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Posts from the ‘home’ Category

downers: advent calendars

There’s always a wide chasm between my aspirational parenting and my parenting reality, and that chasm is neatly embodied in our advent calendar. I didn’t have an advent calendar growing up, so they were foreign to me from the get-go. But I saw this cute felt number in a Pottery Barn Kids catalog when I was pregnant and had to have it. The only time I respond to the emotional manipulation of Pottery Barn Kids, by the way, is when I am pregnant or newly delivered of child. During such times, I’m a pungent stew of hormones and neediness, and sometimes the only thing that can make it better is to buy something cutesy and then monogram the shit out of it.

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So, back to the calendar. I bought it with only the vaguest notion of what an advent calendar means, or entails. All I knew was, if other kids had these things, my kids weren’t going to go without. Our calendar is displayed prominently in our dining room, across from my seat at the table, where it sits in silent judgment of my deficient mothering. The first problem with the advent calendar is that there are so many days in December. I know it’s 25 days, but it literally feels like December is seven years long when you are trying to figure out unique gift concepts for each pocket.

And about those pockets. The pockets on mine are approximately 2 inches by 3 inches, and sewn flat. I also have two kids, so I have to fit two of the item into each pocket. To give you a rough idea of how much the dimensions of those pockets limit my options, here’s a list of the things I have found that can actually fit into those pockets.

1. Andes mints (2)

2. Starburst (2)

3. Quarters (2)

4. Peanuts in the shell (2, but very tight squeeze)

5. Binder clips (2, the small size)

6. Splenda (2 packets)

Given these kinds of options, my kids would be happy if all 25 pockets had Andes mints or Starburst in them, no question. But I can’t live with that. I just can’t. For starters, I’m not sure Tate knows how to eat a Starburst yet. I sat down to dinner and found an oleaginous pink square with bite marks, stuck to my placemat. And what would 25 days of sugar teach them, anyway? That Jesus wants them to have candy? That their mom lacks creativity, and sufficient motivation?

So I’m forced to spend my downtime thinking of things to stick in those pockets. I went shopping today with my friend Alena and all I could think about is that advent calendar with all its empty pockets. So annoying. And that’s why I’m so pleased with tomorrow’s selection, which are free sample atomizers from the Nordstrom perfume counter, two of which slide into the pocket for December 4th as if they were made for it. I think Finn is really going to dig the Tom Ford White Patchouli, because he’s really my glam boho at heart. And definitely the Balenciaga for Tate. “A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.” Tate is all about a lasting trail of odors. He’s going to love it.

Sigh. Just 21 days to go. Please help.

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lunchbox squash

At a recent dinner party, I watched as the hostess, my friend Kathryn, put the finishing touches on some halibut before sliding it into the oven. On the stovetop sat a cookie sheet with little orange half moons on them. “Roasted delicata squash. Try one,” she said, popping one into her mouth. “They taste like candy.”

I generally have a low regard for people who describe vegetables of any kind as tasting like candy. Vegetables never taste as good as candy. To think otherwise is to delude oneself. And we can really do harm when we say as much to a child, for whom candy sits at the very tippy top of the pyramid of childhood pleasures, teetering precariously atop the Nerf guns and cap-less Sharpie pens. I once told Finn that some roasted cauliflower tasted as good as candy, and that poor trusting little bastard put the piece in his mouth, apparently believing me. That incident set me back six months in his omnivore training.

But back to Kathryn. Having grown up on a farm, she knows her vegetables. And she wouldn’t lie to me. So I picked up a little half moon and chewed on it thoughtfully. Pretty f-ing delightful. The skin was chewy, but not bitter, and the inside part of the squash tasted like a buttered sweet potato. It tasted better than candy. Well, not Twix. But most candy.

No matter how tasty, you know I wouldn’t be writing about it if at least one of my kids hadn’t managed to choke it down. Finn, naturally, was not a fan. But Tate did more than choke it down. He ate every last piece that I packed into his lunchbox. The list of vegetables that (one of) my kids will eat just grew by 33%. And the squash could not be simpler to prepare.

A note about packing lunches. I hate packing lunches. What parent likes packing lunches? Tom would rather pull out his fingernails than pack a lunch. But sometimes out of sheer boredom I’ll put some effort into it, and it can pay off, at least for Tate, who seems more inclined to eat food when it is presented appealingly. He must take after my mom, who taught me early on that we “eat with our eyes, before we eat with our mouths.” But that’s Tate. If I packed the lunch above for Finn it would come back pristine and untouched, minus the orange and perhaps one cracker, which he would have nibbled at in desperation before realizing that it had sesame seeds on it.

For making Tate’s lunches, I like lunchbots containers because they are easy to open. I also like mini silicone muffin liners, for little portions of raisins, nuts, or hummus. You can prevent the items from spilling out by putting another silicone muffin liner upside down on top to cover. For Finn, whose lunch always starts with a thermos of warm brown rice, I could not live without this product. Please share your favorite lunchbox ideas, because we all need the help. I’ll post about other lunchbox discoveries, assuming I make any. Now, onto the recipe.

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KMW’s Roasted Delicata Squash

1 medium-sized delicata squash

Olive oil

1 T melted butter (for flavor, can be omitted)

Kosher salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim ends of squash, halve vertically, scoop seeds out, and cut horizontally into 1/3 inch thick slices. Leave skin on.

3. Toss squash in bowl with drizzle of olive oil (enough to lightly coat each piece) and melted butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Go easy with the salt as the squash shrinks as it roasts.

4. Roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, until browned at edges. Don’t pack them in too close to one another or they will steam instead of roast. If you like them crispier, bake them longer. If you like them softer, bake them less. Flip them once, or don’t.

5. Serve hot or at room temperature. Will keep in fridge for three days. You can double the recipe but you’ll need two pans–rotate halfway through cooking. I imagine these would be great as a grownup appetizer with a sprinkle of cayenne.

thar she blows

I’m sorry if the title led you to believe that this post is about pirates. Or about blow jobs. It is about neither of those things. But stay. Because this post is about something a lot more scurvy and dangerous than pirates or blow jobs. This post is about home canning.

Every few years, I dive headfirst into a hobby. The more expensive and time-consuming, the better. I buy all the stuff, and then I become mired in it to the point of exhaustion. That’s how I was with scrapbooking our travel photos before our kids put an end to both travel and leisure time. That’s how I was with knitting. Sweaters and drawstring pants for baby, hats by the dozen, scarves by the yard. And then one day, after buying twelve skeins of yarn to knit myself a sweater, I had a rare moment of clarity and realized that my $140 yarn would inevitably produce an ill-fitting woolen poncho that would look like something I bought off a yak during a hike to Macchu Pichu. Something so ugly that it would be ridiculous to say that I knitted it myself, because it would be patently obvious. What’s the point of knitting something if you can’t tell someone that you made it? Yeah. I don’t know either. I put the knitting needles away, and haven’t looked back since.

I’d been tempted to try canning for years. I always lacked the time, and the equipment. But last weekend, half my family was away in Michigan, and I had gobs of time to fill. So I gave it a go.

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I think canning could stick. For starters, canning appeals to my myriad anal retentive qualities. There’s the measuring. The sterilizing. The timekeeping. And the sealing (hermetically). Even better, the stakes are high if things are done wrong. I work best under pressure. And there’s nothing to make you feel alive like knowing that if you gift someone food that you’ve canned wrong, they could die of botulism. Or, there’s nothing to make you feel alive like a capsaicin burn from cutting three pounds of jalapeno peppers for your pickled escabeche.

But all that is kids’ stuff compared to the most dangerous thing about canning—the boiling of the canned goods. Reading the instructions in my canning book, I felt the disconnect that results when you read something crazy and your common sense screams at you that the writer got it wrong. Incidentally, this happens to me every time I read an article about applying eye makeup. Anyway, my canning book (Food in Jars) instructed me to stuff a hot glass jar full of hot jam, seal it up, and then drop it into a pot of boiling water. I’m no scientist, but I learned a couple things in 5th grade that have stayed with me through the years, and one of those things is that sealed objects in high heat will explode.

But I’d come this far, and spent a lot of money on produce. I looked down at Tate, who was sitting on the kitchen floor making a salad of wooden vegetables and monopoly money. I picked him up and moved him into the living room. Then I dropped the jars into the pot, and ran for cover.

Peering into my kitchen at the sealed jars boiling away on my burner, I felt the thrill of living on the edge. The cans did not explode! YES. I win canning.

The best thing of all about canning is that I didn’t just create something ornamental. I created food. I’m giving LIFE. I’m a provider, putting up my pickles and jams, which I’m 65% certain are sealed properly. What’s that about the apocalypse? I’ll be in the basement sprinkling jalapenos on my fish tacos.

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Canning labels and gift tags, Jigsaw Graphics

laundry with strangers

My washing machine died on Monday. I could tell you exactly how it happened, except I don’t know. What I do know is that a repair person diagnosed the problem as catastrophic. He has no idea.

When the washer broke, we were already behind on laundry. While we decide whether to pay $800 to fix the old machine or $1000 to buy a new one, the load of laundry that broke the machine has been sitting, rotting, in the drum. I’ve ruined a lot of clothing by letting it get mildewy in the washer, and this particular load had about $300 worth of Hanna Andersson pajamas in it. So as the hours ticked by, I’d try not to think of that load, because when I did think about it, I’d feel the vapors coming on. Eventually I prevailed upon my awesome neighbors Anne and Dennis, who opened their doors and their washer to Cuz, who kindly washed the load while I was at work.

But that load only bought me a day’s peace, because on Tuesday, I started running out of underwear. I stood in front of my drawer, looking at the last two pairs of cotton granny pants on the left, and the two fistfuls of Hanky Panky thongs on the right, which have not been touched since the day that I decided once and for all that my butt cheeks prefer not to have material lodged between them all day. Linds suggested that I drop all our laundry at her place, and that she could do the loads in the evenings. I was tempted, but I couldn’t. I mean, I’m hopeful that one day a hand will be able to reach into my boys’ hamper feeling assured that it will not graze dried feces, but I suspect that we’re yet years away. I couldn’t do that to Linds, best friends or not.

Which leads me to tonight. After dinner I looked solemnly at Tom, Cuz, and the boys, who were wearing clothes they’d worn for two days. We all knew it was time. We packed the car with five full loads of laundry, and off I went, wearing the stoic expression I reserve for moments of extreme martyrdom. Here’s the thing though. I love doing laundry. With every completed load, I feel a sense of freshness, satisfaction, and rebirth. It is definitely my chore of choice, although I also really enjoy organizing and labeling my spices with my labelmaker. And laundromats? They get me crazy. I f-ing love them. Because you can do like ten loads at a time, and fold ten loads at a time, and nothing turns me on like efficiency.

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In fact, I’d live in a laundromat if it weren’t for the people. With everyone washing and folding and making change, you feel a sense of common purpose with the other people in the laundromat, or you would, if they weren’t complete freaks. In a place like NYC, everyone goes to a laundromat, because most people live in apartments without washers. In Portland, there is a very small subset of people who go to laundromats. Hipsters, older bachelors, transients, people with broken washers. A tall skinny guy who was surrounded by an almost visible nimbus of pot smoke sidled over to me as I was filling a dryer. “Uh, I don’t want to sound sketchy, but there’s a pair of black Victoria’s Secret panties over there that might be yours.” Uh, so much for not sounding sketchy. A hipster couple kept trying to engage me in conversation. For what possible reason would you want to engage in conversation with a stranger at a laundromat? Clearly they sought to distract me so they could steal my clothes. I crammed my Yogitoes and Lululemon into the bottom of my basket and kept my eye trained on them the rest of the night.

Well, I did it. Five loads of laundry, washed and folded. In 90 minutes. Granny pants for days. Medal of Valor, you say? Nobel Peace Prize? Don’t mind if I do.

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stealing shampoo

I use “The Ethicist” column from the NYT as a moral barometer of sorts. It’s nice to check in every Sunday and verify that one is measurably less insane than the people who write into the column. Until, that is, you read a column and disagree with the Ethicist’s response. This happened to me last week, when someone wrote in about whether it was ok to take home the mini shampoo and conditioner bottles from hotel rooms. The Ethicist responded (basically) that those bottles are provided for your use under the condition that you use them inside the hotel room. Yeah, I know. WTF.

Screw the Ethicist. In my mind, not only is it ok to purloin those bottles, you would be a fool to leave them behind. When I get into a hotel room, after checking the bathroom floor for stray hairs, my first order of business is to immediately put all the miniature bottles in my bag, so that the housekeepers will put out new bottles of product at turndown. The next morning, I wash my hair with the Garnier I’ve brought from home, and then put the turndown bottles in my bag, so I can get new bottles when they clean the room. And so on and so forth. And here’s the thing. The housekeepers know I’m doing it. It’s not like they can’t see that the bottles are gone, or that the bottles aren’t in the trash can, which the housekeepers empty. No one’s reporting me. Because, you know what? They expect me to take the bottles. They NEED me to take those bottles.

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primo minis from a recent trip to san diego

I’m going to pause here for a second to address the hotels that have replaced the mini bottles with communal shower dispensers. First of all, nothing says luxury accommodations like communal dispensers. Second, you can stick whatever label you want on the outside of the dispensers, but everyone knows what you’ve got in those dispensers is bottom-of-the-barrel Suave Awapuhi and VO5, which just means that you are dirty, cheap liars. Third, you’re not using dispensers for the environment, you’re using them because you want to save a buck, so stop pretending otherwise.  Communal hotel dispensers make me so mad that sometimes I am tempted to empty them out, in silent protest.  But that would be wasteful and petty.

I just want to be on vacation. I’m already doing my part for the environment at home. I recycle. I compost. I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth. And I grudgingly do my part at hotels. I reuse the stupid towels and sheets even though the main reason I go to a hotel is so I can sleep in crisp sheets that do not smell faintly of my kids’ urine, and luxuriate in the weight of a fresh towel that I can’t afford at home. I turn off all the lights and AC when I leave my room, and do the rest of the hotel’s bidding. So give back the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, ok? Jesus, I feel like crying.

If you think I’m weird, consider that I use those mini bottles for the gym, and travel to places that don’t provide product (e.g. vacation homes). So I have a real use for them. I’m not like my husband, who takes the mini bottles to use at our house, where he has access to regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. For reasons unknown, Tom seems to prefer using products in miniature. Miniature bottles of product are great because they are free, but when you get right down to it, they are kind of a pain to deal with. I mean, they are notoriously difficult to open and squeeze, and once squeezed, they never stay upright, and end up spilling all over your shower. It’s a real problem for me, because as the only space in my house that my kids don’t have access to, my shower is my refuge. I sometimes shower twice in one day, just to escape my kids. Anyway, I like a neat and tidy shower. So it drives me nuts when I have to deal with something like this.

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If you don’t think this is weird, let me just point out for you that the miniature bottles are all l’Occitane bottles that Tom brought home from the Four Seasons in Seattle. That big bottle is filled with the SAME PRODUCT that is in the little bottles. The labels look different but trust me, I know, because years ago Tom demanded that I ask l’Occitane what product they put in their hotel minis. Which I did, like the loving wife that I am. And the shampoo in their hotel minis is essentially the same stuff in that big purple bottle, which he demands that I procure for him at regular intervals, while I lather up with the Garnier. And still, he continues to use the miniatures. Is this not weird? I think it is totally insane. Every time he does this I stand in my shower with the water going cold, staring hard at the bottles, just trying to make sense of it. And I never can.

But whatever. I say nothing, because I want to support Tom’s hotel product benders, which probably save me at least $27 dollars a year in man-tastic beauty products, which I consider less fun to buy than even diapers or dishwasher tablets. As for any lingering qualms I might feel because of the Ethicist’s stupid column, here’s what I have to say to him, who as far as I know, lacks ethical credentials of any kind. He is not licensed in psychology or sociology, or morals. I, however, am a lawyer. As such, I might not know morals, but I damn well know conditional use. Those miniature bottles are mine. I paid for them with my hotel room, and if you want to say they are conditional even though those words appear nowhere on the bottles or on my hotel terms and conditions, go right ahead. But you’re wrong.

eaten alive by toys

Tom and I recently went to a parent education thing at our kids’ school. Actually it was six hours over a Friday night and Saturday morning, so you know it must have been killer when I say it was worth my entire weekend. The Silent Journey, as it is called, is basically an opportunity to experience the work and materials that our kids experience in their Montessori classrooms, and to see it all from their perspective.

Throughout the experience, we filled out answers to questions designed to make us think more deeply about what we were observing. One of the questions was something along the lines of “How does this classroom differ from your child’s environment at home?” Something like that. I don’t remember the exact words, because as soon as I read the question, I started feeling hysterical laughter bubble up inside me, and had to concentrate on not erupting in a maniacal bray.

Here’s my kid’s school environment.

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photo by an vu

Here’s my kid’s home environment.

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Asking me to compare Finn’s home and school environments is like asking me to describe the ways in which an orange is similar to a monkey. There is no common ground. Actually, given that oranges and monkeys (Orangutans?) are both orange-colored, that’s probably a weak analogy. But I digress. Because here’s the sad truth: my kids’ environment at home, unlike their environment at school, is one never-ending mess that needs to be cleaned up. I don’t even mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally. From the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, I am cleaning. Because, if I don’t, I will be eaten alive by my kids’ stuff.

They are children. As such, their primary joy in life is to take shit out of shit, and explode it all over the place. I have two kids, so if I’m cleaning something up with one kid, the other is in the next room opening up the Candyland and throwing all the cards in the air like that scene from Scarface where Al Pacino throws all his $100 bills after snorting a line of coke. I don’t know if that’s really a scene from Scarface, but if it isn’t, it definitely should be.  By the way, what the hell is with all the throwing?  Today I watched from the kitchen sink as my three-year old calmly filled a glass with water, walked out onto the back deck to drink it, and then hurled the glass off the deck when he was done.  He grinned from ear to ear when it shattered into pieces.  They like the cause and effect, I guess.  I’m going to go with that, because the alternative is just too scary.

Anyway, in the three hours it takes you to sort the 17,000 Lego pieces from the 12,000 Playmobil pieces, you really start to question life. Like, why do I even allow them to have toys? Sometimes I fantasize about burning everything in a bonfire and putting a gun rack on the wall with three Nerf guns on it. Simple. Minimalist. Like a Donald Judd. Nerf guns are all they want anyway.

So why not tell them to clean up, right? I do. But here’s the thing: my kids are really shitty cleaners. Like, SUPER not thorough. I mean, I have no doubt that they’re putting a spit and shine on the stuff they clean at school, but when they get home, it’s not happening. Here is my all-time favorite photo of Finn, from when he was four. I had asked him to clean his room. After a sulky 2.5 minutes, Finn proclaimed that he was done.

Look at his eyes. He clearly knows it’s not cutting the mustard. At this point it’s like a big game of chicken. He knows it’s a half-assed job at best. And I know he knows it. But do I really want to engage in another round of verbal sparring with someone who can barely conjugate verbs? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll just save my breath and get back on my hands and knees and start separating the Jenga pieces from the Lincoln Logs.

changes.

I quit my job two weeks ago and took another. I’ll be working less at my new job, in a new area of the law. The decision was made quickly, decisively, and with little forewarning. I was as surprised as everyone else, because I was happy at my old firm. People always say they love their coworkers. But I really did. Folk like Berman, above. Plus I enjoyed the work, and the clients.

It feels weird when you get older and start making decisions that aren’t in line with what you pictured for yourself. As a kid, I thought I’d grow up to be the woman in the Charlie ad. Partner in a law firm. A smart suit, and good hair. Kicking my heels up as I crossed the street in my stilettos.

But the heart wants what it wants. And right now, it wants more of this.

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My Finn is so tall. His feet are almost as big as mine. For months now, when I looked at him, I’d feel 50% lung-crushing love, and 50% sadness. How had I missed so much of it? When he slips into my bed for a cuddle and I wrap my arms around him and press my lips to the back of his damp head, he feels weighty, substantial. Like my regret.

More time for soccer practices, bike rides, afternoon cinnamon rolls. That’s the idea, anyway. As hard as it was to leave, the decision was a no-brainer. For me.

This post isn’t about justifying a choice. It’s about trying to explain the unexplainable. It gets me down when moms judge other moms for their choices–it’s brutal out there for everyone. There’s no judgment in my decision. And I hope there’s no judgment of me.

Don’t get me wrong. Extended periods of time with my kids still tend to give me a screaming headache and agita. And yet. The older they get, the more that’s changing. I like them. I want to hang out with them. I want to be there for this. For me, the rest can wait.

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yoonanimous goes bike shopping

I still think bike commuters can be obnoxious. But I admit that I have long coveted a bike. It’s just worked out that every time I want to buy a bike, I don’t have the money, because I need it for other trifles, like heat, and water.

I started getting serious about a bike after spending $120 on a shitty rental over vacation. Buying a bike made a lot of sense. In Portland, the bike lanes are wider than the car lanes. Finn rides like a fiend, and is always asking why his parents walk so slow. I shop for groceries European style, which just means that I can’t predict what I want to eat in advance, and end up going to the store daily–a trip that would be more fun on a bike. But the last straw was when my genteel cousin Emily and her boyfriend Kevin bought a tandem. They have been riding jauntily around town toting baguettes and having impromptu picnics. I mean, I can barely picture Em OUTDOORS. That settled it. I was getting a damn bike.

Having made the decision, I perked up, as I always do, at the thought of buying something. But it’s been a slog. I’m usually an efficient shopper. I don’t equivocate, and I don’t waffle. But with bikes, I was like a retiree with all the time in the world—puttering around the shop, kicking tires, accidentally knocking bikes over, and asking annoying questions like “Can I put a bell on this? and “Why is this here bike so big?” I wish I had better questions, but I had no idea what to ask. When friends would ask “what type of bike” I wanted, I got tetchy. What the hell did they MEAN what kind of bike? The kind with two tires, a seat, and some handlebars. Duh. But I had to answer, and unfortunately, all my answers sounded really dumb. “I want a bike that won’t make my crotch sore.” “I want a bike that comes with the cool orange bags that hang on the back.” “I want a bike with medium fat tires.”

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an early contender: the globe daily 2

Anyway, the technical stuff was besides the point. I wanted the bike for my kids and groceries, but my priority was to avoid buying an uncool bike. I’m no Jay-Z, but I like to think I at least know what’s not cool. With bikes, I had no idea how relatively cool or uncool my options were. But make no mistake, you can’t go into a bike shop in Portland and ask for a “cool” bike. I know this because I did just that at River City Bikes and the salesperson visibly cringed, which looked painful with the eyebrow rings. My general impression of bike shop employees, btw, is that they exist to make you feel lame and under-pierced.

I couldn’t even rely on brand names, because I have no idea what brand names are cool in the bike world. Don’t give me any of that BS about brand names not being important. Brand names are important. To argue otherwise is to mess with the penultimate value system in my life, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go there. I didn’t like the sound of some brands: “Giant,” “Surly,” “Globe,” “Cannondale.” Finn has a Trek and that sounded ok, but who wants to ride the same bike as their kid? It would be like buying a car made by Tonka, or Stride Rite pumps. I liked the sound of other brands: “Linus,” “Jamis.” I thought the brand “Specialized” sounded pretty special until a friend implied that Specialized is the Gap of the bike world. The Gap!! I didn’t want the Gap. I wanted A.P.C.

tate, my biking style icon

I knew a couple other things. I knew I didn’t want a girl bike—which, I was surprised to learn at Clever Cycles, is not the technical term for such a bike, which is instead known as a “step-through.” I wanted the crotch bar. Gotta have the crotch bar. To me the crotch bar is the difference between having curly streamers coming out of your handlebars, and not. Speaking of handlebars, I also knew that I didn’t want those tall, curvy handles that you see in old French movies.

But I was weak. Presented with curvy-handled, step-through options, I was tempted. A beautiful Linus Mixte 3-speed came in a color called “Rosewood,” a deep burgundy that called to the very core of my being. The salesperson assured me I could ride in a skirt. I nodded in appreciation, forgetting that the last time I wore a skirt in my downtime was…never. I wanted to buy that Linus, bad. And yet, something felt wrong on my test ride. I felt too upright, like a bear on a tricycle. Worse, I couldn’t shake the annoying feeling that I should be wearing mime makeup and handing flowers to passerby. It was cute, but I didn’t want cute. I wanted utilitarian. Functional. Something I couldn’t easily fall off of. A Linus might be in my future, but first, I needed to find out if I could really ride a bike.

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the rosewood linus mixte 3

In the end, I bought the cheapest option–the first bike I tried, a Globe Work I, in plain black. Globe is owned by Specialized, but I prefer to think of the Globe as my Piperlime bike, not my Old Navy bike. The bike felt good, and solid, like I could run over it with my car—just saying—and it might still be ok. I jazzed it up with a seat for Tate, in chartreuse. With the child seat, basket, and bike lock, the whole thing weighs approximately 120 pounds, but it’s ok. I don’t plan to go up any hills.

If the biking thing sticks, I’m getting this dream helmet next. My boss Keith, a cyclist, helpfully suggested it because he knows that my primary anxiety about riding a bike is helmet hair. A helmet that’s really a scarf! Brilliant. Now I just need to save the $700.

Anyway, if you see Tate and me on the road, give a honk! Just don’t make any sudden movements, because we are newbies. So maybe a light, non-threatening beep. Or maybe just flash your lights. Or maybe, just wave. Or maybe, just ignore us.

Wish us luck.

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i guess finn needed to pee

pleasantville

I’ve processed many short bits of “Breaking Bad” over Tom’s shoulder in the last few months. I know nothing about the show but it seems to involve unattractive people and unsavory dealings in a suburban milieu. I don’t know if it’s the show, or the fact that Portland can’t seem to afford an active police force right now, or the fact that Cuz, recently transplanted from NYC, has commented numerous times about the dangers of living in Portland—yes, Portland—but I’m feeling a bit spooked and under siege in my home.

It started a month ago, when neighbors started emailing around about would-be thieves posing as Comcast employees. I don’t want to get into the details but the incidents were alarming enough that we all took extra care to lock our doors for a while. But time passes, and I forgot all about it, until I went grocery shopping with Cuz and she started talking about a weird Comcast employee who had stopped by during the day, asking her a slew of questions about who she was and how long she was staying in Portland, and where my husband and I were, and for how long. He left a flyer, with a handwritten note to call him about saving money. Bad number. Ugh.

The Comcast story isn’t that interesting, except to lay the foundation for my current, keyed up mood. All of a sudden, I’m buggin’. I see danger everywhere. The morning after I heard about the Comcast guy, I woke up and saw this in my parking strip.

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I’m not one to freak out unnecessarily, which probably explains why I am robbed bi-annually. But that is a heavy metal mystery box chained to a tree in my front yard. With a serious lock, and electric wires protruding from it. I didn’t put it there. I thought, for three seconds, that it may have been Tom, but let’s be serious, there are at least seven things in this photo that require mechanical know-how that my husband does not possess.

Plus, I’ve seen a lot of episodes of McGyver. And if I learned anything from that show, it’s that if a box has wires coming out of it and is chained to something, it’s a bomb. Normally, my rational mind would stop me at this point to say, “Yoona, what are the chances that there is a bomb chained to a tree in your yard?” But as I said, I’m keyed up. On top of the Comcast thing, I’d been watching the DNC all week, worrying that someone would try to bomb the convention. So I saw this box chained to my tree, and promptly freaked out. I then proceeded to do the one thing I always do when I freak out, which is, to bother Tom.

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But Tom wasn’t taking my texts that morning, either because of a legal emergency, or because he appears to permanently reside in a deadspot that is immune to receiving texts from my phone, unless I’m texting him to ask for his Chipotle order.

When Tom finally did call, he told me, matter-of-factly, that this box is likely a monitor of sorts, a machine that measures speed and other traffic info. He said he saw such boxes growing up in Michigan. Which hardly seems possible, because there are solar panels on the top of the box, and solar technology certainly postdates Tom’s childhood by at least a couple decades. But, per the usual, the more Tom talked, the more it made sense. Once explained, I hated the box even more, because now, the box made me feel stupid. It also made me feel panicked, because it suggested that someone on my street had complained about the speed of driving on my road, which made me wonder if they had called about me.

No time to dwell on it, though, because there was other spooky stuff to get paranoid about. That very night, I opened up Tom’s medicine cabinet looking for some Advil, and stumbled upon this.

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I would hardly say otherwise here, but believe me when I say that I am clueless about drugs.  Almost the entirety of what I know about drugs comes from local news stories about meth, and my trusty US Weekly.  I still don’t really know anything about meth except that it gives you terrible skin and that you cook it, using common household items like fruit roll-ups. As for US Weekly, my most favored news source tells me that prescription drug abuse is running amok through Young Hollywood. Tom’s not a part of Young Hollywood, but Young Hollywood nonetheless sprang to mind when I saw his medicine cabinet.

I had so many questions. What was Patanase? A quick glance at the label revealed that Patanase is a nose spray for allergies. But WHY? I hadn’t noticed Tom’s allergies being particularly intense this year. Why would anyone have that much nose spray? Could my husband be addicted to Patanase? Could the addiction be spiraling out of control? Could the spiraling addiction explain why he keeps washing my yoga pants with towels, and also forgetting to turn the sprinkler off? Could it?? And how about the coupon for $40 off? $40 off a container of Patanase? How much did this stuff COST??? How could he need MORE Patanase? And when would the coupon expire?

Tom says most of the Patanase tubes are empty. Which raises lots of other questions, like why I even allow him to have his own medicine cabinet. But between the fake Comcast employees and the traffic boxes that look like bombs, I’m too tired to think about it.

the Costco effect

I have a complicated relationship with Costco.  When I was young, my brother and I would spend Saturdays there with my parents, shopping for food and cigarettes for the smoke shop that my parents owned inside a tall office building called the Pacwest Center.  A smoke shop is a convenience store that sells food and cigarettes and lottery tickets.  A lot of smoke shops are owned by Koreans.  We spent every weekend unloading inventory on the loading dock where the trash bins are kept, and I spent a lot of hours working the cash register and selling Snapples to lawyers and architects who often looked down their nose at my family and talked really sloooowly to us while buying their Powerball tickets.  Two years after my dad died, the property managers decided they wanted a change, and kicked my mom out of the store to which she’d given more than ten years of her life.  That’s a real immigrant story.  I became a lawyer so I’d never have to feel that powerless again.

Anyway, spending time in Costco reminds me of those years of my parents’ backbreaking labor, which put me through four years of an Ivy League education.  In case it is not evident, I feel a debt to my parents that I know I can never repay.  The point of all this history is to explain why I don’t enjoy shopping at Costco, when I am capable of enjoying shopping almost anywhere else, including GNC and Hot Topic.

Personal stuff aside, I also don’t enjoy shopping at Costco because it has been my experience that it is not possible to leave that store without spending at least $300.  I’ve tried it, and failed, repeatedly.  Eventually I cut myself off completely, and didn’t step into a Costco for years.  But recently, my family’s vast consumption of fruit got me thinking about Costco again.  And when my friend Suzanne told me that she treats Costco like her grocery store, and can get out of there on her weekly visits without paying more than $100, I decided it was time for a reappraisal.

I’ve gone twice since I got a new Costco card.  And here’s my reappraisal, with all due respect to my dear Suzanne: it is still not possible to get out of a Costco for less than $300.  It was exactly as I remembered.  Now, as then, Costco makes me do some crazy ass sh*t.  Like this:

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I eat garbonzo beans like ten beans at a time.  At that rate, I will get through this bounty in approximately four years, during which time these cans will take up a lot of valuable pantry space.  I like garbonzo beans.  I do.  But liking has nothing to do with it.  When I see a flat of eight cans of garbonzo beans being sold for less than $6.00, I feel that it would be morally wrong not to buy them.  I feel this emotion often at Costco.  I call it the “Costco Effect.”  When other people see things being sold for extremely low prices, they think: bargain.  When I see things being sold for extremely low prices, I feel the extreme guilt associated with stealing.  I mean, how is it possible to pick, process, and can eight cans of garbonzo beans and sell them for $6.00, and still make a profit?  It can’t be.  And though it is completely irrational, the only way to assuage my feelings of guilt is to buy the product, and lots of it.  It’s how I play my part in a completely messed-up capitalist society.  My role is to buy.  And so I do.

At Costco prices, you just keep loading up your cart, because everything seems so damn cheap.  And everything they sell is so damn good.  The insidious thing about Costco, of course, is that it doesn’t take that many items at $12 or $15 each to add up to $300.  There are few shopping experiences worse than the feeling you get at Costco when all your items are on the conveyer belt and the cashier is scanning all your items, and as you watch the tally, you feel the urgent need to start removing things from the conveyer belt.  When I was younger, I was too self-conscious to do anything about it, but now I have a mortgage to think about.  So this time around I pulled off a whole fillet of salmon, a flat of Vitamin Water, and Tom’s Fusion razorblades.

It’s sad, but if something’s gotta give at Costco, it’s usually gonna be Tom’s stuff.  Especially if the item is a package of razor blades that costs $45.  You can buy 50 cans of garbonzo beans for $45.  That’s a whole lot of hummus.  While I’m on the subject, what is the deal with Gillette razor blades?  Unless each of the five blades on each cartridge is hand-sharpened by some blacksmith in some forge in Scotland, I fail to see how Gillette razor blades can cost as much as they do.  You can get a KNIFE for $45.  Like, a Wusthof.  I just don’t get it.  Which is why, until Tom can justify the expenditure, he can enjoy some Bic disposables.

Anyway, Costco.  For cheap.  I say it can’t be done.  If you think it can, please share your tips, for the benefit of all.