Tag Archives: fresh and easy

Soap Opera

Dishwasher soap should look totally different from the regular, hand washing kind. If it did, I wouldn’t have accidentally poured the latter into my Gaffers & Sattler a couple of nights ago. Poor old appliance. As if being ancient and obsolete wasn’t enough, it’s now stuck midway through a cycle, filled with semi-washed dishes, and clogged with suds.

Fortunately Mike caught my mistake before the entire kitchen floor was flooded.

I looked online for how to deal with this. Turns out there are eight steps! Eight! Four more and I’d be in AA. De-soaping a dishwasher involves towels, a bucket, white vinegar, salt, and God knows what else. I stopped reading after step three. Because who has the time for this?

Still, I bought salt at Fresh and Easy. We needed it anyway. They only had the non-iodized kind. The regular stuff was on sale, and had been cleared out completely. Who waits to buy salt on sale? Is seventy-nine cents really too much to ask? Also, what’s up with the non-iodized thing? Who buys that? Why do they make it?

Most importantly, will it work on a soap-clogged dishwasher? If not, I guess I can always use it to make play dough, since Myra-Jean cannot master the art of re-sealing tupperware. Ergo, every new batch we make dries out in less than 24 hours.

There’s a cup of salt in every batch.

Maybe I’m the one who should be looking for it on sale.

Back to the dishwasher. Here’s what I do know: I have to take all those dishes out and hand wash them. This is depressing, since I’ve already psychologically placed them in the “clean” category. This mental change in status will require major brain rewiring, and probably several extra cups of tea.

And of course I’ll eventually take the eight steps. What choice do I have? I’ll break out the towels, the salt, the eye of newt, whatever. Probably baking soda, too. Everything calls for that. We still have plenty, fortunately–we keep a lot in stock for when Mina attacks a skunk.

The other option is we just stop using the dishwasher.

I’m a genius.

I’m also excessively lazy. Is there a twelve-step program for that?


Frozen Bird Stew

It’s cold and windy everywhere. Even here in (formerly temperate) L.A. By the time I went to pick up MJ at her mostly outdoor school this afternoon the kids were huddled over their lunch tables, moaning in pain at the arctic winds lashing through their animal costumes. Of course back east it’s a whole other ball of, well, snow. Three feet! I really oughtn’t to complain. But brrr…it is hard when it drops down into the 40’s here. We’re just not accustomed to it. I may even need to break out my old Max Mara parka. The one I bought when I was making big money. I think it’s stuffed with artisanal paper. It should break the chill a bit. At least I’ll look warm.

Anyway. Speaking of feet, my sister Abigail–who lives on the lower east side of Manhattan– is, at this very moment, preparing for super-storm Nemo by throwing together some chicken stew. Starting, apparently, with stock from a carcass that she bought at a butcher shop where they slaughter the birds on the spot. Agh! I’m horrified. This nearness to fowl slaughter is chilling. I understand that, as a meat eater, my stance is absurd. I will, however, cling to it stubbornly. I can do unjustified indignance like nobody.

Moving on. Abigail was startled, when she got it home, to realize the butcher had given her literally every part of the above-mentioned chicken:


So she sent me pictures. I am famous in my family for being squeamish about meat. Many of you know I am negatively obsessed with chickens–I’ve written about them as vagina symbols, dead adoptees, and awkward conversation starters. Forget about cooking them–it’s always torture. For the longest time I would only do it while wearing food service gloves. Then I ran out of them. That solved that problem. I eventually got over it. Still, this image grosses me out profoundly.

An hour after she sent me the first one, my kind sister sent me a “progress report”:


Turns out chicken feet cook up just like, well, chicken.

Screw the storm. She is doing this just to torture me.

For myself, I went back to Fresh and Easy and racked up another massive amount in grocery bills. Among the loot I brought home? Nothing with feet. Or not anymore. I did get a box of frozen veggie-chicken tenders. I suspect MJ won’t eat them, but it’s always worth a try. “Protein in any form!” is my motto. I guess I should add: “Except for bird appendages!”

Anyway. I close by saying: Ab, I hope you stay warm and safe through the mega-storm. I hope your soup tastes scrumptious. And if chewing on the toenails of some recently deceased butterball improves your lot one bit, I say more power to you.

Me? I’m gonna throw some veggie-tenders on the grill, wrap myself in my paper-thin, paper-stuffed parka, and wait for spring to come. I might even need to put on some socks. I think I have a pair somewhere. Brrrrr!

Oh Broth, Where Art thou?

I sometimes feel, where preschool is concerned, that we are paying more for an idea than a reality. Because between the holidays, illnesses, and trips out of town, we seem to be never there. Except on my workdays. Which, because the school is a Co-op, I can only miss if I’m in traction. Or dead.

So when I got to drop MJ off at school this morning and leave I was psyched. I was giddy. At last! Three hours of liberty!

Or such was the plan.

The idea was to grocery shop, then relax. Or that’s the simple version. Technically I needed to shop, walk the dog, put a meal on, then relax. But this was totally doable. I had it all worked out. I planned to make a crockpot chicken dish for a friend who is sick. Last week I was a lame-ass schmuck and brought him frozen IKEA meatballs and mashed potatoes. With two packs of gravy mix. Still, I know. Pathetic. It might not have been so bad if I had actually heated the stuff up  for him, but, as he wasn’t hungry when I arrived, I left it all in the freezer for his roommate to prepare when he got back. Even the gravy packs. I mean, who wins jerk-of-the-month? One guess.

But I meant to make up for it this week by preparing my friend a spectacular feast. For it I had chosen a braised chicken and vegetable recipe I found online. (May I just add that, among all of the recipes I got after Googling “chicken crock pot,” slow cooked raccoon was the most unexpected? I felt–in the spirit of sharing pain with friends–that this was worth mentioning. I’ll get out of my fetal position now.)

Back to the crock pot. I would’ve made the dish last night, but was missing one ingredient: chicken broth. Which is weird, because I try to always have that around. I try, in fact, to have everything around; a missing ingredient is one of my biggest pet peeves. I buy in doubles, multiples, army troops. There are, for example, four jars of pickles in the cabinets. Three bags of Trader Joe’s salt and pepper chips. Five boxes of lasagna noodles. But no chicken broth. Not even a half-opened container in the fridge, long-ago expired and scary to ingest. I did find several cans of chicken noodle soup, which I considered trying, but in the end rejected them. I couldn’t risk another screw-up after last week’s debacle. My friend is in hospice, for God’s sake.

Well, then, thought I, I’ll do it tomorrow. When MJ is in school. I’ll get the right ingredients and make it right. Then I’ll kick back and read my book.

Cut to: today. I drop MJ at school. She is sad. She weeps.”I want to spend the whole day with you!”

“I know,” I tell her. “And I with you. But Mama really needs to grocery shop.”

“I can do it with you,” she sobs.

Visions of us at the Fresh and Easy swim to my mind: MJ, insisting on scanning every item herself. Screaming if denied. Hours passing as we check ourselves out. People on line behind us raising their eyebrows, muttering under their breath, shaking their heads…

“I think I’ll do it myself today,” I say brightly. I kiss her tear-streaked cheeks. “You’re gonna be OK.”

At Fresh and Easy I am alone, blissfully; the aisles are wide and empty. I have as much time as I need. I have three attractive straw shopping bags. I have a $10 off of $50 coupon.

I shop liberally, grabbing more of everything than I need. A ten-gallon container of unscented eco-laundry detergent? Why, yes! Buttermilk? Sure! Tomatoes? Those are good to have. Canned tomatoes! Diced tomatoes! Crushed tomatoes! Tomato paste! Red tomatoes from Chile. Yellow tomatoes from Mexico. A box of the latter drops accidentally on the floor; small golden orbs roll everywhere. I pick them up–I am a decent person–and put them back in their plastic case. Then I put them in my cart. Why not? The world is my plastic clamshell! Anyway, they can be washed.

And so it went. I shopped. And shopped. And shopped. When I finally rang up my purchases I had crossed the $240 line. Gah! Outrageous! But everything I’d purchased, I knew, would get eaten. Or most of it, anyway. For I have sworn off of waste. And I am learning how to cook. If it meant preparing a Cajun raccoon for twelve guests and their housepets, I would use all of those damn tomatoes.

I drove home, ten bags of groceries rattling in my trunk. At the house I lugged them , two at a time, from my car into the kitchen. “I am a good shopper,” I muttered to myself, as I put away gorgonzola crackers, Triscuits, organic bunny bites, and a bag of multicolored tortilla chips. “I buy a good variety. I buy lots of fruit. I buy–”

It was at this moment that I realized. My eyes widened in horror. “No!”

But yes. I had forgotten the chicken broth.

Muttering angrily, I finished putting my groceries away. I walked Mina quickly (“go to the bathroom! Go to the bathroom!”) and put her back in her crate. Then, taking only one shopping bag, I headed back to the store.

Once there, I bought every container of chicken broth they had. This would never happen to me again. While I was at it, I got MJ a couple of packages of roasted seaweed snacks. Because God forbid she should ever lack for a crunchy treat between meals. God forbid, for that matter, that any kid in L.A. should be without multiple sheets of dulse to cram messily into their mouths, shedding little flakes everywhere, making their parents feel that, finally, they have given them something “healthy” to eat when, in fact, it was nothing more than green air and salt. But I digress.

Throwing my bag irritatedly into the passenger seat, I dropped into the car and drove quickly up the hill again. Because now it was getting late. Once home, I raced to prepare the slow-cooker recipe–which only called for a quarter of a cup of the damn broth–then dashed back to school to get MJ.

When I arrived, out of breath, she was in a dog costume, drawing happily with her teacher .

“Hi, Mama,” she said, upon spotting me. “I got something from Lydia.” She showed me a small, plastic glow-in-the-dark hand that a classmate had given her.

“That’s great, sweetie. I’m glad.” I paused. “And I got…some groceries.”

“Oh.” Myra-Jean considered me for a moment. Then she swiveled her head and looked out the window. “I want to go on the swings.”

And so we did. Dog ears flapping in the breeze. While, at home, the grandest feast in the world cooked slowly away in its pot.


To Done 5/22

  • Up at 6:04.
  • Made MJ breakfast. She didn’t touch it. Lectured her about waste. Wondered if I was breaking some progressive-parenting rule by doing this. Didn’t wonder if I had become a total cliche. Knew it.
  • Made Mike’s lunch.
  • Unloaded dishwasher from two days ago.
  • Put in load of laundry. Fought off dejection when I saw the pile of dirty clothes still left. Wondered if it would be a five or a six load day. Wagered on six.
  • Paid Amex bill online. Tried to figure out how the hell it got so high. Heard MJ say “I’m cleaning the living room!” several times. Said “that’s nice, honey.” Stared at Amex bill harder.
  • Finished paying the bill. Decided that this week I will sell my old engagement ring. No more delays. If we want to eat.
  • Went into the living room. MJ was using a pink rubber duck to squirt water on the mid-century wooden window sill. It was essentially flooded.
  • Sopped up mess. Chastised MJ. 
  • Woke Mike — not that he needed it after the duck-sill-donnybrook. 
  • Made eggs and bacon for all. MJ asked if she could feed hers to the dog. Responded “Mina’s not good enough for bacon.” I am a monster.
  • Washed all breakfast dishes.
  • With MJ, watered front and back gardens. Refilled her can repeatedly. She mostly “watered the house.” Prayed she wasn’t damaging the foundation.
  • Switched wash. Hung clothes on line.
  • Said goodbye to Mike. Reminded him to take his lunch. Asked him — “oh! before you leave!” — to put a borrowed card table in the back of my car, as I needed to return it to a friend.
  • Walked Mina.
  • Cleaned both bathrooms. 
  • Stripped bed, threw sheets on floor.
  • Played “sleeping” with MJ on the stripped bed. 
  • Picked up sheets, brought them to wash. Switched load, took dry stuff off line, hung wet clothes.
  • Got MJ dressed. Dressed myself. Put on a new white tee shirt. It is sheer. Could not figure out what to wear under it. Stormed around the house grumbling “I had a white tank top.” How many times can you say that with no one listening? You’d be amazed.
  • Gave up on finding tank top. Put on pink strapless bra under white shirt.
  • Hung sheets on line. Put in another load of wash.
  • Got in car to go to music class. Discovered crackers and crumbs everywhere — in the driver’s seat, on the floors, in the windshield, the door wells. Could not understand how this had happened. There had been a cracker box, but in the trunk. Speculated to MJ that “an animal must have gotten in.” Realized, as I said it, which “animal” it was.
  • Called Mike. He said “oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. The cracker box, like, exploded.” This happened, apparently, when he put the table in the trunk. 
  • Chastised him. Demanded to know how a cracker box can detonate in IED fashion. Received inadequate explanation. But also apology.
  • Went to music class. Sang, swayed, and saw my outfit in a full-length mirror. Yikes! Felt like a hussy. Tried to keep MJ on my lap as much as possible to block view of pink-bra-through-shirt. Prayed for it to end.
  • Drove home in pool of cracker crumbs. Contemplated appropriateness of offering some to MJ as a snack. Decided against.
  • Got home. Took sheets off line. 
  • Put them on bed.
  • Had lunch.
  • Put MJ down for nap.
  • Read seven pages of Beatrix Potter book. She could afford help. She also didn’t have kids.
  • Fell into a coma.
  • Woke up when MJ did. Felt I could win Guinness Record for most enervated.
  • Gave MJ frozen mango for snack.
  • Switched laundry. Put in new load.
  • Walked Mina. Felt certain you could fry an egg on her rump. Considered trying. 
  • Drove to car wash. Pulled daughter screaming from the car, crooning “we’re not driving through. We’re not driving through.” Regretted, again, driving through a carwash with her when she was ten months old. Scarred her for life.
  • Went to Target while car got washed. Tried to return a lipstick, claiming it tasted rancid. It did. But I also don’t like the color. They told me it was fine. That it smelled like “baby.” Assholes. And whose baby? 
  • Crossed the street back to carwash. Car was clean, but the back seat was soaking wet. This made sense, as the back window was open. The guy blamed me. “Your window lock was on.” Seriously? 
  • Put MJ — on a Target bag — in her clammy carseat. Told her this was “fun!”
  • Went to Fresh and Easy for a little shop. Eighty dollars. 
  • Drove home.
  • Put away groceries.
  • Folded laundry.
  • Made dinner for MJ. Tried to appear neutral when she used the butter on her broccoli as “lip gloss.”
  • Put her in bath. Read second half of New Yorker article about Roberts’ Court and Citizens United. Felt impotent rage.
  • Put MJ’s pajamas on. Read her “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck.” Looked at the illustrations knowingly. 
  • Said goodnight.
  • Came into kitchen. A shambles. Slumped. 
  • Did dishes.
  • Heard MJ call. She had pooped. A half-poop, really. Changed it. Said good night again.
  • Cleaned grains of quinoa off of floor.
  • Fed dog.
  • Heard MJ call. She had pooped again. The other half. Changed it. Muttered something about the price of diapers as I left her room. 
  • Picked up sixty-five toys, a dozen books, eight stuffed animals, and six cloth napkins. Decided I will be glad when MJ gets past using the latter as playthings. Realized I will also not be glad. Grew nostalgic.
  • Made a huge plate of pasta.
  • Carbo loaded. Watched “Justified.”
  • Got in bed with Beatrix. And the clean sheets. Realized it had only been five loads.