Frozen burritos

For the past few days, the state of my kitchen has been…mostly disgusting. But between working Thursday night, partying Friday night, and then working my tail off Saturday night to the point of exhaustion, I just couldn’t manage to do dishes. Every time I thought about the dishes, I just wanted a nap. I wanted anything except for doing dishes. I posted on Facebook:

“Sometimes I…I just wish there was a clean dishes fairy. Like, if I leave all of them under my bed and promise to sleep all afternoon, will they get washed? If I leave forty bucks under my pillow, will the dishes fairy come? Looking at my kitchen has now exhausted me and I need a nap.”

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Unfortunately…no fairies or elves showed up. Not one. Instead, over a foot of snow arrived, starting during my late, late Saturday night shift. I worked so hard during my shift that, after only a few hours, I was doubling my painkillers. I could barely walk or stand, but I had to keep going. It was busy and the money just kept rolling in. Beyond that, some voyeurs showed up from the party I’d attended the night before. I’m never shy about letting people know what I do, but I surely don’t tell them where I work. I felt like, because of those voyeurs, I had to try even harder. What if my friends heard I was a terrible dancer? The night went on, and I was in more and more pain. Being an athlete for a living is no cakewalk…and for as much as people think the money is “easy,” the permanent injuries throughout my entire body can surely tell you that it is anything but “easy.” Fast, maybe. But never, ever easy.

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By the end of the night, some drunks came in, demanding dances with me and berating me for telling them that I just couldn’t do it. I physically, absolutely, couldn’t make my weak, powerless, exhausted body zapped of sleep and nutrients take one more step in stilettos. Not only was I sore to start the night, but I knew there was no way I was cleaning the kitchen at five in the morning to make whatever the hell I could think up with such a cloudy, starved brain. Plus, I still had to shovel my driveway, and my neighbors’ while it was snowing and sleeting heavily. And then over and over and over again, I lifted hundreds of pounds of watery, wet, slushy, frozen snow gunk until our driveways were clear, just for a minute as the snow kept coming.

I’ve been trying so hard and sticking to the spirit of this cooking thing, but after work, I hit the grocery store with the intention of buying a bunch of prepackaged garbage food to microwave and wolf down. And you know what? I did. I found a package of way, way overpriced and questionable grocery store sushi, corn chips, frozen gluten-free burritos, goat cheese, and three rolls of 100% recycled paper towels. I barely ate much, and fell asleep quickly. A second burrito served as an okay breakfast at 3pm today, just until I could start cleaning up the mess.

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Cleaning the kitchen has so far taken me almost two hours, and I’m still not done. I’m boxing up two sets of dishes to give away, and trying so hard not to see the real convenience of paper plates. I’ve even cooked again, making a mess of several pans, plates, and utensils that I’d just cleaned. The dishes will never end. On December 31st, when someone asks me how the year went without restaurants, I’ll just have to say: “I don’t know. I couldn’t quit doing dishes long enough to eat.”

Breakfast in bed

I’m just not a morning person. When my alarm goes off, I hit the snooze, roll over, and repeat every nine minutes for an hour or so. I pry my eyes open, catch up on whatever phone notifications came through while I slept from texts, calls, Facebook, and emails while I bury my nose in my younger dog’s neck. She’s almost three years old, but smells like a puppy every single time she wakes up. After dog snuggles and finding out what people thought of their mornings, I climb out of bed and lumber my way to the back door to let the dogs out, get smacked in the face by some degree of chilly winter air, and attempt to remain upright while the sheets sing sirens’ songs.

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This day, I couldn’t even get up slowly. It was a Tuesday, and I’d worked the night before until 3am and wolfed down my dinner at 4:30am. I slept in a not-so-classy pair of booty shorts so I wouldn’t be caught naked while the delivery guys knocked on the door. This day, I was finally having my new washer and dryer delivered, which happen to live in my kitchen and be another peg for the remodel. I set my alarm for 9am, the earliest they could deliver, and drifted in and out of sleep until 10:40am, when they finally arrived. They did their thing and I tried to stay out of the way, but the whole process was over in less than 20 minutes and painless. I threw a $30 tip their way and mentioned they should get some lunch or weed or something for their efforts. They were surprised, but I think with the stray stilettos all over the floor, they shouldn’t have been!

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So, I’d worked up this appetite while Facebooking and watching other people lift things — funny how that happens, huh? — and I needed some protein and felt like a nice, light breakfast. I just wanted to be warm and underneath the covers. I settled on making “adventurous eggs” with added garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne, plus raspberries, a mild and local Farmer’s cheese, and gluten-free bread in my new toaster with some preserves I was gifted for Christmas.

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This jam was about a hundred times better than I thought it would be. I totally recommend hitting up their website for a jar yourself — it’s worth the extra cost, and I can’t imagine going back to Smuckers bullshit after this jar.

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This wasn’t any feat of cooking prowess by far. It’s just some scrambled eggs and toast and fruit and cheese. But underneath, there was a measure of emotional self-care that I have a difficult time doing for myself. There isn’t anyone around to have breakfast in bed with, to make it for, and certainly, I won’t have anyone for a long time to make it for me or care for me in this intimate way. I can do it myself, sure, but having the emotional guts to do things for myself when others won’t is both incredibly lonely and a sure sign that I can — and always will — take care of myself without the need for a spider-killing, jar-lid-loosening, furniture-moving, reaching-things-up-high man.

Kitchen remodel: part two

My dad and I haven’t always had a great relationship. I’ve done some dumb shit, and so has he, and we mostly dealt with our respective difficulties with each other by making our visits sparing and short. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to change that by asking both of my parents, separately, to do things I think they’ll enjoy. About two years ago, when asked what I wanted for my birthday, I asked my dad to paint the living room of the very crappy, falling-apart farmhouse I was renting. Sure, the living room needed painted for my own sanity — it was a disgusting institutional olive dingy green color — but I really wanted to spend the time with my dad, learning the trade he’s spent the last 43 years of his life doing.

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So when my dad offered — on his birthday this time — to paint my kitchen and bathroom for me as I continue to update my house, I happily agreed. Not only am I getting a very professional paint job, but it’s a good way for us to spend time together, without the need to fill every silence with words.

“I am here. I do care. Yes, I do want to spend time with you, dad.”

After I moved into my house, the entire thing needed repainted and the floors needed done. I lacked most of the basic tools for either one of these things, but because of the farmhouse experience, I had the skills to paint the house myself. My dad set me up with some tools: rollers, brushes, roller extender, rags, screens, a small bucket, and this ladder. I set to work and did a perfectionist’s job of painting the entire house, except the kitchen and bathroom.

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This ladder has been around as long as I can remember. It was the ladder that accompanied my dad to every side-work project he used to work to fund my private school education and riding lessons and swim team fees, as he stayed up far later than our bedtimes and was nearly always gone by the time we woke up for school. Between work and side-work, he’d pick my sister and I up from school, exactly on time every day at 3:15, dropping us off at sports as needed.

This was the ladder I used to climb so high up when I was little, perching on top, closing my eyes, and pretending I was atop a racehorse. I loved it when the breeze flowed through the garage, and hated when my mother caught me and made me get down. In her mind, that six-foot ladder may as well have been dangling me off of a cliff.

It was the ladder my dad used to fix anything we needed on or inside of the house. While I grew up in a fairly nice house in good repair, he was always painting something, or retrieving something from high up in the garage attic. This ladder was an ever-present part of my life.

I was so surprised when my dad told me I could keep “this old ladder.” He doesn’t know that I remember or care about these things, but this ladder will be the thing I remember my dad by, always. I left his initials on the side, the rags tied around it, and the blue electric tape holding together part of the bucket holder because I love that every bit of it was something he sweat over and spent his life on top of, for me and my family. Maybe to him it’s some old ladder, but to me, it’s an heirloom part of my family.

This ladder is a really, really cool thing to me. I haven’t decided whether I’ll take it out to my own garage, now, and set it up with a rope for reins (nevermind I own a real ex-racehorse, now!), or whether I’ll put it in my dining room and cover wooden shelves with fabric and display some of my favorite things that way.

Kitchen remodel: part one

Well, as of today, the kitchen remodel began. I started with a mess, but my dear papa is helping me. While I’m an excellent painter on my own, it’s because I learned from my dad. He’s been a painter professionally for 43 years. He was the president of his union for something like a decade or more, and I’m a proud union kid on both sides (my mom works in telecommunications designing circuits). I painted the rest of my house beautifully, but I was pretty damn thankful when he saved me the trouble and sprayed my ceilings.

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His birthday is December 31, so like the asshole daughter I am, I celebrate with him a few days later every year and work that night instead. This year, we went to his favorite restaurant on January 3rd — three days after I started my restaurant fast. I had a few drinks (no food!), and we caught up as he ate. He made the offer to help me paint my kitchen, and I enthusiastically agreed. I’m better than the average bear at painting, but I don’t enjoy the long, slow process.

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So off I went to the paint store the night before we were to paint. I was in a rush. A big rush. I had to take my dog to her first day of her new class at school, Agility and Performance Readiness — it’s looking more and more like she might compete in the fall match! Anyway, with the snow and things, my mind was awfully scattered when I went to pick out paint. I knew the counters were brown, and that the trim would be the same color throughout the house (“heavy cream”). I looked, and looked. Not blue; I have that in two rooms already. No shades of white or my appliances and trim will disappear, leaving an ugly counter as a focal point. No pinks or peaches, because it’s the color in the dining room. No red or purple; I’m just not that kind of girl. No green; my last rental house was filled with this horror of an institutional, depressing, olive green color that I barely tolerated for four years. No black, no dark grey, no dark brown on the walls; I didn’t want to make the ugly oak cabinets stand out, either. So I picked a tan color, promising myself I’d find a neat color to paint the cabinets when I had time.

Except…I forgot what color the kitchen was painted at the moment. I hadn’t even considered avoiding the same color that it was painted already. I was in a hurry. I chose this color:

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Note that it looks very similar to the wall color. Very. Similar. Nearly identical. And yet, I brought it home, and I’m stuck with two gallons of very expensive Behr Ultra paint that can’t be returned. I considered telling my dad about the mistake and having him paint it with a fresh coat of the same color. Something just didn’t sit right with it, though, and I headed back to the store the next morning to hurriedly buy new paint before my dad found out I hadn’t thought long and hard about my (arguably poor) color choice.

To be continued…

Breaking up with eating out

It was worth it while it lasted, and I’ll definitely miss your beautiful lighting, your fancy table cloths, your heavy silverware, and your menus of abundance and flavor. But I think it’s best if we took a break. Just for a year. You’re such a charmer, and I’ve stayed in this relationship much longer than I should have.

I don’t even know how in the fuck this white Midwestern girl will learn to make passable tamales, rich with cumin and onion and something called lard, created by some mysterious steaming process of deliciousness and extra deliciousness. I may lean on the soft, gooey shoulder of a local specialty cheese shop for awhile, which will definitely have to count as a grocery store and not a restaurant.

And I’ll have to make an exception, to come crawling back to restaurants while I’m traveling, or the rare times my very most favorite vegan macaroni and cheese makes the menu at a local vegan restaurant run by a vague acquaintance. We can still be friends, you know. I have clients that love restaurants, and I wouldn’t dare deprive them. But eating at restaurants 10-15 times a week has to stop.

I know my kitchen is pretty ugly, and that my cooking skills are only marginally better since I used my coffee pot to make ramen and jello shots and heat up Spaghettios in 2006. It’s going to be tough: I’m always on my way out the door, I can’t eat some grain products, and there’s a restaurant on every corner calling my name. I might even have to buy some new contraptions to do new things with new foods. I can afford to slip back into the fast and loving embrace of restaurants, any time, and I’ll have to keep my eye on the long-term goals:

  • Re-allocating the money from my big, bad restaurant habit into the continued remodel of my sweet new urban-ish house, including the ugly kitchen with the loud fridge.
  • Spending more quality time with friends in a wider range of activities rather than sticking our heads in menus. I want to know my friends better through the things they love to do and learn, not through their tipping percentages and usual soda order.
  • Learning some of the family recipes (if there are any) from my mother, who can surely cook something other than mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and pickle roll-ups.
  • Having a better relationship with the origins of my food, the cooking process, and caring for my body by filling it with happy nutrients instead of a pile of sad chemicals.
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No dishwasher and ugly as hell. I’m going to need better fridge magnets.

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A sad fridge lacking in vegetables and drowning in chemicals.