Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why I love canning food

I feel as I get older, I find myself doing "old people" things. Who blows off going to the bar to do a crossword puzzle, make dinner and go to bed at 9 o'clock? Oh wait I do that now. (Only on weekdays, though. I'm not that lame ... yet.)

Either way, this evening I was reminded of an "old person" hobby I have - canning food. I had totally forgot about my stash of fruit and veggies hiding away in the kitchen cabinet until I had a craving for something sweet and spotted my homemade canned peaches. I hadn't tried that batch yet and I was pleasantly surprised with myself when I did.

Andrew gorging on peaches. You can tell how happy he is to pose for me.
This summer, I finally had the room and time to have a garden. I shared duties with one of my roommates, so I won't take all the credit for making it grow, but it GREW. By July we were pulling 5 to 6 cucumbers a day. We had pounds of green beans and zucchini and squash big enough for the state fair. Needless to say, we had more vegetables than we knew what to do with.

My solution: buying a canner.

Living with three boys who worked a regular 9-5 all summer, and working all night shifts myself, I had plenty of time during the day to try out my canning skills. I canned squash and blackberries. I tried my hand at jam. I made pickles, dilly beans, and spiced peaches. Some of it was awesome (the peaches) some of it was not so hot (the jam). Overall though, great success!

An array from the canned goods shelf.
The whole time I pickled cucumbers, I hummed Greg Brown's song "Canned Goods" - a favorite of my mother's and begrudgingly, now one of my own. Although I didn't quite feel like a grandma, I understood where ole Greggers was coming from when he sang:

"Ah she's got magic in her - you know what I mean
She puts the sun and the rain in with her green beans ...

You can taste a little of the summer
My grandma put it all in jars ...

What with the snow and the economy and everything
I think I'll just stay down here and eat 'til spring."

There's something extremely satisfying about eating the food you grew and preserved yourself. There's a pride in my mason jars that makes my food taste that much better because 1. I'm surprised I did it well and 2. It's totally mine.

Although I'm not really a grandma, and I didn't can nearly enough to fill a root cellar, I feel that sense of doing something traditional; something with roots; something to pass on. I'll be sure to save at least one can of dilly beans to eat this spring when the world is ready to produce again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why dressing like a slut doesn't count as a Halloween costume

Tis the season ...

Halloween is one of my favorite "holidays" on the calendar. The fall colors are in full bloom, jack 'o' lanterns dot the streets, and there's a general sense of excitement in the air. Obviously a huge part of the holiday is choosing a costume. The feeling of choosing a costume can be overwhelming. You want to be eye-catching and original, but you only have one night to make an impact. With a million choices on hand, here's what NOT to do:

Don't dress like a slut.

Wearing your bra and some angel wings doesn't count as a costume. You are not a Victoria Secret's model for a reason. I don't care how hot you are.

Wearing a skin-tight body suit with a police hat does not make you a cop. I'll give you props for actually wearing a full uniform though.

Wearing cat ears and something black and skimpy does not make you a cat. You're not kidding anyone.

Let's be real, Halloween is really meant for children. The only reason we "adults" still dress up is for an excuse to throw a party. You don't see children dressed as models or "sexy" flight attendents or playboy bunnies. If they are, their parents are not right in the head.

I've heard the excuse "it's my one night to dress slutty" a million times. Guess what? If you're dressing super slutty on Halloween, you're probably not the most conservative dresser to begin with and most of your costume probably came from your existing wardrobe. If you're dressing for the attention from a roomful of drunk guys, are you really going to want to walk-of-shame it in your underwear and some fairy wings Nov. 1? Fail. And the guy you hooked up with is probably still covered in bits and pieces of his costume as well. I can't imagine it would be that cool to wake up to a stranger still wearing his Flava Flav clock or his Jersey Shore blowout.

Choosing an adult costume should be about creativity. If you dress like a slut, you are not very creative. Take a look around the party. You're not the only one dressed as a firefighter whore.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why waitressing is actually the greatest occupation

Let me just start by saying I hate waitressing.

With that aside, let me divulge into why I shouldn't ...

I started waiting tables the summer after my senior year in high school, in a shit-hole tourist trap on the bay in Belfast, Maine. It didn't take me long to figure out I was pretty good at it. I love talking to people, I'm a superior multi-tasker, and more importantly I love having a plethora of cash in my pocket (even if none of it makes it to my savings account.) Five summers later I have some epic waitress skills spread across New England.

So here I am, approaching 23 years old and I'm in the market to wait some more tables. I just took a part-time job at a pre-school and almost cried when I got my first paycheck today. I won't tell you how small it was, but let's just say a good night in a busy restaurant would have covered it. Which is exactly why as much as I don't want to wait tables anymore ... I kind of do.

Let me break down the benefits for you:
  1. The earliest I've ever had to be at work is 10:30 a.m. - that's plenty of time to get my hungover ass together - and you're usually out by the time it's socially acceptable to show up at the bar.
  2. I get to work with a gangle of servers my age who are (for the most part) working for a bigger picture. I've made some lifelong friends this way, mostly thanks to Giordano's on Martha's Vineyard.
  3. Waiting tables is pretty much recession-proof. Trust me, I've diligently been reading the classifieds.
  4. Once you've waitressed (and you're not a total idiot) you can do it anywhere.
  5. Sometimes, if you're lucky and you work in sweet locales, you get to meet famous people. My list includes Steve Carrell, Joan Rivers, and Conan O'Brien.
  6. You. Make. Money. On a busy summer night in MV or Connecticut, it wasn't unusual for me to make $200 or more in 5 or 6 hours. You might be exhausted, annoyed with every customer in the restaurant, and need a drink like never before, but let's be real - you made close to $40 an hour.
I could go on an on about the annoying parts of waitressing (rude customers, shitty tips, screaming children, stupid uniforms, etc.) but it looks like I need to make my way back into the restaurant business.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why I love thrift shopping

Don't get me wrong, I love a new addition to my wardrobe as much as anyone else, but when it comes to an exciting shopping trip there is nothing that compares to thrift-shopping. It's basically a hit-or-miss visit, but when you hit, you hit it hahd. (That's 'hard' in a Maine accent. It makes more of an impact when you say it.)

I guess I'm loving-up on second-hand so much right now because I just made the most epic Goodwill purchase. Take a glance at my new bike:

From what I can tell from my internet research and bike enthusiast friends, it's a mid-1970s Columbia road bike in perfect condition. 50 bucks. Not a scratch on her. Even the tires are original and in fairly good shape. (I put a little air in them today and was set to go.) So thanks to my good friend Mike Powers, who convinced me to buy it or he would, I now have what he has deemed "the hippest bike in Orono." Hipsters of Maine, turn your heads as I ride by your skinny-jeaned asses.

Beeming over my newest investment, I started to think about what else I've snatched up from second-hand stores.

Here's my coffee maker I bought for a quarter at the Orono Thrift Shop:

She's no beaut, but she works. And seriously ... it cost a quarter.

Here's my giant cast-iron pot I bought at the same thrift store for 50 cents:

It's currently filled with delicious corn chowder - my favorite.

As I look around my house I can see a handful of other second-hand purchases just within armsreach. I actually have a whole bookshelf filled with used books priced between 50 cents and 4 dollars I got at an ongoing library fundraising sale this summer. I have a framed photo on my wall from Salvation Army, my endtables came used, my roommates and I will eventually start our unopened puzzle from Goodwill, and my favorite necklace in the world was rounded up at a vintage clothing store called (appropriately enough) 'Rhiannon's Vintage Clothing'.

Now I'm not saying any of this stuff is particuarlly nice. (Although some of it you'd never be able to tell it was used.) But it all has a few things in common:
1. It works
2. It was insanely cheap and
3. I like it.

I mean there's something about buying items so cheap that makes you proud. It feels like an accomplishment to tell someone "Oh, I actually bought that at Goodwill," when they mention the object in question. Not to mention, there's some kind of thrill to finding something you need/want in a store full of someone else's discards. You may look through a pile of junk all day until your gem seems to find you. Plus it just feels good to step away from the "consumerism" of the mall sometimes.

And let's be real, on a lazy Sunday afternoon (just like yesterday's inspiration to browse Goodwill), it's just fun to look.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

But why a blog?

Well mainly because I've been fighting them for so long. That and I never thought anyone would want to read the shit I ramble about anyway.

But I've given in, so read it and like it ...

Firstly, this blog is inspired by my dear friend Stephanie. I've known Stephanie for a few years now. We met while working at a restaurant in Martha's Vineyard three summers ago and it was love. I always knew Steph kept a blog, but I'm horrible at following. When I came back to the island for a few weeks this September, I started playing closer attention. Steph was an English major in college and I majored in journalism. Being the smart girl that she is, she kept reminding me ... even if you're not writing for a job yet (and I do hope I am someday) ... you need to keep writing. I'm hoping this blog keeps me doing just that. You can follow her here.

Secondly, I have a lot to bitch about. End of story.

And last but not least, the reason I've chosen 'But why?' as my blog name: I've recently begun working at a pre-school for children with behavioral issues. (Besides wanting to be a hardass journalist, my other goal is to be a teacher.) Although they need constant redirection, they still like to ask you why. But then again, most three- to five-year olds do. Since I hear it a million times a day, I thought I would use it for inspiration.