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Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Cooking: Just Do It

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By the age of 30, I strongly believe that everyone, male and female needs to have at least ONE signature dish. They also need to make one good breakfast food.

Man and woman cannot live on takeout alone. Besides, you are going to be broke and you’ll still be hungry.

I won’t lie. I didn’t always know how to get down in the kitchen. My mom was a working mother and even when I wanted to help her, she’d take a deep breath and say, “baby, I’m so sorry, but I just want to get this done.”  As a working woman myself now, I totally get it. So don’t think my mom is some horrible person who didn’t have time for me. She had to feed us and then move on to the next thing. It’s ok. I have never held that against her. In fact, I admire her even more.

However, it did push me to work harder when I was learning and making mistakes.

There is something about a home-cooked meal and there is a certain level of satisfaction I get from cooking a meal, it being really good and others enjoying it. I am one of those people who believes cooking for people is a way of showing love. Including when you cook for yourself. If I make some fish in the middle of a work week, I sit there and say, hot damn this is good. I didn’t get it from a drive thru, this came from me.

In my last relationship, we cooked for each other and cooked together very often. His jambalaya was amazing, and he couldn’t wait for me to make some homemade salsa or my pulled pork (family recipe). Being in the kitchen together, we’d talk about our day, we’d play music and even dance together and share glasses of wine. We’d brush up against one another, trying to maneuver around the kitchen and flirt. Those were among my fondest memories.

We even combined both our mothers’ recipes for mac and cheese and it was soooo delicious. I can’t bring myself to make it that way anymore, since we aren’t together. It just doesn’t feel right. But see how powerful food is to our memories and our senses? It’s deep.

Either way, like many women of our generation, when I was younger, I thought cooking was counter to being an intelligent, successful, professional woman.  In our early twenties we seemed to fight against cooking for whatever reason because it seemed like it was what we were supposed to do for men, and it didn’t sit well with us.  It seemed like the girls our age who cooked, were always doing it for some dude and that’s all they cared about. Pleasing some dude.

Now that I think about it, was just plain stupid.

When you get older, you realize both kinds of girls were on to something, and the women who can balance both concepts were the ones who got it. Those women had great careers and seemingly happy relationships. Eureka!

The women in my life, like my mother who were the ultimate multitaskers, cooked awesome stuff that just made you feel good that you know you couldn’t have anyplace else. They certainly weren’t mindless Stepford wives, kowtowing to their men.

I tried cooking during my college years, and frankly, I sucked. I just couldn’t get it right. My friends make fun of me to this day for such failures as the pot roast (also called the ‘not roast’), the raw fried chicken and the burnt pancakes.

Eventually, I got it together and I was not only making edible food, but it was starting to taste good!

As I get older, there is also a very emotional aspect to it. I cook certain things to preserve family traditions that I don’t want to be lost forever when the people who started them pass. I have an aunt that passed away almost two years ago. I remember calling her up to learn how to cook pulled pork and she talked me through it the whole way. The same friends who dissed my not roast, raved and continue to ask me when I’m going to make the pulled pork again. (A six-hour labor of love, sauce made from scratch)

When she died, those of us who really enjoyed cooking wanted her recipes because even though she was gone tasting that food would be a physical way to still feel her. I’m sure she felt that way too when she got those recipes from her mother. My grandmother died before I was born, but because Aunt Mae still cooked the homemade soup, and because she, my mother and my Aunt Margaret, (both of whom married into the family) learned the pulled pork (what we call chopped bbq) and the strawberry roll (my mom pulled ahead of the pack on that one) and homemade ice cream (Aunt Margaret is the leader on that one), we all shared in my grandmother Laura’s legacy.

So ladies, if you are about to be 30 and you are still against cooking because you think it’s about pleasing a man, it’s so much more than that.

It helps, I won’t front. Because a lot of women these days don’t want to cook or they can’t, these men are hungry. I plan to write about all of the men being at Boston Market, lol.

I’ll leave you with this tidbit to chew on:

I asked a male friend what comes to mind faster, a mind-blowing sexual encounter you had or your mom’s best dish?

He said his mother’s best dish.

Case closed.

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Too Grown for a Christmas List??? Nope, Not Me

I’ve decided I am not too grown to have a Christmas list.

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After all, I’m being helpful to the people I love the most. I mean, I’m not going to have a detailed list like I did as a kid, where I actually cut the pictures out of catalogs and circulars (finding the lowest price), but I think it’s a good idea to have some reasonable things in mind when family and friends ask you, “So what do you want for Christmas?”

Shopping for grown people can be a pain. You don’t want to waste your money by getting someone a crappy gift and you don’t want the people you like and love to think you are just some thoughtless twit phoning it in.

For people who aren’t that close to me like coworkers and such, they can’t go wrong with a $10 gift card to any of my favorite lunch haunts (Chipotle, Panera, Potbelly). It’s a great, usable idea that will never be a waste. I also love Ghirardelli peppermint bark. That is addictive and it’s seasonal so it’s not going to always be around. Or pick me up a box of Zen Tazo tea. Those things make me happy and it’s inexpensive. One year I purchased cases of diet Coke for co workers who were always wanting a can, but not wanting to go to the vending machine. They were set and they were thrilled. So simple!

I do expect my dad to get me a new digital camera, he helped me break it during our family reunion this summer and he hinted at replacing it.

I told one of my homies that I really, really want a nice infinity scarf and I saw a nice one for under $20 at Nordstrom.

There’s another awesome Michael Kors scarf that’s a little more pricey that I would feel better about treating myself to rather than having them cop it for me.

I saw this Lulu Townsend brass knuckle clutch at DSW, and it’s kick ass. It’s red and they don’t have it in black, and I don’t even mess with a lot of red, but I just want it. I’ll figure out what I can put it with later. I’m the queen of oversized bags, but this one made me stop and take notice.

You are my homie for life if you get me a gift card to the eyebrow threading place I go to. Sometimes I forgo it to be cheap and tweeze at home, so it’s a real treat to me. I think if your friends go to the same eyebrow spot or nail salon, it’s a no-brainer to give them a gift certificate to the places they frequent for personal upkeep.

Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar (big or travel size). The only product that truly moisturizes my face for real, for real. Especially the times of year when my nose starts peeling! This is a perennial winner because the large jar of hope in a jar should last you until next Christmas when someone can buy it for you again. These are the luxury beauty splurge items that can last, and you feel a lot better when someone else gets it for you.

Body by Burberry perfume. It smells nice. That is all.

The Lockheart wedges from report shoes. I saw these in an outlet near my parent’s house over the holiday for $70 bucks. They usually go for $90. I couldn’t pull the trigger, because I was being responsible, but damn, they are hot. These are stupid hot, because they give the illusion of a regular heel, but upon closer inspection, it is indeed a wedge.

I also am cool with new dishes, pans and knives. Is it just me, or do you some how lose forks? I don’t understand that.

Speaking of kitchen items, this is too expensive for someone to buy me, but because I’m flat-footed, when I cook for a long amount of time, my feet start to hurt really bad. These Anti-Fatigue Kitchen Mats are the truth and can provide me a little relief, while I’m preparing the grub.

I’m a salsa-making champion. This bowl makes sense for my life. Love the store Uncommon Goods. They have awesome quirky gifts.

That’s what this girl wants. Pass it on to my loved ones if you see them in the streets! Make your list too!

Rant Warning: The Dangerous Act of Comparison

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A good friend who is in her 30s told me over a few glasses of wine, that if women were truly honest with themselves and especially their women friends, our relationships wouldn’t be so complicated and we could combat the jealousy that sometimes seeps in.

She’s right.

In that moment, I told her that there are times I am downright jealous of my friends– her included.

I want what they have. There, I said it.

Some of my friends have awesome cars. I have an 11-year-old car that’s hanging on that I won’t finish paying for like two months from now.

Some of my friends have beautiful homes. I have a modest apartment in an ok neighborhood.

Some of my friends make way more money than me.

I watched a friend purchase a handbag that cost more than the rent I was struggling to pay at the time. She wanted me there not to rub it in my face, but because she was proud she could finally afford something like that and wanted me to be there. We both dreamed of shopping in those stores as broke college kids. She had arrived. Me, I’m still stuck in traffic right about now.

I was there, I was proud, but at the same time I was nauseous, envious and bitter. I was paying for gas with couch change and waiting until my direct deposit kicked in so I could eat at the McDonald’s dollar menu at 12:01 a.m.. Those were the worst financial times for me ever.

Back to the honesty, I eventually told her how I felt that day and I knew she didn’t set out to make me feel like a broke-ass loser, and after a teary exchange, all was well.

Some of my friends get to travel around the world. I’ve been as far as south as Mexico (had to work two jobs to get there) and as far north as Canada.

Some of my friends are in solid relationships. Well, you saw my blog, the one I wasn’t afraid to write anymore. I’m totally not a candidate for a solid relationship right now, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting the same thing too.

Comparisons are a bitch. Facebook doesn’t help. I say over and over again Facebook is a PR machine for regular people. You can edit your life and make it seem kick ass to everyone else. You can bend the facts. Case in point: A friend of mine told me about his 11-year-old student whose Facebook page lists him as a graduate of Georgetown University and CEO of Chuckie Cheese.

It makes no sense to me, because the people who really know you know the truth and think you are stupid for lying and there’s no need to impress the people you aren’t really that cool with anyway. They really don’t care. Or if they do, they are lying about their lives too.

My life really isn’t that bad. I’m thankful for what I have, I really am. But I just have these moments. It’s torture, because I don’t wish bad things on these people. These are my friends. I’m just temporarily jealous.

I even said a prayer to God, to look ahead, and not look around me. To stay focused and actually get the strength to make my life better on my own terms, take control of the things I can control and not try to compare myself to others.

I’m competitive by nature. And to me, the essence of competition is comparison. Performance has to be measured and someone is just going to always be better than someone else at something. That’s life.

The thing is, for every great thing that’s happened to each of my friends, they’ve totally paid a high cost for it and worked hard to achieve it. I roll with great people. They’ve gone through things I probably couldn’t have handled. While those material things are sweet, there are situations and struggles I know for a fact those friends would gladly exchange those material things for.

Part of being grown is being honest.  Some days when I feel crappy about myself, I compare myself to other people. Real talk. Even when I know in certain aspects, their lives aren’t necessarily “better” than mine, I’m still jealous.

Sometimes.

 

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