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Posts Tagged ‘am I being totally crazy’

My friend and I are doing ten days of no sugar/sweeteners, carbs, wine, or dairy because I enjoy self-torture. (Standard disclaimer, I am not a doctor and in any event I do not advocate cutting entire categories of food from one’s diet as a regular part of your longterm eating plan.) Basically, this means that I am trying as well as I can to eat only veggies, meat, nuts, and water for the next ten days. The lack of soda is so far the thing I miss the most, although I’m sure I will start pining for cheese any second now.  Seriously though, I am always up for a challenge, especially if said challenge will help me reset my over-reliance on cheese and chips. It’s just temporary, and I’m only on Day 2 and I hate life already, so we’ll see if I can even make it a week. (Although I made it a whole month without sugar, so I hope I can do this!) (Also, why do I do these things to myself????) Also, we have a date night this weekend and I can’t stand spending money on food I don’t like, so let’s call that a Planned Cheat Day.

Anyway, here is what I’m making for dinner this week (without any sugar/honey/agave, should those appear as ingredients):

Note: This cold weather has me craving two things: pasta and summer food. Let’s go with summer food this time since pasta is a no-go. This recipe sounds delicious. I might spice it up by adding in some bell peppers and throw in an avocado as well.

Follow Up: I don’t know why, but I didn’t follow this recipe AT ALL. Instead, I used this Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette for the salad and this spice rub recipe to flavor the shrimp. Then I followed these instructions for roasting shrimp in the oven. It turned out GREAT. Super delicious. And I didn’t even miss the honey.

Note: I always cut WAY back on the Chinese five spice powder because I find it easily overpowers the flavors. I will use some water chestnuts and leftover bell pepper to add some color to the lettuce wraps. If water chestnuts are a carb, I don’t want to know.

Follow Up: These are delicious but super messy. By the way, I use two whole packages of mushrooms because I love mushrooms. Also, keep in mind that this makes for a killer stir fry sauce after the fact. Usually, we eat all the pork… and then I make a veggie stir fry with the mushroomy sauce for lunch. There is a LOT of sauce left once the pork is gone.

Note: I will probably marinate the steak in the Italian marinade or the garlic and herb option from the link above. This Ten Day Challenge calls for no fruit, but I am making an exception for citrus juice used in marinades/dressings/this spinach recipe because I feel like it.

Follow Up: I used the garlic and herb marinade and it was super yummy. I used top sirloin steaks, which I prefer to flank steak. And I followed the instructions for oven roasting steak from this site to cook it. (I can’t stand searing meat first — yes, I admit it tastes better when you do that. But it makes such a huge splattery mess and my kitchen smells like Cooked Meat for days afterward.) The sautéed spinach was a huge disappointment. This is the second time I made it. The first time, I only made a little because I don’t typically like spinach and I was afraid I’d hate it and waste it. But I LOVED it. Then the next time… it was not good. My husband and I discussed it, and we think the first time success was a combination of low expectations and novelty. Too bad. Well, I can keep this on the back burner for if I’m REALLY sick of our standard broccoli, green beans, zucchini rotation.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe but it sounds simple and tasty.

Follow Up: It WAS simple and tasty! Man, I love cod. It is pricey though. I got just over a pound of it for $16.95. (I got to the store so early, the fishmonger was just setting up his display of fish and didn’t yet have the prices up. And the last time I got there that early and asked him what the price of cod was, he got snippy about how he hadn’t had a chance yet to put up the prices. So this time I guess I would have spent WHATEVER IT COST just to not annoy him.) (I failed, by the way. I asked for a pound of cod; he put a piece that was a pound and a third on the scale and asked if it was okay that it was “a little over.” I said, no, I’d really rather it be closer to a pound. So he tried again. This time, it was a pound and a quarter. Still too much, I said. A) That’s an extra $4 and B) My husband and I can’t eat more than a pound of fish, even though we cut off a small piece and cook it for Carla who ignores it completely. Third time, it was 1.17 pounds and he didn’t even ask me, he just wrapped it up for me. SIGH.) (I know it was early and he was probably doing the very best that he can.) ANYWAY, this dish was delicious and easy. And it looked very pretty, with the little pile of asparagus on top of the fish, decorated with scallions and basil. The only thing that could have possibly made it better is if the “sauce” (literally just soy sauce) were a little thicker. I added a big blurp of sriracha to mine and that thickened it a little, but my husband is less interested in spice and he found it too thin to properly flavor the fish. Not quite sure how to fix that issue, though.

Note: I will be omitting the honey from the recipe above, but otherwise this sounds yumster. Or maybe I will marinate it in the chipotle marinade from my “steak marinades” link above. Hmmm… This is gonna have to be a game time decision.

Follow Up: I did end up using the chipotle marinade and it was DELICIOUS. Also, since my husband was on call and his arrival time was unpredictable, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, cut up some red onions, put them all on a baking sheet, and drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I baked them at the same time that I baked the pork chops. The pork chops may have been a little overcooked by the time my husband got home, but everything was still very tasty. I doubled the chipotle in the marinade so that there was a little extra “pan sauce” to drizzle over the cooked pork. I love me a pan sauce.

  • Note: This week, I will skip the brown sugar in the sauce. Crud. I just looked and there is also sugar in the oyster sauce. Perhaps I need to rethink this meal…

    You know what? I can’t do this. It won’t taste good. I am going to swap this out with good old Taco Salad.

 

I am also doing a Valentine’s baking project with Carla and one of her friends. You know, because I like torturing myself so much.

Follow up: These did NOT turn out well. I will NOT be making these again. Carla and I made a test cookie, and THAT worked fine. But the batch that Carla and her friend so lovingly made burned, so I had to real-quick make all their cookies again and shove them in the oven so they wouldn’t notice. And half of THOSE stuck to the cookie sheet or fell apart. Then I made a third batch and the cookie expanded into the “stained glass” part so that you couldn’t even see it was a heart. Also, I couldn’t taste them because of my stupid challenge. FAIL.

SG cookies 1

Pre-cooked

SG cookies 2

Baked, second batch because the first batch failed. And they are so messy and definitely are going to stick to that cooling rack.

SG cookies 3

The girls frosted them and made them look 1000 times better than they did straight out of the oven. Still sticky though.

SG cookies 5

I tried to make some plain round cookies with small hearts cut out of the center and they STILL looked bad. The bake was better, though. I am nowhere near as good a froster as the girls.

Look for a repeat of these meals next week because it is REALLY hard to find recipes that fit my overly rigid and ridiculous ten-day challenge. No YOU eat eggs — I refuse.

Anyway: please tell me all the decadent, cheese-and-sugar filled foods you are eating this week, Internet. So that I may live vicariously through you.

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Do you remember, way back in May, when I vowed to change my car’s air filter?  Probably not. It may seem like an odd promise to make to oneself. But I grow weary of having to depend on others for things. (Funny that this is a completely mercurial feeling. I have no issue with having people come mow my lawn and clean my gutters.)

Anyway. My promise. My dad told me I needed a new air filter; fine, I needed a new one. And I was going to change that air filter all by myself, because I am A Capable Woman who can choose to do a menial automotive repair anytime she likes.

The first hitch took place online, in my search for the air filter. My father had directed me to one specific filter, available on Amazon, but instead of buying it without asking questions, I clicked on some sort of link that said “is this the right air filter for your car?” or maybe I read a review of the filter excoriating the product based on the reviewer’s failure to determine whether it was the correct filter for his/her car.  However I got there, it seemed like the filter my father had recommended was not, in fact, appropriate for my car.

But then I couldn’t find the right one. I found something that SEEMED right. But my dad (the person with Actual Car Knowledge) was skeptical. And my car manual was NO HELP AT ALL. The only thing it had to offer was a single rather poorly-rendered drawing of the air filter with no specs or anything.

I was stumped.

My dad suggested that I go to my local auto parts store and ask someone there; they’d have some sort of computer database to consult. Which was a good suggestion. But I, Serious Introvert, would have preferred ordering my air filter online without ever having to interact with another human.

So I did nothing.

Time passed.

A couple of weeks ago, Carla and I went to buy new tires for my car. The tread was worn down to nearly nothing and it was time for new tires, and my local Tire Place had a good deal running. So we set out for an Exciting Excursion together and sat in the Tire Place waiting room while the tires were installed.

The Tire Guys – the two gentlemen working the front desk – were very, very nice. They seemed delighted by Carla, who is, objectively, delightful. They told us, proudly, that their waiting area had a large selection of toys and books. (I was glad I’d thought to bring my own books and a matching game for Carla AND my Lysol wipes because the entire waiting area, including the books and toys, was FILTHY. You have never seen a dirtier waiting area in all your life.) (They had a tiny coffee table in the center of the room, probably two feet by three feet, if that, and it took scrubbing roughly with FOUR antibacterial wipes to get it to a level of cleanliness that I was okay with.) They kept coming into the waiting area and offering us juice and water and coffee (the latter not directed to Carla), and one of them whisper-asked me if he could give Carla a yo-yo, and they just in general thought she was the bees knees.

When I was checking out, a process that seemed like Tire Guy had sent my credit card via courier turtle to the home office, I noticed that one of the services offered by the establishment was “change air filter.” So I asked if he could look up what kind of air filter my particular car required.

He looked at me curiously and said that no, he couldn’t. But there was an auto parts store right next door and they would be able to do it for me.

“We offer an air filter change service,” he noted. And I nodded.

“You’re just trying to save money?” he asked, implying that I should have just had them take care of it.

I could have said that I really wanted to do it myself. That I wanted the satisfaction of doing something on my own, of proving to myself that I could do it. But I didn’t know him, and he didn’t really care, and Carla was running back and forth across the showroom (is that what you call it, when what’s being “shown” is stacks of various brands of tires?) and flinging herself – with no regard for bodily safety – against one of two armchairs on the far side of the room, much to the consternation of the only other customer, who was sitting in the other armchair, so I simply nodded.

“Sometimes the auto parts guys will just put it in for you,” he mentioned in an offhand way, returning to whatever turtle coaxing he had to do to get my credit card processed.

I nodded politely. The checkout process dragged on interminably. I encouraged Carla to find an alternate way to amuse herself. She busied herself by climbing onto a very high stool and coloring in the book I’d brought her in the most precarious way possible.

Finally I signed my bill, collected my child, and left. We admired the new tires on my car, and then hoofed it over to the auto parts store which was, indeed, right next door. There, I purchased an air filter. We headed back to our car. Very easy.

As I buckled Carla into her car seat, the Tire Guy strode toward us.

“Did they have what you needed?” he asked. I nodded and smiled and thanked him for directing me to the auto parts store.

“We can put that in for you,” he said.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you!” I said, “but that’s not necessary!”

He ignored me and walked around the to the front door of my car, which he opened. He reached inside and pulled the lever to unlatch my hood. He opened the hood, looked inside at my engine, and then closed it without latching it. Then he grabbed my new air filter off of the passenger seat and opened the box, carrying it with him as he walked back toward the tire center.

“Pull it up here,” he called, pointing me toward the garage.

I laughed uncomfortably. But at this point, he had the air filter and… he was being kind, I thought. What was I supposed to do? Demand he hand it back to me?

I got in the car and drove into the garage. Carla caught on to my discomfort and asked what was happening, what were we doing? I told her that the man was being very nice and had offered to change our air filter to help us out. The Tire Guy handed our air filter over to a younger man – a boy, really; he couldn’t have been more than twelve, although I am probably wrong – and went over to a desk on the side of the garage.

I unhooked Carla from her carseat and held her up as we watched the young man change the air filter. (Which is, in my car at least, the EASIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. He literally unscrewed three or four screws, lifted off the filter cover, lifted out the old air filter, dropped the new filter in, replaced the cover, replaced the screws. I definitely could have done it myself.) Then I tipped the boy $5 and we were on our way.

The whole thing left me feeling so conflicted.

On the one hand, what an act of kindness! Generosity in action! Great customer service! What a thoughtful thing for the Tire Guy to do. It saved me time, it saved me money (probably; he asked what I paid for the air filter and shrugged and said he would have charged me $6 more to do the whole thing, so I came out $1 ahead). Maybe it was an act designed to give me warm fuzzy feelings about that tire center, and make it my tire center for life. Or maybe it wasn’t about me, at all, but about the Tire Guy: maybe I reminded him of his wife or sister or daughter or niece and he treated me with the same kindness he’d want for her; maybe he remembered what life was like with an active child Carla’s age and decided to spare me the time and exasperation of trying to make an automotive repair with her in tow; maybe he likes to do random acts of kindness; who knows?!

But I also felt… deflated, I guess, about not getting to do the thing I wanted to do myself. And anxious, because I was unsure how to assert myself in that situation. (Why did I get so flustered? I should have donned one of those breezy confident smiles of the kind that are so easy to imagine and so difficult to execute and said in a breezy confident voice, “Oh no thanks! I’ve got it under control!” Or “I’ll take care of it – thanks!” Or “no need! I’ve got it!”) And frustrated with myself, for not being able to assert myself and for feeling more concerned about a stranger’s feelings than my own. And worried about what that meant for what I was modeling for Carla. I also had an overall feeling of ickiness, that I wasn’t sure how to attribute. Was it a result of the combination of deflation, anxiety, and frustration? Or the nagging feeling that I’d just been “rescued” when… I was not in need of being rescued? (I mean, if my husband had been there instead of me… he almost certainly would have purchased the air filter and been on his way, right?)

Most of all, I felt confused about what impression the whole experience would leave on Carla. I don’t want her to feel like she has to depend on other people. But of course I want her to feel like she can. I want her to feel warmly about society, and community, and to grow up wanting to help others and to not be afraid to ask for help if she needs it.

And do I want to begrudge the tire center man his small act of generosity? Certainly not. Do I want other women, who might feel wholly, unadulteratedly grateful and relieved about this unexpected gift from the automotive gods, to feel guilty or ashamed for accepting this kind of help? HELL TO THE NO.

But I am also weary of this kind of thing – kind hearted, well-intentioned or not – that gradually chips away at a woman’s sense of capability, of strength, of self-worth. The automatic assumption that I would need or want help. I don’t want Carla to feel like she can pull a damsel in distress act anytime she feels like it and A Man will swoop in and save her. Moreso, I don’t want her to feel like that’s what she SHOULD do. That she shouldn’t try things, because men can do it better/more easily. (Is it different, that I let my father tell me when to get new tires and when to change my air filter? I hope it is. I hope that is the non-action of a lazy child rather than the helpless spinning of a delicate girl.)

Ugh. I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. Am I doing that? Maybe that’s what I’m doing.

Would I feel the same sort of conflicted confusion if the whole situation were the same, but the Tire Guy had been a Tire Woman?

And I don’t want to see misogyny where there is (probably) only kindness. I mean, if the Tire Guy had been my dad, well, he might have done the same thing. (Or not. My dad at least would have walked me through how to do it myself, for next time. Possibly he would have even made me do it, while he stood there and offered instructions. I like to think he would have done the same for a stranger, too.) I don’t want to be so hyper-aware of potential discrimination that I find it in places where it isn’t. I don’t want to project bias onto situations where it isn’t.

But I can’t help feeling unsettled about the whole experience, including — maybe especially — my reaction.

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I keep feeling the weight of all the accumulated CRAP we have in our house. It lives mainly in the basement, and it’s pulling at me. It’s very heavy.

Some days, I think about donating it all… and probably I will end up going that route because I am lazy efficient and charitable.

But other days, I think about throwing a garage sale. Making a few cents off all the much-loved stuff that’s no longer useful for anything except jamming up our basement.

We have books, artwork, stereo speakers, shoes, clothing… and tons and tons of baby stuff. (Will I actually be able to give it away? UNKNOWN.)

The thing is, I have virtually no experience with garage sales. So I have no idea if it’s worthwhile. I am aware that garage sales are a lot of work. Even perusing a couple of sites with tips for a successful garage/yard sale are making me weary.

But it also maybe sounds a little fun?

If memory serves, I think one of our neighbors has a garage sale every couple of years… I wonder if I could team up with her? That would be good for multiple reasons, not the least of which she could just tell me how she does things. But I wouldn’t even know how to broach the subject… do I call her? Go knock on her door? (We see each other maybe three times a year in the wild.)

Do you think my husband would be up for it? (My guess is no.)

How do I know if I have enough stuff? Or the right kind of stuff? We have a lot of random stuff: like an unopened box of Brita water filters, some old sippy cups that Carla no longer uses, some ancient roller skates, my husband’s childhood collection of Ghostbusters action figures. That’s just a sampling.

And how do I make sure that I’m Well Prepared – with tables and labels and signage and stuff – without spending more on Preparations than I’d make from the sale?

And what in the WORLD am I going to do with Carla during this thing? I can envision her a) disappearing down the street after someone’s dog or b) crying about some old toy she hasn’t played with in years that she doesn’t want me to sell or c) going on a mad tear and knocking things over.

I wonder if any of my friends would be interested in joining forces.

I also wonder if I’m crazy to even contemplate this nonsense.

Help…?

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