Monday, June 24, 2013

Homemaking on the ranch (or in this case a suburban condo)

Even my mother has made careful note that I have been born outside of my century. She often discusses that she is unsure where my homemaker gene comes from, more specifically the kitchen gene. Mom does not do much in the kitchen other than warm microwave meals. She hates cooking. She tolerates baking and somehow her daughter could live in the kitchen carefully crafting homemade meals and goodies all day.

The summer is about taking advantage of what is available. Nearly every fruit and vegetable is widely accessible freshly straight from the farm. Our 855 square foot condo does not offer garden space (surprising). The best I can do is visit the many farmers markets, join CSA’s or hope that a nearby neighbor will sit out fresh offerings for free (it happens all the time).

Looking over the pantry this weekend, I noticed the absence of jam. I love toast, waffles, and muffins. Many folks would be happy with a jar of store bought jelly but my last purchased jar yielded no identifiable fruit and within 2 weeks, I had a jar of sugar. The first ingredient in jam should be fruit, not sugar, fructose or fruit flavoring. Surprisingly, jam is easier to make than many people think. It involves few simple ingredients but it does test the patience of any kitchen cook.

I picked up a pint of fresh strawberries from a nearby farm on Saturday morning. By late Sunday morning we had fresh strawberry/ ginger jam. I tossed my Smuckers jar in the trash. Jam, from berry to canning stage takes less than an hour and it is worth the careful attention to detail (stirring...stirring...stirring).

Chopping strawberries for jam-5 minutes

Boiling fruit and sugar for 10-15 minutes
 I’d like to think if I lived on an Alaskan homestead I could prepare adequately for winter. I could make jam, sauces and other canned goods without fail. I could “process” chickens. Unfortunately, there is no need for me to do this for the condo except when I refuse to have too much over processed food in the cupboards. I do not fret about winter because our streets are plowed. I have no room for a chicken coop. However, should the apocalypse come, I am sure, we will be well prepared. Let us eat jam.

Finished product: Jam

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Most Perfect Jeans...EVER (I think).

My wardrobe is in distress. I hate clothes shopping. Most women I know hate shopping for themselves. I believe most of us feel buying clothes only shines a spotlight on the flaws we see and we don’t want others to see. Blame it on poor lighting, cheap craftsmanship but honestly, it’s just poor self-esteem.

By now, I’ve reached the age, where I’ve encountered several styles of jeans. I’ve tight rolled stonewashes jeans, scraped bricks across denim for the perfect distressed look, purchased jeans with holes made my machines. I seem to recall a time when my jeans were adorned with neon splatter paint, also done by a machine. There was time, I wanted my wardrobe to be “in.”

With age, comes denim maturity. I am a petite girl and when the skinny jeans craze rolled into town two years after the first sightings on the coasts, I felt awful. I do not have long matchstick legs. I have short, stocky, bicycle/ runner legs. Skinny jeans are painted on. My alternatives were boyfriend styles with larger saggy waistlines, the infamous mom jeans with heart shaped curved pockets, or the classic boot cut when and where I could find them. I opted out of all jeans and wore skirts or sporty motifs (yoga pants).

Like many women, when I say I have tried on every pair of jeans, I know for certain, I’ve tried on hundreds, if not, thousands of pairs of jeans. I’ve been to every store, outlet, chain and consignment shop for jeans. I’ve tried all the major name brands and the off brands. I’ll admit it, I’ve sampled jeans at Walmart. They did not fit but if they had, $19.88 would have been ONE amazing price. I’ve tried boutique jeans in excess of $175 per pair telling myself that IF I found a perfect pair, it would be worth it (The jury is still out on this thought process). Thankfully, none of those jeans worked either and I avoided a disastrous spending nightmare that I would have likely never been able to do.

I compromised and purchased a simple straight leg cut from Talbots (on-sale). They were a darker wash and did the job when I needed to wear a pair of jeans. They were stiff and uncomfortable but they fit (sorta). I was neither happy nor upset with the jeans. They made me feel like I was wearing clothes. That’s it. I just dreamed of a jean nirvana that may never happen. I never gave up hope and luck is a mysterious lady.

In a fitting room inside the newer Anthropologie of the south, my friend and I embarked on an Olympic sized task one Friday evening of trying on dozens of sale garments hoping for the rare gem amongst the smaller label designers. Most women I know under the age of 50 enjoy the relaxed look and feel of Anthropologie clothes but few of us can enjoy them at the retail prices. I enjoy wearing that small designer that is not a huge name and running the red carpets of NYC fashion week yet. My salary says otherwise. Thankfully, they know that their clientele seeks bargain among the short batch produced pieces. They’ve devoted a room to the sale items carefully organizing and zoning discounted pieces. On this Friday, I did find a buried treasure. I found the PERFECT jeans.

These are perfect jeans. The AG Petite Angelina
Among the racks were carefully placed shelves where several piles of pants folded atop one another. I reached over my head to sort quickly through the material mountain. Folded in a heap were red ankle pants, purple suede kitchy pants, and a single pair of jeans. I was almost defeated before I even unfolded them. I'd picked up a pair of AG Petite Angelina Boot Cut jeans. Had it not been for my friend saying “just try them on,” I may have returned them to the heap like a discarded tissue. The one lonely pair appeared to be my size. I threw them over my shoulder with some hesitation with other sale room items breaking my forearm beneath.

Louisville waited for years for an Anthropologie. It finally arrived.

Between divisional privacy walls, we sampled each of our selections. We offered each other a quick peek fashion show when we felt an item was not too embarrassing. I had two piles of clothes, one mentalley labeled ‘yes’ and the other labeled‘no.” The ‘no’ pile had more items. I slid the jeans on last and much like a kid being told they are going to Disney for the first time, I wanted to scream. These jeans FIT…they FIT GREAT…they felt GREAT. I raced out of the dimly lighted fitting room to the degrading three-way public mirror to pay careful attention to all of my self-proclaimed flaws. I tested them, bending over, squatting and pulling at the threads. The jeans were not pinching my legs. They were not painted on. They were not embellished with cheap crystals spelling out adjectives used to describe fruit. These jeans were dare I say it, PERFECT. It got even better when I grabbed the sale tag to find them onsale…DEEPLY on sale.

I wasn’t about to proclaim victory without carefully grilling the sales staff about these jeans. “Are these being discontinued?”, “Do they change styles often?”, “Do they come in weird cuts?” I fired questions at her one after another. I’ve been burned before having purchased a pair of jeans only to learn they are were later sent away to some jean heaven without any ceremonial send off. The sales lady was as calm and collected. She’s had this happen before. Once I was assured, I knew the jeans were coming home with me. I found jeans that fit, that I like and I could afford.

I realize that my obsession with finding the perfect jeans may be a true obsession but I feel everyone deserves clothing that fits and makes them feel good. As women, we are so closely judged by what we wear. It's hard to not be somewhat self-concious. Feeling bad is only enhanced when we have ill fitted clothing.