Monday, August 18, 2014

My $20 French Wedding Ring

Sometime near the end of my pregnancy with Ruby, my fingers got a little puffy. I could put my wedding ring on just fine, but it grew increasingly difficult to take off. I have this fear of my ring getting stuck on my finger, similar to my fear of drowning in a dark pipe. Same thing. So I haven't worn my ring for a little over a year (having the baby didn't un-puffify my fingers as much as I'd hoped) ... bringing on two very different, irrational fears:

1) I worry that some judgy woman will fake-whisper something like this to her daughter behind me in the grocery store checkout line: "That's what happens when you get pregnant out of wedlock! You get prematurely frumpy and poor (I kind of dress like an urchin), and you'll spend all your money on diapers and fruit snacks instead of those Beyoncé discs your father and I think are Jezebel's trash!"

For that smelly sparkle you've always wanted.

I'm glad this has never happened because my response would be half-baked and equally judgy. I should probably think of something really zen or cryptic to say back. Maybe something like, "As the fertile moon is dim without the light of her sun, so am I supported by my baby-daddy-husband who works in the energy industry and makes sufficient fruit snack lucre pillaging the earth of her energy-rich gases. But were I not, remember that fear is a lesser teacher than reward. Sat nam, judgmental she-snake." Then I would wave my technicolor kaftan and disappear with my babies in a puff of incense smoke (along with my frozen California Pizza Kitchen BBQ chicken personal pizzas, of course).

2) I'm afraid I'll get hit on. Except this has only happened to me 1) while living in Spain (because Spaniards), and 2) in 6th and 9th grades, both times by really popular "bad boys" (one had an earring, the other wore boxers with lobsters on them--both hallmarks of juvenile delinquency, I know) who were just trying to humiliate me.

At my prime.

But I don't even have Spaniards or disingenuous 14-year-olds expressing any interest. Apparently being a haggard-looking, pregnant, seemingly-single mother of 2.5 is less attractive than the next Nicholas Sparks book-to-film project would have me believe.

I grew tired of entertaining these irrational fears, but I was unwilling to resize my ring and concede to the permanence of my fingers' fatness. I made a decision. There was a solution. A $20 solution.

Enter the Target engagement ring. Have you ever seen such a paradoxical token of opulence and frugality? I love it. And Target is a French company, so tralala.


Buying the ring was pretty embarrassing. Despite the low prices, the rings were kept in a locked display, so I couldn't clandestinely pick out my fake diamond fake wedding ring set. I had to confess to a teenaged Target employee that my finger was too fat for my real ring. Because I really AM married, you know. To a real man. Who can buy me a real diamond. Just letting you know ... in case you thought I was buying a fake diamond to pretend I got it from a fake man ... yeah.

Me (rifling through the rings, awkwardly trying them on while they're still attached to their square pieces of card stock): It's funny that you have these locked up. They're only $20 ...

Target girl (standing there, watching me): Silence

Me (does she think I'm an unmarried/unengaged fraud? Why the heck is she just standing there? Let me buy my embarrassing merchandise in peace! This is worse than buying tampons as a teenager at the Target where most of the cashiers went to high school with me): I just wanted to buy a placeholder ring to wear while I'm pregnant ... because my real one doesn't fit right now ...

Target girl: Silence

Me (she probably thinks I have some lame fiance who is making me buy my own engagement ring. At Target. For $20. Or else she knows my fingers are fat.): Ok, I'm done.

Target girl: Are you ready to check out?

Me: .... yes?

Target girl (walks to nearest checkout line, hands ring to the cashier, who is in the middle of ringing someone else up): THIS (holds ring up ... everyone can see what a big fake diamond I picked out. Why did I get such a big fake diamond? It's blinding everyone with its lies.) is for HER (points at me at the back of the line).

Apparently my $20 circle of shame is too valuable for me to give it to the cashier myself. So now everyone in line in front of me knows I'm buying myself a fake wedding ring set. Gah.

You know how hard it is to take an in-focus, not fat-looking picture of your hand? Where is the button for "de-puff" fingers in Photoshop?

Am I tacky to wear a $20 placeholder ring? Especially one with such a big CZ? Be honest and don't worry about telling me you think it's tacky, because 49% of me thinks it's tacky.

The 1% that made me buy it:

1) I don't care what people think (mostly). I think the kind of people who will judge me in a meaningful way (meaning they'll treat me differently or talk badly about me behind my back) for the authenticity of the shiny rock in my jewelry are the kind of people whose opinions I don't value anyway. Except teenaged Target employees. Apparently their opinions matter a lot to me (writing that in my Future Fodder for Therapy journal).

2) I knew I wasn't buying a big fake diamond to impress people. The presence of a ring addressed my two social phobias, but I only got such a big sparkly one because I legitimately think it looks pretty. I didn't realize how much I'd missed seeing a symbol of fancy femininity on my finger. I didn't buy it to look wealthy.

My original ring on the left with fakey on the right ... and the requisite unrelated prop.

3) Lack of regard for what other people think notwithstanding, I can hardly tell it's not real, and I don't think most other people will, either. How many people are going to grab my hand, compare my fake diamond to their own authentic rock, and cackle, "I knew it, you poser! The refraction pattern never lies!" Most people will see only a glimpse of small shininess as I walk by and think, "She's married, I guess I shouldn't ask her to get froyo after she's done buying cabbage with her kids, who she probably conceived within the bonds of matrimony."

4) I'm symbolically saying "poo-poo" to the diamond industry and the global evils (slavery, violence, cult of status) it promotes. Take that, DeBeers!

See the squeezage?

5) This ring is so cheap, I don't care if it gets lost, cracked, or dirty. Because, $20! Way less stress.

Some other thoughts: A small part of me wonders if we should have saved the $$$ we spent on my real wedding ring. For $20 a pop I could get a brand new, shiny, and on-trend ring every six months for our entire marriage and probably save money (especially if I would have put the money we spent on my real ring into a mutual fund).

But what about sentimentality? Don't you want THE ring you got married with to last forever until it gets buried with you even though your grandkids really wanted it? Yes, I do have a malleable heart that has succumbed to that part of the diamond industry's propaganda, so I have a solution for that: buy an affordable, but nice, durable, and pretty band (heck, put a little diamond on it if you must), and call that "your wedding ring." But then don't be afraid to put it in your jewelry box for a rest and change it up! (Also, the ring Nathan wore when we were married started to discolor a few months later, so his "ring" isn't even the "real" one, but do I care? Not really.)

Is THIS tacky? Maybe if I added a matching belly chain ...

What do you think? Would you ever wear a "fake" ring? Would you have been okay if your husband proposed with a cubic zirconia? If you had to choose between the ring design of your dreams and the authenticity/size of the stone, which would you choose? Would your husband care if you wore a "fake" ring?
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin the Cheetah Eats a Pita with Waffled Falafel (and Greek Vegetable Salad and Tzatziki, too)

Now that I have a fancy shmancy camera, I feel completely qualified to call myself a food blogger. Because I blog and I eat food (as opposed to Ruby, who does not blog and has recently taken to eating crayons).

Today I'll be featuring one of my favorite meals: Waffled Falafel in a Pita with Greek Salad and Tzatziki. I love this meal because it is full of flavor, healthy, Greek (yay democracy!), and it requires a cart full of produce, which helps me feel smug at the grocery store.

Let's start with the Greek Salad. This recipe is adapted from the Greek Diced Vegetable Salad from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Guys, I took this picture. It's not perfect, but I think it does my camera proud.


Greek Vegetable Salad

You'll need: 

1 1/2 cucumbers (or 1 large English cucumber), peeled, seeded, and sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, finely sliced (calling them scallions instead of green onions gets you foodie points)

8 Kalamata olives, pitted and diced (I used to buy these eight at a time from the olive bar until I grew a brain and realized I could buy them by the jar)

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced (or several dashes dried if you are like me and killed your herb garden)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, please, I'm Mormon)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove, pressed

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Instructions: Chop vegetables while listening to a Greek music station on Pandora. Combine in a locally-sourced peace of earthenware with the rest of the ingredients. Mix with the tenderness of Captain Jack Elliot, the romantic interest in my most recent favorite historical fiction, These Is My Words. Be sure to be dramatic and pensive as you squeeze the lemon.

Serving suggestion: Add chickpeas or hard boiled eggs and serve over a bed of romaine lettuce for a delish vegetarian main dish OR use in a kick-butt pita extravaganza ... as seen below.

Now for the ...

Tzatziki
(adapted from Design Mom--may I one day meet her blogging majesty at Alt Summit)

Creamy, cucumber-y goodness

You'll need:

1 large English cucumber, peeled and grated (these don't need to be seeded, huzzah!)

1 cup Greek yogurt (full fat, baby)

1 cup sour cream (Daisy brand, please)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, pressed

Instructions:

1. Peel and grate the cucumber, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. I forgot to do this the first time I made tzatziki (and I used regular yogurt) and it was too soupy.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a trendy bowl. Mix in cucumber, and chill until ready to serve.

3. Get bored taking a million pictures of tzatziki in a ramekin and bring in an exotic assistant.

Robin the cheetah storms the photo shoot!
Robin mistakes the tzatziki for a spa treatment.
Oh no! The viscosity! It's failing!
Glurp.

Don't worry. Robin remembered his African Scouting quicksand survival training and was able to free himself from the delicious tzatziki swamp, bathe, and help with the waffled falafel.

Waffled Falafal
(adapted from Food and Whine)

You'll need:

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (don't try to get all the little skins off, because you want to eat this sometimes this year)

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic

1 egg

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 dash pepper

1 dash cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon lemon juice (use the half left over from the veggie salad!)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dry bread crumbs

Instructions:

1. Try and convince your toddler to smash the chickpeas in a large bowl. When he refuses (still ornery from adjusting back to Central Time from Pacific), do it yourself, using a cup as your pestle. Smash away your angst.

2. Combine onion, parsley, and garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth. If you use a Vitamix, it will blend the parsley so thoroughly that your mixture will be bright green ... don't worry, it will still be tasty even though it looks like yeti phlegm. Add to mashed chickpeas.

3. Mix together egg, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil. Stir into chickpea mixture.

Robin the cheetah is a little skeptical about the green ...
4. Mix in breadcrumbs. Form into balls and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Bon Appétit, contact me for rights to this photo.
5. Heat waffle iron to medium-high, and cook falafels (I did three at a time, but my balls were a little big) for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve in a pita with veggie salad and tzatziki.

This is what happens when you "lightly brown" something green.
Cheetah loves pita.

I love Greek food. This pita ensemble is like Odysseus--strong, complicated, and enduring, minus the infidelity. I will not call this pita epic, because although it is akin to Odysseus in many ways, this meal has nothing to do with an ancient poem recounting the the heroic feats of a legendary figure.

***
If you liked this post, consider sharing it with the generosity you wish your toddler had during your last play date.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I am the Automobile Exorcist

Last night we got back from California after a week full of family, fun, and sand in awkward places. Also, I barfed in the Pacific Ocean, so there's one less thing on my bucket list.

Beach bummin'

About an hour and a half into our 24-hour drive home, three warning lights lit up on the dash, included the potential omen of doom: the check engine light. We pulled off the highway and found the closest mechanic while I flipped through the owner's manual and Googled the symptoms (the vsc light, trac off indicator, and check engine light for those interested). We'd just filled up with gas, so I was hopeful that the forums proclaiming it a potential temporary glitch in the gas tank/oxygen sensor/toyota witchcraft mechanism/or whatever were correct. But Nathan wasn't as willing to continue driving 1500 miles on hope, so we had the mechanic plug in his diagnostic thingy into the car.

Six hours straight of movies on the iPad? Huzzah!

The dreaded Code P0025! Meaning some camshaft sensor was retarded (that's literally the term used). The mechanic said he couldn't work on it until Monday, and that it was bad. I Googled some more, and was inspired by more accounts of P0025 being a temporary clog in some teeny, overly-sensitive hipster filter. I'm an optimist!

Nate's a realist, so we set out to find another mechanic. There was one across the street, but a quick Yelp search revealed bad reviews, so we pulled out of their parking lot about five seconds after pulling in (I love smartphones).

This was later in the trip, when I turned into an orc after consuming Graham's weight in MSG in the form of Ranch-flavored Corn Nuts.

Meanwhile, in the car ...

Graham: What are we doing?

Nate: We're going to look for another mechanic. Mom's afraid this one will break our car.

We tried another place down the road, but it was closed for the weekend, so we turned back around to try Shady Mechanic, reviews notwithstanding.

Shady Mechanic wouldn't even plug his diagnostic thing into the car unless we paid $65. Sheesh, California, hadn't I just sunk enough money into your economy (cough Seaworld)? Stop being so greedy! Shady was pretty put out that we were put out about paying for him to do something the guy across the street had done for free ... maybe this was augmented by Graham emerging from their bathroom and declaring, "My mom said you are going to break our car!" Gah.

So we went in search of yet another mechanic ... found another one, also closed ... so we continued driving around aimlessly, getting frustrated, when I remembered the story of Mary Fielding Smith (Mormon pioneer whose oxen fell ill and were healed through a priesthood blessing). You might think this is when I suggested softly to Nathan that as a family we bow our heads in humble prayer to petition God to heal our minivan, but instead I decided to be a dork and placed my hand on the dash in a most solemn joke, and intoned with mock severity, "I command the evil spirits in this van to depart!"

Then I looked at the dashboard. The three warning lights were off.

:o

There are three explanations:
1. I am a mechanical exorcist
2. God has a sense of humor
3. The clogged hipster filter decided to get over itself

I'm thinking it's a combination of all three ... so maybe stop by if your car is acting up, and I'll see what I can do. I accept payment in dead chickens, garlic amulets, or good conversation.

My mom's a shaman mechanic? Say what?

***
Let's say this post were a huge bowl of guacamole, and you know some of your friends have some tortilla chips in need of some adornment. Share the guacamole, share the post.

Maybe that's a bad metaphor because everyone knows guacamole is best devoured alone in a dark corner of your kitchen while your children sleep and your husband works downtown, but don't feel too bad because he gets free food at work all the time so you deserve to be selfish with the avocado dip of the gods, even guacamole.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Introducing Clove and Peppercorn Photography / Ombré Dove Portraits

Path to blogger domination:

* Use a weird synonym in the place of children (cherubim)
* Have a charming and twee nickname for your husband (Nate?) X
* Get an iPhone
* Go to hip restaurants all the time (Chick-fil-A represent!) X 
* Acquire moccasins for your baby/toddler (in all seriousness, these are actually super cute, soft, and affordable)
* Convince your husband to agree to purchase a DSLR and start your own professional photography business! ✓ohmyheck☺☻♥♦starfish emoji!!

I couldn't decide between my two best name ideas, Clove and Peppercorn Photography and Ombré Dove Portraits, so I decided to use them both (thank you, Erin, for your sage business advice). Clove and Peppercorn will cover the engagement and wedding side of the business, while Ombré Dove will focus on newborn and boudoir projects. I'm working on a scented, double-sided business card as well as a website that will take forever to load because of all the RAW format images I'll post.

This will be filed in the "Sports" section of my portfolio because the horse in the background was caught in the middle of a dramatic tail-whip.

I have my first shoot tomorrow morning at a gritty urban location. I'm getting paid in chocolate, which is totally reasonable because chocolate:money::my skills:real skills. I also get to tell my husband I'm finally using the camera I made him buy me after he bought an expensive, yet comfy, leather recliner. And the final pico on top: my favorite taco place is nearby so I'm planning to get some breakfast tacos afterwards because being a professional photographer is hard, you guys. I actually don't even know because I haven't done it yet, but I'm pretty sure I'll suffer the kind of fatigue that can only be ameliorated with a potato-egg-cheese Torchy's taco.

Ignore the line behind her. I haven't learned Photoshop, yet, sheesh. Stop criticizing.

Really, though, I love my new camera even though it weighs as much as a 24-week fetus. Despite my incompetence, it takes great pictures. And by "great," I mean way better than my old point-and-shoot that gave everyone devil eyes.

Sometimes the background is a little off and your kid looks like he has a purple monkey tail. These things happen, and the true professional knows not to let it convince her to give a discount on prints.

If you want to schedule a session, I charge milk chocolate for a family sitting, a box of Trader Joe's hot lava cakes for a newborn shoot, and a $5 donation to the Houston Public Library (in my name ... to be put towards my debt there) for individual headshots (20% discount for fellow aspiring authors, but you MUST pose with your fist under your chin, elbow propped on a stack of Reader's Digest anthologies, eyes staring into the post-apocalyptic future).

Book yours today!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Was Electrocuted And You'll Never Guess What Happened Next

When I was in middle school, sometimes dumb kids would ask me if my frizzy hair was a result of me sticking my finger in an electrical outlet. Then I cried myself to sleep every night. Just kidding: usually I said something rude back to them. I was kind of a know-it-all, self-righteous, frizzy-haired pill in middle school and high school. I probably still am. But an open letter of apology to my former peers is the subject of another post ... this post is about an electrocution that actually happened.

From my 2006 Halloween costume: dandelion.

Scene: My kitchen. Our unsuspecting victim (me), a twenty-something mother dressed in a bathrobe floral sun dress and coordinating sky-blue, peep-toe pumps, dances from cupboard to cupboard, collecting ingredients for a highly-technical recipe: no-bake lemon cheesecake.

She sets about combining the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon drink mix (real lemon zest? Ain't nobody got time for that) in her Empire Red Artisan Series 5-qt Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (buy a mixer from this link to contribute to my taco fund). After adjusting the mixing speed, she rests her arm against the top of the powerful piece of machinery, forearm grazing the metal attachment hub cover. An annoying tingle zings up her arm, sending the message to her brain that the Kitchenaid mixer has evolved into a sentient being, and is, in a dark act of subversion, trying to kill her. She moves her arm, halting the rebellion, and finishes making her cheesecake (fold in some cool whip, pour into graham cracker crust, chill, and top with fresh berries).

I don't care what anyone says; Papyrus is the font of champions. Odysseus used this font for his wedding invitations.

I put up with these minor electric shocks for about a year. Then I googled it to see if this was normal ... apparently it's not (duh), and I read the story of another lady with an unruly, Milgram-esque Kitchenaid who had contacted customer service and gotten hers replaced.

I chatted customer service, and when the lady on the other end (Susan) heard the issue, immediately requested to call me because Kitchenaid takes this issue very seriously. Susan called me, asked me a few questions about the serial number, my address, and whether I had been injured. Apparently they want to avoid having their products electrocute people, because Susan told me a replacement would be shipped to me right away, in the meantime I should stop using the mixer and unplug it (in case it spontaneously erupts into an electrical storm of fury over culinary slavery), and did I have any questions?

I did have a scandalous question ... could I get a different color? Of course, Susan assured me.

Oh my heck. Kitchenaid color decisions are usually made after years of yearning for the machine, planning out your dream kitchen colors, and finding the perfect hue that matches both your aura and patronus' favorite color! How was I to pick a new color in a mere moment? I scanned the options online with the panic of a baker forced to make a wedding cake at an unfamiliar altitude. Should I stick with Empire Red, making my mixer a charmingly bold statement piece on the counter? Though I do have dark green countertops that clash horribly ... What about the soothing Aqua Sky? The retro Pistachio? Sassy Green Apple? SUSAN IS WAITING. Cheerful Citrus Yellow? The classic Cobalt, the tradition of my father? SUSAN IS WAITING!!!!

Seizure.

Guys, I picked silver.

I am so mature and lame. Silver will not go out of style. Silver will go with any kitchen I ever have. Silver is the color my hair will be when this mixer finally dies and I can get a new color.

I am a yo-yo of emotions over here, one minute full of crippling regret, the next confident I made the correct choice. MOSTLY REGRET.

Validate my super-boring Kitchenaid color choice. Or make me jealous by telling me what color you have/would pick if your grandmother loved you enough (like mine) to get you one for your wedding.
  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Laundry and House-hunting

I'm sitting on my couch, the children are asleep, and I am thinking to myself, "I should write something, but I have no idea what to write about ..."

Then I realized I was surrounded by the most exciting thing, ever, and that I should write about it.

Laundry.

Laundry, and a blanket featuring polar bears and other arctic animals, oh my!

Oh my heck, it's everywhere. I'm thiiiis close to adopting my brother-in-law's uniform system, which is exactly what it sounds like. I think he owns ten black polos and half as many pairs of khaki shorts. When he's not working or exercising (there's another uniform for that), this is all he wears. I think this would make life easier, if a lot more drab. I wouldn't waste a second thinking about what I should wear, though.

This is not exciting to write about at all. Here is the recipe I use for homemade laundry detergent, though. It's saved me a ton of money, although sometimes the lack of scent makes me glum. I guess I could add essential oils (or something? I have no idea what I'm doing) to make my laundry smell not bland. That might help me adjust to a uniform system, if they at least smelled like they had a personality.

What else can I write about? How about how we are NOT moving to Qatar. Nathan heard at work that he was up for an overseas assignment to Qatar, the little pimple of land poking off of Saudi Arabia, so for a while I was excited about all the great Indian food I've heard is over there, and also for a maid (because YOLO EXPAT), but then today he heard it's probably not going to happen. So we are back to our plan of buying a house in Houston suburbia, ie Spring, TX. I've been perusing the Houston real estate website, har.com, and feeling judgy about Texas architecture. Also the photos some realtors take are embarrassing. Seriously, just put the toilet seat down and make sure there aren't any creepy people lurking in the background. Not that hard.

Not moving here.

A few months ago, har.com had an almost-perfect house for sale (gone now, of course). You could tell Mormons lived there (garden, telling artwork, general vibe--fellow Saints, you know what I'm talking about), and I just wanted to buy up the house and their entire life with it. I know that sounds super creepy, but I just want to find somewhere where I know a family like ours would be happy. I want Graham to have a ready-made buddy with a cool mom living next door, and a library close enough so we can go to story time together. I want my other next-door neighbor to have a catering business so she brings me sweet leftovers all the time. Across the street could be an empty-nester couple who dote on my children and Nate can mow their lawn while they offer me iced sweet tea on the porch, and then I say, "I actually don't drink tea because I'm Mormon, but here's some zucchini bread!" and then they laugh and we share some bread, and then I turn around to see Ruby drinking some iced tea straight out of the pitcher and it's funny but also a little awkward. Further down the street would live a mysterious old woman whom my children grow up thinking is a witch.

Other than that, I want a house with four bedrooms, an office with French doors, a decent-sized yard, an open floor plan, and vaulted ceilings and a ton of natural light in the living room. And Nathan insists on two sinks in the master bathroom. Also, no tile in living areas (because I am excited to lounge on a comfy floor while my children frolic in chaos around me).

If you are selling this house, please contact me ASAP.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RIP, J.Crew Flip Flop

You know what's worse than breaking your flip flop as you are entering the Denver International Airport, late for your flight, pushing your preschooler in an unwieldy umbrella stroller with a car seat balanced precariously on top, a tired baby strapped to your chest whilst you are simultaneously struggling to, unsuccessfully, pull two suitcases behind you?

Breaking your J.Crew flip flop as you are entering the Denver International Airport, late for your flight, pushing your preschooler in an unwieldy umbrella stroller with a car seat balanced precariously on top, a tired baby strapped to your chest whilst you are simultaneously struggling to, unsuccessfully, pull two suitcases behind you.

Why was this such a crushing blow to my mother-ego? Because now I have been thrust back to that corduroy-lined circle of fashion hell: the place where mothers who own nothing from J.Crew sit around in synthetic-blend Walmart sweatpants and snotted-on t-shirts. There are no tailored blouses. Everyone still uses a flip phone. There is no Chick-fil-A there.

I've only ever owned three items from J.Crew, that mecca of stylish moms who can pull off wearing weird chambray jumpsuits or anything ever made out of linen. The first two items were a gift: a matching flip flop/headscarf combo. I promptly lost the headscarf thingy in the abyss that is my "hair things that aren't elastics that I think I'll use someday but who am I kidding?" bag/pile/bin.

Pair your sequined J.Crew mother-onesie with satin pumps for the perfect park look! #ootd #headedtomommyandmeceramicpaintingclassnext

But the flip flops--oh, the flip flops! They were the most comfortable flip flops to ever grace my feet (original Old Navy style included--gasp!). Soft cotton straps and foamy soles made me feel like I was walking through an Asian spa paradise. I wore them for three glorious years until a hole appeared in one of the soles ... and another in my own soul as I threw them away sent them to flip flop paradise aboard a flaming pyre set adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was determined to replace them with an identical pair. I scoured J.Crew's website with no success, then turned to ebay with the hope that the old model still existed somewhere besides my dreams. No luck.

My destiny thwarted, I went on with my nearly-purposeless existence, walking the sad path of footwear-mediocrity in my ill-fitting, faux-leather Target sandals. (No disrespect, Target.)

Then one day I found myself at the mall, outside J.Crew. I hesitantly crossed the store's threshold. It smelled expensive, delicious, impractical. Would I find my Holy Grail flip flops? Perfectly-coiffed women perused the displays around me, neatly sidestepping my stroller ... the stroller that held the only child in the store. I spotted a jacket I loved ... I checked the price tag and almost shriveled into a raisin ... the kind of raisin you might find on the floor of the almost-expired specialty foods aisle at Ross.

Then I spotted a bin of ... flip flops. Clearance flip flops. There weren't any with the foamy soles I preferred, but there were plenty of the typical variety, marked down from $28 (!?!?) to $5. Huzzah! Cheap enough for me to look past the limited and weird color options. I snatched a dark gray pair with two-toned straps (gray on top, white underneath), and tried them on. Not as good as my foamy dream-pair, but way better than Old Navy.

Loved.

I bought them. Because $5 J.Crew (chanted to the cadence of $5 footlong, please ... which reminds me of the leftover white chocolate macadamia nut cookie I have in my bag ... from a week ago. Nooooo!!!).


I will admit, the mere fact that they were J.Crew influenced my purchase. They weren't labeled "J.Crew" in any way, but in my style-crippled heart I knew that wearing elitist-brand footwear, however weirdly two-toned and clearance-pocked, would add at least a smidgen of fashion happiness to my poser's heart. I could be wearing the worst stretchy pants and pit-stained high school t-shirt, but if I was wearing those flip flops, I was wearing J.Crew. They were my secret weapon against complete surrender to frumpiness and the oblivion of my stretch-knit-plagued closet.

"We'll always have J.Crew."

Then they broke. My J.Crew horcrux destroyed, a part of my soul was lost as well, the part responsible for style ambition and caring what I look like. 


There are no words.
This happened three weeks ago, and it's only now that I feel like I'm in a place where I can feel safe writing about it. Now that I'm a J.Crew-less lump, I only have the filters on my VSCO Cam app to make me presentable. Before and after below.



Treasure your J.Crew while you still can. Or else donate it to the Goodwill on 20th street in the Heights and give me a heads up so I can go buy it for cheap.
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Poodle Reviews: Franklin and the Duckling

To my twelve loyal readers (including you seven from India), may I explain the blogging hiatus. The last eight weeks have been fraught with that most dreaded sucker of energy, appetite, and the will to do anything but moan on my floor whilst wearing only my unmentionables and a pilling bathrobe: morning sickness. And by morning I mean all freaking night and day. Yes, we are adding a third cherub to our collection. The bebe is due to arrive sometime around Christmas (surprise! No really, SURPRISE!). We are excited (except for the part where I get out of the habit of grooming). Especially Graham, who has declared that there are five babies in his tummy, and that the one in mine is named "Michael" or "Uncle," depending on the day. Hurrah for babies! Hurrah for microwaveable taquitos! Hurrah for generic Zofran covered by insurance!

Meanwhile, I've been anxious to review a library book that has been plaguing my book bin for a few weeks now. I give you an abomination of children's literature: Franklin and the Duckling.

It's all fun and games until someone fracks up your pond.

Graham picked it randomly from a shelf, was seduced by the playful cover, and in my pregnant daze, I checked it out for him without vetting it for inane content. There is no author named on the cover, which should have told me something, but I found the names of the guilty parties buried on the page with all the Library of Congress boring stuff. I also discovered this book is based on a television episode from a series inspired by the canonical Franklin and Friends book series written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark. So this book is like a chocolate croissant that you reheated in the microwave because you were too lazy to wait for the toaster oven, and then when it came out all gross and chewy you wish you could unmicrowave it back to it's original baked glory, but you can't unmicrowave something, you just can't (true story). Such are the perils of book to television to book adaptations. I hope this metaphor makes sense.

Basic plot: Franklin goes for a swim at the pond and a duckling follows him home. Franklin decides to keep him as a "secret pet," despite his mother's earlier mandate of "no more pets," and a swirling tale of chaos and deception ensues.

My problems with Frankling and the Duckling:

1. Inconsistent worldbuilding. Because this story takes place in a universe where animals are anthropomorphic (Canada), I would classify it as fantasy. I believe that fantasy should still follow logical rules, however. Franklin lacks any decipherable set of rules governing the universe. Franklin, a turtle, speaks, wears clothing, lives in a house with electricity ... and yet sleeps on a rug in the middle of his room, which is otherwise full of modern furnishings and toys (a full bookshelf, a toy chest, and a hockey stick?!). So Franklin's society has mastered mass printing, carpentry, textile production, electricity, and more ... but he still sleeps on the floor.

Weirdo.

Also, his dining room table looks like this:

Franklin's dishonesty has no impact on his appetite.

So apparently humanized turtles prefer to eat their meals on something that looks like a pagan altar. Happy summer solstice.

2. Inconsistencies in the application of anthropomorphism. Ok, so the turtles are basically humans. I'm fine with that. But the anthropomorphism is grossly inconsistent from species to species, with no indication that there is any method to the system. Franklin's best friend is a bear named ... wait for it ... "Bear." So the turtle gets a lovely, Anglo-Franco name, but his best friend (who is higher on the food chain and of a more intelligent species) is called "Bear." Find me a kid with sober parents named, "Human," and then I'll roll with "Bear."

This next concern is not confined to Franklin's universe. It is common in children's media featuring anthropomorphic characters (Arthur comes to mind): animals owning other animals. Again with no explanation for how the authors decided to stratify the species, we see Franklin perusing a pet store with a cat and dog in the window (again, how is a reptile more advanced than mammals??). He already owns a fish, and the entire plot revolves around his failed attempt to adopt a "wild" duckling. The whole system reeks with the subtle stench of ethnocentricism, racism, and slavery. Did you know that "Franklin" is an anagram for "Canadian Supremacy League"? Look for my upcoming Change.org campaign to get this book banned from our schools.

"So I can't have another pet, not because of their inherent right to freedom as fellow animals, but because I can barely keep the fish I do have alive? Makes sense, Mom."

I don't like when a character's animal-ness is meaningless and unacknowledged. Franklin's turtle-ness has no impact on the story at all ... so why is he a turtle? The first Franklin book of the original series was about a turtle afraid of the dark inside his shell--that's good animal literature. In this story, however, every depiction of Franklin could be seamlessly replaced with a picture of a little boy (hopefully wearing more than a neckerchief). Franklin's identity as a turtle is ignored, and the story is worse for it.

3. Weak grasp of animal biology. First, why is Franklin just a bit smaller than a bear cub? That's one creepy-big turtle. I predict a pregnancy-augmented nightmare in my future.

It looks like the duckling just told Bear that his mom got shot and made into a rug that now graces the living room floor of a lifestyle blogger.

Also, why does a turtle own earmuffs and a hockey stick, when a quick google search reveals that turtles in cold climates (Canada) spend the winter in hibernation (the term is actually "brumation" when referencing reptiles)? Franklin shouldn't be able to play hockey because he should be spending all winter burrowed under a foot of mud.

Finally, Franklin isn't even a turtle. He's a tortoise.

4. Stupid plot with a horrible message. Franklin's mother declares "no more pets" on the first page. Franklin ignores this and tries to domesticate a duckling, in secret, in his room. The duckling destroys his room, twice. He lies to his mother's face about the quacking she hears, twice. After Franklin's little sister exposes him for the deceptive little reptile he is and the duckling's family collects their prodigal, how does Franklin's mother respond? She praises him for "taking such good care of the duckling" and offers him another pet. In what universe does lying to your mother and letting a wild animal rip apart your room merit greater privileges and responsibility?! Not even Canada, people. We can blame Franklin's mom for the entitlement generation.

Consequences.

The story ends differently in my house. In my version, Franklin's mother expresses disappointment that her son acted in a way so contrary to what he had been taught about honesty. She tells him that trust takes much longer to gain than to lose. Then she flushes Franklin's goldfish down the toilet. Just kidding: these anthropomorphic turtles don't have indoor plumbing, so she feeds it to the duckling.

Franklin's face when he finds out what happens to "Goldie."

Throw this reheated croissant in the garbage, parents. It's not worth the calories.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What Kind of Legume are You?

I've been seeing a bunch of time-wasting quizzes all over Facebook lately, with topics like What is your mental age?, Are you a hipster? (if you have to ask ...), or other really deep topics, like What sea creature are you?

These remind me of the quizzes in the Girls' Life magazine I subscribed to as a teenager, except more pointless. At least the GL quizzes told me things actually relevant to my life (What's your dream first date? An afternoon at a bookstore perusing the poetry section followed by a casual dinner at the new Asian fusion crêperie downtown!!!). The quizzes I see popping up on my Facebook feed, courtesy of my friends with shameful amounts of free time, are ridiculous.

So I decided to make my own. Here it is, a wonderful opportunity for deeper insight into the darkest recesses of your psyche ...

WHAT KIND OF LEGUME ARE YOU?

Let's begin.

1. What kind of first impression do you usually give?

A. I'm nice, but also a little intimidating because I have all these wonderfully unique and hip interests (I love obscure bands, I speak an indigenous language, and/or I pull off a dramatic haircut).
B. I'm a lovable weirdo.
C. I don't really leave a first impression ... I'm like a shy, boring, misty shadow.
D. I'm, like, super great. Everyone. Loves. Me. And. My. Hair.
E. I'm down to earth and easy to relate to.

2. Your greatest weakness?

A. My uniqueness makes people uncomfortable.
B. I've accidentally killed a few people.
C. I'm soooo boring. After I'm done taking this quiz I'm going to go think about cardboard.
D. I'm a little hormonal.
E. I don't like to rock the boat.

3. What is your dream pair of shoes?

A. An ironic pair of geta sandals.
B. Barefoot, everywhere.
C. Black Mary Janes.
D. Peep-toe wedge booties.
E. Chuck Taylors.

4. What is your life's ambition?
A. To travel this exciting world.
B. To get Joss Whedon to autograph my baby.
C. To live with complete integrity.
D. To acquire as many fans and possessions as possible.
E. To be a kind person.

5. Would you rather be:
A. Pressure cooked.
B. Dry roasted.
C. Boiled.
D. Raw.
E. Steamed.

Results:

Mostly A's: You are the sweet and exotic adzuki bean. You're uniqueness is attractive, but can also be off-putting if you don't make an effort to relate to others and their ordinariness. You are most compatible with Turtlenecks (see the What kind of Mom-wear from the 80's are you? quiz).

My hand is fatter in real life.

Mostly B's: You are the peanut. You are nutty and don't really fit in with the crowd, but you are also friggin' delicious when coated in chocolate, so there's that. Everyone loves you (except when they are deathly allergic to you).

PB

Mostly C's: You are the noble, long-suffering lentil. People think you are lame and boring at first, but when they get to know you, they appreciate your solid friendship and dependability. You are a hard worker.


Lentillusion.

Mostly D's: You are edamame, a sociopath in an approachable, fuzzy green shell. You are a social predator who feeds off the aspirations and insecurities of others. An Instagramming exhibitionist, you delight in your on-trend superiority. Your nemesis is the chickpea.

There's a reason you've been in my fridge for over a year.

Mostly E's: You are the humble chickpea, the everyman of legumes. You are a friends to everyone, and your adaptability is your greatest strength. You bring out the best in those around you.

Three chickpeas, talking about their weekend.
***

What legume are you?

***

Also, we have a giveaway winner! JANET! Mr. Toot Toot Toucan is yours (I'm also throwing in a special treat for you, because I don't believe in giving babies presents without also acknowledging their mothers). Email me your shipping address and I'll send Toot Toot your way!