Friday, March 31, 2017

The Most Expensive Toilet Paper In The World!

Commode, Paper, Toilet, Toilet Paper  This has been a crazy crazy week with testing, parent teacher conferences, students coming and going so I decided to do a crazy column.  Have you every thought that not all toilet paper is alike?  I didn't until I stumbled across an article on the most expensive in the world.

My first thought was nothing more than toilet paper is toilet paper.  Well, its not. My jaw dropped when I discovered toilet paper made of 22 carat gold.  They advertise when you use it, you leave gold flakes behind showing your level of sophistication.  Its only 1.3 million for the roll and they even throw in a bottle of champagne.

The makers saw pictures of golden toilets and towel racks in certain Dubai hotels and decided a roll of golden paper needed to accompany it.  They have sold exactly one roll so far but who knows if demand will pick up.

On a less expensive level, the Japanese produce a variety of toilet paper that runs only $17 per roll.  For that price you get a beautifully decorated paper filled with traditional designs.  In addition, the paper itself is made out of the highest quality wood fiber pulp from Canada.  It is treated with the cleanest clearest water from the Nyodo River in Japan.

The toilet paper is slowly dried so it ends up naturally light and fluffy. The production method is adjusted everyday to account for changes in temperature and humidity.  Once the roll is completed, the maker signs it and dates it before sending it to the president of the company for his inspection. 

The president tests each roll against his skin to make sure it has the desirable softness. At this point the rolls are sent to be decorated before being wrapped in a special paper and placed in a silver lined hand made box. If you bought a 6 pack of this brand you'd only pay $13 per roll.   

I cannot afford the gold toilet paper but if I could I'm not sure I'd want to buy it since it seems like it might flake all over the place.  It would be wiser to put it in a safe and wait till the price of gold rose and I needed the money.  If I bought the fancy toilet paper, I would never use it.  I'd probably display it in a case in the bathroom.

Usually, I wait till one of the brands I like is on sale, stock up, and wait till the next sale.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What is a Shrub? No Its Not a Bush!

Bottle, Drink, Wine, Beverage Up until about a week ago, I'd never heard of a shrub other than those bushes you plant in your front yard to decorate your place. About a week ago, a relative sent me a gift box of local foods which included a bottle of orange shrub.

I looked at it, read the ingredients list and was absolutely surprised to see orange flavored vinegar as the first ingredient. A vinegar based drink?  Wow.  This is something new to me.

The word shrub is derived from the Arabic word Sharab meaning drink.  In colonial times, shrubs were used by sailors to prevent scurvy which was caused by a lack of vitamin C.  It also provided a safe alternative to water.

The shurb is mixed with water, sparkling water, tea, or other liquid.  The shurb is a mixture of flavored vinegar mixed with sugar.  It is not that hard to make your own.

1. Apple Shrub is made from 9 Grannie Smith apples, cored and sliced into 8 slices each.  Mix with 4 cups of brown sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon, and 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Mix, cover, chill, and stir once a day for 2 days.  Strain and store in a glass jar for up to a month.  Use 1/4 cup shrub to 1 cup of water, sparkling water, or other water.

2. Butternut Shrub - one four pound butternut that is halved and had the seeds removed.  Bake at 350 with cut face down on a greased cookie sheet till done.  It should take about 30 minutes.  Scoop the butternut meat out and mix in a food processor with 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 2 tbsp chopped sage, 1 tbsp chili pepper flakes, and process till pureed. Pour into a bowl, cover and let set for two days while stirring daily.  Add 1 cup of white wine vinegar, mix well.  Store in a glass jar for up to a month. Use 1/4 cup shrub to 1 cup water, sparkling water, or other liquid.

3.Fig Shrub - mix 4 cups of stemmed and quartered figs, 2 cups granulated sugar, 4 star anise pods together in a bowl.  Cover and chill for 2 days making sure to stir daily. After 2 days, stir making sure sugar is dissolved.  Strain mixture, making sure figs are pressed through.  Place in a glass jar, add 1/2 cup champagne vinegar, mix well.  Store in the jar for up to a month.  Use 1/4 cup shrub to 1 cup water, sparkling water, or other liquid.

4. Pumpkin Shrub - roast a 2 pound pumpkin at 350 till soft. Mix the pumpkin meat with 1 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor till its pureed.  Pour into a jar.  Add 1 cinnamon stick, let set two days, stirring daily.  Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar and mix well.  Store in a glass jar.  Use 1/4 cup shrub to 1 cup water, sparkling water or other liquid.

5. Blood Orange Shrub - Take the zest off of 5 to 6 blood oranges.   Take the zest and add it to 1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar.  Mush the sugar into the zest for several minutes using a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let set for an hour. Remove the zest. Juice the oranges (should give 1 1/2 cups) and add the juice to the sugar before adding 3/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar.  Stir till the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the mixture in a clean glass jar.  Store for two to three days in the refrigerator before using.

6. Raspberry Mint Shrub.  Take the zest off of two lemons and add to 1 cup of cane sugar. Mush the sugar into the zest for several minutes using a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl and let set for 1 hour.  Remove the zest before adding 2 cups raspberries and 1/4 cup mint leaves.  Mush it again with a wooden spoon. Cover and chill for one day. The next day, mush the mixture again before adding 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate for 1 week before enjoying.

Just to let you know, I've been drinking a bit of orange shrub in my tea.  Its really not bad at all.  I plan to make some this summer for my enjoyment.  If none of these recipes strike your fancy, do a quick search and you'll find lots of different choices.  Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The 10 Most Expensive Shoes in the World.

Flip Flops, Footwear, Sandals, Shoes  Ok, I admit, I prefer flip flops or bare feet.  Unfortunately you can't wear flip flops or go bare food when its extremely cold out. I end up wearing shoes (boots or sneakers depending) way more than I like.

I hear people talk about Prada or Jimmy Choo when discussion shoes but I wouldn't know either one if I tripped over it because I usually go for whatever practical shoe is on sale.

I do know that both brands cost a bit more than I'm willing to pay, well a lot more.  So have you ever wondered how much the most expensive shoes in the world cost?  Who makes them? 

Well, eight out of ten of the most expensive shoes are made by Stuart Weitzman who head a shoe company by the same name.  The following list is from cheapest to most expensive.

10. The Stuart Weitzman Diamond Dream Stilettos sell for a cool $500,000.  These beautiful shoes are covered with 1420 diamonds.  They have not been worn since 2007.

9. The original Ruby shoes from the Wizard of Oz are worth $612,000.  Actually, only one was sold for this price, the other one was also listed for $200,000 but it didn't sell.

8. Stuart Weitzman's Retro Rose Pumps went for $1,000,000.  These shoes are covered with 1,800 diamonds and are similar to shoes from the 1940's.  These were last worn in 2008.

7. He also created the Marilyn Monroe shoes are also valued at $1,000,000.  Miss Monroe never actually wore these shoes but they were designed with her in mind. The diamonds on these shoes match the satin.

6.  His Platinum Guild Stilettos are worth $1,090,000.  This sandal like shoe has 464 diamonds attached to it.  It was last worn in 2010.

5. Stuart Weitzman created his own version of the "Ruby Slippers" which go for $1,600,000.  The 642 Burmese rubies match the beautiful red satin.

4. His Tanzanite heels take their name from the fact the shoes have 185 blue Tanzanite stones in them.  They cost $2,000,000 due to the additional 28 diamonds spread around the blue stones.

3. Stuart Weitzman also designed his "Cinderella Shoes" worth $2,000,000 due to the 565 diamonds decorating these stunning shoes.

2. He created a beautiful pair of shoes for Rita Hayworth who loved wearing them.  Her daughter now owns the $3,000,000 shoes.

1. Harry Winston created a set of Ruby Slippers to honor the 50th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. These shoes are beautifully decorated with over 4,600 gemstones and are the most expensive shoes at a price of $3,000,000.

I feel bad when I spend over $50 on a pair of shoes.  I'd hate to spend a few million for a pair of shoes I'd be scared of loosing stones from.  I assume most people who buy these shoes treat them as art and not as clothing.

Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

8 Homemade Stain Removers

Animal, Animal Photography, Carpet, Cat  I hate buying tons of cleaning supplies.  If you believe all the advertisements, you'd have to have stuff for clothing, carpet, dishes, floors, etc and your house would be overrun with products.

I usually keep a few basic supplies around so I can clean stains without relying on a ton of products.  I have enough stuff without adding to the clutter.

Stain removers do not have to be complex or fancy and most use things you have around your house.

1.  Stain remover for clothing.  Mix one part Dawn dish washing liquid with two parts hydrogen peroxide.  Add one to two tablespoons of baking soda till you have a paste.  Place some on the front side of the garment and rub or brush in.  Repeat on back side so you've attacked the stain on both sides.  Let set at least an hour, then wash.  Make sure the stain is out before drying.  If the stain is not gone, repeat procedure.  Store remainder in a sealed jar or plastic container.

2. The above recipe without the baking soda makes a nice liquid which can be sprayed on stains to remove them.  Its said to work on grease, chocolate, and other tough stains.  In addition, it works on carpets.

3. To remove ink from clothing, apply either hand sanitizer or non aerosol hair spray to the area with ink.  Let it set about 10 minutes before washing.

4.  Years ago, a lady who worked in the garment industry recommended white rain hair spray to remove permanent marker from clothing.  I tried it on a something I bought with marker across the back.  Although it took a few applications, it worked.  I sprayed it on, let set, then rinsed.  I use that anytime I need to get rid of permanent marker.

5. If you want to remove ink from the carpet, use equal parts of milk and cornstarch to create a paste.  Apply it to the ink and let set till dry.  Vacuum up the powder.  Repeat if needed.

6. Use club soda to remove pet urine.  If your pet leaves a wet area, blot it up, apply club soda, blot and use a diluted carpet cleaner to clean it up.  This also works on coffee and tea stains.

7.  Equal parts of lemon juice and water are great for removing sweat stains from clothing.  Mix, scrub, and wash. 

8.  Another way to remove sweat stains its to rub white vinegar into the affected spot, then wash.

Have a great time using these.  There are more out there but this is a small collection which can easily cover all your needs.  Let me  know what you think.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Oldest Man in Village Passed On.

A few days ago, one of the elders passed away.  I tried to find a picture of him on the internet but I didn't find any.  This man, David Boyscout Senior, died at the official age of 96 based on his baptismal certificate which only noted the date he was baptized.

Alaska, Wilderness, Tundra, MountainsHe was born on the tundra in the days before women went to hospitals to give birth.  I don't know what season it was because they talked about being born in berry season, or fishing season according to the substance calendar.  They didn't record the actual date of birth because the western calendar had not fully arrived in the area.

The Catholic Church was just coming into the area so when he had been on the earth several years, he agreed to be baptized into the church.  No one is sure of his age when this happened.  His family say he was around eleven which would make him 107 when he died but I don't know.  I agree he was over 100 years old.

What is so remarkable about this man is what he accomplished in his life.  He worked for others with little knowledge of the English language. Married twice and was father to at least 5 children.  He spent his Sunday's leading church services when the priest was not in town.

Yet his biggest accomplishment dealt with education.  I do not know how much he had if any other than what the church provided locally but he valued it.  Many years ago, when a court case determined all students had the right to be educated from K to 12 in their own villages, villages were put together to establish school districts.

Mr. Boyscout and four other elders fought to keep their village a single site school district. They had a vision for the village children which could only be accomplished by retaining control of their school.  It was not an easy fight but they persevered and got their wish. 

This one school district has its own school board who work hard to fulfill the elders vision.  The elders come to meetings to express their opinions in the local language because they are more comfortable.  I usually ask one of my friends to summarize the message.

Mr. Boyscout was one of those men who seldom slowed down.  One time when he broke a hip, he was medivaced into Anchorage.  As soon as he was able, he took himself out of the hospital and had his family bring him home.  Every Sunday, someone made sure he got to church for the service.  One Sunday, I saw him riding on the back of a four wheeler driven by a police officer. 

He spent several days a week at school, observing its workings.  He'd speak to the children, watch everything from his seat in the office, and shake hands or talk to people.  He loved to share his wisdom with the younger generation.  Even after he broke his hip, he'd still come to school, sit in a wheel chair and continue his mission of watching over the school.

I'll share one last thing with you.  One time, years ago, I accepted a ride from him.  I sat on the back of his snow machine while he sped across the lake to my house.  I kid you not, that man was worse than many others in that he was truly loved speed.  I prayed all the way home because I didn't know a snow machine could go that fast.  Yes he had a reputation as Speedy Gonzales.

I saw him driving a four wheeler, a few months back, headed to the store.  One of his grand daughters rode on the back with her face covered.  I think she was embarrassed as his machine crawled along, being passed by walkers.

He was ready to move on.  He will be missed by all.  His funeral was held Saturday afternoon.  I will miss his presence at the school.

Good bye Mr. Boyscout. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Children's Garden

Every adult in the group had to go through the multi level experience with hidden corners, small narrow pathways wandered through the area. 

 The above is small fountain with painted lily pads and flowers. Very whimsical.  The dragon below was on oneside of the walkway while the tail was on the wall across the way.
 The dragon attracted little children.  There are paint brushes just to the side in a box which are used by children to paint the walls.
 Sprinkled around the area are water ponds such as this one with the birds.
The below is a nook hidden off to the side with chairs on each side of the stained glass window.  
 There are more animal shaped water fountains sprinkled around.
 So cute and fun.  I loved the children's garden with all its fun creatures and displays.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures I've shared over the past few days.  I love taking pictures of flowers more than people.  Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tree Houses of Longwood Gardens.

I do not know how many acres Longwood Gardens cover but I do know there are several tree houses spread out around the place.  Since it is spring, I was unable to get to all the tree houses but I managed to take pictures of two fun ones.

This first one you stumble across if you follow the path to the right around towards the water garden.  It is a small two to three story building with a class window at the very, very, top.  

When you climb up the stairs, just before you enter the building, you come across this beautifully carved mythical creature who is guarding the door.  

 As we followed the path along toward the cafe, we came across this huge place with two different tree houses.  The front one is more open while the back one is a bit more finished.
Behind the part you see in the above photo is the hall you see in the photo below.  I love the curved roof.

 Inside both of the buildings, you can find these steampunk like creations with bells at the end.  I wasn't able to figure out exactly how it was supposed to work but the guys with the group spent some time playing with them.

Yes, everyone had a blast.  Tomorrow, the whimsical children's garden. I hope you all enjoyed the pictures.  Have a good day.  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Longwood Gardens.

Monday, I spent a few hours at Longwood Gardens just outside of Philadelphia.  Longwood Gardens was originally developed by the Dupont family back in the late 1800's or early 1900's.  They build this huge conservatory with enough space to grow plants from a variety of climates.  In the summer, the grounds are bursting with beauty but being spring, not as much was blooming.  However, the place was celebrating orchids with a huge "Orchid Extravaganza" 

They placed orchids every where they could as part of the celebration.  As soon as you walked in the lobby, they'd placed orchids on multiple vertical services near the gift shop to give people their first sight of these beautiful flowers.

As soon as you walk out of the lobby into the patio heading out to the gardens, they painted beautiful orchids on the walls.  Look at the awe inspiring detail of the paintings.  So real you could almost touch them. 

Here is the other orchid painted on the wall. This one is such a gorgeous yellow and purple flower against the black background.  When I saw it, I wanted to touch it because it looked so real. 

Below are more pictures of orchids.  Throughout the conservatory, the gardens placed bowls of orchids all over the place.  Every where you looked, orchids, more orchids, and more.  These pictures do not do justice to them.

Tomorrow, I'll post pictures of some of the tree houses I explored at Longwood Gardens.  These are not the tree houses of your childhood.  The day after, I have to share some of the joy I experienced in the children's garden in the conservatory.  

Have a good day and enjoy these pictures.  I had a blast taking these pictures.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Helping You Sleep Better.

Moon, The Fullness Of, Sky, Mystery  I often have trouble sleeping. Sometimes its due to traveling so much and other times its because my brain is working and I cannot go to sleep until I've gotten everything written down.  Sometimes, its simply because its too light to go to sleep.

Remember, I live in Alaska where it is light at night in the middle of summer.  I find I'd rather take a series of naps than sleep solidly all night long due to it being too light.

This is not a problem for most people, the light, but not sleeping at night?  That is something shared by most people.  There are things you can do to improve your chances of sleeping all night long.  Things you've never considered.  I know I need to do a few of these things myself.

1.  Turn off all computers, televisions and other blue light sources at least an hour before bedtime. Cover all others, including clocks, so you don't glace at them all night.

2 Do not take a nap.  If you have to take a nap, make it under 20 minutes during the earlier part of the day.  If you undergo the mid afternoon slump, take a walk or drink ice water to improve your energy level.

3. Try to find a pillow that keeps your neck in its normal line.  You do not want a pillow that is too fluffy or too flat.

4. Wrap the mattress in a plastic bag to prevent dust mites, dust, etc do not accumulate.  This cuts down on allergic reactions which interfere with your sleep.

5. You should only sleep on the bed.  When you watch television, work on your computer or other such activities, your bedroom no longer feels as relaxing.

6. It is highly recommended you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends. If you go into bright lights right after getting up, it is much easier to wake up.

7. One should not have any caffeine (including that in chocolate) after noon or it might interfere with your going to sleep at night. Sometimes caffeine is hidden as it is in some pain relievers and weight loss tablets.

8. You should work out regularly but finish at least 3 to 4 hours prior to bedtime, otherwise you'll find it difficult to go to sleep.

9. Try not to eat a heavy meal at night.  If you have to eat, eat a light snack no more than an hour prior to bed.

10. Although alcohol will make you sleepy, once its effects wear off, you are more likely to wake up several times over night.

11.  Do not drink a lot of liquid at night within two hours of going to bed.  Have to get up to the restroom can make it difficult to go back to sleep.

12. Do not smoke right before bed because nicotine is a stimulant.

I hope the above suggestions help. I will have no trouble sleeping tonight since I flew across the country and spent 8.5 hours in the air with the appropriate breaks.  I got up early to do it and I'm tired.  Have a good day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Times Have Changed.

Ipad, Map, Tablet, Internet, Screen  I really enjoyed my trip back east.  I discovered a couple of new things offered by the airline.  I realize every airline offers different things so I'm speaking only of the one I traveled.

First of all, the newer air planes have plugs so you can either plug in or use a USB plug to power your mobile device or computer for the whole trip.  This is great when you are on a 3 to 5 hour or longer trip.

The second item are free movies.  I downloaded the app to my tablet so I could watch movies while in the air.  The selection isn't huge but there are enough for any long trip.  The movies stream onto your device when you get above or below 10,000 feet.

The movies are not the newest releases which is fine because I don't usually get a chance to go to theaters.  I watched "X men Apocalypse", "Tarzan", and a comedy about neighbors, one group who were spies while the others were being investigated. There are also a few television shows such as National Geographic, a couple food shows and a few HGTV shows.

I love having access to streaming videos while I'm up in the air.  I hate having to pay for the airline issued tablet when I have my own.  If you want the latest releases, you have to pay for the airline devices or bring your own.

The newest offering is the ability to chat with others while you are in transit.  This is just chat so you can't send any pictures but its great if you want to spend time talking to others.

They still sell meals which are kind of expensive but I bring my own food so I don't have to pay for it.  They never really have hot meals I want to eat.  I'd have to buy a snack pack which is ok but I'd rather have a decent meal.

Long story, short, the 8 hours of travel time (in air time) went faster by having access to the movies.  I really enjoyed it.

Have a good day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

8 Spring Flowers.

Flower, Narcissus, Blossom, Bloom  Its the time of year again, when my mother tells me what is blooming in her area of the the world.  Usually the first one out is the beautiful but small Grape Hyacinth.  It reminds me of a small grape colored wrap, snug against a thin person.

My mother even takes pictures to share but it usually takes her several e-mails to successfully attach the photo and get the message in it.

Although it is spring there, I won't see spring for another couple of months.  In fact, it goes from snow to fully green almost over night.  People love planting flowers as soon as possible around here.

There are several flowers which bloom as soon as the snow melts. A few will provide blossoms even before the snow fully melts.

1. Grape Hyacinth a beautiful purple flower resembling clusters of grapes. Small and close to the ground but absolutely spring associated.

2. Snowdrop produces a beautiful off white flower even before the snow melts.  This particular plant is pest free, even deer and rabbits leave it alone.

3. Chionodoxa, also known as the Glory of the Snow.  It produces a pale blue flower that often appears as the snow melts.

4. Crocus come in either purple or yellow and are seen poking up through the snow, creating nice tableau of color against the crystalline white snow.

5. Pansies love cool weather, often beginning to bloom while snow is on the ground. They continue producing blossoms until the weather gets hot.

6. Once the snow melts, there are the ever popular daffodils which stand proudly in the early spring, welcoming the warmer weather.

7.  Lilacs which are on a bush but whose scent is delicate and associated with fond memories of relatives.  I have an aunt, dead now, who always wore a lilac scented perfume.

8. Forsythia, a bush covered in beautiful yellow flowers, is another plant associated with spring.  I remember thinking it was a yellow snow covered bush, the first time I saw it. 

There are more out there but these are some of the major ones.  Which spring flower is your favorite?  Have a great day.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Alaska Airlines Terminal, Bethel, AK
I am flying back east to attend a close family member's funeral. Yesterday, I didn't publish due to something happening which has never happened before.

If you are a regular reader, you know I live in the middle of nowhere in Alaska where the only real way in or out is by plane.  A very small plane.

The other thing you need to know is the process for leaving the village.  You check in by phone with the local agent who asks for a phone number so they can call when the pilot calls in about 20 minutes out.

I was scheduled to leave at around 5:30 PM so I had everything planned, including being able to finish the column before I had to leave even if it was a bit late.

I was in the middle of a meeting, around 3:15, when I got a message the plane was 15 minutes out.  15 minutes to rush out of the meeting, contact the guy who was taking me to the airport, get all my winter gear (snow pants, heavy coat, heavy boots, hat, scarf, gloves, and sun glasses) on, and haul luggage out to the truck taking me to the airport.

The plane was about 2.5 hours early.  Apparently, the local weather indicated a nasty storm due in later that day, so they moved it up and cancelled the evening flight.  The plane arrived loaded to the gills with tons of cargo and two passengers.  Everyone waiting for the flight had had to hurry to get there.

It was a smooth trip into Bethel, the local hub and largest town/city in the area.  Every airline has their own terminal.  I caught a shuttle over to the Alaska Airline Terminal to check in for my next flight. (The picture above is of the waiting room.  Security was build long after the terminal so it was built in a corner).

About 2 hours prior my departure time, one of the employees made an announcement telling us the flight would be an hour later than expected.  I had more time to catch up on reading but as you can see from the photo, there is not much there to do and no internet.  One good thing?  You can call any restaurant in town and have food delivered.

I finally got to Anchorage around 11:15 PM and checked in by midnight.  That is why I didn't get anything published.  Life out in the bush is never boring and always unexpected.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Homemade Salad Dressing.

Food, Dressing, Salad  I suspect most of us are trying to improve our diets by eating more salad and raw vegetables.  I am but I'm still buying the same old salad dressings rather than making my own.  I think its because the last time I tried to make salad dressing, it came out oilier than I like.

Times have changed and the variety of oils and vinegar have increased so you have more options.  I prefer a very neutral oil such as avocado but a friend of mine uses walnut oil because it has omega-3 in it.  Or at least that is what he claims.

1. Chili-Lime dressing made of 4 tbsp lime juice, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp each of honey and soy sauce, 1/3 cup olive or other oil, 1 finely minced clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground cumin, and salt to taste.  Mix in a jar.  Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

2. Honey Mustard dressing with equal parts honey, Dijon Mustard, apple cider vinegar, and oil.  Add in salt and pepper to taste.

3. Blue Cheese dressing with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt,  2  tbsp buttermilk, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup finely crumbled blue cheese all mixed together with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

4. Sesame-Ginger dressing made of 1/3 cup oil, 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil, 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar,  1 finely minced clove garlic, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey, and 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger.

5. Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette with 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, 2 tsp Dijon mustard,  1 tbsp honey and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Raspberry Vinaigrette made with 2 cups frozen or fresh raspberries, 4tbsp oil, 1 tbsp honey, 4 tsp red wine vinegar, 4 tbsp water, 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard.  Salt and pepper to taste.

7. Cilantro Lime dressing.  Take 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and process with 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1/4 cup oil, and a bit of salt.

All of these are healthy for you with no artificial ingredients.  I've included a few types I really enjoy on my salad and went for those that are not as common.  Each of these uses easy to find ingredients so you don't have to wander all over town to find them.

If you don't like any of these but prefer main stream ones such as French, Italian, or Ranch, just a quick search and you'll find tons of possibilities.  Let me know what you like and feel free to share the recipe.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This summer

Pad Thai, Noodles, Thai, Pad, Asian  I am getting ready to visit two new places this summer, Puerto Rico and Finland.  I speak enough Spanish to ask if it is without meat but I've discovered a cooks idea of no meat is not mine. 

One time, I ordered a tofu soup at a Korean place and got a beautiful red soup.  I had asked if it contained meat and they assured me it did not.  The owner was right as far as it did not have beef, pork, or chicken.  It has shrimp and a fish broth.

Another time, I saw a vegetable soup on the menu in Mexico,  I asked about meat and was assured it didn't have any.  It had lumps of chicken in it so I assume they did not see chicken as meat.  Its harder if you do not speak the language well enough to explain you prefer not to even have a meat or fish broth.

Over time, I have become somewhat accepting that when I buy food, it may have something in it I do not want to eat.  So I often purchase fruits and vegetables to eat raw if I do not have access to cooking facilities.  If I do, I visit the local market for things to prepare something I can eat.

I will be the first to admit, I have had to bite the bullet and just eat around the visible meat and hope for the best.  In some places, they honestly believe a vegetarian is someone who wants the meat and lots of vegetables.  Its hard to convince them otherwise.

I'll be traveling with a friend who cannot eat gluten or dairy products.  Those are a bit easier because he knows not to have baked goods but there might be some in a thickened stew or soup so he may not be able to avoid it totally.

I often wonder how people manage who have extremely restricted diets when they travel.  I know someone who is allergic to anything canned, green beans and so many other things while her husband must eat extremely low fat dishes.  They seldom travel anymore due to their dietary concerns.

There are suggestions for managing special diets no matter where in the world you land.

1. Scope out the restaurants before booking to see if they have options you can eat.

2. Do not let food restrict your travel, figure out how to make it work.

3. Be bold in restaurants, find cards in the local language explaining your dietary restrictions. Be prepared to mix and match foods as needed.

4. Pack a few stable supplies just in case you can't find anything.

5. Look for food that appears to meet your diet.  If it looks vegetarian, I will often eat it, hoping it is.

Let me know what things you do to meet your needs when traveling.  I'd love to hear from others.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dublin, Ireland

The Temple Bar, Dublin, Bar, Ireland  The last time I flew to Scotland, I stopped in Dublin for 24 hours to break up a very long trip and to visit a place I'd never been to.  The flight had me in the air, all night before arriving bright and early in the morning.

After going through customs, I ended up in front of the airport.  As I said yesterday, Dublin has a great bus system with luggage racks so I was able to take it to my hotel.  I was blessed because they allowed me to check in.

After checking in, I caught a quick nap before heading out to visit the town.  I'm strange in that I like to wander and explore using a map to give me a general feel.

I found the pub Jonathan Swift is said to have frequented.  It was not terribly exciting because the area right around it, stunk of urine.  I didn't stick around very long.

Not to far from the pub, I discovered the remains of medieval Dublin.  At the time, the town was under one square mile so it was rather small. There isn't much left except for a church or two, castle and a few outlines in the ground.  I had a blast walking around and checking things out.

My trip took me by some rather interesting places as I strolled in and around the medieval sections into the more modern areas surrounding it.  In and out, here and there, just having fun.  I also stop and take pictures of any flowers I see planted by the side.  I share the photos with my mother because she loves flowers.

Along the way, I found Trinity College.  Nothing much looked like it was happening because I think I visited between terms.  It was all gated off but cool.  Unfortunately,  I didn't get a chance to check out the campus itself or the Book of Kells display due to a significant lack of time.  At that point, I was looking for a music shop with Gaelic language Celtic music.  I so wanted some but I could not any at all.

Of course, I did stop in at a couple of eating establishments to pick up lunch and dinner.  I don't remember what I ordered except for a great fresh hot cup of tea.  Anytime, I stumble across a bakery, I look for fresh made shortbread to go with the cup of tea I brew in my room.

The other thing I look for is a shop which sells sheet music.  I was unable to find on in Dublin although I really wanted to pick up some Irish folk music.  I didn't get a chance to do that till I got to Glasgow.  I like picking up sheet music for tunes I can't find in the United States.

If I'd stumbled across a brewery, I would have tried to take a tour of the facility but again, I didn't find one.  I wished I'd had more time there.  I plan to go back but the next trip to Europe I have planned is going to Finland so I want to plan a stop in Iceland on my way over.  Only way to manage a short visit to new countries.

Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Thinking About One Day.

Maldives, Ile, Beach, Sun, Holiday

Every time I see this picture, I think about quitting my job, running away maybe to Tahiti or the Maldives but I'm always worried about finding a place to stay that is in my price range.  Just for the fun of it, I did a quick check on the internet and discovered there are several booking companies who let you book all over the world.

I tried looking at Tahiti and found 5 pages of everything from hotels and fancy places to the more inexpensive pension and Polynesian bungalows. The site gives the price for the whole stay.  What I liked best was the site even listed information on parking and if wifi is included in the stay. 

The last time I traveled, I was on my way from the United States to Glasgow Scotland and I stopped in Dublin.  Before, I left, I popped on the internet to do a quick search for places to stay.  At this time, I had to consult a list of local hotels provided by the Irish Tourist Board.  Major companies like, and others were not covering international hotels to the extent they do now.

After a ton of searching, I found a nice hotel on the main bus line, about half way to down town.  The price was great, the place well kept, and it included a breakfast.  It was great because the bus had a place for people to stow their luggage so they could take a bus from the airport to various locations around the town. 

I'll tell you about that trip another time.  I am straying.  I have had a blast looking up places in Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa because I want to take a trip to all three places some summer.  I found nice places for under $1000 for an 11 day stay. Most of these places have parking, cooking facilities, or include breakfast.  Having either cooking facilities or breakfast can really cut down on costs.

Of course, I'd have to fly via Hawaii and stay for a few days both ways.  The time change can be absolutely horrendous.  Making a short stop both ways is a nice way to make the whole trip so much easier.  It is no fun crossing tons of time zones and arriving feeling like a member of the walking dead.

Yes, one day, I'm going to fly out and visit those three countries.  I can hardly wait.  Do you have places you want to visit?  Let me know.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Make Your Own Chai and 10 Ways to Cook With It.

Cup, Tea, Milk, Chai, Tea Cup, Drink  I love drinking hot Chai in the winter when its cold and blistery out.  Since I am not a coffee drinker in any form, I rely on enjoying my chai.  Unfortunately, I don't like the powdered chai because it seems to have too many weird ingredients.

I know you can get the boxed concentrate with tea, spices, and sweetener already brewed together but it just doesn't taste as good as made from scratch. 

I usually buy the chai tea mix from a store, brew it with water and add brown sugar and milk to it but its time to learn to make my own totally from scratch.

Recipe 1
1/2 tsp each of ground black pepper and nutmeg,  2 tbsp each of ground cinnamon and ginger, 1 tbsp each of ground cardamon and cloves.
Mix 1/2 tsp of chai spices, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 tbsp black tea.  Heat over medium heat to a slow simmer , remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.  Strain into a cup, sweeten, and enjoy.

Recipe 2
Slice a 2 inch piece of ginger into thin rounds. 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 tsp black peppercorns, 10 cloves of allspice, 6 cardamon pods. Add the spices to a saucepan.  Bruise them with a mallet or the back of a spoon.  Add 6 cups of cold water and heat till boiling, reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add 6 black tea bags, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Discard teabags, add 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup golden brown sugar.  Stir till dissolved.  Strain and serve.

The nicest thing about chair is you can cook with it in a variety of ways.

1. Baked Chai French Toast. Add 1 rounded tbsp of chai spice mix as found in recipe 1 to your normal egg mixture you use for french toast. Place bread in a buttered 8 by 13 inch pan.  Pour the egg mixture over.  Top with a mix of equal parts of flour and sugar (1/4 cup of each is good.) with 1 tsp of chai spice added in.  Soak for 30 minutes before baking at 350 degrees till nice and golden.  Eat as normal.

2. Use your usual recipe for carrot cake and use ground chai spices instead of the usual ones to make  a nice  change.

3. Take a pumpkin bread and substitute sweet potato and ground chai spices for a different flavor.

4. How about spicing up your oatmeal cookies with ground chai spice and finely diced apples.

5. If you make up a 1 1/4 cups of chai tea without the milk but with 1 cup of brown sugar. you can use it to poach 12 to 14 Bosc pears cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  The poaching takes about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Mix 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 1/2 cup of liquid from the pan, then stir in 1/4 cup of almonds.  Add the whole mixture to the poached pears mixture.  Stir well, then pour in a pan.  Create a crumble of 1/2 cup chai tea (no milk), 3 cups flour, 2 tbsp powdered sugar, 1 cup chilled butter. Spread over top and bake at 350 till done.

6. When you make pancakes, substitute chai tea in for the liquid to give a spicy flavor.

7. Take your pumpkin muffin recipe and modify it with ground chai spices and blueberries.

8. Then there is chai ice cream where you add in ground chai spices instead of vanilla flavoring.  On the other hand, chocolate chai is not a bad flavor.

9. Make an apple spice cake and replace the normal spices with chai spices to give it the chai taste.

10. Chai Tea Fudge using 4 cups of chai tea from recipe 2, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 2 tbsp maple syrup.  Cook over heat until reduced to one cup to make a chai syrup.  Mix 1 can of condensed milk, 1/4 cup cubed butter, pinch of salt, 2.5 cups of white chocolate chips, 3 tsp chai spices, and 2 tbsp chai syrup.    Mix the milk, butter and salt and cook in microwave on high for 3 minutes.  It will be bubbly and nice.  Add in the white chocolate chips till melted. Add in the chai spices and syrup, then place in pan till cool.  Cut when done.

Let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Salt Water Taffy

Caramel, Diet, Sweet, Toffee Do you have fond memories of salt water taffy?  I don't because it was not really popular in most of the places I grew up.  I do recall it sticking to my teeth and having to scrape it off.

For a candy with an interesting name, it is not made with salt water as the name implies. No one is sure how it originated but there is a story from New Jersey that might explain the title.

Back in 1883, a huge storm hit Atlantic City flooding many of the businesses.  Afterwards, one of of the candy shops opened and when asked what type of candy he sold, he looked around and replied that all he had was salt water taffy.  Someone over heard his response and suggested he use the name.  Eventually by 1920, over 450 business manufactured the delight.

Salt water taffy is a candy you can make at home.  Its a mix of 2 cups of sugar, 2 tbsp corn starch, 1 cup light corn syrup, 2 tsp glycerin, 3/4 cup water, 2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 to 1 tsp flavoring and 3 drops food coloring.

To make, you mix the sugar with the cornstarch in a pan.  Add in the corn syrup, glycerin, water, butter and salt.  Stir heat over medium heat until the sugar melts.  Keep stirring the mixture until it boils.  At this point, stop stirring and let cook until it reaches 270 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat before adding the flavoring and food coloring.

Pour on a greased cookie sheet.  Let it cool til it can be held in your hand.  With greased hands, start pulling the taffy for 10 to 15 minutes until it is light in color and satiny.  Roll the taffy into a long rope about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into inch long pieces and let set 30 minutes before wrapping in waxed paper.

This is a great rainy day activity if you have children.  Let them pull and play with the taffy and then enjoy the end product.  Perhaps you could use it at a party.

Let me know what you think.  Enjoy.

Monday, March 6, 2017

14 Tips for Travel lightly.

Luggage, Antique, Cat, British Shorthair  I am one of the first people to admit I am not the lightest packer.  I am not the worst and I've gotten better over the past few years but how much I have depends on where I'm traveling from and to.

For instance, when I leave Alaska in the winter and head to the contiguous states, I usually have a huge extra suitcase because I have to store my winter boots, snow pants, winter grade coat, gloves, and scarf.

If I started from a large city, I could dump all of it in the car and leave it until I get back but because I fly from a small village where I have to stand outside waiting for the plane, I must have all that gear on or I could freeze.  Sometimes I overnight at a hotel who will allow me to store the suitcase until I return.  Otherwise, I have to take it with me and that is one of my allotted suitcases.

If its summer, it is much easier but I usually try to pack a sweater and jeans, just in case they are needed due to cooler weather.  I add in both shoes and sandals just to be prepared for anything.  My mother always taught me to pack it all just in case.

I'm sure there are others who cannot travel for multiple days with one small carry on.  In honor of those of us who cannot, here are some tips to help us travel lighter.

1. The top suggestion is only take small carry on bags so you don't have to pay luggage fees.

2.  Head only to warmer places where you don't need any bulky clothing.

3.  Mix and match light weight clothing which can be layered.

4.  Choose clothing that can be worn multiple times without washing every day.

5. Pack no more than 7 days worth of clothing and visit laundromats if you are gone for longer.

6. Use rubber bands to tie up your clothing to give more room in the suitcase.

7. Pack underwear in your packed shoes.

8. Buy your toiletries when you get there.

9. Bring only what you know you will use.  Don't pack for "Just in Case".

10. If you have to take bulky items, wear them so they don't take up suitcase space.

11. Pack colors that are easily worn together.

12.  Plan on wearing layers.

13. Pack the heavier items at the bottom near the rollers.

14. When in doubt do not pack it.

I hope you like these tips.  I need them and on my next trip, I'm going to try to get everything down to a carry on.  I'll let you know how it goes.  I'd love to hear what you do to pack lightly.

Friday, March 3, 2017

What Is Yours?

Garden, Chocolate Flower, Flowers  When I was younger, I never gave flowers much thought.  To me, they were something there that my mother grew.  I preferred vegetables you could grow but as the older members of the family have passed on, I've discovered a reason to like them.

I've begun planting flowers because they help me remember people.  For instance, one grandmother loved snap dragons so I started planting them.  When I see them, I think of her.  I discovered they got their name from the idea that these flowers look like the head of a dragon.  I try to plant the dark ones because they seem more striking.

I have pansies, the dark purple ones, because another grandmother loved them.  Did you know the name pansy is thought to have come from the french word pensee?  Pansies mean remembrance.  I don't mind the ones that have a deep red center with yellow outer edge.

Along the way, I found out that some flowers are edible such as nasturtiums, carnations, and certain types of roses.  The roses produce a fruit we know as rose hips.  Rose hips can be made into jam, juice, or tea and its full of vitamin C. In addition, you can make beads out of roses.  This dates from a very long time ago.

I was lucky enough to wander through a garden with old fashioned sweet peas.  The aroma is indescribable and I had to go out and find the seeds for them.  I wanted something that would tease me in the spring.

Plumeria, Flower, Frangipani, PlantWhen I grew up in Hawaii, I loved smelling Plumerias but the sap is poisonous and my sister developed an allergy to it.  One day, I want to set up a greenhouse for tropical plants including these.

I also love hibiscus too.  I think I want some of these because of the sentimental feelings from when I was a child.  We had them along the front of the yard facing the street.  When I visited Longs Gardens in Philadelphia, I saw some breathtaking Hibiscus in colors I'd never seen before.  So of course I want the blue one for my collection but they are hard to come by.

So what is your favorite flower?  Which ones would you plant if you could?  I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What is Salt Rising Bread?

Bread, Farmer'S Bread, Crispy, Baked  I love reading old cookbooks because the recipes are really interesting.  When I grew up, my father tried sourdough starter but the breads, pancakes, and other final products never tasted right so he gave up.  It wasn't till years later, we figured out the problem.  He kept it in a metal container.  You can't do that because it absorbs some of the metal and tastes horrible.

In some of the books, there are recipes for something called salt rising bread.  I'd never heard of it and wondered how salt could cause bread to rise.

No one is sure where the name came from but it developed in the early 1800's when commercial yeast was not available and housewives had to make their own.  To create the rising agent, they'd mix a mash of cornmeal and milk or potatoes and milk which produced a nice bubbly mixture.  This leavened the bread.

Unfortunately, it was almost hit or miss back then, getting a reliable leavening agent so the trick was to keep it warm.  It is thought the salt raised part came from the rock salt women warmed and piled around the starter to keep it warm and fermenting.  It takes 12 to 18 hours to get it to this point.

Once its nice and bubbly, its time to add the remaining ingredients and progress as normal.  Its said the final product is a dense - cheesy loaf.

If you'd like to try it yourself here is the recipe.
The sponge is made from 1 cup warm milk, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Mix and set in a warm place until its bubbly and releasing gas.  This step takes around 10 hours.  Add in 2 cups of flour, 2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoon melted shortening.  Mix and let set for 2.5 to 3 hours until its nice and bubbly.

Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 tablespoon water before mixing with the sponge.  Add in about 5.5 cups of flour.  Knead, adding flour as needed, for about 10 minutes till smooth.  Cut the dough into three parts, shape and place in baking pans. Let rise till doubled and bake at 350 till nicely golden brown.

Have a great time trying it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What Makes It Fudge?

Brownie, Snack, De, Chocolate, Dessert My father is a fudge connoisseur.  If he see's fudge, we have to stop and buy it so he can check out its "quality". Or at least, that's his excuse.  For the longest time, he'd make a microwave fudge at home but I think he gave up when he tried to make it during boxing matches and overcooked it a few times.

I love a straight chocolate fudge but one of my siblings prefers peanut butter fudge and another loves the marshmallow cream fudge.  I know everyone has a favorite.

Over the summer, I attended a celebration with vendors and one of them had close to 20 or 25 different types of fudge. When I was growing up, I always thought fudge was a chocolate candy but then I saw the fudge sauce for ice cream sundaes. So what makes fudge a fudge?  We know its not always chocolate, but might be fruit flavored or any of a variety of flavors.  Its the cooling of this confection which makes it a fudge.

You want crystals but you want them small and barely there so the candy does not become grainy.  The idea is that you heat the mixture to the soft ball stage around 234 degrees first.  The minute you start stirring the mixture is when the crystals begin forming so it is normal to allow the mixture to cool to about 110 degrees before starting to stir. Continue stirring until the mixture is thick with lots of small crystals.  If the crystal formation begins too early or they become too large, the texture of the fudge is no longer that nice smooth candy we love.

If you do a search for recipes, you'll find ones like Creamy Orange Fudge, Irish Creme Truffle,  Peanut Butter Fudge, Candy Cane Fudge, Pumpkin or Cookies and Creme Fudge but what do they all have in common?  The basic recipe of milk, sugar, butter or condensed milk with the appropriate flavoring. 

What is your favorite type of fudge.  Let me know.