Monthly Archives: October 2012

That moment when…

Gingerbread cupcakes with buttercream brains.

It’s Thursday night and you’re baking festive cupcakes for a party the next night and at the same time you’re boiling a roasted chicken carcass to make stock and then it’s Friday and you go to work and you go to the party (and you don’t forget the cupcakes) and Saturday you spend most of the day moving your boyfriend’s stuff into your house and then there’s a costume party and Sunday you spend the whole day moving more of your boyfriend’s stuff in and the house is a bigger wreck than usual and you spend all of Monday trying to get a grip on reorganizing furniture and clothing and wall art and you’re barely making a dent but you at least get the living room chairs out of the kitchen and that’s when you realize…

…that you never strained, let alone refrigerated, that chicken stock. The pot is still sitting on the stove. Since Thursday. And you pour the whole thing out. Because it may smell delicious (and it does) but 4-days-at-room-temperature chicken stock is probably how the zombie uprising will begin.


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Filed under food, Halloween, holidays, kitchen, life-threatening clutter, romance, relationships

You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy…

Be True To Your Work, And Your Work Will Be True To You

…But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for. —Billy Joel

A long, long time ago (the early ’90s), in a land far, far away (Brooklyn), I was a student of design. I suppose I still am a student of design, but back then I was given specific (and sometimes not-so-specific) assignments. Okay, that’s still the case too. But at that time I had full creative control as well as very few design prejudices. And so it was for a packaging assignment that I conceived of a line of aerosol home air fresheners. At a time when the available options on the supermarket shelves were this or that floral fragrance, my line was based on food aromas. Although my entire portfolio of work from that period was lost when I moved to Colorado, I still remember that the two scents I fleshed out were Roasted Coffee Bean and Warm Cherry Pie. And that as part of my idea for a boutique line of higher-end home fragrance, the predominant color of the packaging was black.

I don’t recall my overall grade for the project, but I do remember that my professor lambasted me during the classroom critique for using black on a product that had any relation whatsoever to food. Black, it seems, is not an appetizing color.

Ahem. The following case studies were all gathered via the dieline (a collection of “the world’s best packaging design”). Clicking on any image will take you to a brief article about its product and creative process.

Okay, I’ll stop here. I think you get my point. There were certainly features of my presentation that day which could have been improved upon, but I firmly defended my color scheme. The professor overruled my argument, but I’ve never once doubted my decision. We never got the chance to do a second round of drafts in school, but real life is different. If you believe in a particular feature of your design but the client says no, you may yet be on the right track. What can you do to improve your concept so that the client falls in love with your vision? After all, that’s why the client hired you, instead of The Other Guy.

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Filed under day job, design, food, for doing the right thing., packaging

Shacking Up

Image via PostSecret

The New Boyfriend* asked if he could move in. I said…well, I said quite a lot of things, over the course of a few days/weeks, and none of those things were “yes.” I have concerns. Lots of them. But he heard me, and he has shown discernible effort. Around the same time as this was all under consideration, I found a spare key that I didn’t know I had, and also saw on PostSecret the postcard shown at right, and I figured I should just say “yes.” So I did.

I still have a lot of concerns. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at (there are many, actually, but work with me here) it’s worrying.

When he stopped hinting around and finally came out and asked (or rather, strongly encouraged me to ask him because he didn’t want to invite himself) I pointed out that I’m pretty sure co-habitating usually develops when a couple already spends so many nights at one or the other’s place that they figure it will be easier to drop the commute and bag-packing. While he hates to commit to a plan, his life definitely runs on a schedule. A schedule that he does not notice, and denies when it’s pointed out, but come ON. Here’s our schedule-which-he-denies-is-a-schedule: Friday nights at his place. Saturday nights at mine. If he can fit me in, there will be a “bonus” night at my place during the week. Do you see how this might not lend itself toward me thinking “hey, let’s shack up”?

Last night was one of the mid-week nights and twice I woke up because his hand was over my face. He’s already trying to kill me, and we haven’t yet spent more than 3 nights in a row together.

Okay, some of my real concerns: He is very tidy, and I am…decidedly not. I will try to live up to his desire for cleanliness, but look, if I can’t manage to organize for my own sanity, what makes anyone think I’ll suddenly do it for him? We’ll have to develop an equitable division of chores, with the things most irk-y to him on his to-do list.

A plan! A vague but workable plan!

Shoes and Pie Test Kitchen blah blah blah, I have hot-air-popped popcorn for dinner more nights than not. He doesn’t even like popcorn. So I’m going to try this thing wherein I plan meals in advance. Crazy, I know. There are a handful (or more) of sites that specialize in meal planning services, wherein the company takes your dietary needs/preferences into consideration and gives you weekly shopping lists and yadda yadda it all sounds very good. But I’m kind of “into” the retro food thing and that is never an option with these plans, so I’m going to try to wing it myself. And do you see all those WABAC Wednesdays on that there calendar? Time permitting, those should turn into some enlightening Thursday blog posts. I’m counting on leftovers or the occasional dinner out for all those days left blank.

Another worry: I love to visit Europe. Which sounds fancy, but it’s not as though I go at the drop of a hat (I wish!). However, I have managed to travel overseas on four (edited: five. At least.) separate occasions. He, on the other hand, has never had a passport. Five generations of his family have all lived within 100 miles of Denver, while I now live 1,800 miles from my own birthplace, let alone that of my parents/grandparents/great-grandparents. I grew up with NYC in my backyard, and he thinks Denver is too busy. None of this is really a concern, as he’s a willing sponge who likes to explore and learn. The problem is that he doesn’t know what he’s missing, so he doesn’t ache to return to New York-London-Paris-Munich the way I do. I’d settle for a trip to a resort in Mexico, where I’ve never been (but he has, so there’s that). Also: all of his vacation days are saved for racing and race-related events.

Which brings me to another thing: everyone thinks it’s so cute/amusing/funny to say that drag racing is his number-one priority. Except that it is. It really, truly is. I get a bang out of how much he enjoys it, and I’m happy that he is both co-driver of the #1 car and crew chief of the #2 car for the 2012 season. But running two diggers takes twice as much time as running one (which takes a lot of his time as it is), and I’m so very tired of fighting the dragsters for his attention. Tired? Hell, exhausted. Fed up. I do not see a long-term solution to this. Which in no way segues to:

Swing-Along, 1963. Click for gigantoring.

We took some time over the weekend to look around his place and try to figure out where everything will fit into my place. He doesn’t collect “stuff” the way I do, so there isn’t too much that will have to be jammed in, but there are a couple of large-scale items (vintage pinball machine, vintage cigarette vending machine) that really should go in my basement tiki bar except that the tiki bar has been completely overrun by photo studio equipment for the shop, and there is NO MORE ROOM. Consider this an open call for home organizers who will work in trade for fabulous Jell-O salads. Or photographers who will work for same. Or cookies. Or pies.

Oh yeah, and that whole “my place” thing? Mine has been the only name on my lease and/or mortgage for almost 13 years now. There have been a few short-term roomies in there (hi, Scott! We still need to make a phở date), but they were my tenants. This is not the same kind of relationship. I’m going to have to try to remember that this will be our place, not my place. If anyone has recommendations for helping that work, please do share.

Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, 1958. The couple, married for 50 years until Newman’s death in 2008, wed at the El Rancho Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Upon hearing of our plans, my mother asked if we were getting married. Not that she feels marriage is a moral requirement for living together, but to be “kept in the loop.” Now, given the topic of conversation, wouldn’t you think that if we were engaged, I’d have mentioned it? Or, seeing as I hadn’t, that there was a reason I hadn’t and asking me was therefore putting me in an uncomfortable situation? (We are NOT engaged.)

BUT…I don’t want to be a girlfriend forever. The word “wife” kinda flips me out, but this whole being-single-forever thing is wearing on me. So if we can make this work and get along, I want a ring, dammit. He, on the other hand, is quite vocally against marriage. Between anyone. He is of the very firm belief that approximately 95% of all marriages fail, so why bother in the first place? Most of the marriages in my immediate family have ended in divorce, so it’s difficult for me to argue. And yet, in spite of it all, I do believe in marriage. I can’t rationally explain why, but I promise it is more than simply my desire to do something useful with my grandmother’s diamond, and an excuse for an elaborate cake. But then again, you know, cake.

So it is with no small amount of trepidation that I ahem, we enter into this arrangement. And I hope that he doesn’t smother me in my sleep.


*We’ve been dating for what, a year and a half? He shall apparently be known as The New Boyfriend until such time as his status is no longer “boyfriend” for whatever reason.

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Filed under life-threatening clutter, romance, relationships

Beaten by Beets


How to Roast Beets, Shoes & Pie Test Kitchen Style

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. Remove somewhat-wilted beets from refrigerator
  3. Realize there’s only 2″ left on the roll of aluminum foil
  4. Go to store for fresh roll
  5. Get home, double-check Bittman for timing
  6. Notice that Bittman says to cook the beets at 400°
  7. For an hour
  8. Wonder if brownies count as dinner
  9. Figure you probably don’t have enough cocoa powder to make brownies
  10. Wrap the beets in foil, put on tray in oven, set timer for 1 hour
  11. Decide to instead use the forgotten, pre-cooked beets you re-discovered in the refrigerator earlier, and save tonight’s beets for another time
  12. Look up microwave times for butternut squash


Filed under Forgot To Tag

Mond…TUESDAY Rounderp!

You never call, you never write. Oh wait, that’s me. I skipped a whole week (plus) and you said nothing. Nothing at all. I will assume that this is because you are all so polite, and not because you simply didn’t notice.

The last 10 days, in summary: stuff and things, things and stuff.


The Highlights

  1. Hey, remember my other “family” over at Reminisicin’ Racing? The last race of the season was held on Saturday, and not only did Reminiscin’ and her sister, Mile-Hi Flyer, finish first and second in the day’s races, but they finished out the season #1 and #2 in points. And there was much rejoicing!
  2. Throw another hat on the stack; I’m now working part-time for a local estate sale company. I know you’ll ask: Yes, I do get first dibs on stuff, but I pay full price and I have to be nice to every jerk who shows up on every day of the sale. There are far more nice people than jerks, but if you’ve ever been to an estate sale as a buyer, you know the people I’m talking about (arguing about prices, “secretly” switching price tags [we know], and/or flat-out rude). Also, my very first sale as an employee was in a mountain home that has been vacant for many months, meaning its corners and recesses were riddled with mouse poo. I went through a small bottle of hand sanitizer in three days. Yuck!
  3. My rack of unlisted stock for Tiddleywink is still packed as full as it can get, but I kinda sorta wound up with yet more stuff for you because my dear friend Erin of Theda Bara’s Vintage Boudoir and I just had to go shopping yesterday. I also acquired 4 more foofy wedding dresses that would fill up the whole rack on their own anyway. If any of my local readers can help me with the overwhelming task of photographing (and/or measuring) all this stuff, I pay in home-cooked food! Or maybe one of these lovely vintage coats! Help! ::buried under vintage clothing::

Coming Up

For the immediate future, my Thurs/Fri/Saturdays will be spent working at estate sales. Between the on-site hours and the travel time, those days are pretty much used up, and with fitting in design/production work on my days “off,” I won’t likely be able to post to the blog every weekday as I have been. Particularly if I ever want to list new items to Tiddleywink or Winkorama again! I’m once again running out of time to get the Christmas crafts magazines listed in enough time for you guys to actually craft from them, so it’s a priority I really need to work into my schedule. Tomorrow sounds good, right? Tomorrow it is! In the meantime, you can follow my daily “antics” visually via Instagram, where I’m @ampersandwich. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can instead follow along at Followgram, where there’s an RSS link to make things easy.

And with that, I’m off to start putting up Halloween décor and to rummage the pantry for dinner. Until tomorrow, dear readers!


Filed under day job, friends, Halloween, holidays, life-threatening clutter, shopping, vintage