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Even though I (fingers crossed and knock wood) have not been itchy with a rash in well over a year and a half, I still remember how horribly frustrating and itchy I was and how absolutely miserable. I still scan news articles on skin condition related news and to that end, came across this gem. Evidently, “wrinkle free” clothes are wrinkle free because they contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, you know the chemical that they embalm bodies with and use on our biology classes’ preserved frogs.

According to an article in the New York Times, formaldehyde is commonly used in our wrinkle free clothing and other household products. The article states that “the biggest potential issue for those wearing wrinkle-resistant clothing can be a skin condition called contact dermatitis. It affects a small group of people and can cause itchy skin, rashes and blisters.” Seems to me, as one of those “small group of people” that have experienced a skin condition with rashes and itchy that this is a pretty major thing to warn people about. If you have never experienced it, then trust me, you have no clue. Not having an idea of what is causing you to break out is one of the, if not the, most frustrating things. My husband can attest to the many, frequent crying outbreaks where I would literally break down because I had practically eliminated everything that I could think of from my skin and my life – I’m talking changing deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, losing the makeup, moisturizer and hair creams – and still would have a rash that would keep me up at night and not go away. Who would even think that someone put formaldehyde in my clothing? Seriously folks, this has got to stop. We are literally killing ourselves between pesticides and god knows what else in our commercially grown and processed food, the chemicals in our everyday products and now….formaldehyde in our pants. Good for the pants, bad for the person.

According to the article, the United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in our clothing and since most of our clothing isn’t even made in this country anyway, good luck even if they did. There is no government requirement, here or elsewhere to list the chemicals in our clothing so you can be aware of what you are putting literally next to your skin.

Formaldehyde evidently keeps the fabrics fibers in place after washing. I know that we are all busy these days — and wrinkle free or wrinkle resistant is quite tempting, but honestly at what cost?

Years ago, we would go on an annual skiing trip to Sugarbush with dear friends. The guys would drink this beer, which was incredibly cheap – a plus for a bunch of college folks and recent college grads – but they noticed that they would get incredibly buzzed off of just a couple beers. My friend’s dad took a bottle home and did some lab testing on it –and can you guess? Formaldehyde. So, formaldehyde evidently has several good uses – preserving dead bodies, eliminating wrinkles and getting you drunk faster.  What’s not to love?


Here are some pictures of the goats in their “red light district”.

All that rain finally changed over to snow and we woke this morning to a good six or so inches on the ground. Winter always looks so much better when she dons her winter white.

Even our little evergreens like their snow coats.

Tom and I are always amazed at what becomes “tradition” with our boys. It somehow seems that the “big” things usually aren’t quite as important as the “little” things. As we enter into the homestretch of the Christmas season, less than two weeks to go, “tradition” becomes more and more evident around the T’s House.

I will never forget when we first moved here full-time and our oldest walked, pacing back and forth through the downstairs, quietly conducting some type of survey. When prompted, he informed me that he was looking for the spot to hang the Christmas cards since in our old house, the archway between the dining room and living room was decorated with a large red ribbon and bow and from it we hung all the Christmas cards that we received through the weeks leading up to Christmas. He was disturbed that our house here in Vermont really doesn’t have any archways (or even real doorways for that matter) and this presented a challenge to him. I am happy to report that ingenuity won out and our non-archway doorways leading into the living room were outfitted with red ribbons and bows and Christmas cards that year. Seemingly small and inconsequential to us, (the cards would have gone somewhere on display) it was so much more for the boys.

My father-in-law a few weeks ago struck a pose with his new birthday gift and announced – “here’s a picture for the calendar” so it seems that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. He was referencing the fact that for the past couple years, I have given both our families photo calendars as gifts chock full of photographs of both families from the preceding year. Well, if I wasn’t planning on a calendar this year…..guess I am now…..after all it’s tradition.

Ambivalence. In one word, that pretty much sums up my Christmas shopping. Unlike some friends of mine (you know who you are) that were probably done with Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving even rolled around –or November for that matter, I am technically still “shopping”.  I don’t know if you’d even call it that, since the gifts that I have purchased I can count on one hand, even if you chopped off several of my fingers. Just not feeling it this year. You’d think that considering Christmas is —let’s see 13 days away today –I would be a little more stressed, but honestly, just not happening. I was telling Tom today how I am just not into the shopping that accompanies the Christmas holidays. I went out the other day and just didn’t really come home with any gifts. We are supposed to head out to Albany tomorrow to do some family shopping and I’m really hoping that some sort of inspiration strikes -otherwise folks, I don’t know what to tell you all — my lovely personality and wonderful smile and of course, my great company will have to be gift enough, unless of course you want food, then I’m pretty sure that I can bake up a storm. Might be a Christmas of homemade baguettes for everyone!

“Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence”. ~ Vermont saying

Bernie Sanders
Image by via Flickr

Vermonters are pretty monosyllabic people as a whole. Conversations with natural born Vermonters are pretty one-sided on the non-native’s part. Difficult in fact to call it a conversation. Vermonters are, as a whole, a people of very little words. Unless of course, they have something to say. Something important. Something that needs to be said. Evidently today, when Vermont wanted to talk, a whole nation listened. Today, Vermont’s junior senator Bernie Sanders took to the floor of the United States Senate at 10:25 this morning and delivered a speech very specifically setting forth why he was not in favor of the Obama tax compromise for approximately eight and one-half hours. Called a filibuster by some, an impassioned speech on behalf of the voice of down-to-earth America by others, Mr. Sanders impressed a lot of people and became quite the Twitter sensation. If you had the opportunity to peek in at the Twitter feed this afternoon – Vermont and Bernie Sanders were getting an awful lot of attention.

The man, who is neither Republican or Democrat, (he is in fact a Socialist) stood up for 8 1/2 hours and laid out reasons why he thought the Obama tax compromise that the Senate will vote on shortly, was wrong and was bad for this country and its people. He spoke….at length… and a great many people around the country listened.

Unlike others who have gone before him, he chose not to speak just for the sake of speaking (like those filibusters where the telephone book, an encyclopedia or a dictionary are read, just to kill time), in true Vermonter fashion he spoke because he had something to say –  to tell his side of the story, his version of what is wrong and what needs to be done – and by doing so he won the hearts of a great many Americans.

Despite which side of the fence you are on – remembering that Sanders is neither Democrat or Republican –  it was engaging to listen to him.  He begged, he pleaded, he urged Americans to take up the fight and call, email, write – contact their representatives and voice their dissatisfaction. He took the opportunity to throw out statistics, read letters from constituents (his own and others), relay stories about daily life in Vermont and how what happens in Washington impacts the people – remember us? The ones that the government is by and for…you remember that little ditty don’t you, big old government?

I know that people scoff at the Vermont Seccession movement with remarks like “really?” “they think they could do that?” …maybe tonight people realize that while the state may be little,with a population less than one county in the State where I came from,  it can make a statement when it wants to and maybe it’s saying something that a lot of people feel…maybe Washington and the country better watch out.

Vermonters tonight are standing just a little taller…proud of their choice in Congress. Good speech, Mr. Sanders – you improved the silence.

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I found this recipe over at The Pioneer Woman’s website and just had to give it a try. I do admit that it is a bit more labor intensive to get the cookies to curl properly and not cave in on themselves, but quite honestly well worth the effort. The secret is to let them cook way more than you think you should because they need to be crispy, crispy, crispy or else they will fall on themselves and look yucky (but still taste quite delicious, I must admit).

I followed Ree’s recipe except I did not use cinnamon and substituted vanilla extract instead — I am personally of the opinion that one cannot have too much vanilla extract in anything.


Wikileaks, Julian Assange. These are words that are plastered all over the news. You’d be hard pressed to avoid them even with a cursory glance at the newspaper. The news is replete with information regarding Assange’s sex life and the rape charges against him, the damage being caused by the leaking information and the hacktivists that are taking matters into their own hands and bombarding sites that are anti-WikiLeaks.

Time to dust off the Constitutional Hat, as we would often say in law school when constitutional law issues reared their heads. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press — these freedoms that all too often are tossed under the bed in good times are being brought back out and touted by both sides. It will be interesting how this all plays out in the long run.

Here’s an interesting thought to throw in the mix. Our government is trying desperately to stop the leaking information and is really pissed off that it got out there at all. It appears that the government and political pressure are  the driving forces behind shutting down Assange and WikiLeaks as evidenced  by Lieberman’s muscling Amazon and others to drop their hosting and the pressure placed upon paypal and credit card companies to drop their payment options for the site. Interesting isn’t it, when one considers that this country to a great measure came to be by virtue of the same leaking of information.

Benjamin Franklin did it when he released letters between the Royal Governor of Massachusetts and the British throne. Those letters, which were confidential in nature and not meant to be made public, many believed were what inflamed  an already unsettled body of colonists and was instrumental in the Revolutionary War.

Interesting isn’t it that some of the very essence of what helped to form this country – leaking information – is now looked upon as one of the worst crimes in history according to the government’s condemnation of a similar act by Assange’s site.  Perhaps the only difference is that this time, our government is on the receiving end.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian I...
Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

December 7th, 1941 was the Japanese attack on the military bases at Pearl Harbor. It was the first time that Americans were ever attacked on home soil. Unfortunately, a great number of Americans over 3000, both military and civilian lost their lives that day or were seriously injured.

America did not see such tragedy again until the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Just as this generation has that day etched in its memory, we should too remember that similar tragedy befell another generation of Americans back in 1941. There losses are no less real, no less painful and everyone should remember and reflect. December 7th is the Official Remembrance Day for Pearl Harbor. All American flags are requested to be flown at half-mast in honor of the dead and injured.


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2006 Christmas stamp, Ukraine, showing St. Nic...
Image via Wikipedia

December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and is well known for his generosity, particularly toward children. His parents died when he was young and he gave away all of his inheritance to help others. He became well known for throwing coins in the windows of the poor families. Some of the coins landed in children’s shoes or stockings and when word got out, many children would hang their stockings in the hopes that St. Nicholas would see to it to throw coins in their stockings. Nicholas went onto become a bishop and ultimately died on December 6th, the holiday which celebrates his life.

In many countries in Europe, St. Nicholas Day is the day on which presents are exchanged. In many countries, Christmas Day is a purely religious holiday with no gifts being exchanged whatsoever.

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Every year, I definitely think it; most years I also say it — at the very least to myself. Usually however I don’t get to do it. Enjoy the holidays coming up, keep it simple. I usually get caught up in the frenzy of the season and make myself crazy in the process. This year, so much of the last few months has been hectic and crazy and complicated — that I cherish the idea of keeping the holidays simple and enjoying them. It’s usually no joke that I’m sick for Christmas, I usually have a horrible cold or at the very least an annoying one. This is directly and most likely related to the schedule of insanity that precedes the day. I am hoping that by avoiding the insanity, I will also avoid the repercussions of it in the form of some type of illness which makes me miserable but still required to perform all of my wife, mother, daughter, hostess Christmas responsibilities.

As for gifts, it’s very simple. The boys aren’t asking for much or hardly anything, so less stress on what to get them for Christmas. If they don’t seem to want it, I don’t need to go crazy looking for it. Everyone is therefore happy. Me, especially.

I can therefore concentrate on doing some of the things that I would like to do, such as do more baking which also takes the stress off the cookie swaps I am attending (and looking forward to) later in the month and holiday entertaining. The more that I can do now, the less I will have to do later. I am not a good person when stressed, things do not go right. The bad energy extends from my brain through my arms and out my fingertips into whatever I am making/baking or doing. It never comes out well when I stress myself out.

I really want to decorate the house nicely. I want to get our tree up, I am anxious to see how it will look in its new location. I am happy to enjoy it for more than a few days before the holidays. I am really looking forward to this since with all the work we’ve been doing Halloween and Thanksgiving weren’t even decorating worthy holidays around here.

I am looking forward to spending time with family and friends. To enjoying the holiday, enjoying the peace afforded by this time of year and ….Mother Nature if you’re listening….some of the white stuff for atmosphere would just serve to bolster the holiday spirit.

This season I will strive to keep it simple, to enjoy it more and stress less…. and hopefully not be sick for Christmas.

As I type this my husband is enjoying a dinner meeting out somewhere in the lovely city of Minneapolis-St. Paul with his co-workers. Well, actually I have no idea if MSP is lovely or not, as I have never been there, but it sounds good. I have been charged with “keeping the home fires burning” quite literally in fact as you can see. Over the past few days it has become apparent, as it does every time he travels for anything more than a day or two, of exactly how much we rely on each other. While it may seem to my sometimes grumbling (under my breath, of course) self about how much I have to do, it becomes apparent how much more I have to do when Tom’s not around. For instance, tonight as I stood in the kitchen by the breakfast bar, staring at the unlit fishtank (guess who turns the light on and off) it occurred to me that (can you guess this one?) he is also the one that feeds the fish. Poor fish…no wonder they were scurrying around when I came near the tank….thinking “could it be that she is finally going to feed us?” Sorry fish, I forgot that I’m the one in charge. Should my husband be reading this (which I know he is) rest assured that the fish are all okay. So are the chickens and the goats and the human kids…they’re all fine. I didn’t kill anyone.

My point is that I have a great deal of respect for single parents, those single by choice or by fate. It takes a lot to run a house and raise kids, be they young or older. In fact, I think younger is actually a little better since when they’re down, they’re down and they don’t talk back….much. I also have a great deal of love for my husband, we do make a great team and I appreciate that each and every time he is traveling.


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