Monday, April 30

Counting Down

In case I forgot to tell anyone, my last day at Panera is May 8th. This cafe has been good to me, but I'm tremendously looking forward to moving to content writing full time!  : )

It Is April 30th

Why does my porch look like this?

Monday, April 23

Insane: Book Review

It's taken me fover to rant about review this book, but here we go!

Considering that I wanted to throw this across the room within the first chapter or so, I knew this was going to be a long read. (So did My Prince. I think it amuses him when I want to shake authors silly while reading. Or possibly it's just the associated commentary, since I often fail to keep it confined to my head.)

The author’s heart was clearly in the right place and there were some very solid points…. But they were the just same points, repeated in slightly different ways. Always. Meanwhile, important and related points that seemed like they should have been necessary to round out the discussion and *get* somewhere never made an appearance, or only received a weirdly glancing mention.

Example: the author had two big interrelated points: that individuals with mental health issues (a) do not generally belong in jail/prison (and that jails/prisons are grossly underprepared/inappropriate environments for them), and (b) that America needs comprehensive, properly funded community mental health resources to divert people from the prison system and help them live as healthy, functional members of society. There are ton of examples to support these points – most of which weren’t actually necessary, because the logic was pretty clear after the first couple.

Which brings us to the gaps. Although the author is adamant about institutions, etc. not being something to go back to because of the potential for abuse, nowhere is there an honest discussion about the logistics of the portion of the population dealing with mental illness who cannot live independently. Who simply don’t function at the level necessary to not be in 24/7 care, even with access to community mental health services. Big, government-level studies about mental health, community health care and related best practices get mentioned repeatedly, but only to tell us that nothing they recommended got enacted. Nowhere is any effort made to even briefly explore whether any of those studies suggested the same things on a functional level or what the actual costs of implementation would be compared to what we’re currently doing (expanding prisons). In short, the author definitely wants us to know what we’re doing wrong but doesn’t seem to have been interested in giving us any kind of map for fixing it aside from the broadest of brush strokes… even though a solid body of work on that information already exists in accessible, published form.

Then we have the simply bizarre bits. The author reports, seemingly with no surprise or concern whatsoever, that members of a family or community were appalled and outraged when *they called the police* to deal with someone wielding knives or whom they told the dispatcher had a gun and the cops show up and (gasp) things get violent. The author doesn’t seem to think there’s anything remotely bizarre or unrealistic in people calling the police and somehow (in their own words) expecting them to show up (every time) with a certified, ultra-trained specialist psychologist/psychiatrist at any hour of day or night to reason with/talk down/medically address the person!! Who are these people who think that there are fleets of PhD-level mental health professionals just tagging along in every squad car in America? I get that the family/community needs help, but they don’t call EMTs or crisis centers or pastors or something - they call *the police* … and somehow it is the fault of law enforcement that a person reacts violently to the sight of them and ends up in jail (the only place they usually have to send them) or worse instead of in a hospital? The author can praise training police forces all they want… no law enforcement training is going to correct that kind of misconception and unreasonable expectations (and therefore decisions not grounded in reality) on the other side of the coin!! This is just one example of the kinds of things that popped up that made it very clear that author’s only interest in this subject was through a narrow lens.

Finally, it was absurdly frustrating that the author said not a single peep about the underlying causes of the rising numbers of people with mental illness and/or emotional disorders… again, even though there’s a ton of documentation on it. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that food was one of the first places my brain went. If you really want people to stop unnecesarily ending up in jail, STOP FEEDING PEOPLE CRAP. If you want to reduce mental illness rates, STOP STUFFING FOOD FULL OF FAKE SUGARS AND TOXIC COLORS AND INDUCING IT. Ugh. It just kills me that no one even wants to mention the basic causes for so much that is wrong. We'd rather argue about which ineffectual methods of cleaning the mess (after everyone has suffered so badly) make us look better and more progessive. 

Anywho, don't read this book. Read Anatomy of Violence or The Crazymakers instead. Please and thank you.

Saturday, April 21

Reminder: May Holidays

If you're like me, you're blinking at your calendar this weekend a little startled to find that it's nearly May! If so, may I offer a reminder that there are a whole handful of holidays in May that might be worth remembering and celebrating?

May 3rd - Teacher Appreciation Day
May 4th - Star Wars Day
May 13th - Mother's Day
May 20th - Armed Forces Day
May 25th - Geek Pride Day
May 28th - Memorial Day

Everybody's schedules fill up fast as we approach the end of the academic year and (hopefully!) the advent of summer, so consider putting it on your to-do list for the coming week to reach out to friends or family you'd like to celebrate with, or to throw any specialty items you'd like for celebratory meals on your shopping list. Winter has been long and rough this year - make time to give your mental/emotional health a boost by celebrating something good!

Thursday, April 19


Please excuse the stove... I hadn't cleaned
up yet when I took the picture.
Syruping this year has been odd. Normally, one of two things happen. Either we have a fairly short, intense season or weather shoots directly from hard frozen winter to too-warm spring-that-wants-to-be-summer and we essentially skip syruping weather altogether. This year, we had all the buckets pretty early (end of February, beginning of March?) because predications said that we'd get syruping weather soon.

Only we didn't. Every time we checked the weather after that, they'd dropped the predictions for the following week by another 10 degrees. We proceded to get several more ugly snow storms usually with a few days of somewhat syruping-friendly weather in between. And it just stayed that way - back and forth - for weeks. We'd go days at a time with zero flow, and then spend a few days slogging through three feet of snow to get to the trees out back to collect sap and running two giant pots on propane burners in the garage. Some of the storms were so windy and awful that they actually tore spiles out of the trees!

It's now officially the middle of April and the forecasts are still all over the place and STILL include snow for the foreseeable future. That said, we made the command decision to be done for the year. The pot in the picture was the last batch of the season. We got a couple gallons and we're grateful for that, but we've reached the point at which diminishing returns no longer justify continued effort. At this point, I just hope the weather settles into something reasonable before the apple trees start to blossom - I'd hate to lose another apple crop! 

Tuesday, April 17

The Hall Bathroom

Generally speaking, March is not a great month around here. It tends to be associated with stir-craziness and an antsy impatience to be working on the year's house/property projects.

(Example: several years ago, we went to Lowes for closet doors and came home with lovely bamboo flooring. We then proceded to stay up ludicrously late ripping out the carpet in our bedroom and replacing it with the aforementioned flooring... and then still had to go back to Lowes for the closet doors we had intended to buy the first time around.)

This year, we had enough else going on that we mostly avoided the usual March impulse-project. We did do a bunch of online searching and shopping for a project that's been on the list, though - replacing the floor in the bathrooms. It's pretty obvious that when the house was built the previous owners just grabbed whatever flooring was cheap and available and used it, because there wasn't any sort of rhyme, reason or taste involved. The hall bathroom has been painted since I think the first year we moved in, and we've done little bits and pieces in the intervening time - replaced the showerhead, put in a window, painted the vanity, cleaned up the trim, replaced the mirror.

The old floor (and my terrible picture-taking skills).
Recently, while I was elbow deep in writing for work, My Prince replaced the floor. My photos don't do it justice (they never do), but it's lovely! It's greyish slate kind of shade and looks very clean and soothing with the blue walls. The new trim is specially designed for bathrooms, so it's durable and moisture resistant which is awesome!

The old trim.
While he was at it, My Prince did me a huge favor and put some peel-and-stick tile down inside the bathroom vanity cabinet. (I didn't take a picture because I couldn't make the lighting work.) This sounds dumb, but it makes a huge difference! Because of the way the vanity is constructed and the way the lighting is, even when the inside of the cabinet was scrubbed and clean it still didn't ever really *look* clean. With the new, light-colored tile it's now brighter, quicker to clean and actually looks clean! Small change, big improvement!

Beautiful new floor and new trim!!      

Monday, April 16


This is our *third* guaranteed indestructible splitting maul.

Much like our border collies, we apparently do not respect that "indestructible" means you're not supposed to be able to break something. *sigh*

Thankfully, my husband is talented and was able to replace the handle but I seriously think there's a design flaw somewhere. How many centuries have people been chopping/splitting wood? And we don't have truly indestructible tools for the purpose yet? Somebody should get on that.

In the meantime, if it wanted to STOP BEING COLD so that we didn't NEED to keep chopping/burning firewood, I'd be extremely on board.

Sunday, April 15

That's Not How It Works

That's not how it works - that's not how any of this works!
Apparently, the Governor of Kentucky is suffering from a serious misunderstanding of the American education system and made the mistake of verbalizing some of his misunderstandings this past week. The short version is that teachers in the state were protesting for a serious increase in funding for education. As a result, many schools were closed for a day. The Governor took this as an opportunity to get in front of some cameras and blame teachers for every child that was assaulted, exposed to drugs or in any other way harmed during the time he or she would otherwise have been in school that day.

I'm honestly not sure how I'd go about responding to the subject if I were there in person. I mean, there's so many different directions from which to approach that:

1. Schools should be safe for kids, but we don't send them there for the purpose of keeping them safe.

2. It is a PARENT'S job to ensure a safe home and social life for his or her child. Yes, teachers and schools need to protect kids while they are engaged in mandatory or extra-curricular school time, but once they leave they are the responsibility of their families. Period.

3. Students don't attend school on weekends, so whatever harm you think they're coming to on a day from school they're already exposed to... every week. Is that somehow the school's fault, too?

4. If you actually believe that schools are desperately needed safe havens for students, the logical response is not to gripe about them wanting more money - it's to throw buckets of money at them so that they are equipped to actually serve that function.

5. If you think kids are at that much risk every minute they're not at school, shouldn't your public policies and budget reflect that? Oodles of money to law enforcement, child protective services, etc? Seriously, it's a bad plan to open your mouth about ideas that made you look EVEN WORSE at your job than you already do.

All I can say is that I sincerely hope the people of Kentucky pick a different Governor when this idiot's term is up!!

Saturday, April 14

Sometimes People Scare Me

This week has been.... interesting. (More on some of the reasons why in upcoming posts.) One recurring theme was the presence of absolutely zombiefied customers at work. More than once I had customers whose expressions were so vacant, and who had such a hard time following basic questions (or who didn't seem to realize you were talking to them at all), that they could have been walk-ons in a zombie film exactly as they were, no prep required.

Perhaps the most representative of this trend were the two (older) women who wandered in, stared vaguely at the menu a while, and then asked one of the other cashiers, "is this related to Panera?"


How do you get all the way out of your house, into a vehicle, drive somewhere, get past all the giant (brightly colored) signage and not know where you are? Why would you do into a restaurant (or anywhere?) not knowing what it was? It is terrifying to think that people that unaware of themselves and their surroundings might have been driving!!

Anyway, that's just one example, but suffice it to say I'm extremely relived to be at home this weekend cranking through my to-do list instead of facing that for eight hours today.

Tuesday, April 3


In the middle of March, we discovered that (due to a change of plans) one of our favorite bands was coming to Albany! Nightwish is a symphonic metal band from Finland and I'd always pretty much figured we'd have to go at least as far as the Ocean (there's a 20,000 Tons of Metal cruise!) to catch them. So when My Prince found out they were going to be playing locally, he snagged us some tickets. (Am I spoiled, or what?)

Neither of us had ever been to The Egg, as the performance venue in Albany is called, but it was interesting. (Lots of scantily clad little kids running around for a dance competition on the lower floor... seriously, children, it was March! You need more clothes! I don't care what you're dancing too!) Everyone was joking in line about how none of us knew there were any other European metal fans in the Capital Region, which was amusing. Then we got inside...

Our tickets were front row.  Just off center. It was phenominal. Best. Concert. Ever.The energy levels were so high you couldn't help but get up and dance. (I may or may not have been drooling over the lead singer's leggings, too. So cool.) It was a pretty small theater, relatively speaking and the band was extremely interactive with the crowd. At the end of the concert, Troy (the piper) gave Eric a fist bump!! I won't go on as I won't manage to do it justice, but it was a fantastic experience and all the better for being unexpected.

Monday, April 2

Best Chocolate Mousse Ever

Because I've had a couple people ask me for it recently, I wanted to repost my favorite chocolate mousse recipe. It's delectable, easy, gluten free and can be adapted to fit all kinds of other dietary needs. Enjoy!