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Thursday, January 30, 2014

You Don't Get to Tell Me Why I Do Things

Dear Jon from Babble who has a lot to say on feminism and selfies:

You are wrong.

Now, I know that, as someone with a penis, hearing that you are wrong will make you flare up with anger for a split second, before you catch yourself and laugh it off with bravado, telling yourself that someone who thinks you could possibly be wrong obviously doesn't know anything.

Oh, wait, I don't know that.

I don't know that because I don't know anything about you. And I certainly don't know anything about your penis, or how it would possibly play into your inner monologue. I also know nothing about your inner monologue.

Even though I have a husband, and a father, and am also full of rage, much, apparently like yourself.

As such, with my admitted lack of knowledge, I would not presume to tell you about how you would react to being wrong, or why you would react that way.

Can you do me the same favor?

Because, frankly, I am getting fed up with you people telling me what to do.

Now we'll skip the lazy argument here (man talking about feminism full stop) because I know several men who talk well about feminism, and go right to a similar, but not quite the same argument (man thinking he is using sound logic to tell women how to be better feminists). I cannot abide this.

Your whole argument is lost when you say: "The thrust of the 365 feminist selfie project attempts to destabilize traditionally restrictive notions of beauty to make room for all women in the Palace of Pretty."

That's not what the project is about for me. You don't get to tell me what a project I'm doing is about. I don't owe you this, but for me this project is a chronicle through picture of my achievements and struggles this year, as a person. It is about self-exploration, and documentation in a way I've never been free to do before. It has nothing to do with acceptance into your Pretty Palace.

Then you really nail your coffin together when you follow that ridiculous generalization up with this: "She might write a poem a day or learn about a new woman author every day. Maybe she could do a science experiment a day or plant a tree every day. Run a mile every day? Or maybe she could make it a point to seek out a sad looking girl every day and say something kind to her (NOT about her appearance)."

After attributing faulty reasoning to the project in which I am partaking (which you do not get to do), you further do not get to tell me that projects that you deem more important than physical beauty are better for my feminism.

And seriously, I dare you to go find a "sad-looking" girl and say something "kind" to her. You don't get to tell girls to cheer up. Neither do I. People, anyone, right now, should not be imposing their opinions on what "sad" is on poor random girls who are probably not even sad anyway. Talk about your narcissism. What makes you think anything a random person has to say to a woman he is guessing is sad would make any difference to her? You're not talking about a tangible thing here, like, someone is struggling with the groceries so you help them out, or someone's got a flat tire, so you lend them a jack. You're talking about an intangible assessment of a stranger's mental well-being.

Which basically sums up your whole piece in a microcosm example.

Other insulting things you have said include this gem: "I see your need to redefine beauty and raise you one need to question the female defined by her appearance. Women can be more than how they look and deserve to be. Step away from the cameras. Seek new ways to appear. As you explore new adjectives through which to be defined, you will emerge as more complicated nouns than pretty ones. This is perhaps the direction toward a feminism beyond beauty."

I pretty much can't even stand you right now, so I'm going to hand this one off to Raeven Zayas, a woman in my closed FB group for the #365feministselfie project. (It's closed, you see, because it's not for you, or the public, or anyone. It is for us.)

Rae aptly points out your weak attempt at generalizing to an entire population with your sample set of, um, two. Here's a huge clue for you, Jon, women are not the same. We are not a neatly categorizable group. I am sorry for your loss.

Okay, she says,

"Never mind that some of us are in Grad school, and some of us are parents, and some of us are both, and some of us are neither, and some of us have fancy jobs, and some of us are tough as nails, and some of us could get a blood stain out of a white satin wedding dress, and some of us can train a horse, and some of us have survived cancer, and some of us use our pasts and our traumas to help each other, and some of us can push a baby out of us under the water at our house with no pain medication, and some of us have awesome dreads, and some of us do amazing makeup, and some of us can make a giant cake with a Magic Mike style dancer that pops out of it, and some of us are recovering addicts, and some of us have made a huge connection to other women through this project that has indeed been empowering, and some of us have realized that perhaps we aren't alone in our own insecurities, and some of us have helped one another embrace and love those insecurities, and some of us have learned beautiful things about each other that do not, in fact, have much to do with our physical appearance and our ability to Get a man."

Oh, did I forget to quote you on that part? Hold on, here it is: "What if the seemingly natural, and cunning, desire of women to be physically beautiful — to either be included in the culture’s definition of beauty OR to alter the culture’s definition of beauty to include them — all stemmed from the basic desire to attract (uh-oh) a man?"

Yes, we are so cunning. We are so cunning in fact, that we think taking pictures of ourselves will prove to men that there is room for everybody in the Pretty Palace. Also, lesbians don't exist in your world of seemingly academic ponderings. Good to know.

Are you even listening to yourself?

Rae continues:
"This isn't his movement, it's ours. And if he really wants the truth, I do this for my daughter. All feminism has ever been about for me is my daughter. As a mother who has a little girl that I still get to watch grow up and find her own empowerment and struggle against harsh societal standards of beauty and will spend every day judging herself as harshly as I did about the way she looks, this absofuckinglutely is about my kid. And she will be amazing, and funny, and kind, and intelligent, and generous, and understanding, and compassionate, and driven, and stubborn, and fuck him if he thinks I don't want her to feel beautiful, too."
And there you have it. Two different women with two different motivations for doing the same project, and both of us feeling empowered because of it.

Should we do another one? Let's do another one. This is from Rebecca:
"For me, taking these pics, and being involved in this project is more about creating a supportive community, one where women can be vulnerable and honest about who they are and their daily lives (struggles and successes). For me, it has very little to do with physical beauty."
I ask you, dear sir, why does our feeling of empowerment and community force you to action?

Don't react with a hasty defense, you said. Think about it, you said.

I did think about it, even though I didn't have to.

Because you do not get to tell me what to do. You do not get to tell me why I do things.

You do not get to tell me what to do.

Also, your scholar jargon makes you sound like a douche. And I'm a scholar, so I know about that one.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Naked Egg Experiment - Guest Post

Samantha Williams from The Day Well Spent is back with an amazing, easy, two-ingredient, one-step experiment that kids love!


The Naked Egg experiment. I found this a few days ago via Pinterest and it certainly caught my eye. I went to the website it was pinned from and watched the video, then I showed the video to Jack and we both decided this was something we had to try. So Saturday afternoon we gathered our supplies and got to it.
Guys this was so much fun. Before we started we happened to mention to grandma what we were going to do and she thought it was so cool that she also did her own naked egg experiment. I think Jack had as much fun watching her bounce her egg as he did his own! This is such an easy and incredibly fun activity that requires basic ingredients most already have in their home. I highly recommend giving it a try yourself!

All you need: An egg, a jar and vinegar.

The experiment takes 12-24 hours so I took a picture every time I noticed a change in the egg.


and then finally it was done! Squishy, squishy!

Of course, they will still...break.

If you want to try this yourself, check out this page for all you need to know! how to make a naked egg!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's 2014, and I Want to Learn Piano - An FAQ: Guest Post

Jill over at Pianissamma shows us a bit of her namesake here, and answers all the questions about how to start on the piano, even if you've never done it before. (Can be used for kids, too!)


It’s January, which means that many take up new life goals and resolutions for the year. Perhaps you’re thinking about learning an instrument, or having your child take up music lessons in the spirit of enrichment.

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of music! We music teachers are more than happy to show you the ropes. Every teacher has their own set of rules when it comes to lesson structure, repertoire, and at home practice. While you may find differing opinions on technique and artistry in music, many of us agree on the following questions asked by prospective students and parents. Here’s an FAQ I’ve compiled after 22 years of teaching piano.

Q: Can my child or I learn music?

A: If you have the desire to learn and the time to practice, you can learn music.

Q: What ages do you teach? Do you teach adults?

A: I teach students ages 4 to 104. Not all teachers work with such a broad age range. It is never too late to start learning, or to return to music. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Q: Why won’t you teach my 3 year old?

A: While there are methods suitable for preschoolers, those methods are geared toward small group sessions. I generally teach one on one for regular lessons, and group sessions only for master class work. I would highly recommend Kindermusik if you are eager to start your child prior to age 4.

Q: How long and how often are lessons?

A: Lessons generally start at 30 minutes, and I recommend no less than once a week for a lesson. My lesson lengths are 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes.

Q: Do I need an instrument?

A: As a piano student, an instrument would be most helpful. Not just any instrument, however. Ideally, the instrument should have a full compliment of keys (88 keys). Acoustic pianos are the best, provided they are in good shape and tuned regularly. Keyboards like the Yamaha Clavinova are acceptable, particularly if you can get one with piano weight keys. Keep in mind that the feel and sound will differ from that of an acoustic piano.

Yes, instruments are expensive, but think of this as an investment. If it’s too costly to buy, consider renting. Or keep your eyes peeled for estate sales. Just make sure to keep your instrument properly maintained when you do get one.

Q: What kind of materials do I need?

A: In addition to your own piano or keyboard, you will need a notebook, music, a pencil, and a metronome.

Notebooks are useful for not just showing your weekly assignment list. They are also useful for writing down any questions you have, writing compositions (many musical notebooks include staff lines for just that), jotting down exercises for home practice, and just keeping track of specifics on your literature. Which leads to…

…Literature is a good thing to have for your music lessons. Whether you or your child are in method books learning the basics of music, or you’re working on a piano concerto, you’re going to need some music. Regardless of whether you want to work on Brahms or Justin Bieber, having the written score will help. Especially in my studio, where musical literacy is important.

All aspiring pianists and students need a pencil for making annotations in the music. Sometimes, the notes are for fingering, sometimes, just a gentle reminder that you’re playing an F, not an E. Not to mention, if you need to compose a short song for your next lesson, that pencil will come in very handy.

Finally, you need a metronome. The metronome is a musician’s best friend. You can download a metronome app for your iPhone, or you can buy a little box that takes batteries. The metronome will keep time and tempo (speed, or BPM) for you while you’re practicing your scales, exercises, and songs. It’s the type of best friend that keeps your rhythm in check whether you want it to or not. During the early stages, you may wish to throw your metronome across the room. Don’t. It’s merely helping you keep precise time. Every musician worth their salt keeps a metronome or two. I have four, if you count the app on my phone.

Q: Can I just drop my child off at their lesson and come back later?

A: You can, that is perfectly fine. However, I have found that if a parent is serious about their kid learning piano, the kids really benefit with a parent in the room. Many parents are more than welcome to stay at lessons. Many parents do. The younger the student, the more helpful it is to have a parent there. This is particularly true if the child is studying Suzuki, one of many piano methods available.

Q: What kind of music will my child or I work on?

A: For the beginner student, it will depend on their learning style. Some students are avid readers, while others might be more aurally inclined, or kinesthetic learners. There are many different methods to choose from. Each student is unique.

For students that are out of the method books, the sky is the limit on what kind of music there is to study. Speaking for myself, I allow many different styles. I only ask that you are willing to learn, and that you are also willing to work on technique to make those songs more enjoyable.

It’s important to note that some teachers do specialize in classical or pop only, so this is a very good question to ask while interviewing prospective teachers.

Q: How often do I need to practice?

A: You should practice every day that you breathe. Keep in mind that music is a language. You read, you write, sing, play. Not all practice is done at the piano. You might find yourself working on listening assignments with your iPod, or trying fingering out on your steering wheel while sitting at a red light. You may have music theory assignments, which can be done away from the piano. Perhaps you have a piece that you’re learning to sing as well as play. Singing can happen anywhere, anytime. You practice every day that you breathe, because music is part of everyday life.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kindergarten Kids - Facing the Flu


You've got all your normal shit to do, but suddenly you can no longer stand up. For three days, you can't move for the pain, you're feverish, and body aches doesn't even begin  to cover it. Then, when you do feel slightly better, you're weak. You can't stand for long periods of time. You can't raise your arms above your head.

Meanwhile, your kids are having blueberry fights in the living room because they're so bored, and mommy never comes out of her room anymore.


The only solution for bad illnesses (I have the flu, but this goes for bad colds as well), is time. And you can't resent the time you have to take (although, of course, I do), because it's not going to make anything move more quickly. And when you start to feel better, you can't overdo it, or you'll be back on your ass again the next day (ask me how I know).

Basically, you need to take the moments when your brain is working (few and far between, unfortunately), and organize and delegate.

Anything that had a deadline, you need to change it. Get used to your house being a disaster. Have faith that you can fix it later. Ask your kids to work with you, if they're old enough. To make less of a mess or to go outside. Whatever. Have groceries and meals delivered. Trust me. Get only the essentials so it doesn't cost too much.

Importantly, keep your kids away from you. They'll want to be rubbing their faces all in your flu. Tell them no. Taking care of a sick child while you're dead yourself is hard. 

Wait. It will be over soon.

God willing.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


I have the flu. The real flu. Diagnosed with Influenza A yesterday, and I'd been unable to get up from bed two days before that. I had actually been too sick to go get seen. The thought of having to get dressed, or, you know, stand up, brought me to tears. Today is the first day I've been well enough to move around even a little bit.

As such I've been on my feet since 6:30 a.m. and I honestly feel like I'm about to die.

So, why the heck am I blogging?

Because I'm fucking pissed. This day has been a nightmare, and I have some reviews (good and bad) to dish out. And don't think I'm not going to social media these to the people involved, either. I totally will. Don't freaking mess with me when I'm about to pass out from death.

REVIEW 1 - University of Florida: C

I don't know what their official policy is on the flu and I'm too sick to go look it up and argue about it, but I emailed my professor yesterday after my diagnosis, and while she was plenty kind and polite, she gave me a three-day extension on a 25-pg paper that I cannot fathom starting right now. Because words. And reading them. In order. To have meaning. She gave me no extension on today's assignment which I managed to complete before what we will henceforth call HELL AFTERNOON started. Thank God. She also expects me on class on Monday. The doctor told me not to return to life until February 4th. I'll still be contagious. So, yeah.

For threatening the public health, and clearly not understanding what flu means, UF gets a C.

REVIEW 2 - My Kid's School District: A

I brought my kids to school today because they were BEGGING to go. I knew one of them should not have been there (tho in my defense I didn't know she had the flu because she'd been vaxxed for it. Twice.) I told them the minute she started showing signs of illness fatigue or coughed at all, to call me and have her sent home, regardless of the tantrum she would throw about not being with her twin. They called me at 9:27 a.m. and I went and got her.

For following instructions and caring about human health and the spread of disease their district gets an A.

Which brings us to...

REVIEW 3 - FLU VACCINE (nasal spray): B-

I'm so pro-vaccine I cannot bring myself to give this below a B, but seriously, dudes, wtf. My kids got the mist TWICE this year (because it was their first year for the vaccination). I know strains are different and blah blah blah, and my whole family is going to get vaccinated next year even though this happened this year because it's not the vaccine's fault. But it still majorly blows that we got the mini-sick twice in the fall, and still all got the mother-effing flu anyway.

For failing to protect my kids this year, the flu vaccine gets a B-.

REVIEW 4 - Kids Doc Pediatric: D 

I'm really sorry to give this one out because I really, really love the main doctor and his wife and their business. But, guys, enough is too much. I called in the early morning for an appt (righ t after they opened), and got scheduled for 2:15 p.m. I got there on time, paid my copay, and we waited for 45 minutes in the waiting room. What's the big deal, right? Sometimes doctors are busy. Well, the big deal is it was packed  in there, and they don't have a sick waiting room and a well one. Just one waiting room. And I told everyone we had the flu and sat us as far away from people as we could, but kids still kept coming up and trying to touch the twins because they look like the same person and are therefore incredibly interesting to the under 10 set. Also, we ended up right next to a six year old just there for his yearly. I wanted to die of flu-guilt. They didn't even have masks.

When they finally put us in the room, it was another 45 minutes before the doctor saw us. The room had a sticky mess in the middle of it and our sneakers all got stuck. Gross. I mentioned that to the doctor, and she was like, huh. That's weird. Then my kid wanted water. The doctor's office did. not. have. water. They gave her a popsicle instead. She didn't want it. I also had to ask them to retake her temp because the first reading was 95.7. The second reading? 103.6.

On our way out, I reminded them to call in the scripts. They forgot. But I'll come back to that.

For giving countless children the flu, making my daughter wait for 90 minutes with an ear infection, the flu, a respiratory infection, and 104 temp, Kids Doc gets a D.

REVIEW 5 - United Health Care: D+

While I've received great customer service every time I've called them, I'm going to have to call them again because somewhere along the line they decided to start charging copays for well-visits, and not only that, but they back-issued payment for all of last year. So the doctor's office tried to charge me hundreds of dollars and I had to be like lol no. I don't like surprise charges or back charges.

For trying to charge me for old money you weren't collecting at the time, United Health Care gets a D+.


When my husband went to get vaccinated against the flu on Saturday (lol the day before I came down with it), they charged him $30. Flu shots are free. He called and the customer service rep told him it must have been an administering fee. Which it wasn't. He now has to call a bunch of different numbers to get the charge taken off.

When we paid for my tamilflu, we paid $100 deductible first, then the medicine. The next day, when I had to pay for my kids' tamilflu, they tried to charge me the deductible again. Calling customer service got a different person with a different answer each time. Now we have to call various numbers again to get the overcharge rectified. I do not have a million dollars for fake deductibles, Caremark, thanks.

On top of that, all of the CVS stores in town were OUT of tamilflu. Which wouldn't have been so bad, except that those stores weren't cool enough to tell the doctor when she phoned them in and waited for my sick-as-death ass to show up with my glassy, green kids to tell me, LOLSORRY. Not impressed. In fact, I actually cried at the fourth pharmacy to do this to me.

So, for failing every which way and making me hate them forever, CVS Caremark gets an F.

Which brings me to:

REVIEW 7 - Walgreens: A-

After running through my CVS options, I finally ended up at Walgreens, where, at first, no one was at the drive-through window. A man who was clearly off the clock and on his way out must have seen my stricken face, because he put his coat down and started my order for me. After that, a nice young man took over, and before filling all the drugs (which the Walgreens HAD) he told me they'd cost $70 a piece, which really sucked. I asked him why, and asked if it was because we had Caremark, and he smiled sympathetically and said yes. Then he filled our abx which was only $9, and instead of filling the tamilflu, he called every single CVS in the area until he found one that had it in stock. He transferred the order there, and I had my husband pick it up after work, (where he again had issues with Caremark.)

For being decent human beings, having medicine in stock and helping me even though you sold less drugs, Walgreens gets an A-.

Now, during this whole pharmacy debacle, my check-engine light came on and my car started shaking. Which brings me to:

REVIEW 8 - Honda of Gainesville: D+

After charging me $600 for new tires when I went in to check out a rattling noise a month or so ago, the dealership said I wouldn't need oil for another whole year because the oil was full and looked new. I'm too sick to go get the car checked right now, but without that rec, I'd have gotten the oil changed 1000 miles ago, bc that's when the sticker told me to get it changed. I'm willing to bet the $200 that Caremark is never going to give back to me that the problem with the car is the oil. Since I can't be sure, I won't fail them. But still.

For telling me my car was fine, and telling me to ignore maintenance stickers, Honda of Gainesville gets a D+.

And finally, we have:

REVIEW 9 - Grocery Mama: A+

After the day I had yesterday, just to be treated cordially and like a person was enough to inspire eternal gratitude in this small business. When I used it, I thought it was just a regular grocery service, which it is, but it's also way better than that. It's a local, one-family, business, and they are just doing everything right. I hope they have great, great success in everything. Here's what I left on their FB page review section:

Grocery Mama is amazing. I'm dead with the flu right now, and had to use a service for the first time in my life today. Within seconds of receiving my list online, the owner called me, clarified all concerns, and continued pertinent conversation throughout the trip to make sure she got what I wanted. Her understanding and humor was a breath of fresh air after a day of everything gone wrong. After the shopping she had to hand off the reins and called to make sure I was okay with a man dropping the groceries off. At every step, she ensured my comfort. When she couldn't find a brand I wanted she texted to see if another brand would be okay, and when it wasn't, she took time out to ask a store employee where the exact item was. My groceries were here within an hour of me ordering them. AND I FORGOT TO GIVE A TIP. They were so polite, they didn't even stick around in case I would remember. Please come back, Grocery Mama, bc I have all the monies to give you. It is unacceptable that such stellar service go tipless. I recommend that any and everyone use this service. They cater to all the local grocery stores too. I could not have had a better experience, and I was in a BAD MOOD, so that was hard to pull off. They're wonderful.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kindergarten Kids - The Holiday Aftermath


With the huge influx of toys, games and rubbish during the holidays, your house may seem messier and more cluttered no matter how organized you are. You have to get rid of the old to make room for the new, but how do you decide what gets the boot?


There are several different ways to separate the keepers from the get-the-hell-outers.

1) Anything your kids haven't played with in two months or more, get rid of. (They'll tell you they'll miss it. They won't).

2) Check for repeats. These aren't always obvious. I mean, in my case they are because twins. So sometimes I'll get two headband makers, when I really only need one. For those who have kids of different ages, choose the one dancing Mickey you like the best. You don't need 2006's version and 2012's version, even though they're "different."

3) Let your kids open their own presents, and give away the unopened gifts (unless you are sure your kids would love the toy or game if they would just give it a chance.)

This seems cruel, but it's not. Like, my kids could not care less about little "action figures." (IDK what we call them these days). Bratz, My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop. They don't even open the boxes, and the ones I've pried open have just made a huge mess in my house and no one has even played with them once.

Now, if you don't open these well-meaning gifts, you could return them for something your family would enjoy, or (what I usually do), you can donate unopened boxes of stuff to people who can't afford it. Then they get something new, which is always rad.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Man Up, You Damn Pussy -- A Retort to NY Post's Kyle Smith

Oh, I'm sorry, Kyle Smith, did the Golden Globes get your panties in a bunch?

NY Post

Seriously, the amount of bitching you did at having to watch successful women for a few hours on your TV makes me wonder if you're on the rag. Get hold of yourself, man.

The last thing we need is another bro crying hysterical tears about cruel Hollywood (Hollywood? Nay, life) completely forgetting about your penis.

If you want something done, do something, don't just sit there, eating your gallons of ice cream and whining in mass a girl.

Be the change you want to see. Strike out in leadership and dominance. Christ, men wonder why their rights are disappearing when all they do is PMS all the time instead of pulling themselves up by their boot straps and getting the job done.

I mean, what's the matter? Are you too much of a pansy to actually do something about this sorry state of affairs?

Be a man, God.

Instead of filling your pretty little head with all this inane gossip and gerrymandering, call people to action.

Okay, so you didn't like the jokes. There's no need to get all uppity about it, Jesus. All these men always overreacting to shit and exaggerating it. Vagina is a word, it's not that bad.

Better yet, instead of mindlessly complaining, why don't you face your fears, full-frontal. It's not like they're going to rape you.

It would be totally ballin' if you manned up right now, is all I'm saying.

Plus, if you didn't enjoy it, it's your own fault. Living in the 2000s means you're going to see some women outside the kitchen sometimes. You're pretty much asking for it, anyway. So don't expect me to feel sorry for you. Stop playing the victim all the time, God, you are so manipulative.

I'm just asking you to calm down. Seriously, are you okay? Stop being such a little bitch.

Think you can handle your business now, nancy-boy? Or should I get you your smelling salts?
... ...

The Golden Globes and all media messages need more estrogen, Kyle, because regardless of what you think about the style, content or structure of the individual shows, the disgusting diatribe above is basically 'the pep talk' every high school boy hears in the locker room when things in his life go wrong.

Media representation is important as a trend. I care not about the specific content right now because how much marginalized groups are represented in the media is important, and not just for feminists. For you, too.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drunk Stew -- Contributor Post

Today I'm lucky enough to have Jackie Monck from Accidentally Mommy here to talk stew! (This is the best food post I've ever seen, btw.)

The holiday season brings out the best in all of us. Kindness, special attention paid to creating memories and traditions. It brings out the primal, ingrained urges to stay close to one another, to cook and cuddle and generally wait out these dark, short days until the sun and the verdant spring that accompanies her return to us.

Do you know what else does this for us? Wine. And specific to me, wine also brings out the chef in me. So, as a result, the people around me have been showered in baked goods and soups and stews. Because it’s fucking cold, ya’ll. What better way to warm up than get toasted, and then cook and bake?

So, I bring you the latest in my culinary blunders that turned out surprisingly well: Beef stew with red wine demi-glace. (Like that name? Sounds classy, right? Totally changed it. My recipe card reads “Drunk New Year’s stew.”)

I would give you measurements, but to be straight with you: I…don’t remember. So I’ll give you an ingredient list instead and tell you what my grandmother told me. Don’t be a dumbass, always under-season and go from there. Use what looks right, and if you need more, add it in small amounts.

v  Stew Beef. I like fattier cuts, because this is a winter stew and it’s full of other rich ingredients. Fat is flavor, damn it. Besides, you’ll need those drippings to make your red wine demi-glace.
v  Carrots
v  Onions
v  Celery
v  Garlic (powder AND minced.)
v  Onions
v  Potatoes (I like baby reds with the skin on.)
v  More garlic
v  Salt and Pepper to taste
v  Butter (I think I used a pound and a half, total, but I also made a REALLY BIG POT.)
v  Flour (I think this was a cup and a tablespoon.)
v  Red wine (I didn’t want it too dry, because I was drinking it first and foremost. Apothic Red fit the bill nicely.)
v  1 ½ tbsp rendered bacon grease
Okay, so, there is a LITTLE bit of advanced cooking in this. Unless you’re experienced in making a roux, don’t get too drunk. Oh, yeah, the advanced cooking is making a roux.

Start out with your wine!!!


Okay. Poured your wine? Good. Now, you want to take your stew meat out and let it hit room temperature. Because cooking science. No, really. Go google why you want meat you’re only searing to be room temperature. Answer for the lazy: Because it will sear much faster on lower heat, and give you a more even sear. Season it well with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder. I like sea salt and fresh three pepper medly, but meh. Don’t work too hard. Remember, by now you should be a little tipsy.

Now is the fun part. Once your meat has seared, you’re going to transfer it to your pot to rest. Resting meat gives it a chance to suck back in some of those juices and remain tender. (Like my fancy science talk? It sucks that shit up like a straw.)

After you’ve gotten it all transferred, you’re going to turn the heat up high and whisk the fuck out of those drippings for about three minutes. It’s going to be hot and steamy, like Ninette Swann’s latest novel. (See what I did there?) Hang with it.

Once that lovely, beefy, seasoned goo has started to reduce and get darker, add your wine to deglaze the pan. I used a cup or so. Alter appropriately for the amount of drippings you have.

Turn the heat back up, and whisk some more. This time, you’re going to whisk it until it simmers down and becomes smooth and shiny. It won’t be completely smooth, because you haven’t strained the tiny pieces of meat out of it. But it won’t be goopy, either. 

Also, more wine for you. Fill that glass back up!!!

So, now that you’ve got your demi-glace, you’re going to pour that over your meat, and then set it aside completely. It will rest in the demi-glace and absorb all of that rich flavor while you sautee and chop and prep.

Now you chop and mince your veggies. Preferably not while your sister is in the kitchen making peach cobbler; because then you’re tipsy, she’s clumsy, and you end up with cinnamon-drenched celery, like so:

Scrap that celery. Start over. Chop the fuck out of those veggies.

Now you want to take a hunk of butter, and toss it in a non-stick pan. “But…if it’s non-stick, why do you need butter?” Because like I’ve said before, fat is flavor. It will absorb all those amazing, aromatic juices and emulsify into the stew later to explode in your mouth like a goddamn culinary orgasm.

So, you’ve melted the butter. Now you’re going to sweat your minced garlic. That is, you’re going to stir it around in the simmering butter until the smell is strong and sweet., and it changes color a bit.

The you add your veggies, and saute them, sweating the onions the same way you did the garlic. While garlic becomes a paler yellow when sweat, onions begin to turn translucent.

Once you’ve hit “almost clear” on the onion front (lol,) go ahead and pull that off the heat.  Cut up your taters. Layer the taters on top of the meat, and the veggies on top of the taters, like so:

Then you need to cook that bitch. Add a cup and a half to two cups of water, cover, and place over low low heat. Stir at the half hour in mark, and then turn heat to medium low. Keep covered and cook for four to six hours, or until meat and potatoes are tender. Stir regularly to combine and make sure nothing burns.

Once you’re about a half hour away from being done, you want to start your roux.

To do that, you need to melt two cups of butter (mind you, this is for a stew that included four pounds of potatoes, and two and a half pounds of meat. Don’t forget to alter to suit the size of your pot.) over medium heat, whisking gently. Once your butter is melted, incorporate your bacon fat. Whisk together until fat is melted to fully incorporate with your butter.

Now you’re going to slowly but steadily whisk in your flour. For any roux, you want equal parts fat to flour. So, in this case, it was two cups, plus 1 ½ tbsp. of flour.

Whisk gently over medium heat until the roux becomes bubbly, smooth, and starts to toast. I like mine to be a honey color, like below. It may start to smell a little nutty, even.

Okay. So you’ve got your roux that you’ve whisked the fuck out of forever. You’ve got your stew that smells amazing and has been cooking forever. WAT DO????

Simple. Whisk your roux gently into your stew. Stir with a wooden spoon a handful of times to make sure you’ve got it completely incorporated, and then you want to cover and let it cook for a little while longer. In the end, you should have a thick, dark, bubbly product that you want to take into the closet with a spoon and eat, shamefully, all by yourself.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the sated, slightly glazed look the faces of my co-workers had after eating this. It was delightful, and the stew was gone in literally under five minutes.

I hope you enjoy making this as much as I did, and the looks on the faces of the people you make it for bring you the same joy that they brought me.

Stay warm, stay drunk, keep cooking.



And there you have it, hands down the best recipe post I've ever seen.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Open Letter to Pope Francis from a Roman Catholic -- Contributor Post

A while back, I wrote an open letter to Pope Francis as a nonreligious. Today, thealogian Kate Allen from Life, Love, Liturgy writes a much more relevant note to him, as a Roman Catholic.


To Pope Francis:

In my almost thirty-two years as a Roman Catholic, I have never been prouder of any pope. Granted, I've only encountered three in my lifetime, but I am also a student of Christian history. You stand out among your predecessors.

You have rocked the entire world with your embodied proclamations of the good news. You kiss the wounds of the sick. You share tables with those who have neither tables of their own nor food to put on them. You warn your clergy again and again against the glamour of clericalism. Your love is abundant, like Christ's was and is, and I have seen it have a multiplying effect, even (perhaps especially) among non-Roman Catholics.

I am tremendously grateful to God for your faithful, living witness to the teachings of Jesus. Your heart is wide open, and I feel quite certain that if I happened to walk into your midst, you would smile and greet me with the warmth of an old friend, and I would greet you likewise.

I need to confess something to you. On February 16, 2014, God willing, I will leave my cloak of Roman Catholic identity behind in order to be received as a member of the Episcopal Church.

Despite having spent my entire life as a devoted (albeit flawed) Roman Catholic, I cannot remain Roman Catholic any longer. Because despite the gospel of Jesus you now proclaim miraculously through your very body, and despite the many ways in which I encounter Christ's presence through your holy example, I'm afraid there is at least one way in which you, like most if not all of your predecessors, have failed to hear the voice of God and heed it: in the calling of thousands upon thousands of women around the world to ordained ministry.

I was able to name my own God-given call to ordained ministry thirteen years ago. I was still a teenager then. I am close with several Roman Catholic women who share the same call. Yet you, like your papal predecessors, have dismissed even the possibility that women might be called to ordained ministry.

I don't understand this hardness of heart. Not from you.

What I do understand is how hard it can be to hear God's earnest whispers when so much of one's culture screams against it. My favorite psalm is Psalm 51, because it is a perpetual invitation to be changed, transformed, turned around:

Create in me a clean heart, o God.
Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways
and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.

I suspect this psalm is as dear to you as it is to me. Please, then, let God's whispers reach your ear through my meager words: God calls some women to serve as ordained ministers. That the Roman Catholic hierarchy refuses to acknowledge this (or even to discuss it) is gravely sinful. It is presumptuous to deny God's calling to those whom God has chosen.

Please, for God's sake, don't allow whatever is lacking in me cause you to be deaf to what God is speaking to you through me in this moment. If anyone with the authority to effect gospel change in the Roman Catholic Church can hear this prophetic word, I believe you can.

Please, open your heart and listen for the sake of my daughters, who will grow up in the midst of your legacy even if they never set foot in a Roman Catholic church.

Please, listen. Listen because you know better than almost anyone that God speaks prophetically through those who are marginalized, women included.

Please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, listen--allow yourself to be importuned by me, just like the judge was importuned by the widow, or like Jesus was importuned by the woman begging for scraps. You and I both know what happened in those latter two instances. If Jesus' mind could be changed, surely yours can.

I believe that the world-wide turning of hearts to God, if you listened in this one way and acted accordingly, would be a miracle of biblical proportion.

With blessings and love in the One who creates, redeems, and sanctifies all the world,

M. Kate Allen


Monday, January 13, 2014

Recipe Monday - Almond Cream Cheese Frosting

It was my mother's birthday this weekend, so we made a cake in her honor (which we will now eat all by ourselves). It was a chocolate cake, and I made an almond cream cheese frosting to go with it. Absolutely delicious. And frosting is so super easy to make.


 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (I used all the sugar this time. Next time I'll just use 2 cups.)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon whole milk


Sift confectioners sugar over cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer at moderate speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Beat in extract and milk until just incorporated (be careful not to over-beat, or mixture will become too loose).



Saturday, January 11, 2014

Kindergarten Kids - Try Something New


So this is the new year, and you don't feel any different. So how do you actually reinvigorate your life without burning yourself out? My suggestion is to try only one or two new things at a time, and make sure those things are for  you. You can do other new things for your kids and your family, but have a few just for you. And introduce them slowly, so that you don't feel guilty or selfish (which you shouldn't anyway, but I know you) for doing them.


My personal solution was yoga, which to anyone who knows me is hilarious. I'm like a frenetic chipmunk in all things. I can't get through even 1/3 of a thought before my brain moves on to something else. I wrote up an account of my first yoga class yesterday. The point not being to scare you off new things (which it might, I can't lie), but to show that you can suck at something and still have fun, and still go back. Maybe.

I showed up with my friend, Leanna, and neither of us had ever been before. We were sitting on our mats before class talking about how she accidentally suffocated a mouse. Which we soon learned was kind of not the conversation people showing up at a yoga class expect.

Then my phone rang. Great. And the class hadn't started yet, so I just ignored it, thinking no big deal. Wrong.

The instructor walked in and said, "There is a phone that needs to be claimed." And I'm like, what, because it rang? But I didn't say anything. I felt like hiding, actually.

Someone ratted me out, though. "I think it's in the burgundy purse."

And I'm like, welp, this is getting off on the right foot then.

So, defensively, I said, "Are we not allowed phones for ninety minutes here? Because I have kids with needs, and I'm not turning my phone off for that long. Is this the wrong class for me?"

They helpfully and with no attitude at all (not) suggested I put it on vibrate. That was fine with me.

It was enough so that the instructor came over to me before the start and crouched down to my eye level (I know that trick!) and made a big deal about not starting on the wrong foot. 

This, of course, wasn't uncomfortable or awkward at all.

Then we had to start breathing which was a right mess. I don't like breathing in deeply. It takes too long. But I tried. Throughout the class, though, she was all inhale when you blah and exhale when you blah, and I was like, Crap! I forgot I was supposed to be doing extra special happy thoughts fairy breathing! And quickly overcompensated.

I hit the lady on the mat next to me in the face with my arm once, and knocked over my water bottle loudly another time.

At one point, the instructor asked everyone to relax completely, and someone farted. And I laughed (quietly, thank goodness.) I was the only one. Come on, isn't anyone else 12?

There was a short spurt I enjoyed where we did some poses that were really difficult for me. But the first half hour was all sitting and breathing. She said, "make your intention for the day. It can be for you, someone close to you, or the greater good."

I was all, my intention for today is to KICK ITS ASS.

Not what they're looking for there, I expect.

Then at the end we wasted (it felt like to me. I know that centering yourself and being one with whatever the fuck we're supposed to be one with is important, but I'm just not there yet) Anyway, we wasted the end thirty minutes lying there, doing nothing.

Jesus, I just about died.

She's all, invite the softness in. I'm all, dude, the softness was laid off about a decade ago.

I did learn that I clench my jaw like a mofo though. Every time she said relax your jaw, I was like, oh yeah. CLUNK.

Anyway, the whole time we were laying there doing nothing, I was running through all the things I could/should be doing instead, and when I wasn't doing that, I was berating myself for being privileged enough to be able to lay around and do nothing but think about myself for 30 minutes.

So that when she said, accept your inner goodness, my inner whatever just about died laughing and was like, but can we go now, though?

I had to go up to her after class, and say to her, look, I'm obviously really high strung and frenetic. I'm going to keep coming, I think, so please don't think I have attitude or look down on you or yoga or anything. It will just be me laughing at myself. I promise. I mean no disrespect.

She said, ... ... ...I think this class will be really good for you.

And I was like, sure, if I can get over analyzing the ceiling tiles for imperfections when I'm supposed to be letting the good air in or whatever, or softening my thighs, whatever that is.

Great start? Maybe not so much. But it was new, it was for me, (something I obviously need to work on), it was kind of fun, and I'll try it again. And that makes the new year new.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Slice of Life - Tattoo Edition

Tattoos are something not everyone has, but they say a lot about those who have them, and those who have them sometimes have more than one. Here are tattoos collected from around the country.

These two come from Cece Azadi, her shoulder and arm.

Next three are from Jackie Monck, who's working on a fourth right now!

Lin Thomas has too many to count! (Not all shown).

Russell Wait, sporting my favorite of the bunch. Hunter S. Thompson 4lyfe.

These two are on Tim Percoski. Bad ass.

My second favorite. Ann Marie Carroll is beautiful.

Hazel Hasselhoff has a self-proclaimed "tramp stamp".

Kris Leber with a gorgeous font.

Raina Sadi and Sailor Moon.

Tiffany Yusup's vibrant colors.

Ani Perriault lets her girls temporarily tattoo her!

Erica Thomas with a stunning display for her children.

Kat Faise is more than just a mom.

Oak Andrews with a Henna-inspired, true-ink pattern.

Tom Mariani, who is pretty much the coolest person on the planet.

Andrea Wagner, fighting a good fight for second coolest person on the planet.

Emily Abbott's chest and arm work. Amazing.

Joella Striebel, Bella Photography.

These three are Melanie Greeke, and I pretty much can't even at the narwhals.

Alli Ginsburg with her chosen Hebrew name. Look it up. Read a book. Damn, y'all, don't expect me to do everything for you.

Liz Hawksworth's. And I'll at least give you a hint on this one. It's not a fancy pi.

Joan Maxwell Good shares an inside joke between her and her husband.

These two are mine. I got the rose when I was 21. My husband affectionately calls it my red cabbage. I got the Kokopelli a few years later. At the time it was for the partying and the music. Then I had twins, so I guess I only got the fertility part.

Alison Gayton doesn't have a tattoo, but she doesn't mind deck her children out with some fake ones!

Courtney Yusup shares her most meaningful tattoos.

Shut up and marry me, Jen Mayer.

I kind of absolutely love Lizzy James' tattoos. I wish I had let go on my wrist instead of a red cabbage. Because they ended up meaning the same thing, tbh.

The detail here on Stacy Jo Juskevice's is astounding.

These belong to Sascha Fernandez, and damn, I know some cool people.

Zee Sanders for the win.

Tracey Birch: simple and complete.

This is Alison Beaton's son's favorite tattoo.

Courtney Knight with one of life's best decisions on her arm.

Sara Ess with simple beauty.

This one is on Tobi Wolf. Yup.

Alex Nguyen's tattoo means new life. Her sons' tattoos mean lizard and dragon...I think.

Samantha Williams, one of my life's biggest stars (this is a true story, not a pun.)

And there you have it. A monumental display of some of the chicest tattoos I've ever seen. People are so very interesting.



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