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*holidowner.

Today is Halloween, blahdeeblahblah. I am to this day as Scrooge is to Christmas. Real life is scary enough, thank you very much. Today I was visited by a superhero



and someone calling herself "Downtown Julie Blonde."



And I found some timely costume options, should you need any last-minute ideas for uncomfortable ensembles to don before trunk-or-treating. (This appears to be a church custom I was until now unfamiliar with, wherein children safely beg for candy from strangers' cars, as opposed to their doorsteps.)

Barack Obama



Joe Biden



John McCain



Sarah Palin





Here's to the weekend, and all of the intense sleeping it promises.

(Photos courtesy of K, K, Alana Abel, USA Today, Amazon, and eBay.)
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*memo is a four-letter word.

Good afternoon, children! Today's word is "memorandum." Can you say memorandum? A memorandum is a corporate announcement of impending doom. A career obituary, if you will. Can you say "obituary"? It's what you say to someone who's been laid-off. As in, "Oh, bitch. You, Gary?"

Those of you not in publishing may not have gotten the memo, but as I believe I mentioned yesterday, THESE ARE SCARY FUCKING TIMES. And I don't swear much (in writing) on the Woodside, so you know I FUCKING MEAN IT.

I really shouldn't swear in all caps. That looks so shameful.

All of this roller coastering has affected many areas of my life, including my ability to concentrate (which I didn't have to start with) and my ability to cook (which was already tenuous at best). It has also inspired me to start stuffing pennies under my mattress, which means I cannot wander the aisles at Publix, tossing kumquats and caviar into my eco-friendly shopping bag.

No, it means I have to throw on my best crazy-repellent sweatpants, roll up my third-day-dirty sleeves, and set my face into the scowl I reserve solely for Wal-Mart. Big, desperate tears, I know.

Memorandum to Jesus: Where are my lottery winnings?

Problem #1: Wal-Mart doesn't carry anything. Oh sure, they have six-packs of Fruit Loops and cans of refried beans big enough to be bar stools, but their herb selection consists of cilantro on the brink of suicide and pinecones masquerading as rosemary.

So while I had almost all of the ingredients I needed for Ina's Brown Rice, Tomatoes, and Basil (buy it here!), I was missing one title-vital ingredient.



Brown rice, salt, sugar, black pepper, olive oil, rice vinegar, tomatoes ... no basil.

Problem #2: I don't have anything. The other options for crunch and/or sweet greenness were systematically eliminated. Red onion? Potentially four months old, judging from the mold-tinged rings. Frozen peas? There may have been some in the broken Tupperware container, but it was hard to see through the solid layer of ice.

But I followed the recipe anyway, if somewhat half-heartedly. While the brown rice simmered away, I whisked together the dressing (adding some garlic because ... I like it, and this endeavor was going down the tubes anyway) and chopped the tomatoes.



Lurking there in the background is the accursed dried basil. Worthless for a fresh salad, and an affront to the tomatoes, wan though they were.



Look how angry the fruit is. It's all, "get this motherfather oregano-looking dust offa me."

So I hastily mixed it all together and threw in some Parmigiano to make myself feel better. I find there are few things that can't be improved with cheese.



See?

So here's what we ended up with.



Ho hum. It should have looked like this, according to a smarter blogger than I.



That looks downright tasty. Mine was more overly salty and depressing.

Memorandum to Wal-Mart: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to buy a week's worth of groceries for less than $40. However, in the future, I'd appreciate it if you would stock things that aren't canned, frozen, or born in a petri dish. Get your shit together.

Aw, see there? Now you made me swear again.
5 comments

*more hobbies, fewer jobbies.

I'm growing weary of starting every post with "these are scary times" or "my job—and those of thousands of other Americans—is in jeopardy due to the tailspin economy" or "can't talk now, building bunker."

I'm really glad that all those banks got all that free money, but if they want us to reach into our wallets they're going to need to make sure we have jobs because that's what pays for the pants, which is where the pockets are.

If you know anyone who is desperately in need of unloading a bunch of cash on someone who can spell and punctuate AND speak without drooling, please give them my number. Preferably the contract for the position should include a guaranteed-for-life clause. I am not above groveling, inappropriate flattery, and/or baked goods. E-mail onthewoodside@gmail.com.

Instead of curling up with the dust bunnies in a corner of the Woodside and whimpering, I'm thinking maybe I need a distracting hobby. J has voiced his preference for "a walk every once in a while, you selfish prat," but I told him that didn't sound very fun and maybe he needs an attitude adjustment.

Our food editor has decided that the best defense for flagging morale, mounting tension, and grinding teeth is to be chased by bees. I can't match her enthusiasm for the sport—one has to do a lot of READING, and there's the ungainly outfit. And of course there are the stinging insects. But the payoff is really cool.



It looks sort of unassuming and dry there, but when you cut into it with a knife ...



you get beyootiful stuff. Amber and dripping and pocked with golden comb.



It tasted sweet and floral, although she describes it acerbically as "ragweed honey." It was a heavenly match with the salty brie. I'm proud of her. Maybe I can help her sell it on street corners after I lose my job.

In the wake of all this dire news, I leave you with this, courtesy of Chocolate Chipped and Scuzzi.





People, I have found my new hobby. Eating dessert masquerading as vegetables.
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*economic futility.

Holy lateness, batman! It's been a helluva day.

Pros: Planning ended a full 24 hours early. I may have scored JBSH a refrigerator on the cheap. I just ate dessert. I interpreted "casual" wear at work today to mean a glorified sweatsuit. J is snoring.

Cons: The fancy-schmancy $0.50 lunch container I bragged about here is defective (go figure); the adorable trap-door is nonfunctional. Planning was long and restless-making, and marked with the recurring fear that we're composing stories for 2010 when we may not be around in January.

Optimism may have taken a holiday. But! Should I lose my job, I will have even more time to troll the Interweb for coolness.

I love these as a replacement for the ubiquitous glass pendant. They have a sense of humor most lighting lacks.



Know what else is funny? This.



I know that in real life, hippos are dangerous, but as footstools they are decidedly adorable. I appreciate it as a riff on taxidermy, and I think it's sort of like turning a smile into an ottoman. You can put your feet up and give yourself a laugh. It's a twofer.

I love this for the marriage of form and function, too.



Retro fabulous, plus long legs to keep the double timers from melting on your stovetop.

That 1950s styling appeals to my sensibilities, which lately are mostly informed by the impossible waistlines, trembling cigarettes, and erstwhile paneling on Mad Men. Which is why I want to fill my cocktail shaker from one of these.



I can almost hear the CRACK! and the ensuing laughter as a rogue cube inevitably skitters across the pre-fab flooring.

I think these would garner some laughter, too.



I'd be hard-pressed to actually put fruit in one (The handle is made for banana-hanging. How sweet is that?), because fruit tends to become naught more than a rotten flytrap in my capable hands. But I'd love one in black as a centerpiece. Or a conversation piece.

These would definitely get people talking.



Have you ever seen anything prettier? They make me want to run grab some green tea and honey and crumpets and maybe a bonnet for J.

What, too twee?

How about this?



Anything that makes it easier for me to save trips and reduce the likelihood of falling down/spillage is imminently covetable.

For the longest time I've been drooling over these.



Ina uses one, and it's a genius design. Most recipes call for freshly ground black pepper, but it's difficult to freshly grind into a measuring spoon. You can just eyeball it, but I utterly lack any powers of estimation. This allows you to crack pepper into a reservoir that you can then measure from. Lovely!

Almost as lovely as this.



I love a piece of furniture with something to hide.

However, this is the prettiest thing I've seen all week.



(Sidebar: Why is my inferior toast not shaped like waffles? Discuss.) It's pristine, with a hint of fragility.

Just like me.
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*programming note.

I'll be in planning for the next two days, so posts will come later than usual.

For now, I leave you with this. Someone should be whipping these up for me, stat.

"In Grandpa Chin's opinion, his wife's greatest invention were her tofu fritters. They're essentially Asian hush puppies. Tofu, scallions, and bread crumbs are mixed with a splash of sesame oil and plenty of bacon, molded between two spoons, and fried until they puff. The contradictory pairing of tofu and bacon is crisp, naughty, and completely addictive."

From "Virginia is for Wontons," Gourmet, October 2008.
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*jog and hog.

Frankly I'm disappointed in you, my readers. No one appeared to notice my mention of FIVE KILOMETER exercise-type activity. Full disclosure: I may have lopped off the end of the route in order to saunter back with J, T, and the Fatman. But there was running. That has to count for something.

Buoyed by the mind-clearing, back-breaking (a woman of my—aherm—proportions is not meant to pound the pavement) jog, I was feeling peckish and wilting. All of that calorie burning was hard. So I decided to follow the recommended training regimen for any star athlete: I want a-foraging for cocktails and carbohydrates.



It was the most incredible blue-sky day, and Jackson's has a wide, inviting patio with umbrellad tables and demanding menus.



Fine, then. If you insist.

The waiters are laid-back alternafolk, tattooed and pierced and fresh from the vintage-clothing store. They're all friendly, and they're almost without exception dog lovers. (I was once sitting there alone with J and had a waiter ask what he could bring me to drink. When I asked for a Diet Coke, he said, "Oh, no. I meant water for the dog." Expect to play second fiddle if you have only two legs.)

I do have my usual menu quibble with this place. They're massive sheets of paper, just fluttering in the breeze and waiting for the merest gust to send them sailing across the street. Every manner of cell phone, salt and pepper shaker, and artificial sweetener container finds new work as a paperweight. My other complaint? They don't have coasters, so sweating drinks put your legs in their very own climate zone. It's always cloudy with a 70% chance of rain under the tables.

Solution? Order a drink that doesn't require ice.



Or, better yet, make your own. JLB fell in love with the blood orange mimosas, but they no longer make them. So she orders a bottle of their finest (read: least pricey) bottle (read: four) of Champagne (read: sparkling ... something). Then she jets over to the adjacent Tria Market, buys a bottle of blood orange juice, and mixes her own. Look at that bubbly sunrisey blush.

I was feeling indulgent (there was RUNNING), so I ordered the portabella cheesesteak—basically the usual Philly sandwich with mushrooms in place of meat. L Sis, a staunch fungus abhorer, struggled to watch me eat it. I'm pretty sure this meal shows up in her nightmares.



It's not bad—I usually order it when I'm feeling expansive. And in the mood for melty cheese. I'd prefer a little less sauté on the mushrooms. I like them to still have some heft to them, as opposed to being waterlogged. The bread is just. too. much. And it pains me to say that, much as I adore my yeasty boyfriends. But it's an inch thick. It's like eating a nap.

Then again, it's really just a sideshow for these.



They're so good. I know they're fried and salted and taking up permanent residence in my cardiovascular system, but oh my yum. Yes, they're just run-of-the-mill frozen potatoes, but Jackson's has perfected the potato-to-crispy-outside ratio, and they don't drench the little tubers in salt.

They are universally beloved by all mammals. See?



Yes, R is wearing a sweater. He is a delicate flower. He also wins the award for Best Begging Technique, as it seems J doesn't even understand the table orientation (Psst! It's behind you.).

Jackson's is a tough call, because they have terrific outdoor seating, friendly people, and relatively reasonable prices. But the menu somehow manages to be textbook length with nothing to offer. You can stare and stare and stare at it, and you won't see anything jump out at you as a MUST-HAVE meal. The BLT is a little dry. The pasta is a teensy bit oily. The roast beef sandwich contains a questionable cut of meat. Even the wood-fired pizzas, a Jackson's claim to fame, suffer from strange flavor combinations or skimpy toppings. Things are just a bit off, or need better-quality ingredients to really sing.

But it's OK. We'll keep going back. As long as there are blue skies and French fries.

Jackson's Bar & Bistro
1831 28th Avenue South
Homewood, AL 35209
205.870.9669
3 comments

*days of the weak.

Oh, Mondays, but you ARE a cruel mistress. The past two days have been a delicious escape from reality. Re-entry will be bumpy, but there was goodness.

1. It was wicked beautiful all weekend. The kind of loveliness that rests on this corner of the nation for only a few weeks per year, but carries with it the scent of burning fires, blistering burgers, and lurking chill. Le sigh.



2. T-Fin called today to confirm the spelling of his granddaughter's nickname for the purpose of personalizing a birthday gift. When JBSH somehow managed to misunderstand the directions, dadders grumped, "Well go back in there and PAY THEM TO PUT AN 'E' ON IT." Which made me laugh.

3. The Mad Men season finale is tonight, and there's a 100% chance it will be more compelling than last week's episode. In that it could not possibly be less variously dull, frustrating, and heavy-handed.

4. I discovered that you can play this for three straight hours while gluttonously shoveling irresponsible amounts of Mexican food into your face. You will suffer hours of heartburn and regret, but you will have stupid fun.

5. The Dog Formerly Known as Disappointing was, while not an angel, truly well behaved at the company 5K walk on Saturday. Four-legged friends ran wild, and J managed to resist ripping anyone's face off. Social awkwardness can now be ranked as hovering around Woody Allen levels. He's not George Clooney disarming yet, but it's a step up from Jeff Conaway.



Only spot of gray on the horizon: I just paid October's bills, and I'm officially out of funds. Down to the last rotten cent. But I don't have to worry about that until tomorrow. Thank heavens for small favors.
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*hurl-y.



This was titled "A Sari Sight."

Who did Elizabeth Hurley piss off at People?

(Photo by Punit Paranjpe/Reuters/Landov)
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*funfun.

Dear readers, I have come to a startling realization on the subject of my monthly expenditures. Money spent on food/booze/the buying of company is DIRECTLY proportional to the relative level of over-age pouting.

This is disturbing in part because it is a dreary day, and copy chief, office manager, photo coordinator, copy editor, and production coordinator are all taking the day off. Meaning I am an island. I have been insanely productive as a result, but I think that's at least in part due to the hope that staying busy will raise my body temperature against the current 47-degree air-conditioning they're pumping through the vents. The phones have been in and out all day, so the loud screech that results when the system goes down skitters through the silence and forces my heart to jump into my eardrums. To boot, there seems to be a vast maudlin iPod conspiracy designed to put only the angst anthems at the front of the shuffle line.

HOWEVER. An appointment this afternoon, while not hotly anticipated, will still get me out of here at a pleasantly early hour. And the iPod is currently whistling "I wanna turn it around for you," so things are looking up. If I can motor through a story about jerk seasoning and bang out a house plan, we can put this day firmly in the plus category.

Today's lunch was uninspiring (leftovers), but earlier this week I gave myself a truly luscious treat. One which AmEx will shortly inform me was not even a little bit within my means. But again there was the antsy whine and a renewed interest in the barter system (think dog-for-sandwich would work?) that gets my bank account into trouble.

My lunch partner wishes to remain anonymous—mysterious!—so I will not reveal his/her identity. For the purposes of this post, and because we all know my conversational experiences with boys have in the past few years consisted mostly of "how's your wife doing" or arched, possibly tipsy diatribes about politics—attractive!—aforementioned incognito luncher will be referred to as Mrs. X.

With the hushed giggles of two people who are embarking on an adventure they can neither defend nor afford, we headed to Chez FonFon, Frank Stitt's Frenchy venture. According to absolutely unreliable Interweb sources, this "fonfon" business loosely translates to something like, "sure, sure!" That sort of sardonic attitude endears me to the place instantly. As does the decor, which has a perfect bistro quality. The bar is prominent and mirrored, and the lighting is high and flattering. A lady in heels will have to traverse a treacherously slippery floor, but in this case the effort paid off with a comfortable leather banquette in the corner. If you could only cross your legs beneath the just-too-short tables, you probably would be inclined to spend an entire afternoon.



As with every great dining experience, the little things always thrill. Around us, people who seemed without reason to not have jobs sipped red wine from short-stem glasses. Everyone's conversation seemed hushed and conspiratorial, and the restaurant is small enough to make accidental eye contact feel like furtive glances. I was so busy sizing up the room that I was slow to notice a hand in my lap, which was the waiter sliding a black napkin into my hands (the black dress I had on was a lint magnet, so he instantly noticed that the white option would not do).

Our server was heavy-lidded and suitably snooty, with just the right hint of boredom. As Mrs. X and I scanned the menu, he ran through the specials like an auctioneer. That became the ideal setup for me to miss the soup of the day so that, when I asked about it later, he was able to somehow say "tomato" in a way that conveyed both wonder and pity. I loved him.

Our drinks arrived, followed by the bread.



Beautiful. No crumb-catching napkin, no deep basket requiring spelunking for greasy corn muffins. Just artisan bread, locally made and baked that morning, with a dense middle and dirtily chewy crust. Plus butter that is somehow exactly the right softness, presented without fanfare (TAKE NOTES, people. You know who you are).

Mrs. X then had this exchange with the waiter.

Mrs. X: Is the chicken salad really mayonnaisey?
Waiter, gently chastising: It's a sandwich.
MX, confused: Yes, I know ... but ... is it mayonnaisey?
W, so over it: No.
MX: No?
W: No.


She ordered it. I don't think she thought she had a choice. I ordered the "tomato, stupid" soup, which came swollen with cream and topped with chives and a drizzle of olive oil.



You think you've had tomato soup, but you have no idea. Mrs. X wanted to pour it on pasta, but I proprietarily snatched it back. This was meant to be eaten just as it is served—with a wide spoon, so you taste the oniony chives, the fresh tomatoes, the sweet cream, and most importantly the red pepper that gives the already comforting soup extra warmth. It's difficult to describe the marriage between the pureed tomatoes and the cream. The richness gives the fruit a confidence it didn't have before. It's like pumping air into a tire; everything gets round and puffed-up and proud.

Alongside I had the ratatouille tartine: toasted bread topped with herbed farmer's cheese, a mixture of citrusy roasted eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, and onions, crowned with spicy arugula.



This was lunch's only misstep. Either someone was asleep in the back or the fire was just up too high, but the edges of my tartine and Mrs. X's sandwich were BLACKENED. It wasn't so hard to cut away the burned bits, but the smell of char overtook the more-delicate aromas, making the whole dish somewhat less appetizing. I think there was goodness to be had here, it was only slightly hampered by the carcinogens.

There was a 30-minute debate on the merits of pommes frites for dessert, but ultimately we both chickened out and less-than-satisfied ourselves with gazing at them longingly as they went by on other people's plates.

Sated and lovingly berated, we asked for our checks.



They came in gold-embossed red leather folders that should have been stamped with "Budget Blown." But the food was delicious, the atmosphere was funny and warm, and we were undercover. It was bad for my wallet, but so good for my psyche.

Chez FonFon
2007 11th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35205
205.939.3221
1 comments

*chew on this.

"What the heart wants is intimate conversation. The rest is an excuse."

Turkish saying, from the excellent "An Insider's Guide to Eating Like a Turk", Gourmet, October 2008
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*sighs matter.

These are some trying times, people. Just when you think your only choice is to tread water, almost 20% of your coworkers get laid off and it's time to swim for your life. In an effort to distract myself from Big Life Decisions (nothing was ever accomplished in my life that didn't follow a hefty dose of denial), I meme-d ... me.

The Omnivore’s Hundred
(from Andrew at the Very Good Taste blog)



Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their lives. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food—but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.
Here’s what I want you to do:


1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.


The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Well that didn't go well at all. I thought I'd have tried more of these! Although now that I know what poutine is, I'm going to be running out to get it immediately (that horrible Wikipedia picture notwithstanding. This one,



from Los Anjealous, could almost make me forget the time-to-decide-what-you-want-to-do-with-your-life-and-stop-resting-on-your-spreading-laurels-lady speech that's swirling in my head.

TAG TIME! I tag L Sis, Southern Foody, JR, and S.

If you have any interest in providing me with fried stuff, cheese, and/or cocktails, please leave your contact information and/or credit card number in the comments.
5 comments

*catching up on correspondence.

Dear Brooke,



Please send me that coat. Also your watch. And your ageless skin. And some of that I-have-a-secret happiness would be nice. Oh, and maybe some of those green grapes behind you. Those look good, too. Your friend, K.




Dear Madonna,



I'm terribly sorry to hear about your recent hardship, but with people trying to paint you as a cult-member/health-obsessed/control-freak nutjob, this sort of look is more Tom Cruise on Oprah than it is Jilted and Sympathetic Jennifer Aniston. Take care of yourself, K.




Dear Rob and Robbin,



This video is more than a little creepy, not only because Rob's arm looks like it's none too pleased to be resting uncomfortably on Robbin's shoulder. I feel I should also let you know that the word is pronounced "par-tick-you-lar-lee," and notify you that when you say you want your children to "make up their own minds," we all know that's code for wanting them to think precisely as you do. (Which is what, exactly? That "traditional marriage" is sexless and the homosexual "lifestyle and behavior" is not? Because that might make me reconsider my I-like-boys stance.) I did laugh a little when you said that children will now be learning about homos at every level. Because when Robbin said they would be gayin' up math, well ... that was just funny. Cheers, K.

PS People tell you you are wrong and bigoted because you are.





Sarah Palin:



I am writing to inform you that, though you have spent more on clothes in one month than I spent on my (as yet not foreclosed on!) house, I very much like your boots. The patent leather ones you wore on SNL were a smidge kitten-with-a-whip, but these garner my approval. I still think you're kind of an imbecilic hatemonger. Smooches! K.




Dear Elizabeth,



No, sweetie. Just no. It doesn't fit, and you look ridiculous, and your best girlfriends should all be fired. Hugs, K.





Dear J,



I need to know why you insist on being as far away from me as possible on the sofa, but you will cuddle for hours with a tiny dragon. I'm starting to take it personally. Thanks, K.




(Photos by Mario Magnani/Bauer-Griffin, Splash, AP, Dave M. Benett/Getty, and me, respectively.)
6 comments

*economic futility.

Last Tuesday's virtual retail therapy was a smashing success. (I even got letters telling me what a wonderful, life-changing experience it was to read about all the cool things out there that only I, as a single lady with more than a few spare hours, have the leisure time to explore. Full disclosure: It was one letter. From my mom.)

However, I have nonetheless decided to make the roundup a regular feature. Think of it as my gift to a struggling economy.

YOU'RE WELCOME, Henry Paulson.

With everything so dire and alarmist these days, I think it'd help to wake up to this.



It is a well known fact that pants are universally funny. Perhaps the world would be a kinder, gentler place if more of our foodstuffs had trousers on.

With the stock market riding a carousel, maybe it's time we all put our vast wealth into precious metals. Gold seems like a safe bet. It's heavy, but also stackable, which means it would fit well in that end-of-the-world bunker you're building. Plus in the right place, like here, it's so very very pretty.



I'm not sure why they come in a set of five, but odd numbers appeal to me, so I'll take it. I see one of these with a slice of chocolate ganache cake garnished with an African violet. Or, you know, something less specific.

I do like items with an outrageously specific purpose, though. I try not to own too many of them, because multitasking tools are efficient and space-saving, but the indulgence is so tempting. Who wouldn't want some of these?



Granted, I'd probably curse anyone who attempted to make me use them at a party, because I'd be destined to tilt the tiny plates and send caviar plopping to the floor or into my fizzy Champagne (on second though, yum). Still, any object turned into jewelry is a good thing.

Need something manlier? I love grilling accessories, even though my Weber is naught more than a rain gauge. This just seems like an idea that was a long time coming.



By the way, how sexist was that? Meh, it's Tuesday. I'll be back in fine feminist fettle before you know it.

Or maybe I'll just be the wilting housewife, sighing by the fireplace and sewing. If I were, I'd use this.



That cadet-blue-meets-rusty-orange color combination is one of my favorites. I think it'd make perfect place mats on the Woodside, but I'll have to ruminate on that idea. I suspect it would require me to eat from something other than a reclined position.

Chowing down frozen foods on the sofa does not make for a tidy proposition. So I think I can justify snagging some of these.



I love the soft, farmhouse styling, but I mostly want to replace the older-than-I-am Charlie Brown (no, seriously) hand-me-down dish towels from my parents. The printed characters have faded into almost unrecognizability, and the fabric has the general tattered aspect of having become the plaything of a many an aggressive washing machine. Yes, I occasionally do laundry. I'm not a pig.

Know what is a pig? This.



HILARIOUS. You put it over your sauté pan or simmering soup pot so that everything cooks evenly, and the steam comes out of its nose. Steam. Out of its NOSE.

I'm 4.

Not really. I'm thinking 4-year-olds can't buy booze. And I have a couple of terrific hooch-related ideas. One makes me think immediately of the Js.



If my father were a white-wine drinker, this would be his birthday or Christmas present, no question. I know it's not exactly a new idea, but it's such a smart solution for a common problem (keeping the white cold) without the unwieldiness of the ice bucket. And it's handsome, to boot.

I'm going to steal this handsome idea from lovely blogger Joanna Goddard: the 1930s party.



I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to pull off the easygoing style, but celebrating "the (new) Depression" strikes me as terribly clever. And American.

But if all else fails, I'm just going to have to keep freelancing my ass off. (That came out "freelancing my sass off," which: HORRORS!) So I'll be needing these.



Bonus feature: They'll make me look smarter than I actually am. Downsides: I can't afford them. And I have no business contacts.

Luckily I also have no qualms about handing out my contact information to strangers. ESPECIALLY if they're wearing pants.

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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