25 November 2008

Indulgence ...

I'm sorry, but Blogger doesn't seem to recognize returns or paragraph breaks today. I'll check later and try to add them. Sigh.

Just for fun, here’s a quick, terribly fattening and delicious favorite from the Wren family, with irreverent comments. I originally typed it up and e-mailed it to Daughter Wren, who’s been craving it and plans to bring it along to put a twist into the traditional Thanksgiving feast (turkey, ham, dressing, mashed taters, green bean casserole, corn pudding, apple pie with ice cream and pumpkin pie with whipped cream) here at the Wren’s Nest.

Gramma Wren's Tamale Pie

1 chili brick (available in grocery’s meat dept., in the frozen case);

1 can corn;

2 eggses, beaten;

2 cups milk;

1 can beef broth;

1 1/2 cups cornmeal;

1 lb. hamburger, sauteed and drained;

1-8 oz. can tomato sauce;

1 can whole, pitted olives, drained;

and 1 small can mushrooms, drained (you can leave these out, but Gramma Wren says "They're so good in it! She can pick them out!" Heh. When I was a fledgling, she used to tell me, "You're eating those mushrooms if you have to sit there all night!" Personally, I think canned mushrooms are slimy and horrible. If you're gonna use 'shrooms, buy them fresh, slice them up and add them raw. But the canned ones were used a LOT in White Male Patriarchal Society recipes in the 60s and 70s, which I think was when canned mushrooms were invented or something.)

But I digress. I'll get serious now. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the chili brick in the beef broth, slowly, in a Dutch oven over low/medium heat on the stove. It will melt. The brick is made of concentrated, beanless, traditional Mexican chili con carne. It's packed with yummy beef and authentic chili spices.

While the chili brick is melting, saute the hamburger (in a separate skillet, then drain off the grease) and put the hamburger and all the other ingredients into the Dutch oven with the melted chili brick. Mix everything up. Put the Dutch oven into the oven to cook. Check every fifteen minutes or so and stir. The mixture will thicken as the cornmeal bakes and the other ingredients heat through. You'll know it's done when the Tamale Pie is thick and moist, but not too wet and gooey or too dry. Gramma Wren thinks it takes about an hour to cook. Be patient -- the end result is hella delicious.

Calories: Twenty-hundred-billion. But Tamale Pie is a rare and greatly anticipated treat which must be indulged in once in a while or life's not worth living.

Note: The best and only chili brick still being made in California is Delores Chili Brick, made by Delores Canning Company in Los Angeles. The chili bricks are a bit rare at grocery stores anymore, but can still be found. Call around or visit http://www.dolorescanning.com/ to find it. Additionally, you could always add cooked pinto beans to this recipe, and finish it off with grated, melted cheddar cheese... with a dollop of sour cream on each portion ... oh, my.

Have fun...

23 November 2008


Sometimes there's just nothing to say except "Happy Sunday."

22 November 2008

Why I love autumn ...

Finally, the days are cool and crisp. And while summer is beautiful, in autumn everything goes flamboyant, one last, wild fling of color, tone and hue before it's all blown away in winter's winds.
I love my Japanese maple tree and the Yuletide camellia. Mr Wren and I planted both right after we moved here in the autumn of 1997. If you look close, you can see the season's first camellia bloom just under the kitchen window; the bush will produce those simple flowers well into January, even as everything else fades to black and gray as the winter gets a good, cold grip on the world.

21 November 2008

Setting a precedent ...

Students at Princeton have taken the concept behind Prop H8 and run with it:


I'd really love to post the actual video, instead of just the link, but for some reason, I can't copy the whole embed code for YouTube. Sigh.

The real meaning of turkey

Honestly, Sarah. Please, stop talking. Do it for the children.
(click, please. I can't get the video to embed.)

20 November 2008

... in the present moment

How strange to find myself so accurately tagged by a computer:

“The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

“They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.”
I’m a “Performer,” according to Typealyzer, a Swedish website devoted to analyzing blog-writing styles as a way to get at how the author thinks and, in some cases (like mine) lives.
Typealyzer pegged me well. I do love soft fabrics and bright colors. As proof, I offer the photo above: It's my kitchen. Some scents, like cinnamon, are my long-time favorites and I don’t quite know what I’d do in a world without them.
And, I really do have difficulty with planning for the future – nothing seems “real” to me, except “now.” I’m living through the consequences, right now, of having exhausted myself for so long I’ve forgotten how to recharge.
All the other stuff that "types" me is spot on, too. The people who worked for me when I was a newspaper editor always told me I was the best boss they’d ever had, but the people I worked for often wished I’d been a little less likeable. My feeling was that if the work got done – and done well – and the deadlines met, then I wasn’t worried if my reporters showed up twenty minutes late for work in the mornings. I knew they often worked through lunch breaks and after hours on their stories, just like I did. They gave a lot of themselves for little reward. It was easy to cut them some slack.
On the other hand, my own bosses leaned hard on me to rigorously maintain traditional office discipline. This meant I had to compel (OK, implore) my reporters to show up on time for work each day, an action I hated and they knew I didn’t believe in.
Some of us just aren’t meant to be hardcases. I’m afraid I’m one of them.

18 November 2008

I'm confused, now ...

According to Newsweek:

According to a 2006 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a third of white evangelicals believe the world will end in their lifetimes. These mostly conservative Christians believe a great battle is imminent. After years of tribulation—natural disasters, other cataclysms (such as the collapse of financial markets)—God's armies will vanquish armies led by the Antichrist himself. He will be a sweet-talking world leader who gathers governments and economies under his command to further his own evil agenda. In this world view, "the spread of secular progressive ideas is a prelude to the enslavement of mankind," explains Richard Landes, former director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University.

No wonder, then, that Obama triggers such fear in the hearts of America's millennialist Christians. Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University's law school, says he does not believe Obama is the Antichrist, but he can see how others might. Obama's own use of religious rhetoric belies his liberal positions on abortion and traditional marriage, Staver says, positions that "religious conservatives believe will threaten their freedom." The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they're not nuts: "They are expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared," Staver says.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Time OUT!

Now, maybe I’m all mixed up about the sequence under which the Rapture is supposed to happen, but isn’t the Antichrist one of the dire things, along with floods, famines, great winds and the like, which must happen before a really pissed off God floats all the precious “saved” Christians up to heaven? And once they’re safely being issued wings and cloud blankies, Jesus returns to Earth in a huge snit to lay gory, disgusting and gleeful waste to the rest of us?
If that’s right, why are Christians so scared of the Antichrist, whoever he may be? I mean, wouldn’t they really want to welcome him right in? The sooner the better?

Don’t they really want to go to heaven?

11 November 2008

Veteran's Day

I was going to write something new for Veteran's Day, but while searching my files for inspiration, I found what I'd posted here in 2006. It's all the more relevant now, given the results of the election a week ago today:

It’s Veteran’s Day.

Here in the Wren’s Nest, this day represents more than a sale at TJMaxx. Mr. Wren and I are both veterans; he served in the U.S. Army, I in the U.S. Air Force. Both of us were fortunate that during the years we served, there were no active “hot” wars – only the long, ominous Cold War that began its end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and finished, finally, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I’m proud of my military service. But to my mind, the real veterans are the Americans who’ve served in wartime, the ones who literally put their lives on the line to protect their country. I know many of them and met and worked with many more. Some of them were drafted, others were volunteers, like the men and women serving our country today in Afghanistan and Iraq, South Korea and Europe. Some saw battle, but many served at the “rear,” supporting the fighting troops. They were vital, each and every one of them.

One of the things I loved about the military was its diversity. People from all walks of life form the Army, the Air Force, the Marines, the Navy, the National Guard and the Coast Guard. Black and white, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic – the military is a compressed American melting pot working and living closely together, all over the world.

If you’re a bigot, you’ll find yourself at a loss on an Army post. Nowhere is it more crystal clear that people are people, no matter their gender, the color of their skin, their economic status or where they’re from. They have a job to do, a common cause, and they do it together. Their hearts all look the same.

For this white woman who grew up in a mostly white, California suburb – my high school class had one, single black student in it – the Air Force was an eye-opener. One of my favorite memories comes from when I was in training in Texas as an intelligence analyst. The tech sergeant in charge of a work detail I was assigned to one day asked me a question – and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He repeated himself, twice, and I still didn’t get it. Finally, he said, “Airman, where you from?” in a drawl that was as slow as cool honey.

I blinked. “California."

“The laaaand of the frooooots an’ the nuts,” he grinned, as if that explained everything. “I’m from Miss’ippee,” he said, relenting. “I’ll help y’out. Read mah lips ...”

It was the first time I’d ever heard that phrase used – and it was long before Bush 41 used it in regards to taxes. Because the sergeant was being very patient and speaking even more slowly than usual, I understood him this time, and before he was done giving me his instructions -- where to go dig rocks out of a corner where grass seed would be planted -- we were both laughing. He hadn’t insulted me, only teased, and it served to close the wide gap between our disparate cultures. I later learned that this man had served in Vietnam, a draftee, and when he’d come home, he decided to stay in the Air Force and make it a career.

Over the years I became very good at sussing out accents, drawls and colloquialisms. After I was discharged, and later went to Germany to work for the U.S. Army as a civilian, everyone sounded pretty much the same to me. My country, and the world, had become a much smaller place – a village.

I’m blathering on, here, so I’ll get to my point. Today is the one day of the year that America pauses to thank its veterans, our friends and neighbors who took an oath to protect our country in times of war and serve as guardians during times of peace. While there are as many reasons they signed up as there are colors, genders and cultures within the armed forces, all of them share a deep love for America – so deep, they were prepared to die for it. Many of them have seen war first hand, seen friends and comrades maimed or killed and have lived under dreadfully difficult conditions so foreign to American civilian life they might have been on another planet.
Many are still serving, all over the world. And there are thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, right now, who are serving their country as volunteers – our future veterans.
All of them deserve our deep respect and our thanks.

05 November 2008

Mixed emotions

[Wren pads into the living room and sits down in her favorite overstuffed leather chair, the one that’s so big and plumphy her feet don’t quite touch the floor when she sits down. It makes her feel like a little girl. The chair is snuggly. She sips from the big mug of hot coffee she brought with her and sighs with pleasure as the steam clouds her glasses. To her left, the woodstove blazes, radiating cozy, welcome heat into the chilly room. Wren puts her feet up on the ottoman and covers her legs with an old throw. The cat hops up and fits himself between her ankles, his chin on Wren’s shinbone, his paws tucked beneath him. It’s fairly early in this clear, crispish, deep autumn morning; the sun is up but still stretching, the birds that haven’t already headed south for the winter are yelling at each other in the trees, and for the first time this season the temperature outside has dipped down into the mid-30s overnight.]

Hi there.

Did you hear? Last night, Americans chose Barack Obama to be their next President. I know – I shouldn’t say it too loud. I’ll jinx it. But I woke up this morning with these words: “Obama is President!” on my mind, and all the time I was feeding the dog, building the fire in the woodstove, boiling fresh water for coffee and considering (and rejecting) cold pizza for breakfast, the words danced through my head, providing breathless, giddy background music to my sleepy morning activities: “Obama is President. Hey! Obama is President!”

Yes, I know. He’s really President-Elect. He has to wait – we have to wait – until January 20, 2009, before he can take office. I’d like it better if he could just take over right this minute, since we all know that the President-Reject, George W. Bush, is doing his gol’-damndest to further fuck America before a disgusted history can drag him, grinning like a brainless maniac, off the world stage.

I must try to be patient. Obama needs this time to prepare for his new job. After nearly two solid years of campaigning, I bet he’d love a week or two at home, doing nothing much at all. He could sleep in, play with his daughters, eat homemade waffles and read a good book as the burnt-orange autumn afternoons fade to cold winter gray. He’s worked hard. He deserves a little time.

President Barack Obama. President Obama. Wow. A Democrat. And just in time. Bush and the Republicans nearly pushed the whole country off a cliff. Even now, with Obama representing our last, best hope, we’re teetering on the edge. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

And now, checking out the latest news, I discover that California’s Proposition 8 has passed, 52 to 48 percent.

As happy as I am that Obama won the presidency, this makes me equally as sad. And angry, too. It’s simply terrible news.

For those of you who haven’t been following California’s peculiar politics this election season, Prop Hate fixes in the state constitution that the only marriages that are or can ever be legitimate in California are those in which men marry women. In banning single-sex marriage, Prop Hate strips away, once again, the right of gay couples to marry under the law in California. It was only in May this year that the California Supreme Court finally declared the ban on single-sex marriage unconstitutional. Getting to that decision took years.

And now? Back to square one.

We took historic steps yesterday in this country when we voted for a young, mixed-race African-American man to become President of the United States of America. It was huge. Bigoted preconceptions were also shattered when Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination for President and later, Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate in his Republican bid for that office. Imagine: Women in positions of high power in America. Now, I believe Palin was a reprehensible choice for Vice President because of her general lack of experience and stunning lack of intellect, but I was heartened, nevertheless, that she was chosen at all. Next time, gender and race won’t be the deciding factor in a race like this.

And yet, right here in good ol' fruity, nutty, progressive, liberal California, many of the same people who voted with hope in their hearts for Obama also voted to coldly strip away a basic civil right – the right to marry whomever one pleases – from a minority. This makes our gay neighbors and co-workers, friends, acquaintances and family members … what? Less than equals? Less than citizens? Less than human?

As an American, I’m pleased and relieved at Obama’s historic win. As a Californian, I’m ashamed of my state for its continued, inexplicable, backwards bigotry and support of inequality, which was very well funded and fueled by those “good Christian” purveyors of hate in our midst.

Across the nation, Americans have taken a huge step forward and a few big steps backwards since yesterday morning. It looks like we still have a long way to go.

And President Obama. Oh, my.

03 November 2008