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Pass the Chocolate

Last night I dreamed that my dog, a cocker spaniel named Sammy, could talk.  He is a smart little dog, but this took smart to a whole new level! In my dream he was at the foot of our bed, where in reality he does sleep every night. He sat up, looked at me and said “ I want chocolate. I want every kind of chocolate. I want lots of it.” That was it! I woke up and he lay there silently sleeping at my feet. Well he has done it now. I cannot get chocolate off my mind and of course we don’t have one single bite of it in the house.  None in the frig, cupboards, or dog dish. None stashed in my desk, my husband’s desk, or in my purse. None in the glove compartment of my car.  None in the junk drawer! Believe me, I looked …..everywhere……high and low! It’s a sad state of affairs for sure.

I began thinking about chocolate and decided since I didn’t have any around to munch on, I would do a little digging to see just what all this hullabaloo is about. After all, 50% of us girls claim to prefer chocolate over sex and in the UK at least one study says that eating dark chocolate is more rewarding than passionate kissing. I suspect that those 50% of women and those dark chocolate eaters do not have the right lover boy or good kissers in their lives. Such a pity! Of course it could depend on what state of groomed perfection their partners may or may not have been in at the time of the poll as well. I was about to say that I would take my husband over a piece of chocolate any time, but I just glanced out at the garden. It is 100 degrees outside, he is working out there, and is a sweaty mess. Looks like something just dragged through a mud puddle.  I’d have to choose chocolate at this exact moment!

Chocolate is a psychoactive food. It is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree and has been called both the food of the gods and the food of the devil. I am not sure that the theology of either claim would hold up in your local church, temple or synagogue, but so be it. It is claimed to be a stimulant and an aphrodisiac. Cacao beans were used extensively in the Aztec culture. Chocolate itself was reserved for warriors, nobility, and priests and was associated with fertility as well. Aztec taxation was levied in cacao beans. 100 cacao beans could buy a slave. 12 cacao beans bought the services of a prostitute.

Chocolate is thought to be good for improving cognitive performance due to the flavanols  that stimulate neuromuscular activity, thus enhancing memory and alertness. That claim alone does it for me. Anything to improve memory in this Chatty Grandma’s old age. Next time I see my doctor I am asking for a prescription for chocolate…three times a day after meals and one at bedtime just in case!

And speaking of old age. Many of the world’s supercentenarians were passionately fond of chocolate. A French woman, Jeanne Calment, the only confirmed human to have lived over 120 years, habitually ate two pounds of chocolate per week until her physician induced her to give up sweets at the age of 119 – three years before her death at age 122. WHY, I ask? Had she not given it up, she may have lived another decade! These doctors! Always fiddling around and trying to fix what isn’t broken! A recent study of 8000 Harvard graduates showed that chocoholics lived longer than abstainers. Their longevity may be explained by the high polyphenol levels in chocolate….a substance known to help protect against heart disease.

The consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. Enhanced endorphin-release reduces one’s sensitivity to pain. Ah ha! Another great reason to eat this divine food! Forget the aspirin, motrin, tylenol, etc. Eat chocolate! Endorphins probably contribute to the warm inner glow induced in chocoholics, and explains why chocolate gifts bring such joy to the recipient of the sweet treat.

A few studies suggest that the mere smell of chocolate significantly reduces theta activity in the brain, otherwise known as tension and anxiety. Woo hoo! Forget the anti-depressants. Eat chocolate!

Feeling down? Having a bad day? Need to chill out? Want to live longer than the dog next door? Here’s to a sweet summer afternoon….have a bite of chocolate. Or two. Or three!

Chatty Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

I am a pirate…..

Yep, it’s convention week!  Well, if you are a Republican it’s convention week. The Republican Party is all ramped up and ready to host its big national shindig to nominate Mitt Romney for President and Paul Ryan for vice president in the upcoming November elections. (Just in case you hadn’t heard!).  The celebration will be held in Tampa, Florida, unless of course Tropical Storm Isaac decides to become a full on hurricane and wreak havoc with their plans!

I read this morning that Tampa is the capital of “hate metal” and/or “death metal” bands and that was causing a small stir of conversation among musicians and political leaders in the city. Having been raised on The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elvis, and Elton John, I really had no idea that such bands existed, but doubted that they would be invited to the Convention. In fact the lead singer in a group called “Morbid Angel” was quoted as saying “There is usually something far more creative and worthwhile happening that distracts our focus from the ever-important suits who promise everything and deliver nothing.” I wasn’t sure if it would be a seemly or prudent move on the part of Chatty Grandma to agree with a Morbid Angel, but I was inclined to! Another music critic said that inviting the Republicans to Tampa was “kind of like having a group called Abstinence for the Sexually Anxious holding its convention in San Francisco. Or a group called Society for the Hatred of Corn deciding to meet up in Iowa.” So there you have it! I think I’ll stay away from Tampa this week!

Did you know that there are five “majority” political parties in the United States?  A majority party being defined as “having an independent state organization in a majority of states.” Of course I have just mentioned the Republicans, who started their party in 1854. They are oft referred to as “conservatives” or “the right”…those who tend to favor economic freedom, but frequently support laws to restrict personal behavior that violates “traditional values.” They oppose excessive government control of business, while endorsing government action to defend morality and the traditional family structure. Conservatives usually support a strong military, oppose bureaucracy and high taxes, favor a free-market economy, and endorse strong law enforcement.

The Democrats, who organized in 1828, will throw their big party to re-elect President Obama and Vice-president Joe Biden in early September in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte is known as a city of banking, a great university, and home to the Chiquita Bananas headquarters! I wonder if they will serve bananas foster to the President? Democrats, also known as “liberals” or “the left” usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded “safety net” to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.

The Libertarians, who formed their party in 1971, have already held their convention……in Las Vegas in May. They elected former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as their candidate for the presidency. Las Vegas, known as “Sin City”, probably paid little attention to the conventioneers whose party supports maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters….as does Las Vegas….I think! They also advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.

The Green Party was born in 1991. It too has already held its convention….in July, in Baltimore, city of brotherly love. A perfect setting for this party whose candidates preach peace and love and who elected Jill Stein, MD, of Massachusetts as their nominee for president. Close runner up was Roseanne Barr. Now that is a lady I’d like to see in the oval office. I doubt she’d do much worse than any other president we have had in modern times, but she’d surely be the most outrageous, over the top, entertaining political character in the history of the country! After all, she is a nut farmer in Hawaii and everyone knows that nut farmers are the perfect candidates for political office! The Green party believes in grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom (nut farmers have that !), nonviolence, decentralization, community-based economics (what…a commune?), feminism and gender equality, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability. The Green Party does not accept donations from corporations. Thus, the party’s platforms and rhetoric critique any corporate influence and control over government, media, and American society at large.

The last majority party is that of the Constitution Party, formed in 1992. It held its convention in Nashville in April and nominated Former Republican Congressman Virgil Goode to be its candidate for president on the November ballot. Virgil grew up a Democrat. He then decided to be Independent for several years. Next he tried the Republican party, but when he lost his house seat in 2008, he joined the Constitution Party. The Constitution party is described as a “Paleoconservative” party. I thought a paleontologist studied prehistoric life, old fossils, and dinosaurs! However, The party’s platform is predicated on the principles of the nation’s founding documents so I suppose that is the study of “old” with a political twist! The party puts a large focus on immigration calling for stricter penalties towards illegal immigrants and a moratorium on legal immigration until all federal subsidies to immigrants are discontinued.

Are you as confused as I am? I like parts of all the above. I dislike parts of all the above. I think I may just go join the Pirate Party. Yes, you read that correctly. The Pirate Party was formed  in 2006 and its platform primarily focuses on intellectual property reform and freedom from internet censorship. After all if they start censoring the internet, they will most likely kick me off. Then where would we all be?

Have a great political free afternoon.

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Chatty Grandma

 

 

 

 

The Sounds of Silence

It is another hot summer afternoon here in the Southland. Things are quiet. Not much happening, really. I have just finished glancing through some email and was thinking about how quiet it was around here. But then I went to the kitchen for a drink of water and heard my fountain bubbling away in the back yard. I peered out the window to see two pair of yellow finches light on the edge and begin their elaborate bathing rituals complete with loud chips and chirps and whatever the noises they make are called! It is not a melodious harmony filled song by any means, but a happy noise none the less. Two hummers came diving in under my patio cover hollering at each other and dive bombing as if their lives depended on it. I don’t know of a noisier or more vicious critter for their size than a hummingbird. Of course all their squabbles amount to a hill of beans and in another minute they were both settled contentedly on our feeder having lunch together as if they had not a care in the world. We have an entire village of sparrows who have taken up residency in our yard this summer too and they are either totally quiet or they all talk at once. Right now they are talking and it must be quite a discussion because I can hear them loud and clear right through my office window.

Across the street somebody is mowing their lawn and running an edger along the curb. In another few minutes they will start the leaf blower. Those things break every noise ordinance in the book. You would think if we can put a robot on Mars, that we could make a leaf blower that didn’t announce itself to the entire block every time it is turned on!

The neighbor next door is putting on a new roof and the pounding and hammering is not conducive to toddler’s naptimes……or Chatty Grandma’s! I suppose that will go on for a day or two until the job is done. Thankfully they don’t work after dark!

Half way down the block they are putting in a new driveway (guess it is the week for home improvement around here) and the concrete truck is dumping its load of gray goo into the wooden forms. Another noisy racket, but it won’t last long.

The Chihuahua that lives next to that house is having a fit. He too breaks all noise ordinances once he gets going and he gets going several times a day and often half the night too. How so much noise can come out of one 4 lb. package of fur is laughable…..if it weren’t so irritating!

Of course today is also garbage day so the garbage trucks are making their weekly runs. They actually start about 7AM, so I have heard them off and on all day …..coming in from a distance, making their run down our street….and droning off into the distance again as they move farther and farther out of the immediate neighborhood.

Quiet around here! What am I talking about? The place is a cacophony of noise. A veritable orchestra of sound….and not in tune either! I need ear plugs! I need peace! I need quiet! Why oh why did I begin to listen?

Try it….you’ll find that you too most likely live in the middle of a hot summer afternoon’s jazz festival. Enjoy it though. Beats living on the moon any day!

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Chatty Grandma

 

 

 

The Corn Is As High As An Elephant’s Eye

And I am tired of plain ole corn on the cob……yummy though it is! So I pulled out some of my other tried and true corn recipes and decied to share my four favorites with you. Each one of these takes very few ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, is simple to prepare, and delish all year round. Bon Appetit!

This first recipe comes from my sister-in-law and I love it because you just throw the ingredients in the crock pot and you are done! We eat it year round.

Crock Pot Corn Chowder

 

2 ½ cups milk

1 can creamed corn

1 can mushroom soup

1 onion chopped

1 cup frozen petite corn

1 cup shredded potatoes

 

Crock pot…6 hours

 

Can add chicken or ham

This second recipe comes from my friend Kathy. Again so quick to make. So good to eat….as a side dish or a main dish with a big salad. A real winner for sure.

Corn Casserole

 

1 stick butter melted

8 oz. sour cream

1 box mix that makes 6 corn muffins

1 can cream style corn

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

2 eggs, beaten

 

Mix….bake at 350    45 min.

The third recipe is a variation on the veggie packets we used to prepare ahead of time and take with us on camping trips. Nothing is better than food cooked over a campfire with a bit of smoke and char!

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Garlic and Herbs

6 large ears corn with husks removed and cleaned

 

Mix the following:

4 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

¼ cup each chopped tarragon and cilantro

 

Brush ears with above herb mixture

 

Wrap each ear in tin foil. Grill over medium heat for 15 min. until tender. Remove from foil and leave on grill just long enough to brown nicely and get those pretty grill char marks! Delish!

Lastly a corn and tomato salad that absolutely hits the spot on hot summer nights or at your picnic by the lake.

Fresh  Corn and Tomato Salad

 

6 ears corn

3 large fresh tomatoes

1/2 large onion or about 1 cup chopped sweet onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

two to three sprigs fresh oregano

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

coarse sea salt

fresh ground pepper

 

Boil corn in large pot of water for about 7 minutes. Drain and plunge corn into cool water. Cut corn off cob and set aside to cool completely.

 

Chunk tomatoes and chop onion. Coarsely chop basil and strip the oregano off stems. Place cooled corn, chopped vegetables and herbs into large bowl. Toss with vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste. Serve chilled or room temperature

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 So here’s to happy summer time eating…..cool nights and fun filled days.

Chatty Grandma

 

 

How to alter cigar boxes

My twin grandaughters will be three next week……Sophey and Sidney. They are currently into dressing up, make believe, and all things pink and purple, frilly, teddy bears, and dolls. I wanted to make them something that they could use every day and also put in their very own “Princess Room”….a walk in closet that their mom has converted to a play room for them. It is painted pink and stenciled with butterflys and flowers and comes complete with their own sized hanging rods, shelves, and hooks for all their girlie goodies. I decided on “treasure boxes” made out of old wooden cigar boxes after seeing one that my daughter in law had made with family photos for Gabriela….my other soon to be three grandaughter…. to tote her treasures around in. It was just so cute and Gabriela says all the people on it are her friends so it is am important little box ! I had never altered a box before but figured it couldn’t be too hard.

Here are my completed boxes all ready to be wrapped and mailed. I will show you how I did them.

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First of all you have to find a smoke shop to buy the cigar boxes from, or perhaps you already have some stashed or you can always con a friend into giving you a couple of hers! Since I am not a smoker I had never paid any attention to where there might be a smoke shop nearby, but found one only a few blocks from home. The owner was glad to sell me as many as I might want…..at $2 each, I thought it a good buy. Be sure to get the wooden ones, as they will stand up over time.

All you then need are a few basic things to get started: a box, a pair of scissors, some Mod Podge, all purpose glue, and brushes to apply the Mod Podge. I like to use the one inch foam brushes but regular small flat brushes work just as well. Mod Podge is a white liquid glue like substance used as a glue and a sealer. It is water based so is easy to clean up and dries to a clear matte or shiny finish, depending on the kind you choose. For these two boxes I used the matte finish.

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I made the mistake of removing my lids completely from the cigar boxes. I would not do that again. One of my box tops is loose and a bit wobbly. The other fits very tightly….and I loosened it up by rubbing a bar of soap along the edges to lubricate it a bit and make it fit into its slot easier. Had I not removed the lids I don’t think I would have encountered that problem.

After choosing your box, you will want to decide on a theme for it. Obviously I chose teddy bears and dolls for these little girl birthday boxes. I then went to the internet and found photos of dolls and teddies, printed them out, and cut them to fit. I started with the box lid, under the lid, the bottom inside of the box and the very bottom of the box. I used just one photo for each of those surfaces so I only had to cut one image. See photos below……

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To adhere the photo to my box surface I applied one medium thick layer of mod podge to the back of the image and carefully placed it over the wood surface. You do not want to apply the mod podge to the wood itself as it tends to make the paper then want to bubble and crease. I learned that the hard way and re-did a couple surfaces because of that. Once you have applied the mod podge to the back of your image and laid it gently in place, you have a minute or so to play with it before it will harden and you can no longer move it. I used a dry flat paintbrush to smooth the images……starting in the middle and working my way out…..very similar to the way you would use a brush with wall paper, smoothing as you go. The boxes are small ….the dool box is 8 inches square and the teddy bear box is 6 inches square, so it only takes a few seconds to actually apply the image and smooth it out.

Once you have done that you just have to wait for it to dry…..at least 15 min……before you can apply a top coat. That is part of why it takes quite awhile to do the boxes. I put five coats on the tops of my photo images, but they are hard and clear and very durable now.

After applying photos to the lids, inside bottoms, and very bottom of your box, you will want to find photos to cover the four sides….. inside and out. As you can see on my boxes I used lots of images and laid some over the tops as well. It is just fun to find lots of variety, but takes time to cut to size, apply them to the wood, and then apply the top coats of mod podge.  Here you can see some of my sides close up……

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Once you have all the wooden surface covered you are ready to embellish your box and that is where the real fun begins. Let your imagination go wild and just have fun.

You can see that I put velvet ribbon around the perimeter of my doll box and pink and white trim around the teddy bear box. I put vintage buttons in the corners, added a butterfly to the doll box and then used old belt buckle that I removed the metal fittings from for the tiny picture frames that I put each girl’s little head in. I put a little plastic ribbon with rhinestone in a doll’s hair and on a teddy bear’s ear and put a brass moon and stars in the bottom of one box. I used small glass and porcelain drawer pulls for the handles on the tops of each box.

Lotsa fun …..very inexpensive….and a gift sure to be treasured for a long time to come. I learned a lot with these first two boxes and now have plans to do some more sophisticated ones for the upcoming fall arts and crafts shows. When I get some of those completed, I will continue with Lesson #2 on how to alter cigar boxes!

Have a great, cool week end. Try some craft projects. They will always keep you busy and happy.

Chatty Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chair

It arrived. It  has found its home! I almost slept in it all night….very, very comfy!

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Y’all need a big, comfy chair too!

Chatty Grandma

ICE!

It’s 105 degrees here as I sit at my desk on another scorching afternoon in the Southland. I keep thinking our wireless home weather station must be broken since it has registered 105 or above for two weeks now, but every time I shake it up and down, thump it, and in general give it dirty looks, all the gadgets, buttons and lights are working, so I have to take its word. Of course every time I am forced to go outside for pressing matters like the mail, groceries, or watering my unhappy plants, I KNOW it is 105 or above. I walk out and immediately look around for my towel, as I think I have just stepped out of a hot shower! The water runs down my neck and around my ears making my hairdo less than chic. It trickles down my back, making my shirt look as if it just came out of the washer. My palms are wet as if I were nervous and on the first day of a new job. The creases behind my knees are damp. That happens sometimes when my dog gives me kisses, but he is way too smart to come outside, so I know it is not him! It is not a pretty sight folks, and I have found no cure.

I called my doctor’s office and asked for a chill pill, but they said those were only for the severely overheated and dehydrated. I asked what in the world constituted severely overheated if my being in 105 degrees didn’t!  They said my body had to be shooting flames! I asked how dehydrated. They said I needed to be crinkled up and crackling like parchment paper when I walked. So much for the medicos. What do they know anyway? And to top it all off, my insurance doesn’t cover chill pills so I am really in trouble.

I called my girlfriend. She was sitting in a bath tub full of ice, crunching ice, wearing a shower cap full of ice. She could barely hear me above her crunches and plugged ears, but advised going to the mall where it was well air conditioned. I really wasn’t in the mood to be seen in public what with my dripping hair, soaking shirt, and sweaty knees, so that didn’t help much either.

I called the local library. They suggested several books on expeditions to the north and south poles as well as  “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”…..the famed story of a man and his family who lived with a dozen penquins and kept cool all year long with icebergs and such filling their house and basement. Trips to the poles are too expensive for my budget and I don’t know where to buy a dozen penguins. My local pet store specializes in canaries and small reptiles …no penguins there! So much for the library.

I called our local meat and food locker. I figured they were experts in cooling things off, but I got a message saying their ice machines were broken so they had left town…..headed to  Siberia to cruise the Volga river…..and would be back in early October. Until then I was advised to take my overheated, dehydrated body to Cucamonga where their associate store was located. Thanks a lot!

At last, in total desperation, I pulled this photo up out of my files and am going to try hypnosis as I stare at the lovely ice walls and the chilly blue waters. You may find me here for days to come.

 

Here’s to GLACIERS!

Chatty Grandma