T’is the Season to Be Baking!!

Our CakeFa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Time to turn up the ovens and pull down the Betty Crocker; cook book that is.  I suggest flipping to the dirtiest, stuck together pages you can find and start mixing together those copious quantities of sugar, butter and flour that make all our holidays ‘Oh So Yum!!’

I can smell it now, cuz t’is also the season to be smelling. I see it now. It all starts with a lone cinnamon or vanilla scented candle.  Then the cider on the stove kicks in with its whole cloves and slices of orange peel spinning and dancing in the heated swirls.

Cookies!! Oh the cookies, fresh from the oven. Chocolate chip, oatmeal and my all-time-favorite: Snickerdoodles!! “Why is it we only make snickerdoodles at the holidays?”  you ask. “Siiliness,” I reply “Pure silliness.”  Banana breads and fruit cakes begin showing up in the mail while food writers around the nation share their bestest recipes for turkeys and hams, potatoes and green beans, and sweet potatoes oh my!!  (Tune in next week for my tips on how to roast a perfect Thanksgiving turkey.)

And homemade candies like fudge and peanut brittle and those crispy little peanut butter balls my former mother-in-law used to make.   (I should have gotten that recipe.)  All dressed up on those pretty little plates that grandma keeps wrapped up and locked away all year because, “They are not for every day use Tommy, only special occasions ”   And hard candies and Nuts!! Lots and lots of nuts.  Bowls, chock full of nuts and chocolates and, and, and (breathless) . . . bliss.

And Bells!! Those little holiday bells that jingle outside, everywhere, in the cold crisp air. And that one Farmer’s Market vendor, 5 miles away but worth the trip, selling Chestnuts that were roasted on an open fire.  Ah, the holiday season is here at last.

The last weekend I didn’t need to ask, “For Whom the Bells Tolls” the “Belle’ tolled for me. The Belle being my charming niece Lindsay who got it in to her pretty-little-head to bake a 3 level, tiered cake for a dear friend’s 40th birthday.

cake 2“Want to come bake a cake with your favorite niece?” she asked. When she asks like that, what am I supposed to say?

“No, and don’t forget to leave my respirator plugged in until you are completely certain that I am brain dead. And NO, just because I watch the Simpsons that doesn’t count as brain dead, just brain . . . ”

Of course I said yes and we made quite a day of it.  MY bad it started off slowly. I forgot to set my alarm and not only did I arrive an hour and a half late I forgot a bag of newly purchased decorating supplies.  (What a putz of an uncle I am . . . Don’t answer that.) After I arrived we decided to make the cake larger than I had anticipated so we sent Lindsay’s charming, handsome, patient husband to the store to purchase 5 more boxes of cake mix and 4 more pounds of confectioners sugar. Oh! And 1 more pound of butter.  You can never have enough butter.  Now I do have a ‘Binder Full’ of cake recipes but sometimes it is quicker to use the packages.  The only difference is the pre-measured dry ingredients, everything else we added fresh. 3 cake pans, 8 boxes of cake mix, 2 dozen eggs, 5 pounds of sugar, 3 pounds of butter, 2 pounds of fondant and 1 special ordered, custom cut, cake-stacker later we had our mini masterpiece. (Please stay tuned for the Partridge-in-a-Pear-Tree recipe . . . What?? It could happen.)

Lindsay and her friendAll credit for the decoration goes to my lovely niece. Her friend is an avid Raiders fan so ‘Black and Silver’ was the theme. Beyond honorable mention, super hubby Mark gets my vote for MVP.

The holidays are a fabulous time of year.  There is nothing like the cacophony of football and cooking, laughter and loving, too many cooks in the kitchen and lots and lots of leftovers!!  Many thanks to Lindsay and Mark for kick starting this season’s baking frenzy for me. Note: I won’t be posting any current pictures of myself until March of next year.  (You know why.)

Eat Well and Smile Often!!




p.s. T’is the season to add poundage.Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

p.p.s. Count ’em, they’re all there.

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To Be Or Not To Be . . . Labeled GMO?? That Is The Question!! (revised)





I’m going to weigh in with both feet on this one and I promise you it won’t be pretty.

California, as many of you know, experiences an interesting form of democracy. Out here on the Left Coast along with our beaches, blonds, oranges and Left Wing ideals we have the Initiative process. This process allows any citizen, with a  few requirements, to place an item on the ballot that has the power to change the State constitution.  This allows the citizens of California the power to vote in or out following their reason and their passion.

Who thought up this idea?

I am not, let me repeat, I am not a fan of partisan politics. I long for the days of heated discussions and collegiality amongst our elected officials. A healthy difference of opinion helps flush out the meat of an argument. Collegiality and respect allow both sides to compromise.  It is often said that ‘If both sides are unhappy, you have a good compromise.’  What I am underwhelmed with is that most voters are swayed by passion, however-well-intended, rather than reason. The result of this are laws written into the State constitution that invariably end up being challenged in court.

Prop 37 is no different. In fact it has already landed in front of the bench and we haven’t even voted on it yet! Here is where a little reading goes a long way.  One of the provision of the law states that processed foods may not be labeled as ‘Natural.’  For example flour because it has been milled or olive oil because it has been pressed, may not be labeled as Natural. Okay, on its face this seems innocuous enough and the proponents of Prop 37 have taken a step already to this argument: The sued to have the Secretary of State change the wording in the Impartial Analysis found in the Voter’s guide.

The correction asked for by Proposition 37 supporters, and ordered by the court, amounts to the change of one word. Specifically, the court ordered that the word “some” replace the word “all” in this sentence: “Given the way the measure is written, there is a possibility that these restrictions would be interpreted by the courts to apply to some processed foods regardless of whether they are genetically engineered.” (In the actual voter guide, the word some will not appear in underlined bold form.) *

Okay some processed foods will be effected.  But which ones?  The law doesn’t state. Here is the kicker, every citizen in the State of California has the right to enforce this law by filing a lawsuit. This lawsuit is filed not against the producer but . . . wait for it . . . the grocer!!   Yep folks that’s right, Mom and Pop are now financially responsible to keep reams of paper documentation on hand for every food product in their store and they must produce it for inspection by consumers when asked. If they don’t happen to have the latest GMO information sheet about say . . . Brand X Olive Oil . . . you can sue them.  That’s right you as an ordinary citizen can sue your local grocer. That’s just for starters.

“So Tom,” you ask, “Don’t you want to know what is in your food?”

Of course I do and this law on its face makes me feel good. It makes me believe that I am getting useful information when in fact I am not.  If I want really useful information I need to bother my grocer into providing me with written information about the product I am considering buying. So here goes. I’m in the store and I find my favorite Natural peanut butter except it is no longer labeled Natural. Only ingredient is still just peanuts. Hmm? Curious.  I as the grocer why and he has to drop everything he is doing to dig through  . . . Binders! (sorry couldn’t help myself) . . . of paper to find out why.   Or I now buy the same loaf of bread that I always do and it is labeled ‘Contains GMO”  What’s this?? Again the grocer must dig for a piece of paper while I wait.  Multiply this by everyone in the State of California who shops.  Not fair, not a well written law.

(It has been brought to my attention that the previous paragraph may not be entirely accurate. I still maintain that this piece of legislation is poorly written and confusion about such interpretations must be settled in court, wasting time and resources. For a well written opposing viewpoint please visit: http://summertomato.com/  )

“But Tom,” you say, ” I want to know if my food has any GMO’s. I have a right to know.”

Yes you do! But what does this simple little statement tell you: Contains GMOs.  Nothing! If you have not already take a few minutes to read my opinion on the term ORGANIC. You will find that it means little or nothing at all, since there is no one definition for the term.  The same with Contains GMOs.  There is no one definition.  Does my ham contain human growth hormones, is this corn RoundUp resistant?  I don’t know. Another kicker is that many items are exempt from labeling. Here is compromise working against our better interests. If we are to do this, we need the complete information on everything we consume.

“But Tom, there may be health risks.  We don’t know but I want to be on the safe side.”

Exactly! We do not know.  Precisely the reason not to act. Acting without knowing is what got this country in to two expensive drawn out wars. Act when we do know.  You will find my voice chief in this case.

“But Tom, 50 other countries already have laws in place labeling GMOs.”

Good for them.  How are their laws written.  I am not saying that it is a bad idea, just the opposite. What I am saying is that this law is not well written.

“But Tom, look at the two top donors: Monsanato and DuPont Chemical and follow the money.”

Granted I am not a big fan of large corporations.  I believe that they have agendas that most likely do not coincide with my best interests.  But guilt by association is just another fear tactic being employed to get you to vote for the passage of prop 37. What’s worse yet is that if this poorly written law passes there will be no effort to write a law that actually makes a difference.

Another question: Who is to gain if this law does pass? Most likely the Natural Food Companies that donated to this proposition.  The same way they benefit from having the term Organic on their labels. This law is just another bit of marketing hype with no real benefit to consumers.

I am all for knowing what is and what is not in my food.  I tend my garden with the minimum of chemical intrusion.  I enjoy tasting the sweet ripe flavors of each piece as it comes off the vine. I encourage you to plant your own garden whether it is just a few herbs  or you dedicate your front yard to growing food as an example to your neighbors.

But I am voting No on Prop 37.  Not because I do not believe in what it stands for but because it is a poorly written piece of legislation.

Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. That’s just organic horse manure you smell on my feet.


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3 Little Words . . . Nobody Wants To Hear!!

I have an friend Melani Robinson who writes a blog 1 Year of Online Dating at 50. She’s an amazing writer and has done much to encourage me with regards to my blog. Melani is openly in search of her next great love, blogging about every up and down she experiences, waiting to hear those 3 little words.

Blossom End Rot. No, these are NOT the words that Melani wants to hear. In fact, nobody wants to hear them. Certainly not me with all the love I’ve put in to my garden. But yesterday they rang in my ear like a bell that can’t be unrung. “I’m sorry to tell you Tom, you have Blossom End Rot.” Thank goodness it was my advice gardener and not any other professional. Blossom End Rot. Really??

Blossom End Rot

It seems I have been taking too good a care of my plants in one respect and not in another. Here, you tell me, don’t my plants look healthy? They look great! In fact that is one of the symptoms. It seems that my plants are overcharged with nitrogen, the stuff that makes them leafy green. But they are sorely lacking in calcium and water. Who knew? Not me. So my first little pushes of fruit have Blossom End Rot. Shucks.


7/1/12 Garden

Luckily I caught them in time and began watering heavily; giving them a really good drink then following up daily with a regular soaking. This may seem contrary to the gardener who says, “Once the tomatoes come cut back on your watering.” I did and I got . . . Blossom End Rot. Also I need to up my soil calcium levels. Since I don’t eat a dozen eggs everyday, eggshells are a great source of calcium, I’m off the the garden supply to pick up a small bag. I am saddened because my first few peppers were destined to become Pepper Jelly. My Jalapenos are doing great and I will harvest this week and set them to dry but it will be another few weeks before I’ll have peppers again.

Patience and learning, isn’t that what parenthood is all about? (I feel like such a failure.)


Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. Really??