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Posts Tagged ‘I must have had a crab sandwich for breakfast’

I have a case of the grumps, and I can trace each grump directly to its source, and they are all very mundane and so silly that my inner critic is standing there with her hands on her hips and her head tilted condescendingly saying, “Perhaps you should be grateful that you aren’t an Afghan refugee instead of whining about your perfectly lovely life, ever think about that, hmmm?” Well. She can eat a bee. Sometimes the only way to escape a particularly irksome grump is to share it, so here we go.

  • I am living in filth. My lovely, creative, crafty daughter has crafted our house into a trash heap. (I trust that you will understand I mean “likes to make crafts” here rather than “deceitful and cunning.”) Her gorgeous brain is constantly coming up with things to make and build and decorate, and I love it. I do. I am astonished by the things she thinks up and astounded by how she can bring them to life with scraps of plastic and bits of cardboard and copious amount of glue. And yet despite my pride and delight in her crafty pursuits, I have begun to feel like I am living in an actual garbage dump. Carla has an entire designated craft cabinet in which to stow her materials, but the results of her work end up everywhere. Little tiny seashells made into crabs. Skewers turned into swingsets and chopsticks and the legs of little clay beings. Cardboard shelving units and apartment blocks. Toys wearing clothing made of paper and string. Purses made out of plastic and cloth and clay. Little bits of paper that now represent dog food, toilet paper rolls, confetti, Barbie workbooks. There is no place to PUT these creations, and of course each one is rare and precious, so we have designated a section of the dining room (which is never, ever used for dining) as the Craft Waiting Area. But do the crafts wait quietly in their area, until such time as Carla deems them ready for the great Outdoor Craft Storage Compartment? No they do not. They migrate. And, with them, creative detritus piles up. Sheets of foam that have been cut into jagged lace. Broken bits of pottery. Plastic baggies. Pencils. Scissors. Sequins. Stickers. Chunks of clay. Slabs of dried glue. Q-tips. Empty play-doh containers. Rocks. Fluffy rainbow pom poms. Barettes. Three sets of needle nose pliers. Pencils, markers, paintbrushes, and pens. Corners and slips and strips of paper. Plastic baggies filled with scraps of paper and broken crayons and tiny rubber bands and bits of yarn. IT IS A GARBAGE DUMP. And, have I mentioned, every single scrap of anything is PRECIOUS and USEFUL and NECESSARY. If ever I suggest moving any of these items into the trash, Carla collapses in tears of betrayal and shock.
This is a photo I took several weeks ago, and it isn’t anywhere near as bad as things were this morning. Picture this doubled.
More detailed look at all the bits and bobs. Note the scrap of masking tape on the wall, there for no reason at all.
  • My family and I continue to require sustenance. Dinner continues to seem like an alien concept. I continue to suffer from meal-amnesia. Since Monday, my family and I have eaten tacos three times: I went to the grocery store with literally only the single idea for a meal this week (tacos), hoping that the shelves would shove meal ideas at me (they did not) (except, I guess, in the case I am about to describe), and when I walked in, there was a display of everything a human could need to make fish tacos, so I bought those things and we ate fish tacos Monday, leftover fish tacos Wednesday, ground beef tacos Thursday, and, on Tuesday, the chicken shawarma that I had planned and purchased for the first week of October. Yes, the broccoli managed to survive that long in my crisper. I have absolutely NO IDEA what to make for dinner tonight. My in laws are back next week (for two weeks), and I doubt that they will be as amenable to Tacos Every Day as my husband and child are, and yet I have no ideas. Food is a mystery. And even though I have catalogued my own meal planning here for several years now, and have multitudes of recipes both in my online files and in the files in my kitchen… and despite having access to both dozens of cookbooks AND the internet, I have no ideas. None. If you were to press a recipe into my hands and say “Make this,” it would surely gradually dissolve into gas and float away on the air.  

  • My husband is giving me guff about holiday cards. It is no secret, either here or in my marriage, that holiday cards are MY FAVORITE PART OF THE HOLIDAYS. I love to send them, I love to receive them. I love them. I thought this was well-established. I thought that my husband, who doesn’t give a goat’s beard about any of it, had nonetheless fallen in line. AND YET. I requested that we go somewhere pretty this weekend to take a family photo for holiday cards, and he grumbled that he doesn’t WANT to do holiday cards. They are stupid and a waste of time and money. While he is entitled to his own grumps, of course, I am feeling CRANKY AND STUBBORN. This is My Thing. Why is he objecting? It will take an hour, maybe, to find a spot and take a serviceable photo. I will do the card-options-narrowing-down work, and offer him a few to choose from. I will send them out. It is not a big drain on him, time-wise. Money-wise, sure, it’s not super expensive. But it’s not going to break the bank. Why can’t he just bend to my will? Why can’t he just fall in line? WHY????? (We have taken exactly two (2) photos of the three of us since summer of 2020. Neither is holiday card worthy, you will just have to trust me. And I would slap a bunch of photos from throughout the year on a card and call it a day in a frosty second, but my husband always, always hates those kinds of cards when I mock them up, and despite the fact that he is making the whole thing harder than it needs to be, he and I still feel he gets a say in a card representing/featuring him that goes to all our friends and family.)

  • Our health insurance is being downgraded. Oh, excuse me: “improved” and “enhanced.” I get that my husband’s company is a business, and they need to find ways to keep costs down, blah blah blah. And I get that I am very fortunate to have access to health insurance at all, and the means to pay for it. But I am still DEEPLY ANNOYED. Mainly because my husband’s hospital system is trying to spin it as a benefit when it clearly is NOT. They sent out this piece of direct mail giving us a heads-up about one of the changes to the insurance plan, which is that they are going to now “leverage” the hospital system’s own pharmacy system. Isn’t that great?!?! Aren’t we so happy?!?! They alluded to benefits from this change: We are now going to “get the best medication outcomes.” What the fluff does that mean? We will now have the “convenience” of using hospital pharmacies (NOT convenient, unless you are at one of the FOUR ON-SITE PHARMACIES in a 100-mile radius) or mail-order (NOT convenient if you have a necessary daily medication that happens to be a controlled substance and may not be available via mail order). And we will have “one card” for pharmacy and medical insurance coverage. Wowee, what a benefit! (Eye roll.) I suppose they do also allude to lower costs. There is also a black box notifying us that we need to stock up on medications so that the switch to the new plan doesn’t affect our prescriptions. Is this even possible with the medications we have? WHO KNOWS. And then it says to go to the website of the new company for more details. But the website does not have ANY USEFUL DETAILS for non-members. This does not feel like they are “expanding and enhancing” my healthcare benefits, that’s for sure.

  • We still have not completed my gallery wall dream. I have been saying for years that I want to have a gallery wall of photos/paintings in our living room. And my husband keeps jumping on and off board. The artwork and empty frames that I had chosen for the gallery wall have been pushed up against the dining room wall (see above) for months and months now, and I think I may have to admit defeat. It is not going to happen in this house. My husband has no interest in helping me plan, but I will need his help to execute the whole thing, and I just don’t know if I can summon enough umph to see it through. So I am summoning grump instead.

To help counteract the Grumps, I will share two goods:

  • The other day I went to a Work Event. I was very anxious about a) being around a bunch of people at a restaurant and b) feeling self-conscious about all the weight I’ve gained since I last saw these people and c) worrying that my much-increased social anxiety would make me panicky and weird. I went out and bought an entire new outfit; I haven’t had to don Office Wear regularly since 2016, and I have since been hard at work “expanding and enhancing” my size, so I had nothing remotely appropriate to wear. I got a pair of black dress pants and a burgundy sweater at Talbots (for 30% off! plus 10% off for joining their rewards program! plus $10 off for joining their mobile mailing list!), which helped tremendously. I felt like I looked put together and appropriate, and like someone who would be totally competent at doing freelance work in the future. But, even better, the event was GREAT. It was outdoors, everyone was vaccinated, and I hadn’t seen most of the attendees in five years. People gave me hugs and seemed genuinely excited to see me and we had comfortable, easy conversations and the whole thing was super, super lovely.

  • I have hacked away at some of the trash heap. Just now, I got a surge of Living In Garbage-related energy and tackled both the Dining Room Trash Heap and Carla’s craft cabinet, and threw a LOT of stuff away, but also organized everything. It doesn’t look good, but it looks significantly better, and now feel much less Strangled By Junk. Hopefully I can persuade Carla that I kept most of her things and simply organized them all in a way that looks like I threw most of it in the trash (I did throw a lot of things in the trash – but really, WHO NEEDS ten plastic baggies filled with tiny bits of paper and string and the cottony ends of Q-tips? The garbage bin, is who.) I need to take a similar approach to her desk in her bedroom, and then we’ll really be rocking and rolling.
At least it is all contained to the giant slab of cardboard now. If I move the artwork and frames down to the basement, it will look even better.

Tell me your grumps, if you’ve got em.

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Typing that headline I had an image flash across my brain of myself, hovering over an aquarium, tending to a pet crab. That would be something.

Anyway, I continued to be crabby after I posted yesterday. At some point, I noticed that I had a canker sore on my upper gum line. And then I noticed another one on my upper lip right where it touches the bottom of my top tooth. And then as I was readying for bed, inspecting my face with all the critical attentiveness one musters for that act, I noticed that I have SEVERAL pimples. Hmm. Hmmmmmm. 

Aunt Flo no longer visits me each month (because of the birth control I take), so it can sometimes feel like I am delightfully exempt from her whims. But no. I still have hormonal ups and downs and APPARENTLY this is a down. Or an up. I’m not sure exactly what I’m saying but SOMETHING is amiss. 

Well. At least I can be (relatively) assured that the crabbiness will end. At some point. 

Today I went to Target. INSIDE of Target. I have been inside of Target once since last February. That was a Major Life Change, considering that I used to go about twice a month prior to the pandemic. My primary purpose was to buy Easter candy, which was extremely difficult to do via the curbside pickup option. But I also wanted to buy some birthday cards and a few other items – more stainless steel cleaning spray, more soap for Carla’s bathroom, some elastics for my hair (WHERE do they all GO?), some special mouthwash to address the stupid canker sores.

The last time I went to Target, also driven by Need of Holiday Candy, I found the whole experience to be very disquieting. This time it was much better! 

There was a staff member right inside the doors, wiping down the handles of the carts. That was nice, but they were using one of the wipes that used to be available to customers, and I don’t think I EVER saw any indication that those wipes were more than wet pieces of disposable cloth. Perhaps they are different now, who can say. I had remembered to bring my own Clorox wipe in with me, so I used it to re-wipe the handle. (I am aware that the chance of catching Covid from a surface is vanishingly small. And yet I was a germophobe long before this pandemic and my germophobia has, like my waistline, only amplified over the course of the past year.)

The $1 shelves were VERY picked over, as were the shelves that usher you into the store from the entryway. Usually they are stocked with chips or bags of candy or whatever; today they were mostly bare, except for a few dozen canisters of antibacterial wipes and a lone package of PopTarts.

The cleaning products aisles were, while not flush, adequately stocked. There were a few bare spots – none of my preferred wood polish, for instance – but they felt typical of pre-pandemic “needs restocking” levels, rather than “everyone is hoarding this item” levels. There was PLENTY of Clorox spray. And there was a whole new section of shelving filled with antibacterial wipes. (It seemed to me, going through the store, that anytime there were bare shelves, Target filled them with wipes. There were several end caps and mid-aisle shelves with wipes on them.) Including brand-name wipes, like Lysol and Clorox. Perhaps most amazing of all: I walked past them without putting a single canister of wipes in my cart. 

The soap section seemed well stocked. And the new-since-the-pandemic aisle of hand sanitizer was nearly full AND there was even some PURELL, which I haven’t seen in the wild in a year.  

An acquaintance who seems to Know Things said that the Suez Canal blockage might result in a toilet paper shortage, so I did get a package of toilet paper. Just a normal size one – not one of the 85-roll ones. 

As I was walking past the pharmacy, I overheard someone on the phone discussing the GoLytely shortage. (If you don’t know what GoLytely is, you will when you turn 50.) Of course I already knew about the GoLytely shortage – being married to a doctor FINALLY has some perks – but it was amusing to encounter it in real life. Also, I continue to find these random (and possibly totally unrelated to the pandemic) shortages FASCINATING.

Moving along to the grocery section: We did not need a lot of food items (I did just go to the grocery store), but I checked on pepperoni (none), Lunchables (only a handful, and of those, none that Carla would eat), frozen pancakes (YES! I grabbed two boxes), and taco seasoning (none of the canisters in my preferred brand, but plenty of packets). 

I DID find cinnamon bears. They tasted exactly the way I imagined/hoped/remembered they would. A very satisfying purchase.

The bag did not come ripped; I opened it IMMEDIATELY open arriving home, to quench my cinnamon bear thirst even before I photographed the bag for posterity.

I went a little wild in the gardening section. It’s been a long time since I tried to grow lettuce in my AeroGarden (it turns out that, despite my belief to the contrary and my best efforts, I am NOT a person who consumes enough basil and cilantro to make it worthwhile to grow ONLY those things), so I bought two varieties to try. I also saw some little mini tomatoes seeds and a package of sugar snap pea seeds; I have NO IDEA how I will grow them in my deer-infested yard, but I’m going to give it a go.

Then the Easter aisle. 

It was, as expected, VERY picked through. The Easter section takes up two half-aisles (four shelves total), plus a table at one end, plus six end caps, plus a separate row of shelving against the far wall. The two shelves and end caps were nearly completely bare. The table at one end had some items – mainly Peeps and Cadbury eggs – the kind with the goo inside, not the kind with the crunchy candy shell. The aisle with plastic fillable eggs and baking items was picked over but not empty. The shelving on the far wall had a haphazard selection of Easter basket items — Pez dispensers and children’s TV character-themed items — that had been well rummaged.

I was able to get my husband his requests (Reese’s Pieces eggs and Cadbury eggs, the crunchy shell kind) and I was able to find suitable candy for filling eggs for the egg hunt (individually wrapped things like Cookies and Crème bunnies, marshmallow eggs, and some Starburst minis) and for filling baskets (movie-theatre-style boxes of Sour Patch Kids and Nerds Gummy Clusters, some Snickers and Twix eggs, a box of yellow Peeps). 

I made the mistake of picking up and then putting down again the only bag of Cadbury eggs I could find… and then when I went back to get it, another mom had snapped it up. (There were three of us, picking through the wreckage.) I found two mini bags of the Cadbury eggs, and then saw an endcap near the checkout with a whole shelf of the large bags, so I got one of those as well. 

There were ZERO Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs in the store. ZERO. There were some with marshmallow or white chocolate on them – I didn’t really pause long enough to find out the details beyond the fact that they weren’t the Real Deal. And there were a couple of bags of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But NO EGGS. Luckily, I picked up two RPBEs (singles, not bags) at Walgreens the other day. But I am NOT SHARING THEM WITH MY FAMILY.

The main difference I found between Target-from-the-Before-Times and Target now was that the staff situation seemed to have improved dramatically. In the Before Times, it was very difficult to find a staff member at all, and if you spotted one, they were inevitably engaged in a heated and uninterruptible argument with the only other staff member in the store. But now I was approached not once but TWICE by staff people who asked me if I was finding everything okay. I mean, I don’t THINK I looked any more bewildered than usual, so I think they were just being proactively helpful. As I was walking to the checkout, one of the other moms from the Easter candy section called out, “I can’t find my cart!” and two staff people immediately descended upon her and one told her to wait there, she would get the cart for her. The checkout person was very nice and cheerful and non-invasive, AND she very carefully set aside my birthday cards so they wouldn’t get scrunched. It was a noticeable difference and one that I hope sticks around even in the After Times.

The checkout situation, despite the lovely staff person, has NOT improved, however. There were still only two checkouts open despite very long lines, made longer by carts full of Easter candy. I assume. That was the main contents of my cart, at least.

When I got home, I tested the cinnamon bears immediately after washing my hands. Then, later, I tested a Cookies and Crème bunny (delicious, especially the crunchy bits of cookie throughout) and a Hershey’s marshmallow egg (perplexing, with an odd spice taste that I couldn’t place – not cardamom, not anise, but… something). It amuses me, a bit, that I liked the Cookies and Crème Bunny as much as I did. Because I don’t really care for chocolate, the Easter Bunny always put something with white chocolate in my Easter basket. Very thoughtful of the Easter Bunny, really. But I do not care for white chocolate EITHER. It is possible that I like it less than actual chocolate.

In general, I’d say I gravitate more toward fruity candy. But my One True Candy – at least for the past few yearsdecade – has been the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg. No other Reese’s Peanut Butter product can hold a candle to the OG RPBE. 

My husband has said, repeatedly, that Easter has the best candy options. His favorites, apparently, are Reese’s Pieces Eggs and Cadbury Mini Eggs. At some point, he must have liked Peeps because his mother always sends us more Peeps than a human should possibly own, let alone consume. (But that could be one of those misremembered Mom things; I would hazard to guess that my own mother would say I like white chocolate.)

Carla is easy. She likes anything sweet. 

Now I am interested in knowing about YOUR favorite Easter candy.

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Despite a) truly glorious, early spring weather, complete with sunshine and birdsong and blooming forsythia, and b) a brisk morning walk with a friend in said beautiful weather, I am cranky. For no substantial reason!

(I DO have to go to Target, and go inside no less, to procure some Easter candy. And I am dreading filling the plastic eggs with… whatever it is I normally fill them with. Candy? Maybe the Easter Bunny will upgrade to some dollar bills. The prospect of a Target trip is not super cheering.)

(Yesterday I had to make multiple phone calls, AND I deep cleaned the bathrooms, so perhaps I have some residual grouchiness from that?)

(We ARE supposed to go from low-seventies to low-thirties in the next day or two, so there’s that. Plus, it is QUITE WINDY and you know my feelings about THAT.) (Grump grump grump.)

Well, crabby mood or not, we must eat. I skipped my Dinners This Week post last week because I just couldn’t BEAR to think about food or plan any meals or cook. My husband is very agreeable in times like these, so he put up with leftovers, scrounging around, and takeout for several nights. And then HE planned this week’s meals (except for tonight’s tacos, which were a Carla Request). By “planned” I mean that he suggested things for me to cook, but that is indeed helpful because planning the meals – thinking of things that we haven’t eaten too recently, that don’t take a million years to cook, that will make at least some use of food we have in the house already, that two-thirds of us will eat and not hate – can be just awful.

Armed with my husband’s meal plan, I went to the grocery store after my lovely, not-de-grouchifying-in-the-least walk. (I am sure my friend found me RULL PLEASANT.) I did not want to go to the grocery store. Yet I really needed to go to the grocery store. We had run out of half and half, people. HALF AND HALF. I have been putting MILK in my tea like an Agatha Christie character.

Probably it was good that I was able to go to the grocery store on a cranky day. Grocery shopping puts me on edge as it is, so I’m putting the crankiness to good use, at least. And then I could really glower at the frozen foods case where the pancakes are once again MISSING and sigh dramatically over the dearth of regular-old large eggs (I do not need extra large eggs or jumbo eggs or super jumbo eggs, thank you very much) and stare in a pointedly Very Patient Way at the woman who was ambling – AMBLING – in a zig-zag fashion down the aisle, making it next to impossible to pass her on either side. 

I did buy myself some flowers, which helps. 

And I bought ingredients to make cinnamon rolls, which I DO NOT NEED to make, but which sounds like a very festive Easter morning breakfast. Because if there’s one thing a home visited by the Easter Bunny needs, it’s more sugar. Well. If my husband talks me down from the cinnamon rolls, at least bread flour and cream cheese keep for a good long while.

I stood in front of the beef selection for a Very Long Time because my recipe calls for chuck roast and my choices were chuck EYE roast or chuck SHOULDER roast or some other things that had the word CHUCK in them but not the word ROAST. I wanted to CHUCK a ROAST right at my husband for choosing the recipe, I’ll tell you that much. Google did not help. I did not have the recipe on me, because it is in a PHYSICAL BOOK, not on a website, like it’s 1953. I see I am getting a little shouty. At least I did not shout at the beef selection. I finally asked the meat monger – a young woman, which pleased me – and she very decisively told me that the chuck EYE roast would be best for my stew purposes, so I went on my way. (I was very glad she’d said chuck EYE roast, because the recipe called for 3 to 3.5 pounds of chuck roast and not a single roast in the entire case was 3.5 pounds. They were all 2.25 to 2.75. But! I did find ONE ROAST that was just a squeak under 3 pounds and it was the chuck EYE roast.)

Carla and I – after much deliberation – are planning to make macarons this weekend, as our Easter baking project. They will be filled with lemon curd and buttercream as per this recipe (although I bought the lemon curd in a jar), but will have speckles per this recipe. I am very, very exhausted by even the prospect of Holiday Baking Projects. But perhaps by the weekend I will feel more chipper about the idea. Anyway, I had to buy a huge giant container of cream of tartar, even though we only need a pinch, because I had failed to check on our cream of tartar situation at home. Let me tell you, my face fell when I saw a little container of cream of tartar in the spice cupboard. Fortunately for all involved (me and the cream of tartar), it had expired in 2014. 

For some reason, I have had a craving for cinnamon gummy bears. I don’t think I have had a cinnamon bear for… thirty years? And I am fairly sure that I would eat a total of three of them and then be satisfied for another three decades. But the craving is strong. So of course I cannot find cinnamon bears anywhere. Grouse grouse grouse.

This isn’t so much a grocery store report as it is a catalog of things that irritated me whilst at the grocery store. 

Grocery availability has gotten so reliable (aside from pancakes) that I didn’t even LOOK for some of the things that I normally bought in duplicate just in case – was there any pepperoni? Who knows! My preferred taco seasoning in my preferred little jar is still out of stock, but I can buy it in the envelopes so it’s not a BIG deal. And the taco shell shelves seemed a little patchy, but I still only purchased a single box of taco shells. What did that meme say last year? “The earth is healing”? (Is “the earth” in this scenario me or the grocery store supply chain?) Now we just sit and wait for Suez-Canal-blockage-related shortages to start. 

Dinners for the Week of March 30-April 5

  • Tacos
  • Mulligatawny Soup – This was my lone suggestion for the week, simply because we have mire poix pre-cut in the freezer AND because I picked up another loaf of sourdough bread at the grocery store. Sour toast will pair very nicely with some Mulligatawny.
  • Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Tenderloin – I got my husband some feta and he already has some sundried tomatoes. I will make rice and caramelize some onions to serve with the pork. Easy peasy.
  • Guinness Stew with Side Salad – I bought some Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day, because I had never tried it before. Turns out I do not care for it. But my husband pointed out we could use it for stew, and indeed we will. I found a recipe in The Best International Recipe cookbook, from the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated (which is different from America’s Test Kitchen in some way but I do not understand what it is). Why is it “recipe” instead of “recipes”? Just to tug my toehairs, I guess. Also, holy Slovenian sausage, this cookbook is PRICEY. I sure as sugar did not pay $66 for this cookbook and neither should you. 

What are you eating and/or baking this week? Or, if you feel like joining me in a Celebration of Crabbiness, what is getting all up in your grump today?

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This post is half grousing/fretting, half meal planning, or maybe a little quite a bit less meal planning than grousing. I am just preparing you, so you can scroll down past the cranky part or click over to some other more cheerful blog. And also if you have grouses/frets, I am in a very empathetic mood, so please do share. 

Anyway, I woke up this morning in a grump. There’s nothing WRONG, per se. It’s just, you know – everything. Yesterday, I had two mildly irritating experiences that aren’t worth describing and really come down to Pandemic Life Adjustments and Everyone Is Doing the Best They Can.  (Okay, I will briefly describe one: I had to wait for nearly an hour, as in 50+ minutes, for my curbside Target order; normally the wait is like 5 minutes tops.) (Here is the brief run-down of the other: Carla’s school required me to buy a last-minute hole punch – I got the request yesterday, and the hole punch was needed yesterday and will be needed again today – and I cannot locate one; I even WENT IN to WalMart to find one and still couldn’t; so Carla just has to do without, which is fine, it’s not a big deal.) There’s nothing I can DO about these irritating experiences, and I really do think everyone is trying their utmost best, but they are still irritating. 

Plus, I am still having self-conscious feelings about our holiday cards. I know I mentioned this before, but I stuffed all of them into their envelopes yesterday so I was looking at them for a long time and I just feel like they are BAD and DUMB. I mean, my husband thinks they are cute, and I trust him, so hopefully I am just being overly precious about them? There is the possibility that he is Not Hurting My Feelings, but really thinks they are dumb… although… that doesn’t really sound like him. But the borders just seem SO uneven and the pictures are blurrier than I originally thought and I am a little uncomfortable that we are wearing Santa hats in our photos; but OF COURSE THAT IS STUPID. No one cares! Our Jewish friends do not care if we are representing Christmas in our cards! And our card is kind of light-hearted – it’s the three of us on Zoom, and it references social distancing. What if it’s too light-hearted for some people? Or feels like we are making light of the pandemic, which has been much harder on so many people than it has for us? And then, on the back, there’s a message that is a little more serious in tone, about hoping everyone is safe and healthy. And I’m worried that the tone shift is too severe? What if people think I’m being super over-serious about everything? And then on some cards I’ve written little messages like “Merry Christmas!” or whatever and that feels like adding to the mixed message-ness of it all? Plus, I look old and my nose looks weird. And OMG NOBODY CARES. But what it comes down to is that I am having to force myself to send them out, rather than feeling happy about them. 

Plus, this morning the kids in Carla’s class did an opening discussion about things they are grateful for. It was very sweet, but the things they listed (my siblings, because I can play with them even if I can’t play with my friends; being safe from corona; the world) kind of broke my heart. 

Pluscheery frivolous post material aside, I am increasingly anxious about The State of Things. The emails my husband gets from his hospital system are increasingly… upsetting. I mean, aside from the graphs they send out regularly, illustrating the steep upward climb of Covid cases and ICU patients, there have been some bland, semi-vague missives that to me seem like “covering the bases” types of emails. NOT THIS EXPRESSLY, but like, along the lines of, “Hey, you may be in a specialty totally removed from emergency or respiratory medicine but just kind of gird your loins for the possibility of maybe jumping in if we need you? Kthanx.” or “By the way, at some point we may need to shift hospital stuff to your clinics because we are running out of room. Byeeeee.” Again, this is not exactly what they are saying, and again, I think this is more like the hospital system making sure their doctors are prepared for any eventuality. But it is not a confidence-builder, you know? 

Okay. Grumping and worrying do nothing. NOTHING. Let’s go for some Cheering Thoughts:

First, I have SO MANY great cookie ideas to follow up on. This does not mean I have TOO MANY or even ENOUGH, so please let me know if you have a Must Make Holiday Cookie I need to consider.

Second, Remote Learning is going… okay, so far. I’m not going to say it’s good, because it isn’t. But it’s so much better than it went last spring. Carla is doing great and, now that the teachers have had time to prepare and some experience with online teaching, the school days are so much better organized. It still feels impossible to complete all the necessary work during the day, and neither of us is getting any exercise (where to fit it in???) (do not say wake up earlier), and we are both in Carla’s room/office for pretty much the ENTIRE DAY EVERY DAY but still, it is Much Better. And supposedly she will be back in school, in person, in early January… but even if not, we will at least have a two-week break in there. 

Third, I finally finished not one but TWO books I have been reading for literal months. One of them was really good, but had a slow start; the other was interesting but the author’s voice wasn’t my style. Anyway, I finished them, which is a good feeling. AND now I can start the three books that are next up on my to-read list: Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War by Nathaniel Philbrick, which I received as a surprise from a friend; The Searcher by Tana French, which my husband ordered for me on a whim; and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I bought for myself. I am really excited about all three, and this anticipatory which-one-should-I read-next stage is delicious and fun. 

Fourth, back to food, this week includes both (the beginning of) Hanukkah and my wedding anniversary, which means some special meals. Perhaps I will make the special meal for Hanukkah and order takeout for our anniversary. Also I have some repeats from last week because I am lazy Super Flexible.

Dinners for the Week of December 8-14

I also have some extra cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving, so I may make these cranberry crumble bars and send some to work with my husband. 

What are you eating for dinner this week?

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Indignant Update: IT IS NOW SNOWING.

We had actual honest-to-goodness sunshine yesterday, and temperatures around 70 degrees, and Carla and I played outside for THREE HOURS and I got a horrific sunburn and now I’m really grouchy. The grouchiness has to do with my being so careless as to forget to wear appropriate sunscreen and also with my inability to sleep due to the fact that my chest, back, shoulders, and arms are so sunburned that I could NOT find a comfortable sleeping position. Plus, I am irritable that I am in such discomfort – and, not to mention, I look RIDICULOUS because the sunburn is all streaky and uneven and the same shade as my red T-shirt – purely because of MY OWN IDIOCY.

Anyway, I am in a very cranky and judgmental mood, so I thought you might join me in being extremely disapproving and critical this morning. Surely there is SOMETHING that fills you with disapprobation, no? Perhaps it is my overzealous use of capitalization, perhaps any of a million other things you could rightly judge me for.

  • Carla likes to go bike riding in a nearby school parking lot. It is just down the block and, obviously, there is no one at school these days. So it’s the perfect big, empty space for her to ride around in. But increasingly often, we are finding TEENS gathering there. Now, I expect that the Stay at Home Order is especially tough on teens. And that they should probably get props (are we still giving props? is that too 1900s a term?) for being creative about socializing. But zooming into a school parking lot and then setting up a sort of tailgating-esque situation that doesn’t appear to separate its participants by more than three feet MAX… well, that just makes me feel crabby. Some of the teens have been better than others about maintaining distance. But I definitely witnessed one person exit a car and enter another car and I can’t imagine that two people quarantining together would drive to a parking lot, separately, only to then get together in a single car. I am watching you, teens. Not in a creepy way. Just in a very impotently condemnatory way.
  • And SPEAKING OF the school parking lot, which I know we have no actual claim over: People have been using it as a cut-through. If you think of the school as being on a corner, with a busy road as the northern border and a busy road bordering the east, and our street lying on the school’s southern border, people are using the parking lot to cut off the corner intersection. There’s a stop sign between the school parking lot and my street, but people are ZOOMing through the parking lot and then ZOOMing straight through the stop sign and I am getting Very Peeved. People live here! And drive past! And ride their bikes! This is not your own personal shortcut!
  • When I went to pick up pizza for dinner last Friday, there was one customer inside the store already (two-customer limit, for the interior of the store), and two customers in line after me (outside). Of the four of us, I was the ONLY person wearing a mask. Then I had to go INTO Target to pick up an online order, due to some sort of oversight on my part (I was NOT PLEASED), and so! many! people! were just wandering around without masks! A man and his THREE tween/teenage daughters walked into Target without masks on! The staff inside had masks “on,” but not covering their noses, or hanging loosely around their chins. I am trying not to be TOO judgey about mask wearing; I ordered my mask online and it took a couple of weeks to arrive. My husband ordered a mask several weeks ago and it just now is “being prepared to ship,” whatever that means, website. So I get that not everyone has easy access to masks, and that even if you are trying to be a good mask-wearing member of society that you might not have one on hand. (I had to turn around halfway to Target — when I discovered that I had somehow not ordered the curbside pickup, but instead the inside pickup; what is going ON with my brain? — and go home for my mask; now I have my second mask in my car, waiting for just such an occasion.) But also you can make a mask out of ANYTHING; my husband made me a makeshift mask out of a dishrag and two hairties before I had my real masks in hand. So please. WEAR A MASK.
  • And ALSO, why are people SO OPPOSED to wearing masks? Listen, I acknowledge that there are probably cases where wearing a mask is not possible. But probably, for those people who CANNOT wear a mask for some reason, masks for the REST of us are extra important. I have seen horrifying news stories about mask-related violence and I don’t get it at all! If you don’t have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, JUST WEAR A MASK. Yes, they are uncomfortable. Yes, they look odd/ridiculous/scary. And yes, they make me feel claustrophobic and trapped and damp around the mouth area. But if they can help slow the spread of this disease or even just make people feel a teeny bit more comfortable, WEAR A FREAKING MASK.
  • Going back to being critical of people at the pizza place: I’d placed my order in advance online. You can specify a pickup time, and I’d said 6:00. I arrived at about 5:50, and waited until 6:00 on the button to go into the store. The very kind but harried staff person who took my name said, “Okay, just a second.” And maybe all of four minutes later, he handed me my pizza, and apologized for taking so long, they’d been so inundated with orders, and he appreciated my patience… And… It was probably 6:04 at the latest. Which makes me think that OTHER PEOPLE had been rude to him which makes me feel so angry I could cry. This poor guy, working in a hot restaurant for probably not very much money, providing a very helpful service to all of us in this time of need, putting himself and his family/roommates in potential danger, and having to keep up with what I imagine is a lot of business. And for someone to be RUDE to him? Obviously this is all conjecture and I have no idea what, if anything, happened at all. But I am ready to LEAP FORTH with indignation at the slightest non-provocation!
  • There was a centipede on our kitchen floor the other day. As I approached it, I informed my family – with solemnity and sorrow – that I was going to squish it and flush it down the toilet. They protested. Yes, yes, I am also of the mind that we should return a creepy crawly to the great outdoors if we can, if we can being the operative phrase and also containing multitudes of unspoken caveats, including but not limited to if we can without being crawled upon. I told my family that they were welcome to intervene, and transport the centipede to the outdoors themselves, but that I wasn’t going to risk it. They valiantly recommended ways that I could capture and transport the centipede. Again, I demurred. Again, they protested. Finally, my brave daughter leapt up and said she would extricate the centipede from certain-death-by-squishing and put it safely outside. But she took too long trying to find an appropriately stiff piece of paper and the centipede started to run away. I tried to waylay it and it crawled on my hand and then fell to the floor and made for the no-mans-land beneath the refrigerator so I squished it. I am very irritated indeed about the way the whole thing went.
  • In addition to the centipede, we had a silverfish sighting. READ THE ROOM, CRITTERS. Perhaps they are well aware that I can’t exactly call the exterminators at this moment, and so are taking advantage of the situation. To which I say, in a tone of utmost withering disdain, I expect opportunistic behavior of humans but not of YOU.

 

What or who’s behavior has you putting on your prissy pants these days?

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You know what really grills my cheese today, Internet? People who don’t follow the rules. Why? What is it about some people that makes them so confident they are ABOVE the rules? Or that the rules don’t apply to them? See ANY NEWS ITEM ANYMORE for plentiful, deeply disheartening examples.

Today, specifically, I am directing my rule follower rage at the woman who not only brought her cart out into the parking lot – which is strictly forbidden at my grocery store – but then LEFT IT THERE, on the tiny concrete divider between the parking spaces.

I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there is some physical disability at play. But, honestly, that excuse ain’t gonna cut it, sistah, because our grocery store offers – purely because of the no-carts-in-the-parking-lot rule – courtesy bag loading into your car. It’s totally free! There are even signs everywhere that say NO TIPPING (although I still tip; people tip and I don’t want to be The Woman Who Doesn’t Tip, especially given that I go there every week), so she can’t even blame the lack of cash in her wallet.

Okay, okay. I KNOW there could be other perfectly valid reasons – like maybe she has an emergency that she learned about exactly at the moment she was done checking out and can’t fathom waiting in the bag loading zone for the two extra minutes it takes the cheery bag loader staff to load your bags into your car. Or maybe she just got some terrible news and, completely gobsmacked (why is gobsmacked not a word, Word?) by the terribleness of it, she is floating through the store forgetting her eggs and not really paying attention to her cart.

But my overall experience with people is that there often ISN’T a reason, besides an inexplicable certainty of being the center of the universe and therefore able to flout rules whenever the whim takes hold.

See also the people who go zooming down the shoulder of the freeway when everyone else is stopped, waiting for an accident to clear. Who ARE those people? And why do THEY get to decide THEIR needs take priority over everyone else’s needs and safety?

Well. I am in A Mood, apparently.

It’s the week before my family’s Thanksgiving, so I’m a wee bit anxious about that. Pre-exhausted, still, even though I was pre-exhausted two weeks ago.

And I am yet again faced with planning and making meals for myself and my family. Whatever shall we eat?

Dinners for the Week of November 12-November 18

Note: I went to three different grocery stores to find the haloumi, which is a firm cheese that this recipe recommends pan-frying and turning into croutons. I DID find the haloumi at the third store, but it was $9.99, so I did not buy it. I will do a lot for the sake of an interesting-sounding recipe, but it turns out I will not spend just shy of $10 on a block of cheese. Instead, I bought something called bread cheese, which sounds similar to haloumi, although I guess we’ll never know, and was a much more reasonable $6.35. Sigh. That is STILL too much to spend on cheese, but I did it. I will report back on whether it was worth it.

Note: We did not eat this last week, even though it was on the menu. So I am making sure we eat it THIS week. Also, I do not particularly like roasted carrots but I saw a bag of rainbow carrots at Trader Joe’s and I was powerless to resist it. 

Note: This is an old standby. Good when I have no inspiration.

  • Chicken with Zucchini

Note: Speaking of no inspiration — this is like… just the basics. I have chicken in the freezer, a plethora of marinade possibilities, and a pile of zucchini, so I’m ready for whatever day requires a super easy meal. 

  • Pork Chops with Broccoli

Note: Same as above, but with pork, obvs. And I even splurged and got pre-cut, bagged broccoli this week. Maybe this will help me stick to my menu plan and not make a last-minute decision to go eat Mexican food. 

Note: I made the MOST AMAZING impromptu pizza this weekend, and I am going to make it again for dinner on Friday.

  • Breakfast for Dinner

Note: Breakfast is one of the few foods that Carla eats reliably – and she will even eat scrambled eggs if I bribe her with pancakes. A few commenters suggested this last week, and I never do it, even though it is SO easy, and relatively healthful. Well, now I have bacon in my fridge and I’m stocked up on eggs and freezer pancakes and READY TO GO.

 

 

What are you eating this week, Internet?

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My current mood is shifting somewhere between “can’t stop cringing about how awful high school was and how immature I was and how desperately sad it was that I actually thought high school was good at the time when upon reflection it clearly was NOT” and “bleak contemplation of the universe’s eventual and wholly unknown end which will lead to Absolute Nothingness, at least for me, and even if I’m lucky enough to miss the end of the universe it will be because I am already dead.”

And I am expected to make dinner, every single night, on top of all that. BLEAK.

Something I don’t think you know, probably because I have failed to tell you, is that Carla rarely eats dinner with me and my husband. RARELY. We are talking once or twice a week if we are lucky. Which means that I am cooking her dinner and then putting her to bed and then cooking dinner for myself and my husband. And she’s SO PICKY, which means that I expend a tremendous amount of energy thinking about how to tempt her to eat new foods and trying to figure out how to schedule the few foods she will eat so that she isn’t getting chicken dinosaurs three nights in a row, or whatever. YES, I feed my child copious amounts of chicken dinosaurs. SHE EATS THEM.

Sorry. I am apparently also feeling a little yelly at the moment.

Where was I? Oh yes. Rehashing high school failures, fretting about the acceleration of dark energy, moping about our endless need to eat.

So, here’s my hastily-thrown-together meal plan for the week which I came up with while sitting outside the grocery store this morning. Oh. We are also having Brand New (Potential) Friends over for dinner on Saturday, which could be contributing to my woe.

Dinners for the Week of February 26-March 5

 Note: The farro salad was so delicious the last time I made it, there’s no way it can possibly live up to expectations. But I’m going to make it anyway. I will roast the green beans and diced onions before adding them to the farro.

  • Tacos

Note: This is one of the few things Carla eats with any regularity. She has also expressed desire to help make the dinner, which should be fun.

Note: This dish was so good when I made it a couple of weeks ago, there’s no way it can possibly be as good this time. I’m really setting myself up for failure this week.

Note: As you may have sensed, I put this on the weekly menu when I am not particularly moved to strain my brain thinking of new, fresh recipes to try. Oh well. It’s an Old Reliable, even if it’s lost most of its excitement factor.

Note: We haven’t had this in a while. I probably won’t eat the chicken, but I can load up with chickpeas.

Note: Yes, basically we are doing exactly the same thing that we did the last time we had guests. My mom suggested my grandmother’s special salmon recipe, which my husband vetoed because fish can be… controversial. I wanted to do Lemon Chicken and My Standard Salad, but my husband is tired of the lemon chicken (which used to be our Go-To Guest Meal) and I am still not eating chicken and plus chili allows me to do everything in advance except serve the actual food. (If I made the lemon chicken, I would have to figure out when to put it in the oven, and then I’d constantly be fussing about whether it was done yet or not. Not really conducive to good conversation.) My husband will be making chocolate chips cookies.

  • Out
  • Leftovers

For Carla, my big plan this week is that I am going to try to get her to eat a hamburger patty; I bought some ground beef for the tacos and one of the chilis, and I am going to steal some to make her a mini burger. She has deigned to eat a meatball recently (just a bite or two, despite meatballs being one of her ENDURING FAVORITES a couple years ago), so I am really hoping I can get her to try the hamburger. Carla eats steak (on occasion), and I spotted two perfect Carla-sized (and Carla-priced) filet mignons at our meat counter today, so I am going to make one for her this week and freeze the other. We have a piece of salmon in the freezer, so I’ll try that one night. She used to eat salmon reliably every week, but when she had a brief bout of stomach flu this winter, it was right after eating salmon… and she’s been avoiding it ever since. (I get it.) I also bought her a tiny container of Hormel chili to try (prediction: she won’t), but I’m guessing I will end up making her chicken dinosaurs when our guests come over. And to round out the Carla Meal Plan, we’ve got tacos, chicken dinosaurs, and probably a “snack dinner” (with a bagel and cream cheese, some pepperoni, some fruit, some grape tomatoes). She gets a side of snap peas, broccoli, or green beans with each dinner, and I usually give her rice or bread, although we are working on eating plain penne. (She was penne at school, but not at home; she eats no other kind of pasta except food-colored spaghetti noodles.) There is also always fruit. Blueberries have been plentiful at our grocery store and delicious, but we also have a lot of apples on hand. So that’s it in this week’s What I Try to Get Carla to Eat. I wish we were having pork chops on a night when we could all eat together; Carla has eaten pork in the past, and I think if we all sat down together she might eat it again. Oh well. There’s always next week, when my family will inevitably require sustenance AGAIN.

Tell me what you’re eating this week, Internet.

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Last night I woke up at 4:00 and then couldn’t fall asleep, my mind was jumping around from fret to fret so vigorously.

Then, of course, once I managed to finally still the thoughts enough that I could sink back into sleep, I had a terrible nightmare that involved someone from my past (that sounds more mysterious than it is; it was a boyfriend from high school) called me under the pretense of asking me to walk his dog (how did he get my number? why was he in my city? why am I thinking about this person I haven’t seen in TWENTY YEARS?) and then told me he’d seen me at a museum recently and couldn’t stop thinking about me (doubtful, on both counts), and then I hung up, all creeped out… but when I went to the grocery store, he was there and tried to shoot me. SO. Not the most restful night.

The thing I am fretting about most energetically is that parents are expected to attend a welcome meeting of some sort during Carla’s first week at the new school. It is a 30-minute meeting. And it is for parents ONLY. Which means that we have to find childcare for that 30-minute window. It sounds like the school is offering childcare during two days of the week. However, my husband is only available on the one day at the one particular time. He had to arrange months ago to clear his schedule for this day. (The only reason he did so was because it was Carla’s first day of school, and we both wanted to take her. We only just yesterday discovered that there was this additional welcome meeting, so he and his assistant scrambled to reschedule the patient that was scheduled for the slot during the meeting time. Which makes him – and me – feel guilty. Why should schooling trump a patient’s health needs? ARRRRGH.)

There is exactly one (1) person I know whose child is attending this school, so I suggested we coordinate times so we could watch each other’s kids. But she is unable to do that. One of my friends kindly offered to do it… but she lives 30 minutes away in either direction and has never met Carla, let alone sat for her. I don’t know ANYONE who babysits during the day. Our two regular sitters and our backup sitter ALL have day jobs. My last resort may be asking our next door neighbor if she’d be willing to come over and sit in our house while Carla watches television for an hour. But THAT makes me feel like I’m imposing or overreaching our very casual neighborly relationship. So I guess really I may have to impose on the friend who offered, which stresses me out for OTHER reasons. (Too much time in the car, logistics issues with Carla’s school day and then getting her to my friend’s house and also finding time to give her lunch in that window and then getting back to the meeting on time. ACK.)

In addition to feeling stressed out by not knowing what to do with Carla, I am feeling really bad about myself. Carla is THREE. Why do I not have a network of friends I can turn to? I don’t even know how to set up a play date because I have never done it before. Why have I not been friendlier with our neighbors, so that I would feel more comfortable turning to them? This is a MAJOR DISADVANTAGE to being my style of introvert (i.e. the style who is a loner). Despite loving our city and having very good reasons to be here, I am having wailing/sob-filled thoughts about why did I ever agree to live so far away from family?!?!

This all makes me feel very cranky and grouchy – which I am directing at the school, which is dumb. It is dumb to expect that two weeks’ notice isn’t perfectly adequate for most people to make or change plans. It is dumb to expect that the school provide childcare beyond the very reasonable accommodations they have made. It is dumb to keep saying, outragedly, to anyone who will listen, “What if I were still working full-time? What would I have done THEN?” because I am NOT and because certainly other parents ARE and yet are no doubt figuring out how to deal with this without being babies about it. It is dumb to expect that my particular situation (self-inflicted, nonetheless!) should be addressed by a school that cannot possibly address the specific, individual needs of each student and parent. And yet, I STILL feel cranky and grouchy and complain and resentful, and in fact if you were here with me now I would complain about it until you felt deeply regretful that you’d come over in the first place.

Let’s recap: I am feeling frustrated at the school for not providing childcare OR allowing kids to join the meeting OR giving us more than two weeks’ notice so that we could have arranged my husband’s schedule differently… and I am feeling anxious and self-pitying about not having developed a network of people to turn to in these types of situations… and I am feeling annoyed at myself for being so completely THROWN by this stuff – surely, surely many of the other parents are feeling the same way and/or are DEALING WITH IT without so much hand wringing… and I am feeling fretful that this bodes poorly for our future with this school – am I going to go through YEARS of feeling resentful and frustrated?… and I am feeling MAD at myself for reacting like a Special Snowflake/whiny, pouty baby who should be catered to individually rather than just Finding A Solution. ARRRRGHHHHH.

And of course on top of this I am waiting for the ex-boyfriend of twenty years ago to contact me out of the blue and/or gun me down at the grocery store. YAY.

This is normal, right? Everyone feels grouchy and resentful about school stuff, yes? We will SURVIVE it all, right? RIGHT?

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