Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Hear Music

On a perkier note today, here are some songs/videos that have been getting serious play in our casa.

Foo Fighters - Rope (Deadmau5 remix) I like it more then the original version.

Aloe Blacc - Loving You Is Killing Me. Fantastic beat and love the kid getting his groove on.

I was cleaning out old cassettes and came across some forgotten but still beloved treasures.

Christian Death - Incendiary Lover. Gothic at its best.

Metallica - The Wait. Well done cover of this awesome Killing Joke song.

Peter Murphy - Deep Ocean Vast Sea. He always delivers.

Julian Cope
- Spacehopper. Full of pure innuendo.

Enjoy my darlings.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Society and Politics

I normally do not like to discuss politics on my blog for the simple reason I am not looking to get into arguments or slander people for their political affiliations. But headlines over the last few days have made me want to bust open a wall. Let us start with societal ills shall we?

Wal Mart's Black Friday.

I should not even need to say much more about this since the world watched a bunch of dolts fight over $2 toasters, $1 towels and pepper spraying fellow shoppers for an XBox. As someone pointed out, "What would these people do during a real crisis like a food, fuel or water shortage?" Clearly the herd would be seriously thinned during a major crisis. It was sad to witness these folks who were rabid with the need for goods that will pretty much crap out after use. (Sorry China, I went there.) You want to shop, shop, but please, act like a civilized human being. Then again, and this will sound elitist and I will not apologize, it also shows the caliber of customer Wal Mart attracts. Keepin' it Klassy.

My beloved home state of New Jersey now has doubled the amount of recipients who have applied for and are using food stamps. I appreciate that folks will not go hungry because of such a program. Or will they? We give people food stamps, but not once do we teach them how to stretch the amount and cook proper foods. Here is an excerpt from this article that pretty much made me want to fling a book across a room and scream.

"Espy said food stamps on average work out to $1.45 per meal, and for some, the benefit can be as little as $16 a month. She said she just spoke with a senior citizen who uses that $16 to buy three boxes of cereal and eats it for breakfast and dinner."

Seriously?? Seriously?? We all know what milk and name brand cereals go for in the stores. No one thinks to teach this woman to buy beans, rice, pasta, frozen veggies and make bulk meals? Show her the store brand corn flakes and buy the milk in containers that do not need to be refrigerated until used. Way cheaper. Why not encourage her to buy frozen chicken pieces and teach her how to stretch a meal? There are so many frugal food websites, magazines like All You, that show how much a meal can costs and how many servings you can get out of that meal. You can also use coupons when using food stamps. HELLO!!!! Does social services even tell these recipients this? If they are too swamped to do so, please, get somebody who wants work, like myself, and have us create a pamphlet of easy, affordable recipes, websites and magazines. List the library as a great source since it has free Internet and will give you magazines they no longer want and a public transport schedule if need be and hand it to those who get their plastic card. If they chose not to use these resources, fine, but then they cannot cry a river, saying no one offered them any assistance.

And now, our future police state. A secret bill was going to be voted on yesterday or today which would allow the military, yes the military, to sweep up US citizens at home and abroad. How about no? How about you are violating my rights as a citizen? I doubt most folks are aware of this lovely story. I read this piece of news on Business Insider yesterday and was not pleased at all. Neither were most of the other readers and they voiced their displeasure and anger quite well. This is where your party affiliation is irrelevant. Both political parties think this is necessary since we are rife with terrorists. Amazing how the term and idea of "terrorism" is this blanket panacea when the government wants to infringe on their citizens rights. Disgusting really and there is no other word for it. We all need to unite, not divide by party, and stop letting them pit us all against one another. It is a mere distraction. We bicker about who is better, Repubs or Dems all while the government goes about their business, parties hand in hand, laughing at our school yard fights.

Sometimes I think I am paranoid, but I know I am not at all. I believe our country's infrastructure has been neglected too long and we have major issues still to come. Winter had not hit full force yet my friends. Laugh all you want at LDS or survivalists and homesteaders, but at least they are all prepared for any sort of emergency. Here at our house we are sort of prepared. We have extra food and water, bought a generator, grow some of our food and have some necessary emergency preparedness tools like a wind up radio and lanterns. Thankfully I have a friend who is LDS and she has given me her Church's emergency preparedness literature which is extensive and very helpful. I still need to get my car pack ready in case we need to flee. I do have blankets in each car thank goodness.
I do not enjoy doom and gloom, no one does, but I refuse to be caught off guard like so many were during the hurricane and snow storm. Mother Nature is a beast, but so is the lack of action over the years by our governments at local, state and national level. There is no preventative done. One needs a bridge to collapse before they repair it and power outages are becoming more common. We can all take steps to secure our own person and even fight the good fight if we can. We can demand better for our politicians and corporations, but there is no guarantee we will get or receive better. But if you are part of the group who expects the government will take care of you and that gas and food will always just appear and you are willing to fight over a $2 towel from China, then this post does not apply to you at all.


Sunday, November 27, 2011


Hope everyone had a lovely, fun filled Thanksgiving. We spent it with friends who live close by and it was great. The food was delicious, the company was great and we pretty much rolled home.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing a dear friend that now lives outside Atlanta, Georgia. We met at another friends house and had a terrific time catching up and meeting her little 19 month old boy. At one point during the visit she announced that once her son goes back to school she would be going back to school to pursue pediatric nursing. We all commended her and moved on to various other topics.
On the ride home, my husband and I began to discuss career changes and school. As we all know, right now, the economy has pretty much beat a lot of this country's citizens into the ground. So the usual solutions thrown out is get a job, get a new career, move to a new city and all on your own time and own dime and own struggles. Now, I am not asking the government to pay for anything, but for most people to make drastic, viable changes in their lives, education is what they need, but most cannot afford to take on their first or another school loan. It seems there is a vicious cycle here being played out. With the way the cost of school is going, not many people will have the opportunity to make that change or move forward. I am not talking about the 20 year old protesting to get college lowered, they will still have a chance of sorts. I am talking about the 30, 40 even 50 year olds who have seen the writing on the wall and want to help scribble a new page in their life. How does one go from factory line worker to IT specialist? English teacher to nurse? Stay at home mom to social worker? What if you need to stay up to date in your chosen field? I need continuing education classes for massage therapy, but at the moment, cannot swing the costs. Wall after wall comes up, not just for me, but for many people.
I doubt our government has any idea how many road blocks are in place. They are the first to demand new jobs, but without any clue on how to truly help get people into these jobs. No solutions or suggestions on how to transition from the old to the new. Cost prohibitive situations make these decisions difficult and it is something we all have to handle individually. There are some solutions out there, not always good ones, and it is a lot to think about for many people. The never ending story right?

Progress is still being made on my novel and this week I need to send out my query on the other book. I was considering getting back into entering short story contests for various reasons. One of them being it is good practice. The other reasons are because your work gets viewed by fellow writers, publishers and agents and the extra bonus is you can win some cash. Now I just need to narrow down the publications and begin the grind. Happy Sunday!!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Money, Money, Money

I used to love that song by ABBA. Of course, for some of us in today's world, it is truly worrisome thing, money. We think we have enough, but we may not. We work hard, but salaries are stagnant while corporations rake it in and bank it offshore. How I would love to have an offshore account. Ha ha! Money has become an overwhelming abstract and concrete thing in our lives. A dueling force that drives panic, greed, contempt and every other emotion one can conjure.

But let us focus on a pleasant way money can be used. Charity, donations, gift giving, experiences. Not that I am trying to push hardcore consumerism or anything, but to lighten the mood, I wanted to find things one could give even if they have a little money.

The Ticket Kitchen - Sticks of fine hot chocolate. A nice hostess gift or stocking stuffer.

Happy Hen Handbag - The Humane Society has hit it out of the park with this fabulous piece of fashionable kitsch.

Arturo Rios' over the top Red Fascinator Cocktail Hat - Kate is superb.

Charity Navigator is a great site to help narrow down where to donate and how your money is used by the charity of your choice.

MyBOOKmark are hilariously whimsical and great for the reader in your life.

Here are some very unusual graphic tote bags from idiopix.

Larson Farms Natural soap gift set would please anyone.

This Scratch Map from Uncommon Goods is a great gift for the current or future traveler.

I like the idea of a Tasting Plate for a party or intimate dinner.

Michellenstamps has beautiful cards and gift tags which are always good to keep on hand.

All museums have gift memberships and there are always tickets to a good show or restaurant if you prefer to give someone a memorable experience instead. :)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mish Mash

Spent the weekend doing lots of errands around the house. For the past few weeks we have been gathering stuff to donate to the United War Veterans Council. they will be picking it up today and I cannot wait for it all to go. Old furniture, dishes and clothes we no longer need or use will go help those in need. Better then just chucking it out in the garbage to go to a landfill.

In keeping with my ridiculous obsession with BBC programming, a friend recommended I watch a series on PBS called Case Histories. I have always had a thing for actor Jason Isaacs. Ever since I saw him in the series "Brotherhood". He is fantastic in this new show and so is the actress that plays his 8 year old daughter. The show takes place in the absolutely stunning city of Edinburgh, Scotland. (That is the picture above. Scotland will now be high on my must-travel to list) I watched all three episodes on PBS online yesterday and I do recommend it. I have also begun watching the crime drama "Luther". It is surprising my characters in my stories aren't all speaking with various English dialects at this point. These crime show are perfect to write to in a sense because of their rhythm, the language and plot lines. As far as character development, some times, when one is not sure how sinister a character can get, there are those that have taken it much further you ever thought possible. Very helpful indeed.

Tonight's dinner menu consists of my hubby's awesome bok choy salad and me trying out a new recipe: Sweet potato gratin and caramelized onions.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Food Daddy Food!

That phrase was uttered by a colleague's little girl almost ten years ago. Let me give you the story. The man's wife was not much of a cook. I guess frozen and fast food were more what she laid out for the kids to eat most of the time. Anyway, they were at a relatives house, perhaps for a holiday, and when all the food started to get brought out, the little girl clapped and smiled and shouted out to her father about the food with glee. When our friend relayed this story we all cracked up and even now, I will use that phrase as a goof. Sadly, our colleague passed away a few years back from a brain tumor. Since this is the season where food becomes the highlight of the season from now until January, I want to honor him by posting some delicious recipes.

I have an obsession with beets. I want this...right now.

Pecan pie french toast. Yes that is the picture of it at the top. Sweet God in heaven does it look fabulous!

Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread. This looks so pretty and I imagine it would be wonderful with a an array of teas.

Shrimp and Grits casserole. I have never had grits, but I am sure I will like them and it looks darn good.

Grilled Fish Sandwich with Cabbage Slaw. I always like to seek out easy dinners and this would definitely work in a pinch.

Roasted Winter Squash and Onion Turnovers. Goodness these look divine!

My mouth is certainly watering. Time to plan which recipe to make first!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Save Not Spend

When reading My50syear blog, I came across this video Your Thrift Habits. I think it is so awesome and in all honesty, should be shown in schools today. I do not care how hokey it looks to modern eyes, it is still a valuable lesson.
When did we lose the idea of putting money aside? When did we decide there is no reason to live within our means? Everyone says it is when credit cards came about, but was it just that? How do we refuse to accept it as also partly our own fault? Sure it is easy to blame the banks, Wall Street, mortgage companies, and let us be honest, they have behaved pretty nasty and then got bailed out. But as consumers, we also have a responsibility. For those who wanted to live larger than life, I hold them culpable for their own situation. For those who lost jobs, had medical bankruptcy, I feel for them. Crappy of me to be choosy I know, but it is true. You bought a $500K house while making $40K a year, you are a jackass for thinking you could handle the payments. "But the bank said I could." Banks lend money with interest, that is their job, and most people should know that. Ahhhh ignorance is bliss.
Okay, I did not want to get into a long post about financial situations since there are more than enough news feeds and blogs about the topic. I just wanted to share the video which filmed in 1948 is timely in 2011.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

October Noreaster = Self Reliance

We were without power for about 2 1/2 days. Our house got down to about 52 degrees which was really fun at night when it was 28 degrees outside. Thank goodness we had flannel sheets, a blanket and 2 duvets on the bed. Our cat slept between us and our dog was burritoed in a fleece blanket between us as well. Body heat was used as a great source between species and appreciated. I was lucky enough to go to the office with my husband on Monday to shower and charge our cell phones and computers. It was really weird sitting in a cubicle after 3-4 years. I do not miss it that is for sure. I was happy to have a warm place to sit and work though :)

This year we have lost power about 3 times in 2 months. Not a good sign. As we spoke to neighbors and acquaintances we found out that 20 years ago, if power was lost, it was only out for a day or day and half. Now it is 4 to 5 days. Proof our infrastructure has gone to crap and we need to update. Of course this would mean higher taxes which no one in NJ would even consider. God forbid anyone had planned long ago to bury lines underground and figure out how to protect transformers from tree damage, but let us not get snippy. This whole incident made me tell my husband that no matter if we stay and add on to this house or if we live somewhere else in the USA we will definitely need a wood stove and a generator. the wood stove can be a heat source as well as something to cook on, just in case and as for the generator. Well, I do not want just any generator mind you, no, no, I want a hardcore stand by generator that has a transfer switch and is connected to the house. I want a Guardian by Generac. I know most of you are thinking, "My goodness that is pricey and a touch overboard."


We have a baby on the way and I have no desire to have to go to a hotel or even a kind friends house. What if the friends suddenly lose power? What if the whole state is out? In these uncertain times one has to begin thinking like a homesteader. Some may chuckle at the idea, but let us be serious, the country's infrastructure, bridges, roads, electric, is in desperate need of repairs. Sure you can wait around for the government to do something about it, but I think that is a little naive. Sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands. Nothing dramatic or anarchist, just self preserving.
We discussed the pros and cons of portable generator versus stand by. Portable is great if you are looking to just run a light and the fridge. For us that does not fly as our whole house runs on electric. There are no natural gas lines so when power is out, it is really out at our house. No showers, no cooking, nada. Whoever thought that consideration of energy usage would become so entrenched in our lives? I sure didn't. At least now there are lots of options and information out there. Here are some links to self reliant living magazines/sites that can feed your need to know.

Backwoods Home A friend who has a farm in PA turned me onto this and I passed an issue onto friends who own a cabin in upstate NY and have like 22 acres. They are fans now too.

Mother Earth News One of my favorites

Hobby Farms Helpful information on livestock and gardening

Countryside Always has interesting reader letters and stories

Check any archives and links out as well for even more information on a dizzying array of topics.