(Many) Shoes and (Pumpkin) Pie

Hi, my name is Wink and I used to blog with frequency. I’ve been with the busy, however, what with this whole the-boyfriend-is-moving-in dealio, as well as filling my free time with helping a local estate liquidation company organize and price a hoarder house for an upcoming sale. Since we last met…

That there above-mentioned boyfriend* moved in. He didn’t bring a lot of Things into the household, but what he did bring was Not Small. We had his parents over for dinner last night, which forced the issue of (finally) organizing the living and dining rooms. They look pretty dang good right now, at the expense of the guest room and basement. Which currently look an awful lot like the hoarder house I’ve been working in.

The hoarder house. Whatever you’re picturing, it’s wrong. This house is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and was inhabited by an upper-middle-class couple. For decades, these were “normal,” rational people. And then, about 10 or so years ago, the woman cracked. In a ceaseless attempt to fill that crack, she bought stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. In fact, during the last couple of years, she bought so much stuff and with such frequency that she didn’t always have the time to remove the price tags or even take items out of their shopping bags before heading out to buy more stuff. A professional organizer was hired to help deal with all the stuff, which only wound up making more room for more stuff. Which she filled. And then she died. Leaving behind a husband who had grown accustomed to living in a smaller and smaller space, and a hell of a lot of stuff. So the husband moved out and said “to hell with all of this stuff.”

I’ve been to estate sales described as hoarder homes, and I’m always disappointed (?) that they don’t look like the dark, magazine-and-newspaper addled homes that I’ve seen flash by on the news. (I hear there are a few different reality shows that focus on hoarders, but I’ve never seen one so I can’t compare.) I now know how much work goes into clearing those homes out so people can actually walk around in the space. Which seems obvious, but I never did put 2 and 2 together. For two or three weeks now, we’ve been going through this house room by room, clearing out the receipts and tissue paper and shopping bags (we filled a roll-off Dumpster) and trying our best to organize and price the remaining clothing and shoes and furniture and DVDs and artwork and cosmetics and collectible figurines and avoiding altogether the packed-to-the-rafters basement, which will have to be an entirely separate sale.

So anyway, if you live in the greater Denver area, you should really swing by this sale. We’re running the first half (pre-basement) for four days, and while the selection will be greatest on Wednesday (day 1), I can guarantee that there will still be plenty left on Saturday (day 4). Everything is in like-new (or brand-spanking-still-with-tags-new) condition. In an interesting twist, when we finally worked our way into the husband’s home office, we found that it was loaded with antique books and historical artifacts from his family. So this sale has the brand new AND the very old!

Above-mentioned pie: I’d stopped in at Dollar Tree for something or other, and was greeted at the door by a display of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin! For a dollar! How could I pass that up? Pumpkin pie is super easy to make, especially when using a store-bought Graham cracker crust (which I knew I had in the pantry), so I whipped one up. A week later, I made an eggnog cake for no reason other than I had some eggnog in the house. I’m crafty that way.

A few posts back, I’d mentioned that I was going to have to start meal planning now that there are two mouths to feed. I’ve been doing it, and it’s surprisingly easy so far. I understand how it might get tedious over time, but so far, so good. This week we’ll be eating a lot of recipes that call for fresh tarragon because I needed it for one recipe and you can only buy one size package which is enough for, like, four different recipes. I used it last night to make the béarnaise sauce required for Sautéed Steak, Henri IV, my very first attempt at a Julia Child recipe. It was delicious and pretty easy, if a bit fussy to plate. Tonight we’ll dine on Fluffy Cracked Wheat With Mustard And Tarragon, and tomorrow I’ll roast up some tarragon chicken.

Part of the meal planning adventure includes serving up something every Wednesday from one of my many vintage cookbooks, and we’re two for two so far. On Halloween I cooked up an Irish Stew (or, since it was Halloween after all, Slaughtered Lamb stew) in ye olde pressure cooker. Actually, I used ye olde (1954) Mirro pressure cooker cookbook, but my spiffy late-model (2011) Cuisinart pressure cooker did the work. I’ve never eaten, let alone made, a lamb stew before, and I have to admit that I am floored by how absofreakinglutely delicious it is! And because pressure cookers are magical things, I went from raw veggies in need of dicing to hot stew ladled into a bowl in just about an hour.

The following Wednesday, I turned to my copy of 641 Tested Recipes from the Sealtest Kitchens for something a little less meat-centric and more retrotastic. I had hardly flipped through the pages when I came across Peppy Cottage Cheese Peppers (“A man’s main dish”) and knew that I had the week’s winner. Green peppers, stuffed with a mixture of rice (I used brown), cottage cheese, sautéed onion, tomato sauce, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, and topped with diced bacon. Not vegetarian, but at least it wasn’t based on meat. And while the squishy pink filling in the peppers looked dubious going into the oven, this turned out to be another will-make-again recipe.

My selection for this week is something called Applesauce Meatballs (Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, 1949), and I’ll have to report back with the results at a later date. I plan to serve them up with a side of spaghetti squash seasoned with, you guessed it, fresh tarragon. If there’s still any tarragon left at that point, I’ll put it in a small bottle of vinegar to steep for future use.

And on that note: until next time, my dearest readers!

*For the first time in 12 years, someone else did my laundry yesterday. IT IS DELIGHTFUL.

That moment when…

Gingerbread cupcakes with buttercream brains.

It’s Thursday night and you’re baking festive cupcakes for a party the next night and at the same time you’re boiling a roasted chicken carcass to make stock and then it’s Friday and you go to work and you go to the party (and you don’t forget the cupcakes) and Saturday you spend most of the day moving your boyfriend’s stuff into your house and then there’s a costume party and Sunday you spend the whole day moving more of your boyfriend’s stuff in and the house is a bigger wreck than usual and you spend all of Monday trying to get a grip on reorganizing furniture and clothing and wall art and you’re barely making a dent but you at least get the living room chairs out of the kitchen and that’s when you realize…

…that you never strained, let alone refrigerated, that chicken stock. The pot is still sitting on the stove. Since Thursday. And you pour the whole thing out. Because it may smell delicious (and it does) but 4-days-at-room-temperature chicken stock is probably how the zombie uprising will begin.

Shacking Up

Image via PostSecret

The New Boyfriend* asked if he could move in. I said…well, I said quite a lot of things, over the course of a few days/weeks, and none of those things were “yes.” I have concerns. Lots of them. But he heard me, and he has shown discernible effort. Around the same time as this was all under consideration, I found a spare key that I didn’t know I had, and also saw on PostSecret the postcard shown at right, and I figured I should just say “yes.” So I did.

I still have a lot of concerns. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at (there are many, actually, but work with me here) it’s worrying.

When he stopped hinting around and finally came out and asked (or rather, strongly encouraged me to ask him, because he didn’t want to invite himself) I pointed out that I’m pretty sure co-habitating usually develops when a couple already spends so many nights at one or the other’s place that they figure it will be easier to drop the commute and bag-packing. While he hates to commit to a plan, his life definitely runs on a schedule. A schedule that he does not notice, and denies when it’s pointed out, but come ON. Here’s our schedule-which-he-denies-is-a-schedule: Friday nights at his place. Saturday nights at mine. If he can fit me in, there will be a “bonus” night at my place during the week. Do you see how this might not lend itself toward me thinking “hey, let’s shack up”?

Last night was one of the mid-week nights and twice I woke up because his hand was over my face. He’s already trying to kill me, and we haven’t yet spent more than 3 nights in a row together.

Okay, some of my real concerns: He is very tidy, and I am decidedly not. I will try to live up to his desire for cleanliness, but look, if I can’t manage to organize for my own sanity, what makes anyone think I’ll suddenly do it for him? We’ll have to develop an equitable division of chores, with the things most irk-y to him on his to-do list.

A plan! A vague but workable plan!

Shoes and Pie Test Kitchen blah blah blah, I have hot-air-popped popcorn for dinner more nights than not. He doesn’t even like popcorn. So I’m going to try this thing wherein I plan meals in advance. Crazy, I know. There are a handful (or more) of sites that specialize in meal planning services, wherein the company takes your dietary needs/preferences into consideration and gives you weekly shopping lists and yadda yadda it all sounds very good. But I’m kind of “into” the retro food thing and that is never an option with these plans, so I’m going to try to wing it myself. And do you see all those WABAC Wednesdays on that there calendar? Time permitting, those should turn into some enlightening Thursday blog posts. I’m counting on leftovers or the occasional dinner out for all those days left blank.

Another worry: I love to visit Europe. Which sounds fancy, but it’s not as though I go at the drop of a hat (I wish!). However, I have managed to travel overseas on four (edited: five. At least.) separate occasions. He, on the other hand, has never had a passport. Five generations of his family have all lived within 100 miles of Denver, while I now live 1,800 miles from my own birthplace, let alone that of my parents/grandparents/great-grandparents. I grew up with NYC in my backyard, and he thinks Denver is too busy. None of this is really a concern, as he’s a willing sponge who likes to explore and learn. The problem is that he doesn’t know what he’s missing, so he doesn’t ache to return to New York-London-Paris-Munich the way I do. I’d settle for a trip to a resort in Mexico, where I’ve never been (but he has, so there’s that). Also: all of his vacation days are saved for racing and race-related events.

Which brings me to another thing: everyone thinks it’s so cute/amusing/funny to say that drag racing is his number-one priority. Except that it is. It really, truly is. I get a bang out of how much he enjoys it, and I’m happy that he is both co-driver of the #1 car and crew chief of the #2 car for the 2012 season. But running two diggers takes twice as much time as running one (which takes a lot of his time as it is), and I’m so very tired of fighting the dragsters for his attention. Tired? Hell, exhausted. Fed up. I do not see a long-term solution to this. Which in no way segues to:

Swing-Along, 1963. Click for gigantoring.

We took some time over the weekend to look around his place and try to figure out where everything will fit into my place. He doesn’t collect “stuff” the way I do, so there isn’t too much that will have to be jammed in, but there are a couple of large-scale items (vintage pinball machine, vintage cigarette vending machine) that really should go in my basement tiki bar except that the tiki bar has been completely overrun by photo studio equipment for the shop, and there is NO MORE ROOM. Consider this an open call for home organizers who will work in trade for fabulous Jell-O salads. Or photographers who will work for same. Or cookies. Or pies.

Oh yeah, and that whole “my place” thing? Mine has been the only name on my lease and/or mortgage for almost 13 years now. There have been a few short-term roomies in there (hi, Scott! We still need to make a phở date), but they were my tenants. This is not the same kind of relationship. I’m going to have to try to remember that this will be our place, not my place. If anyone has recommendations for helping that work, please do share.

Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, 1958. Married for 50 years until Newman’s death in 2008.

Upon hearing of our plans, my mother asked if we were getting married. Not that she feels marriage is a moral requirement for living together, but to be “kept in the loop.” Now, given the topic of conversation, wouldn’t you think that if we were engaged, I’d have mentioned it? Or, seeing as I hadn’t, that there was a reason I hadn’t and asking me was therefore putting me in an uncomfortable situation? (We are NOT engaged.)

BUT…I don’t want to be a girlfriend forever. The word “wife” kinda flips me out, but this whole being-single-forever thing is wearing on me. So if we can make this work and get along, I want a ring, dammit. He, on the other hand, is quite vocally against marriage. Between anyone. He is of the very firm belief that approximately 95% of all marriages fail, so why bother in the first place? Most of the marriages in my immediate family have ended in divorce, so it’s difficult for me to argue. And yet, in spite of it all, I do believe in marriage. I can’t rationally explain why, but I promise it is more than simply my desire to do something useful with my grandmother’s diamond, and an excuse for an elaborate cake. But then again, you know, cake.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I ahem, we enter into this arrangement. And I hope that he doesn’t smother me in my sleep.


*We’ve been dating for what, a year and a half? He shall apparently be known as The New Boyfriend until such time as his status is no longer “boyfriend” for whatever reason.