Vegan Cheese-steaks

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The husband found this recipe online and thought it sounded awesome.

The recipe calls for a lot of chili peppers and cayenne, though, and the husband is prone to ulcers. (He’s a walking stress ball.)

Our version:

Oil (I cooked with a blend of canola/olive and drizzled olive oil on the buns)

Rolls/Hoagies (I used Portuguese rolls I found at the grocery store)

I also like any excuse to use my food processor, so I used the slicer attachment to chop the seitan into smaller bits — not quite “shredded” and not quite “chopped.”

I cut up half a leftover onion and tossed it in the pan with a blend of olive and canola oil and a few chopped up slices of jalapeno (the jar kind, which tends to have a different heat than the fresh and seems easier for him to eat).

When the onions started to brown, I dumped the seitan shreds in and shook on some Greek Seasoning and a bit of black pepper.

Once the seitan started to brown at the edges, I threw in half a bag of peppers and stirred them in with a bit more Greek seasoning.

Then I lowered the heat to low and dumped half a bag of Daiya cheddar shreds and let that melt while I toasted the bread and drizzled it with olive oil.

I don’t have pictures because he ate it all. He’s a super picky eater and he never cleans his plate so this is rather monumental.

Note: This is not a low-calorie meal, but I’m sure it’s lower calorie than the real deal from a diner or food truck. It also tends to taste more like “chicken” cheese-steak than beef cheese-steak, but that worked out for both of us as beef even grosses him out.

 

Vegan Alfredo Sauce

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We’ve tried this a few different ways. The version using avocados, lemon, and garlic is delicious but not very “alfredo-y.” The version using cauliflower was gritty and awful. Recently, we decided to try again and use a bean recipe. Yes, white beans. I followed the original with the addition of sundried tomatoes, but it was a bit too “bean-y.” When I reheated it later, I added more almond milk and more vegan butter. The additional creaminess cut down on the bean taste and made the whole thing more like alfredo sauce.

  • 2 cans white beans (we used one can of Northern and one of Navy)
  • 2 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk (add 1.5 to the food processor and add the last half when it’s cooking)
  • .5 cup vegan butter/margarine
  • Garlic or garlic powder to taste
  • Onion or onion powder to taste
  • Black pepper or peppercorns
  • Tablespoon or two of olive oil
  • Nutritional yeast (quarter cup)
  • Italian seasonings (oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, etc.) to taste
  • Sundried tomatoes

Add everything but the olive oil and half cup of almond milk to the food processor (drain the beans) and turn it into a pureed, creamy sauce. Pour into a pot or saucepan. Warm on mid-heat and add the rest of the milk and oil, stirring.

Cook linguine or fettucine to al dente. (We didn’t seem to have either so I used penne.)

Pour cooked sauce on cooked pasta and eat.

Things I don’t understand: #planneraddicts

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I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around “planner” obsession for a while now. I’m not sure I quite have it.

Now, before you snap your fingers early-90s sassy sitcom style and tell me it’s a planner thing, I wouldn’t understand, let me explain. I mean, I have a windowsill full of pens. Full. Of pens. I have a mug and a jar devoted just to refills for said pens. I have notebooks. Two full boxes full of them, just waiting to be used. I not only have this many pens and notebooks, but I have preferences. That’s generally one of the signs of someone with a stationery store problem, an office supply addict, this preference for particular items. And piles of former favorites that he or she can’t quite part with in case that one becomes a favorite again. It could happen — at any moment.

At the moment, I have a Moleskine I use primarily for practicing lettering (poorly), sketching out things (poorly), doodles, watercolor play, and ideas that need a dot grid. It’s thin, flexible, and has a loop to keep it closed. I have a Paperblanks journal and one I drag around in my purse as a “brain dump” to catch snippets of dialog, plot ideas, deranged poetry, lists, scribbles, doodles, and nonsense. I have another one I use as a journal. I have too many Miquerlrius notebooks because I love the paper quality and I can reuse the poly covers for discbound notebooks (“arc” if you’re a Staples addict).

And, I have a planner. I love my planner. I am protective of my planner. It is beautiful. Because I didn’t want to buy leather, I put off investing in a nice cover until Levenger finally came out with the LevTex alternative to leather that looks like leather instead of looking like cheap plastic. (Until then, I used the cheap plastic.) Since I can’t quite afford Levenger, I haunted their eBay outlet until the right size (junior) LevTex cover came around and then lost three to stupidly-high bidders (like, bidding more money that it would cost to buy the thing on the Levenger site), and finally got a dark purplish blue one. Let’s be clear that I wasn’t sure that was the color I wanted, but I’m glad that’s the color I got. It’s like an indigo. Pretty. I started out with my 1″ Twilight discs, but they were too small, so I moved up to the 1.5″ Twilight discs I’d had on my old planner. For months, I used a daily calender I got on clearance because the year was ending and waited for Levenger to put the SmartPlanner refills on sale. Finally, enough of 2014 passed that I started having things to write in the SmartPlanner pages, put the first few months in the planner and enjoyed how much the little to-do lists, weekly goals, and week-on-one-page format worked for me. I added a section at the back with top tabs for the dojo, my writing, my candles, and “other.” I added a section for contacts. I kept some blank paper in the back. I added a pen to the loop.

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Ahh… Done. Really. Done. That’s it. I mean, for those who aren’t paper and pencil obsessed, they already slipped into a coma and wondered what the hell is wrong with me (probably not in that order). For the planner addicts, they’re probably wondering when I bought the washi tape; if the pen coordinates; if I use a rubber band or a headband to keep it closed; if I decorated the front with stickers or rhinestones; how often I change my dashboard; if I have a section for Project Life cards; where I keep the inspirational verses; how many specialty paperclips I have (the answer here is 9 but none of them stick up and all but three are little silver ones from Midori). A few of are probably also waiting for me to mention the other planners: the one for quotes or budgets or housecleaning schedules or… that’s the thing. I don’t know what else I’d need more planners for. That’s the thing I don’t get.

I’m pretty pragmatic. I mean, I have other “arc” notebooks — most of them actually have Levenger components because when the husband discovered Circa at the beginning of grad school, he went a little overboard — but I don’t call them “planners.” I call them notebooks. One has all the backstory notes for the main character in it. One has all the accounting paperwork for the GIS business in it. One has a couple of PDFs on small business and craft business success in it. One is mostly blank paper. One is, actually, a planner of sorts (it’s the old travel planner from our last road trip), but I just don’t see it as a “planner” so much as an archived itinerary.

So, maybe it’s partly vocabulary. What I call a “notebook,” other people are calling “planners.” Except, that doesn’t seem to fully explain the phenomena that confuses me so. I mean, I somewhat don’t understand the decorating aspect, but I think that’s because people keep calling it “planning” when what they seem to mean is “scrapbooking” or “decorating” or “crafting.” Then again, we are a society obsessed with The Future and Plans and Busy, so maybe in the context of that cultural need to feel like we’re always moving forward or drafting a map to get there, we’ve rebranded the fun of crafting and the nostalgia-drenched “waste of time” scrapbooking of old as “planning.” Seems a little like the swoops boomerangs and rocketships in Googie-era space age design. The obsession with future and progress turned boring old motels into concrete conch shells wearing sombreros.

The need for more than one, though, I’m having a harder time with. And, yeah, I get that I drag around the little Paperblanks brain dump and the indigo planner with me almost everywhere, but that’s it. If I’m actually using it for something, I might bring the Moleskine, but I’ll probably leave the Paperblanks behind. If I’m going to dinner or a party, I toss the Paperblanks or the tiny Circa jotlet in my bag (you never know when you’ll have an idea) and leave the planner behind. I don’t, though, have five Filofaxes in different colors or sizes. I don’t have a Filofax, a Midori, a Foxydori, a Kikki-K, an Erin Condron, an Arc, a Hobonichi, a Plum Planner, SugarPlum, and five other various things I got from eBay, Etsy, or Kickstarter. I don’t understand the constant switching contents and pages and refills and brands. I bought the thing I liked. Done.

I don’t get it because A) just the clutter of the windowsill full of pens is making me a little nuts at the moment and I’m probably about a week from sending most of them to live elsewhere; B) I don’t have the money to constantly buy new planners — especially since some of them run a hundred bucks for more; C) I use the planner to keep my shit straight so I don’t forget the things I’m supposed to do or the places I’m supposed to be. If I’m constantly changing the format, the container, the layout… How am I supposed to remember where things are? It utterly defeats the purpose for me.

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What I’m supposed to wear.

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I started pontificating about what I’ve been told I should and shouldn’t wear over the years in my newsletter this past week and I keep finding, utterly by accident, other blogs about taking back our own sense of style, in various forms.

As I mentioned in the newsletter, I used to like super-girly clothes as a kid, but much to my mother’s displeasure I wanted to climb trees, jump ditches and play in the mud while dressed like a princess. As I got older, I thought I had to dress more like a boy to be taken seriously, to be thought capable of science and math, and to show that I didn’t care if no one thought I was pretty enough to befriend or date. (And even then guidance counselors still pushed me toward business instead of anything we now call STEM despite my having taken five science classes in high school and four maths, including calculus. Did they not have access to my records in guidance?)

In advertising, I was supposed to dress in cutting-edge designer fashion, but made poverty wages, so that never worked out. As a teacher in a correctional facility, I wore dark colors (because the place was filthy), cheap things I could wash a lot (because the place smelled terribly), and baggy pants with boxy jackets (because I was aiming for androgynous and needed pockets).

And I’ve spent a lot of years not wanting the “girly” thing because I wanted to be equal. But you know, bedazzled cases don’t make phones work less well; purple ink doesn’t make a message less powerful unless the reader let’s prejudice in the way; pretty notebooks work just as well as ugly ones; a pink skirt doesn’t make a mind any less sharp; lipstick doesn’t decrease competence but too often we think it does.

And we think it does because that’s what we’re told. In movies where the “tomboy” knows how to fix trucks but not how to pick out a lipgloss and her friend has a closet full of frocks but can’t work a screwdriver. By our peers, professors, and bosses, who tell us to grow up, to put our hair up, to use blue or black ink, to dress in staid colors, to be “professional’ when they mean “masculine.”

But we’re also told the “girly” gets the boy and we’re told that’s supposed to be our primary directive. Because the girly girl will find a boy to fix her truck and besides, lipgloss is easier than fuel injectors. *hair flip* *eye roll* *more eye roll* *even more eye roll*

We have a hard time accepting women as dimensional people. But we’re getting better, slowly. This review points out, specifically, a scene in which the women of the family (on Jane the Virgin) put together a piece of furniture with tools they own and call by name without any of the silly nonsense so often put forth in TV as comedy. Mindy Kaling’s character on The Mindy Project dresses in bright colors, florals, and patterns when having meals or meetings or engaging in comedy shenanigans, but she’s never “othered” in ridiculous scrubs in hospital scenes. When it’s time to actually act like a doctor, she does and she’s portrayed as competent, even successful. (Granted, she can’t seem to work a screwdriver but New Yorkers (and to some degree, Bostonians and Chicagoans) can be a bit odd in the stuff they never had to learn to do because public transportation, landlords, and a densely-packed environment never made it necessary. (It’s why the “city slicker” stereotype exists and it’s often played for laughs against the “rugged woman” trope — ha ha, that blonde can shop wood and you can’t, don’t you feel less of a man? *rolls eyes* *rolls eyes again* *hurts self rolling eyes so hard*)

Yet, that trope relies heavily on the idea that “pretty” and “competent” are opposing ideas. Part of the reason it’s played for laughs is because the audience is supposed to assume that the hot blonde can’t do anything menfolk can do, so when she shows up the “city slickers,” it’s supposed to be a bigger insult to their manhood. Yet, as women, we’re never allowed to forget that our primary duty — aside from birthing lots of babies and raising them in a dark hole somewhere so no one can see us breastfeed or messy or fat or without makeup — is to look good. To smile for strangers to make them happy — don’t worry those strangers will tell you if you’re not smiling and get angry if you don’t want to. Even our TV “ugly ducklings” are prettier than most of us see ourselves as being.

But, for me, it’s time to stop trying to be what makes everyone else happy. I want to wear lipgloss while camping in the desert? I don’t need your approval. I don’t need the snide remarks about how dumb that is. Lipgloss does two things: it makes you feel prettier and it moistens the lips (that second one is key in the desert). It also often has SPF in it. Bonus. I want to run around town with my hair looking a hot mess because I don’t have windows in my Jeep? Hey, I like my truck. It’s fun. Way more fun than an Audi or a Toyota. I want to wear pretty dresses or leggings with loose tank tops or flip flops or heels or yoga pants to everywhere but yoga? Done. And I like playing with makeup — love Halloween — but I don’t like messing with much of it daily. I’m a mascara and lipgloss kind of woman and I’m never going to figure out “contouring concealer.” I’m more likely to learn Ruby. Or Chinese.

And I’m going to try to stop feeling bad that I can’t fix my own damn truck, but I’m going to find that damn Chilton manual I misplaced just in case magic happens.

Oh, and if you want to bust out of your routine and find some “happy” with a silly, super-girly thing you can pair with cowboy boots and tell the world “fuck it” in, Sarah Sapora of the SarahPlusLife blog is running a tutu giveaway.

How to talk to women & not be a tool — Part 3 (guidelines)

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Here, finally, are my guidelines. They seem pretty easy to implement.

1) Don’t yell (or hoot, or whistle, or bark, or honk, or make suggestions) at women you see on sidewalks, roadways, or other public places. There are two caveats to this and both are predicated on you knowing this woman ahead of time. The first is if you are supposed to be meeting this friend, date, etc., and you see her but she doesn’t see and you call her name to get her attention. Note: I said “call her name,” not shout “hey, bitch, bring that big ole ass over my way.” There is a difference. The second caveat is if you and this woman have a previously agreed upon role play deal whereby you pretend to be a jackass and she enjoys it. Outside of those two caveats, barking out of a car window is only acceptable if you actually need heartworm pills and annual rabies shots. Yelling out of passing cars generally makes women assume that you are either a psychotic rapist or a deranged child-man who is going for his first car ride. Neither is likely to get you a date. Just fucking stop it.

2) Learn to read body language and context. I typed this all out and it was great and then WordPress lost it so just assume this makes as much sense as the last version. The lost version. (That should be the story of my success: The Lost Version because somewhere out there is a version of my life that makes sense but it’s not here.) Look, if learning how to read basic body language and situational context is too hard for you, don’t talk to women, don’t talk to men, join a monastery or cult or buy a trailer on a mountain in the desert. Women are not from Venus. They are not a separate species. All that is bullshit the media told you because separatist comedy is easy and they need to sell magazines or books brokered on the celebrity of a sex video or some other nonsense.

Some women want to be told they’re beautiful. Other women would prefer you compliment their dress or shoes or necklace because they feel like your standard of beauty is out of their control. I’m in that second group. When people who aren’t my husband or my best friend tell me I’m beautiful or pretty or attractive enough not to scare small children (note: I regularly scare children), it makes me feel like a lamp or a piece of hotel artwork. I have some issues with esteem when it comes to shit I know how to do because in my head, if I can do it, it’s easy and no big deal so I don’t see it as a skill no matter how many people tell me that’s insane. When strange men at the grocery store tell me I’m pretty, I hear, “I would hang you on the wall over my couch and not get remotely bored until all the smoke from by bong got you dirty and I left you out by the road for poorer neighbors. Thus, I make a face appropriate to envisioning this rather than saying “thank you” and smiling like a beauty contestant. If you’re reading body language correctly, the right response is to accept this and leave. Inappropriate responses are to scream, stalk, threaten, or tell her she’s a stuck up bitch.

Context is key:

  • At a fancy gala where everyone’s dressed up? Telling a person he or she looks great (respectfully) is fine.
  • At work on Tuesday? Probably creepy unless your relationship with the person goes beyond work. (If you haven’t been to this person’s house as a guest, it’s probably creepy to complement the person rather than the clothes or shoes. And if you’re the boss, keep the complements professional and vague and neutral. Things like “sharp” instead of “sexy” You’re not stupid, you know what I’m saying.
  • Strange, harried woman at the grocery store? She’s busy so if you complement her and she acts like she doesn’t hear you or offers a quick thanks and runs off, don’t get all flustered and upset and shout that she’s a racist crazy lesbian bitch down the chip aisle. Get ahold of yourself. She’s got other problems at the moment. Sorry if you think she’s the girl of your dreams. If she truly is, you’ll probably run into her again when she’s less busy. Trust the universe or something. Or just chill.
  • Strange, relaxed woman at the grocery store? Let’s say she’s smiling and making chit chat with the woman in front of her in line and everything about her says she’s approachable. Fine. Complement away. However, if she says thanks and turns back to the woman in line or smiles and nods and shifts feet like she’s waiting for you to go, don’t stand there offering your number and describing your favorite sex positions. Also, she might just be in a good mood that doesn’t change the fact that she’s in a relationship or she’s not interested or she’s visiting and doesn’t want a one night stand or anything long distance or maybe she just doesn’t feel the say way about you and that’s okay. Move on. She is not all women. The next relaxed smiling lady you see at Trader Joe’s may offer you her number and tell her she’s super into your favorite whatever.

3) Be respectful. Be polite. Unless you know this person really well and you have the sort of relationship where “you look banging in that dress” is an accepted form of communication, don’t say that to strangers. Pretty much, don’t say shit to strange women that you wouldn’t want to say to your mom or grandmother or the pastor/pastor’s wife depending on your denomination. Again, context is key here, too. Also age. And the ability to move on. “You look smokin'” to the girl at the nightclub at 2am is maybe okay if you’re both in your early twenties and a little drunk. “I’d totally hit that” is just not right no matter what. I’m sure there’s a woman out there with low enough self esteem to think this vague comment that implies you’re potentially fuck-able with the connotation that there are conditions attached. There is no reason to encourage her terrible self-esteem unless you, too, have an awful self view and this comment does nothing for either of you.

If you think “I’d totally eat cupcakes off that ass” is polite or respectful, please buy that mountaintop trailer now.

By the same token, commenting on body parts makes you a creepy asshole unless you’re complementing the body parts of a person you are already in a good personal relationship with. Your wife’s breasts can be sexy to you. The woman at the laudromat? Keep that shit to yourself.

4) Keep your hands to yourself. No touching. This is partly cultural and if you live in an area where several cultures converge, you’re going to have more trouble navigating this than if you live in the same town with the two hundred other people you’ve known since birth. I have a friend who likes to kiss people. On the mouth. She claims it’s cultural, though her mother and brother both seem to know that kissing strangers on the mouth is a good way to get slapped. Point here is that if your culture has a form of greeting that you just don’t see a lot of people on whitebread media doing, maybe explain yourself to your friends and coworkers before doing it to them and if they aren’t comfortable, don’t force it.

I have another friend who kisses people on the cheek and hugs them. I’m not a big fan of touching. We’ve worked our way up to this form of greeting and I’ve adopted the quasi-fake air kissing thing when I’m around other friends and acquaintances who participate in cheek kissing. I also have long arms so it makes it easier to keep them at a more comfortable distance. Note I said friends and acquaintances, not random strangers who just came up to me in a bookstore. I don’t know you and you’re getting a handshake at best. Sorry.

As a subset of this, listen to people when they tell you not to do something or that they’re uncomfortable. There’s a guy we’ve known for years because he’s semi-attached to some work people we occasionally run into. He’s a complete misogynist, something he’s proven again and again with comments, attitudes, hiring decisions, and just about everything else he’s ever done. He’s also terribly classist and sees himself as better than just about everyone including the British royals. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve told him, politely, rudely, drunkenly, with body language, with glares, and with mild violence not to touch me. I don’t want him stroking my arm or putting his hand on the small of my back or on my shoulder. I don’t want a kiss or a hug or that weird standing-too-close-rubbing thing. Yet, if I were to just flat out elbow him in the throat, people would say I’m the one in the wrong. Don’t be this dickhead.

Understand that there are approximately a million reason why someone doesn’t want you touching them ranging from their own cultural upbringing to PTSD to germ-phobia to just being covered in something sticky from the table they were just sitting at or from changing their kid’s diaper and running out of hand sanitizer. Just accept it and move on. Sure, there’s a chance the person really is a racist, homophobic lunatic who hates fat people, but honestly, that’s only one possibility out of the other 999,999 so why shout that down the chip aisle like you’re off your meds.

5) Accept no. Accept go away. In other words, stay polite. If this person you’ve engaged for whatever reason does not want to talk to you, doesn’t want to keep talking to you, or turns and runs the other way, just accept it. Does rejection hurt? Sure. But you’ll heal. It’s not a sucking chest wound. It’s not a stab wound to the femoral artery. It’s just No.

And again, most women have spent their whole lives being told men are a dangerous species and before meeting you at seven o’clock on the subway platform, she’s probably been whistled at like an errant dog, shouted at by a dude at the corner store, told her breasts look nice in her suit at work, and followed two blocks by a kid in a jacket too big for the weather. Are you all these other people? Maybe? Sometimes we’re just tired of trying to figure it out and want to be left alone. Sometimes we’re in a relationship. Which, on the one hand, many of us don’t want to have to tell you because it annoys us that you don’t hear “no” from us as people but you accept if we’re someone else’s property. And on the other hand, sometimes you don’t listen to anyway. If I tell you I’m married and your response is to tell me I don’t need him, I need you instead, what you’re actually saying is “I’m a big dickhead who never grew ears so all I hear is the sound of sperm floating around in my head. It’s like the ocean.” Sometimes we don’t want to be in a relationship or meet new people. Sometimes we’re focusing on us or we’re in a dark place and acting remotely normal takes more energy than you can understand. Sometimes we have two jobs and three kids and an ex-husband who calls six times a day to beg for forgiveness and we just can’t deal with your bullshit. Sometimes we’re just not attracted to you or you sound boring or whatever. It happens. Sorry, again, you’ll heal.

And yeah, maybe the woman you just hit on really is just a racist, classist, sizist lesbian who hates men and has a part time job as a serial killer. It’s a possibility. It’s just not the most likely and shouting insults at her doesn’t make other women want to date you. Shouting insults to random women tells the world you have the emotional maturity of a tadpole and that a relationship with you would be like dating a young teenager. Note: though there are plenty of creepy men who like the idea of dating teenage girls, I have yet to meet a human woman over the age of seventeen who wants to date any guy under the age of twenty and I’ve never met a woman old enough to drink who wants a guy too young to.

 

How to talk to women & not be a tool — Part 2 (where other women are coming from)

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Part 1 is here.

Let’s start out with the assumption that your reason for wanting to talk to women is like one of my friends and that you are friends or want to get to know one without coming across as creepy or worse.

So, let’s also start with where women are coming from when you think they’re being bitchy or standoffish or mean or whatever. This Tumblr post does a pretty good job of explaining it, but in case you’re the sort to not click links or hate Tumblr or whatever, I’ll summarize. (Note: link and summary indented below might be triggering. Proceed with caution.) 

You’re a fairly small, not-so-athletic guy who’s spent his whole life hearing prison rape jokes, gay jokes, and the homophobic fears of men bigger, older, and stronger than you. You get sent to prison for some minor nonviolent offense. Or maybe you get sent up for a crime you didn’t commit or didn’t knowingly commit — say you’re driving your college buddy home and didn’t know when he said he was going in the store to get something that he planned to rob the place but you get charged as an accessory.

So you find yourself in prison with all these guys you’ve heard so many horror stories about and while you know they can’t all be rapists and murderers, but you know a certain percentage are and so you’re on edge all the time trying to make sure you don’t do anything to set one off and you’re always on the lookout for clues, you try to avoid being alone with anyone you don’t think you can trust — and then sometimes you find out that trust was misplace anyway.

That? That’s how most women walk around through life. We grow up with stories and warnings about pedophiles and rapists hiding behind every bushes, and men who want to steal us and cut us into pieces. We grow up with friends who’ve been molested, who are confused by the teacher who touched her when she handed in her term paper, who’ve been raped by dates with “nice guys.” We have elders who fill our heads with horror stories and then we see those stories come true around us. (Just like that skinny guy in prison.)

We also have ample examples from the media and from peers of how not seriously this whole problem is taken. Just like the skinny guy in prison, women are taught — explicitly or indirectly — that if anything happens to them, it’s their fault for being where they were, for being with the person they were with, for wearing what they wore, for not being bigger, for not fighting back hard enough, for being too trusting, for being near the wrong person, for falling asleep or passing out in the wrong place…

Men are everywhere. And it’s not that women think most of them are rapists and murders so much as we’re looking for clues to tell us which ones are. We’re looking for some behavior that will tip us off.

You not taking no for an answer when she says she doesn’t want a drink? Tells her you won’t take no for an answer in the bedroom either.

You following her around the store working up the courage to talk to her feels like you showing how you’d go through her messages when she’s asleep, follow her when she goes to brunch with friends, or stalk her digitally.

You catching up with her after a presentation on a medical technique to tell her she has a great smile says you did’t listen to a damn thing she said and probably won’t take her seriously. (The smile comment is fine if, after you’ve discussed the professional topic for a bit and she invited you to talk with her further at the conference bar — time and place, people.)

Which leads to Part 3 (guidelines)

 

 

Stationery Experiment

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I’ve been playing around with making some stationery because:

  • I’ve been trying to write more letters and postcards, to get back to communicating with people in ways other than Tweets and FB posts that get lost in the shuffle, text messages I have to delete to clear my phone memory, IMs and DMs and because I think it makes people happy to find things in their mail box besides bills and junk.

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  • I looked around for some and since Etsy’s changed so much, I found it way too hard (too much of a time suck) to find cute, affordable stationery that wasn’t “print your own in a letter size — in my head, there is nothing cute about an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper — or imported/Target sale bin stuff I could have bought at store with cashiers if I’d been inclined.
  • Why the heck not?

So, if you want to play with my experiments, downloads below. If you like them, leave a comment. The one with the stripes and the one with two pineapples are early versions, so the envelopes aren’t as clean and orange gets cut off. They’re free. Feel free to play around with printer settings.


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How to talk to women & not be a tool — Part 1 (where I’m coming from)

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Several friends and acquaintances lately have asked me how they can approach women they’re attracted to, how they can complement friends and coworkers, how they can talk to women without coming across as a douche, a tool, a creep, or the dreadful Nice Guy. The confusion comes because genuinely nice men wish to be polite, nice, friendly, or date-able, but they find they’re often shut down by women or they just stay quiet because they’re afraid of offending. Or they get mad, give up on being nice and just decide to be jackasses, but let’s ignore them for now.

Look, I’m not an expert. I do have quite a few years of experience being a woman, though, so these guidelines are my two cents, but my two cents compiled from hearing a lot of complaints, seeing a lot of bad behavior, and having seen a lot of stupid shit.

Now, let me first lay out here that I’m not young, so I’m well past the age where I think any of this negging, trolling, concern trolling, shaming, pick-up behavior, entitlement, demands, or persistence. I’m not “playing” hard to get. I’m impossible to get because I am not a box of cat litter at Walmart. And because I’m married and cranky and those two things are not related.

I’ve also spent way — WAY — too many years being told by the fashion industry that I’m too fat, too short, too old, too pale, a bad dresser, and poor. I’ve spent too many years being told by coworkers that I’m too thin, too tall, that I don’t wear enough makeup, that I’ve worn the wrong shoes, that I need to smile more (especially when discussing serious matters or lost in my own thoughts over my own lunch), that I should wear my hair up or wear it down or dye it another color or cut it or grow it, that I should wear less black, that I should wear more black, that I’m too pretty for my job, that I’m too ugly to be married, that I should have been a model, that I should have paid for my degree with stripping, that my breasts are too small, that my breasts are too big, that my ass is too flat, that my thighs are too skinny, that my thighs are too thick, that I have a pointy nose, that my lips are too thin, that I’d look better in blue, that I’d look better in green, that I should never ever wear yellow, that pink is too girly, that I should wear more pants, that I need to wear more dresses, that my toenails are the wrong color, that I need a manicure, that I’m too white, that if I wore shorter skirts more people would like me, and that I’m not really hot enough to deal with the public. I’ve had students try to intimidate me with sexual comments, threats, standing over me yelling, grabbing me, leering at me, and giving me notes about how they’d like to follow me home and rape me. (And got approximately zero support from administration.)

In other words, I’ve heard it and I’m not amused. 

I’m also over trying. 

If you see me out somewhere and I’m dressed to the nines in a great outfit and my hair looks good and my makeup’s some version of perfect and my shoes match and my purse isn’t overstuffed and raggedly… assume I got dressed for me, not you. No, I didn’t pick out those close to pick up a guy, to impress other women, to show off anything, to win awards or be tagged as “a hot MILF” on your Instagram. (Which would be patently incorrect as I am not a mother.) I put on that outfit because I wanted to wear it, I thought I looked good in it, I felt comfortable in it and that’s all the fucking reason I need. (And no, I don’t dress for my husband either, though he seems to think I look good in everything from a bikini to yoga pants and a baggy sweatshirt.)

I put on that outfit because I wanted to wear it, I thought I looked good in it, I felt comfortable in it and that’s all the fucking reason I need.

By the same token, if you see me out picking up groceries in my gi pants and a sweaty tank top, I didn’t put that on for you either. None of you. Not one. Here’s what happened: I left the dojo and I needed something from the grocery store. Period. That’s it. The woman picking up donuts in her yoga pants? Before you get out your judgement playbook, let’s run down some possibilities: She runs a yoga studio that’s having a party or a meeting or a meet-and-greet with nearby tenants. She’s on her way to yoga and was supposed to pick up donuts for the office, but the donut shop is between the office and the yoga studio. She just left yoga and she’s on her way to meet a friend. She really likes donuts. She’s comfortable in yoga pants because women’s pants lately seem to be designed for women who don’t have thighs unless they also have thick waists. She got dressed without caring what you thought. (I know that last one’s hard to believe, but it’s probably true, especially if she doesn’t talk to you or give you any indication she’s thinking of you that’s not a polite smile as she leaves because her mother taught her to be nice.)

 

In Part 2, we’ll talk a little more about where women are coming from because I like beating metaphorical dead horses.

Recipe FAQ

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Why aren’t there any pictures of the food? The ingredients? The process? Haven’t you ever seen a food blog before?

Oddly enough, I’ve even trained as a photographer. I’ve sold photographs. I even shot an event once to help someone out. But, photographing food isn’t really a passion of mine. And making food that’s prettier than it is tasty isn’t really a goal of mine.

Besides, this isn’t really a “food blog.” This is just the ramblings and eatings of a writer/candlemaker/etc. I don’t want to cook dinner at 10 am so I can shoot it in the best light. I don’t want to shellac ingredients for shine or use Crisco as ice cream to get the perfect shot.

I also don’t feel like setting unrealistic expectations about what food needs to look like to taste good. Or how messy a kitchen should or shouldn’t get when three friends are drinking wine and assembling a meal. I don’t want to constantly put down spoons and pick up cameras or clean grease off a lens.

If you want to try a recipe and you want to shoot pictures of it, enjoy.

Why don’t you post regularly? I’m expecting a meal a week out of you, lady.

I post whenever I feel like I made something interesting enough to post. Lately, I’ve been told some of the things I don’t think of as “recipes” are good and should be shared. Maybe I will. At any rate. It’s not a food blog.

Why do you use so many processed foods? Don’t you know that’s bad for you? Don’t you shop indie farmer’s markets? Don’t you know that stuff’ll kill you?

I use what’s handy or what I know the husband will eat. Sometimes I use what’s on sale. I shop the local farmer’s market for fruits and veggies often, but like most people, the end of the day arrives and the locally-grown organic green thing has turned rotten or grown fuzzy because I bought it two days before thinking I’d eat it and then I forgot. Or, the end of the day shows up and I just want to make something easy. Or I’m craving some variation of a thing I used to eat when I ate meat and the most convincing substitutes are generally made by Gardein or Lightlife or Tofurkey or Field Roast. Which means if you have a meat-lover in the family and want to try Meatless Mondays, one of those brands is probably a good way to go.

I use more spices and herbs than my mother knows exist. I make things I like or that the husband enjoys. There are plenty of actual food blogs for from-scratch cooking.

What gives you the right to tell me how to eat?

Simmer down. Eat whatever you want. I just throw recipes out there for people who want to try them. It’s also basically a recipe book for me that I don’t have to store and can let Google index for me. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve propped the laptop up on the counter for the Rosemary Biscuit recipe.

I also like “camp cooking” and I know too many people who think eating at camp means hot dogs and hamburgers or that eating on the road means fast food, diners, or PB&J. I also like traveling to places where the only “vegan option” is a glass of water. Neither hungry nor intestinal distress are good road buddies. Better to make it myself.

Money

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I have a hate/hate relationship with money. It hates me. I hate it. We get stuck together in society, each needing the other to move forward and neither of us is happy about it.

Rather, money depresses me. Thinking about money makes me want to keep walking into the ocean until I wash up in Maine. Trying to figure out how to get enough of it, balance it when everything breaks or falls apart or runs out or stops working or gets eaten, trying to justify my existence without having a lot of it… It’s all just the kind of overwhelming that makes living under a bridge look like a pretty good plan.

I mean, I apparently don’t have the kind of skills people want to pay money for. Oh, people want me to help them. Jobs I’ve had, people usually wanted me to do my job and then some — or they wanted me to shut up and stop asking questions because from what I can tell questions in any organization larger than six people are a form of Evil that must be combated with seventeenth century methods of shunning or fire.

If you work in a place where questions are an ancient unholy thing, there’s a chance they’ll expect you to dress in clean, newish clothes so that you look like you escaped the pages of a fashion blog or at the very least a JC Penney circular. Unless shopping bargains and all the “good” thrift stores is your sole hobby outside working your allotted seventy hours a week and commuting another 10-15, chances are most of your paycheck will end up in your closet to impress people who hate you. Or, maybe that’s just me.

In order to do just about anything these days, you need devices — phones, laptops, tablets, chargers, fancy watches, bracelets that monitor your biorhythms, USB drives, clouds, and whatever else has been invented in the past half hour. None of these things are what I call “cheap.” Cheap to me is still less than $20 because my last job thought a salary that declined $12,000 over the course of eight years was motivational. Cheap to me is still based on the salaries offered for the jobs on my resume. Problem is, goods and services are priced for people with venture capital, IT salaries, law degrees from top tier schools, etc. When I drop multiple hundreds on a phone, I still want it to last for more than a season. Spending $50 on a dress caused crying.

In other words, I’m not “worth” anything to society. We’re continuously judged by what we “do,” what we earn, and what we spend. No matter how much we say otherwise in interviews about “finding our balance” or blogs about doing things that “matter.”

A podcast I was listening to recently had the same theme of value. One woman said, “That’s one of the first things we ask of people. It’s like ‘Hi, what’s your name? How are you? What do you do?’ When people are so much more than that.”

But are we?

We yell at the poor to work harder when they work harder than any of us. We want to deny them the tools to get ahead — education, technology — out of spite for not being more already. We talk bad about our friends who made choices we wouldn’t have. We laugh at artists for having that audacity, for being that “dumb.” We’re all hustling harder and harder just to stay on the same step or the one below.

And I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired. Who hasn’t thought about giving up. Who doesn’t fantasize about giving up the whole hustle to do those things that matter or to chase dreams or to feel balance.

Is that the new American Dream?

Most of us can agree the old one is dead. It’s only the hardcore delusional who thing anyone but the furthest outliers can turn rags to riches. Yet, we all still keep thinking we can find balance like our parents thought they could find wealth and success.

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