December 31, 2009

Ladies: Which movie star are you most like?

Here's some fun just for us girls...It's one of those emails that's making the rounds but I thought it would be fun to reproduce it here.  It's really fun, assuming you recognize the movie star's names.

Which Movie Star Personality Are You Most Like?  

Ever wonder which movie star you are most like?  Well, a team of researchers got together and analyzed the personalities of movie stars.  The gathered info has been incorporated into this quiz.  There are only 10 questions so it doesn't take long.  

Number a piece of (small) paper from 1 to 10, then answer each question with the choice that most describes you at this point in your life.  Add add up the points that correspond with your answers. 

Don't look ahead or you will ruin the fun!

1. Which describes your perfect date?
a) Candlelight dinner for two
B) Amusement Park
C) Roller blading in the park
D) Rock Concert
E) Have dinner & see a movie
F) Dinner at home with a loved one With candlelight

2.. What is your favorite type of music?
a) Rock and Roll
B) Alternative
C) Soft Rock
D) Classical
E) Christian
F) Jazz

3.. What is your favorite type of movie?
a) Comedy
B) Horror
C) Musical
D) Romance
E) Documentary
F ) Mystery

4. Which of the following jobs would you choose if you were given only these choices?
a) Waiter/Waitress
B) Sports Player
C) Teacher
D) Policeman
E) Bartender
F) Business person

5. Which would you rather do if you had an hour to waste?
a) Work out
B) Make out
C) Watch TV
D) Listen to the radio
E) Sleep
F) Read

6. Of the following colors, which do you like best?
a) Yellow
B) White
C) Sky blue
D) Teal
E) Gold
F) Red

7. Which one of the following would you like to eat right now?
a) Ice cream
B) Pizza
C ) Sushi
D) Pasta
E) Salad
F) Lobster Tail

8. Which is your favorite holiday?
a) Halloween
B) Christmas
C) New Year's
D) Valentine's Day
E) Thanksgiving
F) Fourth of July

9 If you could go to any of the following places, which would it be?
a) Reno
B) Spain
C) Las Vegas
D) Hawaii
E) Hollywood
F) British Columbia

10. Of the following, who would you rather spend time with?
a) Someone who is smart
B) Someone with good looks
C) Someone who is a party animal
D) Someone who has fun all the time
E) Someone who is very emotional
F) Someone who is fun to be with

Now total up your points on each question:
1 A-4 ; B-2 ; c-5 ; d-1 ; e-3 ; f-6
2. A-2 ; B-1 ; c-4 ; d-5 ; e-3 ; f-6
3. A-2 ; B-1 ; c-3 ; d-4 ; e-5 ; f-6
4. A-4 ; B-5 ; c-3 ; d-2 ; e-1 ; f-6
5. A-5 ; B-4 ; c-2 ; d-1 ; e-3 ; f-6
6. A-1 ; B-5 ; c-3 ; d-2 ; e-4 ; f-6
7. A-3 ; B-2 ; c-1 ; d-4 ; e-5 ; f-6
8. A-1 ; B-3 ; c-2 ; d-4 ; e-5 ; f-6
9. A-4 ; B-5 ; c-1 ; d-4 ; e-3 ; f-6
10. A-5 ; B-2 ; c-1 ; d-3 ; e-4 ; f-6

Add up your total and find out which Movie Star you are:  

(10-17 points) You are MADONNA:
You are wild and crazy and you know it. You know how to have fun, but you may take it to extremes. You know what you are doing though, and are much in control of your own life. People don't always see things your way, but that doesn't mean that you should do away with your beliefs. Try to remember that your wild spirit can lead to hurting yourself and others..

(18-26 points) You are DORIS DAY :
You are fun, friendly, and popular! You are a real crowd pleaser. You have probably been out on the town your share of times, yet you come home with the values that your mother taught you. Marriage and children are very important to you, but only after you have fun. Don't let the people you please influence you to stray.

(27-34 points) You are DEBBIE REYNOLDS :
You are cute, and everyone loves you. You are a best friend that no one takes the chance of losing. You never hurt feelings and seldom have your own feelings hurt. Life is a breeze. You are witty, and calm most of the time. Just keep clear of back stabbers, and you are worry-free..

(35-42 points) You are GRACE KELLY :
You are a lover. Romance, flowers, and wine are all you need to enjoy yourself .. You are serious about all commitments and are a family person. You call your Mom every Sunday, and never forget a Birthday. Don't let your passion for romance get confused with the real thing.

(43-50 points) You are KATHERINE HEPBURN:
You are smart, a real thinker. Every situation is approached with a plan. You are very healthy in mind and body. You don't take crap from anyone. You have only a couple of individuals that you consider 'real friends'. You teach strong family values. Keep your feet planted in them, but don't overlook a bad situation when it does happen.

(51-60 points) You are ELI ZABETH TAYLOR:
Everyone is in awe of you... You know what you want and how to get it.. You have more friends than you know what to do with. Your word is your bond. Everyone knows when you say something it is money in the bank. You attract the opposite sex. Your intelligence overwhelms most. Your memory is the next thing to photographic. Everyone admires you because you are so considerate and lovable. You know how to enjoy life and treat people right..

December 20, 2009

Crockpot Orange Roast Pork

Winter's here, and the crockpot is getting extensive use again.  The other day I made this oh-my-God delicious pork roast.  I wish I could remember where I got the recipe so I could attribute it properly.  

It's so simple to make, but packs so much flavor.  I served it over rice, with a side of asparagus.  My husband ate most of the roast (lucky guy, has a high metabolism and no problems with cholesterol).  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Crockpot Orange Roast Pork


1 (3-1/2 lb.) pork shoulder roast
1 onion, chopped
6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cold water


Trim roast of visible fat. Place onions in bottom of 3-4 quart crockpot. Sprinkle salt and pepper over roast and place in crockpot on top of onions. In small bowl, mix together thawed orange juice concentrate and brown sugar, and salt and pepper, and pour over roast. Cover crockpot and cook on high for 3 hours, then reduce heat to low and cook for another 3 hours. 

Remove roast and onions from crockpot, cover, and set in low oven to keep warm. Skim fat from juices in crockpot. Then pour into large heavy pan. Blend flour and cold water in small bowl and add to juices in pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently with wire whisk, until thickened. Serve gravy with roast and onions.

October 17, 2009

The Escapee

"Shit! Ella, GET BACK HERE!"

Ella, my dumbest hen, had shot out of the chicken pen and taken off across the yard at a dead run, clucking like a deranged mental patient. Her feathered bottom rocked dangerously from side to side, threatening to topple her at any moment. She looked like a fat woman running, one with one leg shorter than the other.

God dammit. I was late for work already, dressed in my work clothes and did NOT want to chase down a stupid chicken through our septic waste-infested yard. (Gotta get that septic system looked after.) But I did it anyway because my chickens had recently had to be penned up due to a neighbor's complaint.

It was bad enough that I was going to show up at work with chicken shit from the pen stuck to the bottoms of my loafers - no matter how I scrubbed them in the grass, some would stick and I'd carry "Eau de Chicken Poop" into the office. Now add "Eau de Human Poop" to the shoes and my co-workers would surely be very happy with me. I couldn't change shoes 'cuz they're the only ones I have decent enough for work in an office.

All I had wanted to do was throw hay to the mini horse, feed the chickens, get in the car and haul ass for work. But nooooooo. Ella had to choose that moment to make a break for it.

We played ring-around-the-rosy with my horse's favorite tree. He thought it was a fine game and joined in, terrifying Ella who shot off under the electric fence into the very neighbor's yard who had complained. Shit, fuck, hell, damn. I cursed that hen with every dirty word I knew, including some phrases in other languages that were too disgusting to translate into English. At the top of my lungs. The neighbors, who already thought I might be white trash just for keeping chickens, are now convinced.

I'd lunge left, she'd run right. And vice versa. Never mind that her rooster was calling to her to get her ass home; she has a stubborn streak a mile wide. Never mind that she HAD to be hungry, she HAD to know that I was coming into the pen to feed them. It took me ten minutes to corner her and when I grabbed her you'd have thought I was killing her. She was still screeching at the top of her lungs when I got her back in the pen, which prompted Edwin the rooster to attack me in order to protect the dumbest of his harem. (Edwin isn't the brightest bulb of the bunch either.)

I made it to work and quickly slipped past the wrinkled noses and raised eyebrows to wash off my shoes in the sink in the ladies' (ewww). I couldn't do anything about my formerly creased pants which were now a mass of wrinkles from the knees down, thanks to the dew in the grass, and bearing oddly shaped stripes of dirt from Edwin's eight toes.

Oh well, I thought, shit happens when you have animals. But I really think Ella's deranged. If she keeps it up she won't be my star layer anymore; she'll be dinner.

September 18, 2009

My Favorites: Seriously The Best Brownies I've Ever Had

Brownies. Mmmmmm. I've always been a chocoholic, so brownies were one of the first things I learned to make as a kid. Early on every batch of brownies had a bit of my knuckle skin in it from grating the chocolate by hand, but nobody noticed. These are fudgy, moist, and oh-so-bad-for-you. The recipe comes from Amy Vanderbilt's cookbook although I added the chocolate chips. You can frost them if you want to be obscenely decadent.

2/3 c shortening
4-1 oz squares unsweetened chocolate, grated
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c granulated sugar
4 eggs
1-1/3 c sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 c chopped nuts
2 t vanilla
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips (if desired)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease 9x13 pan.
Combine 1st 4 ingredients in saucepan. Place over low heat; stir occasionally until shortening and chocolate melt. Remove from heat, add eggs, and beat until well blended. Sift dry ingredients together. Beat into egg mixture. Stir in nuts and vanilla until smooth. Pour into pan. Bake about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center has crumbs on it. Set pan on rack to cool. Cut into squares or bars.

September 14, 2009

You want me to WHAT?

My husband has been trying for years to get me to go to a nude beach. Or a nudist resort. Or pretty much anywhere that will allow me to take my clothes off in public without getting arrested.

I am not and have never been a thin woman. Not even close. I'm a doni* like the picture, only now that I'm 47 my breasts aren't as full as hers. But otherwise we're pretty similar. The thought of exposing my vast quantity of flesh to other people didn't bother me for myself - I just didn't want to gross anybody out. I imagined people pointing and whispering "Oh my God look at that woman - ewwww!" or maybe even, God forbid, shouts of "Hey, you should put your clothes back on RIGHT NOW!"

But my husband is a persistent man. He showed me multitudes of nudist club sites on the net, saying, "Look, honey - they're all just regular people like us." Hmmm, I didn't see any donii in those pics although yes, some of the naked people were overweight. Mostly men, and everybody knows most men are willing to take their clothes off at the drop of a hat no matter what they look like.

And all those people in the pictures were tan. I mean, REALLY tan. I've never seen so many mahogany-colored Caucasians. Being in the sun is very bad for me. I'm a natural redhead with vampire-white skin who doesn't tan. I freckle if I'm lucky, but only after I've burnt myself to a rare-beef red. Plus I have a history of skin cancer so I really should stay out of the sun unless I just WANT to get cancer and die.

But again, hubby persisted. He found a "local" clothing-optional beach and talked me into going. He insisted that I could wear sunscreen. I finally said yes just to shut him the hell up. And in hopes that he'd quit looking at naked people on the internet. (Like that will happen.)

Last Saturday we packed for the beach and headed south to Oregon. We inadvertently took the long way, and I was ready to turn around and go home about half an hour before we even found the town where we make the turn to the Columbia river. But we finally found the place. It was a LOT more than 100 miles away (it turned out to be 187 miles one-way going the short way, not the way we went down). I was pissed.

But we arrived on a beautiful island in the Columbia River just outside of Portland. Found a parking spot and lugged our cooler, chairs, towels etc. to the beautiful sand beach. And there they were: a couple hundred mahogany-colored naked people and a few vampires like me. They were all shapes, ages and sizes. There were kids in diapers. (Well, they weren't wearing diapers - they were naked.) There were octogenarians. There were probably 30 boats and a seaplane all tied up just offshore. People were sunning, strolling and swimming. Naked.

I took all of this in during the first 10 seconds of arriving at the beach. It was gorgeous. It was shocking. It was all I could do not to turn around and run back to the car. I didn't see anybody who was as fat as I am.

But we had driven for FOUR HOURS to find the place, and I was damned if I wasn't going to participate. I set up our chairs, positioned the cooler just-so, and ran out of things to fiddle with. It was time to strip. I took a deep breath and peeled down.

Nobody noticed.

Nobody pointed or yelled or threw up. Nobody even whispered, as far as I could tell. I was just another person on the beach. I had Jeff put sunscreen on my butt and I put it on my breasts and stomach, the most painful places to get burnt. I left my arms and legs to the Goddess. I put on my sun visor to protect my face, and plopped down in the chair to take it all in.

I think I quietly broke every rule of nudist etiquette that day. I've always been a people-watcher, so, I reasoned, why shouldn't I look? And I figured as long as I didn't stare, and I kept my comments for my husband's ears only, it was ok. So I looked at everybody, and said to Jeff everything from "Look at the guy jogging - doesn't he know how funny he looks with his Johnson flapping back and forth? hee hee..." to "Oh, he's a hunk, I'd do him in a heartbeat!"

Then came time for me to get out of my safe little chair and stroll along the beach. By then I had seen a couple of women my size (and one even bigger) so I was a tad more comfortable. But still not very. So I sucked in as much of my stomach as I could and off we went.

It turns out that people were, in fact, whispering, but according to Jeff they were talking about the huge dragon I have tattooed on my left shoulder blade. How he knew that I couldn't tell you, but I choose to believe that yeah, they were talking about my tattoo. Uh-huh.

After we'd been up & down the beach I felt more comfortable. We went swimming - I'd forgotten how much fun skinny dipping is, and how my husband's penis looks like it belongs to a 2-year-old when he swims in REALLY cold water. Hee hee. That stretch of the Columbia river is about 200 nautical miles from the Pacific, so it's freshwater. I could clearly see my feet while standing in it up to my chest.

Did I enjoy the day? You betcha. It's an amazing feeling of freedom to be naked in the outdoors, whether you're around other people or not. It somehow put me in touch with nature, with the earth that I came from and will someday return to. I felt wonderful. I was happy - for the first time in months.

Will I go back? You betcha. Unless we can find a nude beach closer to home, that is.

I left there with an incredible feeling of accomplishment: I overcame my fears and my embarrassment. I have just a touch of sunburn on my shoulders. My husband the nudist, however, refused sunscreen and looks like a boiled lobster. Hee hee!

* A "doni" is a Venus figure from the early Paleolithic era - about 25,000 years ago.

September 10, 2009

Bye-Bye, Freedom

Prior to Barack Obama winning the Democratic party nomination for President, I was largely uninterested in politics. My political bent has always been Libertarian so basically none of the candidates I voted for ever had a chance. (They still don't.) I was as enthralled as the rest of the U.S. with Election 2008, and was quite pleasantly surprised when America elected her first black President. I took it for what it was - a sign that "things they are a'changin".

Boy, was I ever right. Talk about change - the people who voted for Obama put a Socialist in the White House. I think even the far left is secretly shocked at what the President is up to. His attempts to take control of our lives away from us are so outrageous that even the sheeple of the Deluded States of Armchair-ica have been shaken out of their cud-chewing somnolence to say, "Hey! Now wait just a minute!". The wolves are among us, and this is the first time I've ever been grateful for the media in its current form. With all the news coverage, the pack leader is having a hard time hiding the hunt. His targets? Capitalism and personal liberties, for starters.

I have to hand it to him - the man has cojones. In the first six months of his presidency Obama and Congress have interfered in everything from the smallest aspects of our lives (vis a vis the usurious tobacco tax hike, a blatant attempt to force us to stop smoking or go broke) to the biggest of big business (vis a vis the insurance and automotive company bailouts, the money for which came out of your pocket and mine). Now he's trying to impose socialist medicine on us. This is just the first several months of his Presidency, my God! What's the rest of it going to be like? What other sectors of private business are the government going to step into and take over? What other personal liberties are we going to give up?

Speaking of personal liberties, aside from the fait accompli tobacco tax hike there's a bill before Congress that would require all persons wishing to own firearms of any sort to obtain a 5-year permit from the federal government. Fortunately the bill is languishing in committee and the experts say there's no chance it will ever pass - but still. It's the principle of the thing. It frightens me that the government is intent on regulating so much of my private life.

And I don't want Obama taking capitalism away from us. It's what this country was founded on, and what has worked for 233 years. I believe in survival of the fittest for the good of the whole. In a capitalist society the strong survive and the weak fall by the wayside, a principle that has made and kept us First in the First World.

But there is an upside to all this. We're not helpless - we have the power to stop what's going on. If only one-half of the people in the US contacted their representatives, Obama's plans would go up in smoke. Our power lies in fear: frighten your representatives into thinking that they aren't going to be re-elected and you can bet they'll desert Obama's ship like rats.

President Barack Obama. A man who went from "boy" to "Big Brother" in his own lifetime.

September 07, 2009

Three-Quarters of the Way to Heaven

Photo courtesy of

One of the Christian concepts that has always fascinated me is Heaven.  I've fantasized throughout my life about what Heaven would be like.  Of course it would have all the people and things that I like, and none that I don't.  That's a given.  But lately I've been reading a lot about personal happiness.  I've decided that, since this is my only chance, I want to create my own heaven right here right now.  Is it possible?  Well, not according to the criteria I set above.  But I can come close:

  • I can surround myself with people I like and cut loose those I don't like. Whenever possible.
  • I can watch whatever movies I want.
  • I can learn to love myself, forgive myself and be patient with myself.
  • I can keep my house as neat and clean as I want.  Or not.
  • I can gain satisfaction from helping others.
  • I can choose not to wear makeup and a bra.
  • I can work towards financial goals that will help me achieve my heaven-on-earth, like saving money to buy a small farm where I can have more animals and a bigger garden.
  • I can run around barefoot even if my heels crack and dirt gets under my toenails.
  • I can let go of past failures that cause me pain today.
  • I can love thunderstorms even if people think that's weird.
  • I can make amends to those I've hurt in the past and find peace knowing I tried even if I'm not forgiven.
  • I can wear socks with sandals.
  • I can accept my disability and be comforted by the knowledge that I'm doing everything in my power to get better.
  • I can spoil my animals rotten.
  • I can practice random acts of kindness, and learn to accept kindness in return.
  • I can eat junk at the fair and ride the rides 'til I puke (though I've only puked once).
  • I can forgive those who have hurt me and let go of that pain.
  • I can act a fool in Walmart, playing with the toys and riding the shopping cart to my car.
  • I can do things that will make the world a better place even if only in small ways, such as going "green", getting involved in my community and keeping a sharp eye on the government (and making my voice heard).
  • I can eat chocolate.  In moderation.
  • I can contribute to causes and charities I deem worthy, whether it be by financial contributions or donating my time.
  • I can cook fabulous meals.  Or not.
  • And finally, I can love my husband with my heart, body, soul and mind.  And be loved in return.

According to that last criteria, I'm three-quarters of the way to Heaven already.  

September 06, 2009

I Forgot Dinner: Italian Mac 'n Cheese

Oh, hell. I forgot to take some meat out of the freezer for last night's dinner. And although we're overrun with squash right now, that's it for the garden at this time. Kinda hard to fix dinner with just squash. Plus, I want to pickle a bunch of it, so...I improvised. Big-time. I took a cruise through my cabinets and came up with this concoction that turned out to be pretty good.

Italian Mac 'n Cheese

2 boxes cheap macaroni & cheese
butter, olive oil & 0% milk
1 14.5 oz. can asparagus cuts & tips
1 10 oz. can white turkey in water
1 oz. Neufchatel cheese
1-1/2 tablespoons purchased pesto
onion powder
8 Ritz crackers

Boil macaroni as directed. Meanwhile, open & drain cans of asparagus & turkey.

While pasta is draining, in pasta pot combine cheese sauce mix, butter & olive oil (use half butter, half olive oil as called for on the macaroni boxes), milk as called for plus 1/4 c. extra, and cream cheese.

Cook over low, stirring, until smooth. Add asparagus and turkey; stir gently until hot. Stir in pesto and onion powder to taste. Add macaroni; combine. Crumble the crackers and stir in. Stir until all is nice and hot, then serve.

We ate ours with fresh cucumber slices and lowfat ranch dressing.

Do you have any "I Forgot" dinners you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about them!

September 03, 2009

On Being Frugal

People tend to think we're dirt poor. It will inevitably come up in a conversation that we use our dishwasher as a drying rack for our hand-washed dishes. Or that we don't own a lawnmower. (We actually do own a lawnmower but he's a composting mower with four small hooves and an attitude.) Or that I make our own laundry detergent, window cleaner, dog shampoo, etc. That my 99-cents-a-bottle Suave Clarifying Shampoo does double duty to easily clean the soap scum out of the tub. That we haven't had a "real" vacation the entire 13 years of our marriage - including a honeymoon that was simply a weekend at the beach nearby.

I have my hair professionally cut once every few years. I haven't had a professional massage in, well, ever. I've never had a pedicure at a salon. My nails are my own. They're always broken and often dirty - ewww.

We have chickens and plant a garden every year. I'm actually stealing time to write this - taking a break from canning bread-and-butter squash pickles. Want some yellow squash? Please take some! If you don't I'll leave some on your doorstep in the middle of the night. But don't worry, you won't be getting any big tomatoes. A downdraft from a small storm knocked them over so they aren't ripening as they should. Except the cherry tomatoes, which love us like stray cats do. We can't kill 'em. Want some cherry tomatoes? They're dee-li-shus! And next week I'll be canning green can't have any of those, we like them too much.

Anyway, when people get that uncomfortable or even pitying look on their faces, I explain that our frugality is by choice and I'm amazed how many of them are amazed. Some of them predictably blurt, "But why? If you have the money..." Bewildered by our choices. Thinking that we're just plain cheap (as if that were a bad thing?).

Most will say "I don't have the time to do that stuff" or "I want my yard to look like a golf course" or "I'd lose my mind if I didn't get away to (name your destination) every year". The women are very attached to having their nails done, their hair professionally cut/colored/styled and getting their massages. Most are too polite to comment about my fingernails or my longish toenails (ewww) or my shaggy long hair.

But a very few will figure it out and we'll see a light bulb come on.

The nosy ones who figure it out will say, "Wow, you must have some money in the bank?"

Well, we don't actually have much money in the bank - yet. We're trying to overcome years of poor financial choices. That's one of the reasons we choose to be frugal and our savings account is growing. But even if we were set for life we'd still make the same choices. OK, I'd probably have my hair cut and get a massage once a month (except in August when I'm busy canning). I'd definitely get pedicures. And we'd probably take a yearly vacation if we could find someone to look after our menagerie.

The wonderful thing about being frugal for me was learning how to be. It didn't come all at once. I started researching ways to go green and found that frugality was naturally tied to that concept. Being frugal just kinda happened over time, and it's still happening.

I had and still have so much fun researching all the things I can make myself! I had no idea I could make my own eco-friendly dog shampoo in two minutes using cheap ingredients. It works and doesn't injure the dogs' skin. Make my own laundry detergent? Cool! It takes maybe 15 minutes to make 4 gallons. And I'll never go back to buying it - the stuff I make does a great job, costs 1/10th of store-bought per load and doesn't have any icky chemicals in it. Plus it softens so I don't have to buy dryer sheets anymore either. (I could never remember NOT to throw a dryer sheet in with the towels, so by the time I switched they weren't very absorbent any more. Now they've recovered.)

And of course anyone who's ever had a home-grown egg will realize that those things you buy at the grocery are poor imitations. Yes, keeping chickens, putting in a garden and putting up the harvest is work, but one of the payoffs is having our own organic vegetables. The flavor and quality simply can't compare. Now if I could just find an eco-friendly, humane way to keep the squirrels out of my tulip bulbs...

Right now I'm trying to talk my husband into getting a dairy cow. Fresh milk, cream and butter would be oh-so-bad-for-us but oh-so-yummy, too. And there would be even more terrific compost for the garden. I'm being sneaky - if I ask for a cow I might get a goat. Max the mini horse would love some company. Plus I could make my own goats' milk soap with the excess. Did I mention I make our own soap, too? It's fun except when I screw up and get slurry instead of bars but that has only happened once (so far).

I could go on and on about how happy it makes me to be eco-friendly and frugal. Let's just say that I now take great satisfaction in knowing that I'm saving us money and doing our part to save the environment. Did you know that a gas lawnmower has a bigger carbon footprint than most cars? Ewwww.....

August 27, 2009

Why I Want to be President of the Greatest Nation in the World

I don't. Nobody should want that job. It's like being the guy who sits on the little seat over the shark tank, waiting for kids to hit the target with the ball and drop him in the water. Except the handholds that he uses to climb back to the seat are greased - so he spends the whole day in the tank. With the sharks.

No, I feel a responsibility - nay, a duty - as a citizen of the US to do what I can to make this country a better place. All my life I've watched Presidents renege on their campaign promises and make stupid decisions and propose programs that were downright ludicrous. They've lied to, cheated & stolen from their own people. They've abandoned their ethics and morals. Or, in what may be the worst case, done absolutely nothing to better the lives of the citizens who put them there.

I want to be President so I can inject a healthy dose of common sense into the office. So I can for God's sake get government spending under control before we are bankrupt. To place the federal government's focus where it belongs: on the home front.  

If I were President I'd:

  • Protect Social Security and Medicaid.
  • Withdraw troops from friendly countries and put that money into intelligence operations.
  • Get us the hell out of the Middle East and everywhere else we don't belong.
  • Shut out illegal aliens and severely restrict legal immigration.
  • Put Congress to work repealing laws that invade the privacy and rights of our citizens.
  • Give power back to the individual states.
  • Implement a flat tax to replace the current, incomprehensible income tax structure.
  • Do away with lobbyists, forcing members of Congress to listen to their constituents instead.
  • Surround myself with advisors who can see the long-range, big picture.  (Mostly academics, I'd imagine.  If they'd take the jobs.)

That's just where I'd start. I'd hopefully do a lot more than that. But those are my pet projects. What I actually do would be dictated by what the people of the United States want done.  

There's no way I'd ever get elected. A white female with no legal degree and no political experience, who's also Bipolar? I can hear the gales of laughter now.

Oh well, we can do what we've always done: hope the government will straighten itself out. Or we can help them do it. How?


It's that simple.

Paid for by Lisa L. Owens for President, an imaginary not-for-profit organization made up of fictitious supporters and funded solely by fictitious citizens and not by any business, corporation, or political party.

August 24, 2009

The Difference Between Scottish Cooking and Food (Guest Post)

Today's post is lifted in its entirety from W. Bruce Cameron's column.  I subscribe to him via  The guy is hilarious!  Here's today's offering:

W. Bruce Cameron
Monday August 24, 2009 
The Difference between Scottish Cooking and Food 

Take the very worst of Scottish cooking, and what do you have? 

English cooking. 

That is the conclusion of a food historian named Cathryn Brown, whose research indicates that the Scottish dish haggis isn't Scottish at all, but was invented by the English, who apparently hate people. 

To define terms: "Haggis" refers to what happens when you take inedible animal parts, mix them with horse feed and cook it in a sheep's stomach. Nobody likes it, especially the sheep. "Scotland" is a country where it rains a lot. "England," same thing. A "food historian" is a person who talks about meals of the past, whereas a person who dwells on meals of the future is "my father." A Scotsman himself, my father will view tonight's dinner and, without taking a bite, ask, "What's for dinner tomorrow?" 

Why a person who studies food would be interested in haggis is anyone's guess. 

Food historians will tell you that before the invention of food, people were remarkably hungry. What Cathryn Brown will tell you is that the first recorded mention of haggis is in a 1615 English cookbook, describing the dish as "very popular throughout England," so it must have been eaten in that-time-before-food that we were just talking out. 

The first mention of Scottish haggis doesn't appear until 1747, though in my opinion this proves nothing -- maybe it just took that long for the Scots to get up the nerve to eat it. 

The Scots are very proud of haggis, which was written about by Robert Burns, the Scottish national hero, "renegade poet" and creator of the song "Auld Lang Syne," whose lyrics go like this: 

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, 

"And la la, la la, la la, 

"Should old, um ... hmm hmm hmmm 

"La la la, in old lang syne!" 

A Scottish friend of mine gave me a tin of haggis as a gift, which I accidentally left sitting out on a table at a restaurant when I left. When I realized my mistake, I rushed back to the restaurant, but I was too late: Someone had already been to the table and left two more tins of haggis. 

At any rate, Brown's research has stirred up the Scots, who have rallied their numbers by chanting the stanzas from Robert Burns' "Address to a Haggis": 

"Trenching your gushing entrails bright 

"Like onie ditch; 

"And then, O what a glorious sight. ..." 

It goes on from there. I think the last line is "La la la, in old lang syne." 

Picture going to a restaurant and saying, "I want the thing described as gushing in a ditch." 

"Good idea," my dad would say. "What's for dinner tomorrow?" 

Scottish cooks will advise you that the best way to enjoy haggis is to picture your mother-in-law eating it. Otherwise, you're advised to have a bottle of good Scottish whiskey nearby. Take a forkful of haggis with one hand, grab the bottle of whiskey with the other, raise the haggis toward your mouth, and then quickly lift the bottle of whiskey and hit yourself in the head with it. 

"Good job," my dad would say. "What are you going to hit yourself with tomorrow?" 

A slab of haggis on a plate is very attractive if you've never before seen food. Otherwise, you get an urgent message from your stomach saying something like, "You are NOT swallowing that!" followed by strong agreement from your throat and mouth, who advise you that if you ignore their warnings you're probably going to spend an hour or so gushing onie ditch. 

So some claim the Scottish deserve the credit for inventing haggis, while others disagree, saying the Scottish deserve the blame. Meanwhile, in England, people are quoted as saying: "Wait, you're going to do what to a sheep? And then eat it? Why can't we just have a traditional English dinner at McDonald's?" 

A lot of people who are descended from Scots will find this whole column offensive and will vigorously defend haggis because they've never tasted it. Yet my father, though proud of his Scottish heritage, won't care if you take his haggis away. 

He can always have it for dinner tomorrow. 

To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at 


Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Read more about W. Bruce Cameron at

August 13, 2009

About Mental Illness

To preface, let me say that I have Bipolar Disorder. It's a mental illness, also known as "manic-depression". Here are some common misconceptions I've run into when telling people I have a mental illness:
  • Having a mental illness does not mean I'm crazy. In the world of psychiatry, "crazy" has no meaning.
  • Mental illness is not contagious.
  • Just because I'm mentally ill does not mean I'm retarded. My IQ is 154, well into the genius range.
  • Mental illness is a legitimate disease. I'm not faking, lazy, or lacking in self-discipline. "Pulling myself up by my bootstraps" is not an option.
Here are some things that upset me:
  • I don't want or need pity. Sympathy & understanding, yes - pity, no.
  • Sometimes I need your help, sometimes I don't. Let me be the judge of that.
  • Yes, I take medications. No, they don't make me stupid. Drowsy, maybe, but not stupid.
Here is some information that you might find helpful when interacting with a mentally ill person:
  • Living with mental illness makes life a daily struggle. Please forgive me if I don't always live up to your expectations - it's not because I don't want to, it's because I simply can't.
  • Practice compassion. Try to put yourself in my place.
  • Learn what kind of help I need, and provide it to the best of your ability.
  • Listen carefully. Sometimes it's difficult for me to communicate.
  • Before you criticize me for my failings ask yourself "Would I say this to someone who has cancer?"
And finally, here are some tips for those of us with a mental illness:
  • Learn everything you can about your disease and try to get those who love you to do the same.
  • Take your medications as directed and know what side effects to look for.
  • Be patient when it comes to finding the right medication combination. It took me six years to find one that works, and there are no guarantees that this combination will continue to work in the future. Try to accept this as part of your illness and use hope to combat the frustration.
  • Depending on your illness, just accept the fact that you will probably be on medication for the rest of your life. This fact can come in handy if your doctor doesn't want to prescribe something just because it's addictive. If s/he thinks it will help, push for it to be prescribed.
  • Be completely honest with your doctor and/or therapist.
  • If something about your treatment doesn't seem right or isn't working, ask questions. If you're still not satisfied, find another doctor or therapist.
  • Be accepting, forgiving and patient with yourself.
  • Realize that living with you can be a trial and go easy on your loved ones. It will take them some time to get used to your illness.
  • Don't be afraid or too proud to ask for help from those around you.
  • And finally, don't ever give up. It may take work, but you can find the right treatment(s) that will allow you to function at a level you find acceptable.
Any other comments on mental illness? I'd love to read them.

August 09, 2009

Calculated Inefficiency & Extravagance of Motion

I just saw the film "Cheaper by the Dozen". It wasn't the one with Steve Martin - it was the original 1950 movie about the life of Frank Gilbreath. He was the first person to study efficiency. His work became the foundation for things like time and motion studies and is responsible for a lot of the ways we do things today. His work was all about saving time. You can read more about him at Wikipedia if you like.

The man put a stopwatch to everything. In one scene he's buttoning his vest (this was in the 20's or 30's when men still wore 3-piece-suits all the time). His wife times him buttoning it both ways - from top-to-bottom and from bottom-to-top. Turns out it's quicker to button it from the bottom up. Who knew?

But I don't think Mr. Gilbreath and those who followed in his footsteps did the average human a service. Our lives are so busy these days that we're being bombarded with tips & tricks for saving time. Many of these involve what's called "economy of motion". A good example is keeping a basket on the stairs. It saves time and energy to toss things in the basket during the day, then carry it up only once. For those of us who are overweight efficiency and economy of motion can be enemies to our health.

Shouldn't those of us who are fat* practice calculated inefficiency and extravagance of motion? Most of us have become sedentary, so wouldn't it be healthier to run up and down the stairs several times a day? It shouldn't take that much longer to do it if you trot up the stairs instead of just walking them.

We've all heard the common ways to incorporate more exercise into our lives, such as take the stairs instead of the elevator, bike to work if possible and park far from entrances. Here are some other ways to practice calculated inefficiency & extravagance of motion:

  • Set up your kitchen so it's inconvenient. Make yourself have to walk across the room to get things. For example, put your drinking glasses in a cupboard away from the sink and the fridge. Put your pots & pans as far away from the stove as you can; ditto your spices (which shouldn't be near the stove anyway). It will be annoying at first but you'll get used to it. Put your most commonly used items in bottom cabinets - the bending is good for you unless you have a back problem.
  • Store your clean linens far from the baths & bedrooms.
  • When you're straightening up the house, carry only one or two things at a time to another room. Hurry when you do it.
  • Dance your way around. OK, maybe not in public, but it's your choice.
  • Don't sit when you can stand; don't stand still when you can pace; don't walk when you can trot (or dance, or run).
  • If possible, don't use a shopping cart. Instead, carry two of the little baskets they offer for smaller purchases, one in each hand. You'll have to set one of them down to put something in it and gain the benefits of bending/lifting (again, if you don't have back problems).
  • Do something physical while watching TV. March in place, do jumping jacks, sit-ups or push-ups, arm curls with cans of green beans. Ladies, do your Kegels (if you don't know what they are you should ask your OB/GYN). You won't miss your show and you'll be getting some exercise at the same time.
  • Do stretching and leg lifts while using the computer. You can find all kinds of exercises on the internet that you can do while sitting.  Here's a good one from WikiHow: 
  • Keep your tools a few more steps away than is convenient when you're working on something.

Practicing calculated inefficiency and extravagance of motion might just help you lose some weight. It will certainly make you feel better - you'll be getting more exercise. Does anyone have any other tips for practicing these techniques? I'd love to hear them.

* Yes, I said "fat". I know it's not politically correct, but because it sounds so negative I use that word to help me turn down high-calorie foods and to practice the techniques I offer above.

August 03, 2009

Politicians Make Bad Doctors... more ways than one. Obama's health care reform seems to be a good idea. Yes, it's true that millions of Americans don't have health insurance and that having health insurance is a good thing. Ergo, we (meaning the government) should do something about getting health insurance for those people. President Obama and his liberal cohorts make that sound like a simple problem with a simple solution. Just approve the President's health care reform and voila! All fixed.

I disagree. I see the millions of uninsured and underinsured as a symptom of a bigger problem. Contrary to politicians, a good doctor won't simply treat the symptoms; s/he will look for the cause and treat that instead (thereby eliminating the symptoms). Politicians are just treating the symptoms with this ridiculous health care proposal. Americans need decent jobs to pay for health insurance. They need education to get those jobs. Why doesn't the government spend those trillions of dollars on boosting small business and funding scholarships so more Americans can go to college? Why don't they treat the cause and not the symptom?

Another reason politicians make bad doctors becomes visible if you look deeper into the proposed health care reform. If passed, it would put a bureaucrat in charge of your health. The government would set standards for health care, including who can receive what - tests, surgeries, treatments, drugs. I don't know about you but I want my doctor to decide that, not somebody without a medical degree who is only focused on the costs. If my child is sick I don't care what it costs to get him well again - I'll pay it. Somehow.

And the killing blow to Obama's health care reform is this: where is the US going to get enough doctors and nurses to treat the additional 50 million insured? Doctors, hospitals and clinics are already stretched to the limit providing care for those who currently have insurance. How can our existing pool meet the additional demand?


"Of the 45.7 million U. S. residents without health insurance, 20 million are employees - or in the families of employees - of businesses with 50 or fewer employees." - National Center for Policy Analysis, No. 642, Wednesday, February 11, 2009, Daniel Wityk:

"Small businesses drive the nation's economy—more than 95 percent of all businesses in the United States [emphasis added] have fewer than 500 employees..." - U.S. News & World Report, "Small Businesses Hold on Despite Economy: Weak consumer spending and lack of credit take their toll on small-business owners, but many persevere" July 22, 2009, Matthew Bandyk:

July 25, 2009

Cockadoodle Bleak

" 'Cockadoodles?' " 11-year-old Katie said incredulously. "Why do you call them that?"
"Because it's silly," I replied. "And even grown-ups need some silliness."

I was referring, of course, to our six half-grown chickens. I had been calling them "The Girls" but when Samantha turned into Samuel and started crowing, I had to find something else. "Cockadoodles" just jumped into my mind. Plus, the evolution of Sam's crow is just too silly to believe. It started out as a sort of scream; a cross between a screech and a squeaky door hinge with a bit of throat-clearing thrown in. Now it has progressed to a hoarse "Rrr-RRR" or the "cock-a" part of "cock-a-doodle-doo". Even the next door neighbor, near whose bedroom window our chicken coop is, thinks it's hilarious. She has promised me that if Sam's crowing ever bothers her she will let me know. Sam's attempts also provoke the neighbor's rooster into answering, and I swear I can hear that bird laughing at Sam. He throws a hiccup into the middle of his normal crow.

It's my first attempt at keeping chickens, and I want to enjoy the hilarity of Sam's progress. But I've sunk into what my doctor calls a "depressive episode." It's the bottoming-out part of being on the bipolar roller coaster. When I'm on the downside I live in a peculiar state: part paralyzing anxiety, part utter boredom and part complete hopelessness. It's disorienting and frustrating as hell. Intellectually I know that this bizarre state is transient. These episodes pass, just as my manic episodes do. But in the midst of one it's impossible to believe that in my heart.

The depression leaches all of the color out of my world. Literally: when I see pictures in my mind during this kind of episode they're in black and white, like old movies. And I see the things around me as just objects, unable to see the beauty in the details. My miniature horse becomes just a small animal, his delightful personality masked by the filter of my depression. My husband's smile is like a snapshot of a stranger; it evokes no gladness in my heart. All I see when I look at the baby squash in the garden is all the work ahead of me - canning, freezing, etc.

A lot of people think of depression as "the blues", but it goes much deeper than that. I don't feel sadness - I feel hardly anything at all except fleeting remorse that I can't function, can't meet the responsibilities I impose on myself and those I owe my loved ones. I seem to be capable of only two emotions: terror (due to the anxiety disorder I have in addition to bipolar) and hopelessness. Other than those I'm completely numb. I simply don't care about anything, even though I want to.

It's a horrible state of mind, one I simply can't cope with. The only way I have of living through it is to engage in escapist behavior. I read a lot, I become obsessive about learning about something new, I play PC games for hours on end. I have to distract my mind, keep myself from brooding, and physical activity just doesn't do it. Whatever I do to escape must involve my mind, and all of my mind at that.

I also eat a lot of chocolate, craving the endorphins it provides. No wonder I'm almost 100 pounds overweight.

I used to self-medicate with marijuana and booze, but the medications I'm on make the booze deadly and I don't have a source for pot right now. I find it very interesting that marijuana helps so much. I can function much better when I'm depressed if I get high. I think because being stoned creates a pleasant state of mind. It sort of overrides the numbness, replacing it with fascination, curiosity and the ability to find humor in the absurd. It brings back parts of me that I like. There's actually some research confirming the benefits of marijuana for bipolar sufferers, but I need to go find that study again before I can quote it.

I've learned in therapy to try to identify the triggers for my mood swings. Two big ones hit me in the last couple of weeks: serious money worries, and grief. Our only credit card got canceled (for bogus reasons, fuck you Chase bank) and I lost one of my cats. She just vanished, seemingly into thin air. The grief was almost unbearable; maybe the depression has its upside since the anguish I was feeling is now gone.

I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to find the right words to describe my state of being when I'm depressed. And when I'm manic. I'm not sure I'll ever find the accuracy I seek, but maybe each description will be a puzzle piece and at the end of my life those pieces will form that picture they say is worth a thousand words.

In the meantime, writing about the downside helps. Not so much now as later, when I'm trying to understand whatever it is I did (or didn't do) when I was depressed. It helps me identify triggers for the mood swings so I can hopefully avoid them or at least be forewarned that the depression/mania is likely. And if I do finally succeed at suicide when I'm depressed, maybe the words I leave behind will help the people I leave behind.

For now, though, I'm not suicidal. Just trying to live through this miserable state of mind, one minute at a time. Thanks for listening.

July 15, 2009

My Favorites: Shrimp & Peppers Fettucine

Although I'm disabled I still fill up my days with important things. I even get so busy that I forget to take something out of the freezer for dinner pretty often, too. 

Which reminds me - BRB...OK, got some pork chops out.  

On really busy days I'll turn to my personal collection of "Quick & Excellent" recipes. This one results in a gourmet-style meal of shrimp and pasta. All you really need to serve with it are some rolls with herbed butter.

I recommend you not substitute dried pasta for the fresh fettuccine unless you're really in a pinch. Fresh pasta always tastes so much better than dried! And we choose not to use green bells in this recipe; we feel they overpower the subtle flavors of the poblano and garlic. And finally, this one's great because if I forget to get the frozen shrimp out in the morning, all I have to do is cut open the package, shake out as much ice as possible and fill the bag with cold water - the shrimp thaws in a jiffy.

Here it is. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Shrimp & Peppers Fettucine
4 servings


1 9-oz. pkg. refrigerated spinach fettuccine
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 small red, green, yellow, or orange sweet peppers, (or 2 lg.) seeded and cut in strips
1 small or medium poblano pepper, seeded & cut in strips
2 medium onions, cut in thin wedges
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil, crushed

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, in skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in peppers, onions, and garlic; stir-fry 4 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add shrimp, cayenne pepper and basil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta.

July 13, 2009

A Rant on Immigration

Q: Why does America have a satellite studying the moon right now?
A: To find out if we'll have someplace to go when we're out of room because of our immigration policies.

My husband and I are pretty far out there on the immigration issues. We believe America should completely close her borders. All of them. Illegal immigrants should be sent to prison and preferably put to hard labor to discourage the repeated attempts to move in. Legal immigrants should meet very strict requirements, similar to those imposed by New Zealand or Ireland - something along the lines of, if you don't have a job waiting for you or $250,000.00 cash, you can't move in. Temporary visas must be enforced - when they expire, out you go.

We need to beef up border security by whatever means possible. Build huge fences with concertina wire on top. Mine the borders. Hell, build moats and fill 'em with alligators! Put up cameras and post those US troops we're pulling back from overseas there so we'll have eyes on every foot of the borders. (Bless you, Minutemen!) We absolutely must get control of the situation. This has to stop.

Yes, I know what it says on the Statue of Liberty. I happen to believe that those words are seriously outdated. The world has changed and the tired, poor and yearning to be free mostly seem to want welfare and free health care. Money for which, by the way, comes out of your pockets and mine.

But we know we're out there on this issue, so we're perfectly willing to accept minor changes. For heaven's sake, don't grant amnesty to the current illegal immigrants unless the citizenship requirements are going to be enforced (not just required). The government wants to offer American citizenship as if it were a prize for coming clean. "Oh, yes, I'm an illegal alien!"

I think they're going to be surprised at how few takers they get. And why should the illegals speak up? They're already here, they've got tax-free jobs and/or welfare plus free health care - what benefit do they get from having to learn English and become citizens? Social Security in their old age? The experts say it won't be there. Oh, goody - they get to pay income tax on their earnings. And incur all those other obligations and expenses involved with being U.S. citizens.

I just don't see it happening, people. Close our borders now - if not for our sakes, then for our children's and their children's...

Whew! I feel better now. I'd love to hear from you on this issue.

July 12, 2009

Please Don't Insult Me

I come from a very different culture than the one in which I'm living now. I was born and raised on a farm in West Tennessee and I now live in the Seattle metro area. Although I live in a one-horse rural town, the people here are nothing like those in the South.

Other than the usual differences (people here are less friendly, less open and less hospitable), the main thing that bugs me is when someone offers to pay me for doing something nice. It's apparently inconceivable that I could offer to help, or give a pint of homemade jam, or pick up something at the co-op - with no expectation of payment.

Take my neighbors, for example. One couple is so horribly suspicious of my motives that I've now quit offering them things. This spring I started squash plants from seed and had a lot more plants than I could use, so I offered them some. First I was asked how much I wanted for them; when I refused payment I could tell they were wondering what I would expect from them in return. Suspicion was clearly written on their faces. They apparently thought it over and/or talked it out, though, because they came over later and got the squash plants. And their attitude stunk - they came and got the plants and didn't even say thank you.

Then there are my other neighbors, to whom I'm a lot closer. I've almost broken them of trying to pay me for things - but not quite. And they're starting to accept our offers of help and of "stuff", like reclaimed lumber we don't particularly have any plans for. Growing up on a farm taught me to take things when you find them, so we have lumber and plywood and stuff that is just sitting around waiting for our next project to be conceived. In the meantime, though, if our neighbors need something they're welcome to it. That's just how I was raised.

I did have to have a talk with her, though - I reassured her that I was only being nice. That I didn't want anything in return, and I wasn't storing up favors so I could ask for something later. (I can talk more freely with her than with the suspicious ones.) Now that we've become friends she and her husband are more willing to accept help, "stuff" and/or goodies. Plus, they're learning to offer things to us as well. It's win-win for everybody.

See, that's the way it's done where I come from. Plus, it makes me feel good to help out or to give something someone can use. So please, people, don't insult me by offering to pay or being suspicious of my motives. Isn't it possible that I'm just a nice person? And couldn't that be true of others as well?

July 11, 2009

Tips for Buying from the Bulk Bins

There are a lot of advantages to buying foods & spices from the bulk bins at your local store. The stuff is usually a lot fresher than pre-packaged items, plus you can buy only what you need. A lot less packaging goes to the landfills, too. Often you can find products in the bulk bins that you can't find pre-packaged without going to a more expensive store. And the unit cost can sometimes be much, much cheaper.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of buying from the bins:
  • Buy herbs & spices as you need them. This is great if you need a seasoning you don't use often. Buy only what you need in the quantity you need it, so take your measuring cups & spoons with you. For example, I recently got 3 tablespoons of whole dried rosemary for 9 cents.
  • If you only need a small quantity of flour, for example, don't use the large plastic bags. Put it in the smaller bags offered for spices. You'll save a teeny bit on weight, but the biggest benefit is you won't put a larger bag in the landfill.
  • Don't use the twist-ties the store provides. Instead, carry a marker with you. Write the product code on the bag itself and tie it loosely. Since the cost is calculated by weight, every little bit you can save helps.
  • Some stores offer nice, thick plastic bags to put your selections in. Unless you have a planned use for those bags when you get home, pop over to the produce section and get a lightweight bag for your purchase. Again, you're saving on weight.
  • Transfer your purchase to an airtight container when you get home. Remember that flour, seeds and nuts should be frozen (or at least refrigerated) if they're not going to be used right away. They can go rancid.
Does anyone have any other tips? Please leave them in the comments...

July 09, 2009

My Husband + Our Finances = Huh??

I'm worried. I take care of all of our money and everything related to it. Every dime. My husband doesn't even get an allowance and has to call me to see if he can buy breakfast when he's stuck out of town. (He's a truck driver.) He has no clue how to do a budget or balance a checkbook. He doesn't even know exactly where all our money "lives", though he does have some idea of the names of the institutions. Who do we owe? A vague idea. How much? No idea. Our net worth? Totally clueless. He doesn't even know how much his paychecks are until he gets the stub in the mail.

But that's the way he wants it!

It's worrisome because what if something should happen to me? Oh, he could pay the bills because that's all organized. He knows where the book is that has all the websites, login IDs and passwords written in it (I pay everything online). He could figure out how to log in to the sites but he would have a terrible time figuring out how to get to the "pay bill" screens.

I log in to our checking and savings accounts every day, tracking spending and looking for identity theft. He could log in to our primary bank, but I know he wouldn't be able to read that code that our checking account transactions are translated into, like "61910061323 BONNEY LAKE 308023 07/06619100613 $9.15". Because I keep every debit receipt until it clears the bank, I can quickly find the one for $9.15 and verify that it's OK. He wouldn't do that. Identity theft could be a real problem for him.

Hubby might be able to cobble together a budget because I keep a year's worth of weekly budgets in reserve in case there's a dispute over whether something got paid or not. He could look at those and figure it out. But would he stick to it? He doesn't track spending so I'm not sure he even knows how. I foresee lots of overdraft charges.

What worries me the most is that he has no idea how to manage money and refuses to learn. He needs to know how to prioritize and track spending and research investments. He needs to know how to plan for the future. He won't let me teach him, either. Says it's all too complicated. (This from a man with a genius IQ who can remember everything he ever learned about cars, trucks and motorcycles. Seriously!) I've simply quit trying to convince him that this is something he needs to know about.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can pull this ostrich's head out of the sand? Should I even try?

July 07, 2009

My Two Personal Finance Gurus

Mary Hunt

When I became disabled in 2001 I was in debt up to my eyeballs. I thought I was going to have to file bankruptcy because I had no clue what to do. I had already filed bankruptcy once in my life and it really, really messed up my credit. I did NOT want to have to do it again.

So I started researching on the web. There weren't quite as many personal finance gurus out there then as there are now but there were lots of them. I think I went through them all until I found my savior, Mary Hunt. Her book The Complete Cheapskate gave me step-by-step directions on how to get out of debt and stay out. It's not available at Mary's site anymore but you can still find it at

Mary has revised her guide over the years. It's now titled Debt-Proof Living and can be purchased through her bookstore at her website, aptly named Debt-Proof Living.

I haven't purchased the new book; the old one has stood me in good stead. Even though my husband and I have been living hand-to-mouth since 2001, we're now almost debt-free and we actually have savings in the bank. To keep motivated and to learn all sorts of new tips & tricks for living frugally I subscribe to Mary's newsletter.

Mary's website has some free access pages, but most of it is reserved for paid subscribers. I haven't subscribed so I can't comment on what's there - you'll have to visit and see for yourself.

In summary, Mary was a godsend to us. She continues to provide us with simple, concrete things we can do to save money on living expenses. She gives good financial advice for people who are at the low end of the income scale by answering readers' questions in her newsletter. She also publishes lots of reader submissions and her own tips for living frugally. Here's one of my favorites: make your own laundry detergent. It's quick, easy and best of all, it's waaay cheaper than buying commercial detergents that are mostly water anyway. Why don't you visit Mary's site and see if you can find her recipe?

Trent Hamm

I found Trent last year. I read one article and I was hooked. He writes a blog called The Simple Dollar which focuses on frugal living and personal finance, and he writes more broadly than Mary does. Trent writes about subjects like personal finance, motivation, organization and time management (among many others). He's always publishing reviews about books pertinent to his topics, too. Like Mary, he answers readers' questions but unlike Mary he has responded to me personally a couple of times! Every single one of his articles has been thought-provoking in some way; most are helpful in very discrete ways. And often there's a lively discussion of his articles via the comments.

The Simple Dollar's website is great. It's easy to navigate and you can find links to the important stuff on every single page, including the archives. (When I first found Trent I spent hours reading through the archives, that's how fascinating I found his writing to be.)

Trent's advice is most frequently geared towards changing attitudes and behaviors. He writes a lot about how we got ourselves into debt and what we need to change within ourselves to get out. But he's a hands-on guy too - there are lots of discrete, how-to tips and tricks in his writings, like his article on Ten Great Ways to Make Powerful Visual Reminders of Your Personal Finance and Other Goals. I subscribe to Trent's newsletter; he writes at least once a day and I usually read him first thing in the morning. I also follow Trent on Twitter (trenttsd); he's always tossing out interesting quotes and links to interesting stuff.

I'm sorry to say that I haven't read Trent's book, 365 Ways to Live Cheap, but I plan on buying it in the next month or so. He also offers some very low-cost ($2) ebooks such as 31 Days to Fix Your Finances, "... about figuring out what you want out of life and reorganizing your finances so that you can have it". He also offers a wonderful FREE ebook titled Everything You Ever Really Needed To Know About Personal Finance on One Page. It's a terrific introduction to the basic concepts of managing your money and I highly recommend it.

Here are a couple of my [current] favorite articles from Trent: Trimming the Fat: Forty Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Required Spending (notice the word "required" in there), and Is Suze Right? Do Emergency Funds Now Trump Debt Repayment?

Trent also offers a step-by-step-with-pictures guide to making your own laundry detergent, but I prefer Mary's recipe. (Sorry, Trent.) Why don't you go check out The Simple Dollar? I'm betting you'll be very, very glad you did.

July 06, 2009

Motivation: Take a Different Perspective

I don't know about you but I have a terrible time motivating myself to do things I consider unpleasant. I didn't learn much self-discipline as a child and haven't learned much as an adult, either! A broad category of "unpleasant" for me is - housework. Ugh. I'd almost rather take a beating than wash dishes or do the myriad other chores necessary to have a clean and neat home.

Recently, though, I learned a new way of looking at unpleasant tasks. For example, I used to say to myself "I have to wash the dishes" which was immediately followed by "I don't *want* to wash the damned dishes, it's boring!". Now I say "I want to wash the dishes because I'll enjoy having a clean kitchen and I'll be proud of myself for doing it." This doesn't always work because the underlying fact is still that I hate to wash dishes. But I know if I keep applying this mental technique to all my housework chores I'll eventually have a neat and clean house without so much struggle. I really want to have a neat and clean house. My friends want me to have a clean and neat house, too, so they don't start sneezing every time they come over. (We have 5 cats and 2 dogs in the house.) My friends would also like to enjoy my delicious cooking without fear, too.

The beauty of this concept is that it can be applied to so many things in our lives. It makes for a more positive attitude, which is one of the components of happiness. It seems such a simplistic thing, to take a different perspective on life. But it can be difficult because old habits die hard. Keep at it, though, and it can change your life.

July 05, 2009

Things Recipes Don't Tell You

Herbs & Spices
  • Quantities are guidelines only. The actual amount you use will depend on how old your spices are; if they don't smell very strong you'll need to increase the quantity (and buy new spices). This is why you should taste your dishes whenever possible & adjust the spices accordingly.
  • It usually isn't necessary to add salt as called for in a recipe. However, I can think of two exceptions: plain mashed potatoes (or any other food that's known to be really bland), and baked goods where salt is a necessity for rising and so forth. Oh, and although there's a lot of debate about this one, I believe you should salt meat you're going to grill/broil if you want a nice crust on it.
  • Dried herbs should be measured, then crushed between your fingers to release the flavor before adding to a dish. Fresh herbs should be chopped at least a little bit, too.
  • If a dish calls for an herb or spice you don't usually keep on hand, try to find it in bulk. You can buy 3 tablespoons of rosemary, for example, for about 9 cents. Plus, it's fresh! And if you're not any good at estimating quantities, take your measuring spoons with you.
  • The only time it's necessary to be absolutely precise when measuring is when the ratio of one ingredient to another is critical. When making baked goods from scratch, like bread, it's necessary. It's also necessary when making sauces or gravies. The rest of the time, don't sweat it.
  • When a recipe calls for "1/4 cup chopped parsley", chop the parsley and then measure it. If the recipe calls for "1/4 cup parsley, chopped", measure the parsley by first packing it loosely into a measuring cup; then chop it up.
  • When measuring dry ingredients, don't shake the cup or spoon. Just loosely scoop or spoon the ingredient in, then use the back of a knife to scrape it off level with the top of the measuring implement.
  • The only times I know for sure that it's necessary to preheat the oven are when baking pizza, and when making baked goods like cakes, bread, etc. For roasts, casseroles, roasted vegetables, lasagne, etc. etc., it isn't necessary and wastes money. Just add a few minutes to the cooking time instead.
  • There are charts and tips all over the WWW for substitutions. All I wanted to say about them is don't be afraid to substitute things. It's the way you truly learn to cook!
My husband calls me "The Kitchen Goddess" and every time he says it to someone I blush. I'm not a goddess, just a darned good cook. If you have any specific questions feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll be glad to respond. Happy cooking!

June 26, 2009

Yes Ma'am

Think for a moment to the old days when youth respected age. Any decent adult was free to correct any kid, and did. Rude behavior just wasn't tolerated - not in public and not at home. These days, as I've reached my mid-forties and woken up to what was going on around me, I've been known to correct a complete stranger's child (or children) in a public place, usually Wal-Mart: "No running!", or "No yelling, please!" and once, "Where's your mother? I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap!" It sounds positively Victorian doesn't it, what I do? And presumptuous - who am I to correct someone else's child? "This is America, goddammit, and nobody messes with MY kids." (Um, including you, ma'am.)

I do have to say there's an age limit on the kids I'll correct. I tend to leave the teenagers alone since one never knows when one of them will pull a weapon and put me down. Yes, one actually flashed a knife at me in Wal-Mart, in front of God and everybody - and said "Lady, mind your own fucking business." Hmph. I did. Funny, I can't even remember what the little asshole did. He was one of those tattooed-by-the-age-of-10, bolts-of-metal-through-every-loose-bit-of-skin kind of kids. Maybe 14 years old? What does that say about courtesy and respect in America today?

Most children today have plain old bad manners. They haven't been taught courtesy and respect. One of the characters in the movie "No Country for Old Men" said something to the effect that when "yes ma'am" and "no sir" went away, well, it was Katie-bar-the-door on society. I'm with him on that.

What if adults politely corrected the misbehavior of children around them? Maybe the kids would get the message. If the parents would allow others to correct their children maybe the parents would get the message, too. I don't foresee it happening in the general population but I'm going to keep at it. Perhaps I can make a tiny difference, one child at a time.

June 25, 2009

It's Not My Fault!

I don't usually rant. I normally try to stay somewhere between cheerful and chirpy as much as to not annoy my husband as to hide my real state of mind. But sometimes something gets under my skin and I have to write about it. I hope you'll get something from this, even if it's just thought-provoking.

I admit that I've sometimes had trouble owning up to my mistakes. But when it comes to the real things, the things of importance, I will face the music. I confess, apologize as needed, and most importantly I admit that in some way that I was at fault for whatever the problem was.

It amazes me how many people today won't take responsibility for their actions. Take my only child, for example. He's 24 and should know better, but everything from being fired from a job because of absenteeism and tardiness to his recent D.U.I. are all "Not My Fault." In his mind he literally has no responsibility for any of it. He was a victim of circumstance, malice, or any of a hundred other absolutions he imagines. So many people, especially our kids, blame others consistently for the consequences of their own actions. "Not My Fault" echoes across America.

It's a social cancer. It started when kids were allowed to escape the consequences of their actions. When we stopped punishing our children for doing things they knew they shouldn't do. When we accepted lame excuses for poor performance, for irresponsibility. When we parents started letting them get away with blaming their problems on something other than their own actions. Those kids grew up and passed it on to their kids. And there's only one way to stop it.

Ask yourself if you're accepting responsibility for your own behavior. If you're not, your kids won't either. The next time you want to blame your situation on someone else, ask yourself if you did something to put yourself there. Remember that the hard road is admitting you put yourself there; the easy road is lying to yourself and blaming somebody else. Both roads have consequences just like everything else in life.

The easy road lets you tell yourself you didn't do anything wrong, you didn't fail at something, you didn't make a mistake. You're just a victim of life, it's not your fault. This kind of thinking lets you be lazy, it relieves you of having to learn to overcome obstacles. Do you really want to live your life as a victim? Helpless and unable to better yourself and your situation in life? I'll bet the answer is no.

Just once take the hard road and accept responsibility for your own actions. It's painful for a little while but your conscience will be clear and more importantly, you'll be in charge of your life. You won't be a victim any more.