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The Witches




Have I got a great book for you to read around Halloween. The book, The Witches, is a great exploration of the Salem witch trials. I found it to be so diabolically entertaining. It takes place in a Massachusetts community of pious Puritans, a group of girls begins to howl, convulse and accuse neighbors of witchcraft.  Within nine months, more than 140 innocent people have been named as witches or wizards, often by their own families.  Fourteen women, five men and two dogs are executed for satanic activities.  Pretty eerie, right?

I’ve always enjoyed books written by Stacy Schiff. She is a stylish writer and an inexhaustible researcher who offers fascinating particulars.  Denounced by the putatively possessed (one a minister’s daughter, most of them overworked teen domestics orphaned by Indian raids), defendants admitted to murder, flying poles, ghostly bed hopping and selling their souls for nice shoes.  They concocted imagery crimes because those who confessed survived; only suspects who insisted on their innocence were hanged.  Schiff shrewdly analyzes factors that may have fueled madness, including teenage hysteria, political instability, bad weather, general intolerance, rampant litigiousness and sexual repression, Witchcraft explained hard times, settled old scores, punished sharp-tongued women and independent thinkers.  Modern corollaries come to mind, from McCarthyism to more recent brands of xenophobic, misogynistic, holier-than-thou politics.  “The witch hunt,” Schiff writes, “stands as a cobwebbed, crowd-sourced cautionary tale.”

I really enjoyed it, and it got me in the mood for spooks, witches and ghouls this Halloween. Also, how can you pass up a book that rhymes with Bitches?!


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Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul. ~ Luther Burbank

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Since it’s fall, it’s time to make the chili and put it in the freezer for a very cold day. Are you with me? This beef and white chili bean recipe is to die for! Seriously. You will L.O.V.E. it.


1 large red onion

1 large jalapeno

3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)

2 (6-in. corn tortillas, torn into pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

8 oz. 90% lean ground sirloin

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 cups canned unsalted crushed tomatoes

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 (15 oz.) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup plain 2 % reduced-fat Greek Yogurt

2 oz. pre-shredded 2% reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese (about ½ cup)


  1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high.  Cut 2 (1/2-inch-thick) round slices from onion.  Chop remaining onion; reserve.  Add onion slices and jalapeno to pan; cook 8 minutes, turning to char on all sides.  Remove onion slices; chop.  Remove jalapeno; thinly slice.
  2. Combine stock and tortillas in a food processor; process until combined.
  3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add beef; cook 6 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add reserved chopped fresh onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, and paprika.  Stir in stock mixture, tomatoes, salt, and beans; bring to a simmer.  Cook 10 minutes.  Place 1 ¾ cups chili in each of 4 bowls.  Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt, 2 tablespoons cheese, charred chopped onion, and jalapeno.


** Blended corn tortillas add a delicious masa flavor and give the chili extra body.


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Think Before You Buy Pink

My friends at Breast Cancer Action coined the term pink-washing as part of a “Think Before You Pink” campaign. Pink-washer: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.

Here Are Critical Questions to Ask Before You Buy Pink

  1. Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?

Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products. The widely recognized pink ribbon symbol is not regulated by any agency and does not necessarily mean it effectively combats the breast cancer epidemic. Some products sport pink ribbons to try to communicate that they are “healthy” and don’t contribute to breast cancer, such as a number of natural health and beauty products. Other products have a pink ribbon in order to indicate that the company supports breast cancer programs even if the company’s contributions are not tied to the purchases of the specific product bearing the ribbon. Still other companies give a portion of an item’s cost to a breast cancer organization but may require further action on the part of the consumer for the donation to be realized. Can you tell how much money from your purchases will go to support breast cancer programs? If not, consider giving directly to the charity of your choice instead.

  1. What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies that sell pink ribbon products and donate a percentage of each sale to breast cancer programs fail to indicate which of the many different breast cancer organizations will get the money. Furthermore, the consumer is left to trust that these organizations are engaged in work that is meaningful and makes the greatest difference. If money goes to “services,” are they reaching the people who need them most? How do screening programs ensure that women can get treatment? And how do breast cancer awareness programs address the fact that we already know that breast cancer is a problem and that action is needed in order to end the epidemic? Does the money go to truly addressing the root causes of the epidemic, like social inequities that lead to women of color and poor women dying more often of breast cancer, or environmental toxins that are contributing to high rates of breast cancer? Before donating, check the recipient organization’s website to make sure that its mission and activities are in line with your personal values. If you can’t tell, or you don’t know what the organization does, reconsider your purchase.

  1. Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?

Some companies that indicate that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a particular pink ribbon product will go to support breast cancer programs put an arbitrary “cap” on their maximum donation. Once the maximum amount has been met, the company may continue to sell the product with the pink ribbon without alerting customers that no additional funds will be donated to breast cancer organizations. This means you may be buying a product for which none of your purchase price will go to a breast cancer cause but only to the bottom line of the company.

  1. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies have sold pink ribbon products that are linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Some believe that companies that are profiting from building a reputation based on their concern about breast cancer have a responsibility to protect the public from possible harms when scientific research indicates that there is a risk or plausible reason for concern. Some of the earliest cause-marketing companies were well-known cosmetics companies that continue to sell cosmetics containing chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer. Even car companies have gotten in on the action and sell cars that emit toxic air pollutants in the name of breast cancer. In considering a pink ribbon purchase, does the product contain toxins or otherwise increase the risk of breast cancer?

Please Think Before You Buy Pink!

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It’s a whole new world for Owen Suskind. He was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and barely communicated until his parents learned they could speak to Owen using dialogue from Disney movies. The family’s journey is captured in the new film Life, Animated, which shows how the magic kingdom helped Owen, now 25, discover his own voice. Go to and check it out.

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“I always say that shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.” ~ Tammy Faye Baker

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This easy-peasy skillet pasta bake is a surefire family hit.  Pasta and meat sauce topped with mozzarella cheese will make everyone at the table happy, and the all-in-one-pot technique will have the cook smiling pretty.


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

8 oz. 90% lean ground beef

¾ tsp. dried oregano

1 ¼ cups unsalted chicken stock

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

1 ½ cups unsalted crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce

8 oz. uncooked whole-grain penne pasta

5 oz. fresh baby spinach

4 oz. pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)


  1. Preheat broiler to high. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high.  Add onion, saute 2 minutes.  Add beef and oregano; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble.
  2. Add stock, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and pasta; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 to 13 minutes or until pasta is done. Stir in spinach.
  3. Sprinkle cheese over pasta mixture. Place pan in oven; broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.


Enjoy, enjoy!!


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Thursday, September 22nd is the first day of Fall!  Yippy Skippy. I looooooove fall…everything about it, from the colors, to the smells to the pumpkins to the food and yes, even the cozy clothes!  It is definitely my Shining Moment season. Hope that it is the same for you!

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The Food Lab



You know I’m a nerd and love my books, especially cookbooks! Well, I’ve found a fellow nerd and cookbook author, J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt. This massive and informative cookbook called, The Food Lab was written by this MIT grad. This professional cook-cum-Serious Eats chief creative officer spent years’ systematically testing ways to make food tastier. The 300 recipes prove his experiments to be successful. From the secrets to perfect steak (hint: flip frequently) to no-fuss risotto, the book is a catalyst for great cooking. It costs $50 and is 938 pages. It sure does make a wonderful house warming gift.

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