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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

Author

pmwriter

Write a bit about life's little absurdities. Like to work with my hands to cook, to make things, to garden.

Oh, Hello

stroopwafels

Well, it has been too long, hasn’t it. So I’ll start with an on-the-nose offering of a Nordic dessert. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, cogitating, and going in mental circles for the past long while. Frankly, I’m tired of listening to myself, so why share.

Instead, enter the present moment: Saw this at Costco and started thinking of mass produced ‘finer’ things, what is lost when a rare treat is commodified, and if I buy this how will I keep myself from eating more than one a day. The last one is easy; I enjoy food, very much thank you, but learning to keep the pleasure in things by not overindulging is a hard-earned trait. Before I wrench my shoulder from patting myself on the back, however, even one a day is a hearty indulgence.

Conversely, do we overglorify some foods? I’ve had the pleasure, on occasion, to try some rare food and sometimes been under impressed. Not to be on the wrong side of the table at Babette’s Feast, but I’m inclined to not assume greatness. Ditto things beyond food. One of the few books I re-read is The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity. And that book inspired eye-rolling from an academic I know. Which is just the wrong response.

Perhaps it’s the English in my heritage: The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes.

That’s all the big thinking for today. I’ll work on getting my mind back to the right place for writing this. After I enjoy a stroopwafel. Tomorrow.

Squeeze to Crack

Squeeze to crack 1.jpg

It’s already been that kind of year. Nothing disastrous for me, but several people close to me have deeply experienced the painful stuff of life. Being supportive doesn’t change reality but it’s all I’ve got. And, if I’m honest, all this has one waiting for the next foot of the centipede to drop. I’m with Roseanne Roseannadanna on this one: It’s always something.

My usual M.O. doesn’t really help. Head down, plow through each day. And a late, long winter with seemingly endless gray days doesn’t help either. I shake my fist at you, Mother Nature!

The days are lengthening, the glowing orb is in the sky today, and Target carries the new Magnum ice cream. A little something for the day that started with a long walk and fresh bagels. There were also a couple of donuts from the long-established-local-donut-place-that-closed-and-recently-opened-in-a-new-place. The hubs made short work of those.

A carb colossus represents small somethings to look forward to. Time to fill up the calendar, and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Happy spring!

 

 

Bubblicious or Cold Retrospective

Frozen window

I like the super-cold weather — when it doesn’t overstay its welcome. But after I’ve worn both pairs of flannel-lined pants for several days each, subzero temps become a little tiresome.

Frozen bubble 6

So the hubs and I cheered ourselves up with frozen bubbles during the recent cold spell.

Frozen bubble 7

Temps below zero with a nil wind create the best results.

Frozen bubble 2

But single digits with a mild breeze (doesn’t move your hair, really) will do.

Frozen bubble 5

Usually I use store-bought bubble juice and I drink something hot at the outset. This produces steam-filled bubbles that drift upward and after a few seconds shatter spectacularly, releasing a puff of steam.

Frozen bubble 4

This time I used a homemade brew (water, Dawn, and Karo Syrup) instead. The goal is bubbles-on-the-ring that crystallize. They also capture lovely reflections of light and surroundings as they freeze.

Frozen bubble 9

The post-bubble phase, however, has little charm.

Frozen bubble 8

Still, it’s a lovely thing to look at for a fleeting moment, even when the bubble looks like it could look back at you.

Hedging My Bets or Do You Hear What I Hear?

2018 herring

Happy New Year! Time for the annual herring choice. Returning to full-time work after a two-year break turned life on its ear, mostly in a good way. Thus it seems last year’s choice of IKEA herring was smart and worthy of repeat.

But life doesn’t stand still. And neither does the cat.

2018 Herring photobomb

(The hubs thought it would be hysterical to have Citrus the cat photobomb a herring shot. Sigh. The outcome proved mildly amusing at best.)

Back to the topic at hand: What herring choice to embrace whatever 2018 has in store? My Ben Ming Nian will be over soon, and I’m hoping for even better days filled with things fresh and interesting. A friend works at Whole Foods and that lead me to Option B.

Chopsticks

And I can enjoy a variety of fish dishes using my new chopsticks, a Christmas present from the hubs. Titanium, even. And lest you think we won the lotto, check out the reasonable price on www.amazon.com. (Side note: The neighbor’s teenage offspring tease their mother because she still keys in the www on web addresses. Had to do that here to razz them back.)

And my life-turned ear?

Earring

I had that pierced last year. Both, actually. Now I can turn a stylish ear to hear what’s coming next.

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. . .

 

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