Tag Archives: food

Let’s eat!

I am always in love with food but during the pandemic I’m besotted. I know I’m not alone. You know how everything tastes like cardboard when you’re grieving? I’ve decided this is the opposite: everything tastes FABULOUS.

The TV pundits say we’re eating out of boredom. I dunno. I’m not bored. Many things but not bored. We comfort ourselves with food too. That’s long-standing wisdom. I am comforted by food but this isn’t mindless eating I’m talking about, where someone shovels things in without really even tasting it or even knowing quite what they ate. It’s pleasure, a reward for living, for doing what has to be done. Sleep, food and sex are life’s essential rewards, right? I mean it doesn’t say it in the Constitution but that’s how I see it. Some people consider one or two or all three of that trio bothersome. I don’t understand such people.😀

If you stayed with me during the quarantine you’d eat well. I’ve made salmon vegetable soup, bisquits, pancakes, crepes, pan and deep-dish “Grandma’s Pizza”, pumpkin raisin muffins, lemon bread, spaghetti, linguine with kalamata olives & artichoke hearts, salmon loaf with wild rice, ziti & tuna with green olives & garlic, twice-baked potatoes mixed with sour cream & chives, healthy cookies, sesame noodles, chickpea/crushed tomatoes/pumpkin soup with lemon juice & curry, and even johnny-cakes — these are made of cornmeal & boiling water and then cooked in a big skillet. I had a bag of cornmeal in the fridge with a “best by” date of Sept 2019. It looked ok to me.😊

The main thing I want and am not having are the big-ass salads that are mainstays in my “cuisine.” I just think lettuce is too iffy now. You can’t cook it or scrub it so I’ve tearfully eliminated lettuce for the time being. It’s not like lettuce, with its various recalls and E. coli outbreaks didn’t already have enough troubles.😕

I’m also craving shellfish and cheesecake. Not necessarily together. Those aren’t going to be happening either.

I’m fortunate to not be worried about food.

I think food should be front and center in life and too often its role is afterthought or even chore. That’s all wrong; we are nothing without food and it deserves to be lauded and celebrated. I’m on it.

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About my winter (and 2020 resolutions)

I’ve had a good winter. It was productive and the little “kick” in my step I felt in the fall hasn’t gone away. There’s been a bit of reprieve from an on-going problem in my life (not because anybody did the right thing but just out of a change in circumstances) and it’s allowed me to breathe a little easier. So that was certainly part of it. Creating more focus and direction for myself in the last three years with the annual resolutions has helped me considerably. I’ve already made a good start.

In a post a few years ago I remember saying that I felt like my life was a big ship in need of minor course adjustments. But big ships don’t change direction easily. They groan and strain and balk when required to turn; momentum has got them chugging along straight and that’s the easiest path. My ship has groaned and strained and balked but BY GUM it has turned. I don’t feel as wasteful. Wasteful of time, energy, talents, potential.

I stayed in shape and ate well. That’s one of the most important things I do every winter. It’s important always but tougher in winter. I pushed myself to not get lazy or eat more calories than I burned. In years past I’d be very active in good weather and was burning off the calories I consumed but come winter, when I slowed down physically, my calorie intake didn’t. I have finally realized I need to start dialing back the portions, even in a fairly healthy diet, in the fall not later in winter. I ate fruit like it was my job. A good, juicy mandarin orange, for one, is an amazement each time.

Somewhat of an aside but I feel like mentioning this: Last summer and again this winter, I bought a lot of food from Amazon. I’m in an area where Amazon offers home grocery delivery for Prime members. I only get Prime, which I split with someone, occasionally and when I do, I go to town. See, a year of Prime is $119. However, if you pay by the month and get it, say six months a year, it costs, at $12.99 a month, $78 a year. I don’t need Prime every month and I don’t even need it six months a year (last year I believe I got it for two months and two separate weeks when they had a special). Point being, when I do get it, I make sure to get my money’s worth and part of that has become groceries, both shelf-stable and perishable. Having food delivered to me has been wonderful. It’s not perfect but it’s made my life better. My life really does revolve around meals.

I was doing yoga but injured myself (not doing that) and had to cut back in the last month but have kept up my other exercising (push-ups, hand-weights, walking, and so on).

One of my goals was 8 attempts at a pull-up (or chin-up). Not 8 consecutive attempts but 8 visits to a local playground to have a go at it. The bar is just out of reach, so that when I’m standing on the ground below it, just the tips of my fingers touch it. I have to jump up to catch hold of the bar and decided that if I could touch my chin to the bar that’d count as a success. On my third visit I was able to do that and did it once more to make sure I could. I wouldn’t call this a pull-up exactly. I think a real pull-up requires you to pull yourself from a dead weight (no jumping involved) and to get your chin over the bar. Still, I was pleased to accomplish what I did!

I’ve read 15 books (out of a goal of thirty). I recently discovered Playaway books at the public library. They are cute little recorded books that you plug ear buds or headphones into. I am really enjoying being “read to”. I’ve listened to two books I read in years past, Animal Farm and The Handmaid’s Tale as well as two other novels. It’s fun to have these for variety (in addition to actual books) and I can go outside or do routine chores while listening. Some readers are fantastic at the narration and their talents really add to my enjoyment. (I was half-expecting that Margaret Atwood would read her own book but it’s Claire Danes; the story’s narrator is a young woman so of course it makes sense to have a younger person narrate.) While I’ve listened to books on CD in the past, I’ve yet to listen to any podcasts and resist reading books on any kind on an electronic device (like Kindle) so the Playaway books are a big deal for me!

I am on a mission to get rid of stuff. I’ve already put 72 items on my list this year. I’m not living in an empty house by any means but it is streamlined and orderly and visually attractive. Getting rid of a lot of stuff in the last several years is a big reason for that. I can find things, I know where stuff is. There is something very freeing in getting rid of things. I haven’t stopped buying NEW things but right now the things are going out in larger quantities than they are coming in; I’m trying to be very particular about what comes into my home (and my life for that matter; it’s all connected).

In December I fixed up my kitchen with a a “poor woman’s” semi-Italian update. No major appliances left or came in; it was largely a cosmetic project but I’ve been very happy with it.

I went through ALL of my clothes, looking at everything with fresh eyes. I got rid of (charity, etc) anything that wasn’t working for me or made fixes that could turn clothes into better versions of themselves. Whether I get them new or second-hand, I routinely have to take “tucks” in most of my jeans, pants, and shorts at the waist in order for them to fit right. (If I buy a smaller size, then the rest of the garment is too tight.) Taking in “tucks” at the waist makes pants or shorts sit where they should so the rest fits better.

If I got a piece of clothing free or cheap, I feel freer to “operate” on it. I bought these cute Forever 21 shorts for a dollar at a rummage sale last year but realized they were just too big. I remedied that by hand-sewing new seams down both sides and cutting off the excess. Now the shorts fit and flatter me.

This Merona sweater (a former Target brand) that I think I got from a thrift store is very sweet but just a bit big and additionally, it “gapped” in between buttons (you women readers know what I’m talking about; people can look right in at your bra! I hate that.). I fixed the button-gapping by sewing buttons (I keep a small stash of extras) permanently on between the gapping buttons at the top. Now the sweater is a pullover – since the newly added buttons sewn right through the front – but that’s okay because at least it looks good and I’ll be more likely to wear it.

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The second & fourth buttons are sewn right through the sweater

I also went through all jewelry. I think there’s a point, although I haven’t decided exactly where it is, where you can have too much of something to truly enjoy it. I think this is true of clothes and jewelry too. When I clear things out I can see what I have and I appreciate them more. This doesn’t mean I have hundreds of things because I don’t. Just that I want to manage anything I have where there’s reason (or desire) to have more than a few of it (clothes, jewelry, music, dishes, etc) so that I have a number that works for me. What is the point in merely collecting things in quantities you don’t actually use? Or really love? That’s where my head is at.

I’ve done 10 “good deeds” of the twenty on my resolutions list. The good deeds have to be something more than I might normally do; they can’t be everyday stuff I do all the time; I have to go a bit out of my way. And I have to do them with no idea of being rewarded. I hesitated to even mention this resolution when I wrote about my 2020 plans because I didn’t want it to sound self-congratulatory. I still don’t. But if I was reading this, I might want to know what kinds of things I’m talking about when I say “good deeds” so I will tell you one.

The small grocery store near me is having financial issues and going through changes. I have mixed feelings about the store but I don’t want it to fail and while I won’t give them extra cash (they’ve been doing quite a bit of fund raising) I will help in other ways if I can. On a recent Sunday many grocery carts were outside the store, where they’d been abandoned, rather than stored inside for new customers. Usually an employee is in charge of bringing the carts back inside but I could see nobody was around (maybe nobody ever does this task on Sundays or maybe it was just this particular Sunday). I took it upon myself to round up all the carts and bring them inside. It took a few trips. It is harder to push a line of carts than it looks! I came back through the store a few hours later to see if the carts needed to be brought in again but an employee had apparently already done it.

Basically, I’m keeping my eyes open for things I can do to be helpful or decent or kind, where it requires more effort from me than what I might normally do. And — except for here in this blog – I am keeping them to myself. They are secret good deeds, at least part of the time.

I cut back on my DVD watching. Less internet and less DVDS mean more reading, etc. I’m still doing crosswords and other mind-challenging activities. As much as I want my body to stay strong, I really, REALLY want my mind to stay strong. That said, I’m no zealot and I believe in entertainment. I’m catching up now on movies that were nominated for or won Oscars this year so my DVD-number is on the increase. I figure I’ll just slow it down later this year. I was uncertain about setting a number, but I think a movie a week is good, plus a few series.

It is always about balance. Modern life is not about balance. It’s about excess and immoderation, about indulging one’s self, and never having enough. Does that sound preachy? I don’t mean it to be. But everywhere I turn, I’m encouraged to overdo it and not in good, healthy ways. It is a real struggle to stay in your own lane and not be caught in anyone else’s agenda, be it an individual’s or a corporation’s, or even a government’s. You have to decide what is important to you and keep to it. Beat those distractions back with a stick! That’s what I tell myself.

I enjoyed this winter more than any in years.

My (“new”) Semi-Italian Kitchen!

I’ve had a productive winter, starting in December. I was feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my kitchen, which I last showed here a  year ago. I thought I could do better.  After all, I am in the kitchen a lot and I want it to be cute, usable, and inspiring. I was looking at stuff on Amazon when I saw these Tuscan stick-on tiles. I was immediately smitten (at the time I was able to get two packs of four for $20; they are higher at the moment).  The tiles gave me an idea. Why not an Italian kitchen? Or a semi-Italian kitchen? After all, that’s what I am! Semi-Italian.

My kitchen was busy, there was no getting around it so I decided best to just give in to the busy look. (I see those sleek, modern empty kitchens in magazines and on TV and while they can look great, that’s just isn’t happening here.) I was thinking also of something somewhat retro in theme. I’m a renter so a major overall is out of the question but I still have a lot of leeway.

I took down and dismantled the mug rack I built over the stove and extended the utensil rack I made in its place. I took down the spice rack I built and made a new, more compact one. I painstakingly removed the (free) blue glass tiles I’d put up as a back splash over the sink. That was a bitch. Apparently I put ’em on real good!  For the cabinets I found  wonderful ivy stickers on Amazon as well as the yellow glass knobs. I toyed with getting bright colored ceramic ones, like a bright yellow but decided to go with something a little more subtle.

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The vinyl tiles have a clear plastic cover that adds dimension and makes it look more like real tiles. I didn’t extend it over the oven because the manufacturer said not to on the product page and besides, that would have cost more. I ditched the silly two-outlet tap and replaced it with this  six-outlet tap. (By the by, whoever installed the outlets did so upside down which I finally realized but after taking a look inside I decided that level of electrical work was beyond my pay grade.) I used double-sided tape squares to put the tiles up (instead of permanently installing them by removing the backing).

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Because I eliminated the mug rack I needed to make more room in the cabinets. I previously made shallow shelves for the back of the lower cabinets so I opted to make more so that there are narrow shelves all along the backs. Very convenient!

I found great little Moondance (by Circleware) salt & pepper shakers at Ross for the back of the stove. I found the sugar dispenser at Dollar Tree years ago. That’s a “vintage” tea kettle I’ve had a long time now (it came from a house that was being cleaned out). I previously put decorative stick-on paper on the back of the stove (where the word “Sunray” is) and took many days peeling it off in tiny, tiny, tiny, bits. The color part came up but left the sticky back in place which I proceeded to remove by fingernail (I didn’t want to scratch the stove surface with a tool and nothing I tried would dissolve the sticky stuff). It was the worst part of the project.

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The shelf unit to the left of the stove is one I made from scrap wood a few years ago. I fixed it up a bit now by adding colorful place mats I found at Dollar Tree to the bottom door and the top. It was only after I bought them that I saw “Moroccan” on the receipt. Oh well, I’m not splitting (Italian/Moroccan) hairs here! That small $2 fix really spruced up the shelves. I found the retro kitchen timer at a rummage sale last year. It works great.

 
The cabinets extend on the left side of stove so you can see below where the ivy starts.  I took the blue-checked fabric off the window where it’d served as a curtain and instead hung it in front of an ugly water heater and various cleaning tools (vacuum, brooms, etc). It might be fun to have a red-checked one eventually… but I already had this blue one from a thrift store.

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My canned tomato stash is on shelves below the far left cabinet. I also moved my glass jar collection there (from above the kitchen cabinets). I am proud to say I have wittled it down to what you see here in the bag, so far as jars I’m not currently using. (I tend to hang onto glass jars for fear they will one day be unavailable.)

Initially I tried fire-retardant decorative foil-look film over the stove, thinking it would be reflective and add light to the space. It didn’t. I didn’t like it. It absorbed too much light and looked cheap. Instead I put a small piece on the bottom of this 1800’s (or thereabouts 😁)
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Recessed lighting of some sort would be nice but plug-in under the cabinet lights suffice. I had one light and added another; they link together. The photo on the left is how it looks straight on and the one on the right lets you see the actual light fixtures.

I found cute retro-style coffee curtains on Amazon. Looking at Amazon gave me general ideas because I wasn’t too sure initially what inexpensive things I could fairly easily do for an Italian theme. Much of what I saw was to cutesy (fat chefs were featured on a lot of decor) but I wanted more authentic, subtle touches.

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I eliminated most of the fire-engine red color I’d previously added to the kitchen- I decided it was too much – but have left this lone cabinet over the washing machine that I painted long ago. I toyed with painting it white but as it’s different from the other cabinets, I think it kind of works as red and adds character. I also wanted to show you my “plastic bag hanger” for freshly washed bags that I hung over the washing machine; it’s actually a small laundry hanger in design. And those are just-fit shelves I made a few years back for laundry detergents. It may not look it but you can still open the  right cabinet door.

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I took off a dark wood handle I’d put on the kitchen’s token drawer and put this simple white one on instead. Some time back, in search of more space, I’d opened up the area under the sink and made a slipshod “drawer.” It never worked very well so I ditched it and put in this wire basket instead. See where I added more of the ivy stickers just under the sink too. (To the right of the stickers, with the small white-handled door, I made a simple shelf for microwave pans, in what was previously unused space.)

Turning our attention to the other side of the galley kitchen, I painted this previously bright red, tall cabinet door white and added a few ivy stickers. The inside of the door looked awful where I’d tried to peel off stick-on paper rather unsuccessfully, so I added new wood-look paper and a place to hang bag clips.

In my quest to eliminate the fire-engine red (a change I started before I came up with before the Italian theme) I painted the posts and the defunct pipe this red-orange. I eliminated an ugly shelf I’d put over the doorway – the board was warped & the stuff on it wasn’t attractive – and re-housed the stuff I had up there in other places. I got an inexpensive olive-themed clock from Amazon to hang over the doorway but sent it back because it was mediocre quality. I am still looking for the right thing to put there like maybe a tin sign featuring food.

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I put fresh paper from Dollar Tree on these open shelves. I didn’t do anything new to these jar shelves by the window that I made (I don’t think) but just wanted to show them to you again.

Here’s a view from outside the kitchen.You can see the new color on the posts, which closely matches the chair. I got a new chair pad for the chair too. The “stone wall” stick-on paper was an earlier project but it complements the Italian theme so that worked out well.

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In keeping with my semi-Italian theme, I added these placemats I found on Amazon to the small table.

I don’t think I’m quite done with my kitchen project but I’m really happy with what I’ve done so far. It’s a cheery place to go into now!

Poor man’s woman ‘s breakfront

It should be apparent to anyone who reads this blog semi-regularly that I an mad for food, decidedly one of those people who lives to eat. I like the trappings of meals; dishes, presentation, etcetera, but when it comes to spending money, I prefer generally to put it toward actual food. Still, I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’d like to display some of my pretty dishes. In my fantasies I imagine having a china cabinet with glass doors and lighted shelves. Why, the linked one costs a mere $2700 😕 and would only require removing perhaps half the other furniture in this small home to make space for it. So yeah, I’m not going to be buying anything like that but my yearnings haven’t ceased.

I’ve recently posted about fixing up found shelves and found drawers. After I got the small drawers I no longer needed the open shelves in my room, which had kind of been a stop-gap measure anyway. I didn’t want to part with the shelves so soon, especially considering their secret message on the back which was there when I spotted them awaiting trash day.

I’ve also got this little wooden piece that’s in the living area that I found and fixed up in 2018. I like it a lot and it’s been great.
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I was brainstorming and had an idea but wasn’t sure it’d work till I fetched the yardstick and did a few measurements. Voila! My idea, combining two pieces into one was going to work for my poor man’s woman’s simple breakfront. I thought breakfront was the right word and once I googled it, my definition was confirmed. A breakfront is merely two pieces, hence the break.

I put the open shelves on top of the white/orange/green unit (I don’t know what you call a piece of furniture with both a cabinet and drawers). The colors already matched; I just painted the backs of the open shelves white and took the long, narrow decorative front piece off the bottom and nailed it to the top. That last effort completed it – now it looks like one (intentional) piece. Standing 57″ tall and not 3′ wide, it’s of modest size but much bigger and it would likely overwhelm the space. (Furniture is swell but I still want room to walk around!) I was so excited to put dishes on the shelves. I realize without doors, the shelves & dishes will get dusty but I think the look of this makes it worth a bit of extra cleaning.
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In the process of making this I bumped – only bumped – my beautiful, stupid icicle lights that hang from the high narrow shelf on the wall (above my new “breakfront) and they quit working.😐 I was bummed, all the more because it’s the second strand to quit. I’m wondering if I should try something else, maybe a single strand of lights.

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The lights that are no more

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Here’s ths new piece in context – I’m delighted😊

Lastly, the square table is a new-to-me piece I found this summer. I’ve really been liking it. (I still have a bigger table stored away if I need it.) My dream table for this spot is small and round. Who knows – one may just turn up some day… I doubt, however, that a china cabinet of my fancies will show up so for now, I’m satisfied with my little piece.😊

About them 2019 resolutions…

Okay, so I did all right. I won’t be crossing quite everything off the lists but I’m basically satisfied. In both 2018 and 2019 I made highly specific “kinda, sorta resolutions” tailored to me. It’s worked out well.
I read 33 books. The goal was 20. I did most of my reading in the early part of the year. I put check marks by 13 of them, indicating which ones I really appreciated.  I can’t read the way I used to; it takes more to hold my attention, more to get me to sit in a spot for hours with a book. Because of that, six of my 33 were books I’d read in years past and wanted to read again. Sometimes I just need a sure thing. I have little patience these days for trying to get into a book, trying to relate to characters, or trying to care about the subject matter. I get restless. And I KNOW there are books – like all things – which can hold me; it’s a matter of finding them.

A year ago I bought a yoga mat and a DVD player for the TV in the living room, the only place (other than outside!) where I have space for doing yoga. As with the reading, most of my yoga was done earlier in the year. I am very active outdoors most of the year and didn’t need more exercise of any stripe. Because I hadn’t totally factored that in I fell somewhat short of my intentions. I’ve done the five-minute “sun salutation” 38 of 50 planned times and the 30-minutes of yoga just half of 25 planned times. That said, when I DID do yoga it was usually in 40-45 minute increments per the instructional DVDs.

I like yoga. I don’t worry much about fussy breathing or learning all the poses’ names, or anything that might daunt, bore, or intimidate me. To me, yoga is exercise. Exercise focused on strength, balance, and stretch. It’ll make your body move in ways it wouldn’t in the normal course of a day which is an especially good idea for anyone who is aging. Otherwise you end up like the tin man!😯 I want to be strong, agile, and spry as long as possible. The way I live is dependent on it at many levels. I will not go down easily. I know I’ll be doing yoga over the winter.

I did ZIPPO with learning Italian from cds. That fell off the map in short order because I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t learning Italian. All I can say is I recently heard “piazza” somewhere or other and knew it meant plaza.😐 I think I ‘d like to learn – or try to learn – key phrases and words at least as a starting-off point rather than attempt the language itself. That, or I need different cds. I felt inept very quickly with the set I was using. Other than English, I have never felt I had an aptitude for languages and my opinion after this year hasn’t changed a whit.

Thai cooking wasn’t a success either. Thai cooking, it seems, requires a lot of ingredients I don’t typically have and more trouble than I wanted to invest. I did attempt spring rolls because I love them when I have them out but mine, which I decided to bake since I cook NOTHING in pots of oil, were okay, not great.  Instead, I continued to make this Thai-inspired cole slaw. If I can find more recipes like it, I’d definitely try them. Lime, peanuts, cilantro, be still my heart!

I watched a lot of DVDs, both movies and series. I had wanted an idea of the number since I’d never kept track. The thing I realized is that as with books, I need the right movies or series to hold me. I ADORE movies, as I adore books and music. But a lot of each is just average, nothing special, not to me. I want the gems, the ones I get excited about, the ones that thrill me, and make me sit back in awe of someone else’s brilliance and accomplishment. How did they do that?! That’s the feeling I want. That’s why I read, watch movies/series, and listen to music.  I want to have that O-MI-GOD feeling. Am I demanding? Do I expect too much? Yeah, well maybe. But once you’ve had that feeling, it’s Continue reading