So you appear well-raised

Month: November 2019

The Not-So-Secret Life of Pets

Let me just start by saying that I believe animals are cuddly and cute and great companions. They can enrich your life and make you happy. But we have to talk about just how chummy you want me to get with your four-legged friend.

Your animals are YOURS. YOU decided to have them. Personally, I’m not a pet person. I had pets when I was a kid. They were fun and I enjoyed them, but as an adult, I’d rather not. Too much responsibility and all that jazz.

So if you’re one of those super-adults who can care for themselves and a pet, hats off to you. But what I’m here to talk about is me and your animals coexisting.

Recently, there was a huge news story about people taking their dogs onto the campus of Howard University in DC and letting them use the bathroom in the grass and just being general nuisances to the students there. The students, staff, and faculty expressed displeasure and requested the dog-walking on their campus to cease. The dog walkers got upset. They couldn’t fathom why someone would have a problem with the presence of their beloved canines. Here’s why I think they were wrong . . .

As I said, your pets are YOURS. You have them because YOU love them. Forcing others to love them or even exist with them is obnoxious. Look, if I come to your house, fair game. That’s you and Fido’s domain. I’m a guest. If there’s pet hair flying everywhere, while I can wish you would clean that up and pray that you never volunteer to make anything for a potluck, it’s not my business.

What IS my business is if I’m in a public space and you, convinced that your 150 lb Saint Bernard is a cuddly lap dog, let him run loose and he comes barreling toward me, while you’re busy yelling, “It’s ok. He won’t hurt you. He’s just a puppy.” That ain’t no damn puppy! YOU find him harmless and endearing. I don’t know him or you.

And it’s not just dogs. Cats too. My neighbors have what is called an “outdoor cat.” I say it that way because I’ve never in my life heard of that shit. I was always taught that strays lived outside and if something was yours, you kept it inside and protected it. So imagine my surprise when I saw this cat, hanging around my suburban neighborhood, weaving in and out of various gardens, using the whole world as his bathroom. And THEN I saw my neighbors take him in and let him out. He was theirs. Again, that was their cat, not mine. But there he was, sunning himself among my zinnias.

Please don’t mistake me for an animal hater. I fully believe that anyone who is cruel or neglectful toward animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But you have to understand that this is not a black and white issue – you don’t either love or hate pets. Gray areas. Nuance. There are cultures that actually think of animals as unclean. There are people that are allergic to pet dander. And then, there are people that are genuinely afraid of cats or dogs. In all these scenarios, forcing someone to deal with your furry friend is truly wrong. You enjoy them in your space and spaces for pets and let the rest of us live.

Mulled Wine: A Toasty Way to Get Tipsy

Now that the temperature has decided to be VERY fall-like, I’m hibernating. And you’ll only get me to come out with the promise of wine. Mulled wine, specifically.

There are tons of mulled wine recipes out there. Personally, I don’t like mine all that sweet. And I like to throw in a little brandy at the end, for that extra something special. I’m aware that not everyone keeps these ingredients on hand (unless you bake – I don’t). But it’s worth it to get them now so you can have mulled wine until the weather warms up. You can do this on the stovetop or in your crockpot. I like the Crockpot option because I throw everything in and go tend to something else and slowly, the house starts to smell all warm and spicy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Red Wine – cheap, dry. The quantity will depend on how many people you’ll serve. One bottle could be good for 2 to 4 people.
-Cinnamon sticks – no you may NOT use the powder here. Your finished product will be slimy and muddy. Invest in the sticks. 
-Whole star anise
-An orange
-Whole cardamom pods
-Apple cider
-Optional sweetener if you must

1. Pour wine into the pot or Crockpot. Heat very slowly, so keep it low.
2. Throw in 1 cinnamon stick for each bottle of wine you use.
3. Slice up your orange and throw that in. Half an orange should be good unless you are using many bottles of wine. And in that case, use more orange. There’s no exact science to this.
4. Throw in just a FEW star anise and cardamom pods. We’re going for subtlety here.
5. Pour in half a cup of cider for each person you’ll be serving.
6. Let it get warm and then taste. Does it need anything? You can add sugar or honey at this point if you need to.
7. Add brandy to individual mugs just as you are about to pour in the mulled wine. The quantity will depend on what type of drinker you’re serving.

If you’re trying to be cute, and you should ALWAYS be trying to be cute, garnish with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick.

Bonus: Story time. This one time, I was at a winery and they had mulled wine. I was excited! That excitement DIED as soon as I tasted my drink. It was overly sweet AND the only spice they used was cloves. My entire mouth went numb. That wasn’t delightful. If you do decide to use cloves, 1 or 2. Seriously. Numbing someone’s mouth isn’t the objective here.

Party Up: Part 2 – Setting the Tone

After you’ve decided to have a party and figured out the major logistics like guest list and date, you need to set the tone. So how is that done? There are several different components to the tone.

  1. Music – You know how certain songs hype you up and others calm you down? Well, consider that when picking a playlist. I would say to steer clear of using an artist more than twice. This way it’s not repetitive. Also, don’t use any songs over 4 minutes. If there is a song you like, and it’s longer, see if there is a shorter version. Also, make sure to have enough music. If your party is supposed to be 4 hours, have 6 hours of music. This way, even if folks linger, you’re all set. Lastly, the volume. If you want to keep voices down, keep the volume down. Though, with more people, you’ll have to raise the volume. You don’t want to cause folks to have to yell over the music. It’s a delicate balance.
  2. Lighting – Fluorescent lighting is ugly. Fluorescent lighting is ugly. Fluorescent lighting is ugly. It’s harsh and really doesn’t make anyone look good. Opt for yellowish or pinkish lights. They soften everyone and the pictures come out better. Also, candles are great for a nice glow. Just be sure to put them put of people’s way.
  3. Scent – Most parties have food. No, all parties have food (if it doesn’t, it’s a meeting and those are reserved for work). Food has scents. But I still like my home to smell nice. Go for earthy, warm, inviting smells. I’d say to avoid food smells like cinnamon. Unless, of course, you’re actually having a dessert party – and then it just works. You can use candles or the scented oil plug-ins; whatever is safest for your guests.

These three components help to set the tone for a party. They help to indicate the vibe, so to speak. Of course, those are three very broad factors. There’s a lot of room to get it right (and also, to get it wrong). The best thing I can tell you is to set your house up for your guests early and then go outside for 5 minutes. Come back in. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? Those things will be what your guests experience. If it’s pleasing to you, awesome. If not, tweak things for a more delightful guest experience.

Next, we’ll talk about food!

Weight a Minute . . . .

Feet standing on a scale

Old people are great. They regale you with stories of yesteryear and they just have so much knowledge. My grandma is always filled with these amazing tales of DC in the 50’s and 60’s. I learn a lot from her.

Old people are also brutally honest. My grandma, with all her sage wisdom and cautionary tales, has a fault: She loves to remind people of how much weight they gained. She’s done this as long as I’ve known her. And apparently, as long as my mom has known her. I suppose it’s her “thing.”

I don’t know about you, but when my jeans are tight or something that used to fit great just doesn’t, I know I gained weight. And since I can’t easily take that weight off as easily as I took off the snug jeans before I see my grandmother, I’d appreciate her not telling me about my growing ass. Anyone who doesn’t wear a wardrobe of primarily stretchy Lycra could tell you about non-scale body changes. As I said, you know when something fits differently.

Life happens. Cupcakes and champagne happen. Kids happen. Depression happens. Dodging your personal trainer’s calls happens. I’m not saying health isn’t important. It is. But I sincerely doubt anyone who could make such a callous comment was very worried about your health. They’re worried about your appearance. And I can’t go around chiding people for wearing white after Labor Day, you can’t go around talking about someone’s newly-touching thighs.

I’m here to say – once and for all – commenting on anyone’s body is rude. Whether they lost or gained weight, they don’t need to hear it from you. If you simply MUST say something, you know what you can say? “You look great!” That’s it. Don’t expand upon it. Don’t draw it out. Just say that and move on.

Fixating upon someone’s appearance as it relates to weight can make them feel self-conscious. Even if you are telling them they lost weight, this makes people think you were thinking something about their previous appearance.

Also, stop calling people “skinny”. So I don’t personally know how hurtful this is, but my very small friends have told me that they really don’t like the jokes about their perceived lack of appetite or small frame. While it may be more acceptable in society to be smaller vs. larger, ridiculing someone for being small is a jerk move.

Now I know old people will say, “You’re being too sensitive.” In fact, my grandmother did say this. Look, someone’s lack of emotional intelligence isn’t your issue. And don’t make it your issue. But just know that if someone makes a comment to you over the holidays about your spreading hips, please feel free to let them know that they are being rude, making you uncomfortable, and you don’t have to take it.

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