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This Kitchen Accessory Tugs on Your Heartstrings

14 Jul

Last weekend, the Boy and I went up to Vermont (report to come), and on the way we stopped at Saxtons River Distillery in Brattleboro–well, more like, we read about it at the Vermont Welcome Center on I-91, and when we happened to be driving past, we took a hard right into the parking lot.

While the Boy was talking with the owner, I wandered around the shop and saw these cutting boards on a little display with a series of notes telling the story of why a distillery was selling unbranded cutting boards.

The boards happen to the be the work of the owner’s kids, who started selling them because they wanted to get a beta fish and a hamster. “Also save some to pay for our colleges.”

In the first update, they’d ended up buying gerbils (and thank you for the help, customers); however, gerbils need ongoing care, so they’re still selling the boards to pay for their upkeep. Then in the second update, disaster! While they’re still trying to earn money for college, they need to replace one of their gerbils because their cat killed it. “So we need to buy a new one. Also buy a new lid for the cage.”

How can you not want to help?

The owner told us the backstory–The kids want extra pets, but the household rule is that they’re going to have to pay for them. He actually cuts the boards because the kids are too young to work the saw, but they attach feet and put on the finish. The gerbils are fun, but they like to chew on things and are masters of getting out of their cages, so that’s how one of them met an unfortunate end with the cat.

The cutting board itself is quite nice (cherry wood) and is a decent size–and when I use it, I think of these kids and their quest for pets (and college). Makes me smile thinking that I’ve helped a little bit–and I’ve helped a parent teach his children a good lesson about work and money, which will definitely help them in the future.

 

Postcard from Ohio

16 Jun
Pressed Penny machine in an Ohio rest stop along I-90. What a monstrosity! Click through to find out why!

What’s wrong with this picture?

Oh, Ohio.

I used to look forward to finding a great pressed penny machine at your I-90 rest areas. But this? This newfangled “penny press” machine? No.

First off, it’s electric. What a waste of energy. Traditional pressed penny machines with a hand crank don’t need electricity–people make them work! Do these break down more (I’m sure there’s got to be some issue with active kids overturning a handle until it breaks, but still)?

Secondly, pressing a button and watching the machine do its thing is boring. Part of the fun of the machine is getting to make the penny yourself. Not that you have a ton of control over what it looks like, but it’s a lot of fun to crank that handle and see what comes out. Sometimes the penny comes out long, sometimes it’s fat. It’s always a surprise. Passively watching the machine work disconnects you from the process. The penny becomes something you gather, not something you’ve made.

Thirdly, it’s a buck. I realize that pressed penny prices for the most part haven’t changed much over the years — most machines are two quarters and one penny, except for those lame machines that are four quarters, or even worse, the machines at Lincoln Park Zoo that are five quarters, one of which is pressed. Why do I want a pressed quarter? It doesn’t fit into a pressed penny wallet! A quarter is actually useful to buy other things!

At any rate, it’s expensive for a tiny souvenir. I get that people might have a dollar in their wallet versus 51 cents, but still. If pressed pennies are going to cost a dollar, that’s something I might take a pass on–well, actually, I did. My philosophy has always been that whenever I see a pressed penny machine, I get one design. If I don’t like the design (“lucky penny” and “I love you” designs are lame in my book–a pressed penny should say something about a particular place), or by some fluke, have all of the designs, I skip the machine. Driving across Ohio, I should’ve picked up three or four pennies. Instead, I got one, because only saw one design I liked enough to spend a dollar on. Who’s losing here?

Let’s not make this a trend, Ohio. Modernity isn’t always progress. Other owners of these machines, you’re on notice.

Your pal,

Jill

Well, That Was Quick

2 Jun

While folding a load of laundry today, I discovered this:

A sad moment, considering that I’d just written about them, but maybe this guy couldn’t handle the pressures of fame, the pressure of living up to the dream of being the ultimate sock in the drawer–that sole sock that knew the history of my feet better than I did.

But I have at least one other pair just like this–and it’s continuing with the dream of eternal sock longevity.

[Hopefully my grandiose dreams won’t result in another follow-up post next week with another sad picture of holey socks. I’d take that as a sure sign.]

Waiting for the ‘Wear it Out’

26 May

socks.jpeg

There comes a point in time when something that’s potentially embarrassing becomes an exciting challenge, and I’ve hit that point with these socks.

I’ve had these socks for a long time–probably a good 12 to 15 years, although time is relative because there were many years that I avoided wearing them in favor of other socks. They’re pretty thick, so they were too hot in the summer; because they’re anklets, they were often too cold in winter. Now that they’re fairly threadbare on bottom, they’re just about right.

The Boy saw me put them on one day and kindly suggested that I retire them. He’s one to talk, as Old Stripey still takes up space in his closet. Old Stripey is a short-sleeved button-down white dress shirt with bluish and reddish vertical stripes. It’s at least 20 years old, though I think I’m being kind with that number. The Boy doesn’t wear short-sleeved dress shirts–if it’s a short-sleeved button-down, it’s a Hawaiian shirt.

Why is it so beloved that it has a name? Well, we live in New England in an apartment with closets that any HGTV-home-searching couple would reject in an instant, so space is at a premium. We don’t really have the room to house clothes that we don’t really wear.

I was cleaning out one day, and since I’d never seen him wear this shirt, I thought maybe he’d want to donate it.

“Not Old Stripey!”

“What?! This shirt has a name? And you think it still fits?”

Gauntlet thrown, he squeezed into Old Stripey, and by some miracle, no seams ripped or buttons popped off.

“See! It fits! We’re keeping Old Stripey!”

OK, we’re keeping Old Stripey. He’s been hanging out with us ever since. Never worn, but the proof of fit still happens on a regular basis.

Needless to say, based on Old Stripey, I can keep my socks for a while longer. Sure, I don’t really need to keep this particular pair–my sock drawer is full of socks that are in much better condition. Why keep these?

Well, one day I put them on thinking that my heel would poke through immediately, and that didn’t happen. Then I thought for sure the threadbare area would rip in the wash. That didn’t happen either. Now the question is, how strong is this amazing thread?

So far, they’ve lasted the entire winter, with no signs of ripping. I wear them at least once a week–more if I do laundry more often–so they’re getting regular use. Can they go the entire summer? Can they make it to 2018? Looks be damned, that’s a challenge I want to try.

Unless I make a bargain with Old Stripey.

 

 

 

 

Link

Censored!

19 May

A few years ago, I picked up this copy of Bill Buford’s Heat in a used bookstore. I’d heard good things about it and wanted to use it for research to get an idea of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen.

Here’s the thing with used books: You never know what you’re going to get. I was reading away, enjoying the book, when I flipped the page to this:

Wait a sec–the black bar? What’s so bad that I shouldn’t read it?

I flipped the page and held the book up to the light. Oh, I thought. It’s “got cocky. Someone thought I shouldn’t read that.”

That made me chuckle, but as you might imagine from what I’ve heard about the back of house in restaurants, this was just the beginning of the censorship. A few fucks were crossed out, maybe some other words–the censor got really good with their blackout technique.

Then there was this choice:

 

 

 

So…..let’s cross out every time “fucking” was used, but “bastards” can stay in?

 

 

 

 

 

But the last straw was this:

 

This little passage must have gotten the censor really angry, because any word that’s part a sexual suggestion has been blacked out. Like “kissing.” Bad!

I don’t understand–if the book’s so horrid that someone was compelled to censor it, why even bother to make sure it exists anyway? Why not just recycle it back to the pulp from whence it came? I can’t imagine the couple of bucks they got for it really was worth the effort of all of this fine handiwork.

And if it was, this book certainly landed in the wrong hands, because I don’t give a fuck about they think.

 

What’s Your “Back in Time”?

7 Apr

My friend Angwa hipped me to this BBC show called “Back in Time for Dinner,” which I’ve turned into my lunchtime fun time for the week. Each one-hour episode has the five-member Robshaw family living through a different decade, from the 1950s to the 1990s. The first floor of their house is transformed into what a typical house of that decade would look like–kitchen, living room, dining room; they wear the clothes; they do the things; and they eat the food.

In the 1950s, this means that mom’s stuck in the kitchen all day doing amazing amounts of housework. There’s no fridge–you keep things cool on a slab of marble in the larder. The country still is rationing food, so there’s not much meat.

Throughout the years–and some decades have massive amounts of change in a very short time–we see the introduction of refrigerators, freezers, TVs and highly combustible chip pans. Fish sticks, ready meals and Rice Krispies vie for stomach space. Society changes, and therefore the family changes with it–things like women working and kids moving out of the house. World events like the 1970s energy crisis have a major impact on day-to-day life that many of us would find shocking.

It’s fascinating to see how society changed with regards to our food and how we make it, and how our living standards have changed. It got me thinking about what’s “back in time” for me–and what’s not.

For example, the Boy and I don’t have a microwave. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this is an appliance that 90% of Americans have. I remember the magic of getting our first one when I was maybe 10. We could cook hot dogs in 45 seconds! We learned that you don’t nuke foil-wrapped burgers! We got yelled at if we stood in front of it while it was on!

But as an adult, I’ve never really cared about owning one. Last year, when our 16-year-old microwave–the one Ma Jaracz got me because she didn’t know how I was living without it–bit the dust, we decided not to replace it. Heating up leftovers is kind of a pain now, but we manage just fine doing whatever we did in the microwave by using the stove and oven–and have more counter space.

However, about three years ago, I joined the ranks of the 60% who have a dishwasher, and it’s  revolutionized my world. I grew up with a dishwasher, so spending most of my adult life without one was a big step back. Having one has completely changed how much time I spend washing dishes, which changes how much I’m willing to experiment with cooking and baking. If a recipe doesn’t work out, it’s not as miserable an experience to clean it up as when I had to spend an hour washing up the failure.

Even the food trends are interesting to think about–and how cyclical they can be. Consider popcorn. As a kid, it was a big deal to get an air popper. Then we graduated to microwave popcorn. Now I make it on the stove old-school style–but with my fancy popcorn pan.

We also have a lot more packaged food that makes life easier–but maybe isn’t really the best thing for you. When I was a kid, making a cake from scratch was the most difficult thing you, but the Boy’s chocolate cake recipe takes maybe five more minutes than a boxed cake mix. And it tastes much better.

But today we also have so many more global spices and flavors–and this has made our food so much more interesting and allows for a lot more variation and enjoyment.

At any rate, this week I’ve spent a lot of thinking about where our society has been with food and home innovations, and wondering where we’re going. I can’t imagine why I’d really want a smart refrigerator, but in 20 years will it be the norm? What new cooking gadgets will revolutionize our world? What food won’t we be able to live without?

Let me know your thoughts. In the meantime, I’ve got to eat lunch, which today means I’m going back to the 1980s. I hope I see an electric can opener!

 

 

Postcard from Victor Harbor

10 Mar

Ladies,

Let’s have a talk about childbirth. I’ve never been pregnant, so I don’t know what it’s like to put your body through pregnancy and childbirth. Nor do I have 24/7 hands-on knowledge of what it’s like to rear multiple children. So maybe I’m a little more wowed about what our kangaroo counterparts manage to do when it comes to reproducing, but perhaps you might be impressed as well.

The above picture is adorable, right? The classic roo with a joey in her pouch. So cute! Baby with mama, hanging out until it becomes an adult. But that’s only one-third of the story, as I learned from one of the keepers at Urimbirra Wildlife Park. Here’s the rest of the story:

When a female kangaroo is able to have children, she gets pregnant. She has the baby, and the baby (called a joey) hangs out in her pouch. It may leave and explore the greater world, but it’ll hop back in head-first, giving mom this lovely look:

 

For which joey won’t apologize until two decades later when on Kangaroo Mother’s Day, it sheepishly gives mom a “sorry I made you look like an alien” card.

Anyway, after it dives into the pouch, it’ll turn around at some point to be able to stick its head out and look cute (and make it easier to get out), even if it’s getting bigger and is more to lug around. While mom is carrying around joey #1, she gets pregnant with #2.

Joey #2 is born. Joey #1 gets pushed out of the pouch, and joey #2 takes up residence there. Joey #1 is still kind of a child though, so it’s also still feeding on mom. Meanwhile, mom gets pregnant again, so she’s got a bun in the oven, a joey in the pouch, and another on the teat.

When joey #3 comes along, it’s time for joey #1 to make its own way in the world, so no more teat for it. Joey #2 moves to the teat. Joey #3 gets the pouch. And mom becomes pregnant again.

This cycle continues for all of mom’s childbearing years. Yes, for the entire time you can bear children, you’re running this cycle of three at pretty much any given point in the year. [To be fair, I was so blown away by this that I didn’t even think to ask whether or not kangaroos can miscarry or if some are infertile, and believe you me, those questions are definitely on my mind now that I’ve processed the basics. If you have answers, I am all ears.]

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

The female kangaroo also possesses some magical superpowers that can determine whether or not its joey-in-the-oven is getting enough nutrients, and if there isn’t enough food or water around to allow for proper incubating, pregnancy will halt and remain in suspended animation until there’s food and water again. At that point, pregnancy resumes like nothing ever happened.

Did you get that? The female can put its pregnancy on hold. On hold! What if you were 20 weeks along, and suddenly there was a drought and you couldn’t get enough food or water? Would your body just turn off the pregnancy until it rained again? Would you want to have some suspended animation action all up in your uterus for who knows how long?

You let me know because right now, the kangaroo has earned my mother-of-the-year award for life.

Your pal,

Jill

 

I, Influencer (or, How Did I Get on this List?)

2 Dec

Yesterday started out with a round a questioning from the Boy:

“Where are you going again tonight?”

“I’m going to CambridgeSide to an Influencers’ holiday party.”

“How are you an ‘Influencer’ again?”

How am I an Influencer?! What kind of question is that? Is this not the face of an Influencer?

International woman of awesomeness!

This person makes you want certain stuff and things.

 

 

 

 

No? Well, how about this?

Yeah! This girl is on. Point!

Want to be me, or else!

 

 

 

 

 

Still no? One more try:

No, seriously, I'm looking at something so amazing. You should want that something.

There are no words for this level of influence.

 

Needless to say, the folks at CambridgeSide thought I was an Influencer, bless them, and put me on the list for this holiday shindig. Since there’s a party involved, I’m going, and I’m going to roll with the ambiguity of why I’m actually invited or who even found me. This time, I’m going to do it right. Admittedly, last time I didn’t do it completely wrong, but I certainly knew that I could’ve worked it a lot better.

See, the last time I found myself invited to a place I know I didn’t belong, was several years ago when I lived in Chicago and Chicago was bidding to host the 2016 Olympics. One of the big Chicago business councils–the kind where all of the bigwigs get together and promote business within the city–held a luncheon with Mayor Daley and then-International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. A bunch of former Olympic stars came out to support the event, and it was a big deal, particularly since a lot of companies had a big interest in helping the Olympics come to Chicago.

A bunch of higher ups in my office decided to go, and since I love the Olympics, I jumped at the chance. The Boy also decided to come along and check out the scene. We left work kind of late so that we’d hit the end of the mingling portion and be there for the lunch part. But that turned out to be a mistake.

When we checked in at the registration table, they found the Boy’s name, they found my co-workers’ names, but they couldn’t find mine. We slid down a few people to a different registration list, where the check-in lady found my name and said, “You’re supposed to be down in the VIP room.”

Wait, what?! VIP list? How did I…?

But there was no time for questions because another person was whisking me away to a downstairs room where some of the city’s heavy hitters were hanging out and waiting to say a little private hello to Jacques. And then there was me.

Thankfully I had ironed my cheap chinos and button-down shirt that morning. And maybe my makeup hadn’t worn off. The sad thing is that I knew I didn’t fit in, and I let that thought take center stage in my brain. I latched onto some wine and talked to a couple of people–one of whom was one of the more influential priests in the city and took pity on me enough to sit next to me at lunch, as VIPs also got prominent seating in the middle of the room.

I learned a few things that day:

  • Being a VIP means you’re likely turning down dessert in order to maintain your VIP figure.
  • If the mayor repeatedly mispronounces the guest of honor’s name, it might not bode well on your future chances of winning the Olympics.
  • If you find yourself in a place where you have no idea how you got put on “the list,” say yes to it and fake belonging as best you can, because maybe you actually do belong there and you owe yourself the courtesy of actually believing in yourself for a change.

But back to my being an Influencer. Yes, that’s right. Me. Jill. Influencer. With a party to attend.

I got to the mall way before the party started, so I walked around every level to kill time…and kill a little more of my Christmas shopping list. I played the “one for you, one for me” game, buying a gift for someone and then a glittery polka dot sweater for me, since I realized I have to go to a fun party this weekend and had nothing appropriate to wear. TJMaxx to the rescue–I found it, tried it on and was out the door in 10 minutes or less!

The party itself was a nice way to start December–we got to see holiday fashions, test MAC lipstick if we wanted, have snacks courtesy of some of the mall’s restaurants, get a swag bag and participate in a Yankee swap grab bag. And we got to take pictures with this guy:

I *have* been good this year, Santa!

Big Influencer hero, Mr. S. Claus.

Which isn’t really even a fancy Influencer-type perk, since the mall’s giving away pictures with Santa this year.

So did I belong there? Sure!

I think.

I was a first-timer, so I had that insecurity that you have whenever you’re someplace for the first time and don’t know people like everyone else seems to know people. I don’t vlog, so I wasn’t one of those who were instantly Snapchatting or whatever it was that they were doing with video.

But I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong, so that’s something. And that’s at least influential to me.

#SuperBloodMoon – The Transcript

28 Sep

In doing a quick look at the all-important Twitter this morning, I noticed that no one seems to have live-tweeted the #SuperBloodMoon eclipse last night. This was a big opportunity missed–I’m sure that if I had posted just the right pithy or moving tweet, news reporters everywhere would’ve jumped on it and given me some good exposure.

That’s not to say that I can’t share my distinctly special take on the lunar eclipse with the handfuls of readers who tune in (or accidentally click on) this blog. Here’s how it went down outside of Boston, MA:

Jill (pausing the DVR on “Project Runway”): It’s 10:00! Time for Super Blood Lunar Eclipse!

The Boy: I don’t think that’s exactly what it’s called.

Jill dashes out front door.

Jill: You can see it!

The Boy comes outside and stands by Jill on the front walkway. The moon is about halfway covered up at this point.

The Boy: Wow. It already started.

Someone across the street hacks up a lung.

The Boy: Let’s see if we can see this in the backyard.

They dash to the back of the house. The view from the back porch is perfect.

Jill: Wow, that’s amazing.

The Boy: Yeah. That’s amazing. Where are my binoculars?

Jill: I don’t know. They’re your binoculars. Maybe in the front closet.

The Boy goes back inside, quickly finds the binoculars and comes back outside.

The Boy (through the binoculars): It’s so cool. Want to see? You might need to adjust the focus.

Jill holds the binoculars up to her eyes.

Jill: That’s so cool. I think the shadow is starting to move past.

She fiddles around with the focus and hands the binoculars back to the Boy.

The Boy: What did you do to these?

Jill: Sorry.

The Boy fixes the focus again.

The Boy: No, it’s almost covered up.

He hands the binoculars back to her.

Jill: Oh, you’re right. Let’s go back in and watch some TV.

******

Repeat a few times. I won’t do that here, because really, time-lapse photography was a much better way to experience this event, rather than reading our lame conversation and my eventual bad attempts at jokes (you really don’t want to read those). Right now, I bet you’re looking around your shoulder for Robert Goulet.

I’m not saying that the eclipse wasn’t cool–it totally was, and I even succumbed to the lure of taking a picture on my phone, knowing that the massive 4.0X magnifying power of the lens wasn’t going to be anywhere near something like these gems. See?

wpid-img_20150927_223139564.jpg

There’s a tiny red sliver around the center of this photo. SuperBloodMoon eclipse! Think I should enter NASA’s photo contest? Think I’m delusional enough to?

Still, sometimes you can’t beat the wonder of science. We got lucky and for once had clear skies to see this pretty amazing occurrence–which isn’t going to happen again for a VERY LONG TIME, even though it seems like we’re always having eclipses, each of which is very special and different and won’t happen again for a VERY LONG TIME–probably not in your lifetime–so you’d better hope for good weather, or else you are missing out on life.

Or at least something pretty spiffy to look at and not necessarily talk about.

The Other ANTM

30 Apr

One of the great things about flying Qantas is that you get to enjoy a pretty massive personal entertainment system that will entertain you for many more hours than your flight lasts. Case in point: It has four or five newer movies I’ve wanted to see, but it also had three episodes of “Australia’s Next Top Model.” Being a sucker for reality TV and having watched many a cycle of the American version, I couldn’t resist.

I’ve gotta say, it’s a little different than the American show. First off, during downtime when the models are just hanging around the house, many of them read actual books. For fun. I saw this happen twice in one episode and then again on another. When have you ever seen the American contestants read more than Tyra Mail?

Secondly, when an episode is teaching the models to face their fears by touching all kinds of strange animals, the Australian models have every right to be scared out of their minds because 90℅ of the wildlife in Australia will kill them–and the remaining 10℅ wants to but they’re just too lazy.

Thirdly, reality competition franchises get a bad rap when the judges aren’t as good as the original, and let me just say that Didier Cohen is no Jay Manuel. Didier is American (the Aussies can’t love our accent, can they?) and looks and sounds like he’s taken umpteen rounds of media training that’s designed to suck every ounce of personality out of him. I heard Miss Tyra summarily fired Jay, Nigel Barker and Miss J. Australia should snap up that motley crew (though I do like the Australian photographer guy) and put some life into the production.

Now, none of these differences made me stop watching, and I quickly went through the three episodes on the system–only three! They were just as captivating: posing, teens being teens, and in one, a contestant got sent home for choking another contestant.

OK, maybe it’s not so different from the American version after all.

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