Thursday, October 30, 2014

On The Fuckonomics Of Causes

I posted this about police reform yesterday. I probably post something about police reform two or three times a quarter.

I don't talk about it nearly as often as I'm inspired to - and Goddess knows there is too much inspiration these days - because I like to think I'm having an ongoing conversation with the people who read me, and it's kind of a drag having a conversation with anyone who won't shut up about a thing ever. I strive to maintain a voice of balance and reason, mostly.

By now, you must have noticed that I am too lazy to be arsed
with finding a way to take photos that reasonably relate 
to intangible concepts like Fuckonomics and Causes, but
we are all suckas for pictures, so here - have an amazing sunrise. :)

But when I do post about it, people will sometimes ask me why I do, or why I don't take up other causes that make more sense to them given who they are or who they think I am.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Colloquial Zen & The Mediocre Dog Owner

This dog.

This dog is testing my patience, compassion, adaptability, and inner peace, and I am failing miserably.

Let me tell you something about Honeydew. Cute as she is to look at, she's always been a pain in the ass. She needs you like a dog and uses you like a cat.

I take care of her needs and wants on demand (feed me, bathe me, deal with my fleas, let me out, let me in, cover me with this blanket even though I'm a burrowing breed, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feeeeeeeed meeeeeee, <nonstop whines and whimpers>...), and I get none of that Man's Best Friend behavior in return. She doesn't come to comfort me in my sadness or sickness. She doesn't protect or care for my human children. She just wants what she wants when she wants it and retreats to somewhere comfy and cozy as soon as she's gotten it from you. That's no exaggeration, and it's been the truth as long as I've known her. She exhibits none of the unconditionally loving loyalty and empathy that dog lovers are always talking about when they say their dogs are like family.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

To Better Bitches - On Being The Best Version Of Our Unique Selves


"The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are."

~ Carl Jung

So I wrote this the other day, and it might have seemed to those familiar with my work that I'd gone all spineless spirituality and New Age mush on you. If that's the first thing you've read from me, you might think that's exactly what I'm going for.

But then you might have read this the day after and thought it schizophrenic of me in the non-clinical sense. Not because the two posts necessarily contain conflicting ideas - because they don't, necessarily - but because they could reasonably seem incongruous. One light, hope-y, and change-y, the other real, bitchy, and biting.

1) It's hard to take pics of things that obviously relate to self-improvement.
2) I like pulling odd associations out of my ass, as you know.
3) This is my modified version of Rick Bayless' Guajillo Sauce.
4) Keep reading. ;)

They are both totally me. I want to radiate a good kind of warmth and light into this world, mostly, but I will never stop calling an annoying asshole an annoying asshole when they somehow find their way into my purview (because Goddess knows I sure as hell am not looking for them, but just about every kind of asshole finds its way to a woman with slightly greater than average exposure on the internets).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To Build A Better Human - Diary Day 5

"People who think they know everything are a 
great annoyance to those of us who do."

~ Isaac Asimov

"I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, 
I am ungrateful to these teachers."

~ Khalil Gibran


Those who know me well know what I think of unsolicited advice and the people who like to dole it out - it's something along the lines of what they say about opinions and assholes. They irk the shit out of me. I am neither proud nor ashamed of this fact.

I think the center of this mum kinda looks like an asshole...
That is so reaching, but you can't say I don't try. :D

They're always looking for any remote opportunity to speak what they think is their wisdom without any regard for whether it's been reasonably solicited, and they're always sure that what they think they know is so relevant to your situation that it could only be a disservice not to open their annoying advice holes to share it with you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Good afternoon, Sunshines!

On a day like today when all I'd like to do is curl up in a ball and sleep, it's kind of a minor miracle that I managed to tend the garden. But I did, and I got to see Nature's more brilliant than usual brush strokes on what I think are my Gloriosa Daisies aka rudbeckia (I know they look like Black-Eyed Susans, but I don't think they are), and that was worth the ass-dragging.

As parenting would have it, I no longer have it in me to sleep now that Izz has finally gone down for a nap. Even if you work outside the home and send your child to daycare, every parent should spend several full days at home from wakeup to bedtime with their very young children at their most demanding. Not so you can feel sorry for me, but so you can appreciate the work of whomever it is who happens to handle that function in your life if it's not you. It's harder than you might imagine if you've never done it before. I can say that as a one-time full-time working mother who didn't stay home with her young children at the time and has a more fully informed perspective now.

To Build A Better Human - Diary Day 4

"Your greatness is not revealed by the lights that shine upon you, but by the lights that shine within you."

~ Ray Davis


I've been giving a lot of thought to what it means to achieve greatness.

I know what we usually mean when we talk about greatness, and it usually involves the idea of magnitude - in popularity, in reach, in money, in recognition. The more, the bigger, the greater.

And yet I don't buy into the idea that greatness is only reserved for those who somehow end up becoming rich and/or famous and/or powerful in the obvious sense. Because even those people, in the grand scheme of The Universe and All Time, are only as significant and insignificant as the rest of us.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

To Build A Better Human - Diary Day 3

"If we don't change, we don't grow. 
If we don't grow, we aren't really living."

~ Gail Sheehy

Just look at all these change-y, grow-y things in my planter...

A few people were a little shocked to read that I had decided to move on from this food thing. I don't blame them for thinking me abrupt, but it has always been my modus operandi to quietly contemplate the impending big decisions mostly alone, for as long as I need to contemplate them, and to make what outwardly could seem an impulsive, or at least spontaneous, decision.

If I'm talking about it a lot, it's probably not urgent or critical at the moment.

When it's critical, all that external discussion and input is merely noise to distract you from the thoughts that are truly your own, and to keep your decision from being decisive.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

To Build A Better Human - Diary Day 2

"When you get, give. When you learn, teach."

~ Maya Angelou

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
~ Maya Angelou

"Don't give in to your fears... 
If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart."

~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I shed cathartic tears after I wrote yesterday's post.

Two years of struggling to make it work in a way that fulfilled and felt true to me, without success. Two years of declarations of intent that were absolutely sincere when I uttered them but that I couldn't find the heart to carry out. Two years of trying to fully reinvest myself with my mind whenever my soul would whisper to me, "This is not for you."

Friday, October 17, 2014

To Build A Better Human - Diary Day 1

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have
already mastered, you will never grow."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Mastered" is a strong word.

To the extent that there is so much about cooking that I could yet learn if I so chose, I have not nearly mastered it.

To the extent that I know what I know about it, that I'm as practiced and skilled at it as I am, and that I've spent a good chunk of my life prolifically sharing what I know about it with others, I think I have mastered it for the purposes of this quote. To my satisfaction, anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

To Build A Better Human...

Good morning, Sunshines!

My purple perilla is bolting after a fantastically productive run.

Bolting is apparently a thing certain leafy plants do when their environment tells them their current life cycle is nearing its end. They make flowers as if to take one last glorious stand in their current incarnation and then produce seeds to let you know they'll be back in another.

Though many gardening references say this is a premature process, when I think of how much some of my plants have yielded before bolting, I do wonder if in some cases, "natural" is a more accurate descriptor than "premature." Specially if you've previously staved off the bolting by nipping it at the bud so you can coax the plant into producing more before it offers up its last hurrah.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fresh Fish

Sometimes I tire of the kitchen.

But then something like a freshly caught whole ocean fish comes into my life, I get to break it down and be that much closer to the source of my food, and my joy in cooking is renewed. :)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

$138 A Week For Groceries: Wrap-Up By The Numbers

For those of you just joining us, I spent the last month tracking all my grocery expenses and calculating the cost of each and every meal we ate at home. This is the wrap-up post. If you'd like to see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

At last the final post of this month long grocery budget diary! I'm always so ready to be done with them by the end. I can't imagine tracking every single meal for longer than a month - I would die of the drudgery.

Slow Cooker Korean Style Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken -
The most popular recipe of this blog series.

Some people were under the impression that I either lowered or set my budget for this project. To clarify, this is the budget we always work with. I just made a diary of it for a month.

Here's the wrap-up by the numbers.

See spreadsheet detail HERE.


Protein: $169.79 / 31.44%
Produce: $145.65 / 26.97%
Beverages: $52.97 / 9.81%
Grains/Starches: $48.34 / 8.95%
Dairy: $47.74 / 8.84%
Pantry: $40.90 / 7.57%
Snacks/Indulgences: $24.90 / 4.61%
Misc: $9.79 / 1.81%

$439.46 of that was accounted for in this diary. The roughly $100 difference goes to the $10 spent on toilet paper, roughly $30 worth of non-perishable groceries bought during this month but haven't yet been used, probably about $12 in drinks I forgot to account for, about $15 in dog food not accounted, $4 in chicken livers and green beans that had to be tossed, and the rest (about $30) in snacks and other miscellany I was probably too busy or tired to catch people eating.

Despite how annoying I find it when people unsolicitedly preach their dietary philosophies at me (or anyone else, really), it's important to me that we eat wholesome and well balanced meals in which fresh produce plays a big part. So while meatless meals are not my focus, ensuring that my family get lots of colorful, nutritious plant matter and roughage in our diets is.

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken -
The 2nd most popular recipe of this series.

Since we pretty much eat almost everything I buy (very little gets thrown away), I'm glad to see that the numbers still reflect that priority.

Fresh, raw protein and produce make up almost 60% of our spending. What that means, for good and for bad, is that we don't really have much pre-prepared or heavily processed food in our diets. Every once in a great while, we crave chips, crackers, cookies, and we eat them in moderate quantities when we do. But honestly, we don't eat them that often and as a result really don't crave them that often.

Another reason we don't crave them that often is that we have varied and flavorful meals created with a well balanced assortment of ingredients that include real fat and actual sugar in reasonable amounts. Trying too hard to cut the culprit ingredients du jour out of our diets can often result in anemic tasting and unsatisfying meals, and if you don't get your satisfaction from your meals, you'll often end up seeking it in much more starch-/sugar-/useless calorie- dense highly processed foods.

Slow Cooker Tomato Pasta Sauce with Italian Snausage -
Number 3.

Most of our Beverage cost is inexpensive beer and wine (better wines and craft beers come from the Entertainment budget). We'd rather have beer or wine with our meals than soda. Just a personal preference.

If it seems our Grains/Starches expenditures are exceptionally low, it's not only because they're generally cheap, but also because we don't consume large portions of them with our meals. Nutritional science has long indicated, and my personal experience has supported, that starches (as a generic term for the types of savory carbs eaten at mealtime that aren't fresh produce) generally provide calories best spent by physical exertion. Dean and I essentially have desk jobs and aren't at a specially athletic juncture in our lives. We don't avoid starches, but most of the time we have small portions of them to enhance our meals and not much more.

Pico de Gallo - Number 4.
To see all my recipes, click HERE.


To see all the meals we've eaten in the past month, click HERE.

Meals Eaten In: 78
Meals Eaten Out: 6

Number of Unique First Run (As In Not Repurposed Leftovers) Meals Cooked: 21
Lowest Cost Per Serving: $0.88
Highest Cost Per Serving: $3.49
Average Cost Per Serving: $1.91

Breakfast Average Cost Per Serving: $0.91
Lunch Average Cost Per Serving: $1.25
Dinner Average Cost Per Serving: $2.68

I didn't track the cost of those 6 meals out, but I'm almost certain they equaled or exceeded the cost of our 78 meals in. Granted it's not an apples to apples comparison. When we dine out, everyone gets to pick their own dish, I don't have to cook, and no one has to clean up. On the other hand, dining out all the time is completely unsustainable for us from both the money and health standpoint, restaurant food isn't always all its cracked up to be, and there's always the gratuity no matter how low the general standard and competence of service everywhere seems to have sunk. (We don't reward shitty attitude from servers, but we definitely don't ding them for the issues over which they have no control that can lend to overall poor service.)

Even at the highest cost per serving of a meal at home, we're looking at at least triple that amount per person out before tax and tips.

For now, I'm happy with our current ratio of meals in to out. The fact that we have an unpredictable toddler makes it easier for me to be ok with not eating out more often, but I'm sure my fellow more experienced cooks will agree that the better our cooking skills, the lower our ROI on dining out dollars seems as well.

Having done this diary 3 times in 3 years now, I can't say that our habits have changed all that much or that I necessarily want to change them all that much.

Sure - in an ideal world, we'd have a better balance of small, medium, and large farms and ranches, and it wouldn't have to be such an effort or political statement to support a wider variety of businesses in general. That's a thing I try to do when I can, but it's not the primary driving factor in my shopping decisions or food philosophy.

To the extent that I represent anything about food, I hope it comes across as a sane, intelligent, adventurous, balanced, healthful, frugal, grateful, dynamic, and enthusiastic approach to cooking and eating. That's what I stand for, and that's what I hope to inspire in others.

I hate to end so abruptly, but I'm out of gas and typing mojo at this point, and I'm afraid if I don't wrap this up now, it won't get done before we head out for San Francisco.

I hope this little blog series has been interesting and/or useful to you. It's always a good exercise for me, even if I end up hating it a little bit by the end.

Thanks for joining me. :)

With love,