Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Talk

When I blogged about the shooting at Sandy Hook, I predicted that the talks around gun violence would ramp up. That prediction was not all that much of a stretch because it was all going to come to a head sooner or later.  But because children were victims, now the nation has put up its collective head and is trying to address the issue. Whether this will fade into obscurity or not is really based on who is conducting the conversation. 
I found an article today on the gun control hearings going on now. Former Representative Giffords made a surprise visit stressing the need to get something done soon.  NRA Chair, Wayne LaPierre, is also at the table putting in his view on the subject and while I personally think he is a bit crazy, he touched on a part of the issue that is going to be very difficult to enforce;  the mental illness aspect.  Even if states are willing to report such records and provide the funding to do so, many people will not get the help they need until a crisis situation occurs, and sometimes it is often too late. Americans are by and large afraid of mental illness mostly because they are generally ill informed as to the malady and possess a somewhat unfounded fear. 
Despite all the talk and all the pundits’ squawking about something getting done now, this issue is going to take a long time to correct itself and is more about changing our culture than anything else.  I happened to see an interview with Bob Costas on the Daily Show where he briefly broached the subject of this culture.  Guns, like apple pie and football, are engrained in our traditions like no other and possession of guns is cherished.  Until we realize that there are deadly consequences when we take on the responsibility of being a gun owner and understand that better control is needed, our nation will continue to be no different that the Wild, Wild, West.

Monday, January 28, 2013


This weekend my husband installed a new gas range for me.  It was a Christmas present and being one for doing things himself because he hates to spend money, he said he would install it in January.  Therefore it sat in the shed since a few days before Christmas until Friday.  It is Frigidare, which really made me laugh because after all they made refrigerators and making stoves is the total opposite.  Ha Ha, oh well I guess you had to be there. Anyway, my husband found it by searching online at the Sears Appliance store near Abington.  It was a floor model and almost 50% off the regular price, so we didn’t get a box and therefore it fit in the back of his Jeep and we didn’t have to pay for delivery. 
So finally, and mostly due to the fact we have a contractor friend who kept bugging him, on Friday I came home to a really messy kitchen.  The old electric stove was taken out of the cabinet and on the floor, the kitchen table and chairs were pushed over to one side, there were tools all over the place, and the new gas stove was sitting in front of the refrigerator still wrapped in plastic.  My husband and our friend were discussing where the gas line should come up through the floor and determining what parts they needed.  Why they decided to start at 3pm on a Friday was beyond me, but I was not going to complain.  They went out for parts about 30 minutes before the store closed and came back about 2 hours later armed with beer, supplies, and pizza.  They proceeded to drill holes in the floor where the gas line would come up and where the new outlet would be.  The old stove took a 220 line and the new one required a 160 line so a new line had to be run.  Fortunately, my husband had planned for the eventual addition of a gas range and had his plumber friend put in a junction when they installed the gas dryer.  Because of that the installation was somewhat simple.
So now I am the proud owner of a gas range with 5 burners and it is just lovely.  Just having the stove makes the kitchen look newer.  Our contractor friend told me that he has an extra dishwasher from a job he did and doesn’t need and it happens to match the stove so maybe for my upcoming birthday I will get that installed!  Before too long maybe the new floor and will be put in and possibly new cabinets.  Most people do a new kitchen all at once, but if you have a husband like mine piecemeal is probably the best I can hope for. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Free Lunch

I was sitting in a staff meeting the other day at my place of work and our manager told us about some planning going on.  The planning involved a reward for the employees and our manager indicated that the reward was either a free lunch or breakfast.  While he was saying this I thought to myself that often rewards or perks in most office places involve free food.  Of course my mind wondered about that for a while.  Why is free food so desirable?
The only answer I could come up with was that food is generally expensive and having someone buy you lunch or dinner is a good thing because you don’t have to spend any money to eat.  Having someone prepare food for me is a really special treat in my world.  Even though I like cooking, I don’t always feel like doing it.  But I am sure that money is not the only reason people crave free food so much, but I can’t figure it out. Does free food taste any better?  I don’t think so because I have had some horrible stuff that passes for combustible goods in my life.  Thinking back even knowing it was free to me didn’t make it taste any better. Does free food fill you up faster?  I know that when our company offers a free lunch, people tend to get as much as they can, probably more than they would normally eat.  I don’t think free food is more gastronomically satisfying, but that could just be me.
I have often heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and if you think about it especially regarding the manner in which the food was given, that can be true.  One doesn’t usually get a free lunch unless you are being rewarded for something, or maybe in the dating world the person buying the food expects something, so it really isn’t free.  It might not cost you money, but it does cost you something.  Bottom line is that I think free food can be a reward that is satisfying on a level but I just can’t see it.  I would rather have the money.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This past weekend I saw a production of “Eleanor Fagan: The Birth of Billie Holiday” by the Norristown Art Educational Group.  It’s a one woman show about Billie Holiday’s life highlighting many of her famous songs. It is amazing how someone whose life was so fragmented went on to be so successful in her craft.  Or maybe it is in spite of her upbringing that she used music as a way to escape, much to our delight and enjoyment.
One of her most famous songs, and one that was so appropriate to hear during MLK weekend was Strange Fruit a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropol.  She preformed the song in a club in 1939 and at first there were some misgivings about doing so, but it ended up becoming her biggest selling record.  Time magazine called it the Song of the Century in 1999 and it was honored as one of 50 recordings added to the Library of Congress in 2002.  The words of the song are chilling and inspired many other works such as documentaries and operas.   
The theater production company specializes in bringing history to drama and this show was excellent.  It meant a lot to me personally because according to many historians, Billie Holiday was Philadelphia born although she spent most of her life in New York.  Also it is a prime example of a person who has was given so little in life and ended up making such an impact in the world.  Granted the end of her life was tragic, but during her time singing, she exhibited a lot of drive and energy.  It is a lesson to be learned by anyone.  You don’t have to give in to poverty and evil but you can rise above your negative upbringing and be a better person. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Old Town Norristown

I am reading Michael E. Tolle’s book called What Killed Downtown?  It is a study of how Norristown’s economy was ruined, and is quite thorough in its description.  Mr. Tolle starts at the very beginning.  The very beginning before Norristown was even Norristown and sets up his story with a description of the intention for the town, and as many people know, the town stood up to its intended use for many years.
I suppose the book is interesting to me because I live in the municipality and the businesses he talks about are ones that I have heard about and they were located at addresses I know and have passed many times.  Some of the buildings still exist like the Tone Building, the bank building, and of course the Courthouse, among others.  I am also familiar with the names of many of the people he writes about and the people who he interviewed for the book.  Most interesting to me is his explanation of the workings of municipal and county government because I have been one of the many trying to determine what went wrong and how to fix it.  But probably the most interesting part of the book is the answer, which I won’t go into here lest I spoil it for you.  He comes to a similar conclusion, with a slightly different twist from what I have been saying all along. Even though I have not gotten through all 256 pages of the book I was too excited to find the answer to his query and read a bit of the last chapter. 
I would call this book required reading for anyone who works at the municipality, or the County, or has any dealing with Norristown at all.  It gives a fascinating insight to some issues which are unique to our little struggling burg.  I can’t say that a silver bullet exists to help the situation but knowing from whence we came is always a key in determining where we should go.  History does have a way of repeating itself and some of the actions he talks about in the book bear a striking resemblance to things that have been tried since I have lived there.  I just hope that the history that repeats itself will not come out with the same result and that we can learn from our mistakes and work toward a solution to the problem rather than becoming another one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Honoring the Dead

We have a week until we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have been thinking of his message for the past few days.  In many ways, we have made remarkable progress in the area of Civil Rights and in others we are stuck in the 60s.  Minorities are being hired more and more and in most places there is no color line.  Businesses recognize the contribution of African Americans all across this country, but the actual point of celebrating a holiday shows us that we have really not progressed that far.  If we really were color blind would have to celebrate these differences?
I think not.  I believe that in a world that is truly equal and truly diverse we would not look at a person’s skin color or the spelling of their last name.  We would not care if they spoke with an accent or dressed in garb that was foreign to our eyes.  We would judge, as Dr. King said, based on the “content of their character” more than anything else.  The point of having these holidays, aside from getting a day off from work, or a day to do some community service, is to make sure we remember that there was a time when things were worse as well as honoring a great person. 
I submit to you that remembering these things is a measure of how far we have come, surely, but we still have plenty of racism all around.  It’s not just white on black either, or white on any other color.  There is plenty of negative thinking by blacks against whites and fear by others of whites.  No, we have not come far in the ways of accepting all no matter the color of their skin, the tone of their voice, or the amount of grey in their hair.  We still need to honor those who have gone before us and fought for rights for any group they are associated with.  We still need be reminded that we have much further to go before we are truly a “Nation of the People”.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I stopped making New Year’s resolutions about three years ago when I realized that every year they are the same thing and every year by the second week, they are gone.  I usually have the top three that everyone has; eat less, exercise more, and be nice to people.  Since the last one is one that I usually try to live my life by, that one is not the problem.  It’s the first two that consistently give me issues.
This year I had a small neighborhood get together on New Year’s Day and there were so many wonderful things to eat that I ate way too much and it really hasn’t stopped.  However, I have been making what I am eating count.  My mother gave me a Nutri Bullet and I have been making green shakes in the morning so I am getting more fruits and veggies in.  I have had only a few cookies so that’s a good thing, and the chocolate that I have eaten has been the semi sweet kind without all those chemicals in it, but it’s is quantity that always gets me. I just like to eat too much.
The Mediterranean Eating Plan that I enrolled in this year helped rid my diet of bad, chemical laden foods.  They don’t call it a diet as it is really a life style change.  It’s not only fresh foods, but it concentrates on eating less.  For the most part I have been okay and I didn’t gain a ton of weight over the holidays has I have in the past so that’s a start. But I had gained a little back from what I lost originally on the plan.  The most important part of this plan is the type of food you should be eating.  It has to be good quality food with fresh ingredients and nothing fake.  To that end I made a pizza from scratch the other night for dinner and it turned out really good. I had never done that before and it was really quite simple albeit it took a little longer than popping a ready-made in the oven.  There are only a few ingredients but the taste is so worth it and you know since you made it there are no bad things in it. So this year rather than resolve to do things that I usually can’t stick to, I am resolving to continue to eat better quality foods. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guns Everywhere!

Another shooting happened in my hometown recently and this one is very close to where I live.  It was not a fatal shooting, but still it is totally uncalled for.  That makes six incidents in the last four months and it is getting to be too much.  Unfortunately these incidents are all related to the first shooting, and I think gang related, so I fear we are just at the start.
I went on a community walk about a week ago after the last shooting, which was fatal.  The idea of the walk was to bring awareness to the recent violence and get a sense to what has happened.  We walked around to the sites where previous incidents happened and put little memorials there and said a few words about the victims. It was a way to show a united force about how this small segment of the community feels about the issue and it did bring some awareness to the people who saw us walking. Overall it did nothing at all toward the problem but it was a nice way to spend the afternoon and to commiserate with other residents who feel the same.
There are no easy answers when it comes to guns.  As far as I am concerned they are too easily attained regardless of the laws we have in place currently.  The 2nd amendment people scream that we have a right to own guns and object to laws preventing them from having weapons.  Criminals get guns from other criminals and all the laws in the world don’t seem to work for that.  The mentally ill can get guns legally or from family members and no one really knows if they are going to go off the deep end because they rarely have criminal records. 
Guns represent power to most people and for the most part, in my opinion, Americans feel powerless and trust nobody. Everyone is considered our enemy for which we must arm ourselves against.  That kind of attitude is not going to change easily and will take generations to breed out. The media does their fair share of glamorizing the use of guns but I personally don’t see that as a reason why people want them, moreover I feel that the media is just reflecting reality. Bottom line is that this is an issue that has no easy solution and no one is going to win.  It may sound hopeless but I think we are at the point of the darkness before the light and things will get better eventually.  There just might not be enough people left to care after all the shooting is done.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Way to Much

Okay so I think I am about as liberal as one can get, but sometimes old time values are important.  A long time ago, I blogged about a guy at work who had gotten a girl pregnant.  They made the decision to have the baby and take care of it together if not separately.  I must admit that they did the right thing by working out an arrangement with a lawyer and things seem to be going okay.  Both parties know exactly what is expected of each other and everything is in writing so there are no questions as to what is what.  It was a long and arduous process but in the end everything worked out okay. The little guy is now 4 and is really adorable.
So imagine my surprise when he announced that he is having another! The baby mama is due in June and at first they were planning to move in together, but now it seems that the moving plan is being nixed.  He said the problem is that he really doesn’t like her so that’s a problem in setting up house with her. Oh, and by the way, this baby mama is not the same as the one before.
Having a child is personal decision but I think it is important that it is a decision made by two people who are willing to make all the sacrifices needed when a child is brought into this world. This guy, while he makes a decent wage, is certainly not setting the world on fire and is IMHO not likely to.  For him to have two children with two different women pretty sickening to me – and it’s not just him.  I feel the same way about any guy out there in a similar situation. I know that mistakes happen and I admire those couples who work hard to make the best of things but really it’s the child who loses in the long run.  One mistake I can totally understand but more is just careless.  Okay so call me old fashioned but I think that a stable home environment is needed for a child’s moral development.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cooking Fresh

I made pizza from scratch last night for dinner.  I followed a recipe that I found on which I had made actually about two weeks ago and froze because I wasn't going to use it immediately. I had separated it into three balls of dough before freezing so I could easily use as needed.  Well that was the idea anyway.  I should have rolled them and made circles from them instead of putting them into a slight blob shapes and freezing, but it worked out okay after I defrosted one.

Why go to all that trouble you ask?  Well it really doesn't take that much work and it was so much better than store bought. I put some precooked some sliced tomatoes, red onion slices, and three sliced porta bella mushrooms in a pan with sliced garlic and a little oil before putting them on top.  Then I covered the vegetables with mozzarella cheese and baked as recommended.  It turned out pretty good.  I have a pizza stone that I got a while ago and I think that really makes a difference because the base of it comes out nice and crisp.

If you have the skills to cook, you really should cook as much from scratch as you can.  It is healthier, tastier, and you get to control what you want in the dish. Combine that with cooking fresh from the garden and you have a system that can't be beat. Maybe I am just a food snob, but I don't care.