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Well, it is FRIDAY. Spring break looms! I am looking forward to READING. Here’s some randomosity for you.

We replaced our water heater. Our old one was small-ish – you couldn’t have two people take back-to-back showers and expect for the second person to have hot water – and in the past couple of months, it had begun knocking every time you even washed a spoon. The water heater’s death knell, if you will. It was nearly 10 years old anyway, and supposedly water heaters only last 7 to 10 years. So it was an anticipated replacement, and we were glad to upgrade to a larger tank and happy to end our game of Will It Leak chicken. Our plumbing company is excellent, and I have never had a bad experience. But when the plumber wheeled the new tank in, he pointed out that it had a dent in it. “Ding,” he called it, which seems so flimsy and insignificant a thing. But to me, it looked like a DENT.

Water tank 1

Ding or dent?

He assured me that it was cosmetic only and reminded me that their warranty covers parts and labor should it turn out to be NON cosmetic, which is less reassuring a comment than perhaps he thought it might be. And he would chop a few hundred bucks off the cost, he said. He would be happy to swap it out for a new one, he said, but there was no guarantee the next one would be ding free; these things get bumped and banged around on trucks and he sees dings ALL the time! Some even worse than ours! And he wouldn’t be able to tell if the new one had a ding in it until he took it out of the box. Plus, he didn’t have another one on his truck, so he’d have to leave and go back to the shop. But it was really up to me. Then he looked at me expectantly. I said, okay, go ahead and install it. But inside, I was yelling, no! Don’t give me a dented water heater!

Listen. When I buy a thing, I want it to be Pristine. Maybe a scratch in a refrigerator door or a ding dent in a water heater has no impact on the functioning of said appliance. I don’t care. Part of the reason for getting a new thing is that it is new. No one has put their grubby ketchup-covered hands all over it or rammed it with a broom handle or knocked a ladder into it. My oven has a permanent stain around one of the burners and some scratches from being careless when removing the cast iron grates when cleaning it. The door handle of my freezer is kind of wobbly because the shortest member of our family insists on leaning on it despite repeated requests to the contrary. Our kitchen table is stippled with the wounds of a fork being jabbed into it repeatedly, not to mention some ballpoint pen marks that refuse any attempt to remove them. These things happen. Normal wear and tear. But when a thing is NEW, part of the fun – nay, part of the very thing I am PAYING FOR – is the fresh, clean, lack of marks-and-scrapes-and-dingsdents.

When we got our dining room table and chairs and our barstools from Crate & Barrel many years ago, ALL of them had issues. A couple of the barstools were wobbly – which the delivery person tried to blame on my uneven floors (which are not uneven, thank you) and some of the very expensive, all-wood dining chairs had scratches in them. I made the person take them back and get us new ones. (I think it took more than one re-delivery to get non-scratched dining chairs, OMG.)

I always worry that I am being overly picky. The people who are trying to get you to accept the scratched/dingeddented items certainly make it out like I am being wholly unreasonable – it’s just a little scratch! You can still sit perfectly well in a chair with a deep vertical gouge in one of the legs! And maybe I am being unreasonable, I don’t know.

Whatever. The dinged dented water heater leaked so the plumber had to get a new one anyway.

Water tank 2

El Dento before it was hooked up and began to leak and was then summarily removed.

I have a Shrimp PSA for you, Internet.You may be aware that shrimp have a “vein” on their backs, yes? And that you should remove it before eating? (It’s not a vein; it’s the shrimp’s digestive tract or something equally gross.) Well, when I buy shrimp, I try to get it shelled and de-veined so I don’t have to deal with disemboweling the things before I cook them. (Or deal with looking at their creepy bug eyes and legs and exoskeleton.) (Why do I eat these things?) Well, the other day, I was prepping the shrimp for the shrimp scampi meal I love to eat, and I noticed that there was a long, dark stripe on the underside of the shrimp. Maybe the de-veiner missed one, I thought. No, ALL of the shrimp had it. I painstakingly removed one gruesome string after another. Ew. I looked at the bag the shrimp come in. It said clearly that they are DE-VEINED. Well! I was going to for sure call the company and complain.

Turns out that shrimp (I learned after Googling, fortunately not after yelling at some poor shrimp customer service rep) have TWO “veins.” One is the digestive tract and the other is the circulatory system. A de-veined shrimp has been relieved of the former; the latter remains. Apparently you can eat the circulatory stuff just fine. But… EW.

So now I am weighing my preference for shrimp over chicken against my preference for not removing a creature’s circulatory system. I really don’t like being reminded AT ALL that the shrimp I am about to devour was once a living creature. It’s bad enough that I have to remove their tails; I do not want to do anything else. But now YOU can make the decision BEFORE shelling out $20 for a bag of veiny shrimp.

Do you think other omnivores and carnivores feel this sort of squeamishness about their prey? I mean, not cats. Cats are sadists (and I say that with love, because cats are my all-time favorite animal). What other explanation is there for a) toying with a mouse until it is nearly dead with fear and b) leaving the bones and fur of one’s meal on the threshold between one’s human’s bedroom and the hall in the spot most ideal for being stepped on by said human and c) gleefully presenting one’s human with the innards of a mouse as a gift?

Do you think bears are happiest when they are eating berries, and, although they recognize that creatures are probably higher-yield in terms of nutrition, get all yicked out when they have to catch a writhing salmon in their bare teeth? Do you think owls squeeze their eyes shut as they swoop down to grab a mouse for dinner and say, “Eeeesh, I really wish this thing didn’t have whiskers”? Do you think lions are all, “If only my zebra came de-hooved!”? I, for one, want my meat to be as far removed from Living Thing as it possibly can be. Ground beef does a great job at looking Not Alive. Same with a fillet of, say, tilapia. Anything with bones gets a little too close for comfort. Down this road vegetarianism lies, I know, but I really am not capable of giving up tacos.

I have a new favorite kitchen gadget! My husband got me this amazing can strainer, which I LOVE. I make lots of things with canned black beans and chickpeas and kidney beans, and it is such a pain to get out a big unwieldy strainer to strain and rinse one or even two cans of beans. The strainers take up so much room in the dishwasher, and their handles get in the way of other dishes and it’s just so annoying. And then I have to do the weird dance of rushing the rinsed beans over to the pot on the stove, dripping water all over the counter and the floor. So when I received this can strainer as a birthday gift a few weeks ago, I was DELIGHTED. And it works very well! It’s small, so I can just put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, and it takes up very little room. My only complaint – and it’s really more of an observation – is that it seems to take longer to rinse the beans than it does with the strainer; they are more crammed together in the smaller confines of the can than in the roomier strainer. But otherwise, it’s wonderful. Plus, it’s cheap: the one I have is selling on Amazon for under $4. Or there is a stainless steel option that’s under $8.

Can strainer

Photo from amazon.com

There is a particular kind of lentil soup I am obsessed with. It comes from my local Lebanese restaurant, and it’s light and lemony and soooooo good. It is also $5 a bowl, which is reasonable as a treat but not on a day-to-day basis. So I have tried to make it at home and continue to fail.

This recipe is quite good – Lemony Lentil Soup from Gimme Some Oven – but the restaurant version doesn’t have any carrots in it. So, seeing as I really detest cooked carrots anyway, this is not going to cut it as a substitute.  This Middle Eastern Lentil Soup from BBCGoodFood is closer, and I really like the bright note that the turmeric adds, but it’s still not right. There is definitely no turmeric in the restaurant soup. Cumin, maybe… but even that I’m not sure of.  I don’t know what else to try, to get it closer to the restaurant soup. Any ideas? Based off of… nothing, since you aren’t eating the same soup I am? Still – I am hoping you will know exactly which spice will make it taste right. And I am willing to experiment. Lentil soup is GOOD.

Lentil Soup

My attempt to make the Middle Eastern Lentil Soup with a few add-ons. Good but not right. Also, the restaurant tops its soup with crunchy little pita wontons. And that makes ALL the difference. So yummy! But I could not get my hands on any pita wontons the day I made this soup.

Well, that’s all the randomosity I have for you today, Internet! What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

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My ten-day challenge is over and I am in a very gleeful mood, fueled by Reese’s peanut butter hearts and pasta. I feel a little high, honestly. I don’t think I rebound-sugared this way after my No Sugar Month last year. Perhaps I need more than ten days to feel settled in the No Sugar Lifestyle.

Some randomosity for you this afternoon:

  1. Do you remember a while ago when I mentioned I wanted to buy a half sheet pan? And they were super expensive? And then Allison mentioned very tactfully that perhaps I was looking for a quarter  sheet pan instead? Yes. Well, I finally bought one from Amazon – this one, which came with its own little quarter sized Silpat (except it’s not a Silpat, it’s the same brand as the cookie sheet) (and it’s not the size of a quarter, it’s a quarter of… whatever unit of measurement a full sheet pan is) – and I LOVE IT. First of all, it is shiny and clean and the Silpat is not sticky at all (my other two – one a Silpat-Silpat and the other a Crate & Barrel version – persist in stickiness despite rigorous cleaning). But most important, it is exactly the right size for baking three chicken dinosaurs and some butternut squash cubes for Carla to refuse to eat, or for a personal size pizza for me, or for four slices of garlic bread, or for many other magical things I have yet to discover.
Sheet pan with mini-tortilla pizza, and sheet pan next to regular sheet pan. So shiny!
  1. Buying the new sheet pan got me to clean out my sheet-pan drawer. I threw away (!!!!) (the !!!s are because I have a very hard time getting rid of things) my old beloved regular sized cookie sheet which was warped and rusty and which could no longer be washed properly because it left rust streaks on towels and rusty drips on the floor. It is now gone. Well, it is now in the garbage can behind my garage, waiting for garbage day. I can feel its presence still. I hope eventually it releases its hold on me, but we have after all been together many years so we cannot expect to avoid the mourning period entirely, new shiny pans notwithstanding. I also moved a less rusty but not particularly attractive sheet pan and two cupcake/muffin tins into the pantry, where they are now accompanying other infrequently used items, like the madeleine tray and my springform pans which I have used twice?? and another cupcake/muffin tin. Why do I have so many cupcake/muffin tins? We shall never know. I replaced these items with my new-since-December (and still never used) shiny regular size sheet pans. I guess I think of them as more the guestsheet pans, you know, like the guest hand towels in the powder room that your mother scolded you for using because you were not a guest. No? Only me? I like to think I will pull them out for use when we have company, and our guests will admire how shiny they are. I just have to keep them distant enough so that they won’t be tempted to feel my Silpats, which, inevitably, will be sticky.

 

  1. I finally got to eat one of my failed stained-glass sugar cookies. It was good. No, it was adequate. I ate it grudgingly. But I am still super irritated by how poorly they turned out from an aesthetic perspective.

SG cookies 4

  1. Also (I am still on the cookies here) I am really annoyed that the giant bag of Jolly Ranchers we used for the “glass” had only three cherry ranchers. THREE. Listen, even if I hadn’t used them for finicky failure cookies, I would be annoyed. There were something like 16 to 20 of the other three jolly flavors (strawberry, watermelon, and fruit punch); that is a DRASTIC imbalance. In fact, I would have been MORE annoyed if my plan were to eat them all. Who’s in charge of QA at the JR factory is what I want to know.

 

  1. My husband isn’t a big Valentine’s Day fan. Usually, we exchange cards and that’s it. I do all the candy buying. This year, inspired by Swistle, I wanted to buy myself a big heart shaped box of chocolates. I enjoy the variety and surprise of those assortments, and I don’t need The Best Chocolate like my chocolate snob spouse does. So I planned an excursion to the mall to go to the fancy candy store with Carla so she could pick out candy for her father and to also visit See’s, which Swistle recommends so highly, and which I have only ever been to once maybe, so I could get a box of chocolates to surprise myself with on Valentine’s Day. To my despair, there is no longer a See’s at our mall! I swear it was there the last time I visited, which has been… at some point in 2019, even if I’m not recalling the exact date. Boo! Thwarted! Then, on a separate occasion, Carla and I went to Walgreen’s to pick out a card for her father (we need to spread out the excitement around here) and I looked carefully at all the Russell Stover and Lindt and Godiva heart assortments. The one that sounded best was $12.99 (some sort of “special” Russell Stover candies, but the three options featured on the front sounded yummy) which is a bit rich for my blood when it comes to drugstore candy, so we left without it. (Also without all the stuffed animals Carla picked up from the shelves and hugged tightly and told me she MUST own or she would certainly die.) Thwarted again. Oh well. I figured I could go back in a few days and buy it on sale. My husband is on call this week and has been getting home around eight. The night before Valentine’s Day, he arrived a little later. And he had bought me a heart-shaped box of chocolates! Most romantic $3.99 ever!

 

  1. This is more of a side note to the above, but our Walgreen’s no longer has trash cans. It used to have one of those large pebbled trash receptacles out front, but it has disappeared. The reason I noticed is because I had something – receipt, tissue, some piece of trash Carla lovingly plucked from the floor – to throw away, and I couldn’t. So I went back in, stood in line, and waited patiently to ask the checker if I could toss it in her trash can. And she said NO, they no longer have trash cans! I wanted to ask her more questions, but there were actual customers lined up behind me and Carla was trying to scan her jacket pockets with the handheld scanner, and plus I was in shock, so I left without any more information. Seriously though: WHAT?!?!?!

 

  1. While we are speaking of Walgreens – this is how exciting my life is, recounting separate items of “interest” about Walgreens for Pete’s sake – I will tell you that I finally, after five years, did something I have been meaning to do for, well, five years, as I just said. I picked up a prescription and the pharmacist handed it to me, rather than the assistant/tech who normally rings people out. And it was the very same pharmacist who had been so very kind to me five years ago when I was SUPER sick from being pregnant, and still hiding my pregnancy from my BRAND NEW JOB that I had just started a couple of months prior, and the only thing that helped at ALL was Zofran. Seriously – I had the exact hours that I had to take Zofran so I could appear semi-normal at my job – and let me tell you, it wasn’t MAGIC; I didn’t feel WELL; I just felt less like I was in imminent danger of dying or barfing – and I took them religiously every single day. The prescription said I was supposed to take three a day (I think; I could definitely be misremembering) and I had to grit my teeth and clench my fists through the last two hours before I could take the next pill. But – despite that the bottle very clearly said “three a day” (or whatever), my insurance would only pay for, say, 45 Zofran a month (I am forgetting the exact numbers here). The prescription did not give you enough Zofran to take the prescribed daily amount, is what I am trying to tell you, which makes NO SENSE. I was forcing myself to survive on only two a day, but I was about to run out and I was freaking out about it. So I went back to the pharmacy and this lovely pharmacist told me that the cost for the amount of Zofran I needed out of pocket amounted to, say, $23 a pill, and even though I was miserable, I couldn’t justify paying $300+ to not throw up all over my office. At the time, I was nauseated all the time, even with the Zofran, I was working my ass off at work to make sure they wouldn’t be super pissed about hiring me when they found out I was knocked up, I was forcing my husband to subsist on things that didn’t require being cooked. And Zofran was the ONLY THING that was helping me get through it. So I learned all this information at the pharmacy when I was down to my last couple of Zofran and I burst into tears and the pharmacist was SO NICE. Not only did she say soothing things of the, “this is a terrible feeling, but you are going to be okay, and at the end you will have a wonderful baby” variety, she called my doctor and worked some sort of magic to get me a three-month prescription for the same drug that my insurance would actually cover. Don’t ask me to understand what happened or how she did it. All I know is that I ended up with more Zofran than I ended up needing (after my nausea finally cleared up around the 25 week mark). Whatever she did was MAGIC. Anyway, I have always held her in my heart with love and admiration and this most recent time, I told her that I knew she wouldn’t remember, but she had been so kind to me when I was pregnant and I always remembered that and I wanted to thank her. And then I ran out of the Walgreens because I felt super embarrassed.

 

  1. I am pleased to announce that I have achieved one of my 2019 goals. No, I have not finished my manuscript; one of the world’s great unfairnesses is that writing a 1,532-word so far blog post does not move me an inch closer toward finishing my novel. Instead, I have procured a new ottoman for our living room. The old one is very fancy and in a horrid state of disrepair. The new one is from Target, so I won’t feel horrible  if it doesn’t last more than a couple of years (BUT IT BETTER LAST A COUPLE OF YEARS), and it has the bonus of interior storage. It’s a little taller than the old ottoman, which is taking some getting-used-to, but other than that, it’s a fine replacement. Carla believes in her heart that the storage space inside it is for her toys (fine, gets them off the floor/side table) and uses it in her imaginative play. Her dolly has a lot of timeouts in it, despite my gentle urging to not put her child inside a lidded ottoman.
Old ottoman. You can see how the leather is peeling off of it everywhere. YUCK.
New ottoman closed and opened. I can’t take a straight-on photo to save my life.
  1. The old ottoman has become a bone of contention for me and my husband. First, you should know that neither of us is good at throwing things out (see above re: rusty cookie pan). Second, my husband hasn’t even HEARD of Marie Kondo, so he furls his brow at me when I say, “does it bring you joy?” and will not acknowledge how useful a barometer that question is. Third, we both feel guilty because it was (presumably) VERY expensive (not for us; for his parents) and we don’t know what to DO with it. It’s too beat up to give to Goodwill. Neither of us knows how to re-upholster, or we would have chosen that route rather than the Target replacement route. Which is all to say that my husband wants to keep it, and use it downstairs in the basement in place of the IKEA coffee table we’ve had since 2003, and I disagree because it is twice the size of the IKEA coffee table and a) won’t fit as well and b) will be a pain for me to move when I want to exercise. So for now we’ve compromised and it is leaning up against the wall in our living room. NONE OF THIS BRINGS ME JOY.
Ottoman 6

NO JOY.

  1. I have changed my mind. The stained glass cookies are not even adequate. The cookie part is fine, but the stained glass part sticks to my teeth and the strawberry flavor is off-putting against the flavor of the cookie. Even cream cheese frosting couldn’t help. WORST COOKIE EVER.

SG cookies 5

That’s all I’ve got, Internet! Have a lovely weekend.

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Usually, January is the month that lasts for two. But I feel like this particular January flew by. Here’s some randomosity for your Friday reading.

  • My mother-in-law got us tickets to go an author reading in a few months and suggested that, to prepare, we both read her latest book. The author – B. A. Shapiro – is new to me. The book is called The Collector’s Apprentice and it sounds v. interesting – love and art and revenge, all with the 1920s as a backdrop. Sign me up!

Collectors Apprentice

  • I bought the book with a gift card. A gift card I’d had since… at least two Christmases ago. I am not good at usinggift cards, because I don’t want to waste them. My husband is the exact opposite. He BURNS to use a gift card immediately. I hoard them. That is how I came to have several months of pedicures last spring: because I needed to use up a gift card I’d gotten before it expired. It had been a present for my baby shower. In 2013. See? Gift card hoarder. It can really backfire, though, so I’m trying to be better about it. Once, my husband got me a gift certificate for a massage. And I saved and saved it and saved it, waiting for the best possible time to use it… And the spa went out of business. Let that be a lesson to gift card hoarders everywhere!
Gift cards

These were just the ones I found in my wallet. I have a problem.

  • The Collector’s Apprentice wasn’t the only book I bought with my years-old gift card. I spent the whole thing. I bought some writerly type books and some newish fiction I’ve been wanting to read and some classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. And now my side table/personal library looks a little… overburdened. I mean, it’s been a good long while since it’s been even nearly this bad. I don’t normally organize the books that way – they don’t fit. Usually the spines are facing the bed. Not that I read through them every night and select one based on the available titles. No, I read no more than two or three at a time like a normal person.
Side table

Note to longtime readers: This is NOT another pregnancy announcement.

  • Hiding behind my book stacks are a variety of chapstick and hand lotion (and pillow spray, which I love). My hands are HATING this weather. My entire skin, in fact, has decided to stage a rebellion. I have big painful spots on each arm, my legs are covered in a scaly, itchy rash, my face has alternated between auditioning for role of Teenage Acne and becoming so dry it peels off. It’s really lovely. My hands are the easiest to deal with. I have purchased a wide variety of hand lotions with oddly aggressive labels like Intensive Healing and Ultra-Dry Skin Relief and Uber Nourishing Dry-Guard Skin Milk. I have stashed lotion everywhere: my nightstand, my bathroom, Carla’s bathroom, the kitchen, my purse, my car. My cuticles are still peeling, but none of my knuckles are cracked OR bleeding, so I think I’m winning.

 

  • Some of those books have been on my nightstand for a couple of years. The upside-down Louise Erdrich book, LaRose, has been there for at least two. She’s an exceptional author and the book is very well done, but it’s so achingly sad I can’t get more than halfway through it before I need to take a break… and then by the time I can gear myself up to pick it up again, I need to start over from the beginning. Lather, rinse, repeat. My husband keeps asking if he can go file it (he LOVES to put books on our bookshelves) but I can’t bring myself to give up on it. Some of the books are just laziness on my part. My husband will be happy to know he can shelve the Tana French book  (very good, as per usual, but not my favorite of her works) and I need to return the Jodi Picoult book and The Association of Small Bombs and The Master Butcher’s Singing Club to their original owners. (I read none of them but have had each of them for well over a year now, so it’s time they went home.)
LaRose

Photo from Amazon.com of the hardcover version on my nightstand; the link goes to the less expensive paperback

 

  • Today is the last day Carla can sell Girl Scout Cookies. Since the weather has warmed up a bit, I think we’ll head out to the last few neighbors’ houses we haven’t hit yet. I am so glad this portion of Girl Scouts is over because I HATE IT. My parents never let me sell things when I was a kid. For one thing, my nearest neighbor was two miles away. For another, they were both “the boss” at their respective offices and felt like it wasn’t cool to ask their employees to buy shit from their kid. I remember distinctly a standoff between my mom and some hapless teacher who was trying to insist that I had to sell whatever scheme they were in the midst of: citrus fruit for choir, magazine sales for lord knows what reason (something to do with “weebles,” although I’m not sure how it benefited the school, exactly). My mom said no, the teacher said it was mandatory (how??? my memory isn’t great so I am probably misremembering) and so my mom wrote a check. And the teacher was sullen about it – the money was only part of the point, I think – but that was that. The end of my career as a salesgirl. This is all to say that I have a deep-rooted discomfort with selling stuff. And yes, I KNOW people love Girl Scout Cookies, and I KNOW this is teaching Carla valuable skills like counting money and interacting with people and memorizing a little sales script and facing rejection and yada yada yada but I HATE IT WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS.

 

  • Along with most of the country, Carla’s school was closed this week due to cold, so we stayed home and entertained ourselves. By far the most entertaining thing that happened was that an enormous unfamiliar bird stationed himself on top of Carla’s swingset for a good hour or so. I took many pictures of the bird, from many different windows, with two separate cameras. Carla and I pored over our Birds of State book, trying to pinpoint what it was. I narrowed it down to a Cooper’s Hawk or a Broad-winged Hawk; Carla insisted it was an owl of some sort, although I think we can all (except Carla) agree that it does not have an owl face. I took a very boring video of our backyard squirrel, Howard, trying to get close to the bird, and the bird puffing up its wings. I mean, what was Howard thinking? Was he trying to scare the bird off of what he must consider to be HIS swingset? Was he just getting a better look? Did he want to snuggle? But I’m pretty sure a bird that size wouldn’t hesitate to eat Howard for Thanksgiving dinner, so I was pretty relieved that Howard gave up after the bird flapped at him.
Hawk 1

Even with my husband’s fancy camera, I couldn’t get a good close up. And this bird was posing like nobody’s business, fierce looks, lots of feather ruffling, he would definitely win America’s Next Top Hawk Model. It’s not his fault I have poor photography skills.

Hawk 2

Difficult to see because of distance and speed, but this is Howard, trying to sneak up on the giant bird of prey that should probably strike terror in his little sciurine heart.

  • Purely because it’s February, and not because I have anything at all to report, I shall update you on my goals/aspirations for the year. In short, I am not doing well. I have been writing my book, but not as often as I should. My “be in bed by 10:30” goal has been a laughable failure. Last night, for no reason whatsoever, I stayed up until 12:15 am watching Child 44, which wasn’t even particularly good. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t stay up past midnight good. And yet. Okay, I just continued listing all the ways I am failing at my goals and that way madness and tearful potato chip eating lies, so I erased it. One goal I haveaccomplished is to buy new underwear. I was at Nordstrom and there was a sale rack of underpinnings and I figured, I can spend $4 a pair on some new underwear! So I collected two pairs in my size and then found a whole big pile of Natori underpants in nice, bright, pretty colors. And they were on sale for $10.87 a pair, which is steep. But a salesperson happened to walk past and she said, “Those are our bestsellers. Everybody loves them.” So I figured a) Natori is the brand of bra I like best, maybe the underthings will be just as good and b) who am I to go against the undergarment grain? The only problem was that these fancy drawers were one size fits all. I asked the salesperson and she ASSURED ME that they really were magical and fit ALL SIZES. I was deeply suspicious, but wanted to try them – and also felt like it was a bit of a challenge, right? I mean, I’ve got a generous backyard, so if these lawn covers were truly going to be one-size-fits-all, then they had their work cut out for them. Well, I did try them on and they did fit… but I have yet to take the tags off and wash everything and wear them out and about. I will tell you that the Natori knickers rang up at $3.97 apiece, so I feel like even if they provide mere cautionary fodder for this blog, they were worth the price.

 

  • Lately, whenever I can’t find my phone, it’s because Carla has swiped it to take photos. She has her own camera – this Vtech Kidizoom camera which is actually quite cool – but the memory card fills up quickly. And I understand why, because I find evidence of her voluminous photography in my phone’s photo stream.

 

Carla Photos

Experimenting with close ups of floor, foot, and pet (stuffed) tiger. 

  • I really can’t believe it’s February. Despite the lingering cold, it feels like winter is on its way out. February is so short and then it’s March and spring and warmer temperatures. Sitting here in my cozy house with the promise of not just above-zero but above-freezing temperatures later today and all weekend, it is easy to feel like winter is going fast. Of course, I can say that because it’s my favorite season – and I LOVE snow, in particular. As part of my More Weekend Adventures goal, we went sledding a couple of weeks ago. It was Carla’s first time and I think she had a blast. I had to buy a sled, and I got a $9.99 sled from Target. It lasted for an hour before it sprung a big hole. Fortunately, it was quite cold so we were all ready to exchange sledding for hot chocolate, but it was disappointing nonetheless. I don’t know if we misused it – my husband and I did go down with Carla a couple of times; not all three of us, but one parent with the kid – or if the terrain, which seemed nice a deeply snow covered, was somehow rougher than it seemed… but it seems to me that even a $9.99 sled should last for longer than an hour. I wanted to return it, but my husband says it’s not worth it. Who knows if we’ll even get the combination of Good Snow and Survivable Temperatures again this season? And we did use it. Maybe we already got our $9.99 worth of sledding out of it. I’m new at this.
Sled

Sled, beautiful and unblemished, pre-sledding.

Happy weekend, Internet!

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Man, I haven’t done one of these small-takes type posts in a long time! However, I would really like to blog more often (I was thinking the other day that maybe I should just change my blog title to “Dinners This Week” because that’s about all I can manage most weeks) and maybe this is the key. As you well know, if you’ve been reading for more than five minutes, I tend to be overly wordyand I think that’s holding me back. Also, I am boring. I’ll be writing along, 3,000 words in, and I’ll realize, my GOD this is TEDIOUS. Takes the joy out of posting something, when you know it’s dull as a bowl of marbles. Sometimes I go back and read old posts and I think, boy, I used to be moderately entertaining! Well. Sometimes people change for the good, sometimes they change for the snoozefest.

Anyway. Random blurbs ahoy.

  • Last night I went out to dinner with a friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a lovely, lovely time and we talked about books – specifically The Friend, which had been a gift from this particular friend, and for whom I bought a second copy of the book because my friend MUST read it but also I need to keep a copy for myself – and work and family and travel. It’s been a very friendly week, which has been good: I had two nice hour+-long conversations with two separate long distance friends. I had a coffee with a friend who lives here in town, but who has been MIA for a good many months. I have another coffee planned for February with another friend I haven’t seen in a good while. And a lunch date planned for the last day in January with an old work friend. And then last night’s dinner. I am feeling very full and grateful right now. Perhaps if I record this feeling I can return to it on those inevitable days when I feel lonely and friendless. Friends: I highly recommend them.

 

  • The only bad thing about dinner last night was that I had too much to drink, which made the drive home ridiculously uncomfortable. No, not alcohol. I wasn’t drunk, or even tipsy. I mean I had literally put too much liquid into my body. Seems that I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a glass of water full. And the servers at this particular establishment were prompt in discharging their glass-filling duty, no matter how repetitive. The restaurant we went to was a good thirty minutes’ drive from my house, so as I poured my aching bladder into my car, I was feeling legitimately concerned about making it home in a dry state. If you are wondering, like my husband was, why I simply didn’t go to the bathroom during dinner like a normal human, well, I will tell you: We were having such a nice conversation! And I didn’t want to interrupt – not just the conversation, but the flow of the evening, you know? I was sure I would go when the server came to take our credit cards, but when the time came, it just didn’t seem like the right time. And then I needed to give my friend a ride to his car, and I felt weird about making him wait in the lobby while I went to the ladies’ (Side note: one of the things that drives me NUTS about my otherwise lovely husband is that he often waits until everyone has their coats on, all ready to go, before he heads to the bathroom. PLAN AHEAD.). So I just suffered instead. Perhaps you are also wondering why I just didn’t stop somewhere on my way home. Well, I will tell you. The city is… scary, okay? And the drive home takes me through some pretty undesirable neighborhoods that make me very nervous and edgy. And it was late and I didn’t want to be murdered. Peeing oneself is preferable to murder, right? Probably. I drove SO CAREFULLY the whole way home. Because I was sure that if I slipped through a yellow light or went even a tiny bit over the speed limit, I’d get pulled over and there’s no way a police officer is notgoing to arrest a woman who is sobbing and soaked in urine. I made it home. I know you were worried. My pelvic floor muscles performed admirably. Thank goodness for all those Kegels I did while pregnant, amirite? I mean. PHEW.

 

  • Speaking of pregnant, which I am not, I almost stopped on my drive home at a very grimy gas station for the sole reason that I stopped there before when I had similarly misjudged the elasticity of my bladder. Only that first time, I was somewhere around eleven months pregnant and I literally could not wait. Pregnancy is really one indignity after another, isn’t it? Take, for example, this poor woman I saw last weekend, in a similar state of Birth Could Happen Any Time. I was parked in a Whole Foods parking lot, waiting for my husband, and this woman came out of an all-day breakfast restaurant and started swaying toward her car – you know that walk that pregnant women sometimes have, where their belly has forcibly commandeered everything, including balance and momentum and even gravity? She was parked directly behind me, across an aisle, and so I could see her in my rearview mirror as she abruptly threw up on the pavement. I averted my eyes and pawed through the crap in my car to see if I had water or anything to offer her by way of help. Alas; nothing besides my undying sympathy and solidarity. Several minutes later, I noticed a man and two small children hustling out of the all-day breakfast restaurant. The man hefted the kids into the car, next to which the poor woman was still standing, occasionally retching onto the ground. I should have given her some privacy, I know, but I was so overcome by a sense of pity and empathy and helplessness that I just kept staring at her in my rearview. She kept climbing into the car and then hopping back out to throw up again. My god. Why is pregnancy so miserable? I’d sometimes drive to work with a plastic bag open on my lap, so sure I wouldn’t be able to get to the office without vomiting. Pregnancy is gross and humiliating and uncomfortable, and, yes, I guess you get a human out of it at the end, but sheesh. What a process. Eventually the pregnant woman stayed in her car long enough for her husband to spirit her away. I wish her well.

 

  • In Trying to Be a Good Wife news, I am trying out a new kitchen cleanser. I have a well-documented love affair with bleach. If I could, I would use it with abandon on everything all the time. Alas, it’s not so compatible with granite countertops, so I typically use Lysol for my kitchen cleaning needs. But my husband HATES the smell. So much so that he refuses to wipe down the counters. Fortunately for him I enjoy both wiping down the counters and rolling my eyes at his aversion to faux lemon scented chemicals, so we’ve managed to forge a solid compromise between us. But today Method cleanser was on sale at Target. I already love the smell of the Method Daily Granite, so I got two bottles of the antibacterial cleanser, one in citron scent, the other in bamboo. A little full of themselves with those scents, if you ask me, but I am hopeful that my husband will not be quite so sensitive to at least one of them.

 

  • We are supposed to get a good walloping this weekend, snow-wise. So while I was at Target, I kind of did a little panic buying. When you hear that potentially your city is going to be snowed under, what do YOU panic-buy? I bought some normal things, like meat and vegetables and plenty of tortillas. But I also bought a sled. A LOT of construction paper. And eggs. Believe it or not, the eggs was the weirdest thing. None of us really eats eggs in this household, and, sure, I use eggs in baking, but I don’t have any baking projects planned. But now we have two dozen eggs to… not eat during the impending snowpocalypse. Or, more likely, to not eat during the perfectly normal wintery weekend we will inevitably have, because weather is impossible to predict.

 

And that’s all I have for now. What are you up to this weekend, Internet?

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.
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Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.
taco-shells

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.

DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS.

  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

Pumpkin cat.JPG

  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.
  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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