Spring Oreos?

SpringOreos

My first thought, upon seeing this in the Target junk food aisle, was “Spring! What a delightful concept!”1 My second thought was “Spring has an Oreo flavor?”
Spring, apparently, does NOT have an Oreo flavor; rather, it has an Oreo COLOR. That’s right. Just read the packaging. What makes this a “spring” cookie is the yellow crème that is apparently being farted out of the ass of a stylized bee. These Oreos have the “same great taste”. If the flavor was somehow different—say mint or strawberry or my favorite spring flavor asparagus—surely these carbohydrate grenades would have a great NEW flavor. No, it looks like the only difference is the delightful urine shade of the filling.

Upon doing some serious archival research (i.e. Googling), I’ve discovered that Spring Oreos have been around for several years! See what one misses when one eats (mostly) healthy!

1I’m writing this on a night with a forecast low of 5°F. Thankfully, it’s a positive number.

The Iceman Cometh

Or at least the polar vortex, which is slated to make a return to the Midwest.1 So, when the cold boomerangs back, my thoughts (after muttering a few choice “French” words) turn to stews and braises. Tonight’s dinner? A rather bastardized version of Choucroute Garnie, that wonder from Alsace, made with on-hand and local meats–Pennsylvania Dutch ham shank, local jowl bacon, and local Andouille sausage. Not exactly the stuff of tradition, but the called-for bratwursts would have had to have been purchased at the supermarket and I’m trying to avoid factory-farmed meats.

Yesterday I purchased a local pastured chicken (dead, plucked, and frozen!), which is thawing in my refrigerator right now, perhaps to be turned into West African Chicken Peanut Stew–one of my favorites (and a recipe I haven’t made in some time). Winter and cold are made for stews and braises, which seem out of place in warmer weather and climes–a silver lining for those of us suffering from an unrelenting winter (okay, ONE relent–the 40s and 50s of last week!)

West African Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

Nketia Fla (en-KEH-tee-ah flaw)

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. skinned chicken parts (I use thighs or leg quarters split into thighs and drumsticks; you can use skinless thighs as well, but not breasts)
-can also use 1-1/2 lbs. chuck or round steak

1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Dried red peppers (crushed) or cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 can stewed tomatoes (plain) or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 plantain, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
¾ to 1 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat, brown chicken or beef (need not be completely cooked through). Remove when done. In same pot, add 1 tablespoon oil and onions over medium heat. Cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two, being careful not to let garlic burn.

Add tomatoes, ginger, pepper, and salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water and reserved chicken or beef. Turn heat up to high and add plantain and sweet potato. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer (covered) for 30-40 minutes, until meat is tender. Remove about ¼ to ½ cup of stew liquid and mix it with peanut butter in a bowl. Stir peanut butter mixture back into stew. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. If needed, add more water to thin stew. Season to taste with more salt and red pepper. Serve over rice.

I sometimes add chopped cabbage as well, which works well.

1This is perhaps my favorite Eugene O’Neill play–I’ve only ever read it, but I wish I had been able to see it staged with Kevin Spacey in the lead!

Are TED Talks just Cheetos for “Thinkers” and the “Educated”?

In a recent TEDx talk, Benjamin Bratton delivered a spirited rebuke to the TED-talk culture, calling it “middlebrow megachurch infotainment”. These are sentiments that echo my own—indeed, I’ve often thought of TED talks as an idea equivalent of gummy bears. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and sports the motto “ideas worth spreading”, is a non-profit and puts together conferences with (allegedly) “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers”1, who give talks capped at 18 minutes.

I’ve watched the occasional TED talk, finding it entertaining (with the occasional “great idea” moment), but I can’t say the anything I’ve seen has resonated with me so much that I wanted to spread the word (or at least forward the link). So, I wonder, why is that?
Well, one reason could certainly be the format, i.e. the videos themselves. Personally, I would much rather read a transcript than view the video—I’m the sort of person who probably won’t even watch a funny cat video if it’s longer than 1:32. So that is the “fault”2 of me, not TED.

But the second reason could be the simplicity of the videos, which can render those ideas within to be a form of pablum for grownups—fed to a stratified sample of the masses, who nod or applaud approvingly. Where is the complexity? Good ideas (and their implementations) require a discourse about them. TED talks lack intellectual depth, like much else in today’s culture, where many seem to be unable to comprehend anything longer than a tweet or a Facebook status update.

So, is it possible to have a more thoughtful (and longer!) versions of TED talks (and transcripts for those of us who still prefer the written word)—perhaps a series of TED debates? Will that roll in this sound bite culture or would it be doomed to fail?

1 http://www.ted.com/pages/about
2 “fault” is in quotes, because I do not consider a preference for reading compared to viewing to be a failing

And it’s Petra for the Gold!

Took the gold in the mostly running event at the 2014 Winter Olympics for People Who Have Regular Full-time Jobs and Can’t Afford Real Live Coaches and Have to Run Errands After the Games, held in Muncie, Indiana this year.  This particular event involved running on an indoor track (but it was a Winter Olympics event because of the snow on the ground outside and the flurries falling outdoors during the event).  Here’s the set-up:  My goal was to do 11 miles, which would net me the bronze, but doing 12 miles would garner me the silver and 13 miles would give me the gold!  BUT if I reached a certain medal status (say bronze) and I decided to shoot for the next medal (silver), I had to complete it to get any medal at all.  So, after I snagged the guaranteed silver, I (with guidance from my imaginary coach) decided to shoot for the gold!  And I made it!  Given that there are 12 laps to the mile, I completed 158 laps (the extra two for the “.1” part of the half-marathon).  Run 10 laps, walk 2, run 10, walk 2—all until I’d covered a half-marathon distance.

And I got a silver for Team USA in Individual Pothole Dodging on the way home.

A Valentine

A Valentine

 

I believe in you.
Though you swim through the doubt-infested waters of your own mind,
I still and always
Believe in you.
When you run through the choking air of trepidation,
I push you through.
When you make your way through the feat-addled jungles,
I have your back.
When you step to the side, nervously eyeing the summit that seems so, so far away,
I am there for you.
You do not know this, yet it is true
That I am protecting you and
I give you love.

 

About those demons—
I will not cheapen this with “girlfriend, you…” chatter or
A casual dismissal of those monstrosities of your mind.
These are your demons to slay.
I give you the tools, the weapons.
I give you
The way past,
The way through.
They are yours now.

 

So tread not water, achieving only anxious stasis,
But dive in and swim confidently toward the leviathan and his minions.
Slash that figment of your thoughts.
Dismember them all and watch the pieces dazzle like glass sun dogs
Transforming you into shimmering rocket fuel
That propels you to dreamed and undreamed heights.
Smile, nay, LAUGH when you see
That they were only dusty, crumbly powder,
Not the basalt cliffs—imposing and terrifying—you imagined them to be.
Sister, you have it in you.
I give you that.
And I am you.

My Closet, My Gastroenterologist (apologies to Mark Leyner)

Small closet spaces (and few dresser drawers) require style discipline in order to maintain some openness and order.  Closets that are overly crowded can be one of those small emotional drains—you know, the ones that, the seemingly minute, lead to a breakdown when summed over time.  Also, if you can’t see it, you won’t wear it, perhaps even not remembering that you even own it (and, three weeks later, buy “it” again).  Or if you do remember and can’t find it, you curse for a while before grabbing something without much thought.  To prevent this, I do the occasional closet cleanout, removing what no longer fits or what I am no longer interested in wearing (too dated, too faded, too “not me”.)

I’ve always been pretty good about periodic clothing purges, even when I had more space.  So I didn’t have those crammed-full closets.  But in the past year, I’ve moved things up a level.  And the bottom line is that now I have a closet full of clothes that make me feel wonderful when I wear them.  I know that many decluttering books and experts will tell you to adopt a three-pile system:  Keep, Donate/Sell, Toss.  Or they instruct you to keep only things you’ve actually worn in the past year.  Or they tell you to hold “maybe” items for six months and if you haven’t worn it, then get rid of it.  I’m sure these work for many people, but my “system” is a bit more minimalist.  Two sentences, two words each.

BE RUTHLESS.

DECIDE QUICKLY.

Be ruthless:  ditch the “maybes” and have only two choices, keep or toss.*  Don’t overthink.

Decide quickly:  go with your gut, your intuition.  If it tells you that you won’t wear something again, toss it.  Don’t waste time conjuring up scenarios in which you would wear it again (“I’ll lose ten pounds and it will fit again”; “Maybe if I got a blue cardigan I’d wear it”; “But what if I get invited to a pool party and need a long dress?”**)  Stop that thinking.

These acts of ruthless decision-making help you hone your personal style, whether you are a fashionista or a utilitarianist.

*Toss can mean sell, donate, or throw away

**Be honest—how many pool parties are you typically invited to

A Job Well Run

Kudos to moi for excellent cardio exercise this morning.  This miserable winter, with its thrice-weekly snow, constant bitter cold, and unrelenting cloudiness, has meant that my cardiovascular workouts have been mostly rowing and cycling, both on stationary indoor machines.  In the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve used the elevated track at a university gym—nice to have my legs remember how to run!  Today I decided to do my (usually) weekly endurance (read: long) workout at that track.  So, 10-plus miles of (mostly) running!  Twelve laps to the mile—I ran ten laps, walked two, ran ten, walked two, and so on.  I think I’ll be ready for my 10th Mini-Marathon come May (and my 12th half-marathon overall!)

William Morris’ Philosophy and the (Clothes) Closet—Part 1

It’s no secret that many people live with closets overflowing with The Okays and The Some Days, those clothes that are “okay” or that we will wear again “some day”.  The denizens of OkayLand include the shirt that is just not quite the right shade (“but the price was so good”) or the sweater that is serviceable and nothing more (“but I spent money on it and hate to get rid of it”).  Over in Some Day City we find the dress in which we looked drop dead fabulous—in 1983.  We spot the pants that made us feel great fifteen pounds ago.  In other words, these are the clothes that are in good condition but no longer inspire us or invite us to feel good.  We wear these Okays and feel frumpish or nondescript, yet wear them we do.  And while we no longer wear the Some Days, we pray for one of two outcomes—a weight loss (“now these fit again!”) or a fashion boomerang (“now these are in style again!”).  We are crowding valuable closet real estate with…what, exactly?

 

Now, suppose that every time you open your closet, you see clothes that you love.  Not “like”, not even “like a lot”, but LOVE.  A selection of sartorial choices that fills you with confidence, with radiance, with joy.  THIS is my closet philosophy (and more on this in one of my next posts).

Dress on Door

Okay, maybe I have an advantage—I have very little closet and dresser space.  Yes, I did say that was an advantage!  I’ve thought about this for some time (quite a long time, actually), namely that too-large closets are obstacles to the development of a personal style.  After all, when you have room for everything, then you don’t do the work of deciding.  Deciding is not easy.  But deciding allows you the practice you need for discernment, that refinement of your personal aesthetic.  And without developing that discernment muscle (“does this color work with me?”; “do these shoes express me or a fashion magazine”), one never moves up to the major leagues of A Personal Style, instead remaining in the Double-A or possibly Triple-A minors of mere fashion.

 

So, I ask you, what if, when you opened your closet, you saw only things you know to be beautiful?  Beautiful on you and beautiful for you.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?