Something Sweet

I originally posted this on Facebook, but it has become difficult to find. Feel free to play with the recipe. If you come up with any interesting modifications, please post them in the comments.

Gluten Free Nut Bars

Ingredients:

1 cup each:

Almonds

Cashews

Walnuts

Pecans

2 cups gluten free rice cereal

2 cups gluten free pretzel sticks

1/2 cup honey

1/4 almond butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1-2 tbs salted butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 10 oz package of dark chocolate chunks, (I use 62%)

 

Directions

Roast nuts in a 300 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

(When nuts have cooled, roughly chop half of them – if you like)

Leave oven at 300 degrees

Break up pretzel sticks into chunks and mix in zip top bag w/ rice cereal & cooled nuts

Line a 9″x13″ pan with parchment paper

In a medium sauce pan mix honey, nut butter, salt, and butter. Heat over medium until mixture loosens up some. Add brown sugar and stir, over heat, until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, then add vanilla. Stir to incorporate.

Stir nuts and dry mixture into wet mixture. (use a sturdy spoon. it will not look like enough liquid to coat the dry – it is, just keep stirring/ folding)

* the liquid mixture will be hot and sticky, like candy napalm. Be careful *

When all ingredients are mixed, spread in an even layer in pan. Place in oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely before de-panning.

(This is where you can break this into two sections. I often allow the bar to cool over night before moving on to the next step.)

With a heavy knife, cut large bar into smaller bars. (I usually cut it into sixteen separate bars, but cut it as you like.)

In a small to medium Pyrex bowl, heat 2/3 of the chocolate in the microwave. How long this takes depends on your microwave. I put it in for 45 seconds, then for 30 second intervals. You’ll know it’s there when the bottom layer of the chocolate begins to look melty but not melted. Do not microwave until all of the chocolate looks melted – you will burn your chocolate.

Take out the chocolate and stir, the residual heat should melt the rest of the chocolate in the bowl to a smooth consistency. If it doesn’t, microwave for another 20-30 seconds. When you have a smooth consistency, add the rest of the room temperature chocolate. Again, the residual heat should melt it without a problem. This is called seeding the chocolate and will help it hold its temper.

(if you know how to temper chocolate, feel free to do it the proper way. This is just a quick and dirty way to get it done.)

Dip the bottom/ smooth side of bars in chocolate and remove excess- as you like – with a spatula. Allow bars to rest, upside down, until chocolate sets.

Wrap in wax paper and store in zip top bags. Will keep in refrigerator for a long while.

Be sure to allow bars to reach room temperature before eating, unless you like a very sore jaw.

My version makes 16 servings, but can be more depending on how you cut the bars.

Enjoy.

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Updates and Earworms…

It seems like every time I sit down to write one of these things, my brain stares out into the abyss and goes shrieking off to some dark corner. It’s there currently, knees curled to its chest, rocking and softly singing “Mary had a little lamb,” over and over and over again.

I am writing on sheer instinct at this point.

I would tell you what exactly sends my brain scurrying for the quiet dark, but when I think about it…

… “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” …

…and it keeps getting louder. So, we’ll table any discussions that involve sanity-preserving repetitions of nursery rhymes, for now.

Let’s do a little updatery, shall we?

I have dug out my electric typewriter, and much to my wife’s chagrin, have begun using it to write things.

What things?

I can’t tell you. With a few, and very rare exceptions, I try not to talk about a work in progress, lest the emotional cues I pick up from others interfere with my own emotional process of writing. I’ll get cues from others when I have a serviceable draft, or three. It won’t be too long.

Hell, I’m just happy to be back at it.

With the exception of some notes and a couple of poems, I hadn’t written anything in a year. Depression will do that to you. Well, to me – as the case may be.

What else?

I’ve taken a giant backward step from Facebook. I haven’t dropped off completely, but I have really stopped reading posts. I figure if it’s important, someone will tag me in it, or – heaven forefend  – actually text me. (It is probably too much to hope to receive a real life telephone call, but that might be for the best. They get awkward after a couple of minutes anyway.)

Strangely enough, I’m too lazy to adjust twitter so it doesn’t auto-repost to Facebook. So, all of my tweets, and this blog will end up on Facebook by dint of chain reaction. Where, in all likelihood, the comments I receive for any given blog will vastly outnumber the comments that actually end up on my blog. There’s some kind of interweaving of irony there, but…

… “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB!”

Yeah, that.

In short, I’ve dropped off the Facebook carousel for one main reason: People are fucking nuts.

Even people I love, respect, and admire.

Fekkin’ batshit nuts.

What is it about social media that promotes the most petty, vain, illogical, and mean-spiritedness in us?

(That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’ve been researching, but if you have some reasoned answers, I’d love to hear them.)

So, it came to a head when one member of my extended family posted something quite ranty, but obviously pointed towards a particular individual. This member of my family did not mention said person’s name, because the poster has a sense of dignity and decorum. I was going to post a comment in support, maybe something soothing. That was my intention, anyway. Then I saw the list of comments that preceded me, and I began to lose heart. Just some of the most vicious, soulless, mean-spirited shit about whole swaths of the American public. The kind of statements that include the term, “those people”.  Insanely broad generalizations, and unearned, ignorant self righteousness.

It made me a little ill.

That’s not hyperbole. I actually got queasy. 

My usual shtick is to educate and argue. For some reason I didn’t do that this time. This time, all I did was ask – ask – that people take a second to realize that maybe they didn’t have all the information, and could we try to have some compassion.

Compassion.

That’s what I asked for.

Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.

I got attacked. A lot.

You’d think I had made a bad joke about someone’s dead mother. (I have a few of those. Ask me sometime.)

I argued, for a while. Being the only unpopular opinion in the room doesn’t frighten me nearly as much as it used to. Also, I’m quite capable of being a mean bastard when the moment requires it. But this was sickening.

Sickening like the first time you see unedited car wreck photos, and you resolve, then and there, to never drive without your seat belt firmly fastened, regardless of how short the trip.

(Incidentally, I am that guy.) 

And I had to stop.

Too much hate. Too much nonsense. Too much.

And all because I asked people to have some compassion – to maybe not be so vicious with people they had never met, in all likelihood will never meet.

Compassion.

That was their bridge too far.

So, I’m off, for I don’t know how long. I’ll check in, from time to time, because I really don’t have any other way to get in touch with some people.

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and you know what? I don’t miss it. And I do feel better for not bathing in that miasmic swamp of mean-crazy.

(Disclaimer: yes, I know that not everyone on Facebook is crazy. But it feels an awful lot like it since a certain campaign cycle kicked off more than a year ago. )

What else?

After a two month hiatus, two rounds of antibiotics, and about 4 weeks of physical therapy I finally got to start going back to the gym. Been back at it into the third week now. Cautiously optimistic and trying not to hurt myself. Managing fairly well so far. Should be a couple more weeks before I’m back to the strength I was before I had to take the forced downtime, but that’s okay. It’ll come back.

Well, that’s probably enough for now. The Nursery rhymes are coming slower and less frantic now. Maybe I’ll go watch some TV. Maybe I’ll see what’s been happening on the news…

… “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB!!!!!!!!”

Well, so much for that.

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Finally Getting to “Fuck It”

I have the most interesting conversations. It is one of the true delights in my life; conversation.

It also scares the hell out of me. (Seems to be the way that kind of thing goes in life, but that’s the topic for another discussion).

Anyway, the conversations I have are so interesting because, much like this blog, they allow me to solidify my thoughts on any given subject.

Conversation, and writing, help me to understand. To understand you, them, the world, but most importantly, to understand me.

(That, you’ll find if you’ve looked, is often the most difficult thing to understand: one’s self.)

So what does this strange prelude about my wondrous conversations – that you should so totally be jealous of – have to do with how this post is titled?

Glad you asked.

I was having a conversation, recently, with a friend when just such a moment occurred. We were discussing various projects and how sometimes we can stall out on them for various reasons. My friend and I share an unreasonable penchant for pursuing perfection in our own works. (I suppose an artist, of any stripe, never does quite think the art is finished). I also have a problem that he doesn’t: depression.

You’ve read my mentioning of it before, no need to delve quite so deeply into it now.

So we were talking about various obstacles to completing projects when I said two things that happened to be personally, seriously true – without intending to do so.

The first is that I spend a lot of time managing my mental state.

(This is probably why I seem, outwardly, fairly normal to anyone that isn’t having an interesting conversation with me).

The second concerns stalls in projects. This will require some more explanation for you to understand.

(Sometimes there are no shortcuts; no TLDRs. Sorry.)

So, one of my primary mottos is: engineer around your own shortcomings. (Find what keeps you getting in your own way and work around it. Know thyself – basically – and act accordingly). I do this a lot. And by a lot, I mean, a metric fuck-ton. Like all the time. I’m always trying to discover if I’m stepping on my own dick and if there is, just maybe, a better place to put my foot.

Now, because I have been a lifelong depressive, and because I have been a lifelong creative – no those two aren’t necessarily intertwined – I have the urge to create; almost constantly, but I have no energy or motivation to get started.

Knowing this about myself, I find ways to engineer around it.

For me, the best way has always been: let the initial inspiration/ motivation/ what-have-you get me going and ride that for as long as possible, re-invigorating it – as often as possible – throughout the process until either I have completed the project, or I have set a temporary habit well enough in place to let that momentum carry me on as the project progresses.

There are, if you’re at all quick, some inherent problems with this approach.

I am not quick.

The biggest problem is outside interference. Bad weather, unavoidable, intractable schedules, sickness, injury, that kind of thing. Those throw a huge monkey wrench into my program. They create breaks in my momentum. Spaces for bad things to happen.

You see, it is in my nature to doubt, and doubt myself most of all. If a sufficiently long break – and that length can vary, one week, one day, one hour, etc.. – occurs that knocks me out of my practice, doubt creeps in.

Wait, creeps isn’t the right word.

Tsunami.

Yeah, that’s closer to it. (If Tsunami can be a verb. I tsunami, he/ she  tsunamis, they tsunami…).

Doubt and an unreasonable desire for perfection.

And those two things can fuck me right off a project, if they get enough of a hold on me.

Until…

Here we come to the second of my conversational realizations: Doubt and perfectionism stall me out and send me hurtling back towards the earth, but somewhere, just before I hit the ground, I reach “Fuck it”.

“Fuck it” has pulled me out of more deep dives than anything else in my repertoire of coping skills.

“Fuck it” saves me; probably more often than could be reasonably expected.

(I’d send “Fuck it” a thank you fruit basket, but “Fuck it” wouldn’t care. Also, the postage would be murder.)

When the depression, and the doubt, and the unreasonable standards for myself push me further and further down the hill towards despair, sometimes I get to “Fuck it” and it gives me the energy I need to get back up the other side.

I’m not perfect

Fuck it.

I’ll screw it up.

Fuck it.

I’ll look like a damn fool.

Fuck It!

Sometimes “Fuck it” is all I have to keep me going.

Sometimes “Fuck it” is all I need.

So, here’s to finally getting to “Fuck it”, and being able to get moving again.

Feel free to use it if it works for you. Maybe you’ll find a little bit of comfort in it too.

Maybe not.

Oh well…

Fuck it.

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The March of Democracy…

So, here’s a thing that’s pissing me off:

I keep seeing people, namely on social media – because apparently that’s the only way we fucking communicate with other human beings anymore – complaining about the Women’s March protesters.

I see posts and memes and poorly thought out screeds saying the protesters are “silly”, or “stupid”, or – and this is the worst- “un-American”.

So, in case you don’t already know where I stand on this issue, allow me to clarify:

I wholeheartedly support the right to protest.

More than that, I wholeheartedly support those the men and women who took to the streets on Saturday.

The protesters are American Citizens.

Period.

Those who braved the weather, the opposition, and –given the recent history of protests in this country – the very real threat of harassment and incarceration on the part of law enforcement, did so because these marchers believe they have been or will be harmed by the policies of the new administration.

As a citizen it is not only their right, but their duty to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Our Nation is a nation Of, By, and For the People.

This is what participation in government looks like.

Voting is the bare minimum. These people did more. They went out and put themselves on the line. They took peaceful action to engage with their government – with our government.

The protesters are not just citizens, but real patriots.

This is what patriotism looks like.

It’s time to take notice.

It’s time to take action.

And if you can’t be fucking bothered, it’s time to leave the people, who can be bothered, the fuck alone.

 

P.S. I am glad there were no instances of violence involving the police and the protesters. It’s been a damn long time since we’ve seen it happen that way.

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Just. Fucking. Wow.

So, there is a bill put forward, in North Dakota, that would shield drivers from liability if they should happen to run over protesters.

Huh?…

Wait for it…

Are you out of your fucking minds?!

What the actual fuck is this country coming to?

When did human lives become less important than punctuality?

When did not being late surpass the health and safety of our fellow citizens?!

I, I just can’t believe this shit.

I need to stop here before the vein in my forehead explosively ruptures, both killing me and shorting out my laptop with arterial spray.

Nope, not quite done yet.

Here’s one last thing before the red bars consume my vision:

If whoever submitted this bill really believes in its essential tenet: that we should be able to maim or kill people that waste our time, then he should be thankful that the vast majority of us do not share his psychosis…

…Or he should prepare for the line of people that should be queuing up – any minute now – right outside his front door, waiting to punch him directly in the god damned face!

See how he likes getting injured because he was being inconvenient.

Worthless Cocksucker.

(Yes, I used the male pronoun exclusively for this person, because, let’s face it, we’d all be reeeaaal surprised if the person who submitted that excrescence of a bill was a woman.)

UPDATE: 1/18/17: The person who put forth the bill: Rep. Keith Kempenich ( R ).

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The Duty of Art

So, it’s been about a week since Meryl Streep gave an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes which seemed to set some people’s dials to: Foam at the Mouth.

There have been a lot of people – artists and our president elect depressingly included – who have made many a public statement about the fact that artists and entertainers should shut up about politics.

And to those people, Making those kinds of statements I have to ask:

 Are You Fucking Stupid?

That’s not a rhetorical question, and if you answer it – after absorbing what I am about to say – with anything but a, “Well yeah, apparently,” then you will have compounded your stupidity.

Here’s the thing; Meryl Streep – and any celebrity for that matter if they are a citizen of this country – not only has the right, but the civic duty to speak up and address the failing of our government.

Whether anyone agrees with them or not has nothing to do with it.

In the USA, if you believe a redress of grievances is warranted you are free – and I think duty bound – to take lawful action to affect change.

Period.

People pissed off because someone famous spoke up and ruined their potential enjoyment of the form of escapism provided need to grow up.

(Sorry for the grammar of that last sentence; there was no other way I could get it to come out just now.)

That’s the first reason to feel stupid. Here’s the second:

It has been one of the time honored purposes of art – and thereby the artists who create it – to point out failings and faults in the society to which they belong. We may not actually favor the arts so much as we favor celebrity in this country, but art and the artists who create it serve a desperately needed purpose in this arena. They help us see ourselves, through their art, through their expression. Expression is the point of their art, regardless of medium. And the sharing of that expression helps us to see ourselves; the beautiful, the sublime, and when necessary, the ugly.

This is as important to our humanity as food, shelter, and freedom.

So next time, before anyone thinks about taking a pot shot at an artist for just being themselves – for serving our society as only they can – please, take the time to think again.

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Concerning Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve…Again.

Many of you, in between the varied, harried dashes of this day will spare a small moment to consider what to feel guilty about for the next month, in the form of:

Making New Year’s Resolutions!

If I have reached you in time, if you’ll allow me to do so, may I make a serious suggestion?

I can? Thanks. Here goes:

Don’t.

Don’t make any resolutions. (Especially not those in capital letters.)

Just don’t do it. You won’t be hurting yourself or letting yourself down. You’ll just be saving yourself the grief of dealing with a cultural tradition that doesn’t really impact your life – accept for that diet plan and year-long gym membership you bought; sorry, you’re stuck with those.

But seriously, the holidays are stressful enough. Don’t fuck with yourself about your supposed shortcomings.

For one thing, it’s a bullshit tradition. How many people have you even heard of that make a resolution on New Year’s Eve and keep the damn thing through, say, March? Not many. Maybe none. New Year’s Resolutions are one of those cultural artifacts we engage in either because it is tradition, or because we think it sounds like a good idea. (If you’re wondering about the quality of those thoughts – about it being a good idea – remember that many of the people having those thoughts are also having a drink or two; or ten.)

For another thing, personally, I think the beginning of a new year should maybe be spent thinking about and hoping for the good things we want in the new year. Not changes for what we think is the better. Those are just thinly veiled negative self judgments. No, I’m talking about real hope…

…for and easing of illness or return to health,

…for reuniting with loved ones and old friends,

…for discovering your path and your place and your passion in this world.

Those are all wonderful things to hope for. Hope for things to be better, not just lip service to some set of standards.

And that kind of hope, well, that kind of hope doesn’t come in the form of resolutions. It doesn’t come in words or statements of intent – no matter how well motivated those statements may be.

That kind of hope is a feeling.

I encourage you to take some time this New Year’s Eve to let yourself feel that kind of hope. No need to give it a name.

(As an aside, I will say that the beginning of a new year has some psychological weight to it. It feels momentous. So, if you’ve been planning something for a while, if you already have something in the works and are just looking for a time to set it loose, then yeah, the beginning of a new year is a good time. But so are the Equinoxes and Solstices. They actually have a tangible connection to nature and the rhythms of our planet. But if you’re not already in process, just don’t worry about it. It’s not worth it. Enjoy the moment, free of the weight of all the normal bullshit. You deserve it.)

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