Saturday in Pictures

Good morning, a little light reading to start the day.

Robert Hughes Rome

It’s a plane! Over IKEA!

Ikea landscape

Eggs, bacon, home fries and tea to get the tummy going.

Ikea Breakfast

Swedish Pancakes for all.

Swedish Pancakes

Creepy clown mug, nightmare inducing? Let’s hope not.

Clown mug

Shopping, shopping, shopping!

Dress prints

Lunch! Beef, Barley Risotto and salad.

Barley Risotto

Glorious spring!

Mt Hood

Tree in spring

Mia and Tinkerbell playing in the yard, taking advantage of a beautiful day!

Mia in spring tink in spring

Making Blueberry, Cranberry, Pear Jam.

Berry Jam

Canned Jam

Settling to write this post, haha 🙂

Laptop

Oh yes… and I saw a monkey man outside of Burgerville, shaking his groove thing while painting a Burgerville window. Fun times!

Monkey Man

My Personal Manifesto

Update Personal Manifesto

In high school we were asked to write a personal manifesto. Since then I’ve been through a lot, ups and downs, and it makes me smile to look back to what I wrote as my manifesto, my ideas on how I should live. I think that even though I know so much more know than I did when I was 18, I think that I should still keep some of these ideas in life. It’s important to appreciate the simplicities of life and not let tough life experiences make us negative and give up hope in life. Here is the wisdom I gave myself as a senior in high school:

~My Personal Manifesto~

Always look at the positive in the world

Indulge… eat delicious desserts (and meals too!)

Be good to yourself, don’t procrastinate

Blare your favorite song while driving with the windows down

Relax and bake cupcakes

Find moments to reward yourself for your hard work

Laugh until tears roll down your cheeks

Find joy in the simple things in life

Take care of the Earth, it’s very precious

Don’t worry, the tough times give way to better things

Be adventurous, try new things

Love and love others

Give yourself some slack! You are your toughest critic

Travel, immerse yourself in foreign customs and traditions

Lose yourself in a good book

Watch good movies that make you laugh and cry

Keep in contact with all the people that love and care about you

Trust your instincts and respect yourself

Forgive yourself for for mistakes: you’re only human

Take pictures to capture special moments forever

Live today like it’s your last day on Earth

Reading this list makes me want to hug my younger self and say that it’s important to stay true to myself and trust that everything will work out and keep my own words in mind daily. Everyone should take the time to write their own manifesto and put it somewhere that will be seen every day. What would your personal manifesto say?

 

The Woes of a Customer Service Rep

customer_service

Yesterday, a very unhappy man called my customer service department and I just so happened to answer. In one and a half years of working at my current work place, I’ve had many angry people call but I’d never had any one call and actually swear at me. Sure, I’ve had people swear at the situation but never directed at me! Well, I guess there’s a first for everything. What I ask myself is does this person not understand that I am in no position to make changes that would benefit them? Does this person not realize that I am a person? With feelings and opinions too? The situation reminded me of a piece that I wrote a few months ago for a short prose class that I thought I’d share here!

Advice to My Next Customer Service Caller

Know that I am charge. I’m here to help you. I’m not here for you to take up my time with pointless complaints or as the dartboard for your sharp attacks on what’s wrong in the world. Clear? Good. That robotic sounding lady that answers when you call? She’s telling you to have your crap together when you call and by that we mean you better not be eating, talking with your friend from Arkansas that you haven’t seen since who knows what century, don’t be driving or watching TV at full blast. Don’t even think about putting me on speaker phone. Being prepared doesn’t mean blurting your name, date of birth and I.D. number at me as soon as I answer the phone. I will ask you to repeat. You will get irritated. You will deserve it. Also, clear any nasty phlegmy stuff out of your throat before you call. Ugh. Don’t assume that I know exactly what you are talking about. I’m not a mind reader and if I were, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be using that to make some money. Now, with that said… how may I help you?

Red Balloon

Red Ballon

I was once walking to the cemetery at the end of the street, in the snow. The red balloon first caught my attention. The little boy, whose hand held the balloon string, did not seem cold, even though his breath materialized in swirly clouds in front of him.  The snow came down steadily and it crunched beneath my boots. The boy was looking straight up at the sky. “What are you looking at?” I asked. “I’m waiting for the sky to fall” he said. I looked up and saw a blank gray canvas. “Don’t be silly,” I said, “The sky fell once before, it’s not likely to happen again.” He looked at me then. “Like chickenpox?” he said. I looked down at him and saw his lips were bright from the cold and his nose was red. Tiny snowflakes frosted his eyelashes. I kneeled down so that I came face to face with him. He tilted his head to the side, considering me. I noticed he was not wearing a jacket, just a long sleeve shirt and pants that were too short. My fingers tingled with the desire to push the damp hair off his forehead, to take him home and wrap him in a blanket, a warm bowl of soup in his little hands. “Yes, like chickenpox” I whisper. He nodded once and left me there, kneeling. I stood and continued to the cemetery. As I paid my respects, something in the sky caught my eye. The red balloon. Floating away from me, just like my little son, gone where I can’t follow.

photo courtesy: http://sunokasuri.deviantart.com/art/Red-balloon-in-blue-sky-182294318

Thin does not equal happy

Body-dysmorphic-disorderYesterday, like any typical morning, I was watching Good Morning America before heading off to work. I hear the words “thigh gap” and I look at the TV screen and see a series of images of “thigh gaps”, which is literally the gap between a woman’s thighs when the feet are right by each other. Apparently, the latest obsession for teenagers is to achieve the thigh gap. One of the teenagers that were interviewed said that having her thighs touch was simply undesirable. I didn’t finish the news segment because (1) I had to go to work and (2) as someone who struggles with body image, I didn’t want to hear what extremes women are doing to reach body “perfection”. The truth is this: thinness doesn’t make a person happy. Eating near to nothing, working out to the point of exhaustion and fearing the number the scale, even as the pounds shed and even as the victory of getting the “thigh gap” is achieved doesn’t make anyone truly happy. While, yes a feeling of joy can be felt, it’s fleeting. When happiness is placed solely on ones appearance, if you are like me and can be your own worst critic, you’ll always find a flaw. It’s sad that so many truly smart people fall into the mind trap of thinking that if we just lose a few more pounds we’ll be happy, if we just get our teeth a little whiter we’ll be happy or if we wear a certain brand of designer clothing we’ll be happy. Being healthy and active it was should be what we strive for. A healthy and active individual will lead to confidence and self love. Instead of saying “I don’t have a thigh gap and I’m ugly because my thighs touch” we should say “my legs are powerful and help me get around during the day”. Instead of relying only on outer beauty for happiness we should focus on the inner beauty that comes with being kind and respectful to others and to ourselves. We should look in the mirror and say “I love myself because of this, this and this” and not be so negative towards ourselves. I look forward to the day that the segment in Good Morning America isn’t about young women torturing themselves to be thin but doing healthy things to reach an inner happiness that will exude from their very core.

Choco-nut cookies

Chocolate. Peanut butter. Cookie. Bam! You’ve got a great cookie that’s guilt-free. Say what? A cookie that’s not going to make you feel guilty? Yes! The cookie is gluten-free, the peanut butter is reduced fat and adds some healthy protein and the dark chocolate adds antioxidants. Plus, come on… chocolate and peanut butter, together? Yummers.

Choco-nut cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour

1/8 tsp salt (basically a pinch)

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp milk (any kind you like… moo milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc.)

Stevia, if you like

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Reduced fat peanut butter (or any nut butter you prefer)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate bar

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Then mix in the wet ingredients, mixing well. It will seem crumbly but keep on stirring and it will come together. If you need to, you can add a bit more milk, making sure not to make it too sticky. Place dough in a plastic bag and using a rolling pin, flatten out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the plastic bag and cut the cookies into small circles or squares. Maybe you’d like to do triangles, have fun with it. After you’ve cut the dough, stick it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before baking for 10-15 minutes at 325 degrees F on a greased cookie sheet.

After they’ve baked, let cookies cool for at least 10 minutes. Then smear about a teaspoon of peanut butter on each cookie. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, a few seconds at a time, making sure not to burn the chocolate. If you need to you can add a bit of milk to the chocolate to make it smooth. Spoon a bit of chocolate on top of the peanut butter. And ta-da! A yummy cookie masterpiece!

Sunday morning waffles!

Hmm, yes. Warm, toasty waffles fresh off the waffle maker is the way to go. None of that frozen, uniform shaped clone waffles here. I actually was able to sleep in today (!) and still made these waffles for everyone before 9 am. Super easy and there is simply no excuse not to make these beauties.

Cinnamon Raisin Waffles

Cinnamon Raisin Waffles (makes 6 waffles)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

6 packets of Splenda

1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup water

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp oil

1/4 cup chopped raisins

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, combine first 6 ingredients and stir well. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Grease your waffle maker with oil or oil spray, then let it heat up. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to form a batter. When the waffle maker is hot, ladle in some batter into the middle of the waffle maker and close the lid. Cook a few minutes, according to your waffle making. Mine has a little light that is red as it cooks and green when it’s done. Enjoy!

Mirror Moon

La Luna

The moon is shining, full and bright, trapped in the frame of the window, light spilling on the bare stairs. Black wood around the mirror’s reflective surface, hidden in the darkness of night, nailed to the wall. The reflected silhouettes of bookshelves can be seen through the mirror. It’s almost as if you could reach through the reflection and pick a nameless book and leaf though the black pages. Illusions, to reach towards the mirror, fingers outstretched and expectant would touch the cold surface of glass, leaving greasy fingerprints. Clouds enter the canvas of infinite black sky, making the moon disappear. You realize that in reaching towards the mirror you are really reaching for yourself, to know that you are real, not just a black mass amongst the black shapes behind you.

The Modern Worker

Another final paper for your enjoyment! Yup, now you can say “Well, jeez… this girl is super smart! She should get an A++! She should get her bachelor’s degree, like, tonight!” I kid, I kid!

The Modern Worker, Impotentiality and Potentiality

            Technology is everywhere, used by everyone and heavily depended on in today’s modern world. Gone are the days of simply going to the park and walking the dog, now we tag ourselves on Facebook or “tweet” about it on our Twitter feed, lest we risk upsetting our followers. It is common to go out to dinner and see cellphones on tables, people texting or checking emails, completely distancing themselves from the human company right in front of them. We are plugged in; it would seem, without intermission. This shift to relying on technology and the effects it has on our lives has been focused on by many works by thinkers such as Franco Berardi, Giorgio Agamben and Lars Von Trier.

            Cell phones are a major part of our culture, used by young and old. They not only function as a way to communicate, but also as a camera, email device, texting device, gaming device, etc. Cell phones are also relied on in the work industry, as illustrated by Berardi in his work The Soul At Work. “Control over the labor process is no longer guaranteed by the hierarchy of bigger and smaller bosses typical of the Taylorist factory, but it is incorporated in the flux. Cellular phones are probably the technological devices that best illustrate this kind of network dependency. The cellular phone is left on by the great majority of info-workers even when they are not working” (Berardi). Even when workers leave their offices, work follows. Work follows them home, to the basketball game, and to the park. Berardi is pointing to the fact that work in the modern world doesn’t simply constitute a supervisor and all the higher-ups applying pressure and regulations to make sure that work gets done while in the workplace. Our cell phones also service as substitute to our bosses. The ability of cell phones, which I am specifically referring to smartphones, to access email anywhere almost guarantees that the worker will feel the need to check to see if they’ve received any emails. Work has infiltrated our personal lives, which is driven by the capitalist society in which we live.          

            Interestingly, there is a case in Chicago in which a police sergeant filed a lawsuit in 2010. The police sergeant, Jeffrey Allen, claimed that the city owed him and other officers overtime pay for work they did on department Blackberry smartphones. This situation is unprecedented in the United States. The judge in the case must decide whether or not answering work-related calls or emails can be defined as work. The image of the fresh-faced, business school graduate doing whatever they can to climb the corporate ladder comes to mind. Pure drive to succeed and reach the top is what gives him or her stamina and the ability to sacrifice personal time for work time. If they are constantly checking their email or have their phone attached to their ear, it can be seen as admirable. That person is hard working, we think. Concerning the case of the Chicago police officers, journalist Jason Notte says people are start to feel less like “survival-programmed drones and more like humans, they tend to want to be treated as such.” The question that lingers in my mind is: Do we start asking for overtime for doing tasks such as answering emails outside the work place? While that would be fair, work shouldn’t be free; it seems to only make more concrete the fact that we are becoming technologically addicted workaholics. Should we just say no to answering those emails? Even though we know it’s as simple as opening an app on our phones?

            This question of whether or not we should work during our personal time ties into Agamben’s “On What We Can Not Do”. As children, we are told that we can do anything we set our minds and hearts on, we are told that we have potential. Potentiality is viewed as a very positive thing in American capitalist society. If we can do anything, if we can just work hard enough and make enough money then the world is ours for the taking. Thus, this leads to cases like the Chicago police officers, working in their personal time and demanding to get paid for it. They too want to buy luxury items like big screen T.V.s. Agamben points to the issue with human beings today is not the failure to realize potential but the failure to realize their impotential. “ ‘Impotentiality’ does not mean here only absence of potentiality, not being able to do, but also and above all ‘being able to not do,’ being able to not exercise one’s own potentiality” (Agamben, 43). Even if we have the “potentiality” to check our work email in our personal time due to modern technology, even if we are getting paid for it, we have equal “impotentiality”, the power to say: “No, I will not check work emails in my personal time”.  “…Everyone is simply bending himself or herself according to this flexibility that is today the primary quality that the market demands from each person,” (Agamben, 45). The constant email checking and working outside of the work place, on one’s own personal time, wears us down. It stretches us thin, and we lose sense of what we will not do, which should be work outside the workspace and being connected to the network on our own time.

            In order to understand why Americans in particular have lost sense of what we can not do and have consequently become workaholics, it is important to see what constitutes success in our society. Typically, when we think of a successful person we think of a happy and wealthy person. The equation becomes: success = wealth = happiness. Berardi writes, “The economic ideology is compulsively focused on the conviction that loving one’s job means money, and that money mean happiness.” How do we show off our money? By providing more wood to the capitalist bonfire with our consumerism; by purchasing T.V.s, cell phones and cars, we place our happiness in materialistic objects. In this sense, the more we work the more money we will have and the happier we will supposedly be. Yet, as Agamben points out, we have lost sense of what we can not do. We can not stop working to enjoy the materialistic fruits of our labor. “…It becomes necessary to reduce the time for joy and experience, in a word for life” (Berardi). This incessant need to work to acquire more wealth and purchasing power has deprived us of the ability to stop and enjoy life. If we do happen to stop working for a moment, we feel “guilty and neurotic” and feel the “need to get back to work,” (Berardi). We are “bending” ourselves, as Agamben puts it, and falling deeper and deeper into the capitalist machine.

            The film “Melancholia” by Lars Von Trier is a visually beautiful and captivating story about two sisters, Justine and Claire, both of whom are or have been part of the capitalist machine. Justine is an advertising agent; she helps create taglines to seduce consumers into buying products they likely don’t need. Claire is the wife of a very wealthy man; she lives in what is apparently a very large castle-like mansion, complete with stables and an 18-hole golf course. The beginning of the film is about Justine and the night of her wedding reception. A woman’s wedding night is supposed to be the best night of her life, something that she has dreamed about since she was a little girl. Justine’s behavior, as it unravels over the course of the night, shows to us that this is not the case. She is not happy, at one point she tells Claire “I smile, I smile, I smile” as if just the gesture of smiling can instill her with a sense of happiness. Justine is representative of a person that has come to realize what they can not do. She can not pretend to be happy and go with the strict time schedule of her wedding, she has the potential by fake smiling and following what she is told to do, but she refuses. The second part of the film is more honed in on Claire. She is not able to simply not do. Even with the impending doom that comes with the end of the world, she still wants to pretend that everything is ok. When Justine asks Claire what she wants to do and Claire replies that she would like to spend some time with her sister and son out on the terrace drinking wine, Justine tells her that her plan is “bullshit”. Claire is unable to let go of the façade of normalcy and give into the realization that she can’t escape the disaster of Melancholia.

            From Berardi to Agamben to Von Trier, we are given examples to the ways of our modern world.  A world that is inundated with technology that on one hand is wonderful and can be very helpful, but on the other hand forces capitalist pressure on us, in the form of constant work. There is honesty and power in what realizing what we can not do and not doing. There is a difference between not being able to do and choosing not to do. We are able to check our work email on our couch at home, but perhaps we should choose not to. In choosing not to do, we are being honest to ourselves and there is power in enforcing our own personal boundaries. We are not super robots that can just go go go and never take a moment for ourselves and detach from the technological network that has infiltrated our lives. If we do that, it would be equivalent to guaranteeing our own doom, our own little Melancholia, come to crash and destroy our life.

           

 

 

Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio. Nudities. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011. Print.

Berardi, Franco “Bifo”. The Soul At Work: From Alienation to Autonomy. Cambridge: MIT Press,

2009. Print.

Notte, Jason. “Chicago Police Sue for Email Overtime Pay.” MSN Money. MSN. 07 Feb. 2013.

Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

Melancholia. Dir. Lars Von Trier. Perf. Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander

Skarsgard, and Kiefer Sutherland. Magnolia, 2011. Film.

Breakfast for Dinner

I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner, there are just so many possibilities! I recently came across an interesting recipe on the Meatless Monday website and adapted it for my own eating pleasure. The bread used to create the “bowl” was flavored by the herbs and spices I used in the egg batter and the eggs that I cracked in the bread “bowl” was just right, like a hard boiled egg.

Uncooked Bread bowl Before baking

Ingredients:

2 egg whites

1/2 nonfat milk

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 freshly ground black pepper

6 slices of wheat bread

6 eggs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large cup muffin tin with cooking spray or brush with oil.

Whisk together the egg whites, milk, garlic powder, salt, pepper and any additional spices and herbs you may want to include.

Dip the slices of bread in the egg mixture, making sure to coat but not letting the bread get too soggy that it will fall apart. Place the soaked bread slices in the muffin tin cups.

Crack one egg in each muffin cup.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the egg yolk is as firm as you like.

Serve with a side salad, I topped mine with some tomato sauce and a bit of shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a tasty twist on French toast and a new addition to my breakfast recipes. Enjoy!

Cooked Bread bowlReady to eat!