When Did Politics Become A Religion?

August 10, 2017

 

Politics have become a religion. Wait a minute, hear me out on this one.

If religion is defined as a set of beliefs held with ardor and faith, than today’s political climate is definately religious.

Whether a Democrat or a Republican, people hold so tightly to their beliefs that any challenges to those ideals are completely shut down, often with a vengeance.

Those who defend our current president, will do so without limits. He himself once said that “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He appears to be right on that account. While currently only 33% of Americans approve of the job he is doing, those people will defend his every move, however outrageous, or treasonous it may be, as they devoutly believe that he is the savior of the American people.

Those who dislike the current administration will not budge on their conviction that he is going to ruin our country, and that everything he, or his advisors say is should be considered egregious.

The two factions hold on to their theories for dear life, not open to even considering that the other side could be correct. They believe what they believe, and like religion, it is not to be questioned or challenged.

The extensive array of news sources provide fuel for our fodder. Where the major networks and newspapers were once the only trusted sources, there are now tens of thousands of papers, websites and opinions out there to choose from. Suddenly, we pick and choose our facts, based on what we want them to be. Lies? “Alternative facts” are what we call them now.

I remember when we were first about to become parents, I concluded that if you read enough baby books, you would find one that agrees with the way you want to raise your child. Co-sleeping or sleep training; time outs or more time together; whatever feels right to you is correct, and you can find a so-called “expert” who wrote a book to tell you that it is the best thing to do for your child’s well-being.  Politics have become the same way.  Whatever you want to believe happened, there is a news organization which will tell you that it is what “really” happened. From the lips of our chief executive, to those of our “trusted” newscasters, we embrace and accredit the reports we choose to believe. You can almost always find a story that will take either point of view, right or wrong,  if you look hard enough. And if you can’t, just read the comments and there will be hundreds of rude attacks condeming the article and anyone who might agree with it, in an often not so eloquent manner. (Tip: You will be perceived as more intelligent if you don’t have spelling and grammatical errors in your rebuttal.)

Oh, and if you can’t find a way to defend someone, just trash their opponent. It’s a great distraction when you don’t have a leg to stand on, but aren’t willing to accept the reality of what is being said. You can even call them cute little names, like Libtard, and Snowflake.

Politics and current events are unfolding before our very eyes. We don’t need to rely on information from a book written thousands of years ago to guide us through it, yet many are not willing to let go of their beliefs, to react and respond to what is happening in realtime. Jews rarely become Christians, and neither group tend to become Muslim or Buddhist. It’s not how they were raised, and it doesn’t conform to their doctrine.

In decades past, politics were black and white. They were factual and explainable, whether or not you agreed with the decisions being made. Now, politics have become a chosen belief system that guides one’s morals and values on somewhat blind faith. Just like… religion.

photo: Glasshouse Images 

 

 

 

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Rinsing Rice and Grains

August 8, 2017

When cooking rice and grains, most people just put them in a pot with the requisite liquid and follow the directions for cook time. There is a crucial step that is often over looked, and that is rinsing.

Rinsing grains dates back to a time and place when they weren’t processed and boxed like they are today. While most grains purchased in the USA aren’t considered toxic, they could benefit from a good rinse.

Rice: Giving rice a rinse takes off some of the surface starch, resulting in a less sticky end product. Many also notice debris in the rinse water, especially when the rice came from the bulk bins rather than a box. Imported rices, such as basmati and jasmine may have talc, or powdered glucose on them to make them appear cleaner looking. Looking cleaner, and being cleaner are two very different things, and it is advisable to rinse the talc off before cooking.

Other grains, such as quinoa, farro and barley benefit from a rinse, not only to remove debris, but to remove any saponins that may still linger. While domestically packaged quinoa has been treated to remove the dangerous coating, residual saponins are the source of the unpleasant and bitter flavor that sometimes occurs in cooking quinoa.

Rinse the grains either by running them under water in a fine mesh sieve, or by submerging them in cool water, straining them, and resubmerging them in fresh water until no more debris floats to the surface.

Soaking grains (and legumes) cuts down on the phytic acid, a compound which can make these foods harder to digest. Soaking also jumpstarts the process, cuts down on cooking time and tends to yield a better texture.

Taking the time to rinse grains is akin to taking the time to rinse vegetables. Well worth the extra few minutes for a safer, and better outcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

August 1, 2017

They are both white powders whose roles are to help your baked goods rise. They are often in similar packaging, and although they look the same, and have similar end uses, they are very different. I’m talking about baking powder, and baking soda.

Trust me, I have tossed multiple batches of scones because I grabbed the wrong container. While they looked ok, albiet a little more bronzed than usual, the taste of two tablespoons of baking soda is not the same as the required two tablespoons of baking powder.

Baking soda, is a base mineral, which when combined with acids produces carbon dioxide, and in turn, bubbles. Remember those grade school volcanos, where you mixed baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption?
In baking, it is usually something a bit less overtly acidic, like brown sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, or even pumpkin, that creates the more subtle reaction. The acid also interacts with the gasses to counteract that bitter, almost metallic taste that my scones had. Things baked with soda are usually crisper and more browned that those made with powder.

Baking powder, on the other hand, consists of baking soda, cream of tarter ( or another dry acid), and cornstarch. Most commercial baking powders are double acting. This means that the leavening is activated the first time it comes in contact with liquid, and the second action is heat activated. This allows it to be used without other acidic ingredients, without the nasty aftertaste.

Recipes sometimes call for a mixture of both products. This is usually the case where you don’t want to neutralize all the acidic flavor, such as when making buttermilk pancakes, but don’t want the bitter soapy flavor that comes with it. The delicate balance between the two, create the rise, keep the tang, and reduce the bitterness.

Remember that both of these products have a shelf life. Be sure to check dates to insure that the leavener of choice still has the power to lift your baked goods. To tell if baking powder is still fresh, you can place a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. If it bubbles up, it is still good.  To check the freshness of baking soda, place a spoonful into a bowl, and add a little lemon juice, or vinegar. It should produce bubbles if it is active.

Also note,that batters relying on baking soda should be baked as soon as possible, where baking powder based batters and doughs can usually wait to be baked, as some of the “poof power” is heat activated.

Confused? We hope not, but just in case, the most important take aways here, are that these items are not interchangeable, and must be fresh to do their jobs. Oh, and if you are like me, to always look twice to make sure that you have the right cylander in your hand before you scoop!

 

 

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Water Works

July 31, 2017

Our country is known for a having an abundant, free flowing water system that is deemed safe to drink. In light of the water crisis happening in Flint, Michigan, where the water has been unusable for several years, it isn’t unreasonable to wonder what contaminants might be lurking in your tap.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database of contaminants in area water sources that can be searched by zipcode. Once the information is entered, it will show exactly what, if any toxins are in your water.

 

Bottled isn’talways better. We try to bypass drinking bottled water wherever possible, both to avoid the harmful chemicals in the plastic bottles and to limit our waste output. Be aware that many bottled waters come from the same source as tap water, and may not provide you with better quality than your faucet. The best option is to use a filter to purify your water and carry it in a reusable water bottle so that you always have some onhand when you need it.

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Getting Under Our Skin

July 25, 2017

 

I am mesmerized by all of those short little cooking videos. The ones where the entire recipe gets prepared and cooked in about 30 seconds. Today, as I was watching one from Food + Wine, showing New York restaurant Made Nice‘s chef prepping their chickens for roasting I had an epiphany.

It is fairly common for recipes to suggest rubbing some butter or tucking herbs under the skin of poultry before roasting to let the flavors really soak in, crisp the skin, and keep the meat moist. The problem is, it isn’t so easy to really get under there and get the mixture well dispersed. When I saw this chef using a pastry bag filled with herb infused butter to get under the skin, I had a major “aha!” moment.

The technique involved filling a pastry bag fitted with a large tip with very soft herb butter. The chef inserted the tip under the skin at the farthest point, releasing the contents as he slowly pulled the bag out, and then quickly massaged the area to disperse the herb butter evenly under the skin. It also allowed him to get into the harder to reach spots, such as the legs and wings.

This genius trick could totally change my poultry roasting game!  I can’t wait to try it with my roasted garlic and mustard herb butter.

Thanks Made Nice! 

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Liquid Lipstick

July 11, 2017

This morning, I put on makeup and applied lipstick at 8:30 am. It’s 5:30, and I have had lunch, a couple of cups of tea and a few meetings, and my lipstick is still on. Liquid lipstick, where have you been all my life?

I am pretty lazy when it comes to makeup. Most days, I workout and work from home, so I just wash and go. An occasional smear of tinted lip treatment keeps me from chewing on my lips when the hills get hard in spin class. When I go out in public, I apply makeup, and then pretty much forget about for the rest of the day. That perfected version of myself seems to be gone the next time I glance in a mirror, with my makeup being almost invisable, barring the unsightly smudge of mascara under my eyes from time to time.

Last summer, I got a goodie bag of samples at Sephora, and one of the items was a Kat Von D liquid lipstick in a very dark, goth looking burgundy. I pretty much ignored it, since I figured the shade was a bit intense for me, and would make my lips look even thinner than they are. One day, on a whim, I tried it on for kicks, and had a revelation; it was so bold that it actually highlighted my lips, and more importantly, it was almost impossible to get off! The color was in fact a bit too much for me, but the formulation was a keeper.

Liquid lipsticks are not exactly new, but they are new to me. Kylie Jenner certainly didn’t invent them, but her lip kits may have had a major role in introducing the idea to the masses. I hadn’t given them a minute’s thought, until I tried a sample, and I am now a convert.

I noticed it was hard to get a perfect application on my lips, and if I missed, there was no easy way to correct it. The key to liquid lipstick is to use a pencil to create an outline, and then use the lipstick wand to fill it in. Once you have it applied the way you want it, you need to wait a minute to let it dry. If you smear it, you might walk around looking like a crazy clown for the entire day. Oil based makeup remover on a Q-tip would take care of it, but it would also take everything around it off as well, requiring a complete do-over; something few of us have the time to deal with.  It is a bit dryer feeling than a regular lipstick, and if you like sheen, you need to add a little gloss on top.

I am currently using a very reasonably priced Sephora brand product, which is more pigmented than what I usually use, but way less intense in hue than the Kat Von D sample. All the major brands seem to have their own version, and color options range from nude to almost black.

Sometimes, I opt for a more natural look, but on the days that I am wearing makeup, and want it to last, long wearing liquid lipstick is my new go to.

Have you tried it yet?

 

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Ranting and Raving: A Guide To Millenials in the Workplace

June 23, 2017

I recently stumbled upon a “diss site” where participants make snarky comments about a certain blogger. Most of it is in the name of entertainment, yet there is something a little disconcerting about devoting over 1900 pages to making fun of someone that you can simply not follow if you don’t like what they have to say.

The site in question had an employee to whom they gave a byline, and introduced to their readership. After about a year and a half of employment, where they all acted like BFFs, said employee was let go.
Fans flocked to her Instagram, where she long windily went on and on about how successful and happy she was post firing, and insinuated that the end of her employment was not pretty.

Fast forward to last week, when the former employee went off on a series of rants, literally trashing the blogger and her husband. She claims that she was let go for not staying in the office when her employers were away, and that her subordinate ratted her out. The rant has spanned over several days now, resulting in barrage of comments and support for her heroics, and the former subordinate having to take her own account private to avoid the hateful comments she was getting.

There are at least two sides to every story, and her former employers are remaining mum.

Fast forward to a few days into the rant, which is amazingly still going strong, and commenters are starting wonder if she is becoming a bit unhinged. A few sites have picked the story up, among them Jezebel, and it has only added fuel to her fire.

Perhaps it is because I am from another generation but it seems to me that she is acting out the typical negative millennial-in–the-workplace stereotype on steroids.

I would not hire this woman, no matter what her qualifications might be, under any circumstances, as I would fear that when, (not if) things didn’t go her way, my company would be the next victim of her social media vitriol.

Here are some of the most common (mis?) conceptions about millennial workers, how she is proving them right, and what you can do to dispel them.

PERCEPTION: “They have a sense of entitlement.”

This disgruntled ex- employee bristles when someone mentions entitlement. She talks about others being entitled, and how she got where she is on her own, thereby deserving more respect.

REALITY CHECK: Uh, no. Entitlement isn’t about family fortunes, or other’s helping you get a job. It is about your own inflated sense of what you are owed by society and your employers. Perhaps showing that you are a team player, respecting your employer’s wishes and paying your dues is a better approach. Age, title, and your own perception of your talent and contributions do not give you the right to do whatever you please, regardless of what your boss wants you to do, nor does it give you the right to publicly disparage them on social media. Show some respect for those around you with more experience and expertise, and you might just learn just something from them. 

PERCEPTION: “They expect a reward just for showing up.”

This is, in fact a generation that was praised and rewarded for every little thing, including getting a trophy for losing. This woman wanted the prize, but didn’t want to have to show up to get it.

REALITY CHECK: As managers, we need to recognize this phenomenon and offer frequent feedback, but as employees, they need to wake up to the fact that all of it may not be positive. That constructive feedback is what helps us learn, grow and become better at what we do. Welcome that information and use it, don’t rebel against it. Ironically, her former boss, only a couple of years her senior, is famous for scrubbing the comments section of her blog, keeping only the flattering ones, and deleting everything else. Our disgruntled ex-employee is not just deleting the less than encouraging feedback; she is publically lashing out against those who posted it.

PERCEPTION: “They expect special treatment and want to do everything their own way.”

The employee in question sees her firing as a direct result of disagreeing with her boss’ attendance policy, or as she so eloquently puts it, “ass-in-seat” requirements during business hours.
REALITY CHECK: Workplace flexibility to becoming more popular and allowing people to be assessed on the work they do, rather than their attendance is something managers should consider. That said, it is at the discretion of the manager, or the company’s policies, and many businesses need people on site to work as a part of a team, attend last minute meetings or be supervised to ensure that the work is being done as required. You don’t get to make those rules, your boss does.

PERCEPTION: “They are job hoppers and won’t be around for long.”

This woman has listed all of her jobs in her Instagram rant. At age 31, she has two full pages of jobs, indicating that she hasn’t stayed at many of them very long.REALITY CHECK: It is harder for a company to invest in someone whom they know is not likely stick around for very long. It is not your boss’ job to groom you for your next one. Show commitment to the company, the job and your manager, and they might be more willing to mentor you and offer you more exposure to next level opportunities.

PERCEPTION: “They are always on social media.”

Social media provided this woman with a voice and a platform to express herself. She didn’t use it to her best advantage.

REALTIY CHECK: Social media is not new, and it has far reaching benefits that older workers who eschew it might be missing out on. That said, what gets posted, regardless of whether or not it gets deleted, lives on forever, and can come back to bite you later. I have seen screen shots of this rant immortalized on other websites with large readerships. And frankly, she is starting to look like a lunatic. Where she may have begun as a hero and freedom fighter, even her most vehement supporters are starting to think she has gone too far. As one who mentioned ad nauseum, what a great and talented writer and content creator she is, her diatribe is repetitive, vindictive and rife with errors. She is not only burning bridges and setting a bad example on a very large platform where anyone and everyone might see it, she is not being the least bit articulate. Think before you post people! Would you want your perspective employer at your dream company to see this side of you? If she really wanted a public forum to express herself, wouldn’t a well-written essay, posted to a site like Medium, or even Facebook, be a better illustration of who you are and what you stand for, rather than a five days and counting, of an unfiltered and incoherent rant?

This outburst has gone from a little inappropriate venting, to a overwhelming barrage of negative thoughts. In an effort to assassinate the character of her former boss, she is now committing career suicide on her own. Although I have completely lost interest in anything she has left to say, I am interested in seeing how this plays out for her as she pursues other opportunities.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section, and tell us what your take is on millennials in the workplace, and what we can learn from them.

update: The “millennial in question’s” Instagram followers soared to 20k at the start of the rant, and almost a week later, she’s still at it, but with only 19.3k followers. It seems I am not the only one tiring of this tirade. It has however, earned her own spot on the diss site.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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CocoNOT Oil

June 21, 2017

 

The American Heart Association just released a study, showing that coconut oil may not be the health food we thought it was.

Touted to be the wonder oil purported to soften skin and hair, possess antibactierial properties and help us lose weight, coconut oil is being reconsidered as a coco-NOT.

The new study shows that the high saturated fat content of the oil raises LDL cholesterol  and contributes to heart disease. Experts believed that the saturated fat in virgin coconut oil reacts differently in the body than that of animal sources, but there is now evidence to the contrary.

Just as a point of reference, coconut oil contains a whopping 82% saturated fat, much higher than butter ( 63%) and beef fat, (50%). So while the ADA doesn’t dispute the other qualities that make the oil healthy, they equate the high saturated fat content with health risks far greater than the benefits.

The recommended consumption for saturated fats is about 5-6% of your daily calorie intake, which equates to somewhere around 120 calories, based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Other plant based fats, such as canola, sunflower seed and olive oil are shown to be much healthier choices. But before you toss that jar of coconut oil, you may want to continue to use it for hair and skincare, as well as dental care, and antifungal wound care.

photo: glasshouse images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Blind Baking

May 30, 2017

Sometimes, we want to bake our pie or tart crusts before filling them. This can be done when you want to use a no-bake filling, one that is cooked on the stovetop, or to partially bake the crust if the filling is one which bakes faster than the crust. This process is referred to as “blind baking.”

To blind bake a crust, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper, being sure to get the paper into the edges. Fill the lined crust with pie weights*, and bake covered for about 12-20 minutes, depending on the recipe and the oven temperature.

Once the crust has started to harden a bit and become less pliable, it is safe to carefully remove the lining and weights, and place the tart back into the oven to brown.

The concept of baking the crust this way is to emulate the weight and density of the absent filling, thus helping it hold it’s shape and prevent extreme shrinkage.

I generally trim the tart crust before blind baking, but last night, I was watching the contestants on the Great British Baking Show make cream filled tarts. Most of them left the dough untrimmed and hanging over the edges of the pan, and then trimmed it after it was baked. This accounted for shrinkage, and ensured that the crust came up to the top of the pan evenly each time. While some of theirs had a bit of a raggedy edge after baking, I found that trimming it after the first bake is a nice compromise, as the dough is softer and easier to trim without cracking and crumbling. This could work for a tart that is baked with the filling as well, just pulling it out part way in for the trim, and then placing it back in the oven to finish baking.

Be extra gentle when taking a blind baked tart from the ring…it tends to be more delicate than it’s filling baked counterparts.

*I use dried beans as weights, but rice or other grains that won’t burn or pop are also fine. You can purchase commercially made pie weights for this purpose at kitchen stores as well. I keep my beans and reuse them for this purpose only.

photos: Spencer Jones |Glasshouse Images

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Terms of Annoyment

April 13, 2017

It seems like there are words and phrases that somehow come into vogue, and roll off people’s tongues so easily, that they become completely, totally and inequivicably overused. It’s getting to the point where I literally ( there’s one of them from a few years back that is still in frequent over-use) cringe, when I hear them. Do you have a list that sends you over the edge? I’ll share mine, if you share yours too…

Adulting: A term someone dreamt up for millenials, to define those times when they actually act like adults. Whether it describes pulling on your big girl pants at work and self advocating, or just sorting the laundry before tossing it in the machine, this one is popping up everywhere. Apparently, this shirt with a crooked closure is very appropriate adulting-wear.

via The End Brooklyn

via Fashionista

Fake News: This one is trickier. It could indeed mean fake news, as in made up stories flooding the internet, usually about a political figure doing something unseemly to deflect from the fact that another one is in fact, doing something unseemly. It’s alternative meaning, (alternative facts is another one!) is when a politician calls a story that doesn’t flatter them “fake news,” even if it is true. Whichever meaning this takes on, I want to scream when I see it written or hear it spoken.

 

via Aceyourpaper.com

“Ish”: Not really or word or a phrase, this suffix is gaining on us.  Whether it is used on Bon Appetite’s newest website “Healthy-ish” to characterize food that is mostly compliant with the designations of healthful eating, or just every single lifestyle writer using it, the term “ish” is quickly becoming an overused descriptor, and is kind of annoying-ish.

via Healthy-ish

via Cupcakes and Cashmere

AF: An acronym for ” as f*#k.” What does that even mean? Everything is “as cool AF” or “as nasty AF.” Is our vocabulary so limited that we need to resort to this?

Veggies: A personal entry that has made me wince for years. If I were the Miranda Priestly of the food world, I would ban the use of this word. It’s childish, disrespects the many varieties and forms that vegetables take, and frankly, just sounds irritating. There is even a kid’s television show that has been around for a long time, in which the “Veggies” teach lessons in “Christian values.” If a cucumber teaching a tomato about morals isn’t annoying, I don’t know what is.

via Veggie Tales

What are some of the terms you find most annoying? Leave us a comment and we can add them to the list.

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