Thursday, 28 February 2013

Food choices

It feels like months since I've posted here, so I'm glad it's only really been a couple of weeks. I've been pretty exhausted on account of starting my new job as a housekeeper! The company I work for is called Exec. They were a big deal in San Francisco and they've just moved to Seattle this month (so if you live in Seattle, please hire us!).

As a result of making regular money now, I've been thinking a lot about food.  I have heard people refer to foodie-ism as a kind of oral fixation, and while I guess that's kind of potentially true, there's also a great deal of skill and artistry in cooking. I also appreciate food from a health point of view; things like garlic, ginger root and local honey are actually really good for you (for the immune system, the digestive system, and for pollen allergies and hay fever respectively). Eating well makes me feel well, and that matters to me!

As such, I've been thinking about what kind of food I want to keep in the house. Plenty of meat, for sure - chicken breast, venison and veal are good, as well as beef. I want to start cooking with rabbit and lamb more often, too. I want to get good cheese; we stopped buying Kraft grated parmesan long ago, but even so, we're still only getting soft wedges of parmesan and bags of grated Lucerne cheddar and mozzarella. Good cheese is a wonderful thing, and honestly, I miss getting wet mozzarella, I miss brie, camembert, halloumi, emmenthal, feta. Cheese is so damn good for you. There were years when I was so disordered and mixed up when it came to food that I wouldn't eat cheese. I was scared of the stuff. Shows how warped I was! That's what you get for buying into diet logic. Cheese is high in protein, not to mention calcium and vitamin B (teeth, bones and skin). Delicious!

After meat and cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables - a LOT of them - is my main concern. We've been poor for so long that everyone's immune systems are totally in the shitter. I'm talking grapes, oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries, mangoes, coconuts, pears, peaches - the works. Same for veggies.

As for bread... I'm a fan of bagels but honestly, I have enough quick bread recipes that I don't really feel like we need to load up on carbs. Oatmeal? Yes. I want to get steel-cut oats, which are universally acknowledged to be the best kind.

I'm buying a food processor, and I'd prefer to buy nuts and mason jars and make my own nut butter than I would to buy big jars of Skippy. Up until now we've only ever had a blender, but home made always leaves me feeling better afterwards. I want to buy jam, though, and plenty of good olive oil. And yogurt, plain probiotic Greek yogurt that I can put fruit and honey in.

I don't care about eating 'raw' or 'paleo' or about carbs or whatever the hell else. I don't count calories, I don't eat fat-free or sugar-free or calorie-free (what does that even MEAN? How is it food if it doesn't contain energy?). Fats are necessary for your body and eating sweetness without sugar will fuck with your blood sugar levels. I would rather learn to eat well, to feel good when I put the right things into myself and bad when I put the wrong things, than to cheat my way around it with things that aren't what they appear to be. I definitely don't do diet fads, never ever again.

I just want to eat as fresh as possible. I want to eat exactly what it feels like I'm putting in my mouth, nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Perfect cop, perfect person

I love cops. My brother is going to become one. Writer husband almost did become one. I always trust them and have always been friendly with them, and I've never regretted it. Least of all now!

I mentioned in my previous post that we'd had some very disappointing trouble with a neglected dog. We found a very old Irish Setter wandering on the street with no collar or microchip, and it was in a deplorable state. Nails untrimmed, fur greasy, very severe hair loss, a rash covering its entire body, fleas, an eye infection, a double ear infection, a secondary skin infection, open wounds under its front legs from scratching, three cysts, and worst of all its canines were broken off and its teeth were all black and yellow and worn down. We brought it inside, gave it a bath (we had to change out the water twice), and took it to the vet, where we spent about $250 on veterinary care, prescription medications, flea control, dog food, a collar and a dog bed. We had its ears cleaned and its nails trimmed. We had its teeth examined. The vet told us it would probably need a full mouth extraction, or would at least need to lose most of its teeth, in order to be healthy.

This dog was utterly precious. It was sweet, quiet, wagged its tail, it was very affectionate, very loving. It knew sit, but nothing else. We named it Atlas.

Well, to avoid being charged with stealing a pet, we called up our local animal shelter, which also happens to be the authority for animal control in our city, and reported it as a neglect case. I made it very clear that I was afraid of any owner who would allow their pet to remain in this condition, that I was afraid the dog would go back to the owner, that I wanted to help the dog and the entire situation alarmed me.

The shelter gave my phone number to the owner without my consent and not ten minutes later the owner called me at home demanding his dog back. We immediately booked a cab that we couldn't really afford to get to the shelter and have the vet there look at Atlas, since the shelter couldn't legally withhold a dog without seeing it first to determine its condition.

We had to sign Atlas over to the shelter in order to have it examined - this was, at the time, our only recourse to prevent a neglected animal from going back to its original situation.

The vet, to put it bluntly, did not give a fuck. Phrases that were used included "Well, it's not normal in terms of a dog you or I would own, but..."; "Oh, the teeth aren't broken, they're just worn down. You know, from chewing on rocks and stuff."; "Your vet says the teeth are rotten? That's a matter of opinion."

As our vet pointed out, if a dog is chewing rocks, it's hungry. Plus, the owner had already said the dog had a flea allergy (and yet he did not have it on flea control), and that its skin condition was entirely an allergic reaction. The unpaid shelter vet refused to acknowledge the secondary infection that the vet we paid to make an assessment said was definitely present. The shelter vet then walked away from us as we were speaking and refused to commit to either educating the owner on dog care when he came in, or setting a checkup visit for the dog. Basically, she saw a neglect case, but she could weasel out of it and she just didn't want to do that much work on a Sunday.

Atlas went home with his neglectful owner the next day.

That day, we called the shelter to ask: has the dog gone home; was the owner educated on dog care; did you give him the prescription medications that we paid for and show him how to use them? We were told "we took care of it" three times in a very clipped tone, and then hung up on.

We called the owner back and left him a voicemail offering to buy his dog flea control. 24 hours later we hadn't received any response.

The day after, I was pretty much sick of it. Neither of us could get over the fact that we had taken a neglected dog to the people who are charged with protecting animals and nobody had bothered to make sure it was comfortable and living happily.

I spent all day on the phone. I called the county police. I called state patrol. I called just about every major shelter in the state. Four hours later I had nothing. I was transferred and redirected so many god damn times and half of those transfers were to the shelter that had blown Atlas off and sent him back uncared for.

Every time I called a law enforcement office, I received the same automated message: If it is an emergency, or if you want to report a crime, please call 911. Okay, I thought. Is it a crime?

Hoo, boy, yes it is. The full law is here, the relevant parts are as follows:

(2) An owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the owner knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence:
     (a) Fails to provide the animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure.

Suddenly, I had a crime to report. I called up Everett Police to make sure it was all right, and after hearing the story, I was advised to wait until the shelter was closed so that the case wouldn't be sent right to animal control, i.e., the shelter, and then call 911 and ask an officer to go out to the owner's house. We found his address by checking his number in the directory, and I made the emergency call and explained the situation.

Pretty soon the officer on duty phoned me directly to ask me to tell her the whole story again. She commended us on the "phenomenal" effort we put in to making sure that the dog was all right, and went straight to the owner's house to check up on Atlas.

She took my concern for my privacy seriously and simply told him "I understand you've been involved with the animal shelter recently". She told him that if he continued to neglect his dog, the police would have to intervene. She educated him on the basics of dog care, and told him that that care had to be ongoing.

She then called me back, related this to me, and told me that the animal neglect (second-degree animal cruelty) law works a lot like trespassing or child neglect - the offender has to be warned first, before any action is taken. She gave me the incident number and her name, and told me to call back in a month, and she would personally go out and check up on the dog to make sure it was doing better.

The moral of this story is that just because a place says it's an animal shelter, says it has the best interest of animals at heart, just because a person says they're a vet, or that they care for animals, it's no guarantee of anything. And unless you live in New York or New Jersey and you have the ASPCA at your disposal, your best bet is the find the relevant legislation FIRST, and get the cops involved at the first sign of mishandling or irresponsibility.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


I always try to stay optimistic, but to be quite honest, I'm having a terrible day. Between an abusive dog owner, an animal shelter who gave out my phone number without permission to that owner, and the shelter vet who walked away from me as I was speaking and said that it was a 'matter of opinion' as to whether or not the dog's teeth were rotten, I am pretty much ready to just go and be a hermit for a little while and avoid the public because they're just so fucking frustrating.

After all of that, the fact that the Comcast website tells me that their agents are available by phone 24/7, but when I call up I get an automated message telling me that they're only 7am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday is making me want to kill people and break things.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Garlic and cheese soda bread rolls

It's always a huge shame when you're cooking dinner, realize you're out of bread when bread would be delicious, and then realize you don't have three hours to make yeast bread. For those moments, I have prepared this recipe! These puff up like muffins in the pan with big puffy domed tops. They come out soft and fluffy on the inside, and when vet tech husband tried one (fresh out of the oven!) he split it perfectly in half with just his hands, saw the soft inside and picturesque steam rising out of it, and declared it to look "like food on TV". That's good enough for me!

Preheat oven to 425F.

Sift 2C AP flour, 2C whole wheat flour, 2tsp baking soda and 4tsp baking powder into a large bowl. If the bran bits in the whole wheat flour get stuck in the sieve, just pour them back into the bowl - you're sifting it to get air into it.

Add at least 5tbsp garlic powder, more if you like garlic, and about 1-2tbsp of mixed dried herbs (I used mixed Italian herbs and some parsley), and 1/2-3/4C shredded cheese such as mozzarella or cheddar. Pick the herbs and cheese depending on what you want to pair them with - if you're making a chicken dish, rosemary and thyme might be a good choice!

Mix in 3C water until fully combined. Prep a 12-cup regular-size muffin pan, either with Pam or with oil and flour, and fill each cup right to the top. Bake for 30mins.

These are seriously delicious as snacks or as rolls to go with dinner and you don't have to start them three hours before everything else!

Gainful employment

I have some good news for today: I got a new job! I work for a maid service company as an independent contractor. I make $13-$16 an hour, depending on the work volume, I work four days a week and pick my own shifts. I'm really looking forward to having a job that will keep me active! I have to commute an hour or two into Seattle every morning but honestly, I can read in that time, so I'm not really complaining. I'd rather have an extra hour than how up to work right after I've showered and gotten dressed - I'm very slow to wake up.

What I find interesting is that just the fact of having a job is boosting my self-esteem. I'm getting more done. I have more energy. I take better care of myself, too - instead of cleaning my teeth every day, I'm also putting my whitening trays in for half an hour every night and rinsing with mouthwash twice a day. I'm exfoliating with natural products and taking better care of my skin. The whole time I've been jobless I've been thinking to myself, "boy, better remember to whiten my teeth tonight!" and then I forget. Somehow now I'm remembering every night!

This happened the last time I had a job, too - I got so much more done despite having less free time. I think part of it is definitely just that I know I have to go out and make a whole lot of first impressions on people, but another part of it is the self-esteem boost that comes from actually getting stuff done outside of the home. I feel that in terms of motivation and energy, knowing that I'm going to go out and do things is basically critical. It could be the same for you too!

Anyway, I'm going to go and clean my face with yogurt and olive oil.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Perfect Chicken Pizza

I made pizza for my family tonight. I've tried a bunch of recipes that involve rising the crust, but I found a crust recipe that didn't involve any rising at all and goddamn if it wasn't the best pizza I've ever had. Crispy, but super soft once you bite into it. This pizza is better than any takeout you will ever get, and it's a damn sight cheaper, too.

I used this crust recipe, with a few changes. I added a whole bunch of garlic powder and a little ground basil, and I subbed in 1C whole wheat flour. I also changed the preparation - I mixed the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let it froth up, poured it into the flour, stirred until it became dough and then added the olive oil. I just like it better that way. I've heard it's better, though I have no idea why, and it does seem to make tastier crust! I do it that way for bread too.

Then I heated a can of plain tomato sauce, added mixed herbs, paprika and about nine or ten cloves of garlic minced in the garlic press (mincing by hand wouldn't have gotten them fine enough for me).

I rolled out the crust - I like thin, Italian-style pizza crust and this crust made one big-ass pizza. I put it on the pizza tray, drizzled a ring of olive oil around the edge and spread it around the crust, especially the edges, with my fingers. I ladled some of the sauce on and spread it with the back of a spoon until it was even, and then sprinkled on some chopped mushrooms and bell peppers. Then I put a ton of shredded mozzarella, probably a good cup and a half of cheese. Then more mushrooms and peppers, and some shredded chicken - then a sprinkle more mozzarella and some red pepper flakes.

Bake at 425F for 25-30 minutes and let the mozzarella crisp up - even if it gets a little black it'll taste divine! The cheese came out gooey and perfect, and the crust wasn't in the least bit oily. This is way better than takeout pizza that leaves the box see-through with grease, and there's no irritating rising time either!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

α and β

I went to the bank yesterday to close my account. They've been charging me for all sorts of things without telling me beforehand which I wouldn't have minded except that the charges resulted in me being overdrawn. So I threw on my workout clothes, walked down there with writer husband, told them I was sick of it, got them to refund me all but four dollars of the money they'd taken out, and closed down my account.

While I was having my account closed, a woman came up to our counter. Her hair was undone and her clothes were shabby. She was glaring and pouting. She huffed and said to the cashier helping me "I'm going to go because I've seen four people get served ahead of me and now I'm late for an appointment" in the teeny tiniest voice. I mean, I know I'm a little deaf, but seriously, her voice was teeny tiny.

The cashier apologized for the delay and offered to book her an appointment. A not-really-argument ensued in which the woman complained in that quiet, whining voice of hers that she had to cash a check right now to pay a bill that was due Monday, complained that the bank was about to close and just said "oh" when she was told that it was open for another hour, and finally consented to doing what the cashier suggested which was to make an appointment.

All the time I was thinking, holy smokes, if it was that important to her why didn't she make more of a fuss about it? Why was she talking in such a tiny voice? Why was she pouting at the cashier and looking to her to do something about the problem? Why wasn't she taking charge of her situation in any way?

This is pretty much a perfect example of the difference between alphas and betas. I got the bank to pay me money, got an appointment twenty minutes after I asked for it and had everything I wanted done without trouble. She got nothing and left dissatisfied.

This is another big reason that I always disliked the "how to care for your introvert" stuff that goes around every so often on social networking sites. Because, yes, drunken club parties or whatever it is that "hipsters/nerds" complain about on the internet are boring for some people (introvert and extrovert alike), but introverts are also often betas. Not speaking up, not being clear in what you want and backing away from fights are major attributes of introverts and betas alike. And, frankly, alphas get shit done. Alphas tend to be more successful in their endeavors than betas because they are effective.

I'll say it again: it has nothing to do with social rules, bullying, or dominating. People who are clear, self-assured and firm get stuff done better and more efficiently than people who don't. This would hold true under any social climate.

People should not be encouraged to be inefficient, passive, ineffectual and timid, because it will damage them. Even if it's difficult for some, people should be encouraged to get their shit together and build confidence. Whether or not it comes naturally is no excuse for not practising a skill.