Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life's a beach

Families are like trail mix: a little sweet and always nutty.
I don't know who said this, but I'm sure someone has.

Don't mistake me. I adore my family, most of the time.

My dad is brilliant, thinks he's really funny, and always provides us with beautiful piano music. My mom takes care of all of us, always thinks one step ahead, and genuinely strives to live out her beliefs. My older little sister is still finding her way in life, but she can always be counted on to offer incredibly wise insights. She can also make me laugh harder than anyone else can. My baby sister isn't such a baby any more. She is the apple of my eye though. Yes, she has started to slip into pre-teen attitude once in a while...but I still think she's just perfect.

The aunts and cousins though....
Well, they are sweet too. But that's where the nutty comes in.

So I had my concerns about the day at the lake--with two aunts, four cousins, and my family. I'd had a long, rough few days and made it clear to mom that all I wanted out of the day was to bask the sun, sit near the water, and lose myself in a book.

I had the sun, I flopped onto a blanket in the grass not far from the water, and devoured the first few chapters of a new book while enjoying a bag of cherries. It was perfect.

Yes, perfect. Which certainly isn't to say that the day was entirely without it's more exciting moments. I managed to burn my entire back, neck to ankles, a lovely shade of hot pink. Only my back though, my front side is pale as ever.
Later, low dark clouds had gathering threateningly in the west and, as we were halfway through birthday cake, a storm blew in. Plates blew, napkins took flight, we gathered under the trees (Yes, under the trees. Don't judge.) It passed quickly though, and picnicking resumed.

But the moments that I savor will be the peaceful, solitary ones I spent sitting on a log at the water's edge. The water lapped around the spiderweb of tree roots; birds made their presence known; and as I sat quietly, once in a long while, a fish would flip right out of the water (just for a second) and splash back in.

Just a few days ago, I had been thinking a passage from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: "Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

Thankfully for every terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, there is a wonderful, delightful, enjoyable, very wonderful day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nothing like a new toy

I am told that boys, men, like their toys and gadgets. It's something almost intrinsic that we women can not always understand.

I get it.

While RAM and horsepower don't exactly whip me into a frenzy, my kitchen appliances do. They shouldn't even be called appliances. They are fine tuned, sleek, pieces of culinary equipment. I recently became the proud owner of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I have been coveting the mixer, with it's strong curves, metallic sheen, and array of attachments, for ages. Imagine, if you will, my exuberant delight when I pulled down the edge of an oversize bag (a graduation present from my spice girls) to reveal The box. It elicited a shriek, the feminine equivalent of a guttural expression of happiness.

My very own mixer.

After keeping it in the box, admiring from afar for a few days, I began to ponder what the inaugural project should be.

Not cupcakes. Too flippant.
Not bread. Too bland.

Coffeecake. Yes. Comforting, traditional and yet, something with possibilities. A classic.

I settled on cinnamon swirl and pulled the mixer from the box.

The smooth silver smiled at me. Inviting.

I measured in the silky yellow butter and white sugar. Creamed together in pale yellow ribbons. Cracked in the eggs, brightening the mixture into a sunny yellow. Added vanilla, that warm and comforting smell rising. Finally, the dry ingredients. A small pouf of flour dust emitting from the bowl as the dough came together.

Half of the mix into a bundt pan, topped with cinnamon sugar, and covered by the rest of the dough.

After the pan was tucked into the oven, as the smell of something perfect and sweet started to fill the kitchen, I lovingly washed the mixing components, hand dried them, and tucked it back into the box.

The cake didn't come out perfectly, but it was good and made better with a orange-cinnamon glaze. It needs some work but it was something upon which to build.

And the mixer? Well, it has a bright future ahead. Probably ice cream next. That attachment courtesy of the greatest friend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Legislative oversight...of Facebook?

Four senators pen an angry letter to the CEO of Facebook.

If you're waiting for the punchline, there isn't one.

That's right, from the same people who brought you national health care...interference in our social networking sites. Rather than a punchline, perhaps this story has a moral. The moral of the story may be similar to Pandora's inability to get the evil back into the box. The nannyist mentality of our elected Congress has extended into such frivolities as social networking.

I don't know whether to be angry or amused.

Don't mistake me. I think there is space for oversight and higher law in our daily lives, when existing laws of public safety are being breached or are under direct threat. Human trafficking, child welfare, and terrorist threats warrant government intervention. But Facebook "privacy"...come on! No one is forcing you to partake in this site, to post your phone number, to make public your personal life. And while many users would probably prefer an "opt in" rather than "opt out" system, it most certainly is not a matter in which the government should be involved.

Trivial, perhaps. But when we let our government start to dictate and regulate something as trivial as social networking, you have to wonder: in what other business do they intend to stick there noses?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A break in the chaos

At some point in the last two weeks I've realized that I'm in over my head. Aside from working full time, going to school part time, planning two events, and attending miscellaneous other events, I am pseudo-mom while my mom continues to heal from foot surgery (on the one foot) and a fractured foot (on the other hand, well...foot).

So those precious few moments I steal away from the grind have become infinitely blissful.

Yesterday it meant a grown-up night out. Not flip-flops, beer, and bar food--which certainly has it's place!

My manager (who has become a sort of role-model and mentor) and the former manager (who has a very spirited stubbornness which resonates with me) and I met for an evening out. Things are getting busier at the store and we are waiting, with baited breath, for the owner's television show premier next week. So it was nice to get out of the shop and indulge in food, wine, and conversation. The makings of a perfect evening.

The best meal is not about complexity but about execution. Depth and dimension with an air of effortlessness. Our meal certainly was.

A glass of full-bodied red wine, a hint of spice and bittersweetness, for me. Forgetting, for a minute, the rules of wine pairing: white with seafood, red with pasta; I maintain that dining should, particularly on these kind of nights, be about what you like. So I chose red.

Cliche though it may be, some much needed "girl talk ensued."

The decedent scent of the dinner preceded the plate. Garlicky, buttery, milky, brothy, with just a hint of herbs and tomatoes. PEI Mussels in a creamy broth. The flesh of the mussels glinted a tantalizing pale against the bold, dark shells.

On the other side of the table: shrimp. Growing up I hated shrimp. They are still never my first choice and I will always turn down the cocktail variety. But I have grown to appreciate a warm, perfectly cooked shrimp-particularly if it is served with a delicious sauce. These shrimp were less than a bite, shrimpy shrimp. Lightly breaded, fried, and floating in a spicy yet creamy sauce. If I were ever to call shrimp "perfect" these shrimp may have been.

After that, the dessert was almost an afterthought. They chose a coconut cake, that appeared to be 98% coconut and only 2% cake. Not for me. I picked key lime pie. The lime filling was perfectly tangy with a lovely pile of whipped cream sitting prettily on top. But the crust! Nuts, chopped finely and mixed into the graham cracker crust, cut the tart lime with a rich and buttery crumble.

A few last sips of wine and we were off into the night.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Life. Property.

Any student of political science knows property matters. To believe this, to feel this, is something different.

I'm not a small business owner, though I am employed by one. So while the property isn't mine, I rely on it for my income.

"My" store was vandalized at 2:00 this morning. A large, heavy, urn sitting next door had been hurled through the plate glass door. No one had set foot inside. Nothing was out of place. Nothing had been stolen. The owners, naturally, were the ones to get the call; the ones to come in, clean up, temporarily remedy the damage. Perhaps because it was a lovely spring morning, perhaps I wasn't fully awake, perhaps because it had been cleaned up the damage didn't strike me as immediately. I wasn't enraged. Disappointed, maybe.

My feelings simmered through the morning.

All day the ugly, albeit functional, slab of wood stared at me. The large bolts had been covered with bubble wrap and packing tape, to protect the general public. Where light should be, there was dark. And by the time I left work, my anger boiled over. How dare they! Regardless of whether the perpetrator was a drunken louse, a disgruntled former employee, or a random hoodlum, there is no excuse for stealing someone's security, their property. Even an impersonal act becomes personal when it has a negative impact on the property or liberty of an individual.

An attack on property should be no less offensive and is certainly no less violent than an attack on a person. An attack on property is an attack on a person.

Perhaps that is what is so repugnant about the corpulence of the federal government: the very idea that they can violate our liberty, our property, without thought or apology.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Haiti did right

Haiti. A country in which so much has gone wrong. Political unrest, desparate poverty, and human rights violations are more the rule than the exception. Most recently, the January earthquake pushed an already tenuous life to the breaking point. Between a hundred and two hundred thousand people perished. Those who survived were left without any way to meet the most basic human needs: food, clean drinking water, shelter, sanitation. In the wake of this tragedy, the world responded with an outpouring of aid and support.

Some Americans hastily went to Haiti to assist in rescue efforts. A group went to help orphans: to prepare a space for them and to bring them to a safe place. An admirable objective, no doubt. However, and this is where the lines blur, many of the children being brought to this safe space (in another country) were not, in fact, orphans. The "rescuers" lacked the appropriate papers and Haitian approval to execute their objective.

Haitian authorities and the Haitian government have, at best, been grossly neglegant on many occasions; at worst, they have committed atrocities. Whatever can be said of the Haitian authorities, though, in this situation they have acted appropriately. To arrest suspected human traffickers is nothing but right and proper. Whatever the intentions of these so-called "rescuers," and I do believe that many of them went with the best intentions, the fact is that there are an extreme few situations in which such actions are possibly justifiable. Furthermore, the uncertainty of the circumstances in which the children were to be brought exemplifies the inherant danger.

I certainly am no authority on human trafficking, but situations which foster or potentially feed into human trafficking should be annihilated as swiftly as possible. A life of extreme poverty is an atrocity but a life as a victim of human trafficking should absolutely never be a solution. Were we to allow any consideration of this possibility, we would be opening the door to an increasingly (if tacit) approval of a revitalized slave trade.

Whether it can be attributed to some inherant sense of justice (doubtful); the eyes of international community (increasingly likely); or even a more perverse concept that it is ok for us to wrong our own people but for an outsider to do it is not okay, the actions taken in this situation were (surprisingly) reasonable. I can only hope that the ringleaders of this disgusting scheme do not fall through the cracks and I do pray that our watchfulness continues, a vigilance to and awareness of human trafficking in all possible forms.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Try and Tri-again

It is easy to let the memory of our high school awkwardness impair our greatness as adults. As a teen, I thought I was not good at math; I kept introverted out of a fear that people wouldn't like me, and even while I swam I thought of myself as lacking athleticism. Facing my trepidation over math, and finding that I am certainly capable, awakened something in me. If I am good at math and people do seem to like me, there is every possibility that I may actually have some athletic potential.

Tomorrow I embark on a long path toward, potentially, a triathlon. For even the most accomplished athlete it is a feat; for me, a voyage. Few people actually know about my plan. While that means I don't have a mass of people cheering me on, it also means I don't have doubters and detractors. For now it is enough to battle my own doubts. The first step is to face the running head on. Running, I think, is something not so requiring of natural ability as desire and effort. What is that inspirational phrase, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Getting back into swimming, if you will pardon the pun, will be like riding a bike. And the biking will come in due time.

Tomorrow, I run.