Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Mancandy: Isaiah Mustafa

So last week's Monday Mancandy honor went to Deputy Delicious, also known as Timothy Olyphant, he of the cowboy hats and really large... er... gun. This week's Monday Mancandy honor goes to someone who's both an actor and an athlete, but best known for telling you what your man ought to smell like.


Isaiah Mustafa:

Image (c) Old Spice


Why He's Hawt: Confident and cocky without being jerky, and doesn't mind walking around in a towel. And he's on a boat. Okay, that's his persona as the Old Spice Guy. In real life, he's a comic book nerd who named his daughter after a character in the Batman universe, and he also won a bunch of money on The Weakest Link because he knew the first name of Dr. Doom. W00t! Sexy nerd alert!

Bonus Hawt Points: Was willing to take his shirt off for charity on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Oh, and the voice? It's like liquid honey. Finally, it's pretty clear that even though he's pretty, he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Downsides: He's in the upcoming Tyler Perry Madea movie. There's no way in hell I'll ever see it.

Total Mancandy Percentage: 96%

* The Total Mancandy Percentage of selected subjects is chosen by a highly scientific formula, as follows:

   (Why He's Hawt) + (Bonus Hawt Points) 
- (Downsides) 
÷(Would I Kick Him Out of Bed if He Talked)
 =Mancandy Quotient

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spinach Hummus

My kids like vegetables, but occasionally they've been known to turn up their noses at things that they *think* they don't like. Such as, oh, I don't know... beans and spinach.

On the other hand, my children LOVE hummus. I'm sure you see where this is going.

Spinach Hummus:

1 Can chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
1 Can canellini beans
1 Cup fresh spinach
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/2 Cup lemon juice
As much garlic as you like
Salt
Pepper

Put both cans of beans in your food processor,
along with the spinach:





















Now, add your olive oil, your lemon juice, and the garlic. As far as I'm concerned, more is better when it comes to garlic.

Can I just say a few things about garlic here? When it comes to garlic, fresh bulbs, mashed up with the flat side of a knife and then chopped, is absolutely the best thing on the planet. I know a lot of cooks turn up their noses at that stuff in a jar, including my boyfriend Anthony Bourdain -- however, the stuff in the jar is not bad if (a) you're having a garlic emergency and there's no way you can get to the store and (b) it's less than about two weeks since you first opened the jar. Try not to use the jar stuff if you can avoid it, because fresh is always better. But if you have to, you have to.

Anyway, mix the whole shebang up, season to taste with the salt and pepper, and then serve it up for some delicious hummusy goodness -- I didn't tell my kids it was just beans and spinach until after they'd tried it and pronounced it amazing.

And yes, I know traditionally hummus is just chickpeas and not cannellini beans. Try this combo, though, it's fantastic.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Bad Story Universally Acknowledged

Some big and exciting news which I just got today -- as some of you may know, earlier this year I entered not one but TWO stories in a Jane Austen short story contest. The contest, entitled "Bad Austen," was sponsored by Adams Media, and entrants were tasked with creating a short story that Jane Austen would NEVER have deigned to write. In other words, the more awful, the better.

I'm pleased to announce that both of my entries, Foolishness and Folly (the famous lost "kitten scene") and The Perilous Plot at Pemberley (in which Georgiana Darcy gets ScoobyDoo'd) were selected, which means they'll be included in the upcoming Bad Austen anthology, scheduled for release in November 2011! I'll be sure to keep you all posted and let you know when it's available.

Also, a huge congratulations to Stephanie Wardrop, whose entry "The Real Housewives of Batherly Hills" won the grand prize!

Monday Mancandy: Timothy Olyphant

, So last week's Monday Mancandy honor went to the delicious Henry Cavill, he of the leather pants and Superman cape. This week, we're returning to the US for some more homegrown Mancandy. As a gift to my friend Monica, this week's profile is...

Timothy Olyphant.

Promo photo (c) FXTV

Why He's Hawt: Typically plays a lawman, and gets to shoot stuff. In a cowboy hat. I've seen him in Deadwood, The Crazies, and now Justified, and I think there should be a law passed that says Timothy Olyphant must wear a badge and carry a gun in everything he's in. Shoots the bad guys and manages to make righteous homicide look sexy.

Bonus Hawt Points: The accent is awful cute - although I'm not sure it's authentic, since he's apparently from the west coast somewhere -- and you can tell he's got a sense of humor. Not only that, he's been married to the same woman for like two decades, and that's very appealing. And he looks good naked (or close to it, from what we've seen on Justified - moar nekkid Raylan plz).

Downsides: I like tall and lanky guys, but Mr. Olyphant seems like he could use another fifteen or so pounds on him. If he'd just let me bake him some cookies, we could fix that.

Total Mancandy Percentage: 95%

* The Total Mancandy Percentage of selected subjects is chosen by a highly scientific formula, as follows:

   (Why He's Hawt) + (Bonus Hawt Points) 
- (Downsides) 
÷(Would I Kick Him Out of Bed if He Talked)
 =Mancandy Quotient

Friday, April 15, 2011

Take Away My Ladycard

There's a review in the New York Times about the upcoming HBO series, Game of Thrones, and it features some very important information that I feel obliged to pass along. Pay attention. Are you ready?

Girls Don't Like Fantasy Novels

The NYT says it, so it must be true. Ginia Bellafante tells us ladies that (a) it's really hard to keep track of all those characters, and (b) if we can't remember who is who, we should just watch Sex and the City. Because apparently our ladybrains hurtz if we have to remember all those names and people and stuff. Not only that, there's lots of sexytimes going on in Game of Thrones, and that's probably the only reason women will watch it. Bellafante thinks that's the only reason I watched Spartacus and The Tudors -- who cares about silly things like story and plot when we can have zee romance?

Specifically, she says, "The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half."

Ok, let me 'splain you something here, Ginia Bellafante. This is offensive on so many levels, but I'll break it down so it won't tax your brain any more than an episode of Gray's Anatomy would (see what I did there?).

Anecdotally speaking, I dig well-written fantasy and sci-fi. I also dig well-written mystery, thrillers, romance, and historical fiction. I don't need my main characters to end up in a happy-ever-after for it to be a story that keeps my attention.

Yes, there are women who don't like fantasy/scifi, and who would prefer to read romance and nothing else. But to assume we're all like that BECAUSE we're women is just as sexist as assuming that guys think only with their dicks, and that they're too stupid to comprehend anything beyond their next game of Halo Reach. And guess what -- there are dudes who DON'T read scifi or fantasy.

I love cute shoes, and I like swordfights. I like sparkly things, and I like to shoot stuff. I love Jane Austen's novels, and I'd rather watch Gladiator than pretty much any other movie on the planet. I'm allowed to be a mishmash of all kinds of things, because unlike you, Ginia Bellafonte, I don't stereotype myself based upon some antiquated notion of what Girls Are S'posed to Do.

I might watch Game of Thrones, I might not. Haven't read the books, might someday, don't know. But regardless, don't insult me by assuming that my poor little ol' brain can't handle keeping track of all those characters, or that I can't understand fantasy because I'm a chick. Because if being a female reader means I'm stuck plodding through Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, and all those Oprah Book of the Month novels, then I'll happily give up my ladycard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Battle of the Bulge: School Lunch vs Healthy Kids

It's no secret that school lunches in America are, shall we say, less than stellar. I live in a reasonably well-to-do school district, which has over ten thousand students to educate on a budget of right around $100m a year. That's a lot of money - but once you factor in teacher salaries (85% of the operating costs), building maintenance, and all the other things our schools have to provide, the amount of cash spent on food service is, in the grand scheme of things, fairly low. While my kids aren't being fed the shit on a shingle that I got in elementary school thirty five years ago, it's hardly anything that would be considered overly healthy, either. I'm not bashing my district's food service program, don't get me wrong -- but it's pretty average, when compared to school food service around the country.

And that's where the problem lies. Our kids have become accustomed to being fed bland, beige foods for so long, that when someone comes in and tries to change those meals to something healthier, there's resistance -- not so much from kids as from parents. "My kid won't eat healthy food!" they cry. That's bullshit. Kids will eat what you give them, as long as IT TASTES GOOD. If you tell them eating vegetables is a chore, or something you do because you HAVE to, then no, they will not want to eat them. On the other hand, if you assume that all parts of the plate are equal, that message will also be passed along to children. Vegetables and fruit are just as tasty as meat and pasta, when prepared correctly.

I should add right here that while both my girls are fans of the not-very-spicy, they're also good sports who will almost always eat new stuff that's put in front of them. My son, on the other hand, will eat damn near anything.

But anyway, back to changing school lunches -- administrators fight it, citing costs as an issue - case in point: Chef Jamie Oliver has been trying to bring his Food Revolution program into the Los Angeles school district, and been soundly denied by the school board. Why? Because they say it's not cost-effective to feed a million kids a healthy lunch every day. Again, I call bullshit. If I can feed my family in a healthy way on a limited budget, so can the schools. Chefs shouldn't have to beg school districts to let them in, asking if they can try something new for a television show. School districts should be calling up food and nutrition experts and asking, "What can you do to help us feed kids healthy and tasty food in an affordable manner?"

If you look at school-aged children in other countries, like France, they eat good, delicious, healthy food every day. Those kids eat a wide variety of foods, with a vast array of flavors. They're trained from early childhood to appreciate flavor and taste -- no plain ol' macaroni noodles or chicken nuggets for them. And it's a badge of honor for a chef to prepare a school menu in Paris. Everything is prepared by hand, food safety is a big deal, and local foods are prepared whenever possible. Sure, the broccoli might be deep fried, but these children are also eating salads, bouillabaise, and garlic roasted chicken. In a small town, school lunch costs the equivalent of $2.50, and the chef is preparing food for 800 kids. By hand.

And guess what? There are not too many fat kids in France.

As if this isn't insane enough, now we've got a small school in Chicago which has banned packed lunches altogether -- parents are only allowed to send in food if their child has a documented allergy. They claim this is because parents don't send in healthy lunches. And yet, judging by the photo in the Chicago Tribune, they're feeding the students carb-laden enchiladas and fat-filled chocolate milk. So now, not only are students being fed stuff that's nutritionally deficient, their parents aren't even being given the opportunity to feed them an alternative.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of cutting out certain foods in schools. Kids don't need to drink a soda with lunch, or eat cake for dessert every day. Likewise, they'll drink white milk if you don't offer chocolate or strawberry variations. But I also believe that it's up to parents to have the ability to make smart food choices for their kids - particularly when the alternative is far less healthy than anything I could pack in a brown bag and send in.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Mancandy: Henry Cavill

So I've been advised that having Hawt Mancandy on my blog is not only a good thing, it is clearly expected. Since I am all about helping others, and being such a giver, I have decided that today will be my first regularly posted Monday Mancandy feature (thanks to Judy for the great name, which is much better than Saturday Studmuffins).

Now, everyone knows that I have an unabashed and shameless lust for Russell Crowe, but I realize he's not everyone's type. So, as a special treat for my friend Katie S., our introductory Monday Mancandy honor goes to ::::drumroll please:::: Henry Cavill.

(Promotional photo from HBO)





Why He's Hawt: He looks good naked, as we saw on The Tudors, but he also looks good with clothes on. Particularly period garb, as evidenced in both The Tudors and The Count of Monte Cristo (yes, he's in there, as Albert Mondego) and Tristan & Isolde. He's also a bit of a history nerd, having said that his dream role is Alexander the Great (hawt!) and he's slated to play the next Superman, which means he's read at least one comic book (+1!!).

Bonus Hawt Points: Speaks with an English accent, can ride a horse, knows how to swordfight, does not appear to manscape, and wears leather pants without looking like a member of an 80's hair band.

Downsides: He's only 27, which -- if you're in your forties like me -- makes him just a bit young. Not young enough that I could have given birth to him, though, so he's fair game.

Total Mancandy Percentage: 93%

* The Total Mancandy Percentage of selected subjects is chosen by a highly scientific formula, as follows:

   (Why He's Hawt) + (Bonus Hawt Points) 
- (Downsides) 
÷(Would I Kick Him Out of Bed if He Talked)
 =Mancandy Quotient

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Well Hello, My Pretties

So it was a lovely sunny day here in Middle Earth, and I decided to take advantage of it and go work in my yard. In addition to getting the house ready to put on the market, I needed to start my annual spring cleanup of the vegetable beds and garden. So, I trimmed back the raspberry patch, gathered up all the sticks that have landed in the grass over the past few months (yes, April windstorms, I'm lookin' at you) and then I raked up all the dead leaves out of the beds.

And look what I found hiding beneath:


Green onions that had wintered over! This is one of my favorite things to grow, and I thought I had gathered all of them in the fall, but apparently a few were lurking beneath the surface in the tomato patch, because there they were, waving at me when I raked out the debris this afternoon.

Best thing to do with green onions, besides eat them raw? Make dressing.

This is loosely based on Emeril's Green Onion Dressing, but I've made a few modifications because I don't love cilantro, and I hate to blanch vegetables.

This dressing actually is a bit like a gremolata, but you can dump it on your salad because it's liquidy instead of clumpy. Reduce the oil by half to make it more pesto-style.

  Green Onion Lemon Dressing:

1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
A big bunch of green onions, tops and all
A big bunch of fresh parsley
Salt and Pepper
One or two medium sized anchovies (optional)

Throw everything in the food processor, and blend the hell out of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Vampire Romance, and Why I Think It Sucks

Vampires is Skeery
This is partly inspired by a college essay I wrote a zillion years ago, and partly inspired by the recognition that I must be the only woman in America who doesn't dig vampire romance. I should state ahead of time that in no way am I telling you that YOU should hate vampire romances. Read 'em if you got 'em. I'm just trying to explain why I personally think they suck.

At any rate, some thoughts on the whole vampire-as-sexxeh trope:

Between the Twilight series (bad seventh-grade fan-fiction), True Blood (repetitive softcore porn after Book 4), and the skyrocketing sales of various paranormal romance books, vampires are everywhere. Now more than ever, they seem to be portrayed as the tragic, romantic heroes, with little to no emphasis placed on that whole blood-drinking, throat-shredding thing.

The earliest written tale of vampires actually appears in the form of a German poem by Heinrich Ossenfelder, called simply The Vampire. Like later vampire stories, it’s pretty heavy on the erotica, particularly for being written in the 1700s. A few decades later, Thalaba the Destroyer was written, and was the first time a vampire showed up in English literature.

During the nineteenth century, lurid vampire tales became very popular, and both Coleridge’s Christabel and Joseph le Fanu’s Carmillia take advantage of the theme of taboo lust with their stories of lesbian vampires (yes, there were lesbian vampires even in the 1800s!). Finally, Bram Stoker delivered what some might call the quintessential piece of vampire lit, in Dracula, which he published in 1897.

These early pieces of vampire fiction were really quite risqué for their time – they combined death with sex and lust, which was rather frowned upon by polite society. Particularly during the Victorian era, when Stoker’s work came out, there was a good deal of sexual repression, and the image of the lustful vampire drinking the blood of the terrified virgin was considered scandalous. Nice girls did not read vampire fiction.

So now, a hundred-and-more years later, we've got nice girls obsessing over whether they are Team Edward or Team Jacob. That is, everyone but me (although one might use this as a chance to question whether I'm a Nice Girl or not). Here's why I don't enjoy vampire romance:

(1) When you boil it down to its roots, vampire romance is all about repressed female sexuality. Look at Edward Cullen (worst.boyfriend.ever) and wonder if he'd be so into Bella if she was Slutty McPopular Girl, instead of Shy Quiet Loner Virgin. Doubt it.

(2) Vampires are dead people. I don't care how much you bedazzle them, I can't find the not-so-thin premise of necrophilia attractive. Besides, if the dude doesn't have a pulse, how does he get it up? I mean, I hate to be all "put out or get out," but I've got some standards. Sort of.

(3) A four-hundred year old vampire hungering for the love of a teen girl (or really, anyone under the age of about, oh, let's say eighty) kind of verges a bit on pedophilia. If the vampire was just a fifty year old trucker following you home from the grocery store, no one would find anything appealing about this romance at all.

(4) Vampires started out as Scary Creatures of the Night that ripped apart throats and terrified villages. For them to suddenly be erotic squicks me out a bit. Even Anne Rice's LeStat and Louis (oh, Brad Pitt, so pretty with fangs) were terrifying in their own debauched madness, despite the overt sexuality of the story. The lust and sex and erotica was overshadowed by the frustration and rage and horror at what they had become.

(4a) Vampire romance novelists tend to nice-ify their heroes. Seriously, if see one more book about a vampire who is a fucking vegetarian or only drinks the blood of dead hamsters so he doesn't have to Killz Teh Innocent Peeples, I'm going to hurl.

That having been said, don't get me wrong, I love a *good* vampire story. One where I get scared by things that go bump in the night, or one that makes me stick my hand through a doorway to flip the light on before I enter. You know, just in case something's in there that might try to kill me.

For some great scary vampire fiction without romance or sparkles, I’d recommend any of the following:
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Christabel
  • Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, Carmillia
  • Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula
  • Ann Rice, The Vampire Lestat, Interview with the Vampire
  • Stephen King, Salem’s Lot
  • Justin Cronin, The Passage
  • John Ajvide Lindquist, Let the Right One In
Go read one of these. Seriously, it's worth the effort, and it will give you a whole new perspective on vampire fiction as a genre in its own right.

An Army of Ermas: Is There a 12-Step Program for This?

For those of you wondering about my previous forays into Erma-dom, as well as wondering why I always have spackle in my hair, this should answer the question nicely.

An Army of Ermas: Is There a 12-Step Program for This?: I’m in my forties, and I have an addiction. It’s not even really my fault. I know, I k..."

An Army of Ermas: Mark of the Beast

Hey, remember that time I shut my boob in a car door? No? Well, I certainly do. Read all about how I got boobie-trapped here:

An Army of Ermas: Mark of the Beast: by Patti Wigington. When I was seventeen, I had the coolest car on the planet. It was a 1967 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport convertible. Nine...

The Obligatory Introductory Post

OK, so for a while now I've been pondering the idea of a regular blog. I burned out on LiveJournal a while back, because it didn't really lend itself well to Actual Thoughts -- typically when I posted something I'd put a lot of thought into, the responses consisted of lots of LOLing and YA ME 2. Blog hosting has come a long way since then, and since many of my friends and fellow writers are Blogspotters, I figured I'd join the fray.

If you want to read about my interest and practice of modern Paganism, that's over yonder on About.com. If you want to hear me rant about the colossal disaster that is our country's government and complain about anti-choice, anti-woman legislators, I do that on Facebook (although I only add people to my Friends List that I know in person, so don't take offense if I don't respond to your F-Request). If you want to hear random thoughts in 140 characters or less, occasionally including curse words and links to mancandy, that's what Twitter is for.

What do I hope to accomplish here? Well, this is where I'll be sharing ideas and thoughts about my writing, both freelance and book thingies. I'll also be posting about locavore eating, gluten free food, green living, and my quest to become a homesteader.

Oh, and there may well be links to hawt mancandy. Don't say I didn't warn you.