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    Oct 12 2014

    The Equalizer: Equal violence and classic Denzel Washington

    Natalie

    Roger lobbied for a couple of weeks to see The Equalizer, Denzel Washington’s new movie about a loner, former bad-ass, genius who makes the choice to break out of his mild-mannered Home Depot-type cover job to seek revenge against the Russian mafia.

    If you are looking for anything but spectacular violence and Washington’s Costco-style sexiness–if I could unbotton his shirt, it would be to check for the Kirkland label–this is not your style of entertainment. The extreme violence and the stereotypical plot did not interest me, but the prospect of holding hands with my husband for two hours was appealing, so I agreed to go.

    Throughout the film, Washington wears his typical unreadable expression,  broken occasionally by the brilliant smile that makes women’s (of a certain age) hearts melt.  There’s a weak backstory involving a promise to a dead wife, but it’s never fully revealed or analyzed, so the scene with the slo-mo raindrops falling from Washington’s beautiful eyelashes have to represent the hero’s complex emotional response. This lack of depth didn’t phase the largely male audience in the almost sold-out theatre. They reminded me of the attendees of a late-night viewing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, laughing and egging the hero on throughout–like they were participants in a video game with a points earned for the body count.

    The violence is creative and thrillingly original, but I kept my eyes closed for most of it.  Roger squeezed my hand many times, indicating his own extreme revulsion (not at holding my hand, I hope).  Since the violent end of criminals is the objective of the film, I can’t criticize the gratuitous nature of it,  but I do wonder at a group of 20-somethings gathered in the parking lot later who were enthusiastically analyzing how the hero could set off a microwave explosive if the power in the warehouse was off.  Their level of excitement at watching people be killed with home improvement tools is pretty alarming.   The humorous moments, centered around Washington giving the evil-doers a last chance to do right before they die, is the better part of the film.  At one point, as he issues an ultimatum to the chief-bad guy, Washington drops a pair of broken and bloody sunglasses (from the previous victim) in the bad-guy’s glass of wine. Gross but smooth.

    Washington’s character, Robert McCall, lives a militarized live with extraordinary precision, timing every aspect of his daily routine, including, to the audience’s pleasure, the number of seconds it takes to kill his adversaries.  The minor characters are a stereotypical collection of the downtrodden and the errant–the prostitute that starts the chain of revenge is so forgettable, I forgot she escaped to freedom until she showed up at the end with the expected “thank you.”  The collection of Russian evil-doers wears designer suits over what can only be described as “beautiful” tattooed bodies–if you go for that kind of thing.   The thinking viewer has got to wonder about the long-term cultural effect of the negative images about Russians, North Korean, Chinese, and more, and how this imagery reinforces our xenophobic American point of view.  You might argue that Robert McCall’s mission to rid the world of the evil, represented only by those who are not like us, is no different than Jason Bourne’s or James Bond’s.  Bad guys have always been the “other.”  As a teacher, though, I’m on the front lines of dealing with intolerance, and the media brainwashed teens of today will be the collective Equalizer fans of the future.

    The ending leaves a path of destruction through Boston and an opening wide enough for The Equalizer 2 (already in the works). Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can get Roger to watch episodes of the 80′s television show on which the movie is based–that’s good for 30 minutes of hand-holding.

     


    Apr 1 2013

    Baltimore Ignite #12: 17 unique speakers = thoughtful happiness

    Natalie

    Last night, Roger and I watched Happy, the documentary by Roko Belic (a name with two four-letter potential crossword clues, for certain).  It inspired reflection about what makes me happy and how I want to move forward, with intention, through the remaining third to half  of my life. (It’s no surprise that these milestone birthdays get us in the thoughtful mood.)

    The director analyzes happiness and identifies the component parts, one of which is the importance of gratitude, the attitude of being thankful for each day’s blessings, large and small.  The conscientious practice of gratitude can lead to more feelings of well-being and happiness.  Also, another important element of a joyful life is work and play that inspires “flow” (being fully involved in an activity).  I can’t describe happiness here as it is expressed in the movie–suffice it to say that you can see it on Netflix right now!

    Ignite Baltimore, which held its 12th event last Thursday, is for me, the confluence of several ingredients of happiness.  Seventeen speakers, each armed with an idea, 20 timed Powerpoint slides and five minutes, speak about their own hopes, desires, discoveries, and ideas.  The only problem with being in the audience is that it’s like being at a tapas restaurant, a taste of many small dishes but a full meal of none.  It leaves me every time wanting to find these people and make them talk to me about their passions.

    Held at MICA’s Brown Center, the tickets are an affordable $5 each, and the event has been a sell-out the last few times I attended.  In this session, we were excited to hear Roger’s colleague, Betty Walke, speak about her life-long interest in butterflies.  She described her childhood fascination with Lepidoptera and her recent journey to Mexico with her sweetheart and husband, Dan, to see the Monarch butterfly migration.  Walke, a master gardener, raced through a list of plants that will bring these creatures into our own yards and gardens.  I couldn’t write them down fast enough.

    In addition, we heard Jason Briody, a digital forensic examiner, who spoke about how we do not realize the power of our phones, small computers that track our every word and move.  Unnerving?  Yes.  But Briody’s interest in his subject is as passionate as Walke’s is for butterflies.  Bobbi Macdonald, executive director of the City Neighbors Foundation, wrapped up the evening, speaking about teachers as change agents, a subject that hits very close to home for me.

    How could I skip Garrett Bladow, a North Dakota native and cowboy, who, with humor and matter-of-fact facts enlightened us about the science of breeding cattle? Or Adam Ravestein, who envisions turning Baltimore blight into green space?

    I urge you to visit the Ignite website and put yourself on the email list for notifications.  See you next fall.  I guarantee that when you hear these inspired speakers, you will be motivated to become an agent of change, too.  Did I mention that involvement in community and the world also leads to feelings of happiness?  Ignite Baltimore makes me crazy happy!

     

     


    Aug 31 2012

    The Leftember Manifesto

    Natalie

    Recently, I heard a story on the radio that 40% of our food goes to waste.  (Here’s the link to the article published in The Atlantic.) The article clarified that not all of this food waste is in the home—some comes from spoilage long before it gets to the consumer, but I know Roger and I could work harder to eat what we buy, instead of letting it go to the dogs/chickens (literally).

    In addition, purchasing and using food proportionally to one’s needs is financially sound.  We could use some financial bedrock right now.  I found a great article that lists 14 reasons why leftovers make sense. (Linked here.)

    Finally, we are a week away from hunting season, when Roger begins to fill the freezer with venison.  It’s time to purge the freezer, pantry, refrigerator and cabinets.

    Let the month of September be Leftember!!

    This is a photo of all of the food and non-food items in the two cabinets and one drawer in the kitchen.

    Our rules:

    1. All lunches and dinners will incorporate food we have in storage or in the freezer.
    2. We will not eat out more than one time in the month of September.
    3. We can buy new food items if they are incorporated into a recipe where the main ingredients are already in our home.
    4. We can buy staples like wine, coffee, flour, dairy products, sugar and tea if they are consumed without waste.
    5. We will purge all expired, stale, and otherwise compromised foods.  This will include a thorough cleaning of the cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer.
    6. Guests are welcome to bring rescue food.

    Note:  In anticipation of my mania, Roger made an emergency visit to Costco today, allegedly to stock up, but I approved his purchases, which were not rash—unless you count the beautiful new vacuum.

    Roger complains that this photo of our emptied cabinets is like hanging out dirty laundry, but a proper confession must be made in order to change our wasteful ways and enter the path to food conservation salvation.  Amen!


    Jan 2 2012

    Christmas Dinner: Roasted Rack of Venison with Red Currant and Cranberry Sauce

    Natalie

    Welcome the New Year!  For Christmas dinner with guests, Roger made Martha Stewart’s recipe:  Roast Rack of Venison with Red Currant and Cranberry Sauce.  He added garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.  It was out of this world delicious, but before you start cooking, it required the elusive Juniper berry in the rub and red current in the sauce, both of which are not easily found in a local grocery store.  Maida and Roger (both planning to cook the same recipe) spent some time in frantic consultation.  He spent three or four days crafting the recipe in his mind, one day on the sauce, and another on the actual assembly.  Total Prep time: 4 days.  If we count that he had to shoot the deer first, Total Prep time:  well, it’s a labor of love.

    Otherwise, all is well in our humble abode.  We have arrived at 2012 with healthy children, a dynamite grandson, and 16 (and counting) months of happy marriage.  Peso and Blue are thriving, despite Blue’s regular mysterious vomiting.  The only thing lacking is a little (2 – 4” or more, please) snow.

    Happy New Year to you and yours!


    Aug 3 2011

    Canning salsa

    Natalie

    Last year’s salsa recipe came straight from the Ball Canning book, a classic.  It was great, but this year, I found myself searching online for more unique salsa recipes and stumbled onto a blog, Seasonal Ontario Food, with a step-by-step recipe for salsa.  So what?  Well, the author, “Ferdzy” wrote, “. . . in my opinion, if there is vinegar in a salsa, it isn’t salsa anymore, it’s something else.  This recipe calls for lime juice instead, which is a traditional ingredient for salsa.”

    That was enough of a challenge for me to decide this would be the salsa recipe for this year.  If the purists use lime juice, then why would I have thought vinegar was adequate?

    We have some Anaheim peppers in the garden, so I thought they would do the trick.  I mixed in some Habaneros, too.  I didn’t learn until long after the 13 jars were complete that Anaheim peppers are fairly low on the Scoville Scale (I didn’t learn about the Scoville Scale, actually, until tonight.)  The salsa is much milder than I would have hoped, but the taste is still terrific.  I like that it has a freshness missing in last year’s salsa.

    It helps to read the recipe thoroughly, though.  This is one of my special challenges—I skim everything.  The notation:  “8 to 12 hours—2.5 to 3 hours working” was very accurate.  It took me most of 24 hours to get it done.  Didn’t estimate the right amount of lime juice, so I had to make a second trip to the store, and I had a horrible allergic reaction to cutting up the onions and peppers even though I wore gloves!  I did!  Had to abandon the task, shower, and rest until my nose recovered.

    For all of these complaints, if you are up for canning salsa, and you have a FULL day, try this recipe.  Next year, I will use the same recipe with slightly more spicy peppers.


    Jul 14 2011

    Kale Chips?

    Natalie

    I am determined to eat what we are growing, even if it means kale, kale, and more kale.  I have given bags of the green gems to every visitor, but it continues to proliferate.  We prefer the curly leaf variety, but Roger planted plenty of the flat leaf version.  What we have here is great green elephant ears of kale and few recipes that meet our approval.

    Our standard kale preparation is with garlic, olive oil and pan-fried walnuts.  Tonight’s kale recipe was unusual but terrific—Baked Kale Chips.  The recipe was submitted by Lucy DelRey on allrecipes.com. Her comment  about the chips being a good conversation topic is true. They are weird-looking, but delicious!

    One of the feedback comments suggested adding a splash of soy sauce.  Knowing that C.J. would drink soy sauce if it were a beverage, I added that flavoring to entice him.  It worked!

    I persuaded C.J. to help with dinner tonight, and he washed and cut the leaves with kitchen scissors.  I can imagine the novelty of kale chips and the ease of preparation would make this a fun cooking project for children. The salty taste and strange “chip” feel guarantees that children will eat their greens.


    Jul 13 2011

    Baked Zucchini Parmesan Fries

    Natalie

    How fast does zucchini grow?  I checked out MK’s blog, My Food Revolution where the author tracked her zucchini growth each day.  In the ripening stages, the “alpha” zucchini (who knew there was a dominant fruit on each plant) grew 2” in a 24-hour period.  I think I’ve got her beat, but I admit I am not out there with a measuring tape.

    So we have several zucchinis in the refrigerator, and more are on the vine.  Yesterday, I tried a Moosewood Restaurant recipe with a lemon cilantro sauce that got only modest approval from Roger (who would eat zucchini in ANY form) and C.J. (who reserves the right to refuse anything that is green, except broccoli or iceberg lettuce).

    Tonight we tried Baked Zucchini Fries (total preparation time from garden to table—30 minutes), and C.J. traded his main dish for my share of zucchini fries, so I’d say that was a success.

    I found the recipe on Aggie’s Kitchen blog. She provides the recipe and photo step-by-step instructions.  If you are swamped with zucchini, try this recipe!  Big plus—you have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already.


    May 28 2011

    First Fruit Tart of the Season!

    rebetsky

    Next year, we start our own strawberry patch.

    20110528-015223.jpg


    May 26 2011

    Good Read: “Grow The Good Life”

    rebetsky

    I just did an amazon.com book search on the keyword “gardening” and it returned 46,951 results.

    The way I see it, the vast majority of those 46,000+ gardening books fall into one of two categories: documentary and how-to. The documentaries showcase great gardens and garden styles, and many that I’ve browsed are a joy and inspiration. On the other side, there’s a how-to on just about everything: tomato books, flower books, small garden-big garden books, compost books, etc., etc. If it grows or shows, there’s a book about it.

    I recently and happily added a new book, though — a “why-to” book — to my garden collection: Grow The Good Life, by Michele Owens, one of the founding mavens of the hugely popular blog, Garden Rant. (If you’ve never checked it out, you should, at www.gardenrant.com.) I’m a big fan of the Rant’s inclusive, eclectic topics and good-natured, irreverent, sometimes boisterous style. Much of what I like about the Rant carried through to Owens’ book, only more so, and better so.

    Owens’ book is an entertaining and informative read for everyone from the “live to garden” die-hards (ahem!) to armchair types whose garden is a single potted plant on a windowsill. It’s a worthwhile read for soil-deprived urbanites, too, as well as for people totally devoid of interest in growing anything, but who nonetheless share the basic human need for food and at least some dim flicker of desire to have a habitable planet at least for a lifetime or so.

    “Thanks to my garden, I can take a stand against everything I find witless, lazy, and ugly in our civilization and propose my own more lively alternative.”  — Michele Owens

    Owens makes a methodical, chapter-by-chapter case for the (mostly American) vegetable garden, going at it from the angles of money, superior flavor, health (exercise), beauty, right on up to (or down to) fundamental happiness. She brings in enough scientific and anecdotal data to make her arguments convincing, and in signature Rant style, the pace is lively and the language at once personal, clever and to the point — styled enough to be enjoyable without any excess.

    There’s hardly anything Owens doesn’t touch on, wrangling connections near and far like a pumpkin vine gone awry. She reaches into history, biology, folklore, urban/suburban planning, big ag and big chem, the government, physiology and exercise science, her mother’s upbringing, you name it — all to make a compelling case for the backyard vegetable garden. And from cover to cover, the emphasis is on sustainable, organic practices. Even if you’re not a gardener, you’ll come away with renewed appreciation for your CSA, or find yourself giving more business to the organic growers at your local farmers market.

    Now, Owens was not born a gardener, and the zealousness of the convert shows. Even though the book is a “why to” and not a “how to,” like any gardener, she can’t resist slipping some of her favorite tips, tricks and techniques in the back door. I found many to be welcome ideas.

    Much of Owens’ practical advice tracks four general principles: “First, take care of the context in which it all happens, the soil. Second, diversify to avoid disaster. Third, pay attention to timing. And fourth, be a little Zen.”

    My strongest endorsement of the book is that she really got me thinking about my own approach, which is pretty well-developed after some 40+ years in the dirt — I think I’ve had some sort of garden in just about every place I’ve lived, without exception, even when I lived off-campus in college.

    Thanks to Owens, though, this spring I made much lighter use of my mechanical tiller, forgoing it altogether in a large portion of the garden. I’m more committed than ever to my mulch system, though I was surprised that, evidently based on advice of her upstate-New York gardening neighbors, she forgoes grass mulches. I cover every exposed inch of my garden with grass clippings, heavily; it does a fabulous job of keeping the weeds down and continuously enriches the soil. I’ve never felt that it’s made the weed population any worse.

    The other thing she’s gotten me focused on is timing, which is always a challenge for me. I started our peppers indoors too late again this year, as usual, though my tomatoes were right on schedule. Everything else is late, thanks in no small part to an interminably long and wet spring. Our second season, planting for the Fall, is always late, too, but this year I’m determined.

    It’s all a process, this growing your own food, from how you care for the soil to picking out the seeds, to timing the planting, to feasting in summer and canning for the cold weather and starting all over again. And Owens celebrates the process, in a big-picture way.

    Woven through the book, in every topic, is a sense of gratitude for being able to grow food and enjoy it, tremendous respect for the ecosystem that makes it possible, and an acceptance of responsibility to leave the earth better, or at least no worse, for our use of it.

    Those are values that resonate deeply with me. This is a book that makes us all better gardeners not necessarily in a technical sense, but dare I say in a moral or spiritual sense. It is a good life, indeed, when we tend our gardens — and thereby ourselves and our human family — with care, respect, and deep affection.

    In the final paragraphs of the final chapter of her book, Owens succinctly and eloquently captures the spark that lights my own passion for gardening: “…there is a lot of pleasure to be had in reshaping the little piece of earth that is under our control. Thanks to my garden, I can take a small stand against everything I find witless, lazy, and ugly in our civilization and propose my own more lively alternative…There are few things lovelier than a vegetable garden at dusk, and few things more satisfying than going out in the evening to pick the food you’ve grown before dinner with family and friends. To share the fruits of your labor is to give your love to the people you care most about.”

    Sorry. I’ve given away the ending. But like a true classic, this is a book that can be savored even if you know how it ends.


    May 25 2011

    Gardening (&) Empires

    rebetsky

    Jamaica Kincaid, novelist, gardening columnist, and writer who’s written for the Village Voice and The New Yorker, says, “Most of the nations that have serious gardening cultures also have, or had, empires. You can’t have this luxury of pleasure without somebody paying for it. This is nice to know. It’s nice to know that when you sit down to enjoy a plate of strawberries, somebody got paid very little so that you could have your strawberries. It doesn’t mean the strawberries will taste different, but it’s nice to enjoy things less than we do. We enjoy things far too much, and it leads to incredible pain and suffering.”

    Our labor in the garden is free, but it’s sweet, hard work. I concluded a long time ago that we pay far too little for our food. Kincaid offers an interesting perspective on why this is so. I’m sure I can speak for many gardeners when I say that nothing tastes as fine as what comes from the garden. It comes at a dear price, but one that I am happy to pay.


    Apr 25 2011

    Shaping up for spring

    Natalie

    Spring arrived all at once today,  and that inspired me to pack up the winter clothing and break out the summer duds.   First, I discovered I have three nightgowns I didn’t remember.  Most disastrously, all last year’s clothes don’t even have wiggle room.  Ugh!

    Roger found a free app for me, Nike+.  Plenty of people must be using it for running, but it works just as well for walking.  It tracks mileage, time and calories.  At intervals, a nice voice comes on to encourage me and give me the walking update.  There is a cumulative total mileage feature, which means nothing, but psychologically, it’s priceless.  The app combined with two energetic dogs and new walking shoes, and I have to get moving.

    I’m also using (on and off) mynetdiary, an app for weight loss.  It features target calories per day, exercise, weight, water consumed, and notes.  I like the graphs it can produce, including the food breakdowns.  Since it is connected to the web, all of the foods are updated, so most commercial items, like Planter’s Peanuts (did I eat those?), are easily accessible.

    One area where I need extra help is in consuming water.  There is a grid of blue water droplets, and the user taps each one representing a glass of water consumed.

    Both apps are great motivators–I guess the most important element for motivation is me!


    Jan 2 2011

    Meaningful Words

    Natalie

    Happy New Year!

    Roger has chosen three words to be his watchwords for the new year.  Sounds like an excellent way to make a resolution.  I have been thinking of my own choices.  “Reuse, Recycle, Renew?”  They seem to hackneyed and insincere, even though I would like to work harder to be less wasteful.

    I was thinking about “hospitality “ as one of them, but I’m about partied out from 2010, so I might not take that word seriously.

    I’ve been on an “unsubscribing” kick throughout the holiday season .  Maybe that should be one of my words—getting too much meaningless email from vendors.  I don’t even remember joining these mailing lists!  Good bye Rugs USA, GNC, and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.  If I have done it right, though, “Unsubscribe” will be meaningless by February.  I need some better words!  I’m almost NEVER at a loss for words.

    “Energy”—I could use a lot more of that.   “Vacuum.”  That’s something I could do much more often.  OK.  What are your resolution words this year?  Choose three.  Let me know what you decide.  Maybe your ideas will give me a little inspiration!


    Dec 25 2010

    Terracycled Christmas

    Natalie

    Christmas was terrific, as always.  My family gathered and exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve.  Grandma Shirley has added the “Christmas Walk” to the agenda to get some of the energy out of the kids who are older now and like to “horse around” in the house.

    Susan gave all of us a recycled shopping bag (a Terracycled Doritos bag) filled with Earth-friendly gifts.  There were microfiber clothes, washable sandwich and snack bags, a bud vase from a recycled bottle, a plant pot made from recycled materials and Chico bags.

    The washable sandwich and snack bags are dishwasher safe and made by 3greenmoms.  Maybe I’m the last to know, since the women were featured in Oprah’s magazine.

    Look out, LHS, we’re going to be Terracycling in the new year!


    Nov 7 2010

    Channeling Martha Stewart

    Natalie

    A copy of Martha Stewart Living fell into my hands, and I saw that Martha publishes a calendar of her monthly activities.  For example, today she is changing the batteries in her smoke detectors.  The calendar informs us about her planned trips, Thanksgiving activities, and daily exercise routine.

    Here are my Natalie Rebetsky channeling Martha entries for November 4 – 7.    November 4:  Purchase tulip bulbs for fall planting.  November 5:  Early morning hunting in Pennsylvania.  November 6: Walking with high school friends through town of Somerset and visit to Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.    November 7:  Clocks turned back, marigold seeds harvested for next year.

    OK.  I admit–I didn’t go hunting–I stayed in a warm house, but I did help Roger put up a new tree stand later!

    Ahh!  Even the fairly poor and obscure people of the world can be calendar-worthy.


    Sep 20 2010

    Hyacinth Beans–Crowning the end of the garden

    Natalie

    Hyacinth Beans Closeup 9-19It may be September 20, but we’re still bringing in tomatoes and canning sauce.  The zinnias are so heavy they are toppled over.  The purple dahlias are breathtaking, but the hyacinth beans form an amazing arch over it all.  I read up on these beauties and learned that they are a food crop in other cultures.  For us they are just ornamental, attracting bees and butterflies.  Thomas Jefferson planted them at Monticello, and that’s where we bought these beans.  Looking forward to saving some to plant next year. Perhaps we’ll cover the new fence.  Awesome!