VEEP, Lifetime, and other adventures in TV

Finally, for the first time in my life – I can publicly admit that I watch a lot of tv. I grew up without a tv. We were taught it would rot our brains. And, for the most part, I agree.

Though my dear friend Rebecca likes to remind me: “we live in the golden age of television.” At first I didn’t believe her, but by golly she’s right!

Exhibit 1: VEEP

This show is amazing. Quick recap, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the vice president of the US and the show centers around her and her staff. It’s super funny, crude, and totally feminist. But not in a gross preachy way. It’s an HBO show so the vocabulary of beyond. The VEEP kicks a ton of ass while still being hilarious and relatable. The one thing happily missing is the main character’s constant need for male approval.

 

Exhibit 2: The Good Wife and Scandal

Sorry, these two will forever be lumped together for me as female-centered poli-dramas. Stories about ladies doing it their way, grabbing power, leaving men in their dust. Great writing, compelling story lines, and plenty of red wine.

Exhibit 3: Black-ish

Finally, the return of the well done black-centered sitcom! Been missing since the 90s (you know, back in the “golden age of black television”). This show is hilarious but also tackles hard and complicated social/racial problems. I mean, they aren’t saving the world – but they aren’t afraid of focusing on the black experience in a white world with all its flaws and pitfalls.

BUT….television can still rot your brain.

Exhibit A: Lifetime

Every single show (except Project Runway and Unreal) is a travesty. An exercise in appealing to the lowest-common-denominator. Just cheaply made, inexpertly crafted, sacks of clickbait.

Exhibit B: 95% of everything else made

I mean, really. There’s lots of crap out there.

#StayingWoke IRL

When contemplating what I was going to write, I stumbled onto this article. In short form it’s about how we can carefully craft our live-changing political online identities, but IRL we are more likely than not to walk away from uncomfortable situations of oppression, sexism, racism, or other inequities with the simple statement of “it’s not my business.”

I had to first call myself out for this. Since Ferguson, I have been blowing up the FB feed like “#blm” and “don’t stay quiet.” But the talking has got me so tired. On a side note, part of my inactivity was because I was pregnant, traveling, moving, having a baby and partially because I didn’t know where to start in my new home. But now I am settled, and ready to work.

I have slowed down my posting on FB (though a lot of that has just transferred to posting on Twitter) and decided to work on real life action. The first step, which was reinforced by a podcast I was listening to today (The Ferguson Response Network), was to take an internal inventory of my behavior, actions, and inactions. Am I perpetuating or ignoring racism or other injustices in my daily life? Beyond that, am I working towards helping humanity in any way.

I have, here in Maine, begun a little bit of work. I have begun to reach out. I have begun to put my money where my internet mouth is. I have lucked into an amazing new job — I am currently the Program Manager at the Portland Farmers’ Market — which entails working on our Low Income Access Program. This program allows SNAP (also know as Food Stamps) purchases at the Market by use of a token program, and through a grant from the USDA (obtained with help from Wholesome Wave) we are able to double all SNAP purchases. So, basically, if you want to spend $20 from your SNAP card, we take $20 off your card but then hand you $40 worth of tokens. It’s amazing. Within this job, I have grown the Outreach portion. I have taken it on to myself to connect not with individual recipients of SNAP, but with programs that touch many of these recipients. Whether is the WIC office or a free legal service or a community clinic, these places are able to pass along the important information to clients at a much faster rate than I would have been able to.

In this work, I have been able to begin to understand where the need lies in Portland, Maine. And once you begin to understand this and see the real people involved, how could you stay inactive? I am currently, actively figuring out where I could lend a hand. The racism in Maine is far different from the racism of Missouri — and doing that work looks different here, but the stakes are just as high and the work is just as important.

In summary, it’s good to say stuff on the internet — but also critical to make those statements real.

For further inspiration, I suggest you listen to this episode of Criminal.

I look forward to reporting again on this ongoing journey.

 

robert cohen

photo by Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Making A Murder and other criminal justice escapades

When I was a kiddo, I watched The Thin Blue Line — a ground breaking documentary (by Errol Morris with music by Philip Glass) which dissects a then standing conviction of a man for the killing of a Dallas police officer in 1967. It played a huge role in getting that bogus conviction eventually overturned. Maybe this started me down the path to distrusting the criminal justice system, or maybe it was growing up in St. Louis where most of the criminal justice system is just way to extort low income people and people of color.

The recent release, via Netflix, of Making A Murderer as well as last year’s release of the podcast Serial, from the producers of This American Life, have people up in arms with disgust over shoddy investigative practices, underhanded prosecutions, and abhorrent practices in the criminal justice system. I am happy to see this. Beyond happy, ecstatic — but what has caught me off guard is their surprise.

Is this misuse of power really that surprising? In this mostly closed and self-governed system that is overburdened by terrible policy like the War on Drugs, is it really surprising that people get railroaded?

Anyway – I suggest checking out all three (The Thin Blue Line, Serial Season One, and Making a Murderer) and for a little truthy comedy, John Oliver is here to let you in on a few mind-boggling practices of this country’s criminal justice system.

And if you want to dig a little deeper, these are people working hard on reform:

A great list from Piper Kerman

Equal Justice Initiative

Michael A Wood, Jr

Campaign Zero

 

 

a still from The Thin Blue Line

a still from The Thin Blue Line

 

podcastin’

Podcasts I’m into lately:

Reply All

A show about technology, framed in good stories. By Gimlet Media (players from This American Life and RadioLab and other such good shows) so it is quality entertainment mixed with a bit of education. Thought provoking but not ground breaking.

 

Call Your Girlfriend

“A podcast for long distance besties everywhere” — pretty much made by and for my generation of ladies. At first I was obsessed and inspired even. These ladies have great jobs, full lives of traveling and interest, lots of cool shit to say about gender, race, misogyny, pop culture, and my personal fave: Shine Theory. But after consuming about 20 episodes I started to feel a little bit outside. I don’t think it’s their fault, but I don’t jet off to somewhere interesting once or twice a month — I can’t afford a mattress that’s the most expensive thing a silicon valley tech employee owns — I was once inspired, but now I feel distant. I feel like I will never have the “things” they have, the things they keep telling me about. At first I felt like they where my cool, successful girlfriends down for a chat about ANYTHING — then I began to feel like they were having these conversations without me. Like they had closed off the circle and were sitting at the cool kids table and I was glancing over from the poor kids table.

I haven’t stop listening, but I have stopped buying into their charmed lives.

 

Criminal

Just general stories about crime. Interesting, short pieces about things that have happened around criminal activities — and not just interviews with ex-cons. Based out of North Carolina, so their stories central around the lower Atlantic seaboard.

 

Another Round

Brought to you by BuzzFeed, a chat and interview podcast by two young ladies of color. They have great guests, don’t shy away from tough race conversations, and are pretty funny, too.

 

Friends Like Us

Basically long conversations with a room full of comics. They are long, winding conversations about tons of different (and mostly relevant) topics. It’s a nice way to pass the time when I am alone at work. And, duh, it’s funny.

 

Intersection

A more serious podcast about the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and all other kinds of ways people identify. I’m into it.

 

Lore

Great storytelling about creepy shit. I try not to listen when I am alone at work.

 

The Serial Rabbit Hole

After an obsession with Serial and all things Serial I found Undisclosed and Truth & Justice (used to be The Serial Dynasty), both take deep dives into Adnan’s case. Investigating minutiae, following leads the investigators didn’t, dissecting the trials. Mostly they dug up more questions and shone a big ole spotlight on the truly terribleness of the original police investigation and following prosecution by the state.

Both podcasts are now on to different wrongful conviction cases.

 

 

 

a left turn.

I’m going to take a left turn and just start writing about whatever is on my mind. Trying to stick to a subject or being artistic is really just holding me back. Here for all in 2016.

Today’s current obsession is Harry Styles’ (of One Direction) tattoos. Ugh, they are terrible. And the funniest part about how terrible they are: they are coverups for even more terrible tattoos. Here is a sheet of his tattos from a website that sells temporary tattoos based off of celebrity tattoos.

harry-styles-temporary-tattoos

 

As my boyfriend said, “you can’t buy taste.” 

Note to those without tattoos, or those who want to get tattoos — please research your artist. Make sure they have done quality work. Look at their portfolio. And don’t get a tattoo upon meeting them for the first time. Ask for a consultation, ask for a sketch. Last, but certainly not least, you get what you pay for.

harry-styles

serving man.

I am happy to say that I am working on some fun recipes to accompany this awesome hot-almost-off-the-presses board game, How to Serve Man. Locally grown in St. Louis, creator Jamie Toon is using Kickstarter to fund his gaming habit and newest creation: a board game where players are Alien Iron Chefs and the secret ingredient is PEOPLE!!!

Check out the game by clicking on the picture below – if you back now the Kickstarter now, even though the goal has been made, you will not only receive a copy of the game (with the $39 level or greater) but ALSO a PDF copy of my mini-cookbook containing six recipes using dishes from the game as inspiration!

 

The mini-cookbook you recieve will include recipes like:

CHIN ENCHILADAS

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and

BACK FAT ASTEROID APPLE CRISP

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Get on over there and support local gaming!!

#grindyourown

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Last year, during a beautiful moment of cosmically-aligned kismet, a group of ladies and I were able to host a few gatherings at my house in St. Louis,  dubbed the Kitchen Speakeasy. I know, I know, It’s a pretty hipster name – but I really did capture the nature of this culinary market. These markets consisted of a few very old friends, some recent acquaintances, and brand new friends (which were, by the way, all women) and we sold things from jams and jellies to house-cured bacon to the most heavenly granola.

It was a few months of blissful, lady charged, culinary goodness. People wandered in, sampled goodies, and left with a bag of the finest South City kitchens had to offer. We felt fueled by each other, spending much of the day swapping kitchen war stories or tips on how to make yogurt or how to get that perfect color of hot sauce. Not to mention the feeling of pretty much selling out of product at every market. This band of fiery culinaristas could not be STOPPED.

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Our homemade goodness would stick it to the man! It would change the world! It would bring about revolution!! Our Wild Cultured Yogurt and butcher paper wrapped English Bacon would cause people to rethink the grocery store, rethink their buying power, rethink their food life.

Our small batch Lime Honey Mint Butter and Fresh Wheatberries had brought us to the food promised land, a place where Balsamic Strawberries or Vermouth Mustard could illicit smiles and blissful moments. A place where our Bourbon and Strawberry Jam could be appreciated. Our hard work could be seen, shared, sold, and traded. A place where we could live forever!

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hot sass

orange wiz

But, alas, even after all the dramatic thinking – it did end. Not for any reason really, just sorta fizzled out. We all had shit to do. But the Kitchen Speakeasy is actually not the point of this blog post. It was just a stage set for one of the many things I learned from these smart ladies: you can totally grind your own wheat.

Now, I’m not saying “If you go buy a big bulky expensive grinder, and some fancy ingredients – you can grind you own wheat.” I mean to say, if you have a coffee grinder and some wheat berries – You Can Grind Your Own Wheat. This all started when I got a big bag of organic wheatberries from Amanda at Moonlight Farm.

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I was ever so grateful to have another grain in my pantry, but I have to admit I get a little sick of wheatberry salad. The wheatberries just never get soft enough and that pop and crunch of a boiled wheatberry is only to be enjoyed every once in a while. I might, being the truth-sayer that I tend towards, have said this to Amanda. Luckily she found no offense in my rude remark and instead simply said, “Just grind them into flour.”

What?! WHAT!?!

Like the holy grail!? Fresh milled flour!?! In my kitchen!?! IMG_2079

Yes. As easy as that. Take the wheatberries, put them in a coffee grinder, and go. FRESH MILLED FLOUR.

 

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The flour is pretty much perfect. I have used it from yeast breads to quick breads to crackers and it adds a beautiful fresh and sweet flavor, not to mention a great texture. Why does it matter, you ask?! Fresh milled, who cares!!

Well, my dearies, here is a little info about fresh ground whole wheat flour from the owner of Moonlight Farm herself, Amanda:

Before we get to specifics, let me just say that fresh-ground flour was a bit of a revelation for me. I have always hated whole wheat pastry…to the point of causing a severe case of pastry-rage at times. Pastry should be buttery, flakey, cakey, moist, chewy, and several other desirable things…but wheaty and bran-y it should neverevereverever be. I hated that *tang* that whole wheat flour seemed to impart to my beloved baked goods.

But, then, I married a wheat farmer and discovered what freshly ground flour truly tastes like. I had no idea that the whole wheat flour on the shelves at the store was all at least slightly rancid (not in a dangerous way, mind you…). I didn’t know the oils in the wheat itself had such a short shelf life! Using fresh-ground flour in your recipes will, indeed, give them a bit more heft (and health) – but it does not have to take away or impede that sweetness we expect from our baked goods. The oils are fresh and mild, the wheat is nutty and delicious. It’s a win-win.

Her advice on grinding:

We currently use a Kitchenaid stainless steel coffee grinder (saving up for a countertop grain mill has taken us a bit longer than anticipated…but…for small amounts at a time, it’ll do). We bought our model at Target and it has been our favorite so far – the best part being the removable stainless grinder cup. Much easier to get all the good stuff out and much easier to clean.

Every coffee grinder has a max amount of time it should be used (if it doesn’t have an automatic shut-off), so please pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your grinder starts to get seriously heated, stop and give it a 20 to 30 minute rest. Once again, for small amounts, this shouldn’t be a problem.

We fill the grinder about 2/3 up to the max fill line and grind away. We usually do two or three 10-12 second grinds per fill. Once you have the amount you need, you can do one of two things – go happily about making your recipe, or, sift out a bit of bran and re-grind for finer flour. You can just use a fine-mesh sieve and sift the flour, pushing and rolling the flour around a bit. Just sifting can give you a finer/less bran-y flour, so you may not even need to re-grind. Now you have fresh flour. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge to keep fresh. If it’s used within a week, you will still be able to enjoy that fresh-ground taste!

She also shared a great recipe with us, for her most delicious Honey Whole Wheat Shortbread!

This shortbread is THE most versatile shortbread. Ever. There is nothing this little buttery golden round cannot do. Need breakfast? Eat it plain, butter it, or jam it. Need bread for soup? Totally works. Craving a melty savory snack? Throw on some roasted ham and your cheese of choice and broil and happy days are here again.

1/2 c FRESH GROUND whole wheat flour

1/2 c unbleached white flour

2/3 c (5.5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 c honey (local honey is perfect, but this is an excellent time to experiment with different varieties, as the flavor really shines here)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

 

*Parchment line and butter an 8 inch round cake pan or spring-form

*Pre-heat oven to 325 F

*Mix flours and salt in a small bowl until well combined.

*Cream butter and honey in a mixer or by hand until light and fluffy.

*Add flour to butter to create an even mixture. This doesn’t take long at all, so don’t overdo the mixing.

*Using a silicone spatula, plop and spread dough evenly in your pan.

*Prick dough all over with a fork. (if your fork is sticking/pulling the dough too much – dip it in some flour between pokes)

*Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

You’re looking for a nice slightly puffed golden brown and a heavenly honeybutter smell. It will still seem a bit soft and cakey, but it will get denser as it cools. Invert on a plate or board after it’s cooled for about 10-12 minutes. You may find you want a softer or more crumbly consistency – just bake for a shorter or longer amount of time until you find your perfect texture. Cut into wedges and enjoy. Tightly wrapped, this will keep on your counter for 2-3 days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for 2-3 months.

So there you are. One more way to make your kitchen a culinary wonderland. Enjoy and keep cooking!!!

 

 

 

 

 

the biggest little city in a gold buick.

(this story started here…) Long before the joy of Reno 911 came into my life, I got to experience “The Biggest Little City” sitting in the passenger seat of a big gold Buick. This Buick was driven by a highschool friend who was living there with her mom during one of those “break from life” moments young people have every-once-in-a-while. We were both 19. I had graduated high school a year prior, she had just taken a break from college after two years. She was one of those amazingly smart kids that got the principal’s permission to graduate early and start college. I was awed by her ambition, drive, and fortitude. She picked me up in that big gold Buick, complete with a boombox on the bench seat because the radio didn’t work, and I regaled her with my horror stories of Phoenix.

We were a-flutter with teenage energy, nearly jumping out of our seats while talking. We pulled up to her mom’s house: a fairly new two story concoction, not quite as horrific as the architecture of Phoenix but it still wasn’t the gorgeous 100 year old brick and mortar of home. I was still getting used to what “new construction” looked like. The house was comfy, her mom was gracious (as always), and we quickly went upstairs to her bedroom and found ourselves laying on the bed and joking about everything. Then she pulled out this book and was like, “let me read you this story.”

At the time I thought nothing of it, but in the years past I have thought of it so fondly and repeatedly wished she would read to me all the time. Being read to, especially by someone that is good at it, is amazing. It was normal before the invention of TV, now it is weird and unheard of. The best part, it was David Sedaris’ “Barrel Fever” that she had pulled out. I rolled on the floor laughing as she read the story called “Season’s Greetings to our Friends and Family!!” and almost died when she got to the now famous “SantaLand Diaries.”

It was the perfect catharsis for my failed trip to Arizona. A friend, a comfy house, a million laughs.

+++++

The next day, my friend and I decided to dine at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, mostly because she worked there part-time – as there was a severe lack of cool-hip-independent restaurants in Reno. We sat down and ordered our Spinach Artichoke Dip – this was back when the phenomena was just beginning – and she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you think I’m a failure?” At that moment I could have collapsed. From what? I’m not sure. Surprise, maybe. Or possibly confusion.

This woman that I saw as independent, confidant, interesting, bold, and not afraid to do what she felt was right for her life (i.e. leaving high school early, going to an “alternative” college, moving around the country) was looking at me for approval. I didn’t feel deserving, at all. And I certainly didn’t understand why she didn’t see herself the way I did. It was a definitive “ah ha” moment where I saw the first inkling of what I now know of as perspective shift.

I saw her one way. She saw herself another. We both were looking at the same person, with the same values, making the same choices. One object, two perspectives.

Not clearly remembering what happened next, I can tell you that I told her what I saw. I told her of what those same life choices she saw as failing, were the ones I saw as amazing and awe-inspiring. This was also the beginning of that adult moment when you begin to realize that not everyone is inside your head thinking the same things along with you. I just took my perspective as “the truth” or “reality” – but I was starting to figure out that those things are all very subjective. Don’t worry. It was just the beginning. I have had to (and continue to) learn that lesson many, many times again.

+++++

After the mind shattering conversation at the Grill, we roamed around Reno a bit – checking out a casino, the downtown Riverwalk, going by the “Biggest Little City” sign, the mall. It was all still so new to me, the West. The layout of the cities, the architecture, the flora and fauna. After a few hours of this, we were both pretty bored. My friend suggested we go up to Lake Tahoe and camp for the night.

Camping!! Cool!! I’d seen that in movies (my family wasn’t really a camping family). Oh, I guess I camped once in eighth grade with my “boyfriend.” One of those uncomfortable moments when he tried to kiss me and I ran away and slept in a friend’s tent. I didn’t understand any of that stuff at that age.

Anyway. Back to Reno and Lake Tahoe…so we loaded up the car, that big Gold Buick, with food and water and sleeping bags and hit the road. The hour long drive started in the parched countryside and wound up through the wooded foothills surrounding the lake. I had never been so close to such grandeur before. I had flown over the Rockies once, but to be driving up the windy cliff face at 40 mph was a totally different experience. And did I mention we were in a HUGE gold Buick. This thing took up about a lane and a half on this tiny two lane road that was cliff face on one side and a steep drop on the other. I can’t say I wasn’t totally scared out of my mind as we whipped around turns and passed cars. I began to understand those old cartoons where Wile E. Coyote drives himself off a cliff.

Safely making it to our destination *phew* we found a flat rock to set up camp. We gathered kindling for a fire and laid our things out before it got dark. But there seemed to be something missing – a tent. We didn’t have a tent. My friend seemed like this was normal, so I just put on my straight face and played along.

All the while I was freaking out!!! What if a bear bites my head off, what if a giant spider crawls in my ear, what if it rains?!! So as we drifted off to sleep, with the huge trees and star lined sky above, my fear melted into awe. It was too beautiful to be scared of.

For a minute at least – then I shoved my head into my sleeping bag, as far down as I could go – so no bears would eat it. I awoke to a dewy morning, surrounded by the birds and the trickling stream and the sun peaking through and I knew I had survived the night. Thank goodness.