Never Bow To Customs Agents

DON’T WORRY…this is not another food post, I promise. What?!? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nothing makes you realize how mundane and cyclical your diet is like staying at home and self-isolating for four months. This then leads to the realization that you need to spice up things with more bacon and chocolate (Quarantine-15 is real y’all!). Anyway, no food talk. Well, I mean, there’s food talk—but it’s not a recipe. It’s actually M&Ms and sorry to all of you out there who have heard this story ad nauseam. It’s probably better told in person, especially when I can demonstrate with aforementioned M&Ms, but, well, social distancing and all that jazz…

This is a great cautionary tale of traveling internationally. I’d like to tell you it’s my only cautionary tale of traveling internationally, but, well, that would be a lie, multiple times over.

Anyone who has ever flown into Australia knows how stringent their Customs process is. Anyone who has never flown into Australia quickly learns how stringent their Customs process is. Despite other airport events to suggest otherwise, I know that you cannot bring fruits and vegetables and general food items into most countries. In fact, you cannot bring fruits between Oregon and California either—in case you’re ever road tripping up and down the West Coast of the United States.

What I didn’t seem to grasp at the time is that this concept also includes snacks…unless they are unopened and hermetically sealed. Even if you purchased a ginormous bag of peanut M&Ms and opened them approximately 14 hours into a 16-hour flight from LAX to SYD and had only eaten a couple of handfuls. They are now considered tainted and must be disposed of before entering Australia. But hello! this is me and I wasn’t going to easily hand over my nearly full bag of M&M’s because some cute Customs agent with a cute Australian accent said so.

Turns out, I was wrong.

PLEASE NOTE: As a general rule of thumb you should NOT argue with Customs agents. That might be Rule #2 when traveling in airports (Rule #1: never mention the word gun at the airport). Not that I was arguing, mind you—I was pointedly asking the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent what the difference was in opening a bag of—let’s just pick a random snack, like, oh I don’t know, peanut M&Ms—on a plane flying to a country and opening them in my hotel room in said country.

Please note that this was my very first flight to Australia and my first ever flight over 10 hours. I also spent 15 hours prior to this flight hanging out at LAX. Additionally this was way back when I could never sleep on flights. Needless to say, I was a bit wired and perhaps a little jittery from chugging coffee for about 26 hours straight. Thus when the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent told me I had to dispose of my newly opened extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, I just laughed because thought he was kidding.

Rule #2.B: Don’t Laugh at Customs Agents.

When I realized that he was not kidding, I did what I deemed the only sensible thing that I could do: I started eating them. Rapidly. But I am not rude and I offered all the Customs agents some of my M&Ms. Apparently, this is considered a bribe.

Rule #2.C: Don’t Offer Bribes to Customs Agents.

None of them took me up on my bribe. Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in detaining me—only pointing out that they could. So there I stood. In front of the Customs table, stuffing my face with peanut M&Ms, looking like a chipmunk, batting my eyes at the handful of agents who were very interested in this crazy Yank and her refusal to willingly hand over her chocolate. I knew there was no way I could actually eat the entire bag at one time and began offering them to fellow passengers as they walked by. A shockingly large number of people took some, blatantly ignoring a life long lecture from their parents never to take candy from strangers. Perhaps the clustered group of gawking Customs agents made them feel safer. Perhaps the lure of candy coated chocolate and peanuts was too much to deny. Perhaps it was jetlag and disorientation from being on a plane for 16+ hours. Perhaps they knew this wouldn’t end well for me and were just trying to show support.

Eventually, I thought I got my point across (aka I gave up because I was actually starting to feel nauseated from too much candy). Plus I remembered that I had a connecting flight that I could not miss, despite my desire to best the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent who was completely unsympathetic to my chocolate plight. I reluctantly sighed, locked eyes with the cute Customs agent, and begrudgingly made a huge show out of throwing away my now 1⁄2 eaten large bag of recently opened peanut M&Ms. I really wanted to bow, but somehow—either knowing it was a bad idea or fearing I might puke—I refrained. Probably for the best.

Rule #2.D: Never Bow to Customs Agents.

My best advice to you when we can start traveling again is never bring anything ever into Australia. Except maybe clothes and shoes…

Bacon Makes Everything Better

BLTs are proof that bacon makes everything better because let me tell you I am not overly fond of lettuce and I hate tomatoes on my sandwiches.  They make it all soggy, but that is a rant for another day. 

However, add BACON and suddenly, I can tolerate both. Mainly, because I know what kind of strange looks one gets when one orders a BLT without lettuce and tomatoes. And yes, that “one” to whom I am referring is moi. What? Bread and bacon are part of my five food groups: coffee, tacos, cheese, bread, and bacon. Okay, okay….and fruits and veggies—but I’m just lumping them into one group. So six food groups. Eight if you count wine and beer.

But let’s not get sidetracked. BLTs. Heaven on earth (in my humble opinion) and if you want to make them better, make it a BALT (bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato) or if you wanna make it truly spectacular—don’t tell your cardiologist and make it a BA…because who doesn’t like bacon, bread, and avocado?

They’re super simple to make and yet, I usually only eat them out. Which is silly because right now we’re in a pandemic and there is no going out…except to the grocery store where you can magically buy all the fixins for a nice BLT. It’s a great summer dinner option, since tomatoes are in season and delicious, so you are (aka I am) more likely to overlook the sogginess factor and the only cooking you need to do is frying the bacon.

In my opinion (and I’m sure that’s totally why you’re here 😉), what truly makes a BLT great is the right bread—a thick sliced country style white bread—and thick cut bacon cooked until it’s nice and crispy. Then all you need to do is just layer everything and eat it quickly so as not to let the tomatoes make everything soggy. What’s easier than that?

If you plan on sharing, I’d quadruple the recipe. And if you have a ripe avocado handy, just add it—you’ll thank me for it later!

A Simple BLT

2 slices thick sliced bread (as I mentioned I prefer a country/homestyle white)
2 slices of thick bacon (if you add more, I certainly won’t judge!)
1 tomato
2-3 leaves of lettuce
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp pesto
1-2 dashes Sriracha sauce

Fry bacon in a skillet (or whatever your preferred bacon cooking method is) until crispy. While bacon is frying, in a small bowl mix together mayo, pesto, sriracha. Set aside and slice tomatoes. Once bacon is crisp, remove from skillet and wrap in paper towel to drain off grease. Toast slices of bread slightly and spread each slice with pesto mayo. Layer bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and dinner is served! Easy, peasy, delicious, and done!

Oh and if you’re wondering, BLTs pair nicely with most things, but I think crisp dry whites (think viognier, dry chenin blanc, and sauvignon blanc from New Zealand) pair especially well.

Mmmm…bacon!

Mmmmm…Chhhhocolate…

Holy shitballs y’all!

Last week while looking for a new dessert for Fourth of July, the following words caught my attention: Chocolate Angel Food Cake.

yeah…you read that correctly: CHOCOLATE ANGEL FOOD CAKE!

Did you know this existed? I had no clue! Which seems very negligent of me, since angel food cake is one of my favorites.

I’m sure Pinterest and Google can provide you 7 gazillion from-scratch recipes, but if you’re short on time or the wherewithal or you just don’t want to, then add ½ cup of cocoa powder to a box of angel food cake mix and follow the directions on the the box.

Below is my version of the trifle recipe I found using chocolate angel food cake. And by “I found,” I mean Ann found and sent to me with an enthusiastic suggestion that I make it. I think it’s a great summer dessert for special occasions. Or any time, really, since it’s so easy to throw together. And honestly, what pairs better than strawberries and angel food cake except strawberries and chocolate? I mean, AFTER strawberries and champagne, of course.

Okay, okay…one quick note if you hate strawberries: please do NOT let that stop you from trying this. I think any berry, particularly blueberries, would make a good substitute.

Chocolate Strawberry Trifle

• 1 Angel Food Cake Mix
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ¼ cup water (or amount listed on cake mix directions)
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• ¼ cup honey
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 1 ½ cups frozen strawberries, thawed
• 5-6 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together cake mix and cocoa powder. Add water and with a mixer, mix on low for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and then mix on medium for one minute. Do not over mix. Pour batter into an ungreased 10” tube pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until cake looks dry and cracked on top. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large chunks. Try not to “sample” too many chunks.

In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, honey, and vanilla. Purée the thawed frozen strawberries, using a food processor, blender, immersion blender, or your preferred implement of destruction. Add to yogurt and mix thoroughly.

In a trifle (or large glass) bowl, place ½ of the cake chunks along the bottom. Layer with ½ of strawberry yogurt mixture, spread evenly (read: as evenly as you can). Top with a layer of strawberry slices. Repeat layers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving (note: the longer it’s refrigerated, the mushier the cake will be. Not necessarily an issue, however, your layers will start to lose their shape but definitely not their deliciousness!).

bon appétit!

Melting Into Oblivion

I know I tend to keep the politics away from here, but it feels wrong not to say something. Not to say anything.

Today is July 4th, which should mean something more than just backyard BBQs, baseball, and fireworks. However, it seems odd to celebrate the birth of a nation when that nation is on fire and seems to be slowly melting into the oblivion of all former great empires.

We are watching the GOP—the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, the party who loves to take the moral, god-fearing high road—literally destroy itself from within by refusing to rein in a man who couldn’t care less about the party and its platform any more than he cares about the American people and what they need. The only thing he cares about is himself. And if you think otherwise, you have not been paying attention.

Let me say that again: HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. OR YOUR FAMILY.  OR YOUR BUSINESS.  OR YOUR HEALTH. OR YOUR DOG.  OR THE CONSTITUTION. OR THE BIBLE HE LIKES TO POSE SYMBOLICALLY WITH. None of it.  He only cares about what would bring him fame and fortune.

Oh, wait, I lied.  He also cares about tweeting and the Dow Jones Average.

Now, before you leave in a huff, I would like you to consider two things:

ONE My Granny always said everyone was entitled to their own wrong opinion. We live in America. We have freedom of speech. We are allowed free thought. If someone thinks differently than you, it’s OKAY! It is something I always try to remember when conversing with people (including friends and family), who have dramatically different opinions than me. That is getting harder, however, to continue with some people because of the lack of respect they give me in return.

It is possible some of this is due to the fact that I’m older and less likely to cajole them into talking. My internal conversation goes something like this: if you want to be an ignorant asshat, have a nice fucking day. My external conversation is to raise an eyebrow and stare at them blankly, blinking slowly. It’s not because I don’t want to hear what they have to say. However, there is this growing trend—not just in politics, but in a lot of different things—to not explain why you believe something. I know why I believe x. Why do you believe z? Instead of I believe z because [insert reason here], the response is more along the lines of: because I do and if you don’t agree, tough shit, you’re wrong.

I think a lot of it is laziness—and this is not directed at either party—it is rampant everywhere and I know that I’ve certainly done it. To clarify: by laziness, I mean that we the people like to believe whatever is spoon fed to us on the news, on social media, from the ladies we overhear at the bus stop. We tend to share information without checking sources or accuracy. It’s just so damn easy to click share or repost or retweet without thinking…click, click, click. It is equally as easy to believe what we hear on our favorite news station without bothering to check their facts or if the other stations are saying the same thing. And if they’re not, why not? It’s the news, it must be fair and impartial. Right? Right?

With the exception of the few on the very far left and very far right, we used to be able to talk about politics without hating the person who didn’t agree with us and I would really LOVE to bring that back. Desperately. I love hearing the other side. I love learning why people think the way they do. When you hear their why, you start to understand. When you start to understand, you can work together to fix things. If you disagree and tell me why I’m wrong, GREAT! But bring your reasons and let’s have an open and honest and respectful conversation.

TWO Please don’t think I’m saying in any way, shape, or form that the Democratic Party is perfect or even good. They’re not. There is a lot of in-fighting about what the party should look like and believe in. Honestly, it was very disappointing to see that the party that touts themselves as celebrating diversity nominate an old white man (sorry no offense, VP Biden) because they think it is the only way to beat Trump, since Hilary couldn’t beat him. Newsflash: it wasn’t that Hilary is woman that led to Trump’s win. It was that Hilary was Hilary and the DNC ran a very sloppy campaign because they seemed to be completely oblivious to the political climate that was desperately searching for change from the political dynasties of the Bushes and Clintons. The masses (at least the masses in a few key electoral college states) wanted something different and, quite frankly, the DNC refused to support that ideal. They felt they owed the nomination to Hilary and thus did everything in their power to help her get that nomination. Once that happened, they then sat back on their laurels and watched Trump promise the people the change they thought they wanted—to drain the swamp of corruption, stagnate elected officials, and pork barrel politics. And people who were sick of all it, went out en masse and voted for change.

I understand why people wanted change and I understand why they might think that Trump could bring it. I think everyone hoped he would walk around screaming vociferously at Congress and lobbyists and DC in general “You’re fired!” But alas, no.

What I truly do not understand is how no one seems to want to hold him accountable for anything (US Senators and Department of Justice, I’m looking at you). It is as if the Republican Party has completely checked-out and are just holding their breath until he is gone. You know, like you used to do when your mom served those nasty, over boiled, lifeless brussel sprouts and wouldn’t let you leave the table until you ate 6 of them? Actually, no. It’s worse than that. It’s an abusive relationship, where they tiptoe around him, fearful of his reaction, and accept the consequences of whatever he does because in their minds it’s easier than dealing with the aftermath of confronting him and the invariable Twitter barrage that follows. They’re just closing their eyes and praying it will be over quickly.

Except that it won’t be over quickly. And you’re sacrificing our country in the interim.

The Republican-led Senate had the opportunity to take back the train-wreck of their party with Trump at the helm and restore it to some semblance of normalcy to their ideals, but they didn’t take it. They said there was no solid proof. But how can there be if you’re not allowing witnesses and holding other people accountable for what they are claiming? Senator Graham announced at the beginning of the process that he would, of course, support the president because—even though he hasn’t heard all the evidence—he didn’t think that an actual crime had been committed. This is the same Senator Graham who railed on and on and on during the Clinton impeachment trial that an actual crime didn’t need to be committed; the only consideration for removing an impeached President from office is the President using his Office to hurt people. If that’s the case, we should have impeached Trump the moment he took office.

We the nation seem to have lost count of all the times that Trump has defiled the Office of the Presidency. On the record. For the whole world to view. Each more egregious than the last. Too many for me to fully list because honestly, I can’t remember them all.

I mean, you certainly have to give him credit: he never lets one story blow up too much before creating a new cycle of stories to tell. And the old stuff? Well, it’s just gets lost in the shuffle. So let me remind you of but a sampling of the things in my humble opinion that Trump has done in the last 3.5 years to, as Senator Graham said, hurt the people:

  1. It’s okay to assault women.
  2. It’s okay to separate children and babies from their parents and put them in cages on display until other countries expressed concerns about the cruel and unjust ways of our immigration system.
  3. It’s okay to practice nepotism.
  4. The KKK is A-OK!
  5. It’s okay to tell United States Citizens and members of Congress to go back to their own countries, never mind the fact that if you’re not 100% Native American, you’re from a lineage of immigrants.
  6. It’s okay to ask other countries for help in your reelection campaign (ohhhh…Nixon must be rolling in his grave).
  7. It’s okay to use the Department of Justice to give all your cronies a free pass for their felonies.
  8. It’s okay to politicize a pandemic and allow hundreds of thousands of people to die because you don’t know how to handle a crisis—or at the very least listen to people around you who DO know how handle a crisis.
  9. It’s okay to not wear a mask and potentially give a deadly disease to someone else.
  10. It’s okay to encourage your supporters to protest wearing masks and social distancing because it infringes on their person freedom, but discourage people from protesting the racial inequalities and police brutality that is systemic throughout the country.
  11. It’s okay to force people to chose between voting in person and their health, even though you vote by mail.
  12. It’s okay to use tear gas and flash bang grenades to clear out a peaceful protest for a photo op at a church, where it’s okay to pose with the Bible upside down.
  13. It’s okay to threaten to use the military on American citizens on US soil because they oppose you.
  14. It’s okay for your friends to put bounties on lives brave military men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and it’s okay for you not to do anything about it.
  15. It’s okay to label anything you don’t like to be a hoax or fake news.

Colluding with other countries? Threatening to use the troops on Americans? And then not doing anything about reports that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill our troops? This is nothing NOTHING short of treason. If any other president—Democrat or Republican—would have done half these things, he would have been pressured to resign. And he would have done so out of respect for the country and the office of the Presidency (read up on Richard Nixon if you don’t think this is true).

Calling out your President does not make you a bad American. Holding the President accountable and at a higher standard does not make you a bad American. Channel your inner John McCain because, honestly, I can’t think of anyone who embodies the spirit of being a proud American and serving his country the way that he did.

The only reason to continue to support Trump is because you condone his behavior. This is not one single oh shit moment that he could walk back with some smooth talking and a bit of eating crow. We are way beyond that. The country is at a breaking point and instead of giving it a lifeline—which is what a good President would do—Trump is adding fuel to the fire and clapping while it burns. This is a shit show. This is deplorable. And this is treason.

Is all hope lost? No. Millions of people are fighting to change the system, to change what is acceptable, to change what it means to have justice and equality. True justice and true equality for every American, not just a select few.

Look, I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m just reminding you not to be a robot—you have a brain, you have a voice. Use them. You don’t have to cross party lines and vote for Biden. Hell, write in a vote for George W Bush and let him be President again. I did not agree with many of his policies, but never once—NOT ONE SINGLE SOLITARY TIME—did I ever question his loyalty to the citizens of The United States of America. I may not have liked what he did, but I knew that he did it because he truly believed that it was the best thing for America. That is what you do as President—you put the country and its citizens—ALL OF ITS CITIZENS, not just its rich, white, male citizens—first.

Our founding fathers were far from perfect. Their beautifully worded documents declaring that “all men are created equally” did not apply to women or people of color. But I believe the country they envisioned and wanted to create was one that was ever evolving into something better than the one they left behind. A country of the people, by the people, and for the people is going to be messy because people are messy. But we should never stop striving for equality, liberty, and justice—not for a select few—but for all.