Monthly Archives: September 2007


I’m not usually a ‘mix’ person. I mean, yes: there are some things that are just better out of a box – brownies and yellow cake among them; I’ve yet to find a scratch recipe that beats out Dunkin Hines for these things – but, for the most part, I’m a make-it-from-scratch kinda girl.

I came across a tub of this stuff in my cupboard the other day and, since the “best if used by” date had come and gone during this summer, I decided to make some chocolate waffles:

OH. MY. PRECIOUS. GODDESS! These things are GOOD!

They’re MUCH more suitable for dessert than they would be for breakfast (of course, I never make waffles for breakfast, anyway – waffles are dinner in the Chili household and no, I don’t know exactly why that is). Seriously – top them with Edy’s Grand chocolate ice cream and some fudge sauce and you’re fast approaching roll-your-eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head bliss.

Ask me how I know.

I’m betting they’re also going to be amazingly yummy with some of this plopped on top*:

Check Stonewall Kitchens out – I’ve never been unhappy with anything I’ve ever gotten from them, either from their stores or from their internet shop (when Mr. Chili’s middle sister lived in California – she’s now in England – I’d send them the Blueberry Morning basket every year at Christmas). Plus, the company is run with social justice issues in mind, and I really dig supporting that.

After eating these fabulously yummy chocolate waffles, I think I’m going to make Stonewall Kitchens a theme for my Christmas gifting this year…

*edited to include:  yes, they are!  Ask me how I know…

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Filed under admiration, cooking, social issues


There has been a fair bit of buzz in my world lately about friends. Meno had a post about friends, I’ve got a Girlfriend who’s been doing some tough work with some friends, my sister has been thinking about her relationship to her friends and how the people we spend time with influence who we are, and there were a couple of other places where I read or heard about people musing about the nature of friendship. As a result, I’ve been doing some thinking.

I’m blessed with quite a range of friends, and they all settle into different categories in my life. Some are more family that anything else: WeedWoman and Bowyer stand out as examples of that. These are people whom I trust with literally everything – my secrets and fears, my house and my possessions, my children – if there’s such a thing as soulmates, these two would be mine*. I’ve made a new friend who feels suspiciously like an old friend, so I think I may be adding someone to that exclusive list sometime soon.

There are people I love profoundly, but who don’t bring with them the same kind of feeling of ease and belonging that WeedWoman and Bowyer do. That doesn’t mean that they hold a lesser place in my life, it just means that they aren’t the first people I think of when I think of people who belong to me.

There are friends who serve specific purposes in my life – people with whom I share common interests and goals, but who aren’t as tight a fit in my world.

There are people I know from the health club or the college whom I like very much but, for whatever reason, I tend to not see much outside of those venues. I consider them friends and would never turn up an opportunity to spend time with them, but the circumstances of our lives prevent our getting much closer than casual buddies. There are also blog friends, whom I’ve never met in real life and may never have a chance to actually lay eyes on, but I would call them friends, too.

I had a conversation with a Girlfriend of mine not too long ago in which we discussed how friends tend to settle out into these kinds of categories, and about how when one person perceives the friendship to be different than the other person sees it, big trouble can ensue. My friend – let’s call her Sue – was having trouble because of this. Sue liked a person in her neighborhood, but didn’t consider her a “top-drawer” friend – something which came back to bite Sue in the ass when this person accused her of being a lousy friend because Sue didn’t hold up this woman’s expectations for their relationship. I can tell you for sure that Sue is a fantastic friend, and the whole thing sounded a little Fatal Attraction to me – Sue was being held to standards of behavior that she didn’t feel inspired to reach, and that was used against her as evidence of her character flaws. My impression was that Sue would have been happy to continue the friendship on the level that it had reached, but she wasn’t interested in becoming “BFFs” with this person – the casual, occasional get-together was sufficient for her.

I know a lot of people who are uncomfortable “rating” friendships and who would accuse me of being childish and “high school” for even writing this. The fact of the matter is, though, that people naturally settle into orders of importance in our lives for a lot of different reasons. I don’t sit around thinking, “gee, So-and-So pissed me off the other day, so she’s not a “top drawer” friend anymore.” My friends each have different roles in my life – and I in theirs – and that’s just the way it is.

I like to think that all of my friends and I perceive our friendships about the same, but the truth of the matter is that I know, in at least a couple of cases, that’s not really how it’s working out: there are some people whose friendship I value more than they value mine, and vice-versa. When I stop to think about it, I find that it’s practically impossible for two people to perceive anything exactly the same way, and I recognize that some adjustments need to be made for the unique perspectives that each person brings to any relationship.

The bottom line is that I take my friending very seriously. I do my best to be the kind of friend I want to have in return, and I try to be aware of what kind of friend my friends need me to be. I recognize, though, that not every friendship is the same, and I try to nurture each in the way I think will best serve it. As with everything else in my life, I do the very best I can and hope that it’s enough.

*of course, there’s Mr. Chili – but he’s in an entirely different category all his own – neither “friend” nor “family” even begins to cover what he is to me and I know, despite my practice with language, that I’ll never really be able to adequately describe that, so I’m not even going to try…


Filed under Friends, frustrations, ruminating

Civics on Saturday: The Constitution, Part I – The Preamble

Happy Saturday, Everyone!

I’m continuing my investigation of the founding documents of the United States of America. We had a close look at the Declaration of Independence a few weeks ago (and please, continue to comment – there’s no such thing as a closed Civics on Saturday post) and, after your generous granting of an extension, I was able to put up a reasonably coherent post about the Articles of Confederation last week.

This week, we’re going to begin our study of the United States’ Constitution. It’s likely going to take us a good long while to make our way through this document – it’s a pretty complex piece and I like to pace myself, so we’re going to take it bit by bit. Ready? Okay! Here we go!

We start out with the Preamble. I LOVE the Preamble. Well, more specifically, I love the Schoolhouse Rock lesson about the Preamble.

I learned a lot of my elementary English rules and civics facts from Schoolhouse Rock. For those of you who may not know what Schoolhouse Rock is (is there anyone over the age of 30 who doesn’t know what Schoolhouse Rock is?), it was a series of cartoon shorts set to music which were aired on Saturday morning during the prime cartoon hours. They were usually sandwiched between commercials – there’d be one or two technicolor cereal ads, then a Schoolhouse Rock bit, then a few more commercials, then back to Scooby Doo or The Road Runner.

Schoolhouse Rock segments, like this one, were incredibly catchy. I’m 38 (and 9/12ths) and can still sing almost ALL of the songs – and not just because I’ve bought the CDs and videos for my children, either. The History Rock segments featured events like the Pilgrims’ landing, the “shot heard ’round the world,” the Lewis and Clark exploration, and women’s suffrage. The one about the Preamble to the Constitution is the reason that I don’t have to look it up to post it here for you – I can write it by heart:

We, the People of the United States of America*, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United Sates of America.

Seriously. If you call me, I can sing it for you.

This bit is pretty straightforward. The Founding Fathers are following through on the promise they made with the Declaration of Independence – they were putting their proverbial money where their mouths were: government exists because we say it does. It’s the PEOPLE who give the government power, not the government which gives people rights.

The Preamble also puts out what purpose that government will serve. We the People are establishing this government to do these specific things – we want government to exist to help hold the individual states together better than the Articles of Confederation did – to form a more perfect union; we want it to establish and enforce laws to establish justice and insure domestic tranquility; we want the government to provide for the common defense – to establish a federally funded and maintained military – and to promote the general welfare (which, to my mind, didn’t really happen until FDR’s New Deal days, but we can talk about that later). Not only did we want government to DO all that, but we wanted it to KEEP doing it – secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity – so that our children – and their children – could live in a free and democratic society.

That’s a pretty tall order, but we seem to have pulled it off… at least, to this point.

We’ll get into the rest of the Constitution later – I think that the preamble is enough for today. Besides, I want to let you live with that catchy little tune in your head for a while…

“We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility….”

Happy Saturday

*cute little side-story: when I was in – oh, I don’t know.. fifth grade? – we were learning about the Constitution and, as part of the lessons, we were asked to memorize the Preamble. When I got my quiz back, I had been marked off for leaving “of the United States of America” out of my writing of the sentence. I went back to my teacher during recess and sang the Preamble to her, and I got those points back…


Filed under Civics on Saturday

Dark and Stormy Book Club, Take 3!

Bo has chosen a new book for us to investigate over at the Dark and Stormy Book Club!

cov-androids-200.jpgBo has picked Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s the book that inspired Blade Runner (which, by the way, is one of Mr. Chili’s all-time favorite movies). I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about the story, and I’m really looking forward to finding out for myself if all the good stuff I’ve heard is true.

I tried to pick up a copy of the story this afternoon, but the wretched big-box book store had EVERY story Dick had EVER written EXCEPT the one I wanted. I’m still a little pissed off about that, and am going to call my favorite (though not terribly local) bookstore this morning to find out if THEY’VE got a copy – and, if they do, if they’ll hold one for me.

Join us, won’t you? We really do have a great time – reading great stories and then discussing them with smart and funny people is FUN!


Filed under Dark and Stormy Book Club, reading

Busy, Busy, Busy

Today is the last day of the term at the college, and I’m up to here in grading. What I’m really telling you is that I’ve got nothing of substance for you today because my mind is elsewhere. That being the case, I offer you this: Jeff Dunham. This guy cracks me up, and he’s putting on a Comedy Central special this weekend – check your local listings:


Filed under admiration, funniness, Little Bits of Nothingness, television

A Maybe Not-So-Irrational Fear

My biological parents are back in the area code.

I don’t have a relationship with my biological parents anymore. Believe me: this is best for everyone involved, me especially. When I did have a relationship with these people, it was strained and abusive, and when I finally worked up the strength to break out of that cycle, I started becoming the person I was meant to be.

They used to live two towns over, in a part of the state that I rarely, if ever, had occasion to frequent. Then, about two or so years ago, they moved to a small town about two and a half hours away in the next state over, and Auntie and I breathed sighs of relief. No longer would we have to worry about chance encounters, and the likelihood of an unwelcomed knock on the door decreased significantly.

Well, they’re back.

They’ve moved back to the state because, according to a cousin, they weren’t getting enough attention in their new living arrangement. They had moved to be nearer to my father’s family – his mother and older brother – and I gather that they weren’t received in quite the way they were hoping. Regardless of their motives for moving in the first place, or for moving back, the fact remains that they’re nearer to me than I’m comfortable with their being.

The good side of this is that they’ve moved to a town that I’m in even LESS than the one they originally moved from; I’ve stopped in this new town only three times in the last year: two of those times were to meet my graduate seminar group for dinner. There’s a Lowe’s in the town, and Mr. Chili and I went there to buy a vanity cabinet for the downstairs bathroom – that was the third time. The chances of my running into these people by chance are pretty slim, although MeadMaker called me last week to say that he’d run into the mother in the local WalMart. He didn’t stop to talk to her – she hates him almost as much as she hates me – but it certainly threw him off his game for a bit. She has that effect on people.

The not-so-irrational fear of the title has to do with my parents’ proximity to my children. One of my many and fatal character flaws is the hateful and manipulative way I’ve used my children to purposefully wound my parents. According to them, I’d been plotting ways to keep them from their precious grandchildren since the day the stick turned blue, and the fact that I’ve followed through with that only proves how rotten a person I am.

The truth of the matter is that I come from a long and distinguished line of abuse and dysfunction, and I well recall being a young person witnessing the previous generations battle it out. I remember being driven home from forced visits to my maternal grandmother’s house when EVERY PERSON IN THE CAR was crying – Auntie and I from the terrible time we’d had, and my mother from the generous helping of verbal toxins she’d been given before we were allowed to leave (a skill which she picked up quite skillfully as Auntie and I got older). I remember the anxiety and the yelling and the ugly, hateful way these people interacted and I decided, as soon as they put Punkin’ Pie in my arms at the hospital, that I would never, ever do that to my own children. I offered my biologicals a choice; they could either do the work and have a healthy, grown-up relationship with me, or they could hit the road.

I’ve not seen them in almost ten years.

What concerns me, though, is the tenacity with which the mother clings to the idea that she’s been brutally wronged. She refuses to see that her behavior has brought this situation about (Auntie will back me up here – I’m not just being a spoiled girl who takes her ball and goes home when she doesn’t get what she wants. I am saving my children from the abuse that Auntie and I have had to work very hard to overcome). It’s this conviction which frightens me into thinking that the possibility exists that the mother would try to get to my girls through their schools. The idea of stalking hasn’t been entirely discounted as out of her ability, either.

Do I think she would go so far as to kidnap them? No, I don’t; and even if she did, my children know who their “safe” people are – who they can and cannot get into cars with – and my biologicals aren’t on that list.

Still, the thought occurs to me to send letters to school with the girls, pointedly forbidding my parents from any contact with my children, just to be sure.


Filed under Parenting, Worries and Anxieties

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten DVDs I’ve bought but have not yet watched.

My favorite video store occasionally runs what I affectionately call “looting sales.” Usually, the banners proclaim FIVE DVDs FOR TWENTY DOLLARS!!

I mean, really: how can you NOT?!

My problem seems to be that my eyes are bigger than my stomach… no, wait.. oh, you know what I mean: I want the movies more than I have the time to actually sit down to watch them…

1. Babel. I bought this one on the recommendation of the reviews and the Oscar buzz it generated. WeedWoman borrowed it, watched it, and said it’s one that I’ll really enjoy, given how much of my life is wrapped up in working with communication.


2. Million Dollar Baby. I’m not a huge Hillary Swank fan, but I do love Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood as a director works for me. This one got a lot of Oscar attention, and I’ve had it recommended to me by people whose movie advice I trust, but I’ve also been told that it will make me cry.


3. Tsotsi. I remember being fascinated by the trailer for this film, and bought it on those memories. I’m a big fan of great storytelling, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for the quality of narrative of this film.


4. Crash. Here’s another one I bought on the strength of its Oscar buzz. It’s not a happy movie, though – or so I’m told – and I want to be in the right frame of mind to watch it.


5. Notes on a Scandal. I actually texted Kizz from my cell phone while I was in the video store to ask her whether I should include this in the looting. Her response was something akin to “HELL, YES!!” This may be the first one I see from this list – I loved the preview and Kiz, whose opinion on such things I trust perhaps above all others, can’t speak highly enough about the performances by the two lead actresses. I may schedule myself a “do nothing” day during the inter-term break at TCC and settle in for a viewing.


6. Blood Diamond. I bought this one because I love Ed Zwick as a director and because I remember Mr. Chili’s twin saying that it was a really great film. I’ll have to get over my general disdain for Leonardo DiCaprio, though…


7. Children of Men. Another one bought for the Oscar buzz. I also asked the video guy which movie he’d recommend, and he blurted this one out without hesitation – the video guy is another one whose opinions I look to: I mean, really – who knows more about films than someone whose job it is to work with them? I also have a lot of suspicion that I could use the film as part of an English class unit that includes The Road: the feel of the preview for the movie made me think of McCarthy’s book.


8. Syriana. This one was bought on spec. – I’m only going on the strength of the reviews.


9. Hotel Rwanda. I LOVE Don Cheadle and would have bought this film just because he’s in it, but I also love rescuer stories. The rescuer stories of the Holocaust figure heavily into my lessons – I want my students to really understand that it is possible to stand up, even quietly, in the face of atrocities. We are all responsible for each other, and the more I can get that idea out there, the better I feel. This movie, though, is one that I’ll have to be in the right frame of mind to see, and I haven’t been in that frame just yet.


10. Children of Heaven. Technically, this film doesn’t belong on this list because I didn’t actually buy it – (and no; I didn’t steal it, either!) – it was given to me by my former intern mentor. She used it in her summer class at the local university and decided that I HAD to have it. It probably goes second on the priority list after Notes on a Scandal: I’m curious as to why TM thought of me when she saw the movie.


Happy Tuesday, Everyone!!


Filed under movies, my oh-so-exciting life, ten things Tuesday