Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ruminative cello solo

I find myself wondering how Grandma would have felt about this whole health care reform debacle...the final bill, the endless debating and finger-pointing, the violence that has suddenly, spontaneously erupted. I would have liked to talk to her about this, since she is the sanest conservative person I know, and the things she said didn't make me want to chew on people's computers, or make me go all snarly and squinty-eyed. She was smart...she'd be able to pick through the bill and come up with things that she didn't like, and then find reasons why they might appeal to people. And she wouldn't back down from a good debate.

Even though she always advised me not to discuss politics with boys. Maybe that was good advice, but now, after a two-day, knockdown fight with my boyfriend about the federal government in general spurred on by a comment made by a hater on Facebook, I have to wonder if I should have listened. If I shouldn't have made it clearer: Date 1, I am a Screaming Liberal. Right now I'm so tired of the whole thing I'm ready to just shut up and crawl into bed. I am an Optimist, a Joyful Soul and a Believer in the American Dream. He is somewhat older and more jaded.

I would also like to ask Grandma what to do about this. We never talked about how she and grandpa worked through their political differences, but I suspect they didn't really have any to speak of. Should have asked her about how she felt about the major reforms that were pushed through in her lifetime--the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, Medicaid. Although, she voted for Roosevelt three times, she always liked to remind me, whenever I accused her of being a Republican.

There are so many things worth getting passionate for, worth losing friends and yes, even lovers for, but I'm not sure the current administration is one of them. I support President Obama (even when he sold me out and withdrew a moratorium on offshore drilling!) but then again, he's not going to be waiting for me with a home cooked meal when I come home from work. I can probably guess what Grandma's advice would be--this girl is intelligent, but she also loooooves to eat--but I...I just wish I could hear her say it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fish Cakes of Perfection

Mom sent me a card noting that Peter said I should update my blog more often. I say I'll update my blog more often if SOMEONE SENDS ME BABY PICTURES....

I know you're all probably wondering how I feel about the healthcare reform bill. (Let's note, by the way, that THAT is what this bill is--not some socialist plot to ram a public-option single-payer healthcare plan down our throats, thankyouverymuchglenbeckyoutwerp. ) Basically I feel like it doesn't do enough. Yes,thirty million people may suddenly become eligible for some kind of health insurance, but that is not everyone in the United States. A woman I work with morosely noted last night: "I don't know how we can afford to have universal health insurance." I don't know how we can afford not to. Forget the cost for a second, okay, and remember that we live in the best, A-1 country in the world, and yet we are...well, pick your statistic, that isn't this kind of blog. Not only do we NEED some kind of universal coverage, we DESERVE IT. Having conquered those pesky wants that we take for granted like running water and literate girls, we should extend our awesomeness to ALL citizens of this nation. And I am writing this as someone who will be paying taxes on her Cadillac plan in eight years. Sure, when I realised that, I sort of swallowed and went "but but, I'm poor..." But but I'm working and if my appendix explodes tomorrow as I'm being gnawed on by a polar bear and when I arrive at the hospital they diagnose me with gout, I will be covered. We, as Americans, owe it to ourselves by setting the bar high and reaching for it. Some generations did it naturally, existing without as war and depressions ran rampant...we need to work a little harder. So I'm gonna keep fighting for universal heath care. And when it arrives, I'm going off the Cadillac plan and buying American.


Hee, that felt good.

But, in the meantime, I'm poor. I'm trying to eat cheaply. (To save my money for Japanese steak houses and nachos at eleven pm. What? It was Saturday!) I also try to keep nonperishables on hand, since I tend to forget about fresh veggies, unless I eat them right away, and then I end up throwing them out. A few weeks ago I tossed a Betty Crocker "Helper" meal in my grocery trolley...I was seduced by the picture on the front for Cheesy Beef Taco and the fact that this box was All Inclusive, so I wouldn't have to buy meat. I think it was on sale for $2.

Well, I made it the other night. The "beef" was actually a can with a few beef crumbles, but mostly water and fat. (I have to be honest, it had the consistency of vomit) The "seasoning packet" was mostly a thickener. Last and least, a cup of rice. Less than a cup. When I pulled the packet out I couldn't believe how little rice there was, so I measured it before adding it to the vomit and thickener mess. I put it in the oven and re-read the box. First I noted how the slogan above the directions said "For an easy and great-tasting meal!" with nothing about health content. There was nothing to brag about however: According to the box, a cup of rice and a can of beef-vomit should be enough for four people. Each serving had a 45% sodium content. Now, if I had pulled my usual trick and eaten half, saving half for lunch the next day, I would have eaten nearly my entire daily recommended allowance of sodium in one sitting.

I couldn't do it. I might not be the healthiest person in the world, but the idea of subjecting my heart and my body to a sodium content roughly equivalent to that of the Pacific ocean made my vascular system twitch. Luckily Jeff called and took me out on a date to the Tokyo Steakhouse...while this may not have been the most sodium-friendly place, at least it featured some actual vegetables and fresh chicken. The Cheesy Beef Taco went into the garbage.

I started doing some research about eating cheaply. Along the way I found this article about foodie hipsters using food stamps to buy salmon and lemongrass at Whole Foods. And then I found Clara. She's a ninety-four year old woman who shares Depression-Era cooking via YouTube. Some of the meals she talks about, like the Poorman's meal, sound eerily familiar. Potatoes, onions and hotdogs...sounds like me with my potatoes and eggs. I want to try this recipe for fresh bread. I'm still enjoying learning the finer points of baking bread. Now I can see how women in the eighteenth century would brag about their baking skills if they could.

Tonight I made fish cakes and had them with a spinach salad, tossed with a homemade vinaigrette. Except for the spinach, everything was stuff I had on hand. It never fails to amaze me how one night dinner will be a colossal cock up (last nights biscuits 'n ham) and the next night it will be Food Network-worthy (fish cakes of perfection.) I'm working for the next three evenings, so I took advantage of a night off to cook properly. Here's the recipes...I didn't put measurements because I know all you cooks out there can finagle things to perfection.

Can of tuna, mixed with bread crumbs, little dried parsley, Old Bay seasoning (present from foodie boyfriend), and egg. Mix together. Fry in veggie oil, flipping once or twice until both sides are nicely browned.

DRESSING: I frickin' love this dressing. I got it from a friend in Chicago and this recipe is the sole reason I keep balsamic vinaigrette in the house. Olive oil plus balsamic vinaigrette, a little mustard powder (use Colman's, it's British and it comes in an awesome little tin!) and dill. Fresh dill is best, of course. Toss over everything and enjoy the hell out of it.

I know I talk about food a lot, but it was either that tonight or a discussion about how I suddenly realised, as I was doing his laundry, that I have upheld gender-stereotypes with my dog. Both his blankets are blue, and the new leash and collar set I bought last week are blue. Granted, it's a lovely powder blue, but I wasn't thinking, as my coworker was, how feminine it looked..I was thinking how the little bees on it reminded me of Napoleon's imperial symbol. Yeah. I'm a geek. Now, if only I could get a collar that says "ENGLAND EXPECTS."

The next baking project I want to attempt is a green tea cake...I just need to figure out where to get matcha powder.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Conversations with Kismet, pt 14

ME: Would you like a rawhide chewstick?


ME: Ok, here you go!


ME: I better not find that buried in my pillow later.


ME: Hey, where are you going?

KISMET: Nowhere.

ME: You went in my bedroom to bury that in my pillow, didn't you?

KISMET: ... No.

But, in his defence, he did go dig it up later and eat it.

The CDC has been offering a series of workshops as part of the continuing celebration of our 75th anniversary, and last Saturday I got to host one on Pockets, Workbags and Market Wallets. It was a lot of work, doing research on the items I was going to talk about and getting all the materials ready, but in the end it was a lot of fun. The pockets were the most in depth part--more of them survive and they have a longer history and are better documented, but workbags were also interesting, meant to be heavily decorated and showed off. Market wallets are the plastic bag of the eighteenth century...everyone used them, but no one thought to save one or write about it. I even got to go into collections and take pictures of the pockets and workbags the had there. A huge room full of drawers and shelves, holding centuries worth of clothing, textiles and other fabric-related bric a brac. Drooooool.

(Here are some pictures...but please don't tell collections I posted them. They will find me.)

Flamework wallets. One of the volunteers opened this drawer, looking for more pockets, said "oh, you're not interested in this" and I quickly snapped a pic before she shut it again. Oh, the colours! Hard to imagine they're so bright after two hundred years.

Embroidered pocket. Notice the asymmetry. Pockets were one of a kind and individual.

Housewifes. Again, another drawer I "wasn't interested in." The one on the right is actually made out of a thin leather. The ones on the left have tiny mirrors in them. Why, I don't know, but they were gorgeous. Oh, I tell you I could have spent hours in there.

But, I'm glad it's over. Now I can focus on working on my play and the evening programs. And walking Kismet. And giving him baths when he attempts to dig to China.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Slightly Deafer than Three Days Ago

And the reason I needed silicone waterproofer was because Jeff and I attended a re-enactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse down near Greensboro, North Carolina last weekend. And it was wet. Very wet. But still a heap o' fun. I don't know if I mentioned that I joined an artillery unit on my blog--the Fourth Royal Artillery, a crack unit that fought all through the revolutionary war and is active in Iraq today. (Not the same soldiers, just the same unit)

Guilford Courthouse, as far as I understood it as explained to me, occurred because Lord Cornwallis was told to "secure" Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia, which had been "won" by the British. In 1781, General Nathanael Greene began to harass his army, as Cornwallis attempted to march north through North Carolina to a river whose name escapes me, picking fights and then running away--excuse me, skirmishing and then retreating. Finally, Cornwallis (who had wisely eaten through all the supplies and even burned his own luggage, convinced he was going to get to the British Navy soon) said "Screw it, I'm taking my ball and going back to New York." He did this by securing a deepwater port at Yorktown and waiting for the navy to arrive...and we all know it never did. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jeff and I arrived after a four and a half hour drive with another artilleryman, Joey, and quickly got to work setting up our tent. This takes about five minutes: it's a bit of canvas thrown over a ridgepole and then held in place by the stakes holding out the sides of the tent. The ground was wet, so we threw down about a half a bale of hay, then a waterproof groundcloth, then our mattress, which was filled with more hay. It was pretty comfy, except we were sleeping on a hill. So all weekend I had dreams about rolling out of the tent. And Friday night it rained some more...a downpour for about ten minutes, then a light misting rain for another hour. I tossed more straw into the gap between ground and tent to ward off rebounding raindrops and went to bed.

That's the great part about re-enacting: there is no expectation that people will be clean. Oh, sure, the Royal Marines camped next to us were up at six thirty going through manovers, their poncy red jackets and perfectly crossed white belts gleaming in the sun, bayonets flashing gaily, but no one expects you to shower or even change clothes much. Maybe your linens...or if you're a girl, you'll change clothes to show off your sewing, but otherwise, it's dab on a bit of deodorant, splash your face with some water, brush your teeth (or not) and you're good.

Or is that too much information?

Anyway--the battle on Saturday went off without a hitch. The best part about having an artillery piece to haul around is that we could hitch it up to the "mule" --a red Subaru--and haul it up the hill to the battlfield, insulting Continentals all the way. We placed our gun and then placed ourself securely behind the infantry, marching behind as they made their way through the forest down to meet the foe. Once the redcoats got out of the forest, we pulled our piece up into position, and began pouring it into them. I was cartridge handler (or "powder monkey" if you prefer the Naval term), so it was my responsibility to grab a cartridge from the box, run up fifteen feet, hand it to the wormer, who slid it into the gun. Then the sponger rammed it down, the picker 'n primer picked 'n primed and the person with the lint stock fired the gun. And I yelled "GUN FIRED!" just incase no one had seen it or heard it. The battle was pretty incredible. Most of the infantry units--red and blue--had several dozen people, so they were able to form up into three lines, shoot, reload and march pretty much as a unit would have back in the day. Of course, the redcoats were mostly advancing and the rebels were mostly retreating. Just when it looked like we would take the day uncontested, CAVALRY appeared and began riding around, hacking at the infantry. Artillery hate cavalry, but they didn't get near enough to us to pose much of a threat. (some delicacy about exposing modern horses to cannonfire) As the redcoats advanced, we advanced too, attaching drag ropes to the cannon and pulling it forward, causing some "corpses" to nudge each other hurriedly and advise them to "cover your ears"! But, after fourteen rounds we were too close to the spectators to get off another shot and we retired in triumph with the rest of the British army.

Here's a photo of some of the lads in my unit...note the snazzy blue/red/yellow uniforms. This is right after the battle, we were all exhausted. Luckily there were scores of photographers about.

I was worn out from running back and forth, mostly up a hill, so I was grateful when we got back to camp to discover dinner was almost ready. (one of the advantages of re-enacting with people who actually want to portray gendered roles: women who stay behind and cook, huzzay) Saturday night we sat around reliving the battle and engaging in another soldiering pasttime, drinking and singing songs. It was quiet, warmish and peaceful. After we went to bed, the rain started up again, leaving the ground extra muddy for Sunday, but it left before sunup. Jeff and I attended a camp church held by the Royal Highlanders. In the afternoon, we held a cannon demonstration, since the battle that day was going to involve another part of the actual battle, where no cannons were involved. This day, I got to handle the lintstock. This is a piece of wood with a metal thing on the end that has two holes, through which are pushed a piece of slow match. The lintstocker is supposed to keep the slow match going at all times, then, when given the order, gently sweep the match across the priming powder on the cannon, causing it to go BOOM. Because you need both hands for this operation, the lintstocker is unable to cover their ears during the firing...I never realised how loud a cannon could be until I was standing right next to one when it went off. Next time, I'm bringing earplugs, farby as they may be.

Although rain threatened by the time we were done with our demonstration, we managed to get all the canvas folded and packed while it was dry. A quiet ride home was punctuated by a visit to Smithfields in Henderson, NC, a faster-food type place that has the best. bbq. I. have. had. in. quite. a. long. time. MMMM. Then home. De-mudding shoes took fifteen minutes, but I only had one load of laundry. I'm looking forward to doing this again, although next time we're not pitching our tent on a hill.

God save the King!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meanwhile, in Embarrassing Moments in Consumerism

That last post was supposed to be slightly sarcastic, can you tell? I don't know how--since I am actually more organised now that I am an adult--deadlines still sneak up on me. So I'll be cruising through the week when holy crap, you mean that re-enacting event is this weekend and I have to bake bread tonight?! In some ways, re-enacting in late spring is easier, because the foodstuffs you can bring are limited. Dried peas, potatoes, tea, sugar...things that would have survived the winter in a cellar. And maybe an illicit box of chicken stock.

Evening programs have started up again, and I am enjoying it so far...apart from the fact that I have gained so much weight this winter that I look like a sausage stuffed into a green 'n gold casing. Now, CW tends to turn a blind eye to employees wearing their clothes places that aren't CW. Stopping by the grocery store after work, or running to the pharmacy on your break. It happens. Just don't get your clothes ratted up. So last night after work I had to run to Target. Normally I love swanning through stores in stays and buckles, but last night the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself because I had to buy a toilet plunger. While not as embarrassing as, say, a box of Depends, it is still slightly mortifying. One of my roommates has moved out, taking most of the necessary items in the house with her--like the plunger, flour, kitchen table, the key hooks and most of the dishes--but also the wireless internet router. So, not only was I swanning through Target last night in costume, with a plunger tucked under my arm, I also had to ask one of the sales clerks if he knew if this here router would work with a Mac. Arg. It reminds me of the game we used to play when I was an undergrad: "What is the strangest combination of items you can buy at Wal-Mart at two in the morning?" It would have been even funnier if I'd've remembered the third thing I wanted to get: silicone waterproofing for my shoes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Month of Sundays


All the Time: Spend With Boyfriend (putting off important things)

REWRITING THE PLAY (and trying not to dally since I am getting paiiid to reviiise...YESSS)

Creating a Workshop. On Pockets, Workbags and Market Wallets. All of which I have made, all of which I currently own and am pretty much in complete understand of UNTIL...I start doing research on them and realise that once again: Everything that can be said. Has been said. It's Hamlet all over again.

Beagle: Walked enough.

Car: Needing some tire balancing. SCREW YOU POTHOLES!!! Tomorrow morning I will be sober and you will be ASPHALT'D!!! HAHAHAHAHA

Re-enacting. We're going next weekend, but first I have to figure out where exactly it is we're going. North Carolina...somewhere.

Working Evenings! I love getting the overtime pay until I have to actually, you know, work evenings.

Blogging in my roommate's room. Because one roommate moved out and another one moved in and we don't have a wireless router yet.

Sewing a bedgown. All the best sewing projects start at seven PM on a Sunday night.

New resolve to be a vegetarian. Thank you Paul Watson for saving baby seals. Have you ever seen a seal being clubbed to death? I don't recommend Googling it.

And Oh yes, singing in choir. I may never be less busy enough to go to church, but by God I'm going to make it to rehearsals.

And that is my life.

Also there is rioting in Greece. Part of me supports the protestors, part of me wonders if maybe they're a bit too much government run. It's like my socialist and my capitalist selves are fighting within my soul. Who will win? Well, both of them feel they need to do some more research before coming to a decision. Preferrably on a Greek island somewhere...