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Somewhere Ever After

traversing the road to the rest of my life

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misadventures

Ineptitude, Thy Name is Cassandra (a.k.a. Valentines Fail)

I suppose I should start by saying that major gift giving holidays (birthdays, Christmas, and so forth) make me nervous. I am not good at giving gifts. The thought of giving someone a disappointing, duplicate, less-than-useful, or otherwise not-up-to-standard gift makes me squirm. Oh, to be sure, so far, I’ve always done amazingly. But there’s a little catch to that– it’s because I avoid gift-giving if at all possible, and when it’s not, I put a lot of effort into it, because, of course, I’m a perfectionist. That, and I’ve gotten really lucky where my husband is concerned. Eventually that luck is going to run out.

Valentines Day meant A LOT to me this year. In the four years we were dating, we’ve never had a real Valentines. I know it doesn’t seem like a couple could manage to skip it four times without trying, but it’s true.

Year 1: The relationship was a bit of a whirlwind at first, and neither of us were expecting it. We ended up stepping back into “just friends.” We weren’t very good at being “just friends” and were back together permanently a month or so later. However, in that period, we missed Valentines. Technically though, it was one of my favorite Valentines Days,  just because we spent the evening together– no candy or cards or candlelit dinners, because we weren’t actually dating, but it was a pleasant evening. Nonetheless, doesn’t count!

Year 2: He was in Thailand. That alone should suffice. However, I might add that he sent me roses, chocolates, and a small gift— WHILE IN THAILAND. Isn’t he amazing? Because he wasn’t 100% sure where he’d be at all points of the semester, I made a box of  letters, quotes, cards, song lyrics, comics, etc. for him to open daily. It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I couldn’t finish it in time and had to mail it to him in Thailand. (Good thing he knew where he was starting at least). See? Bad at gifts. Anyhow, there were fun Valentines cards in there for him. No gift from me, because I fail. And most importantly– we definitely weren’t able to celebrate together that year.

Year 3: Koby was back in school, and I was at home. Valentines Day was on a weekend at least. However, my best friend’s birthday is on Valentines, and this year, she wanted a big Mario themed party, complete with crazy decor DIYed by us both for about a month in advance, and costumes (of course, I sewed hers and Koby’s). It was awesome. That was our Saturday. Fun, but not terribly romantic. And Sunday, February 14th? Well, Koby had to be back to school in time to get ready for class. We went to the really tiny Church of Christ congregation that’s a bit closer (35 minute drive rather than an hour) and ends earlier so he could get home right after.

Funny story– I attended there every summer for four years. That day, the elderly gentleman who was leading services announced, “We’re so happy to have Koby here, and his… bride-to-be.” He said the same thing three more times through the service. I ducked my head and covered my mouth, trying not to laugh. Obviously, he’d forgotten my name. Koby however, went bright red, and on top of that, thought I was crying. And (best part) one family is late every week, so here they scurry in on VALENTINES DAY to hear me announced as a “bride-to-be”– obviously some assumptions were made. They come up asking “When’s the big day?” and Koby can only reply “I didn’t know we were engaged!” Thankfully, everyone quickly figured out that Fred just made a mistake, but it tops the cake for funniest Valentines.

Year 4: I’m going to be honest guys– I don’t even remember this one very clearly. I was going through a rough time. I believe I went up to Pepperdine for the weekend, and we had a nice dinner and just enjoyed each other’s company. I also was probably vaguely hoping for a proposal, given a recent statement of “You’ll be mine sooner than you think.” No proposal though. (Turns out all the plans were in motion, just  not finalized yet. He proposed two months later). What I do know is that Valentines was officially during the week, so we didn’t spend it together.

Now we come to this year. This year I was really looking forward to celebrating because we would be able to spend it together, and because it would be our first Valentines as a married couple. And, just for added significance, it would be exactly one month after our wedding. I really wanted to plan a great Valentines Day. Unfortunately, reality set in. For one, I feel like things still haven’t slowed down. Therefore, it kinda snuck up on me. Next thing I knew, it was less than a week away, and I hadn’t done anything but buy a card– which I had hidden I knew not where. No gift ordered or even chosen. No plans. On top of that, a crazy busy weekend, followed by my long work day on monday. Not good.

By monday evening, I had a plan. While he was working, I’d try to get more of the apartment clean. I would cook him lunch and surprise him with it at work. I would buy him a new card, because I STILL couldn’t find the other one, and pick up some nice bath stuff we both liked. I would be waiting for him to get home, wearing something nice. And I would cook his favorite pork chops (in part because I was going to cook them the other day and schedule change prevented it. So… slightly less romantic than it sounds). I would make Chocolate Molten Cake for dessert. We could enjoy it while watching a romantic movie, perhaps Amelie? Not great, but at least it’s something.

So how did it go, you ask? Well, I overslept. Thus, I started lunch too late– the food processor sped things up, but just a little, because it was the first time I’d used it. I had to call and request that he delay lunch (there goes the surprise). AND I realized we had no tomatoes, so I had to stop and pick up some up. Except I didn’t bring a knife, so… I had to get grape tomatoes, which are not the same as diced tomatoes. As such, we had a few tomato mishaps, which were less than romantic. I picked up some of the puffy sugar cookies he liked at least. He claimed it turned out perfect because he’d started a test running just before I arrived and it wouldn’t be done for a long time. Still… surprise ruined, and lunch was an hour late. Fail. Cleaning fail too.

I had to get groceries too, so right after the late lunch I tried to accomplish that. First I wanted to pick up the bath goodies (because, obviously, groceries should never sit in the car during other errands.) I drove past two high schools at 2:30– never a good plan– to get to the quasi-mall area in our neighborhood. I checked the map and found that there was no Bath and Body Works. For awhile, I wandered about, bewildered. Then I remembered– Bath and Body Works is just across from the grocery store. So… I drove back (past one of the high schools again). By this point it was 2:50. Koby finishes work at 3:00. Waiting for him at home seemed unlikely. I tried to rush groceries, but that NEVER works. Between the coupon scavenger hunts and the general confusion of trying to find specific items when your brain is recalling other grocery store layouts, it took just as long as usual. I did manage to find some bath supplies though, and I ended up buying two cards for Koby because I couldn’t decide.

I walked out with all my groceries in reusable bags (for once) and as I was packing them in the car, I thought “Ok, now just for Bath and Body Works, and I can go home.” And then I realized I bought bath stuff from the grocery store already. Why? I don’t know. So… no Bath and Body Works.

When I got home, he was taking a nap. I managed to get all the groceries up the stairs and inside without disturbing him. I put each one in its place. I got a little cleaning done. I signed his cards, staged the bath supplies, and then gave up. I crawled in for a nap, at which point he finally did wake up. Since he was awake, we exchanged gifts. As mentioned, I got him the two cards (three, if you count the silly kids Valentine, four if you count the as yet still missing card I bought a few weeks ago) and grocery store bath supplies.

Real snazzy, huh? Here’s what he got me. This should look familiar to anyone who has browsed my “Kitchen of my Dreams” Pinterest board. Due to price, I wasn’t sure I’d EVER get this one.

Yes, it wasn’t wrapped, but that’s because it didn’t arrive until today. Are you seeing a little disparity here? A few folded pieces of paper and some flowery grocery store  bath stuff, versus a gorgeous teapot to match my kitchen. More fail.

After a relaxing few hours, I commenced to cook dinner. Now, I had learned from his birthday to keep it simple. Crispy Pork-Chops with Honey Garlic Sauce (the most difficult, but I’d done this before), grilled asparagus (pretty easy), and one other side– Rice Pilaf from a box (can’t get easier than that, right?) Surely I couldn’t mess up dinner? Ah, but you thought wrong. The kitchen was a royal mess when I finished, the asparagus was cold, and I had burned the rice. I messed up Rice-a-Roni guys. That puts my cooking skills about on par with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Super fail. AND I forgot to put the orange cream sodas in the refrigerator, so those weren’t cold. (Apparently I put all the groceries away except those?) Dinner was not the romantic affair I envisioned.

As soon as I finished eating I rushed into the kitchen to make the Chocolate Molten Cake. I misread the “1/2 a stick of butter” and had to quickly drain some melted butter from the bowl before it mixed with the chocolate, but at least it wasn’t ruined. I tried to invert it onto a plate like it’s supposed to be served, but of all the times I made it, today it would not. He got to eat his out of the glass cup thingy (what is that called?) and I got to scrape the gooey part of mine back into the cup thing and eat it as such.  The plan was to eat it while watching a movie, but  as it was already 10:45 (definitely bedtime) that plan was not going to happen. We sat long enough to finish, and crawled into bed. Fail again.

After all that, as you can imagine, I felt like the scum of the earth. Here’s the amazing part: somehow, he was thrilled with it all. He’s been extra affectionate all week, and telling me how loved he feels. Go figure.

Birthday Dinner for Koby

Because nothing says “I love you” like making someone wait/help 5 hours to have dinner at midnight. Yeah… that didn’t go quite as I envisioned it.

This coming saturday is Koby’s birthday. However, beginning last night (wednesday) and running through sunday afternoon, our congregation is holding a meeting (for you non Church of Christ folks, that means we have a guest preacher in town, and services every evening and twice a day weekends. Good stuff). We will be busy saturday, especially as Koby has made himself invaluable as the resident techie. As such, we decided to allocate the previous saturday for birthday spoiling.

We had an excessively lazy morning (seems neither of us had gotten enough sleep during the week) followed by an excursion to a rumored tea shop in the mall a bit North. We sampled some really tasty teas, and though expensive, the tins of tea we took home will be enjoyed for awhile to come. The names are about as complicated as a Starbucks coffee order, so I will ramble on about tea another time. By the time we got home with groceries for dinner, it was 7:00. And… as mentioned, dinner took 5 hours.

Double Crispy Honey Garlic Pork

Post to come.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

Post to come.

Sweet Potato Fries

Post to come.

Parmesian Crumbled Asparagus

Post to come.

Moroccan Carrots

Post to come.

Apple Dumplings

Post to come.

Chocolate Molten Cake

Post to come.

You see, given the opportunity to cook for him, I raided my Pinterest boards and came up with… well… a lot. One entree, two vegetables, two appetizers, and two (abandoned) desserts, to be exact. In my defense, I expected to do one of the desserts on a separate nights, and the other was just a variation on an old favorite. I know, pretty weak defense, huh?

So… immediately upon returning home, I dove into cooking. He helped quite a bit, and claimed to enjoy most of it (including the helping.) Most of the food was decent, and there were few mishaps and even a few serendipity moments. However, he did make a very wise observation as we ate our very late dinner.

“Maybe next time, only one appetizer, and one new recipe at a time.” Yeah, perhaps that would be best.

I’ll post accounts on the various recipes in the upcoming days.

Adventures in Prep of Pungent Foods.

As my current work schedule has me working a mere 3 hours a day, and that only during the prime selection for… you know… preparing dinner, doing my part to cook dinner once a week has been tricky as of late. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be delving into crock pot meals.

Eventually I might share some favorite recipes as I find them (or fix some not-so-favorites). But that’s not what today is about. Today, I plan to share my experiences in the preparation process, with my ultimate nemisis, the onion, and his sidekick, garlic.

Oh, onions, how I loathe you.

Despite the fact that they taste (and smell) absolutely rancid when raw, I admit that they can add flavor to a dish (when cooked). I even like onion rings– granted, at that point, they consist more of “fried” than of “onion” but I’m trying to be nice here. The onion should take what compliments it can get.

You see, I have mild allergies. I say that, because it’s the only feasible explanation for why I am so affected by onions. The problem is, I can’t even cut up half an onion before I succumb to what I refer to as “onion blindness.” Because I don’t just tear up a little. That I could live with. My eyes burn and water so bad I literally cannot see and have no business handling a knife, and I have to wait 5 or 10 minutes before I can even attempt to be in the same room again. Not terribly efficient when you are trying to prepare food, and certainly not pleasant. More than once, I’ve considered getting one of these terribly awesome looking get-ups, but my wonderful husband-to-be prevented me from committing fashion suicide by promising to cut up all the onions when we are married (and this a few years back, well before he proposed. Isn’t he wonderful?)

Reality is, when we are married, I will have a food processor. If the registry gods are cruel and fate leads no one to bestow me with a food processor (if you are reading this, please, PLEASE, PLEASE buy me a food processor) I will sell my artwork on the street until I have enough nickels and quarters to buy it myself. Because onions are evil incarnate– at least, up until they are cooked, at which point, they are just tasty.

That said, this week’s recipe did indeed involve chopping an onion. Thankfully, my Pinterest obsession research led me to this: a guide on how to chop onions without wishing for an early death. They didn’t word it quite like that, but you get the gist. Some of the suggestions, such as chilling the onion, vinegar on the cutting board, and open flame nearby were more feasible than others, such as using sharper knifes (this makes me want to go find one of those cutco kids and order knives I can’t afford. Wedding gift anyone?). The author also describes her method for cutting onions.

Due to the sheer evil of onions, I wasn’t about to play around. I pulled out the big guns and tried ALL OF THE ABOVE, except of course, the sharp knife, because I’m not rich.

There’s the nasty bugger, chilling in the freezer.

There’s my open flame. This burns up the fumes, or some such like that.

Vinegar may smell bad, but not nearly as bad as onion. It’s supposed to neutralize the fumes.

Well, here it is, cut through the stem and root. Easier said than done– it was a bit of a battle, but in the end, I won. So far so good.

From here, I took the “work fast” approach and followed her methods as quickly as I could without chopping off fingers. I might need some practice getting the pieces a bit more uniform, but long story short, I got it completely chopped and my eyes were only beginning to water.  Just in case, though, I didn’t dally with photos until after it was safely contained.

My successfully chopped and bagged onion.

The verdict? I have no idea which of the four measures I took helped the most, but that doesn’t matter. From now on (until I have that food processor, anyhow) I will be using all of the above. And… realistically, even then I can still chill the onion before hand if I’m ambitious/prepared. That means the remaining days until my wedding (99 days left!!) I can cook without trembling in fear of onions.

Now what about garlic you may ask? Surely garlic is wonderful, amazing stuff, and the savior of most any savory dish? Well, yes. It IS tasty– again, when cooked. When raw, it tastes like onions. And it does affect me like onions on a smaller scale. However, that’s negligible unless I’m chopping massive amounts. The issue here is the smell left on my hands. Now, two days later, my fingers still smell like garlic. That, I don’t know how to avoid, even after the wedding when some wonderful person will have bestowed me with a garlic press and perhaps this neat little gadget. Because… I still have to peel the garlic, and just that is enough to imbue my fingertips with that *ahem* lovely fragrance.

However, my aforementioned research also turned up a little video with what seemed to be the perfect solution.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from SAVEUR.com on Vimeo.

I watched eagerly, impressed both with his ninja-like garlic smash move and the mind-boggling simplicity of the peeling method. I armed myself with a clove of garlic and a couple of bowls, ready to tackle this thing. I smashed it onto the table, which yielded… well… nothing but a less than satisfactory thump. I tried a few times in fact, from multiple angles. Nothing. Maybe you need to be a big meaty man instead of a scrawny weakling like me to make it work?

Well, fine then. I yanked a couple cloves off (all I needed) and tossed them in the bowls, certain this part would work at least. I shook. And… I shook some more. And I shook until my little toothpick arms were tired of shaking. (You have to understand– I have no muscle in my arms, just a couple rubber bands in there to hold things together.) I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have fancy metal bowls, because I need to use more garlic for more friction, or because, again, I’m just weak, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work.

Still unpeeled. That little bit of papery skin was in there to begin with. Fail.

I rewatched the video a few times to make sure I hadn’t just missed something, and he only shakes for all of like… 8 seconds. Not sure where I went wrong. Sadly, I peeled it myself, and minced it and endured the smell in the days since.

So much for that. Anyone have a better solution for avoiding stinky garlic fingers?

Not boding well…

I had plans to share my thrift store adventures, but alas, no. In the midst of the mundane, disaster has struck– an all too familiar disaster. Thinking myself nearly done with laundry (yes, I was doing laundry at 3am. Hush.) , I start laying out clothes in preparation for folding, and–egads, what is that?? First, why is there a white shirt in the colored load? And second, why are there cherry scented speckles scattered here and there? Yep. Tis true– chapstick in the laundry. Again.

After sighing and reflecting that at least there weren’t orange crayon splotches in addition –last time I’d washed a purse, and the lining had torn, secreting a crayon in it’s depths– I set about spraying each greasy little spot with stain remover and tossing it in again. Problem solved, I thought. Nope. Back to the interwebs for more wisdom because everyone online is either amazingly brilliant, or else exceedingly stupid. Usually, google cooperates in leading me to the former and weeding out the latter. Internet wisdom says rub with baking soda, THEN pre-treat, then wash. So… yep. We’ll see.

Worst case scenario, they’ll fade some over time. They aren’t ruined, just… unhappy. Still, the situation is not encouraging. I’m trying to maintain the illusion that when we are married, I will be this fountain of domestic magnificence, complete with the high heels and frilly apron– never mind that even now, I rarely wear heels. As mentioned before, I like my delusions. Things like this that threaten to upend them are not welcome.

At some point tomorrow, I’ll ask my fiance if he’s sure he still wants me, and he’ll say absolutely, even if he has to do all the laundry from here on out, because he’s just wonderful like that. (Can you tell we’ve had this conversation once or twice before?)

All the same, you’d think by now I could at least do laundry. I’ve only been doing it for half my life.

Update: He still loves me, and promised he would teach me to do laundry. Also, baking soda works, kinda. Some are more gone than others, but I suspect the ones that didn’t really work are the ones I didn’t grind in enough. Lesson learned– grind in the baking soda. (Okay, technically the lesson learned is check all pockets before doing laundry even if you are convinced there are no pockets to check because only like… 3 articles of normal clothing even HAVE pockets. But nevertheless, in case of chapstick stain, grind in baking soda.)

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