Monthly Archives: March 2009


We flew out on Friday afternoon, and returned this (Monday) afternoon. Three hours time difference. I thought I was doing OK, but by the gentle shake in my hands and lack of focus — oh, and did I mention the tendency to babble whateverthought is going through my brain at any given moment? — seem to indicate that I am not fully functioning.

Blog posts on hold till I recover — but as a tease, my first one will be:

“Guns, A Wedding, and Rock n Roll: My Weekend in Ohio”

Update on the AIG ‘special tax’: Obama is SMART

Earlier this month, I wrote a quick post about the letters I sent to my state senators asking them to NOT support the special tax on AIG executives. At the time, Congress passed the special bill by an overwhelming majority.

However, our President is smarter and wiser than all of them. An article on March 23 from the Associated Press reads:

President Barack Obama says he cannot “govern out of anger” just because of public outrage over bonuses paid at financial institutions kept afloat by taxpayer dollars.

Frankly, I am very pleased with the news that he’s keeping his eye on the big picture, which includes corporate and human resources law. I am especially please since in doing so he is going against the stated wishes of Congress at a time when he is trying to garner support for his budget proposal.

Bush Administration Politics: EPIC FAIL

I think this article says all that needs to be said about the so-called abstinence-only sex education :

Basically, after a decade of teaching kids to ‘just say no’ without any further information we not only have a population boom larger than the one we experienced when the boys came home from WWII, but 40% of those children were born to unwed mothers. Which means that the boys are getting off and then taking off.

I see two things here: sex education is a necessity and there needs to be more responsibility taken by both parents if they decide to have the baby.

Cornbread w/ Mixed Berries

The other night I didn’t feel like cooking, but wanted to eat something based on berries. I was hungry, so I didn’t want to wait too long. Although a Dutch Baby would qualify (and yummily so), I didn’t have enough eggs. Time to be creative.

I found a box of cornbread/muffin mix (you know the brand, its the little blue box and is exceedingly cheap). I try to keep a box or two on hand because it makes the best topper for my chicken pot pie (and much healthier than pastry). It only required 1/3 cup of milk and a single egg — I had that on hand. In the freezer I found a bag of mixed berries from Trader Joe’s — 16 oz. of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

I put the frozen berries into an 8×8 glass baking dish and sprinkled 1/3 cup of sugar on top. I added 2 tsp cinnamon and 2 Tbl cornstarch, then stirred until the berries were coated fairly evenly. In a bowl I mixed the cornbread batter and increased the milk to 1/2 cup — I wanted the batter to be a bit thinner than usual. The key to this mix is to not overbeat it (which is true for all quickbreads) and I was careful to stop just before I thought it was completely mixed. I poured the batter over the berries, made sure the top was almost completely covered, and then baked at 400 degrees for 25 minutes (which is a little longer than the cornbread recipe calls for, but I figures the frozen berries would need more time. If using fresh, or defrosted, I’d cut the time to 20 minutes).

The berries were bubbling up on the sides (like they do with a good pie or cobbler) and the top was a pale golden brown. I let it sit for about 20 minutes to cool and then ate 1/4 of it with a spoon from a bowl.

It was SO good. A little sweet, but not like a dessert, and nourishing. It was pretty inexpensive (the mixed berries can be expensive, but I buy a bunch of them in the late summer and keep them in the extra freezer, so I saved there as well), and I’d have no problem serving this to company. It would be easy enough to make the cornbread from scratch, thereby making this 100% homemade.

The Four Foot Yardstick

Late last year told me something that turned my life upside-down for awhile. It wasn’t shocking, or worrying, just so thought-provoking that I’ve been moving it back and forth between the front and back burners of my brain since then. She said:

Lisa, you are measuring yourself against a four foot yardstick.

2×4 time, I tell you. She went on to say that she could tell I don’t measure others to that same yardstick, but that my expectations of myself, my standards, my goals, in short: everything was skewed (by 25%).  It means that I don’t give myself enough credit for what I do accomplish, and am always looking for the thing to do next. It means that I always have a sense of failure about myself.

Realism is important — my books aren’t bestsellers, for example — but I am allowed to take pride in what I have accomplished, and I don’t need to compare myself to people who accomplish nothing in order to see a difference.

I’ve never seen a task as ‘beneath me’ and I tend to naturally break down large goals into smaller, more achievable, tasks. These are both hallmarks of someone who can set and achieve realistic goals. But my goals aren’t realistic — they’re inflated by 25%, and I want to achieve them 25% faster. So when I don’t do so, I get (subtly) depressed.

So, I’ve got to go back to basics on this one; it’s clearly a mindset from childhood and its roots are deep and strong. (Also, I’m not sure I want to eliminate it — it’s often a good thing for me.) But I no longer want to have habits and re/actions that are not understood.

I have to ask myself:How did I set this expectation? What was the impetus for setting it? When did I set it? and: What have you done so far?
Just asking the questions will lead me to better understanding of myself and my thought processes. Answering the questions will get me much much further and allow me to begin to consider the true value of the expectations and whether I want to continue to have them, modify them, or discard them.

I’m still going to end up doing more in one day than most people do in several, but at least now I’ll be more directed –and forgiving — in my tasks.

Living Frugal: Greening Our Home — Future Plans

We are planning to make a major upgrade/remodel in the master bath. This is primarily because our current tub is barely four feet long and I want one we can really soak in.  (Yes, the impetus is purely aesthetic and absolutely not necessary.) When we do this, we’ll be working with a design/builder who is comfortable with using recycled and sustainable materials, as well as incorporating ‘green’ principles into the design.

That paragraph looks impressive, doesn’t it? Let’s go back through that a little more carefully and see what it really means.

For one, a soaking tub has a number of different shapes, depending on culture and time frame. For  many people, a soaking tub is what I think of as a hot tub or jacuzzi: about 4 feet in diameter, made of wood or molded plastic, and has its own heater and filtering system. In Japan, a soaking tub is a commonplace in every home. Their version has a much narrower diameter and is very deep. One takes a shower and cleans off before entering the tub, where one sits in very hot water up to the neck. It is a very smart design in a country where space is at a premium but soaking is a cultural necessity.

Recycled materials include components rescued from the dump, from a construction site’s trash, and from deconstructing other buildings. Technically, this means that I might find every item in the new bathroom elsewhere (people dump paint all the time, in fact), except perhaps the drywall material. This isn’t likely to happen with me, however, mostly because I don’t have the time or contacts to find all the materials needed. What is probably going to happen is that I may find some materials — the tub, sink, cabinet(s), fixtures, flooring — through craigslist and the rest will be new. That’s an acceptable compromise for me.

Sustainable materials are those materials composed of renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources. This is based on a matrix of decisions: are the materials natural, plentiful, or renewable? is their manufacturing resource-efficient? are the materials locally available? are they durable? Other considerations include: how much pollution is created in the manufacturing process? is the manufacturing process low in waste production? is recycled material included? is the energy required to produce the material efficient, or low? does the use of these materials produce low levels of on-site waste? For me this means looking at the elements I don’t recycle from elsewhere and making decisions about what to use. I like wood, but it is difficult to use in a bathroom, so I will likely incorporate tile, paint, glass, and metal as being the best choices for durability and resource management.

What about design elements? Here’s where it can get very tricky and why I want to hire a professional. The tricky aspects are (in no particular order): the whole room will need to be gutted and re-installed (unless I get that Japanese-style soaking tub); I’m not sure the tub I want will be supported by the current floor (mine will likely be significantly heavier); I am seriously considering installing a tankless water heater to cut down on our heating bill costs and guarantee hot water on demand (which is a bit of a crap shoot at the moment); I like the idea of radiant floor heating; and I like the idea of a cork or marmoleum floor. The window is double-glazed, and likely protected by the HOA rules, so keeping it is probably a necessity. But I want to incorporate a curtain instead of the blinds we currently have (easier to keep clean, for one thing). We currently have a double sink cabinet, but I hate keeping it clean, so I’m willing to switch to a single sink, if we can keep the same amount of storage space that we have now. I would love to have a linen closet, but I’m not sure how the space for one would be found. The lighting fixture is not the original, which was hideous, and I’d like to keep it (recycling!)

You’ll notice I’m not talking about ‘French country’ or ‘modern’ styling. That’s far less of an issue at this point than the overall feel of the room in terms of where everything is and what recycled, sustainable, elements we can incorporate.

Letters to my Government: the proposed ‘Special Tax’

I sent this to Representative Smith and Senators Cantwell and Murray:


I am writing to urge you to not support any measure which imposes a special tax on those companies that have received government ‘bailout’ monies.

Like many others, I am very angry that these companies made poor financial decisions based on greed and have gotten themselves into such a mess that the taxpayers need to bail them out. I’m even angrier that the executives have chosen to accept their bloated bonuses and fat paychecks despite their demonstrated incompetence.

However, for government to step into the financial arena via this proposed ‘special tax’ is a very bad precedent. these companies need financial support and oversight, and perhaps those executives accepting these bonuses should have their salaries reduced to minimum wage for a year (or two), but a special tax is a poor legal decision when there are contracts to be upheld. (Reducing their salaries is a perfectly acceptable measure for the companies to take, and if the executives don’t want to accept that, then company gets cleaned out of the deadwood, naturally.)

I realize I am likely a lone voice in all of the anger, but I don’t think government involved in this matter.

Thank you for your attention to my opinion.

Maybe I’m crazy, but this is not the business I want my government in. As an HR person, I particularly feel that interfering in how a company manages its employees via salaries and bonuses is just a very bad idea. I’m angry enough, however, to strongly recommend that they be penalized with reduced salaries — if they choose to leave, then so be it. Hopefully they’ll never find a job again.

EDIT: The bill was passed by “an overwhelming majority.” Details here:


Weekly Silliness: Song Title Description, Deux

I liked the last one, but another artist spoke to me as well:

Using ONLY SONG TITLES from ONE artist, cleverly answer these questions:

Pick a band/artist: Annie Lennox/Eurythmics

1. Are you a male or female: Wide Eyed Girl
2. Describe yourself: A Whiter Shade Of Pale
3. How do you feel about yourself: A Thousand Beautiful Things
4. Describe your ex boyfriend: I Love You Like A Ball And Chain
5. Describe your current boy/girl situation: Miracle of Love
6. Describe your current location: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
7. Describe where you want to be: In This Town
8. Your best friend is: Precious
9. Your favorite color is: Cool Blue
10. You know that: Money Can’t Buy It
11. What’s the weather like: Here Comes The Rain Again
12. If your life was a television show what would it be called? Why
13. What is life to you: No Fear No Hate No Pain (No Broken Hearts)
14. What is the best advice you have to give: We Two Are One
15. If you could change your name what would you change it to: Sylvia