Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A box, a shovel, and an enthused nerd

I am fickle about a lot of things: cats, capers, coconut, and clowns to cover just the C’s. On any given day, I could love or hate them. There is always one thing, however, I find forever amusing and endearing in an “Aw, shucks, here we go again/now THIS is why I love this boy” sort of way: Matt’s endless, and seemingly boundless, list of new hobbies. That, and his amazing head of ridiculous hair, is what drew me in, and his kindness and nerd-tastic ways are why I married him (thus my “Nerds Make Better Lovers” hoodie I sport).

He is an ebullient explorer of our world, whereas I’m a hardened cynic. “Shut UP!” I’ll screech at full tilt as he practices his Mongolian throat singing, and he’ll happily bounce into the next room and practice for the next half hour until he’s ready to regale Penny and I with a concert. Our expression is half bemusement and half nervousness that someone walking by will hear.

I play the role of cheerleader tempered with a dose of the rational: “Fine, you can juggle those pins in the house but no, you’re NOT getting juggling knives, no matter how ‘dull’ you purport they are,” and “You want to build a giant MAME cabinet?! Fine, do what you want – but keep that thing out of my living room!”

At any given time, Matt has four to five ideas swimming around in his head, and I have no idea which one will emerge victorious. A few years ago we visited an aviation museum where Matt, wide-eyed and gape-mouthed, learned there are “Build-Your-Own-Helicopter” (as in full-size, person on board) kits. He mentioned it would be the perfect hobby for retirement. As a person who is scared to board a 757, I’m am still bracing for that one.

So I was delighted (DELIGHTED!) when last year he started showing interest in gardening – square foot gardening, to be exact (I love food, and anything involving food I take instant delight in). Square Foot Gardening is a method coined by Mel Bartholomew, whom I think Matt has a very ardent man-crush on (see the post a year back when I detailed his man-crush on David Brooks, which still has me scratching my head). Matt owns two of Mel's books and abides by Mel's teachings by building - to spec - two 4'x4' boxes that are roped off in 1' squares. In each square my husband plants a different vegetable (those truly worthy vegetables get a few squares).

Now, gardening is a huge step up in terms of usefulness compared to most of his hobbies (think unicycling, tight-rope walking, and his lucid dreaming quest, and yes, he partakes in all three). I was positively euphoric when he started buying seeds, and only slightly less enthusiastic when he spent more time with his seeds upstairs than with me or the dog. You see, the boy had to grow his veggies from seeds and nurse the seedlings. He did this in our spare bedroom upstairs and spent the latter part of the winter monitoring them nightly. He'd emerge, sullen, an hour later muttering things like, "I'm worried about my broccoli." (And yes, its comments like this that sort of make me swoon.)

But then things got ugly. He plucked those big, wooden boxes down on our large - and very open - side yard that faces the street and several of our neighbors' homes. I'm a big proponent of saying I don't care what people think, but of course I secretly do. When we first moved into the house I approached one of our neighbors who was gardening. They have a stunning yard fit for Home & Garden and HGTV. The first, and only, thing she said to me, with her nose upright and her lips pursed, was "That's quite a yard you have to take care of," and turned back to her weeding. The comment was thick with condescension but because I am a sophisticated lady (cough) I waited until I was a few yards away to whisper "bitch". That's just how I roll.

Three years later I still haven't spoken to that neighbor, although, along with several neighbors, we did have the privilege of receiving a note in our mailbox asking us to keep the noise down and not mow our grass because she was having a party one Sunday. If I was the person I WISH I was I would have certainly turned on the mower for a quick minute or two just to freak her out a little. Instead I told Matt not to mow on Saturday.

Back to the gardening boxes: I was okay with them (a bit clench-fisted, but okay), until Matt decided a few things: first, we needed to erect a fence around the boxes so the deer wouldn't eat the garden. Fine. Now, secondly (notice how he's strategically doing this in small steps) he said the beans need a trellis and built something akin to a soccer net on the boxes. It is white and stark and looks like a poor man's sports equipment. I was not thrilled. In fact, I ordered him to take them down.

Unfortunately, he's putting them back up this weekend.

But he's just so damn cute and earnest about this gardening thing, I can't say no. So, back off, neighbor - we're doing some square foot gardening here.

(Photos of his foray into gardening to come.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fun with Falafel

Do you know what I love? Falafel. I have very fond memories of buying $2 falafel sandwiches on McDougal street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village during college. Two things: first, they’re delicious little fried chickpea darlings, and two, they’re cheap. I’m a simple girl with simple needs, and cheap food is really all it takes.

I was working from home during a February snowstorm, and while normal people fix themselves a bowl of soup or a sandwich during their lunch break, I was smacking my lips to the sound of fryin’ falafel. I saw a simple recipe in Bon Appetit and was foaming at the bit to give it a go. (Oh, have I mentioned? With truffles and meringue in my eyes, I went a little crazy on Amazon a few months back and subscribed to no less than four foodie periodicals. Yes – gastrointestinal oye.)

Matt and I slapped these babies in a pita with tahini dressing, greens and tomatoes for lunch, and for dinner had them atop a salad. He recently asked when “I” was going to make them again. All he got was a raised eyebrow.

(from Bon Appetit magazine)

  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour plus more for dredging
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt-free garlic pepper spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) chopped
  • fresh Italian parsley
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Purchased hummus
  • Puree canned garbanzo beans, chopped onion, 3 tablespoons all purpose flour, garlic pepper spice blend, ground cumin, baking powder, and salt in processor until coarse puree forms. Add chopped Italian parsley; process just to blend. Generously sprinkle plate with all purpose flour. Roll level tablespoonfuls garbanzo bean mixture into balls; transfer balls to plate. Roll falafel in flour to coat generously; flatten balls slightly.
  • Pour enough vegetable oil into heavy large skillet to reach depth of 1/2 inch. Heat oil to 375°F. Working in 2 batches, fry falafel patties until deep brown, turning once, about 3 minutes. Transfer falafel patties to paper towels to drain. Serve falafel with hummus.

This is called an assembly line.
I'm sort of in love with the Trader Joe's flour bag. And that my food processor is overflowing (I never just make a single recipe - never!)
Crunchy munchy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

iJerks and Cilantro

The New York Times just ran a story about the coterie of anti-cilantroites (my coinage). I look particular offense to this article because I covet cilantro and I’m aghast at those who don’t. I don’t understand these people. Matt has often said, “You’re pretty close-minded for someone who touts such open-minded, liberal views.” This is true. There are no opinions in my orbit: only what is or isn’t. For example, I often very flippantly say Mac users are smug. I say I’m repulsed by iPods and Mac Books and Steve Jobs (and really, wasn’t it Steve Wosniak who really developed with first Mac?!). A normal person would recognize the culturally enormity of their brand and their pioneering technology. A normal person may not own an Apple product, or may even be irked by the self-congratulatory tone of their products and clientele, but they wouldn’t hate them. I do. On NPR a few years back I heard the term for Apple users was “iJerks” and to this day I spit that out when someone waxes poetic about the iPad (which makes me think of a high-tech maxi-pad, really).

I was giving my rampant hatred a lot of thought recently. I think when someone says they “hate” things, they should sit down sit and think about that a bit – carrying all that hatred around just isn’t healthy.

I gave it a lot of thought (picture a thoughtful montage set to some dreamy music), but I realized I was right to hate what I do. There is just no excuse for SUVs, luxury brands, olives, and the modern-day Republican Party. 

Whew – I’ve said my peace.  (Please don't hate me.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Butt-Scar Beauty

I have no willpower. None. Zilch. Nada. On Sunday and Monday I ate all the candy in our Easter basket except for the Lindt bunnies - the crown jewels of the candy menagerie. I was saving them for a special occasion. I take the term "special occasion" liberally, and I apparently thought a Wednesday evening was special enough, so I ate it.

After spinning class. I was still sweating.

I was planning on just eating the ears, but Matt went outside to trim our butterfly bush and left me alone. It was a dastardly two minutes of chocolately fingers and brazenly ripping foil wrappers. And you never just eat the ears.

A few people have commented on my candidness regarding my last post, where I was a little too eager to talk about my stomach paunch and "butt" scar. Even Matt, who I can safely say loves the flabby and floppy, asked, "You don't feel self-conscious writing that?" And I don't. I'll be 28 next month and making a crack about my not-so-smooth ass (get it, a CRACK?! okay, okay) is sincerely not the "I'll be the funny girl to cover my insecurities" shtick, it's simply that I have a dimpled posterior. (And really, who doesn't?)

Matt claims women do this to themselves (the primping and prettying and the agonizing) for other women. I think that lovable nerd is onto something.

So that's why I'm regaling you with tales of my rear-end front-end. If it's possible, I'm celebrating the not-so-sordid details of my body, because, my dear, who gives a damn? If you're lucky, you might also get a mouthful of the following, as well:

• Oprah arm jiggle (that's the under part of your arm that wiggles and jiggles when you wave, and I've got my fair share of it)
• stretch-marked thighs that refuse to part (and thus eventually ruin every pair of pants I own)
• less-than-perky bosom (at barely 28, and childless, I'm a little confused about this)
• thin hair (I am convinced I'll be a bald old lady and was happily surprised at the fabulous wig offerings of Raquel Welsh)

You know those women who own their imperfections? Who strut and make it work? They have charisma, chutzpah and, to channel Tyra Banks, are "fierce".

I am not one of them. And I'm fine with that.

I remark on my imperfections because I just don't care that much. If I don't care about my wiggle, you certainly won't. But that's not to say I wouldn't take thick hair and toned arms if I had the chance- of course I would - let's not get all crazy here! But I'm done thinking about it, and this much I know is true: A "butt" scar will forever be funny.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Take Steps" Against Crohn's and Colitis - Go Team Gutsy!

Members of Team Gutsy in 2009 in Philadelphia.

I often equate my surgery scar to a battle wound. Who knows if this is really a defiant nod to how badass I am (fine, there is nothing badass about me – today I’m wearing a lace top for Christ’s sake) or a coping mechanism when I look in the mirror. My scar is thick and grayish purple and digs in a few inches above my belly button to a good five inches below. A plus about being overweight? My belly button fat roll envelopes half the thing. When standing, it looks very much like a butt. With my abdomen swollen from fat, the hard scar is taunt, and the muscle sewed and skin stapled tightly. Because of this, my flesh drapes onward and outward, creating a very rear-end-looking front-end. And yes, Matt and I get a kick out of this.

Later this month will be my surgical anniversary. I will always have the scar, but it’s startling how time can heal the other undesirables. Time has also nurtured a sort of surgical ego, much to Matt’s chagrin. “Matt, do you know, like, I have this flippin’ 9 inch vertical scar, I mean, I had this OPEN SURGERY and they were scraping away in there and chopping my intestine up and I got up and WALKED by Noon the next day?!” “Yes, K, I know,” he would reply, sighing. But that’s never enough for me, because I would haughtily snort back with, “I don’t think you’re understanding this here, Matt. People who have LAPROSCOPIC surgeries often don’t do that!” “I know, K, you were very impressive,” he’d say, not looking up from his computer. “Matt, look at me! Your wife is HARDCORE! I know BOYS who don’t that! I mean, the pain of surgery was NOTHING compared to the pain before surgery.” To this, he’ll often try to change the subject, most often to what’s for dinner or saying the dog has to go out. And I obviously have not gotten over my rampant surgical egotism because I’m mentioning it right now.

I’m celebrating by fundraising and walking in the Crohn’s and Colitis Association of America’s “Take Steps” Walk in the Lehigh Valley, PA on Saturday, May 8th. This is the second year Team Gutsy will be walking. If you are in the area, I urge you to join us, or if you have an extra five or ten bucks lying around, I would love if you considered donating to the cause.

Visit Team Gutsy's page HERE.