We’re those Lego people.

legodisplay

Growing up, I longed to play with Lego. (Lego being the proper pluralization of Lego – not Legos.) We didn’t have much of them, but one year on a family road trip we went to an FAO Schwartz and my grandmother told us she’d buy us anything we wanted. I bolted to the Lego section, as did my brother. We both knew what was up. I pulled out a lot of different sets but after being told over and over that my selections weren’t “for girls”, I proceeded to ask for one of the girly sets with the most bricks. On the drive back home, I converted the fun time “Beach Front Whatever” set into every variation I could think of and played for hours. The set came with a base plate, so it was perfect for building in the back of our minivan.

Jump cut to my adult life, with my husband. We love Lego. We’re known as adult fans of Lego, which makes me feel odd, but there you go. What it means is we have an appreciation for the engineering and amusement that goes into building these sets. Yeah, there’s a lot of Star Wars (see above) but we have other sets too. Look, there are plenty of other adults that dress up like comic book characters or spend time pretending they’re a dwarf roaming through a dungeon. We build Lego. It’s kitschy, it’s cute, it’s our nerd thing.

We’ve given each other Lego sets as gifts. I went to the grand opening of the Lego store in Houston. I still have my master builder certificate for helping build an eight foot tall R2-D2. I once carried a fully constructed Death Star II down the street we lived on from our old apartment to our new one. That walk went better than you’d imagine.

As far as fandoms go, we’re not overly excitable about it. We try to keep it to a dull roar. The display pictured above lives in our basement. At our wedding, Lego was involved, but it was subtle! Our cake topper was Lego. (And our card box, but to be fair that was actually a gift to us.)

legotopper

I mean, how cute is that?

I could go on about infinite possibilities at your fingertips when you’re building with these bricks. Or the importance of preserving a little bit of childhood. But really this is just about fun. Why wouldn’t you want to play with these and show them off?

Our Lego set building days have slowed down, but as Lego becomes more mainstream – what with that recent and popular Lego movie, as well as many geeky sets coming out… It’s a pretty acceptable time to be a Lego geek, regardless of your gender. If only I could have showed my grandmother this letter from Lego that’s been circulating online lately.

A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.

I’d like to think this message for boys and girls extends to adults too.

He and I like to make things. We just do it differently.

Husband Nick is starting a week of vacation. I am JEALOUS. A LOT. His plans are to bum around the house, relax, and maybe tinker with this place. He’s pretty handy. I think it’s why buying a house from the 1950s wasn’t intimidating to him. He has this wonderful mind where he can analyze and construct. Meanwhile, I like to research, write, and make puns with the word ‘fart’. We’re the two great tastes that taste great together. Or something.

We had a charging station for our cell phones. It was this number from Pottery Barn that I cannot fathom why they stopped selling it, because surely there are people who it would be perfect for. For us, we’d overgrown it. Observe:

oldchargingstationmess

This station worked well for years when all of our electronics were flat, shiny rectangles. But now I had a small netbook and a tablet. We needed something new. I saw this idea on Pinterest where someone turned a mail organizer on it’s side and used the slots for their electronics. GENIUS. But alas, I could not find a similar organizer.

Nick looked at the picture and immediately pieced together himself how to create one. There was wood and glue and slots involved. I was in awe. He had it together in no time.

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newstationpieces2newstationpieces3

newstationfinished

newstationfinishedbackThe back has these openings, so we can thread the power cords down to the surge protector we have mounted to the bottom of the table this sits on. (A lot of surge protectors are mountable – just look on the back for some holes. You’ll put a couple screws in and slide the surge protector on to them.) We did use some cord organizers, leftover from a project we did with Ikea LEDs. (I should post that next!) Container Store has a lot of options for this, if you don’t think you have a way to wrangle them. Compensation free endorsement: I love me some Container Store. They need one in Michigan.

In conclusion, it’s nice to have someone handy around. I try not to invent projects for him, but I do want some shelving in our tiny bedroom closet. Is this a challenge for him? Or his wife’s way of punishing him for a week of luxuriating? Eh. Maybe a little of A and B.

I had had a better title, but ‘had had’ had had some issues.

I’ve been reading Singled Out: How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men after the First World War. It’s filled with stories that came out of the tragic circumstances of WW1. Challenges I would have never imagined for those left behind when their men went off to die defending them. For a society predicated on the idea that a woman’s purpose was to be married and have children, this was a huge problem. There just weren’t enough men. The book is dense and well researched. I’m enjoying it.

I guess having a text that is so academic (and British, which cannot be divorced from an association with propriety) is why this phrase stuck out so much: “had had”

A reference to the past where you possessed something. I can only imagine how infuriating the English language can be to non-native speakers when they see things like this. Heck, to native speakers as well.

I remembered my first encounter with the phrase so vividly. I was in the elementary school library, probably reading ‘The Giver’ or some other classic, and noticed it in my book. I read and reread but it made no sense! I ran up to my librarian, proclaiming that I found a typo in a book. She explained that wasn’t the case and that having the word in the sentence twice, right after one another, made sense because the meaning of each instance was different. I walked away thoroughly perplexed.

And of course there’s situations where the word can show up even more often. Because of the way it can reference possession, the past, AND ITSELF, there is a way to use the word “had” eleven times in a row. Here’s a widely circulated academic example:

James, while John had had “had”, had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

Confused? Of course, because I look like a damn crazy person right now. But it is correct. Not that this is academically kosher, but you can head to the Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject. It contains this lovely bit of text:

See also – Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Now who looks crazy. THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. That’s who.

Tea + book = TIME TRAVEL.

These are books about the internet. I told you I was a nerd, yes?

These are books about the internet. I told you I was a nerd, yes?

I’ve had a cold, so I should also note that tea + NyQuil  = TIME TRAVEL as well.

This week’s blog post was almost pictures of horses with googly eyes. ALMOST. But I’ve rallied in time to bring you some musings about reading. I like to read! It is ‘hide indoors and read’ weather! And I like to read the dried tree paste type of books, not these newfangled electronic books that all the kids are reading. It probably has to do with the fact that when I’m on an electronic device reading, I’m also on the internet, which makes it easy to OH LOOK A CAT

What were we talking about? Books. Ah yes. So I like physical books. The problem, though, is that I am terrible about sticking with one book. Right now I’m in the middle of nine books. Just sort of shuffling from one topic to the other, going back and forth, book to book. You might say this is a terrible way to go about reading, but I read 90% non-fiction books, so it’s not as bad as you think!

This also dooms me never to use a public library. I always paid my fines as they inevitably came until I gave up on borrowing books entirely. I was never the friend you lent a book to if you wanted it back anytime soon, which stung at first when I realized it… but I’ve come to accept my affliction. It has a name: F.A.R.T. – Fickle Arbitrary Reader Thievery. To anyone that has been a victim of my F.A.R.T., I am sorry. I can’t help nature. I read as the wind blows.

What I do instead is use PaperBackSwap. The idea is that you have books. Other people want those books. You post them, people request them, and you pay to mail them the book. You get a credit of a book. You ALSO want books. You list the books you want and as people post those, they come to you in the mail. Circle of life and all that. A semi-permanent library. Perfect for me.

At this time, I’ve been a member of PaperBackSwap for seven years. I’ve gotten 235 books. The closest person I’ve sent a book to was 13 miles from me. The furthest I’ve mailed a book was 5,854 miles away. (They were in the military overseas and ordered How To Survive A Robot Uprising – a bit disconcerting but HEY I’m sure we’re all going to be fine.)

Not every book you’ll list will come around. There have been some books I’ve had on my list since 2008. But I do get a steady flow of books coming and going. If I really like a book, I can keep it. If after 40 pages I’ve decided it’s not for me, I’ll ditch it and move on to the next thing.

I’m not sure if there are other F.A.R.T.s out there. But if you’re a F.A.R.T. like me, you might give PaperBackSwap a shot. As for me? I’m going to start a new book, I think. Maybe The History of Salt?! (Yes, this is actually a book I have.) (Yes, I am a terrible dull person.)

Also: POST BONUS – sometimes you’re not paying attention and you order two copies of the same book, like this:

Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good

Let’s talk about soup, baby.

The world, as we know it, has plunged into a frozen wasteland. Here: I have created a handy weather report graphic for you.

thisfrozenearth

Nothing can save us now from this arctic hellscape – except the warm, loving arms of soup. Yes, soup. Soup is: a. warm or even hot b. comforting c. easy to make a lot of so you only really need to make the effort once and get like five meals out of the deal as you huddle and wait for the sweet release of becoming a human popsicle.

It was just new years, right? You might have had a resolution or two? Cool, cool. Was one of them learning how to cook? I have NEWS, friend. Soups are a GREAT way to learn how to cook. It’s what I started out doing. I’m a strong advocate for soups for newbie cooks. You get to try out a couple different things, see what spices and herbs can do, and build up your skills. The first year my husband and I were living together we probably ate soup a good third of the time.

This was my first soup.

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That’s it. You make the can of cream of chicken soup according to the directions, then dump in the veggies. Not the whole bag, maybe half. Once the veggies have thawed, you have soup. But then you can build on that. Maybe next time you want something starchy. So you make biscuits from a can. Make this soup. Put a baked biscuit on top. You just made pot pie soup.

But it can go on from there. Next time, maybe you add some onions. Dice them up, cook them in some butter or oil in the bottom of your pot until they’re soft. Then add the can of soup and veggies. Then experiment. Do I like thyme? Thyme goes really well with chicken. You might like to add a little to this soup. Maybe you have fresh veggies. Maybe you want to learn how to skip the can and make your own cream of soup from scratch.

This is such an easy way to get started. And cheap! If you screw it up you have three options.

  1. Eat it anyway. This option requires salt, probably.
  2. Throw it away. You’re out your time and maybe two bucks.
  3. This is probably my favorite option: add shredded cheese.

Cheese can save just about any soup. Just this Monday I made this Carrot, Potato, and Leek soup. I’ll tell you what: it was a damn bore. Pretty bland. Last night, in an attempt to save it (being as I had made like a half gallon of the stuff), I shredded cheddar cheese over it. Not a ridiculous amount. But enough that the soup was now kind of like a loaded baked potato situation and pretty tasty. SOUP = SAVED.

You can also freeze soup! So when you’re feeling lazy, instead of pizza again, you can just pull out a container of soup. I invested in a bunch of those Ziplock containers with the twisty top. Great for emergency soup supply. Also, fun fact, YOU CAN FREEZE CHEESE. Not all cheeses, but your basic shredded cheddar and the like? Yup. Cheese is magical.

There are all kinds of soups that are not hard to make that you can try out. Here’s a few of my favorites. I just looked and I have like 120+ recipes bookmarked. I might have a soup problem.

  • Tomato Soup from i am baker – My hands down go to tomato soup. It is easy, fast, and it tastes better than tomato soup from a can. It is not quite as easy as the two step soup above, but it’s not that complicated.
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup from Nutritious Eats – This is a similar ‘throw things in pot – wait – SOUP!’ I recommend using the Rotel with chiles because I feel like this mexican style soup needs a little heat. I’m not saying this soup has literally cured me of a bad cold, but it seemed to get a lot better once I started eating it.
  • Cheesy Broccoli and Potato Soup from Handful of Raspberries – Here’s a creamy soup that is comforting. Instead of celery I tend to dice up the stalks from the broccoli. That’s a nice thing about soup – if you don’t like something, you can just substitute it.
  • Italian Wedding Soup from Giada De Laurentiis – This is only complicated because there is an odd ingredient (curly endive, which if you can’t find it at Meijer or Walmart, just use spinach) and meatballs you make by hand, but it will be WELL worth the effort.
  • French Onion Soup from Sweet Potato Chronicles – A lot of recipes for french onion soup get really complicated. This one isn’t. The only suggestion I might have is backing off on the balsamic vinegar, especially if you haven’t cooked with it before. Cooking isn’t like baking. Things don’t have to be measured exactly like your recipe says for it to work.

Now some of these recipes have some advanced skills in them, but fret not! It’s just like learning anything else. You build on what you know with new skills. And all of these can be modified with more cheese. You got this. Feel free to comment if you want help getting your soup on. We are here for you. (The ‘we’ in this case is me and soup.) (Ooo. If I ever make that Learn to Cook with Soup book, maybe that’s the name.) (No, maybe ‘Soup to what’s?’ Ugh that doesn’t even make sense.)

2015 is MY YEAR. Unless it isn’t. It might not be. Oh god.

This is my last post for 2014 and I’ve been deliberating over what it should include. Dancing girls? Cats? A thinly veiled metaphor about the coming year and how I shouldn’t think about how it’s been thirteen years since I graduated high school and that I probably really should have done something worth being proud of at this point like produced one of the two unfinished movie scripts I’ve plotted out I mean you could at least get them finished as short stories everyone’s releasing writing stuff through amazon not that you’d have anything worth getting on amazon except that two star review of that under eye cream that did not reduce your dramatic case of raccoon eye but ENHANCED IT

This is my problem. I have these little defeatist conversations in my head that start out as, “You know, you should cut your hair short.” and end with, “You know, the guinea pigs only like you because you’re feeding them. OH GOD. WHAT IF THAT’S TRUE FOR MY HUSBAND.” It’s not a great headspace to be in.

It’s all about self esteem. I don’t really have any. I mean, I’m not depressed. And I know things I’m factually good at. Things I’ve seen the stats on. But anything outside of that? I just talk myself into circles and then I’m just sort of hiding alone in my basement, drinking wine, and wondering if there’s a way to tell if guinea pigs like their owners. (This may or may not have happened.) (It did.)

So YES. 2015. New Years is when people set resolutions, yes? I think 2015 is the year I learn to have self esteem. I think it’s a skill, just like anything else, that can be learned. It’s not like people can give it to you. I wish I could just say I was fishing for compliments or pandering or something else… but the reality is that when you have low self esteem, you don’t believe a damn word of it even if compliments DO come. All of the awards and accolades and kind words just sort of wash over you because YOU don’t believe a word of it. It’s like eating food you’re allergic to. You like food, you know you’ve enjoyed it in the past, but you don’t feel so great and, lets face it, an allergy is your body telling you it hates you and it wishes you didn’t suck so much and that’s why we can’t have nice things like pistachios, Lauren.

It’s sort of amazing when people have self esteem. I’m not talking about egotistical, self aggrandizing folks. I mean like. Management. Sales people. Amy Poehler. It’s just such a foreign concept to me to rah-rah yourself and be your own cheerleader. But for my friends? Oh man, you’re all fantastic. Everyone should know you and how amazing you are.

For some reason my brain is kind of broken. It’s all for them, not for me. Maybe I can learn how this works. I should at least give it a try. The handful of times I’ve been brave and said “yes” things have worked out okay. No one’s lost a limb yet and I still seems to have a fairly good reputation. I need to be more brave and really trust in myself and my skillset. 2015 I think I’ll give this a solid shake. The worst that happens is that I’m alone in my basement, eating pistachios, and asking my guinea pigs about my rash. Hell, I could be asking you.

I know it’s fall when the sunflowers come in.

In Dearborn, in front of Ford Motor Company World Headquarters, there is a spectacular sight every fall. An ocean of bright, beautiful sunflowers.

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I discovered them one day when driving around. I’ve come back to them every fall since. Sometimes they get planted early. These photos are from about a month ago when they were in their prime. They’re starting to yellow a bit now. I have a picture from last year at about this time where the heads hadn’t even opened up yet. So it varies. But they always come when the air is starting to get chilly in the mornings and the dark comes sooner in the evenings and I know soon I’ll be immersed in apples and scarfs and leaves and everything that is fall.

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I decided to research the field for a class project. There are several other fields around, but they’re all wildflowers and grasses. They also have ‘no trespassing’ signs posted. This sunflower field doesn’t. In fact, a sidewalk winds along the edge of the field, so anyone passing by can enjoy them. The field is at Michigan Avenue and Mercury Drive.

Going out there, you can hear hundreds of birds. Standing next to the flowers you can observe bees happily hovering from face to face of the giant blooms. It’s nice to commune with nature this way.

But why? Why have this sea of sunflowers?

After poking at Ford’s website, it seems that the answer is that they are pretty and provide food for local wildlife. Okay. Cool! Ford goes on to explain that the fields are part of an effort to improve biodiversity, provide a habitat for animals, and since it’s not a giant grass field they need to mow, they don’t use as much fuel. I try to be as ecofriendly as I reasonably can be, so I was pretty excited to uncover these as the reasons Ford has the field.

I’m still waiting for a call back from the company that maintains the sunflowers. I have a few more questions about how this came to be. There was an article online that attributed the idea to an employee that was like, “Hey, you know what would be awesome? NOT ANOTHER GRASS FIELD.” (not a direct quote) (good thing this is for my blog and not my news writing class) (but wouldn’t it be great if they had?) Maybe I’ll share an update with you guys here later.

Whatever their origin, I’m just happy they exist.

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Happy Friday, everyone.

When stuck with an overripe banana.

banana, overripe

Here is our single banana. Without fail.

Today’s post is short because I haven’t been feeling well, truth be told. BUT DO YOU EVER HAVE LIKE ONE BANANA YOU DIDN’T GET TO? And you’re all, “Awww man.” and it’s all spotty and the texture is too soft to be manageable or palatable in anyway, like if you could trap weird sadness inside a sandwich baggie and leave it in the sun. I’m feeling gross just talking about it. But this happens to me ALL the time.

The hubs and I typically eat a banana a day. I have weird health things so they’re one of the only fruits I can eat anymore. A balanced breakfast is a. a banana b. a yogurt from Trader Joe’s c. fistful of supplements and c. a single cup of coffee. Then I’m on my way.

But our math is usually off by one banana. One banana too many to eat them all at optimal banana status or O.B.S. We’ve tried adjusting the amount we buy. We’ve changed where they’re stored. And yet one banana always escapes O.B.S. and heads straight to Ohio. (Meaning Ohio is crummy.) (Why am I picking on Ohio?) (I don’t know, I’m not feeling great.)

I have to imagine I am not the only soul with this issue. Surely there are others who have this issue who are not as blessed as one Alton Brown, always having three to four lame duck bananas available to make his banana bread (which is delicious and if you have a chance it makes for a nice, moist, banana bread). SO I SHARE WITH YOU…

Two ways to make do with that overripe banana (that avoid throwing it away). 

Way one:

One Banana Banana Bread – The Fauxmartha (a good blog name)

Pinterest revealed to me this one banana banana bread recipe (say that five times fast) and I loved it. I’m a great instruction follower when it comes to baking, but my attempts at just tweaking banana bread recipes by half or a third so the one banana would be proportionate to the bread? Misery. Either I succeeded in baking a rock or a never solidifying lump of goo. At least someone better equipped for these matters was able to make the dream happen. I was thinking about including a picture… but why? It’s banana bread, you know what it looks like. Tada. If you click the link and you will see a stumpy loaf (which I solved by baking in a smaller loaf pan).

Way two:

Banana Nut Bread Cookies – Baked By An Introvert (also a good blog name)

Now these, THESE are great. Take banana bread. But make it slightly firmer and not as crumbly. And cookie shaped. Yes. Important to mention. That’s what these are! Now this recipe calls for a 1/4 cup banana mush, banana chips, as well as nuts. I had to neuter the recipe due to nut allergies (HEH) but I’ve never seen or heard about no kinda banana chips. So I used a whole banana and cinnamon chips. When in doubt, my friends, ADD CINNAMON CHIPS. We add them to a lot of our baked goods. There’s a storage can of them sitting on my counter so they can be available at a MOMENTS NOTICE. THAT’S HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. No photos of these because they were all eaten.

But there you have it! I have solved yet another one of life’s little mysteries. Maybe next I’ll tackle why my back hurts when I sit and my limbs get tingly. STAY TUNED.