Best advice

The best advice I ever got was “If you would be happy, think what you would do for your children, and then do it for yourself.”

 

This only works, of course, if you are physically safe, with enough money for food and shelter plus a bit of discretionary, but that’s another story.

It wasn’t even something someone told me. I read it on one of those inspirational calendars.  But, being an adult, too old to be a ballerina but healthy and with a little extra money, I thought about what I would do for my non existent children, and I went for it.

 

I took voice lessons. I gave recitals, earning money for charities, wearing daring gowns with plunging necklines well into my fifties.  I got my motorcycle license–age 49. Learned to juggle–age 52. This year, 55, I can finally do a proper split.

 

Which brings me to the college cheating scandal, and Lori Loughlin.  It really wasn’t fair, at first, to target her as the symbol of cheating. More men than women cheated, and a man was the ringleader.  Loughlin was just the most famous. Well, she was, and Felicity Huffman, but Huffman said, “You got me, fair and square,” served a week, and went on with life.

Loughlin doubled down that she had done nothing wrong, which is the weirdest thing I have ever seen from someone who not only knew her daughters did not row crew, but encouraged them to lie about it.  Covering for your child is misguided protection, but telling them to lie? Does that ever end well?

 

I became so fascinated that I watched old YouTube vids of Loughlin,  from long before the scandal, talking about her daughters.  Again and again she said that because she and her husband had never gone to college, she wanted her girls to have that opportunity.

 

What?

 

If ever a person could do for herself what  she hoped for her children, it is Loughlin.  She has money.  She can make time.  She could probably even have gotten real-life credits for math courses, since she made a bazillion dollars on her acting and watched her daughter get a career in make up videos.

 

Is it hard to be an adult student? Well, yes. My first Master’s was earned when I was thirty two, and my next I was about fifty.

 

It is hard to be in school when you are going grey.  Yet I feel confident that late life school is easier than late life prison. And there is a good chance that is where Loughlin is headed.

 

I have to conclude that Loughlin didn’t want education for her daughters, but the paper chase. Possibly the connection chase.

 

But she didn’t, doesn’t, really value EDUCATION. Not even at five hundred thousand dollars of it. Education has no value for her at all.

 

Paying for it

I am really tired of paying for the sins of men, and for being isolated in noticing this.

 

When I was in college, a woman told me that men tend to break things when they are angry, and women don’t, because we both know, subconsciously, that whoever breaks it, a woman will clean it up.

 

Terrorist attacks and mass violence are essentially the same as a broken mixing bowl after a tantrum: some woman will clean up.

It’s no secret that men are the perps of mass violence, worldwide, whether the weapon is a gun, a car, a bomb, a knife.

 

The legislation and rules that follow disproportionately inconvenience women.

 

After school shootings, men, men, men, men, men, no laws were enacted specifically regulating the behaviors of men.  However, school “security” increased, and need I remind you which gender is most likely to work at a school? So a man shoots up a place, and women have to show ID, get three levels of security to get into their work, etc etc etc.

 

I recently tried to register for a college class, and my “registration” came back under a married name I used twenty years ago.  When I pointed out the mistake I was told that for security reasons I had to prove my name change.

 

This is such utter bullshit I can barely see.

 

There is no chance a bad guy is going to fraudulently use my identity to take over the world.  However, there are many women who need to start new lives by going back to school, and don’t need the further aggravation of having to fight for the right not to be known under a name they ditched years ago.

 

PS I live in the state of New York.  In NYS, there is no requirement for a court order to change your name.  The only thing you do is start to use it.  The stated policy is such utter nonsense when a college doesn’t even adhere to state law.  But they are not incentivized to change, because a woman in the subservient position of needing to go back to school will jump through any hoops she is asked.  And no one ever questions the stupidity of inconveniencing someone when that someone is a woman.

Back, briefly

In my real-life world, several people have asked why I have not posted lately.

 

Can there be sweeter music to a writer’s ears???

Usually, I spend the day asking my friends to look at my work.

My best friend read 1/3 of the way through my last NaNo novel and politely gave up.

SO thank you to the people who want me to write more.

The reason I have not been blogging is the limited time in every day.  My writing in the non blog world has all been about . . .

Ian Fleming.  Who knows why he resonates with me, but my obsession has finally turned profitable, and now I not only get paid (sometimes) I get fan mail.  FAN MAIL.

If you’d like to join me in my quest for all things Fleming, check out Artistic Licence Renewed, the Literary Bond Site.

 

 

Wishing all bloggers to hear the sweet words, “I’ve missed your work.”

Hurting ourselves in the name of fairness

Slight of hand: Intersectional feminism

 

I’m a woman, a first generation American, a person of mixed race.

 

I am ticked at how women hurt our own cause.

 

Intersectional feminism is basically a good thing; it means that we need to acknowledge women, but also women of color, women with disabilities, women who have challenges other than being a woman.

 

But.

 

Have you noticed other movements don’t do this?

 

Black lives matter tends to focus on black men. You tend not to see, on a black lives matter FB thread, people furious for not saying black people with disabilities matter, or black women matter. It is OK to say black lives matter. It is at once meant to refer to all people who are black, and justifying only depicting black men in news stories.

 

SLATE had an article about the Google antidiversity manifesto. It said in part that while the language of the manifesto was largely from men’s rights groups (MRAs) some of the philosophy was from an “even worse” standpoint, which was White Supremacists.

 

I don’t know why the author said this, but it illustrates perfectly that men, no matter what color, win the advantage war, the media war, the publicity war.

Without any explanation or documentation, the author of the SLATE article just assumed the reader would agree: racism is worse than sexism.

 

Oh. IS it?

 

In a world where a common MSN headline is “women using this instead of pepper spray!” is understood to show that women can always expect to be in danger, the notion of white supremacists somehow being “worse” than men’s rights groups is insane.

 

Women undermine ourselves by pretending somehow that we don’t have it as bad as black men, when black men had their right to vote guaranteed first, had a president that looked like them first, have cars and tools designed to fit people of their build, the list goes on and on.

 

The list goes on for so long that I quantified it. I am still working on making the chart attractive. In a point by point system, the marginalizations any woman faces are so great that a black, gay man with a mobility disability still has it better.

For one thing, he isn’t expected to carry around pepper spray.

 

But on a feminist thread, there will always be a bunch of people not only pointing out, but very hostile about, women not acknowledging women of color, or with other challenges.

 

I might add that I have reason to know what I am talking about. If a person is stupid enough to make a racist joke in my presence and I say, “Hey, I’m not all white, you know,” apologies flow fast. Any time I call out sexism, I know the response will be to tell me I’m a whiny bitch, taking things too seriously, or can’t take a joke.

 

Intersectional feminism should be encouraged and nurtured, without our bringing other women down when we fail. I don’t know yet how to do this, but am working on it.

The shit we endure for being women is bad enough without our hurting ourselves.

My Low Waste Kitchen

My low waste life: The Julienne Tool

 

I had this kinda stupid vegetable peeler. It didn’t work. It made the peels into little strips, about the width of fettuccini.

 

Well, my mother never made julienne potatoes so I didn’t know what the thing was for.

A few years ago, the fad for making veg into pasta started, and I realized I could work the strips into authentic fettuccini for color and texture for some kinds of veg or to just work in more nutrition for others.

 

Briefly, if it is a pale yellow vegetable, such as summer squash, you can sub it in. If it has color, you won’t fool anyone. If you use zucchini you might fool someone, if you peel it first. But of course the peel is nutritious so that is kind of a bad trade off. Just julienne it and throw it in with the pasta.

 

You can either boil julienned veg, or lightly sautee in good oil. Sautee only until a bit soft, do NOT brown, because if you brown the veg they will no longer resemble pasta.

 

But here’s the low-waste part: You can julienne the woody stubs of broccoli and cauliflower. Julienned, they are not woody. And they are delicious.

 

There’s less going into my composter now than there used to be.

 

My Low-Waste Life: Seek out Silk

My low-waste life: Seek Out Silk.

 

Yeah. It’s an indulgence.

And to have silk, you need either time or money.

 

But if you can make the time, the investment is worth it.

Here are some great things about silk: biodegradable. Strong—the strongest natural fiber there is. Holds color nicely. Can be very soft.

 

The bad part is, yeah, it is expensive. And it can be difficult to care for. Woven silk should be ironed (bleah) and/or dry cleaned (nope, this environmentalist tries to avoid that).

I recognize my privilege here: I own a car and can drive to the many consignment shops near me. There are even a few within walking distance of my house. And the proximity of consignment shops, combined with a little knowledge, means I have a closet full of silk shirts which cost me no more than eight dollars each.

The best, as in easiest and most economical, way to buy silk is to look for knitted, not woven, silk.

The modern eye is not trained to recognize a knit, so let me help you. Knits will stretch easily when you pull on them, then regain the original shape. The pattern is one of rows on top of one another, rather than, for a weave, a graph paper pattern.

Oh, and speaking of weaves, satin is a type of weave, not a material, so just because it is satin does not mean it is an investment. Some satins are made of nasty yet unwashable fabric. Be sure it is silk.

You want knitted silk because you don’t have to iron knits. You can just throw them in the washer (cold) (yes, even if the label says dry clean) and dry them on the line or draped over a chair somewhere. (Not over wood, though, make it a metal one. Make sure it is painted metal or it will rust.)

How do you know it is silk? Most articles of clothing, even in consignment shops, will have labels at the collar. If there is not a label at the back of the collar, it may be in the lower left seam, in the inside.

If the label has been cut out, you can still tell silk from rayon, even really good rayon, because silk has a distinctive scent. It takes a while to recognize the smell, so you probably want to buy some labeled silk, get it wet so you detect the smell more easily, and then gradually you will come to recognize it. The scent is vaguely similar to raw clams. But only vaguely, and only VERY noticeable when damp.

Silk also often has a sheen, but these days rayon and fine nylon have a similar sheen, so look for the label and be aware of the scent.

If you get a cotton/silk blend the garment may be a little sturdier than pure silk but it won’t be as soft, and you almost certainly have to iron.

Full woven silk need not be ironed if you hang it when still damp on a good-quality hanger. It won’t look quite as good as if you iron it but will be presentable for work.

Good-to-expensive labels work in silk, so I have L.L. Bean, Anna and Frank, Wintersilks, that sort of thing, all at consignment costs, about 5 to 8 dollars each. Because silk is known to be an investment material the garments are stylistically neutral—at least that’s what I tell myself when I have a fifteen year old silk sweater that looks good as new.

Buy cheap, buy often. Buy silk and you won’t have to replace it for twenty years.

My low-waste kitchen: *&^%! Out of butter

In the 1970s, there was an annoyingly accurate saying, “It takes money to make money.”

It also takes resources to save resources, so while I write about decreasing waste I am highly aware that I am lucky to have a fully equipped kitchen, lots of Tupperware, a good freezer, and cooking theory in my little brain.

When I was a teenager, I remember my mother once lamenting that we were eating leftovers. I said, “It wasn’t too long ago that we couldn’t AFFORD leftovers.”  So at that, we were both grateful.  For a long time we were hungry, then we had JUST ENOUGH food, then we had extra food, and now, as an adult, I have extra food, and usually it is food I actually feel like eating, and more than I need. This still seems miraculous to me, most of the time.

My mother never used margarine. She grew up right after WWII and margarine was, for her, a symbol of food coupons and of rationing and of want. No matter how poor we were, she always made sure we used butter. If she ran out of it, there were substitutes. Just never never the hated margarine.

I am not a nutritionist; how much fat of any kind to consume is between you and your doctor. But if you are out of butter, here’s what you can do:

Baking: Butter provides a luscious kind of moisture, so it can be replaced by something moist—that part is easy to figure out. If you want the luxury of fat, you can sub just about one to one with mayonnaise or sour cream (cream is what butter is made of, in case we forget this). Vegetable oil, being runnier, usually should be in a smaller amount than butter. Olive oil can work but it is costly, so if I were you I’d run out and get some butter.

What about animal fats? If you are the type to save bacon or ham fat, it is usually pretty yummy in baking—especially nowadays when “salted” (chocolate, caramel, whatever) is in vogue. Chicken fat will work but not add as much flavor.

If you are on a low fat diet, you can use a veg or fruit puree for at least part of butter or oil, but it will change the texture. Applesauce, puree of carrot, stewed pumpkin, can all be substituted for butter in baking but it will not fool anyone.

If you are out of butter for bread, that is a good time to break out the olive oil. Plain olive oil is dull—that’s what it is prized for, not adding much flavor—so if you don’t have flavored or specialty olive oil that’s when you get to grind in pepper, garlic, or other seasonings and dab your bread, rather than spreading something on it.

 

Frying: You probably shouldn’t be frying things in butter anyway, because it burns too easily, but you knew that, right?  If you are sauteeing and are low on butter, you can actually work in some water after the butter has melted. You must move the food around quickly if you choose to do this, but it is a lower fat way to sautee.

There are times you can cook with mayonnaise; it makes great grilled cheese. I rarely do this, though. It tastes great but it feels odd to me.

 

 

I have to laugh but I just realized: I am out of butter.

 

My low waste kitchen: muffins

Whether it is the result of growing up poor or being culturally Scottish, my family has always hated waste. My mother used to say, “Don’t throw away anything you are about to buy, or buy anything you are about to throw away.”

 

So instead of buying “bread crumbs” while composting stale bread, we make one from the other.

Have you noticed that good restaurants are beginning to serve meat loaf and banana bread and crab cakes? These are foods which, in my childhood, represented frugal use of leftovers. Maybe because more of us watch the food shows than actually cook, leftovers are now on menus, but I just can’t bring myself to pay restaurant prices for a crab cake.

Banana bread is, of course, what you do with over ripe bananas. Did you know that almost any fruit and many veg can be made into quick breads? To be on the safe side, I usually make muffins. With the differing chemical properties and water content of various fruits, I find muffins less likely to “fall,” more likely to be successful, than quick breads.

Small fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries, can be mixed in without much prep.  Larger fruits, such as commercial strawberries or grapes or peaches or apples, should be chopped fine. Do not peel the apples. The skin, when chopped very small, has a nice texture and adds color to the muffins.

Oranges and lemons–all citrus–should be whirled in the blender.

You can use any fruit that is squishy but not moldy.  (By the way, to ward off mold and squishiness, wash your fresh fruit in a bath of vinegar and water before putting it in the fridge. You don’t even need a lot of vinegar, just enough to have the scent of it in the water is fine.)  If you have even a quarter cup of squishy fruit you can put it in the freezer for later use if that use is baking. You don’t have to add sugar, or blanche it, or prepare it in any way but washing, as long as you intend to bake with it.

Since carrot cake, zucchini bread, and tomato cake are pretty yummy, I tried to made cucumber bread once. DO NOT DO THIS. Baked cucumbers taste like clams. I like clams fine, but not for dessert.

Depending on the water content of the fruit, you may need to add more flour and/or more leavening.  The rule for baking soda and baking powder is use twice as much soda as powder.

If you are hesitant to make your own muffins, you can just add fruit to an instant cake mix. You’ll want to start your experiment with at least one half cup but no more than a cup of fruit to a box of cake mix; make sure to drain off excess juice.

 

EDIT: Oh dear, I forgot to mention breakfast cereal.

I am not a fan of it, it being more expensive, per pound, than a fine steak, but I do buy it sometimes because it allows my young child the independence of getting her own breakfast without using the stove (a 1950s gas number you have to light with a match).

You can substitute many cereals, cup for cup, for flour. Since I usually get a whole grain, this increases the nutrition of the muffins when substituting for white flour. Flakes, crisped rice, or granola you can just pour in with no prep. Puffed rice or cheerio things need to be made into a flour; you can either use the blender or put it in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. I like that latter option because it is very gratifying to crush things.

 

Next week, butter substitutes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other superpower

My other superpower

 

 

My other superpower, besides nonexistence, is baking bread.

I have not used a recipe for years. I do it by the feel. Give me liquid, flour, yeast, an oven, and something to put the dough in and you’ll have bread by and by. I usually add a fat as well, generally butter but maybe not. If you don’t add a fat the crust will be lovely and crackly but the bread will not cut very easily. Think of a day old baguette (no fat), and how that falls apart compared with a croissant (lotsa fat, still falls apart but in a pattern).

 

I often feel sorry for my mother in teaching me to cook. She was, by nature, a throw-open-the-cupboards-what-are-we-almost-out-of innovator. But, she felt it was her duty to teach me to measure and to follow a recipe in order, and before you even do that read it all the way through.

 

Today, I usually just throw open the cupboards.

 

In leftover articles, they tend to focus on stews and casseroles, but bread baking is also a good way to use up that thing that is not enough for another meal but too much to discard.

 

The tricks are to not overwhelm the flour, and to know the properties of the leftovers.

Don’t panic, this is really easy.

In general, you want to replace no more than half the flour with leftover whatever. What qualifies as whatever?

These can be substituted for the bulk of flour:

Pumpkin puree

Mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes or turnips)

Oatmeal (or any leftover breakfast cereal)

COOKED rice from your take out (increase yeast a bit if you use rice)

 

These can replace the fat of butter

Sour cream

That great dip you made too much of (quacamole, onion dip, cheese dip) (NOT salsa, has to be a fat based dip)

 

These can be rolled in:

Leftover chopped veg

Leftover chopped meats

Seeds or nuts (add grated cheese)

Rolled in breads should be consumed right away, as chopped veg or meat are only yummy on day 1.

Oh, I nearly forgot: The principal worry I hear from people hesitant to make their own bread is that is takes too much time. It DOES take time, but it need not take YOUR time. Most of the time is rising, and you are not directly involved in that.

A really light and luscious bread will have two risings (you can do one, but two are better). So depending on when you are home, you can have it rise overnight, or while you are at work, in the fridge. Really.

It evens out, the cold of the fridge makes the yeast work more slowly, but you are away for at least eight hours (probably) if you let it rise while you work or sleep. If you do it this way, just let the rise happen with HALF the flour the recipe calls for.  That way, you can add warm (room temp) flour for the second rising and the rising will not take too long.

I get up early, so I start the bread before going to bed, let the second rising take place while I shower and dress the next moring, and read while it bakes.  (PS If you are in a hurry, make rolls instead of loaves because they both rise and bake faster. There’s a reason those awesome cans of premade things tend to be a dozen single servings.)

 

 

 

So that’s my low-waste, high nutrition bread.