Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why I Don't Write About Race

There were some really great conversations about race and privilege at BlogHer this weekend. It's not something I write about (or even talk about, frankly) very often, but these conversations have gotten me thinking. And as Feminista Jones reminded us, we should all speak up. We should all claim our experiences, and honestly? My privilege is one reason I don't talk about it. I don't need to talk about it. It doesn't affect me. Except that it does. It affects all of us. It affects us as a community, as a country, as human beings sharing one planet. And not speaking up because I feel like I don't have a worthy enough story myself is a really shitty reason to stay silent.

My experiences with "otherness" are not much to write home about. They are very white, in the most socioeconomic sense of the word. They are steeped in privilege, which is a word I'll just apologize now for overusing in this post. When I was in elementary school, I was not popular. I was made fun of for liking books, for listening to country music, for being Jewish-looking (not that I was in any way an *actual* minority, guys. I just hadn't grown into my nose, and my peers had, I guess). I ate lunch in the library, and yes, I felt like a big ole loser nerd much of the time, but eh...I had bigger concerns, like how many library books the librarian would let me check out at once or when I would be allowed to wear pointe shoes. In middle school, some girls threatened to steal my clothes in the bathroom once, but that was an anomaly - I don't think they even knew who I was aside from some random kid to torment. I grew up a theatre kid, which for many people is synonymous with otherness, but I actually had a wonderful group of friends and went to a high school where the theatre kids were more beloved than the athletes (or at least we felt that way), so no stories of being stuffed in a locker or bullied there. Sure, I grew up on "the other" side of Ventura Boulevard, not in Hidden Hills or Calabasas where most of my classmates lived...but I didn't live as far as where all the signs were in Spanish, either. I was right in the middle - sometimes uncomfortable, but squarely settled in my own assured privilege. Full of teen angst, but most definitely in a stereotypically privileged way.

The first time I was confronted with feelings of racial difference was in college, when I volunteered with Equal Opportunity Productions (EqOp) - a non-profit arts outreach program in Los Angeles. We visited schools whose arts programs had been taken away, mostly in East LA, and provided free classes and workshops in self-expression, storytelling and improv. We took a group of kids to a cabin in Big Bear for a week one summer (looking back, how the hell did we do that? A lot of parental trust.) to write and produce their own play. It was a transformative experience for many of these kids, who didn't really know how to put their many pre-teen angsty feelings into words. Who didn't feel comfortable expressing their feelings in public. Who hadn't had experiences that allowed them to be crazy, silly, creative kids with a voice. Who hadn't before been listened to and told that their voices mattered.

And for me, it was surprisingly eye-opening. Not because I'd never been exposed to poverty or class divisions, but because for the first time, I was deeply involved and working closely with a diverse group, first-hand, in a way where I had an active role in Making A Difference. And in my own 20-year-old-with-a-heart-full-of-passion way, it was there that I experienced otherness in a way I hadn't before. See, out of our group of 15 or so kids, there were two who were white and Jewish and lived comfortably above the poverty line. When the time came for the program's director to pair us "adults" with kids to mentor, naturally I was paired with the ones who looked like me. And I get it. It's important for kids to have mentors they can personally connect with, and especially for young minority kids to see strong, grown up minority mentors they can easily see as their future selves. And I fucking loved working with those kids. But I also resented our racially classified mentor/mentee relationships because it was less about pairing me with the white kids and more about not pairing me with the ones who were black or brown. In dividing ourselves based on the color of our skin, weren't we part of the problem? In telling these kids that they should learn from those who look just like them, weren't we closing ourselves off to diversity and shared experience?

I will never know what it's like to grow up as a young, black girl below the poverty line in East LA. That will never be my experience. And so I understand why an organization would pair that girl with a mentor who has been there and lived it. And I do believe that it's the right call. I hate (hate hate hate) stories that look like "white person comes in and saves the poor black kids". That's not the story I want to be a part of. But to be told, without further discussion, that "well, obviously" I would be paired with the brainy Jewish kids made me feel strange. I felt like I was being put into a box I didn't know was mine, told that my experiences were as one-dimensional as my looks. That I shouldn't worry about relating to the kids who didn't look like me, because someone more qualified was going to do that.

I have never experienced systemic prejudice. I have never been excluded from a place of privilege because of my race. My experiences as a Jewish woman growing up in the San Fernando Valley do not in any way qualify me to speak on behalf of minority groups who face real adversity, and I do not wish to be any sort of savior. I just want, in my own naive, sunshiney way, to relate to each other on a human level. And I want to feel like I am making some sort of impact, to do something, however small, to make a world where our humanity is all that matters.

There were a lot of talks this weekend about what it means to be an ally. How to support without appropriation. How to speak up, but not speak for. I don't have answers. I only have my experience, and my heart. And a lot of the time, my heart hurts so much for those I don't know how to help that I dissolve into a pool of helplessness and just freeze. I don't want to freeze anymore.

If you have a story you want to tell, please share. Please link to your blog in the comments. I won't use my friends as my teachers - the internet is out there, and there is no shortage of stories to tell about the systemic abuse that exists in this world. I cannot claim, and will not tell, your stories as if they were mine. But you can tell them. Please tell them.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hello From BlogHer!

It's that time of year, friends. Time for thousands of bloggers (mostly ladybloggers) to convene in one place for some "IRL" community bonding. Yes, it's BlogHer season. This year, the conference is close to home, in San Jose, which means that for the first time ever, I drove to BlogHer. I'm going to take the lessons from BlogHers past and cut back on my swag intake...just because you have room for it doesn't mean you should take it! (As my therapist says, "just because you can doesn't mean you should" - amen, sister, I'll try to remember that one)

This time, I have the honor of sharing my BlogHer experience with my coworker Helen...this is her inaugural BlogHer experience, so it's exciting times indeed. If you met us tonight, we were giddy with freedom (hey, we left the office at 3:30pm! and aren't going in tomorrow!) and high on blogger energy. If this is your first time over here at Kim's Kitchen Sink, say hi in the comments! Nice to meet you.

Starting our evening off right with Eppa Sangria at the
Sundown Sangria Soiree.
The invitation said to wear yoga pants. So. Obviously.
It was very hot. There was an ice luge for the sangria.
Attempting to take a selfie for #selfiebration (ugh that word)
Helen attempts a selfie as well. It was hard
to get the picture just right. Involved a lot
of maneuvering.
Late night dinner at Johnny Rockets for nostalgia's sake.
Jukebox was broken. Womp womp.
Area Woman Reports Smiley Face Ketchup Still a Thing.

I didn't take many pictures in the expo hall because I was too busy exhaling (and tweeting) and making mental notes for tomorrow and Saturday (drool over fancy Samsung appliances? CHECK!). Also, I got my fingernails painted Disqus blue (thanks, Bridgestone Tires booth, for the mani and the massage!), so even though I'm not here reppin' Disqus (unless you're an engineer and you want a job, in which case, come find me), I'm still reppin' the blue.

Maybe I'll post every day throughout the conference, maybe I won't...Thursday night is always the calm before the storm. If you see me wandering around with my face in my phone, poke me and say hi!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In My Garden

Our little garden is starting to produce produce, and it's pretty exciting!

From left: sugar snap peas, producer beans, romano beans,
pole beans, and some sort of czech tomatoes.

We're also growing radishes, more tomatoes, jalapeƱos, "king of the north" peppers, padron peppers, basil, dill, parsley (oh so much parsley), carrots, parsnips, red russian kale, and rainbow chard. And our lemon tree is looking good too.  

Our little corner of vegetable heaven.
Check out those pole beans! 
I love how the tomatoes start to ripen top-down. 
I can't take credit for the lemons, but they're going nuts! 
Poppies and our bushy lemon tree, and a straight-on view of
the path to the garden. Roses on the left that I can't take
credit for either.

I think that in another week or so, we're going to be drowning in beans and tomatoes and peppers and radishes! Someday, carrots and parsnips. We're already growing more parsley than we can eat or turn into pesto. It's choking the dill, so I think we may need to just start harvesting and giving it away! I don't know why parsley goes so crazy in our yard, but man.

I mean, look at that parsley.
You can hardly notice the radish greens or the bushy kale :)

...are you growing anything this year?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Purge

No, not the probably-terrifying movie that's in theatres right now. I'm talking about one of July's #YoCP projects: The Shoe Purge. Our shoe situation was pretty out of hand -- my shoes were taking over Will's part of the closet, which meant his spilled out onto the floor. Plus, mine were such a mess that I could never get them to fit on the racks, so I just...didn't. Feast your eyes on this little before and after:

Major thanks to Sonja for being my partner in purge, helping me get rid of 4 grocery bags of shoes (and random clothes) and not judging me for the amount of dust that was under the pile. It feels good to actually be able to see every pair of shoes, and know that I'm not holding on to extraneous crap.

How are your July YoCP projects going? Did you launder/clean your shoes? (I didn't, but they didn't really need it) Do you have any other projects going on? My next project is framing and hanging the art we have collected in piles and rolls in the guest room. And I still have to take care of the last June project: polishing the headlights on the car (I did actually do all the other car-cleaning projects. The glovebox has never looked better).

Congratulations on making it through half the year!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Berkeley? So Very.

This weekend, I finally had one of those stereotypical Berkeley experiences. I can't believe it took me 8 years of living in this city to get around to it. Yes, folks, I walked to Berkeley Bowl and did my grocery shopping with a backpacking pack. For years, I've shopped there and had a hearty "oh, Berkeley" chuckle to myself watching people stroll up with their oversized packs, happily loading them up at the checkout, in their own endorphin-induced contentment. I never thought I would be one of them, but we've entered a new season of life, guys.
Anyway, my friend Sonja is one of those friends who brings out the best in you. When we're together, we always seem to have great ideas and end up eating well and getting housework done; she's a good influence on me. Basically, we're perfect sister wives. And our menfolk love each other, so all is well in the world when we're living in the same city. Which we currently are. So, Sonja's in town, which means that we get to get together randomly, like on Sunday, when I texted her asking if she wanted to help me purge my shoes (part of July's YoCP). Not long after, she was on my doorstep and we were crafting a plan for the day. Our grocery shopping trip involved 3.3 miles of walking (and I carried 20lbs for the second half!), great preparation for the 3-day backpacking trip Will and I are taking this weekend. We weeded the garden, did laundry, purged the shoes, dealt with some fruit flies, and did a little stretching. 

When Will came home from the driving range, the three of us went back to the garden to thin the carrots and do some more weeding...and we ended up picking radishes, sugar snap peas, and mint for our dinner, along with the tops of the carrots we thinned (which we later turned into pesto, along with the radish greens). The garden is looking pretty damn good after two months! We'll be picking tomatoes soon, and cucumbers and beans are growing well too. Hell yeah. Oh yeah, we planted a garden for my 30th ("dirty thirty" garden party). It's going well.
Anyway, we needed to make some dinner before Will's hockey game - it needed bread, and meat, and we wanted to use all the veggies we'd picked (along with some we'd bought at Berkeley Bowl). From the braintrust that is Kim and Sonja in the Kitchen, we came up with the following:

Mexican-Inspired Bread Nachos

Start with one sourdough baguette from La Farine.
Or any baguette. Or probably any similar bread.
Tear it up and put it in the bottom of a baking dish. 
Top with leftover meat (in this case, shredded Barbacoa beef
from Thursday's lunch at work).
Top with cheese (we used sharp white cheddar and pepper
jack), pickled jalapenos and salsa. Would've used more
salsa and jalapenos but I ran out.
Top with more cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at 350F. When the
cheese is melty, switch to the broiler and broil until golden
brown and crisped up, another 5-10 min or so.
Marvel at the ooey gooey deliciousness you created.
Serve with a crispy, crunch salad full of veggies to make
yourself believe you're eating something healthy.
Have seconds.

This recipe is basically a variation of the Rachel Ray "lazy lasagna" model: bread + sauce + meat + cheese. It's a great way to get mileage out of stale bread, but I like it with fresh bread just gets extra squishy. It's super forgiving, and very adaptable - I bet it would be great with veggies and a cream sauce, or with a pesto and some chicken, or with bacon and egg as a breakfast casserole...there are lots of options here, people. Have you ever made this type of bread hot dish meal? Have any good combination recommendations?

Monday, July 7, 2014

It's a Wrap!

For years, I've sought an ideal wrapping paper storage solution (see here and here, also here). And during Big Closet Month, I finally got my act together to create the gift wrap station of my dreams. Ever since moving to our new place (erm, 2.5 years ago), I knew what I wanted to create. After spying this setup on Pinterest and reading all about the Elfa over the door system, I knew that the back of our Big Closet door would be perfect. It's a huge closet with room for the system once the door's shut, and it's right next to the dining room table, which is where I do most of my wrapping. I was having a hard time justifying the purchase (the Elfa system runs about $100), but thanks to some freelancing work from Extra Space Storage, I splurged guilt-free.

After a terrible Stanley Cup Playoff game for the Penguins (at least I was among friends at Giordano Brothers in San Francisco), I engaged in some retail therapy. My friend Adele, a fellow Container Store lover, and I hit the Co-Sto, and about $100 later, I had all the ingredients for a glorious wrapping paper project.

Nice display, Co-Sto. I'm not using this for
pantry storage though (maybe someday...)
Adele is my Container Store soulmate.
Look at this adorable deviled egg travel
container! I mean, come on!
Go home, Container Store. You're drunk.

There were, of course, a few hiccups. Namely, that the standard wall rack/pole thing comes in a standard door size. And all of the doors in our house are the standard size...except the door on the Big Closet, which is for some reason, about 3/4" shy of standard. I walked around the house, trying to see if there was another door I could use, but no. I was determined to use this door, dammit. So back I went a week later, for a free pole-trimming. Protip, guys: the store in San Francisco has a parking lot underground with a free Container Store drop-off and pick-up zone. Pull in, drop off your shit. Come back later, pick it up. They even come to you, so you don't have to leave your car. And the trimming service is free. Such service.

Anyway, with my resized pole, I was ready for action. Except I couldn't figure out how to get the damn thing installed. The instructions were helpful, but it was a little tricky to install by myself. With two people, one to hold and one to tighten the screw, it would have taken much less time. But hey, I'm a badass. I can do things by myself. Other protip: Don't freak out when it looks like despite cutting the pole to the correct size, it's still not going to fit because the over-the-door hooks could not possibly align with the slots correctly. What happens is that as you tighten the screw, the whole thing kind of cinches up, squeezing itself into place on the door. It's like magic. And don't worry about not being able to close the door, because as it squeezes, it tightens enough that the door will close perfectly and you will wonder why you spent so much time fretting about your door that could not possibly close. Because it closes just fine. Better than fine, actually. And now...

This is what it looks like inside the closet. This picture was hard to take. It's hard to take a picture of this door, because from the outside the lighting is kind of crap. And from the inside, the lighting is slightly better but it's pretty crowded. So anyway, this is the best picture I could get. But you can see how awesome the gift wrap storage situation is. It's so lovely. Commence jealousy.

Anyone else have long-awaited projects they've recently completed?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Breakfast Burrito Bonanza

I am in a major breakfast burrito phase. Hold on. I'm not sure I'm explaining this right. I want to eat breakfast burritos every day. Like, every day. I want nothing else. I'm obsessed. Put one in front of me, and I won't be able to resist. And because the spots near home and work sell delicious breakfast burritos, I have no shortage of $6-8 temptation. But because I'm Being Responsible, I don't get them every day. Because that would be Irresponsible. I won't want to go broke by way of burrito.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I could probably make my own, in big batches, and freeze them, resulting in a super-convenient grab-n-go breakfast burrito experience. There are lots of folks doing this and blogging about it, so I had a lot of guidance (see below). My first attempt was with whole wheat flax seed burrito-sized tortillas, bacon, eggs, and a bit of salsa. I warmed the tortillas over the gas burner, and they got a little crackly when I tried to wrap them - not ideal. Because I was eating them the next day, I didn't freeze them. They got a little mushy in the fridge overnight, but not prohibitively so, and I ended up eating them with a fork and knife. They were delicious and easy to transport, but not quite what I was going for. Batch number two: same ingredients, but I heated the tortillas in a pan. Same crackly problem; actually worse this time because the tortillas got a bit crispy. Same fridge situation, same knife and fork.

This time, I was using all leftover ingredients from work, so I was working with flour tortillas (taco-sized, not burrito-sized), shredded barbacoa beef, sour cream and salsa, along with eggs and cheese I had at home (cheddar and pepperjack) and parsley from our garden. I heated the tortillas in the microwave, putting the whole stack between two damp paper towels, which left them soft and just rubbery enough so that they didn't crack when I wrapped them. The tricky thing with this batch of burritos? The tortillas are so small that I could only use like, a teaspoon or tablespoon of each ingredient per burrito, but they came out so adorably that I don't think I mind having to eat 2-3 burritos to equal one serving size :)

I have a hard time not overstuffing - everything ends up
splooging out everywhere. 
Towards the end, logic+internet taught me that I could spread the sour cream on the tortilla first instead of blobbing it on at the end. The burrito is easier to roll if you don't have a splooge of sour cream to deal with. Also, a side note on sour cream: I have no idea how it will freeze. The internet seemed to think it would be ok, so I decided to give it a go. Hopefully I don't end up 18 mini burritos with weird texture issues.

Pile in the back, row ready to be wrapped in the front.
So adorable. Like little blintzes.
For (blurry) scale.
They barely fit in a zip-top freezer bag. Can't wait to
microwave (1 min? 3 min? 2 min?) and eat!

Big thanks to the blogs I consulted for inspiration and tips: