License and registration please, Ma’am

speedometerI got a little speeding ticket this evening.  

Officer So-and-So explained that he was monitoring speed on this stretch of road as part of a grant from Operation I-Forget-What and that excessive speed is a hallmark of aggressive driving (?!) and that he clocked me going 57 in a 40 m.p.h. zone and would I please give him my license and registration.

How was I supposed to know how fast I was going? My speedometer has been broken for, like, going on two years now! I drive by relative speed… but I guess I was relatively passing all the other cars on the road. Curt and I were talking about our days and the next thing you know, BAM.

He reduced the ticket speed to 49 so that I would only have to pay the minimum fine (gee, thanks), explained what the 27 different colors of carbonless copies meant, asked if I had any questions, and without so much as a perfunctory pleasantry, sent me on my way. Next victim.  Harumpf.

In a driving career that spans a hundred 26 years, I’ve only been cited for a few moving violations.  I am, in fact, a very careful, defensive driver. I don’t take stupid risks. The key to my success is anticipating the dumb stuff that my fellow motorists are about to do, before they do it.

My most recent speeding ticket – my first one – was 11 years ago. I was returning from Baby Boss’s two-week doctor checkup. He was wailing in the back seat because it was way past nursing time. I was hustling home because my coworkers were coming to my house to share lunch and ooooh and aaaah over my new baby.  There’s this stretch of highway where cars often run in the exit-only lane until the last minute, then they suddenly merge left. I always felt (and still do) that the safest thing there is to pass this area in the left lane, so as to avoid the idiots who evidently can’t read all the LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT signage.  I mean it’s really well-marked.

On that day, the car in the exit-only lane was a police cruiser. I proceeded by him in the left, not at an excessive speed, but a bit faster than he was going (because after all, wasn’t he preparing to exit?), but sure ’nuff, he hopped over at the last minute, behind me, then turned on his lights and pulled me and my screaming infant over. 

But instead of introducing himself like tonight’s officer did, he greeted me with a blustery, WHAT IN GOD’S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, PASSING A POLICE OFFICER LIKE THAT??  So, I explained my safety-based rationale and asked if we could please hurry because I NEED TO BREASTFEED MY INFANT NOW, IT’S PAST HIS LUNCHTIME. And he was all, I was going 55 and you must have been going faster, ma’am, so I’m writing you a ticket for going 60 in a 55-m.p.h. zone!  And I was all, I don’t even know how you can say how fast I was going since you, too, were moving, but my BREASTS ARE STARTING TO LEAK so can we move it along please?? And of course, my postpartum hormones kicked in and the tears started flowing, because how ridiculous was this anyway? But I couldn’t stop it. And I thought I’d heard that officers often have sympathy for a crying woman with a crying baby – especially one whose milk had just let down with a vengeance –  but that was not the case in my situation.

Of course I was throwing around all of this breast-talk for effect.  Way back when I was mothering infants, I was not given to talking about my breasts. (I’m really still not.) I don’t even like the term “breastfeeding.” It’s too… anotomical. I was nursing, thank you, and I was the model of discretion. But this officer had earned no such euphemisms.

That cold-hearted bastard gave me a ticket anyway. I should have gone to court to fight it, but that was really the last thing on my mind, what with having an infant and a two-year-old at home. So, I didn’t. I paid it.

Not that I’m still bitter or anything.

Still, I think once every 11 years is a pretty good record.  For as often as I do exceed the speed limit, I don’t ever drive recklessly or aggressively. Just maybe a-little-too-fastly.   Oh come on, you know you do it, too. I was just the unlucky stiff who got caught. This time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see a man about a speedometer repair…

How (not) to make pepper slaw

There’s a big party in our neighborhood tomorrow. An end-of-summer bash! Everyone’s supposed to bring a side dish to share with the masses.  I thought that a mass of pepper slaw would be the perfect thing to bring… it’s not mayonnaise-based, it’s easy to eat, people love it, and it’s a Central PA classic. Best of all, I was sure I had all the ingredients in the house, except for the cabbage.

This morning, I loaded the Peezer into the car and off we went to the grocery store, to purchase a head of cabbage and a cartful of things he asked for and I couldn’t say no other Very Important Things (cat food, Oreos, Fleet Fiber Gummies [the kid won’t poop without ’em], a new electric toothbrush with a skateboard handle – you know, the essentials in every four-year-old’s life).  One head of cabbage was a buck-ninety, and considering that the recipe I use yield enough to feed an entire platoon, I was feeling exceedingly thrifty. Well done, me, I thought as I imagined patting myself on the back.

Once home, I commenced to making the slaw.  An account of how it all went down follows. But if you want to jump to the actual recipe itself without the rest of the story (and I hope you don’t because it’s kinda funny but if your time is limited, g’head) – go to my other blog, My Grandmas’ Recipes, where I posted the recipe with noticeably less commentary.

 I got out the Cuisinart and all of its parts and put it together. I found my largest mixing bowl. Processed a few baby carrots, one green pepper, and one onion, separately, until each vegetable was finely chopped, and transferred each to the mixing bowl.

Chopped green pepper, onion, and carrot
Chopped green pepper, onion, and carrot

 Then, I combined 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and a cup-and-a-half of sugar in a microwave bowl and cooked it, stirring every minute, until the sugar was dissolved. Total cook time was 3 or 4 minutes.  I set it aside to cool.

Next, I went back to the food processor. This is really the messy part of this recipe because I can’t seem to do it wihtout getting bits of cabbage everywhere. I removed the outer few leaves of cabbage, then cut the rest of the head into chunks (tossing away the hard part at the base). I completely filled my processor bowl, then began pulsing to make it into a super-fine chop. Only what happened was this – 

Learn from my mistakes. Don't fill the bowl full of cabbage.
Learn from my mistakes. Don't fill the bowl full of cabbage.

So I removed the unchopped leaves on the top, then finished processing until it looked like this: 

Choppety chop chop.
Choppety chop chop.

Then I returned the unchopped cabbage to the bowl, chopped ’em up, and that is how I learned that you can only fill the bowl half-full of cabbage leaves, or else it won’t chop evenly and you will make significantly more work for yourself that way, and if ever there were a good example of the saying, “do as I say, not as I do,” this is it.  

Each half-bowl of cabbage was super-finely chopped in 6-8 pulses of my magical wonderful Cuisinart (whose main purpose in life is to make slaw, because otherwise, I just don’t use it that much).

Finally, with all the chopped veggies now scattered all over my kitchen island in the giant mixing bowl, I was ready to add the spices. A teaspoon of salt, a generous teaspoon of mustard seed, and a generous teaspoon of… well, I was sure the celery seed was in here somewhere…. could I be out of it? No, it’s not possible, one little jar lasts forever…

I stood on a chair to get a better view and twirled my spice turntable around three times. I finally found the jar – empty! – rolling around in the back corner of the cupboard, like a lone tumbleweed.  Celery seed is a crucial ingredient here. You can’t not have celery seed in this slaw.  There is no substitute. It’s probably illegal in Pennsylvania to make pepper slaw without celery seed, it’s that important.

celery%20seedI should’ve known to check for the spices first! Rookie mistake!  I got back in the car and drove over to Safeway, even though I swore I would never again return after my last visit, when the young man who rang up my groceries refused to put the bags into my cart, then gave me the evil eye because I wasn’t clearing the bagging area fast enough. Still, at a mile away it’s the closest grocery store, so that’s where I went, and my head exploded in Aisle 4 when I saw that a tiny jar of McCormick’s celery seed was $5.69!  For an ounce and a half! And then I was super-mad at myself because I much prefer to buy my spices at the Penzey’s store in Rockville, because they’re soooo much better than the grocery store spices and they’re less expensive and hello? A store full of spices! But I didn’t want to take 40 minutes (and waste the gas) to drive down there and back, so I took the stupid 1.62 ounce glass jar to the Express Checkout and waited impatiently behind two guys with 15 items each, wondering why Safeway doesn’t have some self-checkout lanes but does have automatic change dispensers so that the cashiers, what, don’t have to count coins to make change??  WTF, Safeway? And then I didn’t feel so very thrifty after all because now I was $7.59 into the slaw, not counting the ingredients I already had when I started this odyssey seven hours ago making the slaw.

Fifteen minutes later, I arrived home and went straight to www.penzeys.com and looked up celery seed and discovered that they sell an EIGHT (8!) OUNCE BAG of whole Indian celery seed for $3.89!, which is a lot of celery seed to buy at one time, considering I only use one teaspoon at a time for pepper slaw, but I could keep that giant bag of celery seed in the freezer and refill the stupid little McCormick jar for years to come.

….Anyway. You add a generous teaspoon of celery seed to the bowl o’ veggies and spices (remember the veggies and spices? Probably not because it was like 20 minutes ago) and pour the cooled dressing over it all, then you stir and stir and stir and stir and stir some more to make sure everything is evenly mixed. It will look like this: 

Finally! Pepper slaw!
Finally! Pepper slaw!

Then throw it  in the ‘fridge and let it chill for at least a  few hours because the flavors will blend, the mustard and celery seed will soften, and it will taste super-good.  Heck, leave it in overnight of even for a couple of days. It lasts in the ‘fridge for forever.

To recap: Buy your spices at Penzey’s. Visit My Grandmas’ Recipes for the actual recipe. Do as I say, not as I do. Got that?

But seriously, folks…

WOW! I had no idea my post about the NFL cheerleaders would get so much attention and pluck so many nerves! I’ve never had a “real” debate like that in my comments, and it was fascinating to watch it unfold. Except for a few comments that got a little too personal, that is.  But those folks can’t help it if they’re not nearly as enlightened as my loyal readers! Most commenters understood my point and appreciated the debate, and I’d like to thank you all for weighing in.

Yes, even you.

And thanks, Washington Express, for quoting me! Come back again and visit soon!

Listen. We’re all mature adults here, right? And really, with the state of the world these days, and in the larger scheme of things, does any of this really, really matter? Aren’t we all just dust in the wind?

One commenter who came late to yesterday’s dance thought our discussion was all a bunch of fluff:

Get a life people, everything in this world had gotten sexier, why wouldnt cheerleaders, and cheerleaders dont cheer much anymore they dance. I think there are more important issues out there!

WOW! Great point! There are more important issues out there! Lots of ’em! And we should be discussing them right here in this space.

It’s time to get serious!

Taking my commenter’s lead, I propose we dispense with all humor and instead debate some weightier topics. Matters of import. Take poverty, for instance. I learned here that:

According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

And then there’s the crisis in Darfur, summarized here by Amnesty International:

The conflict in Darfur, Sudan, has led to some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable, including systematic and widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by both deliberate and indiscriminate attacks, and over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced. Though violence persists, the UN Security Council has mandated what may be an effective peacekeeping operation to guarantee security for the people of Darfur.

Oh, and how about healthcare reform? And the whole thing about the so-called “death panels” (thanks, Sarah Palin!)?

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Now there is some heavy stuff! Some meaty issues! I mean, who are we to be debating the merits of whether the “cheerleaders” are really leading cheers and whether their provocative dancing belongs on the sidelines of an NFL game, and whether the NFL game is really just about the GAME, or part of a larger spectacle that includes a variety of entertainment items, much like a three-ring circus?

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

**slaps forehead**

So, if anyone cares to debate a more serious topic, choose from one of the above, or pick your own and let’s get started!  You over there, lurking behind your monitor? You go first.