Musing on food and cooking ...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Damn Dog Tagged Us

So, Logan over at Boxer Rebllion put the tag on us to play along with this meme. We must reveal seven untruths about ourselves. So here goes...

Pele says:

1. I am not the most gorgeous, softest cat in the universe.
2. Squirrels respect my authority.
3. I never, ever knock things off the dresser when I want attention in the middle of the night.
4. I feel perfectly calm and at ease when human feeder #1 is in the shower.
5. I never cry when human feeder #1 goes to work as I am perfectly self-sufficient.
6. It is certainly some other evil cat who digs in the potted plants.
7. I am never frightened when the alarm clock goes off in the morning.

Leo says:
1. I am totally smart.
2. I mean it, way smart.
3. I don't like beer!
4. I enjoy the great outdoors, especially in winter time!
5. Someday, I will be able to go through the magical barrier and destroy that squirrel that taunts me.
6. I have fantastic depth perception.
7. Have I mentioned that I am very smart?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Obesity is Not a Moral Issue

I've been promising for weeks now to post video of a speech I gave at my college's academic festival this fall. I was part of a panel on "women in the academy," and my talk focused on a study that came out this summer showing that obese girls were least likely to pursue higher education. Unfortunately, the video has never made it to me, and I think it likely it has gone into the ether, and so I will post the text of my speech:

In summer of 2007, Robert Crosnoe, a Sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin released a study that found that among all groups, obese girls were least likely to attend college. Using data collected on nearly 11,000 adolescents by the ongoing National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which started in 1994, Crosnoe showed that obese girls were 50% less likely to go to college than non-obese girls. Moreover, he found that self-rejection, self-hatred, in obese girls was 63% higher than for non-obese girls. He theorizes that girls are internalizing negative social feedback, which can often lead to low self-esteem, alcohol and drug use, failure in school, truancy, and suicidal ideation.

My reaction to the study was a “No! Really!? Fat girls don’t go to college!?!?! Fat girls hate themselves!?!?!?!” As blogger Kate Harding said in a post on Shakesville not long after the report on the study, “I'm sure that shocks exactly no one who's ever been a fat adolescent girl… after surviving the snakepit of high school, not many adolescent fat girls are bursting with faith in their abilities and worth as human beings. And that's without getting into the practical reasons not to go: that those who don't commute will be forced to live closely -- possibly in the same room -- with fat-hating strangers instead of their families; that dining halls involve the opportunity for all sorts of strangers to observe your eating habits; that too many colleges have molded chair/desk combos that fat people can't fit into comfortably or at all; that too many professors, being part of this culture, will assume that fat students are stupid and lazy.”

As an adolescent fat girl who is now an obese woman, it has certainly never been a secret to me that the obese, and especially obese girls and women, face extreme levels of stigmatization in a wide variety of situations. In recent years, obese individuals have been blamed for just about every societal problem one can think of – from the high cost of insurance to the high cost of gas. A September 20, 2007, CBS News report even blamed obese Americans for the growing divorce rate in America, stating, “…as the American waistline continues to expand, the length of the American marriage is shrinking.”

Obese individuals begin facing stigmatization at a very early age. A study conducted 40 years ago and recently replicated found that children reacted more positively to peers who had severe facial disfigurements or were missing a hand than they did to obese peers. In recent years, researchers have reported that obese individuals face as much if not more social stigma than drug addicts and criminals.

The situation is no better in the academic world, where, at least, one might think that one’s body would have no bearing on the strength or weakness of one’s intellect. This, unfortunately, is not the case. According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in conjunction with the Obesity Action Coalition, “obese children are less likely to be accepted to college, despite equivalent application rates and academic achievement.” Research has also shown that obese students are viewed by their peers as self-indulgent and lazy. They are often excluded from social activities. Educators are shown to view obese students as untidy, more emotional, and less likely to have what it takes to succeed academically.

Stigmatization continues into the working world. No matter the level of their qualifications, obese job applicants are usually rated as having poor self-discipline and less ambition and productivity. They have a higher likelihood of being relegated to low-paying, low-status jobs that require no face-to-face contact. If they are lucky enough to be hired, they are less likely to be promoted in general and are rarely promoted to high-level positions. Obese women earn, on average, 12% less than their similarly qualified but non-obese peers. 17% of obese people have reported being fired or pressured to resign because of their weight (Rothblum, 1990). In 1999, Mark Roehling of Western Michigan University, while being interviewed about a study he conducted about obese workers, said, “One manager said to me, ‘There’s one kind of person I’d never hire – a fat girl.’”

If my reaction to the 2007 study by Crosnoe was essentially “no duh,” I was equally unsurprised at other individual’s reaction to the study. There was a smattering of genuine concern, a call to examine what high schools and colleges can do, as a matter of policy, to help obese girls not only attend college but be successful. Don Beauregard, co-chair of the National High School Association, said in Time Online, “…that part of the problem can be solved with greater awareness by administration and faculty about how obesity can affect high school kids’ emotional and academic lives, and with a willingness to work some of that understanding into the curriculum.” A majority of what I saw, however, were the stereotypical reactions of individuals coming from a society that often sends the message that obesity is a moral failure on the part of the obese person rather than a complex problem that has biological, environmental and behavioral components.

Some examples are in order. The Chronicle of Higher Education website, which had a small blurb about the study, also allows subscribers to provide commentary. “Bill,” a rather vocal commentator on the story, wrote, “A recent news item predicted that 75% of the population will be overweight by 2015, 41% will be obese. That comes from shoving food down your piehole.” A similar reaction happened on Rudd Sound Bites at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. At 7:58 pm on August 8, 2007, an individual identifying himself as David Specter commented on the study, “That sounds like a good reason to lose weight. Maybe parents should talk about this with their girls. ‘Shelly, honey, do you want to go to college and have a good future? Well, then, stop eating so much and exercise!” No one responded, but David couldn’t contain his moral outrage. At 8:03 pm, he commented again, “If you’re suffering emotionally due to weight bias, there’s a simple solution. Lose weight! For God’s sake, do you think parents say to their kids, ‘Don’t listen to those nasties who make fun of dirty people. You can be as dirty as you want, because you’re special?’ When society comes down on people it’s often for a damn good reason. Being overweight is unhealthy, unattractive, and immoral. If a person doesn’t take care of himself, how can he care for anything else?”

And it’s not just men who seem to have this reaction to obesity. Lauren Pearce, one of the “Cute College Girls” at commented to an interviewer that her greatest fears are losing a loved one and getting fat. The interviewer then says, “What about losing a loved one to obesity, that’s scary,” to which Lauren replies, “Yeah, but no one in my family is obese, thank goodness.” The interviewer goes on: “I don’t get obesity. I think if I were getting really fat there would definitely be a point where I stopped eating.” Lauren again: “Yeah, I don’t understand it either, but I guess it’s lie [sic] any addition [sic]. But I would get off my ass and eat some fruit before I weighed 200 lbs.” I have a feeling that Ms. Pearce is probably one the 83% of college girls who reported in a 2006 study that they were restricting food intake in some fashion to lose weight, regardless of their current body weight.

Over and over again, the comments turn back to the obese individual, to the failure of the obese individual to police his or her eating, his or her unwillingness to take responsibility for him or herself, and, often, his or her stupidity. As Roehling said, “There is a deep, basic-level reaction to fat people, a belief that they could control being fat if they wished, but are too lazy to do anything about it.” In other words, there is a belief that the obese are inherently self-destructive, that their predicament is of their own creation, and that therefore society owes them neither compassion nor the opportunity to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, this reaction to the obese never translates into benign disinterest; rather, it translates into outright cruelty, teasing, put downs about everything from looks to intelligence, “dog fights,” calls for fashion designers to stop making nice clothing for the obese because, after all, if a fat person can wear something other than a mu-mu, it only enables them to remain obese.

As an adolescent fat girl who is now an obese woman, I realize that I am one of the lucky few who have managed to turn my adolescent self-hatred around, through time and hard work and sheer cussedness. And yet, I have faced my own more-than-fair share of stigmatization over the years – from my peers, in school, and in the workplace. It has been a terrible struggle for me to overcome external and internal prejudices; indeed, I struggle with these prejudices every single day. And if I had several “no duh” moments reading Crosnoe’s study, I also faced several all-too-familiar moments of great weariness and sadness when I realized there’s been so little progress in treating adolescent fat girls as worthwhile human beings during the 20 years it has been since I was an adolescent fat girl myself.

There may be, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. A study being released in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a history of being teased about being overweight was one of the strongest predictors of extreme dieting and later obesity among girls. When that teasing happened within the family, girls were at even greater risk for later obesity. The study’s lead author, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, said, “We have seen over the years that it does not work to make people feel worse about their bodies. The data are striking — talking about weight, worrying too much about diet, focusing on it increases risk not only of eating disorders, but also of being overweight.” What should people do instead of teasing and taunting the overweight? Eat healthy yourself, exercise, be a positive role model, understand that the obese have just as much to contribute to our society as anyone else, and, above all, be kind and compassionate of the people around you, no matter their size. I, for one, will whole-heartedly welcome the day when those behaviors are the rule rather than the exception.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Shopping Is Pissing Me Off This Year

For Christmas this year, my family decided (why, I don't know) that the women were going to buy a generic women's gift (as if there is such a thing) and the men would buy generic men's gifts, upper price limit of $15, and then everyone would just draw numbers and pick a gift from the pile.

I hate this.

First, it is harder than hell to find a gift - a decent gift - for $15. Even if I bump it to $25, it is still rough.

Second, it goes against my nature. It has been heretofore the family tradition that we draw names and then find a suitable present for the name we draw. I rather enjoy this. I spend a lot of time thinking about the person and finding a gift unique for them. This buy a generic present thing is annoying. Hell, I don't even know what a generic gift for a woman might be! You can't buy clothes, as you will get the wrong size. You can't buy scent. You can't buy a spa day for $15 and under. Ideas, anyone? What is a secular humanist with neopagan tendecies supposed to do?!?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I am tagged, again...

Damn you, Sir Robin! I am not so interesting that I have 16 things no one knows about me.... But I am not tagging.

First, I must post the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged and that they should read your blog.

5. Thou must post eight. Eight shall be the number of the posting and the number of the posting shall be eight. Nine shalt thou not post, neither shalt thou post seven, excepting that thou then proceedeth to eight. Five is right out. Once the number eight, being the number of the posting, be reached, then lobbest thou the Tag in the direction of thine fellow bloggers.

1. I don't eat a lot of red meat (not counting venison) but what I do like to eat, I like very rare.

2. I collect rocks. My friends actually bring me rocks from foreign countries for my collection.

3. I once fell in a hole on John Hughes' lawn (the film director) while walking to the beach at 2 am.

4. I like a little bit of coffee with my cream and sweetener. When I discovered that coffee milk was the state drink of Rhode Island, I was in heaven!

5. I adore mushrooms and plan to establish a mushroom farm in my basement.

6. My greatest fear is that I am a failure. I never said it was a reasonable fear.

7. I once gave my favorite stuffed animal from when I was a little girl to my first love. He was kind enough to return it when we broke up.

8. I once woke up and found a feather attached to my arm. I suddenly thought I was evolving wings, when all that really had happened was a feather from my pillow got poked into my skin.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


You know, for someone who doesn't drink, I sure know a lot about alcohol...

Many Updates

So, the last few days have been very momentous. First an ice storm and today and snow storm - 6 inches they say and then bitter cold for a few days. Well, winter is here. It's only a matter of shoveling before bed or in the morning.
My mom had surgery yesterday. Total knee replacement. I talked with her this morning and she sounded groggy but mostly upbeat. Go morphine derivatives!
Leo is having a bad time. He has stopped tolerating the salmon food. I am now trying a turkey only, to see if he does ok on that. I know he likes turkey at Thanksgiving and it seems to work ok for him. Cost for this food - $40/month. If this doesn't work, we are on to the only non-prescription venison food out there - at $50/month. If that doesn't work, it may be the beginning of a slow decline for him, about which my heart is breaking.
Leokins is definitely my fur-child in ways that Pele is not. If things start going very badly for him, and he is in constant pain, I will have to make some very hard decisions. I hope we can stave it off for a while longer...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Musical Meme - Young Americans by David Bowie

I got tagged! Damn you, Boxer! :P On the other hand, it is good to know you want to be hungry like a wolf when you grow up!

This are some funny results in here. Some songs that almost never come up on shuffle did. Som work. Others not so much... Hmm, who can I tag - Jenn, RedKemp, Sir Robin, Balancing Boyfriends...

The rules:
1. Put your music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT(this is in capital letters, so it is very serious.

1. IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY? Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2 (so, I agree because we can be as one)
2. WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY? O Death - Ralph Stanley (I am so not this depressive!)
3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? Jump in the Line - Da Vinci's Notebook (spicy!)
4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? Break on Through - The Doors (well, I am doped out on turkey)
5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? She Bob - Cindy Lauper (my life's purpose is to masterbate. Um, ok)
6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? Waist Deep in the Big Muddy - Richard Shindell (Let the forces of nature destroy the arrogant bastards!)
7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? Moon Over Bourban Street - Sting (my friends think I am a bloodsucker?)
8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS? Take It Easy on Me - Little River Band (self-explanatory?)
9. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN? Paperback Writer - The Beatles (Aye, I do read a lot)
10. WHAT IS 2+2? Sweet Home Alabama - Lynard Skynard (wev)
11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND? Ramble On - Led Zeppelin (the girl of all my dreams, hmm?)
12. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE? Moondance - Van Morrison (a good romance song!)
13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? Dedicated to the One I Love - The Mamas and the Papas (This makes sense in a weird sort of way)
14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? Bookends - Simon and Garfunkel (I want to get old and sit on a park bench - ok)
15. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE? Stewball - Peter, Paul and Mary (I think about losing at the racetrack?)
16. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? Straight Song - Verdell Primeaux and Johnny Mike (This one is in Lakota, I think - I have no idea what it is saying)
17. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING? Your Woman - White Town (hahahahahahahahahahahahaha - You know I saw my best friend yesterday. She said she never liked you from the start....)
18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) - Journey (OH MY GOD!)
19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? Bad Company - Bad Company (*laughs* - well, I guess there aren't too many songs about cooking and food)
20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? Prologue - Loreena McKennitt (hmmm - it is from an album called Book of Secrets)
21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? Ventura Highway - America (laid back, sunny, California types?)
22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS? Young Americans - David Bowie

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Lawn Mowing Bandit?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that someone had mowed the public grassy area in front of my house - you know, that little strip that runs between the sidewalk and the road. Coolness. I usually mow it, even though it belongs to the city. I figured maybe the city had done it while collecting yard waste from the fall. I thought nothing of it, and I ceratinly didn't mow the lawn in my front yard.

See, I like to keep my yard at about 3 inches, especially in the fall before winter hits, because I think the longer grass will surive winter better. I also don't use any chemicals, and I have some weird strain of grass that looks a bit scraggly at 2 inches beacuse it spreads out horizontally, not vertically, like most grass does. Unfortunately, most of the folks in my neighborhood like to keep their lawns at about half an inch, using tons of chemicals. Heck, some of my neighbors are out there working on their lawns every other day.

Now that it is practically December, I leave in the almost-dark and come home in the dark. But I noticed this morning that someone had actually come behind my fence and mowed my front yard. Down to half an inch. Yesterday. When it barely cracked freezing. So I am slightly annoyed that the lawn mowing bandit has mowed my personal property, against my wishes and feelings about organic lawns and preparing for winter. On the other hand, they did do a nice job of dealing with the evil grass that touches the evil fence.

I just hope that my grass doesn't completely die because of this late mowing. I guess I won't know until spring hits. Not that it really matters all that much as I am removing a lot of the grass in the front and putting in flower and herb beds. Frankly, the less lawn the better...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Days of Turkey Destruction

Well, miracle of miracles, I actually did get to travel home for Thanksgiving. The DOE only mildly messed with my travel plans, and I ended up only having to work for part of a day on Saturday. A big thanks goes out to my friend Donna, who let me borrow her employer's Internet connection so I could download all of my needed files.

I actually began my holiday on Wednesday, driving through the pouring rain to Bakers Square, where I collected the holiday pies. I then had to stop and get new wiper blades, as mine were, well, dead, and I needed to be able to see to drive north. I managed to leave Gurnee at 10 am, and made it to the family homestead about 4ish. There was little traffic, the weather cleared, and there were few cops on the roads. Bliss!

Thursday was a pretty restful day, actually, involving some food prep, but mostly the playing of cards and the looking at of dead deer. Yes, I was the happy recipient of a small milk-fed venison, courtesy of the mighty family hunters. A picture will be forthcoming of the poor little bambi without his winter coat. Dinner was terribly traditional, although I did spice things up by adding some Middle Eastern spices to our roasted root veggies. Mwahahahahahahahaha! We finished the evening with more card playing, and I won a whole sixty cents playing poker.

Friday was spent processing the bambi, which is no fun in near zero weather. It may be easier to make carpaccio when the meat is semi-frozen but it is definitely harder to butcher a body when it is semi-frozen. Still, working together we got it done and I went to my friend Donna's house to cook her family dinner and use her Intertubes.

The evening ended sadly, however, as a family friend had too much to drink and got a little out of line and was physically escorted to the door and ejected. I may be an ardent feminist, but after that little incident, I can certainly say that there are times when a display of brute male force is not only appreciated but needed. What could have been a major incident was dealt with posthaste, leading to only a bit of discomfort and the understanding that an intervention is needed.

Saturday, I worked in the morning, and the afternoon was spent handing out (tm), eating leftovers, etc etc. And I headed home early Sunday morning. Again, little traffic, good weather, and only a handful of cops. Bliss! The only things distressing about the drive at all were the leaking of a quart of milk in my back seat which I didn't discover until I got back home (yuck) and the excessive number of signs supporting Ron Paul.

Going home for me is always a bit of bitter sweet. I often feel like some sort of weird alien. There are several things that really strike me when I travel north. The first is the incredible poverty of the area. And it appears to be getting worse - that or I really am a pretenious middle class bitch, what with my radical independence, my education and my owning a house and my lack of a male partner, etc.

I am also struck by the incredible racism of the area. The anti-Latino sentiment is glaring, and, frankly, if I hear one more of my friends or relatives tell me the difference between "blacks" and "niggers," at least as it was explained to them by our white relatives from Alabama who I am certain are not considering historical context of the terms, I am going to puke. So much of the racism is rooted in ignorance and poverty. Unfortunately, trying to educate most folks in that area doesn't seem to work well. They are very proud of their ignorance; for many, it seems to be a mark of high character (and yes I know not everyone is that way, but there certainly are a lot of folks I interact with up there that are that way).

The rest of the racism is rooted in poverty. See, there is this feeling that poor whites in that area are losing everything to interlopers, who - of course - are non-white. I had a friend tell me her son would never be able to go to college because he was a white man and everything was stacked against him and all the scholarship money goes to "those Mexicans." What they don't realize is that, for centuries, they - the white lower class - were completely disempowered by the white patriarchal system. They were powerless. They had a lack of resources. And the only folks worse off than they were were minorities. Well, now that many minorities are working toward moving out of that lower class, the white lower class is feeling threatened, feeling like they are going to loose what little power and resources the white upper class allowed them to have. What I wish for is if they could get over this and realize that if everyone in the lower classes banded together (no matter the color of their skin) and worked to take power and resources away from the white upper class, they would be better off. As long as the white upper class can keep the white lower class and the minority class battling each other, they can keep getting richer, while everyone else gets poorer.

You know what?

Viva la revolucion!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Curried Wheat Berry Salad

My cousin living in New York has requested the recipe for this favorite cold salad. It's a very free form recipe as I have never actually measured anything, but it will get her close.

16 oz wheat berries
1 small package slivered almonds
1 package of golden raisins
1 bunch scallions
equal parts olive oil and lemon juice
1 T honey
1 T sweet curry powder
salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with water. Bring to a boil and salt the water, then add the wheat berries. Cook them until they are tender and then drain. Put in a large mixing bowl. Add in the almonds and golden raisins. Chop the scallions fine and add to bowl. In a smaller lidded container, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and curry powder. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Pour dressing over the wheat berry mixture and then stir well. The salad is best if it is let to sit a bit, letting the flavors get all happy with each other. Since wheat berries can be hard to find, this is also a good recipe for things like barley or brown rice.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Deer?

So as many dear readers know, I was supposed to start my vacation on Saturday, but due to the machinations of the US DOE, I am required to stay here until at least Tuesday. I truly hope to be able to head home on Wednesday morning, so that I can earn my deer.

See, I had made arrangements to be camp cook for deer hunting season this year, hoping to earn money and/or deer to help with the horrible debt I now owe as a result of replacing my 80+ year old roof. Needless to say, I will not be getting credit for the whole week of deer camp, but it looks like I will at least get something.

I had a message on my phone last night from mia madre - crackle crackle, static crackle "got" crackle "heart" crackle static "bring knives." And then dead air. See, they don't get good reception up there due to the huge copper deposit on the homestead, but guessing from the few words I could make out, I either have a deer to butcher when I get up there or my family has decided to become some sort of strange Aztec religionists and are planning a sacrifice in honor of the Thanksgiving Holiday.

So, yeehaw, I will at least have free protein for half the upcoming year! It's something anyway, although donations towards the new roof are gladly accepted.

Friday, November 16, 2007

When is a Lobster not a Lobster?

My super-local supermarket had an advertisement this week for live lobsters 5-7, at $2.99 each. Small lobsters at $2.99 are not far-fetched for someone who lived on the East Coast for a while. It would normally be $2.99 a pound, but a small lobsters is not much over a pound. Plus, if I went to the local Italian fishmonger, I could flirt with the boys, and they would often knock extra off for me.

So I was terribly excited about the $2.99 live lobster sale. i adore lobster. I miss it terribly. The first time I looked at lobster here in Illinois and saw two tails for almost $70, I just about died.

I went to the store and was at the fish counter, looking for the lobster tank. I saw the sign announcing the sale, but no tank. So I looked closer. And it turns out they definitely weren't live. They were on ice in the fish counter. And they definitely weren't lobsters. They were essentially large langoustines. Which are only lobsters by the greatest stretch of the imagination.

So I went away denied and unfullfilled. I simple must get back to Maine next summer, hopefully for Lobster Fest.....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cultural Mismatches

I play this game quite a lot - Jewel Quest. It's just a cheapo puzzle game you pay $5 bucks for over the Internet. It has some cool graphics and a fun path of increasing difficulty. It uses symbols from the Aztecs, and the basic backstory is that you are an archaeologists uncovering great riches in the jungles of Central America. To such effect, the game has a soudtrack that includes some generic jungle noises in the background.

The kicker, though?

When you actually win a level, you are rewarded with the greatest jungle noise of all - the giant, triumphant blast of a bull elephant.

Yeah, I didn't know that elephants were a Central American jungle thing. Amazing! *rolls eyes*

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cutest Thing Ever

I was heading off to work this morning. I always head off south down my street. it isn't a main street, but there is generally less traffic than there is on the other main road south. Anyway, all the little kids stand at the end of the block in order to wait for the bus.

This morning, I got to the intersection just as the bus arrived frm the East. It stopped and put out its stop sign arm, so I waited patiently as the little kiddies boarded the bus. The last to get on the bus was a little Latino girl, maybe 6 or 7, cute little round face with major pigtails. Her mom has been waiting with her at the stop.

And so was her kitten.

As soon as the little girl got to the second step, her little kitten made a mad dash for the bus and tried to hop on.

Yes, the little girl's kitten loved her so much, it wanted to go to school with her.

It was adorable. It got to the first step and the little girl must have seen it, cause she yelled, "No no gato!" And the little kitten turned and ran back to sit at the mom's feet, looking entirely anxious and sad.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ten Random Things

I was sorta but not really tagged for this meme, so here it goes! Ten random things about me that nobody knows anything about:

1. I am actually quite scared of basements. I have no idea why and some basements creep me out more than others.
2. When I was a little girl, I was quite convinced that I was actually an alien and that eventually my real alien parents would come and take me back home.
3. I often have dreams about houses and factories I have never seen. When I wake up, I can describe exactely how they are laid out. What's even creepier is that I often run across these buildings in my travels and they are, indeed, just like I dreamed them.
4. I won a Presidential Physical Fittness Award in fifth grade.
5. My first real job was as a janitor at Colfax High School during the summer. I have not chewed gum since.
6. There was a time after high school when I really wanted to live as a hermit in the forest.
7. Despite loving my cats, I get awfully tired of the fur all over the place.
8. I was a music geek in high school. I went to state three times for vocal performance and was on the all conference choir my last year of school. I don't sing at all anymore.
9. In junior high and early high school, I had a shaved head and wore combat pants to school.
10. I am actually quite lazy, or at least I feel that I am quite lazy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

May your day be filled with many hugs!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Weirdest Dream Ever

I realize that I have been under the influence of cold medication lately, but last night I had the weirdest dream ever.

I had a dream that I was a me-sized package of virgin stew meat (with a human head) and was in the process of being sacrificed on the altar to some blood-thirty god or another. All my meat was packaged tight into this tight plastic wrapper and when the priest 'sacrificed" me, he split the plastic with a knife and all my little stew meat pieces gushed onto the floor. Blood every where! And underneath all the little bloody pieces, there I was, looking like a regular human. Afterwards, in the dream, I felt much better about things but I had an incredible longing for shallots and rosemary.

One would think I have been watching Clive Barker movies or some such, even though I haven't.

Monday, November 05, 2007

No posts for a while. Yours truly has been sick and is still not feeling great. bad headache. sore throat. cough. Nose drips.

Have been treating said general yucks with Magic Chicken Soup of Get Wellness (recipe posted at an earlier date) but gussied up with ginger and sirachi and sooper spicy chili - neither of which seems to be working, dammit. About to break out the honey loquat. Yeah, Chinese herbal medicine that doesn't involve body parts from endangered species!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Harvest Fete Follow-Up

My harvest fete was on Saturday and what an interesting Saturday it was! It actually started on Friday, when the plumber came to see why my tub was draining slowly. He water rammed to no avail, and then had to take pipes apart and auger. But eventually he managed to get the problem solved. While he was heading out the door, I noticed my kitchen had started to drain slowly and asked him if that could have been caused by the work on the bathroom, and he said there was no possible way it could be. So, I ran to the store and bought Draino and poured it down to no avail. Still, a slow drain is not a plugged drain and I had other things to worry about.

I woke up early Saturday morning as the dish guys were supposed to be there. I started doing some housework while waiting for them and noticed that my kitchen sink was not draining at all. In fact, it was backing up the most interesting sludge, a bit like the ooze one finds in the saltwater swamps of Maine. So, I actually took the pipes apart and used my baby auger to see if I could fix the problem myself (see, I watched the guy while he was working so I could do it myself in the future!). No beans. Still backed up. I called the plumber, and he happened to be nearby and ran over and had to auger the kitchen line. But, all my draining problems seem to be solved now, although I am $210 broker than I was on Friday.

Of course, while I was on the phone to the plumber, the dish guys showed up - an hour late but finally there and fixed my problem in five minutes, for which I paid them a disgusting amount of money. Bastards.

All in all, my fete went very fine. I had to do some last minute changes on the food, due to ingredient unavailability (what I thought was a venison roast in the freezer turned out to be a freezer burned hunk o salmon - gack!), but everything really came together in the end. About 15 or so folks came out and we all had a good time chatting and eating. We actually ran out of almost everything, which is great, as I don't have enough plastic containers to do leftovers anymore (GladWare, here I come). I did not get to mingle as much as I would have wanted to, as I was behind due to the plumbing disaster, and I can't figure out what happened to all the cds in my cd player and therefore, forgot about the music. My pumpkin turnovers did not work, and so the recipe here is what I would have done instead of what I did.

The food stars of the evening were the wild mushroom French onion dip (to quote one guest, "I can't stop eating this!"), the salad dressing, the potatoes, and what one person called the "vast crock of meat." The pilau was tasty good, and some folks like the turnovers and other folks did not. I stole my bread pudding recipe from the Mennonite cookbook, but forgot to add the sweetener. The texture was great, but my brain went, "Huh?" on the first taste. For the recipe listed here, I actually put in the sweetness I left out. I also made whipped cream from scratch for the first time, adding vanilla and cinnamon to the heavy cream and using my in-kitchen outboard motor to whizbang it all together.

Pele and Leo were incredibly well-behaved, much to my shock and outrage. Leo didn't try to crawl into anyone's plate, which is quite likely a miracle. And Pele had to sit on everyone's lap to be patted and adored.

Anyway, on to recipes!

Herbed Honey

Take 1/2 cup honey and a large handful of fresh herbs of your choice. I used golden sage, thyme, and one spring of rosemary. Wash and then dry herbs. Add herbs and honey to a small pot. Add 1 t lemon juice. Put the heat to the lowest possible flame and let the honey get bubbly good. Turn off heat and let herbs step for at least 1 hour. Heat the honey again to make for easier removal of the herbs. If you are worried about herb flecks in your honey, strain through a fine mesh sieve. Drizzle over brie or other pungent cheese.

Wild Mushroom French Onion Dip

3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4.5 ounces dried mushrooms
2 T red wine
2 T olive oil
1 package of low-fat cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Rehydrate the mushrooms according to the package directions. Once pliable, chop the mushrooms into small pieces. Reserve the soaking liquid for later use.

Put the olive oil in a pan and add shallots and onions. Cook until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and the wine as well as about half of the reserved soaking liquid. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add in the cream cheese and stir. The mixture should be thin enough to dip a chip or cracker into it but not so thin that is runs off the spoon. If it is too thick, add in a bit more of the reserved liquid. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill overnight.

Braised Fall Flavors Venison

4 pounds venison stew meat (or use beef or lamb, if venison is not available)

Marinade/Braising Liquid:

1 bottle maple syrup and fig dressing
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider
1 cup pomegranate juice
¼ cup maple syrup
3 T each of dried minced garlic and dried minced onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and set aside. Place meat in roasting pan and then pour marinade over it, just until the meat is barely covered. Let marinade for at least 2 hours. Place the roasting pan with the meat and the marinade in a 350 degree oven and cook for approximately three hours.

Note: I got my maple syrup and fig dressing at Wal-Mart of all horrible places. You can substitute a good balsamic vinaigrette instead, just increase the amount of maple syrup to at least ½ cup. You could also make this a Moroccan style dish by adding cinnamon, cumin, and coriander to the marinade.

Wild Rice and Barley Pilau with Sweet Potatoes and Golden Raisins

8 ounces wild rice
8 ounces barley

Cook wild rice and barley according to the package directions. Set aside. This step can be done up to three days beforehand.

4 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
3 yellow onions, rough chopped
3 T smoked paprika
2 T ground cumin
3 T cinnamon
3 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash, peel, and chop sweet potato into bite sized pieces. Rough chop three yellow onions. Put the sweet potatoes and onions on a flat pan like a cookie sheet (use one with edges). Drizzle with olive oil. Mix the spices together and then sprinkle over the top of the onions and sweet potatoes. Mix with your hands until all pieces are evenly coated. Back in a 350 degree oven for about one hour, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and starting to caramelize.

1 cup golden raisins
2 T olive oil
3 T Balti seasoning (from Penzey’s)

Add the wild rice and barley into a large sauce pan and start to heat the mixture, stirring often to prevent sticking. When the mixture gets close to being hot enough to eat, fold in sweet potato/onion mixture and add in about 1 cup of golden raisins. Stir in olive oil and then add Balti seasoning, making sure to mix thoroughly.

Maple Syrup-Pecan Mustard Vinaigrette

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup olive oil
3 T Terrapin Ridge maple syrup-pecan mustard
1 T maple syrup

Put all ingredients in a container with a tight fighting lid. Mix until emulsified. Serve with a sweet lettuce mix.

Rosemary Roasted Yellow Potatoes

3 pounds baby yellow potatoes
3 T olive oil
3 T dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash potatoes and cut into quarters or halves, depending on size. Place in a roasting pan. Mix with olive oil and rosemary. Put into a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Note: You could also roast these at 400 degrees, which will reduce cooking time and lead to crispy edges.

Curried Pumpkin Dumplings

3 cans solid pack pumpkin
2 large shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. ground coriander
3 T sweet curry mix
3 t of ground chipotle powder

1 package egg roll wrappers

Put pumpkin into a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. If you don’t like spicy food, leave out the chipotle or add it a bit at a time, tasting after each addition, until it achieves the heat level you desire.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Take an egg roll wrapper and add about 2 T of the pumpkin mixture in the center. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with water and then pinch the sides together to make a triangular shaped packet. Drop the triangular dumplings into the boiling water. Once the dumpling starts to set up, remove from water. Then coat a large fry pan with oil and pan fry the dumpling. Dumplings are done when they are golden brown and delicious. Makes about 30 dumplings.

Autumn Fruits Bread Pudding

6 large eggs
6 cups 1% milk
4-6 cups French bread, at least day old, in 1” square chunks
2 apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
2 T vanilla
3 T grated ginger
¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a 9x13 cake pan with non-stick spray or butter. Put bread in the bottom of the cake pan. Use less bread if you want a very moist bread pudding; use more bread if you like a drier pudding.

Core and dice apples and pears. Put pieces in with the bread pieces, making certain to distribute evenly.

Mix eggs, milk, vanilla, ginger, and honey in a bowl. Pour mixture over the bread and fruit pieces. If any bread pieces are above the liquid, press down to make certain that each piece is covered. Put in the oven and bake for about one and a half hours, or until a knife pushed into the center of the pudding comes out clean. Serve hot or cold.

Note: Using a higher fat content milk will increase the creaminess and richness of the dish.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cats and TV

Since my dish did not get fixed again this weekend, I read a lot and also watched the movies Netflix sent me. I have had some recent good luck in regards to my Netflix movie - Last King of Scotland and Year of the Dog are two recent notable watches. I was somewhat nervous about this week, as they sent me 28 Weeks Later and The Number 23. 28 Weeks Later definitely wasn't as good as 28 Days Later and I certainly didn't think the political allusions were as great as the critics kept making them out to be, which is sad because zombie movies should always be either political or pure camp. And The Number 23 was just, well, bad. Not even a good plot twist. Still, good time wasters.

Netflix also sent me Apocalypto. Yes, they sent me a Mel Gibson movie. Yes, I watched it. It wasn't as bad as I had feared it would be. It is really a very basic action drama plot. There were certainly some moments of excessive and uneeded violence. I found the insinuation that the Mayans and Aztecs set themselves up to be destroyed by Europeans to be offensive and inaccurate. I actually liked the way he had the entire viewpoint be from the main character's point of view - when he was confused, you were confused; there were no attempts to explain points of view outside the main character's; you felt like a prisoner in an alien world.

The film also highlighted the worst animitronic animals in the history of film as well as the best use of a bee hive as a weapon against one's enemies ever.

What was most interesting, however, is that Pele sat and watched the whole thing.

Now my cats don't often watch tv. They might doze while I am watching tv, but they don't tend to actually look at the screen. They are not even terribly interested by birds on tv. They do enjoy watching elephants on tv for some reason. When the elephants come on, they usually perk right up and pay close attention. Maybe they speak Elephantine or some such.

But for Apocalypto, Pele nestled herself down on the cushion and watched. She was even tracking action and everything. She behaved for a whole two hours. It was a miracle.

On the other hand, Pele is an cat of truly bad taste. Her preference in music runs to Depeche Mode and Conway Twitty. Go figure.....

Monday, October 22, 2007

No Show

So the Directv tech didn't show on Saturday. Customer service won't do anything but reschedule and apologize. I am pissed. I really think they don't want me as a customer....

Friday, October 19, 2007

When I was a youngster ....

I have been bitching a lot this last week. But, really, people are just pissing me off! That or I am just on a short fuse lately.

What am I bitching about? Well, I have having lots of problems with customer service folks being mostly unhelpful and, at worst, aggressively rude.

See, I have seven years experience in customer service. I put myself through college doing service work and, after I left school, I worked in sales for several years before I moved into a writing career track. When I was a service rep, I always felt that it was my job to, you know, provide service and be helpful and solve problems and help customers so that they would continue to do business with my employer. This didn't mean the customer was always right and it didn't mean you had to let them treat you like a slave. I did well. I always felt empowered to do the right thing. I never had to run to my manager to solve problems or get permission for anything. As a result, I actually won several awards and had a $10+ rate of pay, which was incredibly high for the field and the location where I was working, especially considering the fact that this was over ten years ago.

But nowadays, all the reps seem to give you are insincere apologies and red tape. For example, my dish has been off my roof for over three weeks now. One week was for the roof. And the roofer was supposed to come and realign the dish and never did. So I called my provider and scheduled an appointment for last Thursday.

They never showed. I called and bitched. They had it scheduled for the wrong date. So I rescheduled for today. I get a call last night saying that the appointment is for Saturday. Um, what? So I explained to her that it was supposed to be Friday and I had already requested vacation time and I basically got the "so sorry. We will be there Saturday." I asked for a refund for the amount of time I have been without service. Refused. I asked her to give me one reason I shouldn't rip the dish off my house and go with cable. No reply. The rep did not one thing to keep me as a customer. I was highly unimpressed.

Of course, I am not likely to go with cable, considering how bad Comcast screwed me over when I moved from MA (so bad I engaged the consumer advocate at the Chicago Tribune and got my problem into the press).

Dammitt! When I am dictator, things will be different!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Mow or Else" Violation

I came home from work on Tuesday night and have a bright green sticker slapped on my door - the dreaded "mow or else" violation from the city of Waukegan. Because, apparently, Waukegan pays several individuals rather high salaries to drive around town and slap noxious weed violations on people's houses. I guess that is where my incredibly high property taxes go (and yes, they are high. My taxes in MA on a house worth twice as much as my current house were actually half of what my taxes are here.)

Anyway, I called the officer up and said, "Dude. What's the deal?" I have no noxious weeds on my property, and while I will certainly admit that my lawn does need to be mowed, it certainly is not ten inches high. Maybe four, if that. He was all, "Well, your yard is usually so nice. I just thought it needed to be mowed."

Um, dude? Work has been crazy the past few weeks - at least 60 hours a week and sometimes more. In those few hours when I have been home before full dark, my lawn has actually been covered with debris from the roof exchange or it has been pouring rain - hence, no mowing!. And, um, since, I am NOT in violation of the noxious weed ordinance, what business do you have slapping that ugly green sticker on my house?

Fecking petty tyrants.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Pick N Save Has Closed

I needed to go shopping this weekend, as I had no milk, bread, or fruit and was too sick to try and make bread, even if I could go without milk or fruit for a while. So I decided to drop in at the nearest grocery store, which is the Pick N Save, located about three miles from my house on Belvidere, only to get there and discover it was shut down with a frightening sign in the window saying that the facility was permanent closed. Now I only go shopping every couple of weeks, so I was a little surprised by this happening, especially as the Pick N Save was always busy, partially because it was right on the local bus route, meaning that people without cars could actually get to the grocery store, rather than spending money at the local bodega, which is high priced and filled with pre-packaged food with nary a fruit nor veggie in sight.

The nearest grocery store to me now, at a 4-5 miles drive, is an Aldi's, which is a crap shoot at best and only takes cash. Just over the tollway from the Aldi's is a WalMart. The only other near options now, all at least five miles or more away, are the super-local super markets on Franklin Street., which are a hell of a lot better than the local bodega but are still dicey, depending on which one you go to and what day of the week it is.

On the one hand, I am lucky. I still have my car, which means I can choose to drive the ten miles to the Garden Fresh Market in Mundelein. I adore this grocery store and have since I moved here. But, still, it is a hike and I will need to rely on the local bodega for milk and whatnot or brave the rude socialites of Lake Forest to drop in at Don's Finest Foods. Still, the closing of the Pick N Save will be disasterous for that part of Waukegan. It is now officially a food desert.

A food desert is a term that is often applied to sections of the inner city that don't have access to anything but 7-11s or local bodegas. Food deserts are associated with high food costs, poor nutrition, high rates of obesity, and poverty. For this section of Waukegan to become a food desert is shocking, to say the least. Especially as the area is being revitalized - lots of new construction. Lots of new businesses. The only reason I can think of for the Pick N Save to have closed is that my neighborhood is more than 75% Latino and, perhaps, they are shopping at one of the super-local super markets, which are almost entirely Latino focused with a small smattering of Indian and Norte Americano thrown in.

Still, a revitalizing neighborhood will have difficulties sustaining that revitalization without easy access to some flagship supermarket. My hope is that someone will take over the space where the Pick N Save was and open a new store. Perhaps a Garden Fresh! Which would make me incredibly happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am having a nervous breakdown. There is too much to do in too little time. Say a little mantra for me: If Heather can just get through Monday, everything will be fine, everything will be fine.

In the meantime, in the words of the great robot philosopher Bender, everyone who isn't already on my help list can just bite my shiny metal ass.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sweet and Sour Ginger Chili Pickled Broccoli

I got two huge heads of Romanesco broccoli in my garden box (one in my box and one I took from the share box) and even though I adore cooked broccoli, I needed to do something with much of it as I certainly can't eat two heads by myself. So I chunked it up into rather large spears, blanched it, and then put it in a jar with some of my sweet chili ginger dipping sauce (from The Ginger People), some vinegar, and water, and stuck it in the frig to turn into refrigerator pickles. The brining ingredients are about 1/3 of the container you are using to pickle the broccoli of dipping sauce, 1/2 of the container of vinegar and fill the rest with water. Stir well to mix. I will let them stew in the frig for about three days but they already smell yummy good.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Keep up with new developments, people

A comment on another blog I read on a regular basis has driven me a just a little bit bonkers. People hear a theory at some point in their lives and it just won't let go of their grey matter. It may have been a really good theory when it was introduced, but as we learn more things - especially about prehistory, our understand of ourselves needs to change as well. Here goes:

Look at how we lived for 90% of our time on this planet. Males, in general, are physically stronger than women (We know testosterone increases muscle mass), and it was men who did most of the "hunting and warring." (If not all).Women did the "gathering," which is a more social behavior, and is not as competitive.In a hunting or war party, (Although I've never been in either) I imagine you don't speak as much, and it's very competitive. In a way, it makes sense because it balances us. Imagine if women were just as aggressive as men. We'd be in even more trouble than we are now. I'm not saying people "have" to be a certain way, but there's little doubt evolution has played a significant part in our "gender roles."

Um, the "man the hunter" theory has actually been pretty well debunked over time. Men, evidence is finding, were probably the primary hunters (or scavengers) of large game, usually in groups (which seems to me to be a pretty, ahem, social, cooperative activity as is going together as a war band to destroy your rivals). Women were the primary getters of food through gathering, fishing, as well as hunting small game and birds. And this idea that women are not as aggressive as men? Said commentor has obviously never been to an after-Thanksgiving sale at Target or the Filene's Basement bridal event.

And, I would argue that evolution has actually has very little to do with modern gender roles, except maybe behaviors related to child bearing, specifically as evolution totally discounts the impact class has on gendered behavior. Poor women have always had differently appropriate gender roles than middle class and upper class women. An example. In our society, there is the assumption that the traditionally appropriate gender role for women is to remain in the home as homemaker and child-rearer. However, this has only ever been a possibility for the middle and upper classes. Poor women have always had to leave the home to do work of some sort, whether that is farming or working as a store clerk. This leads to a particularly difficult conundrum for poor women - they find themselves demonized for having children and yet working and, should they receive some sort of state or federal assistance, they are demonized as lazy, no good, leeches on the system, living off the taxes of others. Yet, if they choose not to have children because they know they can't afford them, they are demonized as being unnatural women.

I guess the main problem I have with the comment is this idea that there must be balance. Dualism bothers me. Men = aggressive. Women = cooperative. Men = bad. Women = good. Men = strong. Women = weak. I've never found a dualism that was ever true. Human skills, behaviors and strengths fall along a huge spectrum, not a black and white filter.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dream Candy

So, last night, after I finally locked Pele out of the room because she was acting insane and driving me crazy, I had the most delicious dream in which I was married to Viggo Mortensen and we were living in a small shack somewhere on an Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. I was working as a short order cook and he was some sort of laborer.


1) It's been a while.
2) I need to change careers.
3) Sometmies a dream is nothing but candy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Today's Episode, In Which Heather Laughs in the Face of Cat-Ladydom

I learned yesterday that another one of my cousins is getting married. This led to a moment of some hilarity while I was talking with my mother on the phone. Another of my cousins, apprently, commented, "I suppose this means that just Heather and I are going to end up old maids."

Perhaps a bit of background is in order. I am the eldest of seven first cousins, all girls. A majority of us are what is often kindly called "big girls," as are most of the women in the distaff line of my family. Despite the fact that nearly all the women in my family have worked their entire lives in some fashion, most of the family is possessed of somewhat traditional, conservative ideals about gender roles. Every once in a while there is a little weird competitiveness between the women of my mother's generation and, currently, this is often played out among their children. So and so is smarter. So and so is prettier. So and so is, well, so much more whatever.

Now that the women of my generation are all adults, except for one who is a teenager, there is this undercurrent of competition about who is getting married, what quality are they marrying, etc etc ad naseum.

Anyway, I am the eldest, at the ripe spinster age of 33. I don't talk a lot about my personal life with my family. I learned not long ago that most of my family was quite convinced that I was a lesbian because I never talked about any of my college boyfriends or my sex life and I tended to bring my female friends home for visits. I've never really cared to disabuse them of their beliefs, because it doesn't really matter to me. I often do wish I were a lesbian, but I am sadly not. I didn't have what I considered to be a serious relationship until I was almost 30, only to find out 18 months into it that he was having serious relationships with several other women. And so that ended. I have dated sporadically here and there, but have come to the conclusion that I don't have the energy and patience to deal with a relationship right now. To be brutally honest, I don't honestly think I would be where I am today if I had been focused on finding a mate, getting married, and having babies. I am fully aware that many successful women have to forge a path for themselves that involves things other than traditional female pursuits. And so, right now, I have an intimiate relationship with Netflix and go out occassionally with two very handsome junior faculty men friends from the college. I am pretty at peace with my state of singledom, although there are things I do miss *ahem* But, I figure, if I find someone to share my life with, I find someone. If I don't, I am fully prepared to go it alone, with good friends and a chosen family and no more than two cats at any one time. Perhaps I will be like Gloria Steinem and not find anyone until I am in my 60s. Statistically, I have about a -125% chance of ever being married. I am too smart. I have an advanced degree. I am fat. I am radically independent. I earn more than many men. And I won't put up with any crap. And that is perfectly ok. I actually find it to be not such a bad thing. Because I am independent and able to take care of myself, I can be choosy about my partners. I don't have to let anyone into my life unless they bring something wonderful to it. I don't ever have to worry about "settling" just because I am a big girl.

I am not sure why my cousin made the comment about how she and I will end up being the only old maids in the family. I know why it is important to her. Real women, or so the messages she has received have taught her, are supposed to want to get married and have babies. It's terrible if you don't do that because there's something"wrong" with you and it is truly a crime against nature if you have no desire to do that. I think she assumes that she and I will both remain unmarried because we are fat. The remaining cousins are slim and delicate and pretty. I fear for her that she thinks this way as I fear it means that she will settle for someone who doesn't treat her as she deserves to be treated. And that would truly be a shame.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Today's Episode, In Which My Reality Is Wrenched Back Into Place

My Glamour magazine came in the mail last night. I am not sure why I get it, because it is truly a terrible thing for women's self-esteem, values, and goals, but I guess I find it to be a bit of distracting mind-candy that doesn't really hurt. Not really.

So, anyway, I was reading the article it had about America Ferrera, star of Ugly Betty, who I find to wonderful and cool and funny and smart, and completely fantanstic for making it as a big girl in an emaciated girl's business. When what do I read? She is a size 6-8 on the bottom and a size 10 on the top. Reality wrenched as I realized that I had been thinking of her as a big girl, when actually she is smaller than the average woman. And then I realized that Galmour et al probably does hurt me more than I can say, if I am starting to think of someone who is a size 10, at most, as a curvy girl. God/dess, if that is the case, even at my skinnest that makes me akin to the White Whale.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Well, not in the grand scheme of things, but certainly a blow to my routine! The permits came through on the roof, and the roofer got all the supplies to the house yesterday. The weather is gorgeous, and so they are starting the job today.

Now, I don't have cable. I have a dish. But the dish had to be located on the top of the roof rather than the side of the building, because I have a small personal pine forest blocking the entire southern side of the house. So, the dish is coming down today so the roof can be done.

Why is this slightly tragic? So go without tv for a few days, you ditzy bitch!

Um, Wednesday night is Top Chef night. And tonight is the Finale. Well, part 1 of the finale. I mean, how can I possibly miss that!?! I am seriously thinking of hanging out in the student center here on campus and battling the jocks over the flat screen tv.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The New and Unusual

I made some new and unusual foods over the weekend, and thought i would share

First, venison steak with mixed vinegar peppers. This is a take on a very traditional Italian dish, normally made with pork chops and those canned, vinegar hot peppers that Italians seem to love so much. I personally hate them. The vinegar hot peppers, not Italians. I usually like Italians.

First, I marinated some venison cull steak (which means old and chewy) in red wine, tarragon vineger, and an Italian season salt mixture for about 4 hours. Then I slowly braised the steak on the stove top. Then I threw in slices from one red pepper, one orange pepper, one ivory pepper, and one hot bannana pepper as well as two shallots and three cloves of garlic. I cooked it slow until everything was done. The only thing that happened was that the steak never really softened much, as it was cull steak, which is closely related to shoe leather. But doing something like this with a piece of chuck steak would probably work really well. The key is to just cook it long and slow.

Second, I made one of my new favorites - roasted radishes. Just take some nice clean radishes, chop them in half if they are big, toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. The radishes go all soft and sweet and that sharp raw radish taste goes bye bye..... I used some weird japanese radishes I got in my garden box. They are green on the outside and fuschia on the inside. Makes for an interesting visual side dish.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Menu for My Upcoming Harvest Fete/House Warming

If you want to come, let me know...

Brie with Herb-Infused Honey

Wild Mushroom Pâté

Garlic-infused venison roast

roasted potatoes with Rosemary

Wild Rice & Barley Pilau
with Sweet Potatoes & Golden Raisins

Savory Pumpkin Turnovers

Salad Greens with Regional Apples

Autumn Fruits Bread Pudding
With Ginger & Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Various harvest-Inspired Beverages

Monday, September 17, 2007

Potato and Three Onion Soup

2 pounds potatoes
1 large leek
2 large yellow onions
2 tablespoon dried toasted minced onions
1 quart water
1 quart 1% milk (or higher fat content)

Cut root end and woody green part off of the leek, then split the remainder down the middle and wash, making sure there is no grit on the inside of the leek. Cut leek into 1/2 inch slices. Rough chop the yellow onion. Coat the bottom of your soup pot with olive oil and then sweat the leek and onion over low heat until the get translucent and their choice are exuded. Scrub outsides of potatoes until clean, then chunk the potatoes into bite size pieces. Throw into the pot and then cover the whole mixture with about a quart of water. Add in dried minced onions. Cook until the potatoes just start to get tender. Then pour in mlik, and finish cooking until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Also good with some thyme thrown in. Garnish with chopped chives and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese.

A few notes: You can peel the potatoes or not. It's a choice thing. Also, some folks like a creamy potato soup, others like a milk broth with chunks. I am of the latter camp. If you want a smooth soup, do peel the taters and then use an immersion blender to puree the potatoes and broth together. Also, the more fat content in your milk, the creamier it will be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fiat Tegula*

Well, as you know, my roof has got to be fixed. What could have been a project taken care of five years from now must be done immediately due to the awful deluge we had last month - more than 15 inches of rain in 10 days. I mean, I fully expected the animals to come marching two by two to my back steps.

After weeks of shuffling credit cards and calling my mortgage company and my bank, I learned I sure as hell couldn't come up with the $8500 needed for my project (it could be less but one must plan for the worst case scenario, ayup.) I was lamenting. I was hoping that I could make it through the winter so that I could save enough to cover the lower amount and then finance the remaining or prostitute myself or some such. So, mia madre, of her own decision, negotiated for me to borrow money from family.


As thankful as I am that a family member came through for me on this one, I have, well, issues - in general - about borrowing money from family. It makes me feel like a total failure. And I don't like being beholden to individuals whose life's work is not usury. It's one thing to be in hock to a money lending corporation; quite another to be in hock to a family member. But beggars can't be choosers. And so, I will suck it up and go forward.

I met with the roofer on Tuesday and paid the deposit and work will begin within two weeks. Moreover, he threw in some upgrades for free, so way cool. I picked a color called Autumn Brown, which looks like chocolate with coppery red highlights.

Anyway, I am going to be living like a cloistered nun for about the next three years so that I can pay the money back as soon as possible, if not sooner. And if anyone wants to throw some work my way, where I can earn a little bit of secret cash, let me know......

* = Let There Be a Roof

Monday, September 10, 2007


Well, I am still not feeling good emotionally. And on top of that I work with a fever today and cannot miss work under any circumstances. Anyway, whatever.

Here are two recipes that I made for the new faculty welcome party. I was under the impression that I was making appetizers for about 25 people. It, instead, turned out to be an appetizer potluck. So I made way too much food and can't get reimbursed for any of it. Here goes!

Herbed Honey

Take 1/2 cup honey and a large handful of fresh herbs of your choice. I used golden sage, thyme, and one spring of rosemary. Wash and then herbs. Add herbs and honey to a small pot. Add 1 t lemon juice. Put the heat to the lowest possible flame and let the the honey get bubbly good. Turn off heat and let herbs step for at least 1 hour. Heat the honey again to make for easier removal of the herbs. If you are worried about herb flecks in your honey, strain through a fine mesh sieve. Drizzle over brie or other pungent cheese.

Tuscan White Bean Hummus with Aleppo Pepper (For a Crowd)

4 cans of Italian White Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup good fruity olive oil
3 T lemon juice (or more to taste)
3 T dried minced garlic
3 T mixed Italian herbs, dried
2 t Aleppo pepper (or other mild red pepper)

Put the rinsed and drained beans in a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher until no individual beans can be seen. Add in remaining ingredients and then mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until creamy and smooth. Depending on your beans and your taste, you may want to add additional olive oil or lemon juice. This one tastes better if you can let it sit for a while, so try to make it the day before you really want to eat it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Taking a Little Break

I won't be writing for a few days. I am very down. For a lot of reasons. And I am tired of blogging into the void.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Quick Stovetop Chicken and Veggie Stew, Manhattan-Style

This is a nice way to use up any leftover tidbits of fresh veggies.

4 chicken leg quarters
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smushed
1 T olive oil
1 Quart seasoned tomato juice
1 small eggplant, rough chopped
2 small pattypan squas, rough chopped2 medium tomatoes, rough chopped
1 8 oz. container of 'shrooms
1 T. of Italian herb mix
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a large Dutch oven and chicken. Brown on one side and then flip over. Add the onion and the garlic to the pot, and continue browning chicken. Once the chicken is browned, add in the tomato juice. Let cook until the juice just starts to bubble, left up the edges of the chicken to make sure that the juice gets down underneath. Turn the heat down to medium-low, so that everything simmers but doesn't boil over. Then throw in your rough chopped veggies. I listed above the ones I used, but feel free to use whatever makes you happy or whatever you need to use up. Once the veggies start getting soft, add the Italian herbs and the tomato paste. Stir well. Continue simmer until chicken is done. I left mine simmer for about 45 minutes. And served it with a nice crusty bread with butter. It would also go nice with rice or mashed taters.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Indian-Inspired Swiss Chard

In my garden box this last week, which continues to be mostly a disappointment, I received a large bunch of red Swiss Chard. Wanting to do something with it other than plain old steaming, which is what I normally do, I decided to first satuee it and then braise it soft Indian Style.

1 bunch Swiss Chard, washed well and then cut into ribbons
2 T Ghee (use oil if you have no ghee)
1 t of brown mustard seeds
2 T ginger paste
3 ice cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the ghee in a large pan. Once it is hot add in the mustard seeds and cook them until they start to smell fragrant. Add in the ginger paste. Stir like mad! and then toss in the washed Swiss Chard. Cook until the chard edges start to curl and then throw in the ice cubes, cover and let steam until soft and delicious. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This marks the first time I have cooked with ghee. It has a strange nutty flavor to it that will require some getting used to. I am also learning that I really don't like mustard seeds. Except in mustard. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's Raining, well, Rain

Here in the Midwest/Great Lakes Region, we have been experiencing the deluge. It has been raining nonstop for what seems like forever, and, at least in the Waukegan area, it has been raining hard and heavy. This is a completely depressing situation, as Mom and Doug had come down to help with all manner of projects around my new house and not much could be done because of the dampness.

So, on Sunday, we were sitting on the couch bemoaning the weather when I looked up and said, "What the hell!?" Several discolored cracks in the ceiling palster of my pre-living room. There obviously is a leak somewhere in the antiquated roof.

Mom and I went up in the attic and yanked some insulation down to see if we could find the leak. No luck. So I made about seven phone calls to local roofing folks and hoped to get phone calls back. So far, four have called and one has already come out to give me an estimate.




For my tiny little bugalow.

That high end estimate is if they have to redeck the roof, although I somehow doubt that is should cost nearly $3000 for plywood. That seems a little aggressive to me.

So Christ, Buddah, Allah, Kali, Hecate, and any other diety that might have pity on a single girl (oh wait - forget Christ and Allah), please rain down some money on my delapidated roof instead of rain. I really need it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Foods Require No Recipe

It's that time of year and the food preparation is easy.

I often believe that the best food is the simplest, with the exception of curry, which is only complicated because it uses a mix of a lot of different spices. Curry isn't hard by any means, but it certainly isn't simple either.

And so, now at the height of summer, when I never really want to cook anyways 'cause it is too damn hot, I simple take the best produce and make it simple. Washed, sliced, maybe a touch of salt, maybe some spices. The most commplicated thing I have done recently involved cleaning and then blanching green beans, seasoning with lemon olive oil, a splash of vingear, and some seasoned salt and then refrigerating for a quick summer salad. Or cherry tomatoes, little balls of fresh mozzarella, a srizzle of basil olive oil, and a splash of vinegar. Yum yum.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Recovered! Or, Why I am Glad We Only Have Reunions Every Three Years

Well, I have finally recovered from my long-weekend vacation to my family reunion in Rochester, MN. And recovery was needed. After the fiasco that was my plane trip to Minneapolis, I got in only a few hours late and Mom and I stopped to eat at the Vietnam Restaurant, a place whe had always wanted to try but never been able to find off the highway, largely because she hadn't driven far enough from the exit. We walked in and were a bit nervous as there were still many tables with dirty dishes, never a good sign at a restaurant. But, we decied to take a chance. It was quite delicious actually! And I have been yearning for good Vietnamese food. The restaurant was actually pan-Asian. We enjoyed a fresh spring roll Vietnamese-style (which means it had pork in it rather than shrimp), and Mom had a huge bowl of the best Tom Yum I have ever tasted, while I had a nicely seasoned chicken and cabbage salad. The prices were low and the portions huge - we ate leftovers for dinner.

On Friday, I spent the day mostly bored. I only like sitting around the house one day a week, usually Sunday, during which I watch all my Netflix releases of the week. So Mom took pity on me and we went to town to Birkmose Park, famous for its intact burial mounds, and then down to the waterfront park, where I walked across the bridge about half way over the St. Croix River.
Then, we went back home and got ready and, when my aunt J got there, we hoped in the car and headed to Rochester. On the way, we stopped for fish fry, that great Wisconsin tradition, and when we got to the hotel, we spent some time in the pool and hot tub.

Up the next day, we went to Denny's for breakfast (never had a bad breakfast at Denny's) and then out to the reunion. It was a fairly typical reunion - silly games like the girdle race, bingo, and lots of gossiping and looking at of pictures. There was a silent auction, which lead to some disgruntlement as a lot of the pencils had broken leads and certain someones were holding onto the only working writing weapons, meaning that not everyone was able to write their bids. You know who you are! The auction made a lot of money and half of it went to the Cancer Society, since so many people in the family have been stricken with some sort of cancer. There was also a Mass, during which I spent most of the time walking in the woods and trying not to scream out rude comments about Catholic monarchies and the abuse of young children.

We left for home Sunday morning and stopped for lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe, somewhere along the way. Decent food. I had the turkey plate, which was real turkey and not souped up deli meat. When we got home, Mom took a nap and I went for a walk, despite the fact that it was hotter than hell.

On Monday, I got packed and headed for the airport for a 3:30 flight. I got there just before the 2 pm flight was leaving. They called everyone who was there for later flights to the cat and said, "We don't know if your flight is going, so we are sending everyone who can get a seat on this plane." I got a seat, but I will tell you this - I will never fly from Chicago to Minneapolis again. For all the headaches and cancellations and delays and bull, I would rather just drive.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Don't Think CapitalOne Wants Me as a Customer Anymore

I returned home from my vacation and started going through my mail. There was an envelope there from CapitalOne. Urgent information about your account - Open Immediately! I normally don't look at these because they are usually just purchase checks or some other attempt to get me to spend more moolah. But I opened this one for some reason and am I ever glad I did.

It seems that CapitalOne has decided they are not making enough money and have decided to raise their interest rates more than 6%, making my rate almost 16%.

Now I have had my CapitalOne card for more than a decade. I have had a 9.9% interest rate since the beginning, even when the standard going rate was something close to 20%. I have never missed a payment, and I do carry a balance and so I know they are making money hand over fist on my account. Of course, I rarely use my card for new purchases, but I still have a fairly large balance to pay off over the next five years so they are not in any danger of loosing money on me any time soon. So why this almost putative increase in the APR?

CapitalOne claims it is because interests rates have increased so much over the last couple of years they simply must raise their rates. I call bullshit.

Interest rates are not that much higher than they were three years ago. The interest rate I got on my home mortgage in 2007 is almost identical to the mortage rate we had when we purchased our Massachusetts home in 2002. Really, I think it is CapitalOne's way of trying to increase the money they are making or of getting rid of customers who are "too good" and never have late fees.

So, in the letter, they give me a choice of bending over and taking it or freezing my account and never using it again. I think I will take another road... transfer over to Chase Bank's 18 month 0.0% APR on balance transfer (with a transfer fee of $99) with a fixed 9.9% after the 18 months are up or go to Bank of America and get a personal loan at 8.9%, pay off CapitalOne, and never have a credit card for general purchases again. Either way, I think I will be telling CapitalOne it is no longer what is in my wallet.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Today's Episode, in Which Heather Tempts Fate

I began my three day summer vacation on Thursday. I am attending a family reunion, so I don't know that it really counts as vacation, but still. I decided to fly to Minneapolis, because it cost the same as driving but took less time.

Heh. Right.

I had a mid-morning flight scheduled, just in case I couldn't get a ride and needed to get to O'Hare by train. I did manage to get a ride and was to the airport around 9 am. I had already checked in the night before and I had no luggage, so I breezed through security and went to the monitor only to discover that my flight was leaving 45 minutes late. Ok, that gives me time for breakfast. So I wandered down to the gate, and in the five minutes it took me to get there, my flight had been cancelled. Due to weather, or so they claimed. I went to the agent only to learn that they had rebooked me on a 4 pm flight to detroit and then a 7 pm flight to Minneapolis, getting me there around 9 pm. The agent claimed there were no other possibilities as everything was being cancelled because of a bad storm moving in. Nonononononono!

So, I quick went to the gate where the next flight and put my name on the priority stand by and then waited. Truly if there were bad weather that flight would also be cancelled, and I would know that I was well and truly screwed. But 11:30 rolled around and the flight started boarding, not even delayed. Obviously the weather excuse was a lie. I made some pointed comments about this fact.

I waited and waited, and they started calling names for stand by seating. Finally, I was called, likely due to the fact that a few people called before me were no where to be found! Apparently one of the benefits of travelling as a single person is that you can get on flights when families can't. Frankly, it was a bit like winning the lottery. And a good thing too! I hit Minneapolis around 1:30 and a huge storm did roll in around 2:30. I never would have made it if I had had to be on that 4 pm to Detroit.

Really the whole thing is my own damn fault. I wore the t-shirt that tempted fate. I wore it the last day of my previous job. It states simply, in bright yellow letters on brown cotton, "I'm Going Places."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Harry Potter Results

I haven't read the latest Harry Potter and I doubt I will any time soon. However, since the plot is not out there online, I can post the results of my Harry Potter predictions.

1. Well, I guess Dumbledore really is dead, although he does show up as a spirit guide at one point in the novel. I give myself half a point for being kinda right and kinda wrong.
2. Snape was not on Voldemort's side. Whole point for Heather!
3. Voldemort was killed and killed in the traditional sense of the word. There is some argument about whether or not he counts as one of the two main characters that are killed, however. Some claim the two main characters killed are Fred Weasley and Snape. I personally don't think of Fred Weasley as a main character. I am giving myself a point for this one. Disagree if you like.
4. Harry's kinda death is a bit more complicated. A part of him certainly die. However, since my prediction was that he would lose his wizard powers and he didn't, I get no points for this prediction.
5. So Ron and Hermione do get together, but apparently it happens sometime in the Epilogue and not during the main thrust of the story. Still since it is between the covers of the book, I must deny myself any points here as well.

So, all in all, out of five possible points, I scored 2.5. 50%. Not bad for someone who only started reading the books a couple of years ago.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Veggie Stew

It was cool enough this weekend to think about eating actual hot food, so I decided to use up a lot of the veggies from my CSA veggie box. Enjoy!

2 zucchinis
3-4 patty pan squash
1 yellow squash
5 small onions or 2 medium onions
3 T Penzy's Bangkok Blend Spice
1 pint seasoned tomato juice
1 package frozen green garbanzo beans or 32 ounces canned (drained and rinsed)

Chunk all the veggies into large pieces and then throw in a pot with some olive oil. Cook until they just start to get color and then throw in the tomato juice. Add the garbazos and then let simmer away until everything is soft and delicious. Serve with brown rice.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

They're Back!

Well, I went out this morning and momma cat and her kittens are returned, with said kittens much bigger. And they are all hissier than ever, possibly because it was a dark and stormy night. Unfortunately, it is not the right tmie of year for the Spay N'Go folks to attempt to catch them, so I don't know what I am going to do. The bushes definitely have to go, however. I don;t want my front yard to start harboring a whole colony of ferals.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Asian Cucumber Salad

I love cucumbers in the summer. Cool and water, with a delicious cruch. Really, not much is better. Except maybe watermelon. So, here is my favorite summer cucumber salad.

two 6-8 inch cucumbers
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use sushi style sauce)
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 T sesame oil (optional)
red pepper to taste (optional)

Wash the cucumbers and cut off the ends. Then slice the in half and then slice again to make good bite-sized chunks. Put in a bowl. Mix soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add sesame oil and red pepper is using. Pour over cucumbers and toss well. Let sit for 20 minutes in fridge and then toss again. Let sit for another 20 minutes and then serve. This method ensures that each slice gets a good infusion of dressing but doesn't get mushy. If you need to keep it in the fridge overnight, do the following: cut the cucumbers and mix the dressing. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and then add water until the cucumbers are just covered. Stir well. Adding the water seems to help keep the cucumbers from getting too mushy while steeping overnight. With this method, make sure to drain well, and then spike the salad with a dash of soy and vinegar just before serving.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Seven Wonders

Well, I didn't do so well in the new Seven Wonders of the World Voting. My choices way back yonder were Angkor Wat temple, Easter Island statues, the Great Wall, Petra, the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, and one that isn't listed: Serpent Mound in Ohio.

And the worldwide voters picked: The Great Wall, Petra, Christ Redeemer of Brazil, Machu Picchu, Chicken Itza, the Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum. So I was two of seven, and I believe that the Pyramids got some sort of special honor for being the only original Seven Wonder still standing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why a License Should be Required to Reproduce

Contrary as I am, I truly believe that there are far too many people out there who should not be allowed to reproduce without a license. Simply because they are idiots. Take for example, this recent column from Dear Prudence,'s advice columnist:

Dear Prudie,

My daughter is 5 years old and has, like most girls her age, a hamper's worth of stuffed animals. While she has her favorites, she constantly wants more and usually connives to get someone (read: her grandparents) into procuring a new one every couple of weeks. The new one immediately becomes her favorite and she must sleep with it every night and haul it around half the day. My question is: Does this behavior indicate she'll be overly promiscuous as an adult, or at least unable to commit to a single partner?

—Perhaps Overly Worried Father

Um, ok. What kind of a moron would even think to ask whether or not his five-year-old's stuffed animal habits indicate whether or not she will be a slut? I mean, even if stuffed animal sleeping habits indicated some sort of sexual habit, from the description here, at the very worst the girl would become a serial monogamist, which basically means she is just like almost everyone else.

Luckily, Prudence is an intelligent and *ahem* prudent woman, and her answer was thus:

Dear Perhaps,

Of course that's what it indicates. You'd better start thinking now about what you're going to do when she's a young woman and throws over that big, chubby guy with the annoying laugh, Barney, for the sexually ambiguous Tinky-Winky, whom she then dumps for that moron, Elmo, who every time they come over asks you to get down on the floor and tickle him.


Way to snark, Prudie! I hereby nominate Prudence to hand out licenses to reproduce!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Today's Episode, in Which Heather Learns that She Must Win the Lottery

So, I have started doing work on my home. You know, the old bungalow. It has held up really well, considering that is is nearly 80 years old. But some parts I just don't like and some need to be updated badly.

The kitchen, for example, is disfunctional. It is set up wrong. It's small. It has no counter space. It's old and cruddy looking. This weekend I had the first contractor come in and look at it to see what can be done. The best solution is to knock out a wall, relocate a staircase, reorient the entire kitchen (requiring the rerouting of plumbing, eletric, and gas), and put in all new custom cabinets. Cost? $35K. Yes, 35000. Which effectively prices my house right out of the market, because I wouldn't be able to recoup such an investment if I sell the house in the next five years. Another suggestion he had would be to finish the attic - putting in two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, taking the two bedrooms downstairs, knocking down a wall, and turning that space into a huge kitchen. Still huge dollar signs. My next options is to figure out how to make what I have at least a bit more functional and attractive, which can be done but will still be at least $10K, which I currently don't have. I might be able to get it lower but that requires relying on relatives to help me with the work. That makes me nervous.

I guess I am just going to have to live with a crap ass kitchen for now.

The bathroom also needs to be updated, so I had him look at that as well. The primary things I want fix in the bath are the very stained cast iron tub and the window that spits water into the driveway. He had no real suggestions on the window other than to have a vinyl one installed. It is, sadly, a custom size, so I would have to have one made special. And the tub is also a custom size and so to replace it will cost thousands. He suggested a bath mat. But, he can redo the plumbing fixtures (which need updating), put in a nicer vanity and sink and redo the floor for my budget, which is damn small and it makes me wonder if I might not be better off just not doing anything right now.

Ugh ugh and triple ugh. I so need to win the lottery!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Today's Episode, in Which Heather Learns to Read Labels

Entire labels, that is.

My yoga ball lost its plug, forcing me to go and purchase a new yoga ball. I went to marshall's where I can normally find decent yoga stuff at discount prices only to find that they had nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nevertheless, I decided to give a quick run through the store and see if there were any other treasures around. And man, did I hit the jackpot. Nice picture frames, a beautiful planter that I will use when I bring my herb garden indoors for the winter, a nice laundry hamper, some snacks. One snack I picked up I was terribly excited by. They were called "Honey Crunchers" and the ingredients were rice flour, honey, and water. Sounded plain but nice. A little bit-size yumminess while sitting at my desk.

On the way back home, I opened them up to have a taste. Um, a bit dry. A bit mealy. Almost no honey flavor. What the hell? So I looked closer.

The Honey Crunchers were made by the Colorado Barkery.

Yes, dear friends, Honey Crunchers are dog treats.

At least they tasted better than liver snaps.