Spooky Sunday: Bad Romance

Vincent Price on the set of House on Haunted Hill, 1959

We were just dancing! It’s not like this skeleton gets me or anything. It’s just dancing.

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Women’s History Wednesdays: Constance Kopp

I don’t think anyone is going to argue with me here when I say history has overwhelmingly been a chronicle of men. Some good. Some bad. Always one sided. This is the reason why I always get excited when a woman fights her way onto the pages of history and onto my book shelf.

The most recent addition to my women’s history hall of fame is Constance Kopp, America’s first female sheriff, in the form of Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.

I bought it as a fun fiction book, and truth be told, I’m a sucker for a good cover.

It’s when I start to read that I notice this…


At which point, I yell to no one, “she was real?!” It didn’t even matter who “she” was. She was a real person. The game just changed. There’s learning afoot!

So, after reading up on the real Constance, here’s the  short version of the events that lead to her not-quite-but-hopefully-soon fame…


July 1914, Kopp’s car was struck by Henry Kaufman, silk factory tycoon. In the following months, she wrote to him several times regarding payment for the damage done to her family’s only mode of transportation, and repeatedly, he ignored her. She, as one would absolutely not expect out of a woman in 1914, sued him.

This was a man known for his intimidation tactics if it meant he got what he wanted, and in the year 1914, Constance Kopp, a woman living in the country with her sisters Norma and Fleurette, pushed back!

A campaign of harassment began to try and get Kopp to back down. Kaufman’s men wrote letters started demanding payment from Kopp, and even threatening to kidnap and sell her sister into sex trafficking. Most of the police department was under his thumb as well, so did not offer assistance.

It was when Kaufman and his men started throwing bricks and shooting at her windows in the middle of the night that she returned to the police and received some help. It was the lone sheriff who decided to take the threats seriously, and in a then (and still now if we’re honest) unheard act, armed the three sisters with revolvers for protection.

Interestingly, the guns were never used.


He would also go on to enlist Kopp’s help in a series of stings to trap Kaufman’s men, gun quietly tucked in her purse as she waited on street corners to lure out her adversaries.


So impressed with her bravery, the sheriff would go on to appoint her to the position of deputy sheriff, the first female to ever hold the title.

Kopp was quoted once as saying, “A woman should have the right to do any sort of work she wants to, provided she can do it.” You ever read about a person and think, “that’s someone I want to know?”
To learn more (and there is more!), I recommend Girl Waits with Gun. Fiction it may be, but Stewart raided the archives to get it right.

How-to: Mix and Match Bangles

Tonight I tried to teach myself how to crochet.

It was part of my Labor Day weekend initiative to  change up my rhythm and do something new.

Yesterday, I went antiquing in Milwaukee, and then to a drive-in movie. Today, I cleaned and tried to crochet.

I think we can all agree, I’m an exciting, thrilling person.

While the drive-in theater surprisingly left me with an “all is right in the world” outlook as I leaned my head out the window to stare at the stars, smell the first crisp of fall slowly moving in, and listened to Dory discover her potential as she looked for her parents, crocheting only left me with: “Am I just making fancy knots? Did the inventor of crocheting take knitting and say, ‘let’s make this harder and worse?”‘

And then I put my crochet hook down and decided to write a blog post.

You’re welcome.

I really love clothes. Not in a way that suggests people should dress in a certain fashion and those who don’t are uneducated yokels, but in a way that allows for self-expression and variation and color in what is otherwise a world filled with graphic t-shirts at work and Green Bay Packers jerseys at the grocery store. And let’s face it, those are the only two places I go.

But clothes cost money. And despite the recent email from my student loan provider saying, “We’re like you! We have loans too! Don’t hate us!”* they still expect me to pay them a lot of dollars every month.

And actual, true thing included in an email from my loan provider.

So many dollars, that I suspect they don’t actually have loans, but are, in fact, the actual Devil. That, or I made a really questionable life choice, and I need to reconcile myself with that every month for forever.

I’m pretty fortunate in that I have a job that allows for the occasional shopping spree in the Target clearance section, but sometimes I try and think up tricks to shake up my wardrobe while not actually changing my wardrobe.

Guys, I’m about to do a how-to post.

I don’t really do these. When I picture myself explaining to people how to do something, it is usually how to form a mental map of the public restrooms in the East Village of New York or how to make real chicken and dumplings.

My cooking instructions mostly go, “No. Don’t do it like that. Let me google the real recipe…” And then I forget to Google the recipe, and my friend knowingly remains silent.

But this post is actually pretty handy for anyone who wants to shake up their accessory game without spending too much money.

I recently watched Iris, the documentary about Iris Apfel, business woman known for her unique sense of style. Watching this movie, I was struck by her amazing bracelet collection. Here are some particular winners:


I, on the other hand, have one set of bangles I bought two years ago with the dregs of a birthday gift card. And, sorry fashion friends, accent bangles are a hard sell when you’re looking your budget in the face.

Taking what I had, my four bracelets and a big pile of silk scarves, I decided to go off script and try and create my own. Not revolutionary, but they do the job.

Needed:

  • Bangles (various sizes are welcome and encouraged!)
  • Silk scarves, old t-shirts, bandanas, any random fabric that you might have around. Either folded or cut into 1.5″ to 2″ strips

Accumulated over many years of birthdays, Christmases, and only being able to afford silk scarves when thrifting.

How-to:

  1. Start by wrapping the fabric around the bracelet, leaving at least a two inch “tail” of fabric to knot off at the end.
  2. Wrap the fabric some more. I jest, but this is a pretty straightforward trick. The one thing to remember is don’t overlap the fabric too much. The bracelet will feel like it shrinks in size regardless, but if you overlap the wraps too much, you won’t be able to put the bracelet back on.
  3. Knot the fabric. Knot the fabric with whatever “tail” you have left. You can either tuck the excess fabric into the folds, or leave it hanging for some flare.

You can pair different patterns together if you’re feeling crazy, or you can just wrap one as an accent.

I love this trick because if you don’t want to go “full Iris”, a statement bracelet is a pretty good way to shake up the basics.

For those who are saying, “but Meredith, what if I don’t even own one bangle?!” How on Earth do you spend the last five dollars of your birthday gift cards?!

That’s ok. A quick “Wooden bangle” google search produces countless purchasing options of less than five dollars that will do the job. Or, you could even just ditch the bangle, and wrap the scarf around your wrist. Or under your collar. Or in your hair.

Ultimately, I think it really does come back to Iris’ quote: “Wear something that says, ‘here I am today.'” Try something new or something that has been buried in the back of your closet for a few months. Try something that will make your office mate or boss say, “good for you,” but then they privately wonder if they could pull it off.

Or not. You do you. That’s always allowed.

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*What? What’s happening? Am I awake?

Review: Try the World Spain box

Tonight I got home from work planning on logging my time for the entire month of August. I am a job-haver!

As it turns out, I am also a package-haver.

I had one package from my lovely parents. It was chock-full of German treats from their recent trip to Deutschland.

I had another package from Try the World, the monthly subscription box that sends you snacks, sauces, and treats from another country. This month is Spain! Spain box!

As it also turns out, I am also a culture-haver!

The German bag became a guessing game called, “I wonder what that word means….”


Top left: I’m not sure about scharf, but it’s definitely extra. 

Top right: Haaaazlenut wafer treat? Is ‘rezeptor’ German for hazelnut wafer treat?

Bottom left: The natural mascot for salami- Robin Hood and a soccer playing fox.

Bottom right: Because I think it’s a solid life choice to avoid drinking mysterious liquids, I will probably end up Googling this one. For now, one can only assume it’s a potion for something. That’s the only thing one can assume.

But because I’m not reviewing my parents,** let’s chat about Try the World.

I was given a sixth month order for my birthday, and Spain box marks month #4. I’m already a little bummed that I only have two months left. The boxes are fun monthly surprises. You get more food than you would expect. The food is better than the Flaming Hot Cheetos you were eating before. What more do you want?

And Spain looks like it might be my favorite yet!

The inventory:

  • Espinaler canned mussels
  • Oleum Hispania Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • El Navarrico Tumaca sauce
  • El Avion paprika
  • P. Listo Jam
  • Turron El Almendro
  • Ines Rosales citrus crumble cakes
  • The Spain culture guide

Gut reaction…


What I’m most excited about: I love paprika so much! Plus my new paprika comes in a charming collectible tin. You know what they say…nothing turns the day around like a charming collectible tin! The tumaca sauce also looks like it has potential. And by “potential”, I mean it looks like something I would eat with a spoon.


What I’m less excited about: I’m pretty excited about everything? I feel like Spain box is teaching me about having an attitude fantastico!


What I’ll probably be surprised by: The mussels. They could go wrong, but I love pickled things enough to be intrigued by pickled mussels. Currently, the intrigue is outweighing the fear. (I’m telling you, Spain box is making a new person out of me!)

What I don’t know what to do with: While I’m totally down to try them, how do you try mussels in pickled sauce? The culture guide says to eat them on their own or as a pizza topping. I’m having a hard time envisioning both, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, culture guide. This time….

The culture guide tucked in the lid. Both well-designed AND educational. Live the dream, culture guide!

Review: Guys, I really love Try the World. Eternally antsy, it provides an exotic outlet every month to shake up the routine. The one downside is they occasionally repeat boxes for those who haven’t yet received some of the company’s more popular ones.

Eh- it’s a box of snacks. I think we’re all doing ok.

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**They’re mine! Back off!

Recipe Review: Chicken and Rice a la Food Lab

Some things…

this is a garbage system.

  1. The threshold on my AC unit between “Why do you hate me” cold and “I want to die” hot is only visible by microscope.
  2. My birthday was last week!
  3. I recently had a bit of a crohn’s flare.

I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past, but to clarify, I have crohn’s disease. And for those unfamiliar with the comings and goings of autoimmune diseases, you deal in ebbs and flows. Flares and remission. Totally fine and not-at-all fine.

Or in the case of my and my Crohnie-colon, totally fine and low-to-medium fine. I’m pretty lucky as crohn’s disease goes, but the flares are there and one struck this week.

When that happens, there is a certain diet I cling to while I wait for my medicine to dole out some talking-tos. The food is as inoffensive as possible, so your system can get back online while you also don’t pass out, and inadvertently pull a hilarious prank on your officemate.

My pranks are really great.

Basically-real thought processes when in dietary recovery mode:

Does this thing I’m eating taste like something?
…Yes?
Well, stop eating it!

Am I enjoying eating this thing?
…I mean, kind of.
What are you thinking?!? (Left hand smacks the Salt & Vinegar chips out of right hand)

How’s that baked chicken and plain rice treating you?
…Tastes like sadness.
DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME?! CHICKEN AND RICE IS YOUR LIFE BLOOD! IT TASTES LIKE RAINBOWS!

For me, take the BRAT diet- bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast- and add plain chicken. BRACT. BARCT. Almost-CRABS!

Sunday through Monday: A banana. Chicken and rice. Applesauce. Another banana. Chicken and more rice. Applesauce. Chicken and noodles, but basically rice. More applesauce. More rice, and also chicken. Three bananas. Rice shaped into a chicken.

On Wednesday, I felt my body gain a little traction. So, I logically deemed it all right to eat a strawberry milkshake, a cheeseburger, cream soda, and roughly 42 cherry Starbursts. (The best Starburst.) The next morning, I woke up with aches radiating out from both hips, a telltale sign I’ve done a bad thing.

It was then I decided, I needed to become a person who doesn’t assume 42 cherry Starbursts are fine. Who doesn’t currently have a deep and meaningful relationship with Flaming Hot Cheetos. Who doesn’t eat bleu cheese and hot sauce on crackers when it was too late to make dinner.

It was time to be a person! I’m 28 now! It’s time to eat vegetables and drink water and make peace with chicken and rice! Optional: Don’t make an art out of “on a cracker” meals.

Like a person-who-makes-delicious-things from above, Kenji Lopez-Alt posted a recipe on The Food Labs Facebook page for, get this, chicken and also rice. More specifically, halal-cart chicken.

It’s sound delicious. Let’s do this thing:

The chicken

I’ve said it before. Raw meat is super gross, you guys, but then it turns into delicious things, and you forget you were once faced with a bird autopsy!

I’ve also become convinced, the way to make killer chicken is a nuclear accident a marinade. And Kenji’s was pretty great.

garlic, olive oil, garlic, garlic, and also oregano

As per usual, I didn’t want to spend the seemingly thousands and thousands of dollars five dollars per spice, so instead I just upped the garlic! Never a bad idea! (Except those times it was a bad idea.)


My paranoia-pro-tip for marinading meat is the protector bowl. My biggest refrigerator-based fear is the Ziploc bag bursting, and the bowl sees to it that you don’t have to worry about that! Now, you can spend all your time worrying about spontaneous-refrigerator-explosion.

Come to think of it, other people might already use the paranoia-bowl. How should I know? I just became a person this week.

Four hours later, and it’s time to cook the chicken.

Kenji’s instructions: “Add the chicken pieces and cook without disturbing until they are lightly browned on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the center of each thigh registers 165°F. on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes longer.”

Ok. At this point, I’m looking at my three packs of chicken thighs (I grabbed an extra to cook for work lunches), and looking at his estimate of “6 to 8” pieces in his recipe. I count, and I have 20 chicken thighs. Something has gone wrong.

But what do you do with extra raw chicken?* You cook it!

enter: skillet

It very quickly became apparent that the following things were true:

  • This chicken is already disturbed. I’m cooking it. I think jostling it around the pan is the worst of it’s problems.
  • I’m not going to measure the temperature, Kenji. I’m just going to keep flipping it looks e coli-averse.
  • I’m going to die before I cook all of this chicken.

47 years later and two different shirts being treated for oil splashes, the chicken is finally done. On to the rice…

The Rice

I originally set out for this to be a one-pot recipe. It actually worked out that I was wildly inpatient, and pulled out a skillet.

According to the recipe, you melt some butter and toast the rice before cooking it, but I still wanted the good flavor bits still left in the bottom of my skillet.

Recipe-Rogue! Take half a cup of the chicken broth, and while the skillet is still hot, use it to scrape off all the flavor left behind. When the rice is done toasting, pour that into your dutch oven with the rest of your chicken broth.


Recipe-Rogue (AGAIN)! I have a hard time digesting certain vegetables -I’ve essentially written kale out of my life- but when I cook rice or soups, I always like to get some extra vegetables that the recipe doesn’t call for. It allows me to sneak some nutrition and texture in, and because with rice and soups, you’re letting it cook for longer, it doesn’t have quite the same “consequences.” Basically, cook the hopes and dreams out of it, you guys.

This time, I went with cabbage. I mixed it in with the rice when toasting it, and it was perfectly cooked by the time the rice was ready.

The Sauce

Truth be told, I didn’t go with Kenji’s sauce. It’s probably delicious, but in an effort to keep this meal as stomach-friendly as possible, I steered clear of the mayo.

I ended up crafting a homegrown tzatziki. I highly recommend Ina Garten’s tzatziki, but if you’re feeling a little more slapdash (and I will admit, nothing about this is authentic), here’s my version:

  • 2 cups of plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Dill till your heart’s content.

Here’s how…

  1. Realize you bought vanilla yogurt. Walk back to the grocery store. Double check that you got plain yogurt.
  2. Seed and chop the cucumbers.
  3. Dump all of it in a bowl.
  4. Eat with everything.

I added some radishes and some shredded carrots, and all in all, I really like this dinner plate. It’s got flavor, but nothing that would rock the boat. Would I recommend this recipe? Yes!

Do I still want to eat 42 cherry starbursts? Yes.


Growth is a process, guys.


*You freeze it. I’m realizing now that you freeze it. Bad call, self.

Q&A


When you live by yourself, you’re frequently faced with answering your own questions. No roommate to call the cable company to tell them, “The internet is slower! I know it is, you dummies! And no, I don’t need to restart my computer!” No gal pal to tell you don’t buy the culotte romper. And definitely no one to show you the proper way to carve a chicken.

Come to think of it, I could probably Google that last one.

But for the others, I have to work out my own solutions. It also doesn’t help that in this scenario, the question and the answer are coming from someone who happens to be an introvert. Introverts spend most of our time thinking about things, and then overthinking things. And then thinking about how much we overthink things, and then we think about a plan to not overthink so much.

It’s great.

Some excerpts from this weekend’s introvert-studio-apartment-Q&A:

Question: When you live close enough to work that you know some of your neighbors as coworkers, what’s worse: Running into a coworker as you take out the trash in your pajamas and making small talk in your gingerbread flannel pajamas set, or having a coworker catch you running to the dumpster in your pajamas because you’re trying to avoid running into a coworker in your pajamas?

Answer: Everyone wears pajamas. Everyone has garbage. There’s no need to run. Option B: Yell, “MY NAME IS FRANCIS!” as you’re running, so they naturally assume, “Oh, there goes Francis.”

Question: What is the best Whitney Houston song to loudly sing in an opera voice in retaliation for your neighbors ringing everyone’s doorbell at 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday?

Answer: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” No question. What is this? Amateur hour?!

propogating some cuttings because that’s a thing.

Question: If I take my potted mint plant on my walk with me because I’m worried it’s not getting enough sun, am I a little bit sad, or all the way sad?

Answer: Suburban Wisconsin is boring. They need a Boo Radley character. Take the mint.

Question: Why don’t I see anyone else smelling fruit for ripeness as much as I do at the grocery store?

Answer: Other people hate delicious fruit. Or your parent’s pranked you when they told you that’s how you check for ripe fruit because they thought it’d be funny. OR other people do it too, and you’re too busy composing a song about feta cheese in your head to notice. (As an FYI, “Feta Cheese is Better Cheese” will be my opus.)

Question: Are those the Jumanji drums I hear?!

Answer: YES! Not the construction site down the street. Now, go find companions to pull you out when the ground turns to quicksand! Probably the neighbors.

They loved your Whitney Houston rendition after all.

 

Just give me some space, Monday

Sigh. This is the time of each week when that sinking feeling starts to creep into my stomach. My sigh-rate starts creeping upwards, and try to remember how I spent my time this weekend because for the life of me, I can’t remember Saturday happening and suddenly Monday is knocking at my door.

(Upon further examination, it happened. I spent it eating Chex Mix and watching White Christmas and all the other B-list Christmas movies that Netflix offers.)

But really, it feels like someone dared last week to see how many days it can shove into the work week. I’m serious. While the typical week has Sunday through Saturday, last week felt a little more like the following:

Sunday: Hooray!

Monday: This feels slightly uncomfortable! Did I eat a bad hot dog?

Tuesday: Where is my Tuesday helmet? This is ridiculous. WHY DO YOU KEEP RINGING, PHONE?!

Tuesday #2: I thought we already did this. Oh, that was just the morning? Why is my eye twitching?

Tuesday #3: A special Tuesday where you think it’s Saturday, and then you remember that it is still Tuesday. And then you spill coffee on your shirt.

Wednesday: In order to fit this Wednesday into the typical week infrastructure, it has to be secured to the calendar with a system of bungee cords. If you jump just so you can feel the cords rebound.

Wednesday #2: When Wednesday startles you into the realization that it’s still here! I wonder if my officemate would be cool with open wailing?

Wednesday #3: You’re basically continuously sighing from your position lying on the floor under your desk.You’ve been there for twenty minutes, since you remembered it’s not almost-Saturday. It’s Wednesday.

Wednesday #4: STILL HERE! HAHAHA HUMP DAY JOKE!

Thursday: Thursday is squeezed into the week the same way you squeeze your frying pan into your pot cabinet in your kitchen. Throw it in there, slam the door, and run away while you listen to the distant clanging of kitchen wares falling down.

Still Thursday: You’re dead inside.

Continues to be Thursday: Tomorrow is Friday. Is it really almost Saturday? Is it happening? Is this when all your dreams come true???! If you close your eyes and think hard enough, can you touch the stars with your hopes and aspirations?!

Friday: Let’s all just keep our heads down and be quiet and not look each other in the eye. We’re almost there you guys. WE’RE SO CLOSE.

SATURDAY: Sleep for 14 hours and eat your weight in Chex Mix. Then make a new batch of Chex Mix. Then continue to eat other people’s weight in Chex Mix. Then you remember there is other food besides Chex Mix. Ponder eating that too.

That, my dears, was last week. So, Monday, please. Just give me a little space, here?