Saturday, December 16, 2006

Margie's surprisingly easy blender Latkes

(Vaguely based on Joy of Cooking, Page 410.)

Peel enough potatoes to easily fill the blender jar without them being chopped.
(classic Waring blender, if you're curious as to size)
Rinse the potatoes, slice them, put them back in the blender jar with a small onion.
Crack three eggs into the blender. (I happened to use small eggs.)
Add a generous tablespoon of corn meal, a less generous one of all-purpose flour and stir.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pour a puddle of canola oil into a steep-enough frying pan & heat.
(setting of 6.5 to 7 out of 10 on our electric range)

Drop batter by tablespoons into oil. Wait patiently until you see pancakes browning around the edges. Turn. Wait for that side to cook. Drain on tea-towel or paper-towels.

Serve with good applesauce.

Friday, November 10, 2006

hero wins peace prize

(Here I am catching up on blog postings. Note I've given up on nprlistener blog to put politics into unjam)

Quite some time ago I heard public laments that people, especially the young, have no true heros any more. Since then, I've tried to keep a mental list of those I can call heros. A few months ago, I heard a Marketplace profile on Muhammad Yunus, who invented micro-credit. I forgot his name, but kept him on my heroes list as "the guy who invented microlending". Then last month I awoke to the pleasant news that one of my heroes had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Who goes on your heroes list?

Ed Bradley

I always thought CBS made a mistake in choosing Dan Rather instead of Ed Bradley to replace Walter Cronkite. Pundits talk about people wanting to hear a news anchor as the "Voice of G-d", but what I always appreciated was warmth and sympathy projected by people like Bradley and Cronkite. When there's bad news, it helps to have the told to you by someone who seems like a caring relative.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One profound change...

...since I became a parent is that I actually look forward to time spent alone in a doctor's or dentist's waiting room--if it means I can read something: a book I brought, or even a two-year-old New Yorker.

Reading time without kids, without cleaning to do or groceries to buy or bills to pay, reading time without guilt. A fleetingly short sweet time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

inside the music

I've just started playing piano again. I'm no better than I was in high school, which is not much better than I was in Junior High, and I'm not trying to play anything I didn't know then.

But it is so soothing to the spirit to be playing music again. I'd forgotten what it was like.

You could hire the world's best pianist to play for you whenever you wished, and it wouldn't give you what mediocre playing of your own produces--an ability to be inside the music.

Children, everyone, take up an instrument. It's really worth it.

supermarket smoke

There's no smoking allowed in the store, but employees sit just outside at picnic tables smoking. I have to walk my kids through the smoke. I have to breathe the smoke. Back in March, a grocery store employee was hit by an errant car while he was taking a break outside.

Supermarkets, please find a place in back of the store for employees to smoke.

coffee at the pump

I was at the self-serve gas station in the rain watching an electronic ad that said "come inside for a cup of hot coffee." I didn't want to go inside. That's why I'm swiping my card outside. I don't want to interact with a human. I don't want to lock up my car. I don't want to stand in line at the cash register.

The gas station that figures out how to serve a decent dollar cup of coffee at the pump will do a great business.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

3 things from New Orleans

Three things I have left from a short 1990's trip to New Orleans:

  1. Crescent City Brewhouse glass beer mug.
  2. Small plastic bag with about a tablespoon of chicory, to sprinkle on top of ground coffee before it's brewed.
  3. Fond memories.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jewish Animism

An old boyfriend of mine once said to me, "I don't believe in G-d, but I believe that people have souls." That didn't make sense to me at the time. If you believe in souls, then G-d granted you those souls. But now I can see it as a difference in definition of G-d. You can believe there is no god separate from souls. If we have souls, then souls are part of a spiritual continuum that we call G-d.

I suppose I believe in souls. It gives me some sense of meaning to do so.
Too nihilist not to. Too much despair.

My father was a religious Jew and seemed to be always trying his best to be a good man for all of the time I knew him, and he died a horrible death. All the while believing in life and that it was worth suffering through any medical treatment if there was the smallest chance that it would save your life.

When I found it difficult to pay synagogue membership fees this year I had incentive to stop believing in Judaism. Without it I would no longer have that one debt, or perceived debt. A debt of honor, or debt to community. No U.S. legal enforcement, but it felt uncomfortable not to pay it. Unless I was no longer Jewish; then it wouldn't matter.

I didn't manage to fast through the entire Yom Kippur this year, nor to attend as much as the High Holiday services as I usually have.

I had been feeling more and more disassociated.

Still, a sort of litmus test of Judaism is for me to say, well then I don't have to be kosher. I can cook meat on the milk dishes and vice-versa; I can even have unkosher food in the house. But I have such a terrible aversion to thus sullying my dishes or my stomach with unkosher food. Kind of a not-being-a-virgin-anymore sense to it.

I do feel guilty and bad about the killing of any animal for food. I'm not vegetarian anymore, but I do find kashrut as a kind of penance for the sin of eating meat. I think it was even explained to me in Hebrew school as one of the theories for kashrut. Take away meat-eating, and keeping kosher is a thousand times simpler. You can eat meat after eating dairy products; but eating meat requires four to six hours penance before you may have an ice-cream cone afterwards.

And if I don't care about religion, then why don't I want my Catholic mother-in-law taking my children to church, and why can't we consider the local Catholic school as an alternative if the public schools seem lacking? There the aversion is to the betrayal of my ancestors and their relatives who suffered and died so that they could pass on Judaism to their descendents. My Catholic husband is from South America. Native South American lineage is written on his features, and on those of one of our daughters. Those ancient South Americans probably did not appreciate being murdered or assimilated by the Catholic Conquistadors. For their sake, too, my daughters can't become Catholic. For the sake of my ancestors, I must pass Judaism down to and through them, regardless of my ambivalence to all of its beliefs.

I know there are many who call themselves Jewish Buddhists, or "Jew-Buddh" for short. I don't know enough about Buddhism, nor am I shopping for it. I also suspect that I'm too high-strung to become a Buddhist. Of course some could say that's why it would be useful to learn, at least, to meditate.

I think the description for my set of beliefs--respect for the souls of the dishes, and of all people, and of my ancestors, and all the animals murdered for food--is called Animism. Jewish Animism seems to be the most accurate description of my religion.

"I'm a Jewish Animist," I tell my husband.

"There's no such thing," he says.

"But that's what I am," I say with helpless conviction.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The reason rich people are thin...

is that they don't have to clean their own kitchens. I walked into the kitchen tonight to do a few dishes. I finished off the pastry and walked out with an ice cream cone. If the dishes had been done I'd be asleep by now.

tv olympic coverage

RadioCanada is so much better than NBC. RadioCanada shows the event, with a few commercials. When we turn on NBC it is so often some heavy music and a profile or interview or commercial, almost never the actual sports. I'm sure these profile segments are expensive to produce and I so wish they wouldn't bother. I want to see the sports, maybe the winner smiling and the loser frowning at the end. I don't want the in-depth stuff alternating with commercials. And yes I'd like to see all the best competitors, not just the Americans.

February 24: NBC's skating coverage is even more annoying. Why don't they show the Figure Skating Gala early and all at once if they know it's what people want to see? Instead they parcelled it out in dribs and drabs between commercials and downhill events. I couldn't stay tuned for three hours until midnight to watch it. It's being nasty to viewers in an attempt, I suppose, to keep them for their ad revenue. Well they lost my pair of eyeballs. I switched over to a Monty Python special on PBS then went to bed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

nice vs mean tv shows

I asked someone the other day if she watched Gilmore Girls and she said no then asked if I'd seen Desperate Housewives because she'd seen a bit and thought it was funny. I've seen a bit also and thought some of it was funny, but I wasn't motivated to try to watch more, because it's hard to understand a show with a continuing story if you haven't been watching, but also because there's a sense of meanness to the show that makes me uncomfortable. I had a similar problem with Seinfeld, particularly in its later years. People who saw the last episode complained about the meanness of the characters and situation.

I started to divide up shows into mean and nice ones. Some wouldn't fit into either category, but most would. People can do mean things in a nice show and nice things in a mean show. The difference between the two categories is that a nice show has as a basic world view that people should be nice. I think most shows before Seinfeld had this world view. Abandoning the "nice" viewpoint is part of what makes some shows edgy modern and fun, but when it's overdone it can make it not an enjoyable experience. Of course, I was raised in the 60's and 70's. Maybe mean shows aren't a problem with the 18-30's target audience.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a nice show because the group of friends in it were very caring and heroic, and when they did mean things to each other they felt bad about it. Gilmore Girls is a nice show although the main character in it can be breathtakingly selfish and self-centered. Her daughter approaches perfection, however, and is possibly the moral core of the show.

Arrested Development has the edginess of a mean show but uses the main character of Michael as a moral core, which keeps it mainly in the nice show category.

I had no interest in Survivor because its basic premise sounded so mean: people all competing against and backstabbing each other. Had it been groups of teams competing against each other, with the winning team to share the prize, I think I would have tuned in. Obviously, most of America doesn't have my hangups about that--I remember during that first Survivor series how people would converse assuming you watched it, not even first asking if you did.

Other reality shows can fall into either category. Sometimes mean and nice can be in the way a show is advertised. Dancing with the Stars is nice, because the emphasis is on the nice dancing. Skating with the Stars is mean because the emphasis was on the bruises and injuries occuring to neophytes taking a crash course in skating. Perhaps it even implied revenge on the "Stars" for not being normal and poor like us. If the advertising spots showing the injuries had a star saying "It's all worth it because this skating has been so much fun" then the show wouldn't be mean.

My problem with mean shows is that they don't provide the escape and feeling of relaxation, that I've escaped, afterwards, as does the fantasy life of a nice show. When I've finished battling vampires with Buffy, escaping the evil government of Firefly, or living the total romance-novel life of Rory Gilmore, I feel like I've been put into a different reality, one where people have good luck, and friends are true. Perhaps there needs to be a cosmic reward for being nice. Characters can be nice and good friends in Desperate Housewives, but there seems to be cosmic vengeance out to get them anyway. That makes the show mean.

In real life, although people do tend to respect the good, there doesn't seem to be a cosmic avenger out on either side, nice or mean. That's why we need fiction.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mom-mobile wish list

We currently drive a 2003 Subaru Forester. I know I'm fortunate to have such a nice vehicle, but I still find myself pining for my Laguna Gold 1989 Honda Civic, which had to be ditched because of rust and the expectation of child #2. While shopping for the Forester we really couldn't find the ideal family car. I don't know why more family-practical things are not built into cars built obviously for families. Such as:

  • Rubber floors like on the Honda Element.
  • Pop-up rear seats in the cargo area so we can fit 4 adults & 2 children. Or 2 adults and 4 children.
  • High gasoline efficiency.
  • Absolute ability to see in the back of the car. Why not cameras or a better mirror set up or a better shape to the vehicle?
  • How many children or people in wheelchairs have to be backed into before car-makers will get serious about this?
  • Easily cleanable seats.
  • Built-in vacuum cleaning.
  • Easily changeable (snap-in, snap out) inexpensive wiper blades. With clearly marked sizes.
  • Driver seat with clear instructions for adjusting the lumbar support & other doohickeys to make it actually comfortable for driving. And easily re-adjustable after Dad has fiddled with the seat.
  • Efficient built-ins for child-seats.
  • --Under $20K.
  • --Good on crash tests & other safety features.
  • --Utterly reliable--i.e. great repair record.
  • --Aerodynamic.
  • --Cheerful.
  • Not a minivan. Ability to not feel big. I miss my Civic.

  • Pop-up cargo holder box that retracts to aerodynamic lump under roof-racks when not in use. It's a real pain now to put on and take off our Yakima box. In the meantime, the Yakima type boxes should have retractable handles for carrying them to and from the storage area.
  • Window cleaners built into the car doors--opening a window should clean off the mud, salt, fingerprints, kid-applied stickers.

and for the child car-seat manufacturers:
  • Child car-seats where the buckle lenghts adjust quickly for when you have the child in or out of the bulky jacket on alternate days. (New England weather!)
  • Buckle straps that don't twist hopelessy around.
Maybe the buckle straps should be made out of something other than standard seat-belt fabric. Perhaps something more rubber-like, that retracts or comes out of their housing via easy push-button.

Things that would contribute to Energy Efficiency

  1. Individual monitors on our appliances, e.g. dryers, so that we know how much electricity each one is using when we run them.
  2. Glass doors sealing individual shelves of the refrigerator, so even when the 'fridge is open & we're looking inside, taking one thing out, or putting one thing away, all the cold air doesn't rush out.
  3. Dishwashers that are smaller, take up less room, don't hold as many dishes, run through faster, and no dry cycle. So you can just put one small meal's worth in and clean them, thus freeing them up for the next time. Also, especially in apartments, full-sized dishwashers take up too much storage space.
  4. State or local laws such that any new house built over $100K should have geothermal heating&a.c. or so much electricty generated from on-site solar or wind-power. A rule like that as a local ordinance could help small towns cut down on sprawl.
  5. Clothesline initiative: Outlaw rules against people having clothesline. It's OK to say they must be in the back of the house or apartment, but you have to let them have them someplace outside. Insist that apartment buildings have clotheslines designed into them, as they are in Italy. We'd all save on electric bills, and our clothes would smell better too. People would still buy dryers for when the weather wasn't good for drying clothes outside, but we'd use them less.
  6. Incentives to buy a second, energy-efficient, car. Lots of people commute daily in large vehicles that they've purchased because they need them for weekend camping, snowstorm driving, soccer carpooling, or other occasional activities. Give them a break on registration or insurance or both if the second vehicle has really good EPA mileage.

Cheap Parenting

I think we're mainly adherents of Cheap Parenting. Cheap Parenting is when you get the parenting books out of the library and then skim them before the due date and then go by what you remember or sounded good or doable for you. We also read all the free parenting magazines that come our way. This means one year of BabyTalk that came with each kid, and now we get Nick Jr magazine free from Zoe's preschool.

Cheap Parenting also involves relishing all hand-me-downs as a means of sharing the joy of childhood across time. It means putting the girls into the boys' hand-me-downs. Girls look fine in blue.

Cheap Parents find it easy to say "no" when their children ask for items while shopping. We always say no. The kids expect no. So no tantrums.

"unjam" because

"margery" was taken, so the URL of the blog is "unjam" because I thought it would be useful to unjam my thoughts.
Thoughts that get jammed in my head.
Letters to the editor that I never mail.
I also thought of "sleepymom.blogspot" but thought there are too many sleepy moms, and besides, I don't solely want to talk about mothers' sleep problems.
This is margie's egotistical stream of consciousness blog.

I agreed not to be "tortious" under the terms of service, but first had to check its definition. The full promise was not to "upload, post or otherwise transmit any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable".
I'm not sure how one can have a proper tirade without being any of those things. Particularly "otherwise objectionable." I bet that gets broken a lot.