9 Outta 10 Ain’t Bad

Wow. This list (minus the Albanian question — I’m not Albanian) sums up about half the conversations I have with strangers. Ok, probably not half — but one lady did ask me if I shopped in the children’s department (while I was wearing a business suit!).

I’ve also been told that I could “fit in someone’s pocket.” That puts an awkward twist on most conversations. You see, I don’t really want to hang out in anyone’s pocket. There’s lint in there. And my short little legs are fairly good at walking.

I’ve gotten used to living in a world where a lot of good stuff is out of reach. Because of this, I rely on two things:  (1) the “jump and grab” — a move used to get items off grocery store shelves and out of my kitchen cabinets; and (2) a little step stool that has five puzzle pieces that spell “Laura.” I got my “Laura stool” when I was a young pup, and I use it almost every day to reach my pants in my closet.

I think short people should date tall people. Short people need tall people to reach stuff….and tall people need short people to clean little corners that only short people can wedge into. It just makes sense.

I’d like to add a couple “short people” questions to the list:

#11. Do you sit on a phone book when you drive? (Answer:  No. But I used to sit on one of my grandma’s old couch cushions.)

#12. Is your mother short? (Answer:  No. She’s several inches taller than I am. I’m a short person who was born into a family of average-sized people.)

Now, I must go find a tall guy and ask him if he plays basketball. Then I’ll ask him how the weather is “up there” and see if he has time to change a lightbulb for me.


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My Orange Bowl

Most people probably think Orange Bowls involve football. Most people have not seen my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in the fall.

They’re mostly in bowls. And they’re mostly orange.

There was a short period of time when I was honestly concerned about turning orange. Now, I think it would be kind of fun. Turning orange would be kind of like the ultimate self-tanner.

And, judging by the massive quantity of squash and pumpkin I’ve been eating lately, I should have a nice “tan” by Thanksgiving. How festive!

Here’s a list of some of my favorite orange foods:

1. Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin.  It’s fabulous. Trust me — I’ve tried the other brands. Trader Joe’s is the perfect consistency of canned pumpkin. Lately, I’ve been eating at least a can a day. I put it in my morning oatmeal, eat it straight out of the can with cinnamon, or mix it with some Trader Joe’s sunflower butter or plain yogurt. Your co-workers may laugh at you for eating pumpkin straight from the can. This is ok. They’re probably just jealous.

2. Buttercup Squash. No, I didn’t write butternut squash — I wrote buttercup. My parents bought me a buttercup squash a couple months ago, and I’ve become completely obsessed. My grandma used to make squash when I was little, and THIS was the kind of squash she made. I just thought it was some sort of magic grandma-squash — hence, it’s been kind of a dream come true to realize buttercup squash is available at my local grocery store.

The only downside to the buttercup squash is that each squash is quite large. And, after I roast a squash, I need to eat the entire thing. This little habit could lead to an orange Laura. (It also causes my mother to say “Laura! You didn’t eat the whole thing, did you?! You’re going to turn orange!)

3. Pumpkin Greek Yogurt — another Trader Joe’s gem. I need to stock up this week. Last week, my yogurt-purchasing plan was foiled when the lady in front of me put the entire pumpkin yogurt supply in her cart. This week I’m stockin’ up. Beware.

4. Pumpkin butter. The name says it all. Pure deliciousness. I finished my last jar with a spoon.

5. Pumpkin hummus. I believe Whole Foods is the only place that sells pumpkin hummus (the package says “pumpkin hommus,” but that spelling kind of weirds me out — unless you want it to rhyme with Thomas).  This stuff is most definitely the best hummus (or hommus) I’ve ever eaten. With enough pumpkin hummus, even a smelly gym sock would probably taste fabulous.

Seriously — try these foods. You won’t be disappointed. You may be orange — but definitely not disappointed.

And, if you see me wondering around, please compliment my fall “tan.”

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Goodbye Garden, Hello Pumpkin!

I’m slowly accepting the fact that warm weather has left Iowa for a while. I’ve managed to stick with my mantra of “No Heat ‘Til No-vember,” so my furnace is still in summer hibernation. However, I have cranked up my electric mattress pad and dramatically increased my hot coffee/hot tea intake. Oh…and soup. I’ve already eaten a vat of the split pea variety.

Life has a funny way of balancing the not-so-good stuff with good stuff. It just works out.

I’m really not a fan of cold weather. It makes me want to whine and pout and complain. (Although I have learned I get very little cold weather sympathy from my mom when haven’t turned on my heat. In fact, she left a voice mail with the following message:  “Laura, your grandpa was cheap, but even he turned on the heat!” True, Mom. Very true.)

I believe the universe invented pumpkin to help me cope with fall and the inevitable sub-zero temperatures, frozen nose hairs, and icy driveways. I even think my love of pumpkin exceeds my hatred of cold weather.

Pumpkin makes everything better.

My garden is a barren wasteland of rotten tomatoes and dried leaves. I can handle this depressing fact as long as there’s pumpkin for my morning oats.

My fingers and toes freeze when I walk from my car to my office. I can deal with this as long as I have a can of pumpkin in my work bag — Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin is a delicious snack. Trust me. Heat it in the microwave with a bunch of cinnamon and your office will smell like pumpkin pie — my co-workers will attest this scent is much better than the usual scent of Brussels sprouts.

The list of delicious pumpkin food items goes on….and on. Bubba Gump had shrimp. I have pumpkin — pumpkin coffee, pumpkin scones, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin butter, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin soup, pumpkin beer, and pumpkin dog treats. I can honestly say I’ve eaten all these things in the past couple weeks. (Trader Joe’s dog treats really are good — I’m trying to convince other humans to try them. And I’ve only eaten a few bites — even I have standards.)

But, as I celebrate the glory of all things pumpkin, I’d like to give my regards to Veggie Garden 2012. It was a nice garden. It appreciated my frequent waterings and occasional TLC and provided me with delicious foodstuffs.

This year’s rock star items were:

1.  Tomatoes — Brandywines and Mr. Stripeys brought joy to my taste buds and helped me maintain a 10-tomato-a-day habit. This habit may have eroded a portion of my stomach with excessive amounts of tomato acid, but it was soooo worth it.

2.  Kale — I felt like I won the veggie lottery every day! Few things in life beat picking awesome kale leaves out of your back yard. Plus, kale leaves really cook down — hence, I was able to fit giant amounts of kale in my skillet and eat it all in one serving. Pure bliss!

3.  Parsley — it’s not just decorative! Who’d a thunk? It packs a little parsley punch on salads!

4.  Carrots and Beets — digging these little veggie friends was like digging for Christmas presents. I literally gasped for joy when I dug my first big carrots and beets! Literally! (The neighbors probably wonder about me…)

5.  That Random Yellow Squash — squash borers have ravaged my zucchini, cucs, and squash-items for the past two years, so I didn’t really think the yellow squash seeds would produce squash. Oh, was I wrong. I apparently planted “the little yellow squash that could.” The plant was attached by squash borers, but it lived on! While one side of the plant died a fairly gruesome death, the other side lived through a drought and kept growing little yellow squash. Unfortunately, my love for yellow squash doesn’t run as deep as my love for other veggies. But — I had to show some love for a squash plant fighting so hard for life and succeeding. So, I picked all the little squash from the ugly plant, blanched ’em, and froze ’em. My freezer is all full of the little miracle squashes.

Honorable Mention:

1.  Blue Sweet Corn — this year’s crop was very pretty…very tasty…and very small.

Here’s my corn crop*:

*[Note:  these are two pictures of the same ear of corn. My dad, the Iowa farmer, will be so proud to see these crop pictures.]

Goodbye, Veggie Garden 2012 — may Veggie Garden 2013 be filled with more toms, kale, and much more corn.


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The Sweet Smell of Sprouts

Ah, the Brussels sprout. A thing of beauty.

I like to think of myself as a Brussels sprout evangelist. My standard advice for almost anything is “eat more Brussels sprouts.” And I practice what I preach — I can eat my way through a Costco two-pound bag of sprouts like nobody’s business.

Because I enjoy the little veggies so much, I tend to forget they do have a somewhat…unique odor.

I was reminded of this on Tuesday. My co-workers and I decided to throw our bosses a little surprise potluck for Boss’s Day. I brought Brussels sprouts. I cooked ’em with a little Dijon mustard, butter, salt, and pepper and let them mellow in a slow cooker for 4-5 hours.

The only problem is, the slow cooker was on the floor of my office from about 9-noon. This really let the sprout odor permeate my office. Finally, a co-worker (who happens to be very anti-sprout) drew a picture of a half-moon, taped the paper to my office door, shut the door, and declared my office smelled like an outhouse.

Meanwhile, I was peacefully drinking my morning coffee in my travel mug — until I spotted something green in the lid of my mug. The mug gets a bit questionable from time to time because milk tends to congeal in the lid. However, I’d never seen green milk. I was convinced I was probably going to die. When I investigated the situation further, I realized a Brussels sprout leaf had somehow wedged its way into my travel mug lid. Slightly weird and slightly gross — but unlikely to result in insta-death. Crisis averted.

So, I leave you with various lessons I learned this week:

– Brussels sprouts can be rather odoriferous when trapped in a slow cooker in a small office. (isn’t odoriferous a fun word?!)

– Some co-workers really don’t like this smell. (The guy who hauls away our shredded papers definitely didn’t like the smell of my office — his face was kind of hilarious. As was his sprint away from my office.)

– A car will smell like Brussels if the slow cooker full of sprouts was transported in a car after the sprouts had been cooking for about an hour. (Thank goodness it was a nice day — the car did air out after about an hour with the windows down.)

– I’m currently convinced that the large amount of Brussels sprouts I consume has left me with a permanent cabbage BO. This hasn’t caused me to decrease the amount of Brussels sprouts I consume — but I am in the market for a deodorant that goes well with cabbage (dill? balsamic vinaigrette?). I’m open to suggestions.


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I can be a bit stubborn.

I like to think this is a good trait. It’s what helped me dig up a metal clothesline and hacksaw it in half so it would fit in my trash container.

It’s also what prevents me from turning on my heat.

This is exceptionally unfortunate because I’m also the coldest person ever. [my blood doesn’t really go to my extremities, and I’m forced to deal with stubby purple fingers and toes during the winter]

Oh, and I’m kind of cheap. And I like to be eco-friendly. Heat seems eco-enemy.

Stubbornness, cheapness, and cold-blooded-ness do not mix well.

PLUS — to complicate matters even more — I have a watermelon from my garden in my fridge! (my yard did not get the memo that it’s pumpkin season!)

Let’s put all this together and take a look at my current situation.

My house is currently 60 degrees. I ate almost half a watermelon tonight. This caused my insides to become exceedingly cold.

I was able to bring some warmth to my soul with a pound of Brussels sprouts.

I probably need to pack up my remaining watermelon and move to California. Or build a fire pit in my house.

Or….I could listen to my mom and turn on my heat.

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I’ve Got Worms!

*Meredith — this is your official warning — you may not want to read this post. Proceed with caution.

Meredith, my roommate, doesn’t really care for worms. She’s more of a dog person. I told her she never has to look at, care for, or deal with my worm population. (Hence, the warning. I’m nice like that.)

And it’s all courtesy of Urban Worm Girl. And John.

My worm buddies were my 30th birthday gift. Because, really, what girl wouldn’t want red wiggler worms for her 30th?

There they are! If you look really closely you can see my little worm friends waving at the camera. They’re such hams…er, worms.

I named them all. All of the worms are named Mumford Sophet — except two. The worm located farthest west is named after a co-worker who works in Council Bluffs. Council Bluffs is west of Des Moines, so it makes sense. One other worm is named Chad Jasmin. This is the name of a friend’s boyfriend — I just like the name. I’ve never met the person.

I’m extremely proud of my name selection. Mumford Sophet is really fun to say. Repeat it a few times…..Mumford Sophet….Mumford Sophet….Mumford Sophet. See? Wasn’t that fun?

The Mumford Sophets are responsible for eating my compost. They are supposed to be excellent at this.

So far, the Mumford Sophets don’t appear to be eating that much. Or, perhaps I was expecting their appetites  to be human-sized.

I’m trying to be a good worm mom to the Mumford Sophets. I talk to them and sing to them. And I worry about them.

I worry I’m feeding them too much. I worry I’m not feeding them enough. I worry the Mumford Sophets don’t have enough bedding and aren’t comfy. I want them to be comfy.

I also worry that too much of the Mumford Sophets’ diet consists of coffee grounds. I love my coffee…and the Mumford Sophets are eating my compost. Hence, my compost is extremely caffeinated.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle.

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You Say Tomato…

…and I question whether it was a gift, or someone’s sneaky attempt to poison me with a beautiful fruit.

It all started on a very ordinary day last week. I woke up, rolled out of bed, and traveled out to the garden to do some watering with my camouflage-printed bucket. (it always takes so long to find that camo bucket)

I watered my plants, walked around the house to the front door, and saw this:

A perfect tomato! Sitting on my doorstep! Right in front of the door, in a location where it would certainly get smooshed if someone walked out the front door.

At first, I was filled with joy:  a perfect tomato was placed on my doorstep! What a great day! (my horoscope predicted great things; who was I to argue with the universe?)

I adopted the tomato and set it on the kitchen counter with other tomatoes. It felt right at home.

Then, I began over-analyzing the situation.

Why would someone set a tomato on my front step?

It wasn’t one of my tomatoes — I didn’t grow toms that looked like that.

The tom didn’t have any dents or bruises, so an animal didn’t put it on my doorstep…unless it was a helper monkey…a tomato helper monkey. (I realize the odds of a tomato helper monkey delivering a tomato to my house are relatively slim — but there is a zoo on the other end of town.)

OR the tomato could have been planted by some enemy I didn’t even realize I had. Perhaps this enemy has really studied my behavior and knows I love a good tomato. This enemy would predict I’d slice into any fruit or veggie that arrived at my door. After I took the first bite, the thin layer of poison coating the tomato would slowly seep into my insides and cause my demise.

I felt very conflicted over this front door tomato, so I did what any reasonable person would do — I asked John, my co-workers and my 93-year-old grandma what I should do.

One co-worker didn’t think I should eat the tomato. Another encouraged me to eat the tomato but then consume a variety of “detox” foods (i.e., spinach, berries, kale) to counteract any potential tomato poisoning.

My grandma encouraged me to eat the tomato and shamed me for possibly letting a beautiful, fresh tomato go to waste. When I expressed my fear of being poisoned by the tomato, she suggested giving John the first bite. (She did apologize after making that suggestion.)

John didn’t really like that option. He didn’t think sampling the mystery tomato was a wise idea.

After I continued to whine to co-workers about my tomato dilemma, the co-worker who initially told me to eat the tomato and then detox provided an even better suggestion:  he suggested I lovingly place the mystery tomato in my compost pile. This method allows me to give thanks for the gifted tomato and get a teeny bit more compost.

I think I’m going to opt for this method — it seems better than letting the tomato rot on my counter or eating the tomato while googling signs of possible tomato poisoning.

Moral of the story:  if you give fruits or veggies to a friend or neighbor, leave a note. Or leave a helper money on the step to inform the recipient of the non-poisoned nature of the gifted tomato.

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