So Burnt Popcorn Has Returned

Published September 15, 2014 by groovychef

burntpopcorn2I wish I understood it. Last January Burnt Popcorn “disappeared.” One day I could get into the WordPress sight and blog and the next day it was just gone. Gone. I could find it in a Google search but as for actually finding its home page and logging in…nope. Could not do it.

 

So I researched out another blog/website creator and decided to toss aside the old and work with the new. Not without a little kicking and screaming of course. I mean, after all, two years of hard work and writing was just “GONE.”

 

As the old saying goes, all things happen for a reason and I am pretty sure that the universe really wanted me to focus or refocus on food writing and the food end of it rather then the Pope or feminist rants. I will admit, for a short bit there I DID lose my way. Some lambs do that. But now, I have completed the second cookbook, have the new website promoting my books up and running and now I am fully focused on that end of my career (oh and I changed jobs too…) so a lot of things are better in my world.

I am still having Burnt Popcorn days but the Chardonnay flows a little less, my work space has now moved to my dining room table and I am trying new wines out for my fall dinner coming up in October. What a huge difference 7 months can make. I am still not dating (at this point not sure this much makes a difference to me). I have a third cookbook rattling around in my head and my first official book signing and tasting is coming up this Sunday.  I am still snarky about life. Still proud to be a feminist but have a lot less time to over analyze the news world and a lot more patience for the extenuating circumstances in life.

 

Needless to say, I am happy to have found my blog again and be ready for an all new me. 🙂 After all…everyone deserves a second chance (or glass of wine).

Back From My Hiatus…Glad To See 2014

Published January 9, 2014 by groovychef

Well, I took some time off from writing.

Not on purpose but, as this blog points out, sometimes life is like that.

After having what was probably one of the most amazing Thanksgivings in recorded history, I began barreling towards that date on the calendar known as Christmas. I was fairly excited because my daughter was going to be home and I assumed (and we all know what that means) that because Thanksgiving had gone well that Christmas would see the same.

Mother Nature had other plans for me.

Somewhere around the tenth I woke up feeling like the whole fleet of busses had run me down. Fever, body ache, difficulty breathing. After five days of battling the fever, trying to work and pretend I felt awesome, and managing Christmas plans, I finally caved and ended up in the ER. A bacterial upper respiratory infection had taken ahold of me and was showing no signs of letting go. Had to be off work, on antibiotics…you know the routine.

At the same time the kitten was going to the vet to get fixed.

Followed up by a hectic work schedule and a slow recovery.

Then my daughter came home from college.

Four days later it was Christmas.

Needless to say we played it low key. No fancy cocktail party as I had planned, no fancy meal as I had thought and done in previous years. Board games and Frito pie Christmas Eve and home alone after the kids left Christmas Day.

Then I broke my foot. Not even sure how that happened but I achieved it and my foot swelled up the size of a football. I think the vacuum fell on it it the middle of the night. I think. Not really sure. So that canceled out any crazy plans I thought I might have for New Years Eve (not that I had plans…I am a 43 year old single cat lady. We don’t have plans on New Years Eve).

And here we are…2014.

Glad To Have The Fresh Start

Like most I know, I was pleased with leaving 2013 behind. It was just not a good year for me. But 2014 has great promise. My daughter read my tarot cards before she left on Winter vacation and overall the year looks to be in my favor (positive attitude included). She indicated a few rough patches (January being one of them and she was right so far) but after June it looks like the tide turns for me and goodness will prevail.

Boy, do I need that to ring true.

And like so many others, I too, made a lengthy list of resolutions to attend to this year. Changes that need to happen in order to be a better happier person. Changes that need to take place in order for me to arrive at the zen place I want to be.

If I sound a little more positive and hippy-like and less smarmy and sarcastic…Its early in the day. The octane has not kicked in, I have not turned on CNN, I have not done my checkbook, gone to the grocery store and dealt with other humans. Give me time.

But, on my list are things like accomplishing my second cookbook. Blogging more regularly. Doing more cooking and less “junk” meal eating (not from the losing weight point of view. I do not need to lose weight. I need to stop buying frozen pizzas on Saturday nights because I am to tired from work to actually cook. What chef does this?). I am hoping to plan and track my meals better as well. This will help in getting the second book completed of course because it is chaining me to the accountability factor involved in what I cook here at home.

Naturally there are a few other items on the list such as taking a mini vacation for the first time alone. Buying a Kitchenaid mixer (yes…THAT’S a resolution because its a goal I want to achieve). And changing my career up a little. Baby steps.

But as we all know, only time will tell if these things pan out.

History has shown that the average person manages to keep their resolutions for 18 days then bails. I am on day number 9 and am doing exceptionally well.

Positive attitude is everything, right?

Here is to a better, happier year with less stress and more smiles.

Dissolution of Family…Is this the end of the real middle class?

Published December 3, 2013 by groovychef

Its been awhile since I have posted. With the passing of Halloween I went into full Thanksgiving mode and spent most of my free time preparing for what could only be described as my second greatest dinner party of all time.

Unlike most Americans, I work in a field of work that does not offer me the bliss and happiness of having Thanksgiving day off. My company is open on Thanksgiving, serving the throngs of people that have chosen not to prepare their own holiday meals. So I take three days off prior to Thanksgiving and I prepare a huge Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and invite family and a few close friends to partake in the festivities.

I do this because as a chef, I am a firm believer in the need to stay in touch with food trends and holiday meals. I also believe that breaking bread with others is important as a whole.

I grew up with the Norman Rockwell image of people gathering, the huge turkey at the had of the table, some one is gifted with the knife and has to cut the turkey. This is followed by several hours of food coma and a lot of dishes to be washed. I revel in this image because it symbolizes family and happiness.

[No..this is not about Uncle Bob getting plastered before he even shows up or Cousin Suzy bringing the same jello mold she has for years that no one eats or the over done turkey that was placed in the oven at 4 in the morning and could be used to build a small house with considering it is that dry.]

This year was a game changer though.

Not for me personally, but I think for American society as a whole.

We MISSED Thanksgiving this year. It blew right by us without even stopping to say hello. It did not come through early or show up late for dinner. In fact, it really did not even come for dessert.

It skipped the American public completely, strangely replaced by Black Friday sales and a steep coating of Thanksgiving Day commercialism.

Yes, there were stores open last Thanksgiving. It was the start of the trend but it didn’t take on a life of its own as it did this year. This year, people had their routes planned  and were ready with credit cards and checkbooks in hand. They parked in the Walmart parking lot at 3 in the afternoon patiently awaiting the doors to open at 6pm.

SAT IN A PARKING LOT AT 3 IN THE AFTERNOON ON THANKSGIVING.

I will tell you that had my Thanksgiving meal been held on Thanksgiving itself, at 3 in the afternoon I would have been knee deep in dishes and final preparations. I would have been assembling appetizers and having a cocktail trying to figure out which dress I would be wearing. I would have been chasing the cats around trying to get them rallied into another room so I could run the vacuum. I would NOT be sitting in a parking lot.

Which makes me wonder if the heavy commercialism and shift to Thanksgiving Day shopping has not deteriorated the middle class completely. We have been forced to put commercialism and the almighty dollar before breaking bread with family.

Now, I have done the research. I have read the articles. I have made personal observations. Here is why I believe this to be true…

Normally, the restaurant I work for is extremely busy Thanksgiving Day. Its like our Superbowl Sunday so to speak. We plan and plan and we know the numbers we are up against. We prepare ourselves mentally for the large tickets and parties that we see as whole entire families ascend the restaurant at 2 in the afternoon. This did not happen. And because my day was 14 hours long, I saw the ebb and flow of business. It died by 6. At 9 I had a few stragglers, those folks that had no doubt missed their Thanksgiving dinner because they were hanging out in a parking lot at 3 in the afternoon.

Then came the horror stories in the news of people trampling others over towels and flat screen tv’s.

I even had a conversation with a check out gal at Walmart Saturday when I stopped to do a little grocery shopping before work. She told me that it was like crazyville and everyone had checked in. And Walmart employees are disgruntled (as they should be) because they had to spend their Thanksgiving Day hosting this chaos.

All of this is supported by the final sales numbers. Thursdays sales figures were bigger then Fridays sales figures. More people came out on Friday but more money was spent on Thursday. That fact does not just apply to Walmart but across the retail board.

Which makes me ask the question…Where has our sense of family values in the middle class gone when shopping and sales are more important then visiting with Aunt Barb and her live in girlfriend while eating dry turkey and green bean casserole? Is this the end of holidays as we know it, because they are no longer centered around the table but rather the check out line?

And who should hold responsibility for this? [and before you answer Obama, let me remind you, he pardoned that turkey but was NOT seen at a Walmart or Target or any other retailer on Thursday].

Is it the big box retailers watching their bottom line? After all, they do not necessarily have to shop on Thanksgiving to save money because their paychecks are large enough to support non-sales purchase power.

Is it the politicians fault because America has been in an ugly recession for so long that we can barely recover before the next financial hit comes?

Is it Americans who hold the cards in this hand? Is the need to own more stuff then we really need, so great that we are willing to forgo family just to make sure our teenagers are given flat screen tv’s, Kindles, Ipads/Ipods, and the latest gaming system? Is it our fault because we cannot help but to keep up with the Joneses? [Of course this answer leads to a great discussion about family values and the youth of today being “entitled” to everything because we have raised them this way].

And what impact will this dissolvement have on Christmas? Or other future holidays? Or even the family structure?

When do we actually put weight behind that line that everyone says “Oh…I really hate how commercialized Christmas has become” ONLY to feed the beast by waiting in a parking lot at 3 in the afternoon.

If the American people made the choice to not shop and bring the family back to the table, retailers would get the message that family is more important then retail sales. What is that old saying? “if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem.”

ARE YOU PART OF THE PROBLEM OR ARE YOU PART OF THE SOLUTION?

 

Doing A Little Spiritual House Cleaning…Exorcising The Old Demons

Published October 23, 2013 by groovychef

exorcist

If you close your eyes and envision your life as a house, and each room is a different part of your life, can you say that your house is clean?

I can.

365 days ago I woke up on a crisp October morning just like this one and  did not realize that my life was about to get a total and complete make over.

A spiritual house cleaning of all the old mental clutter that had clogged every last bit of my life.

It started with the exorcism of my old boyfriend (using the term exorcism is not really derogatory here considering he was more toxic to me then bleach and gasoline combined). His live in girlfriend (of 6 months) called to inform me of her existence. That was the last time I spoke with him (or her). I had been trying to lose him for almost 3 years but something about him always sucked me back in (didn’t that happen with Reagan in the Exorcist?).

That was in October.

In December I had issues with my computer which I had had since my divorce (5 years) and it was something that the ex-spouse had hooked me up with. At the same time we had a small car insurance “fiasco.” Both were long time issues that I had fretted about but had never really fixed because it just was not worth the energy. I had no choice but to buy a new computer and deal with the insurance mess. Boom…both problems fixed.

In January, I had a publisher call me and show interest in helping me write a cookbook. I had had the desire to write a cookbook for over 10 years but felt I had walked away from that part of my life. I was no longer a food columnist nor a personal chef. That was the past. But it was still haunting me because it was a dream that I had had that was never recognized. After several miscommunications I made the choice to write and publish on my own.  7 weeks and 170 pages later I released my first cookbook. Long lost dream recognized.

February was a month of great house cleaning. I had a minor tax bill that needed to be paid so handled that. It had caused a great deal of anxiety for me and was one of the main reasons I did not check the mail on a regular basis. A LOT of anxiety was attached to this. With a couple of simple phone calls, it was taken care of. I also had a storage unit (gotten when I moved in with the toxic demonic ex-boyfriend) and it housed a great deal of items from my past that I no longer had a need or use for. It was a financial burden on top of being a reminder to me of all the things I no longer had in my life. So I got rid of it.

In May, my car died. A gift from the toxic demonic ex-boyfriend, it died a sad little death on a chilly rainy afternoon. It cost me about $250 in towing only to have to junk it. It was the final item that attached me to the ex-bf…and it was a constant reminder of how foolish I was to have stayed with him.

In August, the second car died. It was my first self bought car and had been in bad shape for awhile but it was the only vehicle we had so it was how we traveled to and from work. It had to be replaced. SO much anxiety had been attached to both vehicles that it made me fearful to ever get in a car and drive anywhere. After an anxiety attack like no other and a full day off of work, we resolved the problem by purchasing another car.

By September I had swept away the ex-boyfriend and all his ties to me, I had corrected numerous large financial issues that plagued me constantly, stepped into the 21st century with a new computer, camera and printer. Gained independence from the past with a newer car, and achieved a dream that I thought had long since died. I only had one more area to fix and that was gaining personal freedom.

So I made the choice to stop working so hard and learn to take a little time for me. I made the choice to start getting out a little more and throwing caution to the wind. I took the time to breath and come from a place of yes rather then a place of not sure.
Its October again and a year after the ex-boyfriend mess.

There were a lot of areas of my life that were literally riddled with old ghosts and demons that I learned to live with rather then taking charge and removing them. I let them over run my life and hold me hostage in my own world simply because it was easier to ignore them then to face them head on.

I am finally at a happy place in my life. A place of inner peace.

As Tangina would say (from Poltergeist) “This house is clean…”

tangina

The Beat Goes On…for Congress

Published October 1, 2013 by groovychef

As I lay in bed this morning, suffering what can only be described as a CNN hangover, head full of news reel bits and political carnage left over from spending a whole night watching CNN, only one thought keeps playing in the background…Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.”

I know, that sounds odd. But maybe not as odd as you think…

Last night the government officially shut down because they could not decide on a final budget and appropriations contract resolution.

At the same time the government shut down, Obamacare kicked in (you can check out last weeks blog on this).

Obamacare is one of the points that the Republicans are battling (throwing temper tantrums over). They want to delay it for a year to further pick it apart (which may not be a bad idea). However, despite their efforts, the House and Senate could not come to an agreement, Obamacare still took effect, and 800,000 government workers are officially still in their pajama’s drinking coffee and planning their first furloughed day off.

As Sonny and Cher said “The Beat Goes On.”

So what exactly did congress accomplish by not working together as a team? Not much beyond causing chaos.

Now I certainly will not place blame on either side here. It takes two sides to disagree. The House and The Senate. Democrats and Republicans. While we are at it might as well throw in The Tea Party. I watched amazing footage of grown men and women, most with law degrees of some form, give horrifically non-sensical arguments on the Congressional podium about why they would not agree to the current budget.

There was even a filibuster that was not really a filibuster that lasted some 21 hours and accomplished nothing.

And for the rest of the American populace, the beat goes on…

  • We still have to go to work.
  • We still have to pay the bills.
  • I still have to pay child support (NOT that I would ever stop…point being, I have to pay it, the person who is supposed to process it is probably on furlough).
  • The astronauts still have to work (as do their support team) but the rest of NASA has the day off.
  • Soldiers still have to work.
  • Judges still have to work.
  • Teachers still have to work (although over three quarters of the Education Committee and its workers are furloughed so programs for special needs children will not be attended to).
  • WE all still have to pay taxes (again, over half the IRS is on furlough).

However, if you are busy vacationing or enjoying one of those furloughed days off, do not expect to be able to go visit a National Park…they are closed, their workers are also on furlough.

So maybe on this day off, some should consider looking into Obamacare since it has now officially taken effect. After all, you really have no idea when you might be returning to work and there has been no guarantee of back pay during the furlough so you may need to consider finding a job in the civilian sector.

Just do not bother calling your local labor department for employment advice, they too, are on furlough.

What I DO find most amusing is that not only did Congress force 800,000 people to be on furlough but ALSO took away their constitutional right to free speech….

There is a certain percentage of non-essential government workers who were told they were not allowed to talk to the essential government workers while they are on furlough.  That’s right. They were told they could not have contact or communication with essential workers during the furlough.

Now, maybe from the outside this does not seem like a bad thing, except that I am sure there is a percentage of government workers that share family ties (by blood or marriage) with the other…meaning the husband works as an essential worker and the wife is non-essential. What gives the government the right to do that?

And financially, long term, how will this effect those furloughed families, the American people, and the tourist industry? What kind of example does this set for the American people?

Personally, short term (meaning over the next month) I do not see this effecting me in any way shape or form. I still have a job. I will still struggle to make ends meet because times are tough. I am not part of any government run programs, I do not collect aid of any sort. I also have health insurance through my employer so as of this moment, nothing changes in my world except maybe the tv station I plan to watch today.

But I have family and friends that will see some reverb from this and for them, the beat will not go on. It will change.

But Congress will not change. The politicians will not change. They will still hold firm to their thought process and reasoning and make negotiating difficult.

Then maybe the song should not remain the same.

Maybe, just maybe it is time for a revolution….

Obama..Like the man, hate the plan

Published September 25, 2013 by groovychef

I have been kind of sort of following this Obama care thing for awhile. My initial thought on this was “Great, finally a plan to get Americans covered medically that will put us in the same human bracket as other countries.”

But as the saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, only in my case I was seeing the forest and forgot about the trees completely.

So over the last couple of days I have done my political duty as a blogger and did the research. Suddenly I had the urge to go buy a chainsaw and start cutting down the trees…one at a time.

Lets break this down into simple points of understanding…

  • Americans will be expected to have health insurance coverage by January 1st or pay a federal penalty (along with all of your medical bills).
  • You can get that insurance through your standard means: Employer coverage, government based coverage (medicaid), schooling coverage, medicare or (coming soon to the state you live in) an Obamacare insurance exchange.
  • If you choose to avoid getting health insurance, the government has the right to fine you (that is the term used) $95 per adult (a little less per child) or 1% of your income, whichever is higher. This rate will increase annually.

Sounds easy, right? Go to your employer and say “hey…when insurance coverage comes around, sign me up.” Done and over with.

Wrong.

Not all employers offer health coverage to employees that are part time. There are currently 27.4 million part time workers. MOST employers are finding that if they hire more part time workers, they can avoid the additional cost to their bottom line to insure their workers. I know of one company with a crystal  clear track record of helping communities by offering items for resale. Its a win win for them as they employ people in the community but do not offer their employees insurance at all and make it clear they will only hire part time.

In my own case, my employer offers health insurance for employees who average over 30 hours a week. However, there are stipulations to the cost. You have to reach a certain level of training in order to have the weekly payments reduced enough to afford it. Naturally I signed on last year, although it took me almost two years to reach that point that the rates dropped. I will be signing up again this fall when it comes around. I have yet to use the insurance as I am in good strong health.

Medicare and Medicaid have their own hurdles, but if you qualify, its a good alternative.

The nitty gritty of it…what will Obamacare cost non-insured individuals who choose not to pick up insurance through privatized means?

A lot more then you would expect.

I wanted to come up with a simple break down of numbers that are easy to digest and put it into perspective…

If my son, who is a healthy 22 year old non-smoking, non-drinking male, were to drop his health insurance through our employer, and decide to pick up Obamacare through one of the exchanges, he would be paying 85% more a month for less coverage, less freedom of choice in medical care, and less choices health wise because Obamacare has less doctors under its enrollment. Further more, the Obamacare policy restricts what is allowed to be done. Meaning if you need a procedure, the government has to decide if you really need it. Plainly put…the numbers do not lie. He pays $16 a week for health, dental, and eye coverage. That’s $64 a month. On Obamacare [in Illinois], he would be paying $120 a month.

Oh, and they also have restricted enrollment times just as the average employer does (let that sink in a minute…..)

There are enrollment periods just as there is for an employer.

Let me say that one more time….YOU WILL PAY INTO GOVERNMENT INSURANCE DURING SPECIFIC ENROLLMENT PERIODS JUST AS YOU DO EMPLOYERS.

Read that statement as “The government will attach a number to your head just as they do to their government workers, you will be paying federal income tax to live here and then be paying a higher amount for partial insurance coverage that is controlled by the government.”

Now normally I am all for government guidance and control. I do not mind the laws. I do not mind paying taxes. Those taxes go for things like protection of my rights as an American by the men and women of the armed services.

But this one steps over the boundaries.

Lets couple that (for a minute) with the hot mess already on the table.

We are struggling to stay out of war with Syria. We still have not brought our men and women back from Afghanistan. We still have an average rate of 7.4% unemployment in our country. The Post Office can barely keep the lights on and lose more money every day (oh…and as of this morning are considering another postal rate hike). We can not figure out a way to control guns in a manner that makes both sides happy (I wonder if Obamacare covers mental health care…). Oh and the government budget is a mere 5 days from collapsing (while my own budget collapsed some time ago, but I still have to make it work).

So why would we WANT this new Obamacare to pass? I do not know about other average American households, but I can assure you that I cannot squeeze out another dime from my checkbook to give to the government for something that restricts my choices. I cannot afford to pay 85% more for 85% less coverage. I cannot afford to become an “employee” of the Obama government.

I am happy that at this point I have a job that appreciates me enough to offer me health insurance at a rate that is within reason.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I like Obama. I voted him into office. I like how he approaches problems. However, I do not like this plan. There is not one part of the plan that makes sense to me from an economic stand point, nor from a health stand point.

Obama….Like the man, hate the plan.

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