Gourding the 60 Blog

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Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.

What’s your opinion of pumpkin?  Pumpkin spice?  Do you spend the first two months of fall dreaming about lattes and pumpkin-spice-filled Oreos?

I don’t like pumpkin pie, and I tell myself it’s because of the consistency.  But, now that I think about it, that’s baloney.  Doesn’t it have the same texture as, say, chocolate cream pie?  And that’s delicious, right?  I’ve never eaten a slice of pumpkin pie, even though I can get a jumbo pie at Costco for like two dollars.  (By the way, did you know that Costco sold almost 1.75 million pies in the three days leading up to Thanksgiving last year?)

Give me some pumpkin cake, pumpkin soup, or other pumpkin-flavored goodies.  Me and Starbucks are good friends, but I’ll admit it…I’ve never tried a pumpkin spice latte.   Maybe this year.

Do you know the history of the pumpkin?  Cindy Ott, the author of Pumpkin:  The Curious History of an American Icon, tells us that pumpkin was “a food of last resort” among colonial settlers.  Because the crop was a new-world native, it was seen as primitive.  Things began to change when Americans flocked to cities from the farm land in the mid-19th century.  And the new settlers were nostalgic for pumpkins.  Pumpkins soon became known as a treat, especially after the 1844 poem “Over the River and Through the Wood,” which ends with a cheer for pumpkin pie.

Nostalgia saved the pumpkin’s reputation, and the reverse came true years later.  In the 20th century, small producers felt threatened by industrial farms and found they could set up roadside pumpkin stands and have pumpkin festivals, which drew customers to the country…which in turn made the pumpkin even more of a sign of the season.

The largest pumpkin pie ever, weighing a whopping 3,699 pounds and measuring 20 feet wide, was baked in 2010 by Ohio’s New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers.  The filling alone contained 187 cans of pumpkin, 2,796 eggs, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 525 pounds of sugar, 14 1/2 pounds of cinnamon, 7 pounds of salt, and 3 pounds of pumpkin pie spice.  After letting it cool for two hours, bakers divided the confection into 5000 slices and fed the hungry crowd.

Last year, sales of pumpkin-flavored products generated a record-setting $400 million in sales.  Here is a short sampling of what’s out there:

  • Ghirardelli pumpkin-spice caramel chocolate squares
  • Einstein’s pumpkin bagel and shmear
  • Birch Benders pumpkin spice pancake mix
  • Bailey’s pumpkin spice Irish cream
  • Pumpkin Spice Special K cereal
  • Jet Puffed pumpkin spice-mallows
  • Ben & Jerry’s pumpkin cheesecake ice cream
  • Dunkin Donuts’ pumpkin spice macchiato
  • Jamba Juice’s pumpkin smash protein
  • Pepperidge Farm’s pumpkin spice Milanos and pumpkin swirl bread
  • Sprouts pumpkin spice salsa

 

And finally, the most intriguing product:  Simply Beyond’s pumpkin spice organic spray-on spice (“This edible spray gives you the chance to pumpkinize literally everything in sight”).  What will you buy this year?

 

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Sweetening the 60 Blog

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May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year, for a good life, and for peace.

The two-day Jewish New Year celebration started at sundown Wednesday night and continues through nightfall Friday night.

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri.  In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year.  This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.

There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year and the American one:  Many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making “resolutions.” Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.

You may have heard of a shofar.  The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue, and a total of 100 notes are sounded each day.  The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on the Sabbath.

Several traditions abound on this holiday.  No work is permitted, and much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded.  Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year.  You can also dip bread in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.

The common greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

I have made resolutions over the years, and certainly am more reflective during these holy days on the Jewish calendar.  I atone for my sins (of which there are many, or not enough) and plan for a better year.  What would you plan for?

 

Cheesing the 60 Blog

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People who bite into string cheese are people you don’t want in your life.

Today we get to celebrate a “holiday” that is perhaps unknown to a lot of you.  Did you know it’s National String Cheese Day?  How will you celebrate?

According to the National Day Calendar, it’s time we stood together in support of our love for String Cheese.  “Whether you call it String Cheese, Snack Cheese or Cheese Sticks…there’s no denying that you call it delicious!”  (What’s with the capital letters?)

Oh cheese industry, how I love your descriptive writing:  Pack it for a picnic. Have it on a hike. Pass it out for a team snack. And of course, no lunch is complete without this tasty treat. You’ve got to hand it to String Cheese—it’s the fun, easy and protein-packed food that goes wherever you do! It’s no wonder String Cheese has so much “a-peel” with both kids and adults alike. Usually made with mozzarella, String Cheese melts easily when heated making it an excellent addition to recipes, too.

Side note:  Many years ago, my friend the parliamentarian taught us to not say phrases such as “pass it out for team snack.”  People pass out.  Papers (or items) are distributed.  Think about that next time you want to say “pass the potato chips!”  But I don’t want you to say “distribute the potato chips” either!

Now, we’re posed with this conundrum:  How do you eat your string cheese?  Do you go for the classic “peel down and chow down” method—separating each stick into thin strands?  (After all, it is kind of fun to play with your food!) Others prefer the “get down to business” approach of removing the wrapper and biting into the stick. (Why wait to get that delicious cheese into your belly?)  However you choose to eat it, be sure to eat some string cheese today!

Of course, this day wouldn’t be a day at all if Galbani Cheese (in 2013, the Sorrento and Precious brands in the U.S. were renamed Galbani) hadn’t decided to make it a day back in the dark ages…wait for it…2017!  When you eat some string cheese today, why not share it on social media with the hashtag #NationalStringCheeseDay.

 

Redoing the 60 Blog

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Ashton Kutcher:  I think every day is Groundhog’s Day.  I get to learn from my mistakes and be better every day.

Another Sunday, another recap.  Here are links to this week’s posts, including information about my contest to help rename my blog.  Send me your suggestions for a new name by Monday, October 2.  Prizes will be given!

Monday:  Reliving the 60 Blog

Tuesday:  Honoring the 60 Blog

Wednesday:  Happy-fying the 60 Blog

Thursday:  Renaming the 60 Blog

Friday:  Catching the 60 Blog

See you next week!

Honoring the 60 Blog

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President George W. Bush (2008):  One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.

Where were you on 9/11?  That horrific day when thousands of people lost their lives and an infinite number of people were affected by the events of the day?

I vividly remember the day.  I had just gotten out of the shower (about 6:00 a.m. my time) and sat on the edge of my bed watching Matt Lauer talk about a plane being flown into the World Trade Center.  No mention yet of “terrorist attack,” a phrase we had never heard before.  For a few minutes, I sat there in disbelief and then realized I had better wake Leslie up and tell her to turn on the TV.

I remember taking hours to get ready for work that morning.  It was still a time of dress pants or dressers with nylons, and I found a blue and black striped dress and nylons to wear to work.  I wondered if we’d be sent home early from work and, sure enough, we were at the office for about an hour before we all went home.  My law firm’s main office was located in New York and after just a few hours of non-stop news, we still didn’t know the status of our New York personnel.

I drove home in a daze and spent the day with a friend glued to the television.  Marcy had family in New York, and we were trying to contact them and other friends to check on their status.  It was a trying few days and we all still relive those moments, I’m sure.

Yesterday, I read a blog, BeautyBeyondBones, and a brilliant article yesterday entitled “16 Years Forgotten.”  Ana starts off by reminding us that most high school seniors today were born after 9/11.  The slogan has been and always will be:  9/11:  Never Forget.  Ana believes that, unfortunately, most of us have forgotten about the attacks.  Remember in the days and weeks after 9/11 when this country had a shortage of American flags?  Sixteen years ago, we all came together.  Now?  “America today–we’re hostile with one another: venomously divided, and violently defensive.”

As Ana states, we have work to do involving issues such as racism and sexism.  I especially agree with her analogy of Hurricane Irma falling on the anniversary of September 11, which could be seen as a God-facilitated catalyst for our country to come together.

“Maybe this emergency is just the situation we needed to set aside our differences, and come together as a United nation. The United States of America. One nation – under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.”

Thank you, Ana.

 

Rewinding the 60 Blog

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Dale Earnhardt, Jr.:  The whole cap came off…must’ve been a recap.

In case you missed any of my missives last week, here is a summary of the daily blogs.  Please share with family and friends:

Monday:  Rewriting the 60 Blog

Tuesday:  Hating the 60 Blog

Wednesday:  Laboring the 60 Blog

Thursday:  Internetting the 60 Blog

Friday:  Lugging the 60 Blog

Saturday:  Boxing the 60 Blog

Enjoy your day off, everyone!

Eclipsing the 60 Blog

Bonnie Tyler:  I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark.  We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.  I really need you tonight.  

What more can I say about today’s eclipse that hasn’t already been said?  Here are some of the irreverent and inspired comments I read today:

Funny comments:

  • If you have trouble pronouncing “s” sounds today, you have an eclisp.
  • How does the man in the moon cut his hair?  Eclipse it.
  • What does one put on a retina burn?  Iloe.
  • CNN host talking to Bonnie Tyler (who sang her iconic song on a cruise ship today):  How does a total eclipse of the heart differ from a total eclipse of the sun?
  • Hostess has declared Golden Cupcakes the official snack cake of the eclipse?  What?  Not Moon Pies?
  • A woman on a news livestream just said “It’s so amazing that we live at the same time as the moon.”  #waitwhat
  • Huge congrats to the eclipse!
  • I totally need to hire whoever the publicist was for the eclipse.
  • I wanna stare at it so so so so bad.
  • Got tired of waiting for the solar eclipse, so I put a piece of baloney on the window.

Celebrity comments:

  • (Ellen DeGeneres)  I just invested in an eclipse sunglass company.  Does anyone know when the next one is?
  • (Steve Martin)  Now working on my new single “Cloud Cover” for release in 2024.
  • (Rainbow Rowell) I’m at an eclipse viewing/minor league baseball game and the music has been excellent.  The organ’s playing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.”
  • (Madeleine Albright)  Enjoyed watching #Eclipse2017.  A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.

And finally, regional comments:

  • (Oregon)  I was a little bummed I didn’t go for totality. Beforehand, I didn’t think it could make that much difference.  It definitely did.  The silence of the birds was the most striking thing!
  • (Georgia) I will have to live vicariously through everyone’s eclipse posts.  No viewing glasses for me.  I think I will survive though.
  • (Wisconsin) Nice surprise when I got back from lunch today:  Sun Chips and Eclipse cookies.
  • (California) It didn’t get very dark here at the office, but people on our garage roof had boxes on their heads!
  • (West Virginia) Amazing moon shadows.  Whoa….Cat Stevens!
  • (Tennessee) Come on totality!
  • (Oklahoma) Nikon through the cheap glasses turned out okay!
  • (California) Don’t miss it!  Don’t look at it!  Don’t miss it!  Don’t look at it!  Don’t miss it!  Don’t look at it!
  • (Kansas) Today’s the day all your pets go blind and also the magical eclipse rays will get up in your business and do terrible things to your faces.  Good luck!
  • (Washington)  Sun Chips and moon pies!
  • (Nevada) Of all the days for it to be cloudy in Las Vegas.  Why today?
  • (South Carolina) The clouds blocked most of our experience but we did get to see the “end of it.”  Just a sign to me that we need to plan for the next one in 2024.
  • (Washington, D.C.)  Confession:  I looked.  (Hint:  Not President Trump.)
  • (Tennessee)  Nobody told me a total solar eclipse could make my neck hurt.
  • (Florida) So, the crickets in my hard are confused.  Well played, Solar Eclipse.

So get your glasses ready.  Another total solar eclipse will take place in the United States on April 8, 2024.  The next eclipse will travel a different path and will be visible in a diagonal path crossing from Texas to Maine.  Cities in Texas (Austin, Dallas), Arkansas (Little Rock), New York (Rochester, Buffalo) and Ohio (Cleveland, Toledo, Akron) will be in the path of totality.  Start making your travel arrangements now!

 

Baking the 60 Blog

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Procastibaking:  The art of making cupcakes instead of doing something else you should be doing.

When we were growing up, my mother loved to bake.  Cookies, cake, but never pies. She was not a fancy baker, but we loved it.  She had recipe cards for everything and Leslie and I look at those cards periodically.  We say “we should make those bar cookies,” or “remember her apple cake?” but we never get around to finding all the tools and ingredients.

Maybe because my mother was such a good cook and baker, Leslie and I love to watch cooking shows.  We started early with The Galloping Gourmet.  Then came Unwrapped, Next Food Network Star, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, Top Chef, Cupcake Wars. We tried watching Great American Food Truck Race and Hell’s Kitchen, but those were too over-the-top.  Also, how did Guy Fieri become a TV star?

We had never watched The Great British Baking Show until this season that just ended on Sunday (in the U.S.).  Recently, ABC renamed it The Great American Baking Show, which we watched, of course.  Same show with American hosts and American contestants.  Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood appeared on the American version and they are characters.

The British show is the one to watch.  The British hosts are very engaging and Paul and Mary love to issue royal challenges to the contestants.  Sunday’s “star baker challenge” was to prepare a picnic fit for a queen.  In five hours, the three finalists had to prepare a total of 49 items to theoretically put into a picnic hamper.

Andrew is a good baker and very meticulous.  He created a color-coordinated spreadsheet telling him how to spend every five-minute increment of those five hours.  After the first half-hour, he was already five minutes behind.  He wasn’t as creative as the other two finalists and we knew he wasn’t going to win.

Jane is a home baker and her two grown children think she’s the best mom ever.  She seemed a bit disorganized and it appeared she didn’t measure a lot of her dry ingredients.  What kind of a monster is she?  She promised to make a white chocolate collar for her four-tier chocolate cake and, for the second time this season, the collar didn’t work out for Jane.

Candice is the star of the show.  Each week, she made each challenge look easy and she always seemed to make more than what was asked for.  She made a peacock out of a five-tier cake covered in multi-colors of marzipan.  I would have loved to have a bite of that!  One of the items to prepare for the royal picnic was sausage rolls, and she actually made hers look like little piggies with eyes, a nose and a tail!  Candice went home at the end of the day with a bouquet of flowers and an engraved pie plate.

Did we learn anything watching this show?  There are two kinds of marzipan.  Two kinds of meringue.  Making 49 items in five hours in a large tent is nearly impossible.  I sure hope that there were cash prizes given, because these bakers worked their tartlets off.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetening the 60 Blog

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Don’t forget to buy your Halloween candy early so you have time to buy more after you eat it all.

Late last week, a friend in New York lamented on Facebook that it was just a little too early for the stores to be putting out Halloween candy.  Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute!  It’s a month until Labor Day, followed by two more months until Halloween.  What the hell is going on here?

I think it’s acceptable to start seeing Halloween candy in late September-early October.  In 2010, it was estimated that Americans would spend about $2 billion on candy during the Halloween season.  In 2016, that number rose to $8.4 billion.  Think about that.  Candy corn.  Bite-size candy bars.  Pumpkin-spice kisses.  Likely, we wouldn’t even dream of eating candy corn any other time of the year because it tastes like crap!

The California Milk Processors Board states that “an average Jack-O-Lantern bucket carries about 250 pieces of candy amounting about 9,000 calories and about three pounds of sugar.”

And since we’re talking about candy, we may as well discuss how trick-or-treating has changed over the years.  Given that candy will be everywhere in the next few months, it is hard to imagine that 100 years ago, Halloween looked quite different from the candy avalanche we know today.  Trick-or-treating is a quite recent American invention. The ritual of costumes, doorbell-ringing, and expectation of booty appeared for the first time in different locations throughout the country in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  It wasn’t until the late 1940s that trick-or-treating became widespread on a national scale. And even then, candy wasn’t the obvious treat.

Kids ringing a stranger’s doorbell in 1948 or 1952 received all sorts of tribute: Coins, nuts, fruit, cookies, cakes, and toys were as likely as candy.  In the 1950s, Kool-Aid and Kellogg’s promoted their decisively non-candy products as trick-or-treat options, while Brach’s once ran ads for chocolate-covered peanuts during the last week of October that didn’t mention Halloween at all.

It took a while for candy to become what it is today, the very essence of Halloween.  Going back even farther to the early decades of the century, before trick-or-treating spread across the land, candy didn’t have any special role to play in Halloween observance.

For youth, and especially boys, Halloween was the one night of the year when communities generally tolerated pranking, which might range from the clever or playful to the dangerous or destructive. Mailboxes, fences, streetcars, and gravestones were popular targets. The point was to cause mischief, not to gather treats. Halloween also wasn’t a gift-giving holiday, which in the case of Christmas and other early candy holidays provided the candy “hook.”

While the hooligans were out wreaking havoc, the more genteel would celebrate Halloween with parties. The menus and décor for these early Halloween festivities emphasized seasonal fruits. Pumpkins and apples were especially important. Making popcorn balls and fudge was sometimes part of the festive activities, but if there was purchased candy along the lines of candy corn or jelly beans, it was an afterthought.