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Archive for the ‘Household Matters’ Category

Remember General Tso’s Chicken–that sweet and spicy staple of Chinese restaurants? The kids used to love it and I used to call it meat in jam sauce. Which it is, basically–but recently I found a recipe for it and have made it a few times. And what do you know, it’s really tasty. YES, a certain amount of work, but worth it. That dark spicy sauce, those crispy little nodules of chicken!
So yesterday was easeful Saturday and I thought I would ORDER OUT–something I do very rarely, but which the kids do all the time–and I bade Grubhub fetch me some of that tasty General Tso’s chicken from a local establishment. Alas, NOT a success. The restaurant version–or at least, the quotidian restaurant version–is indeed meat in jam sauce, an insipid sauce which is neither dark or spicy, but rather a sickly red syrup.
Well, I managed to choke it down, but have come to realize that either 1) I have to try this dish from some more distinguished restaurant, or 2) continue to make it myself. Or of course, 3) stick to the old curries and pasta standbys.
And, SPEAKING of General Tso’s chicken, remember that ghastly but irresistible movie called Legend, starring Tom Cruise as a wayward whimsical WOOD ELF kind of chappie, and Tim Curry as a spectacularly horrid Lord of Darkness? Tim Curry’s outfit had him glistening as if he were covered in red syrup–one couldn’t help but instantly picture him as a toothsome nugget in that delectable dish. This unfortunate image has persisted in my mind for over 35 years….

NOTE: There was also a UNICORN and a PRINCESS in the movie. It was exquisitely dreadful.

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This morning I bravely went out to garden. My plan: to labor for a couple hours and then escape inside as the temperature and humidity achieved the summer norm, i.e., unbearable.
Step one in this endeavour is of course to drench all exposed flesh with Deet, a singularly smelly chemical which repels most insects. They just can’t stand that stench. Neither can I, but I persevere. And shower afterwards.
Then, onto clipping, raking…toting dat barge, lifting dat bale, etc. I proudly brandished my new Black and Decker electric clippers, and the shrubs fell back, abashed. I was the mighty battle horse, saying among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. Though there were no captains about except Bertie and he was mostly asleep on the patio. Still, I set to with a will, and soon the garden was SHOWERED with debris and I was dripping with sweat. Luckily it was not until I was at the very last shrub that I clipped through the extension cord. BANG! Stepping into the garage to toss out the now useless cord I noted that all the basement lights were out. SIGH. I found a flashlight–of such superior dimness, a sort of Darkness Visible device–and entered the Stygian gloom of the basement to confront the circuit box. One day I will–I SWEAR IT– organize and remake the many ancient bits of paper that mark which breaker controls which bit of the house–one chart to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Ah. The basement lights and garage were not represented on any of the lists. And then I remembered–there is ANOTHER CIRCUIT BOX! Why it has been placed over by the basement stairs is a mystery, but there it is, and when I flicked the switch, the miracle of light happened.
Then I went back out, filled the bags with biomass, swept up, put away the tools and came inside for a shower and a little lunch.
Weekends, so tiring.

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On Monday I rose especially early and sprinted for the bus stop–endured the extreme vexation of seeing the bus pull away from the bus stop as I approached–stoically waited for the next one–and I was OFF, embarking on Day 1 of a VERY VERY LONG two day meeting.
NOT perhaps the best Monday and Tuesday ever, but not the worst either, and it eventually drew to a close.
Once finally home on Tuesday night–a full HOUR later than usual said the cats with meaningful glances at the empty food bowls–I fed the starving throngs, and then gazed sadly into my empty fridge.
HUNGRY.
But NO, couldn’t face eggs for dinner again.
The cupboard was rich in half full boxes of spaghetti.

So, climbed into car and drove to grocery store, bought some meatballs and a jar of tomato sauce.
The meatballs had a strange bounciness, seeming to resist the teeth, and the tomato sauce had a cloying sweetness, with that canned tomato soup flavor–very familiar from childhood, but not a recent experience for me.

However, I manfully chewed away–and after all we cannot always be eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.

This weekend I shall don the apron and cook REAL food.

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My morning activities are completely circumscribed, elegantly scheduled, so that I appear in the kitchen exactly an hour after rising from my bed–washed, brushed, dressed, and ready to feed the ravenous cats. As I fill their 3 little bowls, I usually sing them the Cat Feeding Song, but they have no interest in art, merely prowling back and forth darting me sad looks of anguish and starvation. Once the bowls are down and the cats are gobbling their breakfast, I turn to my own humble meal. Today: oatmeal! With dried cranberries and raisins, a veritable feast! As it cooked in the microwave I expertly made the coffee–a complicated process which involves grinding the beans, setting them in the machine, etc. I flatter myself on my coffee prep skills–if there were a prize for making the breakfast coffee, I would surely have a good chance of winning it. And as for apple slicing, well, I cannot but confess that I wield the corer and knife with astonishing dexterity.
Oatmeal done! Neatly turned into the bowl, sprinkled with sugar.
Then, I opened the refrigerator to get the milk.
But, THERE WAS NO MILK.
I had forgotten to buy milk.
Sigh.
In the end, I opened a can of evaporated milk, and reluctantly poured a bit of the oddly beige liquid onto my lovely oatmeal. It was…OK. I managed to eat the oatmeal and its alien milk.
But I thought, next time check your supplies, Mrs. Expert Breakfast Preparer.

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One must NEVER NEVER proclaim a victory over the watering system. Fate is a keen listener. This morning, I darted out to check and found that

1) The garden fountain had run very low, pump laboring and probably damaged
2) The wall fountain had run very low, pump laboring and probably damaged
3) Watering hose #3 had sprung huge leak, puddles everywhere.

Not to mention that
4) It is a damp gray day, humid and overcast.

Well, I unplugged the pumps, turned everything off and went back to my breakfast, JUST managing not to step in a fresh cat vomit en route. When I add that I have a dentist appointment later this afternoon, you will understand that my usually robust joie de vivre is at somewhat of a low ebb today.
JUST like my little fountains.

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Yesterday I did all the chores, paid the bills, folded the laundry–and even did a little yard work!–after which I felt completely justified in meeting some friends for a lovely dinner at a charming Belgian restaurant.
I have known these ladies for many years; we are all widows, all mothers of large families, all grannies. So there we were, demurely sipping our wine, chatting enthusiastically, and wielding the fork and knife with surpassing skill–when I heard someone calling my name. “Hope! Hope!” I looked up and there was my cousin from Minnesota, his wife and his son! Sitting at the next table!
Well! The lad is going to AU, and his fond parents have visited before, but still, we looked at each other with a wild surmise, struck all of heap. Then of course we all got to chatting and then they said goodbye and went off, leaving us to carouse as before.
Not really so surprising that they should be in that fine little restaurant, actually, being discriminating diners, and as this is their last child, of course they come to visit often. Still, it was a surprise!
It made me think of all the hidden coincidences we know nothing about, the person next to you on the bus whose grandmother, perhaps, was a dear friend of your grandmother–or whose cat is brother to your cat.
Or sister, as it might be.
Or uncle, of course.

In any case, a very fine dinner.

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On Sunday evenings I welcome a darling son to dinner, and thus have a delightful afternoon of cooking and baking–and as I am having a party NEXT weekend, I also made up a few batches of cookie dough in preparation for future festivity.
Sunday is also the day my darling daughter calls from her far away habitation in the exotic northern parts of the United Kingdom, and we chat pleasantly for a time.
Sunday is in fact a charming catch-up-with-family day.
Yesterday’s menu featured chicken pot pie, a favorite dish. As I chatted with far away daughter, I got the chilled pie dough from the fridge and commenced rolling it out. Up and down, back and forth! Finally it was the right size, I set it over the chicken filling, brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled with salt and pepper and WHISKED it into the oven.
An hour later, out it came, handsome, brown, bubbling: a triumph!
But as we ate our pie, it seemed to me that it was somehow–sweeter than chicken pot pie usually is. Good, you know, but...sweet.
AH.
The pie dough still languished in the fridge. I had used the cookie dough to top the pie.
Sigh.
Still, rather tasty. We ate it without complaint.

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