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Archive for the ‘Car’ Category

Thrifty Finds

I like old stuff. For starters, Alec and I bought a house built in 1907. And with the exception of, like, underwear and mattresses, I like poking around garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist for cool used stuff. (Alec enjoys old books so much that he once almost picked up one from a garbage can outside the Strand. I freaked out and he relented, but not before pointing out that the book was on the top of the pile, like that eclair that George Costanza ate in Seinfeld.)

On Saturday, our friend Erin (hi Erin!) joined us on a trip to the Vintage Bazaar, a pop-up flea market held in a storefront next to the Congress Theater in Logan Square. I had heard about the Vintage Bazaar from an acquaintance, who said she scored a vintage manual typewriter in good working condition at the previous one.

I had taken measurements around the house beforehand and was hoping to find an end table, occasional chair or maybe even a sideboard that I could paint for the dining room. Sadly, we did not score any furniture items – nor did I take any photos, because I forgot my camera. Oops! But you can look at the Vintage Bazaar’s Facebook album to get an idea of the event.

Despite the lack of furniture finds, I did score these awesome boots from Dethrose Vintage (sorry for the dark photo):

They were in pristine condition and I think they would have been snapped up sooner by someone else had they not been in size 5.5. Lucky for me!

After the Vintage Bazaar, we headed across the street to Village Discount Outlet. This particular location was pretty sad and messy, even for non-trendy thrift store standards. It’s funny how an item – say, a ceramic dish – looks like a rare steal for $15 at a place like the Vintage Bazaar, where everything is clean and laid out nicely and staffed by hipsters. But take that same dish and stick it on a Village Discount Outlet shelf where nothing is over $2, and you wouldn’t give it a second glance.

I did, however, find a milk glass-esque vase (I don’t think it’s real milk glass), and Alec found two paperback books. Everything was 50% off over the weekend, so the grand total for all three items came to…88 cents. Now that is a bargain! And I decided to put the vase in the passenger seat cupholder; I’ll buy a silk flower at some point to stick in there. It’s like my version of the Volkswagen Beetle bud vase.

Not bad for 30 cents, eh? Between the boots and the random car decoration, I’d call this a pretty successful shopping weekend.

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Comfort Food Weekend

We got a car this weekend! It’s a 2012 Honda Fit and we love it. Alec wondered whether we should name the car. I suggested Fitzwilliam Darcy; he countered with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then we decided to leave the car nameless for now. The first trip we took with the car after taking it home from the dealership? The grocery store!

The open road was calling our name, but friends were coming over for a late-afternoon lunch, so we had to hustle to the supermarket and back home to start cooking. And it ended up being a pretty domestic weekend because with the weather turning colder, all I wanted to do was putter around the kitchen.

For the 3 pm lunch – yes, kind of an odd time for a meal, but my friend ran a half-marathon on Saturday so I knew she’d be hungry – I built the menu around this macaroni & cheese recipe that I clipped from Cooking Light last month. It uses butternut squash as the basis for the cheese sauce. I made some modifications, subbing whole milk for fat-free (you can tell I really embrace the Cooking Light ethos) and using white cheddar instead of Pecorino Romano because I couldn’t find any of the latter in the fancy cheese section.

I forgot to take any more photos of this dish, so you’ll have to picture it covered with a crispy layer of panko crumbs and a sprinkling of parsley. It was goooood, and I still have a little bit left over to take for lunch this week.

Preceding the mac & cheese was an autumn salad. I should pause here and say that I’m not a salad person at all and almost never make salads for myself and Alec. But I always feel obligated to serve salad to company because it seems like the proper thing to do. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by Saturday’s salad, which I got from one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply In Season. I combined greens with sliced apples, caramelized walnuts and dried cranberries. The dressing was mostly olive oil and Dijon mustard.

My friend Erin said it tasted like a restaurant salad – what a compliment! And I learned a couple of things making it. For instance, did you know Hollywood propmasters used to make fake glass from spun sugar for stuntmen to crash through? Alec relayed this bit of trivia to me while cleaning the sticky mess I made from caramelizing the walnuts in sugar and corn syrup. The other thing I learned was that there are way too many choices of prewashed salad greens in the grocery store. How many permutations of fancy lettuce does the American consumer need?

For dessert, I initially wanted to do a fruit cobbler or crisp, but was worried about coordinating cooking times and oven temperatures with the mac & cheese. Also, there were apples in the salad so I wanted to serve something other than fruit for dessert. I made a chocolate cake in the slow cooker!

This photo makes the cake look unappetizing, but it was really good – the entire bottom was gooey, making it like a molten chocolate cake. And, like pretty much anything made in a slow cooker, this cake was super easy. It is a keeper for sure. (Nope, I’d never made this – or any of the other two dishes – before. I know you’re not supposed to serve dishes you’ve never attempted to company, but I like to live on the edge like that.)

On Sunday, I made soup out of a head of cabbage that had been sitting in the fridge. At least I think it was cabbage. Maybe it was lettuce? I’m terrible at identifying greens – I blame this on not being a salad person. Also, because I don’t like salads, I need to find other uses for things like lettuce. Alec said lettuce soup sounded like something the Bucket family ate in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I wanted to try it anyway. And the soup turned out well! Very smooth and creamy. I microplaned some Gruyere on top because, well, life is too short not to add cheese to as much stuff as possible.

I had some leftover butternut squash cubes from Saturday, so I combined that with some sad, aging turnips in the fridge, along with apples and dried cranberries (if these last two ingredients sound familiar, it’s because they were featured in Saturday’s autumn salad). Those got roasted with some lemon juice, butter and brown sugar, and served alongside baked chicken.

So there you have it – a weekend of hearty, seasonal comfort food. And for the rest of the week, I plan on eating Halloween candy. That’s what I call a balanced diet!

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