I’m a Liberal Snowflake

I had a post all ready about the Women’s March, with pictures and links and deep thoughts about it and everything. But after this week’s political events, I think a shorter, simpler post is better.

I’m a liberal snowflake, and I’m proud.liberal-1

I care about people. I like freedom, all kinds of freedom but especially personal freedoms. I am “willing to discard traditional values” when they hurt people. (Also, calling something “traditional” does not make it right or good or fair. Genocide, rape, and war are all traditional.) I am open. I am generous. I am flexible. I am tolerant. I am a liberal.

Politically, I often find myself on the progressive end of the Liberal spectrum. I think the taxes we pay should go to helping the people who pay them, and I don’t mind paying taxes to help people.

I am starting to worry about the future of my country, and I feel strongly that something is going to happen, something bad and big and irreversible. I hope I am wrong.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that I am not powerless. Kindness is not a weakness. Liberal is not an insult. These are the tools I was given, and I’m going to use them to make the world a better place, even if I can only do that on a very small scale.

I will love people, I will show kindness, I will speak  out when I see wrongdoing or cruelty. I will be open to new ideas, I will listen, I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I’m a liberal snowflake, and I’m hoping to be part of the blizzard that makes the USA truly great.

Adventures in meal subscription boxes

Okay, I know I haven’t shared any “Sunday Dinner” posts for a while. What can I say, life is hectic! So hectic, I decided to try one of those food crate subscription things. After looking through some sites and talking to some people, I settled on Marley Spoon as a first try.

I went for the “family” plan, which is intended to serve two adults and two kids under 12. So far we’ve done three meals (one week) and here, dear readers, are my findings!

wp-1466718229901.jpg
The ingredients for meal #1: skillet beef & rice
wp-1466718208968.jpg
My kids LOVED this!

First, the negatives:

  1. Small serving sizes. Now, I have spoken to other people who say they have plenty of leftovers, but those people are on the “2 adults” plan, not the family one. Maybe my family are just big eaters? I don’t know. All I know is, there haven’t been any leftovers and I kind of like leftovers. Also, it’s only been one adult and 2 kids eating these and there still were no leftovers, so I’m not sure the servings are “full meal” size. At least not for us.
  2. A bit pricey. I could definitely go to the store and get the same ingredients for significantly less money.
  3. Not a ton of vegetarian options. Possibly other services have more though. My kids and husband eat meat, and combined with the fact the servings are small so it really only serves the three of them it works out. But I’d like more veggie choices.
wp-1466718163558.jpg
Meal #2 prep: tomato & feta bake. One ciabatta roll for 4 people??? I added another one from my own stash, and it was still a small casserole.
wp-1466718138765.jpg
This looks kind of gross but it was fabulous. I will absolutely make this again.

The positives:

  1. New ideas. I don’t know about you, but I cook the same dozen things over and over and over. This subscription has given me some new ideas and pushed me to try some new techniques.
  2. Fun family activity. I decided if we were going to splurge on this it was going to be a family activity. So I’ve pretty much been having my kids cook these meals, with me as supervision. They’ve been loving it! And because they’ve made it, they are more willing to try these new foods, which is pretty awesome.wp-1466718186141.jpg
  3. Easy and fast to prepare. Nothing has taken more than 35 minutes to make, and everything is super easy to do. My 9 & 11 year old have been cooking this stuff, if that tells you anything. Clear step-by-step directions and everything is pre-measured, with just enough prep to make you feel like you’re actually cooking.
  4. No “what’s for dinner” stress. This is possibly the biggest “pro” of these things. God, I hate having to figure out what to make every night!! This takes a few of those decisions away and eases the stress a lot.
wp-1466718094348.jpg
Meal #3: sausage & beans with greens
wp-1466718114159.jpg
This definitely didn’t come out as good looking as the recipe card photo. But everyone seemed to enjoy it.

So overall, I think I will keep this subscription for a few months, and maybe try another company, too. It’s not something I’ll do forever, but for now I’m enjoying it.

How about you? Have you tried any of these? Blue Apron? Hello Fresh? What did you think?

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I will march with my Girl Scouts in our town’s memorial Day Parade. (Assuming the rain holds off and it’s not cancelled!) I’ve been going for the past five years or so, and I really enjoy it. It’s a small parade, not many vets, lots of kids (boy scouts, girl scouts, marching bands) and some local law enforcement and firefighters. Mostly the audience consists of the families of the marchers. A thin crowd, many of whom disperse immediately upon picking up their kid, so that by the time the mayor gives a speech honoring our veterans, hardly anyone is left to see it. I always stay, and I strongly encourage my girls’ families to stay, too. I am so disappointed and embarrassed by how few people are there to actually honor our local veterans! I wish I could do something to increase attendance.

A few people in my life have been surprised by how strong my feelings are about Memorial Day. See, I am a real “tree-hugging liberal” and I am always speaking out against war. So people sometimes assume I am not pro-military. Which, honestly, is dumb. I guess some people think military personnel just loooove fighting, and we should encourage conflict if we want to support them? Stupid.

Though lately, people seem to have a very warped view of what is “patriotic.” Wave a flag, sling some mildy-racist comments, and boom! Instant patriot. So strange and sad to me that in a country founded on tenets of religious freedom and open immigration we now have thousands cheering for xenophobia and religious persecution, and calling it patriotism.

memorial_day

I hope whatever your Memorial Day entails, you take a few minutes to remember the reason for the holiday: those who lost their lives in service to our country. Also please remember these fallen are men AND women, of ALL races, ethnicities, religions, and sexualities. People from all walks of life, who entered service for many different reasons. Many fought our nation’s conflicts for reasons they personally might not have agreed with or even fully understood.

I will never support war, but I have immense respect and gratitude for our warriors. Happy Memorial Day ❤

World Poetry Day

Today is world poetry day! I’m not a poet, or really a big poetry fan. I like it well enough, I just don’t feel at all qualified to talk about it in any meaningful way.

There is a poem that has stuck in my head for years. I read it once, way before I had kids, and I never forgot it. I looked it up today (it took no time at all thanks to google. what a time to be alive! lol) so I thought it would be a good one to share.

Today it is snowing (first day of spring! ha!) and my little boy is outside. I’ve been spending entirely too much time on the computer lately, so I’m going out to play. Happy poetry day everyone!

I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,

I didn’t make the bed,

I took his hand and followed

Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,

My little son and I…

Exploring all the great outdoors

Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,

We wandered through a wood…

My kitchen wasn’t swept today

But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade

And now my small son knows

How Mother Bunny hides her nest,

Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,

We climbed a sunlit hill…

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,

We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,

That I didn’t brush the stairs,

In twenty years, no one on earth

Will know, or even care.

But that I’ve helped my little boy

To noble manhood grow,

In twenty years, the whole wide world

May look and see and know.

Happy Winter!

Even though where I am it feels strangely spring-like outside. But I’m not complaining!! It’s way nicer to travel, run errands, and walk the dog when it is 50 degrees. Not to mention the fantastically low gas bill!  But I’m used to cold and at least the possibility of snow this time of year.

I’m trying to get into the Christmas mood with baking. Lots of cookies coming out of my oven today! And I just did one last baste on my fruitcakes and packaged them up, all ready to give to those few souls who share my love of fruitcake.

A few years ago I posted a little bit about my feelings for fruitcakes. Click here to read that post if you want. Meanwhile, I’m going back to the kitchen: gingerbread is next 🙂

Happy holidays, and a joyful winter to you! ❤️

marmalade experiments

I’m a homemade-gift-giver. To me, receiving a home-made gift is so special and sweet. And I hope that the people I give home-made gifts to feel the same. I’ve been making my Christmas gifts for my entire adult life. It started in college, when I was dead broke and had to find a way to make a hundred dollars equal a few dozen gifts.

I’m still pretty broke. But I can buy gifts for most people. Still, it feels wrong and weird to exchange candles and gloves and bottles of wine. Especially when the people on my list generally have more money than I do! They can all buy their own wine, and candles, and other low-priced gift items.

But after 20+ years of making gifts, it’s getting tough to come up with new ideas.

I give out my fruitcake, but some people don’t care for it (fools!!) so I can’t give it to everyone. I used to make an ornament each year, but nowadays my kids do that so mine would be redundant (giving to the same people) so I don’t do that much anymore. I’ve given crocheted gifts, and sewn gifts, and sculpted ones, and seashell jewelry, and homemade lotions and soaps, and all kinds of things.

This year, my plan is to give small loafs of nice homemade oatmeal bread along with a few jars of preserves. I have my blackberry jam of course, but I thought a marmalade would be fun. I’ve never made marmalade before.

Experiment time!

I did some research and realized that marmalade is kind of a big deal to some people. And the procedures for making it are wildly varied.

I found an easy one from Whole Foods. It was indeed very simple, but the result wasn’t so great. It is way too thick, the orange slices remain too firm for my tastes, and there isn’t much jelly. I think it will be a great accompaniment to roast meat, maybe even a good glaze for ham or fish, but not fantastic on toast. (this didn’t stop me from eating almost half a jar, however! lol the flavor is good, it’s the texture I didn’t love.)

 Armed with this experience, a lot of internet research, and a few cookbooks from my shelf, I improvised a new recipe:

  • 4 navel oranges (obviously Seville oranges are preferable, but those are a January thing)
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh ginger root
  • 8 cups water  
  1. Peel the orange with a vegetable peeler and chop into bits (however large you like). Cut off the pith (white parts) of the orange and put into a cheesecloth. Chop up the flesh and put it into the pot, along with the bits of peel.
  2. Peel one lemon and chop the rind as you did the orange rinds, add that to the pot too.
  3. Gather up all the pith (and any seeds) in the cheesecloth bag and put that into the pot as well.
  4. Add 8c. water to the pot and bring to a boil. Let boil until the water is reduced by about half. (this took me about an hour and a half, I think) Meanwhile, peel and mince the ginger, and juice the lemons.
  5. Remove the cheesecloth bag, and add the lemon juice, ginger, and sugar to the pot. Squeeze out the bag and put that juice back into the pot.
  6. Boil until set. (220f on a candy thermometer, or do the spoon sheet test)
  7. ladle into clean, sterilized jars and seal.

I definitely prefer the second, experimental, batch. The ginger flavor is a LOT stronger, which I love (I wanted to call this “orange-ginger-marmalade” due to an inside joke with my cousin – this stuff fits that label well) and the texture is way nicer.

I think I should have added extra water along with the sugar, as the jelly-to-bits ratio is not ideal. I also think longer pre-sugar boiling time would have helped make the rinds more soft (they are fairly firm). And clearly: I over-boiled. Next time I will trust the thermometer (it looked so watery at 220 though!!) Even still: these are gift-worthy!

But you know, I can’t leave well enough alone 🙂 So I made one more experimental batch. This time, lemon-cranberry!

  • 3 lemons
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 9 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar

Basically following the exact same procedure, but using the lemons instead of oranges, and adding the cranberries (chopped) with the ginger and sugar.

 This came out beautiful! What a gorgeous pink color! BUT…super tart. I don’t know what I was expecting, what with lemon and cranberries being the only fruit ingredients, but yeah, tarty tart tart. Still really good, though. It would be fantastic as a topping for ham or other meat. It would even be good on a very rich bread, or as a glaze for a fruit tart, or poured over a brick of cream cheese and served with crackers as an appetizer.

If I make it again, I’d boil the cranberries and ginger with the lemons from the start, and increase the sugar. On the positive side, I now know the correct ratio of water to rind, as this one is pretty near perfect (in my opinion) as far as texture goes.

Overall, my marmalade experiments were fun, cheap, and tasty, and I feel sure the results will be appreciated by my family members. I might do some test-cooking with them, and give a recipe card with the jars instead of (or in addition to) a loaf of bread.

As far as preserving goes, I will most likely stick to jam, though, unless I am in the mood for a lot more science experimenting! ❤

 

dumb plots

So I’m listening to this old song, like over and over and over:

All Cried Out as performed by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, circa 1985.

My poor kids are probably having nightmares because they’re sleeping and I’m sitting here belting it out like an idiot.

Fist of all, a moment of appreciation for the GOLD that is this video. Seriously check out Paul Anthony (I think?) with the bathrobe belt around his forehead. And Lisa Lisa’s outfits!! This whole thing is fantastic. 80’s gold.

Anywhoo… best I can tell this is a song about a very short lived romance, where apparently the couple shares a night of passion, and a (short?) time later, the chick tries to get the guy’s attention, but due to noisy traffic (or cheating/distraction? it’s unclear), he doesn’t hear her and she freaks the fuck out, taking it as a rejection. She then spends the remainder of the time span crying into her pillow until she is literally “all cried out,” and by the end of it, he is, too. Dumb plot.

The song is still so pleasurable to me, though! It reminds me of Junior high sleepovers: singing it into a hairbrush while dancing on a girlfriend’s bed. And school dances: slow dancing under a disco ball in the gym on a Friday night. I love it.*

But it got me thinking about the ludicrous story lines we tolerate. Even enjoy. God, such ridiculous turns of events take place in books and songs and poems! When you break them down, like in this song, they are so crazy, often even laughable.

Kind of like life, I guess.

The stories we hear from our friends, those we see on the news, and even the things we experience are sometimes “stranger than fiction” too, aren’t they? Sometimes it’s the stupidest things that set events in motion. And many times people behave in surprisingly idiotic ways.

I’m thinking about this because I am currently plotting out my next book, and I’m trying to add in enough twists and coincidences and conflicts to make it interesting, but still keep it believable.

It’s all in the delivery, I think. That ridiculous song is a hit because of the music, the singing. Honestly some artists could swap out their lyrics with a grocery list and still sound fantastic, still make you want to dance or cry or just smile. Same with books. Some author’s writing is so fun to read, so pleasurable, they could really tell you any story and you’d enjoy it.

If I only knew the trick to that! Because while I can write a lot of truth, and write honestly, and raw, and all that… I can’t really make it as pretty as I’d like. I can’t make it as addictive as an eighties power ballad. I’m working on it, though! That’s totally my goal 🙂

*note: If you plug “All Cried Out” into YouTube/Pandora, the accompanying  recommendations/channels are fantastic: Klymaxx, Atlantic Starr, The Jets, Pebbles…seriously fun mid-eighties music! Highly recommend.