervent moral values, their own personal agenda– a world we may never be truly able to fathom but that we can do our best to see.  may   To witness is not to judge what is right.  To witness is not necessarily to understand or empathize.  It’s to lose the ego that makes you think you  CAN necessarily understand or empathize.   You do not have to understand someone to recognize their humanity.  We are all, to some degree, strangers to each other, but that does not mean we cannot love one another and do our best to share this planet.

To bring it back to Hagar and Ishmael :  it might be wise to remember that everyone–and I mean everyone–from the Iranian to the North Korean, to the homeless man lugging his shopping cart, the Wall Street trader, the meth dealer, the child stitching your blue jeans, the Israeli, the Palestinian, the evangelistic Christian, the Hasidic Jew, the Islamic woman behind the kurta, the white supremacist–everyone is equal in the eyes of God.  Everyone is some mother’s child.


Call the FBI

June 7, 2017

One of my favorite parts of the 1950’s science fiction thriller “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is the campy ending, where the main character manages to get to a phone and “call the FBI!”.  We’re supposed to sigh in relief, as now we know we’re in safe hands and the evil aliens will be vanquished.

I admit to a certain fascination with the FBI.  As a child I liked to go to the FBI museum in Washington DC, where you could wander down J. Edgar Hoover’s Hall of Communism or watch real FBI agents demonstrate how to “shoot to kill” and “shoot to maim”.  Every child got their own empty bullet shell as a souvenir.  Some fifteen years later my husband was offered a job at the FBI (long story).  But I  never thought of the FBI as saviors of our country.  Until this week.

Now  I’m feeling like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers guy.  It doesn’t feel so campy anymore.  I’m counting on the FBI to rescue us from disaster.

I’m  impressed by former FBI director James Comey. I’m so past worrying whether government officials support this or that social program or liberal dogma.  I’m much more interested in whether they believe in the rule of law and have the courage to confront an autocrat like Trump.  Comey seems like a genuinely nonpartisan civil servant, remarkably unaffected by politics, driven by a search for truth.    He investigated Clinton’s email server legitimately and fairly; he’s investigated Trumps far more nefarious ties to Russia at what turned out to be considerable risk.  His willingness to speak the truth, or what he believes be the truth is a rarity in this political age. His testimony, I hope against hope, will be the smoking gun we can use to impeach Trump.

Because if you don’t believe that this tweeting idiot who betrays our country’s secrets, deals with dictators and doesn’t understand the most basic principles of democracy is  a clear and urgent danger to our country then you surely have been podded by an alien being.


Yummy all-purpose artichoke puree

June 5, 2017

This artichoke-olive puree is great on hanger or flank steak, roast chicken, thick fleshed mild fish such as halibut, and roasted vegetables.  It’s absolutely delicious!

1 T white wine vinegar

1/4 cup plus one tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, gently smashed and peeled

1 10oz jar artichoke hearts in oil (I like the roasted ones from Trader Joes), drained and quartered

10 green olives, pitted

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley

1/4 thinly sliced basil leaves

finely grated zest from one lemon

sea salt and fresh grated black pepper to taste

  1. Combine olive oil and garlic.  Cook over medium high heat 2 minutes.  Stir in white wine vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt; let stand 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the rest of the ingredients.  Chop briefly.  Add the olive oil mixture and puree until smooth.




Blogging for Books: Make it Yours, by Christine Schmidt

May 10, 2017

This is a collection of clever ideas for household craft projects, with an accent on customizing goods with stencils or other patterns. Projects range from tote bags to linens to leather wallets.  They evidence a modern, bright, simple aesthetic–think Pottery Barn. Schmidt presents projects in a manner similar to a recipe, listing supplies needed,  level of difficulty, time needed for completion, and a numbered series of steps needed to accomplish the project.

I made a set of sculpey ceramic tags, suitable for personalizing gifts, jazzing up jars of homemade jam, or even jewelry.  They were simple to make and didn’t require a lot of expensive supplies–I was able to use my own rubber stamps, cookie cutters, and copper piping (for making holes) and only needed to buy sculpey and a tube of gouache paint.

One nice thing about the craft “recipes” is that the basic techniques can be applied in a multitude of ways.  Now that I’ve learned the technique I could use the same process to make beads, buttons, or tree ornaments.

As might be expected, the time requirements listed are optimistic.  The clay tags were supposed to take one half hour; they actually took an hour and a half.  (I am, truth be told, kind of pokey)

A comprehensive appendix discusses craft concepts and materials and provides traceable designs for the drawing – challenged.

As might be expected, the photographs and illustrations are lovely.

Wendy’s recipe file: nourishing shrimp and noodle soup

March 16, 2017

The curse of the Ice King is on the land, I had a big bunch of cilantro turning yellow, and I felt the need for a nourishing soup to counter our endless gray, damp, chilly weather.  Hence this Thai style soup, aromatic, delicious, nutritious, and a big hit with my family:


Serves 4

Broth:  6 whole cloves

6 green cardamom pods

4 star anise pods

3 dried Thai chiles

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tsp black peppercorns

1 bunch cilantro

1/2 medium onion, sliced

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 lemon, sliced and seeded

1 4″ piece ginger, peeled and sliced

1 T fish sauce

12 cups chicken broth

Toast cloves, cardamom, star anise, chiles, cinnamon, and peppercorns in a large pot over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add Broth, cilantro, garlic, lemon, onion, ginger, and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for one hour, letting flavors meld.  Strain into a large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much broth as possible.  Return broth to pot.


1/2 cup roasted and salted cashews (I like the chili/lime cashews from Trader Joe’s)

1 T chopped hot peppers (I make my own Hatch pepper sauce but jalapeno would work fine)

juice of 2 small limes

1 1″ piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 T dark brown sugar

1 T fish sauce

2 T toasted sesame oil

Pulse cashews in the food processor until finely ground.  Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.


1 12 oz pkg brown rice pad thai noodles

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup sugar snap peas, destringed and halved

1 cup shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 small bunch radishes, sliced with greens

1 cup bean sprouts or micro greens

fresh basil and mint for garnish

After straining the broth, keep warm on the stove.  Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions.  While the noodles are cooking, add the shrimp to the soup and return the broth to a boil.  When the shrimp are almost done, add vegetables and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  To serve, fill about half of each soup bowl with noodles.  Top with 2 T cashew paste and pour soup on top.  Combine until well mixed; garnish with basil and mint.

blogging for books: Harvest, by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

March 4, 2017

This is an enticing book for this time of year, when I am weary of cold gray days and take refuge in planning my garden.  I like plants that are useful as well as attractive so I was excited to learn about so many edible and/or fragrant plants I was unfamiliar with.  I marked many a page with post-its to reference when I order my seeds and make that long-awaited first spring trip to the nursery.

Harvest is a beautiful, well organized book.  Each of the 47 plants featured includes a gorgeous picture, a description of the plant and its potential uses, gardening and harvesting information, and a potential project.  The projects range from salts to flower arrangements to beauty products and herbal teas.

Some intriguing plants that may make their way into my garden this summer include peppermint candy flower, black cumin, anise hyssop, gem marigolds, calamintha, chinotto orange, viola, and mashua.

My only criticism of the book is that their gardening instructions could be more extensive.  I know some of these plants are more difficult to grow that the authors make out!

our revolution’s got soul

February 23, 2017

For once, I opened the newspaper and found good news!  First, six earth-like planets are orbiting a star only forty light years from Earth.  So if the Trump administration destroys our planet, there’s six other planets we can choose from.  Secondly, remember Our Revolution, Bernie Sander’s organization? As reported in Thursday’s, Wall Street Journal,  they’ve quietly been up to loads of good.  They’ve been backing grass roots candidates for local Democratic positions all over the country, achieving considerable success.  Meeting usually dominated by a few political wonks are drawing unprecedented crowds. In the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove, more than 1,000 people stood inline outside a bowling alley in a torrential rainstorm to vote for delegates to the California Democratic Party’s May state convention.  Sanders campaign alumni swept elections for local Democratic officer positions in Brevard County, a Trump stronghold. And so on, people filling town halls across the country. Looks like the Democratic Party is going to be a lot more democratic, wielding a lot more moral authority and a lot more grassroots energy, once 2018 rolls around.

Thank you, all you fellow citizens, for caring, and more important, for doing! I’d like to share the last lines from Marge Piercy’s inspiring poem, “The Low Road”.  It was written in 1980 but couldn’t be more relevant today:

A dozen make a demonstration

A hundred fill a hall

A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter

ten thousand, power and your own paper

a hundred thousand, your own media

ten million, your own country

It goes on one at a tie,

it starts when you care

to act, it starts when you do

it again and they said no,

it starts when you say WE

and know who you mean, and each

day you mean one more

who are these people?

February 21, 2017

I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I still hold out the hope that Trump voters are on the whole reasonable and decent, if misguided people, who voted for Trump out of desperation.  I hope they are appalled by his behavior of this past month, and are having “buyer’s remorse” over their choice for President.  I still hope that we can come together, throw this idiot out of office, and get our country on some semblance of the right track.

An article I read in the Wall Street Journal casts doubt on this hopeful view.  Several Trump supporters in Fauquier County, Virginia held forth on why they still stand fully behind him.  Note that Fauquier County is not a hollowed out factory town or a coal mine ravaged valley.  It’s lovely, rolling hill country, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains.  The average per capita income is $90,000 a year.  Residents are more likely to be riding their horse than shooting up opiates behind the abandoned steelworks.  Not exactly a vision of desperation.

“This is Redskins country,” notes one man.  “If you support the Dallas Cowboys, you should move down there.”

“Heaven has a gate and a wall,” notes one woman.  “And they’re doing extreme vetting over there.”

Okay.  So you’ve got one person analogizing support for the President, who represents the entire nation, and loyalty to a sports team who represents one small region.  Not to mention that the quarterback of the Redskins does not have his hand on the nuclear button.  And since when can’t a Cowboys fan live in Redskin country? Then you’ve got another person implying that the USA is heaven and that the Trump administration is God. No comment.

I still believe that the authors of these stunning statements love their children.  Maybe we like the same bluegrass bands, or fried chicken restaurant.  But their beliefs as regards our constitutional democracy are so at odds with mine (and at least 50% of the population) that I despair we can ever find common ground.  It’s  a long path to walk, and they’ve got to realize it’s a two way street.



why I wear my resist button

February 9, 2017

I wear a resist button on my jacket every day.  This is why.

I wear my resist button to remind me to act, not just complain:  to call my congresspeople; to deliver household items for refugees; to march in the streets.

I wear my resist button to remind me that this is no time to be polite.  We have to be firm.  We have to be loud.  We have to be heard.

I wear my resist button to drown out the drumbeat of people saying my concerns are overwrought, or that Trump is simply a “different” kind of president, or (as one Wall Street Journal columnist said yesterday) “this isn’t Germany in 1933”.  Because maybe it is.

I wear my resist button so others will see it, and ask where I got it, and if they can have one.  I want there to be a sea of people wearing resist buttons everywhere I look, so we can all support each other, and be strong.

I wear my resist button to remind myself that no matter how much the bully-in-chief tries to intimidate us, we will only push back harder.


Blogging for books: Everything you need you have, by Gerad Kite

January 31, 2017

This is a self-help book based on the idea that most of us live at the bottom of a pendulum, subject to alternating highs and lows.  Kite offers a guide to “climbing the pendulum” so that you’re operating from the still center at the top.

While at the lower levels Kite offers wise, common sense advice:  accept yourself as you are; accept others as they are; don’t prejudge; don’t make didactic moral judgments; live in the present without regrets; respect the needs of your physical body.  But when he goes higher on the pendulum (in the latter part of the book) he veers into weirdo land.  First we learn about which bodily organs are awake at which time (apparently the spleen is partying at 3 AM and the kidneys at 5?).  While we do indeed have diurnal cycles, I’ve never seen any scientific evidence for Kite’s specific schedule. At the very top of the pendulum one is supposed to let go of free will, make no moral judgments, and accept what comes in life as if one was watching it on TV.  This way we will be free of pain.

Sorry, I can’t buy this.  In the eyes of God, perhaps we are all equal, from a malarial mosquito to our newborn baby, to an alien in a distant galaxy.  Maybe all our problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in the immensity of space and time.  But back in the micro world of our own little lives, our choices do matter.  There is free will and there is right and wrong.  If that knowledge leads to pain, so be it.