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.