The Wasilly Chronicles

levi_johnston_vf_mI happened to catch Lawrence O’Donnell’s new MSNBC political commentary show Wednesday night, The Last Word, and was treated  to a rather amusing segment which places future mom-in-law Sarah Palin against future son-in-law Levi Johnston, who by the way is now running for Mayor of Wasilla.  Click here for clip.

I had actually heard an outtake of this interview with Levi driving to work Wednesday morning, but I missed who the interview was with.  All I heard was someone not being able to answer a few questions, and responding that he doesn’t watch too much TV or read papers.  Well one thing is for sure, the United States of America is truly the land of opportunity – and if you’re willing to put yourself out there (as Levi Johnston certainly has) who knows what will happen.  We’re probably looking at the future governor of Alaska.

So Tuesday night the interview aired.  Lawrence O’Donnell decided to use the very same questions (verbatim) that his fellow journalist Katie Couric had used in her famous interview of Sarah Palin two years ago. Wednesday night he aired a clip of these two interviews side by side, and there is currently a poll running to determine which of these Alaskans fared better.   It’s amusing to take another look at the Palin interview – so many words came out of her mouth in response to each question – but very few of them made any sense.  The most striking difference was hearing again how Palin reads all the papers (even though she couldn’t name one) and Levy admitting to reading the Wasilla Frontiersman occasionally, but never the New York Times. Despite Levy not sounding like the sharpest tack, his honesty in admitting that he didn’t know the answer or that the questions “were over his head” at least was refreshing.

So far, Levi is winning the poll of who handled these questions better … This must be interesting fodder at the Palin dinner table.

My form of Twitter….and the Uncomfortable State of Being an American

imagesI haven’t quite discovered the magic behind twittering – maybe because I have trouble getting a thought out in just a few words.  Or maybe because I haven’t yet found the merit in blurting out mundane messages to my friends stating that “it’s a beautiful day today” OR “first day of school…relief in sight.”

However, a few things have caught my attention over the past 2-3 weeks, which have either shocked or surprised me, so I thought I’d share through my defined way of Twitter.  They are more substantive than remarking on the weather, but also statements that don’t demand further explanation.  I read this list to myself and just shake my head.  What is America coming to?

  • Jet Blue Flight attendant who exited off the plane via emergency chute in a tirade of f-bombs just landed his own reality show.  In this new series, he will help others figure out how to take their jobs and shove it.   Ok… really?  Really.
  • A middle school in Mississippi sets strict rules for running for class officer positions.  Only white 6th, 7th and 8th graders can run for President, and only white 6th and 7th graders can run for Vice President.  They do allow African Americans in 8th grade to run for the Vice Presidential position.  Can you even believe?   It’s a twisted way of ensuring diverse representation on the class officer slate ….. albeit far from equal and fair.  What year is it again?
  • It costs more for sinners to attend Catholic School.  I was recently reading in my local paper that the Diocese of Fairfield County charges $5,500 per “certified” pupil annually and an additional $2000 if the students are not certified.  Students are certified by a pastor based on attendance at church and whether they are “living the faith.”
  • Jeff Beck, with keynote speaker Sarah Palin, staged a “non-political Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the 40th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Restoring Honor to what I must ask? They are two of the scariest individuals on our landscape right now, and I think I’ll throw the Gainesville Reverend Terry Jones and his Koran burning plan into the mix as well.
  • And finally on a lighter note, although a telling comment from the teen landscape… you know that teen fashion in in the crapper (from a parent’s perspective) when your teen daughter finds an old negligee in your closet and she thinks it’s a party dress and wants to wear it out on her next special occasion.

The Organic Dilemma

images-1The Organic Dilemma:  To buy organic or not.  The historical problem has been finding the organic produce, and then once finding, being willing to shell out the money. Many times I’ve headed to Whole Foods with the best intentions of buying organic, and then not able to make the plunge because of the price. The good news is that more and more chain stores are introducing organic lines, and the number of farmers markets offering their wares on a regular basis is on the rise.  The increased availability is also making the pricing for many of these items much more reasonable.

The Environmental Working Group  (EWG) just released their “dirty dozen” guide to the most pesticide contaminated foods, which is based on statistical analysis of testing conducted by the USDA and FDA.  The list only reflects measurable pesticide residues on the parts of the foods consumers normally eat (after being washed and peeled).  This was an eye opener to me, because I erroneously assumed as long as I was doing a good job washing my produce, that most of the residue would be removed.

According to the EWG, “consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.  If consumers get their USDA recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies from the 15 most contaminated, they could consumer an average of 10 pesticides a day.  Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally grown produce ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.”

The following is the Dirty Dozen list.  If at all possible, buy the following items organic.

1.  Celery:  The #1 veggie, with 64 pesticides detected

2.  Peaches:  62 residues have been detected on peaches

3.  Strawberries:  59 pesticide residues detected

4,  Apples:  42 pesticide residues detected

5.  Blueberries:  52 pesticides detected

6.  Nectarines:  33 pesticides detected

7.  Sweet Bell Peppers:  49 different pesticides detected

8.  Spinach:  Can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making if one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetables

9.  Kale: Typically thought of as a hardier vegetable rarely suffering from pests and disease, this year’s testing showed high amounts of residue

10.  Cherries:  Even locally grown cherries have high levels of pesticides

11.  Potatoes:  37 different types of pesticides detected

12.  Grapes:  Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically.

What was on this list was not terribly surprising to me.  What was surprising was the amount of pesticide residue measured, plus the fact that washing isn’t effective in removing the residue impact.

So what’s on the “Clean” list – fruits and vegetables that have very low residue, and are relatively safe to eat (without having to upgrade to organic):

Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.

It was hard walking by that large display of delicious looking peaches yesterday on sale for 99 cents a pound.  But I did. I think I will try harder to follow these guidelines.

What about you?  I’m always interested to learn if folks have totally made the switch, if they buy some organic but not all, or if they rarely buy organic.  Let me know!

Lake Placid Part 2: Time to Talk Food

BH_SideMnt_weddingsWise Women Charlotte appropriately called me out on my former Lake Placid blog, as the very important category of where to eat was missing.  While we didn’t hit any primo romantic gourmet restaurant spots (not tolerable with a 5 and 7 year old along) we did have some nice meals.  The town is full of a range of eating options – many casual burger, pizza, Italian, steakhouse type venues.  The many groups of teen guys (including my son) who were in town for lacrosse were in heaven wandering the town on their own, deciding which burger haven to hit.

For those of you who may be visiting the area, here are some dining considerations for you:

Big Mountain Deli & Creperie: This is an excellent place to pick up some sandwiches for a hike or a picnic by the lake.  They have close to 50 gourmet sandwich combinations, and what puts this restaurant over the top is a great selection of breads.  In addition to the standard fare of wheat, hearth, or seeded rye, you can choose from Asiago Peppercorn, Caramelized Onion, Rosemary Garlic, or Basil Pesto.  I had a roasted vegetable, fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade sandwich on Rosemary Garlic bread, and it more than hit the spot.  In addition to the sandwiches, they do have a nice menu for dinner – many styles of crepes.  They have a small dine-in area, and while I did not get there, my friends did and recommended it.  Also for the late evening strollers along the main street, Big Mountain Deli & Creperie has an amazing list of dessert coffees to choose from.  Unfortunately I did not make it in, but I’ve never seen such a long list of unusual combinations for coffee.

The Boat House: This was where we had our nicest dinner (pictured above).  The Boat House is operated by the hotel where we stayed, the Crown Plaza, but sits on the opposite side of the lake.  You can walk from the hotel, drive, or take the hotel shuttle.  It sits right on Mirror Lake, and has a large deck that sits right on the lake for outdoor dining.  The setting was lovely, and we were able to watch the sun set over the lake as we dined.  My meal was delicious, and the food served around me also looked delicious.  I had diver sea scallops, prosciutto ham, sauteed artichokes, roasted tomato and kalamata olive served with jasmine rise.  Everyone left very satisfied.  The added bonus was that the four children left us there, walked into town to visit Ben and Jerry’s, while we stayed for coffee and a piece of indulgent flourless chocolate cake.

The Mirror Lake Inn and Spa:  If you’re traveling to Lake Placid as just a couple, this may be a place to consider for lodging.  It has a beautiful facility that sits right on the lake, and many appealing dining options.  One of their restaurants called The Cottage, has dining on a deck which extends over the lake (similar to The Boat House).  While we didn’t dine here, it was recommended and looked lovely.

Desperados:  If you have a craving for Southwestern/Mexican, this is the spot to hit.  We also did not make it here, but this was recommended by my friend who lives there.  It doesn’t sit in a prime location (but still very convenient to town), and its decor isn’t anything to rave about, but apparently their margaritas and food is excellent.

So hopefully that is enough to get you started on your journey.  To review Things to Do in Lake  Placid, click here to read the Destination Lake Placid blog.

Slow Dance

SarsberellaA friend forwarded this poem to me over the weekend – a poem written by a teen with cancer.  I’m sure I’ve read it before, and I decided to publish it here for its poignancy, simplicity and wisdom.  It’s something we need to read from time to time to enable us to regain our grounding when life gets a little too fast paced and hectic.  And it’s the beautiful summer time.  A perfect time to slow down!

Here it is:

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,

Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?

Ever follow a butterfly’s erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down.  Don’t dance so fast…

Time is short; The music won’t last.

Do you ever run through each day, on the fly?

When you ask How are you?  Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed

With the next 100 chores, running through your head?

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.

Time is short; the music won’t last.

Ever told your child…we’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste, not seen his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die?

Cause you never had time to call and say hi.

You better slow down; don’t dance so fast.

Time is short; the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,

You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,

It is like an unopened gift, thrown away.

Life is not a race, do take it slower

Hear the music before the song is over.

Meet Inspiration: Dr. Jim Yong Kim

inside-banner9Elaine and I were together this past weekend at our husbands’ 25th College Reunion, a wonderful weekend of reconnecting with dear friends. I must say I walked away from the weekend being overwhelmingly impressed with the man who is now at the helm, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, 17th President of Dartmouth College and just finishing his first year.

I didn’t know much about him before we were treated to an hour long presentation, where I was literally blown away by not only his credentials, but his passion, integrity and leadership that has this venerable institution primed for ongoing success over the next several years.

He has led a blessed life, and those he has touched are richer for it.  Noted as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 most Influential People in the World, and US News and World Report’s “America’s 25 Best Leaders,” he is a physician, an anthropologist, humanitarian and educator. He co-founded a global health organization, Partners in Health, which has been addressing global health concerns in developing nations for years.  Prior to accepting this post at Dartmouth he was the Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.  I must say I left his presentation not only feeling inspired, but also a bit inadequate.

The one thing that impressed me more than anything is the anthropological influence that is anchored in his approach to issues – and understanding that the core of being a good human being is at the heart of the matter.  To be a good person, a conscientious and concerned person, a person who will do their best to make a difference – is the type of student he wants to have a hand in shaping.

He shared a quote from a past Dartmouth President – John Sloane Dickey – which was as follows:

“The world’s troubles are your troubles … and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.”

As he came across this quote during the Presidential search process, he inquired of the search committee if this was the mission that they wanted him to tackle.  As he stated, he could think of no better calling then to help guide and influence young people to be at their best.

From just this hour long glimpse into his actions and his vision, I can tell his presence on campus produces a ripple effect of inspiration.  You want to be on his team.  He spreads himself across all important facets of college life, whether that is setting hard reaching academic challenges, inspiring the athletic teams to be their best or reminding the Greek system of their social responsibilities, while celebrating the enduring life long friendships that are being created every day.

What he has accomplished thus far, is an embodiment of a quote from another past Dartmouth President, William Jewett Tucker:

You will not make a very strong impression on the world without the use of an equal amount of conscious and heart.”

That to me is a quote to live by.

Vegetarianism – Just around the Corner

foodincMy two older children and I sat down and watched Food, Inc. a couple of weeks ago.  I thought it would be interesting to watch, and they both reported having no interest in this type of Friday night movie activity, but I must say as soon as it started, they were drawn in.

The result of our movie viewing?  I now have a vegetarian daughter, and a son (meat hound that he is) that now takes pause before eating a bite of chicken or a burger.  It makes me not want to ever buy a Purdue or Tyson chicken pack or any meat, for that matter, that is not organic and grass fed.  The documentary was certainly an eye opener, and the representation that it makes of how our agriculture culture caters to a low cost mass production food system doesn’t bode well for our health, or the health of the animals that we eat.  The conditions that these animals are raised under are horrific.

So with that, I think I have the push to buy those more expensive organic meat brands, but probably less often.  Plus, I need to consider this whole new world of vegetarianism.  Nothing would suit me more than turning my entire backyard into a vegetable garden; I just know that is too big a task for me to undertake at the moment.  Last Sunday evening I prepared a meal of Butternut squash and Kale risotto (very delicious – and I will share the recipe, but thought given that it is more of a fall type dish that I would wait until then), black beans, and grilled maple sweet potatoes.  My daughter was in heaven, and remarked that she wanted every meal to be this way.

So, I will share a very simple Bobby Flay recipe that my kids love, and if you have any good vegetarian recipes, please share!

Maple – Glazed Grilled Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes (do not peel)

3/4 cup pure maple syrup (I didn’t use this much)

1 T ancho powder (I also used chipolte pepper powder)

salt

1/4 cup mild vegetable oil, such as canola

1.  Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until soft but not mushy (you should still feel resistance when you stick a small knife through the center), 25 to 35 minutes.

2.  Have ready a bowl of cold water.  Drain the potatoes, put them in the cold water, and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Peel the potatoes and quarter each one lengthwise.  (The potatoes can be cooked a few hours in advance, covered and set aside at room temperature.  Don’t cut them until you’re ready to grill).

3.  Heat your grill to high.

4.  Whisk together the maple syrup, ancho powder, and salt to taste in a small bowl.  Brush the potatoes with oil.  Grill until golden, about 3 minutes.  Brush with the maple glaze and continue grilling, brushing often with the glaze, until the potatoes are glazed, lightly charred, and heated through, about 3 minutes more.

Serves 4, From Bobby Flay’s Boy Gets Grill

Go Ask Alice

shopping_nightmareWhenever I hear “Go Ask Alice” – my mind immediately reverts back to the controversial book Go Ask Alice that many of us read in our formative years.

Well, now I’d like to introduce you to another Alice – one that one of our Wise Women readers introduced me to.  This Alice just may make your life a little bit easier. Alice.com is a midwest based grocery distribution center where you can order all your shelf stable grocery items and have them delivered to your door for free.

I have used peapod.com a handful of times (for those of you who are not familiar with peapod.com – it is an online grocery store which delivers everything from the store to your door (including fresh, refrigerated and frozen items).  Every time I order from peadpod, I love it and claim that I’m going to make it a regular habit.  The problem with it is that you need to set up a specific day and time for delivery, and many times when I’m out of fresh produce or milk, it’s an immediate need that requires a trip to the store.  Other friends claim that they don’t use peapod as they prefer picking out their own fresh produce.

Well Alice solves one of those problems at least.  You don’t need to be home for delivery and can specify where you want your package left.  My friend who uses this service has done her homework.  She believes that some items from Alice.com are more expensive (but just cents) than her local grocery, others are less expensive.  Alice.com also provides all manufacturer’s coupons onsite that can be applied to your purchases.  If they don’t carry a brand that you’re interested in, let them know.  There is a good likelihood that they will make it available.  She also likes it because she orders her big bags of dog food through this service as well.  It’s nice to have the bulky items in particular delivered to your door.  And it goes without saying that those of you with young kids would take advantage of  any opportunity to do grocery shopping solo.

So I’m kind of liking this idea.  Order all your shelf stable products through this service, and make a trip to the Farmer’s Market or grocery for fresh items once a week.  It will enable you to do a quick perimeter run.

Let me know if you check it out and what you think!

Kicking The News Habit

newspaper“My name is Elaine, and I am a news junkie.”

They say that the first step to beat an addiction is to admit one’s powerlessness. Gosh, I hope they’re right.

I didn’t start off compulsively gobbling up the news de jour. In the beginning, I would simply scan the newspaper in the morning.  And then listen to news radio during my short drives out and about. Oh, and catch the 10 pm news before I went to bed.

Over time, I’ve bumped up my news consumption without noticing.

I feel restless unless I read the newspaper cover-to-cover. I check the Internet at lunchtime to catch what’s unfolded that morning. I listen to multiple 30-minute segments on news radio during the day such that I hear the same story two or three times over. My clock radio is set to the news station so, not only does news wake me up, I now let the radio reports lull me to sleep.

Interestingly, during vacations, I go cold turkey and pay no attention to the news. Last week’s college road trip? Didn’t miss the news a bit.

Now that I”m back into my “real life” routine, I find the constant stream of news jarring and upsetting. Every other story brings me down.

  • Big business ignores safety concerns until lives are lost and their “indiscretions” are splashed across headlines. (Take your pick: Toyota or West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine.)

Make it all go away!

I need an antidote to the depressing 24/7 news cycle. A “happy news” pill, if you will, that will give me my news fix yet now bring me down.

Imagine my relief at finding Happy News, an online news source that promises Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive. Sign me up!

Has anyone else found ways to take in the news in bite-size pieces that don’t overwhelm you? Or, should I just quit news all together?

What to Make of Health Care Reform

healthcare-reformHealthcare.  So massive is it’s passing, I feel like we need to discuss it.  I struggle, however, trying to wrap my arms around it and make sense of it.  The basic tenants of it are good ones, and arguably ones that I would think most Americans would agree.  A first response is how do we pay for this?  A proper rebuttal may be we’ve already been paying for this for a long time.  The fact that all of our uninsured fellow Americans use our hospital’s ERs for not only emergency but primary care, is costing us a ton ($500 billion in fact, which would now get cut as this reform remedies this situation).  Unfortunately, no one has done a great job of crystallizing the exact impact of this bill.  If you’ve read a good article, please share.

I did enjoy reading Joe Klein’s article in the April 5th issue of Time magazine titled:  Promise Delivered.  How Obama’s epic victory in pushing forward Health Reform revitalized his Presidency.”   After reading it, despite the derision that exists in Washington now, you are assured that what just happened is a good thing, and sets a productive course for Obama moving forward.  As Joe Klein states:

After a fist year in office that promised consequence but never quite delivered on it, he had done something huge.  The comparisons with Jimmy Carter would abruptly come to an end.  He was now a President who didn’t back down, who could herd cats, who was not merely intellectual and idealistic but tough enough to force his way. This is bound to change the landscape of American politics.  It makes significant progress on other issues – financial reform, immigration, perhaps even the reduced use of carbon fuels – more plausible.  It may give Obama new stature overseas, in a world that was beginning to wonder about his ability to use power.”

He finally has results to show after a long year of frustration.  But change is always uncomfortable. I worry about the state of the House and Senate, and the heavy scars this debate has left in terms of implications for future positive movement and bipartisanship.  I feel as if  I’m left with many questions and ponderings:

- Has this whole mess been purely political, and the Republicans have been lobbying for a no vote on Healthcare to purely cripple Obama’s credibility as President, regardless of the benefits of legislation (a reported strategy back in 1994 when Clinton was trying to push health care reform)?

- While a majority of Americans still favor the passing of last week’s reform, I’m stunned by how vehement and nasty the protesting has been.  Is it purely because its so difficult to know the true story behind the implications of this policy?  And the fact that in a violence prone week, when emotions are running high, you have the formidable Sarah Palin twittering to her supporters – “don’t retreat, instead reload” – the implications of which completely scare me as she continues to gain more ground on the national scene.

- Isn’t it interesting that most people who say they oppose healthcare reform or the negatively positioned “Obamacare” are in favor of almost every tenant of the reform when asked about them individually?

- It is also interesting that the reform that passed was closely aligned to a universal healthcare plan that was constructed in Massachusetts and passed by then Governor Mitt Romney in 1993.  Massachusetts then became the model for the federal plans offered in the 2008 campaign by Hillary Clinton and later adopted by President Obama.  So the plan that was just passed had its roots in the Republican plan from Massachusetts.  Interesting that Mr. Romney has even shied away from supporting or being associated with this plan.

While I do understand that this passed plan is far from perfect, it’s a start.  And it leaves me thinking that now more than ever, we need to put politics aside.  I end with a fitting quote from the Capital Journal:

“Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights, a woman’s right to vote, ending slavery … every one of the major steps on America’s road to become a more democratic society has been marked by controversy and conflict.  There is a reason why progressive leaders are the heroes and heroines of American history.  They embody the values and aspirations that are at the core of American values.”

I know there are thousands of opinions out there about this reform.  Please share your thoughts – is this a good thing or a bad thing for America?

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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