I Love You With Cake

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For Valentine's Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Day this year, I decided to make E and I a fancypants cake. I haven't made a fancypants cake in a long time and I had been itching to bake for a few weeks now. I found this recipe for a vanilla cake with strawberry cream frosting from Perry's Plate that looked perfect.

The cake is your typical cream the sugar and butter then add in the dry bits recipe. It does have some sour cream at the end for Extra Moist Action. I was actually surprised that they came out of the oven completely flat and I didn't have to even off the tops at all. I was quite worried about cutting the layers but they came out pretty even for the second time I've ever cut layers.

Cake Cut Into Layers

The filling is a layer of strawberry jam, the cream frosting, and fresh strawberries. If you feel the need to sample the berries and frosting while you are assembling the cake you should totally indulge those impulses.

Inside Fruity Layer

The nekkid cake all layered up. The strawberries made the layers a bit uneven, so I just stuffed more in the sides to give a bit more support. You know, just like the cathedral builders of yore used to do if an arch wasn't quite even. [NOTE: I may have been watching a little too much Nova lately.]

Nekkid layers

Oh yeah, put that crumb coat on, it's cold out baby. Especially in the fridge where you're headed next...

Crumb Coated Cake

I really miss having a stacked fridge. It was like playing a freakin' game of Tetris to get it all in there.

Stuffing into the fridge

For the final decorating, I took inspiration from Grace's Sweet Life and her post about a Pink Ombre Cake she made. I was tempted to color the frosting from a deep pink to the light, but the fact that I only have one pastry bag and it seemed like a lot of hassle dissuaded me. I had lots of left over strawberries, so I decided to use them on top, especially since the slices look like little hearts. I should have made the final ring of frosting on the top plain beads, rather than the star tip, but oh well.

Finished Cake

And the best part? It was delicious! E was surprised and loved it! Especially since he had come home from work the day before, took one sniff and asked if I had made a cake. All innocent I asked if he was smelling the vanilla candle burning in living room. He never noticed the bowl of frosting in the back of the fridge or the cake layers cooling on the washing machine in the garage. Heh.

Sliced Strawberry Cake

Tonight I Made Karma Kits

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Awhile back while surfing on Pinterest, I came across a pin to "Blessings Bags" or "Karma Kits." These are Ziploc baggies of toiletries, food, and other comforts that would help a person living on the street.

Today I stopped at Target and made up some kits of my own. I got 12 of everything, so we can keep a few in each car, as well as bring some with us when we go downtown, as there is always a large homeless population down there.

Making Karma Kits

The first thing I did was separate out the toiletries from the food into a separate plastic bag. I didn't want the smell of the deodorant to get into the food. Everything I got was travel size and was lucky to find multi-packs of a lot of things. 

Making Karma Kits

Then I packaged up each kit, taking one of each item. Some things, like the granola bars didn't come in packs of 12, so I had to get two boxes of 8. So some kits have doubles, but I figured that was okay. Here's the list of things that I included in each of my kits:

Making Karma Kits


Toiletries
  • Wet Ones hand wipes
  • Deodorant
  • ChapStick
  • Tissues
  • Razor
  • Toothpaste
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Listerine breath strips
  • Moisturizer

Rest of the Kit
  • Socks (I splurged and got the ones with thicker toes and heels)
  • Instand oatmeal
  • Oatmeal granola bars (these are soft and easier to chew than other granola bars)
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Raisins
  • Tea bag
  • Chocolate square (I found this super cheap and thought they might be a nice surprise)
  • Fruit cup
  • Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers (this is something I found at Target. It has meat, beans and rice all mixed together. It's just heat and serve. Figured it wouldn't be horrid just out of the bag either). 
  • Plastic spoon
I wanted to get a mix of basically healthy foods that have protein and staying power, that are easy to chew (as many homeless have teeth issues), and don't require any prep. I assumed that they can get access to hot water and a cup, which might be a big assumption, but hey. If they can't use something, hopefully they can trade it for something they can use. 

I also made a little label that says "Karma Kit" on one side and has a little message on the other. At first I thought about including an inspirational quote or the contact info for shelters and aid groups in the area, but I decided against that. I didn't want it to be taken as condescending, like I know more about their world than they do. So I opted for "A little bag of comforts to help you in this hard time. All items are brand new." Here's a link to a printable sheet of labels: karmakitlabels.pdf

This was really easy to do. It would be a great activity for a Scout troop or to get small kids to help with. I would love to know how the kits are received and used once I hand them out. Are there things that I missed? Were some things more appreciated than others? Ever the designer, I guess I want to improve on my next iteration. Heh. 

This is Part of the Problem

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For the second time today, I've come across this attitude:

rosesarered.png

Noirbettie pointed on her blog to a new Miley Cyrus recording, of Dolly Parton's Jolene, which expresses a simular sentiment. (Not that I think Noirbettie shares this view, she just pointed to the song.)

Both the card and the song put forth the idea that a man can be stolen from one woman by another. While the situation of one lover leaving the other is common, it's the idea that the man is an object that can be stolen that I object to. It reduces him to a vessel that is powerless and decision-less to remain faithful to his original love.

I call bullshit! It takes two to tango and a man isn't going to stray unless he wants to. This outdated idea that a woman needs to "hang on to" her man otherwise he'll wander off with the next pretty skirt is ridiculous. It reduces his autonomy in making his own decisions. This goes hand-in-hand with other misogynistic beliefs of the patriarchy. It is right there with the myth of the incompetent male.

These are sexist stereotypes and as long as they still abound in this culture we will never have true gender equality and shit like this will continue to happen: man sets his girlfriend on fire. That's right. This happened in SAN FRANCISCO! Not Pakistan or Afghanistan or some other place where honor killings and acid attacks are sadly common. Sexist stereotypes reenforce gender inequalities, which breeds environments where violence against women happens.

ETA: Originally I stated that Cyrus was the author of Jolene. Zitacita was kind enough to set the record straight.

The Daily Kos has been running some wonderful articles about Occupy Wall Street, The 99% and specifically why The 53% are so misguided.

I am not against Capitalism.

Today I saw an article by Satyrblade that takes those who aren't super wealthy but think they aren't part of the 99% to task. He says at the end:

Incidentally, unless this person is a multi-millionaire, she IS part of the 99%... and so are the rest of us. The slogan refers to the people making less than $10 million or so a year. That level of money is not something you often accumulate by working hard and living below your means. It's the kind of money usually enjoyed by people who either do some of the things listed above, or who inherit wealth from other people who already did.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

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This is what this country needs. Found this on Facebook today. Please, pass it on. The question is how to make this happen.

  1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
  2. Congress (past, present & future) participants in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security System, and Congress particpates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
  3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
  4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
  7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of 20 people then it will only take three days for most people (in the US) to receive this message. Maybe it is time. THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS. If you agree with the *Congressional Reform Act of 2011*, pass it on.

I've started a petition on Change.org to send this to Congress. It's the first step for seeing something like this actually happen. Please sign the petition today.

Ending Child Marriage

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When I was at the Social Good Summit a few weeks ago, I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson talk about the dangers of child marriage. They have a new international campaign, Girls Not Brides that they talked about.

Today, I saw an article on the BBC News site, "What Is It Like To Be A Child Bride?" Apparently there was a documentary on child marriage, The Truth About Child Brides, that aired on the BBC last night.

Girls Not Brides has a moving video about it:

It's so great to see this issue getting talked about. I think about what life might be like for these girls, and I just can't imagine. I can't imagine my 8 year old niece being married off now. I think back to my childhood and there was no way I could have pictured being married that young. Heck, for me, marrying at age 26 was too young.

I wish there was more that I could do to help the girls in these situations. They say raising awareness of the issue is the first step, so I'll do that now. Watch the video above. If you find The Truth About Child Brides playing again, watch it. And tell people about it. These girls need our help.

The Kitten Feeding Station 5000

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Ripley is fitting right in with Smudge and Spooky. Or at least, she and Spooky are getting along just fine and Smudge is pouting from the sidelines. But at least he's stopped hissing.

The only problem we've had is that The Boyz really like the kitten food. Really, really really like it. She is still getting gushy food (which she loves) but we haven't been able to leave her crunchies out cause The Boyz will eat them.

Last night I had an idea and this morning The Kitten Feeding Station 5000 was born. Behold.

Kitten Feeding Station 5000, Front View

I took Horus' old carrier (which is the biggest we have) and took off the door. Then I cut a little hole in an old Amazon.com box. I put a weight on top to hold the cardboard in place. I didn't want to attach it to the carrier since I have to take it off to put the bowls in.

Kitten Feeding Station 5000, Side View

I put her gushy food in there without the cardboard, and she ran right in. Then I took her out and put up the cardboard and she ran right in again.

Her crunchies are in there now, and she's totally figured out she can go in and out. The Boyz are rather annoyed since they can smell the food, but can't get to it. And since the door is cardboard, we can make the hold bigger as she grows. Success!

Kitten Feeding Station 5000, In Use

A New Era

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May was a difficult month. On May 2, 2011, my beloved Freesia Princess Muffy Cat passed away. She had been diagnosed with cancer a few weeks prior. She was steadily losing weight. She was down to 3 pounds, 9 ounces when she died. I was hand feeding her kitten gushy food from a demitasse spoon the last week of her life. It was so hard to watch her fade away.

Sleepy Freesia

On the evening of May 2, I came home from work and found her in a bad state. She wouldn't walk, didn't purr, just stared into space and was cold. I called E and he came home from work early. I sat on the floor in the kitchen next to her and softly pet her until he got home. We took her straight to the vet. They told us that she was in shock, and was suffering. We said our goodbyes and had her put to sleep.

Freesia had just turned 16 on April 24. Freesia came into my life my senior year of college. She was with me my entire adult life. She was an amazing cat. Everyone who ever met her loved her. She was the life of the party. She attended college and graduate school. She traveled the country, from Massachusetts to California. She had even been to Canada. I loved her very much. She lived a good, long life. Her little body just had had enough.

Smudge and Spooky were very quiet the first few days after Freesia died. They both sat with me, as I was a crying wreck. Then Spooky decided it was time to make his move, and the running, jumping, and power-plays started. He's firmly established himself as the emperor. Smudge seems to be content as the knave.

Though life has settled into a rhythm with The Boyz, something was missing. We are a three cat family, but only had two. E and I started talking about getting a kitten. It was so difficult to introduce Freesia, Smudge and Horus together as full grown cats, I'm loathe to go through that again. I figured The Boyz would take to a kitten much easier.

On Tuesday I stopped off at the SF SPCA just to see if they had any kittens. And that's when I saw her.

Our New Kitten

I put a hold on her and brought E back the next day. We brought her home yesterday. The little lady hasn't told us her name yet, as we are still getting to know each other. We have put her in the office, as she needs to be quarantined for the next week or so. She's settling right into her new home. She's playing with her toys. She purrs when you pick her up, and will make biscuits in your lap and give you kisses.

Our New Kitten

The Boyz have been very curious about her. They sit outside her door and meow and watch. I let them sniff each other through the door today and she was the one that hissed at them! Spooky, who I was most concerned about, seems just curious of her. Smudge is more unsure. But I have no doubt that they will take to her. How can they not! She is such a charming little lady.

The Oklahoma Daily has an awesome editorial on airport security. Have a read.

Quoting: "The risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant that it doesn't make rational sense to accept the suspension of liberty for the sake of avoiding a statistical anomaly. There's no purpose in security if it debases the very life it intends to protect, yet the forced choice one has to make between privacy and travel does just that. If you want to travel, you have a choice between low-tech fondling or high-tech pornography; the choice, therefore, to relegate your fundamental rights in exchange for a plane ticket. Not only does this paradigm presume that one's right to privacy is variable contingent on the government's discretion and only respected in places that the government doesn't care to look -- but it also ignores that the fundamental right to travel has consistently been upheld by the Supreme Court. If we have both the right to privacy and the right to travel, then TSA's newest procedures cannot conceivably be considered legal. The TSA's regulations blatantly compromise the former at the expense of the latter, and as time goes on we will soon forget what it meant to have those rights."

More TSA Indignities

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There's an article in the New York Times today about the upcoming call to protest the backscatter x-ray machines at the security screenings in airports.

Joe Sharkey says at the end of his article "I'm getting a lot of questions about the new security regime, including some pointed ones from women. Do the imagers, for example, detect sanitary napkins? Yes. Does that then necessitate a pat-down? The T.S.A. couldn't say. Screeners, the T.S.A. has said, are expected to exercise some discretion." What the hell? What right does the TSA have to know that a woman is menstruating?

From the article it sounds like the pilots' union is making some headway at getting the TSA to exempt pilots from having to go through the screening. I like this quote "Pilots have long bristled at being subjected to intensive security when, as they point out, a pilot in control of an airplane does not need a Swiss Army knife to bring it down." Heh. But what can us non-union folks do to get a seat at the table with the TSA?

Some are calling to take the National Opt Out Day protest to the next level. They are asking men to wear kilts the traditional way, sans boxers, for the invasive pat down the opt out will require.

I kind of wish I were flying on Wednesday just so I could do my part to clog up the works. Not that I want the people traveling to be delayed. That sucks. But we have to make a stand. We can't let the government do this to us.

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