Solving questions you did not know you had, in case you must defend yourself in front of the Academy.
One of my husband’s colleagues gave him a promotion for a free week of Blue Apron. I’d read about Blue Apron before (primarily on the very awesome Amalah’s blog) and I figured the week of a new job was a great week to maybe have some low-stress meals to cook (plus, since my lunches come with my employment, I don’t need as many leftovers), so we kicked it off this week.
BTW, tragically I’m waaaaay to small to be sponsored by anyone, so this post is entirely unsponsored. It’s really sad when you’re willing to sell your artistic soul, but there are no takers!
If you’re not familiar with the concept, Blue Apron works like this –
1) On Friday you get a box full of super fresh, bizarre ingredients. (You know, cactus leaves. Tomatillos.) It’s absolutely everything you need to make the meals for the number of people you’ve ordered for. (Well, I think they expect you to have salt and olive oil…)
2) You stick it in your fridge.
3) For dinner, you pull out the gorgeous, full color recipe with detailed instructions and the corresponding ingredients and put them together. This may involve turning a radish into matchsticks, but perservere.
4) Twenty to thirty minutes later, you have a delicious, fresh, home-cooked meal in an innovative and very trendy recipe.
I personally think it’s a brilliant idea. The meals are pricey for homecooked meals. I think they’re about $10 a meal a person, which is a lot. But if you’re replacing eating OUT with this, you could save a lot of money. The instructions demystify some of the cooking. And the ingredients are fresh and high quality.
I was actually thinking it would be extra brilliant for people of means in food deserts. For example, my parents live in the boondocks, a 20 mile drive from the nearest grocery store. For the nearest grocery store with an ample produce department, it’s nearly 40 minutes drive. What if they got a box every week of healthy, simple, fresh meals? Then I remembered my dad hates vegetables. Oh well.
Honestly, I was kind of excited about the whole thing. Adam and I love eating! And cooking! And eating what we cook! The first meal came out pretty well. Over our Pork and Tomatilla Pozole with hominy, avocado & radishes we talked about how such a great idea might fit into our lives.
After much cogitation, I realized it doesn’t.
Here’s what a typical week looks like in our house. (Because I have no memory – that’s why I write everything out – this might happen to bear a small coincidental resemblance to this week.)
Friday: Eat the delicious Blue Apron dinner we made for two, since through some amazing coincidence both children are elsewhere at dinner time.
Saturday: Go to dinner with about 8 of our best friends while all of our children were at a YMCA kids night that I won in an auction in the winter. AWESOME.
Sunday: Brother is here. Make world famous chili and cornbread since Blue Apron order only serves two grownups.
Monday: Sacrosanct to library/pizza night. Adam is at aikido anyway, and children unlikely to appreciate “Pulled Chicken Mole Quesadillas”
Tuesday: Soccer practice, followed by Adam at trustees meeting focused on manse planning. Dinner was Subway (eat fresh!)
Wednesday: Gaming night. Due to need to watch two (2) Deadliest Catch episodes (having missed one while in New York), I was tragically unable to prep ahead of time on Tuesday. Therefore the 10 people (6 adults, 4 kids) at the gaming table will have an unusually simple meal of buttermilk pancakes and bacon. Mmmmm bacon.
Thursday: Maybe second Blue Apron meal?
Friday: Who knows. Grey is likely to campaign for sushi. The question is how much willpower remains…
On any given week, I may serve neighbors, gamers, visitors, children. The food needs to create enough leftovers for lunches for three people for the entire week. (Not usually a problem.) And I reserve the right to at any moment say, “Hey, why don’t you come over for dinner? There’s plenty.” And mean it.
So how DO I actually accommodate our crazy cooking plans? It’s complicated, but falls into the following parts:
A pantry that will weather the biggest storm
You could tell me that tomorrow I was hosting 40 people for dinner, and I can’t go to the grocery store. Oh, and one of them is vegan, a second is gluten intolerant, and a third really likes top quality steak. And I could make enough (different) food for all of them to walk away regretting their thirds. The way I do this is with a vast pantry, a stand alone freezer, a farm share, and a dry good cabinet packet with pasta and beans. (I’d make Pav Bhaji for the vegan with a big pot of Basmati rice, which would coincidentally work just fine for the vegan too. Then I’d make a big pot of chili, and figure out how the heck to cook the frozen steaks from my meat share.) This philosophy paid off handsomely this winter when, despite incessant storms and consistently closed roads, I had something to bring to each potluck.
The internet is amazing
I now do 90% of my grocery shopping on Peapod. We have a running list of things that belong in the pantry that have been used (in order to restock). When I go to “shop”, I also list out three to four recipes I plan on making that week, and any special ingredients those recipes require in addition to the pantry restocking and stuff I need every time (like bread, eggs & milk). The next day, some tired looking dude shows up at my house with a box truck and brings in all the stuff I asked for. It’s like magic. I’ve just actually hit “VIP” status with Peapod, which I think translates to “Do you even remember where the store is”. I regret nothing. (Except that my favorite tortilla chips are not available online. WOE!)
Farmer Dave is my farmer
Probably the killing blow to the Blue Apron concept is the fact that in a few short weeks I’ll be swimming in arugula. And tomatillos. No one tell Dave about cactus leaves, since I’m still figuring out what to do with purslane. The producelanche works just fine with my Peapod/menu planning technique, especially when I time it right and do my order the night I get the produce in so I know what bizarre ingredients I need to find recipes for, like kohlrabi. (Just kidding. I never actually use the kohlrabi.) But you really don’t need a box of carefully curated veggie when you get a crate of garlic scapes the same day. And I actually prefer the garlic scapes, thanks.
So to sum up, if you currently eat out a ton and/or live in a food desert and want to be a foodie, consider Blue Apron. If you want to eat more vegetables (because you are afraid that if you don’t you may never find the back of your ‘fridge again) you should join a CSA like Farmer Dave’s. If you love eating but don’t need to spend 90 minutes a week with your friendly grocery baggers, online groceries are amazing.
Finally, you should come to dinner sometime. There’s plenty.
My dear friend has covered one of my absolute favorite fantasty books on religion. Enjoy the read as much as I did!
Originally posted on Prose Gods:
I already know that it’s going to take me more than one entry to get through most books, so I’m going to start with just a few questions for this one.
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. Harper Voyager, 2001.
50-word plot summary:
Surrounded by court politics and a corrupting curse on the royal family, ex-soldier Cazaril attempts a desperate ritual to save his charge–but ends up carrying a demon, hosting an evil man’s soul, and seeing visions of divine power rather than dying himself.
Do gods exist? What are they like?
Yes: the Father, the Mother, the Son, and the Daughter; the Bastard is classified as a god by the Quintarian religion (to which most characters belong), but regarded as a demon by Quadrenes. Each god has authority over a season, a familial role, a time of life, and a set of purposes/roles in life: justice for the Father, fertility for…
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I got sent this week to New York City for three days of training for a new job.* I’d had more time than I expected between roles, so I had plenty of time to get well rested, ready, tanned, relaxed etc. By the time it was actually time to get onto the Acela and head south, I was READY TO WORK ALREADY. I really like taking the train (well, the Acela especially). It’s like air travel in not having to worry about anything, but unlike air travel it’s not a complete pain in the rear. You can even do things like stand up and move around and feel your feet.
We passed New London, home to my alma mater, just as the sun set.
But by the time I hit New York any thoughts of walking from Penn Station had fled. When the taxi pulled up to my hotel I told him I was looking for a HOTEL not a night club. “This is it!” he said. (He was, tragically, correct.) I walked into a lobby that was my antithesis. Loud music. Shockingly stylish, young people. The hipsterish of hipster beards. A freaking bouncer at whose “discretion” you would or would not be permitted into the on premesis night clubs. (Hint: I would pass pretty much zero nightclub bouncer tests. Ever.) There was a second floor pool – open air – that had a clear bottom so from the lobby you could see the perfectly toned figure of the incredibly courageous swimmers above.
You know how people say things like, “This is a no judgement zone”? I’d inadvertently stumbled into what could only be described as a Judgement Zone. I talked myself into this being a place for the testing and competition of difficult and hard won skills (fashion being both of those). That’s fine and all, but I’m not going to sign up for beginning tennis lessons in sight of the Wimbleton crowd, and so I didn’t really want to walk the gauntlet of carefully studied loveliness in order to hit the sheets.
I slinked (slunk?) up to my room, and proceeded to be – ahem – entertained by my neighbors for several hours.
The morning shone brighter, I’m happy to say. The beautiful people were all apparently hung over. The hotel is apparently near the YouTube studios. There was a cloud of young girls near the doors pretty much every afternoon. I stumbled upon them just as the objects of their affection emerged – bad skin and bodyguards – to watch them collectively lose their cool and take 10000001 selfies. Rumor has it that said object was actually a YouTube star. WHO KNEW. I don’t think it was Stampy Longhead who is my son’s YouTube hero.
Tuesday I got sprung from training a bit early. I’d thought we were going to have a mixer that evening (I was wrong) so I found myself with a night in New York, at liberty! It was too late to get to the Cloisters in time. I thought about the Museum of Fine Art, but it was honestly a really long walk and a few of us were meeting for drinks later in the evening. I would have ditched them to go catch an opera at the Met, but I hadn’t packed a gown – or even a dress. So instead I went walking and found the entrance to the High Line. I walked the full length of it (twice, since I went there and back again).
I think it says a lot about me and my affinity for cities that the minute you put me in one of the world’s great metropolises I’m looking for the grass and flowers. I believe this is an unfathomable position for many of the folks I found myself with, but I really don’t love cities. New York, center of fashion that it is, I like even less than your average city. I’ll confess that I’m rather fond of both Boston and Seattle, which are more people-sized cities and in which I feel less conspicuously Not From Here.
I’m back on the train tonight**, Atlantic shore in sunset on my right instead of left. It will probably be full dark when I cross the mighty Thames, as the gloaming is already well advanced. Tomorrow I get to try my commute for the first time, find my desk, meet my team. I anticipate a bit of a challenging period for me, blog-wise, while my creative and mental energies are full of a new role, new company, new industry and less full of noticing the small life moments that are usually the _thrilling_ fodder for my blog. I’m sure we’ll muddle through, you and I!
*This is pretty much all I’ll be saying about the new job, as has generally been the case with my employers. In the event I need to refer to it in the future, I will probably creatively call it something like New Job, or Job. If you happen to know what it is, I appreciate you failing to mention that here. But you can rest assured it represents a really good thing for me and my family.
**Reminder that I often write my posts ahead of time and schedule them!
Ten years ago, my mom decided to help her 6th grade class understand just how big a “million” is. We throw the word out lightly. “My mom told me like a million times to clean my room.” “There are a million legos in my son’s room which he hasn’t cleaned”.
It was a memorable moment in Austin Powers when a million dollars went from a lot of money to a trivial amount over the course of a few decades:
Anyway, she’s at just about the halfway mark of the million bread tabs. She does not plan on teaching for another ten years, though, so it’s time to hit the gas on the project!
We’re asking you to save your bread tabs, and then send them in to the school to help them in their quest for a million.
The address is:
Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy
24503 SR 706E
Ashford, WA 98304
(If I see you in person, I’m happy to send them myself!)
“One more chapter!”
“Ok, but then it’s really time to go.”
This is an exchange that could (has) happened between almost any two people in my family (in all versions of family you’d like to consider). (When I say it what I usually actually mean is that we’re not leaving until I’ve finished my book.) Adam and I have long had vacations that consisted of beautiful locations, museums, snorkeling and bevies of books. On our honeymoon I read 11 books – and that was only because I didn’t have room to bring more. When we went to Istanbul, we saw Hagia Sofia. We walked the walls of the Fortress of Europe. We watched night fall over the Bosporous… but a favorite memory for both of us was the morning we went to a little cafe, drank them entirely out of orange juice and both of us finished entire novels. (Mine was Guy Gabriel Kay – great vacation reading!)
Ten years ago at just about this time, I was on this self same island of Cozumel for a week. All my daiquiris were virgin that trip since I was pregnant with the firstborn child who was – would become – Grey. I took refuge in the buoyancy of the water. And we read. A lot. But since then, our reading vacations have been stolen moments (pretty much all during Camp Gramp week). Sure we might sneak in a paltry four or five books on a vacation, but nothing like the epic conquests of yore. Children – especially young children – require slightly more attention it turns out.
When an unexpected opportunity arose for us to go back to Cozumel this April vacation week, I grabbed it with both hands. We returned to the same excellent resort (Presidente Intercontinental, if you’re curious) that we went to last year. A huge part of that was that the kids had loved Keri, who ran the kids club. They happily got dropped off with her after breakfast and picked up sometime in the afternoon. This left Adam and I ample time to follow our true desires: snorkeling, time together, and reading entire novels in one sitting on the beach. SIGN ME UP FOR MORE! We still had plenty of time for adventures and time together, but the surcease from bored children was delightful (and they enjoyed it!)
This time, though, they’ve only spent a few hours there. The only thing nearly as fun as snorkeling along the reefs with my beloved – pointing out the octopus and lionfish and barracuda – is snorkeling along the reefs with my beloveds. Grey has become a fine swimmer and can almost dive with the snorkel. Thane – indomitable Thane – arrived barely swimming and has improved by leaps and bounds since. He insists on swimming (even though he really can’t) and calmly keeps paddling even as the waters close in over his head. He’s unflappable. Add a life vest, and he was perfectly content to come snorkeling with us – even letting go of my hand to go investigate some interesting formation. How much more fun things are when I can do them with my children and yet find them fun for me!!
Then, yesterday, my life changed forever. I think that may not be an understatement.
Thane is in Kindergarten. He has a gift of great focus. He always has – he could do a hundred piece puzzle at three through sheer determination and patience. (Certainly not through optimal strategic choices, assuredly.) The door to reading has finally opened to him. He has many needed words by sight and strong phonetic skills. He still struggles to blow past words he doesn’t know, but he has three of us standing by to tell him that e-n-o-u-g-h is enough.
“Mom” he asked. “Did you bring me any chapter books?” I handed him “A Horse and His Boy”. He gamely worked his way through the first pages. “Mom, do you have anything easier?” Well, no I didn’t. But what I did have is the wonder of technology. I LOVE my Kindle, in part because it means I don’t have to pack an entire suitcase of books. (Yes. We did regularly bring a suitcase for the books and board games.) I just got a new Kindle (backlit, with 3G downloads so I don’t need wifi to buy the next book in the series) but I brought my old Kindle with me in case. In case of what I’m not sure, but in case.
I downloaded Books 1 – 4 of the Magic Treehouse and handed it to him, showing him how to turn the pages. We went to breakfast. And an hour later, he was begging for more time. He’s plowed his way through the first three and a half books (as well as a non-fiction book on Jupiter his dad bought him.) We all sat – at breakfast, in front of the pool, in the beach chairs, at dinner – all reading our books together. It was GLORIOUS. The world has opened up before us, of the quietest and most profound adventures.
Then, as though my heart was not already filled to brimming, my eldest. My beloved. That child I carried with me as a promise ten years ago… started reading Narnia. I read him the first few chapters of “The Horse and His Boy”. (Personally, I think “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” is one of the weaker Narnia books. And “The Horse and His Boy” stands alone best of the rest of them.) He finished. And asked for more. Yesterday he read “Prince Caspian”. Today “The Lion , The Witch and the Wardrobe”. At dinner he downloaded and started “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.
There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
Those books were my gateway to this wondrous world, my friends. They initiated me in the arts of the fantastical. I remember the realization crashing on me that ASLAN was like JESUS. (How much more precious is an allegory when discovered by a reader instead of explained!) It was a short hop for me from Lewis to his dear friend Tolkien. And that’s a world my imagination has never fully left behind.
This marks, I think, the beginning of a new phase of my life. I have long left behind parenting babies. My feet are crossing over from parenting young children (that stage where your greatest wonder is how the heck you’re going to keep them entertained so you can do things). I enter through the doors of parenting all elementary children. Already I can sleep in. Already they dress themselves. Grey puts on his own sunscreen – hallelujah. And now, my sons will begin to go on the greatest adventures between the pages of books. Some they will share with me. Others they will venture on alone. But their journeys have begun.
In lieu of real or meaningful content, I thought I’d take a moment this morning to discuss coffee cups. Those of you who know me in the real world are aware of the fact that I had a coffee cup surgically implanted in my hand at the age of seventeen. (OK – I only WISH I did. I spend half my life wandering around wondering where I left my coffee cup on weekends.)
On your average morning – like this morning – I make myself a pot of coffee. The pot is thermal. The coffee is Starbucks Sumatra, but at about half the recommended potency. I will drink between one and three of these pots a day. On a work morning, I make my pot, give my husband a teeny cup, then fill a 16 oz mug and a 16 oz thermos. During one summer job during college, my commute was so long I made a 16 oz mug, a 16 oz thermal mug and a 16 oz thermos and would have all of it consumed by the time I got to work. During college – at which time you could tell my relative poverty by the fact I was drinking Maxwell House (although I would cut it with Starbucks if I could get any) – I used to store my coffee cup in my coat pocket. For one class, I’d have my 16 oz mug, my 16 oz thermos and a 16 oz mug for a friend in my pocket. I was a good friend.
Let us speak for a moment of the platonic ideal of the travel coffee mug. I give you this one:
This might be my very favorite coffee mug (although the one with the dancing skeletons I use during Halloween is a close second).
– Perfect size
– Perfect shape
– Plastic thermal mug is ideal temperature wise (more on that in a bit)
– Relatively durable (this mug is – cough – 18 years old)
– Beautiful design
Starbucks used to make these mugs all the time. They were all the same basic design, but with different pictures. I have an impressionist one, a red hispanic themed one, the aforementioned dancing skeletons… I had an extensive collection. They cost five or six dollars and came with a free drink. (For reference, my current drink costs $4.44 so that would be an excellent deal for me. Plus it’s $.10 off every drink you get in your own mug!) It’s a good thing I did since five or six years ago (more?), they stopped making them. They branched out to different designs – every mug having a different profile. They’ve innovated themselves out of something I loved!
Right now Starbucks is basically only offering stainless steel travel mugs, to my sorrow. My problem with that is that I drink my coffee black. I pour it the second it comes out of my Mr. Coffee (not because I’m a purist – because I’m late for work). So it’s near boiling when I put it in my stainless steel mug. It stays near boiling for a looooooong time. I’m guessing the people who love these mugs add milk or creamer so they don’t burn their tongues off.
Which brings me to my last idiosyncrasy (I swear, half of my externally visible oddness has to do with my coffee habits…) I drink my coffee from these travel mugs with a straw. Always have. I learned to drink coffee and to drive at literally the same time. (Coincidence? I think not.) When I fell in love with java was when I was putting nearly a thousand miles EVERY WEEK on my parents car. (Loving parents!) I was in the car 2 to 3 hours a day, every day. Maybe more. Often first thing in the morning. If you drink out of a mug regularly in the car, you have to tilt your head back to finish it (briefly taking your eyes off the road). You also have to be more coordinated than I am, or you spill coffee on yourself. (Personally, I consider au de caffeine my personal perfume.) I neatly solved both of these problems by grabbing a straw from Starbucks and using it in mug until it breaks. In a positive innovation, Starbucks has recently started selling durable straws (for use in their cold beverages, they claim) which do not break. This is a bonus.
Thus, the on-the-go coffee.
When I’m home, as I am today, I prefer my coffee in a non travel mug. (At which time I do not use a straw, if you’re curious.) I’d never had quite a favorite, until about a year ago. I inherited a few small things from my paternal grandparents. Some pieces of jewelry. The melamine plates and bowls my grandma served me cookies on. A handthrown clay coffee mug with birds.
I don’t know why I like it so much. I’m not even – on calm reflection – sure how I know it came from my grandma. (Relatives, can anyone confirm, or remember it?) But it’s perfect. It’s warm to the hands, but doesn’t lose heat too quickly, or scald. It conforms perfectly to the proportions of my hand. It holds just the right amount of coffee for consuming at my pace without getting cold. And the three birds on it look cheerful. There’s a name of the artist neatly signed on the bottom in bell hook-esque cursive: “betty belle”. It’s as though the fifties blew me a kiss in the shape of a coffee cup. I love it.
One of the great curses of using beautiful objects is that they are exposed to risk in the use. That platonic ideal Starbucks mug hasn’t held coffee in over 10 years because it has a crack. If I put coffee in it, that design will be gone forever. I suppose I should just throw it away, but I don’t want to. Wandering around the house doing chores in my slippers – one day I’ll move wrong and drop my grandmother’s mug and it will shatter. It is pottery, thrown and designed by hand. It is breakable. I will mourn, but I’ll have the memory of a hundred hot cups to console me. I’ll take the great memories of a mug loved and lost over an intact cup in the back of my cupboard any day of the week.
What’s your favorite coffee cup? What’s that object you touch every day that brings you pleasure every time you use it?
I love the way Tom is taking the feedback after the last election and making changes based on it!
Originally posted on Growing Stoneham:
Another election is over and I was somewhat surprised to learn via the Stoneham Community Facebook Group that some people didn’t know that there had been an election. In further discussion, I discovered that even more people had no idea who the candidates were, nor did they know who the elected officials were. There was a lot of talk about improving communication from the town and many people seemed to think that if there was a good, informal way to meet the elected officials in a relaxed setting possibly outside of town hall, that they would be amendable to attending.
I thought this was a great idea, and coincidentally I had a meeting scheduled with the Stoneham Theatre about having collaborative events with the town. This lead to another thought: I was already planning to host a pre-town meeting designed to take the mystery out of the annual Town Meetings…
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