September 2007


I am part of an organic farm share.  Every week I virtuously ride my bike to my designated pick up location and fill my environmentally-sensitive reusable canvas messenger bag with fresh-from-the-farm organic veggies that will keep me and John eating healthily all week long.

I love the veggie share, I really do, but we’re getting into that part of fall where it’s hard to fit all the veggies into my environmentally-sensitive reusable canvas messenger bag because every freaking item in the box is either a squash or a potato.  I arrive home crippled from the lugging of these root crops, and am left wondering: just how much starch can one couple eat in a week? Where are the cucumbers?  Whither tomatoes?  Not even some lettuce?  And what does one do with one single, small celery root?

Anyway, so it was that I came to have three odd-shaped squash on my counter last night.  Staring at me accusingly.  Taunting me.  Wondering what I was going to do with them. John was at his indoor soccer game and I didn’t really have anything else to do, so I decided to embark upon a culinary mission:  I would make squash soup.  I would throw in some small potatoes for extra thick creaminess.  I would include an onion.  I would spice it delicately with garam masala.  It would be delicious.

It wouldn’t be easy, though.  Squash need to be peeled and chopped before they can become soup.  These weren’t regularly shaped, easy-to-peel squash like butternut, either.  I had an acorn and two carnivals, both of which are wickedly hard to peel.  (Yes, I could just roast them and then scoop out the flesh, which is what I should have done in retrospect, but when I embarked on this project I didn’t want to (a) turn on the oven and (b) dirty another pan.  You will see the utter stupidity of this logic shortly.)

As I was peeling the first carnival squash, I quickly and efficiently peeled a nice chunk right off my thumb.  Three bandaids later, I pressed on.  I would not let minor injury get me down.  I was making soup!

I cut the squash into cubes, added some oil to the dutch oven, and flung the cubes in there to roast a little bit before I added stock and other things.  I wanted that good, caramelized flavor.  I turned the heat down to low and left the room for a moment to check my email.

Error.  Major error.  Did not, in, fact, turn heat to low as I had intended.  Instead had turned heat to “impossibly hot.”  Returned to find lovely chunks of squash fused to the bottom of my favoritest, most expensive, most beautiful wedding present dutch oven in a thick layer of carbon.  Woe! Distress!

Pot is freaking ruined.  I am devastated.  In fact, I can’t really even talk about it because it makes me feel a little sick.  Still, I persisted.  Would not let minor laceration and major equipment damage get me down.  Carefully peeled carbonized hunks off squash, put remaining squash bits into a different pot with onions, stock and potatoes, a little salt, a little garam masala, and set to simmer.  Returned 30 minutes later and blended with immersion blender.  Soup is beautiful.  Is creamy, perfectly squash-colored, smells delightful.  A fall delight.  Am feeling quite smug as I dip in a spoon to taste beautiful, rise-above-adversity squash soup and…

It’s inedible.  Entirely unsalvageable.  Whole batch of soup down drain.

Final tally:
1 mangled thumb
1 ruined enameled cast iron dutch oven
2 wasted hours
1 gallon of soup down the drain

You’ll understand why we’ll be eating macaroni and cheese tonight.  From a box.

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My first day of work I learned, somewhat unexpectedly, that my decidedly non-travel-prone office was sending me to Rhode Island for an entire week for my second week on the job.  After a week living in a hotel, I can tell you I am glad this will not happen often because business travel is not all it’s cracked up to be.  You would think that cushy hotel beds and free HBO and dinners out in restaurants would be refreshing, but it turns out that wearing variations of the same pants-blouse-sweater combo for a week and overeating at overpriced restaurants with oversalty food will leave you craving cereal and jeans and other normal comforts of home.

Nonetheless, I learned some things during my week in Rhode Island:

1. Rhode Island has its own accent.  It is most obvious in the pronunciation of the word “fairly,” which is said “fally.”  It took me two full days of meetings to figure out what the hell the presenter was saying when he kept saying that things were “fally common” or “fally difficult” or “fally straightforward.”

2. Providence’s mayor, despite his stints in jail and ridiculous (and very famous) toupee, is a beloved figure, and the start of his new radio show will be the top number one news story in Rhode Island for an entire week.

3. Rhode Island is small enough that no one feels obligated to give proper directions, and instead relies entirely on ridiculous statements like “you’ll see a street on your left which is right next to a garden center and is marked by a lamppost which dates from the Revolutionary War period and is rumored to be where John Brown’s body lies.  Don’t take that.  Go a little further and take the one on your right.”  Or “ten paces after the rosebush you’ll see a lovely house that has been in the same family for seven generations.  It’s beautiful and a great example of Rhode Island architecture, and it’s right near where you turn” without any further details like street name, direction in which you’re supposed to turn, etc.  Or, my personal favorite, “look out for the Benny’s Burger stand on your left, and take the turn right after it,” except Benny’s Burger stand closed FIVE YEARS AGO, but luckily the cab driver remembered it from the old days and was able to make the turn anyway.

These peculiarities aside, Rhode Island was a lovely place.  I’m just glad to be home, where I know that if I ask for directions, I’m likely to get a street name and some accurate left and right turns.

Say, hypothetically, that you had just been forwarded an email with information about your high school reunion.  Say further that the email had been forwarded about 23 times before it reached you.  Say that the person who forwarded it to you was your MOTHER, who was apparently cooler than you when you were in high school even though she was not, technically, a member of your high school class, yet somehow she mysteriously made it onto the list of people to forward it to and you did not.

Hypothetically, if these things were true, how much would you pay to go to such an event?  If it had an open bar?  Or would you pay to not go?

I started my new job today.  You’ll understand if I don’t tell you too much about it.  Stupid internet with its stupid search engines and impossible to maintain anonymity.

I can tell you this:  since I last was at this place, a branch of my absolute favorite coffee shop in the city opened up a half block away.  This is big news.  I am no longer a slave to the Starbucks on the corner!  I have choices!  I can vote with my feet!  Better coffee for all!  I spent a very pleasant half hour there this morning, waiting for it to be 9:15 so I could be prompt but not too eager-beaver-early on my first day.  (It’s always awkward, isn’t it?  You allow yourself waaaaay too much time for the commute, just in case, because Murphy’s law of first days of work says that if something can go wrong on the el it will, then of course because you have allowed for extra time you don’t need it at all, and you arrive waaaaay too early and have to kill an awkward half hour in the middle of bustling downtown, before any of the good stores are open.  Harrumph.)

I also, somewhat to my surprise, have my own office.  It is affectionately referred to as “the locker” by my coworkers.  At first I assumed from this nickname that it would be small.  In fact it is huge.  The “locker” is meant as in “meat locker.”  As in “it was 57 degrees in there today hoo boy I can’t WAIT for February!” As in “I believe I now am totally entitled to buy myself a new sweater and write it off as a business expense.”

My new job starts Monday.  What am I doing with my last four days of freedom, you ask?

Um, to be honest? Not much.  It’s kind of embarrassing.

Yesterday the doctor gouged a hunk out of my ear, leaving me with a rather large gauze dressing on the side of my head and enough pain that I’m wondering how I didn’t even get a codeine prescription out of this. This gauze + pain has left me lolling about the apartment in my pjs for most of today, unable to decide on what to do.

Go see “The Nanny Diaries?” Eh, I didn’t enjoy the book that much.

Shop for new work clothes? Don’t get ahead of yourself, pseudo, your public interest job (a) doesn’t earn you that much clothes-spending cash and (b) doesn’t require fancy new work clothes anyway.

Watch episodes of Law and Order? I am only sort of embarrassed to admit that I have seen pretty much every episode from a dark period during my second year of teaching when pretty much all I could bring myself to do after school was lie on the couch and root for Jack McCoy.

Spend hours and hours dicking around on the internet, discovering products  I feel I must! have! but which I’ll actually never buy, choosing instead to visit their websites repeatedly, gazing at them lovingly, wishing I could just bite the bullet and buy them already?  Check.

Go buy Mederma so that the scars from the last batch of stitches hopefully fade a little?  That sounds like a plan.  I can definitely fill the rest of the day with that.  Maybe as a treat I’ll get myself a Jamba Juice.

Ugh, I am so bored.  I do not deserve time off if I am this bad at enjoying it.

Things I have seen during my recent, shameful, fascination with the t.v. show “Bridezillas” because there is nothing else on:

1. In the subtitles written on the screen to show the other end of a phone call between a bride and her groom,  the letters “No’wmsain?” to represent the quickly-said “you know what I’m saying?”  Is this spelling of this particular slang term standardized among subtitlers, I wonder, or did the Bridezillas subtitler invent that one all on his own?

2. A bride saying, matter-of-factly and without a hint of shame: “when we narrowed down the guest list, we invited people who make money, because at $50 a head we aren’t looking for any cheap wedding gifts.”  Too bad for any unemployed cousins and teacher friends, I guess.

3. A bridesmaid bringing in the mail, shrieking, and dangling an envelope containing the Bride’s Bar Exam results in front of her ON HER WEDDING DAY, saying “do you want to see them?”  A word to all bridesmaids: on the off chance the bride’s Bar results arrive on the day of her wedding, HIDE THEM. Who the HELL wants to open their Bar results an hour before they get married?  (This advice also applies to GMAT results, biopsy results, and DNA test results.)

This show.  It’s so bad it’s hard to turn it off.

Do we ever really get past middle school?

It should come as no surprise that I was not a terribly athletic kid. I was also a dork, and as a result was never anyone’s first choice for kickball on the playground.

But this is not a sob story about past kickball anguish.

This is a story about PRESENT kickball anguish.

Kickball, it turns out, is cool again. All over America, adult kickball leagues are springing up.  Normal professional adults put on gym shorts and kick the ball and then go out for beers after. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Unlike soccer leagues, or softball leagues, where there is always some douchebag ex-college player who just cannot let it go and makes it unfun for everyone with his insane intensity, kickball seems innocent, quaint, and non-competitive.

So I asked around, determined there was enough interest, and registered a team for the kickball league near us. Bring on the nostalgia! Bring on the fun-filled early fall evenings! Bring on that bouncy red rubber ball!

Now I’m just afraid that, despite apparent willingness when I casually asked over email, when push comes to shove, nobody will want to play on my team. It’s elementary school athletic self-doubt all over again. In addition to being totally humiliating, this would also be financially troubling, as I had to put the whole team’s fee on my credit card.

Any readers in the Chicago area want to play on a kickball team? Wednesday nights? I promise I’ve gotten more sporty with age…