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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Slacker!

I have been a TOTAL slacker! 

Ok, maybe not.  I did read 121 books and start on Harry Potter in Turkish (which I do not speak or read – yet!) I also made my first pair of gloves and created a new candy recipe.

Starting January I am getting back on track with 2 major recipe projects:

The Retro Recipe project & 52 Weeks, 52 soups Project

I have a recipe hoard from my two grandmothers that I am trying to organize.  Thankfully one of them didn't actually cook so there is less then 300 recipe cards to go through (and a few seem to be duplicates.)  I am thinking to combine recipes with genealogy (which my mother does) for X-mas gifts.  I even have a recipe from my great-grandfather who was a well-known ENT doctor in Minneapolis.  His recipe starts out with take 18# grapes, stems removed (no rotten ones!)  . . .

Of course to me the most important one is Vernie’s Rice Pudding.  If I have it correct she was my great-grandmothers sister’s daughter and was born 03/08/1889 in Center City, Minnesota.    I always request this for the holidays and family get togethers.

I had already started on the hoard of my other grandmother (My Grandmother's Blue Books) so I will continue with that.

52 Weeks, 52 soups

The hubby & I are planning to try one new soup recipe a week this year.  They are great for lunches.  We have a pressure canner so we can make a big batch and can it.  He made some roasted carrot & tomato soup that was really good this month.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Media Monday - Perspective

Perspective

The proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it.

We have an ugly truck, a really ugly rusty white truck.  It sits in the driveway collecting dirt and leaves most of the time.  But if you look at it the right way it can be very picturesque – it all depends on your perspective.

So take your camera out and look at things differently then you do every day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Foodie Friday - Cocoa-peanut logs

Cocoa Krispies was introduced in the United States in 1958.  It is a chocolate flavored version of Rice Krispies. 

Rice Krispies (also known as Rice Bubbles in New Zealand and Australia) is a breakfast cereal created by Clayton Rindlisbacher for Kelloggs and was introduced in 1928.  It is created by making a paste of rice and sugar which is then formed into rice shapes (called berries) and then cooked, dried and toasted.  The rice berries expand and form a hollow rice shape with very thin walls that are crunchy and crispy.  They are famous for their ‘snap, crackle and pop’ sound when milk is poured on them.

The Kellogg company was started by two brothers, Will Keith (W.K.) Kellogg and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek MI.  They entered the cereal business in 1906 with Kelloggs Corn Flakes.  The company believed that everyone, not just those on special diets, could be interested in wholesome cereal foods.  They continually improved their product line and packaging techniques to meet the changing needs of consumers.

The introduction of pasteurized milk greatly helped to expand the appeal of breakfast cereals.

The depression brought hard times to many people.  WK Kellogg responded by doubling his advertising spending and reduced the hours of the three plant shift to create a fourth shift enabling more people to work.  Mr Kellogg declared – “I’ll invest my money in people.”

Malitta Jensen and Mildred Day, were the inventors of Rice Krispy Treats the most well known recipe or ‘treat’ using Rice Krispies.  They invented the recipe as a Campfire Girls fundraiser.

But so far I have found two recipes that do not use marshmallows.
According to Wikipedeia Ogg the Caveman was the mascot for Cocoa Krispies from 1968 to 1971, so we can narrow down the age of this clipping to that time period.  There is a copyright date of 1964 on the bottom of the clipping so we will have to assume that that is the date that the recipe was originally published.



***
On a personal note –

Joel Rosenberg, 1954-2011

We were very saddened to find out that our friend, Joel, passed away yesterday.

He will be missed very much, but will live on in his family and through his many books starting with his first book -


The Sleeping Dragon (Guardians of the Flame)

Joel made us laugh, and was always up for a good argument.  He was devoted to freedom and was a very active gun rights activist.  If more people were like Joel that world would be a much better place.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday In the Life - Volunteer!

Volunteer – meet new people, build stronger communities.


Is life just about going to work and then going home and sitting in front of the TV?  With the economy being what it is – not good – there is a lot of negative talk every where.  People want to blame someone, something, but don’t seem to want to do anything to change it.

So why not do something positive and volunteer? I have yet to find an organization that says that they have too many volunteers.  The MN Literacy Council has pre-service training for ESL tutors twice a month, I was told that they average about 30 students for each class, and they still wish that they had more volunteers.

Not sure what you could volunteer for?  Check out volunteer opportunities on the internet.   

I looked at http://www.volunteermatch.org/ and found 1716 volunteer opportunities within a 20 mile radius of Minneapolis.  They range from giving manicures to senior residents, letter writing , bingo assistants, Wii gaming experts, sewers to help mend clothes, it seems whatever your skills there is something that you can help with.

It is even more important now when services are being cut due to lack of funding that people get out and get more involved in their communities.  If you have children get them involved too. 

My daughter volunteered at the MN Historical Society* when she was in high school.  She did activities for small children, cataloging & organizing artifacts and other projects. They had a family weekend where we sorted documents from WWI. By volunteering she was able to do go to the exhibits and learn how important volunteers are to organizations like this and got an idea of some of the things that go on behind the scenes in a museum.
VOLUNTEER, have fun, share your skills.
*The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution created by the Territorial Legislature in 1849 as one of its first acts, even before statehood. Its essence is to illuminate the past as a way to shed light on the future. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. 
The Minnesota Historical Society preserves collections that tell the story of Minnesota through the ages. Some artifacts are thousands of years old. Many items predate the history of the state itself. Included are:
  • 176,712 Books
  • 70,369 Periodicals
  • 166,700 Pamphlets
  • 353,178 Photographs
  • 1,437 Sound Recordings
  • 1,114 Films and Videos
  • 19,277 Maps and 2,027 Atlases
  • 6,072 Art Works
  • 1,783 Oral History Interviews
  • 4,139 Newspaper Titles; Newspapers are on 69,484 Microfilm Reels
  • 36,538 cubic feet of Manuscripts, 5,922 Microfilm Reels
  • 54,743 cubic feet of State Archives, 11,853 Microfilm Reels
  • 232,456 Historical Objects
  • 1,152,504 Archeological Artifacts
Since 2001, the Society's budget has been reduced by about $5 million per year, or approximately 18%. (In FY 2003, the state appropriation for MHS was $27,395,000. In FY 2005, that appropriation was $22,280,000.)
In 2010 more than 2,300 volunteers contributed 48,335 hours in 32 programs with 129 staff coordinating volunteers.  For the first time, the value of volunteer contributions exceeded $1 million, equivalent to 23 full-time employees. This value is calculated using data developed by the Independent Sector


If you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and have never visited the MN Historical Society I urge you to check it out.  It might be more interesting then you think!  Really!  I am not a big museum goer and I enjoyed it.  I even got to see Prince's purple coat!



Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Scandia MN

I have been a bit busy lately; June is very busy in our household as we prepare for CONvergence.  We say that we are going to be better prepared next year, but you know how that works!  So here are some pictures of Scandia, MN.

Scandia is believed to be the first Swedish immigrant settlement in the State of Minnesota.  It even has Dalecarlian horse (or in Swedish: Dalahäst) statues.  My great-grandmother, my fathers mother's mother, Anna Ericson was born in Scandia. I think that there are also relatives from my grandfathers side too, but I am kind of fuzzy on that.

Below is a picture of what I beleive was my great-great Grandparents house on my fathers, mothers side.  Their last name was Peterson.
It would have been interesting to know the story of how she left Scandia to become an opera singer . . .and a woman who preferred to have her pedicure before she got out of bed.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Media Monday - 2011 Kral awards & Tarkan's new video

Last week Kral TV had their 17th annual music awards in Istanbul.  I am happy to say that my current favorite group Gripin won the award for best group while Tarkan and his last album Adımı Kalbine Yaz won the most awards:

  • best album (Adımı Kalbine Yaz)
  • best video (Öp)
  • best lyrics- Aysel Gürel (Sevdanın Son Vuruşu)
  • best composition-Tarkan(Sevdanın Son Vuruşu)
  • best arrangement- Ozan Çolakoğlu (Sevdanın Son Vuruşu)
  • best song (Sevdanın Son Vuruşu)
Tarkan also won best male artist and the artist played the most on the radio.  It is interesting to note that the Turkish word for ‘played’ (çalınan) also means ‘stolen’.

Berkay won for the best break through artist; hopefully iTunes will have some of his music available soon.

You can check out the songs from Tarkan’s album at – www.tarkan.com


Last week also saw a video for the title song from Adımı Kalbine Yaz (Write My Name on Your Heart) on Tarkan’s official website.  It is similar to the video for Öp in that it shows Tarkan facing the camera while walking and singing, but it also incorporates concert footage and still photos.  What I like about it is how it shows the fans too, girls with Tarkan’s name written on body parts, girls singing and dancing along with the music and gives you a feel of what his concerts are like.  There is a good shot in the beginning showing all the cell phones and cameras out during the concert.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Media Monday - iTunes Genius and Pandora Work

How Do Programs like iTunes Genius and Pandora Work?

My music tastes aren’t really main stream and usually I find the talk and commercials on the radio annoying. So the question is - how to find new music?  Do I spend hours listening to short pieces of songs on iTunes?  Do I surf the web and check out the top 100 hits?  Do I try out Pandora? Where they don’t even have a lot of my favorite artists? How does iTunes Genius and Pandora work?  Can I figure out a way to make them work better for me?

So say you use iTunes.  It looks at what songs you have and how often you play them, and it compares them to the collections of other iTunes users. Statistics are generated for each song. Apple engineer Erik Goldman says "These statistics are computed globally at regular intervals and stored in a cache." And then they apply fancy algorithms.

But it is how they define the factor that gives more weight to the things that really matters.  The usual way to do this is with tf-idf or term frequency–inverse document frequency.

===================================

Wikipedia says –
 “the tf–idf weight (term frequency–inverse document frequency) is a weight often used in information retrieval and text mining. This weight is a statistical measure used to evaluate how important a word is to a document in a collection or corpus. The importance increases proportionally to the number of times a word appears in the document but is offset by the frequency of the word in the corpus. Variations of the tf–idf weighting scheme are often used by search engines as a central tool in scoring and ranking a document's relevance given a user query. Tf-idf can be successfully used for stop-words filtering in various subject fields including text summarization and classification.”
===================================

Ok, tf-idf is easy for documents that are full of words, but music is different right?  You don’t like a song because it uses the word ‘cloud’ or something do you? No it’s the sound of the music, the rhythm, the intruments and other factors. Apple, being Apple isn’t really forthcoming on how they determine these factors. Pandora is more open about how they pick songs.

Pandora has the Music Genome Project which is an effort to "capture the essence of music at the fundamental level".   Pandora uses almost 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them.  Songs listed on Pandora are represented by a vector (a list of attributes) containing approximately 400 "genes". 
The genes correspond to musical characteristics.  The songs are analyzed by musicians who follow in-house standards and assign the musical characteristics.  It takes 20-30 minutes to anyalyze each song.

According to a quick spreadsheet that I made using some information from Pandora the songs that I like are likely to have: vocal-centric aesthetic, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, major key tonality, mild rhythmic syncopation, and vocal harmony.  Of course they don’t have Turkish music like Tarkan or Gripin.  It seems that Tarkan’s Come Closer album features modern r & b styling, melodic songwriting, call and answer vocal harmony (Antiphony), and electronica influences. Unfortunately I could not find a list of attributes for my favorite song on the album – If You Only Knew. What can I say, it’s a waltz; I am hopelessly romantic. 

The problem that I have with iTunes Genius is if I use is to make a playlist say based on Gripin’s song Cok Kisa (Acoustic Version) I get a playlist of 100 songs, and the only Turkish music is by Gripin.  This is actually great, I now know that they are similar to some of the older U2 music, Sting, Snow Patrol and others that I have.  I can use this information to create a station on Pandora which will then play songs that I haven’t heard before.  Of course this doesn’t help me find new Turkish music, which would be really nice, but maybe sometime in the future I will be able to.

When I base a Genius playlist on any song by Tarkan the ONLY music I get is by Turkish artists, or I am told that there are not enough related songs to create a playlist.  Urgh.  I even get only Turkish artists when I am able to create a playlist using one of his English songs! (BTW - Start The Fire is the only song on the English album that Genius can create a playlist for.)

I really wanted to find more artists like Tarkan. (Yes, I know there can be only one. . . )  But I can’t create a station on Pandora to look for music similar to Tarkan’s music because I don’t know what artists are similar. I will have to do more looking to see what else I can try.  I wonder if you can create a station on Pandora based on attributes . . . ?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Non-touristy camera bags

I am currently reading a book on shopping and other places to go in Paris.   Yes, I know, me reading a book.  After the day that I have had today I want to go to a place like Les Bains du Marais!  I want to be wild and crazy and have an Oriental massage!  Ok, I’m from the Midwest, we spend a good portion of our lives wrapped in layers of wool. It’s probably not going to happen but it’s a good idea on paper . . .

Check out their web-site and see what you think.


Another website that I found that looks good is –


It has an article on something that I have been trying to figure out – what kind of a bag can you carry your camera in so you DON’T look like a tourist?  Can you look like anything BUT a tourist while carrying a camera?

I’m not a bag or purse kind of girl.  Give me a good Coach purse and a good quality wallet and I am set, I don’t care if they never wear out, in fact I prefer them to last forever.  In fact my current wallet is about 15 years old.  And really, doesn’t look bad.  I guess I really have gotten my $85 worth out of it.  I remember looking for the perfect wallet for months.  I found this Bosca one and it was so expensive! I mean even now that is a lot of money to spend on a wallet. (Are my Midwestern values leaking through again?) They still make that wallet by the way, or one just like is, it is the SLENDA FOLD CHECK CLUTCH and you can get it in cognac, black or red.

So I am ok with spending money on a good bag.  I bought my first Coach purse about 20 years ago.  My co-workers thought that I was insane to pay ‘that much money’ on a purse.  Mind you we worked for a well-known department store (which alas no longer exists but is now part of Macy’s) so not only did I get a great discount, I bought it during our ‘employee appreciation’ and got even more discounts on it.  I still have that purse.  It has been sent in once to get the trim replaced.  So who spent more money?  The person who bought a purse for lets say $60 and used it everyday for 10 years, or the person who paid $12 every six months for a new purse because the other one was trash?  Of course now I have been buying my purses used.  I probably have 4, but I can’t put my netbook or one of my cameras in them.

So how about a bag designed by a professional photographer? Check out Epiphanie Bags. My only wish – that the bags were made out of real leather and not synthetic. There is a reason I like Coach purses! My favorite bag? Paris of course!  Ginger comes in a close second and Belle looks nice too.  I think that I might put too much in the Paris bag and regret it!

Here is their website –


There is also listed another site for padded camera bags/purses.  You if you are looking for a fashionable bag for your camera you should check the article out.

If you aren’t looking for fashionable, just practical you can try what I currently use – a padded soft-sided lunch cooler.  It was only $15, and lacks the ‘I’m a camera take me!” look, but has enough compartments for one camera, an extra lens, charger, cords and extra batteries.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Media Monday- LibraryThing

What’s on your bookshelf?


LibraryThing is used by its members to store and share book catalogs on-line. It is also a social cataloging web application where the members can communicate with other members and can join different groups.  It is based in PortlandMaine, and went live in 2005.

LibraryThings primary feature is cataloging books.  Members can add books to their catalog by typing in book information such as the ISBN and downloading the books information from an online source, you can manually enter books information or you can import information.  The import feature allows you to import books from your Amazon.com wish list so you can track those too.

LibraryThing also gives you some interesting statistics and facts about your library.  We have 2968 books in currently in our collection, out of those books 2936 are distinct works, 2023 are in English, 3 are in Urdu and one is in Italian (I have some Turkish books, but they are translations of English books, so they seem to be considered with the English books.) Out of our collection 1420 were published between 2000 and 2009.  If our collection was stacked in one large stack it would be 281.1 feet tall, which is taller then the Taj Mahal, but shorter then Big Ben.  It would take 18.43 IKEA Billy bookcases to store them or 97.1 U-Haul book boxes or 5.9 bathtubs.

There are also Legacy Libraries which are the personal libraries of 188 famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members.  Here you can see if you share any books with these libraries and what those books are.  We share 46 books with Ernest Hemingway.  Also, it is interesting to note that everyone seems to have a copy of A History of The Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides.

You can join groups and ‘meet’ other LibraryThingers who share your interests.  Some popular groups are: Librarians Who LibraryThing, Science Fiction Fans, 50 Book Challenge, and the 75 Book Challenge.

I am a member of the 11 in 11 Category Challenge (read books in 11 categories in 2011, so far I have read 11 books in 3 of the categories, and almost finished a 4th.) I am also a member of the 75 books Challenge for 2011 (read 75 books in 2011), this is where I put books that don’t fit into one of my 11 for 11 categories, or if the category is finished. I am also a member of the Early Reviewers group.  Members of this group can sign up to get Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) of books each month.  If you are lucky enough to ‘win’ a book you just need to read and review it.  I have gotten some very nice books this way.

You can also take a peek at other member’s libraries.  One way to do this is pick the library of a member that has some of the same books that you have.  LibraryThing has a ‘members with your books’ feature so you just have to go to this section and click on the library that catches your eye.  Another way would be to pick a book that you like and look at the libraries of other people who also have the book.   If I have a really new or obscure book that I like and I am looking for something similar to read I will look at the libraries of some of the other people who also have the book.  Speaking of obscure books, they also tell you your “median/mean book obscurity”, ours is 107/878.

Do you want to know how many male or female authors you have? LibraryThing tells you! We have 835 male authors, 650 female, 2 ‘other’, 68 n/a and 337 that do not yet have a designation.  How about dead or alive?  70.78% of our authors are alive.  There is also ‘vous et nul autre’ or Books shared with exactly one member section which tells you what books in your library are shared by only one other person on LibraryThing.  We have about 45 books on this list.

So if you have a lot of books and want to keep track of them check out LibraryThing.  If you read a lot of books and want to keep track of them check out LibraryThing.  I know that there are several people who use it to track the books that they have checked out and read from the library.

You can also have the option to keep your library private.

Happy Reading!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Foodie Friday - Just mix and spoon


Mrs. George McCollum of Hopkins, MN won the ‘new’ gold ribbon for yeast baking at the Minnesota State Fair according to this clipping, unfortunately the clipping does not have a date, nor did I find anything on this when I did a quick search on the internet. Interestingly enough the clipping does not specify whether the included recipe is the recipe for the winning entry. Because of the use of 2 sticks of Blue Bonnet Margarine in the recipe we can safely say that this is from after 1950 when Blue Bonnet Margarine introduced the quarter-pound stick of margarine, which quickly became the standard format for margarine and butter in the United States.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Minnesota State Fair – “the Great Minnesota Get-Together” - has been around since 1859. It has been held every year since then with only 5 exceptions – 1861 & 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, 1893 because of conflict with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and finally in 1946 when the polio epidemic prevented it from being held.  The fair grounds covers 320 acres and is located midway between Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Originally the fair was dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions.  Now while the agricultural exhibits and competitions are still very important the main draw seems to be – food on a stick, just ask Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods.

Just mix and spoon – it rises in the pan! Says Mrs. McCollum.  “A quick way to make a marvelous coffee cake . . . even if you’ve never baked before.  It’s topped with sunny apricot jam and crispy slivered almonds – has that wonderful flavor only yeast baking can give you.  Just be sure to use Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast.  It’s so fast-rising and dependable . . . and easy to use!”

Easy Delicious Fleischmann’s Yeast Recipe
Golden Apricot Coffeecake

Filling-
½ cup (1 stick) Blue Bonnet Margarine
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup slivered blanched almonds
½ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

Combine ingredients in saucepan, cook gently 5 minutes, stirring often. Let cool.

Dough –
¼ cup warm (not hot) water
1 package Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
½ cup Blue Bonnet Margarine
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
3 cups sifted enriched flour
½ teaspoon salt

Sprinkle yeast in water and dissolve. In mixing bowl cream margarine, gradually add sugar and cream together. Stir in yeast mixture and remaining ingredients. Beat until blended.  Reserve ½ cup dough.  Spread remaining dough in greased 9x9 inch pan.  Cover with apricot filling.  Work reserved ½ cup dough with ¼ cup additional flour until smooth and pliable.  Roll into a 12x12 inch square. Cut into ½ inch strips. Arrange lattice fashion over filling. Brush with beaten egg white. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from draft until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.  Bake at 375 degrees (moderate) about 30 minutes.




Coffee Cake from Mrs. Heye Korthouse of Windom, MN

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup strong, cold coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts or 1 teaspoon black walnut flavoring

Cream butter and sugars together and beat in eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and add to first mixture alternately with the coffee.  Stir in the vanilla and nuts.  Pour into a shallow greased pan 9x14 inches.  Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or frost with a caramel frosting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Travel Tuesday - internet, e-mail and computers

The internet and technology have changed our world considerably.  It has made it easier to get information (and dis-information) about just about everything.  I can get music in Turkish by just turning on my computer.  I can sign up at any number of web-sites for free to get help learning what ever new language that I want to learn.  I can send and receive e-mails from my phone any where that I can get a signal and have service.

I can sign up for a free e-mail address that I can access about any where that I can get internet access.  Think about that for a moment – you can access your e-mail account almost any where.  If you are traveling to a country with an embassy and need to replace your passport I would think that they will be able to help you access that information.

I travel with a computer, I know that many people do, but even if you don’t travel with a computer chances are in the case of an emergency you would be able to find a computer that you could use to access your e-mail account. I wouldn’t keep this information on the computer that you are traveling with because it is vulnerable to being stolen or broken.

The computer that I travel with is used specifically for travel. I don’t have personal information on it like we might on one of our home computers.  We use it to store our travel photos, check e-mails, surf the internet, read e-books, charge the iPod, simple things.  It also has the language software that I use to learn languages so I can study wherever I am.  It’s just a small 10-inch, 3 lb netbook so we aren’t gaming with it or anything like that.

If you travel with a computer that you regularly use at home or work you might want to think about looking at the files that are on it and removing any sensitive information.  I would say be a bit paranoid here, a lot of people who steal computers are usually good at getting information off of them.

If you are not comfortable with having copies of your personal information on-line in your e-mail account, you can save it to a disk/memory card/flash drive and give it to someone that you trust who would be able to send you if you ever need it.  Or I guess if you are really paranoid you can put it on a memory card/flash drive and keep it on a cord around your neck.

Depending on your situation (health, reason for travel, destination etc) you could need copies any number of things, but here are just a few things that might come in handy:

Passport
Driver’s license
Insurance cards
Marriage cert
Birth cert
Divorce cert
Credit card info
Emergency contacts
Itinerary
List of prescriptions
List of doctors
Medical information
Eyeglass/contact prescription
Proof of vaccination  

How do you know what you might need?  My mantra is always – prepare, prepare, prepare.  You need to think about where you are going, why you are going, what you are taking with you. 

My husband and I have different last names (which he grumbles about once in a while, but his mother and I have both told him that he is welcome to change his name any time.)  I can imagine that there are one or two countries where our marriage certificate might come in handy.  If you are going to another country to be married and are divorced, you should have a copy of the divorce decree with you. Again it all comes down to why, where, when, who and only you can answer that.

When researching your destination (even if you are not a US citizen/resident the information can be useful) don’t forget to check out the US State Department's travel information website found at:



These are the people who help US citizens outside of the US with whatever problems they run into. The US has the 3rd largest population in the world, so the State department works with a lot of people. 

They have information about potential security concerns and post information to the web site specific to each country. They can be quite specific, for example for France it lists the Gare du Nord train station as a high-risk area for pocket-picking and theft. One of the things for Turkey it talks about are the different kinds of street crime. It says that the Bahamas has a high crime rate and women have reported incidents of verbal harassment and unwanted attention and that water sports and scooter rental industries are not regulated. (I picked the Bahamas as an example because I thought that I wouldn’t find a lot of information on crime, and it looks like it’s the worst place to go to out of the 3!)  Of course there are more things for each country but this gives you an idea of the kind of specific information that they have.

I like this quote from their website – “There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself.  Take some time before travel to improve your personal security – things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States.”


You can also check out http://www.usa.gov/

Don’t forget some research before you leave can make your trip more relaxing.

Happy Travels!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Media Monday - Gripin


I have a new favorite music group.  Their name is Gripin.  They are based in Istanbul, Turkey, so yeah their music is all in Turkish.  It looks like they started out as a cover band doing mostly Britpop and some American Alternative and Turkish rock. 

Their website is - http://www.gripin.org/

Unfortunately it is only in Turkish and doesn’t seem to translate using Google.  But they have a few pictures that are nice and a video if you want to check out their website out.

They have three albums (40 songs in all) available on iTunes.  Their first album was released in 2004 titled Hikayeler Anlatıldı (Stories are Told).  The second album titled Gripin came out in 2007.  The most recent album M.S 05.03.2010 came out in 2010.

So far my favorite songs are Daha Gencsin & Cok Kisa (Acoustic Version) from their first album.  I also like Olduğu Kadar and Sana Ne Bundan? from Gripin and from their latest album M.S 05.03.2010 I really like Durma Yağmur Durma & Akşamlar. Unfortunately becuae they are not that popular (yet? J) Olduğu Kadar and Durma Yağmur Durma are the only songs that I have easily found translations for.

I am not very good at describing music so I guess one of the best ways for me to explain what they sound like is to let you know some of the groups that iTunes Genius puts with them.  Here are some of the groups that it put on a list of songs that go with Cok Kisa (Acoustic Version): Cold Play, Keane, Kaiser Chiefs, The Fratellis, Lilly Allen, the Rasmus, Razorlight, Snow Patrol, older U2 songs, and Robbie Williams.  I admit that I don’t have a lot of Turkish music, but there is not one Turkish artist (other then Gripin) on the list.

So if you are looking to expand your musical horizons, don’t care that you don’t understand the lyrics, or you are looking for new Turkish music check out Gripin.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Foodie Friday - Minute Rice


Amazing New Rice Discovery
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Minute Rice was introduced in 1949 by a company called General Foods.  According to Wikipedia it is “is rice that has been precooked and dehydrated so that it cooks more rapidly.”  What it lacks in flavor it makes up in cooking time, and ease of preperation. 

Interestingly enough while looking for information on the history of Minute Rice I found an article titled – Minute Rice and 19th Century Urdu Poetry. I found this intriging because well, while I don’t have Minute Rice in the house, I do have Urdu poetry (yes in Urdu, though admitedly I would be very hard pressed to read it anymore with the Urdu script and all.)  If the article is true then Minute Rice was invented by an Afghani immigrant named Ozai-Durrani who left half of his estate for the translation of two 19th century poets.

Whether you like it or not it seems that Minute Rice is here to stay. 

It looks like this was from a color insert from the newspaper or maybe a large magazine.  Below are the recipes.

Baked Tomatoes with Rice
Remove seeds and pulp from 6 firm tomatoes. Save pulp.  Salt inside of tomatoes. Bake in shallow baking dish at 375 F for 15 minutes. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan; add ½ cup diced celery, ¼ cup diced green pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped onion.  Cook 3 minutes.  Add ½ package (2/3 cup) Minute Rice, ¾ cup water, ½ teaspoon salt, dash of pepper. Bring quickly to a boil, uncovered, fluffing once or twice with a fork.  Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Add tomato pulp.  Fill baked shells with mixture.  Bake 5 minutes longer.  A heavenly dish – with the savory flavor right through the rice!  Serves 6

Bacon ‘N Egg Rice
Prepare 1 package (1 1/3 cups) precooked Minute Rice as directed on package. Let stand 10 minutes.  Add 5 sliced cooked bacon, diced, and two hard cooked eggs, diced.  Melt one package (8 ounces) processed American cheese in double boiler. Add ½ cup milk and blend well.  Place rice mixture on platter and top with cheese sauce. Then try to make people believe you turned out this luscious feast, with perfect rice, in so few minutes!  Serves 6.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Making an impression

Let’s face it people like to put things in categories; it makes us more comfortable to think that we understand/know where everything is in relation to everything else.  Forget the old saying – you can’t judge a book by its cover – if someone doesn’t know you they are going to judge you by ‘your cover.’  American’s are brash and crude, French are rude, English are stuffy, Italians are the best lovers and the Swiss make great clocks. . . .

Think about it, Americans are different. I bet most of us could spot a non-American before they even opened their mouth to say something.  And American’s are certainly easy to spot outside of our own country (except for maybe Canada . . .)  We are separated from most of the world by vast oceans and until very recent history it took weeks or months to get here. Coming to America was a big undertaking and you had to be willing to take risks, to go outside of your comfort zone, and to leave everything that you knew behind for a better life.  And while a good majority of us are from families that have been here a long time, there are many who are not. 

My daughter and my younger brother’s kids are first generation Americans.  My daughter’s paternal grandmother didn’t speak any English when she arrived here about 5 weeks after my daughter was born.  Imagine leaving everything behind, your friends, your grandchildren and coming someplace literally on the other side of the world where you don’t speak the language. 

Is it surprising that the rest of the world thinks that we are a little too outgoing and uninhibited?  They got to keep their long standing traditions, we had to leave ours behind and create new ones.

As travelers we are representatives of our country, and I think that it is important to leave a good impression.  Here are some of my travel rules -

Travel rule #1- Be polite and courteous. 

Try to research the customs and practices of the country that you are visiting.  Learn some key phrases if you don’t speak the language, you don’t have to be perfect, remember the old saying – A is for effort.  If you are visiting a place of worship (church, mosque, synagogue, etc) dress conservatively and be respectful.

Travel rule #2 Go Local

It’s ok to check out the local McDonald’s or Starbucks to see how they are different (when I was in high school we were amazed at the beer on tap.)  But don’t make a habit of eating at American chain restaurants.  Really if you want to spend your time eating at the same places that you eat at when you are home why did you leave?

Travel Rule #3 Ask advice

Studying up in advance and reading guides books are great before you travel (or maybe for quick reference while you are there) but a real person who lives or works in the area can probably give you some good advice on where to go, and can give you more information then can fit in a book.  Really guide books are general and cover a lot of ground and as such can only give a very short description about places.

If you see something on a menu that you have never had and have no idea how to eat it or what it is – ask!  You will learn something new and maybe acquire a new favorite food. Or if you have no idea what to order, admit that you have no idea and ask for suggestions. And isn’t learning new things one of the reasons why you traveled to a different country?

Travel Rule #4 Be Flexible

Make sure that you plan for flexibility.  If you don’t speak the language, don’t know the customs and are unfamiliar with the geography you have to be flexible because unexpected things are bound to happen.  You missed your stop on the Metro, your taxi driver misunderstood you and now you are on the wrong side of town, you forgot to set your watch for the different time zone and the store is closed, you wanted decaf with soy and got a regular with cream.  Whatever happens, relax, take a deep breath and go with the flow.  Many times it is the unexpected that makes for a memorable experience.

Travel Rule #5 Be a little reserved

Remember that American’s are thought to be ‘brash’. Treat everyone as if you were in an important business meeting.  Personal questions rarely come up in business meetings.  Most people won’t want to hear your life story, and they don’t want to tell you theirs.

Travel Rule #6 Relax

Relax and enjoy yourself, that’s the whole point of a vacation.  Even the President has to work at starting an international incident.  The worst that will probably happen is that someone will have a new ‘crazy American’ story. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Media Monday - Around the World in 80 Dates

I was wandering in the used bookstore and discovered a travel memoir section. How delicious! This book caught my eye, it looked interesting. Dating people where you live is hard enough, but to travel the world and get date must be harder.

Jennifer wants to be in a relationship, she has a fulfilling career, and everything else that she wants in life but someone to share her life with. So she decides to quit her job and for a year her job will be the job of finding herself a Soul Mate. She reviews her past relationships, figures out what she is looking for in a man and then enlists the help of ‘Date Wranglers’, friends, relatives, business associates who can help her set up a date with a man who fits into her requirements.

It is absurd and thought provoking. She puts all of her skills to work towards her goal, something perhaps we all should do more of?? The first part of the book is laugh out loud funny as she tells about some of the absurdness, the fun, the stress of it all. The second part is almost like a totally different book as she hits a turning point and needs to evaluate what she is doing, to think about how so much traveling and so many dates impact her life and is it all worth it?

Of course she does a bit more then just date, she also meets with people who are experts in their field to give her some insight on love and relationships.

I think that the book is good not only for people looking for love but also their friends as well. She gives insight on not only what is going through her head while looking but also thinks about the choices that her ‘Date Wranglers’ make when they pick a certain person for her date. Did they pick them because they matched her ‘job description’ or were they living vicariously through the date? Was this ‘the one that got away date”, the ‘check up on the ex date’, or maybe even the ‘I would so date him if I wasn’t in a relationship date’?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Foodie Friday - My Grandmother's Blue Books

My grandmother was a farmer’s wife who spent the first part of her marriage living with her mother-in-law, who, for all the stories that I have heard, was not a very pleasant woman.  I can only imagine her relief when my grandparents bought a farm not far from a town called Centerville.

My grandmother was patient and kind, and spoiled her two grandchildren.  One of the things that I have from her is her blue note books filled with newspaper clippings, pages from magazines, food packages, handwritten cards and any other form such as the handwritten recipe for ‘Elise Rehbein’s Buns 1959’. 

These books are a sort of time capsule, a glimpse of a time when life was simpler, when we thought nothing of eating things like Corn Flake Macaroons, Yum Yum Cookies, or Pineapple Salad with Cheese.  Where the prize was for a recipe was $5 and your full name and address were included with your recipe.  Where you wrote to someone called ‘Betty Service’ to find a recipe that you lost.


Creamy Dutch Apple Dessert
(makes 10 to 12 servings)

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 ½  cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle@ Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated)
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
¼ cup Realemon@ reconstituted Lemon Juice
1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a 1 ½ quart shallow baking dish (10x6 inch).  Melt butter in oven. Sprinkle in crumbs; stir well. Press on bottom of dish.  In medium bowl, mix together sweetened condensed milk, sour cream and Realemon; spread evenly over crumbs. Spoon pie filling evenly over creamy layer.  Bake 25 to 30 minute or until set.  Cool slightly.  In a small dish mix together nuts and cinnamon; sprinkle over pie filling.  May be served warm or cold.  Refrigerate leftovers.


Bon Appetit