Thursday, January 30, 2014

in a pot, not a pan

My 9 year old niece is very BUSY. She has a ton of interests and likes to do projects that often involve inventing or making something. She takes pieces of cardboard and bits and bobs she finds in the cupboards and makes them into little invented board games. This one time, about two years ago, she cracked open a whole bag of almonds from their shells and candy coated them with melted chocolate. All on her own. We didn’t know what she was up to until she came in from the backyard with a bag of shelled almonds and a hammer. This other time I was talking to her and she said “my pants ripped, so I had to sew them.” Sure enough, there was a crooked line of tiny stitches up one of her pant legs. I told my sister I was impressed and she said “Yeah, me too. I wasn’t even home.” So I guess what I’m saying is that once she gets and idea in her head she HAS TO DO IT. Anyhow, that’s not what this post is about, I just like those stories.

This one time my dad and I were hanging out with my 9 year old niece and she wanted to make lemonade. My parents happen to have a very prolific lemon tree so she got to work picking, cutting, and juicing lemons. Then she requested simple syrup because she knows that just regular old sugar won’t do. My dad volunteered to make it and I started looking up a recipe on my phone. My niece cut in with “Wait! Listen, here’s how you do it! You just take a certain amount of sugar and your own amount of water and you put it in a pot, not a pan, and then you cook it!”
My dad and I thought that was about the funniest thing ever, until my dad accidentally used confectioners’ sugar and burned it and then had to start all over again, but by that time my mom was home and she made the simple syrup WITHOUT MEASURING ANYTHING, which basically meant that my niece was totally RIGHT—she had SEEN my mom put a certain amount of sugar and her own amount of water in a pot, not a pan, and then cook it.

My sister (not, incidentally, this 9 year old niece’s mom) is one of those people who only ever wants cookbooks for her birthday and Christmas and spends hours in the kitchen trying and perfecting recipes. She’ll make things like homemade pot pie with homemade crust, or chicken tikka masala, or steak with twice baked potatoes and it’s all deliciously intimidating. “This recipe is so EASY,” she’ll say, zesting an orange while simultaneously stoving something and ovening something else.
I don’t like reading recipes or following recipes, or doing anything that involves more than about six steps, so I much prefer instructions like my niece’s simple syrup.

I’m not good at cooking. And I don’t like to cook. I don’t know why. I just DON’T.
Actually, I think it might go back to my feelings of inadequacy from this post. I guess… I kind of subconsciously (semi-consciously?) feel like if I don’t cook well and often enough, that I’m not doing it right and I just shouldn’t even bother. And it’s this sort of thinking that has resulted in 31 year old me to subsist primarily on buttered noodles, snacks, takeout, and an eclectic combination of whatever my current tastes are.
There was the tortilla soup phase. And the lentils with quinoa phase. The Israeli cous cous phase. And every once in awhile I get re-jazzed about getting farm fresh fruits and veggies delivered to my apartment and I’ll sign up again. For the first few boxes I’ll be all LOOK AT ME AND MY EGGPLANT HASH and OH NO BIG DEAL I’M JUST SAUTEEING SOME KALE LIKE A MFING BOSS. And then eventually I won’t cook it all up on the first day it arrives and I’ll have rhubarb and leeks spoiling in my fridge and the emotional weight of a thousand rotten dandelion greens on my shoulders.

I don’t have a solution. At work I sort of graze all day long- cheese, sliced meats, cut up veggies and dip, crackers, nuts. I also have recently decided not to let myself be hemmed in by this ‘time of day’ nonsense, because really who cares if I eat my leftover enchiladas at 10AM and then have a waffle for dinner? Nobody, that’s who. So leftovers or a bagel or nothing for breakfast, then grazing grazing grazing, and then something breakfasty (a waffle or eggs), buttered noodles, or takeout/snacks for dinner. Geez. When I write it out like that it looks terrible. But! Did I tell you I’ve cut back on soda on weekdays?

I’ve lived by myself for about 5 years now, so the majority of the food I prepare is just for me. And me doesn’t care whether I have a wholesome, made-with-love dinner or a glass of milk and a veggie roll sushi from the corner store. I just… I don’t want to go to all the trouble of making some big dinner if it dirties every pan in my home and the person eating it (me) doesn’t sufficiently appreciate it.

I would LIKE to have a couple of go-to recipes. Sometimes I do come home from work and I have nothing prepared and I’m out of eggs and milk and I don’t feel like eating noodles, so then I just have whatever I can scrounge up from my cupboards and it ends up being fairly pathetic. And what if, someday, it’s not just me eating the food I produce? I don’t envision myself becoming some domestic goddess or even a cooks-for-pleasure type person like my sister, because I’m just not going to. And if put to the task I CAN make food. I mean, I know how to put meats and vegetables into my oven and have them come out decently-tasting, and I can make my sister’s tortilla soup which is just this side of heaven, but I guess what I’m looking for is food that I can make easily and with only a couple of steps that will have the end result of looking something like a whole MEAL. Someone who can roast a chicken might roast that chicken and then make some rice vegetables to go with it. And I CAN do that, but it takes so LONG and it dirties so many DISHES and it’s just ME eating that it ends up feeling like too many steps and ugh, I’ll just have a waffle again.

Last week I made some pasta I like.
I don’t want to jinx it or get ahead of myself here, but I think, I THINK I have come up with something I might actually put into the rotation of Things I Cook, and actually keep it there.
Here’s whatcha do. I’m not including pictures because nobody really cares, right? Okay, so. Step 1. Buy some noodles and some red sauce and some alfredo sauce. The alfredo sauce should come in a smaller jar than the red sauce. Step 2. Cook the noodles (in a pot, not a pan). Step 3. Heat up the sauces both together. Step 4. Drain the noodles, pour some olive oil and the sauce mixture over the noodles. DONE. Delicious. Step 5. Duplicate and elaborate. No big deal but I totally added mushrooms and red peppers to the batch I made the other day and I FEEL like I could branch out to adding more veggies and also, say, chicken. It doesn’t so much change my day to day life (leftovers for breakfast, grazing grazing grazing, whatever for dinner), but it IS a food that I could prepare for another human person and they could eat it and be full and it doesn’t include any traditional breakfast foods or takeout or microwaving.  So here we are. I am 31 and I can now make a slightly more interesting pasta than plain buttered noodles, with the skill and instruction level of a 9 year old. PAT ON THE BACK FOR ME.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best Tings

(My nephew pronounces things as "tings," which I find pwecious.)

I figured that instead of keeping everything in the survey, I might as well make separate posts for the things I REALLY want to talk about. So, the best things I have bought in the past year. They are, in no particular order: my Christmas tree, my Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats, my nasal rinse bottle, Rubik’s Twist, and a maid service.

First, the nasal rinse bottle. Sometimes I get sick. And sometimes I get sinussy grossness that comes with being sick. And in the past I’ve managed this with hot tea, steamy showers, and feeling sorry for myself. There are people who swear by that Neti pot thing and it kind of scares me. I can’t get over the mental hurdle of POURING water up my nose. I feel like I would drown. So when I learned there was a squeeze bottle that used the same concept of flushing out one’s sinuses, I gave it a whirl. And it’s great! I love it! As much as one can love something that involves squirting warm salty water up one’s nose.

Getting a Christmas tree has really become an expense I can justify, even though I live alone. The cost and hassle and the feeling like I shouldn’t bother getting one because it’s just ME and what does anything matter is fully eclipsed by the fact that I HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE! HOORAY! CHRISTMAS TREE! It just kicks up my general mood and Christmas spirit and it looks so pretty in my house with all the lights and ornaments and it makes me HAPPY. So, sixty bucks for huge booster shot of happiness in the winter? Sold. 

Speaking of Christmas, let me tell you about the Rubik’s Twist! I had seen it before on a couple of Swistle’s gift idea lists and I always kind of thought meh, I don’t really LIKE Rubik’s cubes. And then when I saw it was more something you PLAYED with, I thought well then what’s the point? Oh how wrong I was. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews ranging from age 1.5 to 14 years and the majority of them are on the upper end of that age range. I feel like they are getting more difficult to shop for-- I can’t just Melissa and Doug everyone and call it a day. So I re-perused Swistle’s lists and ended up buying Rubik’s Twists for a couple of my nieces and nephews and they were SUCH A HIT that I ordered more of them so that we could reduce the household bickering (sometimes *I* wanted to play with one and NOBODY WOULD LET ME). Anyway, two thumbs up for the Rubik’s Twist. Who knew? (Swistle knew.)

Right before Christmas I went to Vegas (with the boyfriend (BOYFRIEND)) to watch my USC Trojans beat Fresno State the Royal Purple Bowl (Sidebar: remember when I called this blog Royal Jewels?). ANYWAY, Vegas involved a lot of partying in dainty high heels, and then jumping up and down at the football game and walking walking walking A LONG WAY (part of the way) back to our hotel afterward and then some walking down the strip just to walk some more for good measure. And so my feet, they did not want to wear my heels OR my boots anymore. We stopped in at Walgreens and I bought THESE:
They are some seriously awesome emergency flats. I wore them out that night and I kept exclaiming “I love these shoes, have I mentioned that?” Which, yes. I had mentioned it. I’ll be bringing them everywhere with me from now on because they fold up so tiny and cute in their wristlet that they basically take up NEGATIVE space in my bag.

And finally, maid service. A couple weeks after I had recovered from my little skin issue, my mom said to me “I’m thinking we should get someone into your apartment to, you know, really CLEAN it.” It sort of made me feel like my mom thought I caught Butt MRSA because I live in squalor and filth, but whatever! You want to hire a maid service to come clean my home? I won’t be fighting you on that. So they came the one time and then I decided to have them come back once a month because OMG having someone else clean my house is just the best thing ever. I CAN clean my home. I have the skills. But it won’t all be clean at the same time and I just don’t do things like dust the shelves or steam mop the floor. Not going to happen. And coming home from work to a clean apartment and a made bed is just delightful.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Year

I think it’s pretty universal that people don’t tend to like blog posts about why someone hasn’t been blogging. But, whatever. This is my blog, and if a gal can’t be insufferable on her blog, then what? There's just nowhere left to be insufferable? Unacceptable. And actually now that I’m about to write it out it doesn’t seem like the long, obnoxious explanation I had in my head: Basically I could never figure out where to start so I just stopped starting. So here I am today because I’ve got to start somewhere with unclogging this bottleneck of words.
I’ve had this New Year’s survey in my drafts folder for… awhile. I just kept half assing answers and skipping ahead and then closing the computer in defeat. I guess I’m feeling more free-form this year.
Last year I felt totally cynical and just plain sad because 2012 had turned out so epically craptastic. So I spent a fair amount of New Year's Eve weeping and then picked myself up, had some champagne, and did my New Year’s Dip with my nieces and nephews to wash away 2012 and I was all set and ready to make a fresh start. Annnnd then I got BUTT MRSA. So I was like, what the hell, Universe? Why would you do this to me? But then I figured it out. You see, the Universe actually wants me to be on the LUNAR calendar. So New Year’s Eve was more of a formality for me, my ACTUAL year began on Feb 10, the year of the SNAKE. I’m listening, Universe. I’m picking up what you’re throwing down.

So. January 31 is coming up, which means I and my Lunar brethren will be turning the corner and welcoming in the Year of the Horse. (I already did my New Year’s Dip, because that’s a family tradition and I’m not going to mess with that timeline.)

Okay, so are we on the same page here? I'm finally going to post my survey, but it's actually not late because I'm on the Lunar calendar.
I’m just gonna cut out the ones I've been skipping over because BOTTLENECK.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I started suffering from insomnia, mostly related to horrifying nightmares. And as a result I started taking sleeping medication.
Possibly related to this I started liking coffee- caramel mocha frappuccinos to be exact. No, I will never be able to spell that correctly.

I took my niece and nephew on a trip all by me onesie. We visited my other sis and her kids in SoCal and then went to a USC football game. So much fun. And so much spoiling of my nieces and nephews.

I went to South Carolina to visit Sunny and got to do all sorts of fun southern activities and eat delicious things that were either fried or cheese, or fried and cheese. I did get stuck on a grounded plane for 6 hours while flying out there. Not the most fun day of my life.
Speaking of transportation woes, I also took a day-long bus ride from Oregon back to SF. My flight was cancelled because of the plane crash and, strangely, flights to and from tiny towns in Southern Oregon weren’t high on the priority list of getting rescheduled. I rented a car and drove part way, and then I took an 8 hour long bus ride back to SF. Well, actually. I got off the bus to use the bathroom in Oakland and it left without me, so ALMOST to SF.

I went on vacation with my entire family. All 18 of us.

I got MRSA and a needlestick. Thanks, healthcare profession. But I did also get my own office in our new building and got everything squared away for my prescribing license. So it evens out.

I joined Facebook. 
7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 1- when I was so so SO happy that 2012 was FINALLY OVER.
February 10- Lunar New Year, when I realized that the Universe actually wants me on the lunar calendar, because that’s when things started to turn around.
February 13- Galentine’s Day, which I have decided to start celebrating.
July 19- the day my clinic moved and also the day I was SUPPOSED to go on another trip to Central America with 0peration Rainb0w, with my dad AND my sister who is also a nurse. I asked for the time off MONTHS in advance, but I ended up not being able to go because my clinic moved. So that week was extremely busy and also infuriating.
July 26- my birthday, which I didn’t get off from work because of the aforementioned clinic move. This has inspired me to ALWAYS take my birthday off from work. Because nobody cares it’s your birthday except you! It was actually not SO bad because it was a Friday and my mom took me to lunch and my boyfriend (BOYFRIEND) sent me flowers. July 26 is ALSO the day when boyfriend and I became, like, official and whatnot.
[This sentence is just a filler so there is something between the previous item and the next one. These two dates are too close together for my liking.]
The weekend after my birthday weekend- will forever be remembered as my rapeiversary. August 5 to be exact, but for some reason the weekend, not just that day, gave me a lot of anxiety.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing trauma counseling. I can't believe how difficult and amazing it turned out to be.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Wendy Davis

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Jerky dudes. Jerky dude politicians.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, student loans, car repairs, my cat's extensive dental surgery.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Vacations. Football season. Christmas.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: 

a) happier or sadder? Happier
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter
c) richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Angst and obsess.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Um. Amazingly, yes. Who saw that coming? NOT ME.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Parks and Rec, Chopped, Dance Moms, Sister Wives, Monk, House Hunters. Yikes, that’s a lot of reality TV.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?
The Rook, Divergent

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
There was this one morning when I got up and plugged in my speakers and discovered that my computer had been playing Thrift Shop on a loop for 24 hours.
That's 885 plays.
I have since adopted it as a unit of time. 885 macklemores = 1 day. So there are 37 macklemores in an hour. Okay? Good. Glad you're coming with me on this.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Now You See Me, Catching Fire, Pitch Perfect, Frozen

32. What kept you sane?

Vacations, medication, treats, caramel mocha fraps, texting, reading, hot baths, my friends, doing good deeds, twittah, shopping, my job, going out, staying in, bad reality TV, liquor, inappropriate jokes, my family, trauma counseling, going out of my way for other people.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jennifer Lawrence.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Marriage equality. Women's rights. Human rights.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012. 
Staying in is a perfectly reasonable and lovely thing to do.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn