One More Day ‘Till It’s Over

1 11 2010

Am I the only one who is tired of the endless election cycle this country seems to be caught in? I remember when there used to be actual news reported on “the news” – you know, stories about people, places and events that are in no way connected to voting. Ah, those were the Good Ol’ Days! Now we’ll get a few weeks to recover and then the airwaves will be filled with who is or isn’t running for president. It’s maddening and I can’t help but wonder what we aren’t hearing about thanks to all this election coverage, speculation, pontificating, and general crappola. What are we missing? A lot, I’ll bet, but honestly, would you rather be knowledgable about the world or the Tea Party candidates chances of “taking the country back”. I’m not sure where they plan to take us to, by the way, but they’d like to take us somewhere.

My own predictions? Yes, the Democrats looks like they are about to get monumentally spanked. Yes, they will most likely lose the House of Representatives and the presumptive new Speaker of the House is John Boehner – the Man with the Tan. If they don’t take the Senate it will be very close. Angle will beat Reid in Nevada and O’Donnell will get pwned by Coons in Delaware and prove that just saying you hate DC and liberals and Obama and masturbation isn’t enough to get you elected – you still need at least an ounce of qualification. As for my state, I think Blumenthal will pull out a win, but I doubt that we’ll give up our 20 year love affair with Republican governors – a love affair that I don’t think has been good for us, but hey, what do I know?

I would be lying if I said that I was anxious to vote, or that I thought I would make a difference or anything else like that. I’m apathetic at best and totally unmoved by my choices. There isn’t even a candidate running that I am all that pleased to be voting against. I’m voting because about a month ago I wrote a post about how people shouldn’t complain about the outcome of elections they don’t bother voting in and I know that it will be impossible

for me to not fuss if we end up with two Republican senators misrepresenting my interests. In my opinion, if you campaign for a Republican, you are one. Someone just hasn’t told Joe Lieberman that yet. So I have to vote because otherwise I will be a hypocrite, which would be bad enough, but I know people who read this blog and when I see them they will call me out on not voting. So I will leave my home and go and vote – I’ll even vote for one of those two fools running for governor – in an effort to avoid hypocrisy.

I think that this election will be blown out of proportion by everyone. Democrats will ring their hands and cry “Woe are we” when everyone knows we work best under a bit of pressure. Plus when legislation eventually gets bogged down and fails, the Republicans will have some failures to deal with instead of just a list of things they don’t like. They will now have a stake in the outcome of things and that is a good thing. While the Democrats are “woe”ing, the Republicans will be crowing about how fabulous they are and how they are the voice of everything patriotic and they will ratchet up the anti-Democrat/Obama rhetoric. I won’t be surprised if we hear rumblings about finding a reason to impeach the President and everyone in his cabinet before Christmas. They will have forgotten that the only thing the public at large usually dislikes more than a sore loser in a sore winner.

And then there will be the Tea Party-ers and the pundits who love them. They will decree that this one election proves that the nation as a whole a ready to be “Tea Party-ized” back to simpler times. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there were never “simpler times”. As much as we love to romanticize our history, people have always been the same. Their motives have not always been admirable. Their actions have sometimes been less than noble. Sometimes we were right as a nation and sometimes we weren’t. Also, most if not all of the issues we view as “modern-day”  have always been there in one form or another and have always been contentious. They won’t be disappearing any time soon and they aren’t as easily solved as some might think. Not everyone desires a return to the financial and social climate of the 1890’s or the 1950’s and even if everyone did, you can’t go backwards. The past can always be learned from, but never recreated. So, while I do think the tea party people will have gotten a few of their own into positions of power, I think they are in for a rude awakening as far as how much of their platforms they will actually be able to implement which doesn’t break my heart.

I could be wrong about all of this. Hate my predictions? Well, go vote and maybe something else will happen. Even if you are as apathetic as I am, go out and vote so you can complain about it later.





Why Vote?

6 10 2010

Last night, for the second night in a row, in the name of being an informed citizen, I subjected myself to the debates for our state election. The night before it was the senatorial debate which was conducted mostly in that great New England style of intense hatred concealed by well-mannered smiles. Fangs were bared occasionally and then the gentility returned. Last night’s gubernatorial debate was a grudge match, a slug-fest with mics and three-piece suits and without the chair-throwing. I lost count of how many times the two called each other liars without actually saying the word “liar”. It was an annoying, tedious display which makes me wish there were another option out there. I was left with one question bouncing around my mind – with two candidates who I doubt could successfully figure out the way to the restroom, let alone how to sort out the state’s economy, why bother voting? I figured others might be faced with the same thought, so here’s my two cents.

Plenty of people can give good, solid reasons for voting. Some will talk about your patriotic duty as a freedom-loving American. Some can really get going, invoking the images of the service men and women currently deployed in harm’s way, the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, God, your mother, apple pie, Uncle Sam, and “Old Glory” to a point where you start looking for a large, robed choir to stand in rows, sway gently from side to side, and start humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic while a bald eagle flies overhead. Others will carry on about getting your message heard, taking a stand, and making DC hear your voice raised loud and proud about <insert volatile issue here>. After a good dose of that, you’re starting to think about marching around outside your town hall carrying a sign with your particular grievance aired on one side and “Fight the Power” emblazoned on the other. Well, while all of that stuff is important, I’m just not that intense. Perhaps I’m suffering from a deficit of patriotism or an overabundance of apathy, but the reason that’s drving me to haul my sorry carcass down to my local polling place, get in the little cubicle thing, and fill out a ballot is a little more pragmatic and a little less theatrical.

It is my personal belief that, if you choose not to vote, you have automatically forfeited your right to bitch about the outcome of that election. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people going on and on about what a terrible person Senator “X” or Representative “Y” is – they’re lairs, they’re criminals, they’re the child of Satan – and then, when somebody asks them who they voted for since their so upset, it turns out they didn’t vote at all. Usually there’s no good reason why they didn’t – just pure, unadulterated laziness. I hate that. I’m left wondering where all their passion was on election day and, even if their arguments for why the political figure in question should be incarcerated are perfectly valid – this is Connecticut after all – it all turns to noise pollution as far as I’m concerned when the complainer admits they never bothered to vote against their current nemesis. It’s hypocritical bull funky, I tell you! So, if you want the ability to firmly plant your forehead against your palm and bemoan the sheer idiocy of your elected officials, get thee to a polling place come November 2nd.

America, please, either get out and vote, or shut the hell up!

Thank you.





Seeking Asylum at the Kids’ Table

20 09 2010

Adulthood isn’t easy. Even having fun is harder and there are a lot more things that are not fun at all that you have to deal with. The past couple of years have highlighted to an astonishing degree my failings in the adulthood department, but I doubt that some things get easier as one ages and the catalyst for this post is one of them.

My friend from college has cancer and she’s twenty-five-years-old.

For me, it’s enough of a surreal experience watching my friends and cousins who are my age getting married. Here I am unable to commit to anything and they’re all pledging to spend their lives with this one special person. And don’t even get me started on what a mind trip my friends having babies is. That’s all mind-boggling to me but finding out someone who graduated college with me, drank Guinness in the dorm with me, rocked out to old school music (like the Clash) with me, and someone whose marriage I was toasting a little over a year ago is now on chemo and battling a deadly decease just doesn’t compute. That stuff happens to other people – older, other people. She’s too young for that. I found out a few days ago and I still can’t absorb it. I went to my uncle’s 50th birthday party and I feel bad because my brain was miles away. It’s a wonder no one asked my mother if I was on drugs or something equally mind altering. Frankly, I’m shocked that the cupcakes came out as good as they did.

That’s it. This is how it is. This is adult life where pixie dust and wishes made on birthday candles have no effect on problems and there are few completely happy endings. I should deal with things like an adult – but I’m not very good at that, so I wrote a blog post about it. All I can do is hope that she recovers fully and quickly, but it doesn’t seem fair.





Kitchen Archeology – No, This Is NOT About Cleaning My Fridge!

11 08 2010

While hunting for lost recipes my mother sort of remembers writing down twenty years ago, I made a discovery – a tattered old cookbook that was printed in 1882. It has no cover and is really in poor shape. It was way in the back of a drawer in my kitchen and probably hadn’t seen daylight in a dozen years or so. Even reading it is interesting. It really shows what kind of effect 118 years has on a language. It is for that reason that I’ve chosen to share one of its more interesting recipes with you. It is taken, exactly as written, from Successful Housekeeper: A Manuel of Universal Application.

Cottage Beer

Take a peck of good wheat bran and put it into ten gallons of water with three handfuls of good hops, and boil the whole together until the bran and hops sink to the bottom. Then strain it through a hair sieve or a thin cloth into a cooler, and when it is about lukewarm add two quarts of molasses. As soon as the molasses is melted, pour the whole into a ten-gallon cask, with two tablespoonfuls of yeast. When the fermentation has subsided, bung up the cask, and in four days it will be fit to use.

Now, I’m not going to start a micro-brewery in my garage or anything, but I’ll admit the thought did cross my mind briefly. If anyone does try this, let me know how it is.





Family History On a Plate

8 08 2010

Last November my cousin got married and I made her wedding cake, which was actually a collection of gluten-free red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. This recipe like so many others is on a small card stuffed in a cookbook in my mother’s kitchen. The chances of it getting lost are high and there are plenty of other recipes that my mother and I love and use often that are old, raggedy looking, and in similar random locations just waiting to be misplaced or used as scrap paper by my father who wouldn’t recognize a recipe if it jumped up and did a tap dance on the counter. There are some fragile ones that are decades old and written in my grandmother’s handwriting. She passed away a few years ago and I would be very upset if these old, brittle bits of yesteryear finally crumbled while in my possession. Others are locked securely in recesses of my mother’s mind. I once searched my house for over an hour trying to find her apple pie recipe only to have her tell me that it had never been written down to begin with. We have some beautiful cookbooks that I’d rather not see spattered with oil and stuff because they got in the way when I was making something delicious and messy. In short, this situation has to change.

With this in mind, and because my unemployment gives me nothing but time, I’m copying down all of the favorites old and new and making two archives of them – one for me and one for my mother. It will make sharing them easier and I’m sure my aunts will have a few to add to our collection. This will also give me a chance to make some of my favorite foods for no reason which is always good. I’m always pulling new recipes off the internet and now they won’t end up in some corner of a drawer never to be seen again.

Essentially, I’m writing my own cookbook.





Taralli – My Culinary “Mission Impossible”

24 07 2010

What’s a taralli? Well, aside from delicious, this is the definition Wikipedia gives is this.

Taralli are an Italian snack food, common all over the southern half of the Italian Peninsula. A cracker similar in texture to a bread stick or a pretzel, taralli can be sweet or savory. Sweet taralli are sometimes glazed with sugar. Savory taralli may be flavored with onion, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel, pepper or just salt. Sweet and plain taralli are often dunked in wine.

I had seen some of the sweet ones a while back and finally weakened enough to go out and buy some – something I usually don’t do because they’re expensive and, given my major weakness for baked goods, they don’t last long. I had, however, gotten the image of me enjoying a of couple glazed taralli and my morning coffee so ingrained in my mind that the obvious downsides didn’t faze me. Off I went to the closest grocery store – a small independently owned place where I always, Always, ALWAYS see sweet taralli… except for when I show up looking for them. I went to the next nearest grocery store – a Stop & Shop – and still no sweet taralli. If I’d have wanted the peppercorn ones, I’d have been set, which just made the situation more annoying.

Before I go on, allow me to explain why not finding a single lone tarallo (singular form of taralli) is such a shock. I live in New Haven county Connecticut – well within the metro-area where Italian-American everything is commonplace. The town I live in does not have its own high school – it’s part of a district – but it does have not one, but two places to get good pizza. If I’m honest, I could’ve driven to an Italian bakery and bought the taralli. There are a couple good bakeries around, but they aren’t as close as those grocery stores were and I was getting sick of driving around with nothing to show for it, so I went back home to go on an online recipe hunt. I had decided to try my hand at making them.

Traditional Italian baking is usually pretty easy – it can be time-consuming sometimes, but it’s not a difficult process as a rule. There are often few ingredients and the variety comes from the addition of different flavorings and such as opposed to an entirely different process for each recipe. A perfect example is when you walk into a coffee shop and you see seven different kinds of biscotti. The difference is not in how they’re made – they are all biscotti – but in the flavoring. One’s almond, one’s lemon, one’s dipped in chocolate, ect, ect… The difficulty comes in finding traditional Italian recipes. No one writes cookbooks full of these kinds of recipes. You find books with really elaborate versions of some of these things or, more irritatingly, how to fake Italian food with things like ketchup and canned soups. That, in my opinion, is an abomination. I’m cool with all sorts of things in life, but do NOT try convincing me that Campbell’s tomato soup even remotely resembles my homemade marinara sauce. I will think less of you as a person if you do.

My recipe hunt yielded a few good results most notably an italian food blog turosdolci.wordpress.com which is full of some delicious-looking recipes as well as beautiful shots of Italy. My urge to book a flight was almost as strong as my urge to bust out the baking utensils. Baking won only on economic grounds. Anyway I found this post about taralli and this post that was my inspiration – a sweet taralli made with red wine. I gathered my ingredients and about 35 minutes later my home smelled like heaven and I had taralli that are far better than anything I could’ve bought. Me being who I am I had to fiddle with the recipe a little. I used a Ruby Port instead of a red wine and the results are fabulous. Whatever brilliant soul decided, ages ago, that wine belonged in a baked snack deserves to be canonized. I also showed my mother the site and now she’s got baking plans that stretch to Christmas after seeing a few recipes for biscotti and other treats. I have plans to attempt some gluten-free versions of these things. My cousin is allergic to gluten – a cruel fate in a family like mine – and I’ve had a fair bit of success with substituting in gluten-free flours with little to no difference in taste. It’s health food everyone wants to eat. I’ll keep everyone appraised of the results of my gluten-free experimenting.

I will close this post with a warning regarding these snacks – they are addictive. To say I’ve eaten more than my fair share is an understatement to say the least. It isn’t just me, or the rest of the humans in the house for that matter, Tosca, my shiba inu, is now a fiend for them. She will climb, jump, and do everything else in her power to get a hold of some. This is unusual because she isn’t generally one to do this… unless you leave grilled beef unattended, and then it’s over. Tosca is an accomplished taralli thief.

I will try to post more good recipes (or links to good recipes) in the future.





Old Enmities, New Violence

13 07 2010

There was violence in the streets in Belfast yesterday. It was the same old grievances being acted upon by a new generation of fighters. I just don’t get it.

As a small child, I remember watching the news as Ireland and North Ireland fought bitterly on the screen. It really upset me because the place where the fighting was going on didn’t look very “foreign” to me. The buildings and homes looked just like areas of the city in which I lived at the time. The people didn’t look very “foreign” either with their jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps and sneakers. I asked my grandmother why they were fighting and she tried to explain the split between Protestants and Catholics and how two groups who were so similar could hate each other so much and for so long. She did a pretty good job, but that didn’t make the fighting any more sensible to me. I must have been being a pain because my grandmother finally looked at me and said “Every little boy and girl in the world is born the same. No one is better or worse than anyone else. Those people weren’t taught that.” I remember that so well I can almost hear and see her saying it.
Time marches on – I’m now an adult, or should be anyway, with a great interest in world events and foreign policy and my grandmother has been gone for several years now, but this conflict makes no more sense to me now than it did all those years ago in the kitchen of our small, old house. It’s so senseless and it’s been going on as long as I’ve been alive and for ages before that. There are plenty of conflicts that are older than me – Israel/Palestine springs immediately to mind – but, while I find it hard to justify any of them, this one strikes a particular chord with me. I’ve read about it and talked about it and learned about for years, but at the end of the day, I’m just as confused and disgusted as I was when I was following my grandmother around our kitchen peppering her with an endless stream of questions.

There are some articles from the BBC here, here, here, here, and here. I’m sure there will be a statement made by someone of governmental importance and I’ll update with that once I find it.





The Masochist’s Guide to Self-Betterment – or- Beginning a Weight-Loss Plan

30 06 2010

*I wrote this a while back, but I thought it needed to be shared. Also, this is written as a joke. I’m the last person anyone should be turning to for advice on how to workout properly*

The first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem. Maybe one too many of your favorite articles of clothing “shrunk in the dryer.” Maybe you caught a glimpse of your naked self in the bathroom mirror and were stunned for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you were in the dressing room at your favorite store and txted you best friend (BFF) in a panic: ‘OMG! Im FAT! WTF?’ However you made the determination that there’s a little to much of you, now it’s time to do something about it.
First, tell your mother you want to start dieting. If you’re really as large as you think you are – and sometimes even if you aren’t, she will be overjoyed and begin to nag you mercilessly about your progress. Traditionally, this is supposed to work especially well if your mom is Italian or Jewish, but usually most mothers, regardless of ethnicity, will rise to the occasion with gusto. For extra “encouragement”, also tell a nosey grandma or auntie. Children, though generally very “persuasive”, are also, generally, very selfish and tend to reserve their fierce dedication and powers of annoyance for situations in which they are the sole beneficiaries. Translation – unless you want to keep bribing some little brat to keep after your lard ass, it’s better to leave this to the grown-ups. Why pay for something you could get free, especially in this economy? Besides, who nags you better than your mom?
Next, see all that yummy, bad-for-you food in your pantry and fridge? Well, it can’t stay there ready to tempt you in a moment of weakness, so what are you going to do with it? Those with a firm sense of resolve will get rid of it by throwing it away. How wasteful! The rest of us will have a “Day of Sin”/”*Jour de Gras” – whatever you want to call it – and savor the last bits of junk food we’ll be eating for quite some time. The next morning your stomach will feel very bad indeed and you won’t have much of a desire for most of that food for a while. Also, after you consider that your caloric intake for the previous day probably looked a hell of a lot like Bernie Madoff’s bank statement before the Feds got to the lousy bastard, you’re most likely already googling area gyms. Perhaps, if you have one, you could consider inviting your workout buddy to ensure continued dedication to the cause. Now is also the time to go grocery shopping if your constitution can handle being around copious amounts of food at the moment. You won’t buy out the store and what you do buy will be healthy because you’ve taken care of your craving for snacks and such with your “Day of Sin”.
Now it’s time to pick a gym and join it. Do a little research, pick a place where you think you’ll be comfortable, and then go and check it out. Does it smell of feet? Is the workout area such a mess that you wonder if it was a test site for anti-personnel weapons? Are the showers, locker room, restroom, ect… a health code violation? If you answer yes to any of these things turn around and leave, possibly placing a call to the Better Business Bureau as you do, and find someplace that makes the cut. When you do join a gym, and if it’s in your realm of financial possibility, hire a personal trainer or take classes so there’s someone there to hold you to your goals and otherwise whip your roly-poly self into shape.
Once you join the gym, GO! The money is already out of your pocket, so make good use of what you spent it on even after the “Day of Sin” guilt wears off. As you are jogging away on the treadmill or doing whatever it is that you do on an elliptical – ellipticaling? – take note of what bouncing that shouldn’t be and let that be a reminder as to why you’re there in the first place. Enjoy watch the little calorie-loss-counter-thing slowly go up as you huff and puff for a half hour, or hour, or whatever. Congratulations! It’s the end of your first work out and you’ve lost the caloric equivalent of a snack-sized bag of Pop Secret (without butter) and three carrots. Makes it hard to justify that post-gym trip to Dairy Queen now, doesn’t it?

Finally, as you lay on your bed, sore and tired, try to find the sense of accomplishment you should theoretically have.

*Jour de Gras – French – Day of Fat





Searching for Confidence on the SALE Rack

30 06 2010

It’s been two years since I’ve seen a regular paycheck. The last thing I need is another expense. I also don’t need to put myself on the path to screwing up my health for the rest of my life, so losing weight had to happen and it’s something to occupy myself with to pass the time between waking up and sleeping. So far, I’ve lost a little over thirty pounds. I’m estimating because I haven’t weighed myself in a while. No matter what the number is I doubt it would make me smile, but that’s an issue for another day – I’m aiming for a healthier weight, not one you brag about. Anyway, my slightly less fluffy self is a positive thing, but my resulting lack of proper fitting clothing is an economic hit to the solar-plexus. I’ve ignored the problem for as long as I can but it’s reached the point where, even if I managed to get an interview, I’d never be hired for anything because I look clownish – everything is baggy and drooping and tent-like. I’m not exaggerating when I say that only my socks and shoes fit reliably.
This adds several new facets to my current “F***-My-Life” mindset. My biggest issue is, of course, that I am once again a dependent – something a 25-year-old, able-bodied, reasonably sentient individual should NEVER be – and I have to ask my parents for everything. It’s enough to turn my stomach and it will if I think about it long enough. Since I’ve had to conduct myself this way, I have systematically trimmed down my life to limit the times I have to ask for cash. I hate it and miss going out with my friends and stuff like that, but I hate having my parents finance me far more, so I don’t regret putting myself in a nearly unwavering pseudo-house arrest that would impress the Chinese police. I’ve continued using my social networking site of choice as a means by which to keep my friendships intact and I did go out in New York to celebrate my birthday. Since I’m trying to be as light a financial burden as I can be, I had been ignoring the fact that I have very few pieces of clothing that fit but it finally has reached the point that it would obviously affect any attempt to find employment, so I have to ask for money over, and over, and over in hopes that, aided by a that fact that I don’t look like a bum, I’ll get a job, a week or two later get a check, and gain back a bit of my autonomy. In the interest of full disclosure and because I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea, I’m not the most social of butterflies to begin with, so I promise you it’s not as tragic as it sounds. On a happiness scale that goes from Rogers and Hammerstein goofy bliss to Ingmar Bergman bleak, I fall somewhere around a Woody Allen comedy of the Diane Keaton era – many of my issues stem from my own tendency to over-think. If that changes, so will my behavior. I’m not much of a fan of Bergman.

There is also the fact that I really don’t like shopping for clothes. I enjoy shopping for most everything else – books, shoes, DVDs, and handbags all rank high – but I do not like shopping for clothes and, as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to hate it even more. Usually, I take someone with me to make it more of a social outing and less of a chore that’s right up there with cleaning the toilet on my list of Detested But Absolutely Essential Things To Do. I hate it because it’s a lot of effort with little or no reward. Why? Because, in addition to not being 5′ 10″ and 98 lbs, I’ve got plenty of all that makes up the female silhouette and that presents a problem. Apparently those who design clothing have gotten it into their heads that the 21st century female’s silhouette is the same as that of your average 12-year-old boy except women are all six feet tall. I’d like to take a moment to address this error in basic observation.

Clothing designers,
Please allow me to clue you in, you couldn’t be more wrong about the average female form. Take a deep breath, prepare yourselves for what’s to come, and do an image search for the term “real women”. Once the shock wears off, you’ll come to the realization that, while not like those of all the models you’re used to, these less boney bodies with so much variety of shape and size to them are worth creating decent clothing for. Come on, give us a chance.
Much Obliged,
Me

I have already begun my hunt for suitable clothes because nudity is not an option and have had a major breakthrough – jeans that fit. No “booty gap” in the back. No muffin top. They just fit. Best of all, I have discovered that my own personal Jean-topia has more than one brand in it. I have tried on and bought two different brands – Christopher Blue and CJ by Cookie Johnson. Little In The Middle jeans have also been recommended to me but I have yet to actually try a pair and, when dealing with jeans, seeing is believing. This is a wardrobe victory, but I have not won the war. There are three big bags of things to be donated and I’m not done yet. I have a lot to replace, but it’s a start.
There is always some level of connection between clothing and self-confidence and I won’t try to doubt that there is some of that at play. I don’t just need something to wear to an interview, I need “interview clothes” even though I have had only a few interviews in the past two years. Perhaps it’s a case of having to look the part to get the role. We’ll see. I’m not exactly what you’d call an optimist but I’m finding that more and more that is what one needs to even be considered for any position anywhere. Modesty be damned, you need to practically radiate supreme confidence – more self-confidence than an obese stripper – to get hired, period. The longer you’ve been out of work, the harder it is to drum up that much confidence – a rather cruel irony. I’m hoping to find some of that attitude tucked in the pocket of a great pair of interview-grade black pants. As for a job, I’ll come up with something… eventually. My self-confidence may ebb and flow like a tide, but my hope springs eternal. As I go along I see plenty of people less qualified for whatever position they hold than I would be. My grand philosophy is that they can’t all be sleeping with their bosses and when they eventually screw up bad enough to get themselves fired there I’ll be, resume in hand and looking fierce.