Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Scarlet Women

Scarlet jewellery and ribbon on a book
It is about time I tell the story of the Scarlet Women.  Let me begin by saying that I have been blessed with some incredible friendships.  My best friend Bethany is my dearest and oldest friend.  I cannot even remember a time I did not know her.  And despite the fact that we haven't lived in the same state since we were 11 and now do not even live on the same continent we still keep in touch through, email, skype and pinterest, of course.  Although I was blessed with this strong friendship I was apparently not given strong roots to go with it.  I seem to be a bit of a wanderer.  Or an exile.  So it was that I found myself at two different schools for undergrad and yet another for a masters program in self chosen exile while I pursued my academic destiny.  Yet, as hard as those transitions were I wouldn't trade them for anything.  My life would be sadly lacking without the amazing friends I found in all these places.  That is how I first found the group of friends that was to become the Scarlet Women.

Being a very mad person indeed I had decided that I needed to transfer universities mid-way through my career.  Not only did I need to transfer, I needed to move further across the country (I grew up in CA, started university in Chicago, IL, and finished in VA), and I needed to do it in the middle of the year.  I couldn't possibly transfer in the fall with a whole class of new freshman and normal transfers.  No.  I had to transfer in January.  And so it was that I found myself at The College of William and Mary mid-way through the year with a handful of other transfer students.  We adopted each other and soon became a transfer family.  We grew very close and had many adventures, including the formation of our own tribe, the building of a cardboard castle, and the creation of the Church of Coffee.  But the story I want to tell you about now is how we became the Scarlet Women.

While we were dueling, holding tribal dances, and partaking of the sacred liquid we also went to class.  We went to lots of classes, did lots of work and met lots of other students.  One summer my friend, who we will call Carmine San Diego, was attending a class in anthropology among other subjects.  It was a discussion based class with not too many people in it and since she is a nice and friendly person she would smile and say hello to all her fellow students when she met them around campus, including a student we will simply call Guy.  Guy had also been in one of her other classes the previous semester.  Carmine San Diego had crossed paths with Guy several times.  She had always smiled and said hello and he had smiled back.  One day while heading to Wawa, the magical purveyor of milkshakes and other late night treats she ran into Guy again.

On this particular day she asked how he was and after a brief and polite exchange he went on his way.  That seemed fairly normal.  Later that day he found her on facebook, they were not friends, and he wrote on her wall.  He asked "Do you stop and talk with all random strange men on the street or is it just me?"  Well, aside from being outright rude, this was an utterly astonishing thing to ask.  If you have two classes with someone you are hardly a random stranger off the street.  And why would you spend time searching for someone on facebook just to insult them?  Carmine San Diego told another friend at dinner and they started laughing about it.  Suddenly insults were flying back and forth.  "You say hi to your classmates?  You are such a brazen hussy!" "Trollop." "Strumpet." "You should wear a scarlet letter."  And that is how the Scarlet Women were born.  Carmine San Diego was the first scarlet woman and we all joined the ranks.  If smiling at people and making polite conversation makes you a strumpet then we were all guilty of being scarlet women.

As with most things in our group we took the idea of Scarlet Women and ran with it.  We gave each other red things and wore red as a badge of honour.  You have to laugh about these things.  There is just no point in being insulted by idiots.  Now, clearly saying hi to people was promiscuous.  So, if we were scarlet for saying hello to people I don't even want to know what he thought about the sorority girls on campus.  So, naturally the sorostitutes and the scarlets were engaged in territory wars.  We "worked the corner" by Wawa where our whole existence began and where the milkshakes lived.  That is, we went there often to get milkshakes (you wouldn't see a sorority girl there they were too busy being worried about gaining weight and not fitting in their perfect white dresses with matching pearl necklaces.)  They had sorority court further down the street.

From then on whenever we went to Wawa for milkshakes we would laugh about working our territory.  Whenever we wore red it was in pride of membership.  You have to be a little bit proud.  Think about, if someone is so overwhelmed by a polite hello that they call you scarlet, then you've got it going on.  So, if you have ever been insulted without cause, told you were scarlet or slutty for a perfectly acceptable skirt, called a tart for standing with your hips a little asymmetrically,  or someone implied that you were promiscuous when you were simply going about your day, then you are a Scarlet Woman.  A woman of such class and beauty that mere mortals cannot handle you.  Let's face it, they are just intimidated and envious of your natural class and charm.  Don't let them bother you.  Stay classy.  Take their insults as a compliment.  Wear a little bit of red, a ring, a pin or maybe a scarf and just smile.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Broccoli is proven to be creepy

I accidentally stumbled across this post about broccoli on somebody else's blog the other day.  In light of my last post about broccoli I thought this was oddly appropriate.  If my strange pictures were not enough to scare you I imagine that this will be.  Just look closely at these pictures.  Creepy.

Monday, 7 May 2012

I am a scavenger.

At university, my friends and I used to joke that we had to go scavenge for food in the cafeteria.  Not everything they served was edible.  If you have eaten in school cafeterias you know what I'm talking about.  Sometimes the only things that looked edible were the desserts, other days it was cereal for dinner and some days you had to choke down something before you had time to wonder what it was actually made of.    I have to say, if you can keep an entire table full of intelligent people guessing at the contents of your dish you have skills.  Perhaps not the set of skills I would recommend as necessary for being a cook, but nonetheless an impressive set.  Although we did often amuse ourselves at guessing ingredients, it was not always a joking matter.  Scavenging was what we termed the desperate search for real food that often led to an assorted plate of things you found edible.  Usually it meant not eating the main dishes that were being served and instead returning with a collection of gummy bears, gold fish crackers or if you were lucky fruit that you found on the salad bar or hidden by the sandwich stuff. 

It wasn't all bad.  We had fun with even this sad lot in life.  We took the song savages from Pocahontas and gave it our own lyrics. "Scavengers, scavengers barely even eating.  Scavengers, scavengers through the caf we're creeping." The frequent presence of gummy bears at our table led to the creation of Gummy Bear Theatre.  We adapted Shakespearean plays and large historical events and had them performed by Gummy Bear Theatre.  It may have looked something like this.
Button with Gummy Bears acting out Ceasar's death
The best one was probably our highly fictionalized retelling of Hannibal's crossing of the alps with elephants in tow.

Apparently I was destined to take scavenging to another level as a post grad.  I often found that I didn't have time to do proper shopping trips.  So I had to scavenge in my cupboards for things that could be eaten together.  It was not uncommon for me to have peanut butter and jelly but no bread, cereal but no milk, and pasta but no sauce.  I did try to get food but studying just ate up my life.  What kicked me out the door and into the grocery stores though was the lack of chocolate.  Realizing this about myself I had to limit the amount of chocolate I bought at one time.  This way I would have to go out to buy it more often and then be out to buy more real food too.

Now that I have graduated I seem to do better about buying food regularly.  Yet, last night I managed to take scavenging to a whole new level.  I have progressed further into my scavenger lifestyle by moving on from food.  I now collect things.  A few days ago I noticed a table out on the street with the trash bins.  I was too tired at the time to really think about it.  A few more days of passing by it had given me time to contemplate the table sitting on the sidewalk.  That poor three-legged table was going to be thrown away.  What a sad fate.  How could somebody waste such a perfectly good three-legged table?  Well, last night I was sitting in my room thinking that I could use a little table for craft projects.

So, I put on my coat and shoes and went out to the street just behind my house.  I rescued that three-legged table from it's sidewalk grave.  I was undeterred by the slugs that had already decided to make it their home.  I brought it home and cleaned it thoroughly.  I resurrected it from useless discarded furniture to craft table.  Where better to create things then on a three-legged table?  If it can be rescued, if it can still work then there is no limit to what can be repurposed.  And if I get a little paint or glue here or there, what matter?  That is what it is there for and it will only add to its character.

I had better go do crafty things before I decide to start scavenging for more things.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Death by Broccoli.

People love telling others what to do, especially when it comes to eating.  Eat your vegetables is a favourite command among parents.  "Vegetables are good for you" everyone says as you grow older.  People love to tell you how good veggies are for you.  And everyone loves to tell you how good broccoli is.  You aren't allowed to dislike it.  It is rich in fiber and vitamin K.  It can even provide you with vitamin C so you aren't at risk of scurvy.  A common problem on land, of course.  Lord knows, if it weren't for those forced mouthfuls of broccoli I would have succumbed to scurvy on many an occasion in my youth.

"Ha", you think if you are reading this as a child, "when I grow up I won't eat broccoli anymore".  I hate to break it to you kid, but I thought the same thing once.  It is not as simple as that.

When it comes to broccoli you are rarely allowed to refuse it, even as an adult.  If broccoli is involved in a meal and you choose not to eat it everyone is suddenly very concerned about your health.  It doesn't matter that it tastes bitter and bland all at once.  It doesn't matter that you can't mask its taste in butter, cheese or any substance known to man.  It doesn't even matter that its prickly little florets cling to your tongue, taste buds, and throat, refusing to be swallowed and putting up a desperate fight all the way down to your stomach.  No.  If you don't want broccoli you MUST be unhealthy.  Clearly you aren't eating enough fiber.  You must not be getting enough vegetables.  No other food will do.  You must eat the broccoli.

Well, I won't stand for it.  I've had enough of being told how wonderful broccoli is for me.  I just don't like it.  I'll eat other vegetables, and in great quantities too, if that will make you happy, but I'm not eating broccoli anymore.  I can get my vitamins from other sources.  I'll make sure my diet has enough fiber.  But I am through with broccoli.  I simply won't buy it and you can't make me eat it.  I AM an adult after all.  I can make this sort of decision for myself.  And yet, here I am staring at broccoli.  What happened? 

The other day my housemate was getting ready to leave for a week and was trying to empty out her refrigerator before she left.  Along with some other edible substances I suddenly found myself in possession of broccoli, that dreaded vegetable of tongue-clinging fame.  I didn't want to just throw it away.  That would have been wasteful and I hate wasting food.  This put me in an awkward position.  I realized I might have to suffer through eating the broccoli.  So, I placed it in my refrigerator with a heavy heart, postponing the inevitable torture for another day.

Then I had a brilliant idea.  I couldn't throw away the broccoli, but I could play with it.  I could turn my broccoli into an art project.  Then it would no longer be wasted by me AND I wouldn't have to eat it.  So I decided to take photos of broccoli that portrayed its true nature.  Photos that penetrated deep into broccoli's soul.  Photos that warned others about the true dangers of this horrifying vegetable.

Have you ever looked at broccoli and noticed how strange it looks with it's funny arms and leafy head?  Does it not seem a little creepy to you?  Can you imagine it with a pair of mean, slanting, narrowed eyes and a gaping mouth?

True nature of Broccoli
Can you not see a killer?  I can.  I'm just saying that maybe we shouldn't eat things that have faces like that.  Not so fast, you say, what harm could broccoli do?

Let us examine this case more closely.  Look closely at its face.
Muderous veggie: Evil broccoli
This is not the lovable face of a vitamin bearing vegetable.  This is the vicious face of a murderous veggie.  Now, let us think about the things that this face is capable of.  Is it the sort of face that could commit this kind of atrocity?
Dead broccoli
Killed by a murderous broccoli.
I think so.  Is it the sort of face that would also be capable of this?
Murderous Broccoli eating a strawberry victim
Why, Broccoli, why?  What did the strawberry ever do to you?
Yes, I think it would.
Death by Broccoli
To die so young... it is such a heartbreak.
Such senseless waste. 
Killer Veggie: Death by Broccoli
Killer Veggie Strikes Again Murdering Innocent Fruit
This is the face of a heartless murderer.  It is the face of a monster capable of murdering innocent fruit.  And why you may ask?  Greed.  The distinction of being rich in fiber was not enough.  Broccoli envied the strawberry for it's nutritional value.  Strawberries do provide you with fiber, and vitamin K like broccoli does, but they also have vitamin A (for healthy skin), D (the crucial "sunshine vitamin"), E (to help build blood cells), C (about as much as an orange to prevent that troublesome scurvy), B (I don't know all of what it does, but it appears to be good for brain health) and a host of other nutrients including magnesium that are all good for your body.  What really made broccoli raging mad though was how good the strawberry tasted.  All those nutrients were packed inside one beautifully red, amazingly sweet and sugary, yet good for you, piece of fruit.  How could it be so?  The broccoli wanted to be the most nutritious so it decided to eliminate its competition.

If you want to help stop the fruit genocide...
Dead strawberries and broccoli
or you are concerned about the possibility of an army of undead broccoli...
Zombie Broccoli

Act now!  Boycott broccoli!  Save the strawberries!  Prevent the Broccoli Zombie Apocalypse!  And enjoy your meals at last!

For the record, I am a healthy, moderately responsible adult.  I do not eat broccoli.  I do get enough fiber and vitamins and nutrients in my diet.  In case you don't believe me about strawberries and their inherent nutrients (and in light of the post I have just created I don't blame you), then check on strawberries yourself.  You can see a list of vitamins that strawberries contain and a chart of some of the other nutrients that strawberries and other fruits contain, from slightly more reputable sources.  I did warn you I was mad.  And I'm not even saying that we should never eat veggies.  I just don't want to eat things that look like this sort of face belongs on them.    
Zombie Broccolis
I don't trust them.  Can you blame me?  Look what they did to my beloved strawberries.  Now if you'll excuse me I have some fruit I need to consume.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Tea Time

Tea time: clock in the tea cup
I didn't always love tea.  But tea has slowly grown on me.  Now I find myself wishing for lovely warm cups of tea to greet me when I come home.  Maybe it's just the cold North Yorkshire weather that has finally gotten to me.  It is rather hard to imagine living here without tea.  And there is nothing quite as friendly as someone who is running to the kitchen asking if they can get you a cuppa.

Lazy afternoon chats with housemates over a nice cup of tea are simply wonderful weekend pastimes.  Of course, tea here in the UK can also mean dinner.  If someone has invited you round for tea they could mean a meal.  That caught me by surprise at first.  But I think I like the way tea is a part of the culture here.  Tea is food and drink.  It is comfortable and comforting.  Tea is friendly.  Tea belongs everywhere, even in the workplace.  And you know what?  I think I'll keep it.  I like having a nice cuppa every now and then.

Clock on a tea spoon