Rants/Raves

Surgery Fears (and the Perfect Amount of Chocolate Chip Cookies)

I’m having my wisdom teeth removed this Friday and I’m pretty nervous. I’ve never had anesthesia before, and this will be my first surgery ever. I’m pretty fortunate, I guess, and I know it’s a routine thing, but it’s still scary. I hope, at the very least, that I am hysterically funny while drugged out of my mind. Surgery Fears | Gainfully Something

And when I’m stressed, I bake.

I think that most cookie recipes are formulated to feed large armies of cookie-crazy loons. I don’t want to make SIX DOZEN cookies, cookbook, because then I will eat SIX DOZEN cookies. So here’s a chocolate chip cookie recipe that makes about 18 cookies, which is perfect for giving someone a dozen and then having a few cookies for yourself.

The Perfect Amount of Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/8C white sugar
  • 3/8C brown sugar
  • 1/2t vanilla
  • 1 egg

Cream that together (I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer).

  • 1 1/8C flour
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt

Add to the creamed mixture and mix until it forms a dough. Don’t overmix!

  • 1C chocolate chips (or mini peanut butter cups, or butterscotch chips, or chopped up Heath bar)

Add and mix until the chips are combined.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375F for 9-11 minutes. Cool on racks (or devour at your own risk).

Shirley Jackson and Being in Control

I adore Shirley Jackson. I particularly love The Lottery and Other Stories, which was published in 1949. You’ve probably read The Lottery, maybe in high school English–it’s a deeply disturbing story about how our society might function in the future. People actually sent hate mail to The New Yorker after it was published (in 1948) and cancelled their subscriptions.

The Lottery and Other Stories is a collection of 25 unrelated (sort of) stories. There’s a few themes that run throughout, but here are my two favorites: James Harris and women who can’t control their lives.

James Harris shows up in most of the stories, either as Mr. Harris, or Jim, or Jamie, or James, or an unnamed, shadowy man. They might all be the same James Harris. James Harris might be the Devil’s pseudonym; James Harris was a devil in an old English ballad. However you want to interpret him, he’s everywhere and nowhere and hard to find and wonderful and horrible. As you read the stories and meet him over and over again, you look forward to seeing him again, but you also dread it, because nothing good happens when he’s around (and nothing good really ever happens in a Shirley Jackson story).

The female protagonists in Jackson’s stories tend to have trouble controlling their own lives. In one story, “The Tooth,” a woman travels to the city to have a tooth extracted, meets “Jim” on the bus, and falls down a rabbit-hole of memory loss and madness. In another, “The Daemon Lover,” a woman waits for her fiancé, Jamie, to pick her up on their wedding day, and, not to spoil anything,  but it doesn’t go well. It’s not always James Harris who ruins things, though–it’s often the women themselves. In one story, “After You, My Dear Alphonse,” a little boy brings his black friend home for lunch, and his mother, in an effort to be helpful and kind to those she perceives as less fortunate, overcompensates and treats the boy very poorly. She’s determined that the boy, Boyd, absolutely must be in some sort of desperate need, despite his instance that he is cared for and loved at home. She becomes offended that he won’t accept her help–she’s trying not to be prejudiced, but in her efforts, she is

In short, this book makes me want to take control over my life, because these women are fighting against societal pressures to be dainty, good, young, and perfect. They have to be gracious, and bake a good cake, and be good hostesses at all times (and at all costs). These stories show the horror in the reality of life, especially in women’s lives, and how our interactions can be terrifying on a daily basis.

I absolutely love this collection, and for some reason, the spring is the perfect time to pick it up again.

Doctors (and Carpet Powder)

I hated my last doctor. She wasn’t an MD (which I didn’t realize until I went to see her), and she didn’t really listen to anything I had to say about my own body or health. My new doctor is awesome. She listened, she made small talk that made me feel at ease, and she actually seems to care about my involvement in my own health.

I have a full physical scheduled for tomorrow. I’m kind of nervous, because who likes getting poked and prodded, but I think it’ll put me at ease and put me on the right track.

This time of year, when it starts getting a little warmer, all of the smells come out. Seriously, spring is a smelly, smelly time. If your house needs a refreshing touch, try this carpet powder. It couldn’t be easier to make or use, and it really works.

Freshening Carpet Powder

  • baking soda
  • essential oil (I used lavender–you could use whatever you wanted. Cinnamon would be nice, too.)
  • a little jar (I used a jar that formerly held chili flakes.)

Fill the jar 3/4 full with baking soda. Add about 10-15 drops of oil. Put on the lid and shake shake shake. Sprinkle on carpet, let sit about 15 minutes, and vacuum.

“Doesn’t Have a Job” vs. “Is a Housewife” (and Frozen Banana Dessert)

Please, people of the world, choose your words wisely. When describing a housewife’s occupation, please do not say, “She doesn’t have a job.” This is insulting, and, actually, not remotely true. Being a housewife is an unpaid, under-appreciated vocation that involves quite a bit of work; you are a cook, maid, zookeeper, child wrangler (if you have kids), nurse, activities coordinator, office manager, and taxicab. We can send a man to the moon, but we can’t invent self-folding clothes or self-vacuuming carpet. Dishes don’t do themselves (but wouldn’t that be fancy?). Get on it, NASA.

Housewife, homemaker, whatever term you prefer, make sure those around you know what you are and what your occupation is called. You aren’t “unemployed,” you’re not “without a job,”  you are someone who works to make the best of their home, family, and life.

/puts soapbox neatly away

ANYWAY.

This is the farthest thing from a recipe, but it’s delicious and actually HEALTHY. I am not a fan of healthy desserts because if you’re going to eat dessert, just eat some damn dessert. However, I make this pretty frequently because it tastes wonderful.

Frozen Banana Dessert

  • 1 frozen banana per person (get a bunch of bananas, let ’em go super brown, stick ’em in the freezer)
  • cinnamon
  • honey

Put the bananas in the microwave for about 45 seconds, or until you can peel them pretty easily. Throw those frozen nanners in a food processor with a little cinnamon. Whir around until they’re mushed up. It should be about the texture of sorbet/frozen yogurt. Scoop into a bowl, drizzle honey on top, and eat.

Dirty Dogs and Making Etched Glass

We went to the dog park yesterday, which always tires our pup out. Towards the end of our time there, a woman and her teenage daughter arrived with their dog, a little terrier. The woman was one of those people who thinks dogs are weird and gross, unless it’s her little angel. She climbed on top one of the benches in the park and pulled her knees up, like she was on a dock and afraid that fish were going to bite her toes. Dogs kept running under and past the bench (it’s a dog park). She thought that all dog behavior was the weirdest thing she’d ever seen: “Why are they doing that? Why are they running around? They’re hurting each other! [They were not.] Should they be wrestling? [to me] Your dog’s going to get dirty!”

Lady. Seriously. I understand that dog parks can be kind of overwhelming for small children and the elderly, but you own a dog. Not a puppy. You own an adult dog. It’s not like you got her yesterday and this is your first time out. I feel like you should not be as confused about general, normal dog behavior as you were. You know what happens when dogs play? They get dirty. And then, like magic, you give them a bath and all that dirt goes down the drain.

I kept trying to tell this woman that if their tails are up and wagging, everything’s fine. No one’s seriously mad at anyone else; they are playing. This is how dogs play. And if our dog, Puppy K, was actually hurting this Other Dog (not even hers), Other Dog wouldn’t keep coming back for more. I tried to kindly explain all of this, and explain that we can give her a bath. I don’t know what her deal was, but people: if you have a dog, try to understand the basics of how dogs work. Never thought I’d have to say that.

She also refused to pet a puppy that had come over to the bench. Her daughter said, “Mom, pet this puppy. It’s so cute and soft!” The mom said, “No, ew, I don’t want to pet it. I’m not touching it.” You know your dog is a dog, right?

 

ANYWAY.

I love personalizing generic house stuff. Everyone has plain Pyrex bowls, or a plain glass casserole dish, or plain pint glasses–with just a little magic etching cream and a few stencils, you can make awesome, one-of-a-kind housewares that are pretty and functional.

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Week of Mondays (and Italian Chicken Soup)

I have no idea why, but this past week has felt like a week of Mondays. I, appropriately, feel sort of like Garfield: I want to sleep in a box and eat lasagna. There’s some wacky business going on right now–lots of weird news, asshats on the Internet (which is nothing new), I keep forgetting what state I live in, and thankfully, that chocolate pudding pie isn’t around anymore, because I sort of want to dive into it. It’s cuddle-with-cats o’clock.

This super comforting soup was perfect for yesterday, when it was windy and snowy. It’s not lasagna, but it’s rich, savory, and really quite wonderful. I’ve changed the original recipe a little; I only used one jalapeño (it was pretty big, though), and I reduced the cream by 3/4C. We have an insane amount left over, despite having two bowls each last night.

Be warned; this recipe requires dirtying a bunch of pots and bowls, but you can prep a lot of it early. If you cook the chicken earlier in the day, or even the day before, that will save you a bunch of time. You could even use a rotisserie chicken if you were super pressed.

Italian Chicken Soup

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman (she is a veritable genius)

  • 1 box little pasta (I used elbows; you could use orzo, ditalini, etc.)
  • 1T olive oil (to toss with pasta)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 8C chicken stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1T olive oil (to saute veggies)
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 1.25C heavy cream
  • 1/3C olive oil (to mix with oregano)
  • 2T dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan to top soup

Cook pasta, rinse in cold water, toss with olive oil, and set aside.

Put chicken and chicken stock in a big pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Remove the chicken, strain the broth into another big pot or bowl (you need it later), cool the chicken (I threw some ice cubes on top of it), and shred. Set that aside, too. Save the bones to make your own stock.

Chop up the canned tomatoes and put them back in their juice. Set those aside, too.

Heat a small pan til it’s pretty hot, then remove from heat, and add 1/3C olive oil and oregano. Stir that up, and set it aside.

In a big stock pot, saute the onion, green and jalapeño peppers, and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions get kind of brown. Pour in the chicken stock, shredded chicken, and tomatoes. Bring it up to a boil, then down to a simmer. Throw in the cooked pasta, cream, and oregano/olive oil mixture. Stir that up, add salt and pepper to taste, give it a minute to heat through, and turn off the heat.

Serve with parmesan and good bread.

How do you feel “at home”?

Mr. Something and I moved to a brand new state and into a new apartment sight unseen. That was a terrible choice, but it was pretty much the only one we had–flying here, renting a car, and staying at a hotel just to look at apartments was way too expensive.

Because we didn’t actually see our apartment until the day we moved in (which is an entirely different, and entirely awful, story), it was a slightly different floor plan than we’d been promised. It’s smaller than it looks in the photos (gee,  you think?). Our front door goes directly outside, with no screen door or hallway to prevent our various animals from escaping. The management constantly starts projects (like restriping the parking lot) and never quite seems to finish them (I think they striped 10 spots and gave up). It’s an okay place, but it feels really temporary, which it is, because we’re looking into buying a house this summer.

Which brings me to this question: how do you feel “at home”? Yes, yes, family and love make a home, but in a more literal sense, how can you make a place you know is temporary feel like your own? We put up our wedding guest book photos, some of our engagement photos, and a few other things, which definitely helps. I cook a lot, which makes the place feel homey and cozy. This apartment is where I did a great portion of our wedding planning, and where we brought our puppy home. It’s the address on our marriage license and on my new driver license. All of these things should help… but I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

I grew up in a house that was owned by my father’s employer. We weren’t permitted to make any changes to the house, like paint or thumbtacks, without express permission. His employer decided to redo our kitchen when I was 10, and I swear it took 2 years to finish because they hired the worst contractor ever and we couldn’t do a thing about it. Even then, he did a half-assed job. Our fridge was in the dining room that whole time. Our dining room light was busted because of bad wiring, and because we were the last priority, I don’t think it ever got fixed. We just used candles during dinner; how romantic. Because of these reasons and a million more, I have a definite need to have a place where I can feel secure–I crave ownership of place.

Most of us move around a lot between college and settling down. I went to three different colleges in three different parts of the country to get my bachelor’s degree, then I moved to a different state for grad school. While in grad school, and the few years after, I moved five times. After we get this house, I am done moving for a while. Done. 

Our home is going to be great, because we’ve got what it takes: love, family, furry beasts, and a desire to settle the fuck down. Let’s gooooooo alreaddaaaayyyy.

First Day

Hey everyone…. Yeah, I disappeared for a while. Went to Los Angeles, filmed some Jeopardy!, came back. You know, my usual end-of-August brush with fame.

But now it’s the first day of Mr. Something’s second year of business school. He is so fancy. And first days of school make me think about wanting to be in school really badly. I’m awesome at school. I love taking notes, reading journal articles, highlighting important things, even writing papers isn’t the worst thing in the world. If I could be a permanent student, I’d do it.

So I’ve made a definite decision that will go into effect next year. I’m going to go back to school to be a paralegal. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and since no jobs have come along yet, I need to have a Plan C. (Plan B was graduate school, and that didn’t really amount to anything.) I think I’d be pretty fantastic at paralegaling, or whatever the verb would be, and there are plenty of jobs to be had (one thing America does not have is a shortage of lawyers and litigious citizens). We might be moving in the spring/early summer to A Mystery Location, based on what jobs Mr. Something is offered, so I’ll find a program wherever we’ll be and go from there.

It’s never too late to start doing something good for yourself, you know? I’ve tried to get into a few different fields, none of which really suited me to a T, but this paralegal thing feels good.

 

What is one week?

CATEGORY: Units of Time

For $200: The 90s alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies sang that it had been this long since “you looked at me.”

What is one week?

 

Okay, that was sort of dumb, but shut up, because a week from RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND I am going to be on the soundstage at the Sony studios in the process of filming Jeopardy!. Uhhhhhh. *explodes*

 

It’s probably obvious, but I’ve been more distracted than usual lately because of this whole… being on national, syndicated television… thing. Hahahahahaha. That’s a little terrifying, isn’t it?

 

I honestly thought that this Jeopardy! thing was a cruel joke for a week or so. Someone was just pulling my leg, right? They set up an incredibly elaborate, incredibly mean joke just to make me feel like crap, because I would never be smart enough to get on actual Jeopardy!. Right? Um, I need to stop being incredibly mean to myself this very instant. I called Sony yesterday to give them the names of my guests (Mr. Something and my parents–who just happen to live in Southern California), and, lo and behold, it’s all true. Paranoia, be gone!

 

So next Tuesday, Mr. Something and I will fly to LA for a Television Adventure, and something slightly good will probably come out of it. OPTIMISM! And nerves. But mostly, OPTIMISM.

Everything All At Once

My life is sort of exploding in a fairly pleasant way right now. I’m terrified of things that are happening, but it’s an okay kind of terrified. (Yes, that makes sense.)

OH, but you know the most exciting thing?? Mr. Something asked me to be his official Domestic Partner! That means we had to go to the bank and get paperwork notarized and everything. Notarizing makes things seem more… grown-up.

What does this mean? Well, it means that Mr. Something and I really like each other, to put it mildly. It also means that I am going to be on Mr. Something’s health and dental insurance. HEALTH AND DENTAL INSURANCE. Like… full-blown insurance. Meaning, very soon (as soon as all the paperwork is done), I can call the doctor, make an appointment, keep that appointment, and get actual medical care. This is amazing.

It still hasn’t sunk in yet, like Jeopardy!, but this is going to change my life, my health, and my perspective on things. I’m so grateful to our state for providing these domestic partnerships, and I’m lucky and overjoyed to have a partner like Mr. Something in my life.

 

HOORAY FOR SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENING!!