Day 205: A Japanese delicacy

For years, when I’ve passed through the Asian foods aisle in Whole Foods, or some other grocery store that isn’t called Price Chopper or Bi-Lo, or some other name that implies quasi-reasonably priced food, my eye has fallen on the box of strange, wrinkly, pinkish-purplish items. 

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Umeboshi, or umeboshi plums, as they are sometimes called (for marketing purposes, I guess), are Japanese pickled plums, also called salt plums. They’re made from unripe ume, which is actually a cross between a plum and an apricot.

I’ve always been tempted, but always been turned away by the price (umeboshi sell for about $18 for a 33-piece box). Today, however, my curiosity got the better of me. 

After a quick prayer to the gods of food and economy that I would like it (or at least tolerate it enough that my purchase wouldn’t be wasted), I extracted my first umeboshi from the box.

The smell is faintly sweet. So it was a little surprising when I took a small bite, and encountered about the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted in my lifetime. It’s a really hard taste to describe. It’s very salty, mixed with very sour, but you can almost taste a slight promise of sweetness that never quite comes. 

While I wouldn’t say they taste “good,” per se, they certainly don’t taste bad, and they’re actually a little addicting. I’ve eaten three tonight, and while they are purported to have excellent health benefits, they’re also extremely high in sodium, so much more of a one-a-day type of thing.

Umeboshi are said to help reduce fevers, cough and nausea, are used as part of a macrobiotic diet as a detoxifier. The validity of their effectiveness is dependent on the source, certainly. So far, however, the worst I’ve seen anyone say is basically that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. So, you know, can’t hurt. For the price, however, I’m going to tell myself that eating one a day is keeping my body healthy.

A traditional serving for umeboshi is in rice balls, or one whole piece, on a bed of rice to resemble the Japanese flag. Creative minds, of course, have come up with many ways to include it in recipes. 

Get the wheels turning, my culinary masterminds. How imaginative can you get? 

Click here for a slide show from Eden Foods on the cultivation and preparation of umeboshi

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Day 204: Driving in cars with kids

As I was driving home this evening, I spotted a car with a simple, obviously homemade sign in the rear window. It read: “New Driver.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said to the empty car. Yes, I talk to thin air, myself, objects, etc. when I’m driving alone. I’ve been known to ask my purse if it’s okay after an unexpected stop. What of it?

The sign did not look like this. It was just something printed off of Word.

The sign did not look like this. It was just something printed off of Word.

 

Anyway, there I was, commenting to my dashboard about what I’d just seen. Having no information other than viewing the sign, I figure a concerned parent of a teenager must have put that sign on the car to warn other drivers on the road that the person behind the wheel was inexperienced. Perhaps the goal was to beg patience, or a wide berth around the car. I have no idea. But there was just something about it that seemed protective and endearing to me. 

And then I had to laugh. Twenty years ago, if my parents had done that, I’d have prayed for a hole in the ground to open up and swallow me whole. Granted, there was absolutely nothing endearing about anything they did when I was learning to drive, but my 17-year-old self thanks them for not gluing a sign to the window. 

My 34-year-old self, however, thinks it was a very sweet move on the random parent’s part. She also thinks teen drivers are terrifying, and would like to see the driving age changed to 18, plus a high school diploma or GED. Barring that, I’ll take a letter of recommendation from an employer, clergyperson or mental health professional. 

Vote for me. 

Day 203: Meditation on display

About a ten minute walk from my house, in downtown Silver Spring, is the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Museum. 

I walked up a stairway lined with framed inspirational thoughts, and was greeted by Meghan, a warm lady who greeted me and asked me about my experience with meditation. It seemed like a space where honesty would be received well, so I spoke truthfully:

“I don’t understand what meditation means,” I told her. 

Meghan laughed and explained that meditation can mean different things to different people, that it takes on a variety of forms.

According to the official website for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization:

The Brahma Kumaris seeks to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening. This leads to an awareness of the importance of thoughts and feelings as the seeds of actions. The development of virtues and values-based attitudes creates a practical spirituality which enhances personal effectiveness in the workplace and in family life.

She gave me a brief introduction to the small space, and then invited me to look around. After removing my shoes (I did not ask whether Toms would be considered meditation-friendly, due to their One for One program), I took in the current exhibit on the role of light in different world religions. 

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The museum features a “quiet room” for private reflection, and a space where free seminars and classes are offered. 

The museum was otherwise empty, so Meghan and I got into a good conversation about the spirituality, and its role in society, especially in a place like DC where everyone seems so raring to get ahead. She said that the mind can be like a demanding child, running around and always needing something. 

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but sometimes I’m pretty sure there are ADHD octuplets living inside my brain.

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Day 202: Jane Austen for the digital generation

I’m very wary of remakes, updates and reimaginings of classics, but the work of Jane Austen seems to lend itself well, probably because of the timeless quality of Miss Austen’s characters. Think about how well “Clueless” worked. 

Last year, I spent a weekend glued to my computer, binge watching “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a web series adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” 

And now, it’s time for “Emma Approved.” In this version, Emma Woodhouse is a young, ambitious life coach with a start-up matchmaking business. There’s some charm lost in the update, and so far, the lead character doesn’t have the same charisma as in “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” but it’s a lot of fun to see how the characters tie in with their sources of inspiration. Harriet Smith, for example, an orphan eager for Emma’s friendship and tutelage in the novel, here is Emma’s assistant, a recent college graduate desperate to please. 

As I’m writing this, I’m a few episodes in and looking forward to more. I took a Jane Austen course in college, which involved watching movie adaptations of the books. I hope such similar courses now would include these web series, as a way of demonstrating that while the manner and circumstances of Austen’s characters have clearly changed, fundamentally, we’re not that different than we were 200 years ago. 

 

 

 

Day 201: Well, at least they don’t have to worry about the perfect outfit

This is new to us all, and I think it bears discussion. Or, at least, a moment to mourn where our society has gone.

There’s a new dating show. Yes, dating shows as a rule are reason to mourn. But this one has a twist.

No clothes.

Yes, friends, Dating Naked is here.

ghtyyuyyyyytghgygyttyy

Sorry, that’s what happens when I bang my head on my keyboard.

According to a story in The Cut, executive producer Rob LaPlante says the intention is to take away all the artifice that comes with modern dating — phones, texting… clothes…

“Because you’re never going to be as honest and vulnerable as you are when you’re stark naked in front of someone you’ve never met.”

 

Sorry, but I just don’t buy that. Yes, there are plenty of cultures where nudity is a part of every day culture, and I respect that, but the United States at large doesn’t happen to be one of those cultures. Sure, there are “naked communities,” but as a rule, we keep our clothes on around people with whom we aren’t intimately acquainted. And most of us, when we are naked, don’t have cameras around. So, I’m just going to be up front and say I don’t see this concept challenging or changing society in any big way.

Exercise caution when doing a Google image search for "dating naked." And make sure the kids aren't anywhere near the computer.

Exercise caution when doing a Google image search for “dating naked.” And make sure the kids aren’t anywhere near the computer.

What a show like “Dating Naked” does offer are two things Americans hold in very high regard:

Boobs and the opportunity to watch people embarrass themselves.

Re: the first: The boobs (and other parts) are blurred. Go watch porn. That’s what the Internet is for.

Re: the second: You might get some satisfaction, but having watched a total of three minutes of this show, let me assure you, it’s seriously cringeworthy. It would be cringeworthy without the nudity, so that just adds.

For the record, while this concept is exasperatingly ridiculous and, in my blunt opinion, has no social value, it’s not remotely as offensive as another recently premiered concept: Married at First Sight. 

Really, what’s next? How about “Here’s Daddy!” It’s a show where women are impregnated via artificial insemination, then when the baby is born, they’re introduced to the biological father and the happy new family is sent off to live together in domestic bliss.

Thoughts?

Day 200: Nature, ice cream, cinema – who could ask for anything more?

Well, kids, here we are. Another hundred days gone by since we last touched base to see how things are going in the Land of Something New. And, as in any land, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. 

But first, let’s talk about today. In honor of Day 200 of The Something New Project (and also because it was a really nice day to be out and about), I saw several new (to me) things around town today. 

First, a trip to the Nature Center at Rock Creek Park to see various stuffed creatures posed to look jaunty, scary or wise, depending on their personality as determined by Disney movies. Then a nice hike. We’d visited the park before, but only seen the roadside paths, not any of the hiking trails. It was lovely, and I would be thrilled to do that every day. Unfortunately, for the days I am available, my city girl tendencies prevent me from entering the woods alone. No one’s around to hear you scream….

On that lovely note, from there it was on to Union Market to explore the culinary offerings and attend The DC Scoop, the annual ice cream festival (popcorn caramel gelato from Amore Gelato – wow). Then a viewing of Chef (excellent, by the way) at Angelika Pop-Up, a micro-cinema. 

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Okay, so now let’s talk about how things are going here. This is a time for us to catch up since the last time we took pause. In some ways, the past 100 days have been quite eventful. I moved to a new city, got a new home — that’s pretty big. In others, however, it’s been a disappointing time.

I mentioned in April that one of my goals for the second 100 days of the project was to find a new job. This hasn’t happened, and it’s not only disappointing and disheartening in general, it also puts financial limits on new experiences. Shockingly, it is not cheap to skydive, even with a Groupon. I mean, really, how expensive should jumping out of a plane be? The other downside of being down is that it makes it tough to feel motivated to follow through on things. Most of my follow-through energy is dedicated to obligations like networking and job applications. So, sometimes my best intentions for this project fall by the wayside. I must admit, some of my goals here have been abandoned.

Like the raw food diet. That one was a conscious decision. Raw food is good. It’s great, actually. Nothing but raw food, however, is both time and cost prohibitive if I want to eat anything other than leaves, nuts and berries. I’m not a woodland creature. 

Let’s see where else: 

- I’m still on about page 40 of Infinite Jest. I keep saying I’ll give it to 100 pages. I go back to it every few days. I will say this is the first time my notes (yes, I’m a big notetaker in books) include my referring to an author as a “loquacious cocksucker.” 

- I don’t really know much more than I did upon posting about my new camera, SEO, or monetizing blogs. 

- Many days, my partner asks me what my new thing is, and I just say “I don’t know!” And then I end up with something like this. Not that I’m saying learning something related to Yoda is anything by amazing, but you know…

On the plus side, I’ve been motivated to explore my own backyard and beyond. I visited new neighborhoods. I saw exhibits. I went to towns that might have otherwise been nothing more than signs on a highway.  I’ve had some very worthwhile cinematic and culinary experiences. I explored public art and dared to be ridiculous

I’ve learned that learning new things is vital. However, if I had it to do over again, or if I were advising anyone else, I’d suggest a stronger focus. For example, choose one new goal, i.e. learning a language or a sport, or learning all one can about an historical figure or author. Spending a year reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare could be an interesting journey to follow, I suppose. So could renovating a house. Or perhaps a goal might involve exploring a new neighborhood or town within driving distance once a week. You could cook a new dish, or read a new poem, or even see a new (to you) movie every night. That said, I would not advise taking on an obligation to blog daily. Anywhere from one to three times a week seems like plenty to me. 

So, the $64,000 question: Will this blog continue in the same fashion? 

Despite the fact that I’ve come to describe it as “my self-inflicted, ill-advised project,” yes, it will. A big part of that is because I’m stubborn. I set a goal and I don’t want to give up on it. I need to follow through on this. A lot of the same roadblocks still exist – money and time, mostly. Also morals. And the law. Like I said at the beginning, nothing dangerous, stupid or harmful. That also means nothing illegal, in case you didn’t glean that. I’ve never been arrested or worked the pole, and I suppose that would make for more colorful blog posts, but there are limits, people. 

But I’ll do my best. Help me out if you can. Suggest ideas, offer constructive criticism, ask questions, send encouragement.

And large wads of cash. Also, a zester

Thank you. 

 

 

Day 199: Bill Cosby ate here

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So often, apparently, that there’s a chili dog named after him and a mural on the side wall. 

Ben’s Chili Bowl, where I did not dine, is an historic spot on the U Street Corridor in Shaw,  Washington, DC. Consisting of row houses, restaurants (Marvin, The Fainting Goat), bars, music venues (The 9:30 Club, The Lincoln Theatre, The Howard Theatre), and shops, U Street was once the center of African American culture, before the heyday of Harlem. 

I met my sister, who was in town on a business trip, at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant and bookshop with a cultural literacy bent. Technically, that’s on 14th Street, but right around the corner.

It’s a really lively, fun area with a lot of history. I’m just looking forward to going back for the DC Fashion Truck Tour and to get a closer look at some of the side streets. I love discovering neighborhoods I can see myself enjoying on a regular basis, especially when they’re not terribly far away from me. 

Anyone have any favorite DC-area neighborhoods? Or favorite neighborhoods in other places? I love to travel when the opportunity arises. 

Day 198: Joey Tribbiani should’ve been a lawyer

So, as I mentioned a couple weeks back, I’m temping at a law office for the month. Today, I drafted a few types of legal documents I’d never seen before. It’s an educational process, for sure. I’m using terms I didn’t know a few weeks ago (or, you know, yesterday) like “Plaintiff’s Opposition of Defendant’s Motion to Compel Information,” which means the defendant wants to know stuff and the plaintiff doesn’t want the defendant to know stuff. However, “I’m Not Telling You Anything” is not really going to fly as the title of a legal document. But that’s pretty much what it means.

Because I’ve signed multiple leases in my life, I already knew that legal documents are exceedingly wordy. Today, however, I had to retype a document sent by another party, and while I’m sure the language was appropriate legalese, it about broke my journalist heart. Sentences went on for four lines straight. Commas were scattered, willy-nilly, throughout the document. I longed to take both a literal and figurative red pen to the pages, making the language clearer and more concise. Alas, I was compelled to copy the document exactly as it had been sent.

Now, I understand why the language has to be so specific. It’s because if it’s not, nitwits and smarmy people find loopholes to exploit, so the goal is to block that from happening. So I blame them, the same way I blame the people who tried to eat their iPod shuffles or think Superman costumes really permit flight (that one’s on you, parents) for the asinine warning labels we have.

Still, I kept being reminded of this:

Just… trust me on this one

 

Day 197: National Geographic

The current exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, titled Peruvian Gold, features precious metals, jewelry and ornaments excavated from tombs of the early Andean civilizations. While I can’t resist a good ancient nose ornament, however, I was far more fascinated by the permanent installation, which focuses on the work of the photographers, journalists, researchers and documentarians who dedicate themselves to investigating the depths of nature, the animal kingdom, and all variety of civilization. 

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I have to admit, there’s a real envy that comes into play learning about the men and women who dig deep into these questions and really investigate nature. I love much of the work I’ve done, but there’s something about getting to really dig into one topic that’s very satisfying. I also envy the willingness to take risks that is inherent in the sort of work displayed and described at this establishment. 

The $11 admission price wasn’t thrilling, considering that the Smithsonian museums are all free, but it’s not that high, and again, most of the other museums in town are free, so it’s not that bad. 

 

 

Day 196: Sexy Toy Makeovers

Oh, thank goodness. I’m not the only one who thinks the Strawberry Shortcake makeover is a tragedy. 

Seriously, from this…

to this?

 

This Pinterest page looks at how toys and cartoon images from 30-odd years ago have been humanized and sexualized. Our favorite characters of the 1980′s are slimmed down, modernized, made to look more like “real girls” (yes, I see the cruel irony in that phrase) and less like dolls. Even Care Bears have been made slimmer and sassier. 

The page is sourced from the site The Society Pages, and no, it has nothing to do with Buffy and Biff’s engagement, or congratulating Mrs. Johnson on becoming PTA president. It’s all about the social sciences. The sub-page, if you will, Sociological Images was founded by Lisa Wade, a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. 

According to her site, Sociological Images is “a site designed to encourage all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief discussions of compelling and timely imagery that span the breadth of sociological inquiry.” 

Inquiry. As in asking questions, seeking information. Not as in agreeing with everything, or even anything, published by any particular source.

Though I think we can all agree, when it comes to cartoons and children’s character toys, the ’80s reign supreme over… what do we call this particular period of time? 

 

 

 

 

 

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