Party like it’s 1965!

So, I finally hit double nickels; 55 trips around the sun; 55 Gemini Junes. Yep, I am celebrating my 55th birthday in quarantine – well, we did play golf  because it is a great sport for social distancing and a game of cornhole, just the two of us, in the backyard. I wasn’t sure 30 years ago if I’d ever make it to 55 and I really had no clue what the “old” me would be like. I was pretty rough on myself when i was younger. I was quite the “party” person and didn’t really take care of myself. I also worked physically demanding jobs with long hours that took a toll on my back, knees, ankles, and feet. For many years, I worked two and three jobs, seven days a week, just to barely make ends meet while going I was to college. But, I am HERE, finally, and I don’t feel old at all! I have normal aches and pains from years of hard work, but I have a good job now, excellent health, a wonderful marriage (one I would have never dreamed in a million years would even be legal), and the heart, curiosity, and imagination of a 16-year-old boy! LOL! I think most folks who know me would agree. When Gayle, my wife, asked what I wanted for my birthday and I tried to think of something really classy and sophisticated but the list came out like this: A cornhole game, a commuter bike helmet, and some hard-to-find and a wee expensive liqueurs for the bar, so I can make fancy cocktails. Gayle obliged and I am a happy 55 year child today!

The next biggest, and most important, question in our house for special occasions like birthdays is, “what do you want for your dinner?” Since neither of us have ventured out among the masses yet – there’s just too much at stake with Covid-19 looming everywhere, 90% of folks not wearing masks, and cases rising in Kentucky – this would be a home-cooked meal. If we could be with our friends, we’d probably have them all over for drinks and dinner instead of going out somewhere anyway. I went back and forth all week between Asian (Indian, Thai, Korean, or Chinese) and “cookout stuff.” In the end, cookout stuff won out even though it’s not as healthy; it’s the middle of summer after all! My requested birthday menu was vegan burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, hand-cut oven-baked fries, and cilantro vinaigrette slaw. For our cocktails, Watermelon Mojitos! However, the thing I talked about the most all week, and want to share right now, is the vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake. My go-to blogger for all things vegan, especially baked goods, is the Minimalist Baker. Gayle is the baker between the two of us – I truly hate to bake because you have to accurately measure everything. I prefer to just dump things in and hope for the best. So, Gayle set out to get the ingredients and personalize/tweak the Minimalist Bakers 1 Bowl Chocolate Hazelnut Cake.  First of all, my favorite nuts are pistachios, so we subbed that right away. Then I prefer coconut to almond milk and coconut oil to vegan butter in cakes and brownies and such. Gayle also added a little espresso powder to the frosting for some extra goodness, and there you have it! Before I get into this too deep – just a little warning. Gayle says this cake is extremely complicated and a major pain in the butt, so read the instructions really well before you start. If you are new to baking, make sure you follow the directions! If you are a pro, just click here and ignore the pictures and commentary below.

All the ingredients laid out on the table by my beautiful birthday flowers. You don’t HAVE to buy these brands but we think they are pretty good ones! We also buy the vanilla and all of our spices from Penzeys because they are good quality and Bill Penzey, and the company, supports social justice. We’d probably but them for that reason alone, but they are really the best.


This is what the flax eggs will look like while they are doing their fake eggy thing and the coconut milk and vinegar combo are doing their magic right beside it – well, and there’s my flowers again.


Flax egg with sugar and maple syrup


Sifting the cocoa into the batter


If you’re new to vegan baking – the batter is thick and has some texture from the flax egg and applesauce, so it looks different than an average Betty Crocker cake mix batter:

In the oven we go!


After the cakes cooled, Gayle turned the out on a cake keeper bottom and put waxed paper around the edges, so I could add the nuts after it was frosted. And, there you have it! My birthday cake!


You can click all the links above for recipes. I will tell you that delicious cake took about 4 hours to make but it was soooo good! Thank you, Gayle! Love you more than life….thanks for being my wife!

Before I get back to yoga…

…I have something to say.

While preparing to write a blog about my failed 30-day yoga challenge (and I still will), I was made aware of a recent post by the Brown-eyed Baker – and awesome food blogger I follow,  Brown-eyed baker. I also noticed that other food and wellness bloggers, like Skinnytaste, had made similar posts.

In my first Jagged Roots post, I made mention that I am a college professor – have been for a very long time. For the past 20+ years, I have taught gender & women’s studies, citizenship and social justice, community sustainability, and countless other courses aimed at making this place a better world for us and generations to follow (I know, a bit corny & dramatic, but you get the point). I started this blog project as an aside; an escape from what I do for a living, but it seems this point in history is far less compartmentalized than it was a few years back. So, let’s unpack this…

The recent murder of Armaud Arbery in Georgia followed by Breonna Taylor, in my home state of Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, both at the hands of police officers, has put a spotlight on the racial tension and civil unrest in our country. Know that I hear you and that BLACK LIVES MATTER!

A really short back story:

I was born in the mid 60’s (okay, specifically 1965!) in Anaheim, Ca. I grew up an only child, with a single mom, in deep-seated poverty – as a lot of kids with single moms did back in those days. In the early 70s, we moved to my mother’s hometown of Owensboro Kentucky to be closer to her family. For the first year or so, we had a bout or two of homelessness after relatives and friends grew tired of us living with them and we “wore out our welcomes.” We finally secured a place in government housing, applied for what was then called foodstamps and AFDC (Aid for Families with Dependent Children), and settled into our “new life” in the bluegrass state. My mother took a low-paying job at the local milk company that had her leaving in the wee hours of the morning for her 10-hour shift.  At the time, Kentucky was still writhing from the ’68 riots and it didn’t take much to fuel the still-burning embers of racial tensions. I remember one incident that escalated to the point that police barricaded our neighborhood and apartment complex from the surrounding two subdivisions to defuse ongoing racial hostilities. We were white but lived on what was called the “Black side of the Projects.” None of this made sense to me because I was too young to understand the history, but I quickly found out I was “different” from my friends and neighbors. Shortly after the “trouble” broke out, the priest at our church, Fr. Tiell, came to visit us on the pretense of making his rounds to visit all members. He told my mother someone in the parish had offered to pay my tuition to attend private Catholic school – he said it wasn’t “safe for me to go to the public school two blocks from our apartment.” He also assured her that a member of the church, a police officer, would stop by in the mornings and give me a ride to school because it wasn’t “safe for me to walk by myself.” Members of our parish took turn dropping off food baskets, making sure we had plenty to eat because it wasn’t “safe for a white woman and her child to go to the market one street over.” They also brought me toys – really nice ones that we could never have afforded. I remember asking my mother why we were getting all of this help but the same was not offered to my neighborhood friends and their families. My mother answered simply and directly – because we are white.

I learned to meaning of While Privilege at a very young age – I have carried that realization with me all my life. I truly understand that writing this blog comes from a place of privilege – I really do. I am middle-class white person after all. I also understand the concept of White Guilt and, more currently, the concept of White Fragility (Yes, they are journal articles – I can’t help it). We white folks walk a very fine line between both sides of this dichotomy and have a heap of trouble finding balance between the two. Remember white people created slavery and racism and white people are the ones who perpetuate the continued biases and hate. Those who are oppressed cannot end the systemic oppression – it is the oppressor who must end the domination and suppression. Feeling guilty or fragile is not going to solve the problem. It just makes things worse.

In addition to the racial tension in our country, the death rates of African American, Hispanic, and low-income individuals from Covid 19 are extremely disproportionate to that of others in our communities.  Inequality and inequity are staring us in the face and it’s ugly. People are stuck at home. With their kids. With their families. They are drained financially and emotionally. All of this stress creates a collective sense of vulnerability; in other words, we’ve had enough! And, when we have had enough, we start organizing and participating in collective actions and coordinated efforts to fight injustice. We take to the streets. We march. We protest. We seek change.

Now, more than ever, people are taking sides in this already polarized nation, so don’t dismiss this as just “more of those protest by liberals.” As a society we often confuse protesting and rioting – protesting is expressing disapproval of or objection to something and rioting is disorder involving group violence. People are simply exercising their civic duties, rights, and responsibilities and are responding to systemic social injustices through organized action around the country and in our local communities – they are looking for social changes and urging our leaders to right decades of wrongs.

If you want to educate yourself about white privilege and racism, Good Morning America created a list of “reads” for you here!

Now, to conclude, I will say that food is a great way to bring people together. And so is  exercise. And especially cocktails! Stay tuned for more of that…