Goddess of the Week: Arianrhod, Keeper of Time

Time: it is slipping through my fingers.  It is racing like a rocket and passing faster every year until I can barely stop to catch my breath, until I am jagged and tired and reaching for my pillow after a day that seems to have passed without my knowing but a shadow of what has happened.  

How did this happen?  I remember when days seemed liked years. I remember when the night before Christmas lasted an eternity and when hours of bored nothingness seemed like ocean journeys to the end of the world.  Now, I blink and I'm a year older.  I look away, and when I return my gaze my children have grown inches.  And what is a day but an endless to do list, a marathon of chores and errands and carpets that don't get vacuumed?

What I need -- what we need -- is a little kindness from Arianrhod, the Celtic moon goddess, keeper of the ever-spinning, never-ceasing Silver Wheel of the Stars.  The Silver Wheel of the Stars is the wheel of the year.  It controls the time-space continuum, making seasons seem like eons for ten-year-olds and heartbeats for forty-year-olds.  If Arianrhod could just, would just, put one finger on her wheel, if she could just apply the smallest amount of friction....Well, I think I would finish one more thing on that list.  And I would take those precious minutes and I would sit in the sun and listen to the wind, and I would make time stand still for at least a little while.   


Wise Women Friday: M.F.K Fisher on American Eating Habits

Words of wisdom from the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher:

In America we eat, collectively, 
with a glum urge for food to fill us.  
We are ignorant of flavours.  
We are as nation, taste-blind.

I have been thinking about food lately, and I blame Open Mouth, Insert Fork and Restless Chef. Earlier this week I worried about feeding them at the Great Bacon Caper Breakfast of Champions.  Just when Pasadena Adjacent had relaxed my nerves, Restless Chef had to go and write about "unworthy dining companions."  I am caretaker to a number of unworthy dining companions.  Don't get me started.  

Suffice to say, many of us do often eat with "a glum urge for food to fill us," and not just physically but also emotionally.  Did you see the LA Times health section last week?  Seventy percent of Americans admit to using food to deal with increased stress caused by these dire economic times.  Personally, I don't need fear of unemployment to get me eating.  Just today, I sat down with a big bowl of cherry chocolate-chip ice cream because I'd reached my limit.  Delicious.  And I swear it made me feel better.

It's natural to associate food with comfort.  Mother's milk and all that.  But why must we be taste-blind?  I think it's fear.  Fear of the new.  Fear of the foreign.  And how sad is that?  

So tomorrow, when you go to the Blogger's picnic -- because of course you must go -- you must promise to try something new.  You must taste with all your senses.  You must proclaim: "Taste-blind No Longer!"  No unworthy dining companions! Ever!


More Bacon News

I'm getting a little nervous.  The contestants of the Great Bacon Caper are coming for brunch in a few weeks and several of them are very clever food bloggers who post beautiful food porn pictures of their lovely comestibles.  

I am not a bad cook, but I am not a Martha Stewart cook, either.  I come from good German stock.  I make simple food, and it never resembles food porn.  My cake platters have as much frosting as my cakes.  My sandwiches are unevenly sliced.  My cupcakes are of varying sizes and shapes.  

As I worriedly contemplate the menu and furrow my brow at the thought of Susan Carrier's miniature Pecan tassies, I give you three things to ponder.  

One.  A refresher of the winning entry, a lovely poem by our bacon winner, Linda Dove
Two.  A haiku for the vegetarians, courtesy of  Paula Johnson.
Three.  A picture that I think must have inspired Paula.

On the Stove in the Kitchen
by Linda Dove

The anticipation of this bacon in the pan;
Pastries for a salt-toothed girl.

Paula's Haiku

The average pig
counts on vegetarians
to save his bacon.

Click here to see the very pigs Paula must have been talking about, and thanks to Altadena Hiker for bringing this photo from Greenwich Village Daily Photo to my attention. 


Goddess of the week: Nemesis

How are you feeling about the AIG bonus scandal?  Are you irate?  Do you want revenge?  Are you one of the letter writers AIG CEO Edward M. Liddy told congress about last week?  Did you really threaten death by piano wire?  Or did you, like Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, just want the AIG executives to all go out and kill themselves?

If so, you are are clearly under the influence of Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution.  A sister of the Fates, Nemesis is one tough cookie, but I wouldn't call her evil.  In her way, she is quite just.  There are only two things that piss Nemesis off: hubris and lack of equilibrium.

She definitely hates hubris, especially hubris that is the result of undeserved good fortune, which is why she's out to get those AIG bastards.  Run a company into the ground and still get extravagant bonuses?  Nemesis doesn't think so. 

Nemesis also hates lack of equilibrium, which, frankly, is why she visits all of us from time to time.  Sigh.  If she sees you being too happy for too long?  Wham!!  It's over.  She'll pull that rug right out from under you.  But she doesn't want you only to suffer either.  So, the good news is, just when things really get rotten she's likely to throw you a bone.  It's all supposed to keep us humble and to remind us how little control we have over life and its circumstances.  

Your best move?  Lay low.  Don't make too big a deal over your luck or success.  That great refinancing rate you've just locked in?  I wouldn't Twitter about it.  Not your issue?  Are you just hoping your COBRA plan doesn't run out too soon?  Take heart.  Maybe Nemesis will be feeling generous when she passes your way.  Then again, maybe not.  So be humble.  Remember: be humble.

Channel this goddess:  Do you really need to own this?  Why not leave these sorts of things in Nemesis's hands.  She'll handle it.  Guaranteed.  You?  Go meditate.  Plant a garden.  Make soup.  Be humble.  


Wise Women Friday: Colette on Happiness

Words of wisdom from Colette (1873-1954):

Be happy.  It's one way of being wise.

Although best known in the U.S. for her novel Gigi, which became the basis for the Broadway play and movie of the same name, Colette was a prolific writer.  She published fifty novels as well as numerous memoirs and even an opera, which she co-wrote with Ravel.  She was married three times, had numerous bisexual affairs, turned her home into a hospital for soldiers during World War I, hid her Jewish husband in her attic during the entire length of World War II, got thrown off the Paris stage for kissing a woman in a Revue, had an unwanted pregnancy that resulted in her practically abandoning her daughter to the care of an English nanny, and received various national awards and honors, including a state funeral.  So I think she knows what's she's talking about.

Happiness is not like watching T.V.  You just can't sit waiting and watching.  It's more like a garden.  You must cultivate it.  You must weed out the thorns and thistles that will scratch you and the long vines that will snake their way around your ankles and drag you down.  You must water your garden.  You must give it plenty of manure and sunshine.  You must not crowd your garden.  You must give it careful attention, otherwise it will certainly wither.  And, in the end, you must determinedly do these things yourself.  Only you can cultivate your garden.  Only you can make yourself happy.  Only you can make yourself wise.  


Good News: Fashion Gets Fat

More good news!  In a stunning move, the gods of fashion have decided that you can, in fact, be too thin -- at least when it come to your lips.  Critics gasped audibly when runway models in this week's Paris Fashion Week sauntered across the catwalk with lips the size of actual cats.  When asked to explain, Alexander McQueen (the de facto leader of the movement against anorexic lips) said, "It's very simple, when we realized that the rustle of fashion week programs was blowing the models over, we needed to find some sort of ballast.  It was either lips or hats.  Or really big hair.  Or in some cases all three." 

Members of the French League of Le Makeup Artistes, however, dispute that this was simply a matter of applying practicality to design.  "It is clear," said Mimi Loreal, the League's president, "that this is a result of the global economic meltdown.  With the fashion industry floundering, designers decided to cut corners by firing professional makeup artists and replacing them with capuchin monkeys -- who literally work for peanuts."

But as a Vogue editor who preferred to remain nameless said, "It doesn't really matter why clown lips are making a comeback.  This is good news for lipstick makers and three-years-olds who break into their mother's makeup cabinets.  And what's good for lipstick makers and three- year-olds is always good for Vogue."  And -- I say -- America!


Goddess of the Week: Artemis

Happy news!  I personally have found a solution to our nation's current financial crisis.  Since bank credit is as dry as the Los Angeles River in August, we should get money moving by borrowing it from the gods.  In particular, people looking for new or refinanced mortgages should apply directly to Artemis.

Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt, but she was also a dependable lender who never gave employee bonuses.  Apparently, many Greek temples, including the Temple of Artemis in Lydia, once acted as de facto banks.  They would grant mortgages at ten to twelve percent interest, and, in a praiseworthy-effort of full disclosure, they would etch the legal contract right onto the temple walls.

Now, I'm willing to concede that the religious right might disapprove, but think about it.  Who has more integrity?  Countrywide?  Or a virginal goddess who turned peeping Toms into wild animals?  Who is more trustworthy?  Washington Mutual?  Or the goddess who looks over and protects baby lambs?  Why look to bailouts when we can look to Mount Olympus?

I think the choice is obvious.  When it comes to your mortgage, choose the goddess with the rock solid foundation.*  

*Note: Certain penalties may apply.  The goddess Artemis reserves the right to turn defaulters into rodents.  She also reserves the right to have said rodents torn to shreds by her fifty faithful hounds.  In lieu of having defaulters torn to shred by hounds, Artemis may choose to have her fifty fleet-footed nymphs slaughter defaulters via a shower of arrows.  Artemis also reserves the right to feed defaulters to any-and-all wild animals, including but not limited to lions, bears, hyenas, tigers, shrew, raccoons, lemurs and snakes. 


Wise Women Friday: Mary Shelley

From the author of Frankenstein, I give you insight into guilt:

Ah!  it is well for the unfortunate to be resigned, 
but for the guilty there is no peace.

I excel at feeling guilty.  It is one of  the emotions I have really perfected.  My own special recipe consists of one part fear, two parts remorse, and two parts shame.  You let that settle in your gut for a few minutes (may five or six) and then you add a nice thick layer of anxiety and compulsive thinking about how whoever you've done wrong will likely hate you forever.  

Now, you'll feel tempted to rush this next step, but you must resist the urge to speed things up because this next part is critical.  NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, do not actually try to make contact with the aggrieved party.  The aggrieved party will probably have no idea that they've even been aggrieved.  The aggrieved party will probably not even know what you're talking about.  And then where will you be?  You'll have to explain why the aggrieved party should be aggrieved, and, believe me, nothing good can come of that.  

No.  Here's what you do: You stew on your guilt for maybe a couple of weeks.  You obsess on it.  You really get good and compulsive.  Then, just when you can feel the leathery snake scales growing on your skin, you go and eat everything in your refrigerator.  Thus fortified, you invite the aggrieved party to coffee or breakfast, but right when they get there you feign an "emergency" and flee the scene as fast as possible.  Now, the aggrieved party will feel so bad about your "emergency" that they will only feel sorry for you.  And you can just make it a point to never have to see that aggrieved party ever again for the rest of your life.  And bingo!  Everyone's happy (with the slight exception of the small tic you may develop in your right eye, but, hey, in some societies tics are considered incredibly sexy so, really, it's still all good.)

So the next time you skip out on a friend and leave them footing the bill and surrounded by a bunch of depressed strangers, just remember, Guilt!  It's what for dinner!


Is that a logo on your butt or are you just happy to see me?

It has come to this:  
People are shaving their heads and using their bald spaces as billboards.  

I say why stop there? The creative marketer can turn anything into a print ad. Might I suggest:

1. Babies.  Most babies are naturally bald.  They'll never even know there is a Similac tattoo on the back of their skulls until they're, like, fifty.  
2. Dogs.  Can you imagine a Dachsund shilling Oscar Meyer weiners?  How perfect is that?
3. Bananas.  Just put a sticker on the peel!  (Shoot, that's already taken.)
4. Classroom dry erase boards.  Run a digital feed across the top -- in cursive.  Kids will want to read and they'll learn cursive!
5. Grave markers.  Because the "Bud" stops here!


Goddess of the Week: Mnemosyne

Times change.  Literally.  Twice a year, damn it.  And when it comes to time we have Mnemosyne to thank.  She is the Greek goddess of time and memory.  She was a Titan, and is thus a very ancient goddess.  She is best remembered for being the mother of the nine muses, but what I like about Mnemosyne is that she guarded a lake in Hades bearing her own name.  When heros died, they got to drink from her lake of memory and hang out in the Elysian Fields, forever aware of their glory.  The shmucks among us got to drink from the river Lethe, which made us forget every bit of wisdom we gained living in the world so that when we were born again we acted just as stupidly as the last time.

There are many things I would like to remember in my next life, but there are only four dictates I'd like programmed into my brain: 

One:  Don't worry.
Two: Choose your mate carefully.
Three: Avoid the 405 freeway and cheap shrimp.
Four: Enjoy.  Just enjoy.


Comfort Movies on a Cold Saturday Night

So let's talk about comfort movies.  The LA TIMES had an article about them in Saturday's Calendar section.  Comfort movies are the ones we pop in the DVD player when we're feeling down and out or when we're suffering through pity-me-party colds and flus.  

I have a favorite comfort movie.  It's the 1995 BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle as Miss Elizabeth Bennett and my secret boyfriend Colin Firth as dreamy Mr. Darcy.  There's actually a tribe of us who are a bit obsessive about this production.  I have a friend who watched it over and over during her pregnancy -- until she went into pre-term labor.  She was afraid she would have a miscarriage and then end up with tragic associations with Mr. Darcy, so she had to put her DVD away until after she delivered a healthy boy.  I have another friend who talked about "Pride and Prejudice" so incessantly that a group of friends made her a pillow case with Colin Firth's picture on it.  (They also made her a special bra, but let's not go there.)  She hides the pillowcase in her office and only shows it to people who, in her studied opinion, are worthy enough to see it.  (Oh, wait a minute.  Shoot -- that last one's me.  Don't tell!)

What is it about this film?  I'm not entirely sure, except that when I'm feeling pathetic and depressed and when I can't breathe through my sad, stuffed-up little nose, the whole Bennett family just makes me feel safe and secure.  They dress so nice.  They talk so nice.  They're all so witty.  I just want to sit in the drawing room with them and drink tea, and I want get waited on hand and foot, even if I know those rotten Bingley sisters are downstairs gossiping about me -- the jealous little cows.  And then there's Pemberley.  Ahhhh...Pemberley...why have you forsaken me?  

Other movies are tolerable I suppose, but not good enough to tempt me.  Do you have a favorite comfort film?  What is it and why?


Wise Women Friday: My Own Brilliant Daughter

From the conclusion of my fifth grader's "math autobiography":

"The thing I've learned from math 
is that even if you don't like things, 
you have to do them anyway."

And now you are a woman, my child, for there are two lessons that all girls must learn in order for them to cross the threshold into womanhood.  

One:  Bad hair cuts happen, and they will happen to you.

Two:  You have to do things you don't like to do.  

I do many things that I don't like to do.  As, I'm sure, do you.  But what I mostly dislike doing is visiting the pediatric neurologist.  Surprising, isn't it?  Because if you've been to a pediatric neurologist you know that the waiting room is filled with smiling, laughing parents.  It's true.  They are happy, so happy, so very, very happy that their big, toothy smiles seem cemented to their faces.  Which, of course, they are.  Because if you visit a pediatric neurologist you are not on a pleasure trip.  You are facing a serious issue; and heaven forbid you let your child think so.  So you smile, smile, smile.  

Our serious issue is what's called intractable epilepsy.  My thirteen year old has it.  She's had it since she was five.  Many children with epilepsy outgrow it.  She won't.  Hence the intractable part.  But she is a lovely girl.  Very sweet.  And she has to do what she doesn't like to do too.  Like take medication.  Go to bed early.  Fade to black for thirty seconds a couple of times a week.  

It is not a blessing to have a chronic medical condition, but hardship has its gifts.  And you will find no more empathic thirteen-year-old in the world than my daughter. There is a boy with Asperger's in several of her classes.  She always asks to be seated next to him so that she can watch out for him.  When there are substitutes, she goes up to them and whispers that this boy has a learning difference that affects his emotions because she doesn't want them to yell at him if he acts out in class.  She knows what's it like to feel different, and it has made her a better person, but then, doing what you don't like to do almost always does.  Even when it's nothing more than math.   

Guess what I'm doing today?  Here's a hint: I'm smiling.


The Looming Flan Crisis: A Plan to Save this Noble Dessert

I want to talk to you today about a very serious problem.  No.  It is not the tanking economy.  No.  It is not octo-mom.  It is flan.  

How much do your really know about flan?  Do you know that flan has a long and glorious history?  Do you know that the history of Western Civilization is, in fact, the history of flan?  It's true.  Flan dates back to the Roman Empire, where it had more of a savory feel.  Often, it was flavored with eels.  I know what you're thinking: eel flan?  How did that ever die out?  Well, as in so many things, you can thank the Spanish.  That's right, the people who first added sugar to chocolate also realized that a little tinkering with the recipe could change a watery eel pudding into a deliciously creamy and sweet custard.  And, in exchange for the South American cacao beans that would change European history forever, Latin Americans got flan, which would change their history forever.  Thus it is that, now, flan is usually considered a Latin American confection.  

So far, so good.  So what's the problem?  First of all, there is the issue of bad flan itself.  In these difficult, trying times, when one in ten Americans is out of work and more and more people would like to drown their sorrows in sugar and fat, bad flan makes all flan look bad.   Bad flan is watery and spongy, and it tastes a little like a sponge, too.  Good flan is thick and rich and it makes you think of rainbows and happy trees.  But good flan is hard to make, and thus most people never experience it.  Nonetheless, in a world where people willingly eat pies out of boxes, flan could easily survive mediocrity.  

What flan may not survive, is its name.  The word flan itself is the biggest problem facing the future of this delicate and sophisticated dessert.  Who wants to eat something that sounds so strikingly like phlegm?  Flan.  Phlegm.  Flan.  Phlegm.  Flan.  Phlegm.  It just doesn't play in Peoria.  My sources tell me that in England, where everything sounds better, flan rhymes with plan.  Flan.  Plan.  Flan.  Plan.  Flan.  Plan.  It's really not much better, is it?  It sounds like a box on your income tax forms.  (Check box flan A if your house is now worth less than you paid for it.)  

I say flan needs a whole rebranding, remarketing, repositioning strategy.  And, of course, it needs a new name.  How about: creme flanee?  butterflan pudding?  Flantini?   Or my favorite, Obamaflan?

In addition to rebranding flan, I also advocate a guerrilla marketing campaign in which we entirely revamp the word flan itself by getting "cool" people to insert flan into words with more positive associations.  For example, how great would it be if Altadena Hiker blogged about her "flantastic" banana tree.  And what if Susan Carrier and Restless Chef posted a "flanalicious" recipe?  How great would that be?  Or, I should say, how flandango would that be?  Change the connotations of words and you change history itself.  Trust me people.  I have a Phd in history.  I know what I'm talking about.  

It is within our hands to make a difference in this world. We can save flantabulous Obamaflan. 

Yes we can.   


Goddess of the Week: Iris

In honor of our dying daily newspapers, I give you the Greek goddess Iris.

Iris was a messenger of the gods.  She traveled from Mount Olympus on her trademark rainbow bringing news to the masses.  She was most famous for falling in love with a hunky mortal.  She asked Zeus to let hunky man live forever, but she forgot to ask Zeus to give hunky man the gift of eternal youth.  So hunky man kept getting older and older, while Iris stayed eternally young and beautiful.  Hunky man kept shrinking and shrinking, as the old tend to do, and eventually he turned into a cricket.  By then, Iris was pretty much glad to be rid of him.  She could be that way.  

But today I want to emphasize Iris's messenger role.  The news of the day is that Iris is turning in her newspaper delivery van for a Twitter account.  And, of course, if you don't need the van, you don't really need the papers.  So...the Rocky Mountain News, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times: It they're not dead, they're quickly becoming crickets.  Shush!  If you listen, you might hear them squeak.  

Alas, Iris has moved on.  She can be that way.  

(R.I.P: The California Section of the LA Times.  Died: March, 3, 2009)