This is the first of two posts about Disney movies and why I don’t like my daughter to watch them. Part two should be up sometime next week.
Obligatory disclaimer before I even start writing this post: it’s about Disney movies, and, more specifically, Disney Princess movies. I realize that Disney has other movies and that Pixar’s owned by Disney, but for most people, when you say Disney, they hear “princesses”. So that’s what we’re talking about.
It comes up, from time to time, that Maura isn’t really allowed to watch Disney movies. This is less stridently enforced than it used to be, partly out of necessity—it was one thing when she was with me all of the time, but it’s another thing entirely to tell her daycare provider that she’s not allowed to watch Disney, especially when every other kid in the group knows and loves all of the movies already. But still, we only own The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog, and those aren’t standard viewing fare.
To most people my age, it seems, this is a completely heretical stance. Everyone pities Maura, whose crazy, crazy mother doesn’t want her to watch Disney movies. I have yet to find anyone who responds with “oh, thank god, my kid isn’t allowed to watch them, either.” (I have hope, though—surely someone else is bothered by this, right?)
Here’s the thing, though: I really, really hate Disney movies. Almost across the board, the Disney movies (at least those with people in them—I admit that I’ve seen very few of their animal-based animated films) hold up marriage, usually to someone completely inappropriate, as the holy grail. I remind you that these are films being marketed to children, and that the overwhelming message in the end is this: Be pretty and kind and good, and maybe someone who is wealthy and powerful will want you for his bride.
Note that I didn’t say his partner, or even his wife. No, he’ll want you for his bride, his beautiful trophy.
Usually when I try to explain this to people, they immediately demand to know if I’ve seen Mulan. Yes, I have. And no, Maura hasn’t.
For those of you who’ve not read the original poem upon which the movie was based, the whole point of the poem is that no one knew if she was a man or a woman, and it didn’t matter because in war we are all affected. Her comrades didn’t know that she was a woman until after the war was won, when she returned home clad as a woman. When this happens, it’s pointed out again that it doesn’t matter that she’s a woman, and that it’s society, not nature, that separates the two sexes.
So Disney’s interpretation of this—one in which she is outed as a woman early on, one in which it’s a plot point that she is a woman, leaves me cold. Mulan starts out promisingly: she’s not great at the feminine arts, and she runs off to join the army in her father’s place. And, okay, she’s made to look a fool in the early military training, but she soon proves herself and is as good and as strong as any of the men. That’s pretty awesome.
And then she falls in love with her commanding officer, Shang. Okay. It happens. Maybe he’ll respect her for her skills and abilities as a warrior! …Or, on the other hand, maybe she’ll single-handedly win a battle for the Imperial Army and save Shang in the same battle, getting badly injured in the process. When it’s revealed that she’s a woman, the Emperor’s advisor orders her killed. Instead of standing up for her, Shang suggests that they just leave her–wounded and alone–at the snowy mountain pass so that she can find her way home. I think that we’re meant to feel that he’s saved her life, but realistically, he’s just condemned her to a slow, painful death. Despite Shang’s betrayal, when Mulan finds out that her comrades are in danger because the Huns weren’t actually dead, she rides back to warn them. She gets there and Shang—oh. Well, that’s embarrassing. He brushes her off. After all, she’s just a silly girl. But then the Huns show up, and Mulan defeats them. Again.
This time, the Emperor commends her, and Shang…does basically nothing. She heads home with military honors, and the Emperor comments to the love interest that hey, she’s pretty special, huh? And then Shang goes after her, and is pleased to find that she’s no longer clad as a man, but now looks appropriately womanly. She is, of course, delighted to see him and, as with all Disney movies, the implication is that they’ll live happily ever after.
So first he leaves her on an isolated, snowy mountain pass that’s recently been overrun with Huns who may or may not be dead. Then when she shows up to warn him that the Huns are coming, he ignores her. After she saves the day yet again, he still has to be told by the Emperor that he might want to consider her as a potential partner. I’m sure that it’s a fantastic match for Shang—after all, she’s already proved that she can pretty much do for herself if need be, plus there has to be some social cachet to marrying the only decorated female war hero in the country, right? It’s less of a fantastic match for Mulan, though, married to someone who doesn’t respect her or trust her judgment.
Mulan is hardly an isolated example, either. A brief rundown:
The very first Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is—like many Disney movies—based on a fairy tale. I’ll recap the fairy tale, for those of you who’ve forgotten. Beautiful child, evil stepmother, hunter unable to kill her, goes to live with the dwarves, poisoned apple, glass coffin. Check, right down the list. Prince shows up and begs to be given the coffin, and the dwaves—somewhat inexplicably—agree. They start to move the coffin, and the movement dislodges the poisoned apple stuck in Snow White’s throat. And yes, she eventually marries the prince.
So, really, it’s not all that different from the Disney version. Beautiful child, evil stepmother, hunter unable to kill her, goes to live with the dwarves. In both versions, her time with the dwarves is spent cooking and cleaning and taking after them. The inevitable poisoned apple comes, as does the glass coffin, and then comes the prince. You’ll note that he’s referred to only as the prince; his name, it seems, is less important than making it quite clear that he is someone of power, someone of wealth. And, of course, he saves her: Disney’s version is quite clear that it’s only the kiss of her true love that can wake her from her tragically beautiful, endless sleep.
What, then, does Snow White teach us (or our impressionable five year olds)? To be fair, it’s a bit more nuanced than some of the other films—though Snow White’s beauty is ultimately her savior, it’s also what sets the Evil Stepmother after her in the first place. Still, we come away with the knowledge that she was so beautiful and pure and womanly that the prince (who is, don’t forget, important and wealthy) fell “in love” with her the moment that he saw her. And, in turn, he’s her “true love”—despite the fact that they’ve not spoken a word to each other. After all, what could be a better marriage than childlike, subservient beauty and wealthy, manly power?
Cinderella was made over a decade later, but it falls into many of the same traps that Snow White does. Cinderella herself is good to a fault, friends with all of the animals and creatures of the forest. Every other (human) female character is evil, though, providing us with plenty of reminders of how good Cinderella is compared to all other women. Through the eventual intervention of her fairy godmother, Cinderella is turned “beautiful”—that is, she’s given a fancy dress, a carriage and all of the trappings, and a curfew. She heads to the ball, where the Prince (again nameless) has been rejecting every woman he meets. He sees Cinderella and is immediately in love with her, chasing her as she runs out of the castle, desperate to leave before curfew comes and she reverts to her normal state. Of course, in the end, it’s discovered that she’s the beautiful woman from the night before, nuptials ensue, and the happy couple ride off as the narrator intones “and they lived happily ever after”.
All well and good, though again, I’m forced to wonder what on earth the Prince and Cinderella could have in common. While I’m sure that it’s a step up for Cinderella, the idea that she “lived happily ever after” seems suspect to me—lived happily ever after doing what? With whom? With the prince, who she’s only known for a few hours when they decide to wed? The movie assumes that we won’t care, that we’ll fall for living happily ever after as surely as Cinderella fell for the promise of a life better than the one that she knew.
Sleeping Beauty takes us to 1959. According to Wikipedia—and this lines up with my recollections of the film—the titular character is on stage as an adult for less than eighteen minutes of the seventy-five minute film. Which, I suppose, is appropriate. After all, the title tells us everything we need to know about her: she’s beautiful. Beauty, nee Aurora, is born, and is immediately betrothed to Prince Phillip, which I’m willing to buy as part of the pseudo-Medieval thing that the movie has going on. Her fairy godmothers queue up to bestow their blessings upon the child, and they cover all the important stuff, making sure that she’ll be pretty and able to sing. Then the evil fairy shows up and casts the curse: death by spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday. Good fairy the third isn’t powerful enough to counter that, so she changes it to eternal sleep by spinning wheel. Then the good fairies take Aurora to live in a cottage in the woods, trying to keep her safe. On the day of her sixteenth birthday, she meets a handsome boy in the woods and falls immediately in love with him. She’s called away before she learns his name, though, and goes home only to find out that she’s a princess, and also cursed, and also engaged to some guy called Phillip.
Apparently unable to hold out the single day it would take for the curse to not happen, the fairies take her back to her parents’ castle, where Maleficent lures her to the spinning wheel. She, inevitably enough, pricks her finger. The kingdom falls asleep just as the fairy godmothers realize that the boy Aurora is in love with is, in fact, Prince Phillip, her betrothed. Happy coincidence! He’s been captured by Maleficent, but aided by the fairies—and the “shield of virtue” and “sword of truth”—he defeats Maleficent, makes out with the sleeping Aurora, and gets his happily ever after.
To summarize: Aurora is a good singer. Also, really, really pretty. All of the adults are idiots, since apparently none of thought to keep an eye on her on her potentially tragic sixteenth birthday. Phillip likes to dance in the woods, and is also truthful and virtuous, except for when he sexually assaults cursed princesses. Most importantly, he will someday be king, and he will have a beautiful wife who can sing. Excellent. I know that’s what I was looking for when I sought out a partner.
The next Disney “Princess” movie jumps forward three decades—suddenly, it’s 1989, and The Little Mermaid is heralding the revival of the animated film. You’d think that maybe, after thirty years, there’d be some passing nod to women who do something other than look pretty and cook and clean and sing, but you’d be mostly wrong. I say mostly because Ariel does not, to my recollection, cook or clean—she just looks pretty and sings.
I’ll be honest that I’m none too fond of the original story (which is a Christian allegory in which the mermaid is desperate to become human that she might gain an immortal soul), but Disney took a bad concept and made it worse. In the movie, sixteen-year-old Ariel longs to become human—partly because she thinks that they’re fascinating and probably less restrictive than her father, but (and this is apparently the more pressing concern) also because she’s fallen in love with a boy.
Don’t be silly—she hasn’t spoken to him or anything like that, but she did save his life when he got washed overboard. She swam him to shore, and then she sang to him until he regained consciousness. Predictably, he has fallen in love with her on the power of her voice alone.
Ariel heads over to the Sea Witch and trades her voice for legs, then heads off to win the boy’s heart. She gets three days. Wacky hijinks, mostly on the part of Sebastian the Crab, ensue. There’s a bit where Ariel almost succeeds in kissing Erik–which, in Disney movies, means that they’re in love–but not quite. Her failure gets her turned into a sea vegetable, or would if her father hadn’t shown up and proved himself to be the worst king in all of existence, dooming his kingdom to be ruled by an evil witch by taking his daughter’s place as a sea vegetable. Ultimately, everyone gangs up to kill the Sea Witch. Because it’s clear that Ariel and Eric’s love is so pure and true, everyone supports it, and Ariel’s father turns her into a human so that she can marry the boy she’s known for three days and never actually spoken to.
I’ve heard The Little Mermaid billed as a trans fairy tale before, and while I certainly see that interpretation, I think that the ultimate message of the movie remains the same: in order to win the person of your dreams and fit in society, in order to be what you want to be, you need to silence yourself. It’s not just her singing voice that she loses, it’s her ability to hold a conversation, or to stand up for herself, or to ask for a glass of water if she’s thirsty. None of those things matter, because the important part is that she be beautiful and willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her fairytale love story.
Next up is Beauty and the Beast, which several people have pointed out to me as a Disney movie that’s not horrible. I can’t do much other than look at these people in bewilderment, though. Sure, we have Belle, who’s smart, bookish, and—by princess standards—fairly normal-looking. She’s brave, too: when her father is captured by the Beast, she goes to find him and tries to break him out. Then she offers herself to the Beast in her father’s place. So far, so good, right?
From here on out, it’s all downhill. First the Beast goes into a rage because she—understandably—doesn’t want to dine with her captor. After his temper tantrum, he declares that if she won’t eat with him, she won’t eat at all. Then he storms off to sulk. She sneaks into the West Wing, which is strictly verboten, and he catches her and has a tantrum so ferocious that she flees the castle, running into the woods. She is, of course, promptly chased by wolves. The Beast comes and fights them off, then they head back to the castle, where Belle tends his wounds and thanks him for saving her life. Eventually, Belle’s kind and gentle nature tames the emotionally abusive, violent monster who’s imprisoned her, and he allows her to go to visit her father. When the townspeople find out that there’s really a beast, they set up a raid, but once he knows that Belle came back to him, the Beast manages to fight his way out. Until he gets stabbed in the back and collapses, that is. No worries, though, because Belle whispers that she loves him, and he’s restored to the beautiful prince that he used to be, and the castle is restored to its former splendor, and there’s a meaningful waltz. Everyone lives happily ever after.
Beauty and the Beast is, I think, a fantastic movie about Stockholm Syndrome. It’s basically telling people that if you’re just nice enough to someone who’s abusing you, eventually they’ll turn into the princes that they really are. Which would be great, if it were true. The National Domestic Violence Hotline receives over 600 phone calls per day, and a quarter of women in the United States will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. We need a movie that tells people that it’s okay to leave if he’s treating you badly, and that there are places to go for help, not that you should just stay and be really nice and hope that he stops.
We’ve just covered the whole Princess franchise. I know, I know–technically, there’s also Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog, and, really, Pocahontas ought to be considered, too. We’re going to cover that in the second part of this post, so please just bear with me. The primary princesses are Aurora, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, and Cinderella, and princess-branded merchandise is always available branded with those five characters. The remaining three are rotated in, but don’t have nearly the popularity that the big five do.
So we’ve talked about why I find the movies, in and of themselves, problematic. But hey, there are a lot of problematic movies out there, and I’m sure that Maura’s seen her fair share of those. What is is about Disney movies, specifically, that I find so offensive?
When I was little, it was made clear to me–as I’m sure it was made clear to many others–that my primary job in life was to grow up and go to college so that I could get a nice, smart boy to marry me. No one ever said that, of course, but it was clear that that’s what people, girls, did, and once they did that, their lives would be good and middle class and easy. I know that it sounds stupid, but part of me is still trying to get over the fact that this is just inherently not true, that even if you win the lottery and marry someone totally awesome, life will still be hard. That you have to work at relationships, and even when you have a great relationship it’s still hard. That even if you’re rich, life is still hard, because life’s not fair, and bad things will happen and you’ll have to deal with it, and sometimes all the money in the world can’t make that better.
I mean, I’m a reasonably intelligent woman. I’m reasonably self confident, capable, and independent. I own my own power tools and I don’t back down from fights; I can grow and can my own food; I’m not afraid of the dark. But I still struggle with the fact that my life, as much as I love it, isn’t easy and probably never will be. That no one’s going to stride out of the metaphorical forest brandishing their sword and somehow make everything awesome and sparkly. It’s not ever advertised that adulthood isn’t really all that, that you might be single for a long time, that you might be married and still be desperately lonely, that you might divorce, that you might be in a non-hetero relationship that the government and your employer won’t recognize, that you’ll base where you live on where you can have health care for your family and where the schools are good, that your job might suck, that even when you try your hardest there are sometimes bills that you just can’t pay, that life isn’t easy.
It’s never mentioned that life doesn’t have to be easy to be good.
The other reason that I’m not comfortable with a lot of these movies is because they’re aimed at kids. And I mean kids, children–not even middle-schoolers, but three, five, eight year olds. Kids who aren’t anywhere near pubescent, kids who, frankly, don’t need to be thinking about finding a partner (or, in Disney parlance, their prince) and living happily ever after. am desperately, desperately uncomfortable with the way that we market romance to small children. When you’re six, you shouldn’t be worried about being pretty so the boy who sits next to you in kindergarten will want to be your boyfriend.
Happily ever after has always suck in my craw, too. Let’s face it–fewer and fewer people get married with each passing year, and the divorce rate is something like fifty percent. The odds that anyone’s going to get married and live happily ever after are incredibly slim, but it’s still held up as the holy grail of life; the one true path to absolute happiness. I don’t think that it’s healthy to be telling small children that what they should be aiming for in life is to get some rich, attractive boy to like them.
Films aimed at kids should be about finding your place with your family, with your friends. I’ve heard people argue that this, somehow, isn’t interesting, but I think that those people are maybe not watching the right movies. The Incredibles was awesome. Spy Kids. Quest for Camelot. Sure, they’re less common than the yay-a-prince films, but they’re better. They’re more interesting, and there’s more to them–they require stronger characters and more of a plot than “we saw each other and fell in true love and lived happily ever after”.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: I don’t want my child watching Disney movies, because I want her to have strong female role models. I don’t want her watching Disney movies, because I want her to see people with full and interesting lives, regardless of if those people are married or not. And, more than anything, I don’t want her watching Disney movies because I want her aspire to be something more than being a beautiful bride; to want more out of her life than just a wedding.
Apparently nothing that I scheduled to post last week actually posted–whups? I’m not sure what’s up with that. They’ll get doled out over the next week or two.
Today, however, I’m going to post the Great Guide to Cleveland that I end up sending out a couple times a year. Cleveland’s one of those places that can be sort of hard to get, especially if you’re not there all the time. But the thing is that for all the burning river jokes and cracks about flyover states, Cleveland’s pretty awesome.
So here goes: the great rundown of a bunch of cool stuff to do in the Cleveland area. Heavy focus on food, since that gets asked a lot.
Cleveland has a surprisingly great food scene. Michael Symon has three restaurants that are either in Cleveland or right near there: B-Spot (casual place, does burgers, awesome milkshakes, bratwurst, that kind of thing), Lola and Lolita (Lola is pretty formal, Lolita is a little more midrange). All three of them are meant to be fantastic, though I’ve not visited them all. If you decide to hit the B-Spot, I’d suggest getting there earlyish–consider having a very late lunch, maybe. Lolita has great happy hour specials (I think that happy hour if 4-6–double check if you’re interested.)
If you’re into breweries, the Great Lakes Brewing Company is good times–they’ve got fantastic beer (I like the Dortmunder and Eliot Ness, and, if it’s in season, the Christmas Ale) and good food. If you’re into wine, Ohio has quite a few wineries of varying quality. More importantly, we have Vintage Ohio, which is a giant, awesome winefest.
Tommy’s of Cleveland is something of a hipster landmark. Unlike a lot of hipster landmarks, though, the food’s actually good, and Cleveland hipsters are less annoying than the hipsters of other cities, in my experience. Tommy’s is also in a neat little area called Coventry–lots of little independent shops and the like down there. It’s a nice place to walk around. Don’t miss Big Fun for a giant dose of 70s and 80s childhood.
The Flying Fig is a midrange eatery–I’ve only been there once, but really enjoyed the food. Vine and Bean Cafe is more casual and focuses on food that’s produced within a hundred miles of the restaurant. Their menu changes regularly, so I can’t say much about the current menu, but I’ve been there several times and it’s always been good.
If you’re looking for something more casual, go check out Johnny Mango (incredibly cheap, super delicious, very vegetarian friendly,) The Stone Oven, or the West Side Market Cafe. The latter is located inside the West Side Market, which is a historic market in Cleveland–they’ve got basically everything from organic veggies to handmade pastas to whole pigs and goats. Some of the stalls are owned by larger companies, but there are some that’ve been owned by the same family for the last hundred years. It’s a neat place to walk around, and there are actually quite a few eateries in there. All very casual (the Market Cafe is the most “upscale”, and by that I mean that there are tables to sit at), but there’s good brats, any kind of baked good you want, Middle Eastern food, Mexican and Cambodian, plus stuff like gyros, Mediterranean… If you go, climb upstairs to eat on the balcony that overlooks the market–it’s fantastic. The market and everything in it shuts down around three, just so you know.
If you want a crazy-awesome bar, go check out the Velvet Tango Room. Dress up. It’s basically a modern speakeasy, and–as you might expect–is pretty awesome.
If you’re okay walking around looking for somewhere, Little Italy has some fantastic shops and restaurants. Many of them keep weird hours/days of operation, though.
There’s also L’Albatros Brasserie– I’ve heard it’s amazing, though it’s a bit steep for my pocketbook. Blue Point Grille is meant to do fantastic seafood, but as I’m allergic, we’ve never gone.
This is by no means a comprehensive listing, it’s just a bunch of places I’ve been and found memorable for one reason or another.
Moving on to things to do…
If you’re into music, there’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though I haven’t seen it, they currently have a Springsteen exhibit that’s supposed to be great, and Motown exhibit that runs through the end of the summer.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has just opened their newly renovated east wing, and the collection is amazing. Admission, pleasingly enough, is free. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is small but neat.
If you’re in a more playing-with-things mood, the Great Lakes Science Center can be pretty fun–they have a lot of hands-on exhibits. (It’s also literally right next to the Rock Hall, so if you wanted, you could do a doubleheader without paying twice for parking.)
This one’s a bit odd, but there’s the William Mather museum, where you’re going through an old steamboat. It’s incredible and I love it, but if you’re claustrophobic, I would recommend against it.
Cleveland has a surprisingly wonderful zoo. Part of it is an indoor rainforest, and they’ve done pretty amazing things with it. It’s also enormous–you can easily spend a whole day there and still not see everything.
Depending on what time of year you’re going to be there, the Cleveland Botanical Garden or the Cleveland Cultural Gardens can be neat. That said, if you’re going to be here before, say, June, it’s probably not worth it, since everything outside will just be mud. Along similar lines is the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse.
Maybe this is weird, but I love taking people to the Lake View Cemetery. It’s absolutely stunning–full of amazing old graves, gorgeous monuments, and there’s a chapel designed by Louis Tiffany (of stained glass fame), which is just as beautiful as you’d expect.
If you want music, check what’s playing at the Grog Shop, the Beachland Ballroom, or the House of Blues. Bonus: Grog Shop and the Ballroom tend to be really cheap, too, with some shows as low as a couple of bucks.
If you want a different kind of music, go check out the world-class Cleveland Orchestra–they’re considered among the top ten orchestras in the world, better than anyone else in America save for Chicago’s Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Theater, go look at Playhouse Square. It’s a fairly impressive theater complex–it’s a group theaters from the twenties that all closed in the sixties. There was discussion about knocking them all down back in the 70s, but a group of people formed a preservation group and between, I think, 1980 and 1999, they’ve totally restored all five of the theaters–it’s gorgeous inside. They do a pretty wide variety of stuff now, ranging from, like, fashion shows to Broadway, and tickets can often be had for as little as $10. (And, okay, they’re a little nosebleedy, but I’ve paid way more than ten bucks for worse.)
For more outdoorsy stuff, there’s the Headlands Beach State Park–a mile of sandy beach, hiking trails, all sort of nice stuff. Also, Cleveland’s Metroparks system is second to none–miles upon miles of trails, wildlife reserves, all sorts of stuff. There’s even a haunted castle!
If you’re interested in kayaking, I hear that 41 North is well worth the price. Rock climbing? Try Kendall Cliffs if you want indoor, or Whipps Ledges if you want to be outside.
Cleveland also has a couple of great independently owned bookshops. Mac’s Backs Paperbacks and Visible Voice Books both come to mind.
If you’re willing to drive a bit further, Kelleys Island (those are two different links) can be a nice visit–bird watching, swimming, kayaking, sailing, swimming, scuba diving (with shipwrecks!), lighthouse tours, and the largest easily accessible glacial grooves in the world, which are pretty incredible.
About the same distance from Cleveland as Kelleys Island is Cedar Point, which has more rides than any other amusement park and ties for the world record of most roller coasters in an amusement park. There’s also a beach, an indoor waterpark, an outdoor waterpark, a marina, a bunch of restaurants, and go-karts. It’s been voted the best amusement park in the world for something like ten years running. I’m basically counting down until Maura’s tall enough to go on the fun stuff.
Somewhat less impressive than Cedar Point (but also more day-trippish) is Kings Island. It’s worth mentioning that Kings Island tickets are discounted by $15 if you purchase them online, which makes it markedly cheaper than Cedar Point tickets are.
If you’re willing to drive the 45 minutes down to Akron, you can also visit Blossom Music Center, which has a wide variety of concerts, including concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra, who are apparently performing with Yo-Yo Ma this summer.
Okay. That’s my incomplete listing of stuff to do in Cleveland. Locals, have anything to add?
Last week, two things happened. First, I ran out of deodorant (the mineral-salt spray-on kind), and second, my cousin mentioned on Facebook that his wife was making deodorant that evening. I was inspired–obviously, I should be making my own deodorant.
The internet offered up a multitude of recipes, almost all of which were some combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and either cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Which sounds mostly good, except that I am a delicate flower, and my poor, sensitive skin hates…well, pretty much everything. Sun burns me alarmingly quickly, scented products give me hives, soap leaves me feeling like I’ve been sandpapered, deodorant often leaves me feeling dried out and itchy. Sexy, right?
So I based my deodorant on the many available recipes, but tailored it for those of us with picky skin.
Ingredients. We’ve got coconut oil, grapefruit essential oil, baking soda, cornstarch, apricot kernel oil, and vitamin E. This is sort of a flexible recipe. You can use whatever essential oil you’ve got around or, really, you could leave it out. It’s such a light scent that I don’t think it’d be terribly noticeable if it were gone. If you have yeast issues, you should use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch. Thankfully, that’s not an issue for me, so I went with the cheapo cornstarch. For the vitamin E, you can either puncture a few gelcaps and squirt out their insides, or you can buy a little bottle of vitamin E at some pharmacies.
Put 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 Tbsp apricot kernel oil, 1 tsp vitamin E, and 6 Tbsp coconut oil into a bowl. I cheated and microwaved my coconut oil for about thirty seconds, and I’d suggest that you do, too–sure, you can mush it around in the bowl and it’ll eventually warm up and melt, but why bother? It’s also a lot easier to measure it when it’s at least semi-liquid.
If you happen to have it, I’d add some tea tree oil (maybe 1/4 tsp), as well, since it’s an antifungal, but I didn’t have any and it was too late to go to the store, so whatever.
Anyhow, all that stuff in a bowl, and start mixing. If you haven’t melted (or fully melted) your coconut oil, it’ll take a minute or two before things start to get mixy, but it’ll happen.
And, tada, you’ve made the most delicious cream cheese icing you’ll ever taste!
Okay, no, but it looks like that, doesn’t it? I love cream cheese icing.
Now would be a good time to add your essential oil. Like I said, I used grapefruit, and a fairly substantial amount of it. I keep seeing recipes calling for ten drops, and I can’t imagine that ten drops would do anything to a batch of this side. I ended up using probably between 1/3 and 1/2 of a teaspoon, and the deodorant has a very light scent–it’s noticeable if I stick my nose into the tin, or get right up in my armpit and sniff, but other than that, I don’t notice it at all.
Once you’re all mixed in, let it sit for a few minutes–the coconut oil will be really soft right now, which (sort of unexpectedly) makes it rather difficult to effectively package this stuff. Five minutes or so in a coolish room ought to be sufficient. Scrape the deodorant into a container, and you’re good to go. This made about 3/4 of a cup and filled four 3-Tbsp tins that I had. (Three are in use, and one’s in the freezer to see how it holds up in storage–I’ll report back in a few months.)
This makes a really nice and surprisingly effective deodorant. It’s a little easier on your skin than a lot of recipes out there, since it has more oil and less destinking-and-dessicant stuff in it. It also has the skin-soothing and rejuvinating properties of vitamin E and apricot kernel oil, as well as the moisturizing coconut oil. We’ve been using it for about a week now and have no complaints. It’s even stood up to the sweaty man test–Nick, who’s pretty stinky, has been wearing it, and it’s held up over long walks, gardening, and yard work…all with less smell than our previous deodorant choices have left us with.
I don’t know that you’ll save a ton of money doing this (my coconut oil was pretty expensive, though if you buy it in quantity or online the price drops dramatically), but it’s effective and doesn’t make my armpits hurt, which makes it worth it in my book.
I’ve been threatening this cheese-making post for a while, so here we go. A while back, I took it into my head to learn to make cheese, and it seemed that the easiest way to start was with mozzarella. I haven’t done any other cheeses yet, so this may or may not be true, but it is awfully easy to make your own mozzarella. In addition to feeling very proud of yourself for Making Cheese, it’s also very inexpensive (about a pound of cheese can be had from a gallon of milk, which I can get as low as $2–much cheaper than you’d buy cheese at the store) and incredibly delicious.
So here we go. This recipe was cribbed from a dozen places on the internet, but none of them had pictures.
To make the cheese, you’ll need:
A gallon of milk (from the dairy section of the supermarket is fine. Don’t use shelf-stable milk; it’s undergone additional processing that make it not work.)
1/2 tablet rennet
1 tsp cheese salt (I think popcorn salt would be a good substitute)
about 1/2 tsp lipase powder
1 1/2 tsp citric acid
The lipase powder is apparently optional–some recipes have it, some don’t. When I first started researching cheesemaking, I googled for where to buy lipase powder, expecting that there would be an internet shop to buy from. The very first hit, though, was for Grape and Granary, which is about four doors down from where I work. So I have lipase powder. If you’re ordering it and you’re asked if you want mild or strong, go for mild–though G&G has basically everything for cheesemaking, their customer service was, at least when I was there, really shitty, and they wouldn’t give me any guidance as to which sort I wanted. (The guy just shrugged when I asked. I was even more annoyed when I got home and realized that the packages that he was holding were labeled with what sorts of cheese you’d make with it.)
Before you start, get a half cup of cool water and dissolve your citric acid in it. Then get a quarter cup of water and dissolve your rennet in that. Then you’re good to go.
Dump your milk into a large pot and turn the heat to medium. Stick the thermometer in there. Stir the milk as it comes up to 55F. This only takes a couple of minutes, so don’t wander off. When the milk’s at 55, you’re going to mix in your citric acid and lipase powder.
It’ll look like that–the lipase is sort of an unattractive beige, and it floats and doesn’t look like it’s going to mix in well. It’s okay. Keep stirring.
You may notice little white blobs sticking to your spoon. The first time I made cheese, I was convinced that it was the lipase failing to mix in, but then I looked closer and realized that they were nascent cheese curds. Hurrah!
You’re still stirring, right? When the cheese reaches about 80 degrees, it’ll look like the picture above. I’ve given up any hope of color accuracy in that picture in an attempt to show you the texture.
If you skim the spoon over the surface of the milk, you’ll end up with a spoonful of wet, squidgy cheese cuds.
At 90F, you’re going to mix in the rennet.
Almost immediately, your cheese will start to really separate, and you’ll see large islands of cheese surrounded by a pale green-yellow water.
Skimming the spoon over the surface gets you a spoonful of almost-solid cheese.
That’s at about a hundred degrees.
105 degrees, it’s time to take the cheese off the heat. The cheese will be in large, distinct blobs.
Scoop out the cheese curds, allowing as much whey as possible to drain off of them, and transfer them to a microwave-safe bowl. (I used a large Pyrex measuring cup–it holds, I think, about two quarts.)
Drain off as much whey as you can, then stick the cheese in the microwave for a minute. A literal minute. When it comes out, it’ll look much like the cheese above. Drain off the whey, then stick your hands in there and knead the cheese for a minute. It’s sort of awkward kneading, since the cheese isn’t really holding together yet, but just reach in and squish it around.
Drain off the excess whey, then stick the cheese into the microwave for 35 seconds. Knead it again, and, again, drain off the whey.
Into the microwave one last time, again for 35 seconds. Mine looked like the picture above–there was some very milky whey, which I didn’t drain off. When the cheese comes out of the microwave, add your salt, then start kneading the cheese.
It’s a lot easier to knead this time, and all of a sudden, it’ll form a ball. Keep kneading for another minute, then form it into whatever shape you’d like–some people do bite-sized pieces, but I’m lazy and just left it as a large ball.
As you can see, I got about 19 ounces of cheese from this. It’ll last maybe a week in the fridge, if you can keep yourself from eating it all.
Success with mozzarella was pretty heady. I’m thinking that I’m going to try queso blanco next, and after that I might go crazy and try my hand at halloumi or blue cheese. There will, of course, be pictures.
Have you guys tried cheesemaking? Anyone have any favorite books or recipes to share?
I was going to write a post about making cheese, but instead I was a mature, responsible grownup and finished all of our taxes–more than 24 hours before the deadline! Good job, me.
The cheese post (which is coming, I swear–I’ve even got about half the pictures reformatted and all) will happen in a day or two. In the meantime, have a few poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!
It is possible to be struck by a
meteor or a single-engine plane while
reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass.
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body’s
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore. This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens — the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam. Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next.
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
Catechism for a Witch’s Child
When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drank
the holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother
who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who say, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
It Could Have Been
Last year, Carol Ann Duffy had a piece in The Guardian in which she invited several poets to contribute pieces related to the ongoing war. This was one of them.
Ali, son of Abdul. 16 months.
Rocket on house, Sadr City 16.5.2009.
Ali, but for some detail of history,
this day could have been yours.
It could have been you this morning,
stood at the end of your bed,
eyes still shut, arms held up for your mother,
who makes sun and all things possible,
who could, little Ali, be me.
Tony Edward Shiol, 5 years.
Kidnapped, found strangled, Shikan 12.05.2009.
If God had sneezed or been somehow distracted.
If that ray of light had shifted
and you had landed
with that small, metallic thrill of conception
as I walked down Euston Road,
then this could have been your morning.
It could have been me inhaling
your breath straight from sleep,
the smell of hot lake and woodsmoke, could have been
my tired arm under your neck.
Unnamed baby son of Haider Tariq Sain.
Car bomb, Nawab Street, Baghdad 7.04.2009.
It could have been you
at the far top stair of my stairs -
- your feet in these shoes
which do not contain ants;
Unnamed daughter of Captain Saada Mohammed Ali.
Roadside bomb, Fallujah 20.4.2009.
which smells good
but does not taste; watching
the unsteady wonder of bubbles;
throwing water up into the light.
Unnamed child of Haidar, male, aged 4.
Suicide bomber, Baghdad 4.1.2009.
your body held out in my hands;
weight of your head
safe away from the pool’s sharp side
Sa’adiya Saddam, aged 8, female.
Shot dead by USA forces. Afak, 7/8 Feb, 2009.
It could have been me on that street
with you in my hands
and my hands red and wet
and my face is a shriek
and my voice is a house all on fire
But for geography,
but for biology,
but for the way
it could have been
Unnamed female baby of the Abdul-Monim family.
Shot dead, Balal Ruz 22.1.2009.
you holding your hand up for kissing.
Some of you may remember that last year, our backyard garden ended up looking more or less like this:
Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice garden, but the yield was rather less than one might hope, especially when one has a family of vegetable lovers who’d quite happily eat nothing but garden-fresh produce all summer. So this year, the goal was to expand the garden.
Maura went up to my mom’s over the weekend, and Nick and I connected with some friends who were willing to give up their Saturday afternoon to help us make our garden more impressive. So Rachel and Andrew came over, and Andrew brought his rototiller. (And that, guys, is some serious friendship–it’s super heavy, and sort of a bitch to move around, and not only did he bring it over, but he also did the vast majority of the actual tilling.)
When we went outside, the yard looked like this:
In addition to still having only a tiny garden, we also have some enormous tree limbs that cast much of the yard in shade, leaves everywhere, and a ton of pollen.
Halfway through, we’d gotten to here:
That’s a shovel handle that’s sticking straight up in the right of the picture. I was so preoccupied at the time that I didn’t even notice it was there until I went to resize the photo. You’ll notice that several tree branches are missing, and that Andrew has heroically tilled a substantial portion of the backyard.
Finally, we had this:
More branches down, the first garden tilled, and second plot created. It’s a bit hard to tell, but in our L-shaped yard, the garden is now almost the size of the vertical line. I managed to do the last pass with the rototiller on the larger plot, and then did the first two passes on the smaller plot. Then I couldn’t turn it fast enough and sort of lost control a little bit, and maybe it sort of ran over some of our woodpile, so Andrew did the last two passes. But still, I worked the rototiller! (And I have bruises to prove it–ow.)
The horizontal line of the L now has a grapevine, and another one will be put in…well, as soon as I get back outside. They won’t fruit this year, but it’s nice to have them.
In addition to all of this, Nick and Rachel cleaned out a huge chunk of the back hill–our yard goes up at the back, and the people who were here before us mostly used it as a dumping ground, so far as we can tell. Scrub, chunks of concrete, plastic… So they cleaned out a ton of that, and Nick burnt a ton of yard waste, also at great personal cost–he has a three-inch-long burn on his arm, and is missing arm hair in several more places. I’m told that the soles of his shoes are also scorched from stomping out bits that got blown out of the pit.
The backyard looks fantastic.
Sunday, we slept until past noon, recovering.
The seedlings that we planted a week or two back are doing really well, despite the fact that one of the cats just doesn’t seem to be able to keep his fat ass off of them. Several types of tomatoes have popped up, as has the fennel, lima beans, and spaghetti squash. I’m so excited! Hopefully we’ll be able to start getting some of the more cold-tolerant plants out there this week.
Also, for those of you who’ve asked, yes, I made mozzarella cheese and it was delicious. Post coming soon about that–the holdup is mostly that there are ten million pictures, and it takes a while to get them all resized and color corrected and posted.
We eat a lot of yogurt here. I eat it with muesli for breakfast every day, and we all eat it as a snack. Maura occasionally takes it in her lunch. The thing, though, is that I tend to like the expensive kind of yogurt–the $3.29 supermarket brand is okay, but what I really crave is the intense, slightly sour tang of Greek yogurt. For those of you who don’t share my craving, Greek yogurt is really expensive. At the cost club, I can buy a pound of it for, I think, about $5. That lasts less than a week–and that’s if I’m the only one eating it, and being restrained in my consumption at that! (No joke, I’d probably happily eat yogurt twice a day. Plus it gets used in pancakes, and salad dressings, and fruit dip, and…)
So when a friend of mine mentioned in her Facebook status that she was making yogurt, and I was intrigued. I’ve always loved the idea of making yogurt, but it sounded really intimidating. She insisted that it was easy, though, and with a bit of prodding, posted her recipe.
Last Friday, I decided to try my hand at making yogurt. If I messed it up, the only thing lost was $2 of milk, which seemed like an okay deal to me. So I hit the store and bought a gallon of milk (which, like I said, ran about two bucks,) and a six-ounce container of unflavored yogurt. (Greek, because that was the only small unflavored one I could find. It cost about a dollar on sale.) (Also, did you catch that? Six ounces of Greek yogurt costs a dollar–if it’s on sale. So expensive!)
I pulled out our largest Club Cookware pot, which is giant and cast iron and one of the many things that we inherited from Nick’s grandmother. It’s also very thick and retains heat really well, which is important for yogurt making.
In went the gallon of 2% milk. The first thing you do is heat the milk to 180, stirring constantly. I ignored the stirring constantly bit, which was a mistake–when I cleaned the pot the next morning, I found that there was a layer of burnt milk at the bottom, and there were a few little brown burnt-milk pieces in my finished yogurt. It didn’t seem to affect the taste at all, but it’s not especially attractive. Also, it’s a major pain in the ass to clean burnt-on milk. Just suck it up and stand there and stir. It only takes about ten minutes.
Once the milk’s hot, turn off the burner and walk away. I came upstairs and watched two episodes of Arrested Development, which we just started and are really enjoying so far. (We’re also watching Battlestar Galactica, but despite having seen it before, I don’t always have the stomach for that kind of drama.)
When you’re done watching television, go check your milk. When it’s cooled to between 110 and 120, you’re good to go. “Go”, in this instance, means dump in the plain yogurt you bought and stir it in. Pretty complicated, eh? After that’s mixed in, you put the lid on the pot and wrap the whole thing up in blankets or winter jackets or whatever–the goal is to keep the contents of the pot warm for as long as possible. If you have an oven with a pilot light, I’d just stick the pot in there. My oven does not have a pilot light, so I wrapped the pot in a hoodie, then pulled an insulated bag over the whole thing.
Go back to the television, or the internet, or whatever it is that you do in the evenings. Do your best to forget about the yogurt, and resist the urge to check on it, since lifting the lid will let heat escape.
In the morning, unwrap your pot and look inside–tada, yogurt! Mine was a bit thin (not too thin, just…on par with cheap supermarket yogurt, really,) and I blame that at least partly on forgetting to close the kitchen windows–it got pretty cold overnight, and when I checked the pot in the morning, everything was stone cold. Luckily, there’s an easy fix.
If your yogurt’s not as thick as you’d like, take a strainer and line it with a clean cloth napkin, some cheesecloth, or a few layers of paper towel. Dump the yogurt into the strainer and let it sit there for an hour or two (an hour gave me about the thickness of Yoplait; two hours gave me a nice, thick, Greek-style yogurt). You might have to do this in batches if your strainer’s not enormous, but it’s worth it.
After 24 hours and maybe 15 minutes of work, I ended up with four pounds of delicious yogurt, and we’ve already eaten over a pound of it, sweetening it just before eating. It’s much tastier than what we’ve been buying, and it’s cheaper and healthier, too. I suspect that yogurt making is going to become a weekly activity–when it’s this easy, it seems silly not to. The cost will go a little further next time, from $3 a batch to $2 a batch, since the next batch can use a cup of yogurt from this batch as starter.
If your family eats yogurt with any regularity, especially if you’re into Greek yogurt, you should definitely try this. In addition to all the stuff I’ve already mentioned, you feel incredibly accomplished. I made yogurt! There are whole factories, entire companies, that are dedicated to it, and I did it all by myself, in my kitchen. Pretty awesome.
Time to start up the garden 2010 filter!
First things first, I guess. Meatfest was a success–we assembled my fire pit, which is just like this, only woodburning. Then we roasted a truly ridiculous number of sausages (off the top of my head, I think we had Hungarian hots, chorizo, sweet Italian sausage, cheddarwurst, Serbian sausage, bratwurst, and probably at least one other kind that I’m forgetting.) Then we had s’mores, and then we had cigars. It was basically awesome.
The weekend-long meatfest continued the next day when we played badminton, sang karaoke, and ate some really phenomenal ribs. They were ripped straight out of Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, which is one of my comfort books. When I’m sad and depressed and the world is a bad place, I read Home Cooking, More Home Cooking, Lord of the Rings, and The Doomsday Book. Apparently, I find food and death cheering. Go figure.
Anyhow, the ribs marinated for a day and a half in half a cup of olive oil, half a cup of soy sauce, a quarter cup of rice vinegar, half a cup of lemon juice, a quarter cup of honey, a little sweet chili sauce, and about three heads of garlic. (That’s per rack, should you be doing this at home. You don’t have to bother peeling the garlic–just slice it a few times so that you’ve got a lot of exposed garlic flesh and toss it in.)
On the second day, they got wrapped in foil, topped with a little of the marinade, and baked at 300F for four hours. Before we ate them, we dragged them through some more marinade (fresh, obviously). They were incredible. I don’t like most barbeque sauces, because I think that they taste like corn syrup and red dye, and this neatly avoided that while still giving the ribs that nice, saucey feel you expect from delicious ribs. I’m told that some people munched on some of the rib bones, too, though I didn’t go quite that far.
Meatfest concluded on Sunday–no friends that day, but Nick, Maura, and I went out to my parents’ house, where they promptly grilled some steak for supper.
To be honest, I’m pretty sure that I’d be okay not eating meat again for a few weeks. Not that that’ll happen, just that it could.
To balance all the meat, we decided today that we’d head over to the garden center at Home Depot and pick up some seeds! I also bought two of those little seed starter things that has a plastic lid. Last year we waited on starting seeds until pretty late, and we didn’t start getting any sort of crop until late August. This year we’re starting them earlier and keeping them inside for a while, and faced with the option of cleaning up dirt every time the cats knocked over my little peat pots or buying a crappy plastic tray that has a lid and can be taped down on a chair or something…well, obviously I went for the latter. I hate cleaning; you guys know that.
This year’s garden is shaping up to be quite ambitious. Last year I flipped a couple of pallets and filled them with dirt to form a sort-of raised bed. This year, I think that I’m just digging holes in the ground and adding nice soil and hoping for the best. Last year’s beds will get used too, of course, but this will let me spread things out and hopefully get a bit more variety.
How much variety? Well, like I said last year, I have a brown thumb–not as deadly as a black thumb, but it’s a good bet that half of anything I start will die. That said, this is the seed list from today’s shop:
Watermelon (Orange Tendersweet–apparently these can grow up to 35 pounds, which is insane and obviously will not happen as long as they’re in my care.) (Because Maura will eat them well before that.)
Peas (Sugar snap, edible pod)
Carrots (Kaleidoscope mix and sweet treat hybrids. Looks like we’ll get red, white, and purple from the mix and fat, short carrots from the sweet treats. Technically you’re not meant to start these in pots, but I did it last year and it was just fine, so whatever.)
Mesclun mix (Ashley lettuce, salad bowl lettuce, red salad bowl lettuce, arugula, corn salad, endive, radicchio, and chervil. I’m hoping to find a largish planter that I can grow this in.)
Lima beans! (Fresh lima beans are dreamy.)
Swiss chard (Rhubarb chard, so pretty red stems.)
Greencrop beans (I’m hoping to get enough to make dilly beans in my new pressure canner.)
Spinach (Baby’s leaf hybrid)
Fennel (Which I’m newly keen on.)
Eggplant (The packet has a mix of applegreens, rosa biancas, millionaire hybrids and snowy hybrids. I love eggplant and have had luck growing it before, so I’m really excited about this.)
Sweet corn (Two kinds–sweet perfection hybrid and ruby queen hybrid. The ruby queens, as you may have guessed from the name, will be red! If, that is, we can get them to grow.)
Tomatoes (Super sweet 100 hybrid and best boy hybrids.)
We also have some seeds from a friend of Nick’s. She sent:
Peppers (A mix of red, yellow, and purple sweet peppers.)
Red beefsteak tomatoes
A tomato mix of various sorts
Hot banana peppers
I’m crazy excited for the (potential) glut of tomatoes. I also left a few tomatoes rot in the garden last year, so hopefully we’ll have some volunteers, as well. At some point when the frosts have stopped, we’ll hit the garden center again and pick up rosemary, thyme, and basil–my luck starting herbs from seed is bad to the point of worthlessness. I’ve literally never managed it. We’ll probably grab a few more tomatoes, too, because it’s nice to have some that start giving fruit in late June or early July, and the store’s plants tend to be hardier than mine.
People who have specific knowledge about any of the above are welcome (and encouraged!) to pipe up about it–Livia? Tracy? Amanda and Andrew?
I think we’ll get most of the seeds in dirt this week. This year, I’m going to be all wild and crazy and find some way to mark what I’m planting. Last year, we just stuck things in the ground and hoped that some of them would grow. It was sort of exciting to be guessing what we were growing! The things that we thought for weeks were [crappy and stunted] melons turned out to be [failed] cucumbers. The excitement around here never ends.
Yeah, so, the whole month of March somehow just disappeared! I have no idea what happened there. Actually, that’s a lie, I know exactly what happened: Maura got sick, I got sick, Maura and I got sick at the same time, Maura got sick and then I got sick, I got sick, Maura got sick again, I got sick again. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that literally every week for the last five weeks, either Maura or I has been sick. I’m ready for this month to be over. (And yes, I realize that five weeks is more than a month, but I’ve convinced myself that when March is over, the plague will go away. Please don’t make me question that right now.)
I’ve heard that the internet hates large blocks of text, so instead, I give you a list.
Things About Which I Am Displeased
- Vajazzling. We’ve all heard about that by now, right? I know that the comeback is “I do it for me, to feel good about my lady parts.” You know what? If you need to stick cheap plastic rhinestones to your genitals in order to “feel good about them”, maybe you should look into therapy. They’re pretty much there to make you feel good–maybe you’re doing it wrong. (Pro tip: it takes more than Tab A, Slot B for most people. Just sayin’.)
- Author websites that are at, like, Angelfire. I had a website on Angelfire once! In 1997. It costs ten bucks a year for a domain redirect, and it looks way more professional. If you’re one of my authors and you lack the ten bucks and/or the technical skill to set up a redirect, email me and I’ll do it for you. Seriously. (If you’re not one of my authors, I’m not giving you ten bucks, but I will walk you through setting up a redirect, if you want. Email me. It may take a few days, but it’ll happen.)
- Being sick. My sick days for the year are already gone. This happened last year, too, when I got pneumonia and spent a week laying in bed and feeling sorry for myself.
- The tenses of lay. I’ve had it explained to me by at least half a dozen really smart, clever people, and Nick actually made me a chart at one point. I still can’t get it right. It’s my big failing as an editor. (I can, for the record, get “lain” right. But that’s the only one.)
- This trend in the YA market of paranormal-whatever-as-a-metaphor-for-abstinence/way of making abstinence sexier. Yes, I know that Stephanie Meyer made ten billionty dollars, but one, you’re not Stephanie Meyer, and two, Twilight was a shitty book. Popular, yes, but Nickelback were popular for a while, too.
- Owl City’s video for Vanilla Twilight. Half of the video is people standing gawping, open mouthed, at the sky. The other half of the video is the clouds in the sky forming into a…a giant vulva with magical light and colors coming out of its vagina? Seriously, someone tell me what I’m missing, because I’m clearly not getting it. Also, Owl City guy, go have a shower. And a haircut. And you kids get off my damn lawn, you hear me?
- My chronic overuse of the word awesome. I say it way too often, but it’s such an easy shortcut! And so easy to use sarcastically, which, you know, is a bonus. I also say fascinating too often, but there’s so much neat stuff out there that it’s hard not to. (Related: did you see the news about finding a new species of ancient human? Both awesome and fascinating.)
- Messing with medication. The dose of Seroquel I was on was keeping me stable, but making me gain an alarming amount of weight (almost 40 pounds in the last year) and also turning me into a zombie. The dose that I’ve dropped to is keeping me mostly stable and not making me a zombie, but it’s also taken away my ability to stop thinking long enough to fall asleep. This blog post? Written at four in the morning. I get up at eight for work. Bad job.
- The pinkification of random products. What the hell is the point? It’s a cable–special for girls. Are the grey cables problematic in some way? It’s a cable. You plug it in and then by the time you look at it again, it’s grey from dust anyhow. Also, who uses wired connections anymore?
- Hats. You look stupid in that hat. Yes, you. Yes, that hat you’re wearing right now. And the one you were wearing earlier. And the one before that. And that stupid trucker cap. Sadly, I have married a hat-loving man, and I have a hat-loving daughter and hat-loving friends. Just say no, guys!
In happier news, this weekend is set up to be MEATFEST 2010. Friday night is a sausage and bacon roast over my new firepit; Saturday is spareribs. There’ll be karaoke and cigars, and I’m told that people will be wearing hats. More importantly, there’ll be pictures. It’ll be epic.