Monday, September 29, 2008

Animals and Religion: Caring for All of God's Creatures

Living in a large metropolitan area has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages of living in the Washington, DC area is being able to take advantage of so many free lectures/talks about virtually anything you can imagine.

I've written about the Washington National Cathedral before and how it truly is a magnificent piece of architecture, along with all the enlightening programs they sponsor. Every week they hold a "Sunday Forum: Critical Issues in the Light of Faith", a series of honest, intellectually probing, and generous-spirited conversations about the intersection of faith and public life.

Yesterday, the Sunday Forum's guest speaker was Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He was there to kick off HSUS' latest campaign, "All Creatures Great and Small" It was an inspiring talk followed by a service dedicated to all living creatures. The All Creatures Great and Small initiative asks people in faith communities to educate themselves about the humane treatment of farm animals and provides educational materials about various faith traditions' teachings on animal welfare.

Here is what the Humane Society's website writes about the campaign:


Eating is an activity with moral implications, even the simplest decisions we make in the marketplace can make a substantial difference in the lives of animals. It is only with collective action, in terms of personal food choices and policy reforms, that we can develop a more humane farming system in this country. The current system of factory farming causes serious problems in animal welfare, environmental protection, and food safety.

Few people know about the lives of approximately 10 billion animals who are raised on
U.S. factory farms every year before appearing on our dinner plates.

On factory farms, chickens, pigs and cows are warehoused in enclosures so small the animals cannot even turn around. Read more about how
egg-laying hens, veal calves and pigs live on factory farms. Surely there is time and space in our day to choose compassion, by reducing our consumption of animal products and/or selecting products from animals who are raised in more natural, less inhumane environments.

At present, there are more than 300 million religious people in North America. The author and essayist, Garret Keizer asks, "What if even half of them refused to purchase factory-produced chicken because that kind of food production is unjust to family farmers, unhealthy for poultry workers and certainly unpleasant for chickens? With a single stroke they could change the way farmers farm, the way chickens live—the way Christians witness."(1)

Sign the Pledge
You can make a difference by making a simple pledge to make more humane food choices for the month of

Battery-cage eggs are produced by hens who are confined in tiny "battery cages"—enclosures so small the animals can't even spread their wings. Nearly 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. are raised this way.


So, every month I will let you know what that month's pledge will be. I hope you will read it, think about it and sign it. This month is very easy for me. I'm not much of an egg eater, a dozen eggs can last me a few months! Even so, I always purchase eggs from my local co-op. They sell eggs that come from local Montgomery County farms and also from Amish farms in Pennsylvania that are certified organic and humanely raised. That means that the eggs come from free roaming hens that have access to the outdoors, all organic feed, no antibiotics, and are not de-beaked.

Kindness and mercy exemplify the best of the human spirit. Click here to pledge compassion. All creatures great and small.

Saint Basil's Prayer

The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof
Dear God, enlarge in us our sense of fellowship with the animals.
to whom Thou gave the earth to be a common home before us
and who share with us the toils, trials, and joys of life.
We remember with sorrow that, in the past,
we have often exercised the high dominion of our kind
with ruthless cruelty
so that the voice of the earth
which should have gone up to Thee in song
has so often risen instead as a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone
but for themselves and for Thee
and that they, too, love the sweetness of life.
Peace of the Lord

P.S. I've been doing the exercises my physical therapist gave me when I stopped going to physical therapy over a year ago. I had hoped they would help but I can't see any improvement. Sooo I guess I will have to buck up and call the acupuncturist this week. I've noticed a definite difference from weekday to weekend. It really makes a difference how much time I spend on the computer! So, again, I apologize for not commenting and even not reading many of your blogs of late. When I get a chance, I try to sneak-read some of your posts during work so I don't have to turn on my computer at home.

I have to say, I have a lot of respect for those who are chronic pain sufferers! This pain tends to sap all my energy and puts me in quite a depressive mood. Nothing seems to help---hot compresses, cold compresses, any type of OTC pain reliever--nothing. Yesterday, for some reason, I had a good look at my kitchen floor and YUK, it really needs to be cleaned. Not just Swiffer Wet Jet clean either. It needs a good get on my elbows and knees scrubbing. I filled up a bucket with warm sudsy water and got on my knees, bent over and the pain in my arm was excruciating! How dumb was that?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Need of Some Sweet Comfort

Oh, what a sad day. The man for whom I had my first big crush has died. It was just released that Paul Newman died yesterday at his home in Connecticut. He was 83.

I developed my crush in grade school watching old Paul Newman movies on TV. Then when I was a freshman in high school, (for reasons I still can't understand) my Catholic high school took us on a field trip to see the movie The Sting. On the bus ride back to school all the girls were almost swooning while they squealed about Robert Redford. I stayed pretty quiet until someone asked me if I didn't think Robert Redford was to die for. I stated, you can all HAVE Robert Redford, I'll take Paul Newman ANY day. PAUL NEWMAN?!! they laughed, he's too old! I started getting a little defensive. "I'll admit that Robert Redford is good looking but Paul Newman has class!!" That quieted them all down and we just agreed that I could have Paul Newman, and they would all have to fight over Robert Redford.

If you haven't seen the movie Road to Perdition, see it! It was Paul Newman's last theatrically-released movie that came out in 2002. I wasn't that keen to see the movie when it came out. But, since Paul Newman was in it, I felt I had to. I'm so glad I did. Yes, the movie is very dark and sad and Paul Newman's role was not very big, but it really took me into another world and I found myself thinking about the movie for days after.

On days when I need some comfort, I make fudge. Making fudge brings me back to childhood and my mom. She would make a little fudge once or twice a week. Always without warning, usually at night. We'd hear the saucepan being put on the stove and come running. In fact, making fudge was so associated with my mom that we put it in her eulogy.

When I was talking to her a few years ago on the phone, I asked for the recipe. "Oh, Chrissy, it's so easy. Just remember that everything is in quarters......well, except for the sugar." I don't know why, but I always laugh thinking about that.

Here is the recipe:

In a small saucepan mix together,
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter

Bring it to a slow boil over medium heat. When it starts boiling, time it for 3 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Then, take it off the heat and immerse it in cold water (about an inch in the sink) and start stirring. The stirring cools and thickens it. Stir it for--oh, I don't know--about 30 seconds to a minute. Then, pour it onto a buttered plate. Usually a small salad plate is big enough. Then let it cool. This doesn't make a large amount. Just enough for me for two days worth of snacking.

I'll post photos of the fudge making after I make my batch tonight. Somehow it just doesn't feel right making it unless it is dark outside!

Goodbye Paul and Rest in Peace. This fudge's for you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Glimmer of Hope

Okay, I'm putting myself out on a limb here, but I can't help it. This upcoming election is scaring the bejeebus out of me. I have literally lost sleep worrying what would happen to our country if McCain/Palin got elected. I'm a Democrat. I don't hate Republicans. I have friends and family members who are Republicans. We are all good people. We basically want to see the same end results, just disagree on how to get there. But, really, McCain frightens me. He is not the same John McCain from 2000. Sarah Palin...I don't know even where to begin. Her inexperience notwithstanding... her suing the federal government to take the polar bear off the endangered species list...her allowing the aerial shooting of wolves (so there would be more moose for hunters), her inquiries into banning books, etc.

So I had a little glimmer of hope today when I came across the blog Mudflats, written by a woman who has lived over 17 years in Alaska. I'm copying her latest blog entry verbatim. You can check out her blog at


I attended the Welcome Home rally for Sarah Palin this morning. Hooo. It was an experience. About a thousand (maybe) hard-core Palin supporters showed up to hear her speak at the new Dena’ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage.

After shaking it off with a good double shot of espresso, and a brisk walk back to my car, it was time to head to the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally. It was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men. I had no idea what to expect.

The rally was organized by a small group of women, talking over coffee. It made me wonder what other things have started with small groups of women talking over coffee. It’s probably an impressive list. These women hatched the plan, printed up flyers, posted them around town, and sent notices to local media outlets. One of those media outlets was KBYR radio, home of Eddie Burke, a long-time uber-conservative Anchorage talk show host. Turns out that Eddie Burke not only announced the rally, but called the people who planned to attend the rally “a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots”, and read the home phone numbers of the organizers aloud over the air, urging listeners to call and tell them what they thought. The women, of course, received many nasty, harassing and threatening messages.

So, as I jettisoned myself from the jaws of the ‘Drill Baby Drill’ crowd and toward the mystery rally at the library, I felt a bit apprehensive. I’d been disappointed before by the turnout at other rallies. Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it’s a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren’t sent by Eddie Burke, we’ll be doing good. A real statement will have been made. I confess, I still had a mental image of 15 demonstrators surrounded by hundreds of menacing “socialist baby-killing maggot” haters.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t tailgating when I saw the crowd in front of the library or I would have ended up in somebody’s trunk. When I got there, about 20 minutes early, the line of sign wavers stretched the full length of the library grounds, along the edge of the road, 6 or 7 people deep! I could hardly find a place to park. I nabbed one of the last spots in the library lot, and as I got out of the car and started walking, people seemed to join in from every direction, carrying signs.

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn’t honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn’t happen here.

Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media, and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he couldn’t be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.

So, if you’ve been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin’s rally that got all the national media coverage! So take heart, sit back, and enjoy the photo gallery. Feel free to spread the pictures around (links are appreciated) to anyone who needs to know that Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.

Sorry the photos are so blurry. They are enlarged from little thumbnail photos. This one says, Polar Bear Moms say No to Palin.


Yes, I little glimmer of hope. Now, back to my regular blogs on cats, elephants, recipes and other non-divisive things.

P.S. I don't know when my next post will be (watch, it'll be tomorrow), as the pain from my pinched nerve in my neck has gotten quite bad. It started getting really bad a few days after cleaning my gutters when my right arm and shoulder were at a weird angle for two straight days. Having to work all day on the computer really seems to make the pain worse. I have to figure out what to do next. Do I go back to the doctor when this surfaced over a year and a half ago, who will then prescribe six more weeks of physical therapy at 3x a week? Even though insurance covers the bulk of the therapy costs, it still is about $45.00 a week for six weeks. Not a small amount for Possumlady. Then, some folks are telling me to try out acupuncture. I'm really leaning towards that, though I know it is not cheap either. I need to check because I think my insurance company actually covers acupuncture. Well, the arm pain is telling me to stop. So, hopefully, I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pasta with Asparagus

Ahh, the first real cool front of the season has passed through. Highs today will only be in the low 70s with lows in the upper 50s!! Oh sure, we can still get some hot days in September and even into the first part of October, but they are now few and far between. Thank Heaven for that!!

Time to start cooking again. One of my current favorite quick pasta dishes is Pasta with Asparagus. I found this recipe online and it is quick, delicious and really (I don't think) not that bad as far as fat and/or calories go.


1/2 pound of pasta of your choice

asparagus (don't have a measure for this, I just chop up as much as I want. Also, I've used both fresh and frozen and while fresh is better for the texture, frozen is just as good)

1 tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of minced garlic (I just put it through a garlic press)

1/2 cup of 1% milk

1 egg

3 tbls of parmesan cheese (I substitute parrano cheese, a wonderful nutty and buttery cheese from Holland that is a cross between parmesan and gouda--melts beautifully)


Cook pasta according to directions on package. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Throw in the chopped asparagus and garlic into the skillet. (Most recipes call for adding the garlic first. I've found through my years of cooking that garlic cooks VERY quickly and I hate to burn it. So I always throw it in together with other things that need to be sauteed.) While the asparagus and garlic are sauteeing for a few minutes, add the milk and egg together in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to break up the egg. Then add the cheese. Add all of this to the skillet and let it come up to a low boil for a few minutes (3-4) while stirring occasionally.

Here is what it looks like just after adding the milk, egg, and cheese to the asparagus and garlic

Here it is after it has been thickening up for a few minutes, bubbling and ready for the pasta

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add directly into the skillet and toss with the egg/cheese/asparagus mixture. Voila! You are done. This tastes and feels SO rich with the addition of the egg. It really does taste like you've used heavy cream and a lot of cheese. It serves two good sized portions for a dinner with salad. The recipe can be easily doubled.

For extra comfort, I decided to use extra wide egg noodles. Yummy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Has Possumlady Been Doing

For now, I, along with everyone else here in the DC metro region is anticipating the arrival of Hanna. So far we've just been getting bands of light rain with no winds. The newscasts say the high winds and heavy rains should start around 10:00 this morning. I'm waiting for 9:00 to come so I can make a two block dash to my co-op to get some fresh french bread and some "happy hens" free range organic eggs.
Of course I didn't get any of the projects done that I had planned for the inside. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous these past two weeks. With the exception of yesterday and today, my AC has been off the entire time and windows have been wide open to let in the dry air. I have to say that the first week off was a bust. I found myself dragging all week, taking naps and watching mindless TV. Then as last weekend came I suddenly got more energy and started my outside plans. The biggest job I accomplished was cleaning my gutters!! What an ordeal that was!! I've hired people occasionally to clean my gutters but I never thought they did a very good job (especially on the after clean up). So for the last three years the gutters have been filling up with who knows what. With the economy as it is I'm trying to cut way back on spending so I made up my mind that I just had to grit my teeth and do it myself. Now, I'm not a big fan of heights and the 8-foot ladder that I borrowed from my neighbor was wobbly and kept slipping. I had to steel myself every time I stepped up to the highest rung and pray that it didn't topple over.

Ahh, freshly cleaned gutters just in time for Hanna! If you look at the upper right hand side you will see that this side of the porch gutter did not get cleaned as it is right next to my electric lines. I have no idea how I'm going to clean that little piece. My neighbor thinks I need to get on the porch roof. I think not.

I also found this beautiful feather just sitting on top of my gutters. Obviously way too big for the normal back yard birds. Anyone have an idea as to who it might belong too? A hawk?

After the gutter cleaning (which took two days) I turned my attention to jungle removal. Yes, my side yard is THAT bad. The back yard is just as bad but my neighbor put me in touch with the folks who work on her yard and their card reads "lot cleaning" so I'm going to see what they will cost to sweep in and clean up my back yard once and for all.

But for now, I filled four big trash cans with yard debris from the side yard and still have not made much of a dent.

Then my eye turned to an old wicker rocker that I had sitting up against the side of my house. It has certainly seen better days but I do like it as the more timid outside cats like to sleep there far from the Madding crowd on my front porch. So I decided to spray paint it. Lordy it took me forever to try to decide on one of two colors when I was at Home Depot. Just when I thought I would go insane my eyes glanced at the price--$3.47 a can. D'oh! I think I can afford to purchase both cans and see what I like best on the chair.

The blue is called Wildflower Blue and the green, Green Apple, though it really is more like a celery. As you can see I really liked the green and decided to go all the way with it.

Here it is with just the first coat on. Shabby Chic indeed! I like the color so much I may even paint the wicker love seat and chair that is currently on my front porch. Give the porch a little boost of color.

Yesterday was spent getting the second coat of paint on the rocker while also picking up and storing any loose items in my yard that might get blown away today. I also did two loads of laundry since my unfinished basement in this 1927 bungalow gets wet during heavy rains.

Today I'll try to rearrange my bedroom and do some basic clean up. All in all a delightful two week break from the world. I won't say that I'm looking forward to going back to work on Monday but the thought doesn't depress me either.

The cats, though will really miss having me around. Here is chunky Lisa Marie in her new favorite sleeping spot.

Have a good weekend and say a little prayer that my electricity stays on and we receive no damage from Hanna.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Hometown

Oh, I 've been trying for 45 minutes to upload a video from either YouTube or ABC but I give up. I'll just provide the link.

While I'm not pleased that the Republican National Convention was in my hometown of St. Paul this week, I'm always pleased when the city gets a little publicity. I'm very proud of being a native St. Paulite. Minneapolis has always been the flashy sister to St. Paul. In fact, I was getting a little annoyed at the newscasters every time they would say they are in Minneapolis or coming to you from the Twin Cities. I'd bet you dollars to donuts that if the convention was in Minneapolis, St. Paul or the Twin Cities would not even get mentioned.

Anyway, I was happy to see Garrison Keillor on ABC news the other night talking about St. Paul (where he lives). He hits it right on the head. Come learn a little about my hometown