Thursday, January 31, 2013

Joke's On You

I love to laugh.  I look at life through a sarcastic lens, but it’s just because it makes me laugh. If you can laugh, you can survive. I can also cry at the drop of a hat, but I’m pretty sure those two abilities are only separated by circumstances.  If you’ve got emotions, then tears and laughter are your best friends.

Don’t let anybody put you down for either one of them.
My husband is one of my favorite laughers.  If he gets tickled by something, it’s all over—he loses his breath, turns red in the face and practically passes out.  I learned CPR just to resuscitate him during funny movies.  As a matter of fact, he’s taking me to the show of my choice tomorrow night. But since he’s just getting over the worst case of bronchitis ever seen on planet earth—my professional opinion—I can’t risk choosing a comedy. 

It could kill him.
He loves to joke around, but his favorite thing to laugh at is himself.  For example. A few years ago I woke up in the middle of the night thinking there had been an earthquake in our next-door-neighbor state, California.  The mattress was shaking the way it does when we’re getting somebody’s leftover aftershocks. That happens here in Arizona sometimes, but not this night. I realized Rob was sitting straight up in bed—laughing. Unable to talk. Not even breathing much. Just laughing.
“What’s going on?” I asked in sleepy confusion. But he couldn’t get the story out. Every time he calmed down, caught his breath, and tried to tell me what happened, he broke up again.
“You got out of bed and went where?” I asked, coaching him through staccato sentences and sign language.
Finally after a good ten minutes, I pieced the whole story together and he started breathing again. During the night he got up feeling itchy on his back and stomach.  He didn’t want the bathroom light to wake me up, so he pumped the hand lotion bottle a few times and rubbed the moisturizer all around his itchy midsection.  Too late, he realized he’d grabbed the liquid soap by mistake.  He took a 2 a.m. shower to wash it off and by the time he got back into bed, he’d been laughing for fifteen minutes.  To this day if he starts to tell that story, he can’t get through it. 

I usually finish it for him while doing chest compressions.
Another night, in the deepest sleep-induced coma of my life, I was once again jolted awake by commotion in our bed.  But this time, my life was being threatened by a powerful force.  Growling sounds in my ears accompanied by pain in my head jerked me out of pleasant dreams and face to face with my worst nightmare.
“What are you DOING?” I yelled at my husband, whose forehead was pressed hard against mine as he tried to push me out of bed, bulldozer-style.
“Huh?” he answered, like the human he was instead of the gorilla he’d been imitating. It was ten minutes before he could stop laughing long enough to tell me he’d been dreaming that he was defending himself against a murderous taxi driver.  It was another week before the bruise on my forehead disappeared.
I dunno. Maybe they had the right idea in the 50’s when Lucy and Ricky slept in separate beds.  It’s downright dangerous sleeping with Rob sometimes. Then again, he could be getting back at me for throwing that roach on his bare back that time.
If he keeps it up, though, I just might have to let that CPR certification lapse.  Fair warning.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bolton' From The News

I must be a bad person. 
I can tear up at commercials featuring Budweiser horses, but let them interrupt a chatty talk show with Breaking News, and I want to throw the remote at the television. Which would be like poking myself in the eye just because I don’t like the shoes you’re wearing.
Fair warning. This is a rant.  There might be some sarcasm involved. But it will be G rated. I promise.
I had the day off. Not that I work for a living, but my schedule was clear in between collecting trash, making the bed, doing laundry and making dinner. So I cuddled up under my favorite quilt with a cup of my favorite decaf and tuned in to Live With Kelly.  And Michael Bolton’s sexy singing voice. Briefly. They were still doing the teaser when the big network executives shut him down in exchange for this announcement:
Breaking news – there’s been a crime somewhere in this city of four million people. We don’t have any details, but since our ratings are more important than the show you’re now missing,  we’re disconnecting that program you’ll never be able to see again to bring you this lack of information.  
Let me get this straight. They swapped out Michael Bolton for a newsroom guy who looked like he’d been drafted in the middle of eating a sandwich.  Additionally, his expression seemed to say he knew how disappointed I was to see him and was a little bit afraid of me.
He returned to the lunchroom after five minutes only to reappear five minutes after that with lettuce in his teeth, and two hours later the flood of unknown information continued to trickle in. I can’t imagine who stayed glued to the set for that long watching aerial coverage of the freeway and reporters with bad earbuds who didn’t know it was their turn to talk. But I decided to wait for the evening news and actual details.
On the positive side, I caught up on my love affair with Say Yes To The Dress and ordered a Michael Bolton CD from Amazon. When I checked in  hours later with network news, nothing much had changed from the scoop they’d been running when I jumped ship:
·         There was a crime.
·         The criminal has not been found.
·         That’s all we know.
·         By the way, we will never return you to your regular programming.  Get off the couch and vacuum or something. You shouldn’t be wasting time on daytime television anyway.
Wow.  Big Brother really is watching.

Photo courtesy of TidewaterMuse's phostream at

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Caution: Sarcasm Ahead

I want to improve my blog. So I got some advice. Here’s what I need to do:
1.      Figure out who my target audience is; and
2.      Write to them.
Well, that’ll never work. I have no idea who I’m targeting. Besides, I read once that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. 

Based on that, I’m already successful.
I’ve looked back over the last few years of writing to see if there’s a common denominator anywhere, but the only thing that really stands out is—yeah, you guessed it—sarcasm. 

I can’t help it. It’s my spiritual gift.
But did you know not everyone thinks a gift of sarcasm is admirable?  I innocently looked it up one afternoon and found out the dictionary has no sense of humor.  Webster says sarcasm is a "satirical utterance that is sharp and designed to give pain."  Then it used synonyms like scorn, insult and slur to define the word. 
I took umbrage to that point of view, and went looking for friendlier definitions.
I think there’s a place for sarcasm. It cuts to the chase by jumping over the debate and landing squarely in the conclusion. It surprises me how many people get annoyed by that. No sense of humor, those guys. I'll admit, there is a problem that affects all of us now and then—sometimes you can’t recognize sarcasm because it’s in written form.  Without hearing the author’s tone of voice, you can't figure out if they’re kidding.
Enter the “snark mark”.  I LOVE this idea! 
Since people have been getting bent out of shape about sarcasm since at least . . .  the dawn of civilization, writers have suggested all kinds of punctuation symbols to alert readers not to get their bloomers in a bunch over written hilarity. 
Here's where pure genius appears. Use punctuation in brackets. For example, if you asked me if I think sarcasm is a superior form of humor, I could respond with,

“No, it’s just a superior form of intellect[!]” 

See?  That’s a snarky comment with a snark mark so nobody needs to get mad about it, right[?]  Rhetorical question. With a snark mark.
But there's another problem with sarcasm.  You have to have the right kind of anatomy to understand it. In other words, you gotta be a girl[.] 

Just kidding. And I mean that. You can tell because nothing is bracketed.

I read on Wikipedia that different parts of the brain have to work together for sarcasm to make any sense.  They even said it’s "a sophisticated understanding that may be lacking in people with brain damage." I kind of think they were being snarky when they wrote that, but since they didn't use brackets, I couldn’t tell for sure.

e're all going to have to agree to be honest if this is gonna work.  
Still, since there aren't any sarcasm police anywhere, it makes it pretty easy for me to hide behind funny comments hoping nobody gets my true meaning. That's not very good communication, though, lobbing opinions over the net and hoping nobody returns the serve. Maybe I should abandon the use of satirical utterances in public places. I can stop being sarcastic any time I want to[.]

But that means I’ll have to come right out and say exactly what I think without hiding behind irony and satire.  Well, that’s no good.  People wouldn’t just walk away wondering if I was saying they’re brain damaged. They’d know for sure.
Honestly, I don’t think I can do it. I mean, what is humor without sarcasm, really?  Boring, that’s what. And I’m beginning to think it’s best not to show your hand when you’re being sarcastic.  Leave them wondering.  Those without brain damage will be left laughing. Those with it . . . aren't my target audience.
Now that’s funny. I don’t care who you are.

Photo courtesy of

Monday, January 28, 2013


Feeling my age after weeks of hubby and I dealing with winter viruses, yesterday I wandered around in public again like a new woman. There's nothing like a little retail therapy to lift a girl's spirits.  Loaded to the gills, I headed to the checkout.
“I can help you over here,” the clerk said, motioning to the dark haired woman and her elderly companion in front of me.
“This way, Grandma,” the younger woman said. 
They put a few items on the counter and the Italian grandmother handed a twenty to the clerk, who held it up to inspect it.
“It’s good,” she told the store employee.  “I got it from the bank.”
I had to laugh.  I liked her spunk.  If she was four foot ten, I’d have been surprised.  Dressed comfortably in modest slacks, her short white hair stylishly coiffed, she rested her deeply veined hands on the counter.  She must have worked hard all her life, I thought, guessing her age to be about 85.  The years had been good to her.  She could have done a commercial for Oil of Olay.
“Do you want the receipt with you or in the bag?” the cashier was saying.
Her granddaughter answered for her.  “She’ll want it in the bag.”
“I’ll take it,” said the opinionated grandmother, and I grinned as her granddaughter rolled her eyes and theatrically threw her hands in the air.  Then she spoke to the cashier and me.
“She’s 104,” she said, pointing to her grandmother.  “I told them your age, Grandma,” she said loudly to the white-haired matron at her side.
My eyes popped.  104! I thought that was just a notch on a thermometer. 
“Congratulations!” I gushed.  And then I had to do it.  Seriously—you know I had to ask.
“What’s her secret?” I said to the younger woman with better hearing.
“She drinks a half glass of red wine every night.”
I nodded and smiled.
“And she’s not afraid off a bottle of gin, either.”  And then the two of them walked out the door.
I laughed and winked at the cashier.  Suddenly I felt a lot younger than when I came in.  I only hope I look as good as the white-haired centenarion when I exit this life. 
Time for a glass of wine.

Photo courtesy of DonireeWalker's photostream at Flickr.com

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Dear Anonymous,
Ever since I took the authentication box off this blog, the most amazing thing has begun to happen – I’ve been getting more comments!  And most of them have been from you. 
I confess, I couldn’t exactly follow your train of thought the first two times you responded.  Kind of reminded me of that short story I wrote in French 101. I didn’t get a very good grade on it—turns out they like complete sentences in foreign countries.  Tough crowd, those French.
What I like about your insights are how positive they are.  For example, when I wrote that I’m terrible at Words With Friends, you said it was a “great piece” and that you will “be going through a few of these issues as well.”  Thank you.  Maybe you’ll be able to find a use for the word ‘odah’ since even the Scrabble dictionary doesn’t have a definition for it. I bet it could help with those issues, whatever they are.
And when I wrote about my frustration with the TSA, you replied that you and your friends are “volunteers starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.”  Boy.  That says it all right there. And then you said I have “done a outstanding job!”  Talk about feeling proud!  I nearly busted my buttons off right here in my niche. I hope reading my blog gives you the initiative to avoid pat downs at the airport.
But honestly, your comment today was so nice. I’m not sure you understood when you read it, though, that the piece I wrote was just a joke about whether or not my husband thinks I should get liposuction. But I’m glad you think it’s “so wonderful to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this topic.”  And thanks for saying I’m “so awesome!”  I guess that means you don’t think I need liposuction.  Right? 
So thanks for dropping by. And hey, I appreciate all those invitations for me to visit your web sites sometime.  I had a little trouble reading the name of the last one—was that written in Russian or Greek?
The view
p.s. You understand, don’t you, Anonymous, why I couldn’t actually publish your kind remarks? Frankly, I’m kind of worried somebody might have stolen your identity. You ought to find a more original name.

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fairy Dust

Last May I wrote about her broken butterfly rescue, and what a sweet little baby she is.  Today—two weeks before her fifth birthday—she lost her first tooth.  And I lost a few tears. Is there a new way of saying ‘they grow up so fast’?  No one knows better than a grandmother how fast time flies with children on board, but with all this experience under our belts, not one of us has figured out how to slow it down.
Five years ago I impatiently waited for her birth—my first grandbaby.  She’s the one who made the name “YaYa” official.  This Christmas, four and a half years after we met her, my husband gave me a charm bracelet with five silver beads, each representing one of our grandbabies.  Five.  In four years. My cup overflows.
And tonight, a new Tooth Fairy will flutter past a sleeping angel, whisk away that baby tooth, and leave some sparkly quarters in its place. And while she has sweet dreams of growing up to be a princess or a firefighter or a mommy, I’ll be thanking Jesus for the privilege of loving Allie.
Sweet dreams, baby.  YaYa loves you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fallen Stars

Blogs are an endangered species.  I went “blog walking” today.  That's a catchy phrase I picked up just now when I read it on somebody’s dying blog. The sad thing is there’s no closure for expired blogs. They just stop right where they are.  Kind of like Sleeping Beauty’s family and servants and dogs and rising bread—the second she pricked her finger on the spindle, someone pushed ‘pause’ on her DVD and everything froze.  Like Pompeii, but with prettier pomp.
I feel bad for abandoned blogs. Every blog deserves to know it’s as special to its author as mine is to me. Well, actually, that’s a lie. Secretly, I'm afraid they’re all competition and I silently cheer their demise. Now I feel so guilty. What a terrible thing to think!  I guess I should make it up to all those orphaned blogs who’ve suffered at the hands of both their creators and now my narcissistic nonsense.
So, out of obligation, I present to you this potter’s field of non-viable blogs. They were probably fun while they lasted.  And if no Prince Charming ever shows up at their domain with the kiss of life, then let us all learn the lesson—you snooze, you lose.
Here in no particular order are some of the latest blogs who may have breathed their last. May they rest in peace.
·         The Cutest Blog On The Block expired at the ripe old age of five, leaving no surviving photos or stories since March of 2010.

·         The Nappy Rash was last seen in January 2012.  It’s not hard to figure out what went wrong there, beginning with the name.  Ewww.

·         Downhill Dawn hasn’t been heard from since it headed down to Raleigh in early 2010.  Looks like the sun set on that one.

·         ShawnDownUnder wrote his own epitaph in June of 2011, a full year after his previous post announcing that “Another One Bites The Dust”.  Just         self-fulfilling prophecy, if you ask me.

·         In December a year ago, Mikey Mused out loud and on paper that he was bored by his relationship with his blog and was considering leaving for a while, though he thought he’d keep his options open and perhaps revisit sometime in case nothing better came along.  In his case, I believe his blog should leave him. What a two-timer.
Four or five of the next blogs I met on my walk were birthed by marathoners who only stop by to say hello when they’ve conquered another mountain and have photos to share. Part-time bloggers, full-time joggers.  But it’s quality time when they do show up.
Over and over I read the writing on blog walls. The signs were all there. Growing lapses between posts. Boring apologies and excuses when they did show up again.  Each time it was the same old story—“It’s been a while since I posted . . .” followed by silence, and then nothing more than a lonely blog left wondering if it was something they said.
They’re kind of like stars, these cyber journals. Or flares. Each shines brightly in the internet galaxy, full of photos and color and creativity, until you read the date of the last post and realize it died two years ago and all you’re looking at is residual light. A melancholy reminder of what might have been.
So to all the blogs listed above and the dozens more who have faded away as well, I empathize with your sense of abandonment. I hope you know you didn’t do anything wrong. If it were up to me, I’d take you all home with me and nurture you back to life.
Are you buying that? Nah. Me neither. I don't feel that bad about it.

**Some blog names may have been altered to protect me from possible flak from falling stars. I know I’d take it personally if somebody didn’t like what I write and started calling me sour grapes from the winepress. I may be narcissistic, but I’m sensitive.
(Photo courtesy of twenty_questions' photostream at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Ins And Outs

Opt Out.  I looked it up in the dictionary. Turns out you can’t get a definition from the dictionary for two words all at once.  Not without a hyphen.  Make a note of that.
I settled for the first word.  Opt is a verb, meaning to make a choice or to choose. The dictionary—a book which is admissible even in the halls of justice and on the Senate floor—uses opt (meaning to decide to leave or withdraw) as a synonym for choice.
For example. Spending four hundred to fourteen hundred dollars on an airline ticket to visit your new grandchild or represent your company at a convention comes with the added bonus of two “choices” when you fly the friendly skies—you can stand in a scanner with your feet spread apart and your hands surrendered in the air, or you can Opt-Out.
To opt is to choose, as in Choose Life. Or to opt is to use your Right To Choose. But that’s another battleground.  Still, the issue there isn’t about the right to choose, it’s about what you’re choosing. On both sides of the fence, everyone agrees the government says you have a right to choose.
That’s turning out to be an oxymoron—the government enforcing our rights.
If you stand in the scanner, you admit you have yielded your fourth amendment rights and recognize you are now seen as guilty until proven innocent on the other side of a scanner. If you’re lucky.
The Dictionary gave Cop Out as a related word, defining it as “an act or instance of reneging or evasion.”
So now we have Opt-Out and Cop Out, kissin’ cousins to each other and listed under the same heading by the dictionary. Opting-out refers to a method by which individuals can avoid receiving anything unsolicited, where copping out means “to avoid one’s responsibility or fulfillment of a promise.”
But if you Opt-Out, like Robynne* did this week at the Honolulu Airport, you may find the skies are not so friendly. Like her, you may find your personal belongings taken away from you, the fragile contents mishandled, your body roughly felt up, your private parts uncomfortably slammed, your protests met with anger and rudeness, and your airline ticket rejected as you are ejected from the security area for asking to speak to a supervisor. You may be lied to by every security person who speaks to you and you may be separated without explanation from your traveling partner.
All because you bought an airline ticket and believed the sign at security which assured you of your right to Opt-Out. At Honolulu Airport if you Opt-Out, you may instead be thrown out.
I am sick and tired, but mostly sick to my stomach, of reading about the humiliating and intimidating treatment TSA agents are forcing—and I mean forcing—on paying airline customers. The only positive thing I can say about the treatment of people who exercise “their right” to opt out is this:  at least John Pistole’s employees are indiscriminating in their discrimination when they treat every passenger like a criminal.  They’re happy and angry all at the same time to roughly and rudely feel up and pat down men and women and children and the elderly and the infirm.
So the way I see it, their friendly signs assuring you that you have the right to Opt-Out are lies. If you Opt-Out in an airport, you will find it is not the method by which you can avoid receiving anything unsolicited. And from what I’ve read of flyers’ experiences lately, the treatment the TSA hands out at airports is tantamount to solicitation.
If you exercise your “right” to choose a pat-down before flying, then chances are you will face intimidation and humiliation at the hands of the very people who first posted your rights in the security line and then reneged on them at the scanner.
The Opt-Out is a Cop Out. There is no reasonable excuse for any of us to be treated like criminals when we have done nothing wrong. It’s time for the TSA to get out.

* (While Robynne’s experience is journaled at this site under an offensive title, the story of her mistreatment by the TSA is far more offensive to me than one curse word.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cold Sore

There’s a sign I usually hang outside our front door once we put away our shorts and tank tops during the week of Thanksgiving.  It reads, “I Love Winter.” 
I’m throwing it in the trash.
I live in the Valley of the Sun - spitting distance from Phoenix, Arizona - where the town logo includes a drawing of the mythical phoenix rising up out of ashes.  Those ashes were the cremated remains of snow birds who stayed too long.  This.State.Is.Hot.  Most of the time.  And most of the year, I whine like a two-year-old about how much I hate the heat and the sun and try to remember why we moved here. I watch the weather report like a lovesick teenager, anxiously looking for the arrival of the next cold front.
But not anymore. 
This year I met the alter ego of Arizona heat. In the coldest winter we've had since probably the Ice Age, I got annihilated by an arctic blast. Decimated by a December virus. Jacked up by January jerms. And my poor husband.  Don’t get me started.  Too late—you got me started.  His cold became a cough that registered 7.5 on the Richter Scale.  And last week that earth-shattering hacking created a lung injury that put him on lockdown at home for a week.
I feel so betrayed.  Summer never treated us this way.
So sayonara, Winter.  See ya later, snowfalls. Ciao chill.  You better be out of town by sundown, cuz you’re no friend of mine. You froze my floors, terrorized my toes, and overworked my heater. I don’t believe in Winter Wonderlands anymore. 

From now on, if it ain’t eighty I’m headin’ to Haiti.
Well.  It rhymed. 

Photo courtesy of bunnygoth's photostream at

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Like A Deer InThe Headlights

Sometimes I get a sneak peek into what it’s like to be a man at the mercy of his woman.  Like just now.  There I was, scrolling carelessly through a list of Groupons where I could save so much money they’d soon pay me to buy.  Suddenly, a beautiful teenager's photo appeared with a tempting ad to save 59% off a Botox treatment at a nearby spa.  Wow.  That young girl must have looked hideous before she went in there.  I wonder what trauma drooped her jowls and eyebrows at such a young age?
My innocent better half was standing twenty feet away from me, scrolling through emails on his blackberry. Out of the blue, female instincts mischievously whispered in my ear, “Quick! Ask him if he wants you to go get a deal on a Botox treatment.”
There’s just no way a guy could come out alive with a question like that lobbed in his direction.
He might say, “Sure.  Go ahead.” And keep scrolling mindlessly through those emails.
“So you think I need Botox?” I’d ask, slightly offended.
“What? Oh . . . well, do you think you need it?” he’d reply, his keen intellect sensing extreme danger.
“So, you’re suggesting I get Botox,” comes my terse response.
“No!” he protests before falling headlong into the trap I’ve unconsciously set for him.  “You don’t need to get rid of any wrinkles—you look fine!  I love you for who you are!”
Take the bait. Set the hook. Reel ‘em in. Caught like a deer in the headlights.  It'll be a cold shoulder roast dinner for that man tonight.
See? It's tough to be a guy.

(Photo courtesy of Andrew Rennie’s photostream at

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lost In Time

I have a clandestine passion. A secret garden where my heart finds solace from life’s turmoil. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent hiding from life’s stresses, lost deep inside the meandering maze that attracts me and distracts me like a well loved novel.  I’d passed it often on those days when duty called and I submissively answered.  It drew my attention, beguiling me to investigate, but curiosity never won the argument. I looked away and focused on my obligations. Until one afternoon.

Impulsively I veered into its parking lot, shut off the engine and stole some time from a demanding schedule. I walked up to the open doors, stepped back in time and began to breathe again.  Ten years ago I discovered this oasis in the city, months after it opened.  For ten years I have treated it like my own personal retreat, invited good friends to join me, and lost my cares while nourishing my soul in a building that once housed stacks of lumber.
I fell in love with an antique marketplace.
I scrolled through facebook tonight and suddenly a photo of a shabby chic clawfoot table with a child’s red rocker on top and a footstool and embellished pillow beneath pulled me in. It’s almost an addiction. Suddenly I need to pick up a peppermint mocha, walk through the doors of the fa├žade of main street shops and disappear into the depths of Chandler’s Merchant Square Antique Marketplace again.  Just like Shoeless Joe beckoned from the cornfield in Field Of Dreams, its invitation to lose myself in time is too delightful to ignore.
Hours spent sipping an iced mocha and perusing the huge store is my guilty pleasure.  I don’t even have to buy anything—though I usually find something there that I didn’t know I needed. As I wander past stalls of primitive crafts, French artwork, libraries of old books, shabby chic furniture and mid-century kitchenware that matches the wedding gifts in my own cupboards, an amazing thing begins to happen.  My blood pressure drops. My face relaxes. I let go of anxiety.
And by the time I finally circle back to the front door and head for the parking lot, this tour of repurposed cast-offs has renewed my love of beauty and home.  All the lovelies that parade there in hopes of leaving with me remind me that no matter how hard life gets, home is where my heart is. Home can be a beautiful, comforting place. And I celebrate endeavors like the Marketplace which inspire me to make my home as soothing to wandering souls as wandering through aisles of antiques makes me feel.
It could be risky to tell you about this garden spot. Crowds might . . . crowd. But as long as I can wander through with a peppermint mocha in hand, I don’t mind. There’s plenty of room for all of us there.
I learned that from Shoeless Joe.

The Merchant Square Antique Marketplace is located at 1509 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, Arizona.  This has not been a paid advertisement. It's simply been my pleasure - my guilty pleasure.

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I Love To Salsa

I've been looking around at cooking blogs.  It looks so easy to have a blog with photos documenting in excruciating detail how to build the chemistry experiments you feed to your family.  Honestly, I think they’re pure genius.  Suddenly, a tedious task like making supper becomes exciting! Awe inspiring! Photo worthy! 

And so I thought to myself, Self—why don't you put up a blog like that?  Tons of photos—fewer comments.  Less is more, right? Now, what do I know how to cook in twenty steps or less?

Salsa!  I am a gringo, but I make a pretty good salsa.  Every time I serve it, someone asks me for the recipe.  Which is ironic, because that’s how I got the recipe—someone served it to me, made me swear never to share the how-to with anyone and . . . oh, yeah.  I hope she doesn’t see it here.  If she does, remember—you didn’t get it from me.

First, you need a cutting board, a big fat knife, one bunch of green onions (you know, six or eight held together with a skinny blue rubber band), and one large can of WHOLE tomatoes.  The word “whole” is very important. 

Wash the green onions. Dry them. Cut off the roots, pull off any saggy, unattractive stalks, trim off the raggedy ends opposite the root end, and start chopping. On the cutting board. With the knife.

If you drop a piece of scallion—that’s just a fancy word for green onion—leave it on the floor.  Girls know this.  Boys don’t. Usually.

Now you need to chop those little green bits into even littler green bits.  Use your safest knife skills—keep those fingertips out of the way—and chop, chop, chop!  It makes the texture nicer in your finished salsa.  I learned this from a friend I shared the recipe with.  See?  That’s why you shouldn’t keep recipes a secret.  First of all, when you die, the recipe dies and the world suffers from inferior salsas.  And secondly, if someone shows you how to improve it, then do it!

Here's where you add the spices.  It probably doesn’t matter when you add them, but this is how I was first shown to do it, so this is how I do it.  These are also not the original spices she used in her secret recipe.  These are better.  You’ll need:  1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (or cumino as some call it); 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt; 1-1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning; ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon sugar (sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes).

Now toss them in and toss them around.  Very pretty.  And a little blurry. 
Time for the heat.  You need one large canned jalapeno pepper.  You can use fresh ones, but I always use jalapenos from a can which I’ve transferred into an old plastic bottle with a sad orange screwtop.  If you can’t find one of those, you can still transfer all the leftover peppers from that large can you bought into something from your kitchen.  It won’t look as cool as mine, but the peppers will taste just fine. Use a fork or tongs when you put the unused peppers into another container.  There's no reason to touch these peppers, but if you do, wash your hands before you touch anything else, especially your eyes. You don't want a few thousand scoville units in your baby blues. It makes them really red.

Once you’ve crammed all those extra peppers into your container, top it off with some of that liquid from the can they used to live in.  Just keeps them moist. Put a lid on them, stick them in the back of your fridge, and you’ll have peppers on hand for weeks or months, anytime you want to whip up some salsa. If there are carrots in the can with your peppers, feel free to use them or toss them.  I don't know why they're in there. But they add a little color.

Put that single giant jalapeno pepper—stem and all—into a blender. Open the large can of tomatoes and pour all the juice into the blender, too, reserving the whole tomatoes for a minute. Set that puppy to its highest speed and puree to your heart’s content.  Read a novel, take a bath, call your mom—whatever you want for as long as you want.  But probably it will only take about fifteen seconds on super duper high.

Now pour about half the ‘hot sauce’ you just made into the bowl with the seasoned scallions. Pour the remaining hot sauce into a small container and set aside.  You can add more later and use it to adjust the heat to your own taste.  I’ve learned that no two jalapenos have the same heat, so I always try to adjust at the end.

Pour all the reserved whole tomatoes into your blender.

Okay.  This is the ‘big secret’ of my friend’s salsa recipe which I’ve altered so now it’s my salsa recipe. Actually, I learned this secret from another friend.  Phew!  No more guilt!  That one didn’t make me promise my first child in exchange for her secret.

Back to the secret. Sorry.  This is how you get the perfect texture and size for the tomatoes in your salsa.  Set the blender at its lowest setting.  Probably that will be low and pulse.  Keep your eyes glued to the blender.  Lid on. Finger ready. Push pulse. OK, STOP!  You might have to do that twice. But look inside the blender—without turning it on—and check to see if your tomatoes have exploded. This is why you want WHOLE tomatoes. They explode at a low speed for a short amount of time into nearly uniform pieces that are perfect  for your cute little salsa chip. If they’re not quite small enough, do that one to two second pulse again.  Ta dah!

Hmmm.  I don’t think I was multi-tasking very well here.  Usually I’m not pulsing and taking photographs at the same time. Well, it should look a bit more chunky than this does, but we’ll use it anyway. You could always add another can of tomatoes to fix the texture—just adjust your spices, too.

Stir it all up with the spicy onions, load up a chip and taste for heat and spice. Annddd . . . hold the camera still if you decide to snap a photo.  Word.

Well, it needed just a little bit more hot sauce from the reserve we set aside earlier.  Any leftover sauce can be left out for use by guests with asbestos tongues. Or you can freeze it for your next batch of salsa.

Taste it again, and  . . . okay, perfect!  Load up those tortilla chips and salsa down, baby!  You can add other items to this basic recipe to tweak it your way.  Sometimes I chop up and add in fresh cilantro.  I’ve also added chopped fresh mangoes.  Fruit is delicious added to fresh salsa.

Enjoy!  I don’t know if this kind of blogging is for me.  It's a lot harder than it looks. I took way more photos than this. I wrote the narrative twice. It took twice as long as my normal posts to write, and probably twice as long for you to read.  But if you whip up some salsa, and enjoy it, let me know! 

I know a few pie crust tricks, too, in case you’re interested.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Smoke and Mirrors

It looks like public outcry has scored a victory now that Rapiscan machines are being removed from airports.

You might want to hold your applause. 

The government is simply ending its contract with the company which produces these backscatter x-ray machines because it was unable to come up with a “gingerbread man” display instead of the graphic photos for which they are known.  It is not abandoning the use of airport scanners. 

Rats.  I suspected as much.  It’s all smoke and mirrors with them, isn’t it?

Therefore, in the spirit of big government announcements, below are:

 The top ten reasons I never send a Christmas card to the TSA:

10.       Millimeter wave machines are rolling in to fill the vacuum left by Rapiscan’s exiting naked body scanners. Yet millimeter waves also bombard you with radiation and have not been proven any safer than backscatter technology. As if that isn’t enough, millimeter wave machines have a 54% false positive rate.  They alarm on inseams, pleats and sweat. Which wins you a personal patdown anyway.

9.         Scanner technology was originally developed and marketed for protection in prisons and government installations. Only after September 11, 2001, did anyone consider putting naked body scanners in airports “and treating air travelers like prisoners.” 

8.         The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a government organization with no accountability (isn’t that an oxymoron?) which “seems to have hired more criminals than it has caught. With a zero success rate in capturing terrorists, the TSA has instead irradiated, humiliated, molested, and stolen from the customers of air travel, all the while completely funded by you, the tax payer.”

7.         Your luggage is no safer with the TSA than you are.  Since the organization’s inception in 2003, nearly 400 screeners have been fired for theft.   

6.         Following that thought, the question remains as to why the TSA attracts such a “disproportionate number of criminals and pedophiles.”  As reported in September of 2012, “there have been 99 TSA workers arrested in the last 20 months, including . . . 13 arrested for child sex crimes, over 26 for theft, 12 for smuggling contraband through security, and one for murder.”  Maybe birds of a feather just flock together.   

5.         In the twelve years since terrorists brought down three planes on 9-11, “the TSA has not foiled a single terrorist plot or caught a single terrorist.”  And “don’t be fooled by claims that the plots it foils are secret. Stopping a terrorist attack is a political triumph. . . . If the TSA ever caught anything even remotely resembling a terrorist, it would be holding press conferences and petitioning Congress for a bigger budget.”

4.         Basic flying—sans TSA trauma—is still safer than driving.  Yet with former flyers abandoning the practice and returning to the open road, the government’s counterproductive aviation security policies can now be blamed for an estimated 500 additional traffic deaths annually. Simple math will tell you that’s more people than fly on a 747, giving TSA the esteemed recognition of being responsible for the equivalent of one downed jet every year.  Congratulations, John Pistole.

3.         There is “compelling evidence that we aren’t getting protection from the terrorists. Aside from one fluke of a failure, we already had that protection. Rather we are getting robbed of that protection. We are getting protection from the TSA who threaten to charged us, fine us, and even jail us for ‘disorderly conduct’ if we don’t submit to them.”

2.         The TSA is security theater.  The technology to detect and intercept firearms on passengers or in their luggage has never required the unique tools of the TSA: sexual molestation and nude scanning.” Rather, “. . .  the technology for finding guns has . . . been used for decades. It doesn’t require an invasive groping and it doesn’t require indecent radiated images."

“It is important to remember that none of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, had a gun. None of them dodged or evaded airplane security in that way. In fact, we got the nude scanners after the underwear bomber, but that was a fraud. The nude scanners cannot detect chemicals soaked in underwear. The underwear bomber would not have been stopped.”

And finally, the Number One reason the TSA is not on my Christmas list:

You do not abandon your constitutional rights when you buy an airline ticket. The 4th Amendment is your guarantee that you are “secure in your person, house, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, and this right shall not be violated.”

It’s not enough to remove backscatter machines from airports. The only solution to the rape of our 4th amendment rights is to eliminate the TSA and return security to private companies with accountability.

Of course, that all depends on your interpretation of security.  And to be fair, the TSA wants to assure you that it’s not a grope – it’s a Freedom Pat.