Monday, May 16, 2011

The greatest thing to emerge from my kitchen since...





ME.

OMG these cupcakes are so amazing...I impressed myself...and that's saying something!

so I got a wild hair to make chocolate cabernet cupcakes. I googled for a recipe and as usual, took about 3 recipes and mushed them together to make my own. What I ended up making was a blackberry cabernet cupcake, one in a chocolate version and one in a vanilla version. the frosting was blackberry merlot home made buttercream.

I have vacillated somewhat in calling these blackberry cabernet and blackberry merlot. I'll tell you why in a minute.

So first thing I did was make 3 metric tons of blackberry merlot frosting. The recipe called for cabernet. At the store I found this "blackberry merlot" "wine". Its not at all wine-y but it has a great blackberry flavor and a hint of fizz. Its like strawberry hill basically :) I combined that WITH cabernet and had a hybrid.

At any rate, I started with blackberries on the stove, simmering in a mixture of blackberry merlot and cabernet.

these have to be the happiet blackberries ever.

Then I mashed and strained them so I only had the reduction "syrup". I added some of that to a massive buttercream batch that I struggled with a good deal. the end result was a huge amount of fantastic frosting! But I still hate making my own.

The cupcakes are a basic chocolate recipe, with part of the water being replaced with more of the blackberry wine reduction.


For the vanilla version, which ended up being just a blackberry cupcake, I just used a white cake recipe and added the leftover blackberry mash to the mix (I could not stand throwing it out!!! I had originally planned to just use the blackberry wine reduction for the white cake mix but the pulp of the blackberries just couldn't go to waste!)

I frosted them both with the same blackberry merlot frosting and topped some with fresh blackberries. OMG they are SO amazing!!!!!


so was the mess. I was covered in a thin layer of powered sugar and most flat surfaces of my kitchen had some form of blackberry or wine stain on them.


but well worth it...these are truly a masterpiece I have to say. YUM!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Customer Service

Ooooooh my. What a week. I have had things to blog about but no time. And I have to admit that I got a little sideways and depressed and just said Eff it to blogging for a few days.

So back at the Metropolis...my laptop has been broken since the winter. I thought it was out of warranty because we purchased it in the summer of 2009. I figured it had one year on it. Well I found out from the ex-hub yesterday that he purchased an extended warranty on it so its up next month!!
WOOT!! this is great news!!!

SO, All I need is the "service tag" off the bottom of my laptop. cool!

well guess what. the service tag is MISSING!! FML.

so I call customer service. What I attempt to transcribe below can not be properly conveyed in written text. I am considering making it into a one-act play.

various mouse clicking and windows, me entering my cell number for the magic program to call me.

ring/buzz...ring/buzz

me: hello?
consonant heavy Indian accent with long distance delay in line (CHIA): Hello thank you for calling the Dell Customer Service Reception Desk. I will be asking you some questions so that I can best direct your call for an excellent customer service experience. hello?
me: (dazed) yes...
CHIA: yes, hello...m'am. How are you today? thank you for calling DELL. Briefly can you tell me what you are calling about?
me: a warranty service issue
CHIA: OK m'am. yes. you are calling about a warranty service issue. I am sorry to hear that...and um...(as he tries to find his place on the printed "if they say this, you say this" script that is taped in front of him) yes. i am sorry to hear that. Let me direct you to an agent to help you with this. And thank you for calling Dell.
me: yah.
CHIA: Ok so m'am I am going to connect you with an agent now. OK?
me: yah...
CHIA: Ok so m'am please hold while I connect you with a Dell agent to assist you with...your...warranty service problem. Again I am sorry to hear that.
(side note: I didn't get that much fucking sympathy when my 18 year old cat died!!)
me: ok. thanks.
CHIA: ok connecting you now, m'am.
(side note: I don't get this much warning or lead up to like um...*#$%@^^... or...like shots and big needles jabbing me and stuff! good lord, just connect me already the anticipation is killing me!)
me: um...OK thanks!!!!
**hold music** praise the lord.
for
a
l
o
0
o
o
0
n
g
TIME

**hold recording telling me to expect 2 clicks and a tone and then an operator**
(giddy with excitement)
new CHIA: Hello and thank you for calling Dell. how can I help you today.
me: I have a laptop that needs warranty service. however, the service tag on the bottom is missing so what is Plan B?
new CHIA: Ok I am happy to help you with that, m'am. Can I please have your phone number starting with the area code?
me: 123-456-7890
new CHIA: thank you m'am. and can I have the service tag number that appears on the service tag on the bottom of your computer?
me: um. that tag is missing
new CHIA: Ok m'am. That tag is missing. Ok. so can I have the 5 digit number from that tag?
me: the service tag is MISSING. its Not....Therrrrrre.
new CHIA: Oh. the service tag is missing?
me: yes.
new CHIA: the service tag is on the bottom of your computer located near...
me: its not located anywhere. its NOT THERE. GONE. NO SERVICE TAG
new CHIA: Oh Ok m'am I see. Ok well let me try a phone number that you used when you placed the order
me: well I didn't place the order, my ex husband did...2 years ago. But we can try.

(so I proceed to give him FIVE phone numbers that all make sense have having possibly been used to place that order and he has NO luck. address. no luck. birth marks. no luck. there is NO order history)
new CHIA: ok m'am I am rrrreeeally sorry but I am not able to locate any service history for that computer in my system. Can you please hold on while I connect you to a specialized agent who can help you?
me: (eyeore-like) sure (Pooh)
new CHIA: Ok m'am please hold while I connect you. Do not hang up. Please hold on.
me: oookaaaaay.
new CHIA: thank you and have a nice day

**hold music and recorded voice wisdom**

brand new shiny CHIA (BNS): Hello. thank you for calling Dell. How can I help you today?
me: I have a lap top that needs a repair but no service tag
BNS: Ok m'am I can help you with that. Can I have the service tag number located on the bottom of your computer
me: THERE IS NO SERVICE TAG. that's why I am talking to YOU.
BNS: ok m'am I understand. Can I have your Dell account number?
me: you're kidding, right?
BNS: sorry m'am?
me: I don't have the account number, nor the phone number. My husband placed this order 2 years ago and we are no longer married. Can't you look it up with the serial number??!? I HAVE that!
BNS: Ok m'am I am sorry to hear that. Can I have the phone number associated with your account
me: no. I don't have it.
BNS: can I try the number you are calling from, m'am?
me: sure. why not. there is no reason he would use it, but sure!
BNS: Ok m'am I am very sorry but that number is not coming up. M'am can you power up the laptop and as soon as you see the Dell logo, hit F5?
me: I can't power up the laptop!! it won't power up! that is why I am needing to have it repaired!!
BNS: It will not power up, m'am?
me: NO!
BNS: can I have your full address m'am?
me: 1234 Filler Rd. Bakersfield, CA
BNS: ok that was 1234 Fioledr Red in Eajespeld, California?
me: um. no. 1-2-3-4 FILLER F as in Frank, I-L-L-E-R. BAKERSFIELD. B as in boy, aaay, kaaay, E-R-S-FIELD
BNS: Ok ma'm so I have your complete address as: 1234 Fioler (I don't even know how he can pronounce that!) Red Bekarsfield California. Is that correct?
me: *head desk* yes.
BNS: Ok m'am I'm going to place you on hold and connect you with a service specialist, ok m'am?
me: no. actually I'll call back when I have more information. Ok? Ok. thanks!
click.

*head desk*

aaaaand....blackout...cue curtain.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bullying of Phoebe Prince and other nearly tragic tales...

So in case you haven't seen the story, one of the big headlines today is the sentencing of the bullies that led to the suicide of a young woman in Massachusetts.
As I watched the bullies apologize to the dead girl and her surviving mother, I was not moved. The girl cried as she said "I'm sorry Phoebe" blah blah blah. The other bullies had similar statements and sentiments. Really? You're sorry NOW? Well that's handy. Were you sorry or even touched when Phoebe probably begged you with tears to stop bugging her? to stop tormenting her? to stop threatening her? to stop torturing her? Nope. You had no remorse or human feeling at that time. Only now do you get it. Now you have to carry this burden with you forever...that you had a hand in a young woman's death.

This is a topic that is very close to home for me, and one which I have not really spoken on much because its still very painful. In this story about Phoebe, one of the many details is that after Phoebe briefly dated some boy, a group of girls took to harassing her and calling her a whore and a slut. I had a visceral response to this story...

So let's go back about 25 years. Its 1986. Punk is all the rage. Spiked hair of various colors, ripped clothes, skulls, dog collars, and a LOT of black eye liner. On the flip side, Esprit, Converse, Benetton, and The Limited. Guess which side our protagonist falls on? Yes. A young, pretty girl with long, blonde, curly hair. She is somewhat naive. She has been popular with her friends. She enters Junior High to find herself the target of a great deal of undeserved hatred. Her first kiss was in January of 1986; she didn't lose her virginity until several years later so she is innocent and still looking up various sexual terms in the family encyclopedia. She's mostly quiet and unassuming, though outgoing and funny. She's smart. She's cute. She's followed to class. She has headless barbies hung on her locker. She is called whore, slut, dirt bag, skank, stupid, ugly, disgusting. She is followed to school. She is followed home from school. She is cornered, alone, in the park by 3 girls with skull jewelry and spiked dog collars. She is threatened. She is afraid every single day. She asks her friends, those who have not abandoned her for fear of 'guilt by association', to walk her to home room. She dreads every school bell, for when class is over and its time to walk to another class or the lockers, she is vulnerable. Administration does nothing but pat her on the hand and tell her its ok. Her mother is infuriated and reassures her. But she is not comforted, she does not feel safe; She feels totally alone, hated, isolated, humiliated.

She is frequently home alone after school since her mother worked part time during this era.
One day she gets one of the big carving knives out of the kitchen drawer. She puts the tip on her wrist to see what it feels like. She digs it in a little until the skin breaks just a bit. It hurts. For some reason, that hurt feels good. She drags the tip down her wrist a little, not really with any real intention, just ...because...

There is no blood, just a red scrape. More of a scratch or a welt than a cut. She lays the blade against her wrist and imagines slicing it. She finds the courage to move the blade just enough to lift a layer of skin away from her flesh the tiniest bit. There is blood ready to surface. She stops. She puts down the knife and walks away. She is numb.

She finds a large safety pin and repeats this exercise. The sharp tip of the safety pin presses into her arm enough to just barely pass through, and then she drags its along. She continues in this fashion for probably an hour. Her wrist and forearm are a mess...a tangle of scratches and cuts. She applies some medicated ointment and puts on a long sleeved shirt.

When asked about the cuts, she tells people that her cat scratched her. Clearly no one believes her but why would this nerdy, beautiful, honor-student brace-face lie about such a thing? No one really pursues it, including her. The bullying and torment continue, but some where in her, by the Grace of God, she find the courage to stand up to them, little by little.

By today's standards, this story would have ended much differently I'm sure. Because if you stand up to a bully now, it incites them. It enrages them. Because our children are sick. They are broken. Tears mean nothing and strength is viewed as a threat.

If this story took place in the present day, I would not be typing this. I didn't realize I had written that whole account in the third person until just now. Its the only way I can tell it. ...Because its obviously about me.

A year or two into my High School career, my mother purchased a tiny hand gun because my dad traveled on business a good deal and she felt she needed some protection. I remember one day finding it and holding it in my hand. I had no intention for it that day. I just held it, flat in my palm, terrified, and just sobbed. I knew without a doubt that if my mother had owned that gun a year or 2 earlier, I would have used it and tried to kill myself.

To this day, I can clearly see the faces of my bullies. I know their names. Some of them are on facebook. Some of them are friends with people I have been friends with on facebook. But so deep is that hurt that I have unfriended people who are mutual friends of these now inconsequential persons who probably do NOT remember my name, or my face. But I remember theirs...

This story about Phoebe, the Columbine story, all the stories of bullied young teens who hang themselves, shoot themselves, poison themselves...they all hit me in the gut. Whether they were teased for being gay, or popular, or pretty, or ugly, or short, or fat...no matter. It all makes me sick.

We have to teach our children to stand up to this kind of behavior from the get-go. Once bullying gains momentum and courage, there is little to stop it. And we all know that school Administrations do little or nothing except placate angry parents. We have to teach our children how to be strong without stripping them of their humanity, or their innocence. We have to teach them to stand up for not only themselves, but for other kids, who can NOT stand up for themselves. Had ONE person who was friends with my tormentors said to them "dude, chill out and leave her alone, let's go smoke weed in the bathroom, this is lame" it would have halted them. That's all it would have taken. I've seen it happen. Had just one of my friends stepped in and stood by me, that's all I would have needed.

I have tried to teach Cliff that being mean is wrong. He is short so he gets teased about it. I tell him it doesn't matter what they say and I elaborate on all the reasons why he's awesome and why eventually it just doesn't matter. And I also tell him that when he sees other kids being picked on for being different in any way, he needs to either step in, stand up, or tell an adult, pronto. And I am begging school administrators and teachers who read this...step in. over and over and over and over. You can't just step in once. You have to always step in. If bullying meets resistance everywhere it is seen, it will stop. But like water flows, this hatred will flow until it finds a leak in the resistance. And it almost always does. As a society we need to take this much more seriously.

Teach your children empathy, and strength, and courage. Teach them acceptance and tolerance and most of all...love.

All it took was ONE person to tell that aching blonde girl that she had no reason to try to hurt herself. That she was awesome and beautiful and really stupid for listening to stupid jealous bitches. It just took that one person to keep her from trying that ever again.

I have tried to reach him, to contact him, to thank him. But I have been unsuccessful. Its on my bucket list, for sure...

Thank you, Nathan. You'll never know how much you did for me...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where were you when...

I was talking with a friend this morning about the news of Osama Bin Laden's death. My mother called me the morning of 9/11 and told me the news. I was doing my hair. I went to wake up my husband and told him. And at the office we all brought little TVs and were glued to them.

Sunday night my mom called me to tell me about OBL. I then called my husband and told him. Full circle kinda.

(Strangely, the friend I am talking about is my husband, although we are going through a divorce. Thought that was an interesting side note. )

we were talking about where we were when we heard the news of various big things in our lives.

When President Regan was shot, I was in line coming in from recess in the 2nd grade at Nichol's school (where my son went to kindergarten). There was a boy line and a girl line. I think my teacher was Mrs. Thompson. Her reaction is what made the memory stick.

When my elementary school principal committed suicide, while we had been playing Scooby Doo trying to figure out what was going on all morning, it was our 5th grade teacher Mrs. Bond who told us in the early morning hours. She had this odd way of standing with her feet crossed but parallel and her hands in the pockets of her skirt. She had a pot belly and she wore school marm-y clothes with apples and such embroidered on them. She was not a warm person but she cried when she told us, though we could tell how hard she was trying not to cry.

When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded with Christa Mcauliffe on board, I was in 7th grade science class. Of all the classes I could have been in...I was in science class. And we were watching it LIVE. Our teacher, Mr. Freeman, had actually applied for that spot on the space shuttle and he was visibly shaken as he watched her die, along with the rest of the crew. As 7th graders we didn't fully understand how much this shook him, but we all sat in horror and stunned disbelief as the news commentary went from excited to choked up.

When my mom came over to tell me that Paul died, I lived on Christmas Tree Lane and I sat on the mauve couch as she told me the news. I remember nothing else except Henry holding me as I screamed into his shoulder.

I remember when my best friend told me that she was going to have a baby...I was sitting at my desk at Oxy.

I remember when I heard about getting my job at Oxy...one of the best days ever. I had interviewed once or twice and was in Chicago visiting aforementioned best friend (before she got pregnant!) and I stopped at a pay phone in the train station in downtown Chicago to check my answering machine messages (what?!). My answering machine code was 924. I called Judy, the woman who interviewed me from the same pay phone and she made me the offer over the phone. I hung up and we danced around squealing in the train station. That night I had my first shot of tequila ever. :)

I remember where I was when my dad told me my sister had twins...a surprise twin experience as her ultrasound showed only one baby! I was on the payphone at the convenience store near the apartment on Christmas Tree. that store is still there. the pay phone is not. I don't know why I was on a payphone to be honest...weird.

I remember when my mom told me that my cousin was going to have twins. I was standing in my apartment (on Mohawk) living room talking on a land line phone (what is that?) near the little bar that looked through to our kitchen.

I remember the look on the nurse's face when she told us we'd lost our baby. I said "I'm sorry...WHAT?" and she repeated it. And I said again "WHAT?" and she repeated it and touched my leg. And I just looked at her as though she was speaking gibberish and she was the stupidest person on earth. And then I don't remember anything. I was in a daze for about 30 minutes. And then I was a shell for about 4 months.

I remember where I ate lunch the day I was scheduled to pick up our newly adopted dog, Dixie. Bill Lee's Chinese...I was eating with co-workers and I was chomping at the bit to go get that dog.

I remember when Obama was officially elected. Cliffy said I woke him up and made him watch the news for a minute. :) Full circle...

You might be a human if...

I think this woman's voice has pinpointed my conflict, and based on her readers' comments, the conflict of many others. It seems like a no-win. There was no easy answer. But if you felt conflicted hearing the news of Osama Bin Laden's death...relief followed by fear or sadness, followed again by pride, followed by anger...followed by elation, followed by shame...
you might be a human. No matter how you slice it, we are an US. not just the U.S. us. The human race US. And we do nothing but fight with our selves. We are the ultimate schizophrenic.
Deep thoughts for a Tuesday. But ultimately, regardless of your beliefs, we ARE all connected. Whether we all came from the matter of exploding stars, or we were formed by the hands of a loving God, we all have one origin, the same chromosomal definitions. We all bleed, we all breathe, we all experience fear and love, we all love our children, we all eat, sleep, and in some form, we all pray.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Surely you know that. I wish we could just love the hell out of bad people...literally.

Love the hell out of some part of your life today. I have my first divorce court appearance tomorrow. I hate that part of my life. I hate the pain and fear I have bathed in until my fingers are wrinkly. I hate that its hurting all of us. But I adamantly believe everything happens for a reason. Cliche, yes. Well kiss my ass. cliches exist for a reason. Because I believe things are unfolding exactly as they should, no matter how much it hurts, I'm going to try to love the parts of myself, and my life, that I don't want to love. I want to hate them. I've been through hell. I'm going to love the hell out of my life...

Monday, May 2, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words





I find this picture particularly uh, disturbing because of the volume of the black smoke. And the fact that both towers are still standing which means there are a lot of people in both towers trying to get out. This is why we hate Osama. Just like Pearl Harbor is why we hated Japan for so long. Just like Hitler is why we distrusted Germany, and fascism, and men with little mustaches, and blind allegiances and...


The USS Arizona should never be forgotten.




The holocaust should never be forgotten.
The events of 9/11/01 should never be forgotten...
and the principals on which the United States of America were founded should not be forgotten.

God is merciful. Justice over evil is satisfying. But hate spreads like wildfire and does nothing but destroy.

Ding Dong the witch is dead!

What a week of headlines. The Royal Wedding, the death of Osama Bin Laden.

I have mixed emotions. I see his death as the harbinger of a new era, I hope. But the "celebrations" of his death seem...well for lack of the proper word...just icky. I think this is a great day for the U.S. It was heartening to see people gathered impromptu in DC and feel that sense of unity and pride that we haven't seen or felt since the days immediately after 9/11. You can't mess with us and get away with it. It may take us a decade to get our shit together but we will find you. The acts of 9/11 were dispicable. It was our duty to kill him. But the wooting and the fist pumping seems...well ICKY. I think it just goes to show that we as Americans are desperate to celebrate something and to feel united!! Obama's speech was beautiful, with an intact Pledge of Allegiance at the end (ONE nation UNDER GOD) and I think his words glued us all together for a few moments. I wish that we could have reacted with more thought. Perhaps with a bit more maturity and somberness. Not that I wish OBL would "rest in peace" but I wish we could have marked this grand accomplishment with our heads bowed in memory not of that hateful man, but of the thousands of people he had a hand in killing. Instead we were rallying and ...I don't know. I get it. I really get it. but its icky.

Then again, in 1945 on May 1st when Hitler's death was announced (weird coincidence huh?) I'm sure there was much rejoicing.

When is it ok to rejoice in the death of a bad person? We didn't defile his body. We buried him at sea quickly as per Muslim "rules". We weren't completely without regard for him as a human, it seems. Is it misplaced for us to celebrate? Not entirely. I just with Americans had more couth.

But then again, we kill each other at baseball games and what not. We're pretty retarded sometimes. As a country we are such a teenager.

but anyway, I am so grateful to our military for their ceaseless efforts. I am grateful to all who had a hand in making this operation to take down Bin Laden a success. cheers to you all!!

This year the anniversary of 9/11 will be just the tiniest bit less bitter. Those lost will not come back, but at least the man who devised their deaths has met his maker and it is God who will judge him accordingly. I don't know what will happen to him. I doubt he'll have...how many virgins? to party with. But I know that I'm relieved that he has been removed from earth and can't kill anymore.

God Bless America...we need it. Now more than ever. Brace yourselves, y'all. Those who hate us do not like seeing us revel in our victory. Airports will still violate us and will are still not safe. But we have won a great victory and we are still a great nation. And we will rise back up and find our greatness again.