Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

Just a few friendly reminders from the staff at the Cranky Pumpkin:

1) Candy is calorie-free on Halloween.  This is a scientific fact. 

2) It's okay to eat candy corn like it's the end of the world.  There is no shame in a candy corn coma.

3)  But if you eat too much candy, there will be repercussions.  Serious repercussions.

p.s. If you came to this blog for the photography, you were seriously misled. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Should We Trust the Advice in Magazines?

I love magazines.  I hate to criticize something I love, but ... I'm going to.

Magazines offer advice about how I should live my life: eat these foods, use this face wash, travel here, do these stomach crunches, buy this coffee table, etc., etc.  The magazines seem to offer good advice.  Eat more salmon?  Take deep calming breaths?  Buy some ankle boots for the fall?  Sounds good to me!

But, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a cynic.  A cheerful cynic, but a cynic nonetheless.  And so I have my doubts.  

If the magazines give me good advice, and I follow that advice, then I will, presumably, reach my full potential as a 21st century woman. 

And if I reach my full potential  as a 21st century woman, then I won't need to read magazines anymore.  I'll spend my evenings reading Dante and drinking peppermint tea, instead of reading magazines and eating a large bowl of ice cream.

So, is it really in the magazine's interest to offer me the best advice possible?  Shouldn't they only give me enough advice to keep me coming back for more? 

Or, I know I'm being paranoid, but: shouldn't a magazine give me bad advice?  For example, let's say a fashion magazine extols the virtue of capri pants - you'll look like Audrey Hepburn!  I buy a pair of capri pants, but alas, I have short legs and capri pants make me look like an asshole.  Now, instead of feeling like Audrey Hepburn, I feel insecure and miserable.  I descend into a shame spiral, eat too many donuts, and buy ... more magazines.

I probably should have named this blog "The Cynical Pumpkin." 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

These Nachos? Not Super.

Theory: society uses the word "super" too liberally.

Case in point: these are called "The Super Nachos."

There is nothing "super" about these nachos.  They are sold at a stadium, and I realize that stadiums are not the pinnacle of fine dining.  But on the menu, the Super Nachos are pictured with salsa and guacamole.  Can anyone tell me what happened to the salsa and guacamole?  Were they absorbed by the nuclear nacho cheese?

If the stadium wants to serve garbage, the stadium can serve garbage.  But please, have some respect for your customers.  No one is going to be tricked into thinking these nachos are super just because they are called "super".  They look like they were found in a dumpster behind a sports bar with really bad appetizers.  So let's rename them something appropriate, like "The Nachos that Look Nasty But Actually Taste Okay" or "The Mediocre Nachos."

If we all band together, we can put an end to the flagrant abuse of the word "super."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Library Books Are Taunting Me

During an August heat wave, I sought sanctuary at Pasadena's Central Library.  The library has a powerful air conditioning system and a little coffee stand.  And, bonus points, you can sit and drink your iced coffee in the main reading room of the library.  Which makes me feel a little bit like an outlaw (but not really).

After enjoying my iced coffee, I decided to wander the stacks.  I had recently traveled to Maui for my honeymoon, which had me interested in the oceans.  Maybe I would borrow one book about the oceans so I could indulge my inner armchair scientist.

Twenty minutes later, I left the library with four heavy volumes about the ocean, earth sciences and the weather.  

I've now renewed the books TWICE.  In two months, I've flipped through about twenty pages in the Ocean book, and that's it.  Now the books are mocking me.  Would you just look at them?

I had good intentions.  I fully intended to read all four science books, from cover to cover.  Instead, they have sat on a shelf, with their silent accusations.  Every time I watch a reality t.v. show or curl up with Game of Thrones, they tsk tsk tsk and shake their smug heads.   

This is just one example of an ongoing problem.  Whenever I go to the library, I tell myself that I'm only going to borrow one or two books. And then, oops, I stagger out of the library with thousands of pages that will never be read. 

Maybe I enjoy binging at the library because it's like a free shopping spree.  Except it's only free if you remember to return the books on time.  Believe me, I know.  The amount of late fines I have paid since childhood is breathtaking.  I'm not talking about a dime here, a quarter there.  I'm talking about $60 here, $45 there...  It's probably on my credit report.  The library should list me as a major donor. 

Some people cut up or hide their credit cards if they need to save money.  I just need to shred my library card.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baseball's Latest Fashion Statement

As I've mentioned before, my husband is a rabid Cardinals fan and we have been watching a lot of baseball this month.  Nathan notices things like the pitcher's stance or how the batter swings the bat.  He scrutinizes the Rangers for weaknesses that the Cardinals can exploit.  Then, he references some game that was played in 1967 and rattles off a bunch of stats.

I pay attention to the fashion on the field.

Usually, I like to talk about the players' socks.  Ideally, a player should be wearing bright socks that are pulled up to the knees.  It looks so bad ass!  If I could walk around in public wearing white spandex pants and red socks pulled up to my knees, believe me, I would. 

But this month, I've been noticing the jewelry more than the socks.  Yes, the players are wearing jewelry: specifically, thick colorful braided necklaces.  You can see a sample for sale here.

After some exhaustive research (okay, I checked Google), I determined the players are wearing ionic braided titanium necklaces.  Apparently, it's a Miracle Necklace.  Folks, this necklace does not just look cool.  It also improves your balance, reduces fatigue, and aids in recovery if you get a bad boo boo. 

I need one of these necklaces for the gym.  Not because some ionic titanium is going to improve my form on the rowing machine.  (Knowing my luck, I'm probably allergic to ionized titanium in its braided form and will get a horrible rash).  But at the gym, I need some credibility.  I'm the weakling who uses the five pound weights for her biceps curls (and that's only because I can't find any four pound weights).  On the cardio machines, I slog along at the slowest pace.  And on the stretching mats, I'm the fool who can't touch her toes.

But once I have an ionic braided titanium necklace, everyone will take me seriously.  My gym colleagues will flock to me for advice.  Personal trainers will start to read my blog for tips.  The gym will give me my own locker room.  It will be glorious.  I just need to wear an ionic braided titanium necklace like all the cool baseball players.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Uh-Oh, We're Getting New Neighbors

For the past two years, we have been living next door to a dead lady.  She keeps to herself and is deathly quiet.  (Get it?  Oh, I kill myself.  Sorry, I'll stop now).

Our neighbor was very nice when she was alive, but after she died?  She became the perfect neighbor.  No loud parties, no barking dog, and no cats that pee on my potted plants.  After she died, her children apologized the house would stay empty for awhile.  And that, I believe, was the most unnecessary apology in the history of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, Nice Dead Lady is finally vacating the premises.  First, a For Rent sign appeared on the front lawn.  Then, a young couple with two children arrived and Nice Dead Lady's children walked them around the property.  Now, the For Rent sign is suspiciously gone.

Yay, new neighbors.  Who are alive.  And make noise.  I'm so excited.  (In case you cannot tell, I am being sarcastic.  I am convinced that the new neighbors' son is the sort of child who is obsessed with explosions and enjoys torturing small animals.  Or, even better: I bet the kids are being home schooled and they'll spend their free time spying on the telecommuter next door.)

Stay tuned...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween Candy Update

In this post, I bragged about our Halloween candy and hinted that I'll be distributing "bad candy" to any surly adolescents who knock on my door.  But my husband observed that we only have elite candy. I only bought chocolate!  Is a teenager going to be devastated by a Milky Way or miniature Hershey's bar?  

So I supplemented our candy supplies:

This sad-ass, non-chocolate, second-tier candy is for the older trick-or-treaters who make no effort in the costume department.  The trick-or-treaters who say "trick-or-treat," but the subtext is "F*** you."  This candy is reserved for them.

To be clear: I am not withholding candy from all of the adolescents/teens who knock on my door.  If the trick-or-treater makes even the slightest nod to wearing a costume, then I'll let them dig through the good candy bowl.  I'm not asking for a full pirate costume with hat, sword, beard, striped shirt, hook hand, peg leg and a novelty parrot on the shoulder.  I'm just asking for an eye patch.

But jeans and a hoodie sweathshirt?  That's not a costume.  Sorry kid, enjoy your lollipop.

Now if you'll excuse me,  I think I'll leave this candy outside until Halloween.  Maybe a wild animal will rough it up.  Let's see how those surly teenagers like finding raccoon bite marks in their candy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hallelujah, I Got My Flu Shot!

I just got my flu shot, and this is a major accomplishment.  I usually put "Flu Shot" on my to-do list in mid-September and then procrastinate until a few days before Thanksgiving.  This is not a wise thing to do.  

Every year, my extended family has a huge Thanksgiving gathering.  On average, three or four relatives look deathly ill as we say the blessing.  To these relatives, I say: I love you, but not when you have the flu. 

And to make matters worse, I always learn, after I have gorged myself on a dish, that its preparer has a 102 degree fever and just threw up in the guest bathroom.  Seriously?  I don't remember ordering a side of flu virus with my cranberry sauce. 

I then spend the next week worrying: Will I get the flu?  Is my flu shot effective?  The pharmacist said it would take two weeks for the shot to be effective. Oh, why didn't I get the shot in October?

Well, not this year!  My years of playing chicken with the flu are over.  Nevermind the fact that my arm is now S-O-R-E and I'm probably going to have a bad reaction to the shot.  Nothing is getting between me and the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So, Courtney, What's It Like To Watch The Cardinals Play In the World Series With Your Husband, A Rabid Cardinals Fan?

I take the Fifth.

My Not-So-Secret Halloween Aspirations

I've mentioned my passion for Halloween decorations before (read about it here).  Someday, I would like to transform my home into a haunted house.  It will be tasteful, but we might need a fog machine.

In the meantime, I am very happy with my recent purchase, a $5 ghost that I found at the drugstore:

As a devotee of Halloween decorations, I am living in the right neighborhood.  My neighbors truly know how to decorate for the holiday.  Down the street, several houses have graveyards, including one with a coffin:

But you know what would make a graveyard truly shine?  A dead lawn.  Next year, we need to stop watering the lawn in July and by October, we'll be ready to install the graveyard.  Alas, something tells me that Nathan, a.k.a. The Lord of the Lawn, is not going to support this plan.  Boo.

But maybe we don't need a graveyard.  When I saw the tableau below, I realized what I really need: a full-sized skeleton.  Preferably one with a beret and a broken accordion.

And finally, this cat wins the award for the creepiest decoration in my neighborhood:

It looks like a possessed devil cat that smothers children in their sleep.  I hope some vandals destroy it on Halloween. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Know the House With the Best Halloween Candy? That's My House.

I take my responsibilities as a distributor of Halloween candy very, very, very seriously.  I will not be the neighbor with the melted Almond Joys and broken erasers.  Or, worse, the lonely lady who distributes raisins and then her cat Muffin runs outside and everyone has to spend the next twenty minutes trying to get Muffin out of a tree.

No, we only distribute the good stuff:

You can't just have one or two offerings if you want to be the best house on the block and we will be the best house on the block.  Kids will talk about our candy for weeks.   

So, of course, we have the Reese's variety pack, which includes Reese's Pieces.  The pack only has 185 candy packs, so I'm deeply a little anxious that we don't have enough.  And why is it so hard to find full-sized packages of Reese's Pieces throughout the year?  Hasn't everyone seen E.T.?  It should be required viewing for all children: you can't start kindergarten until you have been vaccinated for polio and watched E.T. at least three times.  Hoards of children should be demanding better access to Reese's Pieces.  

We're also distributing Salted Nut Rolls (that's the bag in the middle).  These are a Midwest candy that my husband, a Nebraska native, ordered online.  Folks, this is a very special treat.  We're probably the only house in Pasadena with miniature Salted Nut Rolls.  At my house, we're not just giving away candy.  We are fostering a greater appreciation for the candy culture of the Midwest.   

Now that we have our candy, I have to think about our distribution strategy.  I always try to adhere to a plan - e.g. I will hand two candies to each trick-or-treater - but ever year, I end up improvising.  A three-year-old Tinkerbell shouts "Twick or Tweet," my heart melts, and I give her unlimited access to the candy bowl. 

But not everyone gets to choose their Halloween candy.  My Halloween candy bowl is like an exclusive club, and I'm the bouncer.  When a gang of surly adolescents dressed up as surly adolescents pounds on my front door, I hand them one candy each and swat away their hands if they reach for the bowl.  

Hey, if you want the Snickers bar, you have to earn it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Obituary for Air Wolf

This is Air Wolf*:

Air Wolf is a remote control helicopter that my husband bought last week.  It's about the size of a miniature pumpkin, and IT ACTUALLY FLIES.  I know it's a remote control helicopter and it's supposed to fly, but I assumed it was just going to make a lot of noise and maybe hover a couple of inches off the ground for a second. 

No, this bad boy flew all around our living room and bedroom.  I crashed him into the ceiling multiple times.  Sometimes, he bounced off the wood floor and then kept flying. Air Wolf was remarkably resilient.  And then he died.

One of his blades stopped spinning.  We tried recharging Air Wolf to no avail.  My husband brought out the tool box and tinkered with the wires, but alas, Air Wolf's flying days seem to be over.

I am lobbying for a new Air Wolf.  It only costs $22, and this time, I swear, I will not crash Air Wolf into the ceiling.  The husband, however, says his heart is broken.  He cannot handle the heartache if Air Wolf II dies as well.  

Goodbye, Air Wolf.  In my heart, you will always soar through the sky.

*I understand there used to be a television show called Air Wolf.  The only thing I know about the show is that it had a helicopter.  Which seems like a good enough reason to name our new toy Air Wolf.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Watch The Pennant With Your Husband

My husband is a Cardinals fan.  Tonight, the Cardinals are playing Game Four-Wait-Game-Five of the pennant.  (I can't keep track.  We've been watching a lot of baseball this month).

Before I offer my unsolicited advice, we need to talk about some terminology.  When I was a kid, it was called "the pennant."  Now it is called the "NCLS" (whatever the hell that means, because seriously, sports are not confusing enough already).  Well, I'm not calling it the NCLS.  That's too many letters for me to remember.  I'm calling it the pennant because (a) that's what I learned in the 80s and (b) "pennant" is a cool word that is not used often enough.  

Now that we have cleared that up, we can move on to the advice segment of our programming: how to watch the pennant with a rabid Cardinals fan who would cut off his toe for another World Series title. 

Let's start with seating strategy.  It is okay to sit on the same couch as the rabid Cardinals fan, but you must remain on high alert.  The rabid Cardinals fan may, at any time, suddenly make wild arm gestures.  If you sit too close, you will get a concussion.

During the game, you are allowed to talk.  But never, at any time, for any reason, say, "But it's just a game."  Unless you are trying to incite violence.

Please remember that this is not a good time to talk about "your feelings" or "your relationship."  Exception: you may talk about your feelings of rage/disbelief towards the umpire, the relief pitcher, the manager, etc. 

And finally, do not remind the rabid Cardinals fan in your life that the team just won the World Series in 2006.  That was 2006.  This is 2011.  He wants another World Series title now, end of discussion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And I Thought I Was Being So Smart.

My husband and I drink a lot of soda.  If you opened our recycling bin, you would gasp at the number of empty plastic bottles.  Now, before you launch into a lecture about the health risks, I would like to make two observations: (1) we only drink diet soda; and (2) we don’t care about the health risks.  Please save your lectures for crack addicts, chain smokers, and nose pickers.

I have undertaken the responsibility of maintaining our soda supplies.  My husband probably drinks more soda than I do, but he has a real job with a real commute and really long hours whereas I telecommute part time and spend an unhealthy amount of time in my pajama pants. 

We do not smoke, and as between smoking cigarettes and drinking soda, I think soda is the lesser evil.  But I will say this about cigarettes: at least they do not weigh a lot.  I usually restock our soda supplies at the grocery store, and my god, 10 or 20 bottles of soda are really effin heavy (especially if you have useless T-rex arms like I do).  Try pushing a cart weighed down with 20 bottles of soda around your grocery store. It's really not that bad, except for the fact that it's a total pain in the ass.  

Last June, I got the bright idea to just buy 100 bottles of soda all at once so I could avoid soda shopping until the end of the summer.  Our grocery store was having an amazing sale, so I launched Operation: Buy An Absurd Amount Of Soda.

I bought nearly 100 bottles of soda and had to make two trips into the store.  Both times, I filled my cart entirely with soda.  Word to the wise: when you fill your cart entirely with soda bottles, people will ask questions.  And when they ask if you are throwing a party, it’s really fun to whisper, It's for a scientific experiment.   

Fast forward to October.  We still have at least 10 bottles of soda leftover from Operation: Buy An Absurd Amount Of Soda.  I have fortified our supplies a few times when I see a good price at the store, but for the most part, I did not have to worry about our soda supplies this summer. 

I thought I was so smart.  I thought, Next time, I’ll buy 200 bottles of soda, ha ha!  I started to daydream about an annual soda run, even if that meant turning our garage into Soda Command Central.

But, alas, I recently learned a valuable lesson.  Unlike wine, soda does not improve with age.  Especially if it is stored in our garage.  I opened a bottle of soda from my June shopping spree this morning, and bleh, it tastes like garbage.   

Oh well.  No more soda shopping sprees for Courtney.  Does anyone need a bottle of flat cola?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I (Heart) Cheese

I really, really, really love cheese.  One short story illustrates my passion for cheese:

I went to a small, all-girls Catholic high school.  We did not have a proper cafeteria, but we had “the café” which sold salads, sandwiches and pastries.  One day, I was having a terrible craving for cheese.  It was a matter of life and death, so I went to the café and bought the only piece of cheese available to my entire high school: a piece of “cheese” on top of a stale bagel.  I bought the bagel, ripped off the cheese, and devoured it like a woman possessed.

I try to limit my cheese intake, but there is not much in life better than a hunk of cheddar cheese and some sourdough bread. It makes me think – I would have been a damn good peasant, circa 1340.  I would have toiled in the fields all morning, and then for lunch, I would have had a hearty hunk of cheese, bread, some butter and a big mug of ale. 

Of course, this is a romantic delusion.  I took several medieval history classes in college, and I know what the Middle Ages were like: terrible .  If I had lived during the 1300s, I would have been a dirty, miserable, cold, hungry peasant – assuming I had even survived childhood.  Medieval Courtney would probably have been raped by a duke and then died of the bubonic plague (because there’s no chance I would have survived the Black Death).  

But here’s a question for you: did medieval peasants even have access to cheese?  It feels like they should have been eating cheese.  The characters in the Canterbury Tales must have stopped at an inn and had cheese and mutton for dinner.  Robin Hood and his Merry Men must have gathered around a fire in Sherwood Forest while eating cheddar cheese and dancing with the ladies.  And surely Sir Lancelot nibbled on a block of cheese while pining for that bitch Guinevere.

Here are some takeaway thoughts for the day: (1) I really love cheese and if you need to impress me with a present, just give me cheese; (2) I would have been a lousy medieval peasant; and (3) hopefully Medieval Courtney had access to unlimited cheese.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Is It So Difficult To Get A Cup Of Decaffeinated Coffee In The Afternoon?

I rarely drink caffeinated coffee, and I never drink coffee with caffeine in the afternoon (unless my goal is to stay awake until dawn). 
Many years ago, during a business lunch at a chilly restaurant, I ordered a cup of decaffeinated coffee.  One of my colleagues shook his head and asked, “What’s the point of decaffeinated coffee?”  He really could not fathom why a sane human being would voluntarily drink decaffeinated coffee.  I explained, very slowly, “Because I like the taste of coffee but do not want the caffeine.” 
Coffee is the perfect treat: warm, satisfying, and calorie free.  Yes, I drink my coffee with a splash of milk, but hey, a woman needs her calcium. 
Sometimes, I stop at Starbucks in the afternoon.  I just want a grande decaffeinated coffee because I need to consume something and coffee is better than a Snickers bar (by better, I mean the cup of coffee has fewer calories.  If I was naturally skinny, I would of course choose the Snickers bar).  When I order my beverage, the barrista looks at me with equal parts scorn and horror and says something like, “We stop brewing decaffeinated coffee at 2 p.m.  Would you like a decaf Americano?”  No, actually, I do not want a decaf Americano, thank you very much; if I wanted a decaf Americano, that’s what I would have ordered in the first place.
The unavailability of decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon makes no sense to me.  Is everyone really drinking caffeinated coffee at 4 p.m.?  Doesn’t anyone want to enjoy the flavor of coffee and still be able to fall asleep before midnight?  Am I the only person in America who orders a decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon?
Fortunately, there is Peet’s. Good, reliable Peet’s with its delicious and strong coffee.  I can walk into my local Peet’s at any hour of the day and order a cup of decaffeinated coffee.  Nobody judges me, nobody questions my sanity.   Thank you, Peet’s, for accepting me just the way I am.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Courtney 1, Ants 0

Once upon a time, we had an ant problem.  Ants invaded our house, but we fought back, and we conquered the ants.  Unfortunately, I do not remember how we conquered the ants, and this is a problem because… the ants are back.  Damn.
Last Wednesday, it rained all day.  I huddled inside, braising short ribs and pretending to be productive.  The ants decided to seek refuge from the rain inside our house. 
When I found the ants last week, I was initially annoyed - the little bastards were attacking my purse!  Then, I had a flashback to the weekend before: I ordered oatmeal for breakfast at a restaurant; I accidentally spilled the brown sugar that comes with the oatmeal into my purse; and then, lazy me, I never cleaned it up. Now the ants were gorging themselves on the brown sugar in my purse.  Of course. I did not invite the ants into our house, but I did lay out a feast for their arrival.
I banished my purse to the backyard and hoped that would solve the ant problem.  It did not.
This morning, the ants were marching on our kitchen sink. It was time to declare war.  
First, I was patient and watched the ants. I needed to determine their point of invasion. And my patience was rewarded: the ants were entering through a crack in the ceiling by our back door.  Clever ants, very clever.  BUT I AM MORE CLEVER.
After some internet searches, I chose my weapons: vinegar and cinnamon.  I poured white vinegar on some paper towels and wiped up the line of marching ants. It was mass murder, but I felt no remorse.  Once I had destroyed the ants' scent trail, I piled a little cinnamon by the invasion point.  A few survivors approached the pile of cinnamon, and ha, I had found their Kryptonite.  I could tell from their little antennas that they were having a big ant freak out.  Then, I wiped up the last ants with vinegar because we cannot have any survivors reporting back to the queen.
I love the smell of vinegar in the morning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Quest for the Holy Grail of Beauty Products

I am thirty-two years old, and sometimes, I still get zits.  For example: today.  As I write this, I have a lovely zit right on the tip of my nose.  I look like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Fortunately, this does not happen often.  But when I do get a zit, I want to pound my fists against the mirror and shout at my pores, Why?  Why? What do you need - a facial?  More moisturizer?  Less moisturizer?  Talk to me!  Just tell me what you want!!!

At my age, shouldn’t I be the master of my skincare routine?  Shouldn’t I have figured out the rituals that will guarantee a flawless complexion?  But when I look at my face in the mirror, I have no idea what to do.  Despite all my years of reading magazine articles, visiting my dermatologist, and trying new products, when it comes to my beauty routine, I might as well be consulting a Magic 8 Ball.  (Should I exfoliate tonight?  Outlook not clear.)    

When shopping for beauty products, I have two main strategies: (1) read the labels and pick the product that is best designed for my beauty needs; or (2) buy the product that comes in the prettiest box.

I know I am supposed to actually read the packaging in order to identify the product best suited for my skin type but I don’t know what my skin type is.  Is my skin oily?  Dry? Acne prone?  Sensitive?  I DON’T KNOW.  Can’t someone just teach me a magic spell to make my zits go away?  And another magic spell to fight wrinkles?  Why isn’t Hogwarts real???

For now, my quest for the perfect beauty routine continues.  I am like Galahad searching for the Holy Grail, except, spoiler alert, I am never going to find my grail.   

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How Did People Shop For Groceries Before The iPhone?

I recently decided to try a recipe that calls for cippolini onions.  What is a cippolini onion?  Well, to be honest, I have no idea.  But I wrote “cippolini onions – 1 lb” on my shopping list, so that’s what I needed to buy. 
At the grocery store, I could not find any cippolini onions.  I circled the big onion display in the produce department several times, inspecting all the labels:  white onions, brown onions, red onions, pearl onions, shallots, garlic, where are the freaking cippolini onions? 
There were no cippolini onions at the grocery story.  At this point, I had three options:
  •           Option One: Go on a Mad Crazy Cippolini hunt and visit all of the grocery stores in a fifty mile radius until I could locate one pound of cippolini onions.
  •          Option Two: Consult my iPhone/Google.
  •          Option Three: Cry.
I was feeling rational, so thirty seconds later, I learned (a) how to pronounce “cippolini” (it begins with a “ch” sound) and (b) pearl onions are an acceptable substitute for cippolini onions.  Eureka!  I had seen the pearl onions next to the garlic.
Which brings me to garlic.  I love garlic, but I had a very bad experience with garlic when I was first learning to cook.  I was a graduate student and had cooked myself dinner maybe four times in my life (unless microwaving a frozen pizza counts).  But I was on a no-carb diet and desperate to eat something new and delicious.  I thought I had found my no-carb salvation in a recipe for chicken mole that needed two cloves of garlic. 
At the grocery store, I realized I did not know how much a “clove” of garlic is.  I carried an entire head of garlic to the man restocking the potatoes and asked him, “Is this a clove of garlic?”  He confidently confirmed that it was, so I bought and used two entire heads of garlic for my chicken mole.  It was a disaster.  Let’s just say I learned the difference between a “clove” and a “head” of garlic the hard way.  
After the Great Garlic Debacle, I lost my faith in produce department employees.  (I still regard the butcher as a minor deity).  For years, this made me wary of recipes with unknown ingredients.  My iPhone, however, has freed me and now I can always hunt down the most elusive of ingredients. The evil employees of the produce department will never again trick me into ruining a recipe with an unholy amount of garlic.    

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Can I Outwit My Impending Cold?

I’m in that zone where “I might be getting a bad cold but maybe I just have an innocent sniffle.”  I never know how to handle this zone.  Maybe, just maybe, if I play my cards right, I will avoid the cold entirely.  Once I have a proper cold, I know what to do: go on a Vitamin C bender; watch a lot of t.v.; and complain to anyone who will listen.  But before the cold fully hits, I am overwhelmed by my options.
Should I keep exercising? If I take a walk outside, maybe I can trick my body into thinking I am a healthy person who never gets sick.  Or should I conserve all my precious energy so my immune system can battle the evil cold?  Am I just a lazy slug looking for an excuse to skip a day at the gym?
Should I drink lots of tea?  Staying hydrated is important, and tea is warm and soothing for my throat.  But what tea should I drink?  Probably something nasty, like chamomile.  That crap tastes like fake medicine from the middle ages.  If I had to choose between a terrible cold and chamomile tea, I would probably choose the cold.
Should I eat oranges?  Chicken soup?  I know I should eat something wholesome and mother-approved, but what I really want is ice cream.  I know that makes no sense, but when I’m sick or getting sick, I must have ice cream.  Getting a cold?  I want ice cream.  Headache?  I need ice cream. The worst ever case of the flu?  Where’s the effing ice cream???
Like I said, I have no idea how to handle the pre-cold stage.  And, as I wrote this, my sniffle turned into a headache.  Damnit, I’m screwed. Where's the ice cream?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Telecommuting Confessions: The Dress Code Is Pretty Relaxed Here

I would just like to note for the record that as I write this, I am wearing jeans, a clean t-shirt, a cute striped cardigan and black ankle boots.  This is nothing short of a miracle. I am, after all, a telecommuter.  I can spend the day in pajamas and a bathrobe, and I still get paid. 

For six and a half years, I worked in offices with business casual dress codes.  Over the years, I spent a lot of money at Banana Republic. Now that I telecommute, my business casual wardrobe is languishing in the darkest corner of my closet.  But I still try to make an effort to wear nice clothes every day at least once a week.  

I think I am going to have to write a Telecommuting Dress Code before I start dressing like a homeless person.  These are a few of the rules that I am trying to observe:
  • Put on real pants by 11 a.m. Sweatpants are not real pants.  Pajama bottoms?  Not real pants.
  • It is okay to wear a comfy, stained t-shirt in the house.  It is not okay to walk/drive past the property line in a stained t-shirt, even if I am just running to the grocery store. Let's try to preserve a modicum of dignity.
  • I must wear shoes for at least a few hours every day.  No, my electric green Crocs do not count as shoes.  Yes, my Toms are real shoes.  I am a telecommuter, not a prisoner. 
These rules seem really harsh.  Pants everyday?  Yeah, like that is going to happen.  Since I wore jeans today, I think I'm free to wear sweats for the rest of the week. 

Confession: I Secretly Hate Summer Fruit

During the summer, the farmer's market basically gives me an anxiety attack.  There are truckloads of berries and stone fruits, and they are only in season for like a minute and a half.  Because the fruit is so delicious, I am morally obligated to eat as much as I can while the getting is good.  This gives me a false sense of urgency.  Oh my god!  It's here!  Summer fruit!  I have to eat BARRELS of summer fruit OR I HAVE WASTED MY ENTIRE SUMMER!!! (By the way, I remain surprisingly calm during emergencies).

If I don’t buy lots of summer fruit, I feel guilty; so I load up on pluots, peaches and nectarines.  I cart the fruit home, feeling virtuous, and then I don't know what to do.  Should I put the fruit in the fridge?  Or leave it on the counter?  And shit, is this plum already ripe?  Or should I give it a day?  It feels as if there's just a two-hour window for optimal-ripe-but-not-overly-ripeness and that two-hour window always happens during the dead of night. 

And to make matters worse, I always, always, always buy too much summer fruit.  It goes in the produce bin in the bottom of the fridge, and I forget about it.  It ripens, over-ripens, and then languishes for several days until I remember: holy shit, I bought peaches! By then, the fruit is rotten and this makes me feel even more guilty. There are hungry people everywhere, and I can’t bother to eat my peaches.

It’s a vicious cycle: buy summer fruit because I must celebrate the season; forget to eat pricey summer fruit; feel guilty because I am wasteful; buy more expensive fruit that no one will ever eat; and repeat until the end of summer. 

Now that summer is over, I feel relieved.  I can just buy some bananas because JFC, all I want is a banana.  This afternoon, I ate an apple and you know what?  It was amazing.     

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Used All Of The Ink In A Cheap Blue Pen!

I realize this is not cause for a parade or even a small cake, but I still want to commemorate this event: today, I used up all of the ink in one of my cheap blue pens. 

In my world, this rarely happens.  I often lose the pen while it still has plenty of ink.  Or, more often, I chew on the pen and destroy it. Yes, I must confess: I am an incurable pen chewer. Here is the expected life cycle for one of my pens:

1) Unchewed: also known as "a pen Courtney has not yet touched."

2) Gently chewed:  I look at these pens and think "this is not too bad, my husband will probably not notice."  These pens are allowed to stay on the table, shelf, desk, etc. and be seen by the world.

3) Harshly chewed:  I keep these pens safely hidden in my purse.  They are my guilty secret (shhhh).

4) Mauled: these pens are beyond disgusting.  Even I do not want to use them.  I bury them in the trash can.

I suppose Freud would have something to say about my pen chewing habit, but you know what?  It could be worse.  I don't smoke, snort cocaine or watch Desperate Housewives.  In the world of bad habits, "pen chewing" is child's play.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Warning: This Post Contains Graphic and Disturbing Imagery

I love Halloween and everything about it except Halloween stores.  It's too much.  An aisle of plastic pumpkins and candy at the grocery store?  Charming.  An entire warehouse devoted to fake tombstones, oversized novelty spiders and plastic skeletons?  DEPRESSING.

I did not think it was possible to make a Halloween megastore more depressing than it already is, but someone found a way: put the Halloween megastore in an old Borders.  (I described my last trip to the Borders at my mall here).

The mall didn't even try to conceal the fact that the Halloween megastore used to be a bookstore.  Quotes about books are still painted on the walls.  For example:

"Books are the carriers of civilization.  Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculations at a standstill."  Right. Well, sound the alarm, because apparently civilization is going to hell. But no worries! We have a huge selection of slutty witch costumes!

Behold, the old newsstand.  Is it symbolic that the magazines have been replaced by bloody masks?  

And lastly, my personal favorite: "Good novels are written by people who are not frightened."  Now, there are no books (let alone any good novels) in sight. But there is this scary ghoul thing hanging from the ceiling.  The word "irony" comes to mind.