Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nice, Not Nice

A friend gifted me a box of books and it was a treasure trove of illustrated covers. I could have just enjoyed the cover art but curiosity got the better of me and I had to start reading them.  The first book I chose was, The Indiscreet Confessions of a Nice Girl, written by Anonymous. There is little to no information available about the book, other than it was originally published in 1935 by William Godwin Inc. No information on who 'Anonymous' really was.
Considering the book was originally published in 1935 it makes this book even more head scratching.  When I began reading the first thought that came to me was, this nice girl is anything but. She begins by describing how she was not only the girlfriend of a married man but she was the type of girl who would pick up random guys at parties and not remember their names the next day. As it goes on she introduces us to her friend. This friend assures her that in order to know if a man is worth marrying he should already be married. In other words, she should only try to marry a man who is currently married. Considering she's spending mornings and random lunch breaks with a married man she should have no trouble finding a married man.
Reading further into the book it occurred to me that the word nice is clearly undefined, or it's quite possible that I have no idea what the word nice means. This girl obviously considers herself one of the nice ones. What is nice?  Has the definition of nice changed since the 1930s?  Perhaps there are too many opinions about what the word means. Perhaps the word has been misconstrued in the last few decades.
Reading this book and questioning what the word nice actually means it reminded me of this guy I dated back in college. When my friends asked me why I quit seeing him my answer was, he was too nice. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?  It meant that there was something off about him, being too nice felt like he had something to hide. Perhaps it's just my superpower to see through people's BS, but I could tell there was much more to his niceness. Much like Hansel and Grethel coming across a nice woman with a house made out of candy, there has to be something lurking behind that niceness. Those two discovered she was a witch and I eventually discovered this guy was only two weeks away from having a baby with a girl he went to high school with. In this case you might say too nice is sort of like too good to be true.
It's sad because it makes me sound completely jaded but I'm not. I truly have super powers. In all honesty intuition can take you pretty far in most cases. It still doesn't help me get to the bottom of this word nice. The protagonist clearly thinks of herself as a nice girl. She never sees any fault in her behaviour. If anything ever goes wrong it's on the other person. When one of the many men she dated turned out to be dating five other girls it turned out that he was the snake, in her eyes.  Never mind that she was still having an affair with a married man and plotting and scheming how she could get married to someone else she hasn't met yet. After reading the book I have yet to find one nice thing about this nice girl. Perhaps I'm confusing the word nice with kind. Maybe this girl is nice but far from kind.
The dictionary's definition of nice is as follows; pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory.  The definition of kind is; having or showing a friendly, generous and considerate nature.
There it is, she could quite possibly be a nice girl, but not kind. So this is more of an issue with the use of the English language and how it is evolving. How is it I've been alive this long and incorrectly using the word nice? That's an easy question to answer, it's because it's what I've been taught and I never questioned the definition until I picked up this book. What other words am I misusing? What words are you LITERALLY misusing?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Super Supper

Every year I have a Super Bowl party and every year I try to serve something different. One year it was pizza, not creative but easy, and one year was brisket, etc. This year I decided to try my hand at Maid-Rites. Maid-Rites seem to be a local term and others call it "loose meat" sandwiches. Loose meat sounds like a really bad Ron Jeremy movie so we'll stick to calling them Maid-Rites.
Searching for a recipe for Maid-Rites gave similar results so I chose one at random. At first I thought it would be simple, brown the ground beef, throw in some onions and salt and pepper, but the recipes all called for a little more, so I took a chance and loosely (no pun intended) followed the recipes. The first problem I encountered, how much meat and what kind?  This is why I went to a local butcher shop and didn't just grab something off the shelf at a big box store. The young men at the butcher shop were very helpful but weren't afraid to look to their fellow female meat cutter when they couldn't answer all of my questions.  First up, how much meat to get? One young man said you should consider 1/4 lb per person. After he said that it made sense, most restaurants serve 1/4 lb burgers so yea, that's a good portion. Then there was the choice of meat. They had three choices of ground beef; ground chuck, ground round and ground sirloin. Which one would make good Maid-Rites? The pleasant woman suggested ground round. After looking it up I learned that ground round comes from the hind leg, which is a little leaner than the chuck, which comes from the more fatty shoulder. The ground round ended up being really good, as it was just the Goldilocks amount of fat to keep the meat from drying out.
Here is the recipe I ended up using:
3 pounds of ground round
1 1/2 C warm water
2 Tbsp french onion soup mix
1 tsp beef bouillon, or one cube
1 tsp chicken bouillon, or one cube
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Add the water and all of the ingredients except the meat into a crock pot and set to high.  Stir until everything is dissolved and mixed well. Then add the meat and stir well, making sure the meat is all coated.  Let cook on high for 4 hours. Stir often to prevent the meat from clumping. I think I stirred it every 30 minutes or so but it probably didn't need it that much.

The ingredients list sounded so bizarre to me when I first read it but these were the best Maid-Rites I've ever had. If you're familiar with Maid-Rites you may have tried a Cheese-Rite which is just a Maid-Rite with, wait for it, Cheez Whiz.  Melt some Cheez Whiz and put it on a bun and oh my God, it's so good.
Maybe the half-time show was lame, the commercials were boring and the Falcons blew a huge lead but the food made it worth it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Princess Pickles

It's hard to believe it's almost been 12 years since I brought Pickles home from the humane society. She was so teeny tiny when Petey and I went to rescue her from jail. When we got her we had no idea she had so many health issues but she's the best and has the biggest most loving heart. She loves everybody and I can't even imagine a life without her.
Getting back to her health issues, she has hip dysplasia, which is managed with glucosamine, and some severe allergies. She not only has environmental allergies she has food allergies. Because of these allergies she's on a medication called Apoquel, for environmental allergies, and a special diet of kangaroo and oats. Some people think this is ridiculous and that Pickles is just a "princess" and gets babied. Pickles is my best friend and I take her health very seriously so yes, I spend a lot of money on her special needs and ignore the haters.
Yesterday I ordered more food from her veterinary clinic and they informed me that they were no longer going to keep it in stock. Apparently there are less expensive alternatives that other people are choosing for their dogs with special diets. The thing with Pickles is she's tried every limited ingredient food out there and the kangaroo and oats are the only thing she will continue to eat. She started out on fish and potatoes and although her coat was extra shiny, her puppy breath turned to dead fish breath. I was actually glad she decided she no longer wanted to eat that stuff. Anywho, the news was kind of a kick to the shin because I didn't know where I was going to get the food she'll actually eat. Luckily someone told me about Chewy.com  I normally don't bother with sites like this or Barkbox, etc.  because of her allergies. I'd love to be able to get a box of treats every month and let her eat and be merry but she usually eats and blows up like a strawberry.  So Chewy.com saved my life and will also be saving me about $25 a month. Yes, I can continue to get Pickles's food and at a much lower price than the vet's. Not only that it gets dropped off on my doorstep. I ordered a bag yesterday and Fedex just dropped it off.  I'm not even sure it was a full 24 hours from when I ordered. On top of all of that I found some treats she can actually eat. They have kangaroo treats, which are like jerky and smells horrible, but she tried one and is one happy pibble.
Lucky for me, and the bank account, I didn't have enough time to browse the full selection on the site but it looks like there's a lot of ways to spoil your best friend on there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Know it all at Alison

El sol
The quest for knowledge took me to the Alison site. It boasts over 750 online courses, many which you can get a certificate or use towards a diploma. Obviously I was curious as to how good these free courses are. I figured one of the best ways to test the waters was to take a course that I would be sure to pass, Introduction to Spanish.
It was easy to sign up, and there are several easy ways to sign up for an account. If you have a google, facebook, yahoo, Hotmail or Linkedin you can use any of those accounts to sign up. If you don't you can create an account. The Intro to Spanish was posted by the Global Text Project that comes from the University of Georgia. It said it had 81,866 other students, would take 1-2 hours, study at your own pace, zero cost and you can get a certificate upon successfully completing the course.
It was broken down into six modules and even though it's free, there are ads that play before you begin each module. S'pose they have to pay the bills somehow. The modules also use Flash, so if you have a flash blocker you'll need to disable.
This was a basic course in Spanish but I found it very thorough. It gave you beginning Spanish lessons with very helpful vocabulary and most important some basic grammar rules. There was no video but there was audio with someone speaking the dialogue. Most of them used the Castilian lisp and one sounded like she was trying out to be the next WHASSSUUUUPPPPP guy in those old Budweiser commercials. She almost made the whole course worth taking.
There was a module that was supposed to teach how to type Spanish accents which I was excited about because I never know how to do that. Unfortunately none of this information worked for me. It's just easier to set up your keyboard to do the accents if you need them.
The course said I could print out a certificate upon successfully completing the course, which meant a passing grade of at least 80%.  I got a 95% because I messed up the question on putting the days of the week in order, I didn't read the part that said starting with Monday. Anywho, so I passed and went to print out my certificate but NOPE, there was no certificate. What I did get was five e-mails telling me I could print one out. Then I received another e-mail telling me that I could print out my certificate for $10. Since I know how to speak Spanish and don't need a piece of paper that tells me so I skipped that.  Unfortunately after signing up and successfully completing a course I'm now getting e-mails from Alison every day. Aside from that the first course went well.
Now if they just had a course to teach me how to like avocado and onions.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Here's to a Knowledgeable New Year

Just before the new year rolled around I came across an article that boasted how you could learn new skills in an afternoon. Of course I was curious. Who wouldn't want to learn something new and at such an accelerated pace? After the initial excitement of "something new" wore off I continued to read the article and laugh at myself for falling for such a scam. Sure you could learn any of the skills but not in ONE afternoon and not for free. Sadly this article had me hooked on the idea that I needed to learn something new and learn it RIGHT NOW.  Since none of their suggestions were going to get me there I searched for a place that would help feed the need. https://alison.com/learn/ was the answer I was looking for. This site states that it has 750 online courses in various subjects, some that you can even print out a diploma or certificate of completion when you've successfully finished the course. Some of these courses even come from prestigious schools such as Harvard and Yale. The one drawback, some of the information is old. That sounds silly because most information is old but in the age of technology it's tough to take a course using a specific software. For example, if you're using Photoshop and the material is ten years old, the info is old. Still usable but recent updates may make it difficult to follow along. Either way I'm going to attempt to work my way through some of the more interesting sounding courses. Data Analysis and Typing aren't high on the list, but I look forward to learning French and Carpentry among others. I'll keep you posted on how many diplomas I print out throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Whipping My Way into the New Year

2016 was filled with adventure and lots of fun. It's hard to sit here and think of one new thing I tried that I didn't like. Perhaps trying to brush the beagle's teeth with an electric toothbrush would land on the list of things I tried but will never attempt again, but that's about it. Hopefully 2017 will be just as adventurous and fun.
It only seems fitting to share a few of my favourite things from 2016.  First up is meringue. I had never attempted to make meringue before in my life and was completely intimidated. It looks really difficult and on top of that, people who already know how to make meringue do their utmost to make it seem like an impossible task.  You know the type, they try to make something seem incredibly difficult simply so you'll sing them praises. For all we know those people buy it at the store and pretend they made it themselves. Anywho, I'm here to tell you that as long as you have an electric mixer there's absolutely zero difficulty involved. I'm so glad I decided to not be intimidated by meringue because it turned out to be one of the most successful Christmas "cookies" I've ever made.
Here is the link to the recipe that I decided to try. I ended up having to make this twice because the first time I around I forgot to put in the powdered sugar. WHOOPS! Except it didn't make that much of a difference.  The second time around I did add more lemon though and that did make a difference. Since I wasn't sure I would even be able to make the meringue I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the rest of the materials and I bought the Cake Mate brand disposable piping bags.  I highly recommend you don't bother with them. I think a regular plastic freezer bag would have worked just as well, so maybe spring for a more reputable brand piping bag and tip. In order to put the yellow stripes on the bag I used a chopstick. I simply coated the stick in the gel colouring and drug it up the sides of the bag and it worked really well. Just a word of warning these are highly addictive. Now that I'm no longer intimidated by making meringue I'll try this same recipe with different flavours. Coconut, lime, raspberry, the possibilities are endless.

The favourite book I read this year, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. I've read a lot of very, very good books this year but this one tops anything I've read in quite awhile. I'm not going to go into too much depth on it because it presents itself in a way for you to form your own opinion. Basically it's about the study of animals and how much we don't know.  I was just discussing this book with friends the other day and one brought up the idea that maybe humans are just scared of the thought that we're not the smartest animal on the planet.
One of my favourite things I got was this Lomography Konstruktor 35 mm camera. I put it together myself! Seriously, all on my own and it actually works. Maybe 2017 will bring me my own darkroom so I can have even more fun with this. 
With only four days into the new year I haven't yet compiled a list of things I'd like to try. I know I'll be taking several fun road trips and going on lots of new adventures but as far as meringue and attempting the impossible, I'll have to wait and see what comes my way.