Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lies my siblings never believed

"They call him the Boogey Man because if you pick your nose, he comes and gets you in your sleep. You'd better hope you snore - he hates that. It may be the only thing that saves you."

"You fell out of the sled. To you, it may have looked like I slid down the hill backwards and ran over you (my baby sister, who I was supposed to be watching for this very reason), but you're crying over your split lip. Which is clearly impairing not only your judgment, but your entire memory of the last 60 seconds. Of course, as the oldest, I know what really happened." (You can confuse a traumatized baby sister with this, but not her tattle tale brother, aka the middle child. He actually let me lie to my mother, and then ratted me out... leaving me just enough rope to hang myself on that one.)

"I'm going to tell Mom, and she's gonna be sooo mad... You know she hates it when you throw your underwear and it gets hung on the doorbell chimes. It'll probably get ugly. Nice knowing you." (Mom did not care where the underwear ended up - she had other things to worry about, and if you wanted to humiliate yourself, go to it!)

"You're not allowed in my room. I don't go in your room, do I?!" (Said the girl who knew where all the Christmas presents were hidden)

"Because I said so."

"Quit turning the lights off on me! Every time you do that Mom and Dad have to pay 7 cents! You already owe them almost a quarter!" (The two siblings learned their 7 times tables quickly that year)

"Naw, seriously, black jelly beans are the best ones. I'll give you mine, and take those yucky red ones off your hands." (Substitute "yucky red ones" for any of the good Halloween candy.)

"I would never cheat at a board game! You're four years younger than me, I'm not that insecure!" (My six year old brother beat me at Clue shortly after I said that. This particular story is a family treasure - at least to my parents.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Aldena McCain Rayl
January 24, 1924
November 18, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

How much is too much?

I'd really rather not, but for some reason, I've been thinking a lot about what it means that I write and post to this blog. It gets complicated by so many factors. Personal space, privacy, having a voice...

Since becoming a blogger, my digestion of other blogs has grown exponentially. I study the ones I enjoy, and I do sometimes revisit blogs I don't like, to study those too. I lurk, and read comments, and chew on someone's writing style... all the while fully realizing how absolutely subjective this interaction is. And then I ponder subjectivity.

Sounding-board style communication, validation, a chance to give your opinions and experiences a moment in the sun, blogs serve many purposes. After reading a particularly wince-worthy blog post some months ago, I began to wonder... When does my purpose, my need to have a voice become a privacy issue, maybe a personal ethics issue? Blogs are a fascinating adventure in principles and conscience, whether we're reading them or writing them.

For some reason, personal life issues presented lightly and salted with humor and sarcasm usually sit well with me. ("Really?" you say... "I would never have guessed that after reading this blog!") The moment squishy introspection and deeply personal emotion starts, I navigate away. Far away. Things like hostile family drama (who doesn't have that?),topics like unrequited love, and blatant cries for validation make me wary. Partially for personal reasons... but mostly because they're on the web. World wide internet. Googleable. If you post it, people will find it.

Oh sure, I pour my little heart out from time to time in a completely open, naive and selfish fashion. But I do it on paper. The internet not only gives us the ability to write about ourselves (or others), but to find out if other people are writing about us. And if they are? Well, I know how I feel about that.

With my own writing, I have this horror that someone will assume I was writing about them (either correctly or incorrectly). I think it's human nature (and my own personal tendency) to exaggerate from time to time for the sake of a good story, and I would want the earth to swallow me up if I ever wrote something that crossed that magic ethical line I've drawn for myself. My rule is, if it's someone's real life... tread carefully. I often remind myself that stories are by their very nature biased by the teller, and that there is always more to a story than a narrator is capable of representing. Even in the wildest work of fiction, you must choose angles to represent. In fiction, you're setting the scene as you'd like it - in real life, it can come across as judgmental and narrow.

This is my personal squeamishness, mind you. I'm picky about autobiography. There's a thin line for me between telling a personal story, and invading other people's privacy. An example - there is an author I just can not bring myself to read because her fiction smacks of badly disguised personal life. Additionally, her non-fiction spells out quite clearly her issues with the people in her life, and that rubs me the wrong way. Aren't I doing the same thing here? Perhaps. I can't quite tell you why it's different.

This has all been at the back of my mind since I started posting here. I stumbled across a blog recently that fanned the coals of these questions into flames, so I did some web research. It's a can of worms, for sure. In addition to the privacy issues I had in mind, the discussions about a Blogger's Code of Ethics adds journalistic values and advertising ethics to the mix.

These just skim the surface of a more academic discussion, but here are some interesting food-for-thought links on privacy issues:

Blog Survey: Expectations of Privacy and Accountability
This 2004 survey has some interesting stats on bloggers' disclosure about themselves and others.
Blogging Down Privacy Rights
A brief discussion of legal issues in regards to ethics and privacy in the blogosphere, and the "do unto others" school of thought.
A Tale of Two Bloggers
A great comparison of how two blogs with similar topics can impinge on people's privacy in very different ways.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bathroom?! Seriously?

Things found in the bathroom of my office building that should not be there:

Drink containers. Left perched on the TP dispenser. Straw and all. Blech. Please tell me you don't come back to get these.

A toy poodle. Apparently the leash was looped over the hook inside the stall door - the dog was almost hung when the owner opened the door without removing the leash first. This owner talked with the dog while in the stall. Very unsettling. Even more unsettling was the lack of even a flicker of response from the poodle. Probably too morose about being tied up in the lav yet again.

Your cell phone conversation. I am the person next to you who flushes the toilet three times. I do it because I'm incredibly annoyed that you are so unable to function without your celly buddies that you must take them to the loo with you. I know that those flushes echo in that cavernous bathroom, and I do it just to make sure the person you're talking to knows exactly where you've taken them. I know YOU won't notice, but I always hope they will, and that they'll mind enough to hang up on you.

A list of "who is hot" on the stall door. Please, there are a million "James" and "Bills", with nary a last name listed. "Professor D" is not very revealing either. Way to live on the wild side with the bathroom graffiti. Protecting the innocent perhaps? I'm not sure how to feel about the person who wrote "Me", but I'll admit it made me laugh.

Paper problems. What difficulties could you possibly have with toilet paper that would cause you to strew a million shredded pieces of it all over the floor like some nesting hamster? Or pull a Hansel and Gretel and trail miles of it around the bathroom? Also, with the trash can right beside you... why is your sodden mass of paper towel balled up in the drain of the sink?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Halloween creeps on little crow feet...

If your mind is turning to pumpkins and spooks these days, browse my better half's Halloween blog.
For years we had very creative friends living nearby who enthusiastically decorated their yard and home each year. Together, we created quite a tradition and I love that Steve decided to pass it along. There's a nice collection of projects and ideas in his blog.

Our friends moved halfway across the country a few years ago... but guess where we're going for Halloween this year?!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Look What I Did!

I dyed yarn!
I decided to give hand-dyeing a try on my vacation last week and I'm so chuffed with the results that I had to share. Mark paid them a wonderful compliment by saying, "They look like yarn you would buy." It was not terribly difficult, and it was a lot of fun. I may have found a new fiber obsession!

Warming up - Granola

The weather here the last few days has been miserably wet and cold. In fall, when daylight is already beginning to make itself scarce, storms turn a day to perpetual twilight. Don't picture nice twinkly evening light when I say "twilight", picture daylight like dirty, wet concrete - dank and grey. There's been just enough wind to drive the cold into your skin. Blech.

I'm fighting back. With granola. A hugenormous batch of granola. The oven makes my kitchen toasty, and it smells almost as good as pie when it's baking. I stumbled upon an online recipe with good proportions and altered it beyond all recognition to become one of my favorite breakfasts. Here it is:

Suit Yourself Granola

This granola is lovely with milk or greek yoghurt. During cold weather, I add a bit of water or applesauce and reheat it - homemade hot granola is worlds better than hot cereal packets!

5 cups rolled oats
(I use a combo of rolled oats, barley/wheat/rye flakes, ground flax seed - whatever strikes my fancy from the bulk section)
4 Tbs. vegetable oil (I've used canola oil too, since it's supposed to be better for you)
3/4 cup honey (or a mix of your sweetners of choice - honey, agave and maple syrup all work wonderfully)
3-4 cups of dried fruits and nuts (pecans, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apricots, cherries) Chopped or unchopped is up to you - size does affect how the nuts roast.

Measure your oats and grains into a large bowl - stirring can be messy, so allow yourself some extra room in your bowl choice. I add the ground flaxseed later in the process, as it tends to sift to the bottom of the bowl when mixed with the other dry ingredients.

Heat the oil and sweetener in a saucepan over medium heat. Different sweeteners respond differently to heat - watch carefully so as not to burn the sugars. You want the sweetener to dissolve and mix with the oil. Add spices to this liquid mixture if you'd like. Pour warm liquid mixture over the dry grains, and stir in thoroughly. Once everything seems evenly coated, add the ground flax seed - it will stick to the other grains now.At this point, I like to let my granola sit and stew in its own juices a bit - from a few hours to overnight (well covered). But you can spring right into baking if you'd like. There's a slight difference in texture and flavor - each method tastes great, but I notice a difference.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Stir nuts into the unbaked granola. Spread granola onto cookie sheets (I use one or two cookie sheets at a time, depending on how efficient I feel like being), and bake in the oven for 10 minute intervals. I stir the granola at least every ten minutes, and find that it takes 20-30 minutes for each batch. Baking time can be very dependent on the grains and nuts I've used. I use quite a bit of flax seed, and that tends to toast up easily, so I watch the color of the baking granola carefully, and set my timer for smaller increments if need be. Watch the edges - they tend to brown more quickly.

Mix any dried fruits into your granola after it comes out of the oven - preferably while it's still warm. I once made the mistake of baking a batch with dried fruit in it - the dried apricots were too chewy, and I almost cracked a tooth on the cranberries!

This recipe has proved to be quite forgiving. It doubles and triples nicely, and I am able to play with a combination of sweeteners. This last batch was a mix of the last of my agave and some local honey. I've used agave alone (it has a low glycemic index), as well as with maple syrup. The finished granola stores well in an airtight container, for a few weeks. I eat a lot of it, so it's not around for long.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Thanks to the blogs I surf (yes, I've been reading, not writing), I've begun to plot my Holiday Kitchen Campaign. It always starts like this... I read about food, I see pictures of beautiful baked goods, I start talking out loud about all the delicious things I'm going to make to give to the people I love (maybe even the ones I only like). And then my Better Half gets nervous. He starts to fidget. He tries subtle words of warning, and if desperate enough, he tactfully paints a picture of an exhausted and cranky chef, a kitchen full of dishes, and a new cookie recipe that refuses to turn out as promised, despite curses and threats. He does this based on years of experience. He feels he has a right to do this, maybe even a duty because of his medals of distinction in the "Cleaning up After a Gourmet Disaster" arena. Which covers everything from dishes to scraping half baked pumpkin pie filling off of the floor. He has turned angry tears of frustration into something edible, and he doesn't even cook. That's an amazing skill. I should rent him out.

It doesn't stop at baking. I daydream about roasted fennel, a creamy polenta brulee, cranberry mousse, roast turkey stuffed with orange and red onion quarters... and a wild array of finger food. I want it all. Pretty desserts, a fantastic sit down meal, and a cocktail party. Am I forgetting that we don't own a table big enough for a sit down meal (never mind chairs)? Have I completely forgotten the last too-many-apps adventure? Yes. Yes, I absolutely have.

I'm a sucker for holidays. Especially if they're homemade. I love the phrase "groaning table", it smacks of a shared harvest. I want the tree and the fresh greens. I want to feed people, go caroling and wrap gifts. I fantasize like this every year. All this holiday centric activity, powered by me. The truth is... my backup generator, the power supply that keeps me going when I need it most? He's waaay more reasonable and sane about these things. Of course I fuss when he tries to tone me down a bit, I have to pretend for a few moments longer that it's all possible. Eventually I come around, and each year he has fewer disasters to manage. Or maybe I just tell myself that.

To be a complete cliche, what really matters is time with the people you like. I know this. And the people who really like you back aren't going to stop liking you because you don't have ten kinds of cookies each year or can't plan drinks to go with each course of the meal. People who like you back understand how much you love food... and they show up at your door with some in hand.