merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
For my own reference, because some of these recipes were fucking awesome.

Assorted holiday sweets

Brown butter rice krispie treats made with organic chocolate krispies OMG
Gingerbread cupcakes - Vicki's mom's recipe
Cinnamon roll cupcakes
Homemade granola bars made with dried cherries and almonds
Salted pretzel chocolate toffee
Cranberry orange pecan bread - if making mini loaves, be aware they bake damn near as long as full size ones

Xmas eve - simple chicken and dumplings.
Melt 1 T butter and a good glug of grapeseed oil in a large dutch oven. Sweat 12 oz of sliced mushrooms until brown around edges. Remove to bowl. Add same amounts of fat, then sweat a couple cups of mirepoix (carrot/celery/onion) until softened. Add mushrooms back. Add a splut of chopped garlic and whatever herbs (some thyme, rosemary, and marjoram are nice) and stir for 30 seconds or so. Dump in 8 C of chicken or veg broth and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Dump in 1 lb of chopped raw chicken and a cup or so of frozen peas. Add a little salt and a sizeable dash of pepper. Bring to boil. While waiting, make a double batch of Bisquick dumplings, livening them up with 1/4 t curry powder and a couple teaspoons of rosemary. Drop in by soup spoonfuls. Boil for 10 mins with the lid on, 10 mins with the lid off. 

Xmas day - Keep it simple ham dinner.
Green salad with carrot (do with peeler), grape tomatoes, spiced pecans, and orange-rosemary dressing (made with orange white balsamic vinegar, fresh OJ and zest, garlic, and a pinch of coriander)  (I meant to add dried cranberries and pear slices but forgot)
Ham with Guinness glaze
Green bean and bacon bundles, which E will make because it's His Thing now
Asiago sage scalloped potatoes
Chocolate bread pudding
Mint chocolate fudge topped with crushed peppermints

New Year's Day

Simple black-eyed peas - In a medium saucepan heat a tablespoon or so of butter over medium low heat. Sweat half a large onion, chopped, until soft. Add thyme and pepper and stir until fragrant. Dump in two cans of good-quality black-eyed peas, one drained, one not. Stir to combine. Heat through. Add season salt to taste.
The Kitchenista's freaking delicious greens, made with collards, kale, and ham shanks because HEB didn't have hocks, WTF
Corn muffins

merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
People I like said two really nice things about me today! 

A friend here on DW said, "...she has absolutely the most professional eyeshadow I have ever seen. Like, you look at her, and her eyeshadow says, "You know how you stay up too late fucking around on the internet? I don't do that. That's why I'm well rested and totally able to deal with whatever shit you try to pull. Also my house is cleaner than yours and I got up early enough this morning to do my perfect makeup before I organized all my shit and got here, so don't even try it." And I don't even know if any of this is true! But I tell you, that is what her eyeshadow says. It is impressive."

Which, you know, is not even true. Because here I am, fucking around on the internet at 12:43 when I have to get on a plane for LA in less than 12 hours! And my house is currently really messy! But FUCK YEAH my makeup tells you that I am organized and badass and totally fucking on the ball. Femme armor for the win!
And my high school journalism teacher, with whom I am friends on Facebook, responded to my life plan for being a saucy older lady with, "You've always been that saucy broad, my friend...even as a teenager!" She is, in fact, a saucy broad herself, so I feel like I've been sort of officially inducted into the club.


I feel excellent about these things. 
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
So as part of my work on NOW's Combating Racism Committee, I wrote a piece for white allies on how to challenge everyday racism. After some bureaucratic delays and editing by national communications staff, it's finally up on the national website. It did get shortened and changed a little bit, but I like how it came out.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about not having a byline. The piece was my idea and is solely my work, so I wouldn't mind some public credit for it. But on the other hand, the lack of byline makes it seem like the organization's official position is that white folks should step the hell up on this issue, which of course I think should be the case. And my partner pointed out that no bylines seems to be a stylistic choice consistent across the website, so it might seem weird for me to be the exception.

Regardless, I'm happy with the piece and I feel like I've struck a blow for intersectional feminism. Woohoo!

merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
baby in a pink bunny suit! Ohmigod. OHMIGOD. Y'all, this is my sister-in-law holding my niece, Anya, who is about six months old and wearing a fucking epic pink bunny suit. Note that she is already developing comic timing! She's all, "I'm gonna nom on this fake carrot ANY SECOND NOW. Ready for my close-up, dad!" 

I totally kermitflailed the first time I saw this. That is some industrial-strength cuteness. 

merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)


Halloween-y goodness:


Our neighborhood always gets a hojillion trick-or-treaters, and it's awesome. Here are some of the standouts from this year:

Zombie cheerleader!

Wee baby pirate - like, 6 mos old - on zombie dad's shoulders

Several awesome lady vampires


Boba Fett

So many little Marios! Plus one accompanying mama wearing a mustache :)

Pippi Longstocking!


We went Hershey- and Nestle-free this Halloween. I didn't have time to plan very well, so this pretty much left us with Skittles, Starburst, and Tootsie Pops. As is our custom, people who amused, entertained, or unnerved us got extra cool treats - gummy body parts or candy skeletons. 


WTF of the night - a wee black girl, no more than 8, dressed as a convict. Except with black and pink stripes instead of black and white. And sequins. 



Really, costume company? REALLY? You think that's okay? And really, mom? You're going to allow that? Yeesh.


We are Family moment #1 - An adorable teenage boy wearing street clothes, lip gloss, and a tiara. I told him he got an extra gummy brain for gender-bending, and he was all, "AWESOME." I'll save a place for you at Pride, honey.


We are Family moment #2, slightly creepy - An adorable teenage boy dressed as a sexy construction worker. Seriously. Strategic shirt tears and all. Definitely saving him a spot at Pride, but a little sad at his self-objectification with a whiff of classism.


Fucking rad motif - Young people of color in superhero costumes! So many adorable wee folks of all ethnicities as Superman, Batman, Spider Man, Wonder Woman… Awesome! All those annoying fanboys who freaked out over the new biracial Spider Man can suck it! 


Sort of encouraging but still disturbing motif - So many young girls of color wearing generic princess or Disney princess costumes. I mean, hooray for being all, fuck white normativity, my kid can totes be a mainstream media character! But sad face that what they chose was so retrograde. 


Today's reason why I <3 my partner:

Our current TV project is the X-Files. I never watched much of it, so most of it is new to me. We're watching an episode where a central operating system in a building may have killed a dude, and I said, "I'm waiting for someone to say, 'I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.'" And my partner said, "If I were writing an episode like this, I would have humans saying that line all the time, and then at the end, a computer would say, 'THAT'S NOT FUNNY.'"

<3 <3 <3



merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
- I did not expect to like Vienna so much, but I really did. Apparently I watched too many movies about WWII as a child (this may sound like I'm kidding, but I'm not - my father made us watch a zillion of 'em), so I have this deep-seated, irrational resentment of Germany and Austria. I realize that it's been 60 goddamn years. I realize that there are people from both countries who fought against the Nazis with their last breaths. I realize that I would not want people to judge me by, say, George W. Bush or Rand Paul. And I realize that Hungary's politics are currently WAY scarier than either Germany's or Austria's. I get all this. I realize that it's irrational and that I should grow the hell up and approach Vienna on its own terms. So I did.

And it turns out that ending up in Vienna was a great thing for us, because we both really dug it. It's a beautiful city with a delightfully cranky and effective history of socialism (you go, Red Vienna!), excellent coffee and associated ridiculous coffee beverages, fabulous music and art all over the damn place, wonderful architecture, leafy boulevards... So much to recommend it.

- I wish Google would fuck off and stop "helping" by noticing that I'm online in Austria and Hungary and thus switching its default language to German. FUCK OFF. People travel! Stop helping me!

- Cool, rainy weather feels like heaven after a miserably, punishingly hot, dry Texas summer. Y'all, I wore A SWEATER. Because I was COLD. It was kind of awesome.

- Many men in Vienna and Budapest wear too goddamn much cologne. Dial it down if you're going to take crowded public transportation, people!

- Viennese folk are very, very good at creepy things. I imagine it's a good city to be Goth in. The natural history museum is fabulous in ways that demonstrate this clearly - lots of creepy little tableaux about. There's also a charmingly mordant sense of humor on display - like the butterfly sitting cheekily on the nose of a taxidermied caiman (which is like a wee alligator).

- I stood in front of the Venus of Willendorf and realized how small she is, but how beautifully detailed. Humans could make art with such care and grace 25,000 years ago! Cool.

- I do okay with basic courtesies and stuff in German, but holy craptacular, Hungarian is HARD. I've just had the hardest time wrapping my head around the pronunciation.

- Poor Hungary has pretty much had the shit kicked out of it forever. Part of this is just bad geographical luck - like Poland, it stands between western European powers and Asian ones, and it gets ground like grain between them. But Hungarian leaders also just seem to choose tragically badly, to end up on the wrong side of history.

- Today we went to Terror House (museum and memorial to those killed by the Nazi occupation and then the Soviet occupation) and the Great Synagogue (second largest in the world, very beautiful, with memorials outside to the Hungarian Jews who died in WWII). The seemingly endless list of names and catalogue of those killed during the occupations covers a staggering amount of wall space at Terror House. The tree of life memorial outside the synagogue, with the name of a Jew who was killed engraved on each leaf, is beautiful and gut-wrenchingly sad. As often happens to me in Europe, I feel like I've spent all day tripping over bones. I'm glad I saw these things. They are heartbreaking, horrifying, and important, especially for people from the US who have not experienced war or occupation on their own soil. It's too easy for us to forget that when we talk about sending troops somewhere, this is what we ultimately mean: homes, bridges, roads, schools, lives, and families destroyed. It's too easy to forget what a country looks like when people are bullied into policing their neighbors and themselves, when the panopticon leaves us hating and fearing any difference or deviation. I left nauseated, tearful, and more committed than ever to fighting my own country's fascist tendencies.

But can I tell y'all something wonderful I learned today? Outside the Great Synagogue, there's also a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who literally, personally saved thousands of Jews. He issued protective passports, as many as his office could churn out, which were totally illegal but which allowed hundreds of people, maybe more, to escape. He organized a group of over 300 folks to help out and raise money to rent buildings (32 in all!!) and he declared those spaces Swedish territory - where he and his allies housed 10,000 people who otherwise would have been tortured and/or killed. Ten. THOUSAND. People.

One of the people Wallenberg saved was Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who died in 2008, but who was a tireless champion of human rights, co-founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a fierce progressive (on almost every issue - unsurprisingly, he was more than a bit hawkish on Middle East issues), and a particularly strong environmentalist. Lantos fought in the Hungarian resistance and was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. He was not unproblematic, but damn, dude got himself arrested for civil disobedience protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy over Darfur issues when he was 78 years old. I have no doubt that he was treated much more gently by DC cops as a sitting member of Congress than he ever was when detained in his youth, but still. That's pretty hardcore for a man pushing 80 years of age. His grandson, Tomicah Tillemann, is now a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. His grandaughter, Charity Tilleman-Dick, is an opera singer. And that's just some of the ripple effect from one of the thousands of people Raoul Wallenberg saved.

So that's today's powerful reminder that one person who chooses to be brave and kind can change the world in unimaginably beautiful ways that will echo through time long after xie is gone. Blessings on you, Raoul Wallenberg.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
- Finally getting the Austin chapter of NOW re-started. As of this weekend, with the help of my sweet fella, Austin NOW has a website, an account with Constant Contact so we can do professional looking emails, and a Facebook page. This morning I sent out an email asking people to let us know what meeting times work for them (Doodle is so useful for this), what they'd like the chapter to do, and what feedback they have on the new website. I've already gotten four responses! \o/

- There is an organic pizza joint, Promise Pizza, in Austin! We got dinner from there a few nights ago, and it was really good! It kind of sucks that we're juuuuust outside the delivery area of both locations, but hey, if we support them enough, maybe they'll expand. :)

- I'm slooooowly getting through my laundry backlog. It feels really good.

- We finally got the replacement part we needed to assemble our home exercise thingy, which is a combo recumbent bike and rowing machine, and today we put it together. So now we can exercise while also goofing off and watching movies - without having to go outside in the ridiculous heat! WIN.

- Yesterday I went to volunteer orientation for English at Work. It's such a smart model - they get businesses (usually hospitals, hotels, retail, and food service) to pay a relative pittance for the course, and employees get to come to the class at their workplace, with content customized for that workplace. This means the employees don't have to worry about transportation or childcare any more than usual, they lose less time to transportation because the class is someplace they already know how to find, and they learn how to say what they need to say to their co-workers, which has immediate positive impact on their careers and earning power. Employers benefit because increased English comprehension has been shown to decrease turnover, workplace accidents, and workplace tension. Smart!

Sneakily, it also engages businesses with their employees and makes them more attuned to their needs, which, E@W is finding, changes business culture so that immigrants are treated better. RAD. I'm going to train to be a classroom student support assistant, helping out with one-on-one conversation and small group work. I'm super excited about helping these folks make better lives for themselves!

- Today, as is my custom, I read Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again" to remind me how much I love the dream, the idea of my country, and how far we have to go to make it real.

Because of the drought here, the worst in over 100 years, there are no fireworks in Austin. So we're at home, watching the Boston Pops. I think it's kind of amazing that several hundred thousand people just saw Martina McBride sing "Independence Day", which is a pretty hardcore domestic violence story. It's an amazing song, but I dunno, to me, it's like those people who have the DJ play, "I Will Always Love You," at their wedding. THAT SONG IS NOT TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK IT'S TALKING ABOUT.

My life is really good today. I hope y'all's are, too.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
[Partner and I discussing shirts. For the last week or so we have been watching the Harry Potter movies to prepare for the upcoming final installment in the series.]

Partner: I find I like the darker colors lately. Dark like Harry Potter's soul.
Me: Sure. You're thematic.
Him: Right.
Me: Dark like George RR Martin's world.
Him: Yes. When you play the game of shirts, you win, or you... have an ill-fitting shirt.
Me: Which is not death, but is often itchy and uncomfortable.
Him: Yes. A Song of Itch and Attire.

<3 <3 <3
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
SCENE: Playing Panic! at the Disco's "Nine in the Afternoon" in Rock Band in our family room

The Fella: "What the hell is this song about, anyway?"
Me: "I don't know. It's Panic! at the Disco. Maybe it's about drugs. Or love. Or chickens. Or druggy love chickens."
The Fella: "I think Druggy Love Chickens should be our Panic! at the Disco cover band."

<3 <3 <3
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
BFF's youngest daughter: "I want to know how to whistle."
BFF: [explains to make a circle with your mouth and blow, have to experiment to find the right shape]
Daughter: "NO! I mean whistle with your fingers and your mouth."
BFF: "I don't know how to whistle with my fingers."
Daughter: "NO! Not just with your fingers. With your fingers and your mouth!"
BFF: "I know what you mean. I just don't know how to do that."
[This part gets repeated a couple of times]
Daughter, exasperated: "But you're a GROWNUP. And GROWNUPS know EVERYTHING about whistling!"


BFF goes on to explain that, like kiddos, grownups know many things and can do some things well but not others. Daughter is unimpressed.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
Me, regarding a character on a show behaving oddly: "What's wrong with him?!"
Partner: "I have to assume he has some sort of plot point attacking him."

<3 <3 <3
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
These are nothing resembling complete; they're just things that struck me, so I wrote them down.

From the Feminist Intersectionality panel:
- Ian Hagemann: "Ally" is not an identity you get to keep all the time. You not even have a say in whether you get it.
- Ian on how to be an ally but not speak for others: You can start with an I statement - "I have a different opinion" or "Please don't use that language around me." Or step up and make space - "I'd like to hear what (x) has to say about that" - and then step back.
- Isabel - No outgroup is a monolith. [My reaction to this: one of the concepts I recall most vividly from my social psych courses is outgroup homogeneity bias. So probably this is something we all have to work very, very hard to remember. :( ]
- Betsy - Disability accommodation != accommodation for wheelchairs. If you ask Jesse the K, who's in a chair, and Betsy, who has arthritis, about what they need, you'll get really different answers.

From the Feminist Coalition-building panel:
- Culturally relevant approaches matter. Seriously. All the time. If you ask an Inuit child, "If I have 3 apples and you have 4, how many apples are there," that child will probably not answer, "7." Community values about sharing mean that zie is probably going to say something like, "We can all have some apples." Interesting!
- How to have productive disagreement - Acknowledge that disagreement/discord is inevitable; re-acknowledge basic commonalities; start with agreement/set boundaries on what we won't argue about; commit to having a moderator
- Debbie Notkin - Often what makes us angry is feeling like the other side has all the power and we have no power to speak.
- Argue in the present, not the past.

From the Self-Reflective Revolutionary Panel:
- "Buddha, you are acting out your shit right now." Heh! Read: no one is exempt from the possibility that zie's being an asshole.
- If you get calm, the level of calmness in the universe has gone up.
- Ian - Revolution is a state change which could not have been predicted beforehand - not a logical extension, but a new thing.

From the Slacktivism panel
- Online activism != slacktivism. Online stuff can be impactful and real, and for some folks, it's all they can do. So be wary of judging.
- Offline activism can be sucky and unhelpful, too!

I wrote down many, many things that Ian Hagemann and Debbie Notkin said. Wow, they are smart and I am so grateful to be able to learn from them. I'm SUPER excited that Ms. Notkin is one of the guests of honor for next year, and I'm eagerly anticipating her GoH speech.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
I am LOVING Eureka. A police procedural set in a town full of supernerds! Plenty of women and people of color who are portrayed as smart, capable, and complicated! It's smart and well-plotted, the time travel plot lines did not piss me off, and it has banter! Win.

Environmental racism: a long, shameful 'Merkin tradition!

Steven Tyler was an impressively arrogant, self-centered, exploitative asswipe in the '70s and he should have gone to jail at some point. Ye holy stars, that poor girl. Part of my reaction is feminist outrage, part of it is pure Southern affrontedness - she could have ruined his life by speaking up and she didn't, and then he digs up all this garbage when she's married and many times a mother and dumps it into a memoir which hits the NYT bestseller list. Yeesh. I had hoped getting sober made him less of an asswipe, but this was a continuation of his previous exploitation of her, and he still votes Republican and plays at their fundraisers, so that hope is gone.

I have serious issues with Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, but sometimes she does awesome stuff, like have her picture taken hugging a young Muslim girl and give great queer-inclusive relationship advice. Well played, madame!

This piece on white privilege in feminist organizations made me feel ill in that way that true and painful things make my stomach clench up. Ouch. Y'all, if I'm an asshole in this particular way, will you please call me out on it? Thanks.

So this story about a couple who choose not to disclose their child's sex/gender has made several appearances in my Facebook feed. I really like this story and am pleasantly surprised by how sympathetically it was written.I have things to say about this, and it gets long )
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
Awesome things about my last day and a half:

- I am in New Orleans with my honeybunch to continue celebrating our anniversary and because holy crap we needed a break

- We got a nice deal at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, a super-schmancy and very conveniently located hotel which, it turns out, offers outstandingly warm, friendly, and competent service. They are taking excellent care of us.

- I surprised him with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on arrival :)

- One thing for which I am deeply grateful after two straight years of WTF stratospheric stress level is our financial well-being. Money does not buy happiness, but it damn sure greases wheels. We're taking this really decadent trip without worrying about what anything costs, and that is a tremendous privilege.

- OMFG New Orleans French bread is fucking amazing

- Said bread is excellent with tasty shrimp and okra gumbo

- Said bread makes the best goddamn bread pudding I have ever eaten

- We listened to jazz and drank expensive but perfect drinks at our hotel lounge. The boy had a hurricane, I had a Pimm's cup. Ahhh, fruity booze and boozy fruit.

- The boy had never had eggs Benedict until he had them for breakfast from room service this morning (!!!), after which he said, "So basically, an egg McMuffin is a hideous desecration of this dish." I couldn't really argue.

- The aforementioned bread makes fucking amazing French toast

- The aforementioned hotel is six pleasant blocks of walking from Jackson Square

- There was - I'm completely fucking serious - a guy in Jackson Square dressed up like Prowl, the Transformer police car. And he could actually transform and roll around on four wheels. That guy fucking rocks.

- There were many mediocre and some amazing artists displaying their wares in the square. We bought a painting of a silhouette of a jazz combo, done on recycled slate, from the artist himself. I love handing the money to the person who made the object.

- There is a charming toy store nearby. I bought some NOLA-themed children's books for the kiddos in my life.

- We took a half-hour mule cart tour of the French Quarter with Charlie, the tour guide, and Sugar Daddy, the mule. We saw a bunch of stuff and heard some fun stories about pirates and movies and voodoo queens and other NOLA-y things.

more decadence behind the cut )
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
I had a very feminist day.

My morning was tiring but fun. I'm on the organizing committee for this year's Feminist Action Project at UT, and this morning we did a demo near the cluster of statues just south of the main tower, where there are a bunch of dead white dudes, mostly Confederate leaders, memorialized in bronze. This is a longstanding controversy on campus. There is only one status of a women on campus - the Barbara Jordan statue, which was erected just two years ago.

We think this sucks. So we printed out poster-size pictures of Gloria Anzaldua and Dolores Huerta and stood by the statues of dead racist assholes from about 11:00AM to 1:00PM with those pictures, flyers about their lives, and signs asking, "Where's HER statue?" The response was very positive! We got some coverage from campus media and talked to a bunch of people about these amazing women of color. And interestingly, at least half of the people who actually came over and asked us about the pictures were white men. And all of them responded with some variation on, huh, good point, yeah, they're really cool. RAD. And I'm only a tiny bit sunburned!

After I grabbed some lunch (yay for the International Relations student org that was having a benefit sale of Brazilian food! So much better than the crap in the student union!), I found a nice spot under a tree near the duck pond and finished the readings for my favorite class, a geography seminar on gender and migration. That class is fucking awesome. The prof is a delight and has done a great job of establishing a welcoming and respectful space for dialogue. Everyone in there is smart and engaged, and there is such a wide range of experiences and backgrounds! I'm the only person in it who identifies as white (there's another person who reads visually as white, but he spent half his growing up years in Peru until his family migrated here, so he identifies as Latino), and I feel really lucky that all these folks who have personal life experience of migration are willing to share their history and thoughts. It's challenging, energizing, and so different from anything I've studied before, I can feel it making me smarter. WOOT.

Today we talked about gendered geographies of labor and migration, which basically means the way labor practices and polices, migration, space/place, and gender shape each other. Today's readings covered women's labor organizing in Indonesia, Mexican migrant jardineros in LA, Chinese women who do domestic work in Singapore, men who do domestic work in a bunch of different places, and some interesting theory stuff about intersectionality. Really interesting stuff!

I'm tired as hell, but in that good way that happens after a long, productive day. Yay!


merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)

February 2016

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