State of the state

The following is a guest appearance on ‘Wisconsin Fun Next Exit’ by Dan Walkner.

Let’s make one thing clear: Wisconsin is not open for business.  Wisconsin is a business.  There is no reason why it isn’t flourishing; in fact there are many factors that should be propelling it forward.  We have ample natural resources.  We have a highly skilled and educated work force.  We have a variety of options for transportation.  Most importantly, we have no shortage of customers world-wide.  Why are we not turning a profit? 

Consider this situation.  You work for a company and the boss says the goal of the company is to make $250,000.  At the end of the year, after going over the books, the boss notices the company actually lost $39,000.  After reviewing the books drastically differently than all the other similar companies in your field, the boss now says the company actually turned a profit of $24, 000.  Although a paltry sum, it is in fact a profit.

The boss calls you into his office.  He says, “Hey, our company did great this year.  We didn’t quite hit our goals, but everything is going as planned.  I do have some bad news, though.  You won’t be getting a bonus.  Frankly, you won’t even get a raise.  Well, in all honesty, you’re going to be taking a pay cut.  But the good news is you aren’t being laid off like many of the others.  So thanks for your perseverance and a job well done.  Keep up the good work!”

Why is the company not working and who’s to blame?  Is the construction worker in line next to me at the grocery store to blame?   Is the person standing in front of your child’s classroom to blame?  Are you to blame?  Am I? 

In the world of work, very rarely are you afforded the opportunity to fire the boss.  In politics, the game is set up to make it nearly impossible.  The boss hasn’t been doing his job.  The argument that the new boss is going to take away my guns (which he isn’t, of course) is not enough of an argument for me to keep the old boss.  Let’s fire the boss and get back to work.

Advertisements

Tis the season

Happy one-year anniversary to Wisconsin Fun Next Exit.

It was a year ago this weekend that I was seeking spinach and scones and deciding to follow the advice of Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg and create my own little corner of the internet universe. I have been feeling nostalgic for the giddiness that I felt when I sat down with a bottle of wine to write that first post late on a Saturday night one year ago. I have truly enjoyed writing this and I’ve been thinking about how nice it is of you to join me here. So, thank you.

This past year has been a memorable one marked by an uprising,

a (temporary) job teaching third grade, a Packers super bowl victory, the Brewers in the playoffs, a train trip to Seattle,

road trips, old friends, new friends, an honest effort at really loving yoga (although my triangle pose is still a disaster), a new-found love of cats, specifically the two 10-year-olds who became my roomates in June,

moving to the east side, an attempt at growing a vegetable garden and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking.

Oh have I got some recipes for you. There’s an incredibly easy and delicious one for whole wheat pasta with a sauce made of butter, cream and blue cheese (go for a run first!) and tonight (while talking to my dear friend Jenn who lives in D.C. but aspires to move back to Madison) I made a vegetarian version of french onion soup with toasts and melted swiss cheese that tasted rich and hearty on this blustery day in Wisconsin. I plan on telling you all about these and more but for now it’s off to bed. Tomorrow I’ve got a date with Lambeau Field and Tuesday marks the first day of the campaign against Walker. I’ll provide the soup recipes and you provide the signatures. Tis the season for a recall. Let’s do this, Wisconsin.

Sweet dreams.

Fun with pets (West Coast version)

The following is a guest appearance on ‘Wisconsin Fun Next Exit’ by Dan Walkner

I own pets.  I love pets.  Pets are where it’s at.  Got a pet?  Sweet! No pets? Poor you!  Whenever I see a pet in the wild, I often talk to or scratch said pet.  I generally make up a new name for the pet.  For instance, in our neighborhood I have made up the following nicknames for a few of the cats: Ahman Green, Cruddy, Cinnabon, Orange Roughy, Sir Spicy Kickers, and many more.  When encountering a pet, if the owner is friendly, or not looking, I often pick up the pet to see how heavy it is and have Erica snap a picture for posterity’s sake.  I call this activity “Fun with Pets.”   I recently played FWP in Seattle, and here are some of the results!

This man trains cats. He was awesome, and had two friendly pets on display.
This is Happy Speckles. After talking to her, I warned a nearby Chihuahua about an eagle that I had recently seen in the vicinity. He heeded the warning.
Seriously? This fence hates pets for no reason!
This is Miguel. We became fast friends. If he ran for mayor, I pity the fool who runs against him. He’s that popular.
This dog was very friendly and alert. His breath, sadly, was appalling. Made up for it with moxie.
Although not pets themselves, these charitable cupcake saleswomen gave me the skinny on the neighborhood’s pets. Oddly enough, we saw these same kids at a Mariners game where I overheard one of them say to her friend,”He bought a cupcake from our bake sale. He really likes cats.” That really happened.
While lulling this pet into a false sense of security, I moved too quickly and it ran under a couch while his cat friend in the house looked longingly on while standing in close proximity to a disco ball.
Boldi the Corgi and Greta the Shepard were outside of a grocery store. Greta speaks fluent German, but if you scratch her, Boldi tries to either bite Greta’s face or your face. Lots of face biting with these two.
Poor Walter. He lives with a giant flailing dog named Josie, so, alas, he spends a lot of his time under stuff, like this couch.
The adorable Josie in a rare non-flailing moment. Lots of energy!
Sena and I participated in a chicken naming contest at a chic mercantile. They had pet chickens there. Note the extreme amount of thought being showcased by us. Naming pets is a serious endeavor not to be trifled with. I wanted the chick to be “Elka” if it was a girl or “Bjorn” for a male. Sena chose the name “Gordon Lightfoot” for the chick regardless of gender.In one of the world’s greatest miscarriages of justice, they opted not to select our names.
This dog runs his own knick knack store! Enterprising lad, this one! I bought a belt buckle from him.
This is Peter Tosh. He gets his name because he has dreads and is a little bit ornery. Very mellow when not being manhandled by strangers, though.
This is Nellie Mae (actual name on her necklace). She is surprisingly skinny for a cat that eats out of the dumpsters behind a Mediterranean restaurant. She ran away when she got spooked by the mail man crashing into a “No Parking” sign.
This is Martin (pronounced (Mar-teen). He gets his name because he walks gingerly like former NFL kicker Martin Grammatica. His hobbies (the cat not the kicker) include walking on sidewalks, being way fluffy, and allowing strangers to maul him. Sena looks on.
Look closely. No, closer. Ah, that’s better. Yes! A snail, but not just any snail. Oh no, this old boy was out for a walk. Why not? It was about 65 degrees and sunny! We were overjoyed to meet this pet.
Meet Mocha. We were having an intense argument about whether it was more fun to drink beer at the beach or chew on sticks at the beach. Lucky for us, we saw an otter and realized that life is too short to bicker about petty issues like sticks vs. beer. Thanks otter. We needed that.
You might think there are no pets in this picture. Wrong! That was a Beavare that we spotted on Lummi Island.   A puported mythical creature assumed to be a West Coast relative of the Hodag, we spotted this particular Beavare on the beach. Myth busted!
If Chester were a professional athlete, his scouting report would be “moves well for a big man.” Case in point, he has survived a bear attack and several beavare maulings. Ok, ok. The bear part is true, though. Well done Chester!
Another of the enterprising Seattle pet-set, this demure puppers owns a soap store. She is a pretty soft sell, though. Erica bought some soap and a soap dish with a whale on it for our “Nantucket Sleighride” themed bathroom.
Picked up this dicey dame at The Waterwheel Lounge. Her owner, although very creepy and reportedly on Mescaline (that’s what his even creepier sidekick told me), was one heckuva ping pong player.

Ah, pets.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  And if you see a friendly-looking man hoisting your pet in the air and a cute feisty brunette snappin’ a picture of it, rest assured that these people are not deranged weirdos bent on pet destruction.  They are uplifters of not only pets, but pet culture.  I.  Love.  Pets.

Mad-as-hell puttanesca

After three weeks of feeling the love and staying optimistic about winning the fight against the soulless tyrant now ‘leading’ my state, Tuesday night I finally gave in to the anger and was mad as hell. I needed to bang some pots around, wield knives and curse in the kitchen. I needed a recipe to match my fiery mood. I present to you, ‘Mad-as-hell puttanesca.’ It’s salty, spicy, tangy and impossible to screw up too badly (this part is key, considering I was cooking with blind rage and not paying much attention to what I threw in the skillet).

Fiery pepper flakes and garlic burning in the oil

I was first introduced to puttanesca by my friend Derek (the Packer owner). Derek told me that legend has it that Italian ‘women of the night’ would make a batch of spaghetti alla puttanesca to put on their windowsills to beckon suitors. I love to picture the open windows and curtains wafting in the breeze while a pot of spaghetti sits steaming on a dark Italian night. Derek makes a more traditional puttanesca sauce with anchovies and herbs (I always forget about those pesky herbs). I never follow a recipe when I make it, but always include a few essential ingredients: olives, capers, and tomatoes.

Muir Glen tomatoes, salty olives and capers

Between tirades delivered to Dan and the stove, a captive audience, this is what I cooked up the other night:

__________________________________________

Mad-as-hell Puttanesca

Ingredients:

tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole)- I like Muir Glen organic

tomato sauce

olives- cured black olives work well

capers

garlic

olive oil

kale

red pepper flakes

wine (red or white)

whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or penne)

parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes- I like a lot of heat, so I add a lot. Depending on how many you are serving, add some canned tomatoes and the juice (I added half a can for the two of us). I had some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, so I added some of that, too. Pour in some wine- red or white works fine. To add a little color and up the health ante I added some kale that I tore into bite-sized pieces. Let this simmer and bubble for a while over low-medium heat. Boil water for the pasta. Rant and rave. Cry. Take a sip of beer. Chop olives, wave knife in air, curse. Heat oven for bread. Salt the boiling water. Add pasta. Take a breath. Add the olives and capers to the simmering sauce. Put bread in oven. Dress the salad. Stir pasta into the sauce. Take bread out of the oven. Serve the pasta in bowls with freshly shredded parmesan cheese from the state that is boiling with turmoil. Serve and attempt to enjoy.

_________________________________________________

The reason for my anger? After days and days of peaceful protests the governor illegally shutdown the Capitol to prepare for his budget address. For the first time there was an orange fence keeping protestors away from the state building in an attempt to keep the noise out of his lethal budget speech.

While we stood outside in the cold, the heartless and cowardly governor told a crowd of supporters (ushered secretly into the Captiol) inside that he plans to cut nearly $900 million dollars from Wisconsin’s public education system. He wants to take this money and give it to the people who fix roads. The same people who donated to his campaign and got him elected. On Tuesday I just couldn’t take it anymore and I erupted with sadness and rage. But now I’m back to feeling optimistic because, in retrospect, the governor is scared. I’m still mad as hell, but I also realize that the governor is working so hard to silence the voices of dissent because he knows that he is doing something wrong. I will continue to fight. And I hope you will join me.

What do we want? Chopsticks! When do we want them? Now!

I think I overheard this at the rally yesterday.

Everything has turned into a chant or protest cry. There’s not a whole lot of time for cooking, doing the dishes, running or writing. The only thing that matters right now is standing united with thousands and thousands of people who believe that the only thing that matters right now is standing (and yelling) united. Everything else, including cookie recipes and inventing new pasta dishes, has been put on the back burner for now. Solidarity!

The whole world better be watching

Extraordinary.

ex·traor·di·nar·y/ikˈstrôrdnˌerē/Adjective

1. Very unusual or remarkable.
2. Unusually great.

This week has been extraordinary.

I have stood one foot away from Reverend Jesse Jackson and heard him tell a crowd of 20,000 that “the ground is no place for champions- we must rise.” I have woken up each day with a purpose- to get to the Capitol. I have watched my boyfriend, who usually can’t drive five feet into his hometown without getting pulled over (he has long hair and a van) run laps around the Capitol to find a pizza to offer to the hungry sheriffs watching over the peaceful crowd. While one power-hungry and confused man is trying to take away our rights, I have never felt more empowered or inspired. I want to be a better teacher, activist and friend. I have smiled more, cheered more, hugged more. I will hold on hope. Together we must rise.