I know this is true. It is true in the house where I grew up, it is true in my own house, and it is true in the houses with yards full of non-matching dishes for me to buy on Saturday mornings. No doubt there are people who care enough to start over with a whole new set when the stack in the cabinet is too low. There are likely more who care enough to do so but find it prohibitively expensive.
But what if matching were not the goal?
I saw a movie where a family had been on the long road of place setting entropy. Their cabinets were full of mismatched plates, and I thought it looked great. It looked fun and interesting and like you might never know what you would be covering with a slice of pot pie. What if instead of fighting against entropy, we embraced it? Wanting everything to match and be "just so" seemed like denial, an effort at control in a world where most control is illusory. People who bought new plates were just unable to come to terms with the fact that living is a messy business.
It's a theory.
I own a large set of white plates. I have dinner plates and bread plates and cereal bowls and finger bowls. They all match. Sometimes, one breaks, but not very often because they're made of unbreakable material created by Science. With my new theory in hand, I anaylyzed my cabinet inventory and decided that I had the plates of someone compensating, with dishware, for a life that bears little relation to the one expected. I would not fall into the trap. I set out to buy plates that did not match. I would not fall into entropy gradually, I would jump happily off the cliff with my best suit on.
First, I picked out a blue plate with pictures of riverboats and cotton mills. Then I found one with wheat stalks. And another with gold rims and Victorian couples reading poetry in the grass. I'd had no idea just how incredible plates could get. Not only was my soul surely more at peace with life, I had some pretty neat looking dishes.
That was all well and good for a while. Sure, it was a little scary discovering which plates were not microwave safe. And it was kind of a bother discovering that plates not made of magic Science material do break quite easily. I could deal with that. It was all just dandy until I went to put away my plates.
They did not stack.
Actually, they did stack. After all, you can stack a mandarin orange on top of an energy-efficient light bulb on top of a water buffalo, but that doesn't mean it's practical or stable. The plates had to go in a very specific order to keep from falling over. I missed my illusory control. At least then I didn't spend an hour unloading the dishwasher. I was three plates into my new entropy-embracing life and already I couldn't stand to look inside my kitchen cabinet.
I had found my limit. A younger me would have rebelled against the idea of a limitation within my own mind. I should be able to handle anything. This was the me who would bicker with friends until they tried new foods or who would argue with my mother that movies with bad words can still have merit. Limits are indeed, well, limiting to a person's experience in life. But a lot of them are not worth fighting about, like the ones that aren't hurting anyone else. If I couldn't abide by Minnasotans, and I had one move in next door, that would be a limit I would have to get over. But if I can't handle plates that don't stack nicely, well, I think I'll just let that one slide. I will never have the experience of having a fully mismatched set of dishware, but my life can still be fulfilling.
The plates that I still owned, the white ones from my previous life in the land of matching dishware, stacked beautifully. And, the company that makes them has been around for many many years and has made many many plates with many many patterns in the same shape. What if I bought plates from the same maker, but with different designs? If that wasn't quite embracing entropy, was I at least inviting it over for poker?
Now, my plates all stack together, ever so nicely, no matter what order they are in. But they are in different colors and their varying faces shine like those in a brochure from a diversity-minded company. When I go to the thrift store, I look for a new pattern to add to my collection. I try not to get repeats. When I pull one out of the cabinet, it's like greeting an old friend, an individual, rather than another in a set. Hello, you. Would you like to carry some pot pie?
Now that I've started to really pay attention to dishes and all the choices out there, I don't know how I would ever go about picking out a set. How could I decide that I preferred this one plate design over all others, that I love it so much that I want to use it exclusively, every day, until I've broken enough to warrant a new set? Humans mate for life, but I see no need for that sort of thinking with regard to finger bowls.
I love the new system. It adds interest. It embraces the inevitable.
I do like things made with eggs: brownies, for instance, or shrimp cakes or chocolate pie. I like eggs a lot more as an ingredient than as a food in and of itself. It's sort of like flour or vinegar.
One possible exception to my overall indifference to eggs is quiche. You might argue that eggs are again just an ingredient in quiche, but I would counter that eggs are just an ingredient in an omelet. Either way, I like quiche.
My standard quiche recipe, Quiche Lorraine, is in regular rotation. I like it for many reasons. For one thing, it's simple. Easy ingredients that I always have on hand, and you're done with the whole thing in an hour (if your pie crust is already made). Secondly, it's a good way to use up a leftover pie crust from a chocolate pie, since the crust recipe I use makes two crusts. Or, it creates a leftover pie crust, which can then be used to make chocolate pie. I promise that my life does not revolve around chocolate pie. It just revolves around someone else whose life revolves around chocolate pie.
Sometimes, I think about finding another quiche recipe, since it's very versatile and you can put just about anything inside. So I browse a bunch of different recipes and ideas, but in the end, those other recipes sound complicated and require ingredients I don't have, so I always end up back here, at Quiche Lorraine. You could certainly add some spices and whatnot to this, maybe some nutmet or white pepper, but it's pretty darn good as is. It's even good the next day, cold.
- 1 9-inch single crush pie pastry
- 6 slices bacon (see notes)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese (see notes)
- 1 T all-purpose flour
- Bake pie crust however you see fit until crust is set.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Cook bacon, crumble, and set aside. Reserve a small amount of bacon grease (2 T or less) in skillet. Cook onion in reserved drippings until tender and slightly browned. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk and salt. Stir in bacon and onion. In a separate bowl, toss cheese and flour together. Add cheese to egg mixture; stir well. Pour mixture into pastry shell.
- Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Let quiche cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: I never have Swiss cheese in the house. I usually use either mozzarella or a mix of Colby and Monterey Jack. Also, I bet you could signficantly cut down the amount of bacon used. Maybe try three or four slices instead of the full six. The real flavor delight in this recipe is not the bacon, but the onions cooked in the bacon grease. For those of you who do not eat pork, you could try turkey bacon or soy bacon or Francis Bacon. Or maybe you should just rethink the whole pork issue.
I am not particularly modest when it comes to bodily functions. Some might say it's because I wasn't raised right, and I call those people repressed. It's only recently that I've even developed any sort of notion that some things were meant to be kept private, at least in the view of other people raised in other families. Did you know that not everyone burps whenever they want, even when it would make them feel a lot better? I borrowed some deodorant once, and since I was wearing a sleeveless top, I went ahead and put it on in the kitchen. The owner of the borrowed deodorant looked downright shocked. I once had a girl tell me that she had never seen her mother naked. I've seen my mother naked. I suspect it's like looking into the future.
It's all a matter of what you can stand, I guess. I want to be able to be myself. I wouldn't burp in front of the queen, or even in front of Josh's mom, but when I'm around family or friends, I don't want to have to worry. After all, we're all human here.
However, I have a thing about number two. At my house, we were not allowed to say "fart," because it was a crude word. We were to say "flatulence." The act of releasing "flatulence" was known as "flatulating," and if you were "flatulating" quite a lot, you were "flatulent." Maybe it was all a lesson in word forms, in which case I'm very sorry we didn't also use "flatuosity." While the act of flatulence might be unavoidable, to laugh about it was potty humor, and therefore beneath us. Girls on my high school basketball team used to make jokes about farts and stinking up the bathroom, but those always made me blush. I thought those girls were not raised right.
So when other people made jokes, it would just embarrass me. For them to make them about me and my bodily functions would cause me to melt right into the floor in a big puddle of shame. I can think of no greater mortification. The first time I farted in front of Josh, I wanted to cry (he laughed). I hate to poop in public bathrooms, for fear that the noise and smell would reach the noses and ears of others, even complete strangers. I'm happy to be human in most other ways, but when it comes to solid waste, I'd rather no one else know anything about it.
Some people in this position might try and be more lady-like in other areas, however, I'm just trying to undo any good breeding that I might have accidentally gotten. I'm tired of the stress that comes from worrying about whether my own boyfriend knows that I poop. I'm not farting on purpose, nor do I necessarily want to get to the "let-er-rip!" stage. I just want to be comfortable around someone I plan on getting older with, because I hear that flatuosity increases with age. I think it's ridiculous for me to have this one hang-up, when Josh and I have been through a lot of the unbearable grossness of being together.
I want you to understand that it makes me very, very uncomfortable to even write about this. But I wanted to tell you about what happened Sunday night, because I think it's kinda funny. In a few years, it might be really funny. Or I might delete the entry tomorrow.
Josh was lying on the futon in the living room, I was in the bathroom. I came out and asked timidly, "Honey? Do we have a plunger?"
Now, I know perfectly well that we do not have a plunger. I moved every last thing into that house, and I would have remembered that. This was me being hopeful, because I knew that if we did not have a plunger, then something else would have to be used.
"No, why?" He knew why. We were skirting the issue here.
"Can I make a request?"
"What?" He was scared of what I might possibly ask after I had asked after a plunger that he knew that I knew we did not have.
"Can I request that when you blow your nose, you put your tissue into the trash, not the toilet?" See, this was the real problem. He had a cold, and there was a lot of accumulated tissue in the toilet. Now, I had added more stuff to the toilet when I'd been in there, but that stuff was still floating in circles in the increased water levels, while the glob of tissue was poking out the drain hole.
He looked sheepish. "Is it clogged?"
"What about a wire coat hanger?"
"But...there's poo." That was so hard for me to say then, and so hard for me to write now. I felt like a little kid who had messed his pants and didn't want to tell on himself, but had to if he ever wanted the situation fixed.
Now here, we had a little standoff. Most any time there is any sort of thing that needs to be done around the house, he offers to do it. He likes to change light bulbs and paint the tall walls and fix the dimmer switch. I'm capable of doing those things, but he always steps up, usually without my asking. Those are manly things, he is the man, that's why he gets the bigger pork chop at dinnertime. His lack of an offer to fix the toilet situation was noticeable.
I knew that if I asked him to do it, he would and without hesitation. But I did not want to ask him, because then he would have to be poking around in the toilet, while evidence that I, just like everybody, poop, floated around before his eyes. I could not stand the indignity. I did not want to deal with the situation any more than he did. However, the possiblity that he might do it, and what he would see, was even worse, even though the whole situation was CLEARLY HIS FAULT.
So I didn't ask. And he didn't offer. He did help me find a wire hanger. Thankfully, it was not a tough clog, and it went through after only a little poking at the tissue glob. I threw away the hanger, washed my hands very thoroughly, and wrote "plunger" on my shopping list. Then I joined Josh on the futon.
"You usually offer to do manly stuff."
"I'm not good at plumbing. Your brother works in septic, so you're better at that stuff. It's genetic."
"I would have done it if you had asked."
"I didn't want you to see my poop."
He giggled. We snuggled.
The Waiter seemed to have all of the outside tables assigned to him. There were five tables outside, ranging from one with a single woman eating a reuben to a party of eight having brunch and cocktails. The service was slow. He took my drink order, delivered my sweet tea, and then disappeared again. My menu was sitting in front of me, closed, and I made a point to be looking around so it would be clear that I was ready to order. Finally, he came over again and I asked for the reuben with fries, please.
As I waited for my sandwich, I watched people. I watched the passersby who stopped to pet the dog at the table behind me, I watched the little family at the table next to mine, I watched the Waiter. At first, I thought he might be choosing to ignore me because I was eating alone and likely to have a low check total. Better to focus his attention on the tables where the tip potential was higher. But he didn't seem to be managing his time all that well. Every encounter was rushed. He would go to one table, then go inside. He could have done short check-ups at his other outside tables while he was out there. I began to hope that he did have more tables inside, rather than think he was just bad at his job.
I began to think about the tip. The meal would be around $10. Ordinarily, I would tip $2 on a check like that. I had an argument in my head.
You shouldn't reward bad service.
That guy lives on his tips.
Right, so he should be concerned about providing good service. There is a direct correlation between his job performance and his take-home pay. They all live on their tips, but if you give even the crappy waiters 20%, then there is no incentive to ever do any better.
It's a fifty cent difference.
I came to no conclusions. The service was slow, but it was a nice day, and I didn't have to be anywhere.
The Grandmother was not all that old, but she walked that way. Something was wrong with her, such that each step advanced her mere inches and took ages. She leaned on her husband as they walked slowly past my table and into the restaurant. Minutes later, they came back outside with the hostess, who set out menus on a table in the shade. They conferred with her, and in another minute, the table was moved out into the sun, in front of my table. The sun would be in their eyes, but it was the kind of day where it was only warm enough to eat lunch outside if you sat in direct light.
Once their table was resituated in its new position, they continued to stand next to it. I wondered if whatever was wrong with her ability to walk affected her ability to sit. Maybe they were looking at the dog behind me. The waiter came and took their drink orders, then disappeared. The Grandmother and her husband stood awkwardly by the table, until a young man with a stroller walked up. The young man hugged them both with one hand on the stroller to keep it from rolling down the slight incline of the sidewalk. I compared the faces of all three of them, trying to see any resemblance between the young man and the old couple.
The stroller was sort of like a cart with the ability to lock in a carseat. It was space age and new. I'm not a stroller expert, but I'd never seen one like it.
"Does it lock? Can you lock it so she doesn't roll away?" asked the Grandmother. I thought it was a stupid question, of course a fancy new stroller would have the basic function of locking. Then I realized what she meant was to tell the young man to lock the stroller. I realized this three days later.
Whether he understood her true question or not, the young man did lock the stroller in place next to his seat, across the table from the Grandmother. The baby inside faced him, away from the sun.
"We can't see her!" the Grandmother wailed.
"I don't want the sun to be in her face," the young man explained. There was more discussion which I didn't hear because I was listening to the woman behind me talk about her dog, until the old man suggested moving the stroller on the other side of the table, next to the Grandmother, still facing away from the sun.
"That's what I've been saying," the Grandmother said.
The men switched places, the stroller was unlocked, re-parked, and locked again, while the Grandmother looked on and the baby ignored everything. Once the baby was next to her, the Grandmother stroked her hands and fat cheeks and cooed. Even as she participated in the conversation of the adults and gave her order to the waiter, she kept one hand on the baby. First I had been sympathetic with her and her painfully slow walk. Then I had been irritated with her nagging and insistence of getting her own way. But now, I softened toward her again, because all she really wanted was to see the baby.
There was a red water bowl on the ground next to my table when I sat down, I assume for some previous customer who had brought along their dog to lunch. Perhaps it was left behind, but more likely it belonged to the restaurant, a fancy little extra to let wealthy pet owners feel welcome to bring their dogs and spend their money.
A thin blond woman sat in the table behind me, holding a leash attached to a huge and beautiful dog. The Dog was restless, no doubt due to the onslaught of smells coming from all the food, the people, the other rich dogs. He paced as much as his leash would allow, but did not bark. A man in leather shoes showed up and sat down with the woman.
It seemed that every person who walked by smiled at the Dog, every other person complimented his owner, and every third person asked permission to pet him. He sat patiently as children and adults alike pat his head, stroked his ears, rubbed his back. The woman told a pair of kids that his name was Jethro. She told another woman that he was a Swiss Mountain Dog.
The hostess, not the waiter, brought out my reuben with fries and a bottle of ketchup. I tucked in and forgot about the Dog and the Waiter and the Grandmother until I looked to my right and there was a big dog face, level with my plate, watching my fries. He was not begging, but instead looked curious, wondering why I hadn't ask his owner-woman for the right to pet him. I hate it when dogs beg, but Jethro was not bothering me. We were friends. The man called out "Jethro!", then got up and took the Dog away, explaining to him that the lady, who was me, did not want to share her fries. That wasn't strictly true, but Jethro didn't understand what we were talking about anyway, being a Swiss Mountain Dog. I smiled at Jethro as he departed, to show the man that everything was fine and I was not upset. I wished I could have taken his picture with my phone while he was so close. I did not talk to him or ask to pet him, but even I am not immune to the charms of Jethro.
The man must have tightened the leash, because Jethro lay down on the warm sidewalk then, periodically lifting his head as more passersby pet him and told him he was a good dog. He was a good dog.
A few minutes later, I picked up a fry and saw a short, black hair perched on it. I paused, the fry in midair on the way to the ketchup. It looked like dog hair. I could complain, further stressing out the waiter and embarrassing Jethro's owners. Instead, I flicked the hair away, dipped the fry in ketchup and ate it anyway. I blamed the wind for bringing the hair to my plate. Even when it does not deliver black dog hairs, the wind probably brings all manner of germs and detritis to my fries, and I eat those things, too. No big deal.
I finished my fries and continued to sit, half a sandwich left. The waiter asked if I wanted a box, and I told him I wanted the check, too, while I had his attention. I paid, tipping $2 on the $10 check, then got up and left, deciding not to pet Jethro on my way out, who made it look like the life of a Swiss Mountain Dog was pretty good.
I spent a grand total of $4.15 yesterday. I went to two estate sales, and bought a box’s worth at one, nothing at the other. This is the first winter that I’ve tried to yard sale the whole time through, and I’ve discovered that estate sales are what’s saving me. There have been about two a week. I don’t go to that many during the summer, so either I am missing them in the warm months or people like the nice weather so much then that they decide to hang on a while longer.
Most estate sales are run by some sort of company that the family hires. The company comes in, arranges the stuff, prices everything, and holds the sale. Sometimes I think I’d like to have an estate sale company, but that’s only so I’ll get first crack at the crap.
Here’s something interesting I found out from talking to an employee for such a company. Sometimes, a buyer will come in after the estate sale and offer them a lump sum for whatever is left. I imagine this buyer is often some sort of antique dealer who will then keep the good stuff and get rid of the rest. I hope they donate the rest to Goodwill, rather than just throwing it all away.
The estate sales I attended yesterday were both run by the family. One was out of a small apartment, the kind of place where your grandmother moves to be close to family after your grandfather dies. All that adds up to a crappy estate sale. A few years ago, when the grandfather died, there was probably a really great sale as the widow moved out from the house where they had lived for several years. But all that stuff is long gone now, and what’s left are just the accoutrements of old people – walkers, blood pressure monitors, random mismatched toys that have barely been played with. I mean, I’m just making all this stuff up here, so while I’m at it, I’m going to go ahead and pretend that I went to that moving sale a few years ago. It was awesome. I bought a bunch of good stuff.
However, the other estate sale really was the good kind. The people had obviously lived there years and years. Maybe even years and years and years and years. There were lots of people running the sale, and they kept asking me if I wanted a box to put my stuff in and then whether I wanted to put my box down at the cashier’s while I looked around some more, and finally whether I needed another box.
One whole room was taken up with Peruvian folk art. Souvenirs are pretty common at estate sales, I guess because people rich enough to have an estate sale were rich enough to travel. I don’t buy many things like that. If you can tell they were souvenirs at another person’s house, it’s going to be just as obvious at your own house, and then you have to explain that you’ve never been there. There are exceptions to that rule, of course.
I bought some more fabric. The deceased was quite the seamstress, it seems. There were three boxes of scraps divided into bags marked anywhere from a quarter to $3. Another woman was rifling through them while I was and she kept pointing things out to me. “Oooh, here’s something velvety, isn’t that nice? Oh, and is this taffeta? Only $3 for 3 yards!” Her onslaught of comments went on for so long that I finally stopped even responding at all, since it didn’t seem required. Finally, she said, “Well, I’m going to get it then, if you’re not.” I realized that she had been trying to get me to get it so she wouldn’t. I suspect that lady goes to a lot of yard sales. I could see myself doing something like that, though I prefer to just buy the stuff and give it away rather than convince strangers to get it.
I did not buy any taffeta or velvet, but I did get some wool. Also polyester. Again I found that taking pictures of fabric scraps is pretty much pointless.
I spent a nickel on one of those old linen towel calendars. I’ve started getting these (and any other linen dish towels) whenever I find them for cheap (less than a quarter apiece). They’re much nicer as kitchen towels than rags or regular kitchen towels. They feel nicer and are often very pretty. This one is from 1956, and though the print is very dim, the fabric itself stills seems very sturdy.
More stationery. These look like they were inked by hand. Very nice little note cards, six different designs in the pack for a dime. I scanned three of them in for a sample view. I was disappointed there wasn’t more stationery, as old ladies usually have lots of the stuff. The only distinguishing marking is the “VWW” signature, so I haven’t been able to find out any info about them. Maybe something bought at a flea market for all I know.
FINALLY, my great find of the day was the yard sale fulfillment of many months of wanting something but not finding it. Or rather, I did find it last year, but the lady wanted $2 for it and I thought that was an insane price for a jar. I would probably have paid the $2 now, because I’ve come to realize that they are hard unless you go to an antique store, where you will pay $10.
But this one was a dollar. It’s so pretty. There are some out there that have the words “perfect mason” misspelled, which makes them valuable. Tell that to your kids the next time they’re struggling with spelling. But this one is a run of the mill blue jar that would cost $10 at the antique store. I predict that the Ball company will make blue jars again sometime as a marketing scheme. There is no reason that utilitarian things like canning jars cannot be lovely.
I told my mom about it, and she immediately and generously offered to buy it off me for the same price that I paid. I don’t recall saying that I wanted to get rid of it. In fact, I remembered telling her I’d been looking for one for a while and that I really liked it. My mother lacks subtlety. Her motives are always glaringly obvious. I’m mostly the same way, which Josh seems to like after knowing women that he could never figure out.
If I find more blue (or green or amber) Mason jars, I will buy them. Someone will want them. Even if they are subtle people who don’t ask outright for them, I will fill a jar with cookie mix and give it to those people at Christmas.
If you would like more information about these jars, here is an article written by a collector. At the bottom of the article is a picture of his collection, which is why I need to give away additional jars I find, so I don’t end up with so many that I don’t have room for my stationery (or any children I might want later).
In the interest of greater world knowledge, here are three things that I've found.
Vegetable 1: Roasted Carrots
After trying roasted asparagus and this recipe, I'm beginning to wonder if you can just roast any vegetable in olive oil and spices and end up with yumminess. I did not know that carrots could be this good. I think the world in general does not know that carrots can be this good, otherwise there would be a run on them. Please roast some carrots. It makes them taste like CARROTS! You know, that subtle carroty flavor in vegetable beef stew? Like that, but more CARROTY! Your tongue will thank you, your eyes will thank you by blinking out the letters in Morse code.
This recipe is so simple, it doesn't even have quantities for the ingredients!
Ripped wholesale from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
- olive oil
Cut large carrots in half lengthwise so that all are about the same thickness. Lay them out on a sheet pan and drizzle olive oil on them. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Carrots will look like they spent too long in the bathtub, but will be tender and sweet.
Vegetable 2: "Fried" Cabbage
Be honest now: how do you feel about cabbage?
Me, I'm okay with it. I don't really seek it out, but I recognize that it has its place. I like coleslaw, which is cabbage with mayo and vinegar and sugar. I enjoy reuben sandwiches, which have cabbage that has been allowed to sit out and smells bad. But mostly, I don't know what to do with cabbage. Sometimes, I buy one to make coleslaw, but I only use about half of it. So then I'm left with half a cabbage that sits in my fridge and makes me feel bad. Poor lonely little half a cabbage, every day it is more likely that your destiny involves a compost pit. And cabbages, unlike some other vegetables that I know what to do with, take a long time to go bad. Normally, this would be advantageous. To me, it's just more guilt time.
I made corned beef for Valentine's Day, because to me, a happy Valentine's Day is one spent letting the crock pot do all the work. Josh asked for cabbage to go with his corned beef. Already, we had mashed potatoes and potato rolls. I've been known to make colcannon, which is mashed potatoes with bacon and cabbage. But colcannon can be a little greasy. It's delicious bacon grease, but grease nonetheless.
So I started looking online for cabbage recipes. I found one called Fried Cabbage that seemed more like boiled or steamed cabbage. But it had high ratings, and I had all the ingredients. With huge misgivings, I made fried cabbage. I was ready for cabbage to ruin my wonderful Valentine's Day feast. I was going to rain curses down upon cabbage and wish that I had made hot dogs for the occasion, because I already know that I like coleslaw.
Dude, cabbage is yummy. This recipe has changed my whole outlook on cabbage. I'm going to buy cabbage to make this. Maybe if there is some left over, I will make coleslaw.
adapted from Allrecipes
- 1 head cabbage, rough chopped
- 1 can chicken broth (1 3/4 c)
- 2 T butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- red wine vinegar (optional)
Bring the butter and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage, stir to coat, and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until cabbage is soft, but not mush.
Add salt and pepper. Serve with red wine vinegar on the side. Those who feel bold can splash on a bit of vinegar.
Vegetable 3: Kinpira
Like roasting with olive oil, you could make this with a lot of different vegetables. I've done carrots, onions, and celery, and I have a bunch of broccoli stalks in my fridge, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I'm going to kinpirate them. This recipe is a little spicy, and can be a lot spicy if you go nuts with the red pepper. You control your own spice destiny here.
I've reproduced the simplest recipe, but please visit the original blog post, where variations are posted. She calls it "Forgotten Vegetable Kinpira," which means I'm not the only person who has lonely vegetables.
Forgotten Vegetable Kinpira
stolen lovingly from Just Bento
- 2 cups of chopped or matchstick vegetables (carrots, onions, broccoli, cabbage, celery, peppers, some mixture of many - lots of options!)
- 1 T dark sesame oil
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 t black or white (light brown) sesame seeds
Heat sesame oil in a skillet or wok. Add the veggies. Toss until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and toss. Add soy sauce, and toss again. Add the sesame seeds near the end.
I went to the estate sale of a woman who really liked owls. I mean, everyone likes owls. They’re pretty and dignified and symbolic of wisdom. What’s not to like? Overall, I am in favor of owls.
But I walked around a house that was wall to wall owls, and I find that I don’t like them as much as I did before. There were pictures of live owls in nature on the wall. There were owl clocks and dishware and towels and craft projects. There was a table, twelve feet long, covered in owl knick-knacks, some of them collectors’ items that cost hundreds of dollars when purchased, others made of shells and having googly eyes.
I really cannot imagine liking anything that much. I’ve seen a fair amount of bizarre collections at estate sales, which makes me wonder what percentage of the general public has some sort of urge to stock their houses with themed items. We went to one sale with a lobster room. A whole room full of lobster stuff. LOBSTERS. When the company that comes in to run the estate sale comes in and sees all that, do they pray and pray that the exact right person comes to the sale? How else could you possibly unload a room full of lobsters or a house full of owls?
I picked up a few things that were not owl-related. They may have been the only non-owl things in the place. The lady was also very much into yarn-related crafts. I picked up some plastic canvas that I plan to give away to people in my family with small children.
Do you know about plastic canvas? It’s what you give to children to teach them about sewing and cross stitch. Me, I never graduated up. I used to make a lot of stuff with it when I was little: picture frames, boxes, a container for a remote control. I’d pretty much forgotten all about it until recently, and it was like rediscovering myself: oh yeah, that used to be me.
This lady had also made some stuff with her plastic canvas: a doorstop that contained a brick and said “PHIL.” I did not buy that, but there’s a nice craft idea for all you Phils out there. Advanced crafters could perhaps rework it for other names.
There was a disappointingly small cache of stationery in a plastic box, which I got for a dollar. Some polka-dot envelopes, a few standard note cards, but the ones that made it all worth it were the shiny owl cards. There were three, two gold and one silver. The back indicates that they are suitable for framing. I’m actually sort of surprised that they were languishing in the box, rather than hung up on the wall somewhere.
I also picked up some stationery paper that had tiny pictures with embroidered thread. I’ve seen stuff like this before. It’s occasionally really neat, but also sometimes cheesy. Luckily, I like both neat and cheesy. This pack had note paper with ink drawings in the corner. The drawings were then enhanced with embroidered flowers glued to the paper. Most of them were just flowers or baskets of flowers or birds with flowers, but there was also a sleepy guy against a cactus. I’m not sure how much these scans do the paper justice, but I think they’re fun.
Someday, the employees of an estate sale company will pray that a stationery enthusiast will come to the estate sale at my house.
I got a set of some ridiculous acrylic highball glasses. I bought them with every intention of giving them away. But then I kept picking them up and admiring them in the car. And when I showed them to Josh, he thought they were awesome. All that probably means that I’m keeping at least two of them.
I’m not sure what you’ll be able to tell from the picture, so let me explain. The bottom says “on the rocks,” and there is a small enclosed compartment in the base of the glass which contains rocks. GET IT?
Man, that cracks me up. I love that I live in a country where such things happen.
I spent a fair amount of time at that estate sale trying to find something with an owl to buy. I’ve already mentioned that there were plenty of owl things to buy, 943 in fact (that is an exact count told to me by the estate sale company). But most of them were either too ugly to even be considered kitschy or too expensive for someone who is not a crazy owl lady. There were a dozen plastic baggies full of jewelry, most of it huge and shiny brooches. But I did spy a tiny turquoise and coral owl charm that caught my fancy. The problem was that it was in a bag labeled $15.
- Pay $15 for the bag, get rid of pretty much everything else.
- Come back the next day when everything would be half price and pay $7.50 for the bag if it was still there.
- Ask one of the people working the sale if we could make a deal on just one item out of the bag.
- Leave owl-less.
I’m not sure why I wanted an owl so much. I felt like I needed to buy an owl to pay tribute to this crazy owl lady, who spent so much time and money accumulating owls. I wanted some remembrance of this sale, so that when I looked at my own piece of it, I could think about the 942 other things I left behind. Or maybe when you are bombarded enough with a thing, even a normally practical person will buy something. Maybe the problem with the lobster room was that there just weren’t enough lobsters.
So I ended up explaining to a nice man that I seriously only wanted this one charm. He dug it out of the bag and said I could have it for fifty cents. He was probably glad to get rid of anything, considering it had snowed three inches the night before and only people like me had showed up. But what a nice man. Anyway, I now have a sweet little owl charm. It came from a crazy owl lady.
There was also a church sale, where I picked up three nice sweaters (not shown) for $1.50 apiece and a cute metal box for fifty cents. I shall put sewing notions in it. I’m not sure what “notions” are, but if ever I figure it out, they shall go in here. It was covered in some sticky goop, but that came off with very little scrubbing. This is your reminder to not pass something by just because it’s dirty.
Finally, one last thing. I want to post something that I bought at Goodwill, because it’s so awesome. Here, look:
Why, yes, that is a massively long zipper. But! When you zip it up, it becomes:
A purse! Made out of a single zipper! I’ve seen these before online and always think to myself, I could just make that. But then I never do. I don’t even know where to get zippers that long, and I would probably just screw it up. So hooray for me.
I've been working on my complete meals. For a long time, when I made dinner, that meant one big dish. If one serving didn't fill you up, have another. There were no sides. If I said we were having lasagna, then that is exactly what we were having. Lasagnas have tomatoes in them, and tomatoes are vegetables, right? Or are they fruit? Same food group anyway.
I noticed we were not getting a lot of vegetables that way. So I've been trying to make dinner with more than one item on it. You know, side dishes. A lot of times, I just throw together a salad. That feels like cheating, but it's a start.
So anyway, the soup was simmering when Josh came in from work. I told him dinner was not quite ready, which is usually what I say when he comes in. Try as I might, I haven't quite got the knack for having dinner being exactly ready when he walks in the door. Of course, he doesn't care at all, and I don't care all that much. It's not the fifties.
"We need to make pigs in blankets." He had not ever said that to me before. And what an odd use for the word "need." Has anyone, in the history of the world, ever "needed" to make pigs in blankets before?
"We need to make pigs in blankets with vienna sausages and canned biscuits." Vienna sausages? My goodness, I'd forgotten those existed. I'd like to forget again.
"Um. Okay. Right now?" Surely he didn't mean right at that second. I mean, it was almost 11 PM. I had soup on the stove. Homemade soup with homemade meatballs that I rolled out myself.
"Yes." Huh. I guess he did mean right that second.
"Well, okay, I don't have those things. We can go to the store." Look at me, rolling with the punches! I'm hip, I can be spontaneous. I can make pigs in blankets whenever my man needs them. I just won't look at the price I'm paying and it will be totally fine.
"No, I already have everything."
"You went to the store on your way home?"
"Alright then, we can do that." Seriously, what the heck was going on?
The oven was already pre-heated for the French bread. I got out a baking sheet and got ready to wrap some pigs. I picked up the can of sausages. They looked just like I remember. Perhaps the Armour company should invest in some new labels. I opened them up, ugh. They had that...goo on them. It looked like amniotic fluid, as if the Mama sausage had birthed them right into the can.
You know, even when I was a kid, I knew that something was not quite right with vienna sausages. We never had them at my house, because they were expensive and unnecessary. But some kids at school brought them in for lunch. A can of vienna sausages, a pack of Handi-Snack, a pudding cup, and a juice box. That passed for lunch in those days. My lunch items were all individually packaged, too, but in the kind containers you use for leftovers and sandwich bags. Even the drink was Kool-aid in a jar. My mom would get me Handi-Snacks or Fruit Snacks as a treat for morning snack time, but it was always made clear to me that they were Special, to be eaten at Snack Time, only One A Day, and if I catch you eating any more, then they would be gone Forever. I thought the other kids were rich, because their parents bought things for them that my parents said were too expensive. Now, I think that those other parents were just not as careful with their money. So I had a natural obsession with vienna sausages, though it was nothing compared to my obsession with Lunchables. But the few times I tried them (by getting someone to share), I was less than impressed. Maybe my poor peasant taste buds were just unfit for food meant for royalty.
Josh washed the goo off the sausages. He showed me how to stretch out the biscuit dough, put the pig inside and then wrap them up so they looked like little pies. It was a lot easier than making French bread.
"Sorry about this. We just always use to have pigs in blankets on Superbowl Sunday, back when we didn't have any money. We never got to have them any other time. I never cared about football, but I would beg for these."
A-ha! That explains why I spent an evening making soup from scratch, baking bread, and chopping salad, and all of a sudden I had to wrap meat that came from a can in biscuit dough packed in a container that will explode in a hot car. Money-wise, Josh had two very different periods of his childhood - before and after his mother married an anesthesiologist. So that's why he craves his mom's tapenade (actual rich people food), but then comes home with a hankering for potted meat. I am all for food-based nostalgia. I personally prefer my mac and cheese to come from a blue box. I've made it from scratch, and it's not the same. It's like a different food altogether. Sure, it's good, but it's not mac and cheese. It tastes too much like real cheese.
"So does it have to be vienna sausages and canned biscuits? I'm not trying to mess with your childhood here. But my inclination would be to take real hot dogs and just make some dough."
"It has to be this."
"Alrighty." Like the blue box, it has to be this way. I can handle it once a year. We finish wrapping up the pigs and put them in the oven. By the time they were ready, the soup is also done, and dinner is served: salad with homemade dressing, baked from scratch French bread, fresh Italian Meatball soup, and canned sausage wrapped in canned biscuits.
I tried a pig in a blanket. The biscuit was fine, though no one would mistake it for Grandma's. But then I got to the sausage and the taste of them came screaming back to me. Mmm, meat-based product.
"You don't like the pigs in blankets, do you?" He knew. I ate two without a word, but he knew.
"It's not my favorite." That is code between us. It means "No, I don't like this food, but I will eat it without complaint if you put it in front of me because I know you prepared it with love."
"If you want, we can try and make it with hot dogs and real dough. I bet it's a lot better."
In my head, I was already thinking of how to do this, what kind of dough would work best with a delicious Nathan's Famous hot dog. But then I immediately felt bad about it. I can't tamper with his childhood snack, not when he comes home so full of purpose that we have them. No, it has to be this way. It is more important for him to have this taste-link than for me to have the most delicious snack. His grandmother recently sent us some pictures of Josh when he was about six or seven, little and ash-blond and missing teeth, but still I can recognize the eyes, the mouth, the head shape. I can't deny pigs in blankets to that little boy, not when I love so much the man he became. He could staple one of those photos to a stick and then wave it at me every time he wants me to do something.
I have silly daydreams of my future children having favorite dishes that I make them. When they are grown, they will come home and ask that I make them again. They will ask for the recipe to make it themselves, but it won't be as good as when I make it. They will go out to restaurants and order the same thing, whatever it is, but again will be disappointed. I have this taste-link, and Josh has this taste-link, and it seems like something would be lost if my kids didn't have a taste associated with home and childhood. It won't do me any harm if I have to eat vienna sausages every Superbowl Sunday, even for the rest of my life.
But then I worry that the things that my kids will associate with my house and my cooking is those pigs in blankets.
I had completely forgotten to even look on CraigsList for yard sales until late Friday evening, when I figured what the hey. As luck would have it, there was a church sale. In February! Those people must be nuts. The place was slammed with people, other yard salers who were hard up for a good sale to keep them going through the cold winter.
I picked up a large bag full of fabric scraps. My sister-in-law mentioned that she was doing some small sewing projects with her kids, and I offered to be on the lookout for craft materials. That’s sort of a stupid offer, because I am always on the lookout for that stuff. Usually, though, it’s for me. Yard sales often have big bags of sewing or craft odds and ends that I am usually game to pick up. I was eager to buy some for someone else, though, because then I still got the heady rush of a good find, plus the warm fuzzies for helping another person out, AND I didn’t have a house full of fabric and buttons making me feel guilty for buying them and never using them.
So, I have fabric scraps, lots of them. Some of them shiny, some of them rustic, and one of them looks like blue muppet fur. I took a picture, but it looked like a really untidy pile of random cloths. I suppose it is exactly that, but it looked too much like my laundry for me to post it on the internet. Plus, if I took a picture of it, then my sister-in-law might be able to tell that I am keeping some of them for myself.
I also bought this light, and it, too, is for someone else, but I don’t know who yet. Josh has a friend who likes to make movies, and I have a niece who is into theatre stuff and could use some lamps. It’s kinda flimsy, not quite something you’d buy for your dorm room, but not exactly Hollywood quality either. I’ve seen the same model online, and it’s advertised to DJs.
My find of the day was a lampshade. That sounds like a terrible yard sale day, doesn’t it? Shopped for an hour, spent $10 total, and the thing that makes me happiest, even more than blue muppet fur, is a lampshade. Well, it’s kinda special.
I bought a bird bath lamp two months ago at Goodwill. I love it. I think it is unique and somehow classy at the same time. It looks weird, but in an expensive way, as opposed to my many weird and cheap weird possessions. I paid $7 for it, which is a lot for me to spend on one thing (online price for a new one - $130). Such was my love for the bird bath lamp. It came with a white canvas shade, which was nice, but the whole thing was too much white for me. I liked the textured material, but thought something in black would be much better. I decided to look for a new shade.
I brought it home and was eager to show Josh. He immediately laughed at it. He thought it was goofy and said that I did not need another lamp. I was a little bit crushed.
The beloved bird bath lamp sat in my spare bedroom for months. That room is sort of a holding area for my yard sale things until I figure out what to do with them. It also contains several boxes of stuff that I’m taking to the thrift store, as soon as I stop being lazy. The whole secondhand circle of life is in that room. It’s sorta full of junk. It looks like a booth at the flea market with a half-made bed.
And then this week at the church yard sale, I found a lovely drum shade, just the right size, covered in burlap. It was $2, which is more than I like to pay for a stupid lamp shade. That’s about what I like to pay for the whole lamp, shade and all. But it looks great on my bird bath lamp. I set it up in the living room, where I could look at it every day and see the little birdies. Josh saw it and said that he liked it. I don’t think he recalled ever seeing it before. I don’t want to stereotype and say that all men are frustrating, but this man? He is frustrating.
As we were driving home, it started snowing. Which means I can now say that I’ve been yard saling in the snow. It’s not technically true, but it’s true enough.
But I do read blogs of crafty people, which is a dangerous sort of thing to do for an unmarried person my age to do. One thing that I've noticed as I've gotten older and been around young professionals: single people have well-developed hobbies. And it's funny, because all those interests make them really fascinating people. You built your own ukelele? Dude, that's the coolest thing that can ever happen with a ukelele. These people strike you as being really fun, which makes you wonder why they're single. But then, if they had gotten hitched a long time ago, would they be so neat now?
Anyway, that was a theory I came up with when I was twenty-two, and I knew a single guy in his early thirties. He did a lot of cool stuff with his time, like build ukeleles. And then I gathered further evidence when I was twenty-five, and I met a couple of other unmarried thirty-somethings. One was really into nutrition, and the other took pottery classes. The rest of the people at my job...had kids. Sometimes they played poker on Fridays, but mostly they just had kids. Their kids seemed to be involved in a lot of things, though.
Now, I am twenty-seven, and I am starting to get some really good data to back up my theory. Namely, I've started being crafty. I read these blogs and I look at the stuff on etsy, and I think maybe I can do that. And then I do it, and it's terrible, but I do it again and it's better, and pretty soon, I have a hobby.
All jokes about my shrivelling uterus aside (ha! made you cringe!), I brought up this whole thing so that I could show you something I made. If spending time making crap is step 1, then posting it on my blog has got to be step 4 or 5. Where these here steps are even going, I don't know. Lonelytown. Spinsterville. Cat Lady Vegas.
Anyway. Here, a couple of months too late, are our Christmas stockings.
I took them down from the mantle just yesterday so that I could take a picture to show you. I'm very proud of them. They are so obviously homemade, particularly if you start looking at the seams. Josh was really excited about the idea when I mentioned it, less excited when he saw the fabric I'd picked out, and then overcome with mushy gratitude when I finished them.
Here is something I have just this second figured out about being creative: it's just putting stuff together. I know, I wrote a whole thing about that last week, about how writing is just taking memories and ideas and thoughts and putting them together differently to express something new. Making stuff is the same way. Maybe that was obvious to all of you, but it's a seriously great epiphany to me. Sure, being able to use a sewing machine or knowing how to crochet helps, but all that stuff comes with practice. I've been intimidated for a long time by people who seem to just ooze creativity. I'm never going to be a fashion designer, but I can take an embroidered holly branch from here and some felt letters from there and make something that works and that is special in its homemadeness.
I made stockings, and they look darn good. They taught me that even I can create. And they made my boyfriend happy. These are the best stockings in the whole world.
Dude, I am so excited about my taxes this year. You know, I have never gotten a refund before? But this year, I'm going to get a fat one, fat as a cowboy named Slim. Sure, it's because I borrowed over 100,000 last year to get into the real estate market, but still! Refund! I can use it to pay back some of that money I borrowed!
My mom did my taxes until I graduated from college, at which point I decided to do my own. I bet she would still do them if I asked. She would make me come home for a weekend, but she would do them and I wouldn't have to know what Schedule L was. But I don't mind them so much. They're not actually difficult, just an exercise in precise direction-following.
I took a quiz in the second grade that must have been designed by some disgruntled IRS employee. The teacher passed out a worksheet with a short paragraph of instructions at the top, then ten questions with spaces beneath for answers. The questions were sort of odd. They asked for the names of your pets or who was buried in Grant's tomb. One of the questions instructed you to stand up and say "My name is
After a few more minutes, the teacher said "pencils down" and we looked up, ready for an explanation for the activity. She then had someone read the instructions at the top of the page aloud. They basically told us to read the questions, don't answer them, and then sit back and wait for some doofus tell you how much he likes pie. It was all a dirty trick, designed to teach us to always read the instructions or you'll look like an idiot. The real lesson was to be suspicious of any quiz that told you to stand up and say anything.
Or maybe it was preparation for the day when our mothers would no longer do our taxes for us. We were eight, and so we didn't pay taxes then. But filling out a 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ) is about like that. It's just that the instructions are provided in a 50 page booklet and they frequently reference other instructions. A lot of the instructions apply to random groups of people: members of the clergy, fishermen, people who take care of children that are not their own. There are a lot of bizarrely specific questions, like the ones you have to answer before you give blood. Except instead of asking you whether you've spent at least six months on the Isle of Man, it asks whether you've donated any unharvested crops to a charitable organization this year. I suppose if you can answer yes to questions like that, they don't seem that weird, but to me they seem out of left field. Of course, asking whether someone bought their first home last year might be a bit random, too, but it's sweet music to my ears.
I do Josh's taxes, too, and I have for the last three years. Four years ago, I watched him do them online on April 15, and then he had to pay a filing fee for the state taxes. It killed me that he waited until the last minute and that paid a stupid, unnecessary fee. The next year, I offered to do them for him sometime in February. I was very hesitant about it, because I knew that my intentions were entirely selfish, not altruistic. His procrastination made me anxious, and my solution was to take matters into my own hands. I was afraid that he would see my offer as being controlling or at least a vote of no-confidence.
But then his response was more like what I would say if someone offered to buy me dinner: yes, please. I've been doing his taxes ever since. This year, when I was getting the forms together, he mentioned that he would like me to show him how to do it. Perhaps I should be concerned about job security, because if he is looking to take over his own taxes, it might follow that he is looking to make me redundant in other ways, too. But it didn't come up again until I was handing him the completed forms and telling him where to sign. He thanked me for doing them. I brushed off the thanks and told him that I was doing it for my own sanity. After all, if I'm going to marry that man someday, I want to make sure he's square with the IRS.