Posted by: mchleen | November 10, 2011

Tomatoes are fruit. You’re welcome.

Thanks to my 5-year-old daughter for this Cliff Clavin-ism: “Did you know that tomatoes are really a fruit”?  Trust me.  I have it on good authority because, “REALLY! My teacher says so!”.  Apparently our chère institutrice de français moonlights as a botanist.

I’m an avid collector of useless yet interesting facts.  Well…interesting to ME anyway.  So of course I had to get to the…ahem…root of this matter.

To really figure out if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit.

QUESTION:  Does this plant matter here in my hand have seeds?

If you answered yes – then technically you have a fruit!  This also makes cucumbers, squash, green beans and walnuts all fruits as well.

So you want to eat leaves, stems, roots or flowers?  Go for lettuce, celery, carrots and broccoli.  This stuff is usually referred to as vegetables – and your child may not be your grocer’s #1 Vegetable Fan with, but when presented in this light maybe it’s…ahem…ripe for re-evaluation.  And whoa!  Then it stands to reason that rhubarb is actually a vegetable.

Riveting, mind-blowing, astounding, isn’t it?  (I know. It’s so not.)  I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Posted by: mchleen | October 23, 2010

Where I Ikea pimps me for free

What a cheap whore I am.  I’m doing this for free.   **tisk, tisk, tisk**

Once upon a time, waaaaay back in the spring of 1999 I moved to the DC metro area and tricked-out my first solo apartment in all of Ikea’s finery.  It was lovely.  But cheap.

Ikea has wonderful stuff that’s nice to look at, but let’s just take the lipstick off the pig right here.  Particle board isn’t built to stand the test of time.  That is if is survives beyond the infuriating, smash-inviting, vague assembly instructions with which it is packaged.

But dudes.  I bought a couple of dressers back in 1999 that survived, in practically perfect condition mind you, three moves – daily use – and now demotion into a toddler’s room!  And they still look great.

Sad to say though, that the plastic drawer rails have finally expired.  They gasped their last breath yesterday and collapsed.  We have a pricey changing table that didn’t have the fortitude to suck-it-up and stick-it-out for its baby’s infancy.

I’ve thought about going out and splurging on some real, quality, North Carolina-built stuff for my chicklette’s room.  But you know what?  I think I’m headed back to Ikea.

Once you get a taste for it you just can’t quit.

Posted by: mchleen | October 22, 2010

Marriage is an empty box

Whoa.  Boy.  How depressing does that sound?

And I suppose it would be pretty depressing if you just left that box empty.  But if you fill it with lots of wonderful and exciting trinkets it’d become a real treasure trove, wouldn’t it?

I came across this anonymous ditty the other day:

Marriage is an empty box.

It remains empty unless

you put in more than

you take out.

So.  Food for thought.

I find that focusing on giving rather than receiving, staying young-at-heart, laughing often and keeping an interesting variety of challenge and adventure in life fills my box pretty well.  It’s hard work though, keeping that box full.  And sometimes I get greedy.  I take and take and take and put off to another day the refills.  And man, it’s a doozy of a bummer to go over there in a pinch, looking for something wonderful and finding nothing left.

Marriage is work, but rewarding work with pleasing results.

Marriage is work, but if it feels more like a chore then think about that box.

Posted by: mchleen | August 26, 2010

Your newest cosmetic consultant: Big Goverment!

On July 21, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786), which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients.

Sounds nice, right?  Not really.  Look closer.

We all want to believe that the choices we make are healthful ones.  And of course you’d never intentionally poison yourself or your loved ones would you?   Media outlets have recently alerted us of troubles like lead in lipsticks or the big BPA scare.  Information-sharing like this and watchdog groups are to be thanked.  They mean timely information dissemination coupled with informed resources.  Americans were able to exercise their freedoms; they asked questions, informed themselves and made choices based on what they learned.  As a consequence the market was forced to correct itself practically overnight.  Look no further than your local stores to see lengths that businesses have gone to to promote themselves as “BPA-free”, “green” or “organic.”  The real dictator in America’s product supply and offerings is the consumer, not so much the laws put in place to control the producer; demand ultimately dictates supply.

It’s hard to protest something that appears as friendly as the Safe Cosmetics Act.  Who doesn’t want things to be safer?  But our current government structure is becoming bigger and bigger.  And as it becomes responsible for more; it will become less agile, more bureaucratic, slower as it becomes entangled in its own many obligations.  And your freedom of choice will become more limited and controlled.

Is it beginning to sound like I’m all for hazardous chemicals and anarchy?  It feels like it.  Let me try to be more succinct…

This bill will not ensure that your body is safer.  It will increase the cost of your personal care and cosmetic products.  It will crush small businesses, many of whom have been the innovators of the exact greener, safer products that you desire.  And while we’re at it, shouldn’t we be revitalizing our economy – freeing-up small enterprise?

This bill will impact everyone: the large cosmetic corporation, the local organic shopfront, your Aunt Betty’s homemade lavender soaps, even you the consumer.  My beef with this bill, as it is written, is that it’s a small business murderer and will most definitely result in price inflation for consumers.  And none of that is necessary or beneficial to the consumer.  Loosen up those purse strings if this passes!  And do you like paperwork?  The government apparently does, and wants to share the burden with you.

Small business (and keep in mind that many of these “businesses” may be a single individual working out of their home) cannot support the paperwork, busy-work and expense, testing and government intervention into their business.  The higher cost of doing business under this new law is overreaching.  I will concede that there may be room for improvement in FDA regulations concerning cosmetics, but the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 in its current form is not the solution.

So, just a few points to chew on:

  1. The cosmetic industry is safe industry with a wide variety of choice on the marketplace for consumers.  It is already illegal to manufacture unsafe cosmetics and is already illegal to not fully label ingredients or contact information on products.  More labeling will not change what you don’t like about what is being produced; market demand will.
  2. In a time of economic difficulty for many Americans, the government simply cannot justify cutting small businesses off at the knees.  Some might even call it un-American.  Yikes.
  3. The bill’s reporting requirements would ask for disclosure of annual sales, number of employees, names and addresses of vendors, and proprietary formulas without making clear whether that information would have its confidentiality protected.  What business wants to help Big Brother give away their edge on the market?
  4. The busy-work involved with labeling is onerous for small business owners and practically meaningless to the consumer.  Thanks to modern science, almost everything is detectable, so labeling for say… simply “Water” would read instead, “Aqua, Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Nickel, Silver, Zinc” (and don’t forget those other “detectables” in our water, like caffeine, birth control, antibiotics!).  Labeling would sure get interesting wouldn’t it?  And holy cow – I can’t imagine how much small the print will have to be, or how much larger the packaging.

So maybe the bottom line here is really just my own greedy self-interest.

  • Honestly?  I don’t want to pay more.
  • More importantly?  I want all those terrific, simpler, healthier and more interesting products out there to continue to exist so that I can use them.  I like trolling and sniffing my way along the stands at the farmer’s market.

Our future success stories like Burt’s Bees, California Baby, Dr. Bronner’s, will be heavily burdened and in many cases unable to flourish under this bill.  Read up.

And if you agree, check out the Petition opposing the bill here.

Posted by: mchleen | July 7, 2010

Hot enough to fry an egg…

…although it is entirely too hot to even thing about eating one, let alone eating anything – other than perhaps a popsicle.  The airtemp is currently 103°, so factor in the heat index and I would guess it’s like, I don’t know…eleventy-billionºs?

The only other time I felt heat like this was in Fresno, CA.  I think it was 115º.  But that was a dry heat.  Whatever.  It still felt like that damned witch finally got me all shoved in her oven.

Posted by: mchleen | July 1, 2010

Looking thin…or…How to pose for pictures

Double chin?  Disproportionate nose?  Ham hock upper arms?  Screaming case of stupid face?  All of the above?

Why is it that photographs accentuate those exact features which we are already trying desperately to downplay?  Come ON camera!  Don’t be a b*tch.

I did a little research and pulled together a tidy list of tips in the name of helping you, but really it was 100% out of self-interest.  At least I’m honest.

  • Black is indeed slimming.  But so is wearing any monochromatic outfit.  A single color tends to elongate your figure so frolic in the rainbow!
  • Use props!  Items can be used to your advantage.  Place them in front of the bits you’d prefer to hide.  Try purses, your cocktail, that bouquet, others’ heads (??).  Even a jacket or wrap slung over the shoulder.
  • Need I mention that a tan will make you look and feel skinnier?  No need to invite Darth Cancer into your desperate bid for photogenicism – a spray/cream/bronzer tan will do nicely.
  • For my fellow double-chinners…It is wildly important that you not allow the photographer to snap the picture from below!  This adds another 50 pounds to the snapshot, and makes you appear as if your head has been swallowed by your neck.
  • Try flashing those pearly whites only just before the camera clicks. Your smile will appear fresh, not frozen.  Sure, your friends will call you superficial but you’ll be the only one without the I-was-talking-when-the-picture-was-taken-and-that’s-why-I-look-like-I’m-shouting! stroke face or is-that-Jane-or-a-Madam-Tussaud’s-doll? frozen face.
  • Hold your arms ever so slightly apart from your body.  Vile upper arm flab will be less likely to flatten out and produce the dreaded ham hock look, and thereby appear even flabbier that you are already aware.  Princess Ham Hock here can attest to this.
  • Pull head forward slightly to minimize any appearance of double chin.  Overdo this and run the risk of looking like a strung-out chicken.
  • Turn partially sideways to the camera, one foot in front of the other.  Point your toe to the camera and place your weight on your back foot.  There are lots of experts that say the weight should be on the front foot, but regardless of where you rest your weight, remember:
  • Pull those shoulders back, elongate the neck, chest forward and gently suck stomach in.  Too much tummy suck invites would-be-critics to accuse you of sucking it in.  The trick is to look awesome, not like a poser.

I can’t wait to try these the next time someone takes my picture.  I imagine that I might look like this:

OR…

Mmmmm-hmmm.

Posted by: mchleen | June 21, 2010

Is the C.I.A. the Wizarding World for Foodies?

A hearty fist-pump and shout-out to the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America) for training a chef so exquisitely that he could make every single morsel that passed my lips this past week one of the more delightful that I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting.

If Chef Pete’s (a.k.a. Peter Ziegelmeier) skills are any indication, and you are considering a career in making mouths happy, fer shizzles check out the CIA.  His humor and creativity were perfectly complimented by a healthy sprinkle of artistic temperament which could only mean that every meal was his palette of pride.  And impress me he did!  (And if you check out that link on him that I’ve provided, you’ll see his recipe for 5 Step Ribs – which I ate, then died, then died again before I could utter the words to describe their heaven.  Seriously.) Currently he can be found conjuring culinary delights aboard the M/Y Rena. YOU. MUST. CHARTER.

Please to enjoy, the “Octopus on the Reef” lunch served to my 3-year old for lunch.  I doubt that she could consume something more fabulous in her wildest imagination:

Posted by: mchleen | June 8, 2010

Lovely fruity salad and juicy iced tea!

The dog-days of summer are on our heels!  *pant, pant*  You’re going to want to keep that kitchen cool (i.e., less oven and stove) and spend some Q.T. with the swimmin’ pool…or the beach if you’re luckier than me.

Fresh fruits and veggies…grillin’…keeping that  flab in check.  Chiggity-ch-check it out (thanks to Whole Foods for the salad):

Grilled Chicken Salad with Peach-Pecan Vinaigrette

Serves 4

You can use leftover grilled chicken to make this recipe. For extra flavor, grill the peaches and red onions, too. Nobody will guess that the fruity, nutty dressing here is made without added oil.

Ingredients

1/4 cup toasted pecans, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger
3 peaches, pitted and sliced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 red onion, sliced
1 head lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs, grilled and chopped

Method

Purée pecans, vinegar, ginger, one-third of the peaches, 2 to 4 tablespoons water, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth. If desired, press through a fine sieve for a silkier dressing. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining peaches, onion, lettuce and chicken and toss to combine; garnish with more pecans.

…And the perfect accompaniment?

Juicy Antioxidant Iced Tea

Serves 8

The fruit adds nutrients and flavor without adding refined sugar (use a 100%  juice where the sweetness comes only from the naturally-occurring sugars in the fruit; high-fructose corn syrup is naughty, naughty).  The antioxidant tea detoxifies harmful chemicals and gives you a little caffeine boost.  I love the Yogi brand!

Ingredients

8 tea bags

1 cup 100% fruit juice (i.e., pomegranate, blueberry, cranberry)

Method

Boil 6 cups of water.  Remove from heat, add tea bags and steep; toss the tea bags.  Cool then transfer to a large pitcher, add juice.  Serve immediately over ice or chill until ready to serve.  Don’t forget mint sprig garnishes if you like to hear the oooohs-&-ahhhhs!

Posted by: mchleen | June 7, 2010

Shhhh! I’m stalking my neighborhood Cool-Mom.

When we first moved to our current home I immediately took note of the young couple living across the pond from us.  And definitely because they had a full-blown Jimmy Buffet tiki bar party that I desperately wished I could attend.

To my credit (hopefully), I’m not really stalking.  I mean – they live directly across from us so I see them without even trying practically every day.

They have great parties a few times every summer.  I listened to and watched her one summer evening playing the banjo on her deck.  And they often sit outside enjoying a bottle of wine together watching the ducks on the pond…and maybe stalking us?!  One can dream!

So flash forward to a year later, yesterday.  I met this really cool mom at our pool: hip, hilarious, not turned off by my frequent allusions to a wish for a gin & tonic, and her toddler son was adorable, sweet, and generous (unlike many of the socially-stunted kids we often see around).  And when pool breaktime was whistled, she took my daughter for endless laps around the pool with her son in their wagon, so that I could read.  I was in love.  So I watched them to see to which home they returned when they left.  Perhaps so I could plan an “accidental” running-into at a later date…

Where did they live?  YES!  The Jimmy Buffet house!  I’d met her!!  (and I think she likes me too.)  **one step closer to closing the deal**

Should I…like…send her a note?:  Do you like me too?  Check YES or NO.

**OMG!  SQUEAL!!**

Posted by: mchleen | June 7, 2010

Grey is the color of panic!

I found my first grey hair the other day.

It began innocently enough, with a rearview mirror primp.

It ended obsessively enough, with crazed grooming and plucking.

I am 30-something and have been endlessly pleased with my scalp for resisting the Grey Dread for so long.  But alas! My journey has ended.  I’m just an old decrepit woman now…headed to the salon for a color wash.

Better start chowing on calcium tablets for my brittle aging bones.

Want to obsess with me?  Or depress yourself more?  Learn more about the Science of Grey Hair here.

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