Archive for October, 2010
Healthcare reform is a contentious issue. On the one hand, nobody wants anyone else to go without necessary medical care, on the other hand, not everyone is enthusiastic about being saddled with the cost of everyone else’s medical bills.
We can argue whether the The Beatles or The Stones were the greater rock band. We can disagree on whether or not Matthew McConaughey is hotter than Colin Farrell, or which actor was the best James Bond. We can argue which country makes the best autos, or who was the NFL’s greatest quarterback. We can disagree on any number of things and still remain friends–except those things which touch peoples values–like religion and politics.
I don’t believe in proselytizing, not my values, not my religion, not my politics. There isn’t any future in it. There are many who love to argue their beliefs in attempt to enlighten others, and/or prove they are right. I find arguing to be a distasteful waste of time. If people ask, I am willing to discuss, debate and defend my views, but I don’t like the disruptive quality arguments have on relationships. Which is why as we prepare to go to the polls again, in what seems to be an election of some significance, I wanted to give readers something to consider.
There are all kinds of people in this fine country. There are good people, bad people, hardworking people, shiftless people, remarkable people, dull people, crazy people, intelligent people, misguided people—some are better company than others, but people are people. Everyone of us knows people we’d rather not know, but in general most of those we interact with, are decent folks, worthy of respect.
What makes us different is that each individual is exactly that–an individual, shaped by their raising and experience. But even among individuals, there is a set of common traits. Everyone wants to have a comfortable standard of living–to live without fear of financial woes, to be able to pay for the things we need and still have some left over for things we want. We want to have autonomy in figuring out what is best for us. We want to be able to take care of our families and help our friends. That’s you. That’s me. The people who favor “socialized” medicine, are generally not card-carrying members of Lenin fan club, plotting the next Marxist revolution, anymore than those on the other side are Dickensian villains who would have everyone turned out on the streets or sent to workhouses.
They’re people, people whose beliefs are felt sincerely. Reasonable people hold reasonable views. They may be right or wrong, but one of the greatest things about this country, is that we are given the ability and the freedom to think for ourselves, as I believe our creator and the founding fathers intended.
We are different, we don’t all see the world through the same lens, but we believe what we believe for reasons which make sense to us. Our ideas on taxes, education, healthcare, social programs and human rights are crafted by what we believe to be true. Truth is universal, personal truths are not. Just as good ideas are sometimes shot down in corporate boardrooms, on any issue, there is someone who sees it differently. Those disagreements can cause unpleasant ripples and irreparable rifts between people. No matter what views people have, they are still worthy of respect. We all have issues on which we disagree, but in the end, people are just people. Like you, like me.
(Dedicated to my friend Meredith)
The magazine I’ve picked up, suggests saving bacon grease for frying. Another suggests using a few drops of hot water to get the last bit of honey out of the bottle. What year is this???
You’ve come along way, Baby–and this is where you ended up–reading magazines with the same advice they were giving 50 years ago???
Magazines once guaranteed a couple good hours of reading, now they have hardly enough content to keep one occupied through the wait in a doctor’s office. Reexamining the current issues of a dozen or more long-established women’s magazines, I realize women’s magazines haven’t change since I was a girl and I am struck by something very ironic.
Family Circle is still promising to slash grocery bills and eliminate clutter once and for all. Women’s Day still offers a better way to lose weight, cleaning shortcuts and faster recipes. Redbook and Ladies Home Journal haven’t run out of tips for looking younger or insider secrets to the latest fashion bargains. Cosmopolitan is telling us, yet again, what guys really think about sex and the HOTTEST sex secrets ever. (Just in case you missed them over the last few decades). Meanwhile, with all the white paint, florals and checks continually used for the interiors in Better Homes and Gardens, it’s a wonder there is any left for those who have embraced “Shabby Chic”
The “new“ is old, and the “old” is new. If you don’t believe it, consider how the former-model-turned-matron, Martha Stewart, built a media-empire doing stuff your grannies did. Publishers couldn’t sell this stuff if there wasn’t an audience. Perusing the array of magazines accumulated on my coffee table, it seems the women’s movement hasn’t succeeded in changing women’s priorities. Even with a majority of women working outside the home, it is clear that most still want to be gorgeous, thin, man-pleasing, meal-fixing, money-saving, super-moms!
Once upon a time, every girl was required to take “Homemaking” –aka Home Economics, classes which taught basic skills like how to sew a button, make the cheap cuts of meat tender, and how to bake a pie–(in the era before pies were born from boxes in the freezer section.) Eventually, The Women’s Movement convinced us these classes represented narrow-minded gender-typing. It was encouraged and soon became acceptable for girls to take shop classes and men to take Home Ec. (How different might life have been if we’d married men who could whip up a flawless meringue?) Eventually Home Economics classes were eliminated, along with the various shop classes, once de riguer for young men. (Heaven forbid that men should be prepared for any of the jobs they might do, or that women be educated in anything which didn’t promise a paycheck.)
To fully appreciate the irony of this, a little history lesson is necessary. Home Economics classes were the brainchild of the first feminists–the suffragettes. It was their tactic for convincing men to send women to school. They argued that women should go to school–if for no other reason than to learn “homemaking”. Those Home Ec. classes were a backdoor key to the hallowed halls of education.
Making the case that women are never satisfied, later feminists viewed the occupation of “homemaker” to be a form of misogynistic oppression, and eventually succeeded in making Home Economics classes a thing of the past. The need left by the elimination of Home Ec. classes, eventually caused the skills formerly taught in Junior High and High School to burgeon into college curriculums with names like Child Development, Nutrition, or Consumer Sciences–implying it’s okay to be “a homemaker”, as long as you don’t do it at home.
In High School, I took Home Ec, and shop. In college, I took classes like as Literature, Anthropology and Astronomy. Speaking as someone with a decent education, I’m sad teaching practical “skills” is no longer an integral part of high school education. Though, having a basic understanding of English sonnets, ancient peoples or the cosmos makes for delightful for cocktail party banter, it isn’t nearly as useful as knowing how to do ordinary stuff.
Alas, I could blame the feminists for the elimination of classes like Home Ec & Woodshop–but if they hadn’t succeeded, those classes would have most likely been eliminated by liability concerns or budget cuts. It was only a matter of time.
A couple of weeks go, The Wall Street Journal featured a list of 10 money moves that will always pay-off. In addition to the kind of advice one would expect on a list of this sort, was one that surprised me. Number eight on the list was “Buy a Bread Machine”. According to the WSJ, this will save an average family $350. a year. The article suggests that the return on the purchase of a bread machine will be up around 600%.
Though the advice was unexpected and unheeded, this girl found it interesting. Of the countless things in my kitchen, I confess, I’ve never been tempted to add a bread machine. Fortunately, one isn’t needed for the following recipe. After figuring out this mostly simple bread, I’ve decided it’s a weeknight recipe–as opposed to one of those that is only prepared on weekends & special occasions–though it would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
Wall Street Journal list: Money Moves that will Always Pay Off
Zhi ma da bing (Sesame bread with Scallions)
For more background on the recipe see yesterday’s post, and if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a shot.
A generous tablespoon of sugar
A generous ½ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of HOT (NOT boiling) water
3 cups flour (light cups, not too full)
1 packet of instant yeast
1 generous bunch of green onions, chopped fine.
Sesame seeds–I used toasted
In a good-sized mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, salt and water. Add 1 cup flour and mix to blend. Add the additional flour and mix (or knead) until the dough is soft and smooth. With a heavy-duty mixer, this is a breeze. If you don’t have a good mixer, knead away.
Place dough in an oven-proof bowl prepared with a non-stick spray, cover and allow dough to rise in a warm place or in an oven set no higher than 100 deg. I like to cover the dough with foil that has also been sprayed with non-stick spray. When the bread has doubled in size, smush it down and let it rise again until you’re ready to roll it out.
Divide dough into one large portion (about 2/3 or the dough) and the smaller piece left.
Roll the larger portion into a thin rectangle as thin as you can get it. The dough is very soft, so this isn’t too difficult. Use plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking. It will be big, so you might want to do this step on a clean countertop.
When it’s very thin–less than 1/8 inch thick, brush liberally with oil. Cover with green onions, then roll the thing up as you would for cinnamon rolls. When this is done, coil the roll into something like a snail shell to form a loaf like circle. Brush outside with more oil and sprinkle with any additional scallions.
Roll smaller portion of dough into a nice tidy circle about 12 inches.
Place the previously prepared snail-coil thing in the middle of the circle and pinch edges to completely seal the coil inside and make it look all smooth and loaf-y.
For the next step you will need a large skillet type pan–with a heavy bottom and a good fitting lid, about 3” deep.
Pour about an 1/8” of oil in the bottom of the pan and heat the pan on the stove on medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the loaf in the pan and cover. At this point, I turned my stove down a bit, but initially the pan should be heated well.
Allow the bread to cook for about 10 minutes. On my first attempt, the bread browned too quickly, so the second time, I turned the heat a little lower and kept an eye on it. After about 8 minutes, you can lift the bread to see how the bottom is browning. Hopefully, after about 10 minutes, you’ll have a nice golden brown crust on the bottom. When this is accomplished, gently turn the bread over. Having a large spatula on hand is helpful. Once the bread is flipped, allow it to cook for approximately 10 more minutes.
Remove from the pan allow to cool. Cut into wedges to serve. That’s what I’m talking about!
When I started de blog, I said if “it” was of interest to me, it was fair fare & fodder for de blog–so in a big departure from my usual stuff, and with profuse apologies to Smitten Kitchen, Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, and the many other amazing food bloggers, I’m talking about food.
I am a big-time foodie, but this ain’t nevah gonna be a food blog. Though, I’ve always been interested in and enjoyed food preparation, I don’t cook nearly as much, as I did when I was younger and full of energy. However, occasionally, I still take on some challenging recipe.
Over the years, I’ve taken on more stupidly difficult recipes than I care to admit, but at this point in life, eating food is much more enjoyable, than proving I can fix it. Despite this, a recent it-won’t-go-away craving, sent me into the kitchen, for some Imam-approved bread.
Thought I’d only eaten this bread maybe ten times in my life, I’d dreamed of eating it hundreds of times.
It started back when I was living in L.A. For those of you who have never had the unparalleled experience of this West Coast metropolis, it’s as if someone took New York City and rolled it out with a rolling pin, then kept rolling and rolling until it was thin & sprawling. L.A feels nothing like NYC, but when it comes to restaurants, New York has nothing on L.A. Though New York City has legendary restaurants, L.A. has every kind of cuisine and restaurants which tend to be much more spacious than those of NYC.
One day, I happened to pass “The Beijing Islamic Restaurant”. Back then, I had a passing familiarity with Islam, but wasn’t aware of how many Asians are Muslims. A meal in this restaurant, not only opened my eyes to the scope of Islam in Asia, but also to a most remarkable bread.
Secular America has “Atkins”, Judaism has Kosher and and Muslims have halal.
Just as the prohibitions of the Jewish religion require certain foods to be avoided, Islam has it’s own set of dietary restrictions–known as halal. The restaurant, I had stumbled into, specialized in halal. For those who are unfamiliar, you will be comforted to know that halal bans the eating of all the following animals:
pigs, boars, dogs, snakes, monkeys, lions, tigers, bears, birds of prey, rats, centipedes, scorpions, ants, bees, woodpeckers, lice, maggots, flies, mules, donkeys, crocodiles, frogs and all other amphibians.
(Knowing this, if I ever make it to mainland China, my diet is strictly Halal.)
Additionally, all animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim of sound mind–whatever that means.
I’m generally not a bread-eater, but Beloved Soul-Mate can hardly eat a meal without bread–which is probably why there appeared on the table, a very large loaf of bread. I’ve never associated Chinese food with over-sized loaves of bread, so this one, was at the least, an intrigue. Inside a crispy crust, paved with toasted sesame seeds, hid countless layers of very thin soft sweet yeasty bread, between each delectable layer were green onions. No attempt to describe it would be adequate.
I don’t remember anything else about that meal, except that loaf. On a later visit to L.A. I was dismayed to discover the restaurant had closed. I was lucky enough to find another Chinese Halal restaurant in my own city, which served this bread. It became my practice to go there and order two loaves–one for now & one for later, but that was short-lived as that restaurant soon closed. I was again left dreaming about zhi ma da bing–Sesame bread with Scallions.
There was only one thing to do–Google and bake! Though Google rarely lets me down, on this, it wasn’t the endless resource I’ve come to expect. Eventually I found a recipe that seemed very achievable. The author suggested it wasn’t a recipe one can master on the first try, but this cookie was feeling cocky.
Have to swallow my pride, because I didn’t nail it on the first attempt, but I came close. The recipe is sound, but my technique for getting those dozens of layers failed. Another attempt today. Tomorrow, I hope to share the recipe & modified instructions. In the meantime, my house will be filled with the tantalizing smell of fresh hot bread.
Deb’s Note: The picture above is not zhi ma da bing. With any luck tomorrow I’ll have a picture of the real deal. For a real picture you can click the link below.
Friendships between men and women are complicated. Long before Harry met Sally, Noël Coward said sex was the basis of all friendships between men & women.
He was right, he was wrong and he was arrogant.
Despite Coward’s words, he enjoyed many long and close friendships with women. His friendship with Marlene Dietrich even became the subject of the play Lunch with Marlene. Considering Coward was a gay man, it is doubtful that sexual tension was their bond.
Can men & women be “just friends”?
Though many disagree, I believe they can.
I have had close friends of both genders as long as I could remember. Growing up with two brothers and a sometimes competitive sister, I have always appreciated how men generally don’t compare your hips to theirs or pick apart your outfit. I was never as “girly” as some girls, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to be riding bikes or building a fort with the neighborhood boys. Nobody told me, after puberty, the rules change.
I’m married, but I still have men friends. Most of my close men friends have been my friends for at least a decade or two. Some are single, some are married. Unless I’m incredibly naïve, the relationships are not based on unrealized sexual feelings–which is probably why they’ve lasted. Underlying sexual feelings have a way of eventually rising to the surface to redefine relationships.
My men friends, like my girlfriends, are people with whom I share emotional or intellectual connections. Each is someone with whom I can enjoy a meaningful and stimulating conversation. However, conversations with men are not like the conversations with women. Men’s conversations have beginnings and endings. The conversations of women continually roll into more conversations. For this reason, the men-friends will never take the place of girlfriends, but the objectivity of men can be good for helping a woman see things from another perspective.
In researching this subject, I came upon articles that suggested men who are more feminine or women who are more masculine are much more adept at cultivating friendships with the opposite sex. Though this may be true, it is also true that men raised around women and/or women who have been around men just seem to have a more natural comfort around members of the other gender–not really that different from how New Yorkers understand each other, better than they understand Californians.
The key to keeping friendships with members of the opposite sex from becoming troublesome, is being sure both parties understand the terms. I favor the all-the-cards-on-the-table approach. (Only the most desperate of men will hang with you at the mall, once he knows he’ll never get further with you than Macy’s.) Should a friendship turn into something romantic, many believe it is doomed. This is particularly ironic, considering how many idealize the idea of marrying their best friend.
Though sex doesn’t necessarily doom a friendship, it usually alters it. The vulnerability of intimacy has a way of changing things. Some take a test-drive on the intimate side of the road, and then resort to being “just friends“, but sometimes a couple starts as friends and end-up husband and wife. After a failed romance, some go on to become closer, more respectful friends–but don’t count on it.
For those who believe an intimate relationship will screw up a friendship, there are two options. The first: sleep with the friend, ruin the relationship and get it over with; the second don’t sleep with them–but continue to wonder if sex would ruin it. In either case, should you insist on sleeping with your opposite-sex friends, you risk losing your same-sex friends. If your moral code, marital status or something else precludes you from the first option, then you are stuck with the second option, but don’t despair, good friendships are more worthwhile and last much longer than sex.
Deb’s Note: Friendship comes more naturally to me than writing about it. Each time I set out to write about friendships, I find the subject too complicated to adequately address. This is certainly true of the above. Though I favor friendships with members of the opposite sex, they can become rather sticky–especially if your spouse or partner is not trusting, or you have proven yourself not to be a person worthy of trust. Only you can answer whether your platonic friendships are really “platonic”.
The term “loser” is a good one for describing the kind of men we wish we’d never encounter. There are only two kinds of men–good ones and bad ones. No woman ever sets out looking for a bad man, but sometimes a women snags a loser. By my calculations there are still many men worthy of laurels, but there are still too many losers.
There are things of which men never grow tired–you can probably guess the first, the second is winning. Men love winning contests of any sort. They love winning the girl, the job, the argument, the bet, the tournament–whatever. Men’s love of victory transcends sports, helping them succeed in life.
I’d like to award a medal to one of those unassuming guys, who recently won the admiration of thousands. Aptly, named Victor, being layed-off from his job in construction, he was living in Fresno, picking grapes to get by, before the he got the chance to prove he was no loser.
By now, you’ve may have heard the story of Victor Perez, who rescued eight-year-old Elisa Cardenas, after she was abducted from her neighborhood. Victor had heard the story on the nightly news. The following day, he saw a truck in his neighborhood and was convinced it might be the one described in the Amber Alert.
As the media recounted the details of the story, they repeatedly called Perez a “Good Samaritan”.
Seriously? Is that tired term the best the press can come up with to describe this guy?
Had he called 911 and given them the location of the vehicle, he would have been a “Good Samaritan”. If his tip had lead to an arrest or the recovery of the girl he would have been called a hero, but when Victor saw the truck on his street, he didn’t take time to consider the possibilities. He didn’t even take time to grab his shoes, he went after the guy.
As he dashed out of his house, he told his cousin to call 911. He shouted to the driver of the truck, when the other driver wouldn’t stop, he chased him and tried to run him off the road. Victor says, it occurred to him the other driver could have a gun, but once he saw the missing girl in the front seat of the other truck, he was committed to saving her.
Eventually, the abductor pushed Elisa Cardenas out of the car. Victor grabbed her. He reassured the frightened girl, telling her people looking for her and she would be safe now. Just a few minutes after leaving his home, Elisa Cardenas was safe with Victor. She would see her mama again, she would sleep in her own bed again, because Victor had won the race against time and defeated a bad guy.
Later that day, the Fresno police arrested 24-year old Gregorio Gonzales. When Victor Perez made the decision to chase Gonzalez, he had no way of knowing Gonzales was a known member of a Fresno street gang, The Bulldogs, neither did Gonzales know that he had just crossed paths with a badder dog than himself, because in that moment, Victor Perez had become a pit-bull.
When a child becomes a victim, it is the worst thing a parent can imagine. As a father & uncle, Victor understood that. Victor has two sons, if we’re all lucky, they’ll grow up with the same kind of selfless courage and determination as their father showed on the day he saved the life of that little girl. The world has too many deviants who prey on children, but the world can never have too many Victors.
Deb’s Note: On any given day, anyone can be a hero. Add these men to the list of those who deserve our admiration. Last week four regular guys wrestled a .357 Magnum from a deranged gunman and succeeded in halting what could have resulted in more senseless tragedy.
In my hometown it’s still legal to walk around with a gun. Newcomers find this upsetting, the locals find it comforting. Having grown up in a town where guns were more common than gun-crimes, I can’t identify with those who blame guns for crimes–nor can I relate to those who see hunting as being as immoral as guns. Guns, hunting, to me they ain’t nuthin’ but a thing.
This weekend, my sons went on their first hunt. This gave me cause to reconsider the matter. Many see hunting as nothing more than an invalid display of male aggression–the unfair killing of majestic animals by those with an exaggerated sense of macho.
I hate hurting any living creature, but I’ve been hunting. It had nothing to do with my desire to kill anything. Having done it, I know it’s a sport. Not a who-can-kill- Bambi’s-mother sport, but a sport which requires preparation, practice, patience, skill and luck. In fact, the amount of skill required to be a good hunter, leaves little room for aggression.
To me football seems more violent and aggressive than hunting, yet, people cheer for football. I’ve only recently begun to understand football, so I canvassed some of the men I know who are passionate fans of the sport, to make sure I understood their enthusiasm. The responses surprised me. Instead of saying they loved the roughness, they noted the strength and guts of the players I learned men love to see a team pull together, they love it when an underdog upsets a champion. Many cited the strategy–in other words, the non-physical part of the game. Everyone I asked said they loved backing a team–even a losing team, because there was always the possibility their team would pull together to become a champion.
I realized there is much more to football than what I was seeing, which is how hunting is. As I watched the boys preparing for their hunt, I was witnessing a small-scale rite of passage–a man-test. They had been to the rifle range to practice and repeatedly reviewed the rules of gun safety. Finally, the day had come, they would be in the wilderness with adults carrying loaded guns.
One would think that carrying a rifle or shotgun would make a boy feel powerful, but they aren’t experiencing any Rambo fantasies. Instead, they are unsure because they are going out with the sobering knowledge that with that gun are expectations and responsibilities. The goal is to come home with wild game, but this sport is not a game. They are nervous and hoping they’ll remember all they’ve learned. Charged with the grown-up responsibility of not shooting anyone or anything they didn’t intend to, they don’t want to lose face. This is a time to be serious, not stupid. It is a time to be patient, smart and quiet. It is a time when they will know whether or not they can succeed in doing the thing for which they’ve prepared.
Not every hunt is successful, and the hunt doesn’t end with a kill. A kill means the hunter must confront the animal whose life has been taken. It isn’t a moment of glory, but a moment to consider life and death, as they realize the creature’s blood is still warm, its eyes still glistening. This is a sobering thing for a any hunter, but especially a young hunter.
Despite the fact that they didn’t bring home any wild game, the hunt was a success. They remembered the stuff they’d been taught and they did their best. Just as with all sports, one side triumphs over the other. This time The Arizona Wild Game won.
One of the best things about being a woman, is men generally like us for no better reason than our female-ness. So . . I was at the U.P.S. office, with a heavy parcel–no waiting in line for me today. (Did I mention I was wearing shorts?) It’s been said that all is fair in love and war, but is it ethical to deploy the WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Distraction)? Is it ethical to feign weakness in an attempt to get some guy to flex his muscles by carrying something heavy for us? Is it wrong to ask questions we know the answers to, just to give a guy the opportunity to demonstrate that he knows stuff? Probably, but most men don’t seem to mind the ambush.
In our age of political-correctness, we often operate in a gender-neutral fashion. Women pretend they don’t want men looking at them and men pretend they aren’t looking. We try to keep our interactions as neutered as our men have become in an era when a false step might set off a landmine or be misconstrued as an” offensive”.
Women realize early, the many strategies for gaining the upper hand with men, but some tactics work better than others. Utilizing the best of Victoria‘s secrets and ignoring Geneva‘s conventions, women often wage an unfair war against those of the other gender. In an attempt at détente, let’s examine a few of the weapons most-often used by women in the war between the sexes.
Strategically, the side with the best weapons has the greatest advantage. A woman with a disarmingly beautiful face or atomic anatomy can neutralize the one in her sights almost effortlessly. However, once she has rendered her target helpless, she must have more in her arsenal, if she wishes to successfully detain her prisoner.
The effectiveness of chemical weapons like perfume have been overstated, but pheremones have proven effective–especially in close encounters, such as hand-to-hand engagements.
Reserved for guerilla warfare are the biological weapons–including but not limited to the biological clock. While the biological clock and the “Forgot the Birth Control” bomb can provide temporary coercion, neither are effective long-term. The worst of all biological weapons is use of offspring. Though offspring can be used effectively as battering rams (especially during and post-divorce), the use of said weapons can cause long-term harm to non-combatants and should therefore be avoided at all costs.
Most effective in long engagements is intelligence. The more you know about your opponent, the more effective your campaign will be. Strive for that oldie-but-goodie goal of winning the hearts and minds. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, you can declare a victory.
If women were committed to fighting fair, we would consider complete disarmament, but I don’t think men want to live in a world where every woman looks or acts like a 19th-century schoolmarm. Until further notice, women will stick with the established tactics.