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Sour Cherry Disposition

Sour Cherry Ice Cream (7)

If you want this choice position

Have a cheery disposition

Rosy cheeks, no warts!

Play games, all sorts

You must be kind, you must be witty

Very sweet and fairly pretty

Take us on outings, give us treats

Sing songs, bring sweets

Now depending on where you know me from you may or may not think I’m qualified for the role of Mary Poppins.  I’ve been told my social media presence is angry and sad quite a bit but then I feel like when I interact with people offline they take away a completely different picture of me. Supposedly I take on a completely different demeanor around kids–a happy version of me that would be completely foreign to anyone who has only ever known me round the facebook water cooler.  Would you believe that I actually worked as a live in nanny my senior year of high school and managed to not scar the children for life?  Well as far as we know and you can’t prove anything!
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I like to think I’m good with kids.  Growing up I had a natural gravitation toward those 3 years younger or older than me on average.  With older children I became a sort of oddity–that kid who talks like she’s much older but is totally oblivious to things popular among her peers.  With younger kids I just had this natural instinct to befriend and mother them.  It probably stemmed from my assuming role of mother hen to my brother.  I was a built in babysitter for my mom from age 7 onward so what were a few more younger kids hanging around?

I turned 13 the summer we moved to California from Virginia.  I was still privately pretty mixed emotionally about the move; on one hand it was a sort of fresh start my mother, brother and I probably desperately needed on a symbolic level but at the same time I had just finally started to find my place amongst my peers after literally the worst year of my life to that point.  Having to find ways to reconnect with kids my own age all over again in a totally new environment was not something I was looking forward to.  It was late July (I think) and it was hot.  Mom still had to go to work but school wasn’t in session yet and that left me to find ways of entertaining my brother (now 6 years old) during the day in an empty house.

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Rather than venture out looking for anyone my own age I wound up meeting every human under the age of 10 in the neighborhood and quickly became an ad-hoc entertainer for all of them the rest of summer.  They became my brother’s friends and my pre-pre-pubescent posse of sorts.  It was useful for my pocketbook moving forward since I wound up getting plenty of actual babysitting jobs out of the package.  Pretty much all of my highschool extracurriculars involved young kids now that I think about it.  I worked in the library but most heavily with the children’s librarians and the after-school “tutoring” program.  I put tutoring in quotes because it really had very little to do with tutoring; we were an unofficial afternoon daycare service for low-income families.  Basically it was a room where kids who had no where to go showed up after school and ran around goofing off, doing their homework and occasionally seeking help from the teen volunteer sitting at the head table.

Then in college when I was in a particularly down part of my life I started seeking out babysitting jobs to make a little extra cash.  I didn’t need the money.  Well okay when you are a broke college student you always need the money but there are better ways of making it.  I deliberately was looking for steady nannying gigs because I knew that being around kids was always something that made me feel…better.  Something about nurturing was like another form of therapy for me; especially with children who embraced imaginative play.  I definitely preferred babysitting situations where we’d do craft projects, baking experiments or just run around making up games.  One of my favorite tricks was to bring chalk with me and create real-sized board games where each block of sidewalk was a spot and then have the kids use themselves as the moving pieces.  Tabletop meet asphalt.

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I suppose this is on my mind because if you’d asked me back when I was 13 what my life plan was I’d have said mother by the age of 27.  Which means I should be on my way to pregnancy number 1 by now and that’s definitely NOT on the table at this point. In fact I’m fairly positive that when I do have kids I’ll be adopting instead of incubating my own.  A lot of people balk at that assertion–”Dont you want kids of your own?” Whether I make them myself or not I’m pretty sure they are still my kids insofar as any person can belong to another one anyway.  I’ve just come to this decision for a variety of reasons but most importantly I realize that while I may seem like an angry militant feminista online sometimes I have the capacity to love pretty intensely and I can feel that way about any child who needs a parent or a guardian.  If I know I’m capable of that why not use it to make the lives of some real children actually better rather than make more?  Actually if it weren’t for the crap pay/job security and the lack of animated dancing penguins, and I’ll admit a certain level of intellectual snobbery in regards to career choice, I might have considered a career as a Nanny.  I know, I can hear those of you who only know me from my facebook rants sighing in relief that I didn’t go that way….


Sour Cherry Ice Cream

an Olivia Original Read more

Wellness Wednesday: Sinister Shrooms!

Walnut Pomegranate Mushroom Spread (10)
Vile vegetables.  Freakish fungi.  Revolting roots.  Terrible tubers.  Frankenstein fruit.

Let’s talk FOOD PHOBIAS folks.

I have a love for all things “vegetable” and I put that word in quotation marks because many things are lumped into this category that aren’t really veggies.  You know things like corn (it’s a fruit) or tomatoes (again fruit) or eggplant (again fruit) or fungi—which actually are neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral nor anything other than fungi.  Most commonly the foods people seem to avoid are the bitter ones—beastly broccoli, killer kale…any loathsome lettuce really.

Walnut Pomegranate Mushroom Spread (1)Basically if it’s green I think people tend to hate it though perhaps not as much as I’ve noticed people picking on my favorite organism of all time: the monstrous mushroom.

Oh why hast thou forsaken this magical edible delight?  The poor cremini is sitting at the corner of the table wondering why no one is talking to him at the dinner party.  It’s thinking—I’m a fun guy!  Really!  And I’m so so good for you too.  Won’t anyone show me a little love?  I may be dirty and a little bit funky but I’m unlike anything else in nature.  Give me a chance-relle!

I fully intend on reforming some of my mushroom-phobic friends out there.  I’ve heard all the reasons for the distaste–for some it’s texture or for others its flavor.  With many it’s the psychological inability to eat a fungus.  In these cases their brain is unable to separate the edible variety from the kind that cause nasty foot smells or memories of playground epidemics of ringworm.  Bear in mind that yeast are ALSO a kind of fungus and we eat them all the time–in bread and beer.

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Then of course there’s the misconception that the garden variety of mushroom–the button cap or its darker brother the cremini–are nothing more than high-fiber, low-calorie fillers.  Not true!  In fact the health benefits from button mushrooms appear to outstrip some of the more exotic and expensive varietals.  These guys are high in almost every form of B vitamin–with B12 being the exception.  B12 so far is only available from animal protein or bacteria.  Vegans have to seek out foods fortified with this extremely important vitamin.  So there was understandable some excitement when research came out a few years ago suggesting it was available in button cap mushrooms.  Later work revealed that it was more likely the bacteria growing on the surface of the mushrooms that were skewing these results.

However we ARE finding we can leverage the way mushrooms harvest nutrients to boost their potential as edible vitamins.  Have you seen those packaged button mushrooms at the store boasting a high dose of vitamin D?  That’s no gimmick.  Mushrooms contain a steroid called ergesterol which is like a prequel form of the vitamin.  With exposure to some ultraviolet post harvest mushrooms will convert the ergesterol to vitamin D.

Walnut Pomegranate Mushroom Spread (5)But most promising about button mushrooms friends?  THEY SAVE BOOBS.  Mushrooms are high in a compound called conjugated linoleic acid or CLA for short.   The best source for this typically is dairy but if you want a dairy free diet then definitely look to mushrooms.  CLA inhibits the activity of an enzyme that is essential to the functioning of breast cancer* cells.   Inhibit the enzyme and you inhibit the breast cancer cells.  Is there a mushroom best at this?  Yes the verdict is in! The best mushrooms good at reducing the enzyme activity of cancer cells related specifically to breast and prostate cancer are those cheap button mushrooms.

*Breast cancer is not one specific cancer unfortunately.  Cancer cells have a myriad ways of operating which is what makes treating this disease so difficult.  In this case I’m referring to estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer which accounts for approximately 75% of cases.

Sadly we are only barely skimming the surface of these guys and I’ll need to write a lot more in the future to cover all the different culinary and medicinal boons that the mushroom world imparts on our palates.  I guess it should surprise no one that because of my intense love for all things shroomy I’d be unable to resist a cookbook screaming SHROOMS! on its title.  I’m so happy I picked this book up.  It’s way more than a cookbook.  It gives a lot of great nutritional and foodie history about different varieties–and even if you never intend to cook at all it’s an entertaining read with some recipes littered throughout.  The recipes are fantastic too.  I had to share this one for an amazing button mushroom spread–you can find the text for it in the amazon preview of the book–because this is definitely a great way to get even the most squeamish to eat shrooms without knowing they are doing it.  You don’t see them and their flavor is a muted umami for the dish.

Walnut Pomegranate Mushroom Spread (12)

Only problem is now my friends know to expect it.  Damn it.


Button Mushroom, Walnut and Pomegranate Spread

adapted from “Shroom! Mind-bendingly good recipes”

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Ada Love-Lace Cookies

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What the hell you guys.

My wires got TOTALLY crossed and I could have sworn that Ada Lovelace Day was Thursday this year but it’s not!  I almost missed it.  Unlike yesterday’s bogus holiday, Ada Lovelace day is NOT nationally recognized but IS totally worthwhile.  It’s all about celebrating the fabulous women in the world of Science Technology Engineering and Math–aka STEM.

I had intended to write up some beautiful lovingly feminist positive piece about Ada Lovelace (not only the first female programmer but possibly the FIRST PROGRAMMER EVER of any gender) but as I said this snuck up on me like valentine’s day on sitcomically absentee spouse.

So who was Ada Lovelace?  Let me explain…no there is too much, let me sum up with this fantastic excerpt totally 100% stolen from The Mary Sue because again I fucked up on realizing what day it was:
“Ada was born in 1815, the only legitimate child of poet/loveable whack-job Lord Byron (you know, the guy who hung out with Shelley and Keats? And wrote Don Juan and Childe Harold? And then went a bit nuts and tried to take over Greece? Yeah, that guy). Honey Lace Cookies (4)Ada never met her father, since he was off being kind of nuts, and her mother was like “Ada, you are ONLY learning MATH and SCIENCE lest you become like your CRAZY FATHER by indulging in EVIL POETRY.”

“In 1833 Ada met mathematician Charles Babbage, whose name tells me he may or may not have stepped directly out of a volume of Harry Potter. Charles had invented a very, very early kind of computer – essentially just a giant mechanical calculator – called The Difference Engine. But Charles – who adorably called Ada “The Enchantress of Numbers” – wasn’t stopping there; he went on to create a prototype for a more advanced computer/calculator called The Analytical Engine.

Unsurprisingly, given that Ada loved all kinds of wacky, Steampunky things and this machine was called THE ANALYTICAL ENGINE, hello, she studied it at length, publishing her own notes on the prototype computer. These notes included a very specific algorithm that, using punch cards, she was pretty sure would teach the Analytical Engine how to calculate a series of Bernoulli Numbers. Had the engine ever come into being, Ada’s idea would have executed FLAWLESSLY. And do you know what that means? That means Ada wrote THE FIRST-EVER COMPUTER PROGRAM. Making her the FIRST-EVER COMPUTER PROGRAMMER.”
Seriously go check out that entire article which is at least twice as witty or clever as I could be anyway and learn about this amazing [female] pioneer of the digital age.

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Oh and any Ingress players out there?  Wondering if ADA was really a nod to this pioneer of the computers and artificial intelligence….

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Can we berry this holiday already?

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MUFFIN MONDAY: Low-sugar Maple Berry Muffins

When I looked at the calendar recently and saw Christopher Columbus Day listed I actually did a double take to remind myself “oh yeah—that’s still a thing.” Living in California (or I’d imagine Oregon, Nevada, Hawaii, South Dakota) you tend to forget about this as anything other than a really annoying bank holiday. I don’t think there are many people who debate that this holiday’s continued existence is troubling. Well except for political mouthpieces who I would rather ignore at this juncture. Point is regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum it’s hard to fight with the facts—Columbus was not a good guy. When he “discovered America” (try the Bahamas) Columbus and his crew destroyed the indigenous people of the land.   Mapleberry Muffins (5)“Oh isn’t destroy a strong word?  Conquering nations always subdue people don’t be so dramatic”  Let’s be clear here –Columbus and his ilk systematically murdered men for sport, demanded gold in exchange for keeping their body parts and traded girls under the age of 10 as sexual favors.

What really boggles the mind is why anyone would want to defend this holiday—which by the way we have good ol’ FDR to thank for. It’s not like this was some great homage to a hero with a conflicted past. It was a case of governmental lobbying for a Catholic role model to be sanctified by our national government. There’s a webcomic detailing some of the rather unsettling horrors Christopher Columbus was responsible for and suggests that we honor a different explorer from that time—Bartolome de las Casas.  Casas was an advocate for freeing Native Americans from enslavement. Unfortunately even Bartolome is far from being completely clean in the eyes of history. While it’s true he tried to halt the slave trade of Native Americans he did so by encouraging, for a while at least, the African slave trade. Eventually Bartolome recanted and spoke out against all slavery but still…not a perfect hero. Read more

Fantasy Friday: Harry Potter and the Pasty Retweet

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If you haven’t heard yet — earlier this week JK Rowling sent out a mysterious tweet which she confirmed was an anagram for some looming publishing news.

Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense

Some hilarious attempts at unscrambling this anagram ensued. The very obvious words to try to pull out of course were “Harry Potter” but alas there was no P so that wasn’t possible. Still a very popular theory that the anagram should be read as “Harry Returns! Won’t say any details now! A week off! No comment.”” While I would on one hand very much wish for a return to the world of Harry I doubted this was the message she meant to convey. Harry’s story, for better or worse, has concluded. Plus what is known looming in the future for Rowling fans is that upcoming story set in Harry’s world about Newt Scamander; author of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Find out what she REALLY meant behind the cut. Read more

Eat my Short-breads

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Did anyone watch the Family Guy / Simpsons crossover last weekend?

Okay let me preface that with: does anyone still watch The Simpsons or Family Guy?

mapleshortbread (6)I’ll admit that it’s been 26 years and I still watch the Simpsons every week.  Sure the show has some weaker episodes but I think I am just incapable of not watching a show that’s been on for as many years as I’ve been alive. Every once in a while I’ll remember all over again that the show started in 89 only 1 year after I was born and I am floored all over again.  Both by how long it has survived and by how freaking old I feel.  I also wonder what a world without The Simpsons will be like.  It’s going to have to happen eventually right?  I just feel like that’s wrong somehow.

Family Guy on the other hand…I’ve never been a fan.  It’s too misogynistic.  I loved South Park for a long time, I can handle crass, horrible and inappropriate cartoons when there’s something clever to them.  Although I could do without the dancing poop to be honest.  Family Guy doesn’t have any reason to be so disrespectful and crude though; it’s not part of a greater plot point.  That made the crossover episode really uncomfortable—I feel like it only served to really emphasize just how far over the line of good taste Family Guy tends to go.  That moment when Stewie makes the prank phone call and it turns into a causal rape joke….  I don’t think it would surprise anyone that I am far from a fan in light of that kind of humor.  I resisted even watching Family Guy at all for a long time because I could tell from the guys in high school who loved it that I’d probably waver from being annoyed to totally enraged by how it treated women and minorities.
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The crossover episode did manage to trigger a ride on the nostalgia train though for some reason.  Possibly because by juxtaposing how just…gross one show is I felt like I got a glimpse back at Bart Simpson the early years when he was more like a lovable Dennis the Menace.  Funny the timing of this right after my pontifications yesterday about how much my generation likes to glom onto our youth.   Actually maybe the thing that triggered it wasn’t the crossover but the marathon leading up to it and the numerous tweets I saw about it.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay now I’m KNOW some of you at least still watch the show with me. Read more

Wellness Wednesday: Nuggets of Wisdom

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I’ve overheard your theory “nostalgia’s for geeks”
I guess sir, if you say so, some of us just like to read

As I sit here debating whether or not I want to buy a pair of TMNT knee socks and an Xavier Institute Hoodie (I’m totally buying the hoodie) I can’t help but think about how damn nostalgic my generation is for trappings of our childhoods. It seems, when I think about it, pretty freaking ridiculous. Gen Y through to the Milennials…we’re looking back on sunsets that aren’t even 30 years old as though we’ve accumulated a lifetime of wrinkles. Geeks in particular, since that’s my echo chamber, have made or feed into a capitalization of the pop culture of our youth. See above re: x-men hoodie.

Chicken Nuggets (6)Has anyone else noticed this? Is it just me? Everytime I have to actually remind myself that I’m 26 years old I have this weird “WTF” moment. I don’t feel like I’m closer to 30 than teenage years. My daily commute now that I work close to home consists of strapping on a backpack and biking for 20 minutes. I am constantly mistaken for a student–sometimes a highschool student. I’ll admit that when I’m sitting here in whole foods eat dinner with a backpack on the table and laptop out I definitely don’t feel like I’ve got a diploma that’s accumulated 4 years of dust now.

Nobody likes you when you’re 23
And you still act like you’re in freshman year
What the hell is wrong with me
My friends say I should act my age–what’s my age again? Read more

Is my mascaramel running?

Red Wine Caramel Tart (8)There have been three times at the gym that I’m super grateful that the amount of sweat I’ve generated has covered up the fact that I’m actually crying.  Each time has been triggered by something on the unavoidable view of televisions hanging overhead.  Most recently it was when CNN played over and over again that horrible footage of Ray Rice hitting his fiance.  It was treated like instant replay of a football game–the reality of domestic violence totally overlooked for shock factor and ratings.  The impact it would have on survivors to see totally ignored completely….

Red Wine Caramel Tart (2)I’m not one to jump on the “cause of the month” club.   Every month has a slew of awareness campaigns all crowding each other out for media attention and twitter slacktivism.  BUT in light of the Ray Rice scandal I’m glad that October happens to be “Domestic Violence Awareness” month.  I’m sad that it’s already getting hijacked by each political party hoping to use this to their advantage with the midterm elections.  Politicians and profit-driven media have turned so many people, myself included, into cynics.  Jon Stewart’s made a living off this for years.  I understand that a blog post about domestic violence might fall on some overly tired ears but I try to cut through the bullshit and remember that this stuff MATTERS. Read more

Re-flax – don’t do it


Banana Flax Muffins Gluten Free (7)

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it” – Dr. Hans Selye, endocrinologist and pioneer of early research into stress and human biology

This last year has been a life lesson for me in just how badly stress can affect my health.  Some friends might be nodding with a silent “I told you so” on their lips if they read this but the problem is that most don’t know exactly how bad it had been for a long time now.  My job is stressful.  My family is stressful.  My own internal pressures and expectations of what I should be doing, where I should be going and what I demand of myself are…beyond stressful.  There’s so much that I’m not really sure where to begin or even how much to divulge.  It’s not easy and a lot of it isn’t my burden to share. Read more

Fetch Friday: I’m on an all carb diet

Speaking of feminism…dear readers do you know what today is?

October 3

That’s right Cady–It’s October 3rd — also known as MEAN GIRLS DAY.  Something I missed while I was frozen in carbonite was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the definitive high school movie of the Millennial generation.  Personally my favorites go 1) 10 Things I Hate About You 2) Clueless and Mean Girls rounding out the number 3 spot. Yet there is a reason this movie has become such a cult classic that 10 years later 20-somethings are still quoting and celebrating the movie.

Toaster Pastry (1) At its surface this film might look like a stupid celebration of vapid juicy couture, pre-selfie self-obsessed culture…and it is… BUT it surprisingly has some great moments of humor, self-awareness and subtle yet powerful feminist messages.  It’s not perfect–the only gay character is part of a stereotypical “fag hag” couple situation and a poor man’s Rickie Vasquez.  The women in the film are still dealing with middle-class white women issues so there’s a certain lack of intersectionality for the feminist message retained BUT the idea of women of color isn’t ignored completely.  I mean we all know that Kenny G “only dates women of color”.  I’m choosing to see this as a way of acknowledging their existence and not a joke fetishizing their sexuality–that’s a whole other topic for another day.

The movie initially sucked in girls with the title hitting on a universal high school truth “Mean Girls.”  I’ve never met a single woman (myself included) who didn’t think that at some point in school, be it middle school, high school or college sororities, that girls were undeniably awful, horrible creatures and oh my god it’s so much easier to be friends with guys.  The movie hits on that point at one scene where Tina Fey (who wrote the film by the way) asks every girl in an assembly to raise their hand if they’d felt victimized by another girl and every single one raises her arm.

One element of teenage/young adult female friendships that the movie hits on is this idea that confidence is simultaneously powerful and shameful.  A contradiction of “girl world” that is guaranteed to fuck with any woman’s self-esteem.  On one hand confidence is what gives the popular click, the plastics, their power status in the school.  In an attempt to sabotage Queen Bee Regina at one point the loner character (Janice) cuts what I can only call “boob holes” in her shirt while hanging up during gym class.  This is meant to shame Regina by ruining her shirt and drawing attention to her breasts–but rather than react, she literally shrugs and continues to wear the shirt.  As a result the next day all of the girls who idolize the Queen Been have cut holes into their shirts to copy her–because if you are Confident you have power. Read more


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