Healthy Is In the Eye of The Beholder

Come one, come all...step right up for the biggest show on earth!

Come one, come all…step right up for the biggest show on earth!

According to the old saying:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“Healthy” also seems to be in the eye of the beholder, especially when that beholder is a scientist pushing the latest theory on what’s good for us and what’s not.

Take this pop quiz to test your health knowledge:

  1. Soy is:
    1. Good for you – it prevents heart disease
    2. Bad for you – it causes cancer
  2. Caffeine is:
    1. Good for you – it improves brain function and prevents certain cancers
    2. Bad for you – it leads to early death
  3. Alcohol is:
    1. Bad for you – it increases risk of liver damage and some cancers
    2. Good for you – it prevents heart disease
  4. Cigarettes are:
    1. Bad for you – they cause cancer
    2. Good for you – they decrease appetite

If you answered “A” to all questions, congratulations – you got 100%!

If you answered “B” to all, don’t feel bad – you’re also 100% right!  Science has held each one of these positions at various times; often at the exact same time.   When it comes to defining what’s healthy and what’s not, science has done more flip-flopping than a political candidate after the election.

Even the trusty food pyramid has changed over the years.  It used to have four tiers with the biggest portion devoted to bread and cereal.  Ten years later they changed the proportions, flipped the pyramid sideways, and made it look like a circus tent.  Now experts have trashed the pyramid altogether in favor of a plate.  How is the average Joe supposed to know what to think?

Science is clueless.  We’re just as likely to get it right by making up our own rules…and so I have.

Introducing the Peg-o-Leg Recommended Food Pyramid.  I’ve used the original 4 layer concept to reinvent the pyramid, incorporating the most important food groups.  From bottom to top:

  • Bottom layer: The entire structure is anchored by this, the most important food group: chocolate.

Here you’ve got your double chocolate layer cakes, Little Debbie treats, Moose Tracks Ice Cream and the occasional box of Godiva or other good chocolates received as gifts.  6-11 servings per day.

  • Second layer: The next layer is split between grains and milk.

Grains include donuts, eclairs, bakery bread and waffles.  Some think we should include pizza here because of the crust, especially Chicago style, but the scientific community is split on this.  3-5 servings per day.

Milk includes ice cream (note a perfectly acceptable overlap with the chocolate layer) cheese (in blintzes, fondues or with mac,) and hollandaise sauce.   2-4 servings per day.

  • Third layer: This layer is split between steak and appetizers.

Steak includes prime rib (with creamy horseradish sauce,) rib eyes and Chateaubriand when at a fancy restaurant on an expense account or when someone else is buying.   2-3 servings per day.

Appetizers include onion rings, mushrooms, cheese, pickles and anything else battered and fried.  It also includes that spinach/artichoke dip that makes you think it’s healthy because it contains green veggies, but because of the chips, cheese and cream packs on 3700 calories per serving.  This category encompasses pretty much the first couple of menu pages at Applebee’s, Chi-Chi’s, and all the rest of the fern bar restaurant chains.  2-3 servings per day.

  • Top layer: This small layer consists of fish, veggies, beans, yogurt and grains that are not donuts. These should be consumed sparingly.

I’m considering writing a book on my new, healthy living food pyramid.  With everybody so health conscious nowadays, I bet it would sell like hotcakes…with plenty of butter and syrup.

 

 

Posted in General Ramblings, Peg-Co Catalog | Tagged , , , , , | 61 Comments

Epic Bloggah Meet-up Sends Maine Spinning Off Into The Atlantic

Too much awesome for one photo.

Too much awesome for one photo.

Yeah.  No, really.  This happened.  And it was every bit as magical as you can imagine, times 5 bazillion.

My niece, Kelly, recently moved to Maine.    My daughter, Liz, and I made plans to fly out and visit her and my sister-in-law, Becky, for Labor Day weekend.   It didn’t occur to me until the week before our trip that my bestie blogging buddy, Miss Darla of She’s a Maineiac fame, also lives in Maine.  We were only going to be there a few days, and I had no idea how far apart they lived but, heart thumping, I emailed Miss Darla to see if a meeting would be possible.

It was possible.  It would be done.  And there was much squeeeeeeeeing!

Things got even better from there.  Because Darla revealed that equally awesome blogging buddy Jules, from Go Jules Go, had already contacted her to say she would be travelling to Maine that weekend.  Double squeeeeeeees! all around.   The world’s most epic bloggah (that means “blogger” for those not from Maine) meet-up was on.  This meet-up would be so awesome-sauce that it would cause the entire state of Maine to break clean off the mainland and go spinning into the Atlantic Ocean.*

It’s funny how close you can get with someone in an online community like WordPress.  Y’all are part of the daily fabric of my life, as, I flatter myself, I am part of yours.  Sometimes it seems we get to know one another more intimately than most flesh-and-blood people in “real” life.  The distance and relative anonymity of typing words, as opposed to saying them, face to face, helps us to be true and honest.  That freedom to strip away the social conventions is both the worst thing about the internet and its major strength.

Having the opportunity to attach faces, bodies and voices to people I had loved for years because of their ideas, was more than I had dreamed could happen.

We decided to meet for lunch in Portland and Darla picked a great restaurant right on the wharf.  My family and I got there before they opened and waited out front as a big line formed to get in.  I was nervous.  Then someone walked up and stopped to fiddle with her phone about 20 feet down the sidewalk. “Darla?” I asked.  No response.  I abandoned my place in line and moved in closer.  “Darla?” I asked louder.  I sure hoped it was her because she had barely looked up before I had my arms around her and was squeezing the stuffing out of the woman.  It was her!

I don’t know who was smiling wider – Miss Darla or me.  We kept hugging and grinning like big doofuses, saying “I can’t believe it’s you!” over and over again, right there on the sidewalk in front of God and everybody, including about 300 people waiting in line for this great restaurant which only contained a couple of tables and…yikes!  They had opened the doors while we were slobbering all over one another.  I had to knock down an entire family of South Korean tourists to reclaim our spot in line and snag a couple of tables.

There were people, and dogs, and lobstah.

There were people, and dogs, and lobstah.

Just a few minutes later, an adorable dog trotted down the aisle toward us, followed by his wonderful owner.  Jules and Uncle Jesse were in the house!  Darla and I both hopped up and there was more hugging, squeeeeeing! and repeating, “I can’t believe it’s you!” all around.

Lunch was fabulous.  As a resident of Maine, Darla is required by law to promote the state’s three primary resources to all guests: lobstah (that’s “lobster” for non-Maineiacs), blueberries and moose.  We had lobstah rolls along with blueberry beeyah (that’s “beer” for non-Maineiacs), but we didn’t see any mooses.  Must have been scared off by all the tourists packed into the town for the holiday weekend.

It turns out Darla’s birthday was the next day, and Jules brought her a special present: a neon-green fringed t-shirt inspired by Jules’ recent post about the New Jersey fashion scene.  It fit Darla like a glove.  I would show you photos, but I can’t because Darla is in negotiations with MTV for a remake of the popular reality show, “Jersey Shore.”  The spinoff is tentatively titled:  “Maine Shore: The Darlooki and Jim-Woww Story.”

Awkward. Yet thoughtful.

Awkward. Yet thoughtful.

Then Jules surprised us with more gifts – one for each of us.  Darla and I tore into the packages to find personalized lobstah vibrators.   I’m not gonna lie.  It was a bit awkward.   But after our first, stunned silence, everything was good.  I know Jules’ heart is in the right place.

My blogging buddies are just as I pictured them, but more so.  Jules is a statuesque, blonde goddess.   Darla is cute-as-a-button and surprisingly tiny.  And Uncle Jesse’s fur is even more luxurious than photos can do justice.

Some thanks are in order:

Thanks to Darla’s husband Jim, and their two kids for driving her to Portland.   Although they weren’t able to take the time to actually stop and meet us, Jim was kind enough to slow the car down enough so that Darla didn’t break any major bones as she tumbled out into the roadway in front of the wharf.  Catching sight of the backs of their heads in the car as they sped off as fast as possible, given the traffic, made me feel we made a real connection.

Thanks to Uncle Jesse for coming along.  Although he didn’t really have much of a choice since Jules was driving.  And he is, you know, a dog.

Behind the scenes in Wardrobe.

Behind the scenes in Wardrobe.

Thanks to my wonderful family for putting up with this nonsense.  Becky, Liz, Kelly and her honey, Nick, took time from a very packed, short weekend to drive up the coast and stayed to have lunch with us.  I know they were thrilled to be in the company of three such distinguished bloggers even though they sat at a separate table and hid behind their menus.  When we donned our matching mustaches and plaid earmuffs embellished with yellow yarn hair, and our fellow diners stared in horror,  I’m sure my family loudly said things like, “I have no idea who those 3 women are” and “shouldn’t someone call the authorities??” merely to hide how proud and deeply moved they were by the event.

Fellow diners were….wary.

Finally, thanks to Darla and Jules for making this happen and for being so, so fabulous.  I’m still smiling like a big doofus, and probably will be until the next annual Bloggah Lobstah meet-up.  Can’t wait for 2017!

*Maine didn’t really split off the mainland and go spinning into the Atlantic ocean.  That type of “hyperbole” is something we writers do to make a point.   If Maine really had broken off from the rest of the country you probably would have heard about it on the news. 

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Life Has Meaning Once More

Git it baby girl!

Git it baby girl!

It has been a rough summer.  Some dear family members are dealing with serious health issues, I’ve been struggling to get in shape, and I’ve been dogged with a bad case of the blahs for months.   All that is about to change.

Toddlers & Tiaras is back, and life has meaning again.

Toddlers & Tiaras was a reality show that aired on TLC from 2008 to 2013.   Each episode followed several children and their families as they prepped for and competed in beauty pageants specifically designed for very young girls and babies.  If you’ve been hanging around the blog for a while, you’ll know that watching this show was a guilty pleasure for me.

The big-wigs at TLC (an acronym that used to stand for The Learning Channel, but now stands for Trashy, Low-down, Circus-sideshow) have finally came to their senses and resurrected Toddlers.  The first new episode airs tonight.

These pageants have very little to do with the legitimate pageant world, except for the obvious – beauty.  The Miss America pageant world stresses poise, charitable work and talent along with physical beauty.  The toddler version is all about over-the-top makeup, hair and costumes, coupled with an elusive but essential quality called “sparkle.”  I would be interested to know if many girls make the leap from one world to the next; I suspect not.

The cameras roll through the child’s town and then show her pre-pageant routine at home. Contestants are overwhelmingly little girls and the pageants are primarily in the south and southwestern United States.   I watched one show, however, where the child who wanted to be queen broke the mold on both counts: it was a little boy and he was from my hometown in Michigan.  I was geeked to see familiar landmarks on the screen, but couldn’t help wondering what kind of therapy this kid will need down the road.  I wonder that about most of the contestants.  It would be interesting to follow up 10 years later when they’re no longer little and cute, to see what lasting affects this experience has had on them.

In case you’re not familiar with Toddlers & Tiaras and are planning to watch it, here’s a little vocabulary primer to help you understand their special jargon.

Diva: spoiled, obnoxious monster child who does whatever she wants.  Surprisingly, this label is pinned on the child by her doting parents.  Rather than considering this a character flaw that requires spanking to correct, the parents brag about their young hellion.

Full Glitz: some pageants feature natural beauty, but most are all about the fake.  In “full glitz” the children sport spray tans, bleached teeth or fake teeth called “flippers”, Dolly Parton-height teased hair with extensions, false eyelashes and makeup applied with a trowel. The fake package is then encased in a uniform of ruffly ankle socks, white patent leather shoes and a pageant dress so stiffly fluffy, ruffly and rhinestone-encrusted that the child can barely move.  It’s clear from the behind-the-scenes footage that many parents have to take out a second mortgage to afford these one-of-a-kind creations.

Beauty Wear:  the contestants’ first solo walk on stage.  This is their chance to impress the judges with their super-expensive dresses and talent of being able to walk, blow kisses, bat their eyelashes and sparkle all at the same time.

Wow Wear: a second opportunity for each contestant to take the stage and show off costumes for a specific theme like 50s Wear, Western Wear, or High-Priced Call Girl Wear.  The child whose parents spend the most money on the most outlandish outfit, complete with lavish props and costumed adult helpers, wows the judges and wins the category.

“Git it baby girl”: what moms yell while they’re prancing around behind the judges, pantomiming the special walk and eyelash-batting smile they want their kid to adopt up on the stage.  Most of these stage moms are ruthless barracudas who can barely disguise their ambition or desperate longing to be beauty queens themselves. Watching the parents is perhaps the best part of the show.

Pageant Juice: Red Bull.  A legal stimulant that moms give to their kids to counteract the toddler’s natural need for a mid-afternoon nap.  This mid-afternoon slump inconveniently falls just when Wow Wear begins.

Pageant Crack: Pixie Sticks – pure sugar with a little flavoring added.  This treat is given to boost the child’s energy even more.  These come in handy paper straws so they can be tipped into the child’s waiting mouth without disturbing her lipstick.

Pageant Crash: the meltdown that inevitably occurs late in the day when the kid comes down from their Red Bull and sugar-induced high, after being poked, tweaked and urged to sparkle for 12 hours, and when they realize that some other little girl got a bigger trophy.

pegbeautyqueen

I coulda been a contender.

I wonder if my fascination with this show means that I, like the pageant moms on the show, secretly wish that I was a beauty queen.   It’s possible.  They didn’t have this kind of thing when I was a kid.  Back then parents were concerned with raising kids who were well-behaved, respectful and God-fearing.  They were weird that way.   Most didn’t know that if they exploited their children when they were young, it would pay off big-time when said child grew up and starting earning serious cash appearing on “Where Are They Now?” and (semi) celebrity body/marriage/substance abuse/love-life rehab shows.

If my mom hadn’t wasted all her time feeding, diapering and raising nine kids and had, instead, invested in me, I’m sure I would have attained the top title of Ultimate Mega Sooper-Dooper Beauty Queen Diva Grand Supreme.

TLC is kicking things off with a Toddlers & Tiaras marathon today so we can get in the mood for the big season-opener tonight.  I’m going to call in sick and sit around eating Cheetos in my jammies with my crown and scepter.  Shhhh … don’t tell my boss.

Happy Toddler Day to all, and may the sparkle be with you!

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

When It Comes to Reality TV, The Secret to Success is Crystal CLR

Professor Peg schools some wannabes.

Professor Peg schools some wannabes.

Reality television is now an established staple of the American viewing diet.    Although many can’t understand why anyone would want their dirty laundry and bad behavior exposed for the world to see, it’s obvious the reality TV industry has an unlimited pool of talent (?) from which to choose.

Do you want to be a reality TV star?  Are you looking for a way to break through the log-jam of other wannabes like a shark plowing through throngs of swimmers at the beach?

I can show you how – the secret is crystal CLR.

The Peg-o-Leg Institute of Lower Learning is pleased to present our latest course:

                Reality TV 101 

After years of exhaustive research (aka watching TV until my eyes crossed) I’ve developed a soon-to-be-patented formula for getting to the top in this competitive industry: the CLR Method.   It’s all about being Crude, Lewd & Rude:

Crude:
1) very simple and basic: made or done in a way that does not show a lot of skill

2) rude in a way that makes people uncomfortable; especially, talking about sexual matters in a rude way

No brains? No talent?  No problem!  We’ll explore the many ways you can turn your total lack of any traditionally admirable traits and achievements into reality gold by exposing your stupidity to the TV-viewing public.

Lewd:
1) sexual in an offensive or rude way; obscene, vulgar

You’ll spend hours in the speech lab perfecting techniques for dropping enough f-bombs (and other obscenity grenades) to boost ratings, but not so many the viewer can’t understand what you’re saying.  We’ll also explore the fine line between oozing sex and being too raunchy to get past what little censorship still exists on modern television.  We’ll show you how to walk that line for profit.  After all, the goal is to be a reality star, not a porn star.  (Porn star skill-sets are covered in our 200-level courses.)

Rude:
1) not having or showing concern or respect for the rights and feelings of other people; not polite
2) relating to sex or other body functions in a way that offends others
3) happening suddenly in usually an unpleasant or shocking way

You’ll learn to show a total lack of interest in anyone else’s feelings and focus exclusively on your own, petty, first-world problems.  Extra emphasis will be placed on obsessing about your increasingly artificial physical appearance.  Study will lead progressively to more advanced techniques, like how to express your feelings by tipping over tables and throwing chairs.

With our personalized instruction and hours of hands-on lab practice, you’ll soon be acting crude, lewd and rude all at the same time – the trifecta of reality TV.

Reality TV 101 is a core class in our (Crimes Against) Humanities Department, but may be taken on its own as an adult education class.  Tuition is only $20,000 per semester.  This paltry fee may easily be covered by a student loan guaranteed by the federal government (aka the American taxpayer.)  Don’t worry about paying it back – that will be a piece of cake once you’re rolling in the dough as the star of your own reality TV show.

Call The Peg-o-Leg Institute of Lower Learning today, and soon you’ll be on your way to an exciting career as a famous reality star using the CLR Method.  Have your credit card  handy* – operators are standing by!

 

*If your credit card limits aren’t high enough, or are already maxed,  The Peg-o-Leg Institute of Lower Learning has made arrangements with outside vendors for alternative financing:
–   Dewey Cheetum National Bank: Have full financial information ready to complete a second mortgage application.
–  ACME Organ And Pawn Shop:  Have full medical information ready and be prepared for a physical.  ACME is offering an extra 15% for kidneys during their back-to-school special!

Posted in General Ramblings, Peg-Co Catalog | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Life Cleanup On Aisle 4

Try not to cry.

Try not to cry.

Maybe it’s just me.  But I suspect I’m not the only woman who’s merely one bag of beef jerky away from a total meltdown.

I was fresh out of inspiration for dinner when I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work the other day.   It had been a long and difficult day; every cranky, rude and clueless person within a 25-mile radius made it a point to cross my path.  I didn’t really need food since our freezer is so loaded it would take a Shackleton expedition to explore its depths, but I didn’t want to work that hard.  I was looking for the Abominable Snowman of dinner options; something tasty, easy, fast and healthy. You hear that combo talked about a lot but, like the Yeti, confirmed sightings are rare. I also wanted to stock up on low-cal snacks to combat my Little Debbie addiction.

I don’t do all the cooking at our house; my husband often fixes dinner.  That may be primarily because he doesn’t like what I make, but it still helps.  I’m not a bad cook so much as uninspired.  Nonetheless, I am still the chief cook, bottle washer, laundress and general maid-of-all-work around our place.

Most of the other shoppers in the store that evening were women and, judging by their clothes and attitudes, most were also on their way home from work.  Some had small children in tow. We had all stopped to pick up some get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-so-I-can-go-home-and-put-up-my-feet.

A young mom in the dairy aisle had a cart full of crying toddler. They were both staring down at the puddle spreading out from a milk carton I assume the child had tossed onto the floor.  From the look on Mommy’s face, she was an inch away from flailing around in the puddle in a screaming, kicking tantrum that would put her child’s to shame.

An acquaintance in the produce aisle said she had dashed in to buy cauliflower to go with the pot roast she had in the oven.  She had already prepared peas and potatoes, which her husband insisted on, but her grown son was coming over for dinner and he was on a no-carb diet.  She was going to mash the cauliflower to tempt his palate with faux-mashed potatoes.  The key point here is that this woman, who works out of her home, was making her family a pot roast dinner with a full menu of side dish options and it wasn’t even a special occasion.  It was a Wednesday.

I also knew the woman in front of me in the checkout line.  She unloaded 10 cartons of chicken stock onto the conveyor belt.  She said it was to go with her homemade ravioli and added, apologetically, that she knew this was terrible.  She looked as guilty as if she had been caught coming out of the back room at the video rental store with her arms full of porno DVDs.

I was so lost in wonder at the concept that all ravioli didn’t come in a can labeled “Chef Boyardee” it took me a minute to figure out what was so terrible.  This woman (who works full time in her family’s business, has a teenager still at home and is helping raise her twenty-something’s baby) was afraid of being labeled a slacker for using store-bought chicken stock.

I solemnly promised under pain of torture to swear she had personally wrung the chicken’s neck for the broth.

After checking out I trudged to my car with turkey burgers and salad for dinner, and beef jerky for a snack. I was starving so I tore into the jerky as soon as I got in the car.

Correction: I tried to tear into it.

The jerky was in a thick, plastic bag heat-sealed above a resealable zipper.  There was a little notch cut out of each side for opening and that’s where I ripped across.  It removed a triangular piece of bag.   I turned the bag over and tore at the notch on the other side with the same result.  I now had a hill of fused plastic above the zipper part.  The bag remained sealed.

I pulled at the sides in the middle of the bag, hoping to force the top apart.  I pulled with all my strength but no go.

I gnawed at the side of the plastic triangle like a desperate beaver, hoping to get a new tooth-hold to grab and rip across. No help.

Apparently I had selected an Armageddon-proof jerky package.  The bag itself was a test of survival fitness; if you couldn’t manage the simple task of opening this little, plastic bag, dammit, you did not deserve to survive.  It would be the snack of choice come The Rapture.

I gave up on preserving the zip lock feature and dug around in my purse for a sharp object to use as a bayonet.   The best I could find were house keys.  There was a mere half-inch of product in the bottom of the bag so I stabbed into the big, empty space above it (contents may settle during shipment) and twisted madly.  Turns out my keys aren’t very sharp.  Note to self; sharpen keys.

No dice.

No opening.

No jerky.

That was when I lost it.

Guttural sounds rose from deep within me and erupted as I beat the bag against the dashboard. Some sounds were actual words which would have caused 9 out of 10 moms surveyed to wash my mouth out with soap.  I retained enough self-control not to scream at the top of my lungs.  I was parked at the edge of the lot, but a full-throttle scream might be overheard by the shopping public.  It was more a hoarse whisper accompanied by tears of rage. I was utterly defeated.

Jerky – 1
Peg – 0

Obviously the jerky wasn’t the main issue; it was just the tip of the frustration iceberg.

For most women the end of the workday in the outside world marks the start of their other full-time job: caring for children, cooking, cleaning and running a household.

I know there are exceptions; there are stay-at-home dads and men who help out a lot – I get that.  I’m not saying this is strictly a woman thing, but the fact is, it mainly IS a woman thing.   Even the words we use illuminate a basic difference in attitude about household tasks –  he’s babysitting or helping out; she’s living.

I grew up at the end of the modern women’s movement.  Older women, fresh from the trenches, handed the new mandates to my generation when we came of age, like a shining gift on a silver platter.

“See what we did for you?  You can have it all,” they said.

But they didn’t really mean “all.”  They meant big, new, exciting experiences in the work and wider world.  Hillary Clinton’s sneering comments about staying home and baking cookies were typical of the condescending attitude many women had at that time toward their stay-at-home sisters. The message underlying all of that empowerment was that you were a traitor to your sex and their sacrifices if you chose to be a homemaker.  At least that’s the message I heard.  It never occurred to me that raising children could be a serious career option for a serious, modern woman.  I regret that.

They said we could now have it all, but at what cost?

Our new expectations were perfectly summed up by a perfume commercial that aired while I was in college.  A seductress in a business-suit strutted across the screen brandishing a frying pan, and as she vamped she warbled:

“I can bring home the bacon,
Fry it up in a pan,
And never, ever let you forget you’re a man,
‘Cuz I’m a woman!”

It was always a woman’s job to fry up the bacon.  That part wasn’t new. And heaven forbid we let him forget he’s a man; that was a given.  But that wasn’t enough anymore.  Oh, no.   Thanks to the women’s movement, now we also had to go out and earn the money to buy the goddamn bacon before we cooked it.

This is a great advancement for women how, exactly?

I’m not blaming men for piling the load of new expectations upon us.  We wanted to be able to do meaningful work, and rightly so.  But we didn’t give anything up in our zeal to be Superwomen.  The flip side of our great expectations was the lowering of expectations for men.  The society-destroying concept that it was OK for a man to be merely the sperm donor and (I hate this term) baby daddy was still relatively foreign to us 35 years ago, but it gained traction with lighting speed.

I see young moms juggling jobs, home and kids (each of whom have their own Outlook calendar full of activities) and I wonder how they do it all.  I wonder how I did it all. Why did I HAVE to do it all?

Life is much easier to manage now that my kids are grown, which is great because my energy level has sagged along with my body parts. But after 35 years I still ain’t doing so hot at living up to any of the great expectations that Enjoli woman seemed to have mastered.  I’m not a gourmet chef, a captain of industry or a seductive sexpot.  Never have been.  The best I could ever manage in those subjects was a C+, and that’s only if we’re being graded on a curve.  I feel like a failure, and I’m sick and tired of feeling that way.

Here’s hoping that things are better for the next generation.

I hope my daughters and their someday-partners will feel they have a real choice whether to parent or work or any combination thereof.

I hope they will truly share the joys and burdens of those choices.

I hope they will feel whole and worthy regardless of what they choose.

And I pray that, unlike many women of my generation, they cut themselves a hell of a lot of slack because they did their best.

 

 

 

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

Madison Avenue’s Artisanal Scam

Pay no attention to anything going on behind the curtain.

Pay no attention to what’s going on behind the curtain.

An old man works at an ancient, wooden table in a murky room illuminated by sunlight from a single window.  He meticulously crafts a perfect wheel of creamy, yellow cheese… just for you.

A little girl presses her face against the window of a shop so Alpine cliché it’s straight from the Heidi’s Bavarian Goat Herder ride at Disney World.  A gorgeous male model in a white chef’s hat is hand-rolling caramels on a buttered marble slab inside the shop.

A brawny cook lifts a steaming pan of golden, roasted turkey from a wood-fired stove.  The cutaway shot of a weathered, red barn implies your lunch-meat was frolicking in clover right up to the moment it was, well…you know.

We’ve all seen these commercials.  At the end they reveal the company behind the product is Kraft, Werther’s, Hillshire Farm or a similar corporate giant.  The food advertised was actually cooked in 50,000 gallon, stainless steel pressure cookers in a New Jersey factory.  The “craftsmen” are UFCW union guys in white lab coats with hairnets on their beards.

Welcome to advertising’s latest scam; the “Art(isanal)ful Dodger”.

According to Merriam-Webster, “artisanal” comes from the word:

artisan

  1. a worker who practices a trade or handicraft :  craftsperson
  2. one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods

Are these multi-national conglomerates claiming to craft food in limited quantities using traditional methods?  Yeah, right.

The artisanal scam is especially popular with supermarket chain bakery departments.

Marketing gurus in the home office print signs on black paper using the “hand-written-in-chalk” font, and a corporate memo dictates the exact number of rustic bread loaves that should be heaped in wicker baskets in front of the glass cases.  We’re supposed to think we’ve wandered into a Parisian patisserie, and be inspired to spend more of our bread to buy their bread.  The reality is that their baked goods started life in a factory and were shipped frozen to the local store.  At best they were briefly popped into an oven onsite so the smell of freshly-baked bread would waft enticingly through the place.

Companies slap this adjective on products with no regard for the truth because they know we like the idea of buying hand-made goods at the farmer’s market.  In theory.  When spending our hard-earned money, however, we go for cheap and convenient at the Wal-Mart Superstore.

I’m not dissing mass production.  It’s probably the single most important reason the quality of life has improved so drastically for most of the Western world in the last 200 years.  This is especially true in regards to food safety.  The places in those faux-artisan commercials (which are supposed to represent the “good old days”) are so dimly lit an entire chorus of rodents could be doing a kick-line in the batter with no one the wiser.

Although mass production is great for many things, hand-crafted goods are usually better made and more unique.  That means a higher price tag, but it’s probably worth the splurge.

If you want truly hand-crafted products, check out your local farmer’s markets, fairs, and little shops right around the corner.  The Wal-Mart Superstore?  Not so much.

*Helpful English Tip:  Many of y’all are mispronouncing “artisanal.”   Everyone says “ar-TEASE-a-null” with the accent on the second syllable.  Wrong. It’s “ART-is-in-ull,” accent on the first syllable.  This mispronunciation has become so common that people probably think I am an ignorant doofus when I say it properly.

Go to the Merriam-Webster website, listen to the pronunciation, say it right, and stop making me look bad.

Posted in General Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Researching Homo Sapiens Vacationus At The Watering Hole

I will soon be heading out for a weekend of intense research at the watering hole that inspired this Freshly Pressed post several years ago.  Hope all y’all are having a great summer!

                      ***Important Safety Tip***

Use utmost caution when interacting with Homo Sapiens Vacationus.  They might look cute and cuddly, but can turn wild in an instant!

As any zoologist will tell you, the best place to observe animals in the wild is around a watering hole.  When the species in question is Homo Sapiens Vacationus that means the hotel pool.

When we were on vacation last week, temperatures ranged from a low of 95 degrees to a high equivalent to the surface of the sun.  This gave me ample incentive to do first-hand research at the human watering hole.  Here are my field notes on the various sub-species I observed:

Kiddus Raised By Wolvus:  Three siblings, approximate ages 9, 10 and 11, descended on the pool most every day.  There were no parental sightings.  One theory held that Mom & Dad’s idea of a fun vacation did not involve 3 preteens. They stayed in the room and kicked the kids out.  Another theory was that they weren’t even staying at the hotel; that their summer-weary Mom dropped the kids off each day on her way to elsewhere.

A lifetime of fending for themselves had left these children aggressively outgoing.  They had no problem approaching any and all to borrow play equipment or just to chat.  The youngest horned his way into our grownup beach ball/volleyball game. We graciously let him play but immediately regretted it.  Each time we hit the ball to him he tried to kill it, knocking it over everyone’s heads and out of the pool.  Requests that he lighten up fell on deaf ears.  After his fifth time getting out of the pool to retrieve the ball he said he was getting kind of tired and could one of us go get it the next time?  Game over.

Bakus Shakus: A gaggle of bikini-clad teenage girls lay on loungers working on their tans.  Every 1/2 hour or so they would rise, tie up their bikini tops and take a dip in the pool to cool off.  Scant minutes later they emerged, shook off the water and went back to sunning.  This ritual was eagerly observed by two other species.  They were:

Dos Equus: Two teenage boys horsed around in the deep end.  They seemed to be doing their best to drown one another, but were merely trying to impress the girls.

Trench Coatius Creepius:  A 60-year-old man stood at the side of the pool in about 5 feet of water, not moving, with his arms spread out along the side.  Dark shades hid his eyes.  I could feel his gaze on me when I took off my cover-up.  There’s nothing wrong with looking, but the intensity of his stare when my 20-something daughters shrugged out of their clothes activated my Creepazoid Radar.  I bet this guy can be found hanging around the local high school in a trench coat in the off-season.

Eros Youngus: A 16-year-old couple played games in the shallow end.  She climbed up on his shoulders and he carried her around, threatening to drop her in the water.  There was a lot of squealing and clutching involved.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only adult who looked at these sweet young lovers and had only one thought on her mind: should I step in before Romeo tosses Juliet right on top of one of the little kids?

Pleatherus Pleasurus: Two women “of a certain age” sat smoking and drinking in the corner.  Their skin was sun-baked to the color and consistency of rawhide.  They never approached the pool, but enjoyed their cocktails with increasingly loud, hoarse laughter as the afternoon (and their newest layer of pleather) baked on.

Infantus Goldenus: This pampered toddler and his doting parents carried more paraphernalia for their 1/2-hour sojourn in the pool than Stanley brought on safari, I presume.  The Boy Who Would Be King was coated with sunscreen, wearing a hat and encased in a vinyl, spherical palace complete with flotation chambers, sun umbrella, and built-in tray. Captain Nemo’s ship wasn’t so water tight.  Both parents hovered vigilantly to shield him lest any actual sun or water attempt to make contact.

If you’re contemplating doing some field research of your own this summer, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Those who trusted hotel room signs announcing there would be towels at the pool learned a bitter lesson.  There aren’t.  Always carry in your own supplies.
  • Goggles. These are a must-have if going underwriter. The watering hole is usually chlorinated to the point of burning your retinas.  If it isn’t, you shouldn’t be in there at all.  The risk of contracting Dengue Fever from the contaminated water is just too great.
  • Don’t forget the essentials: sunscreen and adult beverages.
  • Making eye contact with the wildlife may be seen as a sign of aggression.

As long as you’re prepared, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy your encounter with Homo Sapiens Vacationus this summer.   But remember this: never let them sense fear.

Posted in General Ramblings, Vacation Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments