Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The New Friend Test

Not many things in life rival the butterfly feeling of falling in love, but making a new girlfriend comes close. Whether it's that first time your swings synch up at recess, or when you get invited to spend the night, or later, when you catch someone rolling her eyes at the exact same time in a company meeting. This is all followed by an involuntary smile, a roller coaster flip-flop in your stomach, and the question with endless possibilities, "Could she be the one? My new best friend?" And unlike spouses, with best friends it's okay to go ahead and have more than one at the same time. Bonus!

There's the best friend from childhood (Nikki), high school (Ann), and the college best friend who becomes more like the sister you never had (Rachel). There's the best friend from work (Amy), from your days waiting tables (Doris and Jenn), the girls who have known you so long that if you didn't see them for six years you could pick up tomorrow without missing a beat (Jen and Elizabeth), and the best friends who get together once every month or two and eat all of the foods while laying their souls bare (Lane and Kristin). 

I have found though that as I age, I am less likely to enter into these Beaches-esque friendships that came so naturally in my youth. Partly because priorities shift -- there isn't as much time to contemplate the inner workings of the universe and your latest crush with a new friend when you're married with a full-time job and a few kids -- but that's not the only reason. It's also a lot of work, getting to know someone. When you're young, there isn't so much backstory to get caught up on before you hit BFF status; there aren't so many potential pitfalls in terms of likes, beliefs, and common ground. I miss the days of "You're in 4th grade? I'm in 4th grade! You like stickers?? Whoa...I also like stickers!!! Let's swap stickers and be best friends." 

So, in a nerd effort to cut to the chase, I've come up with a questionnaire. Much like an online dating service, I've mapped out some key questions whose answers would let me know if that new butterfly-feeling friendship is worth cultivating, or if we should just let it remain a passing smile when we pick up our kids at the same time and then go home to our separate lives. 

The questions themselves reveal a lot about me, the questioner, I'm sure. We aren't going to bond over what church you go to, or your favorite sports team, but if you have a line on a secret dish at a restaurant, or a new author I'm about to fall for, then we're in it for the long haul. 

Without further ado, I present: 

"The New Adult Friendship Compatibility Questionnaire" 
aka "The New Friend Test" 
aka "What's your major? For The Over 30 Set" 

To keep it brief, we're using Twitter rules for answers, 140 characters or less. And...go!

  • Married or single? Married eight years.
  • Kids? 2 boys, three and six.
  • Pets? 2 dogs, 2 cats, 6 goats. Bunch of chickens and bees, but they aren't really pets.
  • Job? Executive producer by day, hobby farmer by night. Or mixed in the day.
  • Age? 37 (I thought I was turning 38 last year, but I was wrong. Bonus year!)
  • Sign? Sagittarius, but I don't put much stock in that. I didn't even spell it right without autocorrect.
  • Favorite restaurant? Rioja. Or Mercantile. Oh! Or Comida for tacos or Bones for noodles. Unless it's a crap chain, I pretty much like them all.
  • What do you order? Anything seasonal or involving risotto. For brunch I always order the Eggs Benedict, scrambled not poached. 
  • What's the best thing you can cook? I sear a mean scallop. And there isn't a pasta/sauce combo I can't handle.
  • Last wish meal? Mussels and frites at Bistro Vendome, big fat bottle of red, Gabe telling me stupid jokes about the uptight group of businessmen at the neighboring table. Perfection. 
  • Favorite drink? (Quick, over-140 character aside: My friend Kristin recently went to a "get to know your coworkers" fiasco, and during small group breakout her group had to share their favorite drink. Kristin went first and gave what I am sure was a lovely, evocative answer involving the dominant characteristics that come into play when she selects the perfect wine to match her mood and meal. The group response was stone faced. The remaining 9 answers ranged from coffee to strawberry lemonade to -- no kidding -- water. Kristin's coworkers will never be invited to our supper club.) Gin and lemonade in the summer, vanilla vodka and ginger ale in the winter. Wine when it's in my hand.
  • Favorite all time? The Grapes of Wrath. I've read it 4 times.
  • Recent favorite(s)? Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel, The Engagements.
  • Current read? American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest. It's kind of boring so far, so I think I'll not finish it (a very new habit of mine that I love), and move on to The Song of Achilles. 
  • What book or author do you hate? Nicholas Sparks. Ugh. The worst. 
  • What's your guilty pleasure read? YA novels by John Green, and anything by Blake Crouch.
  • Car radio presets? 90.1 CPR/NPR, 97.3 KBCO ("world class rock," same playlist as when I was in college!), 93.3 KTCL (slightly more hip modern rock), 98.5 KYGO (for a country fix). 
  • What was the last concert you went to? Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night sweats. At Red Rocks! I love him so much. So so much.
  • Favorite song ever? Angel From Montgomery. Bonnie Raitt's is the standard, but Delta Spirit just covered it at a concert this summer with Julie Davis from The Wheel and KILLED IT. Amazing. 
  • Favorite song now? Girl Crush. Which I only ever listened to because I saw an article that country radio was boycotting it because they thought it was a devil lesbian song, so of course I checked it out. #dummies
  • Guilty pleasure song? Taylor Swift's "Mean" sung by the cast of Glee. Yep. Shut up. Why you gotta be so mean?
  • What band sums up your youth? Tie between Indigo Girls and Counting Crows.
  • What 5 songs would you put on a mix tape right now? You Should've Seen The Other Guy (Nathaniel Rateliff), American Idiot (Green Day), Hold On (Alabama Shakes), Girl From the North Country (Bob Dylan), Murder in the City (Brandi Carlile). 
  • Who'd you vote for in the last presidential election? Obama!! 
  • What's the most pressing political issue we are facing? Syrian refugees abroad; universal access to basic healthcare and safe, nutritious food at home. 
  • Where do you frequent and/or boycott with your dollars? Boycott Walmart, Chick-fil-A, most all fast food. Frequent local restaurants, Vitamin Cottage, Ela Family Farms Organic CSA...and Amazon, if we're being totally honest. I love me some Amazon Prime. 
  • You have 4 hours alone, what do you do? I'm going to assume that all the animals are cared for, the boys are with Gabe, and the house is clean. The to do list is all checked off. Then I pour a giant glass of wine, grab my Kindle, and lock myself in my room for 4 solid hours and read a book without interruption or falling asleep.
  • What hobby do you wish you'd made time for? Painting. I miss it. But apparently not enough to pick up a brush.
  • Itinerary for your ideal weekend? Saturday I make biscuits and gravy after sleeping in (thanks Gabe!), we do some farm chores with the boys in the day, and let the animals graze while we all play outside. For dinner we make pizza together and then watch a "classic" movie from my youth all piled on the couch under one blanket. On Sunday we can go for a hike, then the boys have dinner with their granny and grandpa while Gabe and I catch a movie and have dinner out. Asleep by 9 pm. Bliss. 
  • What was your latest binge watch? Justified on Amazon Prime. I'm just starting season 5, which I hear is the worst season. 
  • Heels or flats? Flats.
  • Makeup or bare? Bare.
  • Appetizers or dessert? Both. 
  • Skim or whole? Whole. 
  • Was it blue and black, or white and gold? Blue and black.
  • Movie or play? Movie. (I almost lied and said play on my own test.)
  • Go for a run or mix a drink? Drink.
  • Flowers or tomatoes? Tomatoes. 
  • Camping or glamping? Camping. 
  • Dirty or clean? Dirty. 
  • Coffee or tea? Tea. 
  • Large party or small get together? Small get together. 
Done! I showed you mine. Now, I dare you to show me yours. Because come on, no matter how old you get, truth or dare is the foundation of any true friendship.

(Question...Is it going to be weird when I start handing these out at PTO meetings and neighborhood barbecues? Or awesome? Yeah, that's what I thought. Awesome.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Face of Planned Parenthood

With the unprecedented social media blitz raining down on Planned Parenthood as we enter the latest way-too-long election cycle, I figured it was time to pipe up. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the hashtag #istandwithplannedparenthood would be one that I support. But for anyone who found their way to this blog via our Pare Down Facebook page, or a recipe on Pinterest, and who now wants nothing to do with Pare Down, I invite you to give this a read.

First, a little about me. I am a mother of two wonderful boys who were planned (kind of, they showed up more on their schedule than mine, but you get the gist) and wanted. My husband and I welcomed them into a home that was well stocked with clothes, diapers, a grip of baby gear, and hugs and kisses to spare. I loved setting up the nursery, and then adapting it to welcome a second son, almost as much as I loved the babies themselves. Almost. But come on, this was cute!

How lucky were we? Our boys were healthy. We had the means to support them. We had the emotional maturity to take care of them (insert booger joke here). I am grateful that I never had to face the choice of what to do in the case of an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. But if I had, I would again feel grateful to live in a country where this very painful, very personal decision would have been both safe and legal. Because let's be straight on this one topic, when abortions were illegal they still happened. Rich women traveled to obtain them safely, and poor women resorted to more dangerous measures, but abortions were still being performed. There is a great short documentary from 1992 called When Abortion Was Illegal that is currently streaming on YouTube. Let those women tell you themselves how illegal abortion affected their lives, because unlike me they lived through it.

Again, I support safe and legal abortions. You don't have to. I don't have the ability (or desire) to change an anti-abortionist's stance on the issue any more than they could change mine. But that's a moot point, because abortion is legal. Signed, stamped, out-of-the-alleys-since-1973 legal. People can protest all they want, it's their American right, but like it or leave it abortion is here to stay.

What we do stand to lose is universal access to Planned Parenthood, that often vilified baby-hating abortion factory. This is where I take issue.

While I have never had an abortion, I have certainly taken advantage of Planned Parenthood. When you wonder what kind of woman would go there, the answer is me. I used to go there. A lot. For five years, while I was fresh out of college and struggling with an acting career, Planned Parenthood was my main source of health care.

When I lived in Chicago, Planned Parenthood provided yearly pap exams and discounted birth control. (Not that I was having sex. Are you kidding? My parents read this blog.) Even better, when I was living in Los Angeles and among that city's throng of nearly homeless acting hopefuls, my healthcare at Planned Parenthood was free. Yes, you read that correctly. At a time when I couldn't afford a latte, I could still see a doctor for any number of lady problems, and good ol' generic people problems, without having to cough up a dime. Granted I had to get buzzed in through a bullet-proof glass entryway to get there, but once inside it was just your average doctors office with crappy old magazines and daytime TV in the lobby.

It's odd that no one is talking about the other services that Planned Parenthood provides. Sure, a standard pelvic exam won't rile voters the same way that an inflammatory video does, but it's just as big a part of the story. Statistically, it accounts for the majority of the story. My own husband grew up being taught that the only service PP provided was that of abortion. This is untrue. Let it be known: For many of the nation's poor, and for those not-so-poor who may not have great reproductive coverage through their standard insurance, Planned Parenthood is a gateway to receiving quality, affordable healthcare. That's it. By threatening to steal their funding and forcing a number of their doors to close, we are denying many of this nation's men and women their right to receive basic exams, prescriptions, and yearly checkups.

So thank you, Planned Parenthood, for all that you provided me in the years when I would have had to go without ever seeing a doctor. Thank you for enabling me to take control of my body and make well-informed reproductive choices. I am so grateful for the care, and happy to report that my planned journey to parenthood has been a success.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Restaurant Style Tacos

I love a good Taco Tuesday. When Gabe and I lived in Los Angeles we had the best taco joint in our adjoining strip mall, and the Tacos de los Gringos had us pegged. Crunchy shell, perfectly spiced and dripping ground beef, cheddar cheese. Mmmmmm. Honky tacos are heaven.

That being said, homemade tacos, even with my beloved America's Test Kitchen recipe, just didn't cut it. That McCormick-style seasoning mix and some browned ground beef never tasted like the real thing.

Enter Google. Why had I never looked up "Mexican restaurant style taco meat" before?! I tried a few recipes, then did what any self-respecting cook does and morphed them all to make my own.

The results are ridiculous. I no longer have to leave my kitchen for a $2 Taco Night special to get my fix. Add in some homemade refried beans (try these) and easy-as-pie homemade corn tortillas (whoops, not this time), and your tacos will blow your mind. They key is boiling the meat. Sounds a little yuck, but try it once and you'll never go back.

Drink pairing: Gabe will go classic with a Negro Modelo, while I tend to hit up a nice farm Saison. Or a Mike's if I'm feeling down home.

Music pairing: New Jason Isbell, "Something More Than Free." I may be going out on a limb, but I think that kid has talent.

Restaurant-style Ground Beef Tacos

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 90 minutes

2 lbs. organic grass fed and finished hamburger
1 yellow onion, diced 
2 rounded tsp minced garlic
1 TB chile in adobo (puree the whole can and then freeze the rest in 1 TB portions)
1 rounded tsp pepper
1 rounded tsp Mexican Oregano
1 TB salt 
1/2  rounded tsp Cumin
1/2  rounded tsp dried cilantro
4 C water

Place ground beef, onions, and garlic in a large sauce pan or stock pot. Cover with water. Add spices and then mash the mixture with a wooden spoon until the beef is broken up and the spices are mixed in. 

Cover the pan and let mixture boil at a medium heat for 25 minutes. 

Once the beef is cooked through, remove the lid and cook for another hour or so until the liquid has cooked down. Spoon off excess fat. 

Serve. Eat too much. Proceed to eat some more.