Thursday, November 28, 2019

50 to 50: Time with Family

Day two, and it's Thanksgiving. So many things to be thankful for right now, and getting to spend time with my family is at the top of the list. 

When I was very small, Thanksgiving was getting up early to drive to my uncle's in LaGrange, where we'd get to see the last of the Macy's parade, feed the ducks by the pond, and dinner was ham and quail. 

Later, it was our family with my cousin Becky and her family coming together for Mom's cornbread dressing and Becky's potato salad. 

When I lived in DC, I didn't always make it home for Thanksgiving. But family isn't just blood -- it's also our "family of choice" which became my best friend Christy, her folks sometimes, and her husband and in-laws, where we tried our own versions of classic recipes, made a hand turkey out of pastry crust, and where I learned to love John's family's "purple junk." 

Today it was my dad, my brother's family, my wonderful guy, and the fantastic extended family that has come into our lives through my precious bonus mom. Now Marie's famous mac and cheese is on the menu, and my first batch of homemade pickles made their debut.  

But whoever is AROUND the table, and whatever is ON the table... it's the time together that I'm most grateful for.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

50to50: Day One

So in 50 days, I’ll turn 50 years old.  In honor of this momentous (for me at least) event, I thought I’d try this little experiment. Every day from now until January 16, I’m going to post about something or someone – from the serious to the silly -- that has influenced my life in a positive way over the past 50 years.

I suppose on the first day, the best place to start is at the beginning – with the people who gave me life. And wow, did I get lucky on that front, with parents who loved me unconditionally, gave me stability and safety, and supported me and cheered me on from infancy to adulthood.

Childhood friends to this day still tell me how much they loved my parents growing up. They were the ones who were THERE – putting in endless hours at the rec league for cheerleading, baseball and football practices and games; showing up for every school event. Seriously, when my little brother graduated, the county PTA council threw my mom a retirement luncheon!

Friends in college said my family was straight out of “Leave it to Beaver…” One year, their wedding anniversary fell during our pre-recruitment period. Mom and Dad were at the house helping with painting repairs and other stuff. Unknown to me, my sisters went out and got them a cake. But instead of saying “Troyce and Betty”, they changed the names to “Ward and June.” And my little brother wondered why my friends started calling him “Beave!”

We lost my mom in 2008, and I miss her every single day. But I’m thankful for every minute with them, for everything they gave me, and for this wonderful life they laid the foundation for.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The time to be sweet is over...

I wrote this in a facebook post last year, but I thougth it was worth reposting here as I try to get this blogging thing going again.

This article helped crystalize something that has been on my mind for weeks now.

"Southern girls don't talk about stuff like this..." This opening to the article below has me thinking. And yes, I think it's true. While we don't lack in sass -- and will almost certainly “open a can of whoop ass” if you dare to insult or harass anyone near and dear to us – many of us belles do have a tendency to stay silent when we are the target of verbal harassment. We’ve chalked it up to “good ol boy” behavior, rolled our eyes and shrugged it off. But as I see more and more friends speak up and say “me too” – it’s reminding me that tolerating this type of unwanted verbal attention is inadvertently helping to reinforce beliefs and behaviors that often turn into more aggressive forms of sexual harassment and ultimately assault.

It’s not that we are condoning or accepting… it’s that we’re SWEET. We’re supposed to be. “Acting like a lady” means that we’re just too damn nice sometimes. Case in point, and something that’s been on my mind for most of the past year…

Several years ago, my also southern female boss asked me to accompany her to dinner with a visiting executive for an important client. I was in a mid- management position, she was even higher up, and this was the one of the oldest clients of the (also female and southern) company president.

When my boss asked me to attend the dinner, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. She flat-out told me that she didn’t want to go alone, and joked that I was the only person on the team who wouldn’t sue her the next day. She warned me that the executive was an older gentleman in his 70s, who was ultimately harmless, but had a strong penchant for bourbon and a history of inappropriate remarks and sexual innuendo.

I liked my boss and genuinely didn’t mind helping her out. I laughed, said I know what good old boys are like, and we went to dinner at one of the most expensive steakhouses in Washington. We arrived about half an hour late, and the white-haired, seersucker-suited southern good old boy (let’s call him GoB for short) was seated at the bar (with a younger colleague who was part of the client company’s legal team) and already deep into the Woodford Reserve.

GoB greeted my boss, whom he had known for several years, with an effusive hello and a joking question about whether she was coming over to his hotel room after dinner. She laughingly reminded him that they were both married and he joked that she could be his “DC wife” for the night. The poor corporate lawyer was mortified and panicking until my boss assured him that she knew GoB well and was not going to cause any problems. Over the course of the meal, the GoB passed out cold and snored into his salad course for about 10 minutes. We ignored him and went on eating and chatting with the other perfectly nice gentleman. GoB revived over the main course and struck up a lively conversation that included reminisces of previous fun times in DC “back in the day,” more wishes that we would join him later in the evening, and several observations on our cleavage. “Your tits look bigger in that top” he told my boss, and told me that “yours are pretty great too.” We laughed off every comment and took nothing seriously.

I admit, I wasn’t offended at the time. I never felt threatened, or that my job was at risk, or that I HAD to go along with the dinner or agree to any of his wildly inappropriate suggestions. And when telling some good friends later about the dinner, I laughed about it and said I hadn’t realized there were still GoBs like that alive anymore. He seemed like a harmless dinosaur of a man, a caricature of eras past.

But lately I’ve been thinking about how wrong that situation was. I felt like I should go to that dinner to support my friend and colleague, and SHE felt she needed to do it to please our boss, who certainly knew of his past prior behavior, yet felt like SHE had to put her employees in an uncomfortable position to ensure the company’s success.

I mean really, how f-ed up is that? We’re talking about three smart, successful, savvy and experienced women -- used to working with politicians and executives of fortune-500 companies and in a daily working environment that was absolutely supportive of female empowerment. And yet none of us were comfortable saying no to that dinner – we felt like we had to be SWEET.

I wonder what may have happened when he pulled that routine on younger, more vulnerable women. Women who didn’t have the professional security to laugh off a joking innuendo, or to truly say no if the talk had turned into aggression. Women less powerful than us, who would have been afraid to put their careers at risk by turning down an unwanted invitation.

Working with college-age women over the past few years who come to me for professional advice, I’ve come to realize that we have to do better. We have to stop passively condoning inappropriate behavior by laughing or shrugging it off. We have to find our voice, stop being sweet, and letting out that can of whoop-ass in our own defense.
Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year, southern style

Well, I suppose it goes without saying that my new years’ resolutions include: do a better job keeping up with this blog…

But I have to say, despite the grim reaper knocking off the idols of my teenage years left and right, and the mass insanity of the American electorate… 2016 was a pretty good year for me. And 2017 got off to a great start yesterday, with a family dinner at my house that was full of ”pinterest wins” that deliciously satisfied the southern requirements for luck and money in the coming year. 

When my family gets together, everyone contributes. My brother and sister-in-law put their new pressure cooker to use making black-eyed peas (less than half an hour, no soaking, and they were amazing!). Dad and my stepmom brought cornbread, mac and cheese for the kiddos, and Dad baked a pound cake on a whim.

Since I was hosting, I got to try out lots of new recipes:

Of course the Barefoot Contessa made it into the mix. Maybe that means I'll get a little Ina-and-Jeffrey mojo this year. If not, I’ll still have this yummy maple-roasted carrot salad in my life. I could eat a plateful of the carrots just on their own, but they shine in this wonderful sweet-tart–crunchy salad. I used spring mix instead of arugula, which worked well here too.

Pigs were represented by the most amazing slow cooker Cuban pork from Amy at Belly Full. I used a five-pound butt, and upped the ingredients a bit. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and really flavorful. I’ll be eating the leftovers with black beans and rice for lunch this week, and its definitely going onto my make-again list.

The greens were collards, cooked the traditional way. I didn’t like collards well into adulthood, then I made an amazing, if blasphemous, discovery. I don’t like collard greens the way my mom cooked them.  One of the very few things I can say that about, I realized that when they are not cooked to a bitter, olive drab death, collards can be pretty tasty. I followed this guideline from Simply Recipes for the most part, although I used seasoning bacon and after reading some other recipes, I added two teaspoons of sugar to the pot to cut the bitterness.   Even the 10-year old ate them, so I must have done something right!

Since I didn’t get around to baking cookies before Christmas last year, I tried two of the recipes I had been eyeing on pinterest. Smitten Kitchen never disappoints, and the “Browniest Cookies” were no exception – Insanely dense, decadent, chewy, chocolaty goodness. But my nephew doesn’t like chocolate, so for him, I made brown sugar cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction that were soft and yummy, with just a hint of cinnamon. Hint: Penzeys ceylon cinnamon has a mild, fruity flavor that was great here.

Obviously, the diet started today! To all of my friends and family out there, Happy New Year and here’s hoping that 2017 is filed with wonderful adventures, good times and lots of love!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

So much for a change

To everyone who is calling for change this political season. Sorry, but I think you’re lying. You say you want to shake up the system. To change the way things are done in Washington. I'm calling bullshit. The President only has so much power - he (or she) can propose and advocate for the changes everyone says they want, but aside from some (hopefully) limited executive powers, real change happens in the halls of Congress.

I hear a LOT of people from both parties talking about how Congress is broken. Overall, approval ratings of Congress are so low that we’re reading them in decimal points. Negotiation and cooperation across party lines, which are pretty much essential for getting things done, have become symbols of weakness. The next Congress hasn't even started yet, and the incumbents are already bragging about how obstructionist they are going to be. Yet everyone keeps putting this collection of clowns back into the car.  They hate Congress, but they like THEIR Congressman/woman.

Consider this:

All 435 House seats are up for grabs. Incumbents are trying for reelection in 394 of those races. Only 5 of those incumbents lost in their party's primary, and just 24 races are considered to be even possibly competitive for the incumbent (according to Ballotpedia).

But what about the Senate, where everyone keeps talking about a flip-flop and “big changes” because the teeter-totter of control might switch by one or two members? There are 34 Senate races taking place this year. Incumbents are running in 29 of them, and in 20 are safe bets for reelection. But in 3 of the 9 races that are competitive, the incumbent is running against one of the 12 House members who decided to try for something bigger. House members also account for at least one of the contestants in each of the 5 "open" races."

So what it boils down to folks... we had 469 opportunities to make a change, and it looks like we're going to blow most of them.  Unless people go to the polls, forget about party lines and just say NO to every incumbent, come January, anywhere from 83-90% of the current crop of bozos will be coming back to dish up some more dysfunction.

Welcome to your change, America. This is your circus. These are your clowns.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Something is broken, but it's not my foot

Peroneal tendonitis. That's a fancy word for "you twisted your foot and it won't get better if you insist on wearing flip-flops and ballet flats." After weeks of a mildly annoying achy foot, and an x-ray to rule out a stress fracture, that was the podiatrist's diagnosis. Treatment: a lecture on proper footwear and a prescription anti-inflammatory for a month while it heals.

And that's where the real problem started. The doctor prescribed a pill called Vimovo, twice a day. She gave me a few samples and said she was calling it in to a pharmacy in Acworth (I was in Midtown) that would mail me the 30-day supply. She said it was like Aleve, but wouldn't upset my stomach to take twice a day.

I've had issues before where an allergy doctor prescribed me a really expensive version of Flonase that wasn't covered by my insurance, so when I got back to the office, I went on to my health insurance website to check the coverage. 

Vimovo is not covered. And a 30-day supply of this wonder drug from a mail order pharmacy would cost me $1,916.98, according to my insurance company. Holy crap! So I called the insurance company to verify. Yep, it's not covered. Then I looked up Vimovo find out what was so great about this insanely expensive little pill. And you know what, it's not just "like Aleve." It IS Aleve. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR ALEVE, WITH A COATING OF NEXIUM! 

So I called the pharmacy to cancel the prescription, because just hell no. The pharmacist tells me that they have a partnership with the company that makes Vimovo, and that I'll only have to pay $10 and the manufacturer absorbs what my insurance doesn't cover. What kind of bullshit is this?!?!? Now I'm sure that Horizon Pharma isn't taking a massive loss out of concern for my health - you can bet that they are probably making a profit on the drug at the $10 cost, which comes out to 6 cents per pill (and trying to get the remaining $1906 (or at least part of it) from SOMEBODY.  Probably my insurance company, who will then try to get it from me, or bitch about high costs and raise my/my firm's rates.  

To compare: the Vimovo pill would cost somebody who actually has to pay the market price about $64 per day for the month I need to take it. If I go to CVS and buy large-size bottles of generic aleve and prilosec (cheaper version of Nexium), I can take the exact same dosage of the same meds for about $1.20 per day.

I also found this New York Times article about Horizon, which bought the patent on the Vimovo from Astra Zeneca and  upped the price about by 1200% over a two-year period. Their other big money drug is a similarly overpriced combo of motrin and pepcid. And the company isn't run by PT Barnum, although CEO Timothy Welbert probably shares Barnum's views on the rate of stupidity among American consumers.

Now when it comes to my health, I'll admit I've been pretty lucky so far (sound effect= one very loud knock on wood). Heading into middle age, I've had very few problems, I've have always been fortunate enough to have very good health insurance coverage, and like to think I'm reasonably intelligent enough to do the research about procedures, drugs and costs.

But you know what, I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority, and that lots of people are getting really screwed over by greedy pharmaceutical companies, greedy insurance companies, or doctors and pharmacies who are probably getting all sorts of kickbacks and fancy lunches for prescribing this stuff. 

We need to admit that the system is broken. We need to admit that we can do better. We need to look at most other industrialized countries who have some form of a national health system and have lower costs and better health outcomes (better mortality rates, lower disease rates, higher quality of care,etc.).

But for now, I'm  going to do the only three things I can do: vote for politicians who want to see the system change, stop by CVS on the way home, and buy a new pair of Sketchers.
Friday, September 16, 2016

Potlucks, picnics and family traditions

Feeding an army is something that we Southern women do well. So far this month, my church had an outdoor service and potluck picnic. Then I spent Labor Day hanging out with my family and brought dessert. Then last weekend was the Hunton family (Mom's side) reunion on Sunday. Suffice to say, it's been a busy month in my kitchen!

When I was little, the family reunion was a huge deal, involving descendants (mostly) of my great grandparents. They had five children, and my grandparents had eleven, which means that I have a LOT of family out there. The reunion is always held at the Marietta Campmeeting -- an old Methodist revival campground. As a child, it was a chance to play with dozens of seldom-seen cousins and drink lemonade from a giant metal washtub perched at the end of a 20-foot long picnic table that was literally packed end-to-end with fried chicken, ham and every southern side dish you could imagine.

The pic is my great grand-father (kneeling) and his brothers at a family reunion in the 1930s, me with my cousin Whitney in the late 80s, and the campmeeting church today.

Potlucks aren't about fancy food, or things that don't travel well, or that just don't "go" with other foods. It's all about pure southern comfort, and for that, here are two great models, and two great recipes that I've made for these recent events.

For the church potluck, it was corn pudding from Pat Conroy's cookbook.  My all-time favorite southern writer, that cookbook is as much of a treat to read as it is to cook from.  This particular recipe has become one of my favorites - it's not gummy or heavy, like the corn pudding most people make from a boxed cornbread mix. It's light, fluffy and absolutely delicious. 

Pat Conroy's Corn Pudding

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 12-oz bags frozen corn

Melt butter - whisk in sugar, flour, milk, eggs and baking powder until smooth. Stir in corn and pour into l2-quart casserole dish (spray with pam or melted butter first). Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes -- firm and lightly browned on top.

For the reunion, I pretty much HAVE to bring buttermilk pie. The recipe is from my Aunt Gladys, and I remember it from every family-get-together growing up. If you're not southern and think buttermilk pie sounds weird, just wait until you try this sweet and tangy custard.

Aunt Gladys' Buttermilk Custard

3 eggs
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
2 tbsp flour
dash salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
uncooked deep dish pie crust

Cover pie edges with foil so they won't over-brown and preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs, then mix in butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and buttermilk. Pour into pie crust and bake 30-40 minutes until golden. Cool completely before eating (it's actually better the second day).