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Monday, June 29, 2015

How to make your own goldfish crackers -- Fail kitchen





"Let's make some, out of flour and cheese and heartbreak."







 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A privileged personal history of gay rights activism

When I was in high school in the late 1990s, a group of amazing students formed a club one day. They called it the GSA, or the Gay-Straight Alliance. Smalltown, Connecticut, offered an incredibly sheltered existence to all of us, back then. I went to school with literally fewer than 400 students in the 9-12 grade and graduated with something like 98 other kids. And they all looked and behaved just like me. Anyone who behaved even slightly differently, therefore, was subject to scrutiny and side-eye.

Now, we were fairly nice kids, and while a few of my more bullied friends could tell you war stories from that school that would make you shiver, from where I sat in seventh period World Cultures, we all seemed pretty open, honest, and kind. There was the immature name-calling every once in a while, the hallway fist fight once in a blue moon, a few people everyone whispered about for one reason or another. Many of us (and really I can only speak for myself, but I'm guessing many of us) did not understand the reality of oppression, of marginalization, because it truly did not affect us. We were white, straight, well off monetarily, and children. As such, we threw around the phrase "that's gay" very easily, and I distinctly remember at least twice when separate students were made to feel supremely uncomfortable because someone started a rumor that "they were gay." I have no idea how it must have felt to have to walk around with that label, true or not, particularly when they had not yet made a personal choice to share that private information. I do know that I saw red faces, tears, and students drawing into themselves. As if being gay were the absolute worst. Again, I say we didn't know any better, but someone did. Where were the adults?

All this to say my alliance with progressive causes did not start until well after I left high school, and even college. I literally did not understand oppression. I had no concept of it. So when the GSA came along, and quite a few of my friends were in it, I would hang out with them after school every once in a while, when it was convenient to me, mostly to chat with my friends. It may as well have been a sewing circle, or a club for frisbee golf for all I cared or paid attention, but it did spark just a sliver of awareness in me personally, that there was a group of people who felt ostracized enough that they needed a group to support them. And my childhood self did like the idea of equality. Even then I thought that people were people and we should all just let them be and let them love and treat them fairly. I just also thought that they were already treated pretty fairly. I truly had no idea. I was busy reading MacBeth and studying Elementary Functions and playing soccer, and singing in choir, and heading up the Environmental Team. I figured my life was full and complete and did not for one moment consider how incredibly selfish it was.

It's important to note that I didn't even think I knew any LGBT people. I really figured that every single time something like that was brought up, it was mean-spirited talk meant to segregate a person and find something not-normal about them so that they would be made fun of for like a week. I was a fairly smart kid...but I never put two and two together that if I thought being gay or a lesbian or bisexual or transgender was a huge insult meant to wreak havoc on teenage self-esteems, then perhaps I was part of the problem, even though I thought I was doing my diligent part by saying things like, "no, they're not!" I mean, really? So very little I understood in those days.

Turns out, at least two people I knew there were transgender, and many more gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, or without sexual orientation label, per their preference. And that it was okay for them to identify that way. That it wasn't necessarily a source of ridicule, but actually a legitimate identity to be protected, to be held sacred, much like my straight, white life was never questioned. I wish I had known that, then. I wish those students had been able to say with confidence, this is who I am, and I wish I, as a straight person, had known that the correct answer wasn't to immediately thrust the person back into "normality" but to venture to understand what life must be like having to hide from your earliest years. I wish I had known that a better answer than "no, they're not!" would have been, "and what the hell is wrong with that?"

But I didn't know. And for that I am sorry. Regardless, all this is to say that yesterday marked an official turning point in the nation, and the high school friends I still keep in touch with have grown in leaps and bounds since 1996, everyone celebrating, everyone understanding what an enormous weight has been lifted now that our government agrees that love is love and we should not police which gender people have the right to fall in love with.

This entry has been personal and whiny in the face of tremendous societal change for a reason, and that is to say this:

One of the collateral victories in this fight is that when my kids go to high school, they will already know that LGBT people are not a segregated flock of people there only to provide a petty comparison to what straight kids don't want to be. I've taught them from birth that "girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys" and now that we're living in Florida, I can tell you that they came home from kindergarten and first grade at least once a month telling me that so-and-so said I was a liar, or that so-and-so's mom said I was totally wrong and what I said was a sin.

That's not really going to happen anymore in a way I cannot defend. As they grow, I can point to this decision, and guide them in the knowledge that people who identify as LGBT are not only okay, but amazing because they fought for their rights and actually won a battle in our lifetime. When my kids go to high school, "gay" won't be used as an insult. It won't be interchangeable with "stupid" or "ridiculous" or "something I really fucking dislike right now". And that might be a very small thing, but a very good thing. And maybe it's not so small after all.

My children will grow up in a world where more people are treated as equals in the eyes of the law regardless of their personal choice of who to be and who to love. And if they decide they are part of the LGBT community, those who have fought together so hard in my lifetime while I was busy failing Home Economics have paved the way for them, not only personally, but legally, and rights will be afforded them that have been kept away from this group for so long. And I am eternally grateful.

Congratulations, everyone, and thank you. You did it. #lovewins








Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrating Your Teenage Daughter’s Birthday

Whether you like it or not, it’s about to happen. Your little girl is about to turn thirteen. You wonder how this happened. You wonder where the years all went. And seriously, when did she start acting so grown up? You might not be able to answer those questions, but one thing is clear: when it comes to celebrating her birthday, you’re not getting away with a Dora the Explorer theme, a pony petting zoo, or a princess party.

Nope, you’re entering uncharted territory, and let’s face it, you need help. Because as grown up as she might look and act, there’s an emotionally volatile child in there. Throw her an embarrassing party for little girls or buy a present she wanted when she was eight and heads will roll! I think we know whose head we’re talking about, too.

Good thing we’re here for you. We’ve been there with our own teenage daughters and made every mistake in the book so you won’t have to. So, take a deep breath and read the following suggestions for celebrating your teen daughter’s birthday.

· Turn your backyard or living room into a dance party. It’s easy enough. Just hire a DJ for a few hours or do it on the cheap with an iPod and home stereo system. Rent a disco ball, a strobe light, maybe even a fog machine, then throw on a little T-Swift, and you’ve got yourself a makeshift nightclub—without the booze and older men! Your daughter and her friends will love the dancing, the presence of boys will make things seem a little bit adult and a little bit dangerous (you’ll be there, of course, if anyone gets fresh), and a good time will be had by all.

· Try a sleepover. Maybe dancing and boys aren’t exactly on your daughter’s radar yet. No problem. Perhaps a sleepover’s the thing for her. It’s a classic birthday solution. Load up on desserts and sugary coffee (because isn’t coffee very adult), rent a few scary movies or rom-coms and then let them talk into the night, which they will after all that sugar and caffeine.

· Pool party. Believe it or not, this works, even with a teenage daughter. You’ve just got to approach it differently than you might with a younger child. For instance, have it in the late afternoon and invite boys. Provide pizza, soda, chips, etc., and let the kids do their thing. Get some fun inflatable pool toys for them to use. Maybe some will lay out in the sun for a bit. Maybe others will get a game of water volleyball going. And maybe still others will relax in the hot tub while they talk. Once it starts to get dark, send the boys home and turn the pool party into a sleepover.

· Spa night. This one culminates in a sleepover, too. But instead of a pool party with boys to kick things off, make it a night for makeup tips and pampering. If you’re willing to spring for it, you can hire a nail professional to visit the house and do all the girls nails. If not, the girls can do each other’s nails and makeup. Maybe even turn it into a contest. Most talented beautician wins a Starbucks gift card. Once everyone’s all dolled up, take the girls out on the town for dinner or a movie.

· Pre-party with just the family. Parties are all well and good, but you’ve still got to squeeze in some special time on her birthday for just the family. Maybe take her out to her favorite breakfast spot, and while there give her one of her gifts. For teenage girls, remember it’s not all about materialistic things. Often sentimental, she’ll want something that touches her heart and shows how much she means to you. Maybe you can start a fun tradition and get birthday gifts for her like chocolate covered strawberries. Give her the same number of strawberries as the age she is turning, and give her an extra one every year. She’ll look forward to this special tradition year after year.


There you have it. Five ways to not only survive your teenage daughter’s birthday, but to really celebrate it and the young woman she is becoming. Taking the time to do it right will go a long way to building that loving bond we all want with our daughters as they journey through those tumultuous teen years.








Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recipe: Vegan French Toast -- Guest Post

Photo by PianissAmma


For years, I have been a fan of brunch. I love the idea of getting together with friends and family to commune with a tasty late morning meal. Perhaps a Belgian waffle, or a spicy potato quiche served up with juice and sunshine on a Saturday morning.

One dish I have loathed since becoming an adult however, is French toast. Restaurants often serve them too soggy with egg batter, or they’re much too dry and flavorless. Even one slice can be heavy enough to make me regret getting out of bed for the rest of the day.

This spring, I challenged myself to revisit the concept of French toast on my own terms. I wondered if it was possible to make the dish without eggs. I had already began removing eggs from many dishes with a bit of success. So would it work with a brunch staple like French toast? To my surprise, the answer was ‘yes.’

Now that we are facing another egg shortage in much of the United States courtesy of a particularly bad avian flu outbreak, I wanted to share this recipe.

Vegan French Toast

Ingredients:

1 ripe banana
1/3 cup apple sauce (I used Mrs. Gooch’s, because there is no added sugar)
3/4 cup milk of your choice (I have plain soy, but I think oat milk would work well here too).
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
oil or margarine for griddle as needed (I use Earth Balance)
8-10 slices of stiff bread of your choice
Note: You can use fresh bread, but lightly toast it prior to dipping in batter



Ingredients used. Photo by PianissAmma

Directions:

Preheat the griddle or skillet.

Beat or puree the fruit, milk, vanilla and cinnamon until it reaches the consistency of a smoothie. Add mixture to a plate or shallow bowl.

Dip the bread into the batter, soaking up to seconds per side. Don’t let the bread get too soggy.

Place on heated griddle or skillet, and cook until both sides are browned. This particular mixture takes a little longer to cook than it’s egg enriched counterpart. Allow for about five minutes on the griddle.

Serve as you like.


...

Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma. You can find this recipe and many others there!




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A freelancer's roundup

It's been almost exactly a year since I started attempting to freelance on a regular basis for actual money. This is not statistical data or anything, but I thought some people might be interested in the numbers of a first-year freelancer (who, admittedly, has had plenty of past writing experience, but never in the world of paid-for print). So, here are the numbers I can give you, based on my fledgling and not-quite successful career at this point:

In the past year, I sent out 542 pitches. Out of those pitches, I was ignored 211 times. I received 187 rejections, and had a piece accepted 144 times. That means I was ignored 39 percent of the time. I was told LOL NOPE 35 percent of the time, and I was allowed to write a piece for a publication 26 percent of the time.

I've published in 32 different outlets, writing from one piece to dozens of pieces for each.

I've written pieces for anywhere from $50 a piece (if you don't count free), up to $1,200 a piece, so far, with my average per piece probably hovering around $200, but I'm not doing that math. Maybe it's way lower, I don't know. I hope to markedly increase that this year.

I have made a grand total of: $15,069.55 so far. I am still waiting on a few thousand dollars worth of checks because haha, why pay freelancers in a timely manner, amirite?

Not great for a real person job, for sure. But not really that bad, either, considering if you'd told me last year that I'd be trying to make a go at freelancing for a living, I'd have laughed in your face.

So, recap:

Pitches: 542
Ignored: 211
Rejections: 187
Acceptances: 144
Money: $15,069.55
Publications: 32

And that's really it. I mean, what other info would be helpful, I don't know. This has been your "Darlena's first year as a freelancer" summation. Kbye.





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