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list 4: things I unpacked that I love, vol. 1

I have been here almost a year, and there are still a number of boxes that have not been unpacked yet. This is plain old embarrassing. I did a good enough job packing that the things I needed would be available right away, but other things--things that could safely stay in boxes for a year--well, they stayed. We still have yet to build a replacement wall of books for the basement, and books are probably about 75% of what's still boxed up. The rest of it? It's getting unboxed, slowly but surely. Since one of my goals for 2014 is to finally unpack all the things, there will be a few of these TIUTIL lists throughout the year when I come across the lovely things that I forgot I had. Don't you believe all those minimalists who say "If it stays in a box for a year and you don't need it, you never will, so throw it away." Some of those things are waiting for the right time, and they were worth the packing, the boxing, the freight charges, and the waiting before they saw the light again. 

(Note: Mindy Kaling used to run this blog called Things I Bought that I Love here and later here. In my head, I use this structure all the time: Things I Cooked that I Love, Things I Read that I Love, and so on. In fact, now that I think of it, most blogs are basically Things I Thought that I Love. Anyway, that's where the name comes from, for me.)

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1. My box of GOOD candles. I packed these fuckers like I dug them up out of a sarcophagus and was sending them to a museum instead of an old house in the North End. Then they wound up somehow in the stack of still-packed boxes. I opened up so many searching for them. I tried sniffing every available box in "my" section, and only found my Lesser Candles. This box? Myron SWORE it was just a box of teenage romances. HOW WRONG HE WAS. The other night, we went downstairs looking for a particular box of books and it crossed my mind that the Good Candles were still down there somewhere. Lo, my people, they were found and cheers of joy were shouted. Pictured are a few: Sleeping Under the Stars by Lollia, Agadir by Tocca, Yuzu by Bluewick, Napa Valley Harvest by Illuminations (now Illume), and Amber Dusk by Lumière Candle Co. (sadly defunct). I could not resist lighting the Yuzu. You probably would not have, either, so that's okay. There's only one link in that series because the rest of the candles aren't made anymore. I should burn them or else I think I qualify as a hoarder.

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2. Grammy and Charlie. One of my cousins (both of whom are talented artists) made this, though I can't say for sure which one. There is a series of these composites with my (holy cow gorgeous) Grammy and various famous people from long ago. During the move it got a few water splotches so I've requested the files and hopefully I can print them out. In the meantime, I have that smile to look at and sometimes I can't believe there's still snow on the ground outside when she's around to heat things up. 

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3. Three photo albums. (There's actually a fourth, too, but without initials.) My mother kept a vast library of photo albums when I was growing up but until a few years ago, I had genuine photo apathy and did not care about taking any pictures at all. And yet, somehow I wound up with a few hundred printed photos. I want to cull them and keep the best in these albums, and then I want to start printing some of my favorites that I've taken since I went digital. I'm never going to have an entire shelf full of albums--I have a hard drive for this--but getting rid of the hundreds of pics that aren't worth keeping will be a good project. I cannot even tell you how many scone pics there are in my files right now, because it would require math and greek letters, but I know there are more scone pics than there were ACTUAL EATEN SCONES. I know that when the albums are filled and the rest of the extra pictures are tossed, I am going to feel a huge amount of stress lift away.

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4. This Pendleton blanket. It's spread out on my guest bed in that pic, but mostly it lives on my bed because it's 100% wool and warm as my Grammy's smoldering eyes. With winter the way it is, I would be lost without it. It was waiting patiently in its box, wrapped up in dry-cleaner plastic, and one of the only good things about remaining catless is that this blanket is not covered in cat hair. It's a limited edition blanket that was made for the school where I taught in New Mexico, and it is seriously gorgeous. Everything on the blanket has a meaning and it is profoundly important to me.

52 lists is a thing I stole without shame from hula seventy. 

list 3: if x, then y--disaster edition

Beneath those washcloths: MORE POLISH, staying wet until I could clean it off.

Beneath those washcloths: MORE POLISH, staying wet until I could clean it off.

  1. If you lose hold of your nailpolish box and drop it, and a bottle of it cracks at the neck, flinging fumey stickiness all over your bedroom carpet, then it's probably safe to assume it would not be a nice, clear topcoat bottle but instead, that last bottle of lime green Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear (shade name: IVY LEAGUE I am not kidding.) 
  2. If I make a huge mess, and this is a thing that happens often enough that I'm afraid I'll never grow out of it, then the next thing I do is search ["jolie kerr" + "fill-in-stain-disaster-here"]. This will almost always take you to a Jezebel page, and I'm not direct linking to them right now because fuck'em. Jolie Kerr will not steer you wrong when it comes to cleaning up things and her book is coming out in February. Here is what worked on that Ivy League: not a DAMN thing but straight acetone. It did not bleach or melt the carpet, and the polish came up. Slowly. Over two days worth of dabbing spot by spot.

  3. If you ever have to spend two days with your face a few inches from an acetone-soaked carpet, then you are going to have to open your fucking windows, even if it is January in Winnipeg and it is -15C/5F outside. There is no getting around it. When the wind blows snow into your room you will be nicely stoned and you will think it looks pretty. At some point, try to remember to put away all the extra cotton balls and pointy q-tips and emery boards and stuff, because all that additional visual clutter is NOT HELPING DAMN IT. (Take a picture first, though, especially if you need to guiltiily report your mess to the only person who (a) has legendary sensitivity to fumes (b) has to sleep in the same house you have turned into an acetone fume zone.)

  4. If you have already polished your nails in bright blood red, then you should probably remove it before you start this cleanup process or risk adding even more stains to the carpet. 

  5. If you promise not to take this anecdotal Number 5 as advice, then I will tell you that the smallest bits of polish--the ones that managed to dry anyway, no matter how wet I tried to keep them--were the bits that cleaned up easiest. The color stayed on the surface of the carpet, and the acetone dissolved it much more effectively. 

  6. If you think that common sense would take over and that I would cease storing my nail polish in the bedroom, then you think much better of me than I deserve because that shit is still right in my nightstand daring me to drop it again.

     


52 lists is a hula seventy thing and I cannot believe I have done three in a row. GO ME.

list 2: steps, sidesteps, and dance steps that result in Sunday morning scones

I have made a lot of scones in the almost-a-year that I've been here. These are adapted in method from Marion Cunningham's Buttermilk Scones in Baking with Julia, and I have messed with them a fair bit until I could get the process down for mornings when I'm extremely tired and not feeling remotely like being Donna Reedish and baking. And yeah, I could make the dough in advance and they aren't too bad if I do that, but to me the only reason they're worth all that butter is the way they taste when they're fresh. So: this week's list. Eleven steps for your weekend scones and some pictures from a couple of different batches.

Blackberry scones, my personal faves and (in my opinion) the best ones for your first try.

Blackberry scones, my personal faves and (in my opinion) the best ones for your first try.

1. Go shopping. You MUST plan ahead unless you are the kind of person who always has buttermilk in your house and I would bet twenty plastic Canbucks you are not this person. You will need:

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading/shaping
  • up to 1/3 cup sugar, probably (depending on your add-in--use less for super-sweet fruit, more for cranberries, and only a tablespoon to aid browning if you're making savory scones)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest, probably 
  • 6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold and hard
  • 1 to 1½ cups buttermilk
  • optional: berries, cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, chunks of ham, sauteed mushrooms, or herbs/spices of varying quantities, extra melted butter to brush on the tops
  • not optional: 1 source of quality music of the type that will have you dancing

2. Sunday morning, crawl out of bed, put on your slippers because your floor is cold, and give yourself whatever pep talk you require. If "scones in less than an hour" is not enough I probably can't help you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist.

3. Preheat your oven to 425°. Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on a baking sheet. Fill your sink with hot sudsy water. Start your music. Get some coffee or tea started before you even start with the baking ingredients. You need your wits about you. And you need to create that zen kind of moment where you remind yourself that this is your life, your feet are in your kitchen, you are making a ridiculously rich breakfast of your own volition, with your own health and fortune, and that someone with less fortune and time than you is eating a McMuffin and wishing they could have your scones instead. #soblessed

4. Now stop being smug and get to work. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar if you're making fruit scones, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Throw in optional zest (lemon if you're making blueberry or blackberry scones; orange if you're making cranberry scones). Mix well. Then using the large holes of a hand-held box grater, shred the cold butter directly into the dry ingredients. It will be tangled and unappealing-looking. Do not fear. It's just butter and it is your friend. Work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers, pulverizing the shreds until the whole bowlful looks crumbly. It's okay to leave some larger pieces of butter in the mix--it does lovely things to the texture.

5. This is where you get creative: toss a moderate amount of your fruit/cheese/meat with the flour mixture, coating it without smashing it up. By now you have been singing out loud and acknowledging your fine voice and winsome charms.  You are going to take that confidence in yourself and accept that this step is an unpredictable one but since you are ONLY adding things you already love to these scones, they will work. I recommend you start with ¾ cup of washed, fresh blackberries or blueberries.*

6. When you've tossed your add-in with your crumbly flour, add 1 cup of cold buttermilk and combine it with your fingers. My 1-cup measure is on the large side, so I often have to add a bit more, a tablespoonful at a time, until almost all of the flour is absorbed into a very shaggy dough. Be kind of careful not to burst your berries any more than you have to.

7. Scatter a bit of flour on a work surface and pat half of the dough into a circle somewhere around half an inch thick. Using a large, non-serrated knife, cut the circle into six or eight triangles like you're slicing a pizza. These are rustic and sometimes your circles will not be precisely circular and you must not stress about this when your tunes are playing. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

A somewhat circular round of yellow cheddar/green onion scone dough. I probably should have taken a pic when it was patted down a little thinner but this is what happens in early morning baking scenes.

A somewhat circular round of yellow cheddar/green onion scone dough. I probably should have taken a pic when it was patted down a little thinner but this is what happens in early morning baking scenes.

8. Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch between each one. If you like, brush melted butter or buttermilk on top of each one, but I almost never bother because I'm singing along with Bangles b-sides and that is too fussy for me right now. Put the scones in the preheated oven and bake for 12-14 minutes.

9. Refuse to listen to anyone who demands your attention right now. Put your bowl and implements in the hot soapy water. It takes five minutes to clean up from this process, and if you do it now you will not have to do it later. NOT having to do it later is MY FAVORITE PART of the whole recipe. You will have everything dried and put away before that timer even goes off, so go get your camera and get ready to take some scone pics when they come out of the oven like this:

This pic is blurry but it is so important to me that you see how tall they get. This is why the butter is worth it. 

This pic is blurry but it is so important to me that you see how tall they get. This is why the butter is worth it. 

11. Eat them while they're warm, with butter or jam or nothing but music or a book. Freeze extra scones wrapped tightly in foil for up to a week. The rest of your Sunday is ahead of you, most of your cleanup is done, and if you shared with anyone else they are lucky bastards.

*You can add about as much in cranberries, blueberries, or cut-up strawberries--wash them and gently dry if they're fresh, and don't bother thawing if they're frozen.  Crystallized ginger, rehydrated raisins, and a smidgen of chai-ish spices would be nice. You could add up to 2/3 cup of shredded sharp cheddar, some crumbled bacon, and chives. You might choose half a cup of blue cheese and hot smoked paprika. You might go with Swiss and sauteed mushrooms. One of you is probably thinking this is a good place to stick your leftover chicken korma, and you are probably wrong, but I don't want to step on your creativity. Make a few practice runs before going there, slugger. Cheese add-ins will probably require a bit more buttermilk, and you'll know better what the dough should feel like after you've made a few attempts.

(52 lists is a hula seventy thing)

list 1: conversations with a recalcitrant self

(for MEKM, who asked herself, "Self...?")

1.
self: You about ready to shut down that site? Maybe before the bill hits the credit card again?
me: I don't wanna.
self: You're not doing anything with it. 
me: I keep thinking I'll know when it's time to let it go. And it doesn't feel like time yet.
self: It's become Sad Old Internet Trash sitting there with all its comments past the expiration date.
me: But the longer I wait in between posting, the harder it is to get over myself and write something there.
self: I hate it when people just write something to put something there, anyway.
me: God, I know. 
self: Well, how about a list? New year and all that. Maybe this time you'll write more than four, you loser.
me: I wouldn't even know what kind of list to make.
self: And you're  a person who really came up with blog prompts for others? Talk about the blind leading the blind.

2.
self: You could put up some photos.
me: I could! That's a thing. 
<bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt>
me: Do you hear that?
self: Oh, yeah, I hear it.
me: What is that?
self: That's the noise you make in your head when you get closer to putting something up that will require you to press Publish.
<bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt>
me: It's terrible! What the hell am I doing that for?
self: It's called resistance. Or avoidance. Or procrastination. Or something.
me: This makes no sense. I actually LIKE writing. I swear I do.
self: Hang on, wait just a sec here.
me: What are you doing?
self: I just set a timer. In about three seconds you're going to decide you'd rather shovel snow than go through your memory card and pick a few pictures.
me: That's ridiculous. Though I really could use the fresh air. Be right back.

3.
self: That was fast. You absolutely did not shovel a thing.
me: Do you know how cold it is out there? There's another wind chill warning.
self: Winnipeg is not for wimps.
me: Even Myron says this is not a normal winter. It's cracking off my skin in sheets.
self: GROSS.
me: I'm sorry!
self: Wait a second. I hear someone out there shoveling. Your neighbors are managing it.
me: I have a cold. *koff*
self: Well, if you aren't shoveling you might as well write a post. Come on! First post of the year! Happy things!
me: I'm going to shower. 

interlude: earworm. 
gravel and glass on the bottom of my feet
I bruised my heels on the swollen street
we were girls in cars, boys on the town
bumpin' like a pinball off a careless crowd
you said good friends were hard to come by
I laughed and bought you a beer; it was too corny to cry
well sentiment given or sentiment lost
you shook it off with a smirk and a toss
and you were only joking

self: do you remember how it felt, that song plus the river on the left side of you and the slums on the right, old speakers but a new tape deck and your work smock on the passenger seat and cigarettes in the console, at that traffic light on 885 that they said you didn't have to stop at after midnight because girls in cars got stopped and attacked by gangs and shot at, that and youth and gas prices at pocket-change levels and wide-eyed and laughing and the way your voice can sit in the same register as Amy Ray's when you want it to, and you stopped at the light with your windows down and you sang like you meant everything and you were not afraid of a damn thing

4.
me: I liked that.
self: Good. 
me: This isn't really a list, is it? Just because I've numbered its bits and pieces?
self: That is absolutely what a list is. Stop overthinking.
me: I have done nothing but overthink for a year and a half now.
self: And where did it get you?
me: It got me to this place. Wet hair. Orange sunset. Myron coming home with frost in his scruff. Leftover roast chicken shredded into soup drizzled with the leftover wine-butter sauce. A city colder than fucking Mars. I am so afraid of breaking it.
self: What makes you think it's so fragile?
me: It always has been. Nights like that, nights at that traffic light, when I wasn't afraid? I should have been. I shouldn't have trusted.
self: But you did, and you do, and you will. It's a feature, not a bug. 
me: I don't know what to say to all of that.
self: Then don't say anything. Click Publish.

52 lists is a thing I love at hula seventy