Paperless

There was a time when I balanced my checkbook, when I demanded paper statements, when I held 3 or 4 magazine subscriptions.

I love the feel of paper and the idea of paper. I love handwriting and stationary and print. I love reading a newspaper and getting ink on my hands.

But I think I’m over it.

I’m tiring of the stacks of mail and unread magazines on the dining room table. I’m seeking a less complicated space and a simple home that is free of the mess that paper compels me to make. About a year ago I went paperless on almost all of my bills, and many of them are enrolled in automatic deductions (something I vowed I would never do). Then, tonight, I thought I’d try and sort through the stack of magazines.

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It’s not so bad – I mean it’s only about a year’s worth. Every once in awhile I go through a purging. Carefully sifting through Food & Wine, I rip out pages of recipes I’d like to try, and they go into a slightly smaller pile tucked between cookbooks I seldom use. I put up a good front of domesticity and culinary prowess, but I’m also a workaholic who admittedly fed herself a dinner of Ritz crackers with peanut butter and beer tonight.

How’s that for full disclosure?

p.s. Want the old copies of Food & Wine? First in Chicago to say “dibs” wins.

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PressReader: Newpapers in really, really, tiny print

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I used to subscribe to the Sunday paper, and loved those lazy Sunday mornings perusing the headlines, clipping coupons, drinking coffee.

And then I started working on Sundays and began to develop a huge stack of papers that I didn’t have time to get through.  Before becoming eligible  for an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive, I cut off the subscription and these days I typically try to catch the news on the radio.

I must not be the only one, because the papers are sinking big time.  Publications have had to get creative in order to survive the newspaper apocalypse. Enter PressReader: a massive database of 2,300+ full-text publications all available for download on your mobile device. The occasional paper peruser can purchase individual issues for $0.99 each, or the full-on news junkie can have any of the database, any time, for a monthly subscription fee.

This seems really great for a person who, say, commutes by train and owns an ipad, or a person who travels frequently for work.  The idea of reading The Irish Times on a layover in Tulsa in the middle of the night is amazing to me.  I would assume that flight attendants sometimes just want to know what’s going on in their hometowns, and this way the local paper is always at your fingertips.

The problem is: I’m not any of those people… and I don’t have an ipad.

I have that bookshelf app and a few other reader-type apps and despite my optimism to read all of these things while on public transportation, I mostly end up staring out the window.  The thing is: reading newspapers on your phone is sometimes awkward.  In order to get the words big enough to actually read I have to scroll over every three words.  Maybe I’m dense, but then I get lost in the article and give up.  Plus, reading on the bus makes me a little woozy.

If I consider where I really like to read, PressReader doesn’t really do it for me.  Call me a romantic, but there’s something about a tangible newspaper that is so wonderful; online versions don’t give you that leisurely feeling you get from flipping the oversized pages, black smudges of ink on your fingertips, sipping a cup of joe will the sun shines in on your dining room table.  That’s a feeling I just can’t get from scrunching over my little rectangular box.

But, it’s not personal…

I can see how this app would be totally amazing for the right user.  It’s also a great model for, say, an obscure publication that might not otherwise be able to recruit readers to a mobile format (like, for example, the Albanian Gazeta Panorama or Cambodian Business).  And, you can bet when Dance Magazine jumps on board I will most definitely be downloading it on a monthly basis, no matter how tiny the text.

Downsizing is hard.

Don’t mess with a woman’s counter space….

The past couple of weeks I’ve been going through a series of life changes.  Sometimes you have to give up a few things in order to grow, and part of my last few weeks has included a serious downsize back to apartment living.

While I can say for certain that I’m in a good place personally, perhaps the hardest part has been giving up my enormous chef’s kitchen for a 2′ x 4′ slab of Formica in my current abode.  While I have every confidence in my ability to cook in a small kitchen (proved, in part, by the mean apple cobbler you see here), I’ll admit that I got pretty accustomed to spreading out.

As Alton Brown has drilled into me, muti-taskers are key, and in a small kitchen this is all the more true.  So the things that I’ve chosen to take with me to the apartment are going to have maximum impact with a minimum footprint.  If ever faced with nuclear holocaust, or a downsize of major proportions, these are the things I would (and did) take with me.

Lauren’s must-haves for a happy kitchen of any size:

  1. An awesome wooden spoon, spatula, and scraper.  Don’t skimp on quality here; break the bank and get the best.
  2. Corning ware.  My set was a wedding gift to my parents in 1975.  Oven, microwave and dishwasher safe (not that I have one of those anymore).  Plus they have lids, so you don’t need extra tupperware.  You can use them for baking, too!

  3. A fantastic mixing bowl.  Do I really have to justify this?
  4. Chef’s knife.  No meal is made without it.  Again, don’t skimp here; get the best and keep it sharp.
  5. A soup pot, a skillet, and a sauce pan.  If they are good ones, you only need one of each.  Will Calphalon pay me if I plug them as my brand of choice?
  6. A french press. The coffee tastes better, and it’s small enough to store in the cupboard.
  7. My vintage, 1st edition Betty Crocker Cookbook.  When times get tough, my mantra is always that Betty knows best.

Stocking up and making ready

Since December 2, I’ve been living the fantastic life of a housewife.  Working occasionally, blogging frequently, and cooking constantly.  Today, that all changes as I go back to my typical 60-hour work week.

I’m nervous.

When I get nervous, I prepare by cooking lots of food.  That way, even if nothing goes according to plan, at least I’ve got dinner.  It’s winter, so, naturally that means lots of soup.  Lots and lots of soup.  My hope is that these two beauties will last all week and next for dinners.

 

That’s Hearty Black Bean Slow-Cooker soup on the left, and Winter Ham and Beans on the right.  I’ll get you those recipes later in the week.

I was hoping to get a third pot going too, but it wasn’t in the cards today.

That’s right; I said it: we have three crock pots.  When it comes to crock pots, you can’t just have one.  Plus, we have a chili cookout every Halloween and so all those slow cookers come in quite handy.

Kitchen organization and visions of zucchini muffins

I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to kitchen organization. Take for example this shelf in the baking cupboard above. Yes, each item is poured into a clear glass container, and yes, Each clear glass container is labeled with a labelmaker.

What goes where is also exceedingly important. Everything has to be in a cupboard that’s accessible to what you’re doing. Cups next to the fridge, potholders in the drawer next to the stove, plastic baggies reachable with one hand to where I make sandwiches in the morning.
It took me five years to perfect the old apartment kitchen, and this one is twice as big with three times as many cupboards. I’ve rearranged twice already (much to Nancy’s dismay), and I just finished the third installment. Admittedly, it’s putting me in the mood to bake…

Record heat is the talk of the day on the Book of Faces, and all I can think about is hot, delicious zucchini muffins.
 
The thing is, there’s a delightfully cool breeze coming through the kitchen window, it’s reaching noon-time and still 74 out, and so while it seems crazy to voluntarily heat my kitchen to 375-degrees on the purported hottest day in five years, this run-on sentence is trying to say that I’m going to do it anyway.
 
 
Who could refuse this already defrosted shredded zucchini from last summer’s bounty??

Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 C. applesauce
  • 1/4 C mashed banana (applesauce and banana can be substituted for 2 eggs)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 C. shredded zucchini, unpeeled, liquid squeezed out
  • 3 C. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375-deg F. Whisk applesauce, banana (or egg), sugar, vanilla, and veg. oil together until well blended.
  2. Stir in drained zucchini. Add flour, baking powder, salt, soda, and cinnamon and mix until well blended.
  3. Fold in nuts, if desired.
  4. Turn into greased muffin tins and bake 18-25 minutes or until pastry pick comes out clean
** You can also cook the batter in a loaf pan to make a bread. In that case, bake 45 min-1 hour
Makes approximately 20 muffins