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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

The Lazy Cook

What with work and all the other stuff of life clamoring for my attention and zapping my energy, the joy of cooking has eluded me for months. Fortunately, the cooler days are perking me up a bit. A bit. Let’s not overstate the case.

So I’m adapting my cooking ambitions – Welcome to The Lazy Cook. Once again, the interwebs provideth.

The Lazy Cook 1

First up, the laziest cookie recipe ever – plus I found it on Nordic Northwest‘s* Facebook page so it pings the Nordic cooking button, too!

Mash together oatmeal and banana, then toss in a flavor. Here, I added mini chocolate chips because this was not an exercise in creativity. Blop vaguely round mounds on a cookie sheet and bake for the usual cookie-baking amount of time at the usual cookie-baking oven temp.

The result: Edible and not entirely unpleasant. Chewy would be generous assessment; after a day rubbery is pretty much spot on. But if mid-morning you need a big snack, you can eat several of these (providing they hold together) and not feel guilty.

I’d make them again but maybe add a little water or yogurt to help hold the dough (if it could be classified as such) together. But maybe not because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The Lazy Cook 2

Next, falling in with the sheet-pan cooking craze: Blueberry muffin blob from Food 52. Since I didn’t bake this when blueberries were in season, out came the humongous bag of frozen wild blueberries from Costco. And if you keep ingredients like this a smidge (spelled W-A-A-A-Y-Y) past the best-by date, you get the bonus frost that melts when mixed, giving that ‘unique’ (yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. . .) purplish haze to the batter.

I couldn’t even be bothered to get out the mixer and just mixed it all together by hand. Rise and fluff wasn’t the aim because, well, you know. . . The Lazy Cook.

The result: Color notwithstanding, actually quite tasty. I unnecessarily fretted a bit about over baking, so a few minutes longer would have crisped up the edges a bit more. And I’ll aim for a thicker, smaller blob. Mebbe get out the mixer for some added fluff factor.

I cut them in squarish pieces – like Chicago pizza the way it’s supposed to be cut, ahem! – and can stack two in a container for a portable snack.

I’d show after pics for these but, well, you know. . .The Lazy Blogger.

What’s next? Maybe a whole meal on a sheet pan – most likely a gooey mess. And granola in the slow cooker. Yes, that’s a thing and, like the sheet-pan muffins, why not?

*Yes, I see the apostrophe is wonked. I tried three ways to correct it. Obvs, unsuccessful. Left as is because, you know. . .The Lazy Editor

Hang On Little Tomato!

2017tomato1

(A little late on this posting – the harvest is vinally over – bad pun intended!)

The title of a Pink Martini song and album has come to mind often these last few weeks as scores and scores of tomatoes ripen, and we attempt to pick them at peak ripeness.

This year’s tomato planting is in a new spot. Most of the year the south side of the garage is in the dark shadows of the neighbor’s behemoth brick house. My guess was that the high angle of the summer sun would last long enough to yield a hearty crop. And indeed it did. Another title in the running for this post was Incoming!

In a nod to monoculture, the hubs planted five roma tomato plants there and two more in pots on the deck. Producing gallons of sauce was apparently the only thing on his mind (more on that another time). But we still topped salads and enjoyed BLTs with these tomatoes. A little variety, however, would have been nice. . .

Back to the harvest, which is where all the comic material lies.

2017tomato2

The hubs rigged up this wonky trellis for better air circulation and to allow the vines to grow longer and outward, thereby increasing production. When the birds decided it provided a nice, secluded place to sit and grab a snack, he draped the whole business with netting. And the final runner-up title for this posting was Rack ‘Em Up.

What he failed to consider was picking tomatoes. The contraption is a little over four feet high, and it requires an awkward combination of yoga and limbo moves to get in and out. That’s accented with grade school-level Quasimodo imitations to plod, hunched over, and reach deep to pick tomatoes. Four times out of five, one of us smacks a noggin on the overhead trellis and at least once a week somebody gets tangled in the netting.

Hopefully the neighbors get a kick out of our point-and-pull method. I crouch on the ground, looking up into the vines, pointing out tomatoes; the hubs reaches in almost blindly while I coach “a little to the left and up” in hopes of plucking the ripe fruit hidden in the leaves.

2017tomato3
Random image of the lovely tomatoes we picked. Not necessarily representative of a day’s harvest. . .

The fun continues when the hubs attempts to estimate the day’s harvest. It’s a whole new level of husband math. Example: “Must be five pounds of tomatoes, maybe 12.” Nothing like covering your bases: Nine pounds was that day’s yield.

Then there’s the canning pot. Our newish stove has two ceramic burners and two induction. Somehow he convinced himself that we were damaging the large diameter ceramic burner by using prolonged high heat and the old-fashion enameled canning pot. I remain unconvinced.

However, since I returned to work he is unattended all day and in possession of a valid credit card. Thus, unsurprisingly, I came home to a shiny new gargantuan canning pot suitable for use on an induction stove. I informed him that we will never can enough of anything to justify the cost. He remains unconvinced.

Thus, he has spent much effort outlining possible additional uses for this pot. The best one so far is the pot is big enough to make bagels. Oy vey. Hang on little tomato, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

It’s Not a Competition

But it does require effort and human nature makes comparison inevitable.

Friendship.

In the area of friendship, I find myself in a sweet spot these days. Over time I have unburdened myself of the needy and greedy. Now my contact list has only people who are delightful, talented, and generous of spirit. They challenge me, and therein lies the rub. While I decided these wonderful people worthy of my time, do I put sufficient effort into making myself worthy of their time?

For example, I recently had lunch with someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Let’s just call her Wonder Woman. After she indulged my prattling litany of since-we-last-met woes, she shared what she’s been up to.

Thank goodness I quickly realized responding with interested, enthusiastic non-verbal noises was the smart option. Great job — Hmmm, Ooohhh. Serious yoga six days a week, four when time is tight — Aaahhh, hmmmm. Making art dolls, particularly (rightfully) proud of one of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, one of her role models. Hmmm?

Ms. Gilbreth was a woman of accomplishment in home and work in the early- to mid-20th century. Among other important things, she found time to invent the foot pedal trash can and develop the kitchen work triangle. Wikipedia has a good entry on her, worth a read. Wonder Woman’s art doll of Ms. Gilbreth has a tipped-up toe poised to step on a trash can pedal.

Let me be clear: There was no bragging in Wonder Woman’s comments, simply sharing her life. Still, I was exhausted just listening. That’s when the measuring-up anxiety crept in.

Thank goodness I didn’t blurt out. . .

I found a Tostito chip in the shape of a cat!

Hmmm. Ooohhh.

Sigh. I really need to get out more.

Meanwhile, I best head to the library and scan my podcasts — since a bit of humor and reading/listening suggestions seem to be my strongest contributions. And I need to stay on top of those to stay in the good graces of my friends.

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Dandelion Blivet – or – I Can Handle the Truth, I Just Don’t Like the Maths

dandelion blivet

A highly technical military term (wink, wink), as my father explained it to me, a blivet is ten pounds of crap in a five-pound bag.

This weekend produced a close-to-real-life example: I took that leetle beety plastic pot out front to hold all the dandelions I’d dig up. Surely there weren’t many so early in the spring. . .

To loosen the nasty weed’s grip on the good earth — the over-wintered ones had roots the diameter of small carrots and I’m not talking baby carrots — I used the Japanese all-purpose garden knife available exclusively, in the 1990’s, from Smith and Hawken. Now available fine big-box stores everywhere.

And pardon the Britishism, too much Masterpiece Theater, but the blivet wasn’t the maths that were getting to me. The truth is, by trading a large chunk of my time for money these days, only so much of anything gets done. This weekend, the dandelions. Not enough time to do a proper weeding. Other items on the weekend to-do list loom large and the hours vaporize quickly. A time blivet of sorts — how much to cram into a too-short timeframe.

The dandelions, however, don’t care one whit about my schedule. And I’m gonna need a bigger bucket.

Yankee Doodle (non)Deadline

Star-spangled bag best

Some time back I decided to make tote bags for friends — close, distant, hadn’t heard from in a long while, like but never able to spend much time with, like and spend lots of fun time with — for no reason other than I have lots of nice fabric and, back then, had some time on my hands. The idea seemed a nice, personal way to express appreciation. Most recipients were pleasantly surprised. While I wasn’t expecting nor desiring praise, the cold response of a few cooled my enthusiasm. And then time became less available.

This wasn’t a random activity. Each bag was created with someone in mind — the fabric, the size, the style. All the fabrics were of high quality and good design: Of one thing I am sure: I have a good eye.

Star-spangled bag1

Delivery was random; mostly the bags were shared within a few weeks of being finished. A few ended up being gifts for birthdays or Christmas. But after a career in deadline-driven publishing, I wasn’t looking to put the pressure of time on this project.

Fast forward to today. A former coworker and her family have been going through a lot, and it’s been going on for some time. But the Facebook posts are unrelentingly positive while remaining true to the events unfolding. It’s an inspiring display of the resilience of the human spirit.

She deserves a little pick-me-up. Back to the sewing machine. Her birthday is also Independence Day. Since I have an appropriate fabric in two colorways, she’ll get two tote bags. Perhaps she’ll share with her sister. And I made these far enough in advance, this isn’t actually a birthday gift, more a gift in fabrics that honor the day she celebrates for two reasons.

I wonder if she’ll figure out from this post that these are for her. . . Also, will our schedules coincide so that I can deliver these before July. . .

 

Accommodating Cultures or Time Management

hubs-yogurt

For quite some time, must be at least seven or eight years, I’ve been making our yogurt. Two reasons: purity and plastic. The homemade stuff doesn’t have any of the additives of commercial yogurt. Or at least very little since every couple dozen batches or so I use the store-bought stuff as starter. And when I realized not buying yogurt was a reasonable way to reduce plastic consumption, well, that sold me on the effort.

And it’s not a lot of effort, but it is a commitment. Now that I’m back in the workforce, I’m also back in the time-juggling game. The hubs offered to make yogurt, and after all this time, I relented. Yogurt-making was on the TTHSND list: Things The Hubs Should Not Do. The list started early in our marriage when he offered to do laundry and tossed in my one silk blouse. . . In this case, I anticipated the task bouncing back to me or becoming a point of contention. Since I’ve been doing this for so long, even when working, that it didn’t seem worth the effort.

There is also TTTHDDWBICTI list: The Things The Hubs Doesn’t Do Well But I Choose To Ignore. Topping that list is vacuuming. He does the open areas and, if the mood strikes, gets under a few things but has long since foregone vacuuming the furniture. He’ll break down if he sees one of the dogs ‘hunting’ for pretzels sticks and popcorn between/under the cushions but otherwise he does not put forth the effort. I choose to ignore this oversight as the only other option is for me to do the vacuuming. When necessary, I employ my mother’s housekeeping coping mechanism: I take off my glasses. It’s amazing what you can’t see, and therefore what you can abide, without glasses.

Anyway, back to the yogurt. Initially, I ran through the process with him as I made yogurt, and a day later he asked me to list the steps again as he took notes. A few days later, he gave it a go, sending me a proud text when his first batch was in the yogurt maker.

Mind you, I’ve only been working two weeks and two days. But we eat yogurt for breakfast most days, weekends included. And even though we split one jar, the yogurt maker only holds five jars: The math is pretty straightforward. Oh, and I used one jar in a cake. That’s when it (already) became too much. When I said, Oh, time to make yogurt again, the look of surprise and exasperation on his face was as exaggerated as a silent-movie actor’s. Yes, it’s a commitment. So I made the yogurt. But I will vacuum only in a state of emergency. And I haven’t got a clue where my glasses are.

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Comparison Chopping or I Love the Smell of Lavender in the Afternoon

spring-lavender-17

Working again means certain things will be put aside for another day. But other things, such as trimming the lavender, are time sensitive. An unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon seemed the opportune moment.

I was all set for a quiet, zen-like moment when the buzzsaw hubs showed up. As noted last year, spending time, plant by plant, to trim thoughtfully results in a nicely undulating hedge of robust blooms. Blunt cuts without careful deep trimming soon leads to lower bloom production and stifled plants.

The hubs has a different approach. There is he was, like that cigar-chomping officer in Apocalypse Now, mowing down the lavender bushes into the shape of large mushroom caps. And I’m hearing Vikings and Beekeepers (it’s playing at the 8-min. mark), a famous piece used in the movie and the SCTV sketch, playing in my head. And yes, that’s how I refer to that music; the real name doesn’t stick. Which reminded me to pick my battles. Carefully. And laugh.

So I worked closest to the sidewalk because those plants produce the best blooms. And I quit the task much earlier than planned. Sure enough, he gave up soon after. I’ll go back and finsih the overall trimming, and do some delicate trimming on the newly rounded plants once the warm weather really sets in and the hubs’ attention is absorbed in getting the vegetable garden planted. Patience. Oooommmmm.

 

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Life and Lemons

thermos-and-steamer

It is with a deep bow to reality that I tell you of my return to the workforce. Full time, for an indeterminate amount of time. While there are many things that make freelancing pretty darn wonderful, a dependable, more specifically predictable, income is not one of them. After a string of unanticipated, albeit relatively modest expenses (including the stove going on the fritz), my financial nerves gave out. Uncertainty is the nature of the beast of freelance but that is beastly to my nature, and I come from a long line of money worriers.

One of the most important things in preparing for office days is getting the coffee thermos (I looked it up; no longer trademarked) ready. Turned into a small project. Being a proud and regular contender for Worst Housekeeper of the Year, I neglected to deep clean the thing before mothballing it. Coffee crud and stains won’t bring on anyone’s early demise, but the flavor might be a titch off. So I used Dip-It. Twice. Then a couple of rounds of vinegar and baking soda. The hubs suggested using the steamer, which did an impressive job. At least now whatever is still stuck to the sides I am confident has been effectively disinfected.

lemon-merangue-pie

Let’s wrap this up on a happy note: All but two of the Meyer lemons have been put to good use. Last week I made a lemon meringue pie for the first time. The meringue was wonderfully marshmallowy. The recipe explicitly stated not to overcook or undercook the filling. And when I thought it was done, I cooked it for 30 seconds longer, realizing even in the moment that the line had been crossed. But still completely and deliciously edible.

I picked the recipe because it was one of the few 1) calling for Meyer lemons and 2) using all the eggs of the eggs called for — I hate food waste and trying to figure out what to do with leftover yolks would drive me crazy. Detour: A book came out, eons ago, that had made-up words for unique but heretofore unworded situations. For example, excess bunerage is the term for having more buns than hot dogs. So this recipe avoided excessive yolkage.

So, you’re wondering, what to do with the last lemons? Here’s what I’ll be having Friday evening to celebrate surviving a return to work — Meyer Lemon French 75:

meyer-lemon-french-75

Cheers!

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Is It a Fabric Yip?

Back in the day, yip was the term for a mental hang-up experienced by sports pros and amateurs. Accomplished golfers who suddenly couldn’t swing or their swing suddenly went wonky being the main use. The term was also used for other sports; I recall seeing footage of a catcher who couldn’t release the ball on a throw back to the mound.

While not a perfect use of the word, I call the experience of being unable to bring myself to cut a piece of fabric a yip. It is especially acute when I haven’t sewn anything for awhile or I’m about to cut a special piece of fabric.

charley-harper-fabric

I yipped last week. I decided to make a top from a piece of Charley Harper fabric,and the dilemma was twofold. There was just barely enough fabric and the fabric is a cotton knit. I love wearing knits but sewing them is another matter entirely; I’ve never been completely satisfied with the outcome.

In this case, I created a pattern from a dress-turned-tunic I liked but hardly wore. The dress fabric was lovely but rather thin for the cut. Previously I had cut the dress to tunic length thinking the shorter, lighter result would work better for the fabric but it still just drooped. The Charley Harper fabric has a bit more heft, and thus began the new project.

And then began the fretting. The pattern pieces sat on the fabric for a day or so when I finally took a deep breath, rechecked everything six times and started cutting. Then I pretty much forced myself to finish the project in two days, concerned I’d stall out and the thing would sit there half finished.

charley-harper-tunic-sleeve

And there’s a charming little cheat: The original sleeves have a lovely zipper detail that I doubted I could repeat. Since I was short on new fabric, I simply used the original sleeves and added a matching trim detail to the pockets. Nothing like a well-executed hack!

charley-harper-tunic

Well, I did finish it, and it’s lovely. And since coincidentally the new tunic is red (the project has been sitting around for half a year), well, that’s just a bonus for my Ben Ming Nian.

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