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They Only Come Out at Night

10 Nov

Sleep sock collection. Storing place: bed

It’s November, which means it’s starting to get colder here in Boston, and when you live in an old house, it means that at night it gets really cold. This is why I have an extensive sleep sock collection.

Sleep socks–and I’m not even sure if that’s the technical name for them; it’s certainly what I call them–are my saving grace during winter. If my feet are cold, I can’t sleep, period. The only thing that keeps ’em warm are sleep socks. I have a few pairs of fuzzy ones, but my favorite are these oversized slipper sock things that cover my feet without getting them sweaty.

And sweaty feet is one of the problems I end up having with sleep socks, so once my feet are warm enough, I tend to kick them off in the middle of the night. They hang out under the sheets at the bottom of the bed until I fish them out to wear again. Or don’t find them, at which point, I pull out another pair. Then I go to wash the sheets and find several sleep socks strewn around the foot of the bed.

Such is life right now. Remembering what the chill feels like and how to bundle up to protect yourself against it. I keep telling myself that even though it feels cold right now, when it’s this same temperature in February, I will be really excited about it.

Excuse Me, It’s Baking Time

11 Aug

Apple & Oat Muffins

In the US, we get new seasons of “The Great British Bake Off” a long time after they air in Britain, which means a couple things:

  1. I spend weeks ignoring the “GBBO Bakers: Where are they now?” articles my British friend Angcha sends me because she’s already seen them.
  2. I have bursts of binge baking, which during summer is not the best idea.

The binge baking is good for my friends though–a few years ago for Christmas, I started giving friends empty mason jars. The deal is that I fill them with a recipe I’ve been wanting to try. They eat it and give it back. I refill them throughout the year–usually this is randomly, and sometimes I go for months without doing anything, but then Bake Off is on, and out come the baking tins and GBBO-related cookbooks. It’s a decent system though–the jar method of sharing certainly makes it easier on my waistline, and it’s fun to share the bakes.

Over the last few weeks I’ve made my first tart, done my first blind-bake of a pastry crust and made English muffins. Last night I did my first hot water crust and put together my first meat pie (we’ll find out tonight if it’s any good). Today I’m attempting meringue for the first time as well.

Some friends have asked if I’d ever want to be on a Bake-Off show, but honestly, I’d be petrified. I’ve been a “tried and true recipe” kind of baker. When I make cookies, it’s pretty much just chocolate chip. For bread, I stick to pretzel. For cake, I use the Boy’s vegan chocolate cake recipe, which is plenty tasty and gets around a lot of allergies. It’s not that I don’t mind trying new things–I ventured out into whoopie pies, for instance, but even then, I haven’t ventured into the pages of the whoopie pie cookbook I got as a gift. Yet.

While it’s easier to stay with the tried and true, sometimes they become tired and true (which, incidentally, is how I typed it at first). Sure, I know how to do them well, but it really is exciting to attempt a new recipe–which, even if it fails, is fun because then the challenge is figuring out where it went wrong and correcting those mistakes.

So, maybe I would do Bake-Off someday, given the chance. Just not today–I have a lot more to learn before I’d consider myself an all-around Star Baker. And that starts right now with Italian meringue.

Best Thing Ever (Right Now): Hannaford Is Bringing It

3 Mar

I stopped at Hannaford on Sunday night–well, actually, I stopped at Market Basket first because that was closer to where I was driving from (and it’s cheap), but Market Basket closes at 7PM on Sundays, and I was too late. On to Hannaford.

I do like Hannaford. Sure, it’s not 90,000 sq. ft. of groceries, but they do have decent produce, they sell bison and they have decent prices. But now they also do this:

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Blue bags and brown bags? What’s the difference? When I see a blue bag in a grocery store, it throws me back to Chicago’s old blue bag recycling program, where some grocery stores would pack your groceries in blue plastic bags, just to give you a way to recycle without having to buy the actual (pretty expensive) blue bags.

The Hannaford bagger explained that the blue bags only contained items that needed to go into the refrigerator.

Mind. Blown!

This is genius! I’ve always hated it when I’ve brought groceries home, set them on the floor, put away the refrigerated items and left the rest to unpack later, only to discover hours later that I’d missed something. Now I know. Get the blue bags unpacked pronto.

I found out from the customer service person that they implemented this a few weeks ago (this is a nice way of saying that I blubbered to the customer service person, she stared at me like I was nuts, tried to explain the meaning of the bags, and I had to stop her, saying, “No, I know what they do, but when did this start? THISISSOCOOL!!!!”), which I hadn’t noticed because (a) they don’t have it in the express lanes I usually frequent, and (b) if you bring your own bag, you wouldn’t notice.

As I try to bring my own bags when I can, I may have to start designating some of them “fridge only,” just to keep that concept going. It’s pretty genius.

It’s also a cool way to thwart the Market Basket competition I bet they’re feeling. We’re seeing a lot of interesting things from other local groceries, probably to try to keep customers from completely defecting to Market Basket. This blue bag program has me a bit more jazzed about Hannaford now though. That’s for sure.

The Best Thing I’ve Ever Bought (Right Now): Housewares Edition

15 Jan

Today I had one of those moments where I’m marveling over a fairly small, recent purchase and can’t help but think, This is the best thing I’ve ever bought! Do you ever get that feeling?

Right now for me, it’s these reusable produce bags:

bags

It’s one thing to tote your groceries in a reusable shopping bag. It’s another thing to fill said reusable bags with plastic bags of produce because you don’t want five apples and 3 peppers rolling around your cart. You know what the broccoli’s like when it gets loose, the tomatoes are fussy, and I don’t even want to get into what the cucumbers get up to when you buy more than one. So you put each item in a plastic bag, and then, because you’ve been a good, healthy shopper, you get home and find about 20 plastic produce bags in your one reusable tote. Way to save the environment.

When I was at The Container Store before Christmas (an aside: I try to stay away from this place because for me it’s as dangerous as setting foot in a bakery. Yet in a moment of weakness, I signed up for their customer loyalty program. This might have been a mistake–oh, not to The Container Store because they’re going to see me a lot more often–because my wallet is going to take a hit, but it will be soooo worth it), I saw these reusable produce bags and thought they’d make good stocking stuffers. Of course, I figured the set I got for the Boy would be completely shareable.

And it is. Turns out, the set of three wasn’t enough, so the next time I was at The Container Store, I bought a 5-pack that was a different brand. Best thing ever (right now). Granted, if I’m on a massive produce-buying spree, I end up using the plastic bags anyway but there are far fewer floating around my house, trying to avoid being captured and recycled. And for that, I’m pretty grateful.

*****

If you’ve got a Best Thing You’ve Ever Bought (Right Now), let me know. I’d love for my house to be filled with mostly the Best Stuff Ever. I’m not sure it ever can, because, well, there’s well-intentioned presents and some purging issues. But it’s a progression that I’m slowly working toward. It doesn’t have to be housewares–it could be clothing or other gear or whatever you own that’s pretty damn cool. Since it’s just after Christmas, you’ve got to have received or given some pretty cool stuff–the Boy was enthralled with a friend’s over-the-door-kitchen-towel holder, so guess what sweet thing I got for Christmas? Share those things! Let’s all be cool together!

 

 

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