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Posts Tagged ‘if you find lists of people’s grocery store purchases boring you are in the wrong place’

I am NOT in the mood to think about dinner, not one bit, but I did go to grocery store and go through all the motions of buying food that could potentially be put together in a variety of combinations on one’s plate. 

The grocery store has, of late, been… well, not worrisome, exactly. But every time I go there, I feel the parallel lines between my eyebrows deepening just a little in watchful pre-concern. Today, the produce section looked like it had been looted by a colony of ravenous hares. (Please note that a group of rabbits is also known as a fluffle, which is just too adorable for words, and which, sadly, does not have the right tone for my current level of grocery store apprehension.)  There was no asparagus at all (I found some later in the prepared foods section), a single bunch of broccoli – even the section of more-expensive broccoli crowns was meager, and the crowns themselves looked like they were old – and the bell peppers were nearly non-existent. The boxed/bagged lettuce seemed plentiful, at least. But there were only TWO heads of iceberg lettuce at all. Except – and please share if your grocery store is doing this same kind of lettuce mind game – there were several two-packs of “artisan miniature iceberg lettuce” or however it is that they are trying to disguise the heads of lettuce that are too small to be sold as regular heads of lettuce. Every time I see these stunted, tiny twin packs I roll my eyes, but I have never taken a photo. I will try to remember to do so next time so we can all scoff at them together. 

The berries were moderately plentiful, but the limes and lemons looked picked through and the only other available fruits were grapefruits, a few oranges, and some pears. I did get some kiwis, I suppose, which is good because Carla is in a kiwi kick. I suppose there was, in reality, an abundance of produce in a wide variety. But it felt like very low-stock, with lots of empty spaces. And perhaps that was due to it being first thing Monday morning, but I just don’t know

The rest of the store seemed… sparse in odd ways. Like… the tonic section looked very picked over, with lots of holes on the shelves (the hole that most affected me personally was the one where the diet tonic should have been grumble grumble), but really there was a lot of tonic to be had. The same with the yogurt: holes and empty shelves, but in and among LOTS of yogurt. I was irritated to find that the peach Two Good yogurt had expired back on April 23, but there were enough other options to get plenty for the week. Cream cheese seemed very lacking – the foil-wrapped rectangles were not in evidence, nor were the tubs of whipped cream cheese Carla likes. I still have a couple of boxes from the false-alarm cream cheese shortage of last fall though (possibly expired), so I merely squinted at the empty cream cheese section and moved on. 

Frozen pancakes were not only available, they were on SALE. I had promised my husband – who is joining me on Keto! – that I would get him some frozen egg bites, but they were missing from the shelves. 

My grocery store has rearranged the meat section so I find it hard to evaluate whether it truly seems bare (there were three pork tenderloins total, and only a few packages of pork chops) or whether it’s just unfamiliar. 

Things seem VERY expensive. I hesitate to admit that I am in a position where I buy things from a list, and rarely make note of the price unless it is wildly shocking (like the 2-for-$7 iceberg lettuce of last fall). But I am pretty sure that pints of raspberries and blackberries would normally, at this time of year, be $2 a package rather than $3.50. And containers of strawberries would typically be going for $2.50 a package rather than $4.99. 

The biggest price escalation I spotted today was goat cheese. I am 99% certain that I could get a 4-ounce log of goat cheese for $3.99 in the past; today it was $5.29, and that was for a brand I’ve never heard of before. The kind I usually get was $5.49. That is a BIG jump. Cheese in general seems to have really gone up in price – unfortunate considering that we eat a LOT of cheese, especially when doing keto. 

I also bought wheat germ for the first time, because I made a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread on Carla’s request; she’d tasted it at a friend’s house, and I got the recipe from the friend’s mother and it calls for equal parts flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ. For anyone who has also never before purchased wheat germ, and suddenly finds themselves needing it, it was in the cereal aisle, NOT the baking aisle like I thought it would be. I also scoured the aisle that has all the hemp hearts and chia seeds and whey protein and collagen powder before finally asking an employee. 

Carla has asked me to FREEZE the banana chip bread once it is made, which… I am not going to do until after she has tasted it fresh.

I bought some cheery yellow tulips as well, on sale for $6.99 a bunch; there used to be a section of flowers that were 3 for $15, but several weeks ago that changed to 3 for $18, so I understand that flowers are no exception to inflation. These tulips were one of a handful of bunches that looked remotely acceptable; the others looked like they had already spent several long days preening for the customers and were now haggard and limp. Perhaps it is the persistent rain of this particular spring that is causing the lackluster flowers; perhaps there will be an influx later in the week in time for Mother’s Day.

Okay. I have dawdled long enough. Now it is time to figure out what to eat this week.

Dinners for the Week of May 2 to May8

What are you eating this week, the FIRST WEEK OF MAY OMG?

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Well, you bolstered my spirits SO MUCH after yesterday’s cake talk (please continue to share your cake dreams; it is a delightful distraction) that I felt totally pumped up and ready to make my cake call. I fished out the business card the baker had given me, phone in hand, ready to dial… and noticed that she has a website. 

Listen, I KNEW that she had a website – I’d looked at it before Carla and I went to the event she hosted. My recollection was that the site listed some of the cookies and baked goods she normally offers at the farmer’s market, and that it mentioned cakes on the menu, but that the only thing it said about cakes was that they are custom. 

But I wanted to research as much as possible, without doing SO MUCH research that I would lose my phone call determination, so I quickly visited her site. Turns out I was wrong: she has a page on her site devoted to cakes. Not only did it list the price per cake (THIRTY DOLLARS), it had an ONLINE FORM that I could fill out with all of my details!!! 

You will understand that the clouds parted and the sun shone down on me and the air filled with the gentle chorus of angels singing, “Ahhhh!” in harmonious unison.

I included as much detail as I could (and the form was nice and long), and left my name, phone number, and email address in case I left out critical details, or in case she refuses to work with lemon curd on principle, I don’t know; I will angst about literally anything. And then I paid VIA PAYPAL (the angels’ song crescendos). THIRTY DOLLARS. I thought for sure I was looking at least $75, if not $100-$150. But no. Thirty. Dollars. 

Then, it DID turn out I had left out important information. But I learned this because she emailed me because she is clearly my cake soul mate. (She wanted to know how many people would be eating the cake, if I had a color scheme, and if I wanted any decorations/words.) Then we figured out where to meet to pick it up, and voila! Done! 

I am very pleased. And honestly, even if the cake is so-so, the purchase experience was SUCH a good experience on its own I will definitely patronize her again. 

By the way, I told Carla when I picked her up from school that I’d ordered my birthday cake! Soothed by everyone’s comments, I was completely unfazed by having done it myself: it is not a big deal, and lo, it was not. But Carla did not get the memo. She was AGHAST. “WHY did you do that, Mommy?” she exclaimed. “You’re NOT supposed to do that!” And I said, “If I don’t do it, who will?” “DADDY!” She was further scandalized when I said she and I were going to pick up the cake after school on my birthday. “You can’t LOOK at it, Mommy!” she said, eyes wide. “DON’T LOOK.” 

On to the grocery store report, which I am adding here simply because I like reading other people’s grocery store reports. 

I went this morning, which is not my usual morning. Also, we are expecting around a foot of snow overnight, so people are panicking. (Is that why I went to the grocery store when I’d already stopped there Monday afternoon? PERHAPS.) So either of those variables could be responsible for the store being much more crowded than usual. 

There was an elderly couple who was on the same route that I follow. I swear I have seen them or their couple-twin before, because they are a) darling and b) incapable of standing in a way that does not occupy 75% of the aisle. I am constantly saying “Excuse me!” “Ope! Sorry! Can I squeeze by?” to these people. They also deliberate long and hard about every item they buy. Seriously. I stood beside them in front of the lettuce and they stared at the romaine for what felt like many minutes. I could NOT get away from them. They were even in the cracker aisle, where I had to replenish our Triscuit supply. Carla is very into Triscuits lately. 

Anyway: As usual, our store was fairly well-stocked, although I felt a little… wary, as I made my way around. 

First, there is yet another reorganization of the produce section happening. It seems to me like they have added black trays/bins to the normal shelves, and for all I know, it’s to enhance cleanliness and make washing/removing/refilling the trays quicker and easier. But what it LOOKED LIKE is that they are finding ways to make less produce look as abundant as ever.

And it is still abundant! I had a rainbow of bell peppers to choose from! When I was a kid, we were lucky to find a single wrinkled green pepper at the grocery store in the middle of winter, let alone a pile of not only green peppers but red and orange and yellow ones.

Lettuce was bountiful.

Berries were back in stock, although the berry section was rather small. That’s probably just the time of year, though. Or they are winnowing the blue-, black-, and raspberries to make room for an influx of Valentine’s Day strawberries. 

The banana and onion sections were full. There was NO CELERY, which was worrying for a moment… but when I circled back around to get more mushrooms (I was adding new items to my meal plan as I went; see yesterday’s post for an updated list), the celery had been restocked. 

The cereal aisle had some worrying holes – no Rice Krispies. But I did snag a box of Wheat Chex – not that we need Wheat Chex. My thought process was something like, “If we run out of power and have to dip into pantry food, we can all eat Wheat Chex” which is nonsensical, but the anxious brain has its own sense of inarguable logic.

Pasta was well stocked, except that rigatoni was missing. This is my husband’s preferred pasta shape (I am penne 4 life), so it was notable. I got him some campanelli; he can be soothed occasionally by the ruffles. 

The freezer section still had pancakes, and I just bought pancakes Monday so I walked right past. I know! I am the epitome of restraint! Still no French toast sticks. 

The chicken nugget section was VERY thin. Probably six or seven bags of various breaded chicken options total. Since we just emptied a bag, leaving me with one bag in the freezer, I picked up another bag. Since the pandemic, I have been fully indoctrinated into the Cult of the Backup. As Nicole said the other day, “I always have backups in the pantry of household staple. If the backup comes into use, then I buy another backup. It gives me an enormous amount of comfort to know that if we run out of an item on the main floor, there is a backup in the pantry downstairs.” YES. This is the one true way. Someday I will convert my husband to our movement. What’s not to like? We always have cookies. 

The ground beef section was VERY low. Once again, the prepared foods counter was closed. But it was open when I popped in Monday afternoon – it must simply have shorter hours these days, probably due to staffing issues. 

Lunchables were available. My daughter’s favorite muffins were not, but her second favorite muffins were, so I grabbed some of those. Bread was plentiful. 

The one thing I regret not grabbing was a package of tulips, on sale for $6.99 a bunch. (That’s… a lot. But I have been eyeing the tulips my past few trips, and I think it was running $8.99 before. Two dollars off is a good savings.)

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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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Shall we ignore All Current Events and talk about random inconsequential things? Yes please. 

  • Now that Carla is back in school, I can return to planning my grocery store runs for the week. This is useful because I don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn on the weekends, and also because the grocery store is MUCH less crowded on a random weekday at 8:30 or 9:00 am than it is on Saturday at 8:00. There is supposedly a limit on the number of people who can be in the store at any given time, but it always seems Very Full. Perhaps it is just that we all move together from produce to dairy to canned goods to meat, like a school of hungry mask-wearing sardines.
  • I went today because I needed dry sherry. (And also because I cannot go Monday or Tuesday because Carla is not in school, and Wednesday I have a mammogram and Thursday I am taking Carla to the orthodontist. Gotta give yourself motivation to wake up every morning, amirite?) I have a French onion soup craving something awful, and I like abundant sherry in my French onion soup. Why didn’t I pick it up with the other French onion soup ingredients when I went to the store last? Because I live in one of those states where you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday before a certain time. Which is a RIDICULOUS law. What is the purpose? To prevent people from swinging by the store and grabbing a bottle of hooch to drink during church? I will be endlessly annoyed by this. Partly because of this law, I don’t typically go shopping at all on Sundays. But my last shopping trip had to take place on a Sunday for some reason, possibly related to me feeling cranky about waking up early on a Saturday. And as usual when I slip up and go to the store on a Sunday, I completely forgot about the stupid no-alcohol law and was unable to buy the sherry. That’s five extra days of life without onion soup, Internet! Yes I know I sound ridiculous! Anyway, today I was able to get the sherry plus some wine and I am never going to the grocery store on Sunday again. Until I forget about the no-alcohol thing and get annoyed all over again. 
  • By the way, there is apparently a SHERRY SHORTAGE.  I’d had a bottle of sherry in my hands on Sunday – the checker gamely agreed to see if it would scan as a cooking item or as a wine; it was prohibited for sale – but today there was no sherry to be found. I had to ask someone to help me look — surely they had just moved the sherry, I thought. But no, the staff person led me back to where I’d been looking. Fortunately, she was able to rummage around and dig a bottle of sherry out of somewhere. But while she was looking, she told me that sherry has been backordered for ages because there is a shortage. A shortage of… sherry???? Baffling! I find it so fascinating to learn about all these shortages of sort-of odd items – like the graham cracker shortage this past summer or the Hormel pepperoni shortage (which seems, thank goodness, to have ended) or the bucatini shortage going on now. Flour and sugar and yeast, okay; those are STAPLES. But WHAT is driving the shortage of more niche items like sherry? Has there been a lobster bisque upswing? An aperitif movement I’m not privy to? Perhaps we can blame it entirely on the UK, who, according to that one specific article, is going gaga for cocktails. I’m guessing there is some combination of increased demand and the shifting of resources to higher-demand products, but it is so wild to me that odd things keep running low.
  • Speaking of shortages: Every time I go shopping, I peek down into the cleaning supplies aisle, just in case. Today I was rewarded with a bottle of Clorox bleach spray AND a bottle of Lysol spray. Lysol is my preferred kitchen cleanser. I usually like the lemon scent (does not smell remotely like lemons) but have only seen it ONE TIME since March. There was a bottle of “mango & hibiscus” scented Lysol, though, and it was a family size, so I bought it. Okay, I just checked and it is in fact called “A Brand New Day” which seems quite aspirational for a cleanser, but here we are. The “mango & hibiscus” scent is noted in smaller print, so I think I’m supposed to feel more tied to the fresh start aspect of the aroma than to the mango and hibiscus. I tried it out and it has, so far, a fairly pleasant smell. It reminds me of hotels I used to stay in when I went to Florida for work: faintly tropical with an institutional essence. Only time will tell whether the scent eventually becomes repulsive. My grocery store also had a good supply of sanitizing wipes; I would have grabbed a container of those as well, but there is still a limit of two cleaning supplies per person, so it will have to wait for next time.
  • Moving right along to discussing more food-adjacent topics: my husband got me my all-time favorite tea for Christmas this year, Tea Squared Uncle Grey. The first time I had it was a million years ago when we could do things like travel to foreign countries and eat in restaurants. It was the tea served with my brunch at an adorable restaurant in Toronto, and when I make it at home it is just as aromatic and flavorful and luxurious tasting as it was then. It is expensive ($11.50 per box), compared to the tea I normally buy ($2.50 per box on sale), and I drink tea DAILY, so I am trying to keep myself to using two tea bags a week, as a special treat. It is difficult because Uncle Grey is so superior to all other teas but we soldier on. 
  • Why yes, in the background that IS a mug decorated with cats in tacos flying through space. It is another of my favorite Christmas gifts – this time from my daughter. I don’t think any piece of crockery has ever captured a person’s essence better than this does mine. 
  • To move away from food, but not out of the kitchen, I am wondering what to do about our gratitude tree. We started it way back in early April and gave up on it… at some point not too long after. It was always kind of a teeth-pulling sort of experience to get my family to participate, and it got to be too little reward for too much nagging, so at one point I was the only one adding any leaves or flowers. And then after awhile I just gave up completely, even though I continue to have many things for which I am grateful. But the tree remains. I don’t know if I have some delusional kernel of belief that we will pick it back up again? Or if I just no longer see it because I’m so used to it? But I am thinking about possibly taking it down. Or maybe I should leave it up! And try to jumpstart my family into helping it bloom again – maybe, this time, not requiring it, and certainly not DAILY, but just bringing it up time and again in case they want to add a leaf? That sounds really unlikely, doesn’t it. What would you do?
  • In other things-I-don’t-know-how-to-address topics: my return, apostrophe, and shift keys are… stuck. Not completely. But you have to press them REALLY hard to get them to work. Capitalizing letters is hardly worth it anymore and I am about ready to give up on paragraph spacing altogether. I have watched a few videos about how to remove the keys and clean under them, but it sounds very risky, and putting them back on seems VERY tricky indeed. (It took me three times to write the all-caps “very” back there which is too many times.) My husband’s taking a throw-up-his-hands let’s-just-buy-a-whole-new-computer approach which seems extreme. Sure, the computer is old and has some other issues, but I am not eager to spend the money on a new one. Especially when I have new towels to buy. (As if a person who has kept scratch, stinky towels for twelve years would just willy nilly replace an entire computer on the basis of some sticky keys!)
  • Today I finally gave away the last of the holiday gift bags I’d prepared for the various mail delivery people. Obviously my plan was to hand them out around the actual holidays. But those mail delivery people are slippery – they never ring the bell or knock to alert you to a package. And even if I am anticipating a delivery, by the time they drop it off and I get to the door, they are inevitably in their trucks already. A few times, expecting a delivery, I hung the gift bag on the outside door handle with a big note that said “FEDEX/UPS THIS IS FOR YOU” – but no one took it. We were able to give a present to the postal service worker; Carla spotted her coming down the other side of the street and set up camp by our mailbox so she could hand the gift off in person. But then the rate of package delivery slowed dramatically. Today, my husband had a new desk delivered. It came in several pieces, so while the delivery person was collecting the second box, I snapped up a holiday gift bag and handed it to him. He was a little surprised but said thank you and — this is the important part — took it with him. I hope it wasn’t too weird for him, because it was a little weird for me. Next year I think I will try pretending that I don’t know about the money restrictions and give out gift cards as I have in the past. 
  • I am in a bit of a book lull. I read my first book of 2021 last week (The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – I enjoyed it immensely but it also made me very sad and I cried several times.). But since then, I haven’t really been able to get into anything. There’s no dearth of books, of course! I am reading four, currently – it’s just that none of them is grabbing me. I’m not sure whether to press on (meh) or give up on these four books entirely (I don’t wanna) or start a fifth book and hope that IT grabs me. 
photo from amazon.com
  • As I mentioned earlier, I have to take Carla to the orthodontist for the first time next week. It seems likely she will need braces, but the actual reason we are going is because we are playing Dental Tag, which I don’t recommend. A little over a year ago, her dentist suggested we see an oral surgeon to remove the frenulum between her top teeth. The oral surgeon said that he needed her to be under the care of an orthodontist first. At least, that’s my very vague memory of it; Carla gets super anxious about dental things (who can blame her?), so my husband and I went with her together to the oral surgeon last February for the consultation. I was very nervous (wherever does Carla get it?) and also quite busy trying to persuade a very amped-up Carla not to touch all the oral surgery equipment in the room, so I did not really register what the surgeon was saying. Unfortunately, neither did my husband, despite the fact that he was the designated calm, listen-y, ask-doctor-y-questions-and-listen-to-the-answers person. I must have had some inkling about the orthodontist aspect, because I asked our dentist for a referral when we went for a cleaning last fall. But my husband’s recollection (and he has the well-established Better Memory of the two of us) was that we were to come back in a year. An email I wrote to my mother after the fact said the same thing. It’s now been nearly a year, so I called the oral surgeon to set up the appointment and the receptionist told me I needed to have Carla see an orthodontist first. SIGH. So, long story very long and super boring, we are going to see the orthodontist next week. I am nervous. I don’t recall enjoying the orthodontist when I needed orthodontic work as a child. And I can’t imagine it’s any easier to deal with when it is your precious baby whose mouth is being fooled with. Perhaps we will go out for ice cream afterward as a reward for getting through it.
  • Oh, I see we’re back on food: We are having pizza tonight, per Carla’s request. Pizza, for Carla, is pizza CRUST with just the barest kiss of tomato sauce. She will eat pepperoni on the side as well as raw mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. But she will not eat pizza with those exact same things on them. My husband requested two small pizzas, one with pesto, chicken, tomatoes, and mozzarella; the other with tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, pepperoncini, and shredded mozzarella. I will just have my normal, which is tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and shredded mozzarella. That is the pizza combination I get 90% of the time. And usually if I order some other set of toppings, it’s because I don’t know how smooth the pizza sauce will be (or I know it will not be smooth). For me, pizza is a very specific thing. My husband, on the other hand, likes to get a wide variety of topping combos. Is that normal? Do people like to try different topping variations on their pizza? Or is there One True Pizza for most people, like there is for me? I wonder if I should branch out a little? Sometimes I bookmark pizza recipes that sound exotic probably because they aren’t my boring old norm. But it’s very rare that I actually commit to making or ordering something different. (I did make a delicious mushroom/goat cheese/onion jam concoction a few times, but I always come back to the old faithful.) Do you have a One True Pizza?

Well, now I am hungry. I hope you have a restful, healthy weekend my bloggy friends. 

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Well, right on cue: despite my meticulous catalog of gift options and all my big plans of thwarting the inevitable onset of Stocking Stuffer Syndrome, now that we’re just under a week out from Christmas I am experiencing severe Pre-Christmas Panic that I haven’t purchased enough/the right gifts. What IS this and WHY does it happen? Especially THIS year when a) I have planned so well and so far in advance and b) I cannot do anything about it, aside from braving Target or Costco or the like during a pandemic which is a no from me dawg. Maybe focusing my anxiety energy on gift-related targets is more bearable than worrying aimlessly about Everything Else? The fact is, panic or no, IT’S TOO LATE NOW. 

Oh crumbs! I just realized I never ordered Carla a Rubik’s Cube to replace the one I broke. And glee of glees! It looks like Amazon is still confident it can ship one to me in a day (“a day”), unlike the Elsa styling head I keep fretting about, because I know she would like it, but it is TOO LATE – pretty much every version of the thing is unavailable to ship until January. INTO THE CART, RUBIK’S CUBE. There. Okay I also just bought my husband a pair of work slacks (do people say slacks anymore?) that I can pick up curbside. They were on sale. They are also very boring. Maybe too boring? Nope, TOO LATE, they are purchased. And I am hoping that the act of buying something, anything, even boring work slacks, will help allay the panic.

Let’s have some randomosity, shall we?

  • You know what it’s NOT too late for? Medicinal holiday baking. I have finally decided which holiday cookies to make! My husband found a copycat recipe for Levain Bakery’s chocolate chocolate chip cookies that we are going to bake. I think I will also make the zimtsterne, just because they are so pretty and festive. I have vague semi-plans to package some of the zimtsterne in the boxes I normally use for holiday chocolates and give them to our neighbors. Sharing the sufganiyot with our neighbor went so well, I kind of want to recapture that feeling. Unfortunately, all I’ve recaptured is the anxiety of even CONSIDERING interacting with our neighbors.
  • I haven’t tested the copycat recipe yet, but I CAN recommend the real thingLevain Bakery ships their cookies and I have been the recipient of said cookies in the past and it was delightful. Looks like it is too late to order them for Christmas, but if you ever need to send something delicious to someone in your life (that includes yourself), these are AH-MAY-ZING. They are huge and they freeze really well. 
  • In other baking news, I finally made the cranberry crumble bars I have been planning to make for over a week now. They were SO GOOD – the perfect combination of tart, gooey cranberries and lightly sweet crunchy shortbread crust with a teensy bit of very sweet lemony glaze on top. You use the same crust for the crumble on top, which sounds a little weird (to me) but is quite delicious. I sent a big plate full with my husband on Friday so he could share them with the surgical team, and he said everyone enjoyed them. Somehow I need to remember to make them next Thanksgiving because I like them better than our traditional pumpkin bars. 
  • My holiday card wall is looking a little sad, still. The cards are arriving in little drips, although one day we got a big surge of five. I hope it picks up before Christmas. I know the postal service is doing absolutely everything it can to move everyone else’s pandemic-related-panic-buying from one place to another, so I’m assuming more cards will arrive when they can. Of course it’s also possible that most people decided against cards this year – although most everyone I’ve spoken to seems to be of the “but now cards are more important than ever!!!!” perspective, so who really knows?
  • Speaking of the postal service, I finally stopped dithering and purchased gifts for the kind people who are delivering packages to our house ON THE DAILY. I saw an article about how postal workers aren’t allowed to accept cash or cash equivalents, which threw me for a loop. I have given Target and Starbucks gift cards with wild abandon in the past, so I kind of think maybe it would be okay to keep giving gift cards? Then again, KNOWING that it isn’t allowed is a different thing from blithely giving whatever I want out of innocence, so I dithered myself into complete paralysis. Until this week, when I finally decided that I could not give a gift card now that I KNEW it was prohibited. So I bought some of these little pandemic kits (which I could pick up curbside) and some fancy chocolates from a local small business and that was THAT. Practical plus yummy/treaty. Of course I am second guessing my choices now, but IT’S TOO LATE NOW. What’s done is packaged and waiting in our hall, except for the one gift we were already able to hand directly to the postal worker. Now all that’s left is to intercept the delivery people when they arrive; typically they don’t announce their presence in any way, and even if I know to listen for them they are often already back in their trucks by the time I fling open the door. What says “merry Christmas” better than a wild-eyed middle-aged woman running shrieking after your truck in her bare feet?
  • The pandemic kits I bought include one of those little no-touch door opener tool things. Do you have one of those? My husband got one from his hospital early on in the pandemic and he gave it to me. It is more useful than I anticipated, and I keep it in my purse and use it all the time. Hmmm. Maybe this would make a good stocking stuffer… This one at Amazon supposedly arrives before Christmas AND it has a little smart-screen tip you can use for credit card machines at the grocery store! 
  • This is totally not Christmas related AT ALL, but I cleaned my menorah and put that away, which is a nice if very small preview of the wonderful catharsis of putting away all the Christmas décor. We also have a menorah candle situation that annoys me. We ran out of candles on the seventh night (some people in our family can be a little too, um, enthusiastic about shoving the candles into the menorah), and I had to curbside pickup another pack of candles from Target. And now we will run out early NEXT year, too. I only hope I remember to buy extras before Hanukkah begins.
  • Also not a Christmas topic, and potentially alarming: the last two times I’ve been to the grocery store, there have been big bare spots on the taco shells shelf. And absolutely NONE of the Old El Paso regular-size taco shells. It’s all Stand and Stuff or Super Stuffer. It is perplexing. I haven’t been grabbing up big armsful of taco shells – yet – but I do grab a package every time, even if I’m not planning on tacos that week. (Although a week without tacos around here is, to be fair, rare.) I feel like I was just joking with someone about a hypothetical taco shell shortage, so perhaps I am to blame???? NEVER JOKE ABOUT TACO SHELLS, that’s the lesson here, folks. Well. Too late now.
  • This week’s haul from the grocery store included eggnog – which I like as long as it’s mixed with an equal amount of milk, otherwise it’s much too viscous – and Christmas beer, both of which are fun once-a-year things. I considered and rejected many other Christmas-specific items, including mulling spices, a stollen, and an enticing array of chocolate in Christmas shapes/colors. It is all so very tempting, though!
  • I am very tired of people in the grocery store not understanding the six-feet rule. It has been NINE MONTHS, people. There are signs everywhere, reminding us to give people plenty of space. There are regular announcements on the overhead speaker, reminding us to put six feet between ourselves and the people around us. We are all wearing masks as a big, blaring signal that THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW, YO. And yet, inevitably, I will be waiting patiently six feet away from a woman who is carefully evaluating every single onion in the bin so that I can grab some onions and be on my way, and some oblivious jerkface (I am assuming both the obliviousness and the jerkfacity) will squeeze in right next to her and start fondling the potatoes. In the immortal words of George Constanza, WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY, and said society demands six feet between its members! 
  • As long as we are discussing things that I find pandemically perplexing: I have now gotten several emails about summer camp registration. First of all, it is December. Okay, so summer camp planning typically starts in January and I guess it’s not far enough from January for it to be an unconscionably early. But. BUT, and secondly, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It seems kind of brazen to suggest that we start registering our kids for camps that are still many months away when we have NO IDEA what the status of the pandemic will be. Will everyone have gotten vaccines? Will the pandemic be under control? Will there be some new murder-hornet/zombie-mink-style horror to contend with? WHO KNOWS? The fact is, I am not ready to sign up for summer camp. Of course, the very fact that the camps are sending out the emails makes me a little edgy. I definitely don’t want to sign up today and send in a depost when anything could happen between now and next summer. But I also don’t want to wait until we KNOW what’s going to happen and find out IT’S TOO LATE to sign up. I can only hope that most other parents are giving these emails the ol’ squint eye and postponing thinking about it until at least March. 
  • Here is a Very Nice Thing: Carla’s last day before winter break was Friday, and the only assignment they had was to get together on Zoom and make a holiday present for their parents. I suppose that’s normal thing that teachers do with their kids before winter break, but it makes me feel especially weepy with gratitude this year because of all the extra forethought and planning it required, on top of all of the immense challenges of switching, mid-year, to an entirely new method of teaching. We owe these teachers so much. So. Much.
  • I painted my nails the other day for the first time in months. The polish is a sparkly turquoise-navy and I’m digging it. I wonder how long it will last, considering I wash my hands eight billion times a day.
  • Speaking of which, my hands are in rough shape. Unless I am super vigilant about applying hand lotion immediately after I wash my hands, they shrivel up and crack and my cuticles start peeling and there’s bleeding involved and it’s awful. I have hand lotion in the junk drawer in the kitchen, in my bathroom, and right next to my bed. I’ve had a rotation of hand creams, based on whatever is available to pick up at Target. Aveeno was my go-to lotion for most of the pandemic, but now that it’s winter, I don’t think it’s cutting it. I have Soap & Glory Hand Food by my bed, which is nice to use right before I go to sleep. But I’ve switched to O’Keefe’s Working Hands Hand Cream (this link goes to the 7 oz tube; it looks like Target only has the 3 oz size, and that is not enough hand cream) in the kitchen and in my bathroom and I think my diligence is starting to pay off.
  • My lips are a whole other situation though. It is the time of year where my normal multiple-times-daily application of Burt’s Bees lip balm is not enough to keep them smooth. I get this dry patch that I then pick at, which makes my lip bleed, and then my lips rush to repair the wound, which produces a thicker patch, which I then pick at, etc. etc. etc. until everyone is very glad indeed that I need to wear a face covering in public. What should I be putting on my lips instead? Vaseline? I see that O’Keefe’s makes a lip balm – maybe I should try that? Or this Aquaphor ointment gets good reviews. Oh! There is also a highly-rated Aquaphor balm (though it is PRICEY). What is the One True Lip Balm that will make my lips heal?
  • If you have a spouse/significant other, or if you are willing to pretend you do for this bullet point, would you find it odd if you received a gift card that was intended for both of you? Say your Aunt Sylvie sent you a Target gift card for $100 but it was made out to President and Vice President Yourname. (You are the President in this scenario.) You open it and you feel: _____ How? My husband and I have opposing views on this subject and I’m genuinely curious about others’ thoughts. 
  • My best friend from back home sent me a Friends couch ornament for Christmas. It is adorable AND it plays a quote from each character. I’m not crazy about the one for Phoebe – I’d rather hear her singing “Smelly Cat” – but it has Ross shouting “Pivot!” and Joey talking about a moo point, so overall I am very pleased with the choices. Carla loves to press the button and hear the quotes. She asked me what “pivot” means, which led to a definition plus an explanation of why Ross is yelling “pivot!” which led to watching the relevant clip on YouTube. And then I had to show her a few of my other favorite scenes, including my all-time favorite episode, which is the one where Rachel screws up the trifle. (The episode title is actually “The One Where Ross Got High.”) SO MANY great quotable moments in that episode. My favorite is when Ross and Monica’s mom says, “Rachel, no, you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It did NOT taste good.” 
  • Last-second addition to this post: I was going to schedule the post for Sunday morning and discovered that WordPress lists Sunday as the LAST DAY of the week on the calendar? What is THAT? Sunday comes FIRST! Every calendar I have ever seen orders the days from Sunday to Saturday. Yes, Monday is the first day of the work week, so it is kind of ridiculous, but this is The Way It Is Done. Even the song (to the tune of “My Darlin’ Clementine,” in case your toddler song repertoire is a little rusty) has the days in that order! Why, WordPress? What is the DEAL?

All right. That’s all I’ve got. How are you doing on this, the last Sunday before Christmas?

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When I left for the grocery store yesterday, I was feeling pretty smug. My freezer is FULL of meat, which is generally the most expensive item on my shopping list, and I’d come up with a meal plan that required only a small package of beef for stir frying. So I was feeling confident that my grocery bill would be nice and low.

Well, it wasn’t. It was, in fact, higher than normal. As I was doing Lamaze-style breathing while the checker scanned and scanned and scanned, my GAWD haven’t you reached the divider between my groceries and the next person’s yet?, I kept soothing myself with this thought: But they’re STAPLES.

I’d hit the trifecta of 1) Lots of fresh fruit at decent prices, and 2) Lots of good sales on Things We Always Need, and 3) Needing to buy more of things we’d either just run out of, or were close to running out of.

The woman behind me had a full cart, too. And it was kind of interesting to see the things that she was buying, in comparison to the things that I was buying. For instance, she had two gallons of milk (I buy a quart every… whatever the lifespan of a quart of milk is), a bunch of boxes of bran cereal, Thousand Island dressing, a big bag of pre-washed spinach, and a watermelon (among other things; I tend not to take thorough notes while poking through someone else’s grocery cart). I would never buy watermelon! I have only purchased spinach a few times! It’s so fun to see how different our lives are from other people’s!

It’s fun to think about what other people consider “staples.” Outside of flour and salt and olive oil, or whatever. Recently, I mentioned that half-and-half is a staple in our house, and Swistle, in the comments, noted that half-and-half is a staple in her home as well. And so I’ve been kind of wondering, what are the staples at YOUR house?

Here’s what they are in mine…

Produce: My husband eats a banana every morning, so I buy those every week. My daughter LOVES fruit, so I buy whatever is in season and least expensive. (Although yesterday I kind of went crazy, buying strawberries AND blueberries AND cherries, and I PLEDGE TO THE INTERNET GODS THAT I WILL WASH AND FORCE MY FAMILY TO EAT EVERY LAST MORSEL.) We eat a lot of broccoli and green beans as sides, so they’re usually on the list. Same goes for iceberg lettuce, which is (probably, I haven’t done any tests) nutritionally meaningless, and yet I can’t quit it. And onions, potatoes, and lemons are super versatile, so I buy them most trips to the grocery store, unless we’re flush with them for some reason.

Dairy: Shredded cheese is totally a staple around here. We eat tacos maybe once a week, and I like to make pizzas for lunch. My husband eats yogurt every day for lunch, so I’m always loading up on yogurt when there’s a good sale. Carla eats yogurt fairly regularly, but then sometimes she’ll boycott yogurt completely, and it’s impossible to tell what the next day will hold, so I buy a lot of the yogurt pouches you can freeze. They are super expensive, so when they are on sale I grab a ton. Half-and-half and sour cream are also staples.

Frozen: Carla, for some reason, loves frozen vegetables. So we usually have a bag of frozen green beans and a bag of frozen broccoli florets in the freezer at all times, and often a backup. She also enjoys the Mrs. T’s pierogis, so when they are on sale, I toss a box into my cart. Same goes for pancakes, French toast sticks, fish sticks, and chicken nuggets. You can almost guarantee you’ll find those things in our house on a given day, so if they are on sale I have trouble NOT buying them. (Which sometimes results in two unopened boxes of fish sticks in the freezer at the same time, so I really need to figure out how to curb that particular Must! Buy! Now! impulse. I think I am what advertisers call “a dream consumer.”)

Meat: We eat a lot of chicken and pork. I get my chicken at the grocery store when it’s on sale and freeze it in two-to-a-bag Ziplocs. I get the pork tenderloin at Costco (unless there’s a good sale). I also get beef at Costco and then grind my own meat for spaghetti, tacos, and chili. Carla LOVES fish. She started out strongly preferring salmon, but she’s branched out into things like opah and swordfish and tuna. So when it’s a good price, I buy some, cut it into small Carla-size chunks, and freeze it. Yesterday the wild salmon was $34.99 a pound and I wish I could all-caps a number because WHAT. So I am glad I still have a piece of more reasonably priced salmon lounging in my freezer for the next time Carla has a salmon craving.

Pantry: Our grocery store is always having sales on canned beans, which means that sometimes my pantry is overflowing with black beans, chickpeas, and dark red kidney beans. We always have a lot of tomato sauce on hand, as well as coconut milk, chicken stock, rice, and taco shells. Carla loves Cheez-Its and Goldfish, so we usually have one or both of those in our pantry. My husband drinks coffee and I drink tea, so we always have those on hand. My husband eats a specific brand of pretzels every day for lunch, and it is now impossible to find them at Target, so I buy two bags at a time just to make sure we don’t run out. Rice Krispies and applesauce are two other must-haves, although I HATE buying Rice Krispies when it’s not on sale, so sometimes we go without.

Spices: The spices I cannot live without are cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, garam masala, cardamom, and coriander. I am constantly buying those things on sale, to the point that one day I discovered I had more cumin than any person could ever use in a lifetime. (I have now gone for several months without buying cumin, which makes me feel a little panicky.)

Condiments: Ketchup is one of Carla’s I-Cannot-Live-Without-You condiment. She also likes maple syrup to an absurd degree; this morning she asked if I could pour some maple syrup into a little bowl for her so she could dip her strawberries in it. Um, no. Then there’s hot sauce, which I count up there with oxygen. Which is how my husband feels about peanut butter, so there’s always plenty of that to be found.

Alcohol: I am the only person in our household who drinks alcohol really at all, so I usually pick up a bottle of Riesling. We typically have gin on hand, for in-law visits and occasional gimlet cravings, but we are OUT of gin right now and I am not interested in replenishing it at this time. If we’re anywhere near having guests, I keep an eye out for wines with high Wine Spectator rankings that are under $10. Come to my house for cumin, stay for the cheap wine.

One of the magical things my mom could always do was whip up a meal out of items just lying around our house. (She didn’t, like, store pasta on the couch or anything. The items she cooked with were in normal food-storage locations.) I suppose, now that I think about it, she probably did meal planning just like I do. But it appeared that she could come home, open the freezer and take a peek in the pantry, and then just throw something together. After many years of buying my own groceries and making my own meals, I feel like I’ve finally reached that point. I prefer to plan out meals in advance (hahahaha – just kidding; I HATE meal planning) (but I do it anyway) (shakes fist at adulthood), but when I haven’t been able to get to the store, or we are just back from a vacation or whatever, I feel pretty confident that I can pull something meal-adjacent out of the items we have on hand. I mean, as long as I have some chicken breasts, a lemon, a potato, and some white wine, I can feed you something pretty delicious, if lacking in greenery.

(Re-reading this, I’m realizing that I am super lucky to be able to buy and stock so many fresh [and otherwise] foods, and I feel a Food Pantry Stock Up trip to the store with Carla coming on, so we can help other people fill their cupboards and bellies, too.)

Okay, now, your turn. Let me peek inside your grocery cart and pantry and fridge. What are the Must Haves and Can’t Live Withouts in YOUR house?

 

Groceries

Don’t be fooled; we had six total grocery bags, packed FULL of groceries. This is just a representative sampling because I didn’t have any other photos to add to the post. For example, I came home with four times the pictured amount of yogurt ALONE. 

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