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  • Love Fool

    Just thinking about romantic stuff today, like this:

    Sonnet 116 by Wllm Shakespeare (or not, whatever)

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
         If this be error and upon me proved,
         I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    or this, by Keats, in a private letter to his fiance:

    I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was; I did not believe in it; my Fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up.

    Ho or No?

    Gotta lay off the Yahoo. However, since I'm already on edge, I'm going to share. According to this article, a minor celeb tweeted her opinions about current celeb fashion trends, specifically how she feels there is too much skin showing these days.

    Lots of back-and-forth on this, including some top-dollar name-calling. "Institutionalized misogyny" was thrown down as well. Perhaps, but let's flip this argument.

    Men attend formal functions dressed in full suits, and the cleaner the cut, the better the fit, the sexier they are. What's in a tuxedo? A full-sleeve button-down shirt with a tie, covering up the entire torso and arms down to the wrist. The jacket even hides the upper glute area. The slacks go down to the ankle. Shoes hide the entire foot.

    I've got two words for you: Daniel Craig.

    Hang on, I've got to get my breath back.

    OK, I'm good now. So, let's talk about this showing too much skin thing. Why don't men go out in cut out shirts that show off biceps, cut pecs, ripped abs? What about tight-fitting hotpants? "Nearly naked" formals?

    Oh yeah. They do. At the drag show.

    Ask nearly any woman and she'll tell you that nobody notices her unless she's somehow flaunting her "good stuff." An actress isn't noteworthy in the style pages unless she is wearing something that leaves little to the imagination. Any actress will try you that to stay relevant, they have to be seen, photographed, published, and then talked about but not disparaged.

    Yet the men are covered from neck to toe. I don't understand it. For a man to get noticed, he needs to be covered. For a woman, the less she wears, the better.


    It's not about modesty in women. That concept is so antiquated it's ridiculous. No, it's about goose vs gander. If guys don't have to show off skin to get noticed, women shouldn't have to, either.

    It's that simple.

    A Broken System

    There's an article currently on Yahoo about a family of four who is struggling to exist on $500 in "food stamps" per month.
    The children describe their life as a routine of hunger. The mother talks about food options, or lack of, available in her neighborhood. The author discusses in detail the mother's confessions about food ignorance--not knowing what half the fresh veggies are at the market nor knowing which ones can be eaten raw--and also about how cheap low-nutrient, highly-processed foods are compared to the fresh foods. She acknowledges that this is a problem while admitting she doesn't know anything else.
    It is a disservice to this mother to try to claim her problems stem from living in New York City. My experience working in a grocery store in "regular America" has shown me that this food ignorance is far too common among recipients of assistance.
    This is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)--the "food stamp" benefit--fails. Not because it discourages recipients from trying to improve their situation in the workforce, or that it might encourage generational dependence. There is absolutely nothing done to teach recipients about food.
    They are simply given lists of things they can and can't buy on the program. A food pyramid print-out isn't enough to help parents make good decisions about foods. Technically, canned pasta is a grain and a vegetable. Fruit juices are, in fact, counted as fruit servings, and a half-gallon of fruit juice contains more servings"for less money than a bag of fresh apples. Without better guidance, most recipients try to buy the most food they can with the benefits. That's the goal: more food must mean less hunger, right?
    The author and mother in this article seem to focus on "organic" versus "processed," and together they miss the point: a family of four certainly can eat for $20 or less per day and feel quite satisfied every day, provided they plan ahead and then purchase wisely.
    My monthly grocery bill is $500 or less for a family of five plus two finicky cats. This includes non-food items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies. My nearly-grown children can only be described as well-fed by any doctor. But how do I do it?
    Rule #1--Walk past the beef quickly! In our house we eat a lot of chicken and pork. It's cheaper than beef per pound, even for coveted boneless breasts. It's also healthier, with lower fat content overall. The options for cooking chicken and pork are nearly endless as well, so while you're having the same meat base every single day, the flavors are as varied as the spice cabinet. One whole roasting chicken: $5 or less.
    Rule #2--The cheapest canned veggies are just as good as the name brand, but a bag of frozen veggies is the best value altogether. A two-pound bag of frozen veggies, cooked with seasonings, serves all five of us twice over for about $2.50 per bag. We would have to open at least 8 cans of veggies to get the same quantity.
    Cheaper dinner: box of pasta ($1), cheap sauce ($1.50), bag of veggies, ($2.50), slice of buttered bread each ($0.50). Five people fed for less than $6, and it's tasty.
    Rule #3--Bananas and apples are often more than one serving each! Unless you buy the smallest varieties, divide them between two people to stretch your savings. Pair them with a side of peanut butter for a protein punch that will help keep them feeling full longer. This is a great afternoon snack for about 50c per person.
    Rule #4--Hot breakfast is amazing and healthy! It takes about 10 minutes to scramble some eggs. I buy the super box of 3 dozen for $5, and cook 2 eggs per person (we're all adults, as children they only got one). That's $1.40 for eggs each morning. Add two slices of bread, half an apple, and a glass of milk per person, it's about $5 (high estimate) per day.
    So, hot protein-filled breakfast with fruit and toast every day, pb&j plus fruit lunch every day, chicken and two servings of veggies every day for dinner. Estimated total cost per day: less than $17 if I don't use coupons. This is if we go big on the meats. I also hit all the major marks on the food pyramid and my family rarely complains of being hungry.
    By carefully creating menus and sticking to them, selecting cheaper meats and sides, offering fresh fruits and veggies more than canned or juiced, drinking water instead of soda, and comparing sales to find the best overall deal, I can feed my family of 5 for about $400 a month. Sure, it's a little boring, but when your budget is more about survival than surfing, a little adventure can lead to an empty tummy!
    How can I do this for a family of five when the mother in the article can't do the same for her family of four? Education. I had a mother who taught me kitchen skills and a public education system that stressed health education as much as math and science. As an expectant mother, my obstetrician's office offered short classes on how to feed babies and children.
    This wealth of information available should be available to anyone who wants to be healthy, but clearly it isn't. The mother in this article said as much. This is, in my opinion, the major contributor to the overall failure of the SNAP program.

    Musically Challenged

    I found that I needed to explain to one of the monkeys what "liner notes" were. I went to the LP collection and pulled out Bruce for visuals.

    Ah, the memories!

    Released in 1984, Born in the USA was a must-have for any fan-girl. My parents didn't disappoint. Centered on the piano they bought me for Christmas, that album made us girls scream with joy.

    ...Wait, they bought you a piano and all you could do is scream for Brucie-boy? WTH....

    That got me looking through the other LPs on the shelf, because I wanted to show the girl more 80s gems, like my Europe LP. Only it wasn't there, and I remembered that it had gone missing during one of our many moves prior to me joining the military.

    And then I remembered: I had just bought the CD!

    And then I remembered: it was in the basket in my van when my van was stolen.

    The van was returned while the basket and its contents were not. With the loss of that basket, so went my music history, the weird and wonderful me through the past 24 years. The first two CDs I ever bought, Depeche Mode's Violator and Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine. The last two CDs I bought before the theft, Incubus and Foo Fighters. Just about everything in between.

    There was so much awesome in that basket. I cried more for the loss of that basket than I did when the guys at the detail shop found mystery panties jammed into the back seat--for that, I just told them to shampoo the seats again like they were erasing a crime scene.

    By the way, they complied. Those seats took days to dry out!

    Other music lost that crazy night in January, which is itself a story for another day:

    Disturbed: the entire CD collection
    Nonpoint: their self-titled release
    So much Christmas music:
           Josh Groban
           Harry Connick, Jr
           British Christmas 3-disc extravaganza
           USAF Heritage of America band
    Halestorm: 1st CD, autographed by the band at the concert I attended
    Chicago's greatest hits 82-89
    Take That: Pray
    Josh Groban: Closer
    Southern Culture on the Skids: Dirt Track Date (bought that 13 years ago)
    Etta James greatest hits
    Def Leppard: Hysteria
    Sarah Brightman: Time to Say Goodbye
    Delovely, the soundtrack
    "The Ultimate Brit Mix"
    Ella Fitzgerald's greatest hits
    Europe: The Final Countdown

    There are probably others in that basket that I will some day remember that I'm missing. Le sigh.

    Mmmmm Mmmm!

    The Beav blogged about his favorite letter, inspired by his friend, Devyl. Inspiration is contagious, and so I asked for my own letter. He chose for me the letter M, and so here is a list of my favorite M words. There is no requirement for length, so this is not just some list I filled with chaff in order to complete it--it's my list, full on.

    The Magnificent, marvelous, mad Madam M!

    1. Mister: oh, yeah! I adore this guy. Not only is he my best friend, he always accepts me, encourages me on my many adventures/hair-brained ideas, and turns me to jelly with with just a look. We are each other on so many levels, and yet we have kept our identities intact. Mister is my hero.

    2. Mad: sometimes, this is me. I am so off-the-wall crazy, the only way I can be described is "mad"!

    3. Magnanimous: this is one goal of mine. To generously and genuinely give and expect nothing with grace, would be so fantastic. I'm almost there...Almost there...Stay on target!

    4. Monkey: oh, come on! They're so damn cute! It helps that they're mine, but I must say that my monkeys are the bestest!

    5. Mountains: everyone must visit a mountain range at least once before they die. Their serenity and strength are so centering, it's indescribable. One must. And that brings me to...

    6. Majesty: I'm one for frugality. But sometimes, one must look past the wasteful spending and just enjoy the pomp and circumstance.

    7. Movie: my favorites, I love to quote. Sometimes this fails, because I watch some more weird stuff. But almost always I can find a movie quote to fit a situation. I grew up watching movies as an escape from my unhappy life, and so they were almost always the silliest or geekiest films around, almost always non-standard fare. These days, my filmography is much more varied, and yet the quotes are a constant.

    8. Moonshine: I love the cosmos, and watching the moon and stars is one of my favorite treats. When the moon is full, it shines down on us with such a unique beauty, bringing light to the deep dark and then I feel safe again.

    9. Mandy: One of the saddest songs in the Barry Manilow must-play list. I swear, I can't turn it off, and it always makes me cry.

    10. 'Murrika: That sound certain politicians and media talking-heads make when they try to say, "America." It always makes me giggle and smirk while at the same time destroying piecemeal the portion of my soul that desperately wants well-educated, selfless, civic-minded people in charge of our government.

    11. and finally.... 'Murrika! Heck yeah!! My all-time favorite place to be. This country is awesome! Its founding principles are without peer. All 'Murricans should love this country as I do, should rise up to protect this country when its enemies and its elected officials are trying to destroy it. Protest, people! That's what got us our own country in the first place.... Let's keep it the best place on Earth! In the cosmos!

    Sweetcorn and Zucchini Casserole

    This is my all-time favorite vegetarian dish, from a cookbook I bought in England. It is not suitable for strict Vegans, and it can be tarted up with meats to please the omnivores. I have adjusted the measurements from UK to USA.

    2 tbsp oil
    1 small onion, chopped (I like to use reds for colour)
    4 ounces zucchini, sliced or cubed
    3 ounces canned sweet corn, drained
               *peas, green beans, or mixed veggies can be substituted
    3 ounces cooked pasta (spirals are my favourites)
    Oregano, salt and pepper to taste
    2 tsp tomato puree

    1 tbsp margarine
    1 tbsp flour
    5 ounces milk
    1 1/2 tbsp white wine (or substitute)
    1-2 ounces cheddar, grated

    breadcrumbs for topping

    Cook the pasta and drain. Meanwhile, saute onion until soft then add zucchini and brown lightly. Add the vegetables, pasta, seasonings, and puree. Once blended, pour into a prepared baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F.

    Melt the margarine then whisk in flour (this is a roux, and the base of any good gravy). Whisk in milk and wine, then blend in cheese. Once melted, pour over pasta blend. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.

    For the meat-eaters, add cooked chunks of chicken, turkey, ham, leftover steak, crab, or shrimp. I've never tried it with fish.

    Happy eats!

    Conversion Therapy

    In an effort to assist my fellow cooks, I am sharing a handy chart given to me by the "local liason" at a military base where I was stationed in the 90s. With this chart, you can look up any British recipe and quickly transform it into American measurements.

    In England and Europe, many gas ovens are temped out in "marks," with 1/2 mark being a low-heat slow roast and 9 being "baked to a crisp." They also use obscure measurements like "dessert spoon" and strange ingredients like aubergines and sterilised milk.

    For the record, a dessert spoon is "the big spoon" that comes in a traditional place setting of two spoons, two forks, and a butter knife. An aubergine is an eggplant, a courgette is a zucchini, and sterilised milk is nothing more than homogenized and pasteurized milk. The British don't do this as a rule, so, if you're in England you'll want to shake your milk bottle a little to mix the cream back in before you chug it straight.

    Gas Mark   Degree F   Degree C

    9                     475            250
    8                     450            225
    7                     425            "Hot"
    6                     400            200
    5                     375            "moderate"
    4                     350             175
    3                     325             "moderately slow"
    2                     300            150
    1                     275             "slow"
    1/2                  225            125


    Plain Flour = All-Purpose Flour
    Icing Sugar = Powdered Sugar
    Demerera Sugar = Light Brown Sugar
    Castor Sugar = Granulated Sugar

    Things to note:

    UK Pint = 20 ounces!!
    1 lb of flour = 4 cups of flour
    1/2 ounce of butter = 1 tablespoon
    1 ounce flour = 1 heaped tablespoon or 2 level tablespoons

    Smarty Cat

    Many people think that cats are dumb. They supposedly can't be trained to do anything other than use a litter box. They're not fun like dogs.

    I disagree.

    We have a cat who is smarter than most dogs I know. Sure, dogs can be trained to do all sorts of fun stuff, but my cat learns.

    After we trained her to play "chase," she figured out that she could double back and scare us half out of our minds. She discovered that it takes just one claw in the the elbow to wake a sleeping human. She knows that she can bite as hard as she likes when the glove is on, but does not bite so hard when the glove is off.

    And now, she has learned that a puking sound gets a swift reaction out of the humans, and has figured out how to fake it.

    This morning at 0-dark-30, she started scratching the bedroom door to be let out. I ignored her. And then she started wheezing like she does when she's going to chuck a hairball or her dinner. I was up in an instant. Almost right away I noticed she had stopped. I looked around for the evidence, couldn't find any, and went back to bed. Very soon, the hurling began again. I hop up, she stops, and then I realize that she is absolutely determined to get out.

    So I let her out and check for signs of hurling. There are none. If cats are supposed to be dumb, mine is a flamin' genius!