Ugh.

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

So this is what happened to me this morning, in this order:

-I ‘ran out’ of underwear.  (Totally my fault).

-The internet didn’t work (vis-a-vis did I remember to pay that bill??)

-I got in my car and as I pulled out noticed the top half of my side-view mirror was missing.  I seriously thing it broke off in the cold, judging by the break line on it.

-The gas light goes on about halfway to work.

 

I get it, universe, I get it.

How to Mise Tip #5: Oranges.

January 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Ok, I must be on a fruit thing today.  Coincidence?  The fact that there’s no natural growing fruit within hundreds of miles?  You decide.

I just finished my iced tea with lemon (from the entry before) and it was delicious.  Although part of the way through I realized that the lemons had kind of dirty skin…so an addendum to Mise Tip #4: Lemons would be if you are going to be nice enough to offer lemon to someone definitely make sure to wash it first.

So now that my bevvie is finished I’m hungry and all I brought to work today was fruit…odd.  As I was peeling an orange I started thinking about how you can’t peel an orange in front of someone else without having to offer them a piece of the orange once you’ve gotten your fingernails all yucky from peeling it.

A lot can be said about the quantity of orange you offer someone who is watching you peel it.  A coworker offered me half of her orange yesterday – it can be truly said of her (in non-orange-related experiences) that she is generous, genuinely interested in other peoples’ stories and problems and is a funny person who I love being around.  Halfers come in three groups:  the selfless-giver of ‘the bigger half,’ the fair and balanced evens-stevens immaculate separator and, finally, the realist who understands they did the work to open the orange, they bought it, so gosh darn it they’re going to give you the slightly smaller half.

A quarter of the orange is an acceptable proportion.  It’s a light snack for the recipient and it’s a clean enough proportion that no one feels left out.  This is the portion I usually give.

Conversely, in large groups it may be necessary to dole out several portions.  This calls for the doubled-up two slices method.  You can give a part of your orange to 2-3 people and still have a third of it left for yourself!  Very generous, indeed.

Social nuances are bizarre – how on Earth do we all perceive these things, compute them and form miniscule judgments based on interactions?  Generally we gloss over details and don’t realize how these minutia group together to eventually form a whole picture.

BE WARY the orange-peeler Scrooge who offers you ‘some orange’ and hands you one, stinking, waggly piece of orange.  The One-Slicer.  The miser.  This person should just not offer in the first place because now their fingers have been on BOTH SIDES of your measly slice, instead of just on the bookends of a chunk.  They might be selfish, but they know its wrong so they relent their citrus fruit in embarrassing proportions.  If you meet a One-Slicer:  head for the hills.

Here are some more interesting things about oranges you probably don’t need to know:

-In 1st grade I had a serious aversion to oranges because we did a project around Christmas where we recreated ‘colonial times Christmas.’  This involved 7 year olds punching whole cloves in to thick, Maine-winter oranges.  Uhhh.  Child labor?  Possible allegations of torture?  My hands killed and smelled like hipster cigarettes for weeks.

-My first live-in boyfriend had a proclivity to orange-scented cleaning products.  Is this normal?

-It drives me .absolutely.bonkers. when people peel the pith off their orange.  Shut up and eat it, jerk!  First of all, the pith is kind of an acquired taste:  I find it delicious.  So the mere waste bothers me.  Count on top of it the fact that the pith contains almost as much Vitamin C in it as the flesh (I read that somewhere that looked reputable, so I believe it).  Also, when you make orange marmalade you make a sachet of the pips and the pith to extract natural pectin.  That’s a nice way to have Paddington Bear over for tea without boiling horse’s feet or any crap like that.

-‘Pip’ is possibly the best name for anything, ever.

How to Mise Tip #4: Lemons.

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

This concept totally sprung itself on me this morning – does that ever happen to you?  One minute you’re sleepily driving to work, blindly and sadly going to Dunkin’ Donuts because you don’t have enough money for the good coffee shop this week, then BAM!  Idea!  Observation!  Reflection…

We got these amazing little coupons at my house, about 24 of them and half of them reasonably good deals at Dunkin’ Donuts.  So, for the last few days, I’ve been throwing my hands up, admitting my fate as a member of the ‘upper-lower class income’ bracket.  Man, throwing ‘upper’ in there even sounds snooty…a recent development but I DO miss the street cred being at the poverty line ensures.  So I’ve been going to D&D.  No worries.  We used to go there sometimes when I was a kid and not a total food snob – I got the chocolate frosting-filled powdered sugar pita and Dad always got a small black decaf (ew, gross Dad) and if Dad thinks something’s alright it probably is.

I woke up this morning with a squinty, pinchy, pounding sinus headache.  So when I approached the nice lady who has been accepting my little coupons all week I felt like I was in a bubble.  I ordered a medium, unsweetened peach iced tea.  She’s asking me a question…concentrate…would you….would you like lemon with that?  POP!  Bubble broken.  Yes I would, I would very much.

Let’s be honest – lemon in water might be divisive in some crowds (to wedge, or not to wedge?) but asking customers if they want lemon in their beverage is pretty much the epitome of customer service.  Why?  Because, first of all, cutting lemons is annoying.  Lemon slices are not so bad but wedges are really quite a pain.  But we do it because there’s something about it that’s just so right, so refreshing.  Secondly, when you are a bartender or a server or working in a coffee shop, in order to add the lemon to the beverage hygienically takes a bit of skill.  At the restaurant I worked at we had tongs, but the lemons stick together and can be tricky to extract.  Then I worked in a small shop and we kept the rarely-asked-for lemons in a plastic cup and used a fork to get them out.  Had to keep them locked away!  Otherwise there would be coffee grounds all over them.  Very cumbersome.  So to ask me if I wanted a lemon, at Dunkin’ Donuts of all places – floored!

I should take this opportunity to mention that I am NOT a huge fan of the lemon-infused water option at restaurants.  This is, for lack of a nicer way to say it, the swill that results from a pitcher of water (once cool and icy) with melted, rank ice and marinated lemons that have almost developed a film over them.  That kind of water is gross.  If you love lemon so much, Restaurant, why don’t you treat it properly and just add a small slice when you pour the glass?  Or just leave it out altogether.  That would be better than drinking osmosis.

I also hear that lemon is good for  your digestion.  When I was in my early 20s and had some anxiety/intestinal/embarrassment problems my Dad recommended that I drink a glass of lemon water every morning to even out my system.  This is not medical advice, FYI, and the only reason in this world that I very strongly believe lemon water is good for you is because my Dad so.  But remember – he’s also the one that shared regular D&D trips with me and, remember, as long as Dad thinks it’s ok, it is?  So seriously, people, drink a glass of lemon water in the morning, for God’s sakes, or you’ll die!  Or at least poop your pants.

For me, now, sipping on my great big unsweetened tea (D&D has a sugar problem.  You ask for ‘1’ and they’ll usually scoop in ’10’…just add a ‘0’ behind the number of sugars you request…) with not one but TWO hunky lemon wedges, I am a happy girl.

 

$10.76

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

$10.76 – Junk Food Heaven

Hello, folks.  I descended on Shaw’s this week with a $20 bill and high hopes to have at least a five and some singles coming back to me with my plan.  I knew I had to pick up red pepper and broccoli for dinner items, and while I was at it bought a sauce mix that looks kind of questionable but was only $.88 and really all ‘Szechuan’ is good, no matter how dehydrated.  The Nasoya Tofu I purchased was $2.99 and I had a $1 off coupon from the paper.  So all that din-din stuff (about two nights worth) was $5.10.

Now:  let the fun begin.  The back page of the Shaw’s flyer this week featured items you could mix and match – if you bought any combination of 10 of them they were insanely low in price.  Here’s what I did:

Starting off responsibly, I bought four cans of Progresso Soup on sale for $1.50 each.  However, if you bought ten of the mix and match items they would go down to $1 each.  I had $1 coupon off four Progresso from the Sunday paper.  Total:  $2 for 4 cans, or $.50 each.

Then, let’s be honest, the holidays are coming and there will be no one stopping me from indulging in cupcakes, brownies, cookies, cake, etc. etc.  So I felt a little less silly buying all this swag.  Observe:

I bought one package of Betty Crocker frosting (yum Coconut Caramel!) and a package of Betty Crocker Super Moist Triple Chocolate cake mix.  This will not yield the most mouth watering cake experience but it will be great for making cupcakes to bring to a holiday party.  German chocolate cake, yes oh yes.  My coupon was for $1 buying these items combined.  The frosting was on sale for $1.50 or $1.00 if you bought 10 mix and match.  The cake mix was $1.29 or $.79 if you bought 10 mix and match.  Total for these?  $.79 + $1.00 – $1.00 coupon = $.79.  Awesome.

My mom makes really quick and delicious chocolate croissants around the holidays for us to snack on while we make the big guns (buche de noel!) so I know have stockpiled 5 of these tubes.  They’re gross, I know.  But if you’ve been eating something since you were 3 it’s really hard to kick the habit.  Croissants were on sale $1.50 each or $1.00 each further reduced with mix and match.  I had a coupon for $1 off 3 packages, so $2 for 3 croissant tubes.  Thrifty.

I had some pretty high value coupons for these Sweet Moments things you’ve been looking at in your peripheral vision while you’re trying to be well-behaved in the dairy aisle.  I will test these for you.  They were $2.50 each on sale, further reduced to $2 after 10 mix and match.  I had two coupons for $1 off of 1 box, so $2 total for 2 boxes.  This might be dessert tonight.

Betty Crocker cookie mixes were a good deal because these will be easy to make with my niece without totally destroying the kitchen.  They were on sale for $2 each, further reduced to $1.50 each in the mix and match.  I had $1 off of 2 pouches coupon, so I paid $2 for two packages.

The tabasco sauce sitting amongst all the goodies was kind of impulsive.  We already have tabasco sauce but we go through it quickly seasoning chicken salad and jerk sauce so I just picked one up anyways.  The smaller size is $1.89 and I had a $.75 off coupon on one jar of tabasco.  Shaw’s doubled it so I only paid $.39 for another month of spiciness.  Ay carumba.

There’s this feeling of panic when you approach the registers at Shaw’s with a cart-full of free food.  Maybe it’s similar to how people feel when they’re about to shoplift?  Something for nothing… really?!  I always scope out what line looks the most dead, what cashier looks the most forgiving, and I keep an eye on other approaching customers so I don’t blast in front of someone with a cup of soup and a soda on their work break.

The girls who rang me out today were so funny, had lots of questions about my coupons and I told them how crazy I am but it’s ok, because I really don’t make that much money so it’s better being crazy and self-sufficient than relying on the gov’t to give me free things.  When all was said and done, the total check rang up to $40.16.  I watched as she scanned my Shaw’s card at the end of ringing everything up and the prices melted before my very eyes.  I handed over all my coupons and the max allowed 4 ‘dollar doublers’ that were in the flier this weekend and the numbers continued to dwindle until the marquee read:  $12.76.  I handed over my $20 and a $2 off ANYTHING coupon came out of the little machine with my receipt.  So I’m counting that towards an additional $2 off even though I’m not using it today.  I totalled $27.40 in Shaw’s card, coupon and dollar doubler savings, almost three times the amount I handed over in cash.

“Wow!”  the friendly cashier said as I walked away, “My mom would be proud of you!”

 

For more information on coupons, deals and general thriftiness subscribe to my blog and check out Broke 207 and Money Saving Maineac.

$12.28

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Spread! $12.28 after tax.

It is the opinion of miseenplacemaine that paying full price for anything is not the preferred method.  Observe:

This is week 2 of taking Shaw’s for all their worth.  Rather, my second week of wandering around the aisles trying to find the brand and size of the thing I’ve got a sweet coupon for, my second week of watching the numbers tally up (groceries) then tally down (coupons!), and most annoyingly my second week of enduring cashier comments about my future happy cats (9 Lives, Whiskas, etc.) and what a good couponer I am.

Maybe they don’t realize this – but this is a “I don’t qualify for food stamps but I still can’t afford to eat properly in my late 20s” mission.  I also happen to really like applied math and when it has gastrointestinal benefits I am alright with that.

Let’s not make this too hard:

Shaw’s doubles coupons. This means that for every coupon under $1.00 that you have (including .90 cents!) they will double that coupon’s value.  So, say, tonight I got instant soup with a .50 off coupon and basically got it for free because that turned in to $1.00 off and …I don’t think there’s a kind of instant soup that exists that goes over $1.00.

Sometimes Shaw’s has ‘dollar doublers.’ Some Shaw’s flyers get extra coupons attached to the cover that will double $1.00 off coupons.  Like today when I got three 4-packs of 9 Lives (they were 2/$3.00 so $4.50 for 3) with $1.00 off coupon which then was $2.00 which ended up being $2.50 for 12 cans of cat food, just over 12 cents each.  Hell yes.

Don’t talk about your coupons. People are either going to be really impressed with you or really annoyed.  Personally, I am a little impressed AND annoyed at myself for being obsessed with this.  So at the check out, just put them nicely at the end of your groceries and wait patiently as the cashier struggles with the compound fractions and subtle nuances of what you’re getting away with.

Keep an eye on the crowd. Obviously you’re just as good a customer as any non-couponing stiff.  But it really sucks if there’s only one lane open, you’re just trying to buy a candy bar and some cat litter and the girl in front of you dressed in pajamas as a stack of coupons high as a deck of cards…just annoying.  So if you can let any normal people go ahead of you before using 5 minutes of the only available cashier’s time…then do!  Karma.

So this week at Shaw’s I paid $12.28 for what originally rang up as $30 and some change.

For more thorough (and less sarcastic) information about all this jazz, visit the Money Saving Maine-iac for some schooling in what made me as crazy as I am today.

Hiking, Crying and Other Sports

October 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’ve lived  27 years (plus a few days) on this planet and can’t for the life of me figure out what recreational exercise is for.

At age 6 I was enrolled in community classes for gymnastics.  For some months the purpose of these skills were meant as a social bridge between me and all the other little 6 year old girls who got on and off at the same stop as me.  Straight down the bus stairs, out the door and on to a patch of grass perfect for exhibiting our best walkovers, most spirited cartwheels and energized round-offs.

Until…

Our teacher changed from a friendly, motherly woman named Terry to a wannabe Olympic coach a la KGB with dreams of his own personal Nadia Comaneci.  His name was Joe.  And soon in to our training together he halted the entire gym of 20 or so romping, laughing, happy girls to wait for nervous, shy, stage-frighted Audrey and her cartwheel on the beam.  (Sidenote:  Have you ever BEEN on a beam?  Do you know it’s like, 2 inches wide??  So as far as me tumbling over, missing my footing, smashing my bits and accidentally making it impossible to pass on those attractive Hotchkiss genes…no way.  No way.)

Artistic, Not Physical. Who the hell is Eric Riddleberg?

 

Some would have saw this as a chance to establish to the universe that I really have no tolerance for assholes.  However, I chose instead to exhibit pacifism (cry, and run off the mat to sit on the bench to wait for Mommy).  Besides, I don’t think I had the vocabulary at the time to say something like:

“You sick, demented man.  Do you get your jollies off by putting the spotlight on little girls who are clearly shy and, p.s., not actually that good at gymnastics?  Do you think that’s going to make her stronger or just make her feel bad about herself and develop a penchant for Snickers bars for some ungodly reason much, much farther down the road in her late 20s?  Ease up!  This is Yarmouth, Maine.  This is Community Services gymnastics.  Look around you, Coach Joe:  You’re a failure.”

Eventually I would have the opportunity in the face of assholes to try all kinds of goodies:  direct negation, zealous confrontation, and (my favorite) “the humor approach.”  Most of these opportunities spanned the years I worked in Harvard Square (one kind of asshole) and at the coffee shop on Congress St. (a totally different kind, the kind I sometimes even feel compassion for).

Now I'm older and I WILL tear your face off.

There was a long lag in extracurricular physical activities for me.  Gym class in school was fraught with a miniature me walking unenthusiastically about four paces behind a quickly moving amoeba of 10-year-olds chasing a soccer ball.  One time a girl standing on the jungle gym threw a basketball at my (unprepared) face and my nose bled for an hour.  Lawn sports, such as badminton, “catch” and croquet were alright and always welcome come 2nd period, mostly because you don’t have to touch anyone doing those.

In high school, much of P.E. (which was progressively titled “Health Sciences”) involved learning about dental dams, drugs (which I was already independently learning about at home…extra credit!) and canoeing.  Only rarely did we play team sports and when we did the teacher was enough of a misogynist to separate the boys and the girls in to two teams each and have the sexes play each other, maybe for fear of the boys going to grab something else when they really were supposed to be grabbing at the flag tucked in to the ladies’ gym shorts.  Also — by this time I had developed a knack for pretty funny sarcasm — usually good once a month or so to get out of something you really don’t want to do  (do you know what “gunnel wars” are?  No?  Good, don’t try to find out.)

In college…there was a brief stint cycling on stationary bikes (what was I thinking?), running, and yoga-ing at a ladies-only gym.  This was for revenge-muscles after a particularly devastating break up.  I was fit!  But when I succeeded at firmness I celebrated with quesadillas and pina coladas finished with lots and lots of dessert.  MMmmm…totally worth it.

It wasn’t until now, recently,… last month, that I could understand why anyone EVER would want to have shallow breath, blood pumping, sweat dripping, endorphins blazing agony.

The breath-taking, pants-shitting view from Kearsarge

The epiphany happened at Mt. Kearsarge in North Conway, NH with Tara, Brian and their dog, Rondo.  “You’re going to want to climb every mountain you see after his hike!”  Tara said three-quarters of the way up.  “I’m pretty sure I just want to get to the top, puke, shit my pants and be lifeflighted back to civilization right now,”  I managed through unbearably heavy breath, my pulse surging through my legs so strongly that the joints became stiff.

The following morning my legs were like big machines I couldn’t control properly.  No desire to climb again.

The next day my legs felt like I had fallen on the wrong side of Tony Soprano and sustained a serious HBO-worthy beating.  Still no desire to get on any mountains.

But on day three the gams were entirely healed and, for the first time, felt strong.  Really really strong.  Since then we have done a couple hikes and I plan on getting some awesome shoes and doing way more next year.  Eat every mountain in New England, as Tara put it.

The Official Audrey Sports Spectrum is wide and varied.  From mortifyingly embarrassing to gleefully sarcastic, I’ve now found the first genuine “like” in the bunch.  Pick a mountain, take the path, get to the top, sit a bit and look, climb down, and then do the whole damn thing all over again.

Camera Care on Meguntecook

Something Small: CAT CLEAN UP.

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

If we’re going to be completely honest, it’s not small at all.  It was hard enough cleaning up after one of those little rascals in a one bedroom apartment in Boston’s North End – now I’ve got TWO of them and TWO stories to clean?  What the heck, being an adult sucks.

It could be worse, I could have to clean up after kids.

But before we get all crazy here, let me just describe these two beautiful bastards for you:

Glamour Puss

This is Cash.  Cash is a real scrapper, I welcomed her in to my life as a foster home while they waited for her belly to go down after nursing a bunch of illegitimate street babies in her first year of life.  What a slut!  In her heyday she was a charmer, too, and takes a particular liking to strange men she’s never met before (house guests beware).  Somewhere around last year her tail started getting scrawny and she assumed a Queenlike role over the house much to everyone’s chagrin.  This has since downgraded to weekly hairball relief and wet food-related pukings that Mama Audrey has to clean up.

Don't Let The Cute Name Fool You

Yuna.  He latched on to me after a series of attempted runaways from a roommate in Watertown, MA.  Don’t let the cute name fool you — after all, when he was a kitten we thought he was nice (a) and (b) a girl.  Turns out neither is true.

Yuna has the embarrassing distinction of being the clumsier of the two.  This was really cute when he was younger but grows more and more tiresome the older (and bigger) he gets.  Falling off of sofas is adorable and all, especially when rescue can be in the form of a swooping hand, but when I’m coaxing this fat a$$hole off the beams in the attic for the fourteenth time in a day it’s not so endearing.

The threat of him falling causes alarm of another sort:  the wallet sort.  Yuna has, over the course of his short life, cost me (and my mother, thanks Mom!) $500 for a broken “growth plate” in his leg from supposedly being hit by a car as a kitten and $1200 for falling out of the 3rd story window at our place on Spruce St.  Yes, Yuna, like I’m going to pay another grand to pop your renegade hip back in to place the next time you do something astronomically stupid.  (Yes, actually, I will).

But he makes up for it on the daily during any number of Cash’s passive aggressive pukes.  If it’s hairball free and decently fresh Yuna will take care of that sucker before I even have a chance to wad up the toilet paper.  Thanks, Yuna!

So back to the point.  Cat clean up.

I can handle cleaning their weird, slippery spit out of their food dishes.  I can handle (barely) managing their wee wee and doo doo every week on trash night.  I can even handle building a veritable fort of toilet paper around their cat puke, circling in like the vomit yankees to their meat juice confederacy, and spraying the shit out of the floor with whatever cleaner possible so that my house doesn’t smell like the inside of their weird tummies.  But until yesterday I had no idea how to handle those cat fur tumbleweeds.

“Oh!” You say…”Audrey!  You’re so dumb, why not use a vacuum?” which was easy enough except when you’re a cat person it’s usually because you share some personality trait with cats.

I don’t leave slimy saliva in my plate after eating.  I don’t shed relentlessly in every nook and cranny of the house.  I don’t fall out of windows, get hit by cars and I certainly don’t puke all over the floor (that often).  But the one thing the three of us have in common?

We hate the vacuum cleaner.

Until yesterday.

Mustering up the strength to combat about half a years worth of tumbleweeds hiding under the sofa, behind the trash can, under the bed, I rolled the shop vac around the apartment pointing the cat-fur-destroyer at every dusty corner in the house.  When I was finished downstairs I lugged that mofo upstairs and did the same thing.  No bobby pin, penny or amorphous pile of cat refuse was safe!

Victorious.

So now that the apartment’s clean and fur-free let’s not get too comfortable with the fact.  I will probably be December before I attempt something like that again.  After the whirring and sucking of that frightening robot of rolling doom I sat in the corner for a good hour just grooming and rolling on my belly to take the edge off.

taking the edge off together

Is it ok to write a blog entry about your cats?

Well if it’s not, whatever, too late.  Now I’m going to go snuggle with them in a crocheted sweater vest.

How to Mise Tip #3: Make life easier, or at least way more fun

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mise en place isn’t just about saving time — it’s about aligning all the elements in harmony with each other.  Most of the time this means to do the most efficient and simple thing.  Other times it means doing something the right way.

Following are three ways I have been mise-ing (new word!) or will try to mise in the future:

1.  Make your own salad dressing.

For TOO long I’d been paying 3-4 dollars for frou-frou salad dressings in the organic and produce sections.  The Wishbone Italian of my childhood suddenly became puckeringly salty and those bottles with the pretty labels always had a mouthfeel like there was something else in it coating the inside of my mouth and lingering for hours.

Then one day it hit me:  “Actually, genius, salad dressing is usually just made of three things:  an oil, a base and some flavor.”  So instead of hemorrhaging money by the saladful and usually amassing a collection of failed impulses in the refrigerator door (Green Goddess just sounds so promising, doesn’t it?  No?  Ok you’re right, but I had a credit card back then).

So here you go, made to order salad dressing with ingredients you can be 100% sure of:

splash of olive oil (2 tbsp?  3?  You pick how much you need to drizzle)

splash of balsamic vinaigrette (again, your choice, I’m not gonna hold your hand through this)

couple shakes of salt + peppah respectively

(tricky part):  dollop a squirt (small squirt) of mustard in the mix.  I hope you’re doing this in a small bowl.  Then use a whisk to blend all parts.  The mustard is an emulsifier which binds the oil and vinegar.  You could use egg whites, too, if you’re gross.  You don’t have to do this if you like a nice clear dressing.  (this wasn’t actually tricky, admit it!)

So there you go.  That took two minutes and cost 10 cents.  Now don’t you feel like an asshole for buying salad dressing all those years?  Some other variations might include a splash of sesame oil for asian-inspired salads, more mustard and a little honey for honey mustard dressing, apple cider vinegar and lemon instead of balsamic for light summer salads.

2.  Plan your outfit for tomorrow, today.

Not in the silly “everything has to be perfect for school pictures” way, but more in the “I can’t tell exactly what I’m putting on or if it’s right side out through squinted eyes, bumbling around in the dark as I’m dashing around the house in a mad panic before work” way.  Listen!  I get up ten minutes before go-time and I have two cats to feed, lunch to pack and I usually have to do a #2 before I leave…so forget any kind of color coordinating at that hour.  Outfit planning should include socks, bra and undies, too, because we all know that close to laundry day you’re going to end up going Commando because it “took too damn long” to rifle through the hamper and find a pair that were halfway decent!

i'll just hang you here...

...and we'll catch up with each other in the morning.

A side note:  if you work in a place with central air and it’s the summertime also pick out a layer to keep you warm if your boss has decided to create dronsicles in the office that day.

Another side note:  check out that awesome vintage skirt I got from Laura at Find!

3.  Roasting coffee!

I added this one because J. and I did this for the first time yesterday.  It was awesome!  OK, I may have not been 100% sure how to do this and maybe I puked a little afterwards from some serious smoke inhalation, but next time will be way better.  This falls under the “doing something right” category because it’s by no means efficient.  Or safe, really, if you’re doing it for the first time.  But roasting one’s own coffee is a lost art like cooking an entire chicken and using all the parts for meals and broth.  There are definitely people out there who do it, but it’s a dying population and we must resuscitate!  Take pride in your kitchen, guys.

Here are some steps that we did or SHOULD have done:

Step A: Properly ventilate your space.  If you’re doing this outdoors over a campfire, you’re all set (and I’m in love with you).  But if you’re in your kitchen with the door shut to keep the smoke from getting to the smoke detector, you’ll need a fan pointed from inside blowing the smoke OUT the window and a window fan in the window pulling the smoke OUT as well.  Don’t get confused, let me just reiterate, we want the smoke OUT.  (P.S. we didn’t do this step until smoke had filled the kitchen.  Lesson learned.)

Green! Stir stir stir.

Step B: Start off with a pound of green beans.  I’m going to plug Coffee By Design on this one – call up their Washington Ave. roastery an hour in advance and they’ll get them ready for you (207)879-223.  Those of you joining me from cyberspace, they do mail order, too!  Green beans are half off of what roasted beans cost, even though you yield more than that.  Savings, what what?  Put the green beans in a large frying pan, preferably with high sides.  Turn the heat on medium (medium high if you like French roast and a wild ride of popping and cracking)

Stage 2 beans. Stir some more!

Step C: Stir, stir, stir.  This’ll take about 15-20 minutes.  You know what roasted coffee looks like – so just go until it looks like that.  Make sure the beans are somewhat even in color, or discard the orange-y ones when you’re done since they didn’t cook enough and will make your coffee taste like gr(ass).

Ooh our very own dark roast. Notice scary amounts of smoke hovering.

Step D: Sweat.  These suckahs gotta rest to let the oils really do their work.  Once the beans have cooled and you’ve convinced the fire department that no, seriously, everything’s ok up there, put them in a container to sweat in a cool, dark place (not the fridge!  NEVER put coffee in the fridge!  No matter what your Dad does with Folgers!)

Step E: Bottom’s up.  The first few batches might not be what you’re used to but you’ll learn your preferences and change your recipe accordingly.  Then you’ll have the distinction of being the most gourmand family on the block (with the stinkiest, smokiest house!)

So that’s all for now.  September is rife with trying new things.  Photo documentary of most of the will be a fun way for me to feel like I’m not super lazy or spinning my wheels.  Open for suggestions on what to try next!

baby, you can drive my car…if you don’t mind thinking on your feet.

September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Like all good procrastinators I have avoided, until now, airing the dirtiest of my laundry.  Yes, it can be said my apartment is a bit untidy, and yes, my finances are a wee bit in trouble… but my true masterpiece of avoidance therapy:  my car.

I bought her, a 2001 Nissan Altima, in 2007 with only 30k miles on it!  While it devastated my bank account (and will continue to for another two years) owning a car living in the outskirts of Boston couldn’t have been better:  a savvy parker with a little bit of time and disposable income will have NO problem wedging four wheels to the curb, especially if they don’t mind the “you parked like a jerk, so I’m going to nudge you” ding that is so popular in the North East, but absolutely forbidden in California.

The slow degradation happened innocently enough – one day I thought I’d be a good girl like my Dad taught me and check the oil level.  Popping the hood was no problem:  but getting it back down again was.  The trunk latch soon followed and one beautiful day in Portland while shutting a load of bottles and crap in to the boot the whole mechanism seemed to just drop and disappear in to the abyss that is known to me as “that place kinda inside the bumper, but also inside the trunk.”  It’s freaking Narnia down there, because it took my brother 20 minutes to find it, but only 5 minutes to reattach in the parking lot of VIP Auto in Yarmouth.

But what are you going to do?!?  Like anyone actually performs trunk or hood latch maintenance, anyways.  I was in the clear:  it wasn’t my fault.  Besides, getting that stuff fixed is stupid because inevitably you’ll meet a friend-of-a-friend whose brother is a Nissan mechanic and works from his driveway on the weekends for CHEAP and trade!  It’s not my fault!  Neither is the sticky gas-cap-open-y lever that seemed to rust and get “sticky” like the aforementioned latches.  This new development was the first time my car required me to appear negligent or abnormal in public…as demonstrated by my needing to get out of the car, bend at the waist, lunge and push with all my force in order to open my gas tank.  Which is really obnoxious because the same lack of foresight and minimal driving schedule calls for only putting $5 of gas in the car at a time…about four times a week.  Which has gotten better, I swear.  I’m now down to 2x$10 or, on rare windfall weeks, 1x$20!

Oh, ha ha, Audrey, your car is so funny and difficult.  I lent her to my Dad while he was between cars about a year and a half ago and that is the gist of what he said when he called from the gas pump  “Audrey, I just can’t seem to get the gas latch to open.”  Oh, ha ha Dad, because explaining this over the phone is going to make you question whether there was something big you left out during 18 years of imparting valuable education and behaviors to your firstborn.

About a week in to my car vacation Dad called with his hat in his hands:  “I seem to have broken your bumper, it’s kind of hanging off.”   Seems he was backing out of Dunkin’ Donuts and hit a curb or something (Nissans are surprisingly low-riding) and it caught and snagged on one side, giving my front bumper a forever snarky grin that two mechanics have overlooked so far during inspection.  Phew!

Which is actually fine since I was rear-ended the previous Autumn and the back bumper was a little wonky, too.

OK.  The tally so far isn’t so absurd:  trunk, hood, and gas tank latches, front bumper, rear bumper.  Whatever!  I’m still a star rolling up with my silver car, gray leather interior, sweet wood paneling on the radio console.  Golden.

Then there was the time I was driving 295-S between Forest and Congress and hit a CAR BATTERY with the front left of my car at 50mph.  This is a whole entry unto itself but the short of it is that the mechanic was able to fix the problem for zero dollars since the thing that was making my car not go was just a piece that had been bent out of place.  Oh and he hosed all the battery acid off the chasse.  And made a long list of things I could potentially fix.  Oh, ha ha, mechanic, you just don’t know me, do you?  And the AAA guy who picked me up had Glenn Beck’s book coming out of his bag in the cab of the truck.  I’m worried about people who are smart enough to read but dumb enough to read that particular book.  Unless he was being ironic…I’m sure he was.  As much for my sake as his own.

Then after the battery/near-death-experience incident there was this funny crunchy sand noise coming from the passenger side window whenever it went up and down.  J. and I would joke around and pull the damn thing up whenever it got stuck and it was fine – until one day my coworker and I were going to Smiling Hill Farm for lunch, I overlooked telling him about the problem, and boom.  Hot summer day, coworker wants breeze in his hair, window is forever stuck in the abyss of the passenger side door.

My window is ‘permanently’ stuck open.

Which is funny because the driver’s side window is suffering the same early signs right now.  I can’t have two stuck-open windows!  Because at present I cover the passenger side window with a tarp (OK, it’s actually a big green poncho) at night and performing that ritual twice on both sides of the car might make me decide to stay in bed for a week.

So imagine my chagrin yesterday when the turn signals stopped working.

Don’t get me wrong – they gave it the college try and started to blink but stopped after two blinks.  OK.  So instead I simulated the blinking rhythm by manually blinking at every light.  This is extremely annoying and, more importantly, keeps my hands from doing awesome things while I drive like switching the radio station or drumming on the steering wheel.  Compounded with the fact that my trunk and half the backseat are filled with bottles that I’m supposed to return.  The signals started to work again during my lunch break and I only hope that they experienced a brief lack of inspiration only to be followed by many more years of diligent service.

So.

Trunk, hood and gas tank latches, front bumper hanging, rear bumper hanging, battery acid erosion (might explain the weird squeaking when I go over bumps or minor gradations in the road), stuck open passenger side window, “stuck” shut driver’s side window and, last but not least, reluctant turn signals.

Maybe it’s time to find that friend-of-a-friend’s brother and get him to work for pounds of coffee, photographs of his kids and some really cute jewelry.  They do that, right?

3 Pictures – Aesthetics, Unconditional Love and Portraits in Honesty

August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I see things, I am 100% opinionated.  This is a bad side effect of going to art school and learning how to turn abstract ideas in to concrete arguments.  Which is interesting sometimes, like why I decided I really liked my boyfriend’s band and why I didn’t like the footstool used in the installation in the display space at MECA on my walk home (it is too big, and too navy.  it should have been more of an aqua).

One thing I did like for sure was Mike and Rebecca’s wedding in Orono last month, on July 3rd.  I don’t very much like Orono, and I don’t very much like driving, but I do think celebrating your love with BBQ and buying all your champagne flutes at Goodwills/Thrift shops all over the state are two items at the apex of aesthetics.

pretty much just a beautiful angel

So, I may have been “rapped at” on Congress St. walking home (“She’s swingin’ her keys, watch out for them GAnGSTAS!“) right outside of Angela Adams, of all place.  And I might have been put in the strange position of wondering about a good friend’s parenting practices, while still feeling overwhelmingly unsure about questioning seeing as I have not lived with children since I WAS one.  And the girl at Otto’s might have blatantly ignored me, reluctantly took my order, then played with her hair, then started eating behind the counter, then touched her face and made me feel super confused since all my previous experiences there have been big city, efficient and wonderful.

BUT.

All those things might have happened but I’m not really worried about it when at the end of the day this little girl, swinging boldly off a branch of our family tree, clings to my leg when she’s unsure of things;  she thinks I’m great fun when I chase her on my hands and knees.  That she disappeared in to the kitchen for a minute and quietly pushed the kitchen chair to the sink, climbed up, and started pretending to do the dishes.  And when she finally figured out how to climb in to the chair that was just a liiiiiittle to high for her we applauded her and she clapped and blew kisses to the room.

As long as all those things are true, all the other shit of life can fall away and I can be really really psyched.

honesty in portraiture

So now lastly I’ve just dug way deep (almost two years back) in the photo archives.  I wanted to find and see a portrait that truly honestly showed who that person is at the very core of them.  I snap a lot of shots of ‘camera face’ – a phenomena in portraiture where people actually end up making themselves look worse in an attempt to make themselves look better.  A thrust jaw, weight purposefully on one leg, puffed out lips:  the list goes on.

But nothing nothing nothing looks more wonderful in photographs than unabashed honesty.

When I see this one I see a wise woman, watching thoughtfully.  Her distraction looks intentional like she is making sure a conversation in the other corner of the room is going well for both parties.  Her white hair flits around her head like a dove and although she is 81 years old there is warmth and energy under her cheeks that could go on for 81 more.  Her clothing makes her look cultured, a traveler.  Because I know her well, I know that all these things are true.  But I think and hope that if someone just stumbled across the picture they might feel at least a couple of those things, too.

This all was a bit serious, I promise I’ll be funny again next time.

  • here i am!

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