Take Care of Your Feet

Warning: This is a ridiculous lady rant about shoes. You’ve been warned. Paragraphs may imply awkwardness and whiney personality. It does not have “Whitney” writing as my spellcheck insists on telling you.

I spent almost four hours dodging fellow shoppers and navigating two shopping malls, traffic and a random shopping center after work tonight. Countless department stores, shoe stores, teen, sophisticated, hipster, skater, sport and anything-apparel type stores later, I found a decent pair of shoes. I didn’t have crazy criteria; somewhat stylish, comfortable, flat and with an ankle strap. I prefer non-man made material and I didn’t want to wear something resembling my grandmas cruise apparel from the early 90’s.

I learned a couple things tonight:

– All athletic shoe stores carry exactly the same brands, styles and colors. If you’ve been in one, you’ve seen them all.

– All retail employees ask how you are but they don’t listen to your reply. I learned you could respond with an array of ridiculous answers and they will still say, “great, if you need anything, let me know.” Well, salesperson, I can tell you right now that you are not the kind of person I can rely on, considering you think that my dog dying is great. (My dog didn’t die, but it still would not be great.)

– Old people know how to take care of their feet. Is it wisdom or refusal to cram their feet into awkward confining foot-shackles any longer? Either way, they have quite a selection to choose from. My younger feet even seemed old when I tried a couple on. Eek, glimpse into the future?

– Young people will pay for a flat piece of plastic, covered in cheep vinyl, with a piece of fibrous rope glued to it and be happy about it. My heels cringed thinking about wearing them for more than ten paces. And that’s coming from a kid who wore “jellies” in the 80’s.

– Lastly, I’m old. I’m not even 30 but as I shopped, I found myself in an undefined category. I saw professionals in gorgeous and costly shoes, twenty year olds with canvas wrapped loosely on their feet and old people with cushy leather clod-hoppers that have bulbous soles and unflattering bulky shapes.

I’m going on a trip where I will do a lot of walking, out of dozens of stores, I found one, just one part of sandals that were well made, comfortable and not from grandma’s or little cousin’s closet. Do I ask for too much? Is it too much to try to avoid blisters and pain but still care about appearance; is it too often one way or another? Such a silly argument, I know, but there I was thinking that I couldn’t be the only one that didn’t want to limp this summer with irritated and abused tootsies.

If only I could make Hush Puppies trendy for my generation. If you had a grandma who dressed up, you will know what I’m talking about.

Trust me…they do look cute on, I just don’t feel like being a foot model tonight.

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How Do I Become A Girlfriend?

Growing up in a neighborhood of boys, I only played with Barbies in private, unless they were invited to a GI Joe game and they needed a nurse doll present.  I was an only child till I was eight and I was fascinated with so many things.  My parents never led me to understand what was meant for boys or girls because I think they wanted me to experience childhood the way they both had.

I didn’t really have girlfriends until I started grade school.  Still, I played ballerina or Paula Abdul (don’t ask) with the girls and then army or Pogs with the boys.  As I got older, I found girls like me.  My best friends in high school were not girlie.  They could play rough with the boys but dress pretty for prom too.  We were a perfect fit.  We still are, except out of the group of girls I cherish the most, we are scattered amongst four states in separate geographically regions of the United States.

I’ve been hopelessly awkward since I began college.  I left home and found myself having to start from scratch.  Southern California does not give an East Coast girl the same kind of welcome a surfer girl gets, particularly Continue reading

Grandmom’s Spoons Are Better Than Yours

When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat?  If you’re lucky, you did.  Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations.  I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions.  More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get.  I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.

I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family.  I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food.  I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked.  I trusted their ways, even when I was picky.  I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful.  Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.

To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time.  My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional.  I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles.  True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.

The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target.  They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last.  The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix.  The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer.  My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue.  And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.

These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway.  The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff.  I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be.  We used to make stuff.  These things are so simple, but make life so easy.  I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.

I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash.  (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.)  I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental.  I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons.  So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band?  I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.

Your Guide to Grocery Shopping

My husband and I met at the grocery market after we were both done work and did some shopping together.  This isn’t normal practice, but it worked out since we had to run an errand in the same shopping center.  With an extra hand, I was able to look around and absorb what a ridiculous chore that food shopping is.  Is there ever a convenient time to go food shopping?  It is likely my least favorite chore and there isn’t much you can do to avoid the hassles.

Here is a rundown of what it takes to be an efficient grocery shopper.

  1. Some make a list or cut coupons.
    1. This could be a chore on its own.  Dreaded meal planning or in depth scan of the fridge, so you aren’t held accountable later when you’re out of something.
    2. Don’t forget to bring your own bags.  Even if you don’t want to be “green”, the plastic ones are getting thinner and cheaper.  (One too many jars of spaghetti sauce in your bag then causes disastrous mess in your driveway.)
  2. Seek out food like a hunter.  Even with signs, it feels like a scavenger hunt most times.
  3. Figure out what you can afford.
    1. Scan options and ask yourself why there are twenty-five kinds of jelly or tea to choose from.
    2. Try to decide what is actually the least detrimental to your health and affordable.
  4. Fill your basket.
    1. Enter all of Grandmom’s rules about handling your food; don’t crush your bread or pin your bananas against any boxes.  Keep your cold stuff together and eggs on top.  Bag meat products that may leak as well as your vegetables to keep loose items together.
  5. Don’t forget to check expiration dates.
  6. Pull a ticket and wait in line for the deli counter.
    1. The deli people are usually the most unhappy workers at a supermarket.  Play a fun game and try to guess what the people in front of you order.  Play with your phone if you’re still waiting after five minutes.  Don’t expect anyone but you to be happy that you’ve found alternate amusement.
    2. When you hit the lottery and your time to order meat and cheese has been announced, spout your selections quickly like it’s the last thing you get to say on earth, there is no time to stumble or make last minute decisions now. Continue reading

I Can Eat a Quart of Ice Cream Because I Ate an Apple Yesterday (and Other Excuses)

I did it again.  I woke up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open.

“Damn, I didn’t post!”

But, Tuesday hasn’t technically started for me, even though its 3:00am, so I can write now and it will still count for yesterday.  It’s still Monday night, right?  I mean, I didn’t mean to fall asleep, I had plans to write.

Then I starting thinking how late I’ll be if I woke up now and became functional, only to go back to sleep for two hours until my work alarm goes off.  So I got up, turned the TV off, lights off and hit the shower.  Better to get ahead of the game, plus I do some of my best thinking in the shower; except that I usually get on a mental “roll” in there and forget what I was going to write by the time I’m done.  I started thinking that I should keep a recorder outside of the tub in case I have any ideas that are earth shattering.  Then, because it’s 3am, I came up with a silly line about I can make a joke about those plastic flute-like recorders 4th graders get, and how that wouldn’t help my blog writing.  Sure glad I didn’t use that one.  Whew.

But really, I’m sure I’m not alone in the incessant excuse making.  I don’t think I use them when it comes to others, pretty much just for myself.  I’m a selfish excuse maker.  Here are some of the best I’ve come up with in the last week.

  • I’m not going to the gym.  Those people who never go and make a New Year’s resolution go and it gets too crowded.
  • I’ve gained a few pounds.  It’s probably because I’m stressed at work or my metabolism is starting to slow down at 28.  It can’t be because I’ve been on a cookie diet since Christmas.
  • (To my husband)  Yes, I saw the apples went bad.  Why didn’t YOU eat them?  I didn’t eat them because I didn’t want leave you without any.  (Ok, so maybe I’m not so selfish with myexcuses after all.)
  • I had to buy those boots, because they sent me a $10 coupon and then there was another sale ad for 20% off.  It would be like wasting money if I didn’t use them.
  • I know we just bought the Girl Scout cookies, but if we don’t eat them it’ll be like the tragedy of 2011, when we forgot about a box of shortbreads on top of the fridge and they got stale.  (Reference second excuse here)

At least I’m not murdering people or doing harm to others with my excuses.  They are really harmless.  Oh man, I just tried to validate my excuses.

A Doily Away From “Old Lady”

The weekend is here, and that means antique shopping; walking from place to place buying old stuff I really don’t need but really, really want. I love finding antique pieces for our house, furniture to knickknacks that give our home the kind of character that Ikea can’t. My rule is that my purchases must always have function or they can’t come home with me.  Old kitchen tools are some of my favorite, even though old ladies condescendingly ask if I know what it is that I’m buying.  Yes, I know what it is, and I guarantee I’ll use it more than somebody buying it for just kitschy wall décor.

Antique character is not for everyone. My brother for example, thinks that old furniture is creepy and reminds him of dead people.  It’s a little extreme to me, but then again I’m an old soul, whereas he’s a hip 20 year old.

That being said, in a small home like ours, it’s easy to teeter on the side of excess. As I’ve said before, the key to life is “everything in moderation”. This holds true with antiques too unfortunately.  Our house is officially full of old furniture and I’m sad to say, I think I’m out of space.

When we bought our house from an elderly man, his children were going to donate all his furniture and were kind enough to ask if we’d like any.  For one, we didn’t have any furniture to start with, except for a bed, which, sorry but an antique mattress is one of the only things that would creep me out.  Two, so much of his furniture was from the 30’s and 40’s, with beautiful veneers and sturdy wood frames.  And who doesn’t want a full size Hi-Fi? I am still giddy about having the monster piece of furniture that plays my record collection with surprisingly good sound.  My husband even fashioned a jack so I can plug my iPod into it.  In the end, we all won and it also saved the owner’s kids the hassle of having it all hauled away.

Before we got our modern couches and rug, our house was filled with just old wood furniture.  We relied on the old couches from my Dad’s basement for a while and the house didn’t quite have our special touch to it; that attempt of a perfect mix between vintage and modern.  My Dad stopped over one day and said, “Shan, you’re about a doily away from living in an old lady house.  You’re not going to start covering the furniture in plastic are you?”

I began to feel instantly insecure.  Could my love of old “stuff” go too far?  Did I pass by being hip 20-something, only to teeter on retirement?

Maybe his mockery helped point me in the right direction.  Who knows where things could have gone.  It is safe to say that the mix is fairly complete now and we more often than not, get compliments on how our house looks like something out of a magazine.  And since I’m a pretty serious recycler, I’m happy to see these old wooden monsters have a new life outside of the landfill.