Thursday, May 7, 2015

Friday blogaround

I was given to understand there are scritches and noms here.
A Georgia family found a coyote on their kitchen counter. (Unless it was the man of the house who is actually a secret werewolf. WHY DON'T YOU PEOPLE TAKE MY ADVICE?) Of course they took a photo of it with their smart phones. I would have. . .well, never mind what I would have been doing. It would have involved a lot of cleanup afterward.

Have you checked out Gay on a Budget? You absolutely should. Especially Jayson's latest piece, talking about the frustration (and hope) while freelancing.

Mutant Supermodel talks about motherhood, the diversity of mothers, and the stereotype of crazy moms.

Jenn wants to know why you cook from scratch. Well, I had popcorn for dinner tonight that I made on the stovetop, so I think that counts. HAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING, MOM, IF YOU'RE READING THIS I TOTALLY DIDN'T DO THAT.

Club Thrifty has advice for what to do if you're in trouble with the IRS. And it doesn't involve burning everything to the ground, assuming a new identity, and moving overseas.

Donna Freedman has an idea for a Mother's Day gift with meaning.

This week in social media trainwrecks, we have a wedding photographer who called a client ugly on his Facebook page. In retaliation for her complaint that he was late. Because there's nothing that shows your professionalism like insulting your clients publicly and calling them ugly, and then telling people who criticize you for it that they should go back into their trailers. I don't care how stressful the gig was, shut your mouth. I've had people scream and curse at me on the phone, but I doubt anyone would give me a pass for going off on them on social media.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Starting the garden

Bright Lights Chard
Yeah, it's a little early I admit but I wanted to get at least one of the beds planted with seeds and seedlings that are okay with cooler weather but can deal well with hot weather. So last weekend I spent the better part of an afternoon planting in one of the beds.

I put garlic at either end. I lost the garlic I planted in the fall but dang it I WILL HAVE GARLIC BY AUGUST OR I WILL HAVE DEATH. Or. . .um. . .store bought garlic. Okay.

I also planted beets (red and golden), carrots (orange and purple haze, which are purple on the outside and have an orange center), radishes, and bush beans, all from seed, and we'll see how those go. I'm a little nervous but I can always plant more seeds if these don't take.

New Zealand Spinach
I found bright lights chard seedlings and New Zealand spinach seedlings. I was especially excited about the New Zealand spinach; it's a plant that is not actually spinach, but tastes like it. It does well in the heat (unlike spinach, which bolts and goes to seed). You can pick leaves and leave the plant to keep growing, much like chard and unlike regular spinach. So this will be an adventure.

I'm hoping that they do okay over the next few weeks. I want to keep them from getting wilted and die from thirst but also want to be mindful of the temperature. It's colder here where I live as opposed to in Boston. There's a 10 degree difference in temperature. If they don't take I can more seedlings. By the end of the summer, the difference will still be there but it will have flipped and we'll be warmer. Weird, I know.

Chocolate mint. 
Other things I'm hoping to plant: tomatoes (of course), sweet and hot peppers, maybe some shallots, eggplant, butternut squash, zucchini, and summer squash. At the end of August I'll plant turnips. Fingers crossed, I'll have some decent crops.

My chocolate mint and my regular mint is coming back. And my thyme is back. I'll add basil, tarragon, rosemary, and possibly pineapple sage to the herb bed.

My walking onions are back and marching on my garden bed and spreading along the side of the house where I planted them. Yes, they make for good border plants but the do spread like wildfire. Or like weeds. They may be technically a weed but a delicious one.

Thyme and Walking Onions.
Then again, dandelions, which we consider weeds, were brought here by Europeans because every part of that indestructible plant is edible. Really, do you want to plant things that need lots of babying or do you want to grow things that can take some hard times and thrive? I know what I'd bet my money on. (No, I'm not planting dandelions, I have got plenty in the yard!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Catproofing garden beds

Yes, you read the title right. My neighbors got a beautiful kitten last fall that has grown into a handsome cat. A handsome outdoor cat. This cat--named Luigi--likes to dig. And while I like cats--I have one of my own who I keep indoors--I'm not fond of having beds built so they can turn them into expensive litter boxes.

Looking around online, I found several remedies. One was to lay down chicken wire; it makes it difficult for cats to dig and they find it uncomfortable. People who do this use wire cutters to create holes big enough for seedlings. That sounded like a recipe for disaster to me--I think I have effectively established how accident prone I am. Me with wire cutters and sharp wire fencing? Yeah, that can't go well.

However, I found a similar remedy with orange snow fencing (and now I cannot find the site where I read about this). It's the same idea but you can use scissors to cut bigger holes, it's less expensive and easier to use, and I won't have to worry about contracting tetanus.

So I spent a couple of hours a couple of weeks ago topping off the dirt, laying down the fencing, and fastening it with metal clips.

It isn't pretty but it does the job, the holes are big enough where I can plant seedlings in them or pull out things like beets and carrots. If I need to make the opening bigger, scissors will do the trick. And hopefully, it will annoy the heck out of Luigi, who's a nice enough cat but needs to understand the law of the jungle. Mainly, DON'T MESS WITH A COUGAR'S GARDEN.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Staying safe in your marriage

So, recently, "revenge porn" king jacknape Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years in prison, I believe mainly for extortion. He had a website where spiteful and creepy ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands could post intimate pictures of the women they were involved with, sans consent. They also included things like home address, phone numbers, email, social media accounts, and workplace information. You can guess what happened next--these women have been harassed, threatened, shamed, and fired from their jobs. At least one woman was disowned by her family. This went on for years. If they wanted the photos taken down, they had to pay Bollaert, but once a picture is on the internet, other people can grab it and post it elsewhere.

If an ex does this to you, you can expect unending harassment from a personal army of creeps who masquerade as nice men and boys.

My reaction to victim-blaming.
The comments to these articles always have lectures about how we should never trust a man with an intimate photograph (forgetting that at least one of the women Bollaert targeted was drugged, assaulted and photographed and that there are actually a lot of cases of women being photographed and filmed without their knowledge or consent, but whatever). Now, I have never sent photographs like that to anyone because I trust no one (though I'm told I'm a manhater for not being trusting which goes to show you really just cannot win).

But I think we need to listen to these men, ladies! They know themselves. You should not trust a boyfriend or a husband to not share this type of stuff in a bid to humiliate you if things go south. You should not trust a boyfriend or a husband to not post your contact information and encourage random misogynist inbreeds to harass and threaten you once you break up. Or if you say, forget to serve him his favorite meal on Superbowl Sunday. Or maybe if you just sat down in a slightly annoying way. Or if you were dating other people after you broke up.

We need to listen to this advice, and take it to heart. And we need to be logical about this, so hard for our ladybrains. If there is one thing I am all about, it's safety. I just want you all to stay safe, ladies! So here is some more advice.

Given the fact that we cannot know that a man will not turn on us in such a horrific and awful way, of course we should not share racy photographs with them. We might want to reconsider marrying them or living with them or even dating them.

If you come home to this, you should have known better.
Look, if someone could be capable of posting intimate photos and inciting harassment, why would you trust them enough to merge finances? To buy or lease a place together? To have children with them? If they can possibly violate you via revenge porn and get a personal army to harass you by proxy, who is to say that they won't clean out the bank account and blow it on coke? Or that they won't use the basement as a place to hide bodies? Who's to say they won't hurt the kids? Who is to say they aren't secret serial killers? OR WEREWOLVES. THEY COULD ACTUALLY BE WEREWOLVES AND NOT BE TELLING YOU.

If you must ignore the advice of men, who I think know better then us silly ladies, then my advice is that you take all precautions.

Don't send him any racy photographs. In fact, don't send him any photographs at all. He could photoshop them on to a nude model's picture.

Sweep whatever room you are in for bugs and hidden cameras. A girl can't be too cautious.

Hire a food taster. Especially if he claims to like to cook. How do you know he's not a serial killer trying out a new poison on you? You don't. Hire the food taster. Yes, it will take a chunk out of your savings account but you'll be alive to replenish it.

If you must live with him and/or marry him, do not merge finances with him. In fact, keep all banking and financial information in a sealed vault at the bottom of the sea that only specially trained Navy seals can access. Actually, scratch that. Navy seals are men, and if I recall correctly, the 'splainers have informed us that we shouldn't trust them. Hire a band of Amazonian bad-asses to get your information if you need it, but really, it's best to commit it to memory.

Since you don't know what he's truly capable of, be prepared. Wear a bullet proof vest. Carry a gun at all times. If he makes any sudden moves, raises his voice, or even looks at you funny, pull it out and tell him to just stay right there and to keep his hands where you can see them. A tranquilizer gun or a taser is also acceptable. If you do not have a gun, a crossbow or a harpoon will also do, but you'll just have to have it trained on him from the get-go. Which might not be such a bad thing. Nothing like telling a potential bad guy HEY, I AM NOT SOMEONE YOU WANT TO MESS WITH.

Or a weirdo with a thing for bear suits.
Sleeping can be quite dangerous. You're unconscious and vulnerable. Same goes for drinking a little too much. Or drinking something that has a drug in it. So I would advise that you refrain from sleeping or drinking alcohol, and that you never, ever accept any drink from your boyfriend or husband. If the sleeping part is not possible, then it's advisable to lock your boyfriend or husband in a bear cage when you're ready to turn in. This will also be useful if he is indeed a secret werewolf.

Hack into his cell phone and his computer. Hire a PI to follow him to make sure he doesn't have any other devices that you don't know about. If you find devices, disable them.

Unless they are like these children.
If you have children with a man, do not let him know that this happened. As far as he knows, you just gained weight for for forty weeks and then had some weird hormonal stuff going on where you were lactating. You're seeing the doctor about it though! Keep the children in a safehouse far away. This will require you to be away from the man you are living with or married to but you can tell him that you are in witness protection and that he just needs to be patient for the next 18 years.

I think following this advice will enable us to stay safe if we refuse to just cut men out of our lives entirely. Ladies, please! Follow the manly advice! They know what they are talking about.

Or we could just start holding men accountable for their actions and recognizing that inciting harassment and violence is gross, vile, and criminal. We could just start calling this what it is, which is abusive and violating. We could just point out that men who sext aren't derided as whores, harassed, hounded, threatened, and threatened with a job loss. We could point out that this crime is very gendered (the few exceptions notwithstanding) and that it is enabled by the sexual double standard. We could point out that anyone who says we shouldn't trust a boyfriend or husband with intimate photos (or to not take them surreptitiously) should not whine about women treating men like the enemy.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Adventures in making udon

Really, I need to call this adventures in writing about making udon. But I'll get to that in a minute.

First, what is udon, you may ask? Well, if I'm waxing poetic and trite at the same time, I'll tell you that it is a bowl of heaven. But the straight answer is that udon are thick, chewy Japanese noodles made from flour, water, and a little salt.

You can eat udon in many ways, though the most common way is to have it in a delicious soup with fish or meat and vegetables. There are many varieties of soup recipes, but the basic one has a soy base. You can have nabeyaki udon, which tends to be hardier than your regular soup.  Or you can have tempura put into the soup and yes, I'll reiterate this: It's a bowl of heaven. It's just so much yum.

I have had udon cold. I have had it in nabe, a kind of communal Japanese hot-pot dish that is a meal of SIN it is so good. (Yes, I appear to have a heaven/hell thing going on here. Cope.) I have had yaki udon, which is basically udon stir-fried like lo mein in soy sauce with vegetables and meat.

Most of those times, I was eating at a restaurant or a noodle stall (if it was while I was living in Japan). Or I'd buy the udon noodles already made, vacuum sealed in plastic, and stir it in a nice premade broth and add whatever other ingredients I wanted like mushrooms, spinach, or carrot. They also sell dried udon (like spaghetti).

What I have yet to do is make homemade udon noodles. I've never made noodles from scratch, ever. Not pasta. Not ravioli or dumpling wrappers. None of that stuff. But this changed when E came to visit me.

She wanted to make udon noodles. She had never made them before--which means she rolls the same way I do. (Which is to say, if I'm cooking for you, there's a really good chance it's the first time I've made that dish.) However, she thought it would be fun, and she was right.

Now, to the part about finding the recipe and writing about it. E got her recipe from a Japanese site. I am functionally illiterate in Japanese though I can still speak it some (admittedly, I've lost a lot). However, her recipe, unlike the one I will link to, did not require us to take the dough, put it into a plastic ziploc bag, and knead it with our feet.

Me dancing. DON'T JUDGE.
(I should never do this. What will happen is that I will turn on some music and rock out dancing on the dough, and my friends will be like, Uhhhh, do we need to call 911? Did you like, hit a live wire or something? and I'd be like, YEAH CALL 911 BECAUSE I'M AFFLICTED WITH AWESOME DANCE MOVES-ITIS and they'd be like Uuuhhh, yeah, time for you to just. . .stop.)

Every recipe I can find on English language sites seems to do this. I don't know if this was in E's recipe and she thought "Ha ha! NOPE" or if that recipe was unusual. However, we kneaded the dough by hand and it took a dog's age. We kneaded, over and over and over again, until the dough felt like our earlobes. And yes, that is what E's recipe said. "It should have the consistency of your earlobe." She said it's a common thing in Japanese recipes/cooking, and I'm going to take her word for it since, as I said, I am functionally illiterate in the language and was not much of a cook while I was there. (Except for the odd pasta or Mexican feast, but that is another story.)

"This place has the best free-range earlobes. Very tender."
So we kneaded and kneaded and kneaded and squeezed our earlobes and pinched the dough to see if they matched up. And I was thinking, Well what if my earlobe is squishier than the average earlobe? Or firmer than the average earlobe? And then I was wondering Hey, if bears ate us, would they consider the earlobe a delicacy? But I didn't ask her that because she already got enough of my tendencies to being a weirdo and I didn't need her to get back to Japan and tell her mother "You know, your friend Pamela is wackadoodle. You know that, right? She was all MY EARLOBES MIGHT BE ABNORMAL and BEARS THINK THEY ARE A DELICACY and seriously, Ma, I think she needs help. She needs professional help."

The other thing about the recipe differences is that we didn't need to let the dough rest for several hours. The recipe I'm about to link to--which is typical of what I found on the Internet--requires this. We had to let it rest for a little bit--about 15 minutes or so--but not four hours.

Okay, so here's the recipe for the udon noodles. I think you should try it one rainy day. It's a delicious adventure that uses ingredients you already have. Don't forget to squeeze your earlobes and keep bear repellent nearby. And please, for the love of all things holy and profane, make sure your feet are clean if you insist on kneading it the way they instruct you to.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I was a tour guide and it was kinda fun.

My friend's daughter flew in from Japan last month for a visit to New England. She hasn't been to the US before, but she's been to a whole host of other really cool places--Fiji (for a month), Spain, Italy, Cambodia, Taiwan, and Australia. We spent one evening looking over her pictures of her awesome trips.

So, E was five years old when I left Japan. She is now old enough to drink, which I think gives you some idea of how old I am (here's the spoiler--I'm wicked old). We did a lot and we're going to keep it up until she leaves this week.

First, if you are in Massachusetts and you want a real taste of history, you should absolutely go to Plimoth Plantation, which includes the Wampanoag Homesite. Plimoth Plantation is a living history exhibit; there are true-to-life reproductions of the homes the English lived in during the 1620's, and actors in full costume who speak in the dialect and tell you what you want to know about their life there. They are acting, so if you ask them anything about a historic event that takes place after the year they're supposed to be living in (I believe this year it's 1623), they will feign ignorance. They will also profess opinions that the people they are playing held--so keep in mind that these are actors and they do not necessarily agree with what they're saying. This year, there is a section of the settlement that also has people who are not in costume who can answer any questions you have about things that happened later in history, etc.

Plimoth Plantation also has the Wampanoag Homesite, which features people--all Native American, but not all Wompanoag--in traditional Wampanoag clothing from that time of history. They are not role players so they can and will answer questions about modern times and will not pretend to be ignorant of things like who Barak Obama is or where South Carolina is. We were talking recipes with the staff member there because let's face it, FOOD IS HOW WE ROLL.

Yes, we went all around Boston and saw all of the local sites. The Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, The Old South Meeting House, Newbury Street, The North End, Beacon Hill, and did the requisite bus tour where we went by the Charlestown Navy Yard. We went to Hyannis and also went to Chatham Light. We went to several places on the Cape, including South Cape Beach and Craigville. We went to Salem and toured the House of Seven Gables. We had afternoon tea with my friend, her husband and his mother (who made the tea; she used to host them regularly in her house). We hung with my parents and had dinner with them. We hung out with my friends. My cat and my friends' cats and dogs all kind of fell in love with E, to the point where I joked we needed to make sure they didn't sneak into her suitcase to go home with her.

We also went shopping for things like towels and linens after she saw a circular in the Sunday paper and was kind of amazed at the prices. "Um," she said, "can we go there?" So we went because as she explained, she needed things like sheets and towels and blankets and bathroom things; she was going to move into her own apartment a couple months after returning to Japan.

We froze because it was still cold and intermittently snowy in New England. She came prepared--or thought she did. But a warm coat in Osaka, Japan is like wearing a light jacket in New England. I have a long, puffy down coat that is a sleeping bag with sleeves. I made her wear that.

We also made homemade udon and miso soup (I'll post the specifics later). We have one thing in common: As she was kneading the dough, she said, "You know, this is my first time making this, so here's hoping it comes out well." Which, maybe is too much information, but a lot of the time I do the same thing when I have people over for dinner. (THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING MY GUINEA PIGS.)

She enjoyed my bread, got the recipe, and is determined to make it. I am not sure if the ovens there will do the job (ovens aren't a real fixture in Japanese cooking; in my time there I never lived in a place that had an oven, just a stove and maybe a small broiler). If anyone can MacGyver it, it's E.

And yes, I was a wet, sopping mess when I had to drop her off at the airport. She was five when I left Japan and she's 22 now. She is old enough to drink. She is old enough to vote. She is old enough to live on her own and get married and/or have kids. She is starting a full-time job soon.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Public service announcement for dudely dudes in a dudely field

Do you remember this post? Where I basically said that anything you put on the internet can come back to haunt you?

Maybe some of you have misunderstood.

Let me be blunt: I'm not talking about a woman who sexts her boyfriend only to find the picture disseminated. If the roles were reveresed, he would not face a bucketload of harassment or diminished job prospects. She's not doing something malicious or unkind.

No, I am talking about guys who harass women on Twitter by sending rape threats. (See: what happened with Curt Schilling's 17-year-old daughter. Though I am frankly side-eyeing his assertion that you can't understand this if you're a man unless you have a daughter. Dude, I am a woman and have no sons and I figured out a long time ago that men and boys are human. If you can't figure out that girls and women are human beings unless you have one of your own, I don't even know what to say to you. Also side-eyeing the idea that it's internet anonymity behind this, since men have said stuff like that to me face-to-face, and people Tweet stuff like this under their own names all the time.)

I am talking about recruiters who send women who have publicly talked about sexual harassment weird emails, basically rationalizing the harassment. How gross do you have to be? This jacknape apparently thought that he'd somehow upset her into being his buddy? You are a recruiter. You work with people. If you can't figure out that this is unprofessional and frankly creepy, you need to get into another line of work. One that is preferably done in a cave on the moon.

(Also, what he said was monumentally obtuse. I work with men in my field and they manage to not talk about how they want to grope me. Weird, I know.)

Guess what? The internet is forever.

Yes, your target may not have the power to do too much to you right now. Not everyone has Curt Schilling for a father or a large Twitter following. And it wasn't until last year--thanks to this trainwreck of a harassment campaign that disguised itself as a movement (a ridiculous movement)--that online harassment of women was even acknowledged, let alone acknowledged as a problem. (I used to run a political blog and I promise you, this has been a thing for years.)

Your target may not have a lot of power. But your target can and just might make your email public. Your target might point her friends to your threatening Tweets or Facebook posts and those friends might take screenshots. Your target might figure out where you work, or who your wife is, and clue them in about how you've been spending your time. The police don't take online threats or harassment that seriously (yet) but other people do and you will get blowback.

In short, this is going to come back to bite you. And I will not feel at all sorry for someone who loses their job, finds the need to couch surf while his wife decides if she wants to stay married to a threatening creeper, or has to explain themselves to people in the future.

You know why? Because I and other women have had to deal with the business end of harassment for all of our lives. And it's not okay.