Confessions of a churlish domestic

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While browsing www.tastespotting.com (an excellent site if you’re in the mood for feeling inadequate/dangerously adventurous in the cooking/baking department), I came across a recipe for french mussels in white wine sauce.  As I found myself contemplating the best place in town to purchase saffron, I was forced to give myself a swift reality-kick-in-the-pants.  I would not be making french mussels in white wine sauce for a number of reasons this evening.  Firstly, I drank all the dry white wine. Secondly, I don’t know whether saffron is a smokey spice, a luxurious textile, or an herbed liqueur. Lastly but not leastly, I am domestically challenged.  

I will begin with a disclaimer: this is not my mother’s fault.  Cindy Sue taught me to fold clothes so that the fold is always on the right. She taught me that a toothbrush is the trick to getting those last wiley pieces of grime out of the grout around the bottom of the toilet. Through my mother’s endeavors, I learned that ammonia and bleach are a deadly combination, and that I should never leave a tea towel on a hot burner, and that if I sisters and I are trying to make wax to wax our legs, under no circumstances should we use her good copper bottomed pot. 

However, the fact remains.  I start out each new home I move into armed with toothbrushes, mops, and window cleaner, and a Rosie the Riveter attitude.  Next thing I know, it’s 6 months later and I’ve taken to keeping a 60 watt bulb in the lamp in the bathroom on the pretense that it sets the mood for poopin, but really so one can’t see into the corners.  The following are some things I must get off my chest.  

On cleaning…
-the longer we live in a house, the more area rugs we seem to acquire to cover the wine stains.
-I dust my rock collection, but nothing else.
-I read that a house should be vacuumed once per week for each person that lives there. Apparently, minus 3 people live in our home

On laundry.
-it was over two weeks after we moved into our little bungalow before I realized the washer and dryer didn’t work.
-I “believe that washing jeans decreases their wearing life”.
-I can either wash and dry the laundry or fold it, but i refuse to do both.
-I often smell my clothes to determine wearability.
-I once wore long underwear (my first winter in Montana) for an entire week without taking them off once.

On the bathroom…
-soap scum? more like soap algae.
-The only domestic propaganda literature i read is Martha Stewart Living.  She sits on the back of my toilet, and the speed with which I
 peruse is directly related to how much cheese I have eaten that week..if you what I mean. 
-Sunday night is bath night, and I get so weary of cleaning the bath tub before my bath that I never rinse it out afterward, and Aaron  has more than once nearly killed himself in the almond-oil/bath salt slick that I leave in the bottom of the tub. Sorry, darlin. 

In the kitchen…
-the only time I let the dogs in the kitchen is when I slop/spill something on the floor and I call them into clean it up. 
-when my darlin’s not around, I sustain myself with egg-and-toast-sandwiches, condiments, yogurt, and my emotions.
-last time I collected dishes around the house, I found 14 empty cups with dried out tea bags stuck to them. 
-I blame the fact that the dishes are often dirty after I wash them on the fact that I wear glasses.
-We only own 5 sets of silverware to encourage the washing of them more often
-I can eat a block of cheese in one sitting, and often do, which limits my time with Martha Stewart. 
-I mix the ends of the various bottles of red and white wine in my wine rack to make Rosé
-I once left a piece of toast that got stuck in the toaster to burn out, since it was easier than removing it with a knife.  It nearly caught
 the toaster on fire. 
-My kitchen is literally a closet.  When we moved in, there were closet doors on the closet, but I removed them, for easier access.  
-The size of the kitchen encourages regular cleansing of dishes, pots. and pans, since if more than 3 dishes are dirty they take up the
 entire “room”.  

in the bedroom…(not as sultry as you’d think)
-I flip the sheets over instead of washing them every week. 
-Sheets are a constant source of stress to me..they can’t be too light because Aaron’s sweaty manliness stains them, they can’t be  too dark because you can see the dog hair too easily, which means more frequent washing.
-I have a bedskirt on the bed just to hide what’s under there (which is an awning for our old camper that I just can’t let go of and
 ammunition)
-There are some severe water damage stains on the ceiling.  Instead of painting over them or fixing them, I turned our bedroom into a sheik’s paradise, and draped tapestry over the ceiling.  File under: I’ll deal with it when we move out.  

On decorating,,,
-I have made so many curtains over the years, with varying degree of skill, that there is not one matching set in the house, and we have at least 15 windows. 
-I have dried every bouquet of flowers Aaron has ever given me, which is two.  This means he doesn’t have to buy me any more. ever.
-I have a naked woman hanging on the wall in my kitchen, and I have to hide her when my landlord comes over, because she is so offended by it.
-I arrange my bookshelves in aesthetically pleasing ways (not too many red books together, for example).  

On being clean..
-I’m actually a relatively clean person, I even regularly borrow Old Spice deodorant, since it’s the only thing I don’t sweat through at work.  And the scent of it really compliments the hashbrowns..

So, every night I pop a few Valerian root capsules, climb between my recently-flipped sheets (I say it’s because I’m saving the world by not using water to wash them, but we all know what’s really going on), and dream that my whole house is clean. 

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Today I am. . .

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a cat. I slept all day in the sunshine on my bed with no pants on, I have hairy legs, I like to balance on walls when out for a walk, I dislike being contained on a leash, and I often knock over glasses of liquid. 

a statistic.  I am one of those quintessential English majors people murmer about when they pass on the street who leapt out of college ready to change the world with my words and make a living doing it. Over 30 job applications later, and a paper trail of submitted articles and stories that stretches from here to Chicago, I have made exactly $750.00 with my trusty pen and ink, and am now waiting tables and going to grad school.  And, in a seemingly unrelated event, I just got a pair of birkenstocks and have lost most interest in brushing my hair, both very English-grad-student things to do.  Bring on the wrap skirts and cropped hair, I’m not showering till I graduate in 2015!

An educator (and I haven’t even gotten my teachering creds yet).  At the trusty Broken Dreams Café (names changed to protect the innocent), I asked an omelette-craving woman if she wanted swiss or cheddar cheese in that traditional French breakfast  item.  The following happened:
Me: glistening in the dew of the invasion of the Labor Day tourists:  Swiss or Cheddar?
Egg Maven – hmmm..whats the difference?
Me: puzzled pause shrouded in politeness: One is yellow, one is white.
Biscuits and Gravy Husband: I’ve told you before, sweetie, you like cheddar.

Sidenote: This family had 5 children, whom, while being well acquainted with syrup and it’s many applications, ordered scrambled eggs as “the yellow parts of eggs with no hard white part” (hence my fallback on color schemas when explaining the various kinds of dairy to their doting mother), and managed to kill the bamboo garden that is a talking point of the Broken Dreams Café.  Two thoughts: I thought it was impossible to kill bamboo, and I bet that those kids knew what Velveeta was.  

A writer.  Besides the obvious fact that I am penning this blog, I have two articles coming out in local magazines this month! Check out Distinctly Montana and Outside Bozeman for the newest words from yours truly.   Outside Bozeman sent me an ominous email yesterday telling me to expect a “very small check” at the end of the month.  Nothing like keeping a girls dreams reigned in, eh?

A baker:
Recipe for Food Bank Cake When Your Kitchen Isn’t Actually Unpacked Yet
1 white cake mix from local food bank (thanks for the donation, neighbors!)
2 whole lemons, zested and juiced
1 more egg than the box recipe calls for denser, poundier, cake.
Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl, or small pot if you can’t find mixing bowls, and mix well. Use tiny, tiny, fork if you can’t find whisks.  Add zest and lemon juice.  Bake until done at 350, or bake at close to 350 if you can’t read the chipped off stickers on circa 1980 mini easy bake oven. 
Glaze:
Healthy portion of powered sugar
1/2 cup of milk
More lemon juice
Mix together in small bowl, or coffee cup if that’s what closer.  Glaze should be the consistency of the milk that was left in the refrigerator from the last tenants, a little thick, but surprisingly smooth.  When cake is done, immediately turn out onto plate, or cutting board, or anything flat that is unpacked.  Poke holes all over cake with anything long and pointy since if you couldn’t find your mixing bowls there’s no way you’re going to be able to find the toothpicks; screwdriver, bits of the bamboo garden you rescued earlier,or in my case, kabob skewers, and pour glaze over cake.  Decorate with fresh flowers picked on the way to the barbeque.  Enjoy.  

A piece of canvas
Almost 3 years ago, the seeds of an idea to have Indian Paintbrush, the o most holy of flowers, tattooed on my person took root in my mind.  Now, Its been two days since Sara Martin of Sara Martin Tattoos caused this idea to blossom.  The experience was surreal, beautiful, painful, and perfect. As I lay sweating (I seem to be sweaty in all my posts lately, sorry about that) on Sara’s table eating sage flowers, she turned the ridges of my ribs into rows and furrows of a skin garden. So stoked, so proud! Picturas to come soon.

And so, since I dream of the sweet potatoes with fresh thyme, pork fat, and garden onions that are roasting in the oven as I wrap this up, I can only say that I yam what I yam.

p.s. I am aware I used the word “teachering”. I’m trying to get it to catch on before I actually become one of those and do that.

to bang or not to bang…

that is the question.
Whether tis nobler for the forehead to suffer
The glare of the sun on its mirrored sheen
or to be confined beneath a sea of troubles
and suffer the torture of early morning brushings.
To snip, to grow-
o, that lunatic fringe.

Every time I quote that famous bard, my sophomore year of college, back in ought 8, comes to mind.  It was a bright sunny day when I came up with the cunning plan to get both of my required Shakespeare courses out of the way in one semester, under the (oh, so false) pretense that at least some of the plays studied in the two courses might overlap.  3 torrid months later, I had read 8 Shakespearean epics and everything was so convoluted by the time finals rolled around I ended up thinking Hamlet was a small pig, and his soliloquy was referring to his curly tail.    

All that Shakespearean prowess is going to come in real handy once I start my next endeavor/adventure.   I am going to be returning to school in the fall to quest after my Masters in Education with licensure to teach secondary English.  Nervous, excited, already know what I’m going wear on my first day of school!  Its been a whirlwind of activity, getting all of the mountains and valleys of paperwork turned in.  Now that I’ve been accepted, there’s a whole new mountain range of forms for me to tackle, hopefully I’ll descend from the Alps by next weekend.

In my further endeavors to be a grown-up, Aaron and I have found an abode to rent.  No more slumming it in the woods, or in campers in friends yards, for these two wanderers, at least for the next two years.  Tomorrow, we sign the lease on a sweet little studio loft with views of the Bridgers and Tobacco Roots, access to the creek, endless gardening possibilities, and within biking distance of everything important in town (the Co-op and the Haufbrau).  I’m surprisingly alright with being settled for this next chapter, but I’m going to have to pick up smoking, since the front porch is perfect for it.   More nervousness and excitement, since we haven’t had to pay rent in 6 months, but I am so stoked to have a little space to decorate, and not have my clothes stored in a box under our kitchen table, which is a bed half the time.

In other news, the Biggest Puppy in the World has consumed two 16 oz. containers of nutritional yeast and a bottle of wine in the past few weeks.   That girl knows how to party.

I leave you with this amazingly glutenous picture.  The simplest things are always the most beautiful.

 

bread

Balderdashery

definition: that lost art of senseless writing about hats.  
example:  I am a three-hatted woman.  I own a felt  with a felt bow on it for when I want to feel like my head is in an oven.  I own a floppy orange hat for when I want to feel like I am underdressed at a horse race and the odds are 8 to 1.   I own a baseball cap for when I want my neck to get sunburned but my face to stay shaded and cool, and for when I want to look like Buster Posey.  This triangulation of hats of mine…etc. etc. 

Oh, what tosh, what drivel, what moonshiney nonsense, what applesauce! Really, I just heard someone use the word Balderdash in an intriguingly wrong context and pronunciation today, and wanted to try it out for myself.  Balderdashery isn’t really a word, folks. 

In other news,
-Tomorrow at high noon, I am journeying down from the mountains for a long overdue visit to my beloved family.  I’m banking on the tried and true Shock and Awe tactic, since I can only tear myself away from the mountains for a few brief days.   Of course, instead of implementing overwhelming power and rapid military dominance as the good old boys did, I hope to just have barrels of fun in a short period of time.  

 -When I said mountains, I unfortunately didn’t mean those alluring elevations in the earth’s surface that beautifully rise to a summit. I meant mountains of glistening, oil-laden, tuberous nightshades, often served at popular breakfast restaurants nationwide, delicious with ketchup.  Yes, I, the woman who swore that she would never again ask another man if he wanted “a warm-up”, the woman who vowed never again to apologize for not taking American Express, I am again waiting tables.  But I have been out of work for 4 months, ever since The Incident, my funds are not quite exhausted but pretty damn fatigued, and some, but not all, of my cumulonimbus dreams for the future require green that doesn’t have much to do with gardening.  So, I’m working part-time, and planning full time, and still writing so much my pointer finger has a bump on it.  Besides, slinging hashbrowns at corporate travelers and landlocked Midwesterners reminds me of what I don’t really want out of life, and we all know that process of elimination is a heavenly thing. 

-speaking of heavenly things, my cherubic coppery dog got sprayed by three skunks this weekend.  I can only assume that they each annointed him with their fetid odors at least once, since he brought up the rear (quite literally) of their procession the entire length of the driveway.  It was reminiscent of the deluxe “Typhoon” wash at the local Scrubby’s carwash…only $12, and you get a full undercarriage wash, side blasters, and underbody rust inhibitor.  Two days, a box of baking soda, and 3 bottles of peroxide later, Copper is still wafting, and the idea of having him in the car with me for 6 hours on aforementioned pilgrimage is ever more daunting.  

After immersing myself again in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Skinny Legs and All, and Still Life with Woodpecker, I thought my crush on Tom Robbins might have rebudded, but then I google image searched him and realized the feelings welling deep in my soul were definitely based in the intellectual realm.  O Tom Robbins, god of the metaphor, you Odin of similes, I am happily drowning in your syntax.  As always after going on a Robbins binge, I am hesitant to pick up another book until his magical sentences have faded from my memory.

This one’s for the birds.

 

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This ferocious mother has confiscated our front stoop, and laid two cerulean blue orbs in that little nest.   She’s such a doting mother, I had to lurk awkwardly in the shadows for days, it seemed, before she flew off to a worm buffet and gave me a chance to see just what was going on under that voluptuous bird butt.  I feel a strong sense of responsibility for her and her unborn babies, reminiscent of those feelings I had for Chester Chesterton, the baby robin I rescued from the erstwhile grasps of my preschool class many moons ago. 

Rewind to a sunny spring day; recess. The Greenwood Academy preschool class of 2009, fueled by chicken nuggets and carrot sticks, and feeling the effects of their diluted apple juice, were on the prowl, looking for Trouble in all the right places.  They found her by the jungle gym, a young, fresh bird, all legs with no where to go but up.  Up, however, was not happening to this down-and-out-of-the-nest-chick.  The preschool class manhandled her, staining her reputation so even her mother wouldn’t take her back to the fold.  Scorned by all she loved, stamped with the scarlet letter upon her crimson breast, she came home with me. The class knew the castaway as Chester, because I was not allowed to use the word “breast” when referring to the color of her ample, every more vibrant, bosom, but I knew her as a symbol of hope and tenacity. For weeks, I fed her every 2 hours, biking her to school in a little cage and keeping her in the utility closet (her proneness to Salmonella made her an unwelcome addition to my little classroom) but I brought her out for illicit show and tells and, the adopted mascot and subject of every piece of artwork produced by my diligent students, she thrived.  She traveled cross country from Montana to Chicago on the backseat of my car, feeling the warm prairie winds of South Dakota in her head feathers, and tiptoeing along the shores of Lake Michigan, trying to fit in with the seagulls.   But little Chester, before she could fly much farther than the length of a staircase, contracted the bird flu and one day stopped coming to school with me.  The children know that her mother came back for her and they flew away together, but I know that, up hyalite canyon, there is a little stone under a big old pine tree.   At a time in my life when I needed it more than anything, Chester had rekindled a spark of hope for my future.  Her death, along with contraction of a severe intestinal bacteria from a goat-farm-field-trip, and several other extenuating circumstances, fueled me to end a dark, terrible chapter of my life, put down that tragic, poorly written, book, and pick up a new novel; a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas that is meandering its way toward a very happy, although someone blurry, ending in the far off future.   

Bird tidbit #2
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I got to snap this photo, along with pictures of a great horned owl named Bu and a peregrine falcon named Amelia Earhart, while doing a write-up for a local magazine on the Montana Raptor Rescue, an amazing non-profit that fosters and rehabs birds of prey. I feel so privileged that I got to meet this awesome eagle, a 4 year old female named 99.  Interesting that, on Independence Day, a day where we celebrate the freedom that we insist is our patriotic right, this beautiful bird, a symbol of that freedom, has been so affected by the humans around her that she will live out her days in a cage. 

While on the subject of ornithology, I am making a freedom cream pie for the 4th, using eggs from our chickens with yolks so golden that the vanilla filling is reminiscent of a Sting song.  This one’s for you, 99.   

 

 

Making Words

When the only things on my agenda these days are physical therapy twice a week and an ongoing weeding appointment with the garden, it is surprisingly hard to find an hour of time in the day to devote mind, arms, feet, booty, and soul to writing, which is what I’m trying desperately to do this summer. It is particularly hard to do when it the heat is a sticky brown too-tight felt hat, my little cabin is a yeasty oven, and the mountains are swaying in the breeze, beckoning to me.   The following is a list of things that I have realized actually do count as “writing time”

-facebook, tastespotting, ordering another Urban Outfitters cardigan, watching youtube videos of toddler heavy metal kids singing in New York about zombies, or anything that involves baby animal pictures.
-lying on the floor of previously mentioned cabin listening to Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis and the Watson, hypnotic and massively screwed up (the album, not me), spooning my copper colored dog, and/or eating ice cubes.  Handle with care because Jenny stirs up the deepest kind of mojo. I never listen to it when I’m actually writing, because I find the lyrics beautifully distracting.  Also, handle Copper with care because that dog can get gassy, fast. 
-planning my spectacular Independence Day Dessert. It is going to involve much red dye 40, white and blue food coloring, me thinks. 
-watching Black Books on Netflix.  That show is very British, very drunken, and very hilarious.
-swimming. There is a swimming hole not even two miles away. Totally bikeable, totally awesome.
-being excited about all the goings on in the world of politics, and equal rights for all.
-farmers markets and art walks

But shoot dang, things are happening fast! I’ve got a gig with the magazine Outside Bozeman, and I just got hired on to write an article about a non-profit Raptor rescue for another local magazine. Heck.Yes.

For a writing soundtrack, I prefer Phillip Glass’s Etudes for Piano. Try it. Wear your glasses. You’ll feel smart!”

 

good for your guts

Fermentation happens
Its the path of least resistance
Kimchi, koji, miso
tempeh, yogurt.
Sandor Katz, the Abraham of
a fermented nation.
Master of that flavorful space
between fresh and rotten
food gone so bad its good
but try to wait
just a few more months
and it will be
that
much
better.
A salty surprise
We’re good for your guts.

In other words, beet kimchi is brewing next to my bed (the warmest space in the house) and it sings me to sleep each night with a sweet, magical, ancient lullaby as it converts its sugar to acids and gasses. I.Can’t.Wait. 431661_894000997948_388883829_n

More from the food front; the garden is growing up so fast! The peas are potty-trained and needing to be trellised already, the beans are off to preschool.  The root vegetables are struggling in the clay-filled soil, but thank goodness for the No Vegetable Left Behind act, so everything can be harvested at once. 

Slap Your Mama Spicy Root Kimchi 

sea salt
1 lb. daikon radishes
1 lb. beets
1 lb. carrots 
a few Jerusalem artichokes 
3 inches fresh gingerroot
3-4  cloves garlic (or more!)
3-4 hot red chilies (or more!), depending on how much room for spice you have in your life. I use ghost peppers, but they pack a punch.

1. Wash vegetables thoroughly
2. Grate radish, beets, and carrots.  If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, this will save hours of time and inches of bloody fingers. 
3. Mix a brine of about 4 cups water and 3 tablespoons salt. 
4. Let  grated vegetables soak in the brine. Use a  plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged until soft, a few hours  or overnight. 
5. Prepare the spices: Grate the ginger; chop the garlic and onion; remove  seeds from the chilies and chop or crush, or throw them in whole. Kimchi can  absorb a lot of spice. Experiment with quantities and don’t worry too much about  them. Mix spices into a paste, adding grated horseradish if desired. 
6.. Drain brine off vegetables, reserving brine. Taste vegetables for  saltiness. You want them to taste decidedly salty, but not unpleasantly so. If  they are too salty, rinse them. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle with a couple  of teaspoons of salt and mix. 
7. Mix the vegetables with the spice paste. Mix everything together  thoroughly and stuff it into a clean glass 1 gallon jar. Pack it tightly into the jar,  pressing down until brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the reserved  vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables. Weight the vegetables down  with a smaller jar, or with a zip-lock bag filled with some brine. Every day,  use your (clean!) finger to push the vegetables back under the brine. Cover the  jar to keep out dust and flies. 
8. Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day.  After about two weeks of fermentation, when it tastes ripe, move it to the  refrigerator.

read more: “The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved” – Zandor Katz

No big deal, but I did hug Zandor Katz at a book signing.  That night ranked up there with the night I went to see this movie.

joyful-noise