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Aborted Kitten Run

Dinah the Cat needs a friend.  Once Bernard "Mr. Bitey" the Cat was re-homed, she turned into Needy Kitty/Greedy Kitty, a black hole of attention mongering.  You can pet her or take a nap with her on your lap for literal hours, and she still demands attention.  (As an example, Darwin, who has a cold, spend five hours in bed yesterday with her curled up next to him yesterday, and when he got up, she demanded attention from =me.=)

She clearly needs a companion cat, one more like Alec, who she dominated.  They shared sleeping space and groomed each other.  Mr. Bitey Bernard was a thorn in Dinah's side, and she didn't like him much.  Even when they got along, it was on Mr. Bitey's terms, and Dinah became quiet and introverted.  Once Mr. Bitey left, Dinah became loud, introverted, and demanding.  Unreasonably and unhappily so.

But Darwin didn't want another cat.  Alec died.  Bernard almost did.  He didn't want to deal with that.  But I was getting more and more tired of Dinah's unhappiness and her Needy Kitty/Greedy Kitty alter ego.  I embarked on a long campaign to persuade Darwin to get another cat, and finally--FINALLY--he agreed.  Said new cat needs to be a female--no urinary tract problems that plagued Bernard--and a kitten or young cat that Dinah can rule in her benign dicatatorship.

I searched animal shelters in the area.  Except there ARE no animal shelters in our area.  ("Please. Such things are for peasants!  We only allow the finest selection of the best-bred, most delicious small animals in our county.")  The closest one is 35 minutes away.

Friday afternoon, Maksim and I drove way, way down to the shelter in Westland. When we arrived, we learned they had only one cat, and she was HUGE.  Way bigger than Dinah.  She could have crushed Dinah with one saucer-sized paw.

"It's coming up on cat season," the shelter lady said.  "We'll be swimming in them soon."

I'd never seen a shelter that wasn't ALWAYS swimming in cats, but okay.  We left--and drove straight into the worst traffic jam I'd seen in my life.  We learned the highway we were on was totally closed due to an accident.  It took us 45 minutes to get to the next exit, and another 30 minutes to get home.  I was seriously unhappy.  Yeah, someone else was having a way worse day than I, but you know?  I had spent more than two hours in the flippin' car after working all day in an attempt to rescue at cat, only to learn there were no cats to rescue and then be further delayed on the way home.  Just what I wanted!

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One Day at a Time

Netflix has remade the 80s sitcome ONE DAY AT A TIME.  The difference?  The working-class single mom now heads up a Cuban family.  Grandma lives with them, and she's played by (surprise!) Rita Moreno.  Schneider isn't so much the building super as a slightly batty trust-fund baby who has nothing better to do than to hang out with the family.

It's a fun show, and I'm enjoying it.  It takes a number of issues facing the Hispanic (Cuban) community head-on: preparing for a quinceneras; families split up by deportation; veterans and the VA; veterans and PTSD; discovering a teen child is gay; figuring out how to balance being Cuban with being American.  Lydia, the grandmother, has a particularly poignant story about her role in the Pedro Pan flights from Cuba in 1962.  Like all families, they fight, make up, worry about money, deal with divorce, and hide and reveal secrets.  The main point?  This Cuban-American family is just like yours.

The show is well worth watching.
The attack and defunding of public schools has begun, with the introduction of House Bill 610: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610/text

House Bill 610 makes some large changes.
This bill will effectively start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5-17, and starts the defunding process of public schools. In addition the bill will eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, which is the nation's educational law and provides equal opportunity in education.
It would repeal ESSA (Every Students Succeeds Act), which replaced No Child Left Behind: ESSA is a big comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs.
The Bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch.
The bill has no wording protecting Special Needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE (Fair and Appropriate Public Education).
Some things ESSA does for Children with Disabilities
-Ensures access to the general education curriculum.
-Ensures access to accommodations on assessments.
-Ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning
-Includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups.
-Requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

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Bean Soup, Re-Engineered

When Darwin and I ate at the Whitney, his soup course included a bean soup that we found absolutely delicious.  I tasted a few spoonfuls of it and decided I could reverse engineer it at home.  On Sunday, I did, and the results were delightful.  This was no small feat in a household where I'm the only one who much likes bean soup.

The soup is different in that it's pureed and creamed, which adds unexpected body and richness to the dish. It's suprisingly easy to make.

GOURMET BEAN SOUP

1 pound navy beans, washed
one ham bone, with meat still clinging
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken bouillon (low sodium so you can control the amount of salt)
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1 t garlic powder
1/2 t white pepper
salt to taste
1/2 c cream
freshly ground pepper

SLOW COOKER METHOD
Put all ingredients into slow cooker and set to low for six to seven hours or high for about four hours, until beans are tender.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

STOVE TOP METHOD
Soak beans overnight in stock, or eight hours.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to boiling on stove, reduce heat, and simmer for at least half an hour, until beans are fully tender and flavors are blended.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

With a hand-held blending wand, puree soup, or puree it in a blender, food processor, or vegetable ricer until all beans are broken down.  (I prefer the wand method.)  Return to pot, if in blender, and reduce to low heat.  When soup is at a temperature that you can take a bite without needing to blow on it first, stir in the cream.  Correct seasoning.

TO SERVE
The soup is ready to eat. However, to serve it original style, as it is at the Whitney, place a small piece of toasted, buttered brioche or other hearty bread in the bottom of a soup bowl or tureen.  Pour the soup around, but not over, the bread.  (It's all right if the soup ends up covering the bread.)  Give one, and only one, turn of the pepper mill over the bowl and serve.

If you don't go Whitney style, your instincts might tell you to make corn bread instead.  Although corn bread is the traditional complement with bean soup, the soup itself is extremely hearty, and you'll find that a hefty slice of cornbread would be overdoing it on all but the coldest of winter days.  I served a batch of home made blueberry muffins instead, and the slight sweetness of the light muffins perfectly set off salty, pureed soup.

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Dinner and a Show--Our Way (Part 3)

For the final part of our Date Night Dinner and a Show, we wormed our way out of the tiny parking structure and headed back up to the Whitney.

The manager remembered us and greeted us with a friendly smile.  "You're back!"

"We're here for dessert," I announced, and he showed us up to the second-floor dessert parlor.  It was a large, luxurious sitting room decorated with antiques and a fireplace of its own and big windows that overlooked Woodward Avenue.  Only one other couple occupied a table.  On a Thursday night, this probably wasn't too unusual.

Iris had apparently gone home, and another server came to our table brandishing a crown-shaped chocolate construction.

"It's our Lion King dessert," she said.  "Perfect for after the show."

"We didn't come from the Lion King," I said with a smile.  "We were at the magic show at the Fillmore."  It seems the Whitney and the Lion King were a thing in Detroit.

The waitress cheerfully explained the dessert anyway and also showed us the sumptuous dessert menu.  She gave us wine recommendations, too.

Darwin ordered a fruit crumble.  I asked for a chocolate cartier and decided to have a glass of raspberry dessert wine on the grounds that raspberry and chocolate would be wonderful together.

They were.  The cartier was a layer of chocolate biscuit piled with mousse and fresh fruit, sealed in an envelope of ganache.  It was smooth and delicious.  The fruit kept the chocolate from becoming too sweet.  After a bite of the cartier, the wine made a firework burst in my mouth.  I made Darwin try it (he normally dislikes anything even vaguely alcoholic) and he was surprised how much he liked the combination.  The wine was very strong, though, and I'm not a drinker, so after one glass, I told Darwin he would have to drive.  :)

The crumble was hot from the oven, both sweet and tart, with a soft crust.  It came with Sander's ice cream, famous in Michigan.

It was the perfect way to end the evening, eating dessert with my husband in a quiet, elegant dining room to wind down after the loud, raucous show, and I was glad we'd saved dessert for afterward.

It was a wonderful dinner and a show--our way!

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Dinner and Show--Our Way (Part 2)

We arrived at the Fillmore Theater and got parking in an ancient, tightly-wound parking structure that looked to have been built in the 40s.  It was positively claustrophobic.  Anything bigger than a bicycle would have scraped the ceiling.  Thank heavens we drove the little car.  Take that, SUVs!

Outside, the weather was brisk but clear.  A huge crowd of people went all the way down, down, down the block, across the street and around the corner from the Fillmore.  At first, Darwin and I thought this was unrelated to the show we were there for, but we were quickly disavowed of this notion.  Everyone was waiting to get in and see naked magicians!  So we dutifully trooped way down the block to the end of the line.  It was reserved seating, so we weren't worried about missing our spots.

The line did move quickly forward once the doors opened at 7:00, and the audience had a bit of a festive, naughty air to it, which added to the fun.  Here, I felt a tug on my elbow.  I turned and found myself looking at Catherine, an old friend.  We shouted with laughter and hugged quickly, though we didn't have more time than that--she was with other people and had to dash down to join them.

The line moved passed two homeless people panhandling in different spots on the sidewalk.  Giving money to homeless people is the "I have a decent job" tax, and more people should pay it.  I paid, and moved on.

At last we got into the theater.  The Fillmore used to be a grand theater, and the space still is, with its sweeping architecture and grand statues of knights in niches, but these days it's more of an alternative music and performance venue than a legitimate theater.  These days, it holds punk rock concerts and Chippendale shows and naked magicians. In the old days, it would have been a vaudeville venue, and perhaps it was.

Darwin and I took our places in the very front row at the center.  I was able to rest my feet on the staircase that led up to the stage, in fact.  The stage was bare except for a table, a box hanging from a cable, and a blow-up sex doll to one side.

We couldn't help but notice that the main floor was almost all men.  Darwin and I were greatly amused by this.  The women, meanwhile, were mostly up in the balconey. It wasn't 100%, but it was definitely noticeable.  Every front row seat was occupied by a man, that's for sure!  We were laughing about this.

And the show began.  Mike and Chris, the magicians, start their magic fully clothed, but tell the audience they'll remove more of their clothes if the audience shows their appreciation.  This, of course, earned a great deal of shouting and cheering.  (One particular woman from the balconey screeched epithets throughout: "Show us your --!" and "Whip it out!" and such, and even though the show itself was raunchy, everyone hated her and wanted her to shut up.)

It was a true burlesque show, in the old sense of the word--raunchy, occasionally tasteless, played up for humor, and a lot of not-quite full frontal nudity.  It was half strip show and half magic show.

My mother would have loved it.  I feel that has to be said.

Ultimately, the magic part wasn't all that great: rope tricks, card tricks, a straight-jacket escape, a mind-reading trick.  I caught how they did a few of them, which wasn't a good sign.  I have the feeling that Mike and Chris were trying to figure out how to get a performance gig that would make them stand out.  "Hey!" one of them says. "We can both do some decent magic! What about a magic show?"  "We can't do anything that'll get us noticed."  "Well, magicians always have scantily-dressed assistants, right?  And we've both got good bodies, right?  What if =we= took off our clothes, but =all= of them?  That would get people in!"  "Hey, yeah!"  And the show was born.

It worked.  The show at the Fillmore sold out, certainly.

Anyway, the show was fun and silly and raunchy and worth the "I have a decent job" tax.

Afterward, it was back to the Whitney...

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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:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Iron-Axe-Audiobook/B00Q75H1Y0/
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!

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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.

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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.  :)

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