Friday, April 09, 2021

Of Cabbages And MURDER

 Well, hello! Long time, no see...or write...or whatever, so it's hard to know where to start. Let's begin with a picture of Cara Cara oranges, because why not?

For some reason, when you cut oranges this way, you CAN'T STOP EATING THEM. I'll put out a whole bowl of these on the counter and leave the kitchen and I'll come back later to find Brian with a plate of orange rinds, just polishing off the last piece. 

See all the exciting news you've been missing?

I signed up to volunteer at vax centers in our county, because I'm a wonderful person. Actually, no, I heard that sometimes they give vaccinations to the volunteers and I decided it was worth the gamble. Also, I'm receiving unemployment checks, so it makes sense to do something to earn them.

So the gamble paid off, with my being fully vaxed (Team Pfizer, whoot!), so that worked out. And - aside from the fact that at first I was signed up for 12-hour shifts, OMG - it has been fun to get out of the house and talk to people, even if it is just to say, "First or second dose? ID, please! Right this way..." over and over and over.

Also, I got a T-shirt, so there's that.

I had no reaction to either dose, which is good, I think? I had set aside an entire day to recuperate after my second dose, and I was sort of disappointed as it gradually dawned on me that morning that I could just go about with my regular Monday routine of vacuuming and cleaning out the fridge. Larry slept all day after his, so I guess we know now who's in superior health around here.

Let's see, oranges, vaccinations, what else has been happening? Oh, yes, it's spring, and if it's spring, there must be delicious marinated cabbage salad (which sounds anything BUT delicious, I admit, but trust me here):

I will put on my recipe blogger hat for a moment and share this recipe for Clairmont Salad, because it is just that good. The name comes from the name of a restaurant near to where I grew up, so I guess it was their specialty? I don't know. All I know is that when I mentioned to Larry the other day that I didn't know why the restaurant was called the Clairmont, he said, "Oh, could it be because the restaurant was near MONTCLAIR?" and I was all OMG, I never realized that. So, yeah, the restaurant was sort of named after its location, and the salad was named after the restaurant. An epiphany for me, if you will...

Clairmont Salad

3/4 C hot water

3/4 C vinegar

1/2 C oil

1/2 C sugar

1 T salt

1/2 t pepper

1 t garlic powder


Small head of cabbage, sliced thin-ish (don't overthink this, just slice it up)

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber (mini or regular), thinly sliced

Mix together first 7 ingredients. Pour over the sliced vegetables. Let sit several hours, stirring occasionally so all the veggies get to soak in the dressing. If you don't have one of the vegetables on hand, don't sweat it - this recipe is very flexible (I mean, except for the cabbage - you need the cabbage). For example, the version in the photo above lacks cucumbers, but it works!

Of course, we had Easter and Passover since I last wrote, which means an Easter/Passover charcuterie board, designed by Rachel:

This was a little short on Passover items this year, as we had already eaten all the macaroons by the time we thought to do the board, and matzoh doesn't really lend itself to this sort of presentation. Also, I know Thin Mints are not necessarily representative of spring or Easter and definitely not Passover, and neither are mini stroopwaffels, but we'll just chalk that up to artistic license.

The weather turned beautiful this past week, so Susie and I went for a hike at a national park about an hour away. Now, I had done this hike with a friend about 5 years ago, and I had a very clear memory of it as being a moderate, uphill hike that branched out toward an impressive overlook, with a view of the town and the rivers.

I got the impressive overlook part right. Someone must have come in and changed the rest, though, because what Susie and I encountered was a long uphill hike, followed by a lengthy downhill part that led to a rocky scramble that ended in the overlook. 

I won't lie - it was ridiculously hot for April, and I didn't want to hike uphill just to hike DOWN to get to the view, and so I was mostly whining, "It's not supposed to BE this way!" toward the end. Susie, intrepid hiker that she is, ran ahead and secured us an excellent picnic rock at the overlook that almost - ALMOST - made up for the trauma we had just endured (especially since we had remembered to pack both potato chips AND Cheez-Its for lunch).

Nice view, if you can reach it (excellent picnic rock in the foreground)

We were sitting and enjoying the view until a very large, very ugly bug came crawling by our feet, whereupon we leaped up, with Susie grabbing our backpack so the bug wouldn't crawl on it, at which point I saw another bug -- a large-ish ant thing -- come crawling out from where the backpack had been, headed straight toward the very large and ugly bug.

And then? The ant thing MURDERED the ugly bug as we quite literally gawked in horror.

Seriously, the ugly bug (again, literally) flipped over dead, and the ant bug (who was obviously some sort of entomological hit man) started dragging its victim's carcass away. Whereupon Susie yelled, "Ewww, I HATE nature!", thereby garnering some rather pointed stares from the other hikers on the overlook.

The hike down was easier and gave us time to try and process the grisly scene we had just witnessed. And by "process," I mean saying repeatedly that bugs are gross and what the hell was that assassin thing, anyway? Also, EWWWW.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Pandemic Pick-Me-Ups

I'm still here, just hit the pandemic wall sometime in late January and have been clawing my way back to a sense of purpose (and a sense of humor) ever since. My now ample collection of handmade socks helped, though. Each morning I'd put on that day's pair (I have a special rotation system set up) and admire them and think, "Yup, we can do this!" Mood lifters, they are...

Woolen version of serotonin

I decided to volunteer to help at vaccination clinics and therefore had to slog through a couple of deadly boring FEMA courses to qualify, so that kept me busy for a day or two, but I am still waiting to hear if/when they need my help. I'll be really annoyed if I endured those FEMA courses for nothing. I also started doing courses toward that Google Tech IT Professional Certificate, just to see if I could manage it, and OMG do you realize how bored I have been to even attempt such a thing? 

Susie probably has a better remedy for pandemic ennui, though, in that she's decided to bake something new every day. As you can imagine, this idea has been welcomed enthusiastically by other members of our household. Today was something called "Pumpkin Poppers":

Fluffy pumpkin donut holes, dusted with cinnamon - YUM

The previous project was a magnificent coffee cake we all ate ourselves sick on, it was so good. And sometime before that we had these orange-cranberry crisps to die for:

Crunchy, orange-zesty deliciousness

There were also banana muffins, twice, because Larry brought home too-ripe bananas. I baked those, because I'm no slouch and also because I really don't have much else to do. And Susie baked coconut-something cookies. And other stuff. Surprisingly, I am still able to button my jeans.

We've also suffered somewhat of a snack chip explosion, which I only realized when I had to empty out the snack bag shelf to reach my crockpot (I have vintage kitchen cabinets, so things are complicated like that).

This is just stupid. I can't explain it.

That bag of BoomChickAPop - or whatever the heck it is called - hails all the way from Christmas, because that is how I bribed Susie to agree to a family viewing of It's A Wonderful Life as a holiday togetherness thing. I tested all the pretzels (because what are a few more calories at this point?) and threw out the stale ones, so I guess that takes care of special housekeeping tasks this month. But this picture doesn't even include the box (BOX) of potato chips (assorted varieties) that we ordered from a semi-local business, because we're loyal customers like that:

*chef's kiss* to the barbeque flavor

So, yeah, our major pandemic activity seems to be eating. I've given up, I have. We're still cranking out the nutritious meals, too, although it's less fun without Anna here. I know, she's been gone almost 2 months, so I need to adjust. It's just taking a while.

Setup for Thai curry - broccoli! peppers! onions! Healthy!

Valentine's Day happened, with a big ice storm the day before. Luckily, I had already bought a card and a silly gift, but I could feel Larry panicking all day Saturday, as the ice came down and everything outside solidified into one slippery mass. 

I'll admit to feeling quite smug, especially after he went to bed and I set out my offerings in front of his coffee pot, where he would be sure to see them first thing in the morning. I won this, I thought, as I gazed with satisfaction out our front window at the ice-glazed sidewalks and parking lot.

The smugness lasted until the next morning, when I was woken up early (along with the rest of the neighbors, I'm sure) by the sound of Larry hacking away at our ice-encrusted car, because he was trying to sneak off to the grocery store for flowers and chocolates. Hoist by my own petard, I was...

That's all the news around here for now. Hang in there, people, spring is coming, and in the meantime, bake that coffee cake - it sure does take the sting out of social distancing!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Winner's Circle

I know there has been a lot going on, what with Georgia tipping the Senate and there being an insurrection at the Capitol and also a presidential inauguration happening, but I have more important things to talk about. Not that we haven't celebrated (the inauguration, that is, not the insurrection):

Special dinner for Inauguration Eve

Still, there are other things going on around here, too. For example, when last we talked, I mentioned that Anna had just left us to return to her real life overseas, but I didn't point out that she left on what was also Larry's and my 30th anniversary. 

THIRTY - I used to think that people who had been married 30 years were almost dead. Actually, that's probably what my kids think right now. 

Despite our decrepitude, however, Larry and I kept up our anniversary tradition of seeing which one of us would forget our special day. Still traumatized by the fact that Larry didn't even give me a chance a few years ago to prove I had remembered, I laid my plans carefully this time around. Susie helped me pick out a card the day before ("These are awful!" she proclaimed, perusing the CVS anniversary collection), and I waited until Larry fell asleep that evening to run out to the grocery store for a "Happy Anniversary" balloon. Oh, I was clever! He wouldn't even know what hit him.

Only, there's no one available at the grocery store to inflate a specifically chosen balloon at that late hour. Instead, I had to settle for a pre-inflated, generic "Happy Birthday" one. No matter, I thought, I'll fix it at home.

Turns out, I'm not very good at fixing balloons. Still, my plan worked. He discovered his card and balloon and box of chocolate-covered cherries before I was even awake, and then he spent the rest of the day insisting he would have remembered anyway.


I also won a raffle held at my local yarn store on Black Friday:

These are being made into a crescent shawl that I knit while I sit and watch White House press briefings, which are my new jam. Facts! Reasonable conversation! The use of the sentence "I don't know, but I'll find out"! I'm a Jen Psaki fangirl, I am.

Unfortunately, I did not win at picking out pickles. I was planning to make potato salad for dinner, and everyone wanted it the way Anna made it, with some chopped dill pickle in it, so I grabbed this...thing...from the Harris Teeter deli and brought it home. THIS WAS A MISTAKE.

Poor facsimile of a pickle

Two out of three's not bad, though, right?

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Happy Not-So-New Year!

 Happy New Year! I guess we can all just rip off these masks and go back to life as normal now, right? RIGHT?

Oh, maybe not. Well, then, at least we have all that election stuff behind us, right? No more worrying about ballots or voter turnout or...

Oh, oh yes - Georgia. The fate of the nation turns on Georgia today. And tomorrow...well, never mind. Some day this will all be over. I would totally like to resume ignoring both my health and my government, thank you, like the good American I am. 

Remember Christmas? 

We had a lovely COVID Christmas, albeit a quiet one. The "kids" (as discussed previously) decided to spend the afternoon building candy houses and, as usual, spared no effort.

New Year's Eve was similarly quiet. Normally, we spend New Year's Eve cleaning up the house in preparation for our neighborhood's New Year's Day party, an event we have hosted since 2008. This year, however, the party was canceled due to COVID, with the upshot being our house risked remaining a mess until next New Year's. 

But Anna did return to Tunisia on Sunday, and Brian decided to move down to the guest bedroom in the basement that she had occupied for the last 9 months, so the result was that everything got a pretty good cleaning out anyway. Brian has definite ideas of what he will and will not live with, so the seashell lamp that Anna used on her desk all year was unceremoniously dumped outside his door.

"You don't want this?" I asked Brian.

"No," he said. "It's ugly. Do you like it?"

"Um, no, I guess not," I said. "But it was here when we moved in."

"Thirteen years ago," he said. 

So yeah, it takes me over a decade to realize I don't like a lamp.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Anna left me, and I am bereft. She's the only other one in the family who will actually plan a dinner. It was like she was another grown-up or something. Also, she was just fun to have around. Grown offspring are cool.

On the plus side? With Brian moving downstairs to her room, I HAVE MY OFFICE/YARN ROOM BACK. I don't know who is more excited, me or my long-suffering spouse who has tolerated for almost a year the numerous Rubbermaid bins full of yarn in our bedroom and the tangle of knitting needles hanging up in our closet. He'd also like our nightstands back, which Sarah and I commandeered back in May to build my makeshift desk.

The day Anna left, we took down the tree, packed up all the decorations, put the furniture back in place - you know, all those things you do that make you feel like you have a fresh start to the year, even if this year it is less of a fresh start and more of a retread. Still, we packed things up and realized that most of the items we actually use (aside from the lights) fit into these 2 small bins:

But -- and this just kills me -- we still had this REALLY LARGE bin more than half-filled with boxes containing I know not what:

"Let's chuck it," I suggested to Larry, who immediately got the panicked look on his face that appears whenever I suggest chucking anything, ever. You know, that "I might need it" look?

"We don't use it," I told him. "See?" I pointed to the two small bins. "That's the stuff we use. And that..." (here I pointed to the large bin) " the stuff we don't use."

Don't think for even a second that this line of reasoning worked. We're keeping everything, as usual. I just want the kids to know I tried, is all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Time Flies, Holidays Happen

I can't decide if Michaels is off message again for this year, or maybe on message. I guess it depends if HOME means you stay put or if you travel. Stay put, okay?

It looks as though we will have 5 out of 6 kids with us for Christmas (because 4 are already living here and the other is local and lives alone), so I feel lucky compared to a lot of people. But I was still dreading it, because we usually have another family over for dinner, which makes the day feel special, and that can't happen this year. 

The whole thing was making me miss my friends more than usual, and I wondered what we would do all day, once the gifts were opened. I sure didn't want everyone to retreat to their own rooms, like the housemates that we now are. So I half-jokingly suggested to the "kids" that they spend Christmas Day building gingerbread houses, like they used to, out of graham crackers and confectioners-sugar glue and candy. LOTS OF CANDY.

The results (2012 here) could be fairly impressive, I must say...

As you can imagine, when they were small, this was a popular Christmas time activity, one we would invariably invite neighborhood kids to, and there was generally enough sugar flowing that we'd have to administer insulin shots on their way out the door.

I exaggerate, but you get my drift.

The amount of prep required? Also fairly impressive.  

Anyhoo, as everyone aged out, soon it was only Susie who wanted to build a house and so the practice fell by the wayside. And I didn't really think anyone now (ages 15 - 29) would be interested. But they all pretty much jumped at the idea, and so that's what we will be doing on Christmas Day. Building graham cracker houses. 2020 has yielded quite a few surprises, so I'll just add that one to the list.

I'm in the final stretch of Christmas knitting, which never looks pretty:

My hands hurt. A LOT.

And we went all out for Chanukah, making latkes AND sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), both events being spearheaded by Theo, because I hate frying things.

Disappeared so fast, I didn't even get a photo of the full plate

Tree is up, gifts are bought, Thanksgiving feels like eons ago. EONS. And, of course, Christmas cookies are baked:

Pecan bars, YUM

What a stupid year this has been. I mean, really. I feel as though we will all wake up on January 1st and shake our heads and go, "What the heck happened?" 

In the meantime, we soldier on. Stay safe! And keep your hands off those cookies...