mysecondcupofcoffee


A Hand With Hands

I think the time is ripe for a cheese caldron (lovely little HP quote) and for a delightful little blog about dry hands, particularly in winter.

Welcome to part #2 of my pet peeves (part #1, though not labeled as such was my thoughts on Censorship). Though this wasn’t originally intended to be a series, that’s kind of what it is turning into. So, here we go.

Dry hands hurt and are ugly and I think that there should be no more of this!

Vulcan knowledge tells us WHY hands dry out…

During the winter months, the humidity in the outside air plunges. Inside, things are even more arid, with indoor heating creating desert-like conditions in our home and office.

Thank you WebMD.

But knowing why doesn’t take away the annoyance. I could apply lotion every hour (which I do) and I still have dry hands and painful cracks around my nails. So, i decided to look up some home remedies. Oh the things i found… *sigh*…so much fun and so strange. I may try some of these, though most of them sounds messy!

  • take fish oil tablets as part of your vitamin regimen
  • bath your hands in olive oil
  • smear your hands with petroleum jelly before bed (though that seems messy to me)
  • buy and aloe vera plant and use its gel constantly (where would i grow an aloe plant, i ask you…)
  • create an egg yolk mask for your hands (how does this help??)
  • do a honey bath treatment on your hands (sooooo sticky! but at least it smells good)
  • only wash your palms instead of washing your whole hands (this would bother my slightly OCD nature)
  • using lukewarm water instead of hot water to wash your hands (this one i can do easily!)

Other thoughts from the blogging world? If i do try any of these, i will let you know!

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Censorship

this one is a long one… stick with me though!

Some subjects don’t matter to me, others i could go either way with and still others, i take great issue with… the censorship of literature is one of the latter.

There are many wonderful works of literary genius in this world; many brilliant books that challenge the mind, the heart, and the soul.

Before many of you moms and pops out there jump down my throat, hear me out. I don’t advise letting children run amuck in their reading, but children are smarter than we give them credit for. They have minds that want to learn (whether they know it or not) and they should be allowed to explore the literary world.

Would you stop you child from riding a bike because they may learn to ride it with no hands and that can be dangerous? Would you not allow you child to eat chocolate because it may give them a cavity if they don’t take care of their sweet tooth and brush their teeth? Would you not teach your child to drive a car because when they get their license it is up to them how they handle that power (no matter how many threats a parent makes, when a teen is in a car by themselves, it is entirely within their control). Okay, i know these aren’t perfect analogies, but they should at least get you thinking. Bikes were made to be ridden. Chocolate was made to be eaten. Cars were made to be driven. Books were written to be read.

But here is the key… ALL of these things (bikes, chocolate, cars, books) require responsibility. For you child to enjoy a bike, they have to know that a bike can hurt them. This same concept works for chocolate, cars AND books. You must teach a child to be discerning and wise when reading. If you have taught these things to your child, then there should be no fear in your mind of letting your child read (age-appriopriate in respect to nightmares or romance, etc.) books.

I have decided to write my thoughts on some of the most popularly banned books. Agree or not, I will only respect the opinion of those that have actually READ the books. Oh and if you have read a book that i haven’t and can offer some insight, please do (aka. leave a comment!)

Thank you to AdlerBooks.com for the following list. The green text is my thoughts on the books.

Books Banned at One Time or Another in the United States

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – A ingenious book that created its own language and challenged readers to push their minds past the usual thought processes. 
A Wrinkle in Time
 by Madeleine L’Engle – Gotta love a story about time travel and kids on a pilgrimage (that they don’t know is a pilgrimage) …Meg Murry and two fellow misfits set off on a wormhole journey (in the books its the Tesseract) in search of Meg’s father who mysteriously disappeared. They are accompanied by three angelic beings who guide them on their way.  
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – If you want a story of revolution, this is it. It’s a favorite of mine. Everyone is under the rule of the World State, a peaceful environment where sex isn’t for reproduction at all, but rather for recreation. It’s a social activity that is encouraged from childhood. Oh, and there is soma. But, there is revolution of humanity! Love, love, love… 
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer – Not a favorite book of mine, but interesting nonetheless due to the lessons one can learn. It’s a basic collection of stories. It amazes me that this collection was banned in the United States. 
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – A historical satire highlighting WWII. I will be honest, i read this one so long ago, i don’t remember all my thoughts on it. 
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller – A spectacular of a normal family and a normal man who wants more out of life, especially for his sons, and can’t cope with the reality that they, like him, are normal… average. A suicide might be why this book is so feared, but it’s honest. 
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck – This is the story of a messed up family. There is murder, lying, hate, prostitution and more. But it’s redeeming quality is that you care about the charters and their plight. 
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – I grew up with Harry Potter. He is, technically, a few years older than me if he were *spoiler alert* a real person. It worked out nicely that as I was an appropriate age when books five, six, and seven came out. They are dark books, but brilliant books! It made me a little sick to see 8-year-olds reading book seven when it came out, but then again, I know 16-year-olds whose parents ban the books from their home. Fun side note: When some of my extended family saw me reading the series at a family gathering, i was given quite a tongue-lashing because “what would my grandpa think!?” My response was that Grandpa was wonderfully open minded and had i told him that the premise of the book was a classic tale of good versus evil where good wins, it wouldn’t have mattered to him that involved teenage witches and wizards. Beyond that, if i had explained that the book highlights the importance of friendship and trust, that it depicts accurately the trials of a teenage life, and Harry Potter and his friends know what they believe and fight for it, Grandpa wouldn’t have batted an eye about me reading the series. Oh, and I believe that my Grandpa trusted my ability to reason and think. That is key! As humans with the ability to read, we must also utilize the ability to reason! 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – see above
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – see above
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – see above
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – A beautiful poet with such a love of nature. I have this book in my office and when the walls start to close in, that’s what i grab and read for a few minutes to remind me that the world is so big and vast. 
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Place a bunch of pre-pubecent boys on an island and see what you get… mass chaos! Though i can understand why this book might be scary to parents, its speaks to the humanity of people. It’s a powerful depiction of human nature. Want to see what aliens might see if they came to earth, read this book. 
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes – The original tale of women withholding sex from their husbands that causes a battle of the sexes. If you appreciate the style of writing (which i do) then you will find this piece highly amusing! 
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – The only Steinbeck that i truly love, this book is about two friends on a journey.
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – It’s an amazing story of human behavior … set in a mental institution. Fascinating book, fascinating film. 
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – I love Vonnegut. That’s all their is to it. He writes honestly. This tale is one of war and survival and, in my opinion, answers the questions: what would you do to survive?
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – If you don’t know what this coming-of-age tale is about… read it. It’s wonderful! 
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – See my thoughts on Huck Finn. 
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Holden fits the mold of a classic angst-filled teen. Why shouldn’t teens have someone to relate to!
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker – Okay, not my favorite book, but i’m glad i have read it. It’s an exceedingly sad book about Celia and the awful lot in life she has been dealt. She is raped by her father, is forced into a marriage, enters into a homosexual relationship with a jazz singer, believes that she looses her sister… but it all ends happy. 
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Probably one of my least favorite books of all time, but still a classic that should be read by all. Essentially, it’s the Joad family’s journey on Route 66 during the Depression. Oh and it has a messed up ending. 
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare – It’s Shakespeare… just read it! 
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – An American classic that, again, should be read by all. Meet Scout and Jem and their father (lawyer) Atticus, who live in a small town in Alabama. Atticus must defend a black man accused of raping a white women. He does and does it well, but the jury still convicts the man. Scout’s faith in the justice system is shaken. There is more to the story, but geez, read the book! Oh, and there is Boo Radley!
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare – Again, it’s Shakespeare… just read it! 
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

This list inspires me to read more, to learn more, to challenge preconceptions more. So, if you want to know what i will be reading over the next few months and years, check the list. There’s a pretty good chance the book will be on it.


Choosing to Chill

I was recently asked, “what do you do in the evenings?” The questions was asked out of a concern that this individual was missing out on some sort of 20-something filled fun, but it did make me ponder my evening itinerary. What DO I do in the evenings?

Here is what I concluded…

I do less.

There was a time when I filled my life with anything and everything I could. I was a hobby connoisseur and a multi-job master. I would volunteer for this and offer to do that. I would make dates with friends and I would attend events.

I got tired… so very, very tired. But I didn’t want to give anything up. I was *it’s hard to admit this even now* afraid! I thought I would feel guilty for not being busy all the time (and I was right, but we aren’t to that part of the blog yet so hold your horses!). Then I got married and realized that my priorities had to change. I couldn’t keep doing everything I was doing if I wanted our marriage to work. So I started cutting things out of my life. Bit by bit and piece by piece, I started dissecting my life.

I put myself on a pretty restricted extracurricular diet. 

Now, when I leave work, I go home and do the normal things in life (cook dinner, clean up the kitchen afterward, pick up the house, clean the bathroom, pay bills, etc) and then I sit. I (sometimes quite literally) have to force myself to sit down and chill. I spend time reading a book or enjoying a crossword or Angry Birds. Yes, I’m still involved with things and I still meet up with friends and I still have hobbies, but I am actively choosing to chill (sounds like a contradiction, I know)… and I’m starting to understand what peace is.

You see, I feel like all my life I have been fighting for peace and confused why I don’t have it. But now, now I feel as though peace is finding me. It’s as if the key to it is simply stopping. This, as basic as it sounds, is something new to me. What gets in the way of this new found feeling is guilt. Guilt about now doing what I should be doing. Guilt about sitting and not doing. Guilt about what someone might think of me if they knew I was sitting and relaxing and not doing. Complete, annoying, peace-killing, soul-tormeting guilt. So now, I guess, it’s time to take on the next challenge in my quest for peace prowess; battle the guilty green monster.

How do I defeat the beast? Not sure yet, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know. Until then, I will continue to wage war on that which cannot defeat me, but can harm me over time… guilt, and I will fight it with the only weapon I have… peace.


Meeting Priscilla

“It’s funny. We all sit around mindlessly slagging off that vile stink-hole of a city. But in its own strange way, it takes care of us. I don’t know if that ugly wall of suburbia’s been put there to stop them getting in, or us getting out. Come on. Don’t let it drag you down. Let it toughen you up. I can only fight because I’ve learnt to. Being a man one day and a woman the next isn’t an easy thing to do.” ~ Bernadette, in Priscilla

My lovely mother-in-law introduced me to a brilliant film called “Priscilla” not too long ago. The film depicts a journey in the life of three transvestites and sheds light on what a day in another persons life might be like. It follows the joys of being and struggles of three individuals who are persecuted for being different. It was this film that the following tale made me think of almost immediately. Hopefully you will see why…

Transvestites aren’t a commonality in Fort Wayne, Indiana. So when a pair of great (male) legs and a short black skirt with blue sequins and pumps rushed from the door to the bathroom at Taco Bell, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. At first I thought that maybe I was seeing things. But when I saw the same pair of legs paired with a zip-up hoodie with the hood pulled up rush back out the door just as quickly, I thought maybe I was witnessing a practical joke. It seemed more likely that this occurrence was part of an elaborate ruse  than a piece of someone’s reality.

And now, the rest of the story.

My friend and I finished our dinner at Taco Bell and went to head home. This was nearly and hour and a half after this person had walked in and out of the restaurant so rapidly. I figured the individual would be long gone by now. But he… er, she, stepped out of a silver car and ever so tentatively asked for directions. She was still wrapped up in a dark zip-up hoodie, but her hood was down this time revealing short, curly, dark hair and big, dark eyes.

I must admit, I was caught off guard. The Midwestern part of me still wasn’t sure if this was a joke or game some heartless and crass person was playing. I gave her directions (though I’m ashamed to say that looking back, I could have been far more helpful… I was too outside of the moment trying to figure out the moment as opposed to being in the moment. I regret that.) and went to bid her goodbye and head on my way. But she asked another question that caught me even more off guard and I will keep to myself for now.

The final part of our short interaction came when she, even so nervously, asked her final question. With almost childlike desperation, she quickly unzipped her hoodie and opened it wide so that we could see her dress and asked, “Do I look alright?”

It was a question that I didn’t know how to answer, not because I was appalled by her lifestyle, because I really wasn’t. My hesitation was, quick frankly, because I had no idea what event she was going to or from! She looked as though she was heading out for a night on the town with friends, but her demeanor didn’t follow that train of thought. She sounded tired and almost scared. She clearly was lost and not from the area because the road she was attempting to find was a major highway that anyone in northeast Indiana would know. The more I pondered this individual, the more questions I had.

I answered her inquiry with a, “Yes, you look great!” then I started once again toward my car but just as she turned to get into her car and I turned to walk toward mine, I saw something that changed the entire experience for me: she had a black eye. The lighting in the dark parking lot had hidden it before, but there it was, plain as day: a dark purple circle around her left eye.

By the time my brain had registered this reality, she was already in her car and I had already turned to mine.

I was disappointed in myself. I should have handled the entire situation with much more grace. I should have been “in the moment” instead of attempting to figure out if it was an elaborate joke. I sat in my car and thought about this grave error for 10 minutes. Why hadn’t I turned immediately to ask if she was OK? Was I too wrapped up in me to think about her? Was I too scared of the whole thing being a prank and making me look like a fool? Was I making too much of the situation because of her lifestyle?

These thoughts and more whirled around my head until I realized that this is a problem for me in general. I have a hard time being “in the moment” with people and it took meeting Priscilla to see how much of a struggle this can be for me.


The Great Samoa Battle

A girls got needs, alright. Sometimes those needs don’t come at convenient times either. When cute little girls in little green outfits aren’t outside Sears at Glenbrook Square selling little boxes of goodness for $3.50 a pop and I get a hankering for a Samoa… someone could get hurt, I’m telling you!
 
Desperation hit a few weeks ago. My taste buds were crying out for those little circular cookies of coconuty-caramely delight and there wasn’t Girl Scout in sight! I was desperate! So, like anyone in modern America, I got online and wove my way through the gloriousness that is Pintrest and found it. Right there in cyberspace was the answer to all of life’s questions: A recipe for Samoa Cookies!
 
What follows is an epic tale of good vs. evil, of woman vs. kitchen, of stickiness vs. clean surfaces…
 
The battle began slowly. It was more of a skirmish really. I mean, the cookie dough wasn’t a challenge, but it did make my kitchen a bit messy. 
 
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
up to 2 tablespoons milk
 
 
This was nothing me and my cute pink Kitchen Aide couldn’t handle. Together we mastered the dough and prepared it to a perfect consistency. And it was all downhill from there…
 
It was at this point that the skirmish became a battle. 
 
This is what the directions said: Roll the dough out in 2 or 3 batches (between pieces of wax (or parchment) paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or a little thinner) using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined (or on silicone mat) baking sheet and make a hole in the center. I used the small end of a large round piping tip. Nicole comments that you can use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat until the dough is used up (it’s okay to re-roll, this dough is shortbread-like and very forgiving.)
 
Sounded simple enough, but it was pure torture in execution! I dug through my container of 50 cookie cutters for all occasions and selected the cutter that cut the circle of dough and the cutout in the center all at the same time. I figured this would make things speed along nicely. LIES! This dough is pliable alright, but that also means that no matter how much flour you put on the cookie cutter, there is not possible way to make a clean cut with the cutter! The dough will find some way to cling to the round cutter as if its life depended on it! After attempting to cut out seven different cookies this way, I gave up and decided that even though Samoa’s have a hole in the center, knock-off Samoas don’t have to. It’s not in the rule book!
 
Baking these little gems is also a trick because though it’s a forgiving dough, it’s a fickle b*t*h. Leave them in for 5 seconds too long and you have a crispy little chip of a cookie. Completely worthless and something that even caramel and coconut goodness can’t make better. Trust me, I tried!
 
After the cookies were baked (and believe me when I say this process cut the 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies this receipt was supposed to yield to 2 dozen thanks to the kamikaze cookies that decided to be primadonas and get all pissy when i left them in the oven 5 seconds too long) it was time to take on a new task. The recipe said to let the cookies cool so I did (with much pleasure) while I took on … da da da! … roasting coconut! This was simple and painless and I have nothing too comical to say about it.
 
And this is where the battle took a turn and became a fight to the death! This is that part in the tale that gamers would refer to as The Boss Fight of this kitchen horde mode. Let’s put it this way: we are at Wave 48. I won’t go so far as to say Wave 50, because I’m sure cooking eel while standing on your head under water is more challenging.
 
The recipe said to melt caramel (simple enough) then add the coconut (again simple) and then “Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 teaspoons per cookie.” Okay, so you know how Samoas look all nice and pretty with their perfect coconut/caramel topping and chocolate stripes? Yeah, machines do that. There is not way a mere mortal with a spatula can make a sticky concoction of caramel and coconut lay nicely atop of shortbread cookie (even one WITHOUT a hole in the middle)! It would take a cyborg with 4 arms and a lightsaber (yes, something akin to General Grievous) to make this process possible for even part of a human!
 
When all was said and done, I had caramel-coconut goo all over my hands and forearms and the cookies looked like globs of prickly caramel sitting askew on shortbread discs! And when it came to adding the chocolate stripes, I simple gave up. I decided that if the Samaos were going to look like a 5-year-old made them, so be it.
 

Samao Cookies FTW

Thank you to www.onceuponaplate1.com for the recipe! I may have complained the ENTIRE time I was making them, but they tasted dangerously close to the real thing. Oh, for all of you that may actually take on the challenge that this recipe offers, wait a day before eating them. Not only does this separate you from your problems (you will understand when you try it!), they also taste better. This is not an eat-it-while-it’s-still-warm-from-the-oven kind of cookie.
 
The End.