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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eating Cheapsides

With all the food background I have, I've never used it so much as I do these days. Not in sauteing and saucier stations, but as a fixed-income foodie. It's not easy to stretch the food bucks at the end of the month but I've found that the internet can serve up some rad (and some really repulsive) ideas.

For instance, I have canned tuna, ramen noodles and frozen spinach. In itself, not so great. But put it all in the Yahoo search engine, and a surprising college student recipe site pops up: This is helpful; when stress taps out creativity, find help in what's not taxing on your head. No, nothing will rival Escoffier, but we don't have his food budget.

Buy things on sale and in bulk departments. I can't stress this enough; what you put away will keep you from hunger. Always have the staples- flour, salt, sugar (or whatever sweet you use), eggs, baking powder and some kind of fat. Herbs and spices are affordable when you buy them loose in any bulk dept. Usually, you can get rice, pasta, flour and dried fruits in these areas, too. It's much cheaper to buy things unpackaged.

It's at this point that the purchases you made to fill your pantry come into play. No fresh milk? How about the evaporated milk you squirreled away? It's kinda nasty when diluted and poured over cereal, but it's fine in coffee or tea (Tip: Boxed mac n cheese does taste more like cheese when the milk's left out). Those baked beans you bought on sale can be pureed into soup, then seasoned. Cheap frozen waffles make unusual sandwich bread. If you have flour, evaporated milk and any kind of shortening, make scones. They're easy, fast, and ridiculously cheap to make. What you'd pay 2-3 bucks for in a bakery is a few pennies in cost and a half hour of making. It cheers you to have treats, so don't forget you need that as much as nutrition.

If you get stuck, you can always email me. I'm happy to help. And most of the time I can come up with something good from any 3 food ingredients... even if I find it on a ramen noodle website :).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye, Farrah

Today's papers and websites and TV are full of Michael Jackson's death. After the Jackson 5, I didn't care for him, didn't follow his music, though it was inescapable in the 80s. Apart from our realizing we were in love when my late husband and I danced to "I'll Be There" in the Tunnel, Jackson didn't touch my life at all.

But Farrah did. She was my attention rival in the bedroom of my first Big Love. My brothers were all "Charlie's Angels" fans; indeed, every guy I knew was glued to the tube for that show. Her hairstyle was ubiquitous, her face was everywhere. She was married to the "6 Million Dollar Man", who turned out to have abused her. Yet, she carried herself with dignity. She met and had a son by Ryan O'Neal, and her life seemed together, happy and strong. She was a woman who made it, in spite of her amazing good looks. I don't say that offhand, either. I've had very good looking friends and lovers all my life, and the experience of the unusually good-looking is not so different than that of an unusually unattractive person. People use you as a canvas for their feelings and psychoses instead of treating you as a respected human either way.

I never wrote her off as a bimbo, especially after "Extremities" and "The Burning Bed". She wasn't celebrated as an actor's actor, never won an Oscar, but she had passion. She had a big heart, a deep religious belief. And she had fight. There was much more to Farrah than met the eye.

NBC broadcasted a portrait special that she and Alana Stewart and Ryan O'Neal made of her as she faced and fought the cancer. Through the weeks/months of the shooting, she became more and more sick, taking a multitude of drugs and supplements in a heroic struggle to get well. I don't say heroic lightly, ever. I've watched up close as friends and family fought to live; her struggle was just as grueling, horrid and as astonishing and inspiring as any I've seen. Her will to keep battling was remarkable. But, as time and the cancer rolled on, she became bodily weak. I don't think I can ever forget the scene of her son Red, visiting her in a court-allowed furlough from drug rehab/jail, in leg chains, crawling into bed beside her. She didn't seem very responsive, in fact I was embarassed to watch. It seemed over the top in being invasive. But Farrah wanted the world to see what it was like, from the brief moments of hope to shaving off her hair. They say she shaved it off as a note of choice and control, a symbolic way to not just surrender the crown of glory she'd worn all her life.

On Thursday Farrah died with Ryan O'Neal and Alana Stewart, her best friend, beside her. Not only do I admire Farrah for her guts and passion, I think much more of Ryan O'Neal for being steadfastly with her through everything. In my life I've seen that devotion only twice from a husband; my stepfather with my mother and my brother Billy with his wife. Farrah publically suffered and died with more grace and dignity than most people. She was loved, and loved in return. She smiled in the face of a death sentence and never stopped fighting.

My prayers tonight will include those who are mourning her loss. That Michael Jackson's death has eclipsed hers is shameful. RIP, Farrah, you've earned your rest.

P.S. I came across this article today and thought it's too good to pass up:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

8 years ago my friend Stevil gave me a potted miniature rose bush after I had a neck surgery. They are temperamental little things, roses. My Mom had a line of rose bushes along the fence abutting the backyard neighbor's low fence. She couldn't care much for them once her arthritis made it difficult to walk and bend over. But they continued to grow in spite, or perhaps because, of the neglect. The first Christmas Day after her death, a single red rose bloomed on one. My Stepfather took it as a sign- roses don't bloom in New York City in December, as a rule.

But back to my potted roses. I let the little bush teach me what it wanted. Less water in winter, lots of sun all year round, it bloomed twice a year- June and December, right around the Solstices. For 4 years it taught me how to care for it, the launch of new branches meaning time for lotsa water, then letting it dry a bit when it formed buds, then lotsa water when the buds swelled. Though never really flourishing into a huge plant, it held its own and regularly grew and died, always springing back to life until...

A woman named Heather decided she should water it when I was in the bathroom. I freaked, as it was in a drying out period. And she watered it on the surface, a real no-no when it's dormant. It wants its feet wet while it sleeps, and most all the rest of growing time, too. Watering from the top is a good way to kill it. It died a slow death after that presumptuous stunt. I was pissed.

The following summer my friend Kathleen gave me another rose bush, after another neck surgery. It had bright red flowers, much more vivid than the soft pinks of its predecessor. Kathleen marvelled at how I'd had the little rose bush for 4 years, as she has no luck with roses (Her luck is with ferns and African violets). So, delighted, I put all I learned from Pinky into Captain Jack. Yes, I name my plants. I gave it some diluted tea now and then, a dribble of red wine here and there, and it seemed happy.

This spring I saw it was becoming rootbound, and took it from its original plastic pot to a larger clay pot. It shocked, dying back to a single branch that didn't look too hopeful. For a few weeks I watched it closely, trying to gauge its new demands in its new home. I began to grieve its loss, as it looked like it was in the death throes. I spoke encouragingly to it, rooting it on, if you will. Then, in May, it turned a corner and put out 2 new branches. Keeping its feet slightly wet, it acclimated to the new pot. I didn't dare hope it would produce flowers, just survive.

Captain Jack put out 4 buds this June 16th (it had stayed at 3 for years). On Summer Solstice morning all 4 buds burst open, tiny perfections of nature's art. I know they'll be gone in a week or two, but they are my little beauties now. A great reminder that no matter how things seem, with a little experience, care, prayer... things can turn out better than you thought they would.

Happy Summer, everyone.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Poppa, Summerisacuminin & Six Degrees of Fuckedness

It's Father's Day, and I think of mine. But it has been 30+ years he's been gone and memories fade. I do remember his laughter, which is where I got my guffaw. He was a character, he was a thinker, he was a Milton, he taught me a lot. I miss him.

It's also Summer Solstice, time to bring plans to fruition. The vivid lush greens are spectacular here. We've had enough rain in Vermont to make everything burst out & thrive well.

I've also composed a scale of fuckedness. See how much applies in your life.

First you have fucktards. They can't help it, whatever it is.

Then come fuckers. That can apply to anywhere, anything, anyone.

Then you have fuckin fuckers, the irritating fuckers.

Then you get motherfuckers. They are muthafuckers.

Then you have motherfucker fuckers, who outfuck the motherfuckers. This can also be a compliment, as in, "Keith Emerson is a motherfucker fucker!"

And then there are motherfucker uberfuckers. There are no words. The last words in fuckedness.

So how many fuckers apply in your life? I have mostly 2nd and 3rd degrees...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dangerous Dating

When I was younger my Guardian Angel worked overtime. So many times in my youth, and even some times more recently, I consorted with mooks, murderers, ne'er-do-wells and crazy people. Having done this from such an early age, and surviving relatively unscathed, it was a second nature to me. I believed that this happened partly because I was an openminded person who took everyone on a case by case basis, and partly because I was predisposed to it. My Dad hung around with shady types. 2 of my brothers say that he worked for the mob. I remember as a child being in a bar & grill that had a bathtub in the john, years later reading in The Westies what that tub was used for at least once. All my Dad did was run numbers, nothing violent. And the old men he knew were sweet to me, bought me Shirley Temples and had me pick out horses to bet on. Somehow I developed a tolerance for the crazy. But crazy can turn dangerous and these days, as psychopathic as society has grown, very dangerous. Here I offer some common sense tips to help avoid getting involved with a crazy/dangerous type (Note: danger appies to emotionally/psychologically as well as physically):

- Check their medications. If they hang around outside the bathroom when you use it, assume they aren't there because they want to keep talking. They're listening to hear if you open their medicine chest. Remember the names of the drugs they take regularly. And check what those are. If any are mood stabilizers/antipsychotics, back off.

- Don't make excuses for their behavior. If they act really strangely for any reason, step back. I don't care if they're brilliant, or gorgeous, or funny, or rich. Weird and abnormal responses to things marks a nut. Observe their behaviors. Do they frequently panic/cause drama/overreact to minor incidents? Has their behavior begun to change your behavior? Run away!

- No matter what, don't have sex with them, especially if you're a woman, until you've checked them out. I'm gonna sound very sexist here, but women do become emotionally involved once sex happens. It's nature and nurture. Protect yourself first in every way. Listen and weigh the words they use. Do they focus on confrontation and aggression? Are they supportive and helpful to you as you are to them? Do they play toxic come here/go away games with you? Drop em like they're hot.

- Take your time. Every time I've gone with overwhelming attraction and plunged into a relationship (friendship or otherwise) I've (so far) lived to regret it. If they are predators, they'll pressure you into something quickly. They'll create dramas that demand your sympathy and allegiance from the moment you meet. Beware of this above all. They're testing their limits and how much they can manipulate you. They may not even consciously know this; it's a second nature to the psycho. Unfortunately, it hits to the heart of the compassionate. If you are a compassionate type (and most people are), your heart goes out to the victim. This is not to say that you shouldn't care/help people. Listen to what your gut says. Don't override it with justifications. Take your own sweet time in getting to know someone. You, your life and safety are worth the extra weeks. Only time tells the truth. Slow down.

- Don't date anyone who wants it kept secret. This really is The Big One. It's universal. If they can't include you in the rest of their life, don't invite them into yours. Yes, it's that simple.

I'm sure there are many more guidelines, these are just what comes to mind. If you, kind reader, have more, please add them in comments. We've all survived toxic relationships- you can't avoid some. But any time you have a choice, err on the side of self-preservation. One psycho can really mess up your day. And your life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Senseless Murder

In the wee hours Monday morning a young man was killed around the corner from where I live. Many stories are running around about it, that it was over money. or a girl, or drugs. In this gossiping town it's like a feast day.

What seems a clear fact is that the murder victim was intervening in an argument between his killer and his brother.

I didn't know the young man but I remember his fiancee, now a grown woman, as a shy little girl who stuck close to her Dad and brother. Her Dad raised the two of them, scraping by as a poor man in this town of haves and have nots. I was impressed at how protective and close they were with each other. Always polite, quiet and listening to their Dad, I'd see them around town over the years. She was a girl I thought would be all right and do fine.

Yesterday a friend saw her sitting alone in the rain with flowers at the murder site. Others have brought candles and flowers, the rain having washed away his blood.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer 2009 Songs

All my life I've had songs that remind me of a summer. "Boys of Summer", " Mad About You", "My Cherie Amour", "Do You Feel (like I do)", all put me back in time. This summer I think it's gonna be "Bulletproof" by La Roux:

Got summer songs? Leave em in the comments!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Moving Kinda Slow At the Junction

It's been another busy week. For someone who doesn't "work" anymore, I'm as busy as I ever was, just doing different things.

I understand what elders said SO much more now. A real weather issue can ruin your day- or week- for starts. Things I'm trying to get done are moving much too slowly. But I'm grateful they're moving ahead. Personal relationships are way intense and I have no energy. Maybe this is how old people end up alone. Being unhealthy takes up a lot of time. We're all each others Guinea Pigs. As you get older, hopefully saner & wiser (the two rarely go apart), you expect peep are paying attention. Life is short. Having said something once, why say it again?- to paraphrase a great old song. Repeating is whining. The saner you are, the less you need to point out how fucked up things are; it's a given. As Seth used to say, "Didn't you hear? It's over. We lost."

But my real Pet Peeve of the week:
The Practice of Non-Usage of Words.
What the Hell is this shit? "We don't use the word, "(insert adjective/noun here)" here, because it implies (insert psychobabble of Therapy Victim here)." Give me a long break. A word is a word. Use them. What is this, the Church of the Speech Control Shamethrowers? This load of crap not only dumbs everyone down, it denies all kinds of cultural norms like blame, fault, responsibility, the entire catalog of prejudice, homophobia, ageism, sexism- everything that we are, really. It's a half-truth world, like a kid who pulls their hair over their eyes and makes himself believe the world can't see him.
And that's only one bit of how screwed up this country really is. We're fucked in the squash, as they say around here.