Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie: A Few Raves

What better way to kick of the New Year than to write about food?

First, I've come to the grips that I am not only gluten intolerant, but it seems I have an allergy to wheat as well. I'm not going to bother going to a doctor just to tell me either what I already know, or to try to convince me it is all in my head.  I eat wheat, I feel like crap. I don't eat wheat, I don't feel like crap. It is that simple.

The problem with wheat is it is in practically EVERYTHING pre-made. This means I have to cook a lot more. While that is ultimately a better thing, it can be frustrating at times to try to make favorites only to discover the difficulty in using wheat-free products.

My husband wanted chicken pot pie for dinner for our traditional New Year's Eve "hide from the world." I had the double challenge of hunting down a recipe for chicken pot pie (thank you, internet!), and finding a way to make an acceptable crust.

The first part of the hunt involved finding the recipe from Simply Scratch, which you can find here. Individual chicken pot pies, made from scratch, no cream of chicken soup (which usually contains WHEAT!!), and a link to a pie crust recipe.

When shopping for the ingredients, I found that Namaste Foods now has a product called Perfect Flour Blend. I've had desserts made from their spice cake and brownie mixes before, and both of those are so awesome you don't miss the wheat, dairy, etc.

The chicken pot pie turned out great! I have a few observations.

1. There is an obscene amount of butter in the pie crust recipe. This is not something you would want to make on a weekly basis unless you have the metabolism of a hummingbird. It is delicious, and it would work well in a dessert pie as well as a savory one. I may try to find a pie crust recipe that is a little friendlier to the waistline next time, as long as I can find one that still does the filling justice.

2. This is not a recipe to make when you are pressed for time. Takes a long time to make, but well worth the effort. Maybe next time I make this I'll be more streamlined in my approach, but it will still be a lot of time in the kitchen.

3. The Namaste flour, worked great for the crust recipe instead of wheat flour, but it falls apart a lot easier since it doesn't have the binding gluten of wheat. I've seen recipes that compensate for that by using a bit of xanthan gum. I may try that next time.

Happy New Year everybody!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trying to make sense of it all

This morning a disgruntled (ex?) student walked into a classroom at
Oikos University and opened fire on the people in the class, resulting
in seven dead, three wounded at the time I write this post.

Several thoughts and emotions flit through me. Shock, anger, fear,
and, why? Why would he feel the need to do this? What made him snap?
What did these people do to him that he needed to play the role of
executioner for them?

To be honest, until today I had never heard of Oikos University, so I
had to look it up. It is a small independent college near the Oakland
Airport area, which has academics in theology, music, nursing, and
Asian Medicine. Sounds like a nice, peaceful place to expand your
education, not the breeding ground of violence that would cause
somebody to snap and start killing people.

The part that is a little scary for me is I used to teach graphic
design at a vocational college a number of years ago. I had one
student that I always had a little residual fear that one day he would
snap and kill us all. Luckily he never did, but even having that
little bit of fear in the back of your head is not grounds for restful

Now that I work at a small newspaper, I am watching how the bigger
news publications, stations and sites are handling it. First question
in my head—how do they deal with it? I'm so new to news writing that I
wonder how they can maintain journalistic neutrality when reporting on
something so horrific.

I don't get it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

(human) Babies (for the most part)…are not cute

I have no maternal instinct/inclination towards human babies. At all. I don't get or go through the "aww how cyoooots" that they seem to bring out in 'normal' people.

Put me in the same room with kittens, I will turn to mush and try to take them all home. Puppies, ferrets,  etc., the same thing.

Babies though? My knee-jerk reaction is "ew! Squishy!! Put it back, it's not finished!!" Even being through the birth of a couple of my friends' kids (as in I was in the delivery room), going through infancy of my nieces (which I adore)… but… still do not find them cute as a rule.

Honestly, they creep me out.

I guess I'm just wired weird. 

Where's some kittens?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Impartiality in Journalism (my opinion)

I was asked if I thought an unprovoked violent early morning attack be reported from a neutral position by the media covering it. My answer? In short, YES!!

In long form, the reason I answer in his way is that it is the duty of the journalist to present the information they are reporting on as neutrally and as factually as possible, whether it is on paper, on TV or on the web. This allows the public to make their own decisions on how to react.

Too many news reporters, papers, stations, sites, etc. lose sight of that in the name of gaining readers and viewers. Or if they are for some reason endorsing one political candidate over another. Too many viewers blindly follow one source of news over another without stopping to see if there are other views and facts based on that same headline. That is what some politicians, executives, and other people are banking on.

As some of you may know, I recently started working for a small newspaper. Thankfully my editor has the same philosophy I do. Have I had to write about something I had a strong opinion on? Yes. Was I impartial in my writing? I hope so, because I certainly tried to do so. Do I do my best to present both sides of the story? YES!

One thing I've learned in the short time I've been working there is if you are known for impartiality and fairness in your writing, ESPECIALLY in a small town paper, cops, officials and politicians of all sides are more inclined to return your calls and talk to you.

Don't even get me started on shoddy fact checking and knowingly reporting based on the wrong information!

This post was triggered by a Twitter conversation based on the Occupy Oakland police raids. Depending on what point of view you are looking at it from, either the cops are absolute brutes or the protesters are a bunch of ne'er do wells, who needed to be routed from the space they were occupying (to lump them all together into two camps).

Somebody from the 'police were brutes' camp challenged my reply in defense of KTVU's doing a good job of being impartial in presenting the news, and my reply took 3 tweets. Then I decided it would be better to reply in really long form as a blog.

So there you have it. I may be 'new' to news writing, but damned if I'm going to become a sensationalistic dweeb just because I want to gain a few more readers for the paper or see my byline above the cut all the time.

The Twitter conversation (names changed)

Writer 1: "Protesters Clash With Police After ‘Occupy Oakland’ Camp Raided" (link attached in post)

Writer 2: They headline it as Protesters clash rather than "Protesters Attacked by OPD.." Go Fascist Media go. *smh

Me: (to both) To be fair, KTVU's morning news gave it pretty unbiased and neutral coverage.

Writer 2: (in reply to me) not if they led with that biased headline. Clash sounds like both sides running at each other. This was pure #OPD attack.

Writer 2: (again in reply to me) if KTVU was not appalled at police attacking protesters, some in wheelchairs, then it was not neutral, it downplayed the scene

Me: I respectfully disagree. They did their jobs. It is their duty to be impartial when presenting news, no matter how appalling.

Writer 1: (to me and writer 2) Should a unprovoked violent early morning attack be reported from a neutral position?

Me: (to both) Honestly? YES! It is the duty of the journalist to present news as fact as impartially as possible. more...

Me: (to both) even if what they are reporting is personally appalling. Unfortunately too much sensationalism is used to (more)

Me: (to both) sway the public's opinion for sake of reader- or viewership, or political reasons.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Journalism: A Weighty Responsibility

I never in a million years thought I'd end up as a journalist.

Hell, that's not even what I went to school for. My degree is in graphic design. Yet here I am, assistant editor for a small newspaper. I'm media now in a way I never thought I would be.

That can be a heady power to some. Being able to dictate somebody else's life with the click of the keyboard. But I see the responsibility it holds too.

In recent weeks I've had to cover some of the community campaigns for members of the school board. I interviewed all four of the candidates. All of them are really good people. In a way I am relieved  do not live in the town that they are running in because I'd hate to vote 'against' any of them. I can see where each of them have an energy that would lend itself well to that particular school board.

At the same time I can only hope that the articles I wrote about them portrayed them to be the wonderful people they are, so the people of that community can decide for themselves, and not think they are being swayed by the way I wrote about them. I have no favorites. Hell if it were up to me I'd put two more chairs in the board and have all four of them up there.

Even covering something so mundane, yet somewhat scary as a pigeon infestation on the roof of a high school, shutting down a couple buildings because of the concern for the dust from pigeon droppings getting into the HVAC unit... I don't want to make the school board look bad. Yet I had to hound these people to get the information out of them for an article. I can only hope the article was seen by the readers in a light that was in no way condemning of the way they handled it. Personally I thought they did the right thing, but I have to remain neutral. That is the duty of the press, after all.

I think that's the problem these days with the media. There is a lack of neutrality. It's an abuse of power, if you look at it. Media is a strong tool for swaying the minds of others. Look at advertising! Propaganda! Marketing! In those aspects, sure, it's a great thing to be biased towards the 'product' you are pushing, but news? No. It needs to remain neutral. Just the facts, ma'am. The journalist's opinions have no place in hard news. If you want your opinions aired, save it for the opinions column. Otherwise, just the facts.

I can think of one certain sports news 'journalist' who seems to have taken a dislike to a certain NASCAR driver. She has made it a point over the past couple months to write some articles about this driver that are on the verge of defamation. But given the network she writes for, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Still, what she writes is better suited to something like the National Enquirer, Weekly World News, or some other cage liner rag, not legitimate news.

In a perfect world, all journalists would be more concerned with their name being attached to something that is legitimate, well written and truthful, not sensationalist and scatalogical, just because it gets the Jerry Springer mindset's jaws a-flappin'.

Bah, I think too much.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wet Troll Woman. You can't make this stuff up!

Working at a newspaper that exists on severely limited funds has it's challenges.

The lights in the conference room are not working for some reason, and they have yet to be fixed. I had to do an interview of a high school kid regarding a club he is president of. Since he is under 21, I could not meet him at the local Tavern, where I have started to do my interviews to spare the people I interview having to deal with our spartan existence. (I love this place, but there's limits to what others should have to tolerate!)

Since I had limited time, I agreed to have this kid and his mother meet me at the office, and I took them to the back area which we have been using as our makeshift conference room since the idea of having to talk to people in the dark is a little odd.

Unfortunately this area is also where the circulation 'office' is located.

Right in the middle of the interview, the back door opens and this dripping wet troll of a woman shuffles inside. Dripping wet! I am not joking. She had to have been in her late 50s, short, squat, and dripping wet. Wrapped in a towel, in a bathing suit, shuffling along in flip flops… it looked like she had literally stepped out of a pool and into our lives. Wet Troll Woman grunted at us as she walked through, grabbed some papers that were on the wall, and shuffled her way back outside.

I was appalled, to say the least. A bit embarrassed too.

I don't know who she is, or where she came from. But, if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say under a bridge somewhere. Isn't that where trolls live?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pre-Coffee Rambling

(Note, I wrote this blog early this morning, but realized I wanted to shift it to a new blog, dedicated to my new journeys as a writer. Enjoy!)

Thinking back to starting the new job at the newspaper a couple weeks ago. How much I've grown in the way I write since then! I was hired as an assistant editor, not just for my writing skills, which they are (thankfully) training me in, but my ability to wrangle page layout programs, work around antiquated equipment, and my background in design, teaching, and art. These things help me in interviewing the folks I need to for the articles I must write.

So now instead of writing whenever the whim takes me, I have to complete at least one article a day. It is a change that I find exhilarating on one hand, somewhat terrifying on the other. I mean, me? A writer and assistant editor? For a newspaper? Who knew? Bylines with my name on it? Unimaginable even four months ago.

I'm already noticing a change in me. This morning, even before coffee, I had to fire off a rather lengthy post on a private forum I moderate. After I finished my mini-novel (I can get wordy sometimes) I had to step back and look at the amount of writing I accomplished  in so little time while the brain was still asleep. I may go back in a couple hours and gaze in horror at what I wrote since I'm still barely speaking coherently, much less thinking in full sentences. But you never know. Maybe writing is another thing you can program into your brain's "muscle memory" to do reflexively.

Now I must get my day started. Maybe a little yoga to get brain and body caught up with each other, then to the office where I must interview a crazy author and get a paper out.

Seize the day!