Friday, December 30, 2011

Nothing's Ever Promised Tomorrow, Today

In the past two weeks I haven't crafted, cooked, read, or written anything worth posting about. It's as simple as that.

I watched Super 8, ate pizza in Madison, and enjoyed Christmas at home with both sides of the family. Unlike Chicagoans, I had a White Christmas, and also unlike Chicagoans, my home team is definitively in the playoffs. You can expect that I'll be wearing my new Matthews jersey for all forthcoming games, as well as for days when I play DMB on repeat.

Lately, though, I've been listening to Kanye West on repeat. Only his Late Registration album, in which he references Chicago more than a few times. It's my friend's favorite Kanye album & includes a song capable of making me sob every time I listen to it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Anatomy of a Shopping Cart

One of my responsibilities as house manager is household grocery & supply shopping, as well as shopping for anything else the family needs in a given week. Besides getting me out of the house and allowing me to drive around the city (which, despite how most people feel about city driving, I usually enjoy), shopping also exposes me to a great amount of stores and their shopping carts.

I think most of you know how I feel about shopping carts (buggies, trolleys, carriages...whatever you want to call them)... I love them. I have one on my porch and he is currently all decked out for Christmas. Shopping carts have personality and soul, and they symbolize many things to many people. (Can I say that? I have no evidence to back any of that up. Maybe you guys could just let me know what shopping carts mean to you, if anything?)

The biggest thing I've learned: not only are all stores not created equally, neither are their respective shopping carts. I've split carts into four basic categories, and each one says something about the stores they are employed by.

Classic Cart
Stores: Jewel-Osco...and essentially every average grocery store in the nation

This is your basic design, steel frame shopping cart. It's efficient, fairly light, and doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Get something caught in one of it's front wheels and say goodbye to turning, but generally, this cart gets the job done.

PlaySkool/Fisher Price Cart
Store: Target

You know what I'm talking about, those over-sized plastic red carts. According to wikipedia (see, I did some research), "Target's new cart, made of recycled plastic, is an evolutionary step forward. The cart has won design awards for its improved casters, interchangeable plastic parts to simplify repairs and handles that allow a user to more easily maneuver it around the retail area." I appreciate the recycled part. As for ease of maneuvering, HA! They are so big and bulky, I tend to forgo the cart in lieu of the basket. Don't even try to get those things in the clothing department aisles. Without fail, you will knock several sweaters off the racks and/or become involved in a cart jam near the dressing rooms.

Quarter Cart
Stores: Aldi, some Costcos

These carts are a variation of the Classic Cart in that they are a Classic Cart, you just have to part with a quarter for the duration of your shopping trip to gain access to it. Some people don't like this system, but I think it's rather ingenious. First: it deters shopping cart theft. Not that a quarter will really stand in the way of someone who really wants to steal a cart, but there are less wandering carts and, therefore, opportune moments to grab one and go. Second: it saves on having to hire someone just to round up carts in the parking lot. Gotta appreciate a store putting the consumer to work, all for a quarter that was already theirs.

Baby Cart
Stores: Dominick's, Whole Foods

The mini-version of the Classic Cart, and perhaps my favorite of all carts, the Baby Cart features an upper and lower basket, so you really don't lose a lot of loading capacity. What you gain is increased maneuverability and the ability to fit into cramped or crowded aisles, at Whole Foods specifically. Whole Foods also offers the Classic Cart, but with the way the store is set up and the diminutive size of the aisles, you have got to be a special brand of jerk to use it. Even if every customer uses the Baby Cart, two people in one aisle is a bit much. I'm not a huge fan of Whole Foods specifically for their idiotic layout and cramped area, but I have to go there for work...and I do appreciate the free samples.

All I have to say in conclusion is I'm glad my blogs are so relevant and practical.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In the Kitchen with an Amateur Housewife

Before I sit back comfortably in the saddle of my high horse, let me explain something: I am NOT June Cleaver. I get paid to act June Cleavery, but there are levels of housewife I'm no where near. As I rode the bus home tonight, smelling like maple syrup, lemon, and garlic (can't decide if that's appetizing or not), I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In this section of the book, the author and her family make their own cheese. This is met with several comments by others, such as: "You make cheese yourself. You are a real housewife." Now, I may claim to be a Real Housewife of Chicago, but I ain't separating the curds from the whey or anything.

Instead, I am humbly preparing these recipes:

Maple Nut Granola

4 1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 c shelled pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp coarse salt
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c maple syrup
3 tbsp water

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the middle.
Boil butter, sugar, syrup and water (until just bubbling).
Pour into dry ingredients, mix well.
Divide between two baking sheets lined with wax paper.
Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes, stir after 20 minutes.

Broccoli Frittata

1 c broccoli, cut into flowerets
1 tsp olive oil
2 slices of lean bacon, trimmed of fat and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tomato, chopped
6 eggs
lots of cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large frying pan (a cast-iron or ovenproof one is good).
Cook onion over medium heat for 2 minutes, add garlic and bacon and cook until onion is soft.
Add broccoli and tomato, cook for one minute.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Beat eggs in bowl, add cheese, pour over other ingredients in pan.
Cook gently without stirring until base of frittata is cooked and golden.
Place pan in oven on broil until top is golden brown and firm.
Cut into wedges and serve.

Disclaimer: haven't actually eaten either of these. Still have my job, though, so I think that means they're edible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

June Cleaver

I am currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (author of The Poisonwood Bible, highly recommended!) and just came across this:
Most of us, male or female, work at full-time jobs that seem organized around a presumption that some wifely person is at home picking up the slack--filling the gap between school and workday's end, doing errands only possible during business hours, meeting the expectation that we are hungry when we get home--but in fact June Cleaver has left the premises.
This passage is in a chapter about the importance of buying locally grown, in-season food as opposed to factory farmed plants and animals, and from that, the importance of cooking meals at home out of local produce and livestock, even if we feel we have no time.

What I found intriguing was that I work a full-time job in which this presumption is a reality. I am June Cleaver.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Week in Numbers

5 days in a row a fire truck crossed my path
2 times I coincidentally followed the fire trucks to the fire
home-cooked meals
7 turkey burgers you can get from 1.5 pounds of ground turkey
0 times I have ever considered eating a turkey burger in my life
20 minutes to broil lemon pepper salmon from frozen
0 times I have enjoyed the smell of salmon
4 Meatless Mondays my teenagers will be forced to observe each month as a result of me cooking
11 loads of laundry
0 pieces of clothing my 14-yr old put away in her closet
9 light bulbs changed
1 storm door handle installed
2 redeye crosswords partially completed, a Tuesday and a Friday
10 grocery store trips
7 grocery stores
3 Trader Joe's before I found limited edition Candy Cane Joe Joe's required for winter survival by my boss
6 boxes of Candy Cane Joe Joe's purchased
30 minutes waiting for the Damen bus
30 degrees Fahrenheit while waiting for the Damen bus
30 approximate layers of clothing I've grown accustomed to wearing on any given day
20-19 the score of the game my 12-yr. old & I play, where the object is to flick a playing card into a basket

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dear Poetry

I think about you a lot, and I'm sorry I haven't taken the time to write you down lately. Sometimes I trick myself into believing it's more poetic to keep you in my head, drafting and revising from there, but then a few days go by and I forget your intricacies. You do tend to show up at inopportune moments, though: as I fall asleep, while I drive in rush hour traffic, in the checkout line at the grocery maybe we're both at fault here. Regardless, I promise to do something with you tomorrow, just you and me. And maybe coffee.



Thursday, December 1, 2011