The Fox Trotter!

All, 

Given that I never really was able to get a foothold or a focus on this blog enough to keep it updated even semi-regularly, I abandoned it (unofficially).  Anyway, I recently started a new blog about my fitness journey.  You can find it here:

http://foxtrotfitness.wordpress.com

Check it out!

Small happiness

I feel insincere when I talk about being busy.  In truth, I’ve been busy since C and I got engaged (three years ago on Jan 2!), with some tasks better than others.

2007 was a magical year.  It seems silly to refer to a certain year as the best year of my life, but it was.  I was 25, I had a great job, I met Chris, and I had the world on a string.  I still had a lot of growing up to do, which I’ve done quite a bit over the last six years, but it was the first time I really felt like a grownup, and not just an imposter in grownup’s clothing.  And, it was every bit as grand as 5 year old me imagined it would be, while clomping around in Mom’s pumps and oversized suit jackets.

But, not every year can be 2007.  2012 was no 2007. 

Even still, as this year comes to a close, and I am ready to shut the door on it and welcome 2013 with open arms and the fresh slate that comes with it, there have been some very bright points to this year, which I would be remiss to completely omit. 

- I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time

- C finished traveling, and with one State left to write he’s on track to finish writing by the end of this year

- I started a new job that I LOVE, and am surrounded by smart, spunky, supportive, and powerful women (which is a coincidence, by the way, but a happy one nonetheless)

- I ran my first 5K.  And then a second.

And, while there have been some big disappointments and sadness, the little moments have made this year special.  (There are more, it just seems that they’re not necessarily good for linking.  It’s merely a coincidence the ones that are were orchestrated by the Profussor.)

So, today, I’ll relax, drink some tea, and then share some holiday merriment with friends later.  2012 hasn’t been a banner year, but there are still some weeks left to make some small happiness.

#nocopomo Weeks 1 and 2

Some of my friends and I decided to start a crockpot challenge for the month of November.  It’s kind of like NaNoWriMo except it involves cooking (at least) one meal in the crockpot each week.  Some of them are upping the ante and going for two.  I’m being less ambitious, because as we all know, I’m not the primary cook in the house.

However, I do some fun stuff in the crockpot.  The margin of error is less, the prep time is more manageable, and it cooks while I’m working hard all day to implement important changes to make government work better.  Plus it’s just a lot less scary for me to cook in the crock.

Anyway, I have done two weeks (I started a week early so I could hopefully squeeze in an extra meal, plus C was out of town and it gave me extra dinner), and part of the deal is posting the recipes/reviews, so here goes:

Week 1:  Beef Stew
Key ingredients:

- 1.5 lbs all natural stew beef

- Butternut squash

- Sweet potatoes

- Carrots

I got a small carton of sweet potatoes and about a pound of carrots from the farmers market.  The squash was enormous, so I used some of it for the next recipe (see below).  Spices included a bay leaf, rosemary, basil, oregano, turkish seasoning, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and paprika.  I also used dried minced garlic and onions.

I didn’t measure it, and it was underseasoned; I think this could easily be remedied with the used of beef or vegetable broth instead of water, and also fresh onions.  The second day (and third) it was a LOT better.  The beef really broke down after about the third cooking, so trying to eat this sooner rather than later is best.  Also, egg noodles. 

Week 2:  Veggie chili

There were a lot of liberties taken with this recipe, most notably quinoa instead of bulger wheat.  Also, I used the second half of the butternut squash, and added kidney beans (in addition to black beans) to make up for it.  I only used one can of tomatoes.  Instead of the chipotles in adobo, I used 1 tbsp adobo chili spice from Penzeys, in addition to their Chili 3000.  (Note – most of my spices are from Penzeys.)  Most of the rest of this I stayed with the recipe.

Eating this now.  It’s delicious.  Much less a failure than the first time I tried to make this.

Principled

Back this summer, I had intended to write a post on the whole Chick-Fil-A uproar and Dan Cathy’s inflammatory, also-insulting-to-straight-married-allies remarks.  But I got lazy distracted and I never got around to it.

However, since I’ve decided that I’m going to start blogging (more) actively again, when the Liberty Ridge scandal surfaced, I saw my opportunity to talk about what I was going to talk about back in August.  (Kristi Barlette’s stuff on this is the most comprehensive – find it here, here, and here.)

To give a quick recap of the events:  a local lesbian couple got engaged at an apple orchard, and decided that they would love to themselves exchange vows at an orchard or a farm.  A Google search indicated that Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke hosts wedding ceremonies and receptions on site, so the couple contacted them about booking the site for their wedding.  All was going well until the couple indicated that they were lesbians, and they were promptly informed by the owners that they do not permit same-sex ceremonies on their property.

The couple is suing them under the NYS Human Rights Law, which states, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement, because of the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, or disability or marital status of any person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from or deny to such person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof, including the extension of credit, or, directly or indirectly, to publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail any written or printed communication, notice or advertisement, to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any such place shall be refused, withheld from or denied to any person on account of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, or disability or marital status, or that the patronage or custom thereat of any person of or purporting to be of any particular race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex or marital status, or having a disability is unwelcome, objectionable or not acceptable, desired or solicited.”

In plain English, if you own a business and you deny service to anyone based on “race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, or disability or marital status”, you are in violation of the law.  Religious organizations are exempt from this, for obvious reasons (though as you’ll note from some of the comments in Kristi’s blog, they failed to watch the video, which explains this point).

Because marriage equality is so new in New York State, this portion of the law has been untested in the courts.  It will be interesting to see how this case plays out, as allowing a same-sex couple to exchange vows at your business is quite different than allowing a same-sex couple to come pick apples or go through the corn maze.

However, I’m not writing today to debate the legality of their choice to discriminate against this couple – whether or not the courts deem it legal, it is still discrimination – rather, I’m writing about principles.  I had only been to Liberty Ridge once – during The Profussor’s 3rd annual Tour De Donut – and I didn’t go to schlep through the corn maze.  However, a friend had told me about how fun it was, and it was something that was in the back of my mind. I will no longer consider spending any money there.  The First Amendment may protect your right to be an outspoken bigot, but it does not protect you from public opinion.  I agree with Kristi’s last post, that swearing and nastiness on their Facebook page is wrong and does nothing to further anyone’s cause, but if you are going to vocally discriminate against a marginalized group (and, in the process, indicate that you find that “lifestyle” to be “anti-family” in subsequent interviews), then I am no longer going to spend money at your establishment.

If I was a frequent customer at Liberty Ridge, I would say something.  I would be respectful, but I would tell them that I was no longer going to patronize their establishment, and I would tell them why.

As you’ll see from the writeup, Liberty Ridge’s donuts were okay – not bad, not my favorite, and not nearly as good as Golden Harvest.  Seeing as Golden Harvest is about the same distance (if not closer, actually), and Golden Harvest also has spirit tastings, I would prefer to go there anyway.

It’s not dissimilar to Chick-Fil-A – while I thought it was delicious the one time I ate there, it’s not a terrible inconvenience for me to stand by my principles and no longer patronize them, as they do not have a storefront anywhere nearby.  It was more difficult for C, for example, when faced with buying a golf club he found to be really amazing, only to learn it was produced by Nike.  He ultimately did not buy it, because he does not agree with their business practices and refuses to spend money on their products as a result.  If I had kids who liked corn mazes, it would be a lot more difficult for me to stop patronizing Liberty Ridge.

I still would, mind you.  I stand by my principles to support businesses who I believe are doing the right thing, and to not spend money at businesses whose practices with whom I disagree.  However, I will be the first to admit that, in this case, it is a lot easier for me to stand by those principles.

Tastes of Fall

This post has been milling around in the back of my head for some time, with little opportunity to put pen to paper (figuratively speaking, of course).  Though, it seems fitting that I decide to post this the first week of October.

October is my favorite month – this is not in small part because my birthday is this week.  However, fall is also my favorite season here, and that is only marginally because of my birthday.  September 1 is a little harder for me to get excited – by the middle of the month, I’ve mourned the loss of summer and embraced the coming harvest season, but for the first couple weeks I am still mourning the loss of summer.  Yes, Fall is my favorite, but the winters here are long, dark, and cold.  Knowing that summer is over and fall is approaching means it is time to think about hunkering down until spring.  But, by October 1, I’ve accepted this fact and am ready to embrace fall and all that comes with it, if I haven’t already.  I drink pumpkin beers and martzens.  I eat my fill of cider donuts.  And I stock up on apples.  In a few weeks, our CSA will load us up with a box full of gourds to get us through the long winter months.

Of course, some of this started a bit early this year.  The apple crop suffered a bit from the very early, warm spring followed immediately by a snap frost.  Based on other reports, it looks like the wine crop ultimately thrived this season (probably not as magical as 2010, but a far cry better that 2009 or especially 2011), but the apples were not so lucky.  I went early to get a bag of Macintosh apples, which were decidedly smaller and more dense this year (though, I’d argue, tasted better).  I also joined The Profusser on his third annual Tour de Donut.

This was my first Tour de Donut.  I had firm plans to go last year, but a series of events that I did not forsee prevented me from attending last year.  The most unfortunate of these events was the passing of Chris’ grandmother.  Nana lived a long, rich life and it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but if you knew Nana at all you could understand why we were all so incredibly sad.  She was quite a lady.  So, we insteady detoured to Long Island for the week to mourn, and met up with some of my Floridian in-laws while there.  Though they were sad to be in NY for the reasons they were, they decided to make the most of it and stock up on apples.  This was when the subject of cider donuts arose.  Turns out, they’d never tried them.

I had to come back up to Albany for part of the week to work, so I made a plan to get some donuts from the winning stand.  In 2011, it was Golden Harvest in Valatie (pronounced Val-ay-shah, for those of you not from around here), and yes they are indeed delicious.  They’ve elevated to my go-to donut, and being less than 20 miles away, it is an easy trip for me.  I brought two dozen donuts down for the Long Islanders and the Floridians, and they were amazed.  Unfortunately for all involved, they were placed just a little too close to the edge of the counter, so the next morning the dogs pulled them down and feasted on about a dozen or so donuts that were left.  Well, I suppose, it was not so unfortunate for the dogs. 

In short, Golden Harvest are among the best donuts in the region, but they still aren’t Hicks.

Hicks was FINALLY on this year’s tour.  So, I knew I had to find a way to go.  I (among others, I’ll admit) had been bugging Daniel B. about Hicks for three years.  It finally made the list, and I wanted to go to defend it’s honor.  Of course, as with anything, I then began to get nervous.  What if they did not live up to the hype?  I would be both heartbroken and embarrassed.  They did, of course.  However – and I will be the first to admit this is true – their deliciousness is a bit of an illusion. 

You see, the way they do it is unique.  You stand in line, sometimes for quite some time.  If you’re smart, you have one or two people in your party stand in line while others go to the farm store and stock up on whatever else it is you want to purchase.  Or if you have little kids, you hand them some quarters to feed the friendly, fat goats that are penned up nearby the cidery.  (Not to worry, there is plenty of Purell on hand, though I promise you, goat-gerb will not do any harm to your little ones.)  Once you get to the front of the line, your donuts are pulled from the fryer, doused with that delicious cinnamon sugar*, and then placed in the bag.  They’re HOT and FRESH and CIDERY and CINNAMONY.  They’re nothing short of heavenly.

Now, day-old cider donuts never hold the deliciousness, as most baked goods do not.  However, day-old Hicks donuts are generally not so good.  If you pop them in the microwave, it helps, but not much.  And two days old?  Forget it.  But there is magic in the experience, and like all magic, it is fleeting.  The fond memories of feeding the goats while we wait, and then the delight of eating donuts until you drop.  It’s not something you do more than once a year.  It’s a special treat, and at Hicks it is treated with the proper reverence.

I mean, having Golden Harvest nearby and having their donuts keep and taste well for a couple days after (not much more, of course, but longer than Hicks), is really great but … it is not the same.  They’re still delicious, mind you, but it doesn’t hold the same magic.

Of course, the good news for my in-laws, is Golden Harvest donuts travel well and therefore have served as excellent ambassadors of the form.  So much so, that we are told well in advance to bring them down when we visit in the fall. We usually bring them a couple donuts short of a dozen. :)

*If your donut is served without cinnamon sugar, it is NOT THE SAME.  I mean, yes, it is still technically a cider donut, but it’s not going to taste as good.  The cinnamon sugar is part of what makes them great.  I wish I had offered this word of warning to PinchOfThis when her first cider donut was from a farm stand that wrapped it in plastic without the cinnamon sugar coating.  She was, naturally, disappointed, and I was disappointed for her.

Whistleblower

Throughout middle school and high school, I remember being teased when I was not “hip” to the disgusting street vernacular of the moment in reference to some sex act or another.  I got so that I stopped asking questions.  Though the internet has caused an uptick in cyberbullying, being able to do a quick google search as to what a “tossed salad” is, on the sly between classes would have saved me a lot of grief.  Particularly since I could have kept my initial “that’s disgusting” reaction to myself, and quietly nod in knowing agreement in the background.

Because, of course, it’s bad enough to not know what it is.  It is worse to make a face, like a child, and say it is disgusting.  Of course, no self-respecting young girl actually DOES these things, but she needs to know what they are, not make a face, and be able to discuss them “with the guys.”  You know, so they could fully participate in slut-shaming the girls who DID (allegedly) perform these acts.

It was a disgusting, perpetual cycle.  I was right to make a face.

So, yesterday, while in the car in a moment of weakness I flipped the station from my usual NPR affiliate.  All Things Considered was blathering on about some human interest story that didn’t interest this human, and I instead chose to get my fix of bubble gum pop.  Of course, this means weeding through some of the rest of the Top 40 garbage.  Has Sirius/XM started a strictly bubble gum pop station?  It could be from all decades, I’m not fussy – ABBA to NKOTB to Backstreet Boys to Carly Rae Jepsen.  I like it all.

Of course, after Call Me Maybe finished playing (as it is played roughly once an hour, much to my delight), Flo Rida’s latest song came on.  It’s called “Blow My Whistle.”  Have you heard it yet? 

No?  Go ahead, read the lyrics. I’ll wait.

My reaction was not dissimilar to the outraged 13-year-old girl.  It’s DISGUSTING.  And this crap is played constantly on local top 40 stations across the country.  13-year-old girls are singing along, giggling about what the song means (and shaming the girls who don’t know), priming themselves to start shaming the girls who go and blow their boyfriend’s whistle.  Because, you know, if you do that everyone is going to find out.  And if you don’t do it, you’re a prude.  Or, worse, they’ll say you did it when in fact you did not.

These kids live in a culture where they are expected to be precocious in their words but not their actions.  They’re too afraid to question why someone feels the need to speculate why Katie’s skirt is flipped up slightly in the back (“She had a quickie with her boyfriend in the broom closet!”) or what Jessie did at that party on Saturday night with Steve. 

I remember sitting through lunch while one boy regaled the tale of how his friend date-raped my friend at a party, comparing it to “Moses parting the red seas.”  I sat there, enraged.  The girls sitting around me were laughing uncomfortably, and I sat there wondering what exactly was so funny about this story.  Yet the rage wasn’t at the boy who raped my friend, but at my friend, because the boy who raped her had a girlfriend.  And it MUST have been her fault, right?  Because the girlfriend agreed to quickies in the broom closet.  She was a slut.  And so was my friend.

But this guy?  He was a catch.  No one could understand why he wanted anything to do with these two girls, anyway. 

The thought of this, 15 years later, still makes my stomach turn.

When I get into cranky “Get Off My Lawn” moments when I hear about “sex parties” or hear disgusting songs objectifying women on the radio, I think back to high school and realize, it really is not all that different.  I wish it was.  I wish young women could talk about their sexuality with one another and ask honest questions without the risk of being ridiculed or gossiped about.  That sex isn’t seen as something shameful but as something complex and emotional.  Abstinence education has only further fueled the fire of slut-shaming, as teens now have curriculum to back up their bullying.

This is one of those times when I wish I could say, “It was different when I was in high school.  It is better now.”  Unfortunately, we’re still so far away from that.

Flo Rida isn’t helping the cause.

14

I wasn’t going to write a post on what happened in North Carolina. I was disappointed, but I was hardly surprised. I was more disheartened when Proposition 8 was passed in California. However, after seeing all the Facebook posts this past week …

… Oh, OK. Go ahead. You think you know what I’m going to say. “…I was inspired to continue the rant! I can’t believe people are so ignorant!!11!”

No.

Let me finish.

After all the Facebook posts I saw this past week, it occurred to me that there is a fundamental misunderstanding. A misunderstanding of what it means to actually have marriage rights. A misunderstanding of what the people voted for in North Carolina. And, the only thing that scares me more than bigoted ignorance is ignorance of your rights. Because when we don’t know what we’re voting for, what we’re fighting for, and why, then the terrorists win.

Okay, that was a little melodramatic.

Enough jest. I’ve seen and heard the gamut this week. However, what I heard that cut most to the core was this: “Polls show many voters didn’t understand it also affects civil unions. While a majority of North Carolinians oppose gay marriage, a majority also support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.”

What did the Republican candidate for President say this week, in response to Obama’s official announcement that he is pro-gay marriage? He “thinks civil unions are enough.” (They’re not, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) So, what you’re saying, Mr. Nominee, is that you’re against the amendment that was passed in North Carolina, yes? Because you are, if you’re pro-civil union. So, if you were a citizen of that state, what would your vote have been?

Not to mention, this bill also bans domestic partnerships. Did you know that Duke University was among the first private employers to grant benefits to same-sex couples? Do you know what a trend that has turned into? More to the point, did you know that most employers who grant these “domestic partner” benefits, in the issue of fairness, grant the same benefits to heterosexual couples who are unmarried but otherwise committed? Did you know that, the way North Carolina’s amendment is worded, that these recognitions are not constitutional?

So, for all of you who say that marriage should be solely a religious rite and not a civil institution, you know that North Carolina made that illegal this week, don’t you?

Here’s the thing: Like it or not, marriage is a civil institution, and has been a civil institution for millenia. It’s been a tenet of society LONG BEFORE Christ was born. It is NOT a religious institution. That your church chooses to recognize marriage only under certain defined criteria is fine. The Catholic Church sees me as unmarried in their eyes, because I was married in a civil ceremony. That’s fine. That’s their right to do so. But it doesn’t change the legal document on file with the New York State Department of Health. It doesn’t change the fact that, if something happens to me Chris gets my retirement benefits without penalty – if he was not my husband, just my beneficiary, they would be subject to certain taxes that those who are married are not subjected to. This even goes for gay couples who are legally married in states that allow and recognize it – thank you, DOMA!

Speaking of DOMA, you know that when you add a partner that is not your legal spouse (including otherwise legally married gay couples) to your health benefits, not only is the benefit now deducted after tax, but if the employer pays a portion of this benefit, that too is subject to income tax?

It’s more than just married-filing-jointly. There are a lot of benefits we married folk enjoy that we take completely for granted. What I have written here doesn’t even scratch the surface.

So, now to go back to the 14th Amendment.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I really don’t understand what is unclear about the above statement.

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