Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The husband and I attended the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival over the weekend, and it was complete sensory overload. Starting with a rosé tasting at 10 a.m. (which, to be honest, turned into more of a rosé imbibing), the day was filled with everything from gumbo (straight outta New Orleans) to caramel cake and sparkling wine to bourbon (a lot of bourbon, in fact, for a WINE festival).


So, too much to cover at once, but one of the more memorable items was a cherry-habanero pie from the Pie Shop in Atlanta.

You read that right: cherry-habanero. A little sweet, a lot spicy. I’ve either got to learn to make it or include a separate category for pie purchases in my monthly budget.

Holy mother of pastries, you can get an annual pie subscription, too.

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Dear Yellow Pages:

So, wow. You followed me all the way to Atlanta. Not to be mean, but I thought we were done. I mean, I’ve been chucking you (and some other phone book that looked a lot like you, but was even less valuable) straight into the recycling bin for YEARS.

We haven’t had a real relationship since high-speed Internet became a reasonably basic service.

Come on. I didn’t even hook up my landline this time around, yet I came home one day to discover that you had arrived in the mail. It seems a tad desperate, don’t you think?

Oh, you say. But what if the Internet goes down? For DAYS. Then I’m going to sorry, right? When I need a big printout of indexed phone numbers and can’t get online to find them?

We’ve discussed this, and I remain unconcerned by your argument. If the Internet at my home and office goes down for days, there’s every chance that the power is also off, and I’ll have more pressing problems than finding the number for my hair salon.

Also? I rent now, so flipping through your many pages to find a roofer? Not a thing for me.

I feel I should also mention the fact that every contractor I’ve used in the past couple of years — including a tile guy, a painter and lawn care service — has exclusively used a cell phone for contact, meaning they’re not even LISTED in you.

If the Internet ever falls and the landline comes back to life, we’ll talk. In the meantime, please stop following me.

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One of the best things about this move: I FINALLY got rid of the landline. 

I know, right? Why was that anachronism still hanging around, ringing every night at 6 p.m.? 

One word: bundling. 

The cable company had cleverly rolled Internet, phone and cable TV into one package when we moved in some seven years ago. Fair enough: The price for all three together was cheaper than buying Internet and cable separately. Our surfing and TV habits were totally subsidizing the phone line. 

The pricing strategy remained unchanged over the years, but having a home phone became nearly intolerable at times.

Have you ever noticed that hardly anyone with a cell phone actually has the ringer on? No one wants to hear the phone ring. Do we miss calls this way? Yes. Do we care that we miss calls? Sure. And by sure, I mean absolutely not. We look down at some point, realize we missed a call and call back. And by call back, I mean we send a text. Because 2014 means never having to talk on the phone.

But I digress. I was savvy enough to put our home phone number on the Do Not Call list. Unfortunately, this list doesn’t apply to callers with whom I have a “business relationship,” or those representing a charitable organization. So, at 6 p.m. sharp every night, the phone would ring and some form of “unknown caller” would show up on the caller ID. The unknown caller may have been one of our credit card companies trying to “upgrade” us on something. More likely, however, it was some organization selling magazines or otherwise trying to collect money for the firemen, the police or some sort of children in peril. (I’m not a monster – most of these telemarketing shops take way too much profit out of what they collect. If I want to donate to the police department, I’ll speed my way to a ticket.)

Why did I leave the ringer on, you ask? Well, sometimes I didn’t. But the husband’s parents used that number occasionally, and if I turned the ringer off I never remembered to turn it back on. Thus, the nightly fast-walk to the phone for the one-in-a-million chance that the ringing indicated a call we actually were willing to take.

All that is over now. The home phones are packed in a box, awaiting dropoff at the thrift store. The new cable company offered an Internet/TV package at a fair price, no phone required. 

The silence is beautiful. I haven’t heard a phone ring outside the office in nearly four weeks. If my phone buzzes, it’s almost always someone I want to talk to. My only cellular pest is the Red Cross; I made the mistake of giving them my number about five years ago only to discover that they will bother you literally EVERY DAY until you schedule another donation. I always DO schedule another donation, but their efforts are so irritating that I’ve considered changing blood donation entities.

Again, digression. The landline is dead. Long live the silence.

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Among all the things I never thought I would purchase from Amazon, bras and antiperspirant are ranked pretty highly.

Last year, I bought bras on Amazon. Now, it looks like the online retailer is going to be my new source for unscented antiperspirant.

Anyone who has ever worn a bra knows that you don’t buy a bra without trying it on first. However, anyone who has ever found the PERFECT bra knows that you buy that same bra until the end of time.

I’ve found the perfect bra a few times over the years, only to be disappointed when I returned to a department store to buy that EXACT bra only to find that the manufacturer had changed it ever so slightly, so that now the cups cut funny, dented lines across my boobs or gaped as if I had lost an entire cup size (note: I have never lost an entire cup size, even after I had my tonsils out at age 20 and lost an inadvisable amount of weight).

So last year, frustrated yet again after another department store failed to stock the make and model of bra that had supported me for months, I turned to the Internet. I googled the five-digit identification number I found on the tag and — voila — Amazon had it in stock. In my size. In multiple colors. For $5 less than I had paid at the store.

And now, 14 months later? Amazon STILL has it in stock, in all colors and sizes. The department store? I have no idea. I can’t be bothered to start from zero with another make and model of bra when Amazon has the one that fits me perfectly. Brick-and-mortar retailers have forced my hand in the name of product diversity, making me go online to find what I want because they stock everything but.

Same thing with the antiperspirant. I can’t STAND the odor of scented antiperspirants made for women. I actually like the smell of many of the men’s varieties, possibly because they’re woodsier and darker. But the women’s products are powdery and flowery and just plain insipid. I can rarely smell them on other people, but I can ALWAYS smell them on me.

I can’t really see why women put up with those scents even if they don’t find them offensive. Many women spend a lot of money on other scented products, like lotions, powders and perfumes, that they carefully layer on to produce just the right subtle scent. Why would they mix in a cheap floral antiperspirant on top of that?

To each her own.

My choices of unscented antiperspirants have been dwindling for years, but this summer they dwindled to zero, at least locally. And it’s not that manufacturers aren’t making them anymore so much that stores have developed some lazy stocking behaviors. I visited two big-box stores and one drugstore in my search; in each, the deodorant aisle had slots for literally dozens of different product varieties, but approximately 30 percent of the slots were empty.

While I enjoy a home and a workplace that are both in close proximity to these retailers, it’s not my responsibility to make return trips just to check to see if anyone has bothered stocking the shelves. I get the feeling that once I’ve ordered my first six-pack of unscented deodorant from Amazon, I’ll never bother looking for it locally again.

So, brick-and-mortar retailers griping about the Internet stealing your business: Try harder. I’m not asking for huge discounts or home delivery. You simply have to stock the products I want to purchase. And you are failing.

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My second 2013 Dennison’s Family Farm CSA box yielded the following:

  • Three onions: red, white and yellow. These went into a couple of really tasty stir-fries and a pan of delicious chicken fajitas.
  • Bell pepper: Sacrificed to the stir-fry.
  • Sweet banana peppers: Seeded and sliced to add crunch to summer salads.
  • Jalapeno and Serrano peppers: Currently waiting to be added to salsa.
  • Squash (Slick Pik, Zephyr, patty pan and zucchini): The base for the fabulous Baked Penne with Squash, Tomatoes and Basil that I wrote about earlier this week. Except for the zucchini, which was reserved for the best brownies in the world, which I will tell you about next week.
  • Cauliflower: I admit to having rarely encountered cauliflower except at salad bars. I tried this Cook’s Illustrated roasted cauliflower recipe I found at Food Lush, adding in the optional chili powder for a little pizzaz. It was edible but uninspiring, and the leftovers were absolutely off-putting (I’m pretty sure leftover roasted cauliflower is the scent they add to natural gas so customers know when they have a leak). I’ll probably just wash, chop and save it for salad next time.
  • Broccoli: I think this was the first head of broccoli I’ve ever eaten that didn’t come from the grocery store. The fresh flavor was amazing. I ate some straight off the stem while I was prepping my photo, and the rest was truly the guest star in our stir-fries, outshining the protein and all other veggies.
  • Leeks: I am again perplexed by leeks, since I never really encountered them before. I used them as a substitute for shallots in the Baked Penne with Squash, Tomatoes and Basil, and they definitely added a bit of bold flavor.
  • Cucumber: I forgot I had a cucumber in the crisper. I should probably slice it up for salad.
  • Green tomatoes: I have never understood the appeal of green tomatoes. Even when I’ve had really good fried green tomatoes, I found myself thinking, man, if only these had stayed on the vine a little while longer, I could be having an awesome sandwich. I put these aside in dismay and then wrapped them in a newspaper a couple of days ago in hopes of turning them into real tomatoes. I should probably go check the cool dark closet to see if they’ve transformed.
  • Chard: I have neglected my greens, yet again.
  • Basil: I used a lot of the basil in the Baked Penne with Squash, Tomatoes and Basil, and chopped up the rest for salads.

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One of the clandestine pleasures of visiting New York City, Vegas or Orlando is the ability to make a quick visit to M&M’s World.

Don’t get me wrong — the store is full of ridiculous tchotchkes that no one over 9 should ever openly display, and I can’t think of an event that would call for me to wear M&M-themed clothing.

No. The draw is the wall of M&M’s that you can purchase by the pound. It’s like the huge crayon box of M&M’s, with candies on display in every hue you can possibly imagine.

I go for the special flavors at the end of the wall. I don’t know if they’re limited edition or available in stores — frankly, I don’t spend a lot of time in the candy aisle at the grocery store. (And on a side note, when I do pay attention to areas like the cookie aisle, I am utterly appalled. Have you SEEN the ridiculous number of Oreo varieties lately?)

Anyway, I was in Orlando for business last week, and the husband joined me for a day at Universal Studios and a weekend with a longtime friend. On the way to the airport, we serendipitously passed the mall holding the M&M’s store, meaning we practically HAD to stop. We emerged with coconut and raspberry M&M’s.

I honestly can’t pick a favorite. The raspberry candies pack an intense berry flavor, while the coconut variety was slightly reminiscent of a Mounds bar, with a pronounced coconut essence. Both varieties are almost the size of Peanut M&M’s, but without the peanut inside, meaning you’ve got a pretty big serving of creamy chocolate in each one.

I wish I had bought more.

Visits to M&M’s World don’t always turn out this well. We bought the Strawberried Peanut Butter variety a couple of years ago in New York, and they were completely meh, with neither the flavor of strawberry or peanut butter really standing out.

And yes, I’m completely ignoring the fact that I can buy limited edition M&M flavors on Amazon.com.

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I didn’t know how desperately I valued my right to vote until someone told me I couldn’t have a ballot.

I didn’t realize how much work there is to be done to educate voters on their rights until I witnessed multiple people turn away with a shrug after being told that they weren’t on the voter registration list — even though they were quite certain that they were — and, therefore, couldn’t vote.

I had forgotten the warm, heady feeling of furious indignation until it surged forth when I realized just how ridiculously broken the voting process was in Fulton County, Georgia.

When the secretary of state says you’re registered to vote, it seems pretty official. It wasn’t official enough for Fulton County officials, however, and they turned away A LOT of voters on election day. The county official at my polling place acted like I was a fool for thinking that seeing my name on the secretary of state’s voter registration list meant that I was really registered to vote. In what I’m now convinced was an attempt to just get me to leave, she actually sent me out to the library computers to look my name up on the “official” Fulton County voter roll so I could see for myself that I wasn’t really registered. She wasn’t at all happy when I returned to inform her that the county website accessed its voter registration information from — wait for it — the secretary of state’s database.

The Fulton County elections department may well be mismanaged from the top down if, as at least one poll worker asserts, workers were still delivering voter registration lists hours after the polls opened.

My biggest problem with the whole debacle was the lack of give-a-damn on the part of election officials. The county worker at my polling place gave me a provisional ballot only after I proved unwilling to simply slink away without casting my vote. I heard her say, multiple times, “There’s nothing we can do.” She said this to people who were newly registered, who had changed their address, who voted in the last election and hadn’t moved or changed ANYTHING, who had made the deadline, damn it, and had SEEN their name on the registration list.

There’s nothing we can do.

Computers have made it easy for people like this to rule over their lazy little kingdoms. You’re not in the computer. There’s nothing we can do.

I’m not going to make it easy for her next time. If I have to stand outside my polling place (at a legal distance, of course) wearing a sandwich board exclaiming “ASK ME ABOUT PROVISIONAL BALLOTS IF YOU HAVE BEEN DENIED YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE,” I’m going to make it much more difficult to disenfranchise voters through incompetence.

Put that on your official list, bureaucrats.

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