Stop it! Just stop it!

i’m not a first adopter and i’m not a trend setter. or perhaps i should say that neither of those are a goal of mine but sometimes i accidentally become the first at something.

but these days everything goes viral and every other day there’s another new meme to keep up with and/or add to and it’s even difficult to be on the cutting edge if you’re trying. (well, except maybe if you’re a kardashian…)

here’s the thing about memes: most often lunacy takes over and someone has to declare that it has to stop (not you ann counter).

so now i’m declaring that some things have to stop.

can we just talk about the grilled salad? okay, so maybe this concept would work if we were talking about grilling vegetables that make sense to grill like peppers, onions, eggplant or even corn. i might even be able to get on board with grilled tomatoes (although i’m not sure why a glorious, fresh august tomato needs to be embellished.) i subscribe to a couple of cooking magazines and a couple of other magazines that routinely include recipes and this idea of a grilled salad has been making the rounds.

so let me get this straight: i’m supposed to take a perfectly wonderful item like romaine lettuce — which by the way i eat because it’s crunchy and usually cold– and burn it on the grill. and i’m not even sure why. i have had this burned lettuce and i don’t get the appeal. is it just because it completely flies in the face of logic?

grilling salad either began and an act of clumsiness or a drunken meme and now it’s evolved into a party trick. i guess that we have just plain run out of ideas. that must be it. there are just so many cooking shows and cooking segments and cooking magazines that we have to make up insane things just to fill air time or pages. but when you run out ideas stupidity prevails. like grilling lettuce.

and speaking of grilling, can we just talk about grilling summer fruit and/or perfectly good pound cake? i’m especially baffled by the proliferation of recipes calling for grilled watermelon. i’ve had grilled fruits (peaches, nectarines and pineapple) and they’re good enough, but grilled watermelon is ridiculous. it does not make it taste any better, in fact one thing watermelon is not enhanced by is being eaten at anything other than icy cold temperature. isn’t the reason we eat watermelon to be refreshed on a hot summer day. how is a wilted, burned, limp slab of watermelon refreshing?

btw, if you notice almost all of these grilled fruit recipes call for ice cream or whipped cream to complete the flavor profile, which leads me to believe that the real flavor everyone is raving about is sweet ice cream or liquor flavored whipped cream.

we need to cease with the compulsion to “do” anything more to some of the glorious bounty this time of year than just enjoy it. we also need to stifle the impulse to follow along with every harebrained idea that gets printed in a magazine or posted on-line.

chris rock said it best: “just because you can doesn’t mean it’s to be done.”


Filed under Food, gardening, laughs, seasons, summer, tips

Freedom and Simple Pleasures

i did something this weekend that i haven’t done since i was a kid: i walked around in a bathing suit when i wasn’t on the beach. okay so it was just to a little deli to get lunch takeout and walk back to the motel pool to sit and eat, but it was kind of huge for me.

some of you probably think, “what’s the big deal?” and others are thinking about how much you want people without beach bodies to cover up already. let me clarify that my bathing suit is a tankini with a skirted bottom so i’m not talking about a tiny bathing suit here. even though i’ve worked hard to wear a size or two smaller than the “average” american woman, i’m still a big person. and i’ve always been self-conscious, especially about my heavy arms (my mother used to say that we are descended from good, peasant stock).

but i had a revelation.

near us on the beach was a muslim family enjoying the perfect beach day and i found myself staring at them, or trying hard not to stare at them. the father wore knee length bathing trunks and no shirt, but the two women with him where wearing long pants, a long tunic and black head covers. they were happily walking on the shoreline with their children while the water soaked the bottoms of their long pants and i thought how uncomfortable that wet fabric must feel against their skin. later, the women were swimming and playing in the ocean, up to their necks in the water, still completely covered. they could only feel the cool ocean water directly on the uncovered skin of their faces, hands and feet.

a few things occurred to me: 1. how glad i was that they were not restricted from enjoying the ocean and 2. how sad i felt that they would never feel the cool water or the ocean breeze or even the hot sun directly on their skin and 3. here i was with the freedom to enjoy all of those sensations and had spent years choosing not to.

whatever self-consciousness those women may have felt at being on the beach and in the water fully clothed did not seem to matter to them. they frolicked, tossed around a football, giggled with their children and generally enjoyed a refreshing and fun day at the beach.

last year i decided that too many years had passed since my self-consciousness deprived me of a swim in the ocean and waded in. okay, so i was slammed into the sand moments later because i have no wave skills, still i headed out toward c and the two of us had a nice time. this year, i was prepared to enjoy the ocean again but made sure i had a cover-up for when we walked to and from the motel.

seeing those women made me think.

i can tell you that it’s a lot cooler to be out in the hot sun in a wet bathing suit and no cover up, but i can also tell you that i got very sunburned. i can also tell you that later that evening as c and i were leaving for dinner, we took a selfie in which i was wearing a strapless dress without my usual cover-up and someone posted a snotty and hurtful remark – a person who often complains about other’s insensitivity.

my first instinct was to change my dress after that remark. my second instinct was to put on the cover-up even though it was a little too warm to wear it.

in the end, i didn’t change my dress. i took the wrap with me and i only put it on because i was cold.

freedom sometimes takes a bit of time.

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Filed under courage, summer, women

Three Decades

C and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this week.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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Filed under family, Love, marriage

Which America?

The US economy is back! Well, maybe. The stock market is surging, though that’s not really a good sign of an altogether healthy economy.

Since I work in the financial sector, what I see is mostly anecdotal evidence that the economy is working well… for some.

High net-worth individuals are walking into our office with five and six digit bonuses, clients who are trust fund baby report that they’re jetting off to the far ends of the earth with their every increasing yields and our everyday investors are calling and expecting their returns to be double digits. The corporations they work for (or own) are sitting on piles of cash and just about everyone is upsizing their home or buying a second one.

There’s more evidence in the local news.

A couple of stay-at-home moms recently started a small business called I Hate Camp Laundry , which does pretty much what you guess it does – picks up and cleans your kid’s camp laundry so you don’t have to do it when they get home. Their tagline is: “For just about 1% of the cost of camp, all your cleaning is done!” That 1% equals $169, so you can do the math from there.

I also just read a review of a new restaurant in Philadelphia that seems to indicate a return to the “roaring” economy of the past. Not only do you have to buy “tickets” to the restaurant in advance, once there you are in for 15 courses and four hours of your time, all of which can be had for about $250 per person. And prices are going up this fall. (Interesting aside: the space where the restaurant is located was partially funded with public (state) funds). Some of us are doing well enough to consider, in the words of reviewer Craig LeBan, “… a mortgage payment” on a single dinner for two but how many of us?

Hopefully we’re all benefitting from the first America, but let’s not forget about the other America.

There is still an increasing need for food banks in the area and kids who participate in the school lunch program during the school year sometimes go hungry over the summer.

More people might be employed now that at the height of The Great Recession, but they’re working at lower paying jobs. There’s a persistent notion that raising wages will tank a fragile economy in spite of evidence to the contrary.

So government policies protecting the wealthy and corporate profits have worked and the model of floating monies to the top in the hope that it will trickle down hasn’t worked.

There’s increasing evidence of two Americas. I’m not as militant as Randy Moas

But I think that Nick Hanauer might have a point.

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Filed under Business, Charity, civil rights, economy, patriotism, politics, Vote, Wealth

Perseverence and Pride

“god grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” serenity prayer

three simple thoughts. how many of us beat our heads against a wall trying to change things that aren’t going to change or wallow in feelings of helplessness when there are steps we can take to make a change. ah, so it’s the wisdom to know the difference that makes the difference. words are easy, life is hard.

a year and a half ago c and i began a new way of life. and we’ve continued it to this day, which has allowed us to enjoy a healthier and happier life together. as somewhat of a culmination or perhaps continuation of his healthy life, c rode in a 65 mile bike ride to benefit the american cancer society this past weekend.

in spite of spending months training for the ride – which c completed with impressive dedication – he was nervous. he said he was nervous about making a fool of himself by falling or failing in some way. i suspect that he wasn’t nervous about completing the ride because he was certainly ready to ride 65 miles, but about completing the ride to his own satisfaction. and because he was a rider as a younger man and by his own admission just “loves to go fast”, he wanted to complete the ride in the same way completes his weekly rides — tour de france-type riding.

he not only finished the ride, but he finished the ride an hour earlier than anticipated and with the first 40 out of a total of 3,000 riders. here’s the spectacular part: this is the same person who had difficulty walking ¼ track in january of 2013. now, 110 (or more) pounds lighter, he rode 65 miles at a pace of 20 – 30 miles per hour and wasn’t even exhausted.

he’s now training for a 150 mile ride in october and i’m sure he’ll also finish that in spectacular style.

courage to change the things i can.

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Filed under courage, family, Fitness, health, Heroes, Love, marriage, weight loss

Ain’t No Bathtub Here

Let’s get ginned up! Through the fall and winter months I’ve been enjoying many a wonderful whiskey but now that the weather has turned hot, I’m back to gin.

Among spirits, gin is probably has the lowest sales in the U.S., so it’s been slow in catching the attention of new small batch distillers. Oddly too, people react rather negatively to gin.
Order whiskey and you get a “you’re so cool” kind of look. Order vodka and people flash you a “party on”, but order a gin drink and you’ll get this face.

Gin is having a bit of a moment in Germany, but they seem to be all kinds of snooty about it – as in, you not only have to choose what gin to drink, but what tonic to drink with it. Seriously? How about the bartender just make a damn suggestion ‘cuz my brain is just too filled up with old sitcom theme songs and I don’t have room to remember which tonic pairs nicely with which gin.

So the supposition is that people think they hate gin when what they actually hate is tonic water. I rather like the taste of tonic water. And I like the taste of gin. So there you go.
I have to admit that I’m going to use the skills of my pharmacist husband to help me make my own tonic water .

I was always content to drink Gordon’s or Bombay Sapphire dry gin with some Canada Dry tonic and a squeeze of lime. Then I kind of moved over to Tangueray #10. But, like whiskey, distillers have embarked on new versions of gin and I’ve stumbled upon a couple of them.

Some people at work started talking about a new gin that they started drinking. I’m pretty sure they just started drinking it because it’s hard to get and they’re competitive about being first adopters and not because they actually enjoy gin. No matter, ‘cuz I landed with a bottle of it as a gift.

Uncle Val’s Botanical gin is quite delicious. But, it’s not the kind of gin you go willy nilly mixing with tonic because it is veeeery botanical forward, you might say almost a bit chewy. I’ve found the best way to enjoy it is with a bit of fresh lime and some fizzy water, or sipped just ice cold. They’ve got some recipes on their website that I tried, but there are just too many flavors going on for me. Stick with a lighter accompaniment and let this gin shine on its own merits.

My favorite gin for right now is Blue Coat American Dry Gin. This has delicious botanical qualities but it’s smoother than Uncle Val’s and marries beautifully with a bit of tonic and lime.

But in researching gins recently, I’ve discovered that I’ve only just gotten a toe wet as there are a number of new American gins being made that I haven’t yet seen let alone tried. Food and Wine did a recent article on-line as did another site

See though, the nice part is that I have a lot of happy days ahead of tasting new gins. Now that’s a way to get refreshed in the hot weather.

** Explanation of the bathtub reference for those of you who aren’t up on American slang.

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Every Mother’s Son

what it is with young, middle-class boys going on killing sprees? i bet you just conjured up a whole list of names and faces of young killers in the u.s. in the last decade or so at the mention of that.

there is actually a wikipedia page that lists rampage killers in countries around the world with the date, number of dead and what happened to the killer. well if that isn’t a sad commentary…

i know a lot of people become angry that “the press” seems to focus on the killer rather than the victims of these tragedies, but looking at the killer is a way to understand what happened and maybe prevent the next tragedy.

to me, it’s not helpful to have ideological and judgmental debates about gun control or violent video games or divorce or absentee parents or spoiled kids or fill in the blank. what seems clear to me is that there is a great need to find a better way to cope with and offer proper help to individuals with mental health issues.

in the wake of elliot rodger’s rampage, his video and written manifesto appeared on line. i tried to watch some of the video, but it was too disturbing to witness a person so casually talking about what he was about to do even though the video surfaced after he had already done it. but i did read his manifesto.

with apologies to sylvia plath, an accomplished writer, reading elliot rodger’s manifesto reminded me of the bell jar. i remember being assigned to read the bell jar in high school and wondering why the hell we were being forced to read something so very depressing. at the time, i was the only one of four children still living at home, trying to deal with my father’s death and my mother’s depression and anxiety in the wake of that. the book was just too close to home. i often thought about resorting to the author’s solution of suicide to get away from the sadness, loneliness and mess around me. i was a teenager, a time when you don’t necessarily have the capacity to think beyond your own small set of circumstances.

it was clear that from a young age elliot rodger had some significant social issues, but as he recounted the story of his life, he continued to descend into some kind of serious mental illness. he was locked inside of his own mind, unable to see the world around him clearly, unable to see himself clearly, unable to express empathy, unable to make connections, unable to function in all the little ways that most of us take for granted as part of our daily lives. his parents tried very hard to get him treatment and find ways to cope with his issues but he was persistent in his rejection of help.

the manifesto is an interesting document in so far as it’s a glimpse into a broken mind. his obsessions, his skewed point-of-view and his narcissism were all evident. and yet, he was not ranting or muddled and so it was easy to get drawn into his world.

“it has none of the raving quality that you see in the writing of people with psychosis,” such as jared l. loughner, who opened fire on representative gabrielle giffords in arizona in 2011, said dr. michael stone, a new york forensic psychiatrist who looked at the manuscript but has no connection to the family.

and when you’re engrossed in a world like that it’s difficult to pull away. elliot rodger started to make sense to me and i felt his anxieties and his struggles. i had to pull myself away from the text and physically get away from it. i went to the farmer’s market and forced myself to smile and engage in conversation with people to shake off the world of elliot rodger. the space inside his mind was a constant agony.

unfortunately, rodger took out his agony on other innocent people and created a much larger wave of agony for the families of his victims. i can only imagine the pain and sadness felt by the parents who lost children in rodger’s mad rage. but i can also imagine the agony of rodger’s parents who were both on their way to santa barbara as soon as they saw his video and manifesto. on the way there they heard about the rampage, the details of which confirmed to them that their own son was the murderer.

how do you ever apologize enough for what your child has done?

we are left with dead children and the writings of a mad man and what we do with that is what’s going to matter.

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Filed under crimes, death, mental illness