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September’s Process

(This is a rerun of something I wrote in 2014.  I still have nothing more to add when it comes to my reaction to the anniversary of 9/11.)

Ask the farmer to transfer the tomatoes from their box to a bunch of bags. Wince as he packs the bags too full; they’ll crush easier. Carefully tuck them into the cart, and start home, wincing again as you hit each tiny rut and bump in the sidewalk.   Grab a bag of ice as you pass the deli on your street.  Wince again, and add a groan, when you get home and realize that what with the cart, the bags of tomatoes, and the ice, you’re going to have to make more than one trip up and down the four flights of stairs to your place.  Sigh and get to it.

My local farmers’ market has a “canners’ special” each year – a bushel of tomatoes, sold cheap to those wanting to put things up. I’ve been picking up a box every year since about 2011 – it seems to be just enough to last yearlong, with about a dozen cans of tomatoes and a couple jars of fresh tomato juice each time, and the process is messy and annoying enough that I only do want to do it once.

A few years ago I got into the habit of scheduling this ordeal for the anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks.

Clean out the sink first.  You’ll need an empty sink for the dishes after, and you’ll also need it for the ice water bath when you’re peeling the tomatoes.

Weigh out your tomatoes, laying them into little clusters on the dining room table – six pounds each. Save aside the ones that crushed on the way, to make tomato sauce and salsa to keep in the fridge right away.  Throw out the couple of fungus-y tomatoes that managed to sneak into the bushel.  Fetch enough empty jars from that top shelf in the kitchen, and dig through the pile of canning supplies trying to find enough lids.  Steal a couple from the teeny jars you have in the closet.

Dig out the big stock pot you got from your cousins 20 Christmases ago. Tuck in the first of your canning jars, and fill the whole thing, jars and all, with water.  Set that to boil while you dig out the other two big soup pots – fill one with water, and start that boiling while you fill up the sink and dump in part of the bag of ice.

Different cabinet now – dig out the big mixing bowl and balance a colander on top.  Shuffle the bowl and pans around on your counter while you’re waiting for all the water to boil.   It’s already getting hot.  Look at how many dishes this is already using.  Sigh.

Canning is just complicated and frustrating enough to lure me from the thoughts I’d otherwise have this day; it’s busywork, keeping me at a low level of distraction and giving me something else to be cranky at.  It also gives me an excuse to shut myself away from people.  But it’s not so intricate that I can’t recover if I do, despite myself, slip into memory.

I was in New York City that day; I was on “standby” with my temp agency, dressed and waiting just in case they got a last-minute call so they could send me right out.   So I was at home that morning, and I lived close enough to the Towers that I heard the impact of both planes as they hit.

The reason I was on standby, though, was because the day before I’d missed a call from my agency asking if I was available for something starting on the 11th.  By the time I called them back, they’d already given it to someone else.  It wasn’t until the evening of the 11th that I remembered that my agency had a lot of clients in the Twin Towers – so it was very possible that if I’d taken that job, I’d have been one of the people in the Towers that day.

Drop the first few tomatoes into the smaller pot of boiling water.  Realize you forgot to set a timer, curse and do so.  Wait.  Start madly scooping tomatoes into the sink ice bath when 30 seconds is (sort of) up.  Wait thirty more seconds – more or less – and grab a tomato from the sink, juggling it in your hands a little.  Still hot.  But the skin is fortunately slipping off.  Peel it over the colander and dig out the tough core with your fingers, dropping skin and seeds and tomato goodge into it as you do. Crush the meat in your hands and dump it into the second pot.

Notice, as you reach for a second tomato, that you’ve squirted juice onto the side of the fridge.  Swear.  Try to dig the peel off the second tomato.  This one’s more stubborn.  Swear again.  And then again when you squirt tomato down your shirt front.

Look at the remaining tomatoes in the sink, and then over at the 14 pounds you haven’t even gotten to yet.  Swear again.

Sometimes my not having been in the Towers feels like a copout.  We hear a lot from the First Responders and their families; the next of kin of the victims; the military.  We don’t hear as much about the experiences of the ordinary schlubs like me – people whose experience with 9/11 was only in coping with the city’s aftermath.  I didn’t know anyone in the Towers, I wasn’t there myself, no one I know died.  What’s my problem?

But even if no person I know died, the place was badly wounded.  For three months I tried to ignore the smell of smoke hanging over everything – the fire at Ground Zero was still going, and that meant that something was still fueling that fire, and I didn’t want to think too hard about just what that fuel may be.  I also tried to ignore the “Missing Person” posters that blanketed every single wall and bulletin board and lamppost with their futility.  And the shrines in front of each police precinct and firehouse, a small pile of dead flowers and burnt-out bodega candles clustered against the side of the building near a taped-up few pictures of smiling cops or firemen.  You saw these things ever once in a while before, of course, when one guy or another was killed in action.  But this time it was every precinct that had one, every fire house that had one.

The president and the mayor were trying to tell us all to go about our business and get back to normal.  But there were some long and lingering signs pointing to the fact that things were not normal.  Not at all.

The pot full of jars is boiling, so start simmering the crushed tomato on the stove and start fishing jars out of the pot, carefully dumping the water back in.  Dole a spoonful of citric acid and a spoon of salt into each jar.  Get the idea to tuck sprigs of oregano into a couple jars and clip some off your oregano plant in the window.

Ladle the tomato carefully into each jar.  Swear again when you overfill one and have to scoop some out.  Wipe all the jar rims.  Start to wipe the counter while you’re at it but then realize you’re just getting started so why bother.  Screw the lids on each jar, holding each one gingerly from the heat.  Grab each jar with the funky tong thingies you got just for canning jars, praying you don’t drop anything as you carefully lower them back into the still-boiling stock pot.

Set the timer for a half hour when the stock pot’s full.  Consider sitting down for a bit, but sigh and start peeling the next pile of tomatoes.

Even in the weeks immediately after the attacks, I found myself more angry at other Americans than I was at the attackers.  My friend Colin and I had a discussion shortly after, about “what would you do if Osama Bin Laden was in this room right now?”  And honestly, the most I would have done is smacked him like Cher did to Nic Cage in Moonstruck and asked, “what the hell was that?”  Even today, I can’t entirely escape the thought that Bin Laden and the attackers were not sane.  I would no more blame them for acting while under the influence of extreme religious fundamentalism than I would blame a rabid dog – neither knew any better.

However, our country did know better when we started a war under false pretenses with the wrong damn country, one which we are still fighting today.

Even worse are the politicians who preach platitudes about supporting the brave first responders who risked their lives during the attacks – but then turn around and cancel bills meant to give those first responders support for their health care.  Or the regular people online who blanket Facebook and Twitter and such every September 11th with Photoshopped pictures of the Twin Towers and eagles and flags and the “Never Forget” slogan in sparklefont – but then go back to slagging New Yorkers as “libtards” the very next day.  Both those camps are people who are exploiting the worst day of my life to make themselves look good to others, and I have very little patience for that.

The person I got the angriest at, though, was a man who came up to me on the street two days after the attacks.  I was standing near my neighborhood’s local mosque, and he was walking past and saw me there, came over to me, and nodding at the mosque, said, “so this is where the snake pit is, huh?”

Never before in my life have I been as angry as another person as I got at that man.  “This is a HOUSE of WORSHIP!” I roared at him.  “HOW DARE YOU!”

“It’s a SNAKE PIT!” he shouted back; but he was backing away from me.  We shouted back and forth at each other a few seconds more, him calling the mosque a snake pit and me scolding him for his prejudice; but he was backing away down the street and finally just ran off, driven off by my rage.

And it was pure rage. Rage which still comes faintly back to me when I write about that moment these many years later.

Carefully lift the processed jars out of the stock pot.  Worry at one that hisses a bit.  Check the lid; it’s a good seal.  Resolve to keep an eye on it anyway.  Top up the water and drop in the next round of jars.

Carry the jars over to the window by your oregano.  Linger there a few seconds each time you do, to catch the breeze for just a minute before returning to the hot kitchen.  Fiddle again with that jar you heard hissing.  Hear one of the jars clink in the stock pot and run back to make sure it didn’t break.

Food was one thing that helped me cope during those first few weeks.  Cat food, mostly.

I got into a bad headspace after a week; I didn’t have work right away, and so I was stuck with nothing to do, which left way too much time for me to let myself get caught up in endless mental rabbit-track loops replaying what had happened.  I’d either sit in my apartment in a weird fugue state, or do things like lock myself in my room and stay awake for 48 hours reading Lord Of The Rings cover to cover.

But while I was in a bad mental place, my cat Zach was not.  War or peace, political strife or good days – it was all the same to him.  All he cared about was food – Zach was an enormous glutton.  And two hours before his dinner, he would start asking after it, with his loud and strangely nasal “Miaou!”s.  In the weeks after the attack, his “Miaou!” was the only thing loud enough to finally pierce the voices in my own head, and rouse me to get up and off the couch and give him a scoop of kibble – and oh, wait, while I’m up I maybe should get a sandwich or something, shouldn’t I?….

And so while Zach ate and I numbly nibbled, I thought about how Zach didn’t care what had happened; all he cared about was that he was alive and he wanted to stay that way – and that I was alive, and it was my job to feed him.  I had a responsibility to keep him fed – and while I was at it, I had to keep me fed too.

I was alive, and I had to keep living for the people who couldn’t.

Chop the tomatoes that crushed on the way home.  Dump them into a Tupperware container with the not-enough-to-fill-a-jar tomato meat and stick it in the fridge to deal with later.   Mix up the skins and seeds in the colander with your hand to finish straining the juice.  Empty the colander into the trash.  Drop the colander in the trash as you do. Swear again.

Get that really big measuring cup and measure the juice from the bowl.  Just over two pints; dump the water out of the tomato bath pot and dump in the juice.  Bring that to a boil while you get two more jars.  This time it’s easier to fill the jars – it’s all juice.  Much more pourable.  Save the extra aside.  Seal those up too and set the juice jars inside the stock pot.   These get fifteen minutes; take a very deep breath, summon your courage and grab a paper towel to start finally wiping down the countertops and get going on the dishes. Pause halfway through to get a rocks glass from your “bar” in the living room.

Food was a place to start living again.

I’ve always been an active cook, but I picked it up after the attacks.  Especially the canning – it started as a whim, making jam and then liqueur, and then when I moved to Brooklyn I tried canning a couple pounds of tomatoes just to see if I could.

I now routinely make jam and applesauce and pickles every year, mainly just to cope with the bounty I get from a CSA; when I know I can’t eat something fast enough, it either gets canned or frozen.  I hate to waste things, so this kind of canning is more salvage; I’m stopping it from going bad so I can have it on hand to use in something.  Someday.  At some point.

Tomatoes are a little different – it’s the only thing I can as a planning-ahead thing.  I cook a lot of Cajun and Italian food, and tomato soup is one of my comfort foods, so tomatoes are a staple, and this is my big annual stocking-up.  I boasted to my mother once that I haven’t had to buy a can of Del Monte or Contadina from the supermarket in four years.

There’s also something comforting about that big stockpile; about opening the hall closet where I keep all my canned stuff, and seeing those jars stacked up.  It’s a bounty – the means to make a years’ worth of some of my favorite foods whenever I choose, and knowing that because these are really good tomatoes, it’s also going to be really good food.

But it’s also a promise and a commitment and a celebration.  It’s my own declaration that I’m still here, several years on, to eat those tomatoes.  And share them with others who are also here.  Canning on September 11th each year is my way of celebrating that I’m here, and signing on to stay here.

Bring the juice jars over to the windowsill, and finally turn off the stove.  Leave the last pot to soak, measure out a bit of vodka and dump that into the glass with the balance of the juice.  Forgive yourself for having to look up how to make a Bloody Mary.  Finish mixing it and bring it to the chair by the window with a heavy sigh.

Look at the jars of tomatoes.  Twelve of them this year, a neat row of jars with swirls of orangey-red. Twelve meals’ worth of future soups and chilis and jambalaya.

Think about jambalaya a moment, the play of the smoky Andouille and sweet pepper on your tongue.

Take a sip of your drink.  You overdid it with the vodka a tiny bit, but the blinding freshness of the tomato comes through.

Feel the breeze through the window, a relief after the hot kitchen.  Look out the window.  You’re looking east, so you can’t see the sun, but the sky is colored for sunset anyway, the blue tinging to pink and lavender.  Sip your drink again and look at the sky.

Then back inside to your home, one which you’ve filled with friends whom you’ve fed with tomatoes in years past.  Remember one meal, all of you sitting around the kitchen table and laughing.

Look back out at the sky again, thinking of them.  Thinking of life.

You are alive.


Taking Stock: August 2020

Holy crap we’re in September already.

I’m appreciating this new blog habit – as ever, I picked it up from the craft blogger Pip Lincolne.  She’s not done her own lists for a couple months, but I get the sense that things are a bit nuts – and let’s be honest, we’re all kind of in a weird state right now, aren’t we?  Still, I like this reminder to stop a minute, look around and see what the heck is going on in your own life right now.  I got into a bad habit for several years of not paying attention to this, of just keeping my head down and soldiering on through some bad luck.  I had to do that to keep from losing my shit entirely, but I don’t have to any more, and I’m finding this is good for helping me ease back into more awareness of what’s actually happening to me.

I also tend to get a little cozy and hobbity as we head into fall.  I’m gradually collecting a couple of other crafty/homemaker-y books that have suggestions for seasonal pleasures too – some of them are probably a little too “rustic cabin lifestyle” for me to be able to achieve here in Brooklyn (I mean, I could harvest grapevines for a wreath in Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but I’d probably get in trouble), but a relaxed supper of a simple root vegetable stew while sitting by the window?  Sure.

But that’s more for October or November.  We’re just on the first day of September, and I have August to account for.

Taking Stock

Making: I actually finished several of the craft projects I had set aside to do while Roommate Russ was in Korea.  One big advantage was getting to use my friends Colin and Niki’s rental house early in August; although, I was there as their proxy last-stage cleaner-outer before they sold it. It was a little bittersweet, but kind of fitting – I was one of the friends who helped them fix it up when they first bought it about ten years ago. They’re leaving most of it as-is – the new owners are going to also rent it out, and likely will keep most of the furniture and tchotchkes (including the potholders I hand-knit!), so I just had to bag up a couple boxes’ worth of trash and retrieve a couple of sentimental things for them.

Otherwise, I had a long weekend in the house on my own – which included using their big huge deck to do a couple spray-paint projects (yep, finally got to the “making” bit).  I’d been meaning to refinish a battered metal TV tray I’d had for years, and also repaint a water bottle that was a promotional giveaway and looked ugly as heck.  A half hour on the deck with some spray paint, followed by some decoupage for the TV tray and some judicious use of varnish and I like them much better.

Now I just need to do something with all the photos I took while I was there as well…
Cooking: we’re still in the CSA season, and I’m being overwhelmed with vegetables that I’m still processing.  Although I’m getting better at it!  I’ve tried to do meal planning in the past, but I think a stubborn streak gets in the way – so instead I’m approaching it as more of a list of suggestions, where I make note of the vegetables I get each week, as well as anything that seems to need using up, and then make another list of “here’s all the things I could make with what I’m using” and then round out the pantry if there’s an item or two missing.  August was the segue from Zucchini Season into Corn And Tomato Season, so I moved along with it from ratatouille to tortillas.  I also tried a decadent seafood boil one evening that was so good I’m probably going to do it again on Labor Day, just for fun.
Sipping: The CSA also loads me with fruit, and I got a couple of melons recently; one got turned into a cantaloupe agua fresca pretty quick and I’m eyeing the watermelon for that purpose as well.
Reading: This month’s book club outing was Hollow Kingdom, a quirky little book about a partially-domesticated crow and how it copes when humankind gets wiped out.  I’ve also been trying to work through Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing – so far it’s not so much about “enjoying leisure time” and more a takedown of social media and late-stage capitalism, and I’m here for it.

Waiting: for the country to come to its senses.

Appreciating: my local bike shop, who are miracle workers!  They’re not only close, but they have a very reasonable annual tune-up package; but I couldn’t afford it for a couple years, and my poor bike was abandoned outside in the rain and snow, and at one point got so beat up that someone cut the lock and stole my chain – but left the bike.  Finally, on a weekend when my friend Jonathan had access to a car and proposed a spontaneous drive to a remote-ish park, I asked if we could drop my bike off there first.  I was expecting them to tell me it was too far gone, and maybe they could offer me a few bucks for some of the parts, but instead they just looked it over, then said “how’s next Saturday?”  ….It was rather a bit more than the tuneup – they had to replace both wheels altogether – but that’s totally understandable considering how bad it was.  But it’s back! 

Enjoying: using the bike again!  It’s now how I get to work – the ten minute walk is now a four minute ride, most of it on a dedicated bike path running alongside the street.  I’m also really close to one of the stops in New York’s ferry system, which lets you bring bikes aboard; there are some further-flung stops on the ferry that are close by some less-busy bike paths, and I’ve started doing a once-a-week ride, mostly for the exercise.  My home stop is so close to the supermarket, too, that I do my grocery shopping on the way home.
Buying: not much.  I’m trying to use stuff I have.
Managing: Money.  Holy crap, I’m managing money – I am nurturing a habit of actually paying attention to income, expenses, and long-term savings.  And it’s taking less attention than I thought!
Watching:  Alongside the movies for my other blog, I’ve occasionally dipped into reruns of Mythbusters.  I also watched the Democratic National Convention, but wouldn’t dare watch any of the RNC.

Wearing: It’s hot and I work in an office setting.  Meaning: my wardrobe is pretty schizophrenic.


Taking Stock – July 2020

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Yikes.  I have realized I totally missed June for this.  “This,” by the way, is a lovely habit called “Taking Stock”, looking back at the past month and blogging about a bunch of different things that you did.  I saw it over on the blog Meet Me At Mike’s by Australian blogger Pip Lincolne – and from the look of things, she’s missed June too.  But the world is on crazy fire so it sort of makes sense.

Honestly, I just never caught a moment in July when I could look back at June.  But there also just wasn’t that much new going on anyway, really; this whole past few months have seemed like a global holding pattern.  Plus I think I needed to rebound from having to manage my money so tightly for so long that I allowed myself to mentally collapse a little and exist on the amoeba level.  July is when I started to rally back up again, do some adjusting to my new reality, and start paying attention to things again.

So here we are.

Taking Stock

Making: Roommate Russ was in Korea all month (and will actually be for most of August as well), so I dragged out all manner of unfinished craft things and left them out where they could silently accuse me.  In July I finally hung up the wind chime I made sometime in May or June, something made of old spare keys and beads.  I also made a bunch of notebooks, decoupaged old soup cans and glass jars to turn them into pretty storage containers, and gathered up all of the leftover Kraft paper that had been used to cushion a lot of Amazon deliveries, ironed it flat, and then went crazy with some rubber stamps and turned it all into wrapping paper.

Cooking: CSA vegetable season is upon me. I’ve made two batches of ratatouille, two quiches, lots of freeform pasta-with-veg-that-needs-using.  A sausage-and-pepper pasta thing.  I’ve also discovered a pizza crust recipe that is an alternate use of the discard from the sourdough starter I deal with every week; the recipe is just enough to make dough for a generous single-size pizza.

Sipping: Lots of water, mostly.  It’s been hot as hell.

Reading:  This coming months’ book club is Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton.  I kicked it off on a rare afternoon outside, when I slipped off to Roosevelt Island one weekend; Roosevelt Island is a largely residential island in the middle of the East River, but New York’s ferry has a stop there, on the line that also stops just by the Navy Yard.  I hopped on, assuming (correctly) that it would be less obvious as a destination for many people looking to get outside.  I did end up finding a shady corner of a park towards the southern end, one that was being patrolled by a flock of Canadian geese.  I plunked down under a tree in their midst, assuming that if anyone thought they would sit near me, the geese might keep them off.  I had to keep covering over my picnic lunch when the geese got close, but it was a small price to pay.

Waiting: Honestly, most of last month I was waiting for a chance to catch my breath.  It’s been a bit hectic at work.

Looking: I still find myself looking out the window a lot at home.

Listening: every so often I discover a new playlist on Spotify.

Wishing: I think we all wish we could be freer outside, don’t we?

Enjoying: …when one’s roommate is out of the country for a couple months, one is also free to go naked at home if one wishes – which is a great blessing when it is hot.

Eating: see “Cooking” above.

Loving: my job still.  Crazy as it was this month, I finally feel like I “fit” better in a job than I have in a long, long time.  Thank God.

Buying: July is the Month Of Birthdays for me; a friend’s birthday is in early July, and then in the last week, I get the triple-header of a nephew, a sister-in-law, and a goddaughter who all have birthdays.  When I wasn’t getting gifts, I was also investing in a better pillow for myself (my old pillow was fine, but I’m hoping to get something to address the fact that I sleep on my side with a shoulder scrunched up to my ear), and on finally fixing up my sadly-neglected bike.  I’d left that undone for two years, and half thought when I brought it in finally that the repair shop would declare it DOA – but when they said not that they could revive it, but that it would be ready in just a week, I was thrilled.  Even when it was a couple hundred (which I was kind of expecting).  Which leads me to….

Managing: my budget.  About two years ago I dragged myself kicking and screaming to confront my finances, after a long time operating in Crisis Mode following the 2009 Recession and several years of underemployment following.  It’s been a year since the financial counselor I was seeing told me that I had basically graduated from our sessions, and it’s been a few months since the new job started (which came with, er, a not-inconsiderable pay raise), and through July I thought I should be taking a closer look at what the “new normal” would be in terms of my budget – what I actually spend on things, and whether I should adjust.  I’m in a good place overall – I’ve always prioritized the important stuff, and am on track to pay down a debt completely by mid-November. But I realized I still had been putting aside money for things I really wouldn’t be using – like a Metro-card – and may have been a teeny weeny eensy bit off on things like groceries (read: I was budgeting less than I actually spend).  So I’m going to pay a little more attention to that, more as an information-gathering move; just checking what I actually do for the next several months, and then seeing if I want to change any of my habits a bit or leave it be.  ….God, I feel so stolidly adult.

Watching: I’m still rocking on with the classic movies.  When I’m not watching that it’s usually reruns of QI that I’m watching.

Hoping: …Let’s just say that I am a left-leaning American who has been living under Donald Trump for four years now and I think you can predict what I’ve been hoping.

Wearing: One of the many, many things I love about my job is that the dress code is “casual”.  There’s a dude who turns up in flip-flops, even.  I don’t go quite that casual, but I love that I can wear jeans.  …Part of July’s activity has been working with a construction site, though – my boss has been helping oversee a renovation of one of the Navy Yard’s buildings to turn it into our new corporate home. And if you want to set foot on the construction site, you need to be wearing hard-soled shoes.  I do have some ankle boots that are good enough, but since that necessitates socks and it’s been hot as hell I hold off until there’s a date I think it’s likely I will be visiting the site.

Noticing: July felt really chaotic and I felt scattered. But I’m starting to come out of that; part of that is my wanting to come out of that, though.

Sorting:  So, there’s a lot of “Buy Nothing” groups you can find on Facebook; they tend to be hyper-local swap meet kinds of groups, where you post things that you’re getting rid of and other people claim them.  A lot of people have been dealing with being stuck inside by cleaning out closets and doing purges; having a resource right there that lets you get rid of things quickly helps a lot.

Feeling: I’ve never been pregnant, but I feel strangely like we’re all collectively in the late stages of a pregnancy, where we know that some major stuff is going to be going down soon but it’s not quite time for it yet.  There are about three things causing that feeling, and I’m not sure which one will manifest first.

Taking Stock: May

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Y’all, there is some seriously bad stuff going down in the world, to the point where I feel some survivor’s guilt for being unscathed.  But I’ve been reminding myself that I had some serious bad luck in the past before this, and that it is okay that I’m not living in the same kind of trial and tribulation as others right now; I did my time.  But this also isn’t to say I’m just blithely ignoring it either; rather, it’s a reminder that I’m the one with the privilege right now, and so that means I’m in a position to help others.  I’ve been looking for chances to quietly do that.

All the more reason to take stock of where things are right now.  ….Reminder that this is a habit I’m adopting from the very sweet blog Meet Me At Mike’s, where host Pip Lincolne started this habit of stopping at the end of each month to sort of check up on yourself and see where you were.

Taking Stock

Making: Little notebooks.  I get very easily seduced by pretty paper, and have accumulated a couple pads’ worth of scrapbook paper and I don’t even do scrapbooking.  I’ve gotten determined to do something with it all, and have started turning them into super-simple notebooks; I’m a clumsy and messy crafter, but I can fold things in half and I can staple things.  That’s as complicated as I’ve been getting.

Cooking: Not as much as I’d like.  The nightly dinner shift uses a little more mental energy these days, and I’ve fallen into the “I don’t know what I want for dinner” trap too many times.  Fortunately the CSA fires up again in a couple weeks, and I tend to have a little more gumption on the weekends so I’ll try to renew the batch-cooking-of-soups-and-salads habit I had a couple years back.  See if that helps.

Sipping: A couple things!  Sometime in April I got hooked on the idea of fruit smoothies as a breakfast option, and a week ago I decided to buy a big bunch of fruit and make pre-portioned smoothie freezer packs.  I’ve got about a months’ worth of breakfasts stashed in the freezer as a result; one of those plus some yogurt and a little water, blitzed in a blender, and I’m sorted.

Also, I’m part of a team that’s beta-testing the recipes for a book that a Facebook acquaintance is writing about non-alcoholic cocktails.

Reading: Mostly web browsing, unfortunately. I’m a little bothered by that.

Waiting: for the CSA to reopen, and for the first signs of New York City to open back up again. I’m hoping that the shift towards re-opening some things will take some of the pressure off the parks; I prefer to keep my distance from people in the parks even when it’s normal days, and I’ve been avoiding them recently because it’s just too damn crowded.

Looking: I’ve invested in a few glass crystals and prisms to hang in my windows. The biggest one is in my front window, and in the early morning there are some rainbows getting cast across the couch and the walls in the living room.

Listening: still mostly the radio.  I’ve been pondering trying to listen through the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, but right now a part of my brain has kept that in check by hollering one cultural binge at a time, please, you know how the first one has taken over your life.

Wishing: my nation understood the pain one half has been inflicting on the other half, for centuries.

Appreciating: my job still.

Eating: lots of carbs and bean things.  I’m starting to get into the dregs of the pantry, which is good.

Buying: this month was the home-reno-palooza; picture frames, tension rods for curtains, paint to spruce up a bathroom wall.

Wearing: at home, the loungewear still is long pants. I need to go with shorts at some point, but that will require some lady grooming things I’ve been postponing.

Noticing: I’m trying to find more pockets of green space close by home, since the parks are so full.  There are a couple of pretty corners of the Navy Yard I may try to use now and then.

Sorting: A lot of papers, a lot of craft stuff.  I’m determined to use a good bit of it instead of just hoarding it like Smaug.

Bookmarking: lots of pictures with a celestial/space/star motif.  I’m not sure where that’s come from, but I have been wanting to stargaze lately.

Coveting: a yard.

Hearing: for the last couple nights, we’ve occasionally heard sirens and pops and cracks from the protests in Brooklyn.  …I am not out on the street, but in my heart I am.

Taking Stock: April

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…So a note about how the home DIY/renovation is going – unfortunately, it’s going really slowly, since everything is all coming at different times and half the things I want to do I can’t finish because one of the tools is there but not the other one and then sometimes some of the things I’ve ordered are missing parts and then I have to go back and try to get the real thing again and aaaaauuuugggghhh…..

It’s kind of short-circuiting the ambition and the plans some.  But I’mma keep trying, anyway, even if I have to scale down some of my plans a bit.

I also think my poor bored brain keeps looking for new things to distract me; I went through a whole phase for a week where I was pining for Paris, which then turned into wanting to adopt the French custom of l’apero, where you have a small drink after work before dinner and just chill a bit.  Not necessarily alcoholic, either.  That habit has been a little slow in starting, but it seems a good idea…but then I got distracted by something else, and the other night instead of “lingering over tea after work” I was trying a different DIY project.  Not that well, either.

But we persevere.

Taking Stock

Making: I’m still working on  all sorts of twee little crafty things, partly to use up the backlog of craft supplies around the house and partly to keep from going stir crazy.  I have been decorating plain tins with washi tape, trying to repaint some candlesticks I got at a thrift shop (I cannot get the proper knack of using spray paint, alas), I tried to make some Easter cards for my niece and nephew with….mixed results, and I finally have the means to make a mobile out of old keys and beads from a broken bracelet.

Cooking: Mostly things that will use up a backlog of food in the freezer and make the most of what I’ve got as long as possible so I don’t have to shop much.  Lots of canned beans, everything-in-a-pot stews.  I was gifted a Lebanese cookbook from a former co-worker from that country, and recently used it to make a super-healthy soup that used a chicken breast and some frozen zucchini that had been lurking in the fridge; another recipe from that book used a couple cans of beans, the rest of one scant bunch of lentils, and a little of bulgur that I’m not entirely sure where it came from.

Sipping: Okay, this is actually kind of cool – I had a recipe for a sugar syrup using watermelon juice and mint, and sounded good enough that I added those both to my last grocery pilgrimage; these days I do my shopping on weekday mornings before work (the store is only two blocks further than my office, and is deserted in the morning).  I only made half the recipe, but it still made quite a bit; a good pint and change.  I first tried it in a daquiri – using the syrup in place of the usual sugar syrup.  And…the watermelon mint daquiri kinda…works, and has become an occasional house drink.

Reading: So, I can’t remember if I mentioned that I belong to a book club focusing on post-apocalyptic fiction. Which…yeah, is a niche. And weirdly appropriate for now – but because we’re under an actual pandemic, the group has decided that this whole year we’re going to meet virtually, and we’re going to focus on silly books from that genre, like Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and such.  This month’s book club offering was Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw, in which Australia is overrun by a giant batch of carnivorous strawberry jam.  ….When I’m not reading that I’m usually reading one or another crafting or DIY book; the l’apero phase drove me to buy David Lebovitz’s new book Drinking French as well.

Looking: out the window a lot more.  Sometimes longingly.

Listening: I’m very slowly getting used to the fact that I have an actual office-type space at work, a little room that’s all mine with a door and everything, and I’m starting to use that to catch up on podcasts while I work.  Or playlists I’ve made on Spotify (I made one with all the music relating to my Mardi Gras trip this year).

Wishing: ….I think we all have the same wish these days, no?

Enjoying: Once again, I thank all the heavenly powers that I am not only working right now, but that it is a good job, with people I like, and that it pays decent.  Amen.

Eating: We have kind of adopted a takeout Tuesday habit in the house, from a Mexican place Roommate Russ discovered; otherwise it’s all the stew-y stuff I’ve made, or weird casseroles using up random bits of things.

Buying: I got $60 worth of air plants, a baker’s dozen of all different varieties that are all scattered around the house now.  I also got five new photo prints and posters that will be going up on various walls soon (I need to wait for the frames, ordered separately, to get here first).

Watching: The British comedian Jimmy Carr is a frequent host of the year-end panel quiz show Big Fat Quiz Of The Year – so for the time being, he’s launched a daily goofy trivia quiz he calls The Little Tiny Quiz Of The LockdownThe questions tend to be on the easy side, but he does kind of admit that.

Hoping: There are some signs that things are turning around in New York, and I’m hoping that the lockdown can ease at least just a bit in the city by the end of May.  My instinct when I go out to a park is to stay clear of people anyway, but I’d just like to do so without wearing a mask.

Wearing: I have my work-issued mask that I wear to and from work every day, and most shops here – if they’re open – have a mandatory mask policy as well.

Noticing: Zoning out on the Internet after work is not as interesting to me any more.  I think it’s a function of having a little more gumption and am taking that as a good sign.

Saving: Okay, y’all, I am weirdly obsessed these days with saving glass jars and tin cans from the recycling under the logic that “I can make things out of these”.  Roommate Russ goes through a lot of pasta sauce, and I have fished about five jars out of the recycling now, soaking off the labels and cleaning them.  Ironically, he asked to borrow one of my mason jars for something he’s making – and I gave him one of the old pasta sauce jars instead.  I tried decoupaging one of the tin cans with a super-thin single-ply from a decorative napkin, and I  kind of dig that.

Bookmarking: During the “Paris yay” phase last week I stumbled upon the site Messy Nessy Chic, which is by someone who is equally fascinated with both historic Paris and historic New York City and likes to explore the undiscovered corners of both cities and also gets fascinated by things like the history of conversation pits and the Lenape tribe and Klaus Nomi and basically where has it been all my life.

Coveting: This was a fleeting thought, but for a couple days I was really into the idea of somehow getting – or making – a “book nook” shelf insert.  If you haven’t seen them – these are little thin dioramas designed to slip between the books on your bookshelf, like your bookshelf has suddenly opened up a portal to Tokyo or Narnia or something.  It’s completely impractical and I think only the realization that I don’t have any space on any of my bookshelves that’s big enough stopped me.

Feeling: Serious cabin fever, today especially.  I’m finding I want rainy weather so it doesn’t feel as punishing to be inside.  Sigh.

Making My Own Fun

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So it’s like this.  I’m really, really, reallyreallyreallyreally grateful to have a job right now.  I’m also reallyreallyreally grateful to be healthy, and that all my family and friends are healthy, and I’m in a good place insofar as the state of the world goes.  But if you will indulge me, I’d like to be cranky for a moment –

I finally got to the point that I have disposable income and there’s a pandemic keeping me from using it and it’s not fair.

 Yes, I know, I’m lucky and fortunate and blah blah blah, but after a  decade of being frugal and fiscally cautious because I had to be, I finally deserved to have some damn  fun for a change and I can’t right now and I’m getting a little grumpy as a result.  At least I’m able to leave the house again – the 14-day quarantine I mentioned in my last post passed without incident and I continue to be just fine, and I’m heading back into my office – but I’d love to be able to finally treat myself to a movie in a theater, or a slice of cake and some tea at a local coffee shop, or stuff like that.  Y’know, fun stuff with money.  Sure, I could always delegate even more of that to the savings and the debt paydown, but I’ve already budgeted for those well and I have some money left in my pocket that I can jingle and play with, and the playground is closed.

So – that, plus the fact that I’m spending more of my time than usual sitting inside and staring at my walls, is probably what is driving me to embark upon some DIY decorating and makeover projects, including a serious upgrade of my bathroom.  I can’t do too much, because I rent – so no replacing the countertops or knocking through walls or anything like that (this is probably saving me from myself, if I’m being honest).  In the bathroom, too, the walls are made of this annoyingly crumbly drywall that hasn’t ever really been good about holding a nail, so I can’t nail up anything heavy.  So I’m kind of confined to wall art and small container storage.  And nevertheless – I’m getting some ideas.

Decor and a second towelrack were the biggest things I needed in my bathroom anyway.  We have a glass door, so there’s no need to change it out for a curtain; there’s a huge mirror that runs along an entire wall; the light is good (there’s no window, but there’s a big bright light over the mirror); and there’s a fairly generous built-in cabinet so we’re good for storage.  But there’s only one towel bar, and I’ve tried several options over the years to create towel storage for a second person; other screw-in bars have fallen out of the wall, as have hooks.  Also, puzzlingly, there are two phone jacks placed right bang in the middle of the wall just above the existing towel bar.  I am at a loss to explain why there are  any phone jacks in the bathroom, much less why there are  two.  They’ve always been unsightly, and I’ve been meaning to get something to cover it up.

And then I saw these.

See the source image           See the source image

I have a soft spot for WPA poster art, and these not only match the blue and white in my bathroom, they’re thematically appropriate.  ….Yeah, the teeth one is a little weird, but that’s the one that’s going to go behind the door.  As is – the suction cup towel rack that Ikea just started making!

IKEA TISKEN Towel rack with suction cup

It’s the right size, it can attach to the tile on the wall, it’s perfect.   Finally!  

And while I’m shopping Ikea online, I’ll have a look at some of the container storage ideas; that built-in cabinet is nice, but it’s open shelving, and you can see all our toiletries haphazardly jumbled onto the shelves.  At least I can try to corral them in more attractive boxes or something.  And – the bottom couple shelves are where we’ve stashed cleaning supplies and toilet paper, but a couple of small tension rods and some blue dish towels on café clips should hide those nicely.  I also learned that the company that makes those Command strips for nail-free pictures also make stick-on  floating shelves.   They can’t hold much, but they should be enough for small decorative touches, like candles or fake plants or other little decorative fussy stuff.   And Roommate Russ has been asking about a night light in there – but we have only one outlet in the bathroom and that limited options some.  But I found some decorative ones that run on batteries and have a timer.

So that’s the bathroom sorted!  But then there’s my bedroom….I’ve had a poster hanging over my bed for a while, paying homage to the Freedom of Speech –

See the source image

It’s striking, and I still like it, but wanted to go with something a bit brighter and lighter.   And then I thought of a way to help a friend through this process as well – Colin, like most artists, has had a cut into his sales because a lot of the live craft fairs that he usually hits up are getting cancelled.  So I’m visiting his online shop and picking up one of his prints instead:

See the source image

I also have a haphazard half-assed gallery wall that needs some better organization and curation, and maybe I can add some decorative prints I’ve also picked up over time.  I’m also going to bust out the glue gun and some scraps of decorative trim and lace and try to DIY a Moroccan wedding-blanket style throw pillow; I also have a big oversized mug that I may turn into a little succulent garden or get some air plants to scatter around.

The kitchen is getting a little love as well – for some reason I am unable to ascertain, I picked up a couple of used coffee sacks that looked kinda cool – Vintage Used Burlap Coffee Bags 100% Jute Sacks Cafe Brasil image 0

I assumed that I’d figure out something to do with them.  And a couple days later someone in the building next door put a frame out in the trash that was the perfect size to frame one.  That’s going over the kitchen table.  And the back also has a design that is just the right size to get inlaid in an old junky metal TV tray that I’ve been trying to fix up (I tried stenciling it, but that didn’t work as I have neatness issues).  And elsewhere in the kitchen, if I’m lucky and win out on eBay, I’ll be hanging this –

See the source image

Because honestly, that’s never a bad idea.

I will endeavor to make my plan of attack this weekend, and may try to get some “before” shots.


Taking Stock March 2020

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…..Well.  It’s been quite a month, hasn’t it?

In my last post I mentioned that I was staying safe and clear of the pandemic; and then just two days later, I was told that someone in my workplace had tested positive for COVID-19 and they were sending a slew of us home for two weeks of self-quarantine.  I’m one of those people on quarantine, and I’m on day 7.

Fortunately, I remain asymptomatic.  I had a couple of obsessive days thinking about how I was behaving around the office and whether I’d done anything unsafe; but then realized that I’d still been keeping a good six feet from everyone – more so than others, in fact – and that I had a habit of walking with my hands in my pockets, I’d been washing my hands a lot at work, and that I tend to keep to myself.  So odds were pretty good that even if I’d had contact with whoever it was, that “contact” may simply have been “we both happened to get pizza that day we ordered some” instead of “we shook hands” or “we danced the conga” and I was likely going to be okay.  It was still a bit of a reality check that maybe I shouldn’t be quite so cocky.

It’s getting weird here in New York, y’all.  The hospitals are overcrowded, some nurses are reduced to wearing trash bags due to a shortage of protective clothing, and there’s a hospital ship in the Hudson and field hospitals setting up in Central Park and the Convention Center.  And yet, where I am in Brooklyn, it’s….really quiet.  I don’t see anyone out on the streets really – but I rarely do even when the world is normal.  I hear the downstairs neighbor’s two small children a lot during the day but that’s it.  So this is becoming more of an exercise in surviving cabin fever than anything else.

My roommate also remains healthy, and jumped on the chance to be the Designated Errand Runner during my quarantine – not that he goes out much anyway, just that he was looking for excuses to leave the house since he’s also been on mandatory work from home orders.  We’ve been keeping to opposite ends of the apartment during the day to stay out of each other’s hair, and that’s been working out okay.

And in the meantime, this was March for me…

  • Making: Things!  Lots of things!  I’ve been using the extra time at home to poke around in the overload of Craft Stuff I accumulated and never did anything with, and the junk that I have, and trying to Make Things.  I’ve decorated tins with washi tape; I’ve turned old tin cans into cannisters; and I have some old housekeys that don’t go to anything anymore, and the beads from a broken bracelet, and a toy colander the same color as the beads; at some point they are going to become a wind chime.  ….We will not discuss the fact that I don’t have anywhere to hang that wind chime, thank you.
  • Cooking: Lots of things!  I made three curries the weekend before last, partly to use up some pantry things and partly to splurge on myself a bit; this past weekend I made homemade Hobnobs, and sometime this coming weekend I’ll be scrounging in the vegetable drawer and making a soup stock.  Monday I made this intensely comfort-foody thing in the slow cooker with sausage, cheese, and tater tots.
  • Sipping: through my backlog of tea.  Since I’m home, I have access to my full tea collection, and have been pushing myself to use it each day; it will be a bit of an oasis of calm and will help clean that backlog out (something I’ve needed to do, let’s be honest).
  • Reading: Space Operaby Catherynne Valente.  It was this month’s selection in my local book club, and our host pitched it to us as “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy meets Eurovision”.  She’s definitely right about that.
  • Looking: at the walls of my apartment and going slightly stir crazy.
  • Listening: George Harrison’s son Dhani has started a social-media fundraising challenge, inspired by George’s song “The Inner Light”.  He kicked things off by doing his own cover of the song, accompanied only by a Tibetan prayer bowl.  It’s really lovely.
  • Wishing: I could at least go outside.  We’re allowed to go outside for exercise or for groceries or medicine – if we’re not on quarantine.  …Soon….
  • Enjoying: More like being grateful for the fact that at least I have some job stability, and – thank God – I’m healthy.
  • Eating: See “Cooking”, above.  It’s just my roommate and me here, someone has to eat all this stuff.
  • Buying: A couple too many DIY and craft books, to spur me to use some of the craft stuff.  I also splurged on 5 bars of fancy handmade French soap because hell, if I’m going to be washing my hands as much as I should be then I should at least do it with good soap.
  • Watching: Still hanging in with the movies!  Although the roommate and I are occasionally dipping into more just-for-fun films like Blazing Saddles.
  • Wearing: I am alternating between three different pairs of lounge pants and three different comfy shirts.  I don’t need to be in any videoconferences, and my roommate has seen me in this state before, and I had to put my work computer somewhere – so it’s in front of my closet, I have my loungewear to live in, and that’s just that, dammit.
  • Noticing: There’s a tree just outside my front window, right by the chair where I sit and have coffee first thing in the morning.  Usually if I see any birds it’s just the odd little brown house sparrow.  But lately I’ve noticed a pair of cardinals joining them – I’m hoping they’re picking out a nesting site, and hope we win.  This morning I also saw a bluejay wrestling with the remains of some street trash that had blown up into the branches; he was trying to pull off strips as nesting material, no doubt.  Every so often he’d turn around and squawk at one of the other sparrows in the tree to shoo them away.
  • Saving: random scraps of paper and other odds and ends.
  • Bookmarking: bookbinding tutorials, of all things.

…And otherwise hanging in.

Social-Distancing Update

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Image result for buster keaton sherlock jr

(I am cross-posting this with The Movie Crash Course.)

Over on my movie blog, I usually only post the above image if the blog is having a technical crisis; but if the current state of the world doesn’t call for the Buster Sign, I don’t know what does.  I just wanted to speak to how I was doing and give people space to check in.

….Miraculously, I not only am doing okay, I think I may have lucked into the best of all possible paths through this pandemic.  I’d lost a job mid-January, and was spending most of the ensuing few weeks on a job hunt.  By mid-February, that job hunt narrowed down to some leads in a business park that’s only three blocks from my house; I live very near a decommissioned Navy shipyard that New York has been turning into an industrial and business park, with about 450 different companies working there – many of them tech companies, media, or food-oriented.  Lots of artists have studio space there, there is a distillery and a winery, some movie soundstages, and even some small manufacturing companies.  I was hired in late February, and started there the first week of March.  I was thrilled about the new commute; instead of dragging myself onto a subway and riding an hour each way to get to work, now I have a pleasant 15-minute walk each way on largely quiet streets.  Maybe I pass the occasional jogger.

But then news of the Coronavirus started spreading, and people were realizing just how bad it was going to be. And I realized that I had been taken out of the subway system right before it had become a danger.  I thanked my lucky stars and kept walking to work.

Then New York started shutting down. First companies were shutting down of their own volition, encouraging everyone to work from home; Roommate Russ works somewhere where they require everyone to work from home.  My new boss also gave me the option to work from home if I wanted.  I thought about it; but I’ve decided to keep going in, partly to give Roommate Russ a quiet apartment during the day, and partly because my work space is actually a decently safe distance from other people even when everyone’s there.  And a week ago most of the other people in my office did start working from home; there were probably several dozen people in the office when I started there my first day, but now it’s down to about ten.  Most people are working from home, but there are a couple of people who have to head in – and a couple of stubborn folk like me who prefer going there. I’m actually less exposed to people at my office at this stage than I am if I stayed home.  And even more miraculous – the company is considered an “essential business”. So it will stay open.

My biggest worry was that I went to New Orleans in late February, right before starting work (when your 50th Birthday is the same day as Mardi Gras there’s really only one thing you can do about that).  The day after I got back, I felt something like the beginnings of a cold, but I dealt with that by horsing down several zinc lozenges and willing myself out of it; I didn’t want to call in sick my first day at work.  A couple friends joined me in New Orleans, and one of them said he also had a bit of a cold too; so I probably caught something there. But it passed within only a day.  And I am now past the window where anything stronger I may have caught in New Orleans would have shown up – and I continue to be fine.

This doesn’t mean I’m totally unaffected, of course.  Other than going to work, I’m hunkering down as much as possible; grocery runs and park excursions, and that’s it. I try to keep a good healthy distance from people even at work, and my grocery runs have been for oddball things like coriander seed, so I stay well clear of the whole toilet paper scrum.  I went for a bigger shopping run yesterday, and noticed that the store had set up barricades around most of the meat department and were letting people in one by one, like it was a velvet-rope nightclub; however, one section was left open. I discovered that that’s where the store had funky sausages and more exotic meats like duck breast, wild boar, and rabbit.  I took a look at the big line of people waiting for ground beef and chicken cutlets, then at the nearly-empty sausage-and-exotic-meat section, and then picked up a pack of merguez sausage and was on my way.  When the meat runs low in the house I may be back for the ground bison.  Roommate Russ and I have joked that Anthony Bourdain may be guiding our food choices from the afterlife.

Good thing, too, because cooking has been one of the ways I’ve been coping. I’ve got an overstuffed pantry even at the best of times, and a huge collection of cookbooks.  I also promised myself that I would be using a lot of the things I have this year, if only to clean them out and make room for new things.  So social isolation has turned into an excuse to amp up the cooking and baking like whoa.  ….We’re just about done with the pumpkin bread, brownies, and lentils de puy salad I made last weekend, and today’s menu includes three totally different curries, chickpea-flour crepes, chocolate cookies with cacao nibs, and an amazing mocha cake (to which I’m going to add some espresso chocolate chips I’ve been wondering how to use).

And I am still going to keep on with the movies.  I’m working on my latest review on that blog, and am exploring a couple of special events which those of you out there could join in.  (I need to explore the technical angle first; check there for any developments.)

I’ve realized that I’m very, very, very fortunate. I’m very aware that others are not so lucky and are struggling; I’m trying to think of ways to help, above and beyond just being a responsible citizen by staying home as much as necessary. I’ve been blessed, but I’m still in the fight with everyone else. Mrs. Miniver was about England’s reaction to war instead of disease, but I think the last scene still speaks to what we’re all going through.

Be well, all.

Belated Taking Stock – February

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ACK!  I missed this for February, but I have a very good reason, because a LOT of things have changed.  I spent most of February interviewing for a new job and preparing for a trip to New Orleans.  And – the day before I left for that trip, I was offered a job that a) pays pretty darn well, b) is with a company with a culture I will work well within, and c) is only a five-block walk from my house.  I’d also managed my money pretty tightly while I was unemployed so that I’d have enough to tide me over, so I had a very tidy financial cushion under me already; one that I kind of don’t need any more, so I’ve spent a very pleasant morning doing a survey of the house to see if there was any long-needed house items I could finally get (nothing too fancy – some file storage boxes and  rubber non-slip rug mat.  Woo!)

So since I start the new job tomorrow, let me get this out of the way.

Making:  Still working on papercrafts. My roommate saved some cereal boxes at my behest, and I’m going to be turning them into file racks and magazine racks to eat up some of the pretty paper.  I’ve also come back from New Orleans laden with some parade throws, and will be turning an old shoebox into a memory box of the really good trinkets from parades; another box will be for the throws I want to give away (I’ve spent several years now bringing a handful of strings of beads from a prior haul to offices, giving a few out to co-workers).

Cooking: I still have a huge backlog of food, but I’ve made a bit of a dent in the previous haul. These days it’s a bit more Cajun-influenced – I just made a roast chicken using Emeril Legasse’s recipe, and turned the carcass into a very spicy stock that I’ve been subsequently using for making my own yaka mein (a New Orleans take on ramen). I also came home with a couple pounds of Camellia brand red beans, which will be tomorrow’s red beans and rice.

Sipping: I’m about to make a big pot of tea.  I have a bit of a scratchy throat today – but I am chalking it up more to some minor cold combined with my sinuses going a bit haywire with the temperature changes I’ve subjected it to.  (I admit, though, to taking my temperature yesterday in the wake of Covid-19 fears….I definitely have no fever – in fact, my temperature was lower than the average – so I’m fine.)

Reading: I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  Tony has become a bit of an apartment patron saint – my roommate and I have been mainlining his reruns when we’re not watching movies – and I’d been given a copy some time ago that I realized I needed to read.  ….Dammit, the world needed that man longer.

Looking: Out the window east towards Bed-Stuy. It’s getting a bit warmer, and I’ll have more hours in the day (my commuting time is being reduced 75%!), so I’m thinking more about getting out more.

Listening: NPR.

Wishing: I’d had a little bit more gumption when I was unemployed.  But having a bit more resources to me from now on – in time and money – will be making up for that, I’d wager.

Enjoying: When I finish this I’ll be working on organizing the memorabilia from the New Orleans trip. And boy howdy that was a hell of a trip.

Eating: Dinner Friday was that roast chicken – seasoned with lemon, the Cajun “holy trinity” of celery, onion, and bell pepper, and a little cayenne. Dinner yesterday was a bit lighter (my stomach was acting a little odd) – a simple Japanese-inspired soup made by throwing some cooked rice into some quick dashi.

Liking: the free time that I’ve had.

Loving: the fact that I”ll still have some even after the job starts. (I work close to home!  I can actually do the pub quiz up the street every Wednesday because I don’t need to worry about being all sleepy in the morning!)

Buying:  I just splurged on some home improvement things – basic things like file storage boxes. My office has been in desperate need of organization and storage sorting, and that will help a good deal.  I also splurged on a Dutch oven yesterday after my brother’s family all sent me a Dutch oven cookbook as a birthday gift.

Watching: Movies and Doctor Who still – plus Picard, and I’ve been showing my roommate The Good Place. I’ve also gotten hold of the series Treme and need to get through that.

Hoping: that I don’t lose this high I’m on.

Needing: a new printer.  Next splurge.

Wearing: the super-comfy pajama top I splurged on before my trip, with yoga pants.  I’ll be in all day today, sipping tea and horsing down zinc lozenges to make sure I”m in a decent shape for work tomorrow.

Following: a couple new Youtube channel discoveries – found one that does a lot on the intersection of art and food, and I’ve also introduced the roommate to Alex Ainouz’s French Guy Cooking channel; we’ve agreed that Alex is an interesting combination of Jaime Oliver and Adam Savage.

Noticing: I’ve got way more energy and optimism.

Sorting: the souvenirs from my trip, and a lot of other gak.  It’s like I spent the first half-century of my life just sort of amassing things and now I’m thinking “wait… I need all of this?”

Getting: more excited about spring on the way.

Saving: money.  Still.  Somehow.

Bookmarking: various stew recipes.

Coveting: candles, even though I can make my own and probably should use ones I have already made.

Feeling: a tiny bit phlegmatic, and I am trying like mad to do something about that so I’m not sick on my first day of work tomorrow.

Hearing: the neighbors downstairs have two very young children.  Enough said.

Taking Stock – January

So I’m making one of my infrequent returns to this blog (although the movie blog is still going strong, go check out the Movie Crash Course where I’ve just posted review 250, end of ad, thanks).  I’ve already decided to make 2020 a year of self-reflection, so I may be popping in more often.  Especially now, since….er, I find myself rather dramatically and unexpectedly with more free time; I had been suffering with a terrible job all through 2019, to the point that I began quietly looking for something new in September.  I finally found something in December, quit the old job, took that new one – only for it to fall through three weeks later.  And by that time, it was too late to go back to the old one, and I’d waived any chance at severance as a result.


However – all of that officially went down like three days ago, and I have within the past 72 hours signed up with 4 employment agencies, applied to about 30 jobs, and have four extremely, extremely strong leads from a job agency that caters exclusively to a business/industrial park that is a ten-minute walk from my house.  This has all underscored that I am going to be just fine.  I also have been super-intensely focusing on paying down debt for the past year and a half, and had to put that on a bit of a hold as a result of this going down – and when that pressure was off, I realized I felt more like “Me”.  So I think that while I am proud and grateful of the progress I’ve made on debt (I was about $14K in debt when I started, now I’m only about $3K), it underscored that maybe I was a little….obsessive.  I really can afford to ease up a tiny bit.

So there’s a blog I sometimes poke in at by an Australian blogger, Pip Lincolne.  Her crafting caught my eye first, but she’s got an honest, friendly voice, and I find myself stopping by frequently just to check up.  She has a monthly habit she calls “Taking Stock” where she has a list of things that she reports about, to just give a snapshot of what’s happening with her at that moment.  It seems a fine idea, and I’mma gonna start.  So here we go.

Taking Stock

Making:  Lots of papercrafts.  I have a bad habit of collecting pretty paper and foofy stationery supplies, with the idea of making something with it – but I never do.  And I’ve decided that dammit, I need to start.  I just made a little travelers’ notebook-style insert out of some scrapbook paper and some plain printer paper to track more stuff for the movie blog, and mirable dictu it looks okay.  The biggest thing stopping me from papercraft has been that it looks like a third-grader made it; there’s usually lumps of excess hot glue here and there.

Cooking: All the things.  I dealt with the “omigod I’m unemployed” initial panic by doing a serious analysis of the fridge and seeing that….uh, I’ve got a lot of food, with stuff in the pantry and vegetables coming in from the CSA. I talked myself into buying some beef neck bones this weekend to make bone broth, and further talked myself into getting some cheap tortellini.  Between that and the beets I got in this past CSA box, I’ve kept myself going with homemade borscht and tortellini en brodo.  And some homemade soda bread.  And I’ve turned CSA apples into fruit compote.  At some point I’ll be doing a serious analysis of the contents of my pantry and freezer to see how I can stretch it, and I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to feed myself for a really good long while (possibly as long as a month without buying much of anything).

Sipping: The aforementioned bone broth – I used the Binging With Babish recipe, only in my slow cooker instead of the stove because who has time for that.

Reading: Just finished something from my book club – the complete Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. We’ve discussed the first book in the club so far, and will be meeting to discuss the next two soon….and, meh.

Looking: At the four walls of my apartment a little too much…going to be doing something about that.

Listening: When I discovered the “Sufjan Stevens” channel on the I Heart Radio app, I never looked back.

Wishing: I’d gotten just a tiny bit further on the debt paydown before this went down, nevertheless.

Enjoying: enjoying the fact that I’m nevertheless not panicking any more.

Eating: Breakfast today was oatmeal with that apple compote.  It’s actually dead easy – brew a cup of tea, add a spoonfull of honey, then chop up a pound of any fruit and use the tea to poach it for about 3 minutes.  You can even save the tea and drink it as an iced tea later.

Liking: the free time that I’ve been given.

Loving: the fact that I’m more prone to using that free time in doing stuff rather than being all panicky.

Buying:  veryveryveryveryveryvery little.  My grocery bill for this week was less than ten dollars.

Watching: In addition to all the movies, I am diving back into Doctor Who, and have discovered a source for all of the Northern Exposure series.

Hoping: that I get a job quickly – but not so quickly that I lose this rest.  Maybe getting committed to something in February with a start in early March is just about right.

Needing: I actually need to finish this up soon so I can head out to lunch with a friend.

Wearing: one of my beloved plaid shirts. I was not going to be able to wear patterns in the old job so I am returning to form.

Following: the latest in the impeachment mischegas. Also the Oscar discussions on Twitter.

Noticing: did I mention I’m not panicking? For me, that’s big.

Sorting: I gotta go through my books – I’m thinking of a mass pilgrimage to The Strand to sell them. I’ll also be able to reclaim the space they occupy.  (Don’t worry, these are books that I either never read or were never mine; I had an old roommate who moved to Australia and left a huge book collection behind to either keep or sell off, and this is the remainder of what I have from that.)

Getting: Kinda hungry for lunch.

Saving: More money than I thought I’d be able to.

Bookmarking: all the movies I can stream on Netflix.

Coveting: A stand mixer with a dough hook.

Feeling: surprisingly okay!

Hearing: the dulcet tones of NPR.  I also gotta get going.