I love to cook. And I love to bake. If you follow any of my social media (this blog included) you know this already. If I’m not following politics I’m probably in my kitchen throwing random ingredients together in an attempt to either fully destroy my kitchen or create another drool-worthy masterpiece. Part of the what makes the whole process a success is the right cookware. And I’ve sorely been lacking in that area since having to sell off all my original cook- and bakeware. I’m super picky about my pieces and want each one to be multi-functioning and worth the price, material, time, etc, which is probably the biggest reason I’m STILL working on my collection.

Well, this chick is three pieces closer to her dream kitchen thanks to a small company called DowntoEarthenware. The owner and earthenware creator extraordinaire, Zach Schnare, is based out of the tiny town of Collinsville, Illinois. As far as I’m concerned Collinsville is one of my favorite places on earth- 1. for the friends and their bakery, Kruta’s Bakery, and now 2. for Zach and his bakeware. I’ve been a glass and non-stick gal my whole life, but my friend, Ginny, told me about Zach’s Facebook page and suggested I take him on his offer to trade a couple Apple Bakers for a review of the product. And that I did (I snagged a sweet deal on a pie plate, too).

I’d never heard of an ‘Apple Baker’ until DowntoEarthenware and had no clue what to do with one! Google had already become a close friend since going paleo in May of 2013 and subsequently finding out I have a gluten intolerance, so I put my typing fingers to work again to figure out exactly what to do with the strange pieces of pottery. As far as the colors, ease of use and cleaning, I’m impressed. I love the bright colors and the blue/green is right up my alley! Cleaning these things seems like it’d be a chore, especially because I use sticky things like honey in my baking. Nope. Not with these pieces of pottery. They clean up almost effortlessly. Seriously, I rinsed them out with some hot water after they cooled down and nearly all the residue from use was gone. After hand-washing them (no scrubbing needed) and making sure they’ve thoroughly dried they’re ready to be stored for another day or are ready for another round of apples.

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These things are the work of genius! I’m now completely in love with the Apple Bakers. Why have I never heard of them before this?! I’ve never been a big fan of apples but oh man! This is like customizing apple pie without the guilt of the crust or added refined sugars! Using the Apple Bakers is so easy. I’ve stuffed the cored apples with blueberries, cranberries, cinnamon, coconut flakes, honey, and nutmeg (not all at the same time though). So far my favorite way to prepare apples is to core them, stuff the middle with pecans, place the apple on the cone in the middle of the baker, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees (see below for how I pair my apples for an absolutely delish Saturday paleo brunch).

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Next up was the pie plate. I’ve missed my pie plate but hadn’t been able to settle on the right one (it’s taken me several years of looking at pie plates and never being satisfied for some reason or another). Overall, earthenware has intimidated me. Let’s be honest, if you’ve never before baked with pottery, it looks like you’d spend more time cleaning it or trying not to shatter it than you would actually baking with it.

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This pie plate is quite different from my old trusty one I couldn’t seem to replace, but I’m good with that. The deep dish style works great for paleo apple pies:

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And paleo quiche:

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Practically speaking, clean up is along the same lines as the Apple Bakers- wash it when it cools down and make sure it dries completely before storing. I always brush the bottom and sides with a light coating of olive oil and nothing sticks- NOTHING, not even baked cheese. The red is beautiful and rustic and, despite the abuse of my kitchen testing, has maintained looking new- no discoloration or fading.  I burned my first attempt at a paleo pie crust, but it was an even burn in the pie plate, which, color me impressed because I’ve never seen anything burn evenly in an oven (I don’t normally see anything I bake burn for that matter). We’ll chalk the burned crust up to human error because, other than that, every attempt has been a success. Not only does the bakeware burn evenly, it bakes evenly. Even baking is one of the reasons it takes me so long to pick out a new piece of bakeware, I’m skeptical of everything. I’ve seen too many companies advertise how spectacular their product works only to be wholly disappointed. Zach didn’t tell me about the pie plate would bake evenly or be easy to clean up. Those were happy surprises. Honestly, I love using DowntoEarthenware. I can’t say enough great things about DowntoEarthenware. This is my new favorite bakeware company. Hands-down, favorite and worth every penny of the price. Go like them on Facebook and grab your next favorite pieces before they sell out.

Heaven help us all. Billy Ray Cyrus let someone re-make ‘Achy Breaky Heart’. Worse yet, they made it into a rap. Ugh! Cue the vomit and seizures.

I tweeted a play-by-play of the awful awfulness under the hash tag #MyAchyBreakyEars, but really, I couldn’t do the train wreck justice. If you so dare, brave the video and shake your heads with me at the downfall of music.

 

My parents have been married 17 years today.

I’m 31. The math isn’t hard. The dad I’ve been exponentially blessed with isn’t biological and that is the most insignificant drop of fact in the world. Dad is the definitive example of a man. He’s shown me how to be a lady, how a man should treat a woman, how not to settle for less. I have his personality- his stubbornness, his tenacity, his sense of humor, his nerdiness, his awkwardness, his type of passion for things that strike my fancy, his argumentativeness. Dad taught me to cook, sans recipe. The level of frustration we send my mom to when he and I get in the kitchen together knows no limit- she always asks what we added/did. We shrug our shoulders; we don’t know. We just create. I am his daughter to my core.

My Marmie and I tend to butt heads. We don’t see eye-to-eye. But she lets me be me. She cheers me on when I doubt my path. She holds me on the couch when I need a hug. She lets me cry and rant when I don’t know why I’m crying or ranting. Mom taught me how to love music, not in lessons and books, but with melodies and singing. My beautiful mother has experienced the shackles of oppression and hardship and poverty to, in the end, stand. She may be battle-scarred by the fight, but she still stands. Marmie has taught me to endure. She’s taught me faith. She’s taught me to seek God, to praise Him no matter how low things get. I’m a better woman because of her.

We live in a society that throws in our faces romance is dead, yet I still see grand gestures by a quiet man. The world has become tone-deaf and children grow up not knowing good music, but my ears are filled with beautiful melodies. Our pop-culture once celebrated marriage, now fights against it, but my parents are an humble beacon and example.

Happy Anniversary, mom and dad.

*Update* I have been challenged to a friendly wager by my dear friend, and #MisfitBaby’s mom, Ginny Kruta. #MisfitBaby has been making the political rounds already and she’s not even a year old. She has been seen with the likes of Texas Governor, Rick Perry, former presidential candidate, Herman Cain, and Miss America 2008, Erika Harold, who is running for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District seat.

The wager? Who can get the most pictures of politicos. #MisfitBaby or my bacon brownies. A Doctor Who t-shirt is at stake here so please press that donate button and send your political contacts my way!

Last year, with the help of some amazing strangers-turned-friends, I had the privilege of taking my unorthodox bacon brownie recipe to the largest conservative political conference in U.S.- CPAC. And the brownies were a success!

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dc 071Texas Governor, Rick Perry ate two.

dc 003THE @GaltsGirl and bacon aficianado, Michelle Ray

dc 060Jonah Goldberg

dc 061Bruce Carroll

dc 116Brandon Darby

dc 120David Webb

dc 123John Lott

dc 127Mike Flynn

dc 036Holly Bacon and Larry O’Connor

This year I’ve been given a challenge- to get photographic proof of Texas senator, Ted Cruz, eating a bacon brownie. Now, this isn’t the only reason to return to CPAC with my bacon brownies in tow, but it sure is a fun one. Since last year I have re-worked the recipes (one for normal folk and one for paleo/gluten free folk) and made them even better than before. But I can’t do this again without your help. A kitchen has been donated and kitchen assistants have been lined up. All that’s left is the money. I need $150.00 to make this happen. Any amount you give will help. Anyone who donates and is attending CPAC will be guaranteed access to the brownies until they are gone- all you have to do is walk up and ask for one.

Donate here or on my main page. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to bake for you.

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First, I’m being as anonymous with the people involved as possible to protect myself and them. With that in mind, there are several details and some background story that is missing from this post. I apologize if this muddles some things for you, reader.

I’ve written about my encounters with rape, sexual assault, and molestation. I’ve talked about them on air a few times. And life marches on. And my faith and relationship with God has taught me how to heal. I know it’s strange, but most days I forget I’m a survivor. Most days are just days and my history doesn’t get in the way. I don’t shy from my past and I don’t let it control me. But some days the memories of those acts march right up to me and slap me hard in the face. So hard tears well up in my eyes as if the reminder became corporeal at the instant of contact then dissolved back into the ether, leaving me stunned.

Today of those moments came. I don’t know what provoked me to look but I did. One of my Facebook friends knows the man who raped me when I was 15. I knew several years ago they were friends with him on Facebook and occasionally spoke to him. This person knows what he did and chooses to still be friends with him. That is their business. I’m not here to regulate their life or anyone else’s. This person and I have had a rocky relationship through the years and have recently come to amicable terms and we are back on Facebook together (it sounds like more drama than it’s worth and some days it is, but whatever. It is what it is). At work this person came to mind and, for some stupid-brain reason, it came to me to see if they were still friends with the guy. At that point I could have ignored the thought and kept working, but I didn’t. My fault. They are still in contact with him.

This person- who is supposed to love and care about me- is remaining friends with my rapist. I cannot control this person’s life or friends. I don’t want to. That’s not my style. But it hurts to know they don’t care enough to at least pretend around me they’re not friends. Strangely, though, I’m more upset that I’m upset about it. I feel like I should be past this. It’s been 16 years and I’m not a naive teenager anymore. I have a voice. I have a future. I have a life. And this piece- this in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-tiny piece- of my life has a way of grabbing hold of me and shaking my core. It still effects me. It may not happen often. I may go months without issue, but sometimes…

Sometimes a reminder comes up and slaps me. Hard.

Some days are harder than others. November 19th I was on my way to Starbucks after work to write a stunningly snarky article for Misfit Politics. Tuesdays are church days so I usually do my writing in between work and service. This routine works well for me on Wednesdays (choir rehearsal) as well. But November 19th I didn’t make it to Starbucks. I almost made it. I was less than 1/2 mile from my destination. No one warned me how stream-of-consciousness things get.

So close.

Traffic stops.

I stop.

Wait.

Look in my review mirror. Just enough time to barely utter “Jesus!” in a one word prayer of help.

Muffled crunch.

Things go blank for a moment.

Did I hit my head? Where are my glasses? What happened to my phone? Why is my CD player console sitting in the passenger seat? Park. Park! Throw the car into park. Let off the brake. Let go of the steering wheel. No hold onto it. No let it go. Look. Look for my glasses. Where are they? Where did the go? I can’t see. I can think. What happened? Where are my glasses? WHERE ARE THEY? Man. Man standing at my passenger door. “It’s unlocked.” He opens the door. “I can’t find my glasses. I can’t see. I can’t think. I need them to think.” He asks if I’m ok. I don’t know. I don’t know anything until I can see. He finds my glasses and phone in the back seat. How’d they get there? It doesn’t matter. They’re not broken and I can see. My brain was focused on social media so all I can think to do is make one post. I’ve been hit by a car. Post. My notifications explode. Everyone is concerned.

No one comes to help me. I’m alone. Everyone wants to know if I’m ok. Some speculate if I’m posting to social media I must be fine. I’m not. I’m scared. My head starts to hurt. My shoulder is screaming. My neck is sore. Phone calls. What do I do? Call parents. Call insurance. Call call call call call call call. I think I need that ambulance.

I’m tough. That may be my biggest fault. I didn’t let them see how hurt I was. I wouldn’t tell them.

Minor head injury. No no no, your shoulder will be fine in a couple days. Pain. Pain. Pain. Can’t sleep. Tired. Insurance calls all morning. For three days. The car is totaled. The frame was buckled.

It buckled all the way up under the back seat.

Texts. Facebook posts. Questions. Are you ok? Are you alright? You must be fine. At least you made it out alive. You walked away so you’ll be fine. You’re tough. You’ve been through worse. You’ll be fine. It could have been worse. It could have been worse. It could have been worse. But I’m alone. I’m scared. No one to help me. My shoulder hurts. Out of pain meds. Go back to work. The pain. I could just cry.

The pain. Be tough. Keep going. Awake at 3:00 a.m. Awake at 6:00 a.m. Can’t crawl out of bed at 7:00 a.m. So exhausted. Leave me alone! Someone please come hold me and be tough for me. Please? Please?

Silence echos. No one comes. I’m too tough. The words won’t vocalize. I need someone. No one. Anyone. Nothing. Physical therapy. I’m tough. Set back. Can’t pick my arm up. Shooting pain. Pain. Pain. Out of pain meds. Can’t get more. Pain. More PT. Getting better.

Drive past the accident site. It looks so normal. Flinch every time a car pulls up behind me. But it looks so normal. Flinch. Silent prayer. Jesus please don’t let them hit me. Please. Please. Flinch. Silent prayer. Keep driving. Work. PT. Church. Back to choir rehearsal. Flinch. Flinch. Pray. But the road looks like it always did. Like it did before. Before crash, crunch. Before blank. I’m tough. I’m tough. I’m tough…

Last Saturday I took the advice of my pregnant editor and went to the store to purchase pickles and egg nog. I like strange food combos so this was right up my alley (I’ve told her to keep the suggestions coming). When I went to check out, the cashier seemed slightly puzzled by my purchase. I explained that the pickles and egg nog were suggested by my editor. She seemed more confused so I told her my editor is pregnant. The cashier’s response? “I’m sorry.” I was thrown for a moment. I politely shot back, “She’s excited about it and so am I.” Her only response was, “Oh.” Since when is an apology the response to the beautiful news of a baby? In a world where people are daily murdered in astronomical numbers in and out of the womb, and countries are struggling with birth rates so low they won’t be able to sustain their country, why is bringing a miracle into this world worthy of “I’m sorry”? Here’s a hint: it’s not. It’s not deserving of “I’m sorry.” Period.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Noooooooo, not by a long shot! Unfortunately I’ve encountered this attitude more and more and in every corner of my life. This week (while minding my own business thankyouverymuch) my ears were perked by talk of how many children someone had and what ages. Any guesses as to the response of “4″? Hm? How about contempt, derision, pity, and groans? How’s that for a response to the lives of human beings?

Another incident involved news that someone was pregnant for the *gasp* third time with two toddlers already at home. The common response was pitiful sympathies for the parents and gratitude it wasn’t them having to put up with that mess. Excuse me?

I have a friend who’s a stay at home dad to young twin boys. I’ve met those boys and they are full of life. Yes, they are a handful, but they are also a delight. Their parents love and cherish them. Their parents have rules and boundaries and are rearing them right. But how are they treated by the outside world? These happy parents receive apologies. APOLOGIES!

Too often children are held in intense disdain by people not the parents and dismissed by the parents as a burden to be contemptibly tolerated until the children FINALLY! WHEW! move out. Excuse me while I go old school, but once upon a time the view of a man’s wealth was partially determined by his ability to father strong, successful children and his wife’s pride was in her ability to raise up strong, healthy, hardworking, productive young men and women. And at that point in time children were called a heritage unto their parents. But oh have we made marvelous strides in human civil rights since then! Yes siree! Women are no longer chained to their ovens. Men are no longer relegated to just one woman for the rest of their days. Technology has made life less hardwork-y.

In all that time since “once upon a time” what have we done? What have we accomplished? We’ve made bags reusable and fuel more efficient. We’ve made houses more eco-friendly and food and clean water more available to desolate regions. We’ve made computers fully portable and batteries in iPhones last almost as long as Androids’ batteries. We’ve made travel easier, faster. We’ve put a Starbucks on nearly every corner. We’ve produced amazing and awful entertainment. We’ve discovered new species.  And babies; what of our babies? Well, we’ve made babies- our future, our legacy, our heritage- disposable.

*This is cross posted on Misfit Politics*