Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009 -- Keep Your Head To The Sky

Happy New Year!

Well, 2008 is drawing to a close. What a year it was!

Barack Obama – who knew? A skinny kid with a funny name will become our 44th POTUS. I voted for him to be president of the Harvard Law Review. Who knew I would be voting for him for President of the United States? God is good, all the time!

On a sadder note, 2008 might be known as the Year the Laughter Died. We lost George Carlin and Bernie Mac. We also lost Isaac Hayes, too, even though he had stopped playing the role of “Chef” on Southpark a long time ago. Those Chef love songs used to make me so laugh so hard that I’d fall off my sofa.

We also lost all that was good and sexy from the 40’s and 50’s when we lost Eartha Kitt. My single girlfriends in Oakland would purr her famous line from “Boomerang” to our single guy friends just to mess with them: “Marrrrcuhhhhssss, I’m not wearing any pahhhhnnn—tieeees . . . .” And she’ll always be Catwoman to me, no apologies to Julie Newmar.

Although I wasn’t a Tim Russert acolyte, I did so miss his reporting during this election. He would have had a ball reporting on this one. Gone too soon, that one.

The economy is in the toilet, banks are getting bailed out while working folks are getting put out, and we’re a capitalist nation running largely on debt borrowed from a communist one. Who’da thunk it? And despite all the gloom and doom, I have the audacity to hope for better times ahead (nice tie-in, wouldn’t you say?).

On a personal note, I helped some kids in my family, I bought a house with BMNB and am FINALLY settled – my sister, the Writing Diva, declared it so – and I hope to finish either my novel or my self-help book in progress, run the Bay to Breakers, lose 40 pounds, and, if all goes well, adopt a child. Right now, I’ll settle for getting my garage cleaned out and my hair permed.

What do you have the audacity to hope for in the coming year? Whatever it is, I wish it for you as well as all the peace, prosperity and joy you can stand!

Happy 2009, y’all. In the words of those great philosophers, Earth, Wind and Fire, “Keep your head to the sky . . . . .”

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Trusting My Instincts: No More Fire Turkeys

I'm more of a cookbook cook than a real cook. As the saying goes, "Good cooks never measure." I'm an okay cook. I measure.

But most recipes are, at best, a blueprint for your own creativity. And when that blueprint seems all "cattywhampus," as they say down South, I often fail to trust my instincts and just ignore the recipe.

For example, I'm always looking for a better turkey recipe. I didn't realize that there were many ways to make a turkey until my 30's. Then again, I never had to make a turkey until my 30's. I had been faithful to the Silver Palate Cookbook's recipe for roasting a turkey because it had delivered faithfully -- a succulent, if slightly bland, turkey. I then came to expect that no matter what you did to it, turkey was just plain bland.

Then I found an interesting recipe in Real Simple magazine for a turkey with molasses, butter, salt and pepper blended together and stuffed under the turkey's skin. What a cool idea! The problem was, the recipe called for 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of pepper. Yes -- 1/4 CUP of pepper. I knew it had to be a typo. I searched and searched on Real Simple's website, and I think I even e-mailed someone there, but I could not find anything to confirm that it was a typo.

And so I made the turkey as called for. I didn't trust my instincts. I think even the heartiest Cajun or Creole would have puckered their cheeks upon tasting that uber-spicy turkey. The one-quarter cup of pepper had to be a typo. It just HAD to be.

And I tried it again, thinking maybe I'd done something wrong. Again, I ended up with yet another fire turkey by not trusting my instincts. I had to go out and buy prepared turkey to bring to a family Thanksgiving dinner. To make matters worse, my mother-in-law had given me the turkey in the first place, trusting that I knew what I was doing. I sounded like an idiot trying to explain how I had bombed yet another turkey.

This year, I decided to trust my instincts and combine the best of both recipes: I combined 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup molasses, salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste and, carefully separating the skin from the meat without tearing it, smeared the butter/molasses mixture all under the skin of the turkey. I then smeared the rest of the stick of unsalted butter on the outside of the turkey and seasoned it with salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash, and paprika to taste. I chopped up celery, onion, carrots and parsley and put it in the cavity and around the turkey, added a glass of water to promote broth production, put cheesecloth across the top of the turkey, placed it on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, and covered it with foil. It went in the oven at 325 degrees.

Then, using the basting technique from the Silver Palate recipe, I combined 1/4 cup corn oil with 1/4 melted unsalted butter and basted the turkey every half hour on the dot with the mixture until the turkey produced enough of its own juices to baste with. I continued basting every half hour on the dot, using a timer to remind me to get up.

I was amply rewarded with a turkey that was not only juicy, but flavorful. Why? Because I trusted my instincts. One-quarter cup of pepper? I don't think so. My instincts say otherwise, and I'm going to be better about trusting them in the future.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing You A Cozy Christmas

There aren’t a lot of Wal-Mart commercials that tug at my heartstrings. This year, they got me.

You’ve probably seen the commercial with the three small kids sneaking out of bed in an attempt to catch Santa while their mom comments that she bought all of them new pajamas – for sleeping, that is.

Yeah, they got me.

When I was a kid, my mom would buy each of us six kids a robe, slippers, and pajamas for Christmas. As a small child, this gift was a predictable part of Christmas and not the most exciting. What five year-old gets excited about clothes for Christmas?

But as I got older, I came to appreciate the robe, slippers and pajamas because they represented coziness and warmth. Like a hug from my mom. As a older child, I would get ready for bed early just so I could put on my new nighttime togs and wiggle my toes in my new fuzzy slippers (hey, it was the 70’s – the slippers were always fuzzy). While I was in college, I would return to my drafty dorm room or apartment with my warm and cozy Christmas contraband.

As with all good things, the cozy Christmas gifts came to an end with my mom’s advancing illnesses and subsequent passing. I don’t think I’ve had anyone give me a new robe, slippers and nightgown for Christmas for more than fifteen or more years. And as much as I miss it, I think it should stay that way.

Because those gifts were a special thing from my mom to us. Receiving them from someone else would feel somewhat contrived. I’ve even given them to my sisters, and I don’t think it felt the same for me or for them. But it got me thinking – maybe next year, I should give a new robe, slippers and pajamas to a child for Christmas. A child of my own.

Details to follow.

Wishing you a cozy Christmas,

Black Woman Blogging

Monday, December 15, 2008

Well, Hell, I've Got Some Shoes To Throw

An Iraqi journalist throws two shoes at the President as an insult, one of the highest insults in his culture. And the mainstream American press brands him "crazy."

The hell he is. If he's crazy, so am I.

First, what kind of punk-ass Secret Service do we have that anyone could get close enough to throw not one, but two shoes at the Leader of the Free World? I don't know who was on duty that day, but they need to be furloughed before the REAL President, Barack Obama, takes office. Those kinds of mistakes are not acceptable. Not at all.

However, if I had known that it was that easy to roll up on POTUS and show my discontent by throwing shoes, I, too, would have hurled some shoes. And I don't part with my shoes easily. But if it got the point across that this president, more than any in my recent 45 year-old memory, was a complete and total failure, then, yes, I would have hurled some shoes, too. For example:

* A pair of stack-heeled black pumps to the side of the head for lying about WMD and getting us into the Iraq morass in the first place.

* A pair of stinky Nike Airmax's for having the temerity to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that the government has the power to detain anyone indefinitely without trial, habeas corpus be damned.

* A pair of pink stilleto slingbacks in the ear for sanctioning torture at Abu Ghraib. Only cowards use torture.

* A pair of worn-out hiking boots for not getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld earlier.

* A pair of worn-out house slippers for having nothing more to say or do about the economy other than to say, "I'm sorry." Just shuffle on out of the White House in these house slippers so a real leader can take charge of the economy.

* A pair of navy blue pointy-toed Nine West pumps to Alberto Gonzalez and Harriet Meiers for firing U.S. Attorneys for their unwillingness to play politics with their prosecutorial power.

* A pair of cheap Payless running shoes for sanctioning rendition. That's just wrong on so many levels.

* A pair of faux suede pumps for a false effort to curry favor with the African American community through the faith-based initiatives.

* A pair of pointy-toed ankle boots to the head of Dick Cheney. Hell, any shoe to the head of Dick Cheney will do.

* A pair of worn-out sandals for setting up Guantanamo and trying to defend its purpose.

* A pair of peep-toe pumps for outing Valerie Plame, saying that anyone in the Administration who had anything to do with it would be punished, and then commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

* A pair of ballerina flats for the Administration's flat response to Hurricane Katrina and all those who were displaced by it.

* A pair of clear heels for the lack of transparency in creating energy policy and in trying to deny global warming. Well, I don't really own any clear heels, but I'd buy some just for this purpose.

I could go on, but I'm starting to run out of shoes . . .

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Monday, December 1, 2008

No Excuses: If You're a Woman, Buy A House

It represents a significant portion of my take-home pay, yet it’s a bill I couldn’t be happier to pay.

It’s my mortgage payment. My first.

I’m happy to pay it because I realize a lot of people can’t make their mortgage payments these days. I’m happy to pay it because it will relieve the tax burden BMNB and I face as DINKs. I’m happy to pay it because I love my house and my neighborhood.

If I had known I was going to love making a mortgage payment this much, I wouldn’t have waited until I was 45 years old to buy a house.

And so, this is my message to all the women who read my blog: Don’t wait until you are married to buy a house. And definitely don’t wait until you’re 45. Ideally, don’t wait past 30.

In the intervening years since I graduated law school, I’ve missed out on the wealth accumulation that appreciated home equity means. Even despite the last couple of wacky real estate market years, home ownership, although not a bullet-proof method of wealth acquisition, is a substantial one over the long haul. The mortgage interest tax deduction is one that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you are a high wage earner.

I think of a classmate of mine who bought a house in Oakland as a single woman in the early ‘90s. Even with the recent market declines, the equity she’s probably accumulated over the last 15 or more years has to count for something, especially in the Bay Area real estate market.

While she was buying a house, I was making excuses: “I can’t afford a house by myself;” “I want to wait until I know for certain where I will be long term;” “I want to wait until I’m married so we’ll have two incomes going toward a mortgage.”

All B.S.

First, for starters, you buy what you can afford. I may not have been able to afford a house in Oakland at the time, but I probably could have afforded a condo in San Leandro. Hey, some piece of real estate, within reason, is better than none at all.

Second, you don’t wait until you’re married. Yeah, it’s all nice and good if you are, but women have to make financial decisions independent of their marital status. Statistically speaking, most of us will outlive any husband we marry anyway, so you need to start accumulating wealth for the long haul that will support you in your waning days when, chances are, you'll be by yourself. This is the same whether you marry or don’t.

Third, even if you don’t know where you’ll end up geographically because of your career, you can always buy something, rent it out if you move, and then buy another house. FHA loans allow for this, and I would imagine that others do, too. BMNB has property in another state, but that didn’t stop him from buying this house with me. Now he has an interest in two properties because he was smart enough to buy something while he was single. He’s now renting out his other property, so someone else essentially (or mostly) pays that mortgage. Sweet. Equity accumulation on someone else’s dime. I wish I had been that financially confident.

So, if you’re a woman, young or otherwise, and using any of the above excuses to avoid buying a house, I call B.S.

If you have another excuse, like bad credit or low income, then I say to you, make a plan to address these issues and prepare to buy a house, especially if you have children. The equity in your home doesn’t just represent potential retirement savings; it represents college tuition payments or the downpayment on your child’s home. It is this intergenerational wealth transfer that makes the difference for generations to come. It is, IMHO, one of the reasons why black wealth is still outpaced by white wealth in this country – given that our forebears were redlined and discriminated out of the housing market during periods of substantial housing booms – the ‘50s and ‘60s – the accumulation and passing down of equity wealth hasn’t been as common in our race as in others.

You can improve credit over time. You can also get low downpayment loans through the FHA (3%). But the wealth accumulation you are missing out on over the long term while renting -- now, that's going to be harder to make up.

Remember, as a woman, either through choice, death, or otherwise, chances are you will be single in your older years and entirely dependent on the financial choices you make now for your income in the future. Choose wisely. Don’t do like I did.

To get help getting your credit together, go to creditboards.com.

For information on FHA loans, go to FHA.gov.

Okay, no excuses. Get ready and buy a house. You owe it to yourself as a woman.

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