The cook returns to the kitchen: Chronicles of a spastic housewife, chapter 2

March 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

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I had just finished doing an impromptu session of kick-boxing in our tiny apartment living room in an attempt to intimidate our neighbors.  Having not engaged in such challenging muscular activity for some time, I was visibly shaking.

This was when I decided it was time for dinner. I was, like I said, visibly shaking (both from hunger and from exercise). Nevertheless, I thought it would be good to not only take on dinner for that night, but also for the next night, and pack lunches and put away dishes from breakfast.  And maybe sweep the floor, wipe down the counters and touch up my toenails while I’m at it.  Just kidding.

So here I was with a crock-pot on one counter, cutting boards, knives, and vegetables falling off the other counter, boiling water, lunch baggies, dirty cereal bowls, a running faucet and a saute pan on the stove containing oil that was quickly getting hot. And, shaking.

As I prepared to cut miniature bell peppers, green beans, and onion on one too small cutting board that wouldn’t quite fit on our too small counter, I inched it over toward the stove, and continued happily chopping, adding pasta to the water, wiping clean the coffee mugs to put in the dishwasher, adding snacks and fruit to Alex’s lunch, etc.

Next thing I knew, it was melted. MELTED – the cutting board.  Our lovely color coated cutting board (this was the blue one with the fish emblem on it) was looking very wobbled. SAD.  [I do have a short history of melting objects in the kitchen: read: chunks of melted spatula ruined my only (failed) batch of apple butter].

Then, within the next thirty seconds, I managed to spill a large amount of water onto the floor and dump a medium amount of cooked pasta onto the stove instead of back into its proper pot. Also sad. And wet.

But, hear this: I did not scream. I did not panic. I did not begin to cry.  Maybe I whimpered a little at the sight of poor melted fishie cutting board — but that is all.  I also happily ate (some of) the pasta off the stove top instead of putting it back in the pot.

I think this is an improvement, don’t you? Hot pasta on the table, a chuck roast in the crock pot, sandwiches packed for the next day, and an empty kitchen sink.  All in 20 minutes.  With only a little chaos, and only a little whimper.

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On Stewardship…

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

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“…to my way of thinking, God has more important things on his mind. Whatever the level of competency we reach is up to us–only us. It’s like the story of the Englishman who was walking down a cobblestone path when he came upon a small cottage with a beautiful garden next to it. The Englishman paused in admiration and said to the gardener who was down on his hands and knees pulling weeds, `Sir, what a beautiful garden God has blessed you with.’ The gardener replied, `You should have seen it when God was taking care of it by himself.’ Whatever gifts the Good Lord may have blessed us with, we are the ones who must get down on our hands and knees and do the work. It’s up to us to make the garden beautiful.” John Wooden

I am interested in and somewhat delighted by the ideas represented in I am also learning that good stewardship takes many forms.  Not only do I think that it is “up to us” to use and grow our particular gifts over the course of our lifetimes, but also that we must “dig in” to the raw materials of each day and make what we can of them.  I recognize that all people are given different circumstances and materials to work with, and that some people could be perfectly happy without seeking constant growth.  It is not by right or necessity that humans make gardens, but working hard to create things we admire can be a source of pleasure.

A couple weeks ago Alex and I purchased flowers, soil, and two clay pots.  It was a gorgeous day outside and we realized that our neglected patio needed some color, and our neglected hearts needed a dose of Spring.  After returning home with the flowers and taking a break for some sweet, iced tea, we proceeded to dig into the soil and position our lavender and double-impatiens as the belated day-light savings sun sunk lower in the sky.

This new little piece of beauty at our apartment is so enjoyable.  I like to think that in the acts of choosing, paying for, and planting our flowers, Alex and I were “good stewards” that afternoon.

Ten things I learned from my parents

March 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

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1.  How to brush my teeth.

2.  How to make a budget.

3.  How to live on a budget.

4.  How to pack, move cross country, paint, unpack,  and decorate in 3.25 weeks.

5.  How to foxtrot.

6. How to drink coffee like you can’t get through the day without it.

7.  How to make homemade corn chips.

8.  How to trust God amidst difficulty.

9.  How to serve the church.

10.  How to continue learning (and reading) through your adult life.

Ten things I learned from my grandparents

March 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

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1.  How to tie my shoelaces using only one bow.

2.  Icecream in the freezer is a sign of abundance.

3.  You will never regret generosity.  You will never regret sending a thank-you note, either.

4.  Dance with your spouse in your living room, even when you are 75 years old.

5.  When you are purchasing real estate, there are three things to consider – Location, location, location.

6.  The city zoo is always worth a visit, especially if there are elephants to be seen.

7.  The best way to eat a cheese quesadilla is with one side of salsa and one side of grape jam.

8.  It is possible to decorate with leopard print in such a way that it never goes out of style (my mom’s mom has leopard print carpet running up her black and white painted staircase — CLASSY!)

9.  The name we call our dog can be as long as we want it to be.

10.  A college education is wonderful, but we should continue learning (and reading) throughout our adult lives.

One year ago today

March 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

One year ago today was not anything out of the ordinary.  I was not on Spring Break, or meeting with any doctors for my feet, or doing anything that dramatically set that day apart from any other one in the week.

I was living at Saint Joans (a rental house with 7 girls that had a very green kitchen and very hard floors). I had gone to work, then to PE class, then to Philosophy of Religion.  Probably came home to relax and watch Arrested Development while my housemates started making dinner.  Probably I was very stressed about my senior thesis and some other paper, and enjoying doing reading for my Torrey Class (I know we had at least read Crime and Punishment by that time, which was (and is) worth the many hours it requires to read). Probably I was stressed about trying to find Alex a wedding ring, and about designing and printing and sending out our wedding invitations.  Probably I had already started my job search, and was trying to figure out where in LA I could find some job that suited my random interests and would accept my negligible skills.

I remember all these things because Google calendar has a record of them.  When I was in high school I used to like to keep a day planner and write down as many things as I could in it regarding each day — homework assignments, funny quotes, weekend activities.

Several years later I would find the day planner and look back and be able to remember and smile or laugh or frown. Or grimace, when my teachers had given particularly hard assignments or an AP test had been approaching.

It’s nice that we can do this – that we can recall the little things that set the days apart from each other if we take the trouble to record them.

On why I don’t ride my bike anymore: A series of stories

March 23, 2010 § 3 Comments

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It didn’t begin well.

I mean, the obtaining of the bikes was fine.  My friend and I purchased them from a kind old British man named Bob, who seemed to have a small bike repair and sales business running out of his quaint house.  We rode them around the block, decided they were worth 40 pounds, and began the trek home.

This is where things started to go downhill.

On the way home we got lost.  And then it got dark.  We were on an isolated highway, confused enough that all the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road, and bewildered by the random back-paths we were forced to take (through dark shrubbery and under bridges).  As we were journeying, my friend, who had not had much experience as a biker, thought that the best way to change gears was to click rapidly back and forth using the gear-changer. It wasn’t long before the chain popped off her bike.

So here we were, lost in the Oxford countryside late at night, hungry and with a broken bike.  Eight miles later and after much guessing and second-guessing and eventual recognition of our surroundings and one steep hill, we made it home.

Maybe this first inhospitable experience with biking should have clued me in — it didn’t.  Over the course of the next month, my spastic leanings combined with a precariously balance vehicle led to a few minor incidents…

…Biking to the first day of class while wearing a wrap dress and high-heeled boots.  Lots of screaming and scrambling.  So much for trying to fit in to the more sophisticated Oxford culture.

…Trying to balance 20 pounds of groceries on my handlebars as I maneuver across busy city streets and a large grassy field. Lots of wobbling.  Maybe a few fleeing pedestrians.

…Almost being hit by a car several times because I looked the wrong way before I crossed the street.

…Repeatedly losing valuables from the bike’s basket as I bounced over speed-bumps.

…Running into the poles guarding the end of the bike lanes almost without fail every time I attempted to exit.  Every person ahead of me maneuvered through them successfully and with panache.

…While stopped at a traffic light, an innocent bumble bee began to buzz around my bike.  Rather than maintaining my calm like the rest of those around me, I screamed, jumped off my bike and allowed it to fall loudly to the ground.  Later, I discovered that the key to my bike lock had fallen out during this episode, and had to return to that street corner to search for and retrieve it.

Maybe all of these sound like laughable, yet minor occurrences to you.  Well, just wait — m
y lack of coordination on the bicycle, if combined with any less fortuitous circumstances, had the potential to lead to a more major incident…

It was a Sunday morning and I was on my way to church.  I was on my way down an uncommonly steep hill with an unusually narrow path and went to use my brakes when *snap* they came OFF.  I was about halfway down the hill, so thought maybe my momentum was still slow enough that I could use my feet as brakes.  Unfortunately, my bike was actually moving really quickly, so with my feet jammed into the ground the pedals continually whapped the front of my shins until the bruises I felt forming convinced me that this was not working.  I was only picking up speed. I decided I would have to ride it out. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the path there were two poles placed uncomfortably close together.

I made it through them. But the hill didn’t stop there. It continued to slope down gradually and had 5 speedbumps, which, even when I had brakes, proved a bit scary and jarring to the average biker. As I approached these, I began swearing loudly, and praying loudly, and then swearing and praying some more. These shouts continued as I safely passed over the first two, and became louder as I approached an upcoming sharp turn…
I made it around the turn (again, a tricky one even for the lucky brake-possessing biker) and over the next three speed bumps.  Unfortunately, as I approached the coming intersection, busy with cars, my bike still wasn’t slowing down. I had to make a decision — should I throw my body to the ground and trust my backpack to break my fall? Or should I jump off my bike and run alongside it?

I decided that I was at a safe speed to jump off my bike and run next to it….so I did, and finally reached a leisurely walking pace after about 30 seconds of chaos.

And then broke down in tears.

A better way to dine

March 19, 2010 § 4 Comments

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So this whole cooking dinner every night thing?  I think I finally figured it out. Or at least have developed a system that I am going to try for a few months.

The problem with dinner at Apartment 61 is that Alex and I both get home at about 6:00. If I want to work-out after work (which I usually do), then it takes me until 7:00 before I even start dinner prep. Plus, my feet are tender little dysfunctional things, which makes standing for a long time to cook an UN-comfortable option.

For a long time I have been winging it. Buy whatever meat and vegetables are on sale, throw them in to the crock-pot with some rice and broth and *VOILA* — you have soup. Fry up an egg, melt some cheese on top, warm a few corn tortillas – instant dinner.

Now, I am not opposed to these quick, easy and pretty satisfying meals.  Not opposed at all. However, after one particular crock-pot experiment, where I had combined potatoes, carrots, onions, spices and beans, and everything ended up tasting like beans, and I couldn’t even finish one bowl for the overwhelming bean taste, and we had tons and tons of leftovers that we forced ourselves to eat, I decided it was time for CHANGE.  I decided I needed to plan at least one meal per week that I actually wanted to eat, rather than looking hungrily at all of Pioneer Woman‘s recipes and taking no action.  I decided to take control of our dinner life.

However, all of my above listed “handicaps” still stood.  No time. No energy. No feet.  So, I decided to start small.  One new recipe per week. Plus one egg-dish per week, and one pasta dish per week (eggs and pasta are basic foods that can be changed with little effort so you don’t mind eating them more frequently). Here is the system I came up with, which operates on a two week basis:

Week#1:

Monday — eggs

Tuesday — recipe (chicken or fish)

Wednesday — leftovers of recipe

Thursday — pasta

Week#2:

Monday — eggs

Tuesday — recipe (beef or sausage)

Wednesday– leftovers of recipe

Thursday — pasta

Does that not seem like the most exciting thing to you? Maybe not.  But it was slightly revelatory for me —  it makes life predictable on some days and experimental on others, which I think is good.  AND the predictable dinners are usually quick-to-make, which equals less time on my feet. This week we had breakfast burritos on Monday (predictable) and Mediterranean meatloaf with boiled potatoes and broccoli on Tuesday (experimental).

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