America’s Top Impulse Purchases

The other day I had a couple of hours to kill while waiting for my old man to go to a doctor’s appointment, so I went to the fancier co-op in the other town we were in. I love to go in there and wander around because it’s so much bigger than our co-op and has so many more types of olives; also they sell beer and wine. They also have a bigger variety of local apples than our co-op, but it’s not apple season yet so in this particular instance that was a moot point.

But! As I was in line waiting to check out, I made what may prove to be the single most awesome impulse purchase of my entire life. Everyone I have told about this purchase first made fun of me and then, after listening to me talk about it for several hours, admitted that I was indeed wise and good for having made it. It is none other than an issue of America’s Test Kitchen magazine titled BEST EVER SIDE DISHES

I have never watched America’s Test Kitchen and didn’t know what it was, but the cover of the magazine promised to teach me how to actually make good versions of common side dishes that are always made poorly, and I was like, huh, that sounds like a problem someone I know has (it’s me). I took it outside and sat at one of the picnic tables out front and ate pre-made vegetarian sushi and read the magazine and literally within three pages I was already excitedly texting everyone I knew to tell them I had just made the best impulse purchase of my entire life.

They use science and carefully-repeated experiments to figure out the best way to do stuff! It sounds so fun in there, like a lab. Each recipe is prefaced by a long narrative description of the problems and possible solutions the dish poses, written by whichever cook ultimately solved the problem. It’s so great because you’re nodding along as you read: yes, yes, that IS what always happens to my potato salad! Yes, that’s EXACTLY why I hate cucumber garnishes! I learned so much. For example: ASPARAGUS

I make pretty good asparagus. And in general asparagus is pretty hard to fuck up, in my experience, it’s not like you have to be Julia Child. I usually toss it in oil and salt, and then either roast it or sautee it, maybe throw some garlic in there. And it turns out…good! Little squeeze of lemon. Sometimes I have wondered “how do you get it all charred and crispy without it turning to mush?” and suspected that there’s something I’m missing, but googling it just always turns up the method I already use, so I figured I just didn’t have “the touch” or maybe I didn’t have a fancy enough pan. Boy was I wrong! It turns out that cooking it in oil means either it gets mushy before it gets browned or it gets browned before it gets cooked adequately, depending on what level of heat you crank it up to in desperation, but steaming it first and then sauteeing it (which solves the texture issue) not only loses a bunch of its flavor but is a huge pain in the ass and takes two pans instead of one (I also appreciate the pragmatism of America’s Test Kitchen; they’re always trying to find a way to do something in one pan and/or faster). The test cook was like “if only I could steam it and brown it AT THE SAME TIME.” So they took it down the hall to the science consultant, who pointed out that oil has 0% water and butter has 20% water, so if you melt half oil/half butter in a skillet, put the asparagus in, cover it with a lid, and let it cook on medium for a few minutes until it starts to get tender, THEN take the lid off and crank it up to medium high, you’ll cook it properly while still saving enough time for a good char. I tried it that very evening. READER, I MARRIED HIM

It worked like a charm! The most perfect asparagus, made by little ol’ me in my boring pan on my shitty 1970s era electric stove! I was so exhilarated.

I have also learned how to cook beets, although I will never use the technique again because it’s wasteful (wrapping individual beets in tin foil: fuck you). I just tried it to see if the asparagus narrative was a fluke. It wasn’t.

They have articles on squash, risotto, stuffed peppers, deviled eggs, gratins, corn on the cob, etc. In every case, they take a classic side dish and discuss the conventional problems with it. Gratins are so good when done right, but are so often done poorly, so they’re watery and sick instead of creamy and rad: why, and how can we fix the problem? Why the HELL is tabouleh always so disgusting? Oh, here’s why! It’s a very effective and compelling approach to recipe-writing. I learned so much about batter-frying.

My only beef with America’s Test Kitchen is the completely bonkers over-reliance on paper towels. What on earth?! These motherfuckers use paper towels for EVERYTHING. I don’t see how all the Costcos in the world could supply enough paper towels to keep up with their demand. People, just use a dish towel! Rip up a brown paper bag from out in the garage! Dear lord. I haven’t bought paper towels in probably four years and I never will again (probably not true). Ditto the use of saran wrap. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 15 minutes?? Jesus Christ. “Every time I cook a meal I like to throw a pound of plastic into the ocean”

Anyway after this life-changing impulse purchase we watched a bunch of episodes of the TV show and it was similarly revelatory. We kept gasping and pointing at the screen and yelling I KNEW IT. We learned so much about cast iron, vegetable stock, and how to brown a steak, which we will never do but which was interesting. And indeed there was an entire segment just on which paper towel holder is the best (the heavy duty one that holds an industrial-size roll, obviously). If they would only change the title to AMERICA’S TOP PAPER TOWEL USERS I would be happy. I also finally bought an oven thermometer, inspired by this show. It turns out that my oven—which I have developed a conspiracy theory about in terms of my unverifiable feeling that there are wild discrepancies between what’s shown on the dial and the actual temperature—actually just needs more time to pre-heat than its readiness light indicates. Good to know!

This magazine puts to shame the only other magazine I have impulse purchased, which was a copy of Martha Stewart Living that promised to give me good ideas for lunches. IT DID NOT. They were all just sandwich variations; I know how to make a damn sandwich Martha.

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Switched on Zelda

Boy oh boy oh boy

A lot just happened! Well not really. Anyway, it’s summertime and we are doing some pretty epic yard chores, and that’s been interesting. I think I have told you before about this Japanese knotweed situation out here in good ol’ New England? It’s a noxious invasive weed that looks like bamboo and grows like some alien creature sent here to overtake the planet. There’s a decorative hedge of it planted along the north side of our house. When we first looked at the house, we’d never heard of Japanese knotweed; we said ooh, how lovely, what a lovely privacy hedge! Our realtor had a look of dread on his face and just said “you gotta stay on top of this stuff or it’ll kill you.” We were like ha ha New England men with their grim approach to yard work. So we blithely bought the house and moved in and enjoyed the knotweed and then on the first super cold day of autumn we arrived home to find it razed to the ground, our house naked to the outside world. It turned out that the knotweed is actually on our neighbor’s property and he–at that time, an ancient old man named Al who is now dead–hired guys every autumn to come chop it all down and take it away. “Huh, that’s odd” we thought, but we also have learned quickly that when ancient old men who have lived in New England for their entire lives do a given chore there is zero chance they don’t know what they’re doing. THEN however, the next spring, when the knotweed popped back up and grew at an alarming rate, like half a foot a day honestly, suddenly Gary started finding knotweed all over the yard, and he researched it, and discovered that it’s in fact an extraordinarily tenacious super-weed invading our neck of the woods and destroying property wherever it goes. He unearthed some horrible story about a New England guy whose yard was so overtaken by the knotweed that the property became worthless and he committed suicide. We also learned that it’s incredibly powerful and easily spread—for example, a single LEAF off of it can propagate if you for example get the leaf stuck on your shoe and then track it into someone else’s yard. This is why Al hired special guys to come cut it down and dispose of it, because you can’t just compost it or take it to the dump because it will spread. I think they burn it in some sort of EPA-approved bunker (probably not but basically). Gary developed an obsession with the idea that he himself had unknowingly spread knotweed all over the neighborhood. For a few months whenever we went on walks he would see knotweed and he’d blanch and talk for days about whether or not he should go knock on the person’s door and apologize. We developed a character for him called “Johnny Knotweed,” the shitty reprobate cousin of Johnny Appleseed. In his Johnny Knotweed form Gary steals around the region at night, clumps of noxious knotweed clinging to his elfin boots, laughing gleefully as he sows discord betwixt neighbors.

Anyway that was a long preamble to simply mention one of our big yard chores, which is we got a big pile of fancy dirt delivered by a dump truck and we covered the shorn knotweed with two feet of dirt (on top of a thick plastic tarp our new neighbor, Matt, had already weighted down over it with cinderblocks) and planted native grasses on top. No one had any hopes that this would actually resolve the knotweed situation but we did hope to tamp it down a bit. Already shoots of knotweed are thrusting heroically out of the dirt and into the air. This means that the shorn-to-the-ground stumps of knotweed are growing despite a total lack of sun and air, and growing so powerfully that they are BREAKING THROUGH A THICK PLASTIC TARP AND THEN ALSO 2 FEET OF DIRT. It’s terrifying.

And to be honest I personally miss our knotweed hedge, because it was beautiful and it hid my office from the street. Now I sit at my desk and just look out at the neighbors’ cars and it sucks. Still, one must sacrifice for the good of one’s community.

And we planted some other stuff too.

Some of the stuff in my garden is dying and I don’t know why. Everyone on the internet is cheery about it: that’s just part of learning to garden! But it feels hard to just sit and watch the nice ground cherry bush slowly wilt and die. Or like just one of my six brussel sprouts is dying. Why?? And my tomatoes aren’t flowering and I can’t find a straight answer about it. I’m also frustrated by how hard it is to figure out how much you are supposed to water. Every single gardening site on the internet says “water one inch a week.” Excuse me but WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN. Then I found a website that was like “everybody says ‘water one inch a week’ but what the fuck does that mean? Here I’ll explain it” and then their explanation was just as mystifying and unhelpful. Get a rain gauge?? What the living hell are you talking about, college boy; I just want to know, when I’m filling up my ol’ watering pail from the rain barrel, HOW MUCH WATER DO I DUMP ON AN INDIVIDUAL KALE PLANT, AND HOW OFTEN DO I DO THAT. Jesus Christ

Garden Talkin’

Gary has a new conversational segment called “Rants n’ Tan’ts” based on his tendency, in normal conversations, to go on long rants that require long tangents in order to be understood. For example the other night he talked for approximately seven hours about how the shallow depth of field the cinematographer had chosen in a movie we had just watched had irritated and distracted him. This required a long tangent explaining a number of terms and the ramifications for the various choices a cinematographer could make regarding them. These moments are challenging for me because I love him and want to be interested in the things he’s interested in, and I also want to be as good a conversational partner for him as he is for me–he always listens intently and (seemingly) with pleasure to my weird monologues about, like, the role the honeycrisp plays in the whole arc of apple season, or my lengthy summaries of Stephen King novels–but honestly sometimes these monologues of his are so extremely technical and focused on such a fine-grained level of detail (Virgo stuff) and delivered in such an unchanging deliberate tone that my big-picture Leo brain just can not deal with it and I have to actively wrench my mind away from wandering, sometimes only to find that I’ve missed important details in the monologue and now have to pretend I was paying attention the whole time. Anyway we are now saying that these moments constitute a conversational “segment.” “Lets go now to Gary, with ‘Rants n’ Tan’ts!” and then it’s just Gary talking in a very patient and deliberate voice for fifteen minutes about racking focus.

As someone who is also extensively over-educated I definitely relate to the experience of having intense, all-consuming, highly-detailed interests that are difficult to explain briefly and that very few people actually want to talk to me about in the first place, so I get it. I have rants n’ tan’ts of my own, for sure. When you have spent ten years exclusively thinking about a topic it can turn even the chillest interaction into a conversational quagmire. E.g. a query as simple as “what did you think of the concert?” must be approached with extreme care and self-consciousness, lest you subject your interlocutor to a long disquisition on the incorporation of Platonic idealism into German Romanticism and how it had all kinds of interesting aesthetic ramifications that then generations of crazy people obsessed over and that obsession shaped concert culture in profound often fucked-up ways that now contemporary concert programmers are trying to rebel against but they often do so in a way that is extraordinarily problematic with regard to the relationship between aesthetics and systems of power and anyway that’s why you didn’t like the concert

In conclusion: WHO CARES

I finally got reader reports on my book back and they are really good, so to celebrate I went to Game Stop and bought a brand-new Nintendo Switch and went home and played Breath of the Wild in the basement for three hours. Never tell me I don’t know how to celebrate.

I can’t say anything about BotW that hasn’t been said already by others but…holy shit. There was already a part that made me cry–when you make it to the edge of the plateau and you finally have your paraglider and you stand looking out at the magnificent vastness of god’s creation wondering where you will end up. I cried because of the Romantic Era.

The guy at the Game Stop and I had an awkward and ultimately fruitful interaction. He’s also a person with intense detailed interests that not everyone else holds or understands, and I’m an ancient old late-adopting technophobic crone who has never played a game on anything beyond the GameCube and even on that I exclusively play Wind Waker and nothing else. I’m like Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar when he’s a pilot or something but then goes forward 70 years in the future and hops in a new spaceship to go explore the universe. For me going instantly from GameCube to Switch is like using an appliance in Europe, you’re like “I didn’t know technology had advanced to this point,” like the washing machine is both a washing machine and a dryer and it’s somehow as small as a shoebox and is housed inside of the refrigerator and it runs on good thoughts and a single drop of dish soap and it also can convert cash into bitcoin and ultimately you get confused and throw all your clothes out the window down onto the street. Anyway, he was explaining the difference between the Wii U and the Switch to me and I was nodding and like “uh huh, uh huh” but then my questions were all just like: “so I can play Zelda on this.” And he’d be like “…uh…yes” then he’d talk more about graphics and technical specs and bitrates and programming difficulties and some finer points of comparison between various controllers and I’d nod again and then be like “so what you are saying is that I can play Zelda on either of these, but this one is better.” He would always pause after one of my questions, clearly because I wasn’t really making sense to him and he was trying to understand what I was getting at. He also kept trying to tell me about other games, as part of selling me on the Switch. “So they just released a new Mario Kart” e.g. and he’d go into all the details about the superiority of that game to others and I’d be nodding patiently and then he’d be like “I can hook it up and show you if you want” and I’d just say “NO.” Full stop. Like sonny get it through your skull: I am an old nerd and I exclusively want to play Zelda games and you already sold me on this Switch ten minutes ago when you pointed out that they will probably make other Zelda games for the Switch but that the Wii U is over and there will be no more Zeldas for it. “You had me at hello”

We also went to the Apple store because my phone camera broke, and there we interacted with yet more nice young men with intense specific interests who spend their days interacting with stressed-out idiots like me who don’t even understand what most of the words related to Apple products even mean. While we were waiting, a small child hysterically playing with a Bb-8 droid lost control of it and it flew off the table and shattered on the floor and the Apple guy standing nearest me just spoke calmly into his bluetooth without batting an eye and said “we have a Bb-8 down, repeat, a Bb-8 down”

To unwind myself once summer starts I have a new tactic. I go to the library and I get a huge stack of garish female-driven and usually -authored thrillers à la Girl on the Train and I just blow through them as fast as I can, flinging each one onto the floor when I’m finished, whereupon my husband picks them up and returns them to the library for me without comment. They are all terrible but reading them is weirdly soothing. All of their plots are just about how much men hate women. There are a bunch of different lady protagonists who are affected by men who hate women in different ways. Lots of times there is a scrappy lady detective who endures sexism in the workplace and who gets obsessed with solving the crime because of her own history of abuse or something. Often at the end two women who hate each other will band together to destroy the menacing man, so the books are weirdly about sisterhood within patriarchy even though all the main characters including the women are disgusting. They’re SO bad but I get why they are a new bestselling genre, in today’s world. In addition to maybe five of these I’ve also read an Ian McEwan (the one about the judge) and this book called “Smoke” that’s kind of a steampunk fantasy about a 19th century England in which everyone’s emotions emanate from them visibly in the form of smoke, and the class system is all based on smoking, like the rich people send their kids to brutal boarding schools where they learn to rigidly control themselves so that they never smoke, whereas the lower classes smoke freely and are filthy with their own passions all the time. It was actually really good, and ended up being kind of a political screed against classical liberalism, which I enjoyed.

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Material Cultures of a Dead Age

Guess what we did yesterday? WENT CD SHOPPING

Let me back up

On lazy days we like to tinker with our house. Moving furniture around, finally going to the hardware store for the right kind of screw to put up the cool light switch cover my mom sent us from Mexico, this sort of thing. The other day we started tinkering with our stereo area. I am sure I documented the long drawn out scenario in early 2015 by which we paid a lot of money for a beautiful handmade record shelf from that guy who lived in a barn out in the middle of the country fields and who then weeks later while waiting for him to finish our shelf I overheard at the coffee shop talking about the deep despair he was in because he had too many shelf orders and didn’t know how he was ever gonna fill them? So then I felt so bad and just never called him to check up on our shelf, even though we’d already paid him and weeks and weeks were going by. And then out of the blue one day he called me all mad like “your damn shelf is done, where the hell are you?” Anyway long story short: we got a great shelf.

So, the shelf, full of records, is in the living room, with the turntable atop it, and it’s great. But we have this other shelf that we acquired from a bookstore in Iowa and that we’ve been lugging around the country ever since; it was custom-built to be the exact size to hold those pocket paperbacks you can buy at used bookstores for a quarter, and it turns out this is the exact right size for CDs. Since moving here however the shelf has been in the basement along with all our CDs, two huge boxes full of them.

We are middle aged, so aspects of online/digital life that youngsters take for granted are starting to really bother us. I’ve been feeling alienated from my music listening practice for a long time; something about Spotify and even iTunes has always alienated me. I feel like I can never think of what I want to listen to, like I’ve just “forgotten” all the music that I like and don’t know how to think of it, and then there’s also a lot of surfing from song to song. I miss sitting down and listening to a whole album, and I also increasingly am realizing that I miss the way choices used to be somewhat circumscribed. You used to simply choose a CD from the ones available in your collection, and that was it. The endlessness of choice these days I find weirdly terrifying or like it just makes me not want to listen to anything, or just listen to the one playlist I managed to curate three years ago over and over again. Finally, I miss looking at liner notes while listening.

SO the old man finally got that shelf out of the basement and hung it on the wall by the record shelf, and we put my Sony discman from the early 00s next to the turntable and plugged it in with an eighth inch cable, and we unpacked our damn CDs. Those boxes of CDs are a real time capsule. It was very fun. Unpacking a time capsule of your life between, say, 1995 and 2001. So not just Automatic for the People and every They Might Be Giants album but also literally seventy million painstakingly crafted CDRs with beautiful handmade covers made by innumerable bands from the early 00s indie rock scenes, real indie rock not corporate indie rock, just weirdos in basements, both friends of ours and strangers. All my friends’ albums! Those wonderful covers I haven’t seen in years. And not to mention: TAPES. I have a tape archive that makes me weep: the tape Katy and I recorded in our dorm room freshman year of college, just them on guitar and me on banjo, each knowing perhaps four chords, and primarily the tape is just us shrieking with laughter. Tapes of live on-campus shows my various bands played. Katy’s early solo tapes. A tape of me playing a Mozart piano duet with this guy Jeremy. A tape I made with my college boyfriend before we were dating, that is mostly ironically sincere covers of Metallica and that one Live song. A tape of Steve and myself improvising our long-form masterpiece, “Captain Squid,” an epic ballad about a Gump-like character who has been present at every major event of human history, and also played bass on Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour. I also still have the tape of “Flood” that my cousin gave me in 7th grade that changed my life. “Where’s the cover for that?” “It’s NEVER had a cover.” “Rad!” ALSO, the mix tapes that Gary and I mailed to one another before we were even dating, when we were doing that thing where you are obviously obsessed with each other but pretending you’re just doing normal friend stuff. These mix tapes have TALKING ON THEM. Like, our recorded voices, messages in between songs to one another. I could never listen to mine again but it is fun to look at the label and remember how I slaved over it. And finally, we also have a really legit archive of classical music, much of it bestowed on me by Freddy when she decided to clean house and get rid of most of her own CDs. Classical music is weirdly ideal in CD format, in my opinion. Somehow I never listen to it on vinyl and certainly not off a damn computer. CDs just also SOUND really good; you forget! Listening to stuff on CD that was recorded and mastered with the intention of being heard on CD feels great.

So we put all the CDs out on the shelf and immediately put on Emperor Tomato Ketchup and marveled over how good it sounded. Then today we went CD shopping. There is a store here that I believe was lifted up in 1999 and dropped down in the present completely unchanged. It is a straight-up grimy used CD store. They do not sell anything new; it’s all used, and it’s all CDs and a little vinyl and a couple weird tapes all jumbled together. And all the CDs are organized in bins with those good plastic labels various clerks have designed collages for or like written the band name on in sharpie using the band font. We decided we would go through the entire store and buy all the CDs we’d had in high school and college that we could imagine wanting to listen to again. So for example, yes to Weezer’s blue album or the Indigo Girls; no to Soul Coughing or Spin Doctors or Garth Brooks or the fucking Bare Naked Ladies or whatever (kids these days who fetishize the 90s do not know how much shit we had to wade through to get to the few gems). We also allowed ourselves a few purchases of stuff we weren’t cool enough at the time to have but that we wish we had been (My Bloody Valentine, Mercury Rev). We bought like 15 CDs and then drove home blasting Joshua Tree and guess what? It sounded FUCKING HUGE

Then we came home and listened to Aerial by Kate Bush, from 2005. Later period Kate Bush, post-motherhood Kate Bush, Kate Bush recording in her damn barn in bucolic England with her husband on guitar and her small British child doing some spoken word work. I can not recommend this album highly enough. It’s two discs, and the entire second disc is one long composition linked together by field recordings of birdsongs, that then morph into Bush imitating the bird songs and turning them into speech or turning them into the rhythm track for a song. We lay on the couch for two hours and listened to the whole thing and then went to sleep.


I also got a box set of all the Shostakovich string quartets, which I certainly did not have in the Actual 90s but which I feel great about. Those quartets are devastating.

I’m reading a book about disgust and shame, and I’m trying to finish these two article revisions, and I’m mostly just sitting around biting my nails about my book, and drinking too much coffee and red wine, and procrastinating grading my seminar papers, and just generally it’s normal stuff around here. Feeling my age lately; new wrinkles appearing on my face on a daily basis and those stubborn five pounds you gain in middle age that you can’t lose without becoming one of those psychopaths who exercises for hours every day which I swear will never be me even as I hold a sort of grudging respect for those people, one of whom is my mother. And the gray hair!! I’m kind of digging it—it’s not every day you undergo normal human life span transformation that you can see in the mirror and take note of because it’s happening so fast. I got a haircut the other day and he was kind of peering down at me and I could tell what he’s thinking (he identifies as primarily a color guy) and I said “I’m going gray” and he yelled “I WASN’T GONNA SAY IT”

Gary says it’s interesting that you spend basically half your life dying, like it starts right when you turn forty and then you just slowly die for years until whenever you actually die. I said I prefer not to think of it that way. Like I can really see why there are all these women who are like “menopause is the best time in my life,” embracing these changes and what-not. There’s kind of a sloughing away of bullshit, I think, if you give in to it. Like, here you go, world, here is a middle aged lady with all that that entails, and I know what I like and I know what I want to do and I mostly just enjoy lying around the house listening to Kate Bush albums with my husband. Owning your changing body and not feeling despair about it is hard, I think, but it’s also a great lesson in inevitability. What are you gonna do about it? You can’t do ANYTHING about it. So why bother despairing? And this in turn perhaps does help you accept death, maybe a little bit, but it’s not the same thing as being like “I’m starting to die now.” Really we are all dying, always and all the time. Your brand new baby is already dying. “Existentialist Firefighter Delays Four Deaths”

Gary and I have been together for fifteen years!! What on earth. Unpacking the CDs really hit home what a long span of time that is. There are CDs in that box that feel like I acquired them in a wholly different era, like I almost can’t even remember the person I was when I got that CD. But then in the memory of getting that CD, my old man is also there, like we were already together. “Oh remember this show? That was where we met that guy who had the shitty old 1980s limousine and just drove it around as his normal car” (←one of the coolest things I have ever seen, and even cooler was that the guy acted like he didn’t know what was special or funny about this. “What? Yeah this is my car, so?”)

I also got Metallica’s black album, which I did indeed have on CD at the actual time and which I really will listen to. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s a good album. We also got Megadeth’s first album on vinyl, which is a total banger, and again, I don’t care that Dave Mustaine is a piece of shit. My money’s not going to him anyway: the power of BUYING USED

Our nice old man neighbor died last year and this young couple bought his house and I don’t know what they do for work but one of them is an absolute go-getter, every single day I look out the window and he’s digging a hole or installing a drainage system or planting fruit trees; one day I looked out and realized he was just casually removing the porch steps and moving them to the other side of the porch, like no big deal. My personal husband is a Virgo and has to think carefully about a project for 4-19 months before actually embarking on it, and he’s feeling very shamed by this spectacle of go-getting. Yesterday I said “Oh look, Matt planted a bunch of switchgrass on top of the knotweed,” and Gary’s face fell and he was like “classic Matt” and I was like “what?” and he said “I told him yesterday that I was thinking of doing that; now he’s immediately gone and done it.” Virgo envies other star signs their ability to simply dive into stuff without exhaustively researching it first; at the same time, once Virgo actually does do a job he usually does it to the max and perfectly, witness my office shelves which he promised to build for a year and then finally built with absolutely perfect excellence, stopping short of nothing to make them exactly to my specifications, including going back to the hardware store not once but THREE TIMES to get the exact right materials and tools, including something called a “stud finder.” If this task had been put within my purview I would have done it right away, but so poorly that within a few months all the books would have slid to the floor or the entire wall of the house would shatter and fall out into the yard. So it’s a real give and take in this marriage, it depends on what you need in any given scenario: some stuff does need to get done right away and it doesn’t matter that much how well it gets done, and into this type of chore steps me, a shining Leo, full of chutzpah and lacking attention to detail and wanting a lot of congratulations for doing something shoddily but with guts; some stuff rewards research and measuring and watching eleven how-to videos on Youtube, and it is here that Virgo really shines, and Leo has to leave the house while he’s working because his meticulous attention to detail takes thousands of hours and stresses her out. It’s just like Jack Sprat and his wife! Between the two of us, we lick the platter clean. Gross

I planted a little garden plot and it’s popping off. Trying to grow peas for the first time. I built a truly shoddy pea trellis (see previous paragraph), it looks like absolute shit but I think it will work okay. I planted kale, brussel sprouts, some herbs, basil, peas, bok choy, and lettuce. Also two cherry tomatoes which are called “Matt’s Wild” and which were heavily advertised as resisting blight. It’s hard to grow tomatoes in New England because of the blight, which lives in the air and the soil and which you can’t get rid of. Everyone just rushes to grow as many tomatoes as they can before the blight decimates everything and you have to plow it all under. We’ll see if Matt’s Wild fulfills their promise. I’d say the odds aren’t great. I also canned a bunch of pickled asparagus and am feeling smug about it.


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