Give Back: Everyone deserves to be clean.

So I'm at Trader Joe's today with the kids and I see a homeless lady standing on the sidewalk with her shopping cart filled to the brim with blankets and just...stuff that she has collected for who knows how long. She seemed antsy like she was waiting for something, but basically she was just standing there watching the cars go by. However, I alway get a sense of urgency from homeless people. They seem very restless like they are waiting for something to happen any minute.  I suppose that comes from never really knowing where your next meal is going to come from or where you are going to sleep, etc.

I'm not talking about the side-of-the-busy-intersection-panhandler-folkss who are out there from 9-5, M-F and who have nicer shoes than I do sipping on a Starbucks with their sign du jour. (Back in the 90's A man in brand new leather shoes listening to a CD walkman asked me for money once and said he was homeless - not long after that I watched him get into his SUV type of car.) It's a rare occasion that I will ever give a side-of-the road 9-5'er panhandler something, but if I do it's never money anyway. We are on a very tight budget as a one income family. I'll give what I can and it's usually stuff we no longer can use. But money is not usually something we have extra to give away. I'll ask them if they want the half eaten bag of crackers we've been snacking on in the car or if we have any extra unopened bag of chips, granola bars, boxes of raisins, waters, etc. This lady was no panhandler.  She wasn't scanning the parking lot to see who she could target with her current sob story about all of her kids and no gas, etc. This lady was just very dirty, by herself and totally in her own world sitting on the sidewalk with all of her belongings in a shopping cart. I felt for her. I wondered who she was in her past life.  I wondered if she even remembered who she was in her past life. I wondered what bad decisions had been made somewhere along the road to end up homeless.

The thing that I can't get past is not showering. Especially women. I do not understand how a woman can go who knows how long without taking a shower. This woman was filthy. Her clothes seemed to be fairly clean which was odd because her hair looked liked a greasy rats nest of tangles in the back and then brought up into a snarled, knotted/pony tail thing at the top of her head. How she was not itching her head like crazy is beyond me. I found myself sitting in the car for a second watching her carry on a conversation with the cars passing by. I then noticed the lady in the car next to me was also watching her for a while...both of us probably thinking similar things, "how did you become homeless?" "When was the last time you took a shower?" "What can I do for this lady as a stay-at-home-mom on a VERY tight budget that could make a difference in her day today?"  The lady in the next car and I had that long eye contact moment (knowing we were both just watching the lady) where any second someone was going to start talking with our windows rolled up but then she pulled out of her space.

Like I said, I typically do not like to give someone money. I'd rather buy them a cup of coffee if it's really cold out, or I'll give them some food I have in the car.  I'll buy someone a hot lunch from a fast food place, I'll give a mom with a baby a few diapers etc. But I just couldn't get over how unclean this lady was and how carefree she seemed about it as she sat there and ate her bag of chips. It seriously looked as if she had some kind of light brown stuff all over her one arm that reminded me way too much of the melted cookie dough baby poop diaper I had just changed before we left the house.  I can't IMAGINE it was something as vile as that, but it was SOMETHING...

I decided to give her a package of baby wipes I had in the diaper bag as well as a smaller pack of anti-bacterial hand wipes I had in my purse. Both had already been opened, but I figured it was better than nothing. I only had $20 left of my weekly budget for groceries and we needed milk and eggs and some other stuff for dinner tonight so, I wasn't going to give her cash, but I felt this pull deep down to give her something as opposed to just going into the store to do my shopping. When I feel that pull I don't ignore it because I feel that it's speaking to me for a reason so I try to answer it. Someday I might need someone to answer that "pull" for me.

When I walked up to her and said, "excuse me ma'am?" and she whipped her head around so fast I felt bad about only giving her baby wipes. "Would you like some baby wipes?" and she said as the anticipation of receiving some cash ran from her face, "yea...OK" and took them and instantly stashed them under her lap I'm assuming because I never saw them again. It kind of makes me laugh in a way typing it now because here I am racking my brain for a while in my car trying to think of something meaningful and useful I could give her while my kids are starting to go stir crazy because we are just sitting in a parked car not getting out.  Here I am thinking I'm doing some great thing to help this lady possibly clean some part of her body at some point or "wash" her hands with the anti-bacterial wipes and that "she'll feel so grateful to be able to do that" (projecting in my brain) and in reality she was probably thinking, "what the hell am I going to do with baby wipes lady?"

But I know she'll use them at some point and hopefully she'll be glad she has them. Being a women myself and having to deal with the things women deal with about every 28 days or so I just can't figure out how how a woman can stand living in her own filth. Even if you are not all there mentally. It just baffles me and makes me incredibly fortunate to have what I have and to live where we live and to have such a strong support system of family. Where is this woman's family?  At some point she had a mother who carried her in her belly for 9 months and rubbed it when she kicked and who (hopefully) held her lovingly in her arms and kissed the top of her head after she gave her a bath. Someone loved this woman at some point in her life. Where are those people now and more importantly, why doesn't this woman love herself enough to get help to get off the streets?

Everyone deserves to be clean. It's just the decent thing to do for another human being.

I've decided to put together some "Clean Kits" from stuff I can get at the Dollar Store since like I said, we are on a very tight budget being on one income and having two kids and a ridiculously high monthly medical insurance payment among other monthly bills. But I can swing putting together a $5 or so "Clean Kit" as many times a month as I can that can have baby wipes, a tooth brush and tooth paste, some soap and shampoo, maybe a razor, reusable wash cloth and some toilet paper or kleenex or something. I'll have to check it out and see what I can put together.  Put it in a little bag and have a little snack or something to go along with it (non perishable) that I can just keep in my car to have ready to go when I see someone who really needs it.  I'm sure they can find someplace to wash their face and brush their teeth and if they are lucky maybe even wash their hair.

I used to know a homeless Vietnam Vet who was never the same when he came back from the war and he lived on the beach in San Clemente and he'd shower in the beach showers sometimes when the beach wasn't very busy and he wouldn't get run out of there. He was a nice guy. I never understood a word he said because it was all mumbles but he also NEVER once asked anyone for money or anything and was incredibly grateful when you gave him food. I used to feed him every day I saw him when I worked at the little beach diner down at the pier. (Shhh...don't tell the terrible bitch with a "w" who owned the place that I was shelling out free food to this guy!  The same guy she used to run off like he was a loose chicken wandering around the garbage cans) My favorite cook and I had a secret code that the ticket was for "our guy" and we'd hook him up every chance we got and I threw in muffins and stuff for him to eat later. He would INHALE his food and one time he even left me a tip. It was 7 cents. I totally teared up and had to take a moment to compose myself before returning to my other tables when I saw it on the table after he left. It made a deep impact on me to get this 7 cent tip from someone who had nothing.  Despite the fact he was living on one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California and had the best ocean front view out of anyone!  All kidding aside, he still had nothing. But if you are going to be homeless, San Clemente beach side would be my first pick for sure!

...anyway, I feel that everyone deserves to be clean and warm.  I feel like I can endure a heck of a lot as a human being when I'm clean, warm and not totally hungry.  So with that said I'm going to put together some "Clean Kits" to have on hand and I'll take pics of the stuff I get and post a "Kit List"on here too. If you have any other ideas of stuff I can put in there that might be helpful please let me know...

To continue reading more from My Tales From The Crib, click here


What's For Dinner?: Hawaiian Basil Buttered Shrimp with Black Beans and Wild Rice

I've never been one to follow a recipe despite the fact that I have a million cookbooks.  I've developed a collection of cookbooks over the years and although I don't really follow anything to a T, I do use them often to get inspiration, ideas and to create a new dish out of several recipes of the one thing I'm trying to make.

Some of my very favorite cookbooks are the beautifully illustrated ones by Susan Branch.  I also love Ina Garten "Barefoot Contessa" because although she has a rep for being "too fancy" like her French stuff, she actually tries to recreate fancy dishes in a simple way. So I love that!  Her from-scratch cakes still take me F-O-R-E-V-E-R to make though.  Like 4 hours from start to cooled and in the process of getting frosted and decorated. 

But oh-so-worth-it!

So for dinner I usually just throw things together that I have in the cupboard, freezer and fridge and it's usually never the same thing twice.  Which can be kinda bad since I don't ever remember how or even what I made a week or so before.  A bummer if it was a big hit.

So this is my attempt at keeping a "recipe card box" of stuff I've made that is a hit with the whole family.

Forgive me for not using traditional "exact" measurements.  I typically only measure things out when I'm baking since baking needs to be exact.  Or so I've been told by my very close friend Ina.  ;-)  Which reminds me...I need to book our flights to the Hamptons and RSVP to her garden party...

Hawaiian Basil Buttered Shrimp

-About 20 raw shrimp (previously frozen 31-40 weight shrimp)
-About 1/2 stick of salted butter (Don't use the fake crap. Real is better and better for you too!)
-About 1-2 TBSP of grapeseed oil (I ran out of coconut oil)
-Kauai "Red Dirt" Hawaiian Sea Salt (to taste)...Ok fine, it doesn't have to be from Kauai.
-2 tiny frozen cubes of chopped basil from Trader Joe's. (Those little ice cube tray thingies of crushed basil. They have garlic and cilantro too. Get all three and just leave them in your freezer. They come in handy for all sorts of things when you don't have fresh on hand!)

I actually got the pan too hot because I got side tracked and forgot it was on. Cooking with 2 kids underfoot can do that to a person. Even if your kung fu is strong. So it ended up being "browned" buttered shrimp, which actually turned out quite good. And "browned butter" is totally a thing, so I had that going for me. There is a difference between browned butter and burnt butter though. It's a fine line and once it's's nasty. pan, medium heat, add oil, then butter then Hawaiian salt and cubes of basil and melt/mix together.

Add in a single layer of shrimp in a circle (have flipping tongs and bowl ready!) Raw shrimp cook super fast and that fine line of over-cooking, well it really applies to shrimp* big time!  Following a circle in your pan place the shrimp in the butter sauce noting the first one in. There is usually room left for 3 or so in the middle and I always have to do this process at least twice depending on how much I'm making. By the time you put the last one in the first one should be pinkish already and is ready to flip.  Don't hesitate, just get after it. Flip all over in the order they were placed. After the last one is flipped I usually do that tricky sauce pan flip thing about 3x's-ish because I think I'm a Top Chef. Beware of too much sauce when you try the flip thing though. It can all go horribly wrong if there is any insecurity regarding your skillz or just too much sauce in general.

...Let's see...where was I? This is why I'll never be a good cookbook writer. Too much gibby gab.

Oh yea, if you're too 'fraid to flip then you can use a big spoon to toss them around one last time but then get_them_out!  This method insures that each shrimp is pretty much cooked for the same time and is the same doneness.

Shrimp Tip:
*Overcooked shrimp is tough and rubbery and a waste of good money. You might as well have gotten the fish sticks. In my opinion, if you are going to keep frozen shrimp in your freezer get the raw ones because if it's precooked and you re-cook it, your dish will be rubbery. It's best to start with fresh raw or frozen uncooked.

Side Dish:
The beans and rice is basically a lazy man's version because all the work has been done for me. I use Trader Joe's frozen cooked wild rice mix and a can of their organic black beans. As far as the black bean juice goes I drain some and keep some. Combine in a bowl and microwave. Which I just read in a blog that depressed me that this is horrible and we're all going to die from using our microwaves and we should stop the poisoning at once. My first thought was not about dying a slow toxic death but, "how the heck am I supposed to heat my latte now?" I'm usually a three-time latte heater on any given lazy Sunday. So, please I ask you...beg you really..."how do I heat my latte sans microwave?"  Blink-blink-blink.

Restaurant Stuff:
I like to serve this in a pasta dish - or any type of shallow bowl to keep the sauce on the food and not all over your table and also keeping you from feeling like you are eating a bowl of cereal. Which brings me to the question: WHY do restaurants serve a dry side salad on a tiny plate and it's piled super high and then I'm supposed to add dressing?  I'm a mixer and this is not a good situation to find myself in..... Shrimp dish >> I ladle the basil butter sauce over the beans and rice, top with shrimp and sprinkle some fresh, dry, salty parmesan if I have any.

Kid Stuff:
I cut the shrimp in small chunks after it's cooked and everything is cooled of course and mix with the beans and rice and I might even add in some green peas in theirs too. I know, cruel. I also do not ladle any extra sauce because it's pretty rich and there is already sauce on the shrimp.  My Big Girl who is 4 said at dinner tonight, "I love pork, shrimp, green juice,* and...(yelling) candy!"   Love the "candy" part thrown in there along with an electric, firey-eyed, devilish grin.  The last candy she had was at Easter and it's now June. But even at 4 I still hold fast to my candy and kids rule.  >> There will be a day where I can't totally control what goes into her mouth and as a stay-at-home-mom I have been able to do that almost 99% of her life. So for the baby/toddler/preschooler years I do not feel the need to have regular candy and junk in the house for everyday consumption because someday I know she will not be able to live without it. I remember being 8. It will come all too soon. And I also never had candy and junk as a wee one. I survived. Baby Boy is 20 months today in fact and he loves him some shrimp! "Mo! Mo! Mo! Peeeeeeeeeeeas!"  As he's frantically pointing to the bowl of extra shrimp that is scooting way-to-close-for-comfort next to Daddy. (Peas is 'please' in baby speak in case you are not fluent.)

*'Green Juice' is not the same as 'Green Drink'.  One has high fructose corn syrup and the other one has spirulina.  ;-)

"How easy is that?"

Sorry no picture.  Well cooked shrimp needs to be devoured right away!  Maybe next time I'll have the camera ready along with my flipping tongs.

Let me know if you make it and if it was a hit!

To continue reading more from My Tales From The Crib, click here

Post Of The Week!

The Glamorous Life Of A Stay-At-Home-Mom: Episode 1

On today's episode of The Glamorous Life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom: Me: It's been a really stressful day. The baby's diaper...