Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars For Dummies

So, that Christmas thing happened, and I spent the entire day feeling grateful that I had all 6 kids home for a bit, all under one roof, because I know that won't keep happening forever. We had some neighbors and their girls (Anna and David's age) over, so the "old people" ended up being relegated to the kids table - that way, all the young adults and the younger siblings could sit together.

You know, no one ever warned me that would happen.

To make things even better, it was a good present year: Larry didn't try giving me car-cleaning tools for Christmas, I had plenty of excellent ideas for his presents, and the kids were also relatively easy to shop for. I mean, helloooo, gift cards! And books, of course...what else can you give to a self-supporting young adult, anyway?

Then, last night, FINALLY, we went to see Star Wars. Larry and the boys had already seen it, but I was waiting until I could use my discount Costco movie tickets to take the girls. Uncle Matt and his girlfriend were visiting, so we invited them to join us.

"Do you think I will understand what's going on?" asked Uncle Matt. "I never saw any of the Star Wars films."

There was a stunned silence after he uttered these words. Seriously, we all just stopped talking and stared at him, this mythical creature apparently roused from a 40-year sleep. Never seen Star Wars? How could anyone under 60 not have viewed ANY of those movies?

Look, I don't even LIKE the original Star Wars films, but I've seen them. (Sorry, folks, lousy acting, lousy script, lousy pacing - I won't budge on that.) So, after picking our jaws up from the floor, we hustled Uncle Matt downstairs to watch The Empire Strikes Back, just to give him some sort of exposure to the concept.

You can't just go into this unprepared....

Anywhoo, the next night we all went to see the new film. True, I might not like Star Wars, but I had to be a part of this cultural moment.  Also? I like movie theater popcorn. The theater, after over a week of several showings a day, was still packed. Of course I got the person with large hair sitting in front of me (being short is no joke, even with stadium seating). I settled in, preparing myself for 2 hours or so of hackneyed themes, bad acting, and wince-inducing lines.

I know - I'm fun. Hire me for parties!

Readers, that movie was FANTASTIC. WONDERFUL. STUPENDOUS. I fell in love with the new main characters. I was DEVASTATED when...well, you know, that thing...happened.

Best yet, now I could go home and enjoy that whole Emo Kylo Ren thing happening over at Twitter.

So, yeah, it was a good week.  And now I am girding myself for hosting our neighborhood New Year's party. If we're lucky, Larry and I won't have any arguments involving vomit cheese balls and gross crackers. But I'm not counting on it...

[Star Wars poster image:]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

As The Food Turns

3 days until Christmas, so what better time for a clean-out-the-fridge post? As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, cleaning out the fridge is no longer the guilt-ridden task it used to be. I have become a composting zealot, convinced that I am saving the world with the 7-gallon bucket full of food scraps that we generate each week.

Saving the world, for only $25 a month. Can't beat that, right?

So, here is the latest picture:

You'll note the remnants of our Chanukah latkes at the bottom of that center stack there. Apparently, 8 days is not long enough to eat a double batch of potato pancakes. Is there a religion with 2-week-long holidays? That might work better for us.

Above those is some expired Costco kale salad, which I was eating at an inordinate rate earlier this year. Well, the bloom is off the rose (or the kale, really), and this stuff is often found decomposing in the fridge. But do I feel guilty? No, I do not. We are returning it to the soil from whence it came, where it will grow more kale destined to rot in our refrigerator.

Like I said, people, it's the cycle of life.

What's not to like?
Above the kale is the rice. We made it to eat with this microwavable chickpea thing that I picked up at Costco, and no one liked it much but me. My kids are way too picky, and there's not a darn thing I can do about it. On top of the rice is the scallion cream cheese, which I picked up weeks ago during my visit to Brooklyn. At this point I can't tell whether the green bits in it are mold or scallions, so it is also being returned to the earth.

That foil thing at the top is some garlic bread David made for us -  it got lost beneath all the other crap on my kitchen counter, so the kids never finished it. That happens to other people, too, right? That's, like, a normal thing?

To the left are the (apparently unpopular) baby carrots I bought for the veggie tray when I hosted Bunko (in November), and to the right are assorted lemons and apples that have seen better days. They will join their brethren in the compost bin and decompose peacefully together.  I'll tell you the truth: when I look in that compost bin? I feel proud. PROUD of my wasted veggies and uneaten leftovers. Proud, because I know that they will never be a part of any landfill avalanche, killing innocent people. Proud, because my wasteful habits provide soil for community gardens.

I am CHANGING THE WORLD with my rotten food. At least, that's the story I tell myself, because we all need our pretty little fictions to get through the day. Or maybe that's just me?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Youth Is Wasted On The Wrong People

So, yeah, busy weekend, right? Parties, tree, baking, lego meetings...

That's right - on the busiest Saturday of the year, I had to spend 6 hours at a lego user group (LUG) meeting. At least I got a lot of knitting done. Also? Great pizza.

I got home in time to barricade the master bathroom against sabotage, because, yes, it was time for us to attend our one adult cocktail party of the year and no, I wasn't going to let Larry start fixing the sink an hour before we had to be there. Not this year, anyway. So I made him wait until I was completely ready (meaning, finished swathing myself in spandex so my dress clothes would fit) before he could even gain access to the bedroom to get dressed himself.

At least I learn from past experience, right?

The party was great, as usual, even though it hurt to stand up because my shoes were too tight, and it hurt to sit down because of the Spanx-type thingy squeezing my middle, so I spent a lot of the evening perfecting my leaning-against-a-wall and leaning-against-the-arm-of-a-chair poses. Maybe, by next year, I will be too mature and confident to do that to myself again. Maybe I will go shopping for something dressy yet not painful, some article of apparel that lets the world know that I am comfortable with what shape I am and don't need to hide it.

But probably not. I'll probably just go for more spandex.

Today, we continue our grueling schedule of holiday merry making. In addition to an ornament exchange this evening, I am also dragging the family to see It's A Wonderful Life at our local theater this afternoon. $5 a ticket, people, for 2 hours of utter cinematic bliss - what's not to like?

Unfortunately, the girls have been complaining for the past 2 weeks that I am making them see that "boring old movie." They keep talking about something called "Star Wars" instead. Kids these days...

Our own kids no longer gaze at us with adoration, unfortunately.

This morning I begged off going to church so that I could wrap some gifts and clean the house and generally make things look more Christmas-y around here. So maybe I should actually go do those things? Yes, yes, I should. That's a very good idea.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not Dead Yet

Oh, hey, hi! Man, it's dusty around here.  Let me just move some of this old clutter around and limber up my mouse fingers a bit...

Ah, there we are. Whew! A whole week - where have I been? Knitting, mostly. Watching Star Wars trailers. Being bumped off the computer by Larry, who went into full spreadsheet mode while trying to decide on a new computer monitor for our desktop...

Our new family member
Oh, yes, he did. Our monitor was 9 years old, which is approximately Stone Age in computer years, and it was a weird square shape with not-so-great resolution, so - instead of walking into Best Buy and picking up the newest and shiniest one that was on sale, the way I would have - he spent untold hours and pixels researching, cataloguing, comparing and contrasting, and discussing (with David, not me, thank you Lord) the merits and drawbacks of the various models. He kept trying to draw me into this decision-making vortex, but - as I had no real opinions other than "big" and "no fuzz on the picture" - he was not successful.

Yes, David is home. As an apparent money-saving method at school, he didn't get his hair cut over the past 4 months - no biggie, for a regular guy, but David had sported a buzz cut since at least the age of 12, when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. So the poor guy walked in the door with Larry on Thursday night and was greeted by the bunch of us staring open-mouthed at the mop on the top of his head. I mean, we just couldn't get past it. We were all sitting in the living room, talking, and at regular intervals one of us would say, "Man, it's just so weird!"

We don't get out much, I guess.

[Monitor image:]

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


The only kind I make...
I spent this past Sunday morning at the local yoga center. As I headed home at 1, my head was full of plans to make latkes for the first night of Chanukah that evening. It would take most of the afternoon, sure, even if I did use a mix; but that's what you have to do when you're Jewish. Oy, how we suffer...

When I got home, however, I found Larry in the kitchen, surrounded by apples. Peeled apples, chopped apples, apple peels, apple cores - there was a huge bowl of sliced apples, plus a smaller one. Larry was assiduously slicing MORE apples and placing them on a plate that was balanced on my yarn scale.

"Um..." I began, not sure where to start.

"I KNOW what I'm DOING," Larry said, as he continued to slice and weigh.

"Okay," I said. "Just, what are you making? Pie?"

"Yes!" said Larry, proudly. "Pie!"

"A lot of pie?" I couldn't help asking. Really, there were enough apples sliced up for 10 pies, at least.

"There - that recipe," Larry said, motioning to a piece of paper on the table and then returning to his apples. I looked at the recipe, something from the New York Times titled apple-cranberry slab pie. I noticed the table was covered with things - what looked like a huge mound of grated ginger, another plate with grated nutmeg, a small bowl filled with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

People, this was like leaving your toddler at home with fingerpaints and returning to find him trying to paint oils on canvas.

"Um, Larry," I said, "why are you weighing the cut-up apples?"

He took the paper from me. "Right here," he said, pointing, "it says 6 1/2 lbs apples."

I almost died of the cuteness right there.  I mean, he was so earnest, it was adorable. "Larry," I said, "listen - that is for shopping purposes. You buy that much, but they don't weigh that much once you peel them and core them. I really think you can stop now, okay?"

Larry looked at the paper, puzzled. "But they don't SAY that," he said. "Why don't they say that?"

"You're supposed to know.  Don't worry about it, just stop with the apples, all right?"

He kept shaking his head and staring at the recipe. I could have sworn I heard him mutter "Bitch set me up" under his breath, actually. "Larry, let it go. Hey, what's this?" I asked, picking up a spice bottle from the table. "Whole nutmeg? Where did you even find this? Did you grate this stuff by hand?"

"Well, it says right here," he said, pointing to the recipe again. "Grated nutmeg - what else was I supposed to do?"

"We have some already ground up in the pantry, you know."

"But it says grated," he insisted.

"Yeah, but it says ground cinnamon, too," I told him. "Did you grind the cinnamon bark, then?"

Larry grabbed the paper again and looked. "Shoot!" he said. "I just used that cinnamon powder stuff in the pantry. Do you think it matters?" He looked panicked.

Really, it's too easy to tease him. I shouldn't. But I did. "I don't know. You really messed up there," I said.

He was still staring at the paper and muttering as I left the room. Half an hour later I went to check on him. He was pulling out a rolling pin. "Did you already make the dough for the crust?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, removing some blobs of dough from the refrigerator. "They're right here. I just have to roll them out."  He plopped them on the counter next to the rolling pin and stood there for a minute, looking at them. Then he looked at me. "So, uh, what do I do here exactly?"

Again, the cuteness. "I'm pretty sure you'll figure it out," I said. "Just flour that counter really well. Do you have to do a top crust?"

He grabbed the piece of paper with the recipe on it again. "Top crust?" he asked, looking at the recipe. "I guess so. I haven't read that far ahead," he said, sounding annoyed at such an obviously irrelevant question. "It's...I don't know. Read it!" he finished, handing me the paper.

Turns out, the recipe called for using Christmas cookie cutters to cut cute shapes out of a third of the dough. Larry was supposed to arrange the shapes on top of the pie. Say what you like, that man likes to go BIG.

Really, NYT? You call that a top crust?

"Look, Larry," I said, "you have to ignore this. Just roll out that last part of the dough and cut it into strips." I found some Internet pictures of a lattice-top pie, to show him what he was aiming for. "This other thing - it's just crazy talk."

You know, he actually took my advice for once. Or maybe he couldn't find the cookie cutters - that's a possibility, too. And finally, in the late afternoon, he proudly removed a slab pie from the oven, which was great, as there was no way that we were getting any latkes for dinner at that point.

So, Chanukah - candles, dreidels, and apple-cranberry pie. Because all traditions can use a little tweaking.

Not bad for a beginner - not bad at all

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Lemonade Out Of (Moldy) Lemons

Perhaps some of you wonder whether or not I clean out my fridge anymore. After all, there haven't been any posts featuring long-expired leftovers in a long time.  I'll tell you the truth: for a while there, I just gave up. Occasionally Larry, in a fit of desperation, would rummage through the fridge and get rid of things that looked suspect, but on the whole things have been left to run amok, as it were.

Never again...
But all that has changed, people. No longer do I have items sitting in my refrigerator for months; no longer is the entire back third of that particular appliance given over to what we euphemistically referred to as "science experiments." No, a new day has dawned in The More, The Messier household, an era of good feeling, if you will - and it only costs me $25 a month.

You see, someone tipped me off that there was a new composting service in town - that is, for a monthly fee, this company would pick up all of my organic-matter refuse and turn it into dirt. The company then distributes bags of this dirt to community gardens (oh, and 2 bags a year to its customers).

Icing on the cake - the company was started by a returned Iraq War veteran, and it makes a point of hiring other veterans.

So I took the plunge and signed up, whereupon I was rewarded with a 7-gallon heavy-duty plastic bin to stick all our organic refuse into - everything left on our plates, plus paper towels, chicken bones, you name it. Pickup is on Fridays, when they take the full bin and leave me a clean empty one. For $300 a year, I can pride myself on doing my part for the environment AND helping veterans find jobs; but, truthfully, for me that's not even the best part.

My new best buddy
The best part is, every single Thursday I feel GREAT as I go through our refrigerator, because everything I toss will be transformed into dirt and donated to community gardens.  I am part of the circle of life, people - me and my wasteful food habits. That's right, no more guilt over wasted food, no more self-flagellation over good intentions left to rot in our vegetable crispers, NO MORE REGRETS.

True, this still doesn't solve my condiment overload issues, judging from the number of little jars and bottles that persist in crowding my fridge. But those spiffy refrigerator bins I bought last year in Costco do seem to be helping to prevent a repeat of the vinaigrette fiasco of 2009, so that was money well spent, also. I'm sure Larry appreciates my spending all his hard-earned cash to solve problems caused by my domestic incompetence. But maybe he is used to that by now...