Thursday, August 20, 2009

Super Mon's Survey: Multiple Choice Edition

Please help a Super Mon out by taking this short survey:

1: Would y'all think it was weird if I migrated this here blog on over to Wordpress, where there are more fun things to play with (like widgets, lots and lots of widgets) and a friendlier layout?

A. Yes, definitely weird, don't do it!

B. Not weird at all, we'll follow you where ever you go, Super Mon!

C. This is me, not caring so much

D. All of the above

2: Super Steve, Super Mon's husband-o of NINE YEARS has expressed interest in re-entering the blogging world. Super Steve, formerly known as Kermit and Dirk Diggler, PhD in another life, has A LOT to say, including that he would rather not be called Super Steve. Steve, therefore, also has a lot of art to show off, as is evidenced by his facebook page, our flickr page, and our living room. Don't you all think Steve should blog about his interests? Which include, but are not limited to: art in its myriad of forms, vinyl records, being a dad, liberal politics, and not driving a car.

A. Yes! We Love STEVE!!!!


3: Super Mon and Steve are contemplating a blogging partnership over at WordPress. Word Press allows bloggers to have multiple pages whereas Blogger, from what I can tell, does not. Super Mon's musings would have a page, Steve's art and records would have a page, Super Mon & Steve might write on the same things sometimes. Do you think it's a good idea?

A. Yes! Do it, you crazy kids!

B. No, Don't mix blogging and matrimony

Bonus Question: Does a Blog called Super Mon & Steve already exist on Word Press if you click here?

A. YESSSSSSSS! Another Blog to read!!!! Awesome!!!!!

B. What's a blog?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Question of the Day?


What's your favorite movie line?

Mine is from To Have or Have Not starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. After a lot of on-screen sexual tension and KISSING, Bacall's character says, "You know how to whistle don't you, Steve?" and then she departs saying, "You just put your lips together and blow." And, she leaves and he whistles. "What Whew"

Monday, August 17, 2009

In Which Yours Truly Doesn't Rant Or Rave-- Even A Little

See that picture in the header of a bee on that globe thistle? That was taken by Super Steve who is a super photographer as well as painter and sculptor and a super Big Daddy. It's so pretty, I just want it to stay there forever. Sigh. That's a GREEN bee. Have you ever seen such a thing?

I feel I should tell you about where the author of Survival of the Feminist (now known as Super Mon) finds herself these days. My doctor has strenuously advised me to try whatever I can to CALM THE EFF DOWN. De-stress. Two doctors have said this to me in the last 2 months. My kids have had a lot of health issues in the last year, my work has had a lot demands, I have practically had to abandon my own studies (I have a lot of despair about this one because I want an MFA, I have wanted an MFA for as long as I can remember, even though there are no jobs for MFAs out there, that's not what I care about), my finances are always on the edge, and I feel like I am behind in every area and not at all able to catch up. Sounds about right, for everyone, yes? Well, I would like to avoid diabetes and high blood pressure and early heart failure and any other sort of doom and gloom as long as possible so, I have had to take some drastic measures. Mostly, what has been happening is a lot of THINKING about what to do. I am not yet 40 but I got a knock on the head to take better care of me, and I am aiming to try, at least. Here's are three tasks that I proposed to myself to help myself feel/get better:

1) No News is Good News. I decided to not read the news obsessively anymore. that doesn't mean I am not going to read or listen, but not to everything every day. I am, and forever will remain, politically liberal. Bleeding heart. Liberal. Feminist. Poet. Rainbows. Kittens. Healthcare for all. Oh, and that separation of church and state thing is also particularly important to me. I care about the state of our country, about my friends and family, about my community. But, I get seriously stressed out when I listen to NPR hosts talking about the Recession everyday and how the foreclosure problem is never going away. I get seriously distressed by watching Town Hall protests and listening to idiots like Glen Beck (even though I know he is an idiot). I get down-right enraged when I hear the religious-right exalting themselves and their belief system as being the only belief system and advocating violence, prejudice, and demonization of anyone who disagrees. It hurts my heart. Literally.

2) The ol' get more exercise, and eat better routine. No need for details. And/or details to come later when I have actually done something in this category.

3) Book Club. I really, really like books. I also really like friends. My friends like books. I would like to get books and friends and food and wine in the same room. I don't go out much. I like hanging with my family in the evenings, but I am missing the camaraderie of friends getting together, so....voila, Book Club. Now, I think Book Club needs a name, don't you? Book Club for Urban Bitches? Book Club for the Relatively (in)Sane? Book Club for Bloggers? I would like Book Club to turn into Writing Club, or a spin-off of some sorts, but I'll start small.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

For the Birds

I tend to obsess about topics I am interested in. For instance, cooking and eating (see every post from yesterday back to 2004) Currently, I am obsessed with learning about birds. This photo was taken in our back yard. It's one of a pair of hawks that come to visit our giant maple and eat the little brown birds who are happily feeding in the front. I have seen a hawk decapitate a sparrow in the tree right outside my living room window. The hawks are coming back regularly now. It's a smorgasbord of little brown birds.

I have two bird books: one is lost and one is not very great. For instance, today there were two birds on the feeder with long beaks, black and gray markings on the wings, and rusty brown marks on their tummies, and the closest I could come to identifying them is that they are some kind of warbler. Maybe.

I gave my parents the book I want Birds of Minnesota and Wisconsin for Christmas. But, really I should have kept a copy for myself because while they have an enormous bird feeding system, and have tons of birds, they don't care so much what kind they are.

I am obsessed with birds of late, and I know I am not alone. Me and a lot of seniors are into the birds. I would never have birds in my home, but I like looking at them outside, nibbling away at the three feeders. Hiding from the hawks. I am not quick enough with the reference guide and have definitely missed out in identifying a bright blue bird in early summer. All blue. No black. No white. Not an indigo bunting, but what? See? Obsessed.

My son's name, Corbin, means raven or dark as a raven. I like the corbies. The crows. The ravens. They're loud and they eat dead things, but they are so smart. I watched a crow figure out how to open a peppermint candy, once. It took about 40 pecks at the plastic, but she figured it out, and swallowed the peppermint, whole. Tricksters, the crows.

I am not an official "birder." I don't go into the field with my field glasses and my guide and my vest with a lot of pockets. But, I am not ruling it out as a future option, either.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I ruined the eggplant

It was a little tough. I salted. I sauteed. What did I do to make the most beautiful of purple plants the consistency of shoes made of Styrofoam?

Also, the great guitar guru Les Paul died yesterday. What an amazing person! Here's a clip for your Friday enjoyment!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care, Schmealth Care

As I wait for the coffee to brew I am thinking about health care and my friend who just underwent open-heart surgery. She's 39. She has had a whole host of health problems resulting from cancer which grew under her heart as a kid. Radiation to the chest does not make for an easy life later. Before her surgery she was in the hospital with both congestive heart failure and then acute renal failure last month alone. She can't really get a break. When I went to visit her in the hospital, she was feeling nervous about the surgery and she asked her husband "How are we going to pay for that [surgery]?" And, he answered,"We'll just keep making payments." How much does it cost to routinely receive critical care? More than you or I or anyone you probably know makes in a year. Or, even in a couple of years. She has insurance, but it's not going to cover 100%. That leaves her, permanently disabled and unable to work-- and healing from her surgery (one of many), and her husband to sort out the significant remainder due. Her story might bit seem uncommon due to its severity, but it's not. I pay about $2700 per year for my family coverage premium, my employer pays around $13000 per year for my insurance. If that goes away...well.

That Health Care Reform is NEEDED shouldn't be a partisan issue, but of course it is. We liberals want to usher in Communism, Socialism, Fascism and eat your flags, your grandmas, and your babies so people can get insured and receive health care that won't bankrupt them, I guess. But what about you conservative folks? What is your solution here? Am I missing it because you're too busy ripping up posters of Rosa Parks and talking about "Death Panels?" Am I missing it because many, many members of your fringe are screaming and yelling and spreading rumors and lies like a bunch of bullies on a playground? Only you're bringing your guns and your patriotism with you so that somehow makes it, what? OK? No.


You do realize your taxes are going to fund two foreign wars, right? You realize we need an infrastructure and that we have to pay for it, right? We need roads, airplanes, telephones, televisions, meat, pharmaceuticals, education, cars, vegetables, homeland security, and radio, right? You realize that all those things are overseen by FEDERAL AGENCIES, right? You realize that oversight doesn't mean we're communist, right? You realize you probably aren't going to agree to every decision they make, right? I just want to know, without comparing anyone on any side to Hitler, what would you propose we do? Here are some facts, with sources, but you probably won't believe them anyway.

From the National Coalition on Health Care (click here to read the whole article and its sources):

In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent -- two times the rate of inflation.1 Total spending was $2.4 TRILLION in 2007, or $7900 per person1. Total health care spending represented 17 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4.3 TRILLION in 2017, or 20 percent of GDP.1

In 2008, employer health insurance premiums increased by 5.0 percent – two times the rate of inflation. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700. The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,700.2

Experts agree that our health care system is riddled with inefficiencies, excessive administrative expenses, inflated prices, poor management, and inappropriate care, waste and fraud. These problems significantly increase the cost of medical care and health insurance for employers and workers and affect the security of families.

National Health Care Spending

In 2008, health care spending in the United States reached $2.4 trillion, and was projected to reach $3.1 trillion in 2012.1 Health care spending is projected to reach $4.3 trillion by 2016.1

Health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense.3

In 2008, the United States will spend 17 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent by 2017.1
Although nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.3

Health care spending accounted for 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.4

Employer and Employee Health Insurance Costs
Premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 5.0 percent in 2008. In 2007, small employers saw their premiums, on average, increase 5.5 percent. Firms with less than 24 workers, experienced an increase of 6.8 percent.2

The annual premium that a health insurer charges an employer for a health plan covering a family of four averaged $12,700 in 2008. Workers contributed nearly $3,400, or 12 percent more than they did in 2007.2 The annual premiums for family coverage significantly eclipsed the gross earnings for a full-time, minimum-wage worker ($10,712).

Workers are now paying $1,600 more in premiums annually for family coverage than they did in 1999.2

Since 1999, employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 120 percent, compared to cumulative inflation of 44 percent and cumulative wage growth of 29 percent during the same period.2

Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Unless something changes dramatically, health insurance costs will overtake profits by the end of 2008.5

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in the United States have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 1999.2

The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.6

The percentage of Americans under age 65 whose family-level, out-of-pocket spending for health care, including health insurance, that exceeds $2,000 a year, rose from 37.3 percent in 1996 to 43.1 percent in 2003 – a 16 percent increase.7

The Impact of Rising Health Care Costs

National surveys show that the primary reason people are uninsured is the high cost of health insurance coverage.2

Economists have found that rising health care costs correlate to drops in health insurance coverage.8

A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that the average out-of-pocket medical debt for those who filed for bankruptcy was $12,000. The study noted that 68 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. In addition, the study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses.9 Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

A new survey shows that more than 25 percent said that housing problems resulted from medical debt, including the inability to make rent or mortgage payments and the development of bad credit ratings.10

About 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs. 11

A survey of Iowa consumers found that in order to cope with rising health insurance costs, 86 percent said they had cut back on how much they could save, and 44 percent said that they have cut back on food and heating expenses.12

Retiring elderly couples will need $250,000 in savings just to pay for the most basic medical coverage.13 Many experts believe that this figure is conservative and that $300,000 may be a more realistic number.

According to a recent report, the United States has $480 billion in excess spending each year in comparison to Western European nations that have universal health insurance coverage. The costs are mainly associated with excess administrative costs and poorer quality of care.14

The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.14

Read the rest!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie & Julia & Super Mon

I haven't seen the much anticipated Julie & Julia movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Yet. First, I wanted to read the books, Julia Child's My Life in France, and Julie Powell's Julie & Julia. Which I am doing now. I have tried to stay away from reviews of the movie too as reviews make me grumpy. The books are always better than the movies, anyway. I am always interested in the blogger who gets published on real paper kind of stories, and I am most definitely interested in food.

Since I didn't know about Julie Powell's blog or her Julie/Julia project until it was announced that the movie was coming out, I thought I better catch up. As a Foodie-come-lately (I really got into Food, big F, when I was 32 and pregnant--and I did so with a single-minded determination and/or obsessiveness), I have often admired what I know about Julia Child's life. She worked for the OSS in WWII, she was a true blue Democrat, she discovered Food (Big F), at 37 and she had a great and lasting love affair with her husband Paul Child. Sigh.

I used to only watch her television shows as a teenager-- we didn't have cable. I remember catching her show on PBS and being slightly embarrassed by, yet fascinated to watch this person. There was something kind of sexual (in my uninformed adolescent mind), yet also entirely too pragmatic, about the way she handled poultry and lamb. My mother is not a cook. And, my father never cooked for our family unless it involved a grill. My mom is a fine baker; she makes deadly fudge too. But spaghetti dinner at our house consisted of a pound of unseasoned ground beef, a box of Creamette spaghetti noodles and a can of Hunt's tomato sauce. I had a lot of intestinal issues as a kid. We had spaghetti once a week.

I was interested in the person of Julia as a teen; she was a spy, after all. But then I thought that was probably pretty nerdy. And, as I had already let it be known amongst my friends that I liked poetry and WWII and French history to much mocking and hilarity, that I kept my intrigue of Julia Child quiet, and eventually dropped it to pursue other, more exciting topics like local, Wisconsin boys.

I thought she was English for a long time too. I had no idea she was a native Californian until just a few years ago. Her voice was odd to me. High, yet, rumbly and strangely accented.

I have NEVER made any recipe she has crafted. I don't own her cookbooks, and French cooking in general scares the shit out of me. There's all that clarifying and reduction and dividing and fussing. I like Italian cooking with it's big, bold easy flavors, veggies, pasta, and CHEESE!!!! I make fantastic corn meal dough pizzas with pears, onions, mushrooms, spinach & Gorgonzola (or sheep's milk feta)and I broil a fine medium rare steak with a side salad and bob's your uncle. But, I admire the challenge Julie Powell undertook of making all 524 recipes from the Mastery of French Cooking in 365 days.

I try to watch cooking shows on PBS, and of course, every street food fan's favorite, and my boyfriend Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on the Travel Channel.

The Food Network kind of makes my head go all fuzzy and white inside. It's Food Porn, but it's not GOOD Food Porn. It's not very creative. I mean Porn should, er, get you off, right? At least I haven't found a show on that entire network that doesn't make me rock back and forth, yet. Emeril's BAM, and Rachel Ray's oeuvre don't inspire me to want to make and try new food. Not so sexy. I will say Emeril at least seems like a food lover. Probably my dislike comes from the fact that it's so MAINSTREAM. There is nothing nerdy about it. My sister has Rachel's magazines. I was reading one while at her house recently, With her $6000 stove, and her exposed brick kitchen, Rachel makes tostadas with bacon as the secret ingredient. And, that is fine for her. For her legion of fans. But, I would rather learn how to make ratatouille. Or authentic tamales. Or one of Julia's many sensual recipes.

Michael Pollan, wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch" about this phenomenon exactly. As well as talking about Julie & Julia and Julia Child's career. Pollan wants us to stop watching and start cooking. Obviously, with lots of local and organic vegetables. I'm all for it. It's certainly healthier and more fun to cook. I don't want to give up my food moderate dose of food porn, though. I am not going to stop watching or reading Anthony Bourdain, or PBS. And, I have a slight cookbook addiction and that's not going anywhere.

A little challenge: watch the robust, Italian lady on PBS's Ciao, Italia as she makes bread and cheese casserole. Then make it for your next potluck (maybe at my house) and I will make spaghetti carbonara and someone else will bring salad, and there will be wine and people will start thinking you are a food genius.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Death By Chocolate: A Birthday Extravaganza!

Once again the ladies from work have made working on my birthday very tasty indeed. In addition to lunch with Pam at The Weinery (mmm Southern Dog with slaw and chili), I was also given a tiara and a 10 pound chocolate mousse cake from Death By Chocolate. Seriously, what's left? That delicious cake, the tiara, both bosses away, and many birthday wishes from my lovely friends, has made this a fine, fine birthday! I am looking forward to dinner with my boys and a visit to the Peace Ceremony at Powederhorn Park tonight. Yay for Birthdays!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Question of the Day: More About Love and Stuff--Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

Speaking of LOVE. Welcome home Euna Lee and Lisa Ling! Holy, good job Bill Clinton!

I don't buy for one second that this was Bill upstaging Hillary, or whatever Huff Po's stupid headline says. This was planned, even though we didn't know about it, and if he got the job done, so be it. That's all that matters. I am guessing Hillary and Bill WORKED TOGETHER on this humanitarian, not diplomatic mission.

Tomorrow is my birthday. It is one year before a birthday ending with a zero. We don't have huge plans, Super Steve and me. Super Girl is with her dad, so that leaves the three of us, me, Super Steve, and The Kid. Last year, I went out with friends and had too much sake, which was fun, but felt a little off because my beloveds weren't there. Not that the sushi bar and limitless sake is a place for a 5 year-old, but I missed them having them there with me.

The Kid and Super Steve have been talking about getting me a gift. It's hard shopping with The Kid because he is hyper and full of id, and his father justifiably stresses about embarking on such an endeavor alone with him. It's one of the ways Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents itself in our child. I find it sometimes endearing, sometimes exasperating. In any case, Super Steve is feeling the dilemma of getting THE GIFT with little to no time by himself in which to do it, since he is on daytime dad duty.

Super Steve is a fantastic gift-giver. I mean, for mother's day a couple of years back he made me a silhouette of The Kid that made me break down in tears. He had The Kid (who doesn't exactly sit still--see above) stand against a wall where he traced his profile including his rooster tail and what was left of his chubby baby face and painted it with black ink and framed it. How he got The Kid to be quiet about it, is beyond me. It was a complete surprise and I was moved beyond words. When we were courting, Super Steve slipped a letter under my studio door, written with a quill in real ink, no less, and sealed in wax, with all kinds of romantic poetry inside. And, pretty much I was hooked after that. His best gifts to me have been art, letters, things he has crafted out of his very own heart and imagination, and music he has thought I would like. Not that I am complaining about the Kitty Bag he gave me, or the Hula girl ash tray, the typewriter-shaped planter, or bracelets, a heart/sparrow locket, or records and records and books of poems; I love them all!! But, there is something about the way to my heart being in his thoughtful, creativity that I more than love. These gifts from Steve make every and all of my heartaches disappear, they makes arguments (fites) and misunderstandings dissolve. They make me feel loved.

The Question of the Day is a Birthday Present to Me-- so I hope you'll respond. Inspired by Shakesville about the best gift you've NEVER gotten. Like something you've always wanted, but no one has yet to deliver. A lot of the commentators misread and think it's about the best gift you have gotten, not NEVER gotten.

Anyway, what's your best gift from the heart (cue some cupids, butterflies, rainbows, and kittens)? Have you ever been given such a gift, or given such a gift that is so truly right on, and from someone's heart? It can be something bought; not all of us are married to, or lovers with, or related to, or friends with creative geniuses, after all. Here's a little Janis Joplin for my birthday pleasure. Tell me about your gift!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Modern Love

I just read the best article in the New York Times by writer and blogger Laura Munson called "Modern Love Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear." I sent it to a bunch of people, posted it on my facebook page. I have probably, officially joined the cult of Laura.

I think it's important to consider being responsible for your own happiness when you're in a long term relationship of any sort. Even if it's just with yourself. Since Super Steve and I will be celebrating 10 years of blissfulness together this August, and since we were just having a repeat of the same go-around that we've had for 10 years just a few days ago I thought a little relationship re-dedication of the modern kind is in order. The details of our little fite as I like to call it are not important, but the work we want to do so we can move on and remain happy in our relationship is.

Being in a long-term relationship is HARD. It's work. It's hard work. It's a delicate eco-system that needs constant attention (or, at least it feels that way). Sometimes things get wilty. And, sometimes when they get wilty it's about the other person figuring their out their balance and their sunshine and their, um, fertilizer. Ah, metaphors. As much as I loooorrrrrvve metaphors and as much as I love Super Steve, and he loves me, sometimes our humaness emerges we don't get each other. AT. ALL. You all know what I am talking about. So, don't go acting like you have the perfect relationship or something. If the article doesn't give you perspective on your LTR, maybe listening to Bowie will help.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Food Fite!

The House passed the food safety bill last week so the FDA can have more control in recalling tainted food, perform more inspections, enact fines, etc. This bill is not without its problems. It seems that it largely considers huge operations, and doesn't address the small, family farms, and their needs. While seeking a higher standard in food safety, the new regulations could become problematic for farms who offer diverse organic crops, heritage or heirloom products, and who package items in plants where conventional food is processed. Overall, steps to increase our food safety are good, but it doesn't hurt to be more informed.

Speaking of YUMMO food, that I hope is safe and free of E.Coli and salmonella... We're having corn from the farmer's market tonight. Roasted on the grill with some sea salt and cracked pepper. And, organic chicken and salad. Mmmmm. I love summer. I love corn. Who doesn't? Seriously!

I made the whole family come with me to the St. Paul Farmer's Market this weekend. Super Steve and Super Girl had to wait at the coffee shop while The Kid and I wended our way through the crowd. I have discovered that since its really only MY passion, and they all kind of hate going yo the market with me that I should really go it alone, but I made them come because I want them to love it the same as me. I want Super Steve and The Kid to see the potential of eggplant. All he tends to see is that our fridge is full and he doesn't want to waste anything, so where is it going to go, he wants to know. So practical, yet where is his imagination when it comes to my love of food? The Kid just wants to eat the whole time. He wants a hot dog, an ear of corn, some buffalo jerky. The Farmer's Market makes him hungry, no matter if he already ate.

I promised Super Steve that I would stop when my one bag was full and in that I got 7 ears of corn for 3 dollars, a whole bucket of zucchini, yellow squash, petty pan squash, some lettuce, some smoked string cheese, flowers, baby reds, fresh onions, egg plant, an heirloom tomato, and fresh basil. Mmmm. Basil. That is food for the entire week! We could have picked up local meats too, but the co-op sells them for a little less.

Super Steve and I are on a challenge to improve our health, cook at home, and eat locally, for the month of August! We feel better when we have delicious (and safe) veggies in our bellies.