Monday, February 21, 2011

Nothing Says Sacrifice Like A Union

For the past several days I have diligently kept up with the news coming out of Madison, Wisconsin regarding the bill that would reform collective bargaining and limit union's rights. It's fairly safe to say that the Capitol building is a hot bed of activity and Governor Walker has indeed started a firestorm that could potentially spread across the country to states that are experiencing similar fiscal shortcomings. Okay, fiscal disasters. Or bankruptcy if you will.

The main reason I've been so caught up in the union news is because like the teachers in Wisconsin, I am also a unionized public employee of my local school district. However, the similarity stops there. Because unlike the teachers in Wisconsin, I don't feel like I'm entitled to everything and anything. But then, I don't march to the beat of the union drum.

It wasn't my choice to become a union employee, per se. In my district, when you accept a job you have to pay union dues, period. It's kind of like the mafia, they are going to 'protect' your business and you are going to pay them a monthly fee for their service, whether you like it or not. Because if you don't, you end up with a few broken knees, or swimming with the fishes, waking up with a horse head in your bed or you just disappear.

Politically, I am not aligned with my union and I don't agree with their rhetoric and sentiment. I'd prefer merit raises versus step-increases and I think if you do a crappy job your employer should have the right to fire you. Oregon is a no-fault state (one of it's few merits, besides the mountains I live by) unless you are in a union. Then you can do a crappy job forever and continue to get your pay increase every year like clock-work. I believe in integrity, honesty and working hard for a paycheck. I don't believe I'm owed anything just because I'm in a taxpayer funded job nor is it my right to have cushy benefits and expect the state to fund my retirement.

That's why I have been so appalled while watching the events in Wisconsin unfold. I mean, exactly WHAT are these teachers doing? They say it's for the kids? Well, please explain to me how abandoning your classroom and shutting down schools is benefiting the children and their taxpaying parents that fund your salary. You say the state is taking away your rights. Your right to what? Receive less of the gravy train than you are currently receiving? Because let me tell you, if I received a quarter of the annual benefits you'll still receive under the new bill I'd consider myself in hog heaven.

I guess what's most appalling to me is what these teachers are sacrificing through their actions. By calling in 'sick' and accepting fake doctor's notes they are teaching kids it's okay to lie and deceive. They have sacrificed honesty, integrity and truth. And when you don't like what someone else believes in, do whatever is dishonorable in protest no matter what the cost. Especially when you feel it encroaches on your rights or entitlements. Because nothing should ever get in the way or be sacrificed for that. Nothing.

This Isn't Chick Food

The girl to boy ratio at my house has me outnumbered 5 to 1 and consists of three young men, one husband and BozDog. Chick food doesn't really fly around here and frankly, I'm fine with that. I prefer steak and potatoes over lettuce and carrot sticks and I think turkey bacon is an abomination. I mean, why would you want to ruin an incredibly perfect food by trying to make it out of poultry. Not that I don't like turkey and whatnot because I do, but I just think it has it's place, like on a nice toasted double-decker club sandwich. With bacon. And don't get me started on tofu. Ewww. (Sorry Candy.)

There is nothing that makes me happier than knowing I've made a meal that everybody loved eating. I know this to be especially true when I go to make breakfast in the morning and find the leftovers from the night before gone. Vanished. Like whoever was stalking the refrigerator late at night couldn't get enough of whatever I served at dinner so they went back for more. When no one was looking.

The other night I made my version of a quick Chicken Fried Steak with Parmesan Baked Smashed Potatoes. I know, that's a mouthful but trust me, we enjoyed every bite. I whipped those steak and potatoes out in no time and then threatened the boys with their lives if they didn't leave the left-overs for breakfast. Okay, maybe not, but they do think I'm pretty awesome for making steak and eggs the next morning.

Quick Chicken Fried Steak
6 Cube Steaks
Flour (A cup or so)
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Paprika
1 Tsp Pepper
Canola Oil

(This is so easy because there is no egg and milk wash.) Pour some flour into a pie plate, enough to dredge all of the steaks in. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, OR you can use seasoned salt instead of the other seasonings. Mix it all up. Salt and pepper both sides of the cube steak and place in the flour mixture(really press the flour mixture onto the cube steak. You want it well coated). Set aside on a separate plate. Do this for each steak.

In a frying pan, add enough Canola oil to cover the bottom and turn to medium-high heat. You want the oil to be hot enough so that when you set the steak in there it really starts to sizzle. (At this point, put a little more flour on the steak, because if you're going to make gravy the more flour mixture the better. Trust me.)

Cook the steak for about 3 minutes (the bottom should be really golden and crispy) and then turn, frying for another 3 minutes. Don't crowd the steaks. Cook 3 or 4 at a time and when those are done cook the remaining. It should look like this.

Place them on a paper towel to absorb any of the excess oil. Serve these right on top of the Parmesan Baked Smashed Potatoes with a little gravy. (Gravy? Just add a little chicken stock to the drippings along with some of the left over flour and stir, stir, stir until it thickens.)

Parmesan Baked Smashed Potatoes
10 medium red or yukon gold potatoes
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

Scrub potatoes and place them in a large pot covered with water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender and drain. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and with a potato masher lightly smash the potatoes skin and all. Give a really good drizzle of olive oil all over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lots of Parmesan. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes until they are nice and golden brown.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So, I Have A Question For You

Okay, I'm admittedly not a fan of CBS news and because I don't watch it, I cannot give an informed opinion about their news corespondent Lara Logan. Mainly because I haven't actually viewed any of her on air reporting and have only read snippets of her commentary, of which I mostly disagree with. However, I do admire her tenacity for reporting on the front lines and I think this lady's got some serious guts to do what she does.

I was dismayed to read that while Lara was reporting last Friday from Tahrir Square in Cairo she became separated from her crew in the crush of a mob and was brutally attacked, beaten and sexually assaulted by a group of men. I can't imagine anything more terrifying than that and the pain and agony she's suffering must be immensely horrible.

So imagine how appalled I was to read this and this. The first is an article about a fellow at NYU who feels we 'have to find the humor in the small things' because he disagrees with her politics or reporting. Before today, I knew as much about Nir Rosen as I do about making a nuclear bomb, which is nothing. So, I did some reading on him. I found that while his merits and published works may be impressive, his blatant piss-on-her comments aren't. What NYU should do is immediately condemn his ignorantly pig-headed comments, revoke his fellowship and then his wife Tiffany should drop-kick his arse into tomorrow.

The latter is a post written by Debbie Schlussel who is a political commentator, columnist, attorney, radio talk show host, blah...blah...blah. Let me say that while she may be Conservative she DOES NOT represent all Conservatives with her holier-than-thou spewage in this post. Especially me. In fact, her 'she deserved what she got' attitude makes me so mad I could spit. It's the complete and utter lack of empathy that has me baffled and whether you agree or not with someones politics, beliefs and views I can't believe people are so callous that they revel in satisfaction when such heinous crimes are committed against a fellow human being.

What is wrong with people?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Like Grandma Used To Make

While the rest of the blog world is eulogizing about the big 'V' day I have decided that I'm not dedicating this post to people treating the one they love to extra special stuff like fancy-schmancy dinners out, candy packaged in big red hearts, the token bouquet of roses and $7 cards waxing philosophical. I guess it's mainly because I'm not all about commercializing love, nor am I a fan of red roses. Those are for funerals. Besides, everyone knows love is about the small things like making sure the toilet paper hangs the right way, the seat is put down, the laundry is a co-ed sport and the girl gets the television remote every-now-and-then.

As passionate as I am about my dear husband I don't need the holiday police telling me when to celebrate my undying love for him. Because I am an awesome wife and prove daily just how much love I hold in my heart for him, I'm going to dedicate today's post to another passion of mine. Cooking.

I love, love, love to cook. Unfortunately, 2010 was a rather sucktackular year in my state of happiness and it took a toll on my creative ability in the kitchen. However, you will be glad to know that when 2011 rolled around I put the previous year behind me, made a vow to focus on the two passions I have (cooking and photography) and I haven't looked back. New Year's Day started out by making homemade tortillas, which then became chicken enchiladas smothered in green chile sauce and I've been cooking like crazy ever since(and running on the eliptical like a mad woman).

Yesterday I spent a great deal of time in the kitchen making Hungarian goulash, the way I'm sure my great grandma would've made. As I was cooking, I imagined that she chopped and browned the onions with the chunks of beef and used a heavy hand with the paprika like I did. As the goulash simmered for several hours, her house probably smelled as aromatic as mine. And, as I dropped the dumplings in the pot, I'm sure I waited in anticipation for them to rise to top just like grandma used to. I like to believe that grandma cooked with as much passion as I do and I think she'd be proud of me. I'm sure she would take my face in her hands and plant multiple kisses on my cheek. Just like she used to do.

Hungarian Goulash
2-3 lbs. beef chuck (cut into 1" cubes)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp good paprika (I actually use about 4 Tbsp. The more the better.)
3 Bay leaves

In a large bowl, mix together beef and salt. In a large pot, sautee' the onion in olive oil until onions are soft and nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook until browned. Stir in paprika and 1 cup water. Add bay leaves, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 2-3 hrs until the meat is very tender. Add 2-3 cups of water, enough to cover the meat. Cover and continue simmering while you prepare the dumplings.

In a bowl, add two eggs, 3/4 c flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix until combined and let sit for 1/2 hour. Drop by teaspoon fulls into beef mixture. When the dumplings rise to the top, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.

I cooked some red potatoes, smashed them up with a little butter and served the goulash over that. You can also serve atop egg noodles. Serves 6-8.

Jó étvágyat!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Hiatus

I've been on a blog hiatus for some time and instead of boring you with the details of the whys and whatnots let me simply say it's been a season. I can't tell you how glad I was to see 2010 take a hike and 2011 come rolling in. I mean how awesome in itself is a year where you have 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11 and the fact that I have a child who celebrated his coming of age on one of those days and got his driving permit. So far, he has only accused me once of yelling at him while he was driving, which was most likely right after he took a corner going at least 80mph and I might have yelled, "use the freaking brake!". It was in the moment.

I don't make new year's resolutions because the likelihood of me sticking to them is in the 0% range. However, this year, I didn't make a resolution per se, but I did decide that since I'm heading into my 40th year of being I am going to make the most of it. There are certain things I love doing and am passionate about and I decided that I was going to figure out a way to pursue those things because technically, I'm probably half-way through my life and should be doing what I love. No, I'm not quitting my day job, I'm just going to spend the hours after that working a little harder at realizing some dreams. I'm not inclined at this point to share specifically what I'm pursuing, mainly because if I fall flat on my arse I'd rather not have an audience.

As I mentioned, it's the big 4-0 this year and I can't tell you how excited I am for it. I know, you're head just jerked and you probably threw out a 'whizzah-wha?' but seriously, the 30's were a decade of character building and I have enough character. For my 40th, my most awesome folks wanted me to accompany them on a European trip and then it kind of morphed into a girls trip for me and my mom and a fried of mine. I thought about Hungary because it's the 'homeland' but spring can be rather iffy weather-wise, so I looked at Spain and the south of France, Italy or maybe Greece. It was decided that Greece was the destination of choice until I looked at the airfare. Now I don't know how this whole pricing thing works but it's not just fuel for the automobiles that is affected. The cost of flights is ridiculous and if it's because of fuel then I say drill, baby drill and fuel our own planes. Sheesh.

After spending much time on the internet playing the Travelocity game, I decided that maybe a girls trip to New York City would be a better (read: cheaper) choice. I've watched Man vs. Food and I'm all for hitting up every single one of those delis in Brooklyn, the falafel places in Hell's Kitchen, Ellis Island, a Broadway play, Yankee Stadium, Times Square, Central Park and the FoxNews studios. Yes, I do plan to eat and photograph my way through New York if that's where I end up going and rest assured, I'll be packing my running shoes because from what I've seen it's gonna be a whole lotta good that I'll need to work off.