Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ten Months

You know what's worse than not losing any weight?

Gaining weight.

I gained ten pounds this month, and now weigh 230. I don't get to start my sentences with "Seventy five pounds ago..." anymore, because I've no longer lost seventy five pounds. I've only lost sixty five, because I managed to find ten of them again and put them back on.

I knew this was going to be a bad month when I finally got on the scale the other day. I took about a week off from meeting my step goal, because I was on vacation. I've been off diet for two months because I was off of it for a month and nothing terrible happened. I didn't gain any weight, so I convinced myself that it was ok to just keep maintaining, except that I didn't just maintain. I had extra snacks. I ate snacks while watching television. I had a big lunch and a big dinner, several times. I let myself get back into bad habits.

And I gained ten pounds.

Venice is ten pounds further away, rather than ten pounds closer. I am still obese, rather than just overweight. I weight 230 pounds, rather than 220.

So, here I am, backsliding. This month I worked against my goals, backslid, and undid some of the really hard work that I've been putting in for the past ten months, or at least for eight of them. I'm not proud of this, and I shouldn't be proud of it, but I'm also not beating myself up over it too much. I am a little, because this was preventable. There's a program, and I've been off the program. Behavior has consequences, and I am sitting around with ten pounds of extra consequences, and I'm not happy about it.

So where do I go from here?

I get back on the horse and start riding. I made fantastic progress for months because I was focused, determined, and dedicated to my process. Ten months ago, I had a choice to surgically constrict my digestive tract or to exercise and I chose the exercise. I argued that I would be able to do this, and for eight months I was doing this.

I just needed a slap in the face to remind me that this thing, my journey, my goal, my quest to become a better person, is not done.

This is a bump in the road. I have a choice to look at it, accept it, and move on, or to sit on my couch and brood and beat myself up over it. I'm going with the first choice, because I really have no choice. I was very clear that I can either lose weight or die, and I still don't want to die. I want to be a healthy person. I want to be able to take stairs, and walk long distances, and go to a store and buy clothing off of a rack and be comfortable with the idea that those clothes will fit me. I don't want to have diabetes, or to have my feet cut off, or to have a heart attack.

I gained ten pounds this month.

Now I'm going to lose them.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Month in Books: April Edition

In January when I read ten books I was all excited and thinking, "Wow, I might actually read 120 books this year if I can keep this pace up!" but then I only read eight books in February and eight books in March and I was thinking, "Oh, hmmm. Maybe eight books a month is a much more reasonable pace. 96 books is a stunningly impressive total for the year, too. Just be happy with that, ok?"

I read 14 books in April, mostly because I had a week of vacation. That means that 120 by the end of the year is once again attainable.

1) I hate to say a book is terrible, but Ben Marcus' The Flame Alphabet was a good idea that was terribly painful to get through. It was so bad that I almost preferred walking on the treadmill with nothing to read rather than keep reading this, but I forced my way through anyway, just to be done with it.

The story takes place in the near future, at a time when the sound of children speaking has become toxic. Eventually, all language, even printed text, follows, and Sam and Claire find themselves with no alternative but to abandon their teenage daughter, Esther. Even though they have to leave her, Sam refuses to give up on somehow keeping their family together, even though Esther's vocal teenage rebellion is slowly killing her parents. The rest of the book meanders through Sam's fruitless struggle to find a cure and to continue practicing a form of Judaism where he goes to a solitary hut in the woods and uses an organic device called a Listener to hear sermons from an underground orange cable that apparently spans the entire world, even though earing the sermons is also killing him.

There are a lot of problems with this book, but the basic ones are that there's never a reason why language became toxic, so the main plot is never resolved. Since it's not a plot driven novel, it then has to depend on the characters, but Sam is the only character given any kind of development, and he's just not that interesting.

It's been a whole month, and I'm still mad about all the time I spent reading this.

2) Laura Still's A Haunted History of Knoxville is a fun tour through the dark side of local history, but it would probably be more interesting for people who live or have lived in Knoxville, since it's written in a way that assumes the reader already knows the local geography. For those that don't, maps would have been helpful, but the book does have a lot of photographs and good basic descriptions. Like any good sized city, Knoxville has a dark and at times shady past, with criminals, trials, disasters, family secrets, and all of the other sorts of scandals and tragedies that allegedly cause a good haunting, and Still does a good job of storytelling and making the past come alive. On the downside, there are a few places where the text could have used a little tighter editorial hand, and the lack of stories about the University of Tennessee campus seems a rather large omission give its prominence in Knoxville. Overall, though, this was an interesting read.

Now that I read it, I kind of want to go on a Knoxville ghost tour. I also really want you to click that link, so you can rock out to the "Ghostbusters" theme song.

3) I've been reading books about Truman Capote since the end of last year, but realized the only things of his that I've actually read are In Cold Blood and some random Christmas story that was in three different English textbooks from seventh to twelfth grade, so I picked up Other Voices, Other Rooms mostly on the grounds that the protagonist and I have the same first name. That's a totally valid reason.

It's the story of young Joel Knox, who is called for by his absentee father after his mother dies. When he arrives at a broken down Southern mansion, his father is nowhere in sight, but he has a stepmother, a drunken uncle, an odd collection of household staff, strange neighbors, and the mystery of what he's doing there and where his father actually is. All of the answers are not forthcoming by the end of the book, and I'm not really sure why this was so acclaimed. Some of the descriptive passages are great and the characters are interesting, but there isn't really much plot.

4) Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe was interesting, funny, and well-written. A novel of family and regret, it tells the story of a time machine repairman, also named Charles Yu, who lives outside of time for years at a stretch to keep from having to interact with people, kept company by an operating system with low self esteem and a dog that no longer exists. His mother lives out her days in a repeating hour of time and his father vanished into the past, never to be seen again, and Charles drifts through his job, helping stranded time travelers and petting his dog, until the day that he meets his future self.

And shoots him.

Now he's racing to unravel the mystery of why his future self showed up, how long he has before he arrives at the moment when he shoots himself, where his father went, and why his future self was carrying a book called "How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe", written by Charles Yu. I really enjoyed this book, and even though it was a fast read it was still good.

5) Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist introduces the reader to Professor David Ullman, a lifelong scholar of John Milton and "Paradise Lost". His marriage is disintegrating, he struggles with depression, and after years of writing about angels and demons without believing in either, Ullman's daughter, Tess, is abducted by a demon in Venice. Challenged to find her before the new moon, when she'll be doomed to live forever in Hell, Ullman must draw on all of his books, notes, and knowledge to follow a string of clues. Pursued by an agent of the church, he will deal with the living and the dead as time runs out and face demons both actual and personal as he fights to reclaim his daughter. This was a fast, high strung but well written thriller.

6) The protagonist of Fred Venturini's The Heart Does Not Grow Back, Dale Sampson, has a painful, wonderful gift: he can regenerate lost limbs and organs. Traumatized by the high school tragedy that revealed his ability, Dale is depressed and adrift until his best friend convinces him to take his talent to television, and Dale becomes rich and famous as The Samaritan, a man who gives away limbs and organs to people on the transplant list. When the girl who got away in high school comes back into his life, Dale sees a chance to do things over and right past wrongs. The only problem is that she needs something, too: his heart, the one organ of Dale's that will not grow back. Funny, crude, and at times heartbreaking, this is a novel of hope and loss that I was glad I read.

It's been a couple of weeks, but I'm still thinking about this book. I'm wondering if I still will be by the end of the year.

7) Matthew Jacob and Mark Jacob's What the Great Ate was an interesting collection of short facts about famous people and food. There's an extensive bibliography, and a lot of interesting stories, but a few times there are stories about the same person in the same chapter and I wonder why they didn't just group them together by person, rather than scattering them with other people's stories in between. This was fluff, but interesting fluff.

8) Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin' should be a hilarious Christmas movie, but too many people would compare it to "A Christmas Story", so it probably won't be made and you should just read the book instead. I laughed all the way through the holiday adventures of Felix Funicello, third cousin to the famous Annette. After Felix drives his bipolar Catholic school teacher into a breakdown, a new, French Canadian substitute teacher in tight sweaters and short skirts makes waves by taking a hand in the Christmas pageant. She casts Felix as the little drummer boy but pits the rest of the class against each other when a casting struggle for the role of Virgin Mary arises between spoiled, rich teacher's pet Rosalie and new Russian student (and possible Communist!) Zhenya, who wears makeup, plays baseball with the boys at recess, and has boobs. Will they make it to the pageant in one piece? Will Felix's mother win the Pillsbury Bake Off with her Sicilian Shepherd's Pie recipe? Will Felix become famous like his famous third cousin? And will someone please explain the birds and the bees to him so he can stop hearing about it from sailors at the lunch counter?

I loved this book, and had no idea that Wally Lamb could write anything this light and amusing.

9) I'm not sure how I've managed to read multiple addiction memoirs over the years, as it's not normally a topic that interests me, but they keep ending up in my "to be read" pile. The latest was Bill Clegg's Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and it tells the story about how Clegg had a nice, affluent life in NYC and then threw it away on drugs. In an epic, seemingly endless crack binge, he loses his job, his home, his partner, and spends his bank account down to zero. Then he goes to rehab, works on apologies, and ends up with a nice, affluent life in NYC. It's sad to read his struggle, but at the end of the book it doesn't really feel like he learned anything. After a couple of hundred pages of crack smoking, gigolos, expensive Manhattan hotels, $3000 suits and cashmere turtlenecks, there are a couple of paragraphs of "well, I may have wrecked some people's lives and some people lost their jobs when my agency was shut down" but that's it. He gets along with his family now but he doesn't really seem to have learned anything, and he's right back in the privileged life he started with.

10) Ryan Brown's Play Dead had a slightly interesting idea: the Killington High Jackrabbits are on their way to their first ever district championship when a prank by their rivals, the Elmwood Heights Badgers, sends the bus carrying the entire team except the quarterback off of a bridge, where they all drown. Blaming himself and struggling with survivor's guilt, the quarterback and the coach's daughter discover that his neighbor, a local witch, is a big football fan, and she can raise the dead. Now he has to lead a squad of flesh eating zombie football players to one last victory, or else the team's souls will be eternally damned.

This book is sometimes funny, but it never really comes together. The horror never seems really scary and most of the non-zombie characters behave in absurd ways that strain belief. If you're reading a zombie novel and thinking about how much it strains credibility, the author is doing a bad job of conveying their story and setting. Worse, the climactic big game is almost an afterthought, rushed through and tacked on at the very end.

11) Shadows Over Main Street, on the other hand, was well written, creepy, and intensely disturbing. It's a collection of stories by various horror writers built around the theme of traditional American small towns mixed with cosmic Lovecraftian horror, and the stories are disturbing and absorbing. It was well worth a read. Even better, it introduced me to a bunch of authors that I've never read before.

12) Peter Straub's Pork Pie Hat was short and somewhat pointless. A grad student in New York City encounters one of his jazz idols at a local club, and talks him into giving an interview. The musician spends the night getting drunk and telling a story about something that happened when he was a child, but I use the word "something" because it really is never quite clear what it was or why it was so disturbing. Later in life the student speculates and tries to put together the pieces, giving the reader at least some resolution, but the disjointed, buried plot that Straub makes out of it with the story within a story structure left me pretty unsatisfied as a reader and thinking, "That's it?" when I got to the end.

13) I didn't realize that Joyce Carol Oates' Sexy was intended for young adults until I looked it up on Amazon, because when and why did JCO start writing young adult novels, but that does explain why I read it so fast. It reads just as well as a story for regular adults, and if they hadn't said that in the summary I wouldn't have noticed.

It tells the story of high school jock Darren Flynn, a swimmer and diver, who girls describe (depending on the girl) as either "sexy but shy" or "shy but sexy". Darren's a nice guy who follows rules and tries to keep his head down until the day in November when something (or maybe actually nothing) happens with his English teacher. From that point on, Darren isn't sure what kind of guy he is, or who anyone else is, either: his parents, his teammates, his coach, his English teacher, and everyone else around him aren't who he thought they were before the thing happened (or didn't happen), and he struggles to come to terms with that and define himself in the world the thing that happened (or didn't) created.

This was an interesting read. It's just complicated, and I feel weird saying, "I liked this" when parts of it really bothered me, but that may be the sign of a good book, I guess? Also, my mind is still trying to grapple with the idea of Joyce Carol Oates sitting back in her living room and thinking, "I think I'll write a book for children. Sexy children. Who have sex. Yes, that'll be a fun Monday, I think."

14) Gary Braunbeck's Mr. Hands was interesting at times, but also a little run of the mill horror at times. Overall, I liked it, but I don't know that I would really recommend it to friends like, "Wow, you should pick up this really great book that I just finished!", because it was just kind of ok.

It tells a convoluted story of a psychic serial killer, a wooden figurine with giant hands, a lady named Lucy who has suffered a string of personal tragedies, and Sarah, Lucy's daughter. Sarah loves her little figurine, which she names Mr. Hands, but after she's murdered Lucy discovers that the figurine controls a larger, much more violent Mr. Hands, and Lucy begins to use Mr. Hands to deliver her own brand of justice to the rest of the world. Once she unleashes him, will she be able to keep Mr. Hands under control? And will he prove as easy to stop as he was to start? And why is a random vagrant in a bar the one telling us the entire story?

I liked this, but it tied up a little too quickly and neatly at the end for me.

For May, I'm planning to read only non-fiction. I'll report back on how it goes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mac and Cheese

The other day I wrote about using my Pyrex collection in my kitchen, and in one of the comments someone asked if I would share the recipes for my banana bread and my mac and cheese.

I can't share the banana nut bread recipe.

It's my mom's, and I'm afraid of her.

I can share the macaroni and cheese recipe, though, because it's mine. It started out as a recipe from a comfort food cookbook, but I've adjusted it enough over the years that I think it's safe for me to say that it belongs to me now. I'll put the recipe first, and then some important notes that you should follow, or else I'll judge you.

Mac and Cheese

1/2 pound dry small pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mustard
3 cups grated cheese
1 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2) Put the butter, salt, pepper, and mustard in a big mixing bowl.

3) Boil the pasta in salted water. You want it to still be a little firm when you're done, because it's going to absorb moisture from the cheese while cooking and soften. If you start with soft pasta (why are you eating soft pasta, anyway, instead of al dente?) it will turn to mush and your mac and cheese will have poor texture.

4) Drain the pasta and dump it into the big mixing bowl. Stir it up until the butter melts. Pour the beaten egg over it and stir it up again until all of the pasta looks like it got some egg, butter, and mustard on it.

5) Butter or spray the inside of your baking dish, and sprinkle the bottom with some of the shredded cheese. Add most of the remaining cheese to the big mixing bowl, saving enough to sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese. Mix it all together until the cheese seems evenly distributed through the pasta.

6) Pour the mixture into your baking dish. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Slowly pour the milk over the top of the whole thing, getting as much of it wet as you can. (Don't just dump the milk in the middle and call it a day.)

7) Bake for 45 minutes. When it's done, set it on top of the oven to cool for about 15 minutes before serving. It'll still be warm, but the cheese will firm up a little.

Notes, gathered from several years of experimenting with this recipe:

1) It doesn't matter what kind of pasta you use as long as it is a smallish sized pasta and not a flat pasta. Shells, mini penne, regular penne, elbow macaroni, whatever you have a half pound of.

2) This is not a diet recipe. Use real butter, real cheese, and whole milk. All of those things have fat, which is going to melt and bake together and make a nice firm mac and cheese. If you use diet cheese and 2% milk the mac and cheese will be thin and weird, especially since diet cheese doesn't melt so well. If you're worried about calories, serve yourself a smaller portion.

3) Shred your own cheese. Do it in a food processor or just use a box grater like I do. My mom thinks I'm kind of a snob on this issue, but I have a legitimate reason: pre-shredded cheese in the bag has things added to it (usually corn starch) to keep the cheese from sticking together. That's fine, and there are times when that's useful. If you're making fondue, using the pre-shredded cheese means you don't have to add corn starch to your cheese, because the additives are already there and will help keep your fondue liquid instead of binding up. You want your mac and cheese to melt together, though, so shred the cheese yourself. To get the 3 cups of shredded cheese for the recipe, you need 8-10 ounces of cheese.

4) Use a couple of kinds of cheese. One of them should always be cheddar if you're making a traditional mac and cheese, but they should all be a medium or firm cheese, because then they'll all melt the same way while it's baking. Soft cheeses have a lot of moisture, and will make the mac and cheese really wet and it won't hold together as firmly. For the one in the blog entry the other day, I used most of an 8 ounce block of generic store brand sharp cheddar, and then went to the "$5 and under" bin at the fancy cheese case at Kroger and grabbed a lump of sharp English cheddar and a lump of some cheese that I forgot the name of. It felt about the same firmness of the cheddar when I squeezed it, and the label said that it was salty, nutty, and went well with beer. Since cheddar also goes well with beer, I assumed that this cheese and cheddar would go well together, and they did.

5) Extra cheese will not hurt you. If you end up with four cups instead of three, mmmmmm... cheese.

6) Any kind of mustard is fine. I have five or six kinds in my refrigerator because mustard is the lowest calorie condiment I like, so I've been drowning sandwiches in it. For this recipe I usually use Dijon or spicy brown mustard, but if all you have is a bottle of plain old yellow mustard, that works, too. The mustard adds a little bit of savory flavor to the recipe, and brings out the flavors of the cheese.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blasted Crust Pizza Rolls

You know how people say you should never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach?

You also shouldn't go to the grocery store after a long, mentally exhausting first day back at work from vacation. You shouldn't do it because those two factors, the empty stomach and the fried brain, could lead to you making some poor choices in the grocery store.

Impulsive choices.

EXTREME choices.

The kind of EXTREME choices that leave you unable to even type the word without doing so in all caps.

The kind of EXTREME choices that lead to this:

blasted crust pizza rolls

I ate Totino's Blasted Crust Pizza Rolls for dinner.

They weren't terrible, but I won't buy them again. I bought the ranch (possibly RANCH! or even X-TREME RANCH!) flavor rather than the cheddar flavor, and I guess they taste sort of like ranch. They taste kind of like you took a slice of thin crust pepperoni pizza and crumbled up a handful of Cool Ranch Doritos on top of it. They left my fingers a little greasy, they exploded on the plate a little in the microwave, and I can't stop burping, but who knows? That may appeal to you.

What appeals to me, on the other hand, is that webpage about them. It reads like the cat from Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract video wrote it himself with his biggest crayon. (As a side point, what was actually happening in that video? Was Paula Abdul dating an anthropomorphic cartoon feline? Does Paula condone animated bestiality? No wonder God cast her out of the Bratz movie.) It's not a "Saturday Night Live" parody of Guy Fieri, though. It's a real, actual webpage. Someone got paid to write that.


We’ve got four words for ya: BLASTED. CRUST. PIZZA. ROLLS.

Oh. God. there. are. periods. between. the. words. And only three of those words have to do with food. One of these things is not like the others, and that thing is BLASTED. What does this all mean?

We took regular ol’ pepperoni filled Pizza Rolls, and THREW THEM IN A VOLCANO.

A volcano? Shouldn't they be BURNED CRUST PIZZA ROLLS, then? Or was this maybe a volcano... OF FLAVOR?

But instead of lava and ash or whatever these volcanoes had MAGICAL RANCH powdery stuff and EQUALLY MAGICAL CHEDDAR powdery stuff.

Magical powdery stuff? And it wasn't an EXTREMELY large pile of cocaine? I'm starting to think that "volcano" was a food additive factory in south Jersey. Kudos to Totino's on the vocabulary words, though. "Powdery" makes me think of "powder", which is another word for "snow", which makes me think of snowboarding, and dude, bro, snowboarding is WICKED EXTREME, like these pizza rolls.

Those rolls got all covered in that powder business and blasted out of the volcano like “LOOK AT MEEEEE! I’M A PIZZA ROLL EVOLVED!! BOW TO ME, LOWLY UNDERLINGS!”

True story: That's how I start most of my staff meetings. Including the part about being a pizza roll.

Then we ran each of them over with a tiny car a few times to make those cute little ridges.

A tiny car? Full of tiny clowns, perhaps? An EXTREMELY tiny car? Full of EXTREMELY tiny clowns? How did Totino's get inside to even drive that thing?

We dunno, just seemed like a good idea.

At least as good an idea as buying these was.

In stores in February! Get flavor dust on your fingies!


My fingies.

I can't even type anymore, because my fingies are too EXTREME.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

All That Pyrex

My friends all know that I collect vintage Pyrex. As I mentioned before, this is often met with amusement, scorn, occasional support (my friends Phyliss and Kristin have proven willing to drive for hours to visit antique stores and flea markets just to look for it), and also often with questions. Here are the three that come up most often:

"What do you do with all that Pyrex?"

I display it and I use it. I don't understand why this is so hard to understand for people, but it is an eternal question, and I think it comes down to snobbery. If I said that I had a set of fancy wedding china, and that I displayed it in a fancy china cabinet and occasionally used it, the response would be more along the lines of, "Oh, yes, of course. This is what one does with fancy wedding china." Since I'm just using and displaying Pyrex, which was sold as everyday dishes and which a lot of people remember (or are still using) from Mom's and Gramma's houses, the response is more along the lines of, "That's so weird." The weirdness factor might also be because I sometimes get overly excited about finding some, but finding it is exciting for me. If it's not exciting for you, just scroll on down.

"Don't you have enough Pyrex?"

This was most recently asked by Mom while they were visiting last week. The simple answer is that no, I don't. I would like to finish my white Town and Country refrigerator dish set, because it is only half completed at the moment. (I don't care about the colored Town and Country refrigerator dish set. I only like the all white with pattern one.) I would like an Early American 404, because it is the only mixing bowl out of the set that I'm missing. I've never seen Brittany Blue in person, ever, at any store, so I haven't been able to decide if I like it and want any or not. (I thought I would like Colonial Mist and Horizon Blue, and when I finally saw them in person I didn't like either one. I didn't think I would like Shenandoah, and when I saw it in person I thought it was pretty and bought it immediately.) I feel like I might want an Orange Fiesta, a Vintage, and maybe a Midnight Bloom, but I won't know until I see them and see what people are charging for them.

Do I need these things? No.

Do I want them? Yes.

"Do you even use all that Pyrex?"

This is kind of like the first question. I was thinking about it this week, at the tail end of my vacation, so I decided to keep track of how much I used while I did some pretty average weekend cooking: I made a mac and cheese, and I'm currently baking a banana bread.

The mac and cheese ended up using five pieces of Pyrex:

mac and cheese (1)

Starting just below the cheese:

My beaten egg is in a Pyrex Family Flair creamer. Family Flair dinnerware was introduced in 1957 and continued until about 1960. It was not produced in white, even though my creamer is all white. Instead, someone has dishwashered my creamer to death between 1957 and now, and all the paint came off, so I have no idea what color or pattern it was. Since it was stripped down to the glass and was a couple of dollars at the antique mall, I bought it, and I always use it for adding beaten eggs to something. It holds about four eggs, it has a spout for pouring them out, I can put it in the dishwasher, and using it to beat eggs doesn't dirty a measuring cup, which I will probably need in the same recipe for measuring liquids.

Below the creamer is a one cup Pyrex measuring cup. I have three of these of varying ages. They're not vintage (one might be from the 1980's, so it's arguable?), and they can all go in the dishwasher.

I'm mixing up the mac and cheese in an Amethyst 325 mixing bowl. It's hard to see how purple it is because of my black countertops, but take my word for it, ok? That's a three dollar thrift store purchase, and I've started looking for the clear mixing bowls fairly recently because I can put them in the dishwasher and because I stop using my patterned, milk glass mixing bowls when I complete their sets and put them on display. (Or use them for other purposes. My Hex Signs 404, for example, is on the dresser in my bedroom, because I keep my bow ties in it. Around the kitchen, I throw my change in an Empire Scroll 043, keep my bananas in a pink 503, hold envelopes and notecards in a red Hostess bowl, etc.) I can't have a kitchen without mixing bowls and I've collected most of the patterns that I like, so I need some working bowls.

Just above the mixing bowl you can see a Pyrex lidded butter dish. I have a clear one because it was a dollar at the thrift store, and also because they didn't make the white glass patterned ones in any of the patterns that I like or collect. There's a couple that I would buy if I saw them because I can sell them to someone else in the collectors groups I belong to, but for the most part if I see a Pyrex butter dish at a store I shrug and move on.

That's only four pieces, though. The fifth was the clear glass 221 I baked the mac and cheese in:

mac and cheese (2)

I have a stack of 221 dishes. I have a clear and an opal (all white), which can both go in the dishwasher, and a Desert Dawn, a Lime, and a Turquoise, which cannot go in the dishwasher. They're the perfect size for cornbread, a small cake, brownies, mac and cheese, vegetables, etc. and I have so many because sometimes I need more than one at a time.

I guess I could have eaten the mac and cheese on a Pyrex plate, but that would have been excessive. I only use my Pyrex plates when I think they look good with the food.

The banana bread used four pieces of Pyrex:

banana bread (1)

I mixed up the batter in that Old Orchard 403. I don't collect Old Orchard, but that bowl was three dollars and I mentioned above that I needed some working bowls for my kitchen as my other bowls came out of usage rotation.

I'm also using my other two glass one cup measuring cups. Good thing I have three, right? One of them has the oil, and I'm mashing up the overly ripe bananas in the other. It's good for that because it has a handle and a wide mouth, so it's easy to hold onto while I mash with a wooden spoon.

Like the mac and cheese, the last piece used was the baking dish:

banana bread (2)

That's an Opal loaf pan. I also have one in brown glass (a gift from Mom many years ago when I moved into my first apartment; it predates me actually collecting Pyrex), and both of them can go in the dishwasher.

And that's pretty much all of the Pyrex I've used this weekend.

Hopefully that answers all of the questions.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Dark Descent Into Taylor Swift Fandom

It's been warm in Knoxville this week, warm enough that when it wasn't raining I was driving around with my windows down. That means that anyone close enough to the car can hear what I've been playing, and all this week it's been Taylor Swift's 1989. (Last week it was Steve Grand's All American Boy, which you should buy both because it is a decent debut album and also because you can hear a man singing pop songs about loving another man's sexy body.) I didn't stop to think about how weird this might seem until tonight when I ran into a friend in the Kroger parking lot on my way home.

"Joel, is that... are you listening to Taylor Swift?"



"I like her."

"You like Taylor Swift now? You?"

I do.

I like Taylor Swift.

Let me take a minute to explain how this happened. I mentioned it once before, when I wrote about how much I didn't like Beck's Album of the Year. I buy CD's, rather than just downloading the album on iTunes or Amazon, because I don't want to download every song on any album until I know if I like them or not. Sure, I could still do that with digital music files, but if I have a physical CD and don't like it I can take it to McKay's and trade it in for store credit, like I did with that crappy Beck CD. I can't do that on Amazon or iTunes. Granted, it's not what I paid for it, but it's better than nothing. With that idea in mind, I purchased Taylor Swift's CD thinking that I wouldn't like it, but also thinking that I should at least listen to it before pre-judging.

On my first listen, I was immediately scornful. After hearing "Welcome to New York", the first song on the album, my immediate response was, "This sounds exactly the way someone who wasn't alive in the '80's thinks 80's music sounded like." It gave me the same feeling that photos of sorority "80's Nights" parties does. It was very synthesizer heavy, sounded a little processed, and even though it didn't have any beats or chords in common with it the song sounded to me like a knockoff of Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait". It was later pointed out to me that Taylor Swift actually was alive in the 1980's. She was born in 1989. By the time I finished a first listen of the entire album, I believed that my preconceived notion of Taylor was still correct: She was the kind of girl that I would advise a straight guy friend to immediately break up with, because there was a seething undercurrent of "clinging nutbag" to all her songs.

I'm slow to react, though, so Taylor Swift kept playing in the car for the rest of the week.

By Wednesday, I realized that I liked the third song on the album, "Style". It was catchy, moody, and I might have gotten hooked a little by the reference to James Dean, but also it's a song about how you should really stop dating this guy but you keep dating him anyway because you're both a little obsessed with each other and when you're good together it's great but really you should just break it off for real this time because you keep crashing and burning and that's happened to me before when I was younger and Oh my God, I have something in common with a Taylor Swift song.

Taylor Swift and I connected.

It was like a door opened, and I suddenly began to hear all of the songs on the CD in a different way. I understood that yes, Taylor and I can be a little mental sometimes, but we've both dated a lot of guys who are jerks. And we kept dating them. We remain hopeful, but Jesus, we sure can pick them, can't we? By Friday of that week, five days into my Taylor Swift listening experience, I realized that even though Kelly Clarkson is my go-to for music when I'm mad about a man (because every time I hear a song by Kelly Clarkson I want to go find a man who wronged me and kick him right in the junk), there was room in my heart for my girl Taylor.

So yes, I like Taylor Swift now, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Anorak in a Sack

As I continue losing weight (or, in the case of last month, not losing any) I've been going through clothes that have been boxed up in the back bedroom for years at a time. In some cases I haven't seen these clothes since I moved here in 2006, when I opened all of the boxes to get my dishes out. (Since I packed everything myself for the move, I used my clothes to wrap all of my glassware. Some of the clothes were already too small at that point, because I'd put on weight my last couple of years in Albany, so after I got my glassware out I just threw the clothes back in the boxes for "someday" when I lost more weight.) In other cases, like the case of the hunter green Old Navy "Anorak in a Sack" that I wore today, I can pinpoint the exact last time I wore it:

Disney World receipt

Based on the receipt I found in the pocket this morning, I last wore it on Christmas Day, 2009, which I spent at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World with my friend Sean.

Look, here I am, wearing my Anorak in a Sack:

I'm calling Britain!

It might be hard to tell in that picture, but that anorak was a little tight in 2009. It's pullover-style, and it was starting not to be so easy to pull over, so after that trip it came out of the suitcase, got hung on the coat tree in my second bedroom, and was promptly ignored from then on.

Until today, when I wore it for walking around town with my parents, and my Dad said it looked a little big.

The fact that an anorak that I wore last in 2009 is a little big should be exciting enough, but here's the thing:

I bought my Anorak in a Sack (so named by Old Navy because you can fold it into itself and zip the whole thing into its own front pocket) for hall director training in the Fall of 1999. Do I fit into all of the clothes that I still own from the last century? No, but I fit in one of them. I fit into an anorak that I purchased when some of my coworkers were under the age of ten.

I'm counting this as my win for the day.