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Restaurant Review: Swamp Tails

August 14, 2015

Everything that is wrong with Swamp Tails can be expressed in one fundamental flaw:  They use Old Bay seasoning.

Don’t get me wrong, Old Bay is a great seasoning.  I’m personally allergic to it, so I make my own version for when the cooking calls for it, but it’s still good stuff.  It is, however, not Cajun.  It is very much a New England style seasoning with the slightly sweeter, more “baked goods” types of spices.  Creole seasoning tend to be more herbaceous and earthy, with a lot more “hot sauce” types of spices.  It’s a subtle difference, but if you’re going to run a Cajun style restaurant, the least you can do is use the right seasoning.  Especially when there are so many excellent and widely available Cajun seasonings out there.

The menu looked pretty good at first glance.  Gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, all the usuals.  Aps included boudin balls, and there was a liberal use of andouille sausage throughout the menu (although I cannot personally speak to the quality of their boudin or the andouille).  I will admit to bombarding the waitress with a ton of questions about the various dishes.  Their roux is flour based, which is a usually a good sign.  However, the crawfish etouffee was described as being served over creamy cheese grits.

I’ll give the Cajuns in the audience a moment to recover.  I know I needed one.

For those of you who have never had a good etouffee:  1) I’m so sorry, you are really missing out and 2) Etouffee is served over rice.  Or sometimes under it, if the restaurant is feeling fancy.  Regardless.  Not.  Grits.  Apparently several reviewers found this to be a “nice twist,” but I personally think a restaurant should get good at the basics before trying to get fancy with things.  And sadly, the basics were lacking.

Moose got the fried catfish basket and while the portion seemed to be pretty decent, the fish was declared “a little bland.”  He also felt the Old Bay seasoning on the fries was a little much.  I got my fries without the seasoning and was given a small dish of Slap Ya Mama to use instead of the Old Bay.  The fries were pretty good this way, though they are thick cut fries, which is not my personal preference.

The major issue was my Po-Boy.  It came out on sub roll, not a baguette as promised by the menu.  So it didn’t have the nice crispy crust required to hold everything together.  Not that there was much to hold together.  Mine came with a meager 6 shrimp, all of no more than an inch or so.  It was also very over dressed, so the whole thing was just a sad, soggy mess.

And just for the hell of it, Acorn had the mini corn dogs.  It came with a side of mandarin oranges, so she refused to eat anything until she was allowed to finish those.  And then she ate handfuls of Slap Ya Mama (that’s my girl!) and refused to eat her corn dogs until Moose cut them up smaller.  She also ate a portion of his catfish, after stabbing it repeatedly with her fork.  She did like the catfish, so we probably would have done better with the kids portion of catfish bites.  Such are the vagaries of a toddler’s appetite.

We will probably not be returning to Swamp Tails.  There are quite a few decent reviews on Yelp, so it’s possible they will manage to break the curse of this location and stay in business for longer than a year.  But with a new Razzoo’s opening on the 17th, and a Pappadeaux’s on the horizon, this place is going to have to step up its game to compete.

Oklahoma Introduces Nation’s Longest Abortion Waiting Period

April 10, 2015

An Oklahoma senator has introduced a new bill this month proposing a 6,720 hour waiting period for abortions.  This controversial new bill would make Oklahoma’s mandatory waiting period one of the longest in the nation.

HB 3862, sponsored by Representative Lilly Williams (R-Enid), would amend the state’s already lengthy waiting period law from 48 hours to 6,720 hours.  Over the course of that time, Oklahomans seeking abortions would have to complete a series of state mandated counseling sessions, doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and finally a brief hospital stay before the abortion will be performed.

“We want to give women the opportunity to be really, really, really sure they don’t actually want to precious baby that springs forth whole into their womb upon conception,” Rep. Williams reported.  “This waiting period will give women plenty of time to consider all of their options before proceeding with the irrevocable decision to slaughter their child like a cold hearted monster who is definitely going to hell.”

When it was pointed out that the waiting period would be longer than the gestation period of most pregnancies, Rep. Williams said only “Well, they should have thought of that before they decided to get knocked up.”


In case it’s not clear, this is most definitely satire.

Review: Baby Food Squeeze Feeders

January 22, 2015

Random Mommy Blogging, yay!

One of the things that I read obsessively while pregnant with Acorn were those “20 Things Every New Parent Needs” lists.  Anything that looked remotely useful went on the registry.  I scoffed at most of it, because frankly, a lot of it was pretty useless.  But one thing I did thing was pretty neat was the squeeze feeders.  Basically, it’s a tube with a spoon on the end and a little hole where the food feeds out onto the spoon.  I really liked the idea of having a single piece item that I could fill with baby food and just squeeze out a spoonful at a time.  No fumbling with a tub and a spoon, no worrying that I hadn’t brought the right utensil, and best of all, nothing for Acorn to grab on to and mush into her hair.

I wound up with two different kind of squeeze feeders on my registry and was gifted both.  And Moose picked up a third while out grocery shopping one day because he wanted to try a different style.  So we wound up with three different feeders, plus the bonus item which I will talk about at the end.  I will note that the major complaint you will find about the squeeze feeders is that they tend to “spit” if you squeezed the bottle too hard towards the end of the food, spattering food all over any surface within range.  However, this is something that happened with all three of the squeeze feeders and was fairly easy to adjust to.  Also, none of the squeeze feeders worked very well if we put anything other than super silky food blends into them.  The hole is just too tiny and gets clogged up.

Nuby Natural Touch Silicone Travel Infa Feeder – This wound up being our favorite feeder of the whole group.  In fact, I bought several more once we decided that this was the feeder to go with, just so we’d always have one on hand when we needed it.  The bottle itself holds about 3.5 ounces of food and is a nice ergonomic shape.  The wide mouth makes it easy to clean and the clear silicone means it is easy to see how much you have left in the bottle.  The major problem we had with this feeder is that the silicone stains, so all of ours are currently carrot colored.  It’s not such a bad thing if you’re aware of it.  Also, the spoon lid snaps off fairly easily and most of the newer versions have the spoon rest built in.

Boon Squirt Silicone Baby Food Dispensing Spoon – This was a pretty decent product, and it has many of the same advantages as the Nuby.  I didn’t like the opaque bottle, though, and I found the shape of it somewhat difficult to manage.  It was very easy to clean, though, which is always a good thing.  The spoon cover was a little harder to snap on, but came off with much greater ease while still keeping the spoon itself secure.

Munchkin 4 Ounce Easy Squeezy Spoon – This would be the spoon Moose picked up in the store, looking to try a different style of squeeze feeder.  And I really wanted to like this one, I truly did.  It had the same ergonomic shape I liked in the Nuby, with the added bonus of colored plastic so that the stains wouldn’t be as obvious.  Plus, it stood up on end!  Sadly, this was not to be so.  The “locking” collar for the spoon is difficult to read and so we spent some time fumbling with the thing trying to figure out if it was open or closed.  It was nice to have a full cover for the spoon end, but it didn’t stay in place very well.  Then my mother in law opened up the whole assembly to clean some food that had gotten stuck in the locking collar, and the thing never quite went back together properly.  It leaked out of the collar and became a great big mess.

Bonus Review:

Infantino Couple a Spoons – I bought a bunch of these to go with my Infantino Squeeze station and probably could have saved myself the money.  As much as I love the Squeeze Station, the pouches simply aren’t rigid enough for me to hold them and the spoon in place.  Plus, Acorn now simply sucks the food right out of the pouch.  Spoons would just get in her way.

It’s Different When It’s Your Own

January 9, 2015

One of the things I mentioned in passing on the “Babies Are Weird” post is how it really is different when the baby is your own.  And then I wrote a super rambling footnote about how I have complicated feelings on that particular subject, especially people who say it to women who are childfree by choice.

I never really understood before how people could so casually wipe their children’s noses, or pop a booger out with a fingernail like it was no big deal.  I don’t share my late grandmother’s insistence that “snot” and “fart” are four letter words which should never be uttered in polite company, but generally I feel that those sorts of things should be contained to locations more appropriate for gross bodily functions.  Namely, the bathroom.

I always figured that parents who could perform such functions for their children simply had a stronger tolerance for that sort of thing.  I suppose it is possible that this assumption is true for some people.  For me, the hormonal connection that made everything my child did just the absolute cutest included such things as dirty diapers and snotty noses.  As the hormonal overload has started to wear off, I have simply become acclimated to the gross realities of parenthood.

Here’s where my feelings get complicated.

There are women who simply know, without hesitation or reservation, that they do not want kids.  Their reasons may be as complicated as having decided they don’t want to bring children into our rather fucked up world, or as simple as not liking children.  When you say to a woman that her feelings on kids will be different when they are her own, you are suggesting that she go through the not insubstantial difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth, all on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, the chemical changes in her body will overcome a lifelong aversion to children.  And yes, it is entirely possible that if they were to become pregnant and carry the child to term, they would look down into the face of the tiny human they have brought into the world and be completely overwhelmed with love.

But what if they don’t?

What if that woman looks down on the innocent child she has created and she still doesn’t want it?  There is no satisfaction to be had in being able to announce “See?  I told you I’d never want kids.”  A child can’t be returned to the store for a refund if you get her home and realize that no, she really doesn’t go with your decor.  All options for taking back that choice are terrible, and even the best option of giving the child up for adoption is still painful and complicated and doesn’t guarantee the child a better life than the one they would have had with the mother who never wanted them in the first place.

When you insist that a woman should have children despite her objections, because “It’s different when it’s your own,” you are essentially telling her that you know better than her.  That you don’t believe she knows herself well enough to make such huge choices about her body and her life.  More importantly, you are potentially condemning both her and her child to a loveless relationship of regret and recrimination.  I love my child with a fierceness that I can’t fully articulate, and even that love doesn’t carry me completely through when she’s being fussy or refusing to sleep or spitting up every night.  How terrible it would be to deal with all of those things and cope with the complicated feelings of not wanting the child in the first place, and likely the guilt for feeling that way about your own child.  What a terrible thing to wish on another person, let alone an innocent child.

There are plenty of people out there who want children.  People who have taken the time to consider their personalities and their lifestyles and decided that bringing a child into their hearts and lives is the right thing for them.  People who know, deeply and truly, that having a child will be amazing and disgusting and wonderful and frustrating and exactly what they want.  Maybe if we stopped placing so much value on the ideal of children and started placing a little more value on the opinions of everyone involved, people would be a lot happier.

The Days When My Spoons Are All Knives

January 7, 2015

If you’re not familiar with The Spoon Theory, take a moment to read it over.  For those with chronic illnesses (and many of those without), it has become one of the best metaphors for what it is like to live knowing you only have so much energy to spend.  It allows us a shortcut when expressing our current condition that both expresses the broad range of complications that come with a shortage and allows us to save the energy required to explain that shortage over and over.  It will also make this whole mess of a blog post a lot easier to understand.

When you combine depression and chronic illness, suddenly all of those spoons start to seem like forks.  Still a pretty useful utensil, but with sharper points, harder edges, and only somewhat useful when your whole day is one big soupy mess of self doubt and negativity.  Frequently I’ll find myself with a larger than usual bundle of utensils, all of them completely useless for the important things.  I may spend the day struggling to put aside my creative urge in favor of work productivity, only to get home and find that not only has all of my productive energy drained away, but all of the creative energy as well.

I’m learning to recognize the fork days, though. Not just recognize them, but ask for help with them. And being okay with the asking. Right now one of the major things I’m working through is the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Admitting that I can’t do something because I can’t figure out how to do it is hard enough. Admitting that I can’t do something because my brain refuses to be sane about it? That’s harder. Especially when it’s something I very much want to do, or something I have promised someone I can do. Even a small project can turn into a pile of little projects, each slippery and difficult to round up, like peas on a plate. I can take a stab at some of them, but others keep rolling away and hiding under everything else, refusing to be gathered up.

And then, there are the knife days.

On the days when all my spoons seem like knives, everything has the potential to be a sharp edge. They’re sneaky days, too. I can’t always tell I’m having a knife day until I grab onto something that suddenly cuts me. Even the smallest of obstacles becomes something to handle gingerly or risk doing more damage and anything bigger stirs an angry, frustrated violence that hates having to deal with it at all. Knife days can be particularly hard to cope with.  I’m short tempered, easily annoyed, and generally have a low tolerance for everything.  Everything that comes out of my mouth seems particularly horrible and it takes extra effort not to view everything negatively.  On days like this, I run out of energy faster and every task seems like a huge, insurmountable undertaking.  These days used to be easier to deal with when Moose was away.  I could hide out, spend time with friends, or do something mindless for as long as I liked without worrying about neglecting him.  With Acorn to care for, that sort of thing isn’t an option any more.

I’ve been having a lot of knife days lately.  Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the time of year, maybe I’m just not getting out in the sunshine enough.  Or maybe the medication simply can’t keep up with the part of my brain that is broken.  Regardless, the inside of my head has been a rough place to be.

The Bloggess likes to remind her readers that Depression Lies.  These past few days, Depression has told me that I am a horrible wife, a horrible mother, and a terrible friend.  It tells me that there is too much shit to do around the house, and it’s all just going to get dirty again so I shouldn’t even bother.  It tells me that I am going to fuck up my child for not playing with her enough, or playing with her wrong, or not doing all of the Right And Proper Things For Emotional And Mental Development.  It tells me that I am stupid and selfish for being sad that friends might be moving away and that they probably don’t actually like me anyways which is why they never seem to want to hang out anymore.  But the worst one is when it tells me that I’m sad and want cry.  But it won’t tell me why.

A reason can be analyzed, picked apart, and unraveled as a lie.  It can be held up to the light and declared false by the part of the brain that still has some logical control.  Sure, it might not actually do any good for the part of the brain that is busily drowning itself in toxic chemicals, but it’s something to keep me afloat.  Nothing so fancy as a liferaft, mind you.  Just a jumble of debris I’ve managed to cobble together to keep me from drowning completely.

However, knowing that it’s a lie doesn’t always help.  In the perverse quagmire of my fucked up mental state, the knowledge that my brain isn’t functioning properly is just one more reason to hate myself.  I am a broken thing, not worthy of the effort it takes to repair me.  All of these things are things I know to be lies.  And it doesn’t matter.  It still hurts.

There’s not really any cure for days like these.  I eat chocolate because it makes me feel better, I force myself to spend a little time cleaning the house because it helps me feel accomplished, and I curl up with my husband and my child and try to pull their warmth and love into the cold sadness.  Mostly I just need time.  Time for the weather to change, time for the sun to come out again, time for the medication to adjust to whatever is going on inside my brain.  Time for all of my spoons to stop being knives.

Just Another Day

September 11, 2014

(Some people were posting memories of where they were on the day of.  This was my diary entry for the day.)

Dear Diary,
It’s all so very normal here.  I came to work this morning complaining of the humidity, joking with the guy up front about the heat when the sun hadn’t yet risen.  We chatted for an hour or so, then the boss called.  I spent the next hour passing updates to the print counter guys and anyone who walked through the front door.
The sky is bright blue, and it would a beautiful day on any other day but today.  If you didn’t know that 3000 miles away, thousands were dead and dying, you might think it was just another day.  If you didn’t ride the buses and hear the news updates running straight through, if you didn’t hear the people talking on the streets, and if you couldn’t see the fear on the faces of those passing by.  It might be just another day.
There’s talk of war.  For the young men and women in uniform who walk this campus daily, it’s not just idle talk.  Were we to go to war, who knows how many of the bright, eager faces that I see everyday would someday come back covered in a crisp, new flag.  I give thanks for the people I know who are safe, and pray for those I know who will be the first to be shipped off.
Tonight, plans to go out have been canceled.  We just want to stay home with our friends, and know that we’re here, alive.  The evening will be spent instead taking comfort from each other, taking in the horror of the day, and taking the time to remember those who have died.  Tonight, our dreams may be troubled.  Tonight, the country may go to war.  But tonight, we must find a way to sleep.  For tomorrow’s just another day.

Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean

July 16, 2014

Demons of the Ocean is the first in a YA series about Vampirates.  Yes, Vampirates.  Vampire Pirates.  I know, it took me a little time to get used to, too.  Just go with it.

Grace and Connor Tempest are twin siblings whose father passes away and leaves them with absolutely nothing.  So they decide to get in a tiny boat and set sail in the face of a giant storm.  This does not go well for them, and they are separated.  Both are picked up by pirate ships, but Grace’s ship is crewed by vampires.  The first book tells the tale of the twins’ adventures adjusting to their new lives aboard their respective ships and their plans to try and find each other.

The series isn’t bad, but it often felt like a fuzzy black and white movie with random bits of cartoon color.  One moment the author would be describing a room in rich detail, including a quirky cast of characters, and the next moment he would be glossing over what felt like some pretty important plot points.  For instance, the book is set 500 years in the future, but there is very little indication of that.  I eventually managed to work out a general time line based on how old various Vampirates were, but that was halfway through the book.  Prior to that, it just felt like it was set in this weirdly nebulous past/present that refused to be pinned down.  Old timey weapons, jobs, and social roles, but lots of modern slang that was rather jarring.  Finally, the book ends on a cliffhanger which I suppose is intended to encourage the reader to pick up the second book, but there isn’t enough of an over arcing plot to this book to tempt me to pick up a second.

As far as YA books go, I would classify this one as below average.  I wouldn’t even call it candy reading.  The writing simply isn’t good enough.  It wasn’t so bad that I didn’t finish it, but unless you or some other YA reader in your life is simply obsessed with vampire pirates, I wouldn’t recommend it.


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