Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The N.S.A. Spies on Angela Merkel and the Critical Mom Provides the Transcript

Just between you, me, and the fencepost, I know what Obama heard when he was listening in on Angie's phone calls, courtesy of the NSA.
It might have been a lullaby--it put him right to sleep.  In fact, it was so, well, banal, that he mixed it up with phone calls from Michelle, and that's how he got caught.
Are you ready?
Sit down now so you won't be shocked.
This is what Barry heard:
"Hi, Sweetie, we're running late."
"Ooof! Again?"
"I'm so sorry.  But there's chicken teriaki marinating in the fridge right now--the way you like it, with garlic, ginger, and orange juice.  If you want to get started before I get home you go right ahead--"
"Angie, you said you'd be home by NINE at the LATEST.  That's what you said."
"I know, Sweetie, but my secretary had to make some photocopies and the machine broke down and . . ."
"You're the chancellor of Germany!  How can the machine break down? It wouldn't dare!"
"Well, it did, it did--the woman who brings the paper wasn't around either, so after they fixed it . . ."
"(chortle) You didn't have any way to print?"
"(giggle) Yes, exactly."
"I love your giggle.  Do you think we might get away next Saturday?"
"If I don't have to deal with those awful . . . . wait!"
"Never mind.  How about Bad Salz- . . ."
"Oh, anywhere!  I have to run.  If I'm not back before nine, heat the wok and chop the zucchini and sauté that first, then set it aside . . . '
"Never mind, I know how to cook.  Get that cute little behind of yours home."

It's that last line, you see, that particularly mortifies our Angie.  I shouldn't really say "our," since I'm still an American citizen (in itself a blight, these days) and can't even vote for her.  But I admire the woman, I do.  She ought to settle Barry's hash, and fast.  Germany could always grant Edward Snowden asylum, and spring Chelsea Manning from the clink.  Get on that right away, Angie--ask Mossad for assistance.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Critical Mom's Crisis, Part 2: Protecting the Kid from Pedophiles, Drunks, Wierdos

Our smallish city contends with a homeless population, a disaffected-punked-out-young-people population,  and a population of drug-abusing folks who congregate around the main railway station and the main tram station, our city's version of Times Square.  On our way to dance classes at the local ballet school, my daughter and I have to walk past loud, smoking, beer-bottle waving crowds of these folks, and I hold her hand.
 My sons go through the same area on the way to school, and they recently reported taking a short cut--"not the escalators, Mommy, 'cause they take too long--we just went through that tunnel on the side."
That tunnel--that poorly lit tunnel that nobody likes because it stinks of pee.
When they walked through, some drunk guys were in there peeing against the wall and making sure my boys saw them.  My boys felt embarrassed, and I could tell by the way they talked about the incident that it had disturbed them.  Children who see some guy doing something wrong feel almost that they've done something wrong themselves. 
I told my sons always to stay where they see plenty of people and light, never to take the shortcut when it's dark and they're on their own.  I told them those guys were sick, and should not have done that, and please never to go that way again.   They knew all that but they had to get rid of the disturbance by talking, and I encouraged them to talk.
How much should I tell my children?  The school already provides a "my body is my body" lesson and a troupe of actors perform skits about what to do when an adult comes up to a child and says, "Come with me--your mommy sent you to me and your daddy is sick," or "Come look in my car."  On the street leading home from school, various shops have signs in the windows for "emergency islands," where any child feeling threatened may go.
But there's still the guy who goes down our street in a green car, calling to children.  There's still the man with the knife who went after a child in a toilet in the local park.  There's still the shady deals I see in the woods as I walk down the path leading to our house, the men back there trading something, and I look the other way.  There's still the time the girl arrived at the local ballet school crying because a man on the tram showed her his penis. 
My daughter, who is nine, wants to walk home from school alone, and her friends are allowed to do so.  One of them regularly walks through the woods alone to our house, past the drug deals in the woods.
At times like this I wish my daughter could morph into the most hideous child in the world during her walk home.  But she's Goldilocks.  She's Madeleine McCann.  I remember Etan Patz.
Finally I agreed to allow my daughter to go home alone during the last week of fourth grade, but warned her not to go through the woods.  
"Mommy,  let me show you how I'll go," she told me, heading for the well-lit road with family homes rather than the isolated woods.   She went on to detail how she knew how to run away from bad guys and I wondered how much she really knew.  I told her about the girl and the man on the tram--I said, "he showed her something he had no business showing her," and she said, "Eeewwww.  You mean like his thing where he pees?"  Neither of us were going to say, "penis."  And I told her that when I was her age, I'd headed home from school one day and a man in a parked car asked me the time, but when I told it to him he also showed me what he had no business showing me.  And I told her to run away. 
"Mommy, eewwww.  We had all this in school."  But now I know that she knows it can happen to us, that these guys are sick, and that she should run the other way.
I still want to post bodyguards all along the route the week she comes home from school alone.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Diet-Friendly Fish from the Critical Mom

Salmon, salmon, salmon again.  (Salmon from Aldi, the cheapo grocery, not Edeka, the hotsy-totsy one?  Will it be any good?)  Okay, let's assume it's not quite fresh (but as it turns out, it is fresh).  Fresh or not so fresh, this is a good, low-calorie fish recipe:

One chunk (generous:  the size of two men's thumbs) ginger

Two big slices of Aldi fresh salmon (enough for three people)

Fresh-squeezed orange juice (two or three oranges)

Dash or two of low-sodium soy sauce

Fresh ground pepper (from one of those grinders that mixes black, green, and red peppercorns)

Garlic powder

First, rinse the salmon.  Set aside.

Make the orange juice.  Grate the ginger into it--grate very fine.

Add a dash or two of the soy sauce.  Mix.  

Put the fish in a bowl, pour the mixture over it, let it marinate at least a few hours.   When you're ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to about 250º C (about 480ºF).  Put the fish in a baking dish, pour the marinade over.  Grate the pepper over the fish and sprinkle with garlic powder.  Put in oven under the broiler, using whirling heat if possible.

Side dishes:  steamed broccoli is nice.  Sushi rice too.

If you don't need to lose weight, brown sugar is delicious in the marinade.  And a dash of sesame oil--the dark, aromatic kind.

The fish needs around eight-ten minutes under the broiler.  Baste once.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What The Critical Mom Hates About Germany

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to Galeria Kaufhof, a large department store, to buy some gift paper with which to wrap my husband's birthday presents.  We picked up some ingredients for his cake, too.  And we didn't have to wait long for the saleslady, who, with the German efficiency I love, took my credit card immediately and packed away our items carefully.
Then she did that thing that I hate, and I rarely see it coming.  Addressing my nine-year-old daughter, she smiled a sappy, sentimental grin that German salespeople--and especially old ladies who lived through the war--get, and announced, "Und das ist für Dich!" ("And this is for you!") and she handed my daughter a pack of gummi bears.  It's usually gummi bears, although sometimes it's "Traubenzucker," which is artificially colored and flavored dextrose, and which they sometimes imagine is "healthy."  They sometimes have "bio" or what they deem organic gummi bears.  Fortunately my daughter does not like gummi bears anyway.  
Does it ever occur to these folks that the mother may not want her kid to have sugar or candy?  Unless, of course, I give it to them because it is their birthday, or my husband's birthday, or mine.  And then I bake a cake, or a tart, and at least that's got a few healthy ingredients in it--not just sugar.  Sometimes I just wave those salesladies away with "Nein, danke," and they look astonished.  Then shocked.  They give the child who has been denied the sweets a shake of the head and a commiserating look, as if to say, "I'm sorry your mommy is so mean."  Then they make that disapproving clicking noise with their tongues, and then I am The American Lunatic Who Tortures Her Children By Refusing Them Candy, Which Is Their Birthright.  The poor, poor children, think the old ladies--those old ladies who used to press chocolate bars into the hands of my then six-month old son as we stood at the local busstop in Bavaria.  If I took it away they looked as though they might be about to call the cops on me, or maybe the local child protection agency.
All this may have started with the teutonic custom of the "Schultüte," or  "school cone."  There is no English equivalent for this nefarious term.  The "Schultüte" is a big cardboard cone filled with candy and toys that is given every German-speaking schoolchild (and, I believe, some Scandinavian ones too) on the first day of school, to "sweeten" what the Germans consider the torments, if not the rigors of school.  Nowadays teachers plead with parents to include fewer sweets and more colored pencils, but their cry often falls on deaf ears, probably because those teachers don't believe it themselves.  They're the ones bringing in cake and ice cream on their birthdays, and since every kid gets to bring sweets on his or her birthday, that's a lot of sugar on your child's teeth.
So I make them brush, and I growl a lot, and I pack whole-grain bread sandwiches in their schoolbags, and I wish the other parents had done what we did with the ole "Schultüte"--fill it up with DVDS, stickers, toys, and one or two teeny little packs of those gummi bears the salesladies gave us . . . the rest of them, oh ye un-reformable German people, have gone straight into the trash!

P.S. The last time we went to Galeria . .  . and after many comments were posted, they offered apples, not candy.  THANK YOU, GALERIA! Here's hoping the local pharmacy and other stores will follow suit.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Critical Mom's Shoulder of Lamb

This is a great fall-and-winter dish.  You can experiment with vegetables, but the main flavors are:

garlic, garlic, and garlic


rosemary--fresh rosemary.  

The shoulder of lamb should be fresh, bloody, and gigantic--the about as big as, say, MY shoulder and part of my arm.  Once you've got it out of the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 180º C or 356º F.

 Put the lamb on a plastic cutting board and cut inch-long slits all over the top of it.  Into this you wish shove slices of fresh garlic, and after that bits of fresh, and freshly-washed rosemary.  We have rosemary growing in a window-box right outside our kitchen door; it beats dry packaged rosemary, which you may use if desperate.

Start with four carrots:  peel them, cut off the ends, and throw the peel and ends to the guinea pigs, the children, or the pet of your choice.

Slice the carrots into inch-thick disks and boil them until they are a little big soft.  Set aside.

Take one or two medium-size zucchini.  Wash and slice into disks.  Make a pile of them in your baking dish about the size and shape of your shoulder of lamb.  Drain the carrots and add.  Sprinkle with garlic powder or (my favorite) the MultiCulti herbs that you can buy at Oil&Vinegar (see recent post about fish for a link).

Set the shoulder of lamb over the carrot-zucchini mix.   Then sprinkle garlic salt all over it.  You may wish to rub a little olive oil over the whole thing, but it is not necessary for you to do so.  Slice around ten baby tomatoes and glom them on to the lamb; the garlic salt ought to offer some traction so that they actually stick to it.   Wash and slice several red bell peppers--large slices that you can drape over the tomatoes--or cover any area not covered by tomatoes.  Then add around five ounces of red wine.  You can also add the wine before the tomatoes and peppers, though it's possible doing so will render the lamb slippery again.

Put the whole thing in the oven--take a fork and put the tomato and pepper slices that have slid off back on.

Close oven door.  Let the lamb bake for about two hours and a half.

Serve with a glass of red wine.  

Alternative:  boil some potatoes and add them in with the lamb.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Critical Mom's Fatigue

Somehow or other, the Critical Mom has to get four syllabi done and prepare the classes that go with them.  But she is preoccupied with the writing project that seems to have no sense of direction and then there's the laundry, the cooking, the relative cleanliness of the kitchen (A child complained at finding a grasshopper near his breakfast . . . the grasshopper proved athletic, difficult to confine, but did make it outside in a plastic cup.)  Spiders still waltz around the ceiling unless I take the broom and whack away their webs.  The guinea pig cage needs cleaning . . . more, now, since it's too cold to take the critters to their outdoor cage, and the indoor one all too rapidly becomes a giant litterbox.  (But I cleaned it a couple days ago!) But they eat and poop and eat and poop and I like to see them eat so I have to put up with them pooping.  Whenever I ask the kids to remove the garbage or clean the toilet they seem to have gone deaf.
What's a mom to do?
Well, a chocolate bar would be nice right about now.
I just phoned a friend in New York instead.