Saturday, January 22, 2011

Found Food

I went into the kitchen early this morning and found unexpected food all over the counters and in the refrigerator.

Since I knew where this food came from, it was fun rather than alarming. At least, I can guess where this food came from. The MiL went to see a friend of hers last night who is moving, so the reasonable assumption is that these boxes of food are the culls from her house.

I love seeing what food other people have in their kitchens. It's absolutely fascinating to me. Is there such a thing as a food voyeur? If there is, that's me. That's why it was doubly exciting to find this collection of refugee food in my kitchen. It's like snooping in someone else's kitchen, except I get to keep the food! WHEEE!!!

Also, I was starving and one of the things I found was a package of English muffins, so that was handy.

Also also, there are now several pudding cups in the refrigerator. My day is officially made.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Too Early for This

There comes a time every winter when I cease feeling all cozy and content in my house and start getting somewhat claustrophobic. Blackrock Fever, I guess you could call it. This time usually comes around the end of February or early March. Which is really too bad, because winter here does not end in February, or even March. No, real spring is slow in coming in upstate New York. Like May.

Which is why it's somewhat alarming that Blackrock Fever has already struck.

This has everything to do, I'm sure, with a certain small person who requires 24/7 care. Cubby doesn't mind being home. It's not as if we live in a small house or tiny apartment or something. There's plenty of room for him to practice his rapidly-improving walking skills. The distance from the living room to the kitchen is quite vast when your legs are only twelve inches long. Plus, there's all kinds of fascinating stuff to see along the way: boot laces, dogs' tails, newspapers left on low table tops. Who could be bored with such entertainment!

I could. Back and forth all day long, living room to library to dining room to kitchen . . . no don't grab the dog, no don't bother the cat while she's sleeping, pulling on electrical cords is not smart, eating bits of wood isn't healthy. . . . It's maybe a little repetitive. JUST A LITTLE.

Meanwhile, outside, the temperature drops steadily lower, the snow continues to fall, and the wind is howling around the house.

And it's only January. This is not good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The First

That story about Bert and his dad* reminded me of those features magazines sometimes like to do about celebrities and their first jobs. The idea, I think, is to find the biggest celebrities that had the worst, most menial first jobs. Maybe as an inspiration to the rest of us that sure, now you work at Burger King peddling sub-standard food to smart-ass kids, but someday, you could be Jay-Z!

Or whatever. I don't know if Jay-Z ever worked at Burger King, it's just a made-up example, okay?

And now onto a not-made-up example! That would be me.

Now when we speak of "jobs," we can sometimes run into gray areas. Like, I worked for a neighbor who had an insurance business when I was about 13, calling the telephone directory to get updated phone numbers for his client database. This was before the Internet was widely used, so it was necessary to do quaint things like talk to an actual person on the telephone. But I don't really consider that my first job. It's not like I had to go to an actual place of employment and report income to the IRS, so no. Not the first real job.

I also, as used to be the case with most girls who couldn't drive yet, did a lot of babysitting. In fact, I babysat for one particular family pretty much every weekend for at least a couple of years. The Matusiaks were an extraordinarily nice family, and they basically funded the savings account I used when I went to college.

But still, not reportable to the IRS, so not a real job.

The first real job I had, in which I had to get up and get dressed and show up for regular work hours (and report income), was at a public library in Tucson. How appropriate. I worked as a page, which meant that I sorted and shelved books. It was a great job--nice people, easy work, reasonable hours. I did it for two summers and my senior year in high school. I would do it now, if I could.

And now, let's have some Audience Participation! What was your very first job, duckies? Dog walker? Dishwasher? Sales clerk? At what lowly occupation did you toil for gas money as a teenager?

* My brother, by the way, was also present at that visit with Bert, and he's calling shenanigans on my dad's recollection of the story. My brother does not actually remember the word "asshole" being used. But it totally makes for a funnier story, so I think it will have to stay.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The MiL is having a birthday dinner on Saturday for her friend Jane (yes, that is her real, honest-to-God name). My gift to Jane? Parsnips.

Lemme 'splain.

We got above freezing for the first time in a very long time yesterday. I decided to take advantage of the balmy weather (39 degrees) to go dig up some parsnips. The MiL had mentioned how fond Jane is of parsnips, and that it would be nice to have some for her birthday. I knew this would be the only opportunity to get them out of the ground, so out I went with my shovel.

First I had to scrape away four inches of heavy, melting snow and two inches of sodden straw. After some excavation, I finally found the sad, withered remains of the parsnip tops to tell me where to dig. Then I began digging. The ground wasn't frozen, so that part wasn't particularly hard, but those parsnips were BIG. I kept leveraging them up at what I thought was an appropriate depth, only to find I had snapped off the bottom part and had to go hunting around in the depths with my shovel to find the bottom.

There was cussing, yes. Because it is what I do.

Then I dug up some half-frozen leeks for dinner while I was out there, by which time my hands were half-frozen as well. I trudged my cold way back to the shed to put away the shovel; deposited the dishpan of filthy, mud-encrusted vegetables on the floor in the kitchen to be dealt with later; scrubbed at my dirty hands with limited success; and went to get Cubby, who had awakened from his slumbers.

After dinner, I faced the parsnips once again. Disgusting, mud-coated roots, those parsnips.

First I just rubbed at them with my hands under running water to get the worst of the mud off. The water, naturally, was cold. Very, very cold, as it had been sitting in our very, very cold pipes. It was like holding my hands in a snow-melt stream. By the time I finished Round One of cleaning, my hands were almost as frozen as they had been when I dug the things up.

Next I dumped the muddy water outside, rinsed the dishpan and dumped that water outside, and then attacked the parsnips with a vegetable scrubbing brush for a more thorough cleaning. In that same cold water. By the time I finished that part, my hands were once again half-frozen AND my arms were cramping from the vigorous scrubbing.

Then I dumped THAT dirty water outside, rinsed the dishpan and dumped that water outside. Then I finally hung the dishpan up, put the parsnips to dry a bit on a dish towel, and went to warm my hands over the woodstove.

As you can see, birthday parsnips from the garden are way harder than just shelling out some money at a nice, warm store for a nice, clean gift.

Maybe next time, I'll just get a card.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Bert's Dad

The MiL called from work around noon today as I was feeding Cubby lunch. I didn't answer, because Cubby should not be left unattended in his booster seat lest he launch himself backwards and crack open his head. So she left a message to the effect that since I hadn't posted yet she was worried something terrible had happened.

Nothing terrible happened. I just . . . didn't. I used Cubby's first nap time to bring water to the chickens, bring in wood, rearrange the tarp on the woodpile, and talk to my parents.

Cubby is currently down for his second nap, which means I can now relay to you an amusing and instructive story my dad told me while I was talking to him this morning.

My dad recently went to visit his godmother and her husband, Bert. Bert is now in his mid to late 80s. When he was 12 years old, which would have been in the 1930s, he started working in the summers at a sausage factory in Milwaukee. He worked 40 hours a week there. As a twelve year old.

It was a different time.

Bert's father also worked at this sausage factory, as a meat cutter. After Bert's first full day of work, his dad took him to the bar across the street from the factory for his first beer.

Again, Bert was 12 years old. Again, it was a different time.

While the two of them were drinking their beers, Bert's father imparted the following words of wisdom: "You work like a man now, so you can drink like a man. You should also act like a man--so don't be an asshole."*

A different time, but I think we can all agree that that is timeless wisdom.

* Except Bert's family all spoke German, which means this advice would have been relayed in German. For some reason, that makes it even funnier in my imagination.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Another Weather Event last night, this time in relation to temperature: It got below zero. Specifically, one degree below zero. WHEEE!!!

This would probably not make you as excited as it made A. I don't think it would make anyone as excited as it made A. He was really excited. This is the first time since he got the weather station that it has recorded a negative number. The lake moderates the temperature at our house, so that the surrounding area is always a few degrees colder than right here. This means that time after time when below zero temperatures have been forecast it only gets to two degrees or something at our house, disappointing A. yet again.

He really enjoys extreme weather. A harmless enough preoccupation, I suppose.

The current temperature is three degrees, which means it's time to stoke the woodstove and settle in for a long winter's day. Happy frozen Monday, poppets!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Living History

Yesterday a friend of the MiL's dropped off a bunch of old canning jars she had no use for. I, obviously, ALWAYS have a use for canning jars. Those tomatoes all need a nice home come September.

So she left about a dozen and a half jars, mostly quart jars, some pint jars. As I was putting them on a tray to take them down cellar, I saw that a couple of the pint jars had "Lamb Mason" on the side. Appropriate for us, no? Curious, I did a quick search online to see what those jars are.

Turns out, there's quite a passionate community of jar collectors online. I shouldn't be surprised. There are passionate collectors of every kind online. But from the websites for these jar people, I learned that those Lamb Mason jars were produced by the Lamb Glass Co. in Ohio between 1930 and 1945. They're kind of collectible. Not, like, $5,000 collectible, but not exactly common.

I also learned that jars labeled "Perfect Mason," of which we have several, were produced in the 1930s and 1940s. Which means that I use canning jars on a regular basis that are 70 or 80 years old.

That's just cool.