Friday, July 30, 2004

Garden Redux

So we're starting to get the zucchini invasion under control, primarily through strict discipline in visiting it regularly and nipping the new fruits in the bud (literally). But the tomatoes are threatening to open a second front any second, and with our wet weather this summer, they have the resources for it.

We planted only 6 tomato plants this year, and we pushed the last frost date boundary a bit when we planted them, without using wall-o-waters, too. By rights, we should have been punished with stunted plants struggling just to stay alive, not to speak of producing fruit. Instead, our tomato plants resemble an impenetrable equatorial jungle. They're as tall as I am (and I'm NOT short), and have grown so much horizontally that they're intertwined. They'd make a great hedge.

Now, if I remember correctly, the productive gardener is supposed to pinch off bits of tomato plants to force them to flower and set fruit. Fail to pinch, and you only get a few tomatoes, or so I've read. We haven't touched these plants, except to move them out of the way while we were picking zucchini. So, of course, they're overburdened with fruit - go figure. The individual tomatoes are packed so tightly that picking one ripe one has dislodged some of the green ones. They look like grapes in there.

My daughter dealt with the sudden abundance of sugar snap peas for us - over the course of about two weeks, she ate all of them as snacks. I'm counting on her to do her part when the cherry tomatoes start ripening. The rest of them we can peel, pulverize in the blender, and freeze for use in spaghetti sauce and soup this winter, so at least they won't go to waste. And tomatoes are far more popular than zucchini - we can probably offer them to neighbors openly, instead of leaving them on the front step in the dark of night.

As for the zucchini, we dealt with some of the larger ones by shredding and freezing them in two-cup batches, so we can have zucchini bread during the winter. Well, maybe - I don't know how well zucchini freezes. I'll post an update after we thaw some out the first time.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Zucchini

We were very sensible with the garden this year.  I swear, we only planted ONE zucchini plant!  And up until last Tuesday, I'd been visiting it daily, picking zucchini when they were a manageable size.  I even managed to find a few willing zucchini recipients, and offloaded about 4 of them.  I thought I had everything under control, although I have to admit, the "manageable" zucchini were starting to pile up in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. 
 
Well, it got away from me - I should have known better.  I went out on Saturday morning after a busy workweek to see what had grown enough to pick, and found not one, but THREE two-foot long green baseball bats in the zucchini plant.  They're now on the kitchen counter, since they're too big for the vegetable drawer, looking for all the world like giant speckled green slugs.
 
What is with that plant, anyway?  Either you get nothing (this can happen, if your summer lands in a really bad drought), or the thing propagates like the cockroach of the vegetable world. 
 
And what does one do with the stuff?  Loaves 3 and 4 of zucchini bread are in the kitchen, and I don't know how much more we can consume.  We sliced one zucchini up and grilled it in a bit of olive oil, and that was quite good, but my family is fairly easily bored with food, so it's not something we could have for dinner every night.  We put it in salads - but at the rate of about 1/4 zucchini per salad.  We don't like it steamed/boiled, so those methods are not an option, and since freezing renders it fit only for steaming or boiling, we can't freeze it.  And the neighbors' plants are starting to produce on their own, so I can't give it away, either.  Pity it's not a closer relative of the loofah, or we'd be fixed for bathing accessories.
 
I'm not looking for suggestions here - I merely post this as a warning to others.  

Friday, July 16, 2004

Shopping for Clothes

When my husband shops for clothes, he generally is able to do it in well-ordered surroundings.  All the pants are in one general area, grouped by size and style, and maybe even by color.  Shirts are ranged in tidy racks, easily visible for quick and efficient selection.  Suits – the same thing.  Socks, ties, sweaters; it’s just incredibly easy to find out if what one is looking for is available in any given Men’s department.

Why do they torment us women?

I had a job interview recently, and since it had been a while since I had to wear anything as formal as socks to work, I thought it would be a good idea to buy something businesslike to wear to the interview.  My quest – that’s what it ended up being, anyway – led me through both floors of every major department store in the local mall before finding something in the “Jones New York” department of one of them.

You see, women’s clothing is not organized by garment or anything useful.  In most chain department stores, it’s organized by manufacturer (designer, if you will; it amounts to the same thing).  Sometimes, they have a couple of layers of organization – instead of the “Jones New York” department, you might find yourself in the “Jones New York Casual”, or worse yet, the “Jones New York Casual Petite” department.  They have really nice looking stuff in the “Jones New York Casual Petite” department – nice looking stuff that is not replicated in a normal size in the “Jones New York Casual” department, either.  But that’s an entirely different rant (where I will also discuss the utter non-existence of size 10-1/2 shoes).  Some stores are worse yet, and name their departments with words that offer no clue whatever to the goods on offer – I mean, what exactly is for sale in the “Outlook” department?

Now, I’ve heard a theory about why stores are arranged in this horrible fashion (no pun intended).  Men, traditionally being the “hunters” referred to in the term “hunter-gatherer”, and women being the “gatherers”, the theory posits that men are only happy and willing to spend money when they can make a beeline to the item for which they are hunting, while women like to wander aimlessly, gathering the odd garment that strikes their eye.

Well, maybe that held true when women were homemakers with the entire schoolday to fill with shopping for clothes.  But I have a full-time (and more) job, compounded by responsibilities to my family, and I don’t find it fun at all to spend an entire day trying to find one lousy dress.  And I know I’m not the only woman in the same situation.  Wouldn’t you expect that the stores would change to make our lives easier?

George Zimmer, if you’re listening – I want a Women’s Warehouse!


Thursday, July 15, 2004

“Beauty” Salons and Me

I’m about to go get another haircut; it’s something I feel compelled to do every so often, despite the results.  You think I’d learn…

I have fine, slightly wavy hair, and I have learned, over the course of my life with this hair, that I need to tell it what to do; left to its own devices, it tends to leave me looking lumpy and nerdly and utterly peculiar. So a blow-dryer and one of those round metal hairbrushes figure largely in my mornings, and in general, I can persuade my hair to lie smooth and look like it’s full.

But if I go to a beauty salon for a “cut and blow dry”, I leave looking unbelievably awful.
Frumpy.
Matronly.
Middle-Aged.
Definitely not “beautiful”.

It galls me to think that total strangers who see me in such a state might think that I planned to look like that. And they do see me – beauty salons are in public places, after all.

We were out of town last spring for a family wedding, and with time to kill one morning, my husband and I went to get our hair cut. I told the stylist that I wanted a blunt cut about one inch shorter than the hair I went in with. I’m still not sure what happened between my uttering the words “blunt cut” and her hearing the words “just like Morticia Adams”, but obviously something went wrong with the great cosmic consciousness that morning. After cutting and drying my hair, she attacked it with a straightening iron, making sure that every hair on my head was dead straight.  As in plastered to my skull.  Not really a good look for me.

All right, I can hear you saying it. Why didn’t I stop her? And I think that’s an excellent question. It’s like I’m hypnotized or something. All I can do is stare in horror as I am turned into the spitting image of Cher or an Irish Setter or something, watching my face in the mirror trying very hard to look as if that was my life’s ambition. Under normal circumstances, I look at the finished product front and back (with that hand-mirror they give you), and tell the stylist, “Yes. Much better, thanks” in a faint, wispy sort of voice. I maintain the stiffening fa├žade of delight long enough to pay my bill and add a tip (!) and make an escape. Whenever possible, I then drive straight home, soak the whole mess, and re-dry it so that I look normal again. It’s a grueling experience, if you ask me.

And I’m about due again…

Howdy!

By way of introduction, I live in Suburbia, with a husband, a daughter, a dog, two cats, and a fishtank. I'm an IT consultant who has so far survived the extraordinary downturn in my industry; I'm sure it's a matter of pure luck, considering the incredible people I saw go through the "fun" of layoffs. Although I suppose it's possible that they laid off all the superstars, and the reason I'm still here, ... no, it can't be that!

I've always liked to write; I kept a journal from the time I was 13 until I was 28, usually writing at the end of a day, blank book propped on my knees in bed. Even now, I find myself polishing and revising e-mails to my friends before sending them, so a blog seems like the natural extension of that urge. It's just that now, my "e-mails" are addressed to anyone who cares to read them.

As I said in my blog description, I don't really know what subjects I'm likely to write about. If you want to come along for the ride, welcome!