Monday, March 26, 2007

Adventures in Ghetto Groceries

Being a starving student, I've learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to grocery shopping.

1. Buy the dollar wheat bread: what you lose in nutrition, you gain in sheer number of slices!

2. Buying certain foods in bulk: cereal (Malt O Meal cheerio knock-offs!), peanut butter, giant blocks of pepperjack. The uglier the package, the more you save.

3. Oreos cannot be cheapened. If you can't afford name brand, you don't buy the cookies.

4. When the store has a ten for ten dollars sale on anything you're likely to eat, stock up! You will be thankful for the 15 boxes of brownie mix someday.

5. A $1 bag of house-brand pretzels can be a lifesaver, providing "lunch" for days on end.

The reason I bring all of this up is that the other day I rode my bike to the store in an effort to be green and thrifty and also because it was a nice day out. I ran into a few issues with this trip, though. The issue of milk (not to be confused with the issue of blood) was easily remedied: buy a half gallon, so it will fit in the pannier more easily. The issue of bread was more perplexing. If I bought my usual dollarloaf, it would surely be wadded into a big doughy ball by the time I got it home, smashed in with all the other groceries. But I was out of bread! Whatever to do?

Enter my good friends, the tortillas. Yes, slightly more expensive. Yes, will make fewer sandwiches. Their one redeeming quality (besides being tasty!) is that they are infinitely flatter than a traditional loaf. Satisfied with my wisdom, I placed the bag into my basket and strode off in search of a huge tub of raisins.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

In Which You Hear About My Childhood

1. We used to live in a large-ish town/ smallish city, and our house was up against the hills, with just the railroad between us and the big grassy slopes. We walked a lot more then- we would go up and walk along the railroad tracks when the trains weren't going by, we would walk to the school and play on the playground, we would walk through the neighborhood and down to the Thrifty to buy ice cream cones at the ice cream counter there. I liked the mint chocolate chip ice cream, and we would sit on the curb outside the store, eating our cones before we walked back home. I remember going on afternoon walks around the less familiar streets in our neighborhood, while one or the other of us kids learned to ride a bike. I kind of miss those days, when we had the time to take walks just for fun.

2. Also during that little-kid era: we had an ugly little barbeque, one of those dome-shaped ones that looks like a UFO. Sometimes we would cook marshmallows on it in the backyard at nighttime, and sometimes we would sit out late at night watching meteor showers. And oh! When it rained, our patio would flood and we would call it Lake Smith* and when it wasn't raining we would play in and around the big old pepper tree that grew in the back corner of the yard. We had a garden that sometimes grew tomatoes and we sometimes made mudmen (like snowmen, only we lived in a snow-deprived region) and set them up to dry on the brick wall, and after the earthquake we used the bricks that fell down to build mansions for our tiny troll dolls. We also had a horribly dangerous swingset that wasn't quite embedded in the ground enough and the slide had an upsetting slope. Our backyard was a magical place.

*last name changed, but you get the picture

3. Our family used to get together with another family fairly often, and we would all sing folk songs with the parents on guitars and the kids singing for awhile, until we as kids got bored and went off to play games elsewhere in the house. The parents would continue singing for awhile, but would end up just sitting around talking. I know this because once the singing stopped, we would all sneak back into the computer room, which was attached to the living room by long cutouts in the top of the wall. We would stand on the back of the couch and peer over, listening in on the conversation of the adults. It generally ended up not being very interesting to us, but it was still thrilling to spy.

Friday, March 2, 2007

James and Hal

Let me tell you about the two guys that I've spent the most time with during the past few days.

Hal and I spent an afternoon in my room. I followed him around, blocking him from going through the door or going into the closet or under the bed. When he bumped into me, he turned around and went off in some new direction. Hal is my sister's robot vaccuum, and I adore the little songs he sings. I wish I had a Hal of my own.

James, on the other hand, is a real person. He is, in fact, our old man neighbor, the one who sits out on his porch all day every day, watching the world go by. I spent about an hour with him on Tuesday afternoon on his porch, just sitting there talking, and then another hour on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday, we went inside and talked in his living room, eating banana muffins the Desirable One had made earlier. He told me about his youth, growing up in Mississippi on a farm, how his grandmother raised him because his mother died when he was very young. He told me about all of his family, about his uncle who built the church up the street from us, who was its pastor for a long time, about all his children and his grandchildren, about how his daughter (granddaughter? I can't remember) was the first black cheerleader at my University, about the other neighbors on the street. He knows everyone, because he's always out there on the porch. While we were sitting there talking, I had to wait three times for him to wave to people driving by or walking along that had something to say to him. James is amazing. My roommates keep telling me to bring a tape recorder with me when I go to talk to him, because he says some interesting stuff, and it's usually a good idea to record the things old people say, because who knows how long they'll be here. Looking back on the past six months that I've lived in this house, I feel bad about all the times I just waved and said good morning to him on my way to school, and never came to talk to him. Partially because he's lonely in that house by himself, but mostly because now I know how fun it is to sit and talk with him.