Sunday, November 24, 2019

I haz a podcast!

We shall see if I can manage to be consistent with it. It seems like an excellent way to blog -- hearing myself talk! So here's my very first podcast. Enjoy! I'll try to post some of my artwork as I'm doing a little drawing lately. :) Please excuse my baby steps. I'm learning this whole podcast thing.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Hungarican Chick is still kickin'

Yeah. I'm alive. My poor blog, which has been going strong for so long, has been criminally neglected. I'm so focused on my Author stuff, and Feffie's Cottage, I tend to forget that I have this wonderful place where so much of my life and experiences have been shared for so long. (Feffie's Cottage INSTA and Feffie's Cottage ETSY)

My readers have followed me from my infertility through my unexpected pregnancy, to the birth of y beautiful son. Through the loss of 45 pounds (and the subsequent re-gaining of it). Through a tough stage in my marriage, where I experienced infidelity, to the ups and downs of my Regency life. My costuming posts are still my most popular.

I have not given up on the Hungarican Chick. I'm still here, Hungarican-chicking around.

So let's catch up.

I don't have chickens anymore. They brought rats. So that was not okay. Although there was a great plus side to having chickens and that was my rooster, who crowed at all hours of the night, and that in turn affected the ratings of the vacation rental next door, so there was that. But I miss my kippies and their fresh eggs. A lot.

Six years old. Taking his first ski lessons
at Timberline Lodge. Stop growing,
little man.

Alex is now SIX YEARS OLD. Can you believe that? I can't. Every day, I look for the secret rewind button hidden on his little body somewhere, so I can have my baby back again. He's in Kindergarten, and he's using five dollar words--with their own unique pronunciations like: Lidderly, and Use-a-liss. And the best one was last week, he said they were learning the Peasant of Egpyts (the Pledge of Allegiance).

On Valentine's Day, my dog Simon was killed by one of the vacation renter's malamute. He was partially eviscerated and it was devastating.

Hubby is having the hardest time dealing with this loss. This was his dog through and through. We are puppy hunting. Turns out Jack Russell Terriers, particularly shorties, are pretty hard to find around Oregon.
Minatures-wise, progress is slow, but it is happening on my McKinley re-structure & remodel.  I've been working on building my Feffie's Cottage business both on Facebook and on Etsy. Right now my big project is a 'Witchly/Wizardly Workshop Kit, which has a variety of elements, pictured below. The element in progress right now are tiny mortars and pestles, which I have been working on with my new miniature lathe. So here's a little pictorial of stuff:

So my little living room area is heading towards completion. This stage is before I put the flooring in.

Installing the flooring was fun. 

One of the kit prototypes. I made it pretty quickly and pulled the upholstery too tight. That is real leather, something like .5oz weight, which was super-fine. I'll get it better next time. Gotta try it a few times to get it right.

I soldered this little rack to hang pots, pans, herbs, and cured meats from. Kitchen has been coming along slowly as well. 

I made a little iron fence and gate for the front. Still another work in progress. I will be starting on the exterior pretty soon. As soon as I finish converting the victorian roof to the hip roof. I have the right tools now (a 4" table saw, yes, really.)

This is the .5" oz leather. A-frickin'-mazing. Look how prettily it tufts! I wish I hadn't cut it so small or pulle dit so tight, because look how adorable that is.

This is a tiny tub I made. At present it it still bottomless. This was after the first application of the patina chemical.

This is after several chemical applications.

A settee for the parlour.

Miss Huxley, giving it a test.

This is the 'stained glass' window for Miss Huxley's 'witching room'. It will replace the window that's in that room at present. I made this with #6 plastic from a take-out clamshell box and a few coloured sharpies. It shrank down nicely, but it did not shrink completely evenly. So it's not perfectly round. But oh well. It'll do.

The witching room in progress. I drew the rough placement of the new window. The other one will be boarded up and bricked over like it never existed. I made some built-ins for this room. 
Experimenting with copper and solder. Just sold this on etsy. All the linens are hand-stitched.

Some of the Witchly Workshop Kit elements. Most of these are my personal ones for Miss Huxley's supplies.  Jars of eyeballs are a witchly necessity.

A snapshot of what we've got so far. A skull in glass; a geode (real), some bones, a crystal wand, a magic book, an orbiculum (or crystal ball), a jar of eyeballs. There are already more things to be added to this image. 
I had to add this image of the little chess set I got for the price of shipping alone ($2) from Wish. Too fecking cute. It's in the Huxley House library.

These are the additional books and the bottle of poison for the Witchly Kit. There's one more book that I haven't shown yet. Next... the Mortar and Pestle. I will only be selling 4 of these kits.
 I'm still drawing, of course. But since I'm no longer working an office job, my Office Specials are a thing of the past. But the occasion comes of for me to draw. Inktober was fun. I did that.
These are my two favourite from this year.

This is a time-witch, stealing your time. She is inspired by my beloved friend Maryanne Piro, an artist from New England, who did witches and halloween like nobody else. I have not been able to reach her for the past couple of years, so I've been missing her. 

My whale. I think he's cute. He needs to be remade in detail, I think.
I have not really been doing anything with the Oregon Regency Society for a long time. After having heard a lot of nasty things being said about me, I simply got tired of it. It wasn't fun anymore. So I passed the responsibility onto some people who had been critical of my efforts. I was asked recently to take it back, and honestly, I'm not sure I'm 100% ready for that workload again. I've been approaching it as baby steps, but even small amounts of effort seem daunting to me right now. I don't even feel compelled to sew, which is pretty telling.

I miss my girlfriends from this group tho. Like crazy. And have missed them. However, I've found a crew to hang with up here on the mountain, and they've been like an injection of life for me, and have helped keep me from diving into a terrible depression. We call ourselves the Mount Hood Coffee Coven because we can be found pretty reliably in the mornings at the local coffee house (Coffeehouse 26) cackling like a bunch of hens, playing ukulele and just generally loving being around one another on a given weekday morning. It's been a lifeline for me. And I love these women like my sisters.
This is our logo. Yes. We have a logo. And we have matching coffee cups. Because.

Yes, I'm still K-drama obsessed. I watch them rather regularly, probably not quite as avidly as I did last year, but they're still a big part of my life. I have found another favourite actor, his name is So Ji-Sub and he's fucking beautiful and I'm going to stalk him like the 48-year-old chubby mom that I am. Isn't he just noms?

This is So Ji-Sub. He is my next husband.
He is beautiful.
So that's my update. Let's hope it's not an 'annual' one. LOL. Here's a picture of a hedgehog mom carrying her little baby. Because hedgehogs. Please bring your attention to the baby's feet in particular. No reason except... look at the feets!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Perfect combo - K-Drama and Minis

I'm sick today. I have a fever of 101, and my throat is on fire. I don't see the white spots indicative of Strep, but I feel the pain. I hope it isn't strep. Yergh.

I spent last Saturday at a Jane Austen Faire in Aurora hawking my books (under the pen name Miranda Mayer) and my artwork from Feffie's Cottage. Lots of prints and notecards of my little Office Specials.

You can get these through Feffie's Cottage. Ping me if you're
That faire was the first time that I've ventured out in Regency garments in a long time. It felt really great, and I saw so many people I have missed dearly. I even smoked the peace pipe with someone with whom I was carrying a lot of anger against. So that was great. But man, did that wear me out. I came home with an infection and now a sore throat. M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E.

But in spite of my feeling unwell, I'm in my She-Shed. In Feffie's Cottage, puttering around in the nice warmth, with my slippers, and I finally relented and allowed Simon to come in as long as he lies down on a blanket and doesn't roll around and spread his fur everywhere.

During these mornings, when my offspring is at Preschool for three and a half hours, I spend it usually writing at the cafe and now in the Cottage. But I've been not writing. My desire to write is gone for the moment. I've been struggling with a little downtrend lately, and I probably need to take some Vitamin D. But there is one thing that is helping and that is the refurbishment of my little McKinley house. So I have been focusing on that lately, mostly. While streaming K-Drama on my Surface, I sit at my desk and slice up my thumb with the exacto knife.

The McKinley now has working windows in the bay, and the bay window has been fully secured back onto the house. The farmer's sink is done, except for the pump, which I still have to make. I used liquid sculpy to make some 'stained glass' transom windows. I'm not happy with the result, and might retry that with better products somehow. The sculpy was old and inconsistent and hard to tint and then squeeze out of the applicator. So my windows are really goofy looking. I also repurposed some plexi from some old used Houseworks windows I scored at a yard sale, also salvaging some of the wood from them to make the working bits. It's rough looking, but it's on its way. I'll fine tune as I go along. Here are some pics fo the progress:

Adding the transoms

Added the decals of the came
With the stained glass decals, and the fixed upper panes

Windows finished, interior painted, and bay windows
reinstalled onto the dollhouse. I need to fix
the broken/torn archway, and then wire and paper.

I'll fine-tune the painting, etc after a bit. The windows were so fiddly to do. But they open.
I also put a decorative trim on the window sills on the exterior. I will be attacking the exterior next, I think. I'm not sure if i want to tile just yet.  My current project is redoing the tower and bay roof pieces, to make them a little pointier and elegant, with a slight curve. I haven't decided what material I will roof them with. I also need to make the water pump. But I need to let the cuts on my thumb heal first, LOL. So more pics to come. I also need to sit down and catch up on my colourist work one of these days. But I'm not feeling well enough to concentrate that much LOL.

While I've been puttering, I've been streaming K-Dramas, as I said. I've gone through a pretty big chunk of them, and I'm not going to lie, I'm HOOKED. South Korea is no joke when it comes to talented actors and excellent writers (and OMFG the food, seriously). I've fallen in love with so many characters and I feel this big hole when each series comes to an end. Because unlike American drama, they don't go on for season after season until they jump the shark. No. They rarely reboot a series, and so you can be (almost) guaranteed the closure you need when the season is over. But that also means you are leaving behind people you have come to adore.

SO... here's how many hours I've wasted on Netflix, ogling Korean dramas (in other words, here is the continued list of shows I've watched since my last K-Drama post).

February and March, I was devouring "Prison Playbook". This is a delightful, humourous drama about a baseball star, who is about to go major league for the Red Sox, who assaults then is convicted of murder of a rapist who harmed his sister. He is imprisoned, and the story follows his travails in jail, with his five other inmates with whom he shares a cell. The roomies change, the challenges continue. All in all, a really great show with wonderful characters. Highly recommend.

I took a break from K-Drama to binge Jessica Jones, Season 2, and then back to it.

I started 'In Need of Romance 3' which, like its predecessors, pissed me off.  Mostly because the trend for these three shows seems to be that the man you've invested the most time in, is the one you should stick with. I'm not particularly in agreement with that idea. No matter what the situation is, if someone takes you for granted, maybe it's time to ditch them, no matter how long you've been with them, especially if you find someone who is devoted to you. But hey, maybe it's a cultural thing, I dunno. It's still a fun show to watch, even if the main character disappoints you each time.

I then binged every available season of Terrace House, which is like a Japanese version of The Real World, only way better. Mostly because of the commentators that host the show. I'm a little in love with Ryōta Yamasato. He's adorable. And rotten. And an excellent comedian. I don't know why I binged the shows, but I did. Sue me.

The second one, and the better one, I think.

The first one

Okay then.... next are my recent favs, which I really miss now that they are over. They are Reply 1994, and 1997. I suspect the word is supposed to be REPLAY, but something got lost in translation. But the1997 one is just hilarious, and just delightfully written and just a joy to watch. I really just wanted to move into that boarding house with the family, in all honesty. I recommend 1994 with alacrity. It's brill.

This one did not give me the pat closure that I wanted. There was only the hint of it. But for ONCE, this was not an ending which redeemed a shitty man who treated his woman like crap. Thank god! But they never gave the romantic ending you are waiting for. They left it dangling a bit. This was a drama-drama. It took me a few episodes to get into it, but it is really a sweet, emotional story of a woman whose husband was jailed for some shady business dealings, and who is forced to move in with her estranged father. She has two children, one of which is not her own, but from her husband's previous marriage. It's heartfelt and really sweet, and it invests you in this really endearing community of farmers, who start off not liking her, but eventually take her into the fold and who endure challenges alongside her. Good show. Recommend.

Hello my twenties, there's a season two! And like its predecessor, it's adorable. Recommend this one. The characters all return, with only one cast-change if I recall correctly. This time, instead of ghosts, the girls are against the threat of an unknown enemy. It's a wonderful series, definitely worth a watch. I just want to become the Belle Epoch's landlady so I can mother those girls. <3 font="">

Interrupted by viewings of Lost In Space, and a Series of Unfortunate Events, I watched 'One More Time'. This is a time-travel/time looping show. A musician, who has become embittered by his failure to succeed, and who has learned to take his AMAZING girlfriend for granted, must live the same day over and over again in order to change his ways and ultimately, save his girlfriend's life. Short series, very sweet. Recommend.

Man to Man is one of those shows that doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's really fun to watch. In order to capture a corrupt politician, 'Ghost' Agent K must infiltrate a famous Actor's entourage as a bodyguard. Naturally, there's a plucky manager who catches his normally indifferent eye, and he soon finds himself enfolded in what amounts to a family, led by the diva of an actor whom he is assigned to protect. I really enjoyed this show just because it's fun and silly and adorable. And the German/Irish/Korean actor who plays the Russian (David Lee McInnis), holy giggety, SO HOT. OMG, just smoldering hot. Total fun. Watch it.

"Beating Again' is the tale of a ruthless businessman who storms a cosmetics company, with the intent of destroying it for his personal revenge, but whose heart condition puts him near death. Bring in the heroine, and her devoted, loving boyfriend, a jealous and conniving murderous rival--which evolves into the antagonist receiving a heart transplant from the devoted boyfriend. The ruthless man is now mysteriously divided in his goal of revenge, and finds himself falling for the heroine--and there's a new Antagonist to fear, while the new man begins to unravel how his donor was murdered. It was.... Entertaining. Not my favourite show, but not so bad that I stopped watching it. I'll give it a three out of five.

My Horrible Boss. I. Loved. This. Show. -- It is hilarous. Delightfully written, played beautifully by the cast. The story centers around a placid, timid man in his 40s, head of household, taking care of and supporting his son (he is divorced), his father and his ne'er-do-well brother. He works for a small cosmetics company (Lovely Cosmetics). The company is fraught with challenges and impending hostile takeovers by its rival company, Gold Chemical. One of Gold Chemical's imfamous harpy team managers starts working at Lovely Cosmetics, and she is a harridan; a terrifying boss to the hero and his marketing team. And worse, she moves into an apartment across the hall from him and his family--and is now a pain in their ass at home too.  But what starts off as a torturous thing, evolves into respect and ultimately love. It's really funny, excessively sweet, (the son and his crush, is too adorable, and I LOVE the grandfather so much). Just finished this series today and I already miss the characters. <3 p="">
So that's where I am on my K-Drama journey right now. I'm about to embark into 'Psychokenesis'. Reviews to come. In the meantime, keep checking in on progress on the McKinley. And oh, swing by Feffie's Cottage if you want to buy some of the cute products that will result from this project.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My She-shed cottage is done (mostly) -- and it's time to play with minis again

I can feel my tank filling these days. Sitting at my desk, exacto-knife in one hand, a ruler in the other. Korean drama streaming on my Surface. I have been able to take down all my paraphernalia from my days as PixieDust Miniatures and to refamiliarize myself with the houses and miniatures I'd devoted so much love and time towards.  One in particular, an old, falling-apart McKinley (Greenleaf's wall-hanging dollhouse), has been one I've wanted to work on literally for decades. It is now hanging in its dilapidated state on my she-shed wall, pieces missing, some of the ply delaminating, but still holding itself together enough that I can work on it.

Back in 2002, I moved to Oregon and with me came my stuff. During that time, I built a tiny custom kitchen for the McKinley house, using the kitchen I built for the Beacon Hill I sold a while ago, as the inspiration. Greenleaf dollhouses, in my view, are really the best dollhouse kits out there. The company has, since I believe at least the 70s, been producing superiorly designed houses. Although the materials aren't quite as clean-cut as other companies' houses, the designs themselves are aesthetically superior in every way.  Mansard roofs with curves, witches' walks, gingerbread, character oozing from every model. 

My very first dollhouse project was a Greenleaf (at least, officially). As a kid, I played with an old seventies style MDF house until it mysteriously vanished. But my first built house was the Glencroft. And it remains amongst my favourites of all the Dollhouses in the line and on the market. It, and another kit are in their boxes in my new storage area, still waiting to be assembled again. 

It took me one and a half nights, late to assemble the house. I finished it for a few weeks after that, and ended up selling it to someone for their niece's birthday. But the love for Greenleaf took off after that, and I assembled and sold the Harrison, the Beacon Hill, and a score of the little ones. I have yet to build a Garfield, although I did have a built one in my possession for a few years. They're huge, the queen-anne style houses. With gables as far as the eye can see.

With Greenleaf, what you do sacrifice for the elegant design, is space. Greenleaf houses have small rooms. And over the years, I've learned that the only way to conquer that problem well, is to apply the built-in. I have since, been a builder of furniture, a carpenter in mini, if you will. And the kitchens have always been my favourite place to design.

First built-ins for a Beacon Hill 
Small kitchens require extra consideration

That McKinley and its custom cabinets took a thrashing being stored in the shed. Squirrels had literally moved in, and had set up a nest in it made of moss and chewed up foam padding. The ply became brittle in spots and parts of the house literally crumbled away. I had purchased the McKinley during a time when the house was discontinued from the Greenleaf line. I got it pre-assembled from a dollhouse shop in Vancouver, Washington in 2002. So as you can imagine, crossing the nation TWICE, and then being stored in an attic with unabated humidity and swings of heat, and then the squatting squirrels, it's a miracle it's still in one piece, (somewhat).

This is what it looks like now.

This is what it's supposed to look like.
Yes. It's missing a lot of bits and pieces, but that's no worry. I will simply roll with what I've got. And I've already got an idea in mind where Im going with it. And I will post progress as I go along.

The first thing I did was pitch the room-eating peripherals. The cabinet in the 'bathroom' and the wasted space for the bedroom's stairway area. I will remove the fireplace, and the stairway, and replace them with streamlined, smaller, better options.

I began, however, by doing my best to restore the kitchen cabinets I'd made back in '03. I repainted, I refinished and glued, trying to save the little pastoral paintings I'd made along the cabinet tops and on the door of the broom closet. I also started building a farmer's sink in the bay window, and I will be customizing windows for the house, with little stained glass transom windows. I will try to document each step as I begin restoring this dollhouse.

So day one, we begin with the kitchen. I've ordered some mini-Moroccan tile for the floor, and am waiting for those to arrive to begin the process of finishing the kitchen. Once I glue in those cabinets, that is. They're just placed there for now. I will finish the kitchen's windows first too.

The exterior, I will be making into the style of a masonry rowhouse in a city. This house was designed as a Victorian row-house. Which is fine, and adorable. I'm actually glad the porch is gone, and I can really have some fun playing with the exterior's textures. I will be doing that as I go along. The roofs on the towers are going away, to be replaced with something more along the lines of a curved conical spire.

The kitchen of the McKinley

Feffie's Cottage will, in the unknown future, offer kits for built-ins, designed to fit specific models of the Greenleaf line. And I have been experimenting.

The kitchen in the McKinely is almost exactly 8" x 8", with the addition of the bay window. It's not a lot of space to work with if you're using pre-manufactured furniture or kits not designed for the space.

I made two cabinets for this kitchen. One focused on cooking with a utility closet with a curved door, and the other designed for baking, with a flour dispenser built-into it and a collection of 16 spice drawers. The cabinets took a beating and even restored they look pretty rough, but they also look cool.

I made the cabinets from basswood mostly. With some balsa for interior pieces. The stove is bricked in real terracotta bricks and the wall tiled in glass. The stove door and top are made of basswood (the door in Fimo) and then painted with iron paint, which to my delight, rusted a little during the long storage. The 'soapstone' counters are made with FIMO/Sculpey. I made the butcher blocks from oak strips, which I laminated together and then cut. NOT EASY. But they came out great, and they display my fancy knife set so well.

The sink is polymer clay. I just placed them in their space for now, until I can fix the missing wall on the bay window, and finish the bay windows, and finally glue the thing back into place. Then, it's time to do flooring, which should be on its way from New England as we speak. They will be in white and pale green to match the pastoral scenes painted on the cabinet tops. Note Mount Hood amongst the rolling pastures. :)

So, that's my first project. It will be the seed for a few of Feffie's Cottage products, including the custom kits and the butcher blocks, of which I will be selling a limited number. Keep checking in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It’s time for 'moral' Christians to take a good, long look in the mirror.

The prism of morality:

Morality. That word though. So nebulous and malleable—a favourite of American Christians, in describing what they have that non-believers simply cannot. A moral guideline. You see, according to many prominent and vocal Christians, to be an atheist is to be morally deficient. For who can be good without moral guidelines such as the bible to go from?

The first thing an Atheist will say, which is a great question, is—are the ‘moral guidelines’ of your bible the only things keeping you from being a bad person? Is it the ink on the biblical pages the only thing that stops you from raping and pillaging and murdering willy-nilly? Most atheists agree, that if that is the case, you are a morally questionable person—and you don’t get to preach to anyone about morality.

You see, Christianity, or religion as a whole, does not own morality. Furthermore, morality is, going by the bible (and sometimes other religious texts), questionable. Let’s face it, the bible and its various kin are anything but bastions of morality. The bible alone suggests that while to kill is a mortal sin that it’s okay to sacrifice your children; and throughout the holy books, murder and sacrifice are rampant. The bible will tell you that being an adulterer is forbidden, that it is acceptable for the characters of the many biblical allegories, to marry as many wives as needed, to rape indiscriminately, to marry and lie with children, or to sleep with siblings’ wives and husbands are okay. The bible is filled with morally reprehensible acts, and the foundations of these stories are supposed to be the moral guidelines that Christians live by.

God, is anything but infallible on morality. I mean, to start with, the all-knowing, all-seeing word of god is so set in stone, that he had to revise his words in the New Testament—so exactly how reliable is the dogma if that’s the case? Books riddled with contradictions, which are meant to represent the word of an infallible god? Not exactly something to live by. Unless you pick and choose whatever sounds suitable to your narrative from the book. So if morality can be picked, and chosen, it is really morality? And more so, if your moral guideline is made up of carefully selected tenets, is it really a reliable guideline?

What does this all mean for the countless civilizations that existed without Christianity? And who somehow muddled through the centuries surviving, living wholesome lives, coexisting in communities with other people, raising children, building towns and cities, and doing so utterly bankrupt of Christian morality? Does the existence of Christianity negate all this history? Did morality not exist before Christ was ostensibly born and spent his short, hippie life preaching love and peace? Life did not begin when Christianity was born, and it will not end when Christianity does.

Morality has some very basic aspects that pretty much every civilization understands—with or without the imposition of some kind of overarching religious dogma to reinforce it. Pretty much anyone in the world is born with empathy. Pretty much everyone in the world, regardless of religion, knows to murder is wrong. Pretty much everyone in the world enters it with a desire to be thoughtful and kind to others. It is the programming of the immediate environment that fine-tunes how a child will grow up. And the society in which you are raised will determine, ultimately, who you are going to be. Children have shown, again and again, that acceptance and kindness is just part of their natural spirit. It is often the families themselves that teach that child whether to be accepting or not to; it is the family themselves that teach a child that it’s okay to hate. And it is the how those families choose to act and believe that will shape their prejudices. Whatever society and religious background you end up in, you may likely reflect whatever those norms are. Morality, at least the very foundation of morality; is inherent. Whatever else is placed upon you by your upbringing. And what one people think is moral, might be repugnant to another. Morality is mostly relative.

An extremist always believes he or she is the pinnacle of morality. Those ISIS guys, they’re not going around telling themselves that what they are doing is amoral. They believe that they are representing the purest of moralities when they murder and destroy. When Christian extremists attack or protest, they believe they are the defenders of moral behaviour, and they are showing the rest of the world that this is how one should be.

Most atheists are humanists. If you don’t know what a humanist is, let me define it for you (per google): Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.

Most human beings of their own agency, are moral. Most human beings don’t kill one another. They don’t harm, they don’t steal. Most human beings of their own agency are kind. They share. They heal. They provide. They soothe. They show empathy. There are infinite numbers of people who are these things without once ever being told to by a religious doctrine.

Atheists are in no way different. In fact, Atheists are often willfully empathetic, and kind, and accepting because that is the way they choose to be. Choosing not to take part in a collective delusion does not in any way affect how they are as moral beings. In fact, they are less likely to be amoral, because they do not have any overarching guideline that tells them they should be. They don’t have views that make them ‘moral extremists’, as let’s say, ISIS, or the Evangelical Christians, or the KKK.  Westboro Baptist Church and its mentally deranged acolytes truly believe they are morally superior when they protest a veteran’s funeral with hateful signs and threats of fire and brimstone. Atheism does not seek to impugn anyone for not sharing their version of morality. Atheism does not threaten hell or damnation for those who don’t align their beliefs with theirs.

The moral high ground: Who’s got it?

Well, sad to say, it isn’t Christians. Especially these days. Historically, Christianity has shown itself to be anything but moral. From the serial, almost systemic abuse of children in the churches, to the consistent oppression and belittling of the women in its ranks, Christianity seems to be better suited to demonstrate amorality than anything else.

Presently, Christianity has become almost willfully and malevolently amoral. As it has attached itself to the right-wing political movement, Christianity has twisted into something even more despicable and horrible than it ever was. Promoting and supporting self-centric behaviour, supporting the idea that every person should have the right to be police, judge, jury and executioner in their promotion of firearm ownership, in the endorsement of things like the death penalty, in the cutting of resources for the poor, the old, the infirm and the ill. And it doesn’t stop there. Christians overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, and various congressmen and women who have made some terrible moral choice, and continue to stand by them. Trump’s offenses are almost too many to count. Offenses, that if imposed by any other person centered on the political spectrum, would have been tarred and feathered for. Roy Moore, a man who serially abused teenaged girls, received an outpouring of support from the Christians in the nation—and he too stood for the idea of Christian morality, while trying to excuse away his molestation of children. Yet these people, like Kim Davis, are morally corrupt by every definition, even by the ill-defined tenets of the bible, still have the stones to stand up and preach morality to people in books and speeches, as if they are somehow ordained to do so, in spite of being some of the most morally questionable people on earth.

Christians are besieged by their own hypocrisy. And that is a problem. Hypocrites don’t get to dictate how other people should behave if they themselves cannot abide by their moral beliefs. It has become almost painfully evident just how hypocritical Christianity is, since it became synonymous with politics. Christianity’s stance on abortion would probably be more impactful if the larger part of women seeking abortions weren’t Christian, or if the churches would do more to fight on behalf of the millions of unwanted, unsupported children in the world. Christianity’s rigid views on homosexuality would probably have more footing if pastors and priests weren’t consistently hiding homosexual activities. Christians would be better respected, if they took a hard stance on the pederasty that is endemic in the churches, and didn’t fight so hard to hide the problem rather than confront and stop it. Christian women would probably be taken more seriously, if they didn’t stand for their own subjugation and oppression. Christians would benefit from re-examining its condemnation of adultery when adultery and divorce were not part and parcel of the Christian community. Christian charity would be more valued if it didn’t always come with a side of indoctrination. Kindness should not come with conditions.

Many Christians will argue that no Christian is perfect, and that is part of their spiritual journey. But the response to that is simple: We don’t expect perfection. What we do expect is that a person who claims moral superiority as a Christian, to actually BE a Christian as they claim. To abide by those moral guidelines they set for themselves, and cherry-picked from the bible, and to stop twisting their moral guide to suit whatever madness they choose to pursue.

So who has the moral high ground? What we do know, it’s not Christianity. It’s not Islam. It’s not Judaism. All belief systems are morally questionable. Atheism, as it is not a belief system, simply makes conclusions on what’s there. Atheists seek only to trust their own agency in what is good and what is bad. And atheists seem to be doing a good job of it. Does that mean atheists have the moral high ground? Who knows? What I do know is that atheism has no ulterior motives. The only thing most atheists want is to have a reasonable, rational world where what’s best for humanity is taken into consideration first—where the quality of life takes precedence over some idealized idea of the afterlife. Where we take care of other human beings and always seek progress as a species so that we can achieve greater things. Atheism does not want to hinder progress, to stifle man’s potential, to cure, to build, to forge paths into the future, to educate, to enlighten, and to learn. Religion has, historically, always stood in the way of these things, for whatever reason.

Atheists are reviled for one reason alone: theists are filled with doubt. The only thing that reinforces their beliefs is to be surrounded by others who support that belief. Atheists stand to dismantle that comfortable delusion with pragmatism, and that is dangerous and threatening to a theist. It fills them with fear because it would force them to understand the world in a completely different way. That is why atheists are accused of being amoral. Because there is nothing scarier than someone who punches through the overarching dogma to see the world for face value, and not for the fantasy created by religion, and who functions with kindness, empathy, and acceptance without being told they must or how to.

Religion is not morality. It’s narcissism.

How self-centered does a person have to be to believe that god is watching over them and not others? The other day, I was in a discussion with a woman who told me with no small amount of gushing alacrity, that Jesus was with her. Through her trials and tribulations, through a crisis with her son, that took her to California and back, “Jesus was with me. All the way,” she effused with her hands clasped. “He was with me in the car driving down to California. He changed the radio stations as I went along, in a way to inspire me,” she declared (never mind that she might be shifting from one broadcast signal area to another… c’mon). I sat there, watching her rapturous exclamations, and thought to myself: What about those Christians that were made to kneel on the edge of a large pit by extremist Muslims, shot in the head and buried in it? Or the children being murdered and raped and dying of disease all over the world? What about them? Jesus cared about what radio station you listen to, but who the hell cares about the innocents being slaughtered? Would god only look after certain Christians? Different denominations? Or is the the Mormons who have it right? Which one? Yours, naturally.

It is an exercise in narcissism to be religious. To believe that a god loves you more. Who cares about where you left your car keys, but who lets entire cities be destroyed. Prayer is just a way of turning any issue into something about you. And religion lets you believe that all of this is a moral way to behave. To be so selfish. To be so absorbed in yourself and your journey to the afterlife living in the clouds playing softball with the apostles.

Selfishness is not moral. Even in its act of kindness, there’s self-serving motives when it comes to a church. As I said before, religious charity comes with indoctrination. In the end, religious people don’t have the monopoly on morality. Maybe they do on self-absorption and indignant righteousness, and on pointing fingers and attacking and threatening people who don’t align with their beliefs. But they sure as hell don’t own morality by any means.

So my suggestion to all Christians, before you start condemning others for amoral behaviour and attacking people for not sharing your beliefs; look in the mirror before you open your mouths. Look at what's scowling back at you. And learn to accept that it's ugly, or learn to be your own agent of morality, and rise above your dogma to be a better person.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ramen & my newly developed K-Drama addiction

First... The Ramen

I don't know if it is the passing of the holidays, or the 5000 units of Vitamin D I've been taking, but I've been feeling something closer to normal these past few days. And that means I am starting to get back into the projecty mode I am usually in, where I find some random thing I want to do and then do it. Yesterday, I wanted to make Ramen. I thought I'd wing it.  I had a big huge pork bone left over from a Pernil we had recently. It was in the freezer calling my name. So yesterday morning, before I packed the kid off to PreSchool, I threw it into the oven frozen on a piece of foil and took off to take Alex to school.

When I got back, I realized that the kitchen and most of the rest of house is still crushed underneath the layer of unwanted clutter we acquired or brought out during the holidays. So I had to give the kitchen a bit of a cleaning just to undertake the project. I wrote for a bit, and then just before I went to pick the kid up, I threw a full pot of water on the stove with water, some tops and bottoms of celery, an onion, some coarsely chopped carrot, and the last four cloves of fresh garlic I had left. I also threw in the now browned bone that had been baking in the oven.

We got home to the house smelling delicious already. So I let that simmer for HOURS, and the son and I instead endeavoured to make the noodles.

3.5 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of water
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend until it's a kneadable dough. Make a ball, flatten, cut in four wedges, and plastic the others as you work each quarter.

The KitchenAid is my most precious kitchen implement. I got the standard 4 liter one with the tilty head for a wedding gift, and I adored that one. But then my friend Stephie gave me a Professional model a couple of years ago. And that one is THA BOMB. I replaced a few parts on it. And it has worked its ass off for me already.

I'm lucky to have a few pasta attachments for it. The roller, which is essential for not only shaping the dough for cutting, but also for making the dough flexible and delicious. My kid and I processed all four quarters of the pasta in four batches. First we pressed it and smoothened it with setting 1, then we worked up to 2, then 4, and then finally 6. We cut the noodles at the 6 thickness. I also have a spaghetti cutter and a linguine cutter. The spaghetti cutter is perfect.

We cut the spags, and laid them out on layers of wax paper. I used to have a drying tree, but it really isn't a necessary item to have. I just spread the noodles on the wax paper, and then when we were done boiling the half for the night, I just rolled each layer into its paper and threw them into the freezer.

I boiled a few of the last of my eggs from my chickens (they went to live somewhere else on Wednesday).

I spent a little time carefully julienning some veggies (and slicing too). Mushrooms, carrots, celery, pepper, and cabbage. I also cut up a few radishes to give that water-chestnut crunch. I blanched all of those (except the radish) in a few ladlefuls of the soup stock, each in turn, and put them on a platter for placement. I peeled the eggs, and put them out for prep too.

Then I broiled two pork chops with salt and pepper, waited for them to cool, and sliced them up.

I added salt to taste to the broth, to which I added a little water, as it had concentrated a bit from simmering. When the broth was salted and peppered enough, I boiled the noodles in it.

Using tongs, I pulled these super-long noodles out and heaped them into the bowls first, then added the toppings (quite messily I might add). I put a little of each veg, some meat and the egg, as well as some freshly chopped green onion on the pile. And then I ladled the broth over the heap of goodness.

I overboiled the eggs, but that is not a crime. Yet.

It was really good. The only thing missing for me was something seaweedy. Some nori or something. But that's only me. Hubbo was perfectly happy with it. And the amount I made was sufficient for two nights. So we had Ramen again tonight. So nummo!  I will probably do this again with beef, turkey and chicken bone sooner or later.

Next; the K (and J and C) Dramas (and comedies)

I won't lie, the Ramen fix is because of my new addiction. That and my desire to make Bibimbap and a variety of other Asian dishes. You see I got to the point where I watched just about everything worth watching on regular Netflix. One day a couple of months ago, out of desperation for something good, and something interesting, I selected a title that was on the trending list. I had already watched Atelier, which is a wonderful Japanese show about a lingerie designer. So I was getting some recommendations for international titles. I've watched a few both Korean and Japanese, and even a Chinese drama that is a little too saccharine for me in this case.

Here are the shows I've binged (don't judge me) and what my reviews are of them:

Erased - 4 stars. 
Thoughtful and beautifully filmed, this movie is a fantasy where the hero goes back in time to save his mother's life, and ends up saving many, many more, and changing his present. It's a sweet thriller. Definitely compelling and a good show.

Strong Girl Bong-Soon - Five Stars of Fun.
Strong Girl Bong-Soon - I rate it 5 stars. It's hilarious and sweet and funny. I love that she kicks ass, which seems to be a bit of a rarity in the K and J Dramas. Most of the time, the girls are inept and bumbling and always falling for guys who are arrogant and who treat them like shit. Stalking usually succeeds, and they get their man. But only after being humiliated for it. Strong Girl Bong-Soon, she's my kind of heroine. And she rescues her man more than once. A fun fun fun show.

The Many Faces of Ito - 3.5 stars
I probably would have liked this one more if it hadn't felt so truncated. I felt like there had to be more after the end. This is a story of a scriptwriter who derives material from the stories of four everyday women who happen to be dating the same guy.  

My Little Baby - 3.5 stars
I confess I had to struggle to stick with this one, it was not super-compelling. What made me stick with it was the lead, Oh Ji-Oh was so super adorable. OMG, I have a major crush on him, and he shows up in another show I'm watching right now, and he's even sexier. The show is pretty funny and the premise is sweet and cute. He's a kick-ass cop whose life is taken over by his little baby niece, whom he becomes guardian of after his sister and her husband are killed in a car crash. He moves into an apartment with a former cop friend, and immediately finds himself the beset upon by the complex's Mommy club--who are apparently harder to deal with than full on criminals. It's pretty cute.

Let's eat - 3.5 stars
Food is a pretty big theme in all the shows I've watched. Even the sappy romantic ones I purposefully left off this list, because I'm too embarrassed to admit I watched them (and enjoyed them). But the nearly-pornographic relationship with food in K-Drama goes full monty in this one, there are scenes that are minutes and minutes long of people just stuffing their craws with every kind of sumptuous food you can possibly imagine. There's a scene in a shellfish restaurant that almost made me book a ticket to South Korea. LOL.

 I've never seen that much footage taken of people just reveling in the consumption of a pizza or a bowl of mixed rice. But you will in this show. I probably would have given it more stars if the girl had chosen the right guy in this one--at least in my opinion. This show has a sequel I haven't watched yet. I might watch it if I run out of other awesome options, which seem to be plentiful at the moment.

Oh My Ghost - 5 stars
I LOVED this show. I thought it was thoughtful, and the perfect mix of humour and drama. The premise is that a ghost will appear and remain on earth if they have a grudge, and often, it is because they die virgins, so they try to possess bodies in order to get deflowered so they can rest in peace. Chased by a Seer, the ghost jumps into the body of a Mousy line cook, who also happens to be a Seer like her grandmother. Unable to leave the girl's body, the ghost stirs up this meek little girl's life in every way. She goes after the Mousy girl's dream man. The ghost also discovers that her grudge might not just be about her virginity and that she might still be lingering because she has unfinished business with her mysterious death.

12 Years Promise - 4 Stars
This one, I imagined would be a straight romance, but it was more than that, and a pleasant surprise. The story is, seniors in high-school, both with bright futures, a young man and woman have an encounter that ends up producing a child. The pregnancy brings their families (mainly their overwrought and kind of narcissistic and obnoxious moms) into conflict, tearing the couple apart.  Twelve years later, the leading lady returns to work at a department store to find that her men's department counterpart is none other than her teen lover. Both with scars and misunderstanding, they must confront old crushes and still-bitter family in order fix things. I think the only thing that really bummed me out about this one, was that there were so many loose ends left dangling a the end. They left you with an idea of what would happen, but I really wanted to see it.

Kantaro - Sweet Tooth Salary Man - 5 Stars
I. Love. This. Show. It's kooky and weird and absolutely perfect. Kantaro changed jobs so he could work in sales. Why? Because when he's out on sales calls, he can sneak off and feed his addiction to sweets during the day on the clock. Otherwise, he'd be only free on Saturdays to do that, and who would want to be kept from eating perfect sweets for that long?  Kantaro has a secret sweets blog, where he features his poetic missives about each culinary delight he eats, and the beautiful lady in Online Sales is onto him. But she too is a sweets-addict. I cannot wait when the next season of episodes is released. I hope they are soon. Each episode is short, less than half an hour. It is easy to binge this one. I did sometimes, admittedly, fast-forward through the food-head segments. But Ssshhh.

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories  - 5 stars
This is probably the best Asian show I've seen. It's gritty and really thoughtfully presented. It follows the nightly stories of a midnight eatery in the heart of Tokyo and the intriguing and colourful parade of customers who eat there. There are the regulars, and then there are people who come in with their stories. It is a common dish that gets the conversations going, and then the stories are told, a new one for every too-short episode. It's brilliant. Watch it.

Last but not least:

Momo Salon - 5 Stars
This show was like candy. The episodes are literally less than 8 minutes each. And they are every one a delight. There is probably less than an hour total to binge the whole thing. It's about a hairdresser who opens a salon on her own and follows her as her struggling business grows thanks to her shop becoming a package holding service. In the brief episodes, they still manage to squeeze in a lot of story. And it's just joyful and delightful to watch.

So the lesson is if you think you have seen it all, and there's nothing on Netflix, think again. There's SO MUCH on Netflix. But you might have to deal with subtitles. No biggie. The only downside is that you will crave Asian food like no tomorrow. Maybe my next post will be a Korean dish. We shall see! Portland has a great Jade District with so many Asian grocery stores. I might have to go shopping. :)


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