November 30, 2010

Adventures in Banana Bread

Umm...should banana bread 'glisten'?
Banana bread - it seems like everyone has made it at some point in their lives. Who hasn't had leftover bananas that are too ripe for eating (at least for me - I despise even one brown spot on my nanners.  EWWW)?

Well, I am that one person - until today.  So I can forgive myself for not knowing an 'iffy' recipe when I see it, right?

I really enjoy - it's incredibly easy to use and most recipes (the key word here being most) are really fantastic.  Unfortunately, I ran across one today that missed the boat completely, and I, being a banana bread neophyte, was too naive to catch the error.

As I was mixing the ingredients for the bread, everything SEEMED normal.  Okay, so two sticks of butter seemed like a lot but I knew the batter was for two loaves of bread, so no harm done.  And when the bread was baking I thought I'd died and gone to heaven; the smell was that wonderful.

It was only when I took the loaves out of the oven and had to drain the butter off  that I noticed something was, oh, I don't know, a bit odd.

After I returned from an errand, I figured I should probably try the bread.  At this point it had been cooling for about an hour and a half.  It was cooled, all right, but all of that butter made for some rather crispy edges.  So crispy, in fact, that they had the consistency of potato chips (but I think chips are less greasy).  The middle of the loaf looks normal, but it probably contains a week's worth of saturated fat.  You know that something is fattening when the chocolate chips are the healthiest thing about it.    As it is, I had a very thin slice and can feel the begining of a coronary. 

So, if you don't hear from me for a few days you'll know that the bread is to blame.  I can think of worse ways to go.  :D

November 23, 2010

A Weighty Issue

A lot has been said lately about the subject of the portrayal of plus-sized people in the media.  I'm sure by now you've all heard about the crapstorm caused by a writer from Marie Claire magazine when she ranted about the characters on the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" - if you hadn't heard, the gist of the article was that she was repulsed by watching two fat people make out.  I won't even get into that controversy.  What I would like to write about is purely my experience with being on both sides of the fence.

When I was a kid, I looked like one of the "Oliver" orphans.  Let me tell you, it wasn't for lack of trying. I've always loved to eat.  All through school, as a matter of fact, I was what you'd call "normal".  I never concerned myself with my weight.  I was blessed with the metabolism of a hummingbird.  By the time I got into high school, I wasn't playing outside anymore, but I was walking home from school, so I guess I did get some exercise.

In college, I actually LOST weight, probably because of stress and/or the fact that I lived on the UWGB campus (literally adjacent to a corn field!) and worked downtown, which was about 5 miles away.  I didn't drive, and I worked at a TV station late enough that the buses stopped running.  That meant that I'd either have to ride my bike to work or one of my very patient roommates would have to come get me.  I also finally became legal in college, which meant lots of dance clubs.

After college I immediately moved in with my first husby Dan.  We both loved to eat and we spent many a dinner at Perkins, which was pretty close to our apartment and you got a lot of food for cheap.  Dan was super skinny at the time and so was I.  At this point I was smoking nearly a pack a day, which unfortunately contributed to my skinniness.  Our lives continued this way for a couple years until...

Until I turned 25.  Overnight, it seemed, I had gone up a pants size - it happened so fast that I was convinced I was preggers (nope).  I had moved up to a size 9, which was the first time I'd been in that size since my senior year in high school.  I certainly wasn't concerned - I still only weighed about 130 lbs.

Looking back at photos, I was more or less the same weight up until about 1999.  At this point in my life I wasn't exercising a whole lot  - I wasn't doing much of anything, actually, just watching a LOT of TV.  One of my friends very casually said I should do Weight Watchers with her, and I did lose about 20 pounds.  The program works, but you do have to stay on it. 

I kept the weight off, and then some.  Around late 2001 and into 2002, I began walking a lot.  I was also singlehandedly stripping wallpaper and painting in our new house, which is hard work.  By the summer of '02 I had lost quite a bit of weight - looking back at photos, I probably hadn't been that thin in 8 years or so.  But it wasn't all good - by the next spring, Dan and I separated.  The weight stayed off, because I was still walking but had also taken smoking up again after a year and a half hiatus.

Here's where it gets bad.  On November 21, 2003, I quit smoking cold turkey.  That's not the bad part; aside from a couple of crazy nights, I'm still smoke-free and will never smoke again.  I'm glad about that.  But when you quit smoking, get divorced and your dad dies, all within a 7 week period, there's going to be some stress.  And when your metabolism goes bonkers because your heart isn't working overtime anymore, you're going to gain some weight.  By the time of my dad's funeral in January of 2004, I had packed on about 30 pounds in that 7 week span.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not using that period in my life as an excuse.  But it does explain a lot as to why it's been so hard to lose that stupid weight.

My future (now current) mom in-law invited me back to Weight Watchers in 2005.  I did pretty well - I managed to lose about 19 pounds.  Once again in 2008, I had a health scare and lost some more (but I had gained some back from the last time).  Currently?  Well, let's just say I could stand to lose some of those ell-bees.

I have found that people treat me the same regardless of how I look.  I've never had an issue with parental nagging (thanks Mom!) or friends saying stupid things (thanks guys!).  I can't control what's being said about me behind my back, but that's their problem, not mine.  In fact, I've always wondered about people who make others' weight their own issue.

Why does someone's size matter?  I could go on and on with our society's obsession with beauty, etc. but I won't.  I really don't care about that.  What I do care about is how rude people have become.  Sure, it's not as blatant as it used to be (there isn't a kids' clothing company called "Chubettes" anymore), but there's an underlying acceptance of ridicule for people of size.

I'd like to think that I'm the same person now as when I was thinner; in fact, I hope I'm nicer.   People are not their weight - whether they are over- or underweight, it's probably best to keep our thoughts to ourselves about their appearance.    There are so many more interesting aspects to people, anyway.  It's my hope that we can begin to see inside people and get to know them for who they truly are, regardless of whether they're 110 pounds or 310.

November 19, 2010


So, how do you feel about Monty Python?

Is this a divisive question?  I think maybe it is.  I've been on both sides of the fence when asked the same thing.

I've been married twice and both my husbies like Monty Python.  Okay, let me rephrase that - Dan, my first husband, likes Monty Python.  Brian, my second and last husband, loves Monty Python (which will, from here on out, be abbreviated MP).

Brian loves MP so much that he can quote almost verbatim from their first movie, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".  He also has the entire "Flying Circus" series on DVD and many t-shirts with MP quotes.  He even has a Black Knight doll with detachable limbs (if you've seen "Grail", you know what I'm talking about).  Have I mentioned that Brian is a geek?  :D

I've tried, since about 1990, to enjoy and understand this British phenomenon.  I do appreciate the silliness and the troupe is undoubtedly brilliant (anyone who has seen Terry Gilliam's movies or Michael Palin's travel series or Eric Idle's/John Cleese's acting parts knows this to be true).  But I'm also perplexed a lot of the time, because I'll be honest - I don't get a lot of it.

Because I like humor with some "history" to it (think of inside jokes or obscure pop culture references), I must admit that the "Knights who say 'ni'" bit from "Grail" is, well, odd to me.  To what are they referring?  Is there a back story here?  No?  Then what does it mean?  Nothing?  Hmm.  Interesting.  "Ha ha ha - yes, that's amusing.  No, I do like it!  It's funny!" (This has probably been said, by me, a thousand times while watching MP stuff).

But then, last Sunday, our friend Todd was able to procure some half-price tickets to see Spamalot, the musical "lovingly ripped off from" the aforementioned film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".  Todd's wife Dawn and I were both a little concerned that we were going to be totally lost; I was in the fortunate position to at least understand the movie references, but Dawn had never seen it. 

Well, it turns out that this musical, aside from the usual schtick you'll see from the movie, was easy to "get" and very well done - and anyone could enjoy it.  Talk about silly - the musical is 100 times sillier than the movie, but with the added bonus of singin' and dancin'.  There were actual women in the musical, too (if you've seen any of  the MP movies and/or Flying Circus, you know that the guys play ALL the roles).  It was, as I like to say, a "hoot"!

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give it a solid 8.  Not bad for a musical I didn't even think I was going to comprehend.  I even bought a magnet!

November 13, 2010


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
 Some words are just great by themselves, regardless of meaning.  This morning I was reminded of one of those words by reading my friend Kathy's status update:  enthusiasm. 

Just say the word yourself (or think it, if you're reading this at work or in the library) - EN-THOOOZY-AZUM.  Sounds as good drunk as it does sober.  Now say it over and over - it just sounds silly, doesn't it?

Actually, the whole status update was a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”   Amen to that!  I mean, if you're going to do something, why not throw your whole being into it?

When you think about it, this idea can be applied to every aspect of your life - your job, your marriage or S.O. relationship (DEFINITELY!), your kids/extended family, your hobbies or passions - when you show excitement for anything, doesn't it make it more fun? 

I've realized in the past couple of years that I'm psyched about art.  I'd better be - it's my living!  But I've also realized that I love getting other people fired up about art and the creative process, especially those who wrongly think they're not creative.  BULL!  Every one of us is creative in some way, whether it be art, music, cooking, organization skills - if you have a skull with a working brain, you're creative.  When you pick out what color of clothes you're going to wear today, that's creative.  When you prefer one scent over another for your body wash or soap - that's creative.  Anything that gets you to think about the way you want to live - CREATIVE!

I can't tell you how many people I've run into at art exhibits that say they're not creative in the slightest - but they love art.  Okay, that's so wrong.  If you're an art appreciator, you can't NOT be creative.  Simple as that.  If you have ANY opinion whatsoever about why you like one artist over another, or one song over another, or what ingredient would taste better with another - YOU'RE CREATIVE!

Probably my favorite way to get people fired up is by having them make ATCs (artist trading cards) in my classes, or on Flickr, or wherever.  When faced with a blank card that's only 2.5" X 3.5", art seems a lot less daunting.  And when I tell them that there are no rules - that you can do whatever you want on your canvas, it seems to help loosen them up.  "Go ahead and pair that aquamarine with yellow!  Who cares??  It's your art, do what YOU want!" is my rallying cry.

Try going a whole day being excited about everything you do.  Seriously!  It may sound a bit Pollyanna, but I'll guarantee that even if it doesn't work, you'll at least get a laugh out of it, thinking to yourself, "Hooray!  I get to file these reports in alpha-numeric order!".  Hey, it might even get you thinking about how to file more creatively.  :D

November 7, 2010

Auntie Julia

My great aunt Julia, circa 1949
 My Auntie Julia died over the weekend.  She was 81.

I wish I could say I knew her better, but the last time I saw her, I believe, was 1994.  She was my Grammie's sister and lived in Florida.  She very rarely traveled up to Green Bay, where my Grammie lives, and we'd never go down to Florida.  She and my late Uncle Bob lived in Winter Park (and Guatemala) my whole life.

I'm sad about her passing in a more nostalgic way more than anything; I barely knew her, so my own feelings don't really count.  Who I am sad for is my mom and my Grammie, who has dementia and I doubt would understand that Julia is gone.  And of the three girls, my Grammie is the only one left (my Auntie Lou-Lou died in 1990, when she was only 62.  THAT was a sad story).

Julia was my mom's aunt, and a great one at that, at least when my mom was a little girl.  Julia was only 16 or 17 when my mom was born, so she and my Auntie Lou-Lou (who was only a year older than Julia) would fawn all over my mom.  They spoiled her rotten, too, as good aunties should do (I'm doing my best with my own nieces!).  :D

Julia, my Grammie (Mary), and Lou-Lou, probably about 1952 or so.
 Of the three girls, Julia was "the pretty one".  She was very tall and thin her whole life (far too thin the last 15 years or so) and the only blond in my whole family.  She looked like a perfect combination of my great-grandma and grandpa - she got the best features of both.  All three girls sang beautifully (you may remember me saying that my Grammie was my own music teacher growing up), so she was quite the package.

She was a co-ed at a time when it was quite the thing to be.  I may be getting mixed up here, but I'm about 90% sure she went to DePauw University in Indiana. I do know that she pledged a sorority (judging by the photos, is this any surprise?  I mean, doesnt she just LOOK like a sorority girl of the Forties?). 

I believe she married Bob Gibson in 1952  (I know my mom was the flower girl).  Bob was a hoot.  He was the jokester of the family.  He was an engineer when they got married but later on he became an Episcopal priest and they wound up living in Guatemala for a period of time in the 70s as missionaries.  I remember thinking how exotic that must've been.

She had three kids - Julie, Mary (called Mary T. so as not to be confused with my Grammie, whose name is also Mary) and George.  Sadly, Mary T. died in 2004, just a couple of months before Bob.  Both died of cancer, and from what we heard from letters and family members the grief never really left Julia.  Can you blame her?  No one should ever outlive their kids.

It's weird when family lives so far away, because you only really know them from stories and photos and the very occasional visit.  Thank goodness for vehicles like Facebook - it's been fantastic at breaking down familial barriers.  I know that I've learned more about some of my cousins through their status updates than I ever would've known otherwise, and I'm so grateful for that.  And I know that my nieces' kids, should they choose to have any, will definitely know their Great-Auntie Mel.  I'll make sure to spoil THEM rotten too!  :D

November 2, 2010

We made it!!!

I am beyond excited - yesterday I found out that our artists' collaborative, Fond du Lac Visual  Arts, is in the running for $25,000 thanks to the Pepsi "Refresh Everything" contest!  We've been trying to get in for six months now, and it finally happened!

For those of you who have never heard of this contest, Pepsi began giving away money to worthy charities and causes back in January.  Supposedly it's only for a year, so I'm very glad that we were given this chance!  And how would WE use the money?  There is a budgetary breakdown if you follow the link, but the gist of it is that we'd use the money to supplement arts education in our area, which is Fond du Lac, WI.

Fond du Lac, like everyone else, has had some budget cuts.  And of course, one of the first things cut is the arts.  With this money, we'd be able to have artists-in-residency programs through our schools.  We would also teach classes at the senior center.  We would teach art therapy classes in the hospitals.  We'd also serve as mentors for other artists trying to get their portfolio together.

But we can't do this unless everyone who sees this blog post votes for the idea, today and EVERY DAY until November 30!  That's right - you have 60 tries (30 for voting online, and 30 for texting 103549 to
Pepsi (73774) apiece to get us the funding we so desperately need.

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I'm not one to ask for things - but this is just so important to our group, and it would greatly benefit our area.  It sucks that everything costs money, and that the six of us in the group aren't independently wealthy.  That would be awesome, and I wouldn't have to ask for your help.  :D

If you're concerned that you're going to be spammed by Pepsi, NOT TO WORRY!  I'm involved in the project and even I haven't ever gottten and spammy e-mails!  They're really cool that way.

So, I BEG OF YOU - PLEASE vote for our cause.  It would mean so much to me and my group.  Thank you so much for reading this - I'll be back to my normal posts in the next couple of days!  :D

P.S.  See that widget to your left, right here on my blog, with the Pepsi logo?  You can cast your vote right from there!  :D  Maybe you could even keep this link up so you remember to vote EVERY DAY!  :D

October 25, 2010

Play Nice!

Are you like me?  Are you wishing that November 3 would just hurry up and get here already?

If you're in a state with contested congressional or gubernatorial seats (ie, nearly all of us living in the US), and unless you don't own a TV, you've been bombarded with political ads.  BOMBARDED.  I'm not exaggerating.

One of my facebook friends posted today that total spending on political campaigns by outside groups in midterm election in 2002 was $31,000,000; in 2010 - $385,000,000.  So no, it's not your imagination; you ARE seeing that many ads.

I understand that with all of the information (and DISinformation) out there the candidates feel the need to inform the public about their policies and ideology, and that the best way to do this still is televison.  What I don't understand is why every candidate has been reduced to muckraking. 

Seriously - WHO does this work for?  I have never spoken or met a person that loves these ads, or whose opinion was swayed by a negative campaign.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the negative campaigns actually work in the opposite way - that former supporters are so disgusted with the way their favored candidate is behaving that they either vote the other way or don't vote at all.  And we can't have that happen!

My husby Brian and I are so sick of these stupid ads that we've resorted to muting every single one of them, regardless of political party.  And it's pretty funny what these ads look like when it's just the images and no sound!  Most of them appear to be for the other candidate because they use their opponents' names so often in their ads!  I love how they find the most unflattering photos of their opponents, too.  Mouth agape, chimp-like stares, furrowed brows - it's almost theatrical.

I'm not going to get into who I personally am voting for - I kick it "old skool" and still believe that it's a personal issue and one that I won't discuss with others for fear of putting them on the defensive (if you know me well, then you know how I feel about most issues).  Alas, I think I'm one of the last holdouts of this philosophy.  I feel the same way about religion.

I wish I had some ideas about how to put this sort of campaigning to rest.  I haven't a clue how to fix it.  But maybe after this election is over (it's too late for this one), if we all rally and let our elected officials know how we feel about being subjected to these ads, the tide will turn.  We can only hope.