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IRON AXE Audio Sale

The audio edition of IRON AXE is part of Audible's First-in-the-Series sale until Friday! It's only $3.99.  Narrator PJ Ochlan does a great job reading it, too:

Although Danr's mother was human, his father was one of the hated Stane, a troll from the mountains. Now Danr has nothing to look forward to but a life of disapproval and mistrust, answering to "Trollboy" and condemned to hard labor on a farm. Until, without warning, strange creatures come down from the mountains to attack the village. Spirits walk the land, terrifying the living. Trolls creep out from under the mountain, provoking war with the elves. And Death herself calls upon Danr to set things right. At Death's insistence, Danr heads out to find the Iron Axe, the weapon that sundered the continent a thousand years ago. Together with unlikely companions, Danr will brave fantastic and dangerous creatures to find a weapon that could save the world - or destroy it.

If you've been thinking about trying an audio book to hear on your phone, now's a great time!

Dinner and Show--Our Way (Part 1)

A while ago, I came across a notice for the Naked Magicians. As a joke, I sent the link to Darwin and said, "This is what I want for my birthday."

Be careful . . .

On my birthday, Darwin handed my an envelope. In it were two tickets. For the Naked Magicians. Front row center.  Dearie, dearie me.

We decided to make a night of it, with dinner beforehand.  It would be dinner and a show for the gay couple!  Date night!  But where to go, though?

I pointed out that the Whitney, one of Detroit's most famous restaurants, was only a mile away from the theater.  We made reservations.  Thursday, the day of the show, Darwin came home a little early so we could make a 5:00 dinner and off we went!

The Whitney was originally the home of David Whitney, Jr., a scandalously wealthy Detroit lumber baron from the 1800s.  He built a huge, luxurious mansion right on Woodward Avenue.  After he and his wife died, however, the mansion passed out of the family's hands, and in the 80s, it was renovated and became an upscale restaurant.

We drove down the newly repaved Woodward Avenue, through the rejuvenated area of Detroit. The new transit rail is in place, too. The valet took over our car, and we climbed the big steps to the enormous front doors.

The interior of the Whitney is all dark wood and Tiffany glass.  A grand staircase sweeps up past a stained glass knight in armor, and upstairs, more stained glass shows St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.  The house is, in fact, filled with sumptuous Tiffany glass, which altogether is worth more than the house itself.

We were shown to our table in short order, and found ourselves looking out over Woodward Avenue through the windows of the main parlor, the same view once enjoyed by David and Katharine Whitney.  An enormous marble fireplace decorated with stone cherubs sat behind us.  A friendly server named Iris greeted us and asked if we were there for a special occasion.

"A belated birthday," I said, "and theater afterward."

"The Lion King?" she asked brightly.

"The magic show," I said.  "At the Fillmore."

I didn't give specifics.  :)  At any rate, when Iris learned we didn't drink, she brought us sparkling cocktails of fruit juice and soda instead.  We started the dinner with an amuse-bouche of soft mozzarella and cherry tomato with a drizzle of sweet vinagrette.  I ordered a Caeser salad, while Darwin had a creamed bean soup.  The latter arrived in a tureen with a slice of spiced, toasted brioche in the center, around which Iris poured the soup from a small pitcher and to which she added a turn of pepper.  It was delicious, and I spent some time reverse-engineering the recipe so I could make it at home.

For the next course, I had Cornish hen with fruit stuffing. The hen was crisped perfectly, and the meat was tender and juicy. The stuffing was perfectly flavored.  Darwin had whitefish over rice.  It was similarly perfect. (I ate his cherries. Sh!)

Between courses, we had a fruit palate cleanser:

Everything was perfect!

The Whitney has a dessert parlor, an upstairs dining room dedicated solely to desserts.  I asked about it and learned it stayed open until 11:00 PM.  I said we would come back after the show for dessert, then.  We reclaimed our coats and car and we were off!


So Gay--Not!

When I was growing up, a standard insult for anything bad was to call it gay.  "That's so gay" was applied to anything from a bad TV show to stupid behavior to an ugly outfit.

This continued my entire life, really.  When I was a child and a teenager, I didn't feel able to say anything about it, so I stayed silent and aborbed the hits like a quiet punching bag.  As an adult, I gained more confidence and told people I found the phrase offensive and not to use it in my presence. I flatly forbade it in my classroom, and collared students who used it in the hallway.  Still, the awful phrase continued.

But in the last two or three years, something changed.

You don't hear that phrase among teenagers much.  Actually, you don't hear it at all.  I haven't had to say anything about it in months and months, in fact.

I brought this fact up to my media literacy students and asked if they had noticed the same thing.  They had.

"No one says that anymore," one student said.

"It's . . . immature," said another.  "Something a six-year-old would say."

Interesting, no?  I think the LGBT community becoming more visible and accepted has killed "gay" as an all-purpose insult.  Make no mistake--young people still call boys "gay" in a derogatory way if he isn't seen as masculine enough--but "gay" as a synonym for "stupid" or "crappy" is rapidly fading away.

An interesting step forward.


Gay Valentine's Day

Darwin and I do moderate Valentine's Day things.  We like to go out for supper together, and we usually exchange flowers and/or cards or small food treats (not chocolates--diabetics have their limitations).  Oddly, we tend to run this out over multiple days.  We're pracitcal enough not to mind if we can't go out on the actual day, and are perfectly happy to do a romantic evening out earlier or later in the week, to allow for busy schedules or overly-crowded restaurants.  And doing a few small things over two or three days is more fun, we think.

But it's always interesting being married to another man on Valentine's Day.

Case in point: I sent flowers to Darwin's office this year.  I've done this before--despite sentiments of the anti-Valentiners, I've never felt constrainted to the holiday--so I'm no stranger to the process, but I still find myself twinging a little bit at putting loving sentiments on the card from Steven to Darwin and knowing the florist will read and copy my words onto the card.  It's a remnant of the "what will people think?" fear I grew up with.  I ignore it, forge ahead, and wonder if the twinge will ever evaporate entirely.

Flowers have a special significance for Darwin and me because on our first date, I arrived at Darwin's house with a red rose and a chocolate-covered strawberry.  He was startled and touched (a man had never brought him flowers or candy before), and he later told me that he started falling in love with me right then.  So flowers forever.

Anyway, I sent these flowers a day early because I wanted to avoid the rush and also give Darwin an extra day to enjoy the bouquet.

Darwin liked the flowers very much, and sent an "I adore you" text with a photo of the flowers when they arrived.  He said the entire office smells like flowers now.  And the women in the office were a-twitter, sniffing that =their= husbands didn't send flowers.  One of the women pointedly informed her own spouse that her boss's husband sent him flowers at work, unlike SOME husbands she could mention, and the next day, the same type of bouquet from the same florist arrived for her.  Straight guys can be taught!

I also shopped for a card.  This is tricky when you're a man looking to buy for another man.  You can search in the generic "Valentine for Anyone" section, but those don't mention romantic love.  And the ones in the "For Him" or "For Husband" section are often clearly from a woman--they sport graphics of an opposite-sex couple, or they say "From your loving wife," or they make other references to opposite sex pairings.  (I don't begrudge this--straight people need valentines too--but it would be nice to shop for a card with the same number of options opposite sex couples have.)  I hunted around, and did find myself wondering if anyone at the store noticed I was a man checking out the cards in the "For Him" section.  This didn't bother me, per se, but I still wondered, and then I didn't like that I was wondering, and then I stopped thinking about it so I could look for a card that wasn't all girly.

I found one and wrote my own sentiments in it in my nicest handwriting.

On Valentine's Day itself, Darwin arrived home from work a little early with flowers of his own for me!  I love them.  The card I bought is pictured with them.

We went out to Casey's in downtown Wherever, a restaurant I call the Irish Sushi Pub.  It's an Irish pub with a sushi bar in it (only in America!), and we like it because I can have sushi (which Darwin dislikes) and Darwin can have pub food (which I often find dull), so we're both happy!

We talked and ate, and during the meal, I often touched Darwin either on his hands or on his arm or even his neck, a gesture you don't often find between two men but which is something I often do without thinking.  He's my husband, after all.  The (rather older) couple one table over noticed this, and the stiff looks began.  I ignored them.  What were they going to do?  I don't think Darwin noticed--the couple wasn't much in his line of sight.  If anyone else in the restaurant noticed Darwin and I were a couple and disapproved, they gave no indication.  About halfway through my and Darwin's meal, the older couple left with one final glare, which I refused to acknowledge.  Darwin and I had a splendid time, actually, and if our presence ruined the other couple's Valentine's Day outing, too bad for them.

The rest of the evening is nunuvyourbeezwax.  :)


Aran and the Housing Search

Over the weekend, Aran and I looked at a potential place for him to live.

We got a referral to the place from his new social worker.  It's a sort-of boarding house.  Six (Aran would be number seven) people live there, and the landlady/aid is in and out constantly, as are the social workers.  The rent includes utilities and Internet, but not food.  The house is in a good neighborhood, a subdivision with sidewalks and a nearby park.  A Kroger is a five-minute drive away, so Aran could probably transfer there and continue working.  We met some of the residents, and they seemed nice.  I liked the landlady very much.

There were a few things I didn't like about the house. One was that it wasn't cleaned well.  The landlady explained that she did some cleaning but she expected the residents to do most of it, and they . . . didn't.  This could be remedied, really, with an afternoon's work and putting Aran in charge of keeping the common areas clean.  (By "clean," I mean dusted and vacuumed, which were definitely lacking.  There wasn't any clutter or junk lying around.)  Although the house has a no-smoking rule, the residents often "sneak" smoking, as the landlady put it, when she wasn't there, and the house smelled of smoke.  Kala, who was also there, said this is very common among such living facilities, and we'd be hard-pressed to find a place where no one smoked.  The bedroom where Aran would be staying had a resident in it, and he didn't smoke, at least.

I have enormously mixed feelings.  I don't know if this is a good place or not.  Part of the problem is that I have no frame of reference--I haven't seen any other facilities.  I'll try to see some more.  Part of the problem is that this would be the next phase of Aran's life.  He'll be living in a place like this . . . . well, forever.  I don't like it.  He'd be more independent, and he definitely wants that, but his standard of living will drop sharply and stay there.  On the other hand, he can't live with me forever.  One day I'll be too old or too dead to help him, and he needs to be set up to be all right on his own--or state-assisted on his own, anyway.

This isn't an overnight process, either.  There are many steps here.  Even after he moves in, he (we) will have to apply for food stamps, get different furniture (the stuff that's already there isn't acceptable), find a doctor, learn how to handle his own money more than he already does, and so on.

Like I said--conflicted.


Lego Batman: A Brief Review

Saturday we all went to see the Lego Batman movie, mostly because Maksim wanted to see it, and partly to get out of the house on a Saturday evening.

Batman and the Joker are facing off in a self-aware Lego universe.  The Joker is upset that Batman refuses to acknowledge him as his #1 enemy, and so embarks on a master plan to destroy Lego Gotham and force Batman to admit the Joker is indeed his arch-enemy.  Meanwhile, Batman is also dealing with the ramifications of spending his life alone.

First and foremost, it's a silly movie.  They go for jokes first, and if that's what you're in the mood for, it's very funny.  The animation is great, though some scenes are a little too frenetic to follow what's happening--so much is going on in a single frame, you just can't follow it, and the movie seems more designed for home viewing on a DVD player with a really good frame-by-frame pause button.  The movie seems to have a hard time mixing both heart and action--the plot moves along at a good clip, then comes to a dead halt while the characters emote at each other.  After a while, you're able to predict the next emotional beat.  It overall lacked the punch of the first Lego movie.

But the comedy is fast and furious, with many references to Batman from the 1940s comics, to the 1960s TV show (lots and lots of those), to the Tim Burton Batman movie, to the Dark Knight.  The Justice League and Super Friends make cameos, including Zan and Jayna and Gleek (remember them?).

Maksim enjoyed it very much and wants to see it again.  Aran liked a great many one-liners, but wasn't enthralled.  Darwin and I felt . . . meh.

In all, it was a fast, light, silly movie for the kids or the "gotta see 'em all" Batman fan.
Today, Maksim (my youngest) said that he had become tired of single people complaining that Valentine's Day only reminded them that they're alone.  "If they're lonely," he said, "they should go out and find someone. Or go do something to keep their minds off being lonely instead of complaining."

I think he's right.

Every single year, the litany of people who tear their hair out over Valentine's Day seems to grow.  So, without further ado, we present Solutions to Valentine's Day Complaining!

"I'm single and alone, and seeing all this couples stuff for Valentine's Day makes me feel like a lonely and inadequate loser. I wish Valentine's Day would go away!"

Has complaining about being alone solved your problem?  I didn't think so.  If you're lonely, get off your ass and go places where you'll meet people.  YOU have to take the initiative.  No one is going to knock on your door--you have to do the knocking.  Number one thing?  Volunteer.  There are endless local charitable or political causes that need hands.  Number two?  Go to free lectures at your local library or museum, even if it's something you're not hugely interested in, and hang around afterward to chat.  And get off you damn phone.  It's easy to blow off people in a text.  Talk to people face-to-face and make an actual connection instead.  There are seven billion people in the world.  If you're lonely, it's because you've chosen not to meet people.

"Valentine's Day is so exclusionary.  It's all about couples!  I'm not lonely, but I'm single, so I'm excluded."

When the hell has that been true?  You exchanged valentines with all your classmates and your teacher in elementary school, and didn't have a giant orgy afterward, I hope.  Give valentines to your friends.  Buy a big box of those kid valentines and give them away to random strangers on the street with a "Happy Valentine's Day!"  Make a batch of valentine cookies and hand them out at work.  Hell, one of my students today gave me a cookie.  It was so nice of her!  Go out to eat by yourself while you read a romantic novel, tip the server huge, and write "Happy Valentine's!" on the receipt.  Find a way to include yourself in the festivities, and stop complaining.

"Valentine's Day is so commercial.  I'm sick of being told to buy cards or chocolates or diamonds or restaurant food.  I hate this holiday!"

Sorry--is someone holding a gun to your head and forcing you to empty your bank account?  If you're tired of TV ads, don't watch TV.  I use my DVR to skip commercials, myself.  Problem solved.  Don't want to buy a card?  Make one!  It'll be way cooler anyway.  Or write a letter expressing your feelings.  Or make a special meal.  (My god, I would be thrilled.)  Exercise a little free will.  You'll be surprised at how much you enjoy it.  Meanwhile, knock off the bitching.

"Restaurants are soooo crowded on Valentine's Day, it just wrecks the whole going out thing."

Then have a nice candle light meal at home.  If part of the point is not to cook, order food and put it in nice serving dishes.  Or, even better, go out the day before or the day after Valentine's Day.  Another trick?  Go to supper early, like at 5:00.  The restaurant is fully staffed in anticipation of the dinner rush, but all the other complainers are foolishly waiting to eat at 7:00.  Use a little thought and creativity instead of complaining!

"My boyfriend/girlfiend/husband/wife/sex robot never gets me anything for Valentine's Day.  He/She/It is the least romantic person in the world.  All the other boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives/sex robots buy a romantic present, but I get nothing!"

Use your words, sweetie.  That's the second reason you have a mouth.  (Oh! Did he go there?  Yes, he did!)  Sit your b/g/h/w/sex robot down a week before the big day and say, "I want a romantic gift.  In my mind, it shows you care about me. It's due on Valentine's Day.  I will also give you one.  If you don't give me one, I will feel hurt and angry."  If your sex robot doesn't come through, you'll either need to leave the relationship, or decide if you can overlook this flaw.  And stop complaining about Valentine's Day.

"We get back so late after all the Valentine's Day stuff that we're too tired to have sex before we fall asleep."

Have sex before you go out.  Problem solved.

Happy Valentine's Day!


A couple more were called to my attention through this piece of work: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/13/opinion/obeidallah-hate-valentines-day/

"I hate the pressure it puts on me to be romantic."

Oh, sweetie pie!  Open your mouth and use your words again.  "Honey, I want to do something fun and romantic for Valentine's Day, but I feel under the gun about this, and that makes it no fun and not at all romantic for me.  Do you have any ideas?"  Seriously.  If you can't use your words like a big person, your relationship probably won't last long anyway.  It's not the holiday that's causing the problem.  Stop complaining.

"I hate the colors."

So how do you survive the rest of the year? It's not like red, white, and pink are whisked away the other eleven months because you dislike them.  Maybe you can wear sunglasses, or write your legislator to demand a law getting rid of those three colors so they won't offend your delicate sensibilities, though I don't know what we'll do about all that white snow lying around, offending you. Do you complain about all the red at Christmas, too?  And the pink at Easter?  Just wondering.

"It programs couples into thinking February 14 is the only day they can express their feelings to one another."

Valentine's Day is the only day you can express your romantic feelings. And Christmas programs people to think it's the only day they can rejoice.  And Halloween programs people to think it's the only day they can be scared.  And Independence Day programs people to think it's is the only day they can feel patriotic.  And Memorial Day programs people to think it's the only day they can remember fallen soldiers.  Yeah.  If you're foolish enough to think Valentine's Day is the only day you can express romantic feelings for your partner, do your partner a favor and break up now.  And stop complaining.

(Yes, I'm aware that I'm complaining about people complaining.  It's Valentine's Day irony!)

Happy Valentine's Day!  Smooch it up!  Give the complainers something to complain about!


The Diabetic Cookie Recipe

You're supposed to avoid sweets and simple carbs such as white flour when you're diabetic. And that bites.  There are workarounds, though.  I experimented with this recipe for cookies, and it came out pretty good:


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup Stevia white sugar substitute
1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar blend (which is part brown sugar and part sugar substitute)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c white flour
1 3/4 c whole wheat or whole wheat white flour (for crispier cookies, reduce by 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sweeteners together until well blended (about two minutes).  Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and mix slowly into butter mixture until just blended.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until desired doneness.  Cool on rack.

That's the basic recipe.  To make them interesting, you add other stuff:


Add 2 cups extra dark chocolate chips or chunks (the 60% cacao chips have less sugar)
OPTIONAL: Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of kosher salt before baking

Add 1/2 cocoa before adding dry ingredients
Reduce whole wheat flour by 1/4 cup.
Add one package white chocolate chips after dry ingedients (this will increase sugar content)
OPTIONAL: Add 1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries (this will also increase sugar content, but the tartness breaks up the sweetness and is delicious)

Reduce white flour to 3/4 cup
Reduce wheat flour to 1 cup
Add 3 cups uncooked rolled oats after dry ingredients
If desired, add 1 cup raisins (though this will increase sugar content)

Reduce white flour to 3/4 cup
Reduce wheat flour to 1 cup
Put 2 cups uncooked oats into food processor with blade attachment. Pulse until the consistency of coarse flour.  Add after dry ingredients.
Add 1 more cup uncooked oats (not processed)
Add one package white chocolate chips after dry ingedients (this will increase sugar content)


A Favorite Lunch

One of my favorite meals to make from leftovers comes about when I have a bit of beef or chicken.  I always keep a jar of stir fry sauce (sweet and sour, hoisin, terikyaki) on hand, and it's delicious to dice some of the meat and fry it up with some onions and a bit of the sauce.  Chop up a few vegetables (a chunk of pepper, a handful of peapods, or whatever else is on hand) and cook until just heated.  Eat with a carb (some bread, rice, or noodles).  Delicious!


Kevin and Moose

A few years ago, Archie Comics unveiled with fanfare Kevin Keller, the first gay character in their comics universe.  There was some backlash, but overall the character proved enormously popular.  So popular, in fact, that he was given his own comic book.  Take that, right wing freakazoids!

So naturally, Archie Comics' very popular character was given a slot on CW's RIVERDALE.  And I've been watching.

First, I'm glad to see Kevin is there.  A gay teen with a major role.  Cool!  And he has a dating life.  Also cool.

However, on a show filled with hyper-masculine male characters (even the morose, artistic Jughead is a boy's boy), Kevin is the feminine gay guy.  He dresses overly stylishly, the actor's lipstick and rouge are redder than the other males' on the show, his hair is heavily moussed and overly styled (instead of artfully tousled, like every other teen male on the show), and he speaks half a hair below the "you GO girl!" register.  And he's the Gay Best Friend of one of the female leads.  Although we've only had two episodes to work with, we've seen no hobbies, no family, no background, no nothing for Kevin.  He exists pretty much to give Betty someone to talk to.  In other words, he's a stereotype.

On the other hand, we have Moose.

In the comics, Moose was a big blond bully who in the early days beat Archie up for his lunch money.  Over time, Moose evolved into a big lunk with a secret big heart.  The bully thing faded and he and Archie became friends.

On the show, Moose has a sort-of girlfriend, but the real object of his affections is Kevin.  He pursues Kevin with a fair amount of single-mindedness, in fact.  Kevin, however, isn't so sure about this.  Kevin finds Moose attractive, but Moose insists he just wants a . . . physical relationship, no strings, no emotion.  "I'm straight," Moose stoutly maintains.  Kevin refuses to believe this. He thinks Moose is gay, but he doesn't want to get involved with someone who can't admit he likes guys.

Moose himself is as hyper-masculinized as the other males on the show.*  We also don't have the neutered-gay-boy problem I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, which is great.  I'm interested in seeing how this plays out.

*I'd prefer that NONE of the males were hyper-masculine, really, and instead represented more realistic teenagers.  However, if we're going to have a show filled with chiseled everything, I'd rather not have the gay character be the only one standing out as different in that regard.



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