“Molly is the best thing to come out of Ohio since…um…the best thing to come out of Ohio since things started to come out of Ohio!”
follow me on twitter as @OpinionsToGo 

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PLATING

Moms. They make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, usually. Unless they are married to chefs or something. So they do it year in and year out until they nearly drop from the sheer ennui of it all. Figure out what to make. Go to the store to get the ingredients. Make the meal. It’s gone in ten minutes. Wash up. Repeat.

It got to the point that I had a repertoire of maybe five meals that I could make without really thinking about it, and then the other two meals were pizza delivery and something family size from the frozen section.

My husband got tired of this. Honestly, so did I. Eureka! Subscription food boxes: three really interesting and delicious meals that come with all the ingredients, and easy instructions for cooking.

They also come with a recipe card. On the front of the card is a photo of the final result of the meal you are making. It is very obvious to me that the photos are taken by a food stylist, and nobody on their subscription list actually ends up with their dinner looking even remotely like the photo.

I made about 6 months of the food boxes, cooking them up and schlepping them on the plates haphazardly.  Enter my husband. Professional accordionist. Handyman. Person that follows every single direction to the letter, and who has never experienced assembling an Ikea bookcase with bolts and screws left over.He took over the cooking. That sounds good, but in truth, I decided enough was enough, and he took over the cooking.

I don’t have any photos to show you, because I eat my dinner; I don’t use it as a photo op. But trust me. Plating is Charlie’s forte. The dinner might get cold, but dammit, he takes the time to arrange it carefully, using the picture on the recipe card as the guide. Every carrot, sprig of parsley, and sprinkle of cheese is PLACED.

Dinners around here are works of art.

Last night, we had friends over. I made a sort of complicated recipe that fell outside the purview of the subscription boxes. It involved many ingredients, fresh herbs, and a crockpot. It smelled pretty appetizing. When it came time to serve, I dove into the crockpot with a large spoon, dealt one piece of chicken, some potatoes, carrots, shallots and broth onto each plate, and put it on the table.

The plates looked like something served in the sketchy pub that Cosette’s guardians ran in Les Miserables. A pile of boiled meat surrounded by chunks of vegs, a pool of broth seeping out from beneath.

The guests, who are extremely decent people, ignored what their dinners looked like. They ate the food, exclaiming periodically, “This is really good. Can you go get some salt and pepper? And are there any more dinner rolls?” I got the dinner rolls from a bakery.

My husband said nothing. He did raise his eyebrows when I set his plate down in front of him. He also had thirds on the dinner rolls.

After our guests left and we were cleaning up, he shoveled the remains of the plates into the trash and said, “Maybe next time, you could save out a few sprigs of parsley to drape over the chicken?”

I replied, “I have an idea. Let’s get rid of the crockpot. It boils everything.”

His eyes widened. “You are blaming the crockpot?’

I rest my case. From now on, I make only:

  • Sandwiches
  • Oatmeal, which is supposed to look awful
  • Soup out of a can, which always comes out looking the same
  • Salad (however, I need to perfect dressing, because mine always tastes astringent)
  • Cereal
  • Toast
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Popcorn
  • Turkey or chicken potpies with baked potatoes, because nobody can ruin the cuteness of a little pie next to a potato.

Charlie is making dinner tonight. I am not sure whether he will use sprigs of parsley or kale as garnish.

 

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REPORTING IN

 

This is a departure from my regular fare.

I have anxiety. It comes and goes, but it has been there since childhood.

I am just now learning how to deal with it. It will take time, but I am encouraged by recognizing  how many other people have anxiety as well. There are so many kinds: panic disorders, social anxiety, agoraphobia, health anxiety, OCD, PTSD, phobias. The list is endless.

What I am so grateful for is social media, which opens the door to helpers and experts in the field of managing anxiety. I have learned to my relief that having anxiety is not a defect or indication of personal weakness, It is simply a disorder that can be managed. There is therapy available specific to anxiety disorders. Webinars. YouTube videos. Podcasts. If you need support, it is all around you.

Admitting to having anxiety can be humiliating for some, embarrassing for others, and simply impossible for many. So I am going out on a limb here by admitting my own.I share this just in case one of you who might read this blog might also have some sort of anxiety, and need some company, some reassurance that you can manage, or even just some recognition. I am right here with you.

We can manage. We can live with anxiety. We can move on. No matter how long anxiety has plagued us.

I send out hugs to all. And one for me.

Enter “anxiety” in the YouTube search bar for so many informational and helpful videos on how to manage your anxiety.

THE ANXIOUS TRUTH is a fantastic podcast you can get on any podcast platform. Check it out.

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WITH APOLOGIES TO KEN BURNS

I watch television like it’s my job. This is a result of the pandemic; at least that is my excuse. Documentaries are my chosen genre, or as one of my friends said, “If  a documentary has been produced, Molly has seen it.”

I have to make a distinction. Crime shows are not documentaries. My husband gets this confused, as I also have a liking for 20/20ish shows that do “document” things, but they are all of the grisly variety. Those I classify as entertainment, not documentaries.

A good documentary tells a story about something or someone that has a distinct and interesting backstory that most or all of us have not heard. A  film about  real people and their oddities, like Grey Gardens. Exciting and thrilling docs like Free Solo. I like stories, personal revelations, and tales of weird happenings.

There is a caveat, however. Some documentaries go WAY TOO FAR. I may be very unpopular admitting this, but Ken Burns takes things that could be interesting and beats them to death with details. I learned so much more than I ever wanted to know about the Roosevelts! And despite the fact that I have written some novels, there are things about Hemingway that I truly don’t care to know. The cats, fine. The cross-dressing, really?

A documentary should last about an hour. Maybe an hour and a half. Certainly there is no need for multiple episodes. We want the general idea, not the complete biography. Ken Burns gets so caught up in his research, and he takes months, maybe years looking into his subjects. Somebody needs to tell Mr. Burns that this is overkill. Ken, you can stop, really. We don’t want to know how long it took Eleanor R to learn to ride a bike (this may or may not have been in the docuseries from Burns, but you get the idea).

Letters written home. Letters  from the front. Poems that never made it into publication. Musings  about nature left in diaries . Existential angst. The history of the hometowns and the favored architecture of your subjects. Snow or rainstorms that caused local damage. Dead pets. Ken, you can leave those out.

Of course, this reveals much more about me, the tv watching dilettante, than Ken Burns, the scholar and filmmaker. But perhaps I speak for a few more people than are willing to admit that they, too, do not want to know as much about things as Ken Burns wants to tell us…

 

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ASKING FOR A FRIEND

  • Is chili powder still spicy if the expiration date is 2013?
  • Can you still buy Geritol?
  • Why do people in crime shows always take walks alone in the woods?
  • When will the pandemic be over?
  • Why do book clubs spend almost no time discussing books?
  • Why did banana bread get so popular during the pandemic? Why didn’t cinnamon toast top the list?
  • Do all husbands have one “stock joke” that they tell at every single opportunity?
  • If you are over 65, is a potbelly acceptable?
  • At what age should a woman with very dark hair give up the L’Oreal boxes and just go gray?
  • Do all men ask the waitress where she goes to school?
  • Can you use hand sanitizer for anything else?
  • Why is season three of any tv series always a total letdown?
  • Why do people think salmon tastes good?
  • Do you remember the first Frito you ever tasted?
  • Can you give leftover Halloween candy as Christmas gifts?
  • How many chucks CAN a woodchuck chuck?
  • Is there anybody out there who actually believes that we need eight glasses of water a day?
  • How many questions are too many questions?
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SELFIES

I quit social media during the worst of the pandemic and the Trump administration, when all social media did for me was to plunge me further into emotional turmoil. I did not leave Instagram, however. Like the guys who subscribe to Playboy for the “articles,” I stayed on Instagram for the pictures.

One thing I don’t get, though, is all of the people who feel that they must post pictures of themselves at least four times a week. I am not talking about “influencers,” whose selfies sell products.

I am talking about regular people like me, who seem to want to share their every move with everyone on Instagram. They selfie at the gym. At lunch with a friend. In their bedroom, sitting on the bed so we can see what they are watching on the tv behind them. Sitting on the patio, drink in hand. Reading a book.

I see folks in bathing suits, robes, costumes, and aprons.

They always smile. They stand in front of their flower gardens, beside their fire pits, and lean against their cars. They do closeups. They must have tripods as well,  because they also do full body shots.

Why?

Is it because they feel that unless they document their lives this way, they don’t really have lives? Do they feel validated by the number of “likes” they get? It is a mystery to me. My eye bags preclude selfies, unless I use photoshop, and that takes WAY TOO MUCH TIME. In order to make myself presentable for a selfie, I have to put on makeup, find a good place to stand with good light, snap the pic, and then spend at least ten minutes on photoshop erasing all the eye bags, adding a row of long eyelashes, smoothing over my skin, and putting an artificial  gleam in my eyes.

So why do these folks do this?

The bigger question, I guess, is why am I still there on the ‘gram,’ scrolling through their photos?

Full confession: I am really on Instagram for the cat photos. What? How often do I post one of my cat? *clears throat* Well, just about four times a week…

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THERE IS YOGURT IN THE BACK OF MY FRIDGE

The shelves of my refrigerator are cluttered. There is either barbecue sauce or ketchup dried on one shelf. The door is so full of condiments it isn’t even funny. But I can justify everything in there.

But way in the back of the top shelf is a container of plain yogurt.

I despise yogurt.

So, how did it get there? I do all the grocery shopping, and I would never voluntarily think we should all of a sudden begin consuming yogurt, especially not the kind without fruit in it. The fruity variety is bad enough, but the plain stuff tastes like sour paste.

Did I think I should put the yogurt in something? Like pancakes? But we don’t eat pancakes. I don’t make muffins, either.

I am sure that nobody gifted this yogurt to us.

The cat doesn’t eat yogurt.

Was I thinking about making something in yogurt sauce? We like cucumbers in that creamy sauce with dill. However, I don’t have a recipe for that. So did I buy the yogurt thinking I would look one up? But I didn’t buy any dill. So it couldn’t be that.

Was their a dinner we might have had that involved yogurt, like some sort of marinade or maybe a food show suggested that next time we mashed potatoes, we should put yogurt in?  The thing is, I don’t watch cooking shows.

This will haunt me, this yogurt.

I threw the yogurt in the trash. And beside the trash can, I noticed a Glade Plug-In.

We have poltergeists is the only explanation for all of this.

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LET THEM GO

Fall. The air is crisp, the apples are good again, and for me, it’s a liberation.

I no longer need pedicures. Closed shoes, you know.

This is both economically freeing and personally liberating, because a good pedicure costs more than $40, and doing my toes myself due to the pandemic is hard on my knees–all that bending to try to bring my toenails close enough to my eyes to apply the polish without getting it all over the skin on my toes.

I wonder if anybody else lets things go in the fall. Leg shaving? Shaving other areas?

I like fall for other reasons, too. I can’t imagine living in a place where the seasons don’t change. My LA daughter never sees the leaves turn colors. Granted, she and her family can sit outside to eat supper almost all year round, but since my husband believes that food spoils almost instantaneously if you carry it outside, we never eat out on the balcony anyway.

Cozies? Hygge? Candles? I love all those things. However, since moving to this brand-new apartment, the thermostat keeps the place exactly at the temp that you set; thus eliminating the need for sweaters or robes or anything. When it says it is 72 degrees in here, that is exactly what it is in every single nook or cranny. In the house that we lived in for thirty years, the thermostat was in the entry hall. So yes, it was nice and warm in the entry, but when you went upstairs, sweaters were not optional after October 30.

Fall means comfort food. Soups, chili, and food covered in gravy. Now that my husband has taken over the cooking, we will see what pans out (pun actually intended.) He is turning out to be a much better cook than I ever was, so I am looking forward to winter for that reason. And sidebar: He takes time in plating the food so it looks just like the pictures on the recipes, whereas I just schlepped it onto plates and slid them onto the table. A lot has changed gastronomically.

So. Fall. The leaves. The soups. The “fall back” early sunsets. It’s catalog season, too. I love looking at all the sweaters. I do wonder, however, if cashmere will go out of style, what with global warming and menopause.

I can’t even imagine what eating soup while wearing a sweater would be like, but I know it wouldn’t be any fun at all.

And the flannel sheet sets? Are those just for people who live in North Dakota?

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A CAUTIONARY TALE

I am a victim of misinformation.

I may not be a victim of misinformation.

It could be that I am the victim of my own faith in what I see on the Internet.

I could be a victim of stupidity.

In my defense, I saw this on more than one internet site, so as a red-blooded American who defines seeing something on multiple www’s as actual research, I believed it.

The “personal trainers” on the web said that if you can’t sit down on the floor and then get up without USING YOUR HANDS, you will be dead in less than five years.

Five years.

I even watched the videos of these (obviously fit) people doing it. They put one foot behind the other, sort of like getting ready to curtsey, and then lowered themselves gracefully to the floor. They took a deep breath, then using just the strength in their ankles, calves, and thighs, sprang to their feet.

The thinking behind this, and I am not sure whether nine out of ten doctors agree, or if there is some study published somewhere that says that if you can’t do this, it is an indication of your overall health, and being too weak to spring up from sitting cross-legged in a single movement means you will get cancer, a stroke, or break a hip. Then die. The research wasn’t cited.

However, I saw these videos and realized that my death is imminent.

So I began to practice. First, I lowered myself down next to the bed, so I could use it for balance, in case I began to fall. I began to fall. The bed didn’t help. So I landed hard on my ass. But I was down there, at least.

The experts said to lean back a little, and rock forward to create momentum. The momentum would get you started, and then you could just sort of roll up into a full stand.

I tried this a number of times, unsuccessfully.

Then I managed to roll up onto one knee, then struggle up somehow twisting as if being mugged, but I managed to stand. Without using my hands, goddammit.

I was so excited that I was going to live at least six more years, that I called my husband to come and witness. “Watch, Charlie!” And I did it again.

I was so proud of myself. I was fit. I was in for a long future.

The next morning, I could barely move.

My chiropractor asked me if I had any ivermectin in my medicine cabinet, in case of emergency.

 

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I ASK MYSELF

I left Twitter and Facebook right after the last presidential election, at the beginning of the pandemic. Constant scrolling for “news,” all of which was bad, and reading what everyone else in the world was thinking, all of it disheartening, got me down. So all of a sudden one day I just deleted my accounts. I have not regretted this.

I held on to my Instagram account, however. I visit Instagram multiple times a day.

For those of you who don’t know, Instagram started out as a way for people to share photos, videos, and other images. These can be accompanied by text, not limited to a certain number of characters, the way Twitter limits user posts. That’s it in a nutshell. Sounds sort of lame, right? Either that or one of the most genius social media platforms ever. I am torn as to what the reality is. But Instagram is certainly not good for you.

Here is why I am still on Instagram: for the photos of the inside of people’s houses, as an outlet for my voyeuristic side. I also follow all sorts of cute dogs and cats. Then there are the jewelry accounts, because my love for diamonds never wanes. Throw in the New York Times food page, other food sites, and I could spend hours just scrolling through Instagram. Oh, yes, and I follow a bunch of other writers and lots of artists.

What I didn’t know until I watched a documentary about it, is that Instagram is the sole income source for lots of people. These “influencers,” many of them under the age of 25, make millions of dollars. How do they do it?

These people make videos on Instagram that go “viral.” This means that unlike my Instagram posts of my cat, these influencers’ posts amass thousands upon thousands of followers–some of them making it into the millions. Their followers hit the “like” button on their posts, and so all of this attention attracts advertisers, who pay the influencers to tout stuff like soft drinks, clothing, shoes, makeup, and the like. Apparently, being an influencer is an actual career.

I am not in the cohort of people who are influenced by the influencers. I have no idea who any of them are, other than the kids I saw on the documentary. And they could care less about me and my cat photos.

So as I scrolled through my Instagram feed this afternoon, I wondered why the hell I even go on Instagram in the first place. It is a huge time waster. I asked myself why I feel obligated to post at least every other day: either an adorable photo of my cat, one of my many drawings, a pitch for someone to buy one of my books, or an artful shot of something in the apartment.

Am I striving to influence somebody? Who might that be? Influence them to do what? Do I have aspirations to become somehow popular on Instagram as a representative of the Baby Boomer generation, few of whom probably even know what Instagram is? Is there a corporation on the planet who would want to pay me to post something on Instagram about one of their products? Of course not.

Do I want my cat to become famous? Do I hope that somehow a celebrity will notice my Instagram feed and start following me? Do I want to become known for the chair in my living room that is in so many of my cat postings? What is it that drives me to maintain a presence on Instagram?

I am not sure. Here is the answer I give people who ask me about it, though:

One has to keep abreast of social media or become a dinosaur.

Until I figure out the real answer, this one will have to do.

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