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Last May, I decided to enroll in a CSA, in an effort to diversify my vegetable intake. Before I joined the Chow Locally program, I cooked and ate a decent amount of vegetables, but it was always the same few. Participating in a CSA has forced me to step outside my comfort zone (there are other vegetables besides asparagus and mushrooms!) and surprisingly resulted in a lot of wins for me.
Each week, I get a box of local-grown fruits and vegetables – roughly 7-9 different kinds, with at least two of each. As you can imagine, this is A LOT of food for one person, especially during the weeks when I don’t have a lot of time to prepare meals. And I always feel guilty when I let any of it go to waste.
This week’s goal – to utilize all of the vegetables in my Chow Share box.
Here’s what I’m working with:
- winterbor kale (currently hanging out in a bowl in my fridge)
- three black Spanish radishes
- lacinato kale (more kale … allegedly a different kind. Stored in my handy Martha Stewart produce keeper)
- three purple top turnips
- rapini (filling a giant bowl and taking over the top shelf of my fridge)
- five grapefruits
- spicy arugula (living in in the salad spinner in the fridge)
- green onions (in a mason jar on my countertop)
Thankfully, Chow Locally provides a handout each week, with photos/descriptions of the vegetables (super handy) and information how to store them. Online, they provide a recipe for each item and archive those, as well. Since I have food allergies, these recipes can be hit or miss, but I’ve definitely made some amazing meals with their suggestions.
Today, I Googled each item and found a corresponding recipe I’d like to try. Hopefully next weekend, I will have used all (or most!) of my vegetables and will share any recipes I find tasty.
Stay tuned (and let me know if you have any favorite recipes which use the ingredients mentioned above!)
NOTE: I forgot this post had been living in my drafts since April, 2011. The good news is that I’m in a much quieter apartment. I still think this is one of the most entertaining exchanges I’ve ever seen.
Apartment living and nightmarish neighbors – like bacon and eggs, black and white, Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse – those two always go hand-in-hand.
My last apartment in N.Y. was reasonably quiet, minus my across the hall neighbor’s prayer bell, which sounded multiple times per day. My beach apartment offered some of the worst neighbors that money could buy. And my current apartment complex may or may not be populated with fugitives. It simply seems suspect that everyone decides to move out after 11 p.m. Last week, when my parents were visiting, my dad jokingly asked someone if they had a body rolled up in a carpet they were loading in their truck. He said they didn’t laugh back – chances are they probably did.
In typical upstairs neighbor fashion, Stompy McStomperson cannot walk lightly on his feet. He drops everything when he walks in the door. And he had a niggling cough for about three weeks. All night long, I would hear him coughing – when it finally stopped, I suspected he dropped dead from tuberculosis.
One night, my friend Ashley texted me from N.Y. – she couldn’t sleep, due to the incessant noise caused by her upstairs neighbors. What follows, simply needed to be shared … because it’s amazing.
Ashley left this adorable bulldog card for her upstairs neighbor.
Dear Upstairs Neighbor(s):
I am writing you this because I am a coward and am completely terrible with in-person problem-solving.
Anyway, it’s a few minutes after midnight on a Monday … well, Tuesday now, and it kinda sounds like you’re bowling up there … here … where you are. This happens often between what I imagine are games of tag, exciting cage matches and vacuuming.
I usually get back late from work so I completely understand how tough it is to fit in all of that activity before bed. But I guess what I’m really trying to say here is: I would super-appreciate it if you could please try to keep things down after 9 p.m. on “school nights.” If not, please at least invite me to the festivities. I love bowling! And I’m totally bad at it so you could get a huge ego boost from kicking my butt … unless you’re bad, too.
Your downstairs neighbor
The next day, she received this card.
What he wrote:
Apologies for your disquieted home. Your note proves that my faith in the building’s soundproofing has been overly optimistic. I say my, though my wife lives here as well – I am probably the cause of most noise. One caveat – our refrigerator had been slowly and loudly dying for some months and was only replaced this week. Some bowling games, at least, were caused by its thudding. It is dead and gone.
We will be more conscientious of our noise level at night and __ ___ hope that your evening will be improved. Therefore, may I suggest 10 p.m. as a reasonable start time for Night Procedures? With two of us navigating space in this apartment, there will surely be some noise, but we will do more to mitigate it.
Unfortunately, we have no bowling lane to offer but we do love tea and coffee. You are welcome to come up and share some if you’d like to get acquainted with more than our ___ detritus.
We are sorry you were put out.
Stay tuned, as Ashley brokers peace in the Middle East using greeting cards …
(I know this point can be easily invalidated by the fact that I am currently “cooking” frozen chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s in my oven right now, but stick with me. Okay?)
Last year, I stumbled upon a magazine called Everyday Food. Similar to my favorite cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, both have extremely deceptive titles. I’ve often thought I should create a cookbook that really gets to the heart of a fresh/fast/everyday dinner. (Hint: it involves cheese, fruit and some kind of chip or cracker. And by fruit, I may mean wine.) Nonetheless, when I have a little more time and ambition, I really do enjoy cooking. In an effort to diversify my meals and encourage me to eat different foods, I started subscribing to Everyday Food. While there were definitely some recipes I never planned to tackle, very little of the magazine seemed unreasonable. And what I didn’t cook, I thoroughly enjoyed imagining scenarios when I totally would make these dishes. “Crowned roast will be perfect for a football Sunday when I have eight people over!”
And then it happened. They stopped publishing Everyday Food; in its place I would receive a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.
The first issue, April, appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I was curious, having never read it before, and a little hesitant. While I can cook (when I’m not being lazy), I cannot bake/craft/decorate/sew/match my clothes. Outside of my culinary talent, I am an expert at folding clothes. That’s pretty much where the domesticity ends.
Martha Stewart Living reinforced that for me.
Let’s start with the cover (pictured above), shall we? What beautiful Easter eggs! Something tells me that you didn’t decorate these with a PAAS kit – or you would have a smiling lamb decal stuck to the bottom. Sorry, Martha. I couldn’t decorate eggs to look like this if they were the size of basketballs.
Progressing through the magazine, I see ads for stunning appliances – shiny dishwashers and fancy washing machines. I’m reminded that my apartment microwave is from the ’80s and can’t even cook a bag of popcorn.
Next,we stumble upon Martha’s April calendar – I’m already behind. I did not schedule spring maintenance for cars and farm vehicles on the 4th and I did not get a facial this Sunday. Clearly, I don’t just neglect my home; I neglect my non-existent farm and self, as well. The good news? I can get back on track. Tomorrow, I need to wash my winter clothes and store them with sachets of cedar shavings. I’m sure I bought extras of those last year, right? And on the 28th, I need to sow tomatoes in the greenhouse. Maybe last month’s issue told me to plant the tomatoes. Or build a greenhouse.
I got eager when I saw the next page – spring-cleaning tips. I’m terrible at cleaning but I’m a major sucker for tips on how to do it better. Finally, I thought, something useful and relevant. I was reading one that seemed to make sense – pour white vinegar in your toilet and let it soak while you clean around your house. (And unlike cedar shaving sachets, I actually have white vinegar in my kitchen.) Then I got to the last sentence – “Be sure to not mix vinegar and chlorine bleach, which will produce a poisonous gas.” I could see myself trying to explain to the authorities how I “accidentally” made meth in my toilet bowl and decided to turn the page.
Oh, what’s this? Nine photos of Martha Stewart holding different breeds of live chickens. Perhaps because I am allergic to eggs, raising chickens has never crossed my mind. But I’m happy to know that I can now differentiate the blue andalusian from the australorp. I’ll never make that mistake again.
I thumb past an ad for Crocs boat shoes – if you thought Crocs were bad, you should see Crocs boat shoes. Shudder, turn page. Putting money on Talbot or Coldwater Creek making an appearance before we’re done here. But wait! Why would we buy clothes when we can sew them? Dust off your sewing machine; we’ve got instructions to make a blouse and a dress! Hopefully we can put the leftover fabric to use when we make those darling lunch bags later on in the week.
Next comes food and entertaining. Minus the napkin rings made of twigs, this is actually the reasonable part of the magazine. I won’t bore you with its practical contents.
Flower arrangements and gardening fill the next handful of pages and then we land in straight up craft country. If your Easter basket did not include any of the following: vintage flowers, spread monarch butterfly specimens, a $90 planter pot or blown duck eggs, you failed at Easter. You should have just skipped your tacky gift giving altogether.
Rounding out Easter, we have more food, baking and craft ideas. My favorite is a wreath made of both brown eggs AND quail eggs. You have to pierce the eggs with a paperclip and siphon out the yolk with an ear syringe. It says you need three dozen eggs; I would need about 54 dozen eggs to account for the ones I would break.
By this point, my insecurities have all been confirmed and I’m left with nothing but questions (and perhaps a little envy). Who has not only the time and skills to live this way, but also the money? I’m guessing her ideal reader is married to a wealthy man and has no children. Also doesn’t sleep and lives on a farm.
(And that beep tells me that my 1980’s apartment oven is currently setting my frozen chicken tacos on fire. ‘Til next time.)
One hour per week, I volunteer at a local high school, presenting the curriculum for Junior Achievement. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, “Junior Achievement is a non profit organization that brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum delivered by a trained classroom volunteer.” There are a number of programs for students in grades K-12; the particular one I present is called “Success Skills.”
Tuesday night, I stayed up way too late watching the election results. And to be completely honest, I initially stayed up for the speeches because I wanted to hear Obama’s walk up music. (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for those of you who missed it. Solid choice.) By lunchtime, when I volunteer, I was feeling less than spectacular and pretty ready for a nap. I also was ponytailed and had picked off about half of my manicure the night before, due to election result anxiety. Needless to say, I probably wasn’t, in my mind, the portrait of success.
The lesson’s focus was on building rapport and using both verbal and non-verbal communication. One of the exercises involved pairs of students essentially playing Taboo with cards that listed various occupations. In other words, one student would describe a job like “court reporter,” without using the words “court” or “reporter.” Before they began, I mentioned that if a student didn’t know what one of the jobs was, he was to raise his hand and I would do my best to explain.
Looking over the jobs as the students began, I felt a little hesitant about a few of them ( statistician, public relations specialist, welder), but felt the rest were pretty run of the mill. One of the students raised her hand and I asked her which job she needed a description of. She pointed at “tailor” with a quizzical expression.
What follows is why I will never be on a game show.
“Okay. You buy a dress and it’s a little bit too big. Where do you take it?”
She looks at me and responds, “Back to the store.”
Valid point. Next thought.
“You buy a pair of pants and you love them. But they are just a bit too long. Who do you bring them to, to have them hemmed?”
I realize now that while all of these answers are indeed correct, we’re not exactly headed in the right direction. But I’m determined. We’re gonna get the right answer.
“Starts with an ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘sailor'”
Finally I realized that neither of the kids had any clue in the first place what a tailor was or what a tailor does. And from that moment emerged an even more important realization.
That day, I was teaching success skills for the workplace.
- No matter how tired you are or how crappy you feel, you’re expected to pretend to be on your A game.
- Sometimes, you have no idea what the right answer is, or how to get to it. And you’ll resort to some kind of a cheap, crappy solution – because at the moment it works.
Just another day of inspiring America’s future workforce.
In no particular order, I am deathly afraid of the following: cockroaches, needles and heights. Before I moved to Arizona, I had no reason to be knowledgeable (and therefore, fearful) about scorpions. I dodged numerous stories told by co-workers who found these critters squatting in their homes and pretended it would never happen to me … until it did.
On Sunday night, I came home from book club, sat on my bed and plugged my phone into its charger. Facing my headboard, I took my turn on Words with Friends and my eyes wandered to the sea of cords underneath my night table. And amidst the cords, slowly meandering across the beige carpet (NEXT TO MY BED) was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen.
My first scorpion.
For those of you unfamiliar with scorpions, consider yourself lucky. Before this moment, I considered palmetto bugs (aka giant winged roaches) to be the most horrifying creature I’d ever encounter in my home. This miniature horned (clawed?) beast was about to take home the gold.
Here are its stats: it was about as long as the width of my three middle fingers. Evidently this is good, as the small ones have more concentrated venom. It was roughly the same color as my bedroom carpet. And thank God, it was moving rather slowly.
I didn’t scream. I do, however, think I entered some sort of fugue.
While (rather silently) panicking, I made my way towards the kitchen and was immediately grateful that I hadn’t put away Solo cups from a party I hosted about two months ago. I grabbed two Solo cups and made my way back to the offending creature (who thankfully hadn’t moved far). As he moved towards my closet, I deftly trapped him between two Solo cups, ran quickly towards my front door and hurled him off my balcony.
Yes, I’m grateful he didn’t fly back at me in a rogue gust of wind. No, I didn’t try to crush him. One, I hate the idea of trying to crush any creature which makes a crunching noise. Two, this is Arizona in September. Minus my running shoes, I am 100% in open-toed shoes. And I doubt a ballet flat would do much damage. Three, I wasn’t sure how Senor Scorpion would react. What if I aimed with a shoe, didn’t manage to finish him off and he either (a) ran under my bed or (b) started throwing poisonous daggers at me? Here’s a fun fact – scorpion anti-venom has now gone down to $8,000 per dose. Of all the things I’d love to spend $8K on, anti-venom is not high on my wish list.
Needless to say, Sunday was a rough night for sleep. Yesterday, I made a purchase I hope I never use – scorpion spray. Oh, and a bottle of wine. I figure if I encounter another scorpion and have to spray it, I’ll be grateful I bought that pinot grigio. And if not (fingers crossed), I’ll be more than happy to celebrate my arachnid-free home.
Sad but true, it’s my last official three-day weekend until Memorial Day. And while I was grateful to have a good friend in town for a shenanigan-filled time, I realized this morning that it’s time to get back to reality, to the routines that help me keep it together.
First and foremost (and you’ve heard me mention this before), I’m dependent on a reasonably predictable sleep schedule. More or less, I need to get to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day. On the weekends, I tend to stay up/sleep in a bit later, but try the best I can to not throw myself completely off. These past few nights/days have pretty much been the opposite of that. I’ve been up way too late most every night and then I sleep in. Worse than that, it hasn’t been good sleep; it’s been the type of sleep that follows eating-drinking-being super sociable. When I don’t sleep well, the rest of my day tends to fall into a vat of non-productivity.
For the past two months, I’ve been back on track when it comes to working out. My body feels better, my mind is clearer and my energy increases. Like most people, I have to force myself to take the time to exercise, but once I start, I’m always glad I did. This weekend, I only managed to work out one day out of three. Needless to say, when I finish this post, I’m off to the gym.
Another one of my goals this year is to read more. Growing up, I was a voracious reader, and over the past decade, I’ve read less than I’d like to. I’m more than halfway through my most recent selection, Mildred Pierce, and I look forward to picking it back up tonight. I’ve been told that reading is supposed to be a good way to quiet my head before I go to sleep and I guarantee it’s a better idea than texting while half-asleep.
As you can see from the carb-laden photo, I hosted a macaroni and cheese party last night. More than a dozen of my friends brought their special pasta creations and some tasty wine and beer as accompaniments. It was an awesome night – good people, delicious food and drinks and plenty of laughs. Today, I’ve got to buckle down and clean this place back up. Time to make a trip (or two) to the recycling bin with all of the bottles and cans. And after I make it look like a normal and decent apartment again, I still have to catch up on laundry and prepare for the week ahead.
Needless to say, it was a pretty terrific weekend. And sometimes to have the joy of experiences, you have to be willing to bend your routine. But I can’t deny the benefits of structure – with it, I’m more balanced and my actions reflect this mindset.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read countless posts and articles about resolutions – some generic, some inspiring, and others – downright ridiculous. I’ve seen the reasons that people make resolutions, and conversely, the argument that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time. In seeing what others wish to change about themselves and their paths in the coming year, I’ve reflected (probably too much) about what I want to improve about myself. I likely drafted five different blog posts in my head, each one detailing all of the specific changes I was looking to make. And I realized that each one of them pointed to one specific fact.
I’ve never lacked goals or vision. I just tend to make decisions that don’t necessarily align with the end result I am seeking.
And that’s not to say I’m out there making terrible, no good decisions on a regular basis. It just so happens that some of my decisions rely a little more on my heart than my head. And more importantly, while they may not be “bad” decisions, I’m not making the choices I need to at this time in my life. When I look at my life as a larger story, I see that while some choices led me to a greater understanding of myself and what I am looking for, not everything needs to be a lesson.
I need to trust my instincts more. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t worth trying to make it fit. It’s okay to walk away from situations and people and cut my losses early on. That’s something I’ve never excelled at doing, and it’s time that I put that into practice.
Most importantly, I need to measure my decisions next to my goals and vision for my future. Ask myself, “Is this choice pointing me in the direction of my goals, or is it just delaying my progress?” Chances are, many options are the wrong ones. They’re the ones that keep me from getting where I know I really want to be – tomorrow, in six months, in 5 years.
This year, I made some great choices and some not-so-good ones, too. Moving into the new year, I look forward to making more of the right decisions and seeing how much closer I can get to what I truly want and deserve.
I’m not sure how many years I’ve had food allergies. There’s a good chance I developed them in my twenties; there’s a lesser chance that they always existed but worsened as I got older. They were initially diagnosed when I was 26 – corn, soy, barley, peanuts, sesame seeds, sulfites. My first reaction was that corn is in everything … especially the processed garbage that I shape my daily eats around. For a year, I gave up drinking Coke. I gave up eating candy and tortilla chips. (Fun fact: Red Bull and Mentos do not contain corn syrup.)
I still did not feel better. I’d turn bright red and splotchy after eating. I’d cough for hours on end. My chest would tighten up, leaving me feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
Being in New York allowed me access to some of the leading specialists in the field. I made an appointment with a top allergist/immunologist and subjected myself to a full range of tests – eight vials of blood were drawn in one sitting. The results came back a few days later. While I was healthy across the board, my allergies only looked worse. Turns out there are about two things in the world I’m not allergic to – cockroaches and corn.
Turns out that the allergy panel (where they inject you with doses of cat/soy/dust/etc. and watch your arm swell to Quasimodo-like proportions) is not entirely accurate. The corn, which I had dutifully avoided for a year, was fine. Eggs were not. Also, add legumes and cherries to the previous no-no list.
I haven’t had eggs in about four years now. I can’t tell you (especially when I’m particularly hungover), how much I crave eggs sunny side up or one of my dad’s amazing omelettes. When it comes to my allergies, I do my best to ask the right questions and to avoid the obvious culprits. For example, “Does this hamburger come on a roll with sesame seeds?” That’s an easy one. “Is this pasta made of egg or wheat?” tends to be a harder one. I asked that a few weeks ago at a conference and received a confused response of “it is pasta.” Did you know candy corn has sesame oil in it? Me neither.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve definitely toed the line, especially when it comes to the following items: Funfetti cake, soy sauce (with sushi), teriyaki (see: soy sauce), Chinese food (see: soy sauce and eggs), beer (copious amounts of barley), grilled cheese (bread = some combination of eggs, barley and soy.)
Then there are the less obvious things – telling a masseuse that they can’t use oils which may contain soy or sesame. Learning that the word “protein” is usually a loosely interpreted word that means “soy.” Sugarfree gum has soy lecithin in it.
Going out to eat flat-out sucks sometimes. I hate playing 20 questions with the server and feel even worse when I forget a detail, such as “don’t sprinkle sesame seeds on my sushi” and I have to give my food back. Appearing that picky feels incredibly awkward.
As I said, I played roulette the past few years. I avoided most of the obvious culprits, but gave in to random cravings and accidental consumption. Some reactions were worse than others, but luckily, I had never landed myself in the emergency room or had to use my EpiPen. (Note: If you’ve ever seen the needle on one of those, you’d think Reese’s Pieces wouldn’t be worth it. Trust me.)
A few months ago, I thought I had an ear infection and went to see a doctor for the first time since I moved to Phoenix. By the end of the visit, she decided that I couldn’t stay on the hardcore (over $600/month without insurance) allergy pills I had been taking for years. Decongestants were jacking up my blood pressure and it wasn’t a risk worth taking.
I’ve felt miserable for months, like I have a cold that won’t disappear. I’m tired, itchy, sneezy, coughy and any other of the dwarves I haven’t named. But what’s worse is the reactions.
I had become brave to a point of foolishness. If a specific allergen wasn’t listed in the first three ingredients, I’d consider it okay to eat. And was left feeling worse and worse each time. Saturday night, I scared myself straight.
Honestly, I’m not really sure what triggered my reaction. I ordered a salad (everything in it should have been fine) with a red wine vinaigrette (possibly sketchy – soy or sulfites), ate a few of my friend’s tots (possible egg wash) and had an Amstel Light. For two hours in bed that night, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. If you’ve never been in this position, you don’t want to experience it firsthand.
And so I made a decision yesterday. It’s time for me to stop messing with foods I can’t eat. I’m tired of feeling like garbage and, likely, few of my food choices are really worth it. The good news is that I have many foods I can eat – seafood, meat, wheat pasta, most fruits and vegetables, cheese. The bad news is that I have to start embracing either gluten-free beer or enjoying the ones that are lowest in barley (Coors Light, Bud) in much smaller quantities. I have to ask all the questions when I go out to eat. I have to make my own salad dressing, like the pioneers surely did. I’m going to have to eat more meals at home (yay, budget) and allot more time for food preparation.
So here’s to hoping I feel significantly better over the next few weeks. Please don’t talk about cake or dark beer in front of me. And if we go out to dinner, please disregard my order of white rice, lettuce and seasonal fruit.