Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Women's History Month!

A little late, I know. I might not have referenced this month at all but I just finished a great biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett by the Rutgers University history professor, Mia Bay titled To Tell the Truth Freely .

Biographies are some of my favorite kinds of books to read. I love history because it is the culmination of stories of people's lives. Famous people, every day people and extraordinary people. I devoured the biography section of my elementary school library and my favorite at that time was a book about Nellie Bly . It was the first time I really thought about being a girl and understood the challenges that have historically come with that. I also just love stories about people that fight, fight back, change the world and don't take no for an answer. Those are the people I admire and those people give me hope for human kind. Nellie Bly was that kind of chick.

The Progressive Era gave us many such women including Ida B. Wells-Barnett who was also a journalist. Ida was a trouble maker of the highest order, she was so "difficult" that she was never really given credit for all that she did accomplish. She wasn't difficult as much as uncompromising, unwilling to back down in order to make peace or scratch backs. She was never good at politics. My favorite story involves the suffrage movement . As much as I am grateful for the work of Susan B. Anthony and other suffrage leaders, the great shame of the movement is that they allowed segregation and outright racism in order to appease some critics. In the National American Woman Suffrage Association's suffrage parade on March 3, 1913
in Washington DC, Ida refused to march in the back of the parade where they had segregated the African-American suffragettes. Instead, she hid in the crowd until her state delegation, Illinois, passed and then she jumped in and marched under her state flag, integrating the parade single-handedly!

Another Progressive Era hero has been my favorite since I read her biography in college; Margaret Sanger spent her life working with poor women and came to believe that if they had honest information and access to birth control they could improve their lives and the lives of their children. She fought for that cause the rest of her life and founded the American Birth Control League which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Her story is fascinating and worth a read.

Some women lead by example and Madam CJ Walker certainly did. Becoming the first self-made American woman millionaire the early 1900's she created a beauty empire. Her life story is worth the read and even the story of her daughter's life during the Harlem Renaissance is fascinating. For more on this amazing women I recommend the book On Her Own Ground : the Life and Times of Madam CJ Walker.

Just because it's almost April doesn't mean you can't pick up a biography of one of these amazing women, or let me know of a biography I need to read!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Treats! (or - Probably Why My Pants are Tight)

That's what we call sugary goodness in my house, treats. As in - "we don't have any treats in this house" followed by "why don't you go get us some treats?". I have already professed my love for Ben & Jerry's or any kind of ice cream really. My other love is chocolate, of course.

When we first got together my husband informed me that he does not like chocolate and in addition to that, sweets are not "his thing" . WHAT? or more accurately, WTF? This cannot be possible. So I set out to change his mind because I couldn't go through life eating treats all by myself. It took several years but I finally broke him and I can proudly proclaim that he especially loves Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. He also loves any kind of fruity treat and when I do have to "go get us some treats" I ask what he wants and he says, "something fruity and tasty".

I usually buy cookie dough, frozen cake or mixes if we want baked goods. I do sometimes make homemade treats but not often. If we have no treats and don't want to go to the store I make something I learned from my grandma, my Mom's Mom. She would take leftover pie crust and spread it with butter, sugar and cinnamon, cut it into strips and roll it. Bake up and eat; nom nom nom. Pie crust is easy to make fast and I can whip it up in no time.

Since reading In Defense of Food We have decided to do better eating real food. Our CSA was a good start but we can still cut processed food, white flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and the like. Real food takes more time and effort. Real food is sometime hard to find. Try going to the grocery store and not purchasing anything with HFCS . It's hard. We are learning so much. While organic crackers seem more expensive than 100 calorie snack packs they are actually not when portioned into 100 calorie packs of their own and they have less packaging. Also, organic ketchup is soooo much better than the regular kind.

This brings me back to our treats problem. Unfortunately we cannot at this time live without treats but we no longer want processed crap. So, I decided to learn to bake more. Baking is a challenge because I can't use real butter or milk (for Mark) and we are trying to use whole wheat flour which has a very particular taste and density. It requires some experimentation as to creating good recipes. I take my work seriously and have done the required research. I began with cake.

RESULTS: Worst cake ever: peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting - the peanut flavor highlighted the wheat flavor and the cake was too dry and heavy. Best non-chocolate cake: carrot cake from Betty Crocker with vegan vanilla
sour cream frosting from somewhere on the Internets - the spices covered the wheat flavor and the density worked well with the carrots and nuts. Best chocolate cake: this vegan chocolate cake with cocoa frosting from Betty Crocker. The recipe was for 12 cupcakes so I doubled it and made a cake. It is the perfect chocolate flavor and it is the lightest, melt-in-your-mouth texture ever, even with whole wheat flour. It is almost too dangerous to have in the house. And the frosting is definitely the best I have made; better than using baking chocolate or even vegan cream cheese frosting.

Monday is Mark's B-day so this weekend I am making his B-day cake. When I asked him he immediately requested the carrot cake but then he saw this recipe from Fat Free Vegan and has decided he wants that. It looks fruity and tasty. I hope its not also wheat-y.

On another note, have you heard of this thing they call "March Madness"? It annoys me and ruins perfectly good television. But Fug Madness is awesome!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Flower Power

I know I haven't posted much in the last 2 months and I have no excuse. I have spent the winter doing some crafting and recovering from various illnesses. I swear this winter has been the worst for catching bad stuff. It could also be the hundreds of kids I guided through the museum in these last months; all the sniffling and coughing hordes of them.

I have begun knitting again after a six month break. I started with a scarf for a xmas gift. While knitting the octopus scarf I joined a new craft group that meets at the library and stays in touch on Ravelry. These ladies are very nice and I forgot how helpful it is to have someone available to answer questions and help with problems. These ladies have even given me the courage to perhaps try a sweater! Amazing after 3 years of knitting to finally work up to a sweater. I also taught a friend to knit and made her go with me to the knitting group so we are now becoming obsessed with patterns and yarn.

After the holiday I decided to make myself some winter hats because its very cold and I didn't have hats and scarves that matched. My first hat was a beret that I first knit in chunky pink yarn and hated it so I frogged the hat and knit it in a medium weight purple-ish yarn. I really like it. I used the pink yarn for a matching scarf.

I decided I liked knitting hats so I tried a cap in 3 colors using yarn I got for xmas from cousin Briana. The hat turned out ok but I decided it wasn't girly enough so I experimented with some decoration and came up with this:

Pretty cool, huh? I really like it and I get compliments every time I wear it.

So it got me thinking that I really need a cool hat to go with my blue scarf. It was the first thing I ever knit and still my favorite scarf when its really cold. I had a very small amount of that same yarn left so I decided to build a hat around it. I used some black wool sport weight yarn to do the hat and then combined the blue yarn with some cream yarn and a red button to create this:
and my new favorite hat is made. I am afraid I can't stop making flowers because they help to use up leftover yarn and can be made in an endless combination of colors. also because, thanks to the furloughs, I don't have extra money for new yarn so I use what I have.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Miss Gimp Doesn't Want to Talk About it....

But she is now middle aged and has the spread to prove it.

Poor Miss Gimpy doesn't really eat more but she has become a bit lazy, and it shows. She used to love to play fetch (really) and especially loved to chase after ponytail holders but lately she will only do it once or twice before deciding she would rather just lay down.

Mark is worried about her so he tries to wrestle with her more but she usually just gets annoyed and walks away.

Maybe our bad habits have rubbed off on her. You think she would join us on the Wii Fit?