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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

CAI Recipe: Gum Drop Cookie Bars

January5

I learned to cook from my mom, who learned to cook from HER mom. I don’t know if SHE learned to cook from HER mom, or was self taught, or what. But definitely used the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, which she handed down to my mom. I have a copy but not her copy, with the stains on the section on pancakes and the notes and the crease where the book falls open automatically to often-used recipes.

The cook book has easily FOUR HUNDRED MILLION BILLION recipes but we only ever used a few of them. My goal this year is to bake up one recipe a week for a full year, focusing on desserts. I was initially going to do all cookies but some of these recipes…. look man. Dates. Ground raisins. Prunes as far as the eye can see. Hickory nuts. Do hickory nuts even exist any more? That’s a rhetorical question, don’t answer.

I’m selecting recipes that look good, as opposed to those “ew look at this old timey jello-based food!” projects. I’m also trying to avoid nuts because my kid has a nut allergy. This cut out a LOT of cookie recipes. This cook book has 300 cookie recipes. I’ve managed to select…24. Plus I’m going to donk around with a recipe I used to use a lot that is from that era.

What era is that, you might ask? The book was originally published in 1950, which means most of the recipes were created/tested in the 1940s. I say “most” because the book was republished a few times and I assume there were more recipes added, or corrected. I could be wrong.

My first recipe is for something called “Gum Drop Cookie Bars.” They are… a bar cookie made with gum drops. I couldn’t find gum drops so I used DOTS instead… which went directly against the dire warnings of recipes online (which were super different from this recipe).

Ingredients

  • 2 c cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c evaporated milk
  • 1 c soft gumdrops, cut into small pieces (omit licorice)
  • 1 c chopped nut meats

Directions
Whisk flour, salt, and cinnamon together. Beat eggs until light, then beat in sugar and milk gradually. Add flour mixture in thirds, beating until smooth after each edition. Add gumdrops and nuts. Spread in a greased pan and bake at 325* for 35 minutes. Cut into bars 4″ x 1″. Spread tops with frosting and decorate with sliced gumdrops. Makes 40.

Changes

  • I omitted the nuts, although these would be great with chopped pecans or walnuts.
  • The cookies came out only half baked, even with a longer baking time. After they cooled, and hadn’t set up further, I put them back in a 325* oven for an additional TWENTY minutes. As I was reading the recipe I felt that it was incorrect, although several other recipes in the book have the same cooking directions.
  • I made these in a casserole and I possibly should have made them in a jelly roll pan, so the layer was thinner. I was worried there’d be too much batter for my jelly rolls.
  • I would 100% recommend adding the wet to the dry, not the dry to the wet as indicated in the recipe. It’s really hard to incorporate dry ingredients into a liquid. I have no idea why this would be in the directions.

Notes
These bar cookies are made with a batter, not a dough, so they’re more cake like than the bar cookies I’m used to. Once baked through, the very edges had a nice bit of crispness, but the cookies were moist yet firm. They’ve held up well without being tightly wrapped. The cookies have a VERY strong cinnamon flavor, as well as a dominant brown sugar flavor. Spice drops might have been a really good choice. There’s a bunch of gumdrop cookie bar recipes online, and they’re all REALLY different from these. There’s no butter in these, and that really affects the flavor. They kind of almost remind me of fruit cake cookies or something, if you’re used to those neon green and red sticky fruits in a fruit cake.

Verdict
I might POSSIBLY make these with jelly beans for Easter, although I normally use a chocolate chip dough without the chocolate and make drop cookies. These cookie bars just come across as WEIRD in texture and flavor, but I think that’s because it was what was popular at the time and tastes have changed. They’re not BAD though, and if you grew up eating these you’d probably really like them.


Here are the plain cookie bars. You can see they’re a light brown with a slightly crackled surface. They look a bit like a blondie.


The recipe calls for frosting which I thought might be weird/too much so I tried some powdered sugar which added a nice bit of extra flavor to the cookies.


I also tried the frosting, with some sliced gum drops on top. Very pretty, and the different textures of cookie and frosting were great. The frosting, which was a cream cheese frosting I had on hand, really brought out a lot of extra flavor in the cookie… probably because of the fat in it.


I had these for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Review: “Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm

January4

“Attachments,” by Kate Wilhelm, is the opening story in the Nov/Dec 2017 issues of “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” which is one of my favorite magazines. According to the novelet’s introduction, Wilhelm’s first story in F&SF was in 1962. She’s an established, experienced writer and it really shows in this piece.

“Attachments” opens with a a young woman in a creepy/picturesque ruin in England. We soon see that she’s from the USA and that she’s there with a friend… and also that something is horrifically wrong. As the story unfolds we see that it’s a ghost story, both literally and figuratively. Drew, the protagonist, has 2 ghosts attached to her who want her to do things for them; Drew’s abusive ex boyfriend lurks in the background, a constant threat to her both mentally and physically. Drew has to figure out how to deal with the ghosts on her back, how to solve their problems, and then how to solve the problems in her own life.

It’s a well written story. Drew is interesting and we get glimpses of her life, both current and past. The ghosts’ plan is flawed, but desperate plans often are. She, and they, need to be creative in coming up with a solution. The metaphor isn’t THAT obvious, but it’s there… Drew is asked to free ghosts from a prison, and must also free herself from the ghosts of her past.

It’s a fairly gentle story with a bit of menace that’s quickly neutralized.

“Attachments” is a solid piece that leaves me curious about Wilhelm’s other work.

Measuring out years one Star Wars movie at a time.

December28

The last time I posted it was about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’ve had two more Star Wars movies since then, Rogue One and The Last Jedi, as well as the tv show Rebels continuing. They’re all… really good. They’re what I wanted as a kid teen reading the Expanded Universe books.

The problem with a lapse in blog posting is that it’s easy to get hung up on that. “Oh, I haven’t posted in so long” becomes a shameful thing… for some people, at least. For me, at least.

So here I am breaking the seal on more blog posts. Maybe. Will I jump back in the saddle, so to speak? Leap back onto the keyboard? Who can say. I’ll try to do better, though.

Star Wars: The Spoilers Awaken

December28

I’m sure you’re interested in more hot takes on my ass and preparing for a pilonidal surgery but instead I’m going to talk about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Obviously there will be spoilers.

There is a problem with people of a certain age writing about Star Wars. For many of us, there is no time before Star Wars, no time we don’t remember having seen it. It’s sunk deep into our bones, soaked into our souls, flavoring the stories we’ve told ourselves and the play we’ve shared with others. So when a Star Wars movie or tv show or book comes out, it’s hard to separate our sense of self from what we’re consuming. It’s hard to accurately judge the product because there’s so much established emotion, context, hope, love, and projection going on. There are high standards to meet, but enough love and good will that a mediocre product can still be lofted up as long as it hits the right notes. The Prequels didn’t hit the right notes, for a number of reasons.

“Star Wars: Rebels” does hit the right notes, albeit on a smaller and more intimate scale. Please read more behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pains in the Ass: Pilonidal Cysts and You (pt 1)

December24

I had surgery on my butt in August and I’m going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT in a series of posts because apparently what I do on the internet is talk about my ass. Which has resulted in a bunch of really interesting twitter bots following me. Lord help me when I try to get a job and they do a google search on me or something. Anyway. Pilonidal Cysts.

I have a cystic skin condition unrelated to Pilonidal Disease, so when I had gross oozing, bleeding, swelling, and pain at the base of my tailbone/ass I assumed it was just my skin being awful and trying to kill me. I’ve lived with this for LITERALLY twenty years. TWO DECADES. I was aware of what Pilonidal Cysts are, but what are the chances that I’d have hidradenitis suppurativa AND pilonidal disease? IT IS TO LAUGH. Of COURSE I’d have both! I mentioned my butt issues to my general practitioner who said “Hm, that sounds like a pilonidal cyst, pull your pants down” and I did and mooned her and she said “yup that’s a Pilonidal Cyst here’s a referral to a surgeon.”

I foolishly assumed the surgeon could like… lance it in his office and that’d be it. OH LOR. NO. It involves actual knock-you-out surgery and I’m going to talk about that in a later post. But right now I’m going to talk about what a pilonidal cyst is.

There’s a lot of misconceptions about Pilonidal Cysts/Pilonidal Disease and what causes it. The general idea most people have of Pilonidal Disease is that it’s caused by fat hairy gross dudes who sit around too much in a slouched position while playing computer games and jerking off. It’s OBVIOUSLY caused by ingrown hairs, poor hygiene, improper seating posture, etc.

Actually, according to my surgeon, it’s not! It is, I believe, related to Spina Bifida. When the fetus is forming you have the neural tube that eventually closes to form the spinal column. Sometimes it doesn’t close completely and a little pocket or closed tube is formed. Either you’re born with it or you’re not. If you’re born with it, either a hair grows into it or not. If a hair grows into it, either it gets infected or it doesn’t. If it gets infected either it comes to a head on its own and drains (like mine did, continuously for twenty years) or it just swells up and is horrific. It’s entirely chance. There’s nothing a person can do to cause or prevent it. Lancing, antibiotics, etc don’t really affect it. Even if you can get it into remission, it’ll come back. The surgeon I saw stressed that it’s something he sees all the time in men, in women, in thin people, in fat people, in hairy people, in not hairy people, in active people, in sedentary people. It’s just a thing that happens. And it can be treated.

The surgeon I saw removes the entire Pilonidal Sinus in out patient surgery and then stitches it all up. He does not pack the surgical site unless the stitches fail, which I appreciate, as I didn’t want to deal with packing. It took me about 3 weeks before I could sit again (I basically spent two weeks doing nothing but lying in bed, which actually is awful.) In my next post I’ll talk about how to prepare for surgery, and what happened with my surgery.

posted under body issues, health, life | Comments Off on Pains in the Ass: Pilonidal Cysts and You (pt 1)

Fury Road and Agency

May26

Just saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was utterly fantastic in so many different ways. Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. But one thing I noticed was how many of the marginalized characters had agency, made their own decisions, controlled their own lives. There’s spoilers in this, so I’m going to tuck the text behind a fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted under feminism, review, women | Comments Off on Fury Road and Agency

Phil Miller and Male Entitlement

March26

NOTE:
This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Fox’s Last Man On Earth.

Phil Miller has spent much of his post-virus last man on earth time wallowing in his own filth, drunk, in droopy underpants. In the Before Times, the 41 year old man had a job- not a career- as a temp. Unless the Tuscan, AZ temp market is vastly different from the Chicago, IL temp market, he was making $8-11 an hour, or just enough to afford his shabby apartment, single lifestyle, and not much more.

When Phil, who has given up on personal hygiene, sobriety, and life, meets clean and well groomed (shaved legs, even!) Carol, he stumbles across her clean drying laundry (and bra) first, spinning a fantasy of the sexy young soulmate they belong to. Carol’s less than conventionally attractive appearance puts him off immediately. She doesn’t live up to his fantasy. She isn’t what he deserves. Phil, who has literally been living in a pile of garbage and shitting in a pool, is convinced that she isn’t good enough for him. This despite the fact that Carol, annoying quirks aside, has her life pretty together. She manages to bathe and wash her laundry, for instance. She has plans for the future that don’t involve soaking in an inflatable pool filled with alcohol. And unlike temp Phil she had an actual career as an office manager of a business, which meant she was making significantly more than Phil and also probably had PTO, health insurance, and a 401k. In the old world, there’s a good chance she would have been out of his league, and yet Phil considers himself comfortably superior to her because of her appearance and insistence on stopping at stop signs (which, by the way, ignoring stop signs lead to a car crash when Melissa shows up). But really, which is worse: being a stickler for grammar or shitting in a pool and living amidst literal piles of literal garbage with food crusted on your face and in your beard?

Likewise, when Melissa shows up– younger looking than Carol, more conventionally attractive, more stylish, more made-up, more blonde– Phil feels entitled to her sexually and emotionally. She is more attractive than him, and again, in the before times she had a career as a Real Estate Agent and made FAR more money than he did. She, again, would have been very out of his league and yet he feels entitled to her simply because he exists and he wants her. Melissa can barely tolerate his creepy and predatory company, desperate horniness aside. (And in a world where every single vibrator and battery is free and available, would she REALLY be that desperate for sex with a creepy married dude? That plotlette very much feels like something a group of dudes would come up with.) Phil has nothing to offer her besides sex, and yet he feels he deserves her and if given the chance (no Carol, no Todd) she would realize how great he is and return his interest and attention, even though he has an established history of lying to her and betraying her trust.

This is an example of the same male entitlement that gives rise to the Nice Guys who have nothing to offer save feigned respect and kindness with an ulterior motive, and who deride and berate the women (usually better looking, with better jobs and social skills) who don’t appreciate their greatness and refuse to fuck/date/marry them.

Phil’s attitude is toxic, and dangerous, and creates a hostile and threatening environment for Melissa and Carol to navigate. When Carol pulled a gun on drunk, urine-soaked Phil and demanded to know if he was a nice person or not he said he was. But as his interactions with his fellow survivors show, he isn’t very nice at all.

Will his brief moment of emotional vulnerability and truth with Melissa mark a change in his toxic personality, or will he continue being a barely likable (albeit wittily written) character? I have a sneaking suspicion that “Last Man On Earth” may reflect the reluctance of an increasing number of survivors to put with him and his manipulations.

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Breathing In And Letting Go

March14

I’ve had a large number of miscarriages since having Nikola (and some prior to him), which is one of the more frustrating forms of infertility. I can GET pregnant, obviously. I can’t STAY pregnant. Is it hormonal? Chromosomal? Something else? Who can say! Investigative tests can be really expensive and often don’t reveal anything anyway. I’m 36 and the age gap between Nikola and any hypothetical siblings is only increasing, and I made the decision recently to let go of the dream of a larger family, of another baby, of a sibling for Nikola.

It’s both sad and a relief.

I’ve never been a fan of infants, although I adore toddlers and get a big kick out of little kids.

Niko was out of school for almost two weeks due to a series of serious illnesses. Last Friday was his first day back in a while, and a gorgeous day to boot. After school let out I let him run around on the playground for over an hour. One of his friends kept touching base with his mom and baby sister. One heart melting moment included him touching foreheads with the giggling girl and exchanging smooches. All I could think of was how much I wanted that for my family, for Nikola. It was this sour, painful moment. But it passed quickly.

More than that brief pain, I mostly felt sympathy for the woman, juggling an early toddler who wasn’t quite walking and wanted to crawl around an unsuitable area (a paved surface covered in dirt, grit, broken glass, etc or a grassy area that was mostly mud and dog poop– thanks dog owners who bring their dogs onto school property where kids play and run and let your dogs crap there and don’t clean it up! Awesome!) and be anywhere but in her mom’s arms. And as much as I’d like another kid in my life, a sibling for Nikola, I am so so glad I don’t have to deal with a baby.

I’ve started thinking about the expenses of another kid, and how we’re able to give Niko more… more books, more toys, more museum memberships, mini boxes of cereal and juice boxes and other tiny little indulgent luxuries.

I’m starting to not just adjust to having only one child, but to prefer it.

(Having made this decision, of course, my period was then over a week late. Thanks body! You suck!)

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At Least It’s Not Pertussis

February18

Nikola, almost six, is an only child who never attended day care or much in the way of play groups. Pre-Kindergarten and its broad swath of germs and viruses hit him hard. Kindergarten is hitting him less hard, but that’s like saying getting struck down by a golf cart is better than being flattened by a fast moving freight train. You’re still on the ground counting your bones and wondering what hit you.

Niko has a gross cold that leaves him snotty (although he’s finally figuring out how to blow his nose) and with a nasty cough. I kept him home from school yesterday because the cough was disrupting his sleep and he was on edge and poorly. Then last night his cough progressed to triggering vomiting. Thankfully he knew what was up and called me in to help him and we kept the mess pretty contained, at least physically. But he doesn’t enjoy vomiting, or coughing excessively, or feeling out of control, especially at 1:30 in the morning. I mean, who does? So the coughing till he pukes events usually progress to crying till he coughs more and then pukes again. One of my mom jobs is to calm him down when he gets worked up (even when he’s healthy, as he has asthma) because crying can lead to coughing can lead to grossness.

I cleaned up the puke, got him calmed down, helped him blow his nose and drink some water, cranked up his humidifier, fluffed his pillows, and did everything else I could to help him sleep comfortably. I gave him the last of the liquid benedryl we have on hand because it can shrink swelling in nasal passages and dry up postnasal drip, helping ease coughing and make breathing easier. He declined the codeine cough syrup we have for him (it tastes like fire) but if he’s coughing this much again tonight I’m going to insist he take it. But other than that, there’s nothing I can do. I mean, I can sit up on the couch with him, supporting his body so he’s not lying down, and hope that helps his cough. I can push fluids into him during the day, and feed him chicken soup. I can take him to the doctor (where they’ll say “yup, that’s a cold, keep him hydrated. that’ll be $25 please.”). But I can’t really make him better.

Most cold remedies don’t work any better than a placebo, while also having some pretty severe side effects, especially for children. There’s nothing I can give Niko to make him all better. If I could pull the sickness out of his body and endure it myself I would. All I can do is try to make him comfortable and be thankful this isn’t Pertussis.

Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough for the whooping sound of the coughs, or 100 day cough because of how long the illness usually lasts (10 weeks or longer, ie, over 2 1/2 months), is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It causes coughing so extreme that people wit it vomit, can break ribs, or become utterly exhausted. After coughing they can pass out; during coughing they can wet themselves, tear open arteries, burst capillaries in their eyes, or develop hernias. Infants don’t always develop the cough, sometimes they just stop breathing. Complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, and seizures. Despite the fact that a Pertussis vaccine was developed in the 1940s and has been proved resoundingly effective and safe, people are still rejecting it out of fear and misinformation. And so a disease that could be completely eradicated in the USA has pockets where it lives and strikes those most vulnerable to it, hospitalizing many of them and killing some of them.

Nikola will be sick for a week or two. He’ll probably miss 4-5 days of school (a school week). He’ll be gross and miserable and he’ll probably get this one or two more times this school year, and hopefully will get it less often next year. We’ll continue to treat him kindly and gently and help him use his inhaler so he can breathe better. He’ll be miserable and I’ll be miserable and I’ll lie awake at night listening to him cough and worrying, and listening to him NOT cough and worrying about THAT.

But it’s not Pertussis, at least.

That’s something.

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Transphobic bathroom laws aren’t about protecting women

February10

One of the big explanations/excuses for why various transphobic laws restricting public bathroom use to genitals is that it protects women from men who’d put on wigs and dresses (and shave their bodies? and wear foundation garments? and pad themselves? and use extensive make up? and manage to find size 12 or larger womens’ shoes?) and assault women in the bathrooms while disguised as women, something which has never happened, although men dressed as men have assaulted women in bathrooms and have camped out in portapotties to get a glimpse of women using the toilets.

If legislatures really wanted to protect women in bathrooms, they’d realize that first of all, assault is assault. It doesn’t matter if a man assaults a man or a woman; it doesn’t matter if a woman assaults a man or a woman. If you’re in the bathroom and someone assaults you, that’s already a crime. You don’t need to make a special law that only targets one particular marginalized group of people on the grounds that one of them might maybe commit a crime at some point. Then maybe they’d look into laws across all states, or even federal laws, protecting people from “upskirt” photos. It’s legal, at least in Scotland, to install one-way mirrors in public bathrooms and then sell tickets for men to watch women using the bathroom. Has there been a rash of legislature outlawing that in the USA?

Laws barring Trans and Non-Binary/GenderQueer folk from bathrooms because of their genital configuration are not about protecting other bathroom users. They’re about curtailing the ability of Trans & GQ/NB to exist in the world without harassment. They’re about making it illegal to exist as a Trans & GQ/NB person when there are more and more laws protecting their right to exist. They’re about finding ways, about creating ways, to oppress a marginalized group and make it very clear that they are unwelcome and not fully human.

These proposed laws spin ciswomen as delicate tender flowers needing extra protection and transwomen as sexual predators who are “really” men. They are harmful and they are bullshit and they are created not out of any desire to help or protect but out of the desire to actively oppress and harm Trans and GQ/NB people.

This is a tremendous problem.

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