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Resolved December 31, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Do you make new year’s resolutions? I don’t. I gave that up a long time ago. I got tired, as a teenager, of resolving to get rid of those 10 pounds that had no intention of going anywhere. I got tired of listing arbitrary goals just because the number of the year was changing. It’s possible that I resolved to never make a new year’s resolution again, but frankly, I don’t remember.

Last year a brother-in-law asked me if I made new year’s resolutions. I said no, but I make lists every day, which is a little like daily resolutions. Certainly this is tasking, not necessarily change-your-life stuff. But the lists include items that may keep the need for big lifestyle changes at bay. I don’t have a new year’s list with “lose 10 pounds” on it, but my quotidian lists always include “work out.”

If you want to change something about your life, change it. Why make it a new year’s thing? Why make a big announcement/production of it on January 1? If you want support, ask for support. It’s OK if that happens in March or July or October.

That said, I may be making a new year’s resolution. I don’t think it’s actually a new year’s resolution—it’s just the timing of the thing. I need to do it now, and it’s new year’s eve.

Some of you will remember my refrigerator rant from nearly a year ago: my meltdown at the ridiculous number of condiments cluttering my life and cold space. Well, the other day I was trying to make space in my cupboards for all the generous foodstuffs given me for the holidays. As I tried to shove stuff in, other stuff began to fall out.

This led to a bit of reorganization, as best I could in the moment.

And it’s when I’m doing this that I realize I have a lot of food and food helpers stashed away that I never use or think about: five types of rice, dried beans, rice noodles, rubs and sauces and special spices, cans of beans and coconut milk. When I occasionally stumble across this stuff, I think, I should make [logical dish] with this. Then I promptly forget about it.

Thus, resolved: Soon I am going to inventory the cupboards (and maybe the refrigerator). I am then going to do some meal planning based on my actual stash. I am going to eat the food I have. I am.

Will the fact that I am resolving to do this around new year’s mean it will never happen? We’ll see.

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Home Sweet Home December 29, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Never underestimate the comfort of your own bed (flannel sheets) or that strawberry–banana–peanut butter–soy shake you have ’most every day for breakfast.

Desperate Situation December 21, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Two days ago I (but really, my man Tim and his sister Amy) received an e-mail from my step-father-in-law with the subject line “Desperate situation.” Tim and Amy’s mother, Pinky, recently suffered a fall while visiting New York City. She broke her arm. This has put a strain on her Christmas preparations, and apparently her husband is trying to take on some of the annual tasks. Said tasks include baking more cookies than twenty hungry humans could possibly eat in several weeks.

A family favorite is a chocolate/peanut butter/oatmeal candylike concoction that they call dog biscuits. I had these growing up too, but I’d never heard that name for them before getting involved with this family. I’ve never made them.

I imagine I got copied on this e-mail because Danny knew I would enjoy reading it. Too bad he doesn’t have a blog. I’ve decided to quietly share his adventure here. Happy holidays!

(And my take? Theory #3.)

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY

Pinky’s handicap has placed a number of critical duties on my shoulders. Things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, gift wrapping, cookie making, to name a few.

This morning I was able to follow directions well enough to make a batch of cookies containing cornflakes and butterscotch drops. Buoyed up by this success, I then moved up in difficulty to make “dog biscuits.” Any success I had with cornflakes was totally lost with the dog biscuits. As of this message, I have disposed of three batches of semi-liquid dog biscuits.

I did not take on the dog biscuits without consulting with Pinky. She advised me of the pitfalls ahead, especially about the 1-minute period of boiling. And she has concluded that she has no specific suggestion to make to avoid a fourth useless batch.

Here are some of the things she has offered as explanations for my failures:

  1. Didn’t measure things right. I reject this idea outright. My experiences in chem labs simply rule this out.
  2. Stirred the mixture of cocoa, sugar, milk, and oleo while it was heating it instead of just mixing the stuff and letting it sit undisturbed while it heated up to boiling. Here again I invoke experience from chemistry. If you want things to mix while heating, stir constantly.
  3. I put the oatmeal into the hot mixture first, instead of putting the peanut butter in first. I admit that I do not know what reactions take place in making these cookies, but I can’t believe the order of putting things into the mixture makes a difference.
  4. The whole thing is beyond me. I don’t really like to think about this.

Anyhow, if you want dog biscuits when you get here, give me a description of how you make them. She said you have made them in the past, which makes me believe it can’t be very hard. Here is what her recipe and directions say:

Mix ½ cup of milk, 2 cups of sugar, ¼ cup of cocoa, and ½ cup of oleo in a pan. Have on hand ½ cup of peanut butter, 3 cups of oatmeal, and 1 tsp of vanilla.

Heat the first mixture until it boils, and let it boil for 1 minute. Pinky says it has to boil everywhere, not just in the middle, and that it should not be stirred while heating or boiling.

After 1 minute of boiling, add the additional three ingredients, stir, and then spoon the stuff out onto wax paper and watch as it solidifies almost instantly. Hah! I have half a trash can full of half-liquid drops of the mixture as evidence that this does not happen.

To settle my nerves, I gave up on the dog biscuits and made two cheese balls.

Anyhow, if you have any suggestions to make send them as soon as possible. These are trying times.

The Song in My Head December 20, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Is anyone else old/folky enough to remember Arlo Guthrie’s cover of the Tom Paxton song, “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler”? I had it on the Arlo Guthrie/Pete Seeger album, Precious Friend (1981). These days, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. I wonder why.

Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime (of the slime) . . .

Girl (2) December 19, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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[For the first installment of “Girl,” click here.]

In the past two weeks, I have tried on approximately $18,000 worth of jewelry (retail).

Strolling through a not-so-faraway town, I discovered a new shop that features estate jewelry. I tried on a killer diamond(s) ring with a beautiful Victorian setting, price tag $6,800. The proprietor tried to steer me toward another ring as well, one that cost about $3,000. It was interesting, but not as nice as the first.

While there, I also tried on a big chunky, angular gold bracelet with more diamonds, a really cool piece from—did she say 1930s? or the decade before or after?—I’d never seen anything quite like it. It could be mine for a mere $4,800.

Those ring and bracelet prices made the slinky art deco diamond-and-ruby earrings at $1,500 seem practically a steal.

(Does this happen to you? You enter the world of the entirely impossible—or at least crazy—a world with numbers that for you are essentially theoretical and meaningless, and by the time you leave, the lower numbers, still out of your reach, sound like a deal!)

I left without spending any money and had a great time with the proprietor, but there’s a part of me that feels guilty for wasting someone’s time. (There’s a shop in Portland that I’ve avoided for more than a year now, being afraid they will recognize me and think, “Oh, there she is again. That tease.” I once tried on a stunning yellow diamond ring there that was—oh, what was it? $16,000? They sold it. But not to me.)

In other posts, I’ve mentioned my earlier quest to own a dozen watches. I’ve since discovered the downside to this: battery maintenance. Yesterday I wanted to wear a particular watch to my office holiday lunch. The battery was dead. I checked the other watches, which is what I do when I discover one has died, and found two more dead. I threw them all in an envelope with a plan to stop at the jeweler’s on the way to work.

En route, I considered my finances. Maybe I should just replace one battery now, not three. Maybe I could wait a month, then replace the other two. I’d decide when I walked in the door.

I went with one battery replacement, for $8. That may seem pricey ($4 battery, $4 labor), but hey, they have the tools, they do all the work, and they’re fast. It’s a convenience. While the jeweler was replacing the battery, I checked out the cases. There was a yellow-diamond-with-diamonds ring, a new ring in an old-fashioned setting (frankly, I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to styles and eras—my feeble mind just points and says, Look! Pretty!). After I’d paid for the battery, I asked to try on the ring.

It was gorgeous, but too small. Free sizing, though, if I bought it—$1,800, I think. The jeweler asked if I had a Secret Santa.

Poor guy didn’t even know about the $16 I wasn’t dropping.

Is there a name for this behavior? Playing dress-up with no intention whatsoever to buy?

And is it wrong?

Nocciola, Per Favore December 12, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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My subconscious can sometimes get ahead of me. After moving to Vermont from Washington, DC, I woke up one still-cold morning dreaming of cherry blossoms. What a lovely dream. Then I realized it was the tail end of March, and they were in bloom. Nowhere near me, of course—I’d have to endure another six leafless weeks.

There are days closing in on spring when I find myself really missing Sewa Yoleme. If I stop to observe the calendar, I realize it’s just about the time of year we took our Kitsch Disney Trip together. The seasonal light must trigger something in my heart before I am aware of why this yearning is happening now.

December is always Italy.

Tim used to go twice a year to Verona for work. I got to go with him four times, and three of those times were in December. Not only was it a beautiful, uncrowded time to be there, but it took me out of the whole Christmas crush in the states. (Do not bother me with the stress of what gift to get whom. I am eating gelato.)

We were always there near or on Santa Lucia. This meant that we always got to see the star at the Piazza Bra, shooting out of the Arena, and we got to meander through all the holiday stalls.

A couple of years ago, when writing about Sergio for the 365 project, I discovered that the Piazza Bra has a webcam. That became the first bookmark on my toolbar. Sometimes I don’t click on it for months at a time. Other times I’ll check often. I love seeing various events get set up and torn down. I love watching the movement of the people. I imagine that maybe one of them is Sergio, or Anna, or their children or grandchildren.

The other day I clicked on PIAZZA BRA LA WEB CAM DI PIAZZA BRA, and there was the star! The odd thing was that although I’d been getting my annual Italy hankerings, I hadn’t thought about the star, and when I saw it through the webcam, it suddenly and truly hit me: It’s December. Look! It must be December.

Oh, I wish I were there. With Tim, and with Sergio and his family. Eating gelato. Hazelnut, please.

Happy Santa Lucia to each of you.

Bunny Slippers December 9, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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When this week’s temperatures dropped into the single digits, I knew it was time to bring out the big guns: the bunny slippers.

I spend most of the workday in front of a computer, not moving around much. Even with the heat on, my hands and feet get cold (I don’t suffer to the extent that Sweet Rocket Susan does, but it’s enough to notice). Often I’ll keep a space heater by my feet. But this quickly jacks up the electricity bill and doesn’t help as much as one might think.

Enter the bunny slippers.

Last December, Tim and I drove south to see family and friends, including Bill and Susan, friends from our DC days. It turned out to be a magical 24 hours, the kind of visit during which it feels like we’ve never been apart, but also, how could we ever choose to be?

Susan was laughing over a few Christmas presents she had received from a well-meaning friend, trying to decide what to do with some of them. Bill mentioned in particular the horror of the bunny slippers. Susan explained that the bunny slippers were the kind with the microwaveable buckwheat-and-lavender sole inserts. Rip open the Velcro™, pull out the little bundles, microwave two minutes, slip them back in, et voilà! Instant foot warmth.

Susan said she loved them, but she couldn’t walk comfortably with the lumpy inserts. They weren’t practical.

Bill was peeved that bunny slippers had managed to make their way into his home. He begged me to take them away. Actually, it was more like an order.

I could just manage to get my feet into them, so home with me they went.

They look like this:
kits-bslipmd

They work. The direct heat is much better than my space heater, and the energy savings is incredible.

But Susan’s right: These boots ain’t made for walkin’. And the wearing of them is not for public consumption.

Purge December 3, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Over the past few days, I’ve finally gone through the books that I keep in two closets, on shelves.

Why in closets? Why on shelves?

Well, I live in this old Victorian house. And until I moved into it, I didn’t realize that the thing is all windows and doors. Wall space is at a premium, and the sole small bookcases are located in my office and Tim’s. There isn’t space for a bookcase anywhere else. And, truth be told, the majority of our books are of the cheap paperback variety—not the kind that need to be displayed (although I admit that, when visiting another’s home, it is intriguing to glance surreptitiously at their exposed spines).

The closets (like the attic) are beginning to get out of control.

The first book closet also houses presents and wrapping paper. It was when I was taking holiday stock on Sunday that I hit clutter saturation and began the book purge.

Tim happily joined in.

It’s hard. Even if a book is worth nothing monetarily, even if it is totally replaceable, even though the chances of you ever cracking it open again are next to nil, still . . . a book can be tough to let go of. This book, for example, reminds you of your supercerebral and -sexual college days. This one has great photos. This one was a gift from a beloved friend.

The book/gift/games/storage closet was the nonfiction closet. Just this afternoon I moved onto fiction (aka the guest room closet). Fiction can be even harder to purge. This book includes a New Yorker story you remember reading on the subway, then the bus, on a long, hot DC commute. This one is signed by the author. (You don’t really like it as much as her/his other stuff, but still. Can’t toss that one.) This one is a classic. (What if you need to read this classic again? You don’t want to buy this classic again.)

There are 128 books sitting in my hallway. Some of them are really good.

Soon I will go through them. To be certain. To categorize them. I will see how many of them I can’t part with after all. I will try to think of people to give them to. I will call a few friends and let them take a look.

Then, someday, I will cart them off to the annual-book-sale stash. I will hope that their time as strays won’t last long. I will hope, in their hearts, they’ll forgive me.

Gravity December 3, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Fellow North Americans: Is it my imagination, or has the earth’s gravitational force been greater of late, especially in the mornings?