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Thursday, April 7, 2011

FOOD! Oh, glorious FOOD!

“I can't cook.”

“Oh, no, I'll buy something for the party. You don't want me to poison anyone, do you?”

“I don't know how to cook.”

“Where do you want to go eat?”

These are the things I said over and over for the first 33 years of my life. Truth be told, I was afraid to cook. I was afraid it wouldn't be good. I was afraid that what I made wouldn't look, smell, or taste like it was supposed to.

My paternal grandma is an amazing cook. She has a very old propane stove she has to light with a match – the same one she has had my whole life and longer. She doesn't have any fancy gadgets or machines to make it easy. She does it the same way she has done since the 1930s – by hand and from scratch. She makes everything by hand. Donuts, jelly, bread, (the world's best) macaroni and cheese, everything. Watching her when I was little, she made it look so easy, but also, there were a lot of steps involved. And a lot of work.

It is kind of intimidating to watch. To hear her tell it, it's as easy as breathing. But this is also the same woman who sits down with a pen and crossword puzzle for twenty minutes, maybe a half hour, and when she stands up, every space on it is filled with the proper letter. (I sent her the first crossword I ever completed on my own, at the age of 24.)

So easy? As easy as breathing? I think I need a second opinion...

My mom is a good cook. Mostly, my grandma taught her. When my dad was in the military, she lived with them. She makes a lot of the same stuff. Just not so much from scratch, and with the gadgets and machines. She does do a bang up job on the macaroni and cheese.

So, what of me? I have never had much interest. I am more of an outside child. I wanted out. I didn't want to be inside in the kitchen on a nice day, I wanted to be outside running, playing, climbing trees. If it was cold, I wanted to be inside, reading a book or imagining up my next story. I didn't want anything to do with anything domestic.

My first meal.
In August, at 33, I moved (again). I decided it was time to learn to cook.

In the months leading up to this move, I researched everything about cooking. I bought all kinds of gadgets and machines. I bought basic necessities. In the midst of all this, I kept wondering if I was just wasting my money.

Here's the thing. I was scared. SCARED. I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue if I could do this. My go-to emotions are fear and self-doubt. And, I’m bad at math. All the measuring and dividing (when you cut recipes) terrified me. Oh, and I am not patient. Not at all.

But I forged on.

Going to the grocery store was a whole other adventure. I didn't know where anything was, beyond the cereal isle. I felt lost and confused every time I had to buy something new. I felt silly looking at the varieties of items with a blank stare on my face. I would spend at least an hour in the store every single time. This was not easy.

I wanted to cook smart, healthy, and cost-effective. It is hard to stay cost-effective when you don't have any basic ingredients. It seemed every recipe cost over $50 at the beginning. I didn't have flour. I didn't have sugar. I didn't have the proper kind of milk. I didn't have...

I didn't have anything to store this in. I didn't have Tupperware. I didn't know where to get Tupperware. I knew about Tupperware because my mom has it. I wanted the Tupperware she has. That is what I am familiar with. That is what I am comfortable with. Problem: her Tupperware is as old as I am.

Retro tupperware!
Ebay. I got on ebay and found retro Tupperware. I bought it.

As far as the food goes, it is coming along. I am learning. Everything I have made up to this point has been good, with the one exception – asparagus soup. I just think I don't know enough about spices yet.

I try very hard to stay away from boxes. I want my food to be as whole as possible. Healthy was one of my goals. And, besides, my grandma doesn't use boxes. Even the sweet stuff, like brownies, don't come from boxes. All homemade so far.

Peppermint-chocolate brownies.

There is a difference in the way my grandma and I cook. I have the gadgets. I have the machines. She, on the other hand, has her history and her knowledge. I call her from time to time and update her about what I am cooking. She shares stories and recipes with me. We have a bond now that we didn't have before. My one regret: not having her teach me when we lived near each other.

The fear is gone. I get a butterfly or two when I start a new recipe, but it is not overwhelming, and I have the faith that it can be done if I do what I am supposed to do.  I have found that I truly love to cook.  There is something amazing about homemade food.  Maybe it is the lack of processing.  Maybe it is the freshness.  But maybe, just maybe it's the love.  I think it is all three.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The (de)Evolution of Electronics

I'm going to try something different today. A short story. Fiction.

I was inspired last night at dinner with my friend and roommate, Kelly. Both English majors in college, we tend to see the world in stories. And last night, we saw the makings of a potential story. After pondering the situation for a while, we decided two things:

1. The hilarity of the situation, with a little tweaking and imagination could make this a great story.


2. It fits the letter E.

The backstory of this is that we saw a child of about seven dining with his father. We were happily talking away and filling in the happenings of our weekend to each other. In contrast, once seated, they figured out what they wanted off the menu, then the father proceeded to tell his son his schedule for tomorrow. Then, he handed his son his touch screen phone and the kid turned it on, found a video, and watched it through the remainder of dinner. They didn't speak at all after that.

Based on that, here's the story Kelly and I came up with.

The year is 2025. Two girls in their early thirties are sitting at dinner staring off into space. They are not talking to each other. It is obvious they are good friends, however seem to have nothing to say. Maybe they have been together for days on end? Maybe they are just at the lull in their friendship where communication is not important.

But maybe, just maybe, they do not know how to communicate over a meal.

Once they placed their order, a family was seated at the table next to them. Once the family ordered, they began to talk. They each told the family with excitement about their day, the information gathered in school, the stresses of work, what they were doing over the coming days. They even talked about current events, what they had read in the papers, seen on the news, the latest books they were reading. They seemed to have an endless stream of conversation.

This irritated the girls.

“Can you believe this?”, remarked one of them. "When we were kids, we didn't have to talk at dinner. We all had our gadgets and were completely preoccupied. No one had to even look at anyone else.”

“I know. I was just thinking the same thing. How obnoxious it must be to have to think of things to talk about. I was just enjoying how we always sit in silence.”, said the other.

“Oh how I miss the days of oblivion, when mom was on the phone and disregarded everything I said and did because she was too busy to notice. How dad was always checking his email. What happened? How did we get here?”

How they got there is in the last twenty years, technology has taken a hit. Smartphones, devices, and electronics in general had hit the proverbial wall. There wasn't anywhere to go but down. And backwards.

The absence of portable electronics has made it necessary for people to communicate again. As demand rose for more more more in our society, computers had to get bigger again, not smaller. Cell phones that did too much took up too much power and now have to be plugged into the outlet of your car. And the fatter our society as a whole had become, the more impractical touch screens and small buttons became, thus making everything larger in general so we could type with our fat fingers.

Gone are the days of instant access to anything and everything. And it has caused yet another generation gap. The mid-20s to late-30s crowd does not know how to talk to each other, or the people around them. They stare into space, longing for the days of Angry Birds and texting the person across from them. The late-30s to late-50s crowd can't stand not getting that email the second it is sent, and doesn't quite know how to function professionally without knowing what is going on on the other side of the world right now.

What is going on in Hollywood? Who is in rehab? Who is going to jail? Who hooked up on their latest movie set?

We have to wait until we get home to find out. OH HUMANITY!

In contrast, the younger people are talking. They are excited and animated when they speak to each other. They relay stories back and forth. Their stream of thought and communication is constant and seemingly never-ending. They talk with their hands. They talk and talk and talk. And their parents can't figure out where they learned such a thing.

This generation will know how to find information out for themselves. They will know where to look and how to access it, without relying solely on machines to do the work for them. They will know how to spell and punctuate and think. All for on their own accord. Their parents and teachers think them to be geniuses.

The two 30-somethings (and most of their generation) are sad and depressed – they feel they are the ones who truly know you don't know what you got till it's gone. They do not understand this new generation of thinkers. They live lives of silence, unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings into words because they have always had a machine to do it for them.

This is the beginning of something I think I will continue writing. I think there is more to this, more to find, more to write. It's an interesting switch on reality. I do miss the days when I had to wait to get home for a phone call. The days when I didn't panic because I don't have service for an hour inside a cement building.   The days when I didn't jump because my phone rang.  When I could listen to the radio for the entire car ride.

What do you think, fellow bloggers? Can you communicate with your friends without a machine? Are you amazed at the lack of communication in public exhibited around you?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Spencer Bean the Wonder Beagle

Okay, that's a little much.

D is for Dog.

Way back in May of 2010, I told you about my dog, Pepsi. And that I was going to get a tattoo of her on my left side. Way back in September of 2010, I did it. A beautiful picture of my childhood dog, now with me forever. And, as I had hoped, it truly brought more healing to the pain of her death some seventeen years prior.

Somethings I have a hard time letting go of. Pepsi is one of those things. I don't know that I ever will, completely. However, it was time for me to begin the work so I could finally have another dog of my own. I have been looking on rescue sites for years, visiting the humane societies in my area, going to pet adoptions at stores in my town. I would never walk away with a dog, though, only a broken heart.

Tattoo in place, and Pepsi always with me, I began the work. I began to journal. I began to do serious research on breeds and sizes and temperaments. I began to formulate and ask questions and find answers.

Pepsi. With me forever.
I was ready to find my little male dog, the one whose name would be Emmett.

In short, I got serious.

In February, I found him. I found the perfect dog. I saw a picture of him online and knew he was mine. All I needed was that one look in his eyes on my computer screen. I don't know how I knew, I just did. I could feel something, something I hadn't felt about any of the other dogs I had looked at in pictures or in person.

The description was Beagle mix. His shelter name: Pinto (stupid).

I called the shelter he was in and asked them to please hold him until the weekend when I could come up to meet him. I would need to bring my roommate's dog along to ensure they were compatible. No matter how selfish and how much I wanted this dog, I knew the animals in my home had to get along, or it wouldn't be pretty. That was the only obstacle I could think of. Saturday morning, Chloe in tow, I drove two hours to the shelter. All the way there, begging Chloe to love this dog. Not that she cared what I was saying. The radio was on and the windows were down. She was happy.

I got to the shelter and got out Pinto (stupid). I walked him around a little on my own before going to get Chloe. He was so happy. He was peeing on everything and smelling even more. He was licking me and peeing again. SWEET FREEDOM! Once I got Chloe out of the car, it was like magic. This boxer and this beagle walked side by side, in tandem for the entire time they were together. Sure, they smelled each others' butts, but that was it.

It was decided. I got him. I had to leave him to get his shots, and fixed (because his previous owners were lame), and be microchipped.

I went shopping. Crate. Dog food. Treats. Toys. Blankets. Leash. Collar. This dog is going to have a whole new life. A life better than ever. His story is that his previous owner, the lame one, left him tied to a tree on a rope for 14 or more hours a day. Animal Control took him away. None of that crap in my house.

Spencer Bean coming home.

I kept thinking that he didn't look like an Emmett. I would have to figure out a new name. Even though I have always planned on naming my dog Emmett, I couldn't do it if it didn't fit. And it didn't fit. I thought he kind of looked like a Spencer. And, in honor of the shelter for rescuing him, I made his middle name Bean (because Pinto is stupid).

A week later, I drove another two hours to get my dog. Kelly went with me. Spencer Bean is better than I could have hoped for. Those eyes told most of the story, but not all. He is completely and totally the love of my life.

He isn't a Beagle mix.  He is a Beagle.  A Bluetick Beagle.  All that means is he has the ticks on his white fur, which you can see in the picture.  In all my life, I never thought I would have a full-breed dog, because I am an adopter. 

He is brilliant. I have had him since March 1st. In that time, he has learned sit, stay, lay down, come (though that one is still in progress, he does well), up, bed, and he sits down and waits patiently while I get his food ready and doesn't eat until I tell him to. He has gone hiking once. Him and Chloe get along like old friends. We stay at a friend's house a lot and he and her Beagle/Rottweiler mix are the best of friends. He stayed with my dad last Sunday and had a great time, my sister brought her two yorkies over and they played all day. Every person and dog he has met is his friend. He is not angry or aggressive, does not bark or anything. He has only pooped in the house once. Completely (and surprisingly) house-trained, he has not had to be in the crate at all.  He has only got in the trash once.

Spencer Bean, Chloe the Boxer, and Maggie Mae the Beagle/Rotweiller.
Two littles and a big.
When I got him, he would sleep in bed with me, but at the bottom of the bed and over. Now, as his trust is growing and he knows this is where he belongs, he sleeps right up against me or between my knees.

I know it took a long time for me to get to the point where I was ready for a dog of my own again. I think it was worth the wait. I think I could not have done any better. Spencer Bean is my personality. We are a perfect match. I am so thrilled to have him. I know, I just do, that Pepsi would agree and she would love him, too.
Running!  Oh Sweet Freedom!

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for cookie, and that's good enough for me...

...oh, how I wish that were true.  I have, however, had three cookies today.  Thanks, Melissa's mom.

Today, I've decided to focus on something I know very little and very much about.


I know very little because I hate it.  Relationships, ug, require committment.  I have been in long-term relationships.  I have even lived with people.  BUT, I always leave in the end.  Before it gets serious.  Well, before it gets legal, anyway. 

The thought of spending forever and ever with someone creeps me the hell out.  I don't know why.  Truth be told, it kind of makes my skin crawl a little.  And I'm not even Mormon.  I don't believe I'll get stuck wtih my family in the celestial kingdom (read: afterlife), but, I do think as long as we both shall live seems like a super long time.

It's not that I don't like being in relationships.  I do.  I like having someone next to me.  I like having a friend who knows all of me, who accepts and loves me the way I am.  I like having someone think I'm pretty.  And I like thinking and feeling all those things about someone else.

I watch my friends date, get married, have babies, get divorced.  Maybe that's some of it.  Divorce is P-A-I-N-F-U-L painful.  For those involved and those around them. 

I am independent.  I like my space.  I like to go home to my own bed with my own dog and lay diagonal.  I like not wondering which toothbrush is mine and if someone else didn't care to figure it out.  I don't want to ever have to think about that.  It freaks me out.  Seriously.  Right now I am freaking out just thinking about it. 

Saying all this, I don't really sound like much of a catch, do I?  I think I am.  I can compromise.  I can be in relationships.  I can give as well as take.  Maybe I just haven't found the one yet.  I remain hopeful.  I doubt it will ever be anything legal, but maybe it will be something that doesn't end because I want to go home and do laundry.

Now, having said all that, I am very committed.  To many things.  To many people.  I have  friendships and responsibilities that I take care of on a regular basis that fill my time.  I am learning new ones.  I am changing my schedule.  Sometimes, I am so committed that I forget to make time for me.  But that is something I work on routinely.  And I am currently working on this. 

I have committed to this blog for the month of April.  That is exciting.

I am committed to personal time.

I am committed to taking care of myself.

I am committed to being a good friend.

I am committed to take good care of my dog.

I am committed to my job.

I am committed to my family.

I am committed to being helpful.

I am committed to being polite.

One day, maybe they will just committ me.