Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm back

I've been grading stuff all week, and every time I think I've reached the halfway point I realize that I'm still only a quarter of the way through the mess.

I can't complain. I only have a real crush of work once every semester, but I swear reading all of these exams and papers only makes me dumber.  And the stack never gets any shorter.

I'm in a mild panic because I swore (swore SWORE SWORE) that I would grade 25 exams today. And I didn't.  Today was supposed to be rainy and miserable, but then things shifted and today ended up being really beautiful.  I spent 25 years doing homework inside (or folding sweaters in the Godforsaken mall) on beautiful weekends. I looked out my window this morning, looked over at the bluebooks, and then rolled my eyes and said, "Screw it. This sucker ain't workin one more weekend."

Now I'm little sorry that I actually did it.

Whatevs.  It all gets done somehow.

It all gets done.

Since I seriously spent all of last week grading, I don't really have much to post.  Probably won't until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

The irises are up.

Last week, I was switching out a frame for an engagement picture that I keep in my room. I forgot that when I bought the frame at a consignment shop that it had a photo of another couple in it.  Rather than throw it away, I kept it behind my own photo.

How funny is that?

Look at these guys. How old do you think they are? Maybe 22 or 23?  If you ignore their haircuts and his glasses and just look at their faces, they look really young. Maybe they're undergrads still.  It's hard to see, but they both wear wedding bands.  I wonder if her haircut was inspired by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music? She and Maria sorta look the same.  And let's face it, if he grew out his hair a bit he could still keep the glasses and look pretty modern.  Maybe she should put on a white T, unbutton her boucle jacket, and put on some skinny jeans.  And I guess she should grow out her hair too.  They're cute.  Who knows who they are.

Shane: no pictures please. Sincerely, Me and Jess

Eggy sandwich on a Sunday morning

Ceramics at Terrain

Spaghetti carbonara al fresco

We'll see if I get anything done after The Good Wife is over.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joan and London

If you've been following me here for awhile, you may remember my friend Joan and her two dogs, Mulligan and Paloma.

You'll remember that Mulligan is the big guy in these photos. I don't think I've mentioned Paloma here before.  Paloma (formerly Pancake) came to Joan some time last year.  Her story is pretty crazy. Very looooong story short, a few of Joan's students came to her last year and said that they had found a sick and injured dog and had taken her in. But, their big, mean landlord had discovered the dog and told them to get rid of her or to get out of their apartment entirely.  Joan generously took in Pancake/Paloma for a temporary stay ... and found out a few days later that the whole thing had been a lie: The students had chosen to adopt the dog and sneak her into their apartment against their lease.  Basically, if Joan wasn't Joan (aka, A Saint), Paloma would have been dumped back at the pound and most likely faced death.  Joan bawled out her students (with my encouragement ... wish I could've been there to see it), took the dog in permanently, and renamed her Paloma ("little dove") and ditched "Pancake" (much to Ron's chagrin ... he wants to name our next pet "Flapjack").

As you can see, Mulligan and Paloma get along really well and everything's fine in Joan's adorable apartment.

Well, it's happened again: Meet London.

I'll walk you through the text messages I received from Joan after my shrimp tacos on Saturday night:

"So I rescued a pit bull this week."

This was followed by the above picture and: "I can't keep him. He and Mulligan don't get along. So, I need to find him a home, preferably one where he's the only dog. It was so sad. He's so sweet and he has so much potential."

Me: "Ron dropped off some stuff at the SPCA yesterday and he took a look at the dogs. He said it was sad because there were a lot of pit bulls."

Joan: "[Hometown] has some breed specific legislation, and animal control has a policy to euthanize all pit bulls it seizes.  I think the humane society must have that too because there are NEVER any pits there.  I named him London. Paloma is not a fan either."

Want to know why London has so much trouble getting along with other dogs or communicating with most other living things?

Joan: "He's spent his whole life on a 15 foot chain in the backyard of a man who beats him with a stick to 'keep him in line.'"

Me: "Holy s***."

Joan: "A friend of mine has him in her backyard now.  The man who had him before lives on her street."

Me: "Did she know about London's existence? Did you steal him or convince the guy to give him up?"

Joan: "I offered to buy him and the guy gave him up. He gave me the 'switch' to hit him with."

Me: "That's insane. Didn't even take $$ for him? Then what the hell did he keep him for?"

Joan: "He was afraid that someone else would lose him and he'd get euthanized."

Me: "That makes ZERO sense."

Joan: "I know."

London needs a home, but Joan's not sure where he can go right now.  She's also really worried because he's going to need a lot of training in order to become properly socialized.  I'm thinking it could be a full time job for a few weeks or months, but I've never owned a dog so I wouldn't really know.

(For those of you who may not believe that such rehabilitation is possible or that pit bulls deserve their bad reputation, then PLEASE read this article (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE).  It unravels many of the myths that our culture projects on these dogs and gives a surprising history of the pit bull breed.)

After this conversation, I spent a lot of time asking, "Would I have the gall to walk up to some guy on his property and say, 'Why don't you give me your dog? Actually, you know what? I'm not asking you: I'm telling you. GIVE ME YOUR DOG'"?  I have thought several times that I am the stupid kind of person who would think nothing of screaming, "HEY YOU STOP THAT!!!" if I someone publicly beating or torturing an animal.  I could see myself taking my first swing at someone's face to stop it, but I've never been tested so I don't know for sure.  (If this ever comes to pass, it better be after Leslie has officially passed the bar exam.)

("I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested. I'd like to think if I was I would pass" ... I hate showing my age, but remember when that song was popular?)

I really don't want to be tested.  But, Joan passed the test and I like to think I have things in common with her.  London's safe for now, but who knows how many other creatures still live in fear at this moment.

San Francesco: I talk to you all the time, and I know you hear me.  Please watch over all of the little creatures of the world who have no voice and no protection from the bad and evil choices that human beings make on a daily basis.  I know I'm a part of the machine and contribute in various ways to the insanity, but please help us to choose our way out of causing more pain and destruction and lead us to a better way of life that lifts up all living things.  Most importantly, please give more people the courage of someone like Joan who had no fear confronting a severely misguided (and potentially dangerous) person and rescuing an otherwise hopeless creature.

Grazie mille.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stuff I ate this weekend

Shall we just cut to the chase?  Who cares what I did--the question is, "What did I eat?"

On Friday, I stopped by PBandU and bought two sandwiches: PB + cheddar + bacon + pickle and the April Special (PB + pretzels + Peeps).  I immediately gobbled down the former because I was so freakin hungry and I saved the latter for later.  A few hours later, I finally tried it and ultimately decided, "Eh. This is ok."  Sadly, it was just sorta bland so I didn't feel bad wrapping up the second half and shoving into the (new) fridge.  The next morning, I decided that the leftover sandwich half would make a great breakfast ... except that the new fridge smell had been completely absorbed by the marshmallows and now the whole sandwich tasted like chemicals.  Totally gross.  So I threw it out. Oh well.

Next up, shrimp tacos on Saturday night.  (I didn't take a picture of the grilled chicken and veggies on Friday night.)  Again, I inhaled this because I was so freakin hungry and it was soooo good.  Ron marinated the shrimp in a spicy sauce before grilling them.  Everything was topped with fresh salsa and guacamole, and PLEASE do not forget the Skinny Girl Margarita.  (If you do not know what Skinny Girl is, PLEASE educate yourself quickly.)  The weather was nice enough on Friday and Saturday to eat outside, although a big storm did sweep through just as the sun disappeared on Saturday night.

Pizza with prosciutto on Sunday night.  The prosciutto was ok.  I thought it would be a good idea, but something about it tasted cheap and I think the pizza would have ultimately been better without it.  But, is pizza ever REALLY bad? No, of course not.  Especially on a rainy Sunday night.

And then there are the cupcakes. The stupid, stupid coconut cupcakes that almost made me want to punch something at 10pm on Saturday.

I didn't even TRY to take a "nice" photo of these.  They don't deserve the effort.  This tray turned out ok, but still pretty flat and, well, not so pretty.

And THESE guys? Well, just forget it.

These are the UGLIEST things to EVER emerge from my oven. EVER.  Are you looking at them?  What really makes me mad is the ingredient list for these suckers: THREE sticks of butter, FIVE eggs, extracts galore, and the frosting uses A POUND of cream cheese, half a pound of butter, and A POUND of powdered sugar. I cleared out my damn kitchen for these ugly things.

I don't know what mistake I made. Maybe I filled the cupcake liners too much and they just spilled over and flattened? Or maybe I used the wrong recipe: Ina Garten has two coconut cake recipes. One is for coconut CAKE, and the other is for coconut cupcakes.  Not the same thing. I made the CAKE recipe and poured it into cupcake tins at the last minute.  The only difference between the two recipes is that the cupcakes use buttermilk and the cake does not.  I HAD fresh buttermilk in my fridge too, so I wonder if things would've been different if I had used the right recipe with the right pan? Who knows. They don't taste the way they look, so whatevs.  I mashed up the ugliest of the bunch and mixed them with frosting to make cake pops (like the cake pops for Halloween).

Oh well.

I'm nervous to refrigerate the ones that turned out ok because of the aforementioned new fridge smell.

The fridge arrived Friday morning.  I love how it fits into its space.  The old fridge was 35" wide (standard width for a fridge) and it was JAMMED in there. Plus it stuck out several inches past the wall on the right. (You can see we have to repaint a little--that green strip hasn't been visible in over a decade.)

This fridge is 33" wide, and now there's room to vacuum out the dust and cat fluff that will inevitably accumulate on both sides of the fridge. (You do NOT want to know what we found behind and around the old fridge. Totally horrifying.  I know, I know: You're supposed to clean out behind the fridge once or twice a year ... We cleaned it out once in six years.)

Because the doors don't stick out so far, the kitchen (the little hallway that I'm standing in here) actually feels bigger. You wouldn't think that would make such a difference, but it does.  So far, so good--we really love the one that we picked.  According to one of the reviews online, the weird new fridge smell takes about a month to dissipate.  Everything will have to be wrapped up and/or tightly sealed in tupperware until then.

Hopefully, the appliance drama is over for now.  I still haven't picked bedding for the new bed--I need to just make a choice and stick with it.  I don't know why I've been so indecisive about it. I guess these are nice problems to have.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Banana cupcakes with coconut frosting

Last week, my dad had a birthday.  Since I'm the family birthday baker, I took a cue from a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa.  Ina made this super easy banana cake with cream cheese frosting.  This recipe is odd because it makes enough for half a cake, i.e., you only have enough batter to fill a 9" round pan.  I didn't feel like doubling it (plus, my 9" pan was totally lined with sticky stuff all over it ... I don't put away anything that's sticky, so it must have been The Fluffs or Someone Else).  So I made cupcakes instead and I was surprised to get 18 cupcakes out of the whole thing.

I made the cupcakes really late at night, and since I didn't botch them in a sleep-deprived stupor they can't be that hard to do.  Because my dad is as obsessed with coconut as me, I used Ina's coconut frosting recipe which is only a modification of her cream cheese frosting.  (I also highly, highly recommend the coconut cake recipe in the link in that last sentence.) The key ingredient that distinguishes one from the other is almond extract ... which I realized I didn't have when it was too late to buy any.  So I made regular cream cheese frosting and dumped a bunch of shredded coconut into it.  Nice try--maybe it'll work out better next time.

The other thing I forgot? Grated orange zest. The recipe calls for grated orange zest, but peering into my half-dead fridge at 1am, I realized that I didn't have an orange. Oh well.

Finally as a garnish, I toasted up some fancier coconut and sprinkled it on top.

I was pretty pleased with them, and my dad really liked them too. Most importantly, Leslie loved them which explains why she texted me yesterday with, "4 cupcakes in 24 hours. ugh."  I guess they're not gross or mediocre in that case?  I really liked them even though banana isn't really my go-to flavor for anything.  However, this recipe is really easy to do and I imagine it would be pretty good with chocolate frosting or maybe even strawberry (for that whole strawberry/banana combo that you see everywhere?).

What I really want to do is make more eggy muffins.  I really want one of those.  But, you need a fridge with chilled eggs and milk inside to make them.  And to store them.  So maybe next week. And maybe I'll make more cupcakes too.  We'll see.

Make the banana cake--it's good.  Especially with the frosting.

Remember to buy an orange for the zest.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

If God is real, then he's not funny

Four hours after my last post and half a week after the post before that, my refrigerator blew.  Everywhere I look: Dollar signs.


We inherited this behemoth when we moved in six years ago, and I was really grateful at the time that we didn't have to buy any appliances on top of the house itself. That luck has run out, but I guess six years is a good run.  Plus, I was really sick of constantly wiping marinara and other non-identifiable stains off of this thing. Do not ever buy a white fridge: they are totally impossible to clean ... or at least you can clean them, but you will destroy your nails if you want to do it right.  Four years ago, I gave up and officially decided that I care more about my nails.

Like I said about the dryer in the last post, it's all about the timing.  (The dryer stayed broken for a few days because Ron cannot fix a dryer and shop for refrigerator at the same time. The guy does have his limits.)  I needed to leave for school at exactly 1:55 on Monday--not a moment later. I came downstairs at 1:40 to make myself toast to go with some egg salad ... and the bread was totally soft when I pulled it out of the freezer. I began frantically squeezing stuff: the popsicles were mushy, the ice cubes were watery, the pancakes and waffles smooshy.  Now it's 1:44, and I still need to freakin eat something, but now I'm frantically filling a cooler with watery ice and throwing yogurts and organic eggs into it.  Whatever--I still made it to school on time and my mom even came over while I was at work to unload the stuff worth keeping and take it to her house.  Of course, the freezer had leaked all over the floor at this point adding to the beauty of the mess.

Ron came home and we headed right out to buy a major appliance with zero research under our belt.  Great: let's blow four more figures and throw darts at a board to pick out what we want.  We didn't pick anything out tonight, but we did find something we liked.  I couldn't commit to anything without sleeping on it, but we needed to get something ordered by the end of Tuesday.

This is cute: here's the wall behind the fridge.  You can see the green color that the original owner had painted the whole kitchen, and you can see some key dates:  Our floors were installed on 12-16-03 (right in time for Christmas, I guess), the walls were painted green on 12-12-01 (I was probably studying for my first round of college finals while they painted), and you can also see that "Quinn and Kathy Rule."  Kathy is Quinn's mom and Quinn is an eighth grader this year.

If things happen in threes, then I hope we're done for awhile: finicky dryer, replacement of eight year old grad school mattress, and now the stupid refrigerator.  And I thought $18 blouses were a problem.

The good news? Last week, I made myself coffee just like I always do ... and realized that we had no milk.  After shaking my fist at the ceiling and yelling, "Really??! Because this is so not convenient right now!!" I remembered something I had found in the pantry the week before: a box of dried milk.

I have NO idea when I bought this or why I bought it. I do know that it says, "Best before 3/2009" on the bottom. I also know that you can still stir this stuff into your coffee and you won't get sick because it's technically not "best" anymore.  Since I had to throw away the remaining third of my overpriced organic milk on Monday, at least I know I can still have coffee this week without a fridge and without anything else to eat with it.

At least I can still have a coffee.

Unless that machine breaks too.

Which will give me a green light to go buy a Kuerig totally out of spite.

But, please, I'm really not wishing for that.  Just let me make the damn coffee without anything breaking.

Monday, April 16, 2012

She's picked out a king size bed

Tell me quick: what's your remedy for feeling as if you've been kicked in the head? Because that's sorta how I feel in the middle of a bedroom upgrade. (And let it be said: an upgrade that I'm very, very thankful for.)

I haven't posted since last Wednesday (which was my 1 Year Anniversary here ... I still haven't addressed that yet ... read the First Post Ever here.)

Last Tuesday, however, Ron and I bought a new bed.  Other then getting a tattoo or having a baby, this is right up there on "Big Commitments That I Really Hope I Get Right and Do Not Later Regret.  Because There Are No Refunds and (As Everyone Read Last Week) I Have Serious Anxiety Issues with Spending Money."

Anyway, Ron is SO SICK of hearing me complain about how AWFUL it is to have to sleep anywhere near him that he was totally, completely ready to buy a new mattress, move forward, and never look back.  Our (my) biggest gripe is movement: I can fall asleep in one position and wake up 8 hours later in the same exact position. I do not move AT ALL once I'm asleep. Ron, on the other hand, moves all night.  CONSTANT MOVEMENT.  Seriously, he does gymnastics in his sleep. I liken it to trying to sleep on a raft on the ocean in the middle of a hurricane.  In other words, I CAN'T sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time before I'm awake again because Ron is trying to nail his landing from the pommel horse.

Blah blah blah: I'll cut this short.  We bought a Tempur-Pedic.  (We did it, Jess! We did it!) I almost burst into tears when Ron swiped the credit card because I was so convinced that the credit card was going to burst into flames.  Literally, as my eyes were scanning the store for a fire extinguisher, Ron goes, "WOW! No regret at all! My first big purchase with no doubts and no regret!"  Maybe we're both slightly damaged?

Of course, what does it mean when you upgrade from a Queen (purchased for next to nothing by a young guy moving into an apartment for grad school) to a King?

New Everything. More dollar signs.  More anxiety from picking stuff out.  And a weekend spent inside three different Home Goods stores. (If a visit to Home Goods on a weekend isn't a reflection of the seventh circle of hell, then I don't know what is.)

PLUS--it must be mentioned--the dryer decided to blow out its heating element on Thursday afternoon so I couldn't even wash at home the sheets that I found.  I had to schlep them to my mom's and wash/dry them there so that we didn't have to sleep on the floor next to the new mattress.  Timing is everything. Thanks, dryer!

The Fluffs have had no trouble getting used to things.

As you can see, the jury is still out on what I want to do.  (I'm 95% committed to all white ... I put some ideas together on Pinterest.)  We bought the same headboard a size larger and the night stands are officially set aside for Leslie's future apartment ... there's no room for them anymore.  I'm stealing an idea from Brett Bara and we're putting together floating side tables like this.  Everything's in disarray and disarray totally freaks me out ... which is totally hypocritical because if you've ever seen my workplace it usually looks something like this.  I guess our bedroom is the one place that usually is NOT EVER in disarray, and THAT is what is freaking me out.

So after price checking and comparing and running all over the place for perfect white bedding (ie, something that at least looks higher quality and yet can still fit in a washing machine), last night I finally took a breath over dinner on the back deck.  I seriously had been holding my breath the whole weekend.

Inspired by his countless dinners at Noodles in the Middle of Nowhere, IL over the past two months, Ron put together an Asian stir fry with noodles rather than rice.  And it was so good.  I can't believe we're far enough into the year to sit out back in the evening.  AND, it's also early enough in the season to sit without bugs torturing you the whole time.  If you stay out long enough, you can watch Venus and Jupiter slowly appear in the night sky. (I wish I could say that my college astronomy class taught me that, but really I learned it from an app.)

Anyway, the good news? The mattress works!  For once, product advertising that doesn't exaggerate or lie.  Ron can move around all he wants and I do not feel it AT ALL. So maybe picking out a mattress is like a kick in the head, but sleeping continuously the whole night for the first time in four years?  The perfect remedy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lent 2012: Part II

There was a second component to Lent this year other than the language thing: I could not buy any new articles of clothing.  I wanted to do some degree of money detox since that's what I buy with the majority of my fun money (Suze Orman would kill me for even thinking of my budget that way ... Fun Money? Who am I kidding?). I decided to cut it out completely for six weeks.

The first two weeks were easy.  I stayed away from stores and didn't really think twice about it.  But then I went into the TJMaxx near my school--which is way, way, WAY more upscale than the one near my house--and I allowed myself to look--TO LOOK! HA!--at clothing.  This is nonsensical.  I did not NEED ANYTHING. NOTHING.  And yet, here I am looking at articles of clothing for sale.  Why? I don't know.  Why didn't I go home and study some Italian? I DON'T KNOW. That's a really good question. But, I didn't.

Instead, I found a leopard print silk chiffon dress (originally priced at $240 ... marked down to $24.99) that I was just going to TRY ON before I returned it to the rack. (Am I wrong or is that a 90% discount? I failed that quiz in 8th grade math, so I don't know for sure.)

Blah blah blah. I bought the dress.

I stared at it hanging in my room for 24 hours.

And then I shoved it in a bag and returned it.

But, I still felt like a dirty cheater. Or big fat failure. Whichever you think is most apt.  Ron saw me shoving the dress in the bag and said, "What's wrong with it?"  I said, "I bought it. That's what's wrong with it. I wasn't supposed to buy clothes for Lent."

"Do you love the dress?"
"Duh: Of course I love the dress. Are you looking at it?"
"Then why are you returning it?"
"Because that's not what Lent is! I made a mistake--if I'm serious about this, it has to go back."

He blinked at me and walked away.

Everything was fine for three more weeks.  Somewhere during the last ten days, I caved again.  I had seen a blouse at Old Navy and it was on my mind for a month. I thought, "That's it. I want it. I'm buying it."  Problem: It was nowhere to be found at the store.  So I went online. And I bought it and two other blouses.  Because why would you purposely avoid the "Free shipping over $50" promotion?  Who's ok with paying for shipping? I knew Lent would be over by the time everything arrived.  Which meant ... it didn't count?  I couldn't believe I was trying to rationalize cheating like this.

Blouse #1

Blah blah blah. All three are still sitting upstairs and I really, really like them BUT I cheated to get them.  A large part of me wants to return them without hesitation. And yet ...

The entire six weeks, I've been wondering where this struggle comes from.  Am I just a horrendously materialistic person? Do I have bad priorities?  Do I need something better to do with my time?  I save far more money than I spend ... why do I give even halfayouknowwhat about three $18 blouses?  There's two sides to the coin: On the one side there is the fact that I'm tortured (TORTURED) by most of the things that I buy no matter what time of year it is. On the other, there's the awareness that I am not a bad or irresponsible person and that this self-inflicted torture is waste of my time and energy.  I flip the coin (pun totally not intended--just caught that) and flip it and flip it and flip it, but heads or tails I lose every time.

Blouse #2

I have decided to blame (drumroll please): My Childhood.

Since I've been really little, I've known that I've descended from a long line of poor (even destitute? It wasn't an exaggeration at some point) women.  I'm not messing around here: I'm talking about women who worked their fingers to the bone at every awful job imaginable to put dinner on the table for their kids.  Women who cleaned wealthier people's houses top to bottom every week; women who took in laundry (like, literally boiled people's laundry) for the tiniest fee in their teeny tiny apartments because they could and they had to; women who lived on the top floor of walk-up apartments in rundown buildings (the coldest in the winter, the hottest in the summer) and shared a bathroom with every person on their floor because that's where they could afford to live; women who worked triple shifts waiting tables because they were afraid if they missed one table's worth of tip money it would mean the state would take her kids away; women who (I swear I just heard this one last week) swore they would "eat grass" (because real food requires money) before neglecting to pay her bills or care for her kids.

Blouse #3

Do you get it now? In other words, I enjoy the privilege of problems like, "Oh golly gee, should I buy a blouse or not?" Or, "Does this leopard print look better with black boots or brown?"  Meanwhile, I can think of five women from whom I descend who never enjoyed a problem like that.  Women so unaccustomed to security that it was just a given--a given, totally unquestioned--that they would work hard labor until the day they died because ... well, it was necessary to avoid squalor.

A currently-living woman on one side of my family who-shall-remain-nameless grew up with two outfits to wear to school and two pairs of shoes (one for school, one for church if I remember correctly). I say "grew up" because this arrangement persisted for years and years.  And she was grateful for all four of these items.  She didn't have time to lament what she did not have because she was too busy thanking Jesus, Mary, and all the Saints that another day had come and gone and the house did not burn down in a freak accident and take her two outfits with it.

And yet, I cannot go forty days and nights without feeling the pull of a TJMaxx? Really?

REALLY? I'm sorry, but there's something really sick about that.

Close-up.  I know, I know: Don't say it.

I wish all the time that I could talk to these women--I talk to those still living all the time, but those who died years and years ago are so intriguing to me.  I feel their presence all the time, right over my shoulders just a few feet behind me.  I really try to hear their voices, but I can't hear what they're saying. I listen so hard. Are they saying, "Girl! Spend up your money because you're gonna be dead a long time and you can't take it with you"?  Or are they saying, "Train yourself to sacrifice now because it's hard adjusting to nothing when you're accustomed to the cushiness of something"?  Or maybe, "We worked our fingers to the bone so that you could worry about stupid, finite, meaningless stuff like $18 blouses.  Just do it--somebody should before our line dies out."  Or, "You know all the bad luck stories from the past two generations alone. It's only a matter of time before it catches up with you, too. Sit on that money and guard it well because even that won't be enough on the day of reckoning."

And then, there's Leslie's voice: "If you want a swimming pool that badly, surely if you start saving NOW you'll have the money in the next ten years ... right?"

I don't know. I HOPE so.  So maybe I should return the blouses for a $50 investment in the Savings Account That Has No Real Purpose Except to Provide a Sense of Security that Past Generations Did Not Know Was Possible?  And then blow it on a swimming pool?

That doesn't sound too bad.

A great, big, turquoise rectangle ten feet deep and chilled like a bottle of white wine?

Who knows.

Forgot to mention this: $44 Cynthia Rowley cashmere tunic in my fave winter color.  Only a crazy person says, "No thanks" to something so incredibly versatile. I may be slightly damaged but I'm not INSANE.

That's Lent for this year.  I meant to give updates about it on a weekly basis, but it never happened because each time I went to do so, all of this would get dredged up and I would pick a different topic instead. Like marshmallows or The Fluffs.

I don't blame anybody for X-ing out of this 15 paragraphs ago.  Everybody has enough of her own problems and neuroses to deal with, right?  Seriously, I don't think there's a shrink on the planet who can un-do 5+ generations of poverty-induced paranoia.  But if there's one up for the task, just point me to your couch and I'm there. (Only if it's free.)

(Oh God. I didn't even realize what I just said until I typed out that last sentence and reread it. See?? SEE???)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lent 2012: Part I

Six weeks ago, I wrote this post. I don't bother doing Lent unless I'm completely committed to it.  There have been plenty of years that I've skipped it entirely because the commitment's not there.  I hate doing anything half-assed.  As a result, there's a lot that I don't do because if I can't bring myself to put my name on it (whether literally or figuratively) then I don't want to waste my time.

(This makes me think of the mint story.  I think that project bothered me not because I HAD to do it, but because I did not have a plan to do it with excellence.  And maybe that's ok: I still earned a high grade on the assignment because the grade was based on quantity, not quality.  Shooting for quality would have been a wasted effort anyway.  Half-assed worked in that case.)

Typically, however, it doesn't work.  Or, it works but it works because everybody knows that minimal effort is your thing and there's nothing more to be expected of you.

The day I become one of those people, please somebody: Take me out back and end it already.

That being said, I'm not happy with this year's Lent progress.  Honestly, I really don't think God cares about this at all--I think he's more concerned with the starving orphans of the world and the scared and lonely people facing severe harms on a regular basis.  But, I care because I can't help but think that if I can't commit to something really, really minor for forty days and nights, then what the hell am I doing with my life?

I love, love, love anything that has to do with the Italian language. I love languages--I love talking. If I couldn't talk I wouldn't want to live.  If I hit the lottery, I would go back for a French degree. We take for granted all of the words we use--where they come from, what they mean, what they once meant, what they mean if your tone/inflection goes up or down on a particular syllable, or if you do something very specific with your hands or your face while saying a particular word.  I'm thinking of my Italian professor barely whispering the word, "Niente!"--nothing--while moving his hand under his chin, the back of his hand facing and moving toward the audience and the fingertips just barely grazing underneath his chin.  He was not just saying "Nothing!" but "Nothing--gone, without a trace, and who cares? It's too late. Nothing is there now. And you asked for it.  Do you feel regret? Good. Because you should. Rot into it."  I don't even remember the context of the story, just the sound and the movement together.

I studied my Italian for FIVE DAYS at the beginning of Lent ... and then set it down and didn't pick it back up.  It certainly wasn't for lack of interest or lack of passion.  I. Just. Did. Not. Want. To.  Which is the ENTIRE POINT OF LENT.  Nobody picks something they WANT to do for Lent! That's not how it works.  If that was the case, I would just say, "Eat more candy" every year and feel really happy about the results.  So easy.  I cannot even believe that I am going to write this here, but there is a scene in the movie version of Eat, Pray, Love (let the eye rolling begin! It's ok--I get it) where Julia Robert's Liz is reading an Italian dictionary in the bathtub before she leaves for Italy.  She doesn't know any of the words and has trouble pronouncing them.  I had to pause the movie until I stopped CRYING because I had the gift of studying that same language for nine years ... and every day I forget something else that was once seared into my brain: A random vocab word, a menu item, an adjective (and the placement of the adjective: before the noun or after?), whether a verb takes essere or not, whether a verb is an exception verb or not.  My favorite subject in school for nine years is evaporating from my brain and I'm not doing anything to stop it. Why?  It's sad to me, and yet I do nothing to change it.

I blamed my lack of initiative on the cerebral nature of the activity. I am worn out from studying.  Sick of it.  Sadly, it's what I do best.  That's a strange place to be in. I can't tell if this is a temporary thing or if it risks permanence.  I really think it's just temporary, but it will only be temporary if I end it so as to prevent its permanence.  See? Square One. 

I don't want to allow myself to conclude, "Well, I'll try again next year." If I'm losing something everyday, then I risk another 365 things to the dustbin of forgetfulness.

So I don't know. Maybe I'll just keep a random book on the kitchen table or the coffee table with the intention that I'll read that for a random ten minutes each night rather than a magazine.  That's actually not a bad idea.  Actually, I really like that idea.  If Ron can slog through (rather, soar through) The Count of Monte Cristo and Moby Dick in one calendar year, then why can't I relearn my second language in ten minutes a day? (Have you seen TCofMC?  It's so big and thick that the ninth grader in you goes, "NOOOO!!! I'LL DO ANYTHING!! DON'T MAKE ME READ IT!!!")

Just when I think I've got the will power thing down, I find out that I am still SO BAD AT IT.  I'm not sure if it ever ends.  I won't lie: sometimes I think it would be nice if it just DID.  Something else tells me that I shouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Buona Pasqua a day late

I love Easter weekend--always have.  For me, it's the unofficial start of spring.  (Spring is a short lived season around here since Memorial Day is less than two months away. Not complaining.)

Of course the weekend feels like a blur at this point, and it's taking a lot of concentration and effort to think of what I did each day.  That's probably a sign that I shouldn't try so hard.

Mom, Leslie, and I had lunch at the Olive Branch in West Chester on Friday.  (Careful with the link! It plays music.) We had never been there before and it's completely adorable.  We saw the St. Agnes Good Friday procession walk by at 1pm.  This reminded me that we should have been fasting, but considering how bad of a delinquent Catholic I am it's just one more thing on the long list of charges that will confront me at the Pearly Gates.

What're you gonna do?

On Saturday, I had to go with Leslie to Media so she could figure out the location of her job interview this week. (FINGERS CROSSED!!! My fingers are so crossed that they're losing circulation.)  I've driven through Media to get to other places, but technically I've never been to Media. Not really.  Which is totally dumb because it's seriously 30 minutes away ... unless it's rush hour in which case it's 300 minutes away.

Media "is sorta the same thing as" West Chester and Phoenixville: a cute little town that, in some respects, has changed little over the past 60 years.  It's like the DelCo version of WC. (Before anybody thinks I'm having THAT conversation--I know you know what I mean--of DelCo vs. ChesCo, just STOP because I'm not going there.  I was raised in ChesCo, but half of my entire family lives in DelCo ... and not the Villanova side of DelCo either.  I'm no snob.  At least not about this.)

At the end of the day, Leslie and I decided that Media is better than West Chester. It's cuter, prettier, totally lacks obnoxious/drunk/clueless college students, has a better mix of stores and businesses, and (the dual crown jewel) it has an Iron Hill AND (dit-da-da-DA!!!) a TRADER JOE'S!! In a really cool renovated building no less!! Seriously West Chester: get a clue.  Maybe we can offer a trade with Media: We'll give them the university and we'll take the Trader Joe's?  Hell, we'll just give them the university and call it a day.

And the Iron Hill is three yards to the left. Doesn't get better than this.  (My life is sad.)
PLEASE tell me you remember this guy?  "Happy little clouds"?
Leslie and I also found another store that first appeared as a gift shop but actually turned out to be a photography studio.  ME Photo & Design just opened their store front in January, and the store owner knew (we were told) that it wouldn't last unless she included an in-store retail component to the photography business.  She sells all kinds of handmade and accessory items from local artists and Etsy crafters in store in addition to offering a full range of photography services.  Leslie and I loved this idea:

See the dry erase board at the bottom?  It's just a framed piece of fabric behind glass ... you can write on the glass with a dry erase marker!  I had no idea that you could do that.  Wouldn't that be the easiest craft EVER???  It's like an alternative to framed chalkboards and chalkboard paint.  I have two unused frames downstairs, and now I'm really thinking about this.  (Molly, you have a whole lotta frames in your family room ... you could turn one or two of them into dry erase boards.)

We walked by this church on the way back to the car. The bells were ringing and the sky could not have been bluer.  Leslie said that there was something time-warpy about the whole scene.  I thought that if we stood there long enough Betty and Don Draper (circa 1964) would appear with their kids for the Easter Vigil.  They didn't, but it sure looked and sounded as if they could have.

Back at home, Saturday night was the do-or-die eleventh hour of all things related to the Easter dinner.  Mom was working on her favors:

Asian rice noodles mixed with melted marshmallow to form "nests"
I needed to get home by 7pm to dye eggs and prep dinner sides with The Ten Commandments on in the background.  I only watch that movie once a year, and yet I have nearly every line memorized. It's a four freakin hour movie.  WHY can't other things (things that I REALLY NEED TO KNOW) sear onto my memory that easily?  Totally stupid.

Stupid cheap egg dyes.  Oh well.
This year, I had to make the potatoes and the pineapple stuffing. We only have the pineapple stuffing at Easter, but the potatoes reappear at Christmas time.

This is a side, but it would make a great dessert especially if you made a vanilla sauce to go with it.  Here is the recipe--it could NOT be easier.

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 stick of butter, room temp
  • 20 oz. can of undrained crushed pineapple
  • 9 slices of white bread, cubed (I like big cubes)
Mix the sugar and butter, then add the eggs and pineapple. Fold in the bread cubes and pour into 8x10 corning dish.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.  (I also sprinkled nutmeg and cinnamon on top of mine--just a little.)


Dinner was great and most of my family was there to enjoy it. But not Ron--he was unexpectedly called out to The Middle of Nowhere, Illinois late Wednesday night and missed the whole thing.  He's flying home now, but everyone felt really bad for him of course.  Sleeping in a hotel and eating dinner at Noodles every night is no way to celebrate Easter.  (That being said, I love Noodles and really REALLY wish West Chester would get one of those too. Or at least Exton should get one.  There's room for a Noodles at the God-forsaken Main Street shopping center. So let it be written ... so let it be DONE!)

Buona Pasqua to all and (I can't forget) Happy Birthday to my neighbor Maya who turned the big O-N-E yesterday on Easter Sunday.  Twelve months down ... countless more to go!

Up next: Lent Self-Assessment. Right now, I'm thinking my grade is someone in the solid-C range.  According to my students a C is completely awesome, but where I come from it may as well be an F.  More later.