Monthly Archives: May 2009

Processed foods. And me.

For years and years I avoided processed foods. I made cakes and brownies from scratch. I rarely bought pre-made spaghetti sauce. I cooked only fresh (or sometimes frozen) vegetables. The only processed food I’d make was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because it was such a comfort food.

If I made anything (except Kraft Mac & Cheese) from a mix, jar or bag I felt guilty. I’m not sure what I felt guilty for, but I felt guilty nonetheless.

Lately, however, I’ve been making more and more meals out of processed foods. I almost always have a jar of Barilla (or Rao or Bertolli or Classico — what’s ever on sale at Giant) in the pantry and often use it in place of the tomato sauce in a spaghetti sauce recipe. I rarely make deserts from scratch anymore — in fact I don’t remember the last time I made a cake or brownies not from a mix.

I’d noticed other people cutting corners by using processed foods and figured it would be ok if I did it too.

Really lately (like in the past couple of weeks) I’ve made a lot of processed food. The most notable is Bertolli’s frozen entrees. I’d seen them at the grocery store and thought they might taste ok and longed for a quick and easy meal to make when I didn’t feel like cooking or for something the kids could make for themselves. I finally bought one when it was on sale and served it for dinner (just Andrew and me, but Dean tasted it) and liked what I tasted. It was pretty good. And I didn’t have to cook the pasta, make the sauce, brown and cook the meat. All I had to do was throw it in a pan and heat it for 10 minutes.

So last night I made one of these meals for dinner. Dean had eaten, Clare was at Prom, Andrew had a sandwich earlier but I was hungry. I thought the food tasted good, but then remembered why I’d avoided procesed foods for so long. It wasn’t the price. It wasn’t to keep me busy. It wasn’t even the taste. It was because these things are unhealthy. I could feel my body absorbing the salt in the entree and I’m sure there are chemicals in the meals that would not have been in anything I’d made fresh. According to this web site, the portion I had last night (1/2 a bag) would be walked off in 158 minutes. That’s a lot of walking for an easy meal.Plus the sodium in that serving was nearly half my daily allowance. (assuming I’m a 37 year old 144lb female which I am not)

So, I once knew why I tried to make fresh food and limited my processed food intake, but the lure of convenience blinded me — made me forget the real reason I liked to cook from scratch. It wasn’t because I loved cooking. It wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to buy processed foods. It wasn’t because processed foods tasted bad. It was because they are full of things that should not be regularly ingested.

Damn. I gotta start cooking for real again.

My Prom, Her Prom

My daughter is going to prom tonight. She’s wearing a lovely dress, classy shoes and an antique Spanish lace shawl. But she’s not happy. She left the house (to go to a friend’s house to dress) ranting how much she hated prom. So, while she acquiesced to try on her dress for me, I won’t get to see her all dressed up for prom.

She’s going to prom with a group of girls she’s known for years and with whom she feels comfortable. She claims that the only reason she’s going to prom is because it is what you do as a senior. Go to prom.

I’d not thought about my prom for a while. I went to prom in my Junior year, but not my Senior year. I went with a guy — Dan. He was a friend. Possibly the best friend I had that year. He liked me. I liked him. As a friend. I’d met Jeremy by this time and didn’t feel comfortable really dating anyone else. I remember not liking prom, but at the time I thought differently. Interesting how time changes memory.

I don’t know if it was considered OK for a group of girls (or guys for that matter) to go to prom alone 1n 1974. I suspect not. At least it never occurred to me to go to prom without a date. I’m glad times have changed though.

So the differences between these two proms, 35 years apart (almost to the day)

Clare bought her dress <———> My mom made mine

Clare’s going with a group of friends <———> I went with one (male) friend

Neither of us looked forward to it.

Tune in later to see of she actually enjoyed it. (Although I suspect that if she doesn’t, she’s not going to lie and say she did)

And yes, I wish I’d been asked to help her find a prom dress. And yes, I wish she were getting dressed here so I could see her before she went and take her picture and act all Momish. But, as I keep on telling myself lately, this is her life. Not mine. (although isn’t there something in the manual on life that allows parents to see their kids in prom clothes? and take photos? And act all proud?)

Senior Project Meme

msmazzola wonders why people blog. She’s conducting informal research on the topic and asks folks to respond by posting their answers to the following questions and then posting a link to their post in her comments. (thanks Bridgett)

1. How long have you been blogging?

I began blogging June 21, 2001.

2. Why did you start blogging?

I was looking for a way to create a journal online — I’d been keeping a journal since I was in 9th grade and wanted a way to journal and make it public. I eventually found Blogger.

3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?

I’ve found a community of people that seem to enjoy reading about my life and I enjoy reading about theirs. It gives me an outlet for my writing. I enjoy writing and having someone else read what I write makes it all the better.

4. How many times a week do you post an entry?

It depends. I average about 2 times a month. I’d like to post more, but real life gets in the way.

5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?

I’ve got at least 75 blogs on my feed reader, but don’t read them all the time. I do, however, make sure I read the 15 or so under the label “friends”. I’ve only ever met one person on my “friends” list, but I feel like I know the others just as well.

6. Do you comment on other people’s blogs?

Yes, I try to comment many of on the blogs I read.

7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have? Is so, are you satisfied with your numbers?

I do tend to obsess on my stats sometimes, but other times I forget to check. I’m never completely satisfied with my stats, but there are so many blogs out there, it is understandable that mine doesn’t get checked very much. I always love it when I get a new comment though. It kind of validates my writing.

8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?

I don’t regret much of what I write because I try to not write anything that can hurt. I did have a blog a few years ago that I did write some regretful things. I removed it.

9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?

Yes, I think I am pretty honest about who I am — even in the blog I removed.

10. Do you blog under your real name?

Yes and no. I have a few blogs and some don’t have my real name.

11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?


12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?

A couple of my blogs are about everything. One is about birds. One is about accessibility. One is about my trip to Ireland. One is about our favorite recipes.

13. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?

Yes, I have several. I blog about what interestes me at the time. Some go nowhere. Some go on and on.

Spec nest?

[Update 5.25.09] She’s gone and left two eggs in the nest. Husband tossed some balls off the roof and I heard that they landed very close to the nest. I suspect one landed on the nest because one of the eggs has a crack along the side. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

[Update] She’s sitting on the nest now, so hopefully we’ll have a brood. I can just barely see her from the kitchen window. Yay.

Robin with flower
Robin with flower
In the rose of Sharon bush

Last week I looked out the back window and saw a robin hopping around the back yard carrying what looked like a bunch of white paper in her beak. She hopped across the back yard, flew to a rose of Sharon bush and then onto the branch of the ginkgo tree, all the while holding onto the wad of paper. Then I thought that perhaps she was carrying a white azalea flower instead of paper — it looked the right size and we have a few white azalea bushes in the yard.

I posted it on twitter and got a few fun responses.

A nearly hidden robin -- look for the white bit. That's her with her flower.

About an hour or so later I looked outside and saw the robin again — she still had the azalea blossom in her beak. This time I saw her fly into the pink azalea bush and I suspected she was building a nest there and this was a new azalea blossom. I looked up robin nests on All About Birds, but saw no mention of robins using flowers to build their nests, although it said they might incorporate paper into their nests sometimes.

I posted on twitter again and someone wondered if it was stuck in her throat or maybe she was going to prom.

The next morning Dean mentioned that a robin was hanging out in the bush that kept coming back. He thought she might be building a nest. Sure enough, there she was — this time bringing long bits of grass with her each return trip.

a decorated nest
a decorated nest

That afternoon I couldn’t stand the suspense. I wanted to see if the nest had white azalea blooms in it. I waited until I was sure the robin was elsewhere and peeked in the far side of the bush — I could barely make out the nest, but it did look like it had some bits of white in it. I tip-toed around to the side nearest the nest and wasn’t disappointed. She had, indeed, used some white flowers to pretty up her nest.

I think this is the same robin that built a nest under the eave of the neighbor’s porch but abandoned it the day after mother’s day. I hope that she does raise a brood in her decorated nest, but I’m not all that hopeful. She returned the day after I took the photo of the nest, but I’ve not seen her since. Mabye she just likes building nests with no intention of living in them. I’ve heard of spec houses, but never spec nests.

Unfortunately, although the pink azalea bush looked like a great place to build a nest when it was in full flower — it might prove to be a poor choice once the flowers are gone because it is not hidden as well as it could be and is quite low to the ground.

[Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. I took most of them from inside, through a window.]

What is hate?


When I was a child and used the word hate (I hate spinach or liver or Devon or home ec), my mother would almost always counter my statement with, “Hate is a strong word” which meant, “don’t say it”. Once, when I was very angry at my mom because she was pressuring me to say hello to some popular kids at Ben Franklin, I used the word at her. “I hate you,” I hissed but immediately felt ashamed for using the word hate on my mother. I didn’t mean it. I meant, “I’m angry and embarrassed and too shy to talk to the popular kids. Leave me alone.”

My son used it on us a lot when he was younger, and occasionally I still hear him mutter it under his breath. I doubt he ever meant that he hated his dad or me. He probably meant he was angry or embarrassed. Whenever he said it I was transported back to 1974 and the costume jewelry aisle at Ben Franklin where I used the word at my mom.

Over the past couple of weeks because of two incidents involving the high school my teenagers attend, I’ve had reason to think about what the word hate means.

One incident involved a group from a “church” in Kansas protesting the name of the high school because it is thought that the poet after which the school is named was a homosexual.

Members of this “church” protest, among other things, schools and institutions the group thinks are accepting of homosexuality, Christian denominations it considers heretical,  synagogues, and funerals of people killed in plane crashes or while on military duty or who were murdered. They carry signs meant to cause anguish or anger. One says, God Hates You. They taunt and dance and do whatever they can to make their targets react. I’ve read that this group is not a religious group, but an organized group that makes its money by taunting people, then suing them if the people they are protesting react in any way illegal.

The other incident involved a former student making death threats on the Internet against students and teachers. He posted a poll on a website called People’s Dirt asking who of 10 students and teachers should die. The student’s first post included this passage, “…ynot jus die now nd take a couple people i hate out wit me…” [sic]. This student, who now lives in Tennessee, was taken into custody and could serve up to 60 years for this incident. Interesting, his mother says that the students mentioned in the poll are his friends and that the whole thing was blown out of proportion. Based on what I read, I find it hard to believe that he is still friends with these kids.

So, back to my question, what is hate? I think hate is a weapon. The person doing the hating, or announcing the hate wants to harm those they claim to hate, knowing that no one wants to be hated. I used the weapon on my mom in 1974, my son used it on his dad and me many times in the past 14 years. The Westboro Baptist Church members use it on just about anyone but themselves. The former Whitman student used it on several people. The intent was the same in all cases — to cause pain.

My mom was right (again). Hate is a strong word.

No thanks

403453Costco is selling a Backyard Bug Cake Pan:

“Imagine a table full of edible and adorable bugs! Enjoy these delightful cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar, or have the kids (and adults!) decorate their own cakes with icing, frosting or colorful candies. Durable cast aluminum ensures sharp detail and uniform baking, and a premium non-stick interior provides quick-release and easy cleanup.”

I think I’ll pass…

I have heard the mermaids singing

My daughter has discovered The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I knew she would at some time or another — I’d assumed they still taught it in schools, then I saw it in a poetry packet that she brought home from school and felt a long forgotten excitement in my chest. When I initially asked her what she thought about it, she said they had not gotten to it yet in a bored teenage voice.

Just before spring break she said, “Mom! I LOVED Prufrock!” in a not-so-bored teenage voice. She was animated and excited and quoted lines from the poem to me. We discussed the meaning of stanzas and wondered who the women were who were discussing Michelangelo.

I vividly remember reading Prufrock for the first time. I was a Freshman in college. I remember loving the rhythm of the syllables in the poem. I remember loving the pictures the words and lines painted. I remember wondering how coffee spoons could measure time or how eating a peach could be something daring to do. I was young with my whole life ahead of me. I was not going to be like this middle-aged man. Ever. I’d never be afraid like he seemed to be. I’d never regret missing out on things, because I knew I’d do it all. I had plans. Our professor was a middle-aged man. He tried to explain the poem to us from his perspective.

Reading the poem again, now in middle-age, is much more painful than it was when I was 19. At 19 I thought the man a fool for his regrets. I felt no pity for J. Alfred Prufrock. But now, I see where he is coming from. There are days that I have similar feelings to this man. Days when I regret things I’ve not done, and some that I have done. I’ve been shy all of my life and sometimes dealing with strangers has been frightening to me.

Mostly I think I’ve lived a good life so far — I’ve taken some risks — as a young adult and again as an older adult. I’ve faced a few fears and conqured them. My mom and aunt seem to think I can do it all, while my daughter seems to think I should have done more.

Some days I feel like giving in to my fears — staying home when I don’t want to face strangers. Having someone else make phone calls for me. Driving far out of my way to avoid having to drive in a city (yes, NYC, I’m talking about you). Other days, I take a deep breath and just DO. I go to meetings I’d rather not attend. I make those phone calls I was avoiding. I take the shorter route to Sarah Lawrence which goes through Manhattan (so say the signs).

What’s next? Eating alone in a fancy restaurant? Applying for a new job? Going birding with a bird group?

“And how should I begin?
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?”
–From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Elliot