Monday, December 28, 2009

Safer among the unbelievers

Merry Christmas everyone!

That said, religion sucks! I look at all the horrible goings on in this world and have to note that were it not for religion, probably none of it would be taking place! Someone is a devout Muslim and feels a calling to blow himself up along with a plane full of innocent people just trying to get somewhere for the holidays. Another devout Muslim opens fire on his co-workers because he cannot reconcile his beliefs with his profession.

Not to be outdone, a zealot Right to Lifer guns down a Doctor at the door of his church in an effort to save lives...ummm that one was beyond my comprehension. Others make themselves a menace at the funerals of soldiers by picketing their religious beliefs to the anguished families of the fallen. I don't get it!

Iran is a country tearing itself in two because of religion and human rights issues. 25 die in Karachi (Pakistan) suicide bombing on Shia Muslims' holy day of mourning. Afghanistan's people have endured years of strife due to the extreme beliefs that narrowly defined of an otherwise beautiful religion. An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed. Netanyahu wants Israeli force on Palestinian border. Oh boy, that will promote peace...NOT!

In an effort to be fair, Chicago allowed a Menorah, a Nativity and a Freedom From Religion Sign in a State building (just as they did last year.) A Christian man became so enraged at the sign he took action to remove it. He was stopped. Christmas is a lovely holiday and the spirit behind it has a wonderful giving meaning. But the spirit quickly dissipates when someone takes that meaning too far and tramples the beliefs of others. Shame on him.

Throughout history, ie., The enslavement of the Israelites, The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, The Holocaust; religion has been the sticking point and reason for actions against other humans. If you do not believe what another culture believes, well now that is a just reason to go kill them so that their beliefs cannot contaminate your beliefs.

Hatred it seems is born of religious differences. This "my god is better than your god" mentality seems to rule the nations and cultures of the world. If you want to demonize someone, simply try your best to make others believe that person is has empathy or ties to a different religion, whether it is true or not.

Now at the risk of offending everyone I know, I am turning further and further from so-called main stream religions. Why? Because I no longer trust that they have my best interest in mind. As a human being, I think I should not have to have my spiritual beliefs judged or measured by others. If I do not believe in the Bible, the Torah or the Koran as the word of God, the heads start shaking and the prayers for my salvation go out to protect...themselves I guess, from me.

Now I am not a member of PETA or a tree hugger, but I think if I just take care of my corner of the world and hope that everyone else takes care of theirs, we would be living in a much better place. I don't think it necessary to encroach on others beliefs and hope that they will respect mine. Truth be told, the only culture that does not seem to be radical enough to want to blow me up or torch me for heresy are the unbelievers.

If I had to pick a plane to fly on, find the one that has all the unbelievers on it...I'll book that flight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The strangeness of it all...these numbers

I am 54 this year. Two years older than my dad will ever be. My mother who is an independent 73, just realized that she still has Christmas cards going out with both her and my dad's name on them. She broke out into laughter wondering what everyone must have thought. My brother Don is struggling at 52 with lung cancer that is not giving him a moment of peace. Is there a way to give him one more year, one more day, one more hour, one more minute, one more second? My brother Larry just celebrated turning 50 with a wonderful surprise party in his honor given by his wife. He and his friends sang all night as if they had never stopped singing. They are bandmates for life. My youngest brother still in his forties will become a grandfather in a matter of days.

The strangeness of it all. I am in a waterfall that does not stop.

These numbers keep falling away.

Why do the numbers matter at all? We are obsessed with marking out the milestones in our lives and then pretending the number does not matter, when of course it does. It is how we compare and measure ourselves, where we are in our lives and how much time we may have left. That is the usual "unasked" milestone we quietly mark in our minds. We look at it with a fleeting but focused stare and then look away as if to confirm to ourselves that it does not matter...yet.

When I was young, I could not wait to be a teenager.
At 16, I could get a car.
At 18, I can vote.
When I become 21, I can go to the bar.
And so on. I found myself wishing time would hasten so I could get on with my life.

Now I just want it all to slow down so I can take it all in and enjoy every moment. It catches me off guard to realize that we are 10 years into the 21st century. Wasn't it just a second ago we were worried about our computers and y2k change-over?

My daughter turned 33 this month, dammit! Is my son really almost 28...next month? When did I find time to have all these grandchildren?

It is probably that we are in winter. People ponder the year that just went by. We take stock. We make lists of events that took place in the past year. We give one last solemn nod to those that we lost. So it is with each person to look back over the year that was so that the New Year can be greeted with excitement and hope. I find myself doing this today.

Is there a way to freeze time, if only for a little while so that I can catch my breath. For this life is truly breathtaking. I just want to take it all in.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saving face

Sometimes when you have a disagreement with someone close to you, a firewall goes up that cannot be breached without somehow diminishing one or more of the parties. Asian's call this matter of pride "face" and go to great lengths to "save face."

I honestly don't know how to break down the current barrier that has gone up between me and another family member. Yet I value this person still. I find myself dug in and unwilling to budge. This is truly unfortunate for I understand well the cost.

So here I am at a crossroads. Unwilling to swallow bitter fruit. I fear I am at a loss and words now fail me. I know I should probably let it go, but cannot. And it may be years before I can.

I am not perfect.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Snowflakes


I am sitting here cutting snowflakes, the old-fashioned kind. White paper and scissors can make miraculous creations of wonder. Last year I made nearly a hundred of them. I decorated the office at school and all over my house. I kept most of them and took them all to school this time to decorate the office again.

Our fourth grade teacher Ms. Fennell is temporarily on leave and her sub, Mrs. Boyle saw my little snowflakes and asked me to come to class to teach the kids how to make them. So I am making some more for show and tell.

I think it will be fun to visit the class and watch them make cuts in the paper not know what they will get until they unfold them. That is the best part you know, unfolding them to see what you did. It never fails to make me smile.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Someone slow the calendar down please!

Holey moley! Is it the week before Thanksgiving already? I have friends making plans for shopping the day after Thanksgiving. We haven't even had our pumpkin pie and Christmas is exploding around me in decorations, party plans, Secret Santa Gifts and such. Somehow or other I still have to fit in four birthdays in-between all the holiday festivities...but where?

I could have sworn when I last looked at the calendar, it was to plan for school buying. How on earth did the last few months fly by at the speed of light. It is really disconcerting. I am trying to catch my wind and before I know it we will be toasting in the new year 2010!

Has it really been 10 years since the whole world held its collective breath on whether or not Y2K would spell digital doom for the world's computer heartbeat? Looking back, that was such a non-event.

I have actually managed to start my shopping early to get a jump on things, but for whatever reason the faster I go the behinder I get. Why is this?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Top Ten Autumn Days

The last three days and today are truly "Top Ten Autumn Days." It has been amazingly beautiful out here in Omaha with perfect warm weather. True you have to rake the leaves now, but the smell of autumn is rich and rustic. It brings to mind younger days when piling up leaves and jumping in them to watch them scatter was endless fun. The only sad thing, most of the leaves are down and the colorful leaves we saw just two weeks ago are not so beautiful after turning brownish-gray.

My dogs spent the day out with Jeff yesterday and really enjoyed the warmth of the sun while just hangin' out with dad.

My brother and his family came up from Texas to go pheasant hunting with my husband, son and other brother. Usually hunting is a cold-weather affair and learning how to hunt while your fingers and toes are starting to numb is the norm. But not this weekend, gorgeous weather fit for short-sleeves and hunter orange vests were all that was needed. Of course, warmer weather made game a bit harder to catch, but we had yummy pheasant for dinner Friday night.

Jeff has already winterized the house and put plastic on most of the windows to shut out frigid winter winds that will blow through homes regardless of how well built. But the kitchen window and southern dinning room windows are still uncovered, so we threw open the windows for the gentle warm breezes that carried in the autumn fragrances to make the whole house smell fresh for the week.

Although we were at an inside event, my granddaughter Jocelyn and I spent yesterday at a basketball tournament. We did take time in-between games to go outside and enjoy the sun.

And lastly, as if to put the exclamation point on an already "perfect day," Nebraska beat Oklahoma in a classic football contest. To anyone that does not understand this amazing feeling...pffft, sorry can't help you with that.

Yep, this was a wonderful weekend.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Grumble...

I am supposed to be writing my 1600-1700 words for the day for NaNoWriMo. But I am in a rotten mood and I can't get to that creative place tonight. Best to just forget about it tonight and try again tomorrow.

I'm in a stew 'cause I am mad. I need to let it go, but I haven't yet.

Grumble!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo)

Rick has become this little voice I hear inside my head... ha ha inside joke. Kidding aside, he is very motivating for this voice that I just met a little over a week or so ago. He is pushing me outside my comfort zone and into writing with a goal in mind. He swears this will be a transformative experience and that I won't regret it.

Okay, he only had to push a little. He was very convincing.

So now I find myself officially committed to attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days. What the hell?!

I had no freaking idea what to even write, but in telling him about my husband, Rick yelled out, "There's your story!" I had to stop and think about it for a second, but he was right. Jeff is the perfect basis for a character for my 50,000 word novel in a month.

Now I am excited. I literally could not get to the site fast enough http://www.nanowrimo.org/ to get myself officially entered in the grand experiment.

This will be a fun book to write because Jeff is my favorite person and although this will be a work of fiction, I can't wait to dedicate it to him. And the big "IF" I actually accomplish something that is worthy of publishing, I will be thanking that little voice in my head for the big push. I will probably thank him anyway for helping me to grow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My quest for perfect hash browns

I know most of you just buy the frozen hash browns and cook 'em up and call it good. But I feel a lot of push-back on convenience foods. They are often over processed. I don't trust the source of where the processed foods come from, and I don't like any additives or preservatives that they often put in foods to make them last longer in the market on the shelves.

I like to buy my foods from the farmer's markets and try to get foods locally when I can. I like to cook fresh foods from scratch so I know what and where the ingredients come from and that there are no hidden ingredients that I did not put in.

For all of you cooks who have ever made hash browns from scratch and ended up with less than desired results, I used to flunk at hash browns. But I am happy to report that I have solved the home-made hash brown riddle.

In the past, I have painstakingly sliced potatoes by hand getting uneven slices. I have hand grated them to get more evenly sized hashbrowns. I used a food processor to grate them in a flash. I have sliced my potatoes with the hash brown slicing blade of my expensive mandoline that I bought at an upscale kitchen gadget store at the mall.

Once I had the perfect sliced taters, I would invariably mess them up in the grease as they stuck to my perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet. I would mutter to myself as I would try to flip the hash browns but always losing some to bottom of the pan which had welded themselves in place. I would have to use a chisel and hammer to get them off the bottom or boil them off while cleaning.

What was I doing wrong?

The insides of the potatoes were a gluey texture inside and not very palatable. The outsides were crisp and done, but the insides were not. Hmmm? Maybe the oil was not hot enough. I upped the heat. They burned.

I tried using different types of spuds; red, russet, golden... I got mixed results. The nests of hash browns would still suffer from uneven browning ranging from very light to blackened round the edges. Sometimes the potatoes would weld themselves to the spatula.

I tried rinsing off the excess potato starch by giving them a swish in a bath of ice cold water and toweling them off until dry with an entire roll of paper towels.

I tried using different oils; vegetable, corn, canola, and against my better judgement, artery clogging vegetable shortening. I use about 3/4" of oil in my skillet. Then it hit me, restaurants use deep fryers with baskets.

The potatoes at the restaurants don't have a chance to stick to the bottom because they fry so quickly and evenly in the deep oil. Well this is my problem, I don't have a deep fryer. I will think about getting one, but in the mean time, I still have to make due with the skillet that I have.

So I cut up my simple red potatoes (skins on) with my trusty mandoline for perfect hash brown slices onto a doubled up sheet of paper toweling, I took another doubled up paper towel and blotted the potatoes thoroughly to get rid of excess moisture.

I heated 3/4" of canola oil in my skillet. I put in the potatoes, BUT instead of letting them sit there to cook on the one side before flipping them, I kept them moving. I used my wooden spatula to keep them from touching the bottom of the skillet for any length of time. I kept stirring them in the oil as if they were in a deep fryer, and they cooked very evenly. Plumes of steam came off the oil getting rid of the unwanted moisture in the potatoes that would turn them gloppy. The outsides crisped perfectly and I finally had achieved the perfect hash brown.

I gathered them up quickly with my largest asian frying-strainer spoon and placed them on paper toweling to drain excess oil. My final touch was to sprinkle them with grated sea salt and pepper, and just a touch of dried onion powder.

Maybe I won't have to purchase an expensive deep fryer after all.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Am starting a new blog today

Okay I'm saying it out loud... I am retired from graphic design (except for the occasional project from my friends at Creighton University.)

I thought about designing my new blog in the latest iteration of Word Press, but every time there is an update I fall behind in updating the code and things eventually stop working. I guess I just don't want to work that hard anymore to put my thoughts out there. The excitement of designing and creating my own blog has worn off and I just want to write and not worry about code updates. Blogger is an easy add to my Google lifestyle. Yes, I miss my PandaPause site, but there you go, stuff stopped working and eventually I could no longer post.

My new daily journal/blog is called "Through the looking glass" because I have always been a fan of Alice and her madcap adventures. This seemed appropriate for my own madcap reflections on being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mom and a grandmother. I will also be reflecting on my adventures at my new career working in an elementary school and loving every minute. Who'd have thought it, I love working at Miller Park Elementary School.

I am also writing in earnest at www.Webook.com which is a community of writers and would-be published authors. I have met and joined a sub group there called The Crucible, who meet in a weekly round-table on Skype. We discuss writing, editing, ideas and push each other to meet goals in writing. They help me grow as a writer and I am excited to actually work at my writing, to make it better. It's a great group of serious writers and meeting new friends is truly an adventure, look out Rick, Jan, Bruce and Amber.

My current WeBook submissions include:
I am going to try to keep my political self at bay here. Even though I am truly a Centrist, I can become too passionate on certain Liberal views and thoroughly piss off the beloved Conservatives in my life. Let's just say, I love our President and I am not going to apologize for that.

Lastly, although I love the social aspect of Facebook and Twitter, it is a great time waster. I don't plan to quit either, but I am going to resolve to limit myself to two times a day on both of those sites. And what can I say about my other time-wasting hobby, poker... I've reached $1M on Facebook Poker and I continue to lose at PokerStars. UGH! It is super frustrating. I have to do something about that.