Monday, October 29, 2012

Thai one on: a working title

Dear 29,
Anthony moved. It's very sad, but also super great for him. (Hi Tone) In your honor, I made authentic pad thai. (Anthony tells me it's pronounced "pod thai" and that "pad" isn't the correct way to say it. I still said "pad thai" while cooking. Sorry Anthony. The new pronunciation is pretty tough to get used to my friend.)
This quest to cook authentic pad thai (I'm assuming Alton Brown's recipe is authentic. I hope it was.) came out of a hungry conversation on a car ride back to DSM from Muskie. Thai Flavors was closed. Ridiculous considering the internet said they were open until 8pm on Sundays. And poof: I decided I needed to cook thai food. Real thai food.
I made two trips to the local Asian Market after forgetting to buy "salted radish." I had to google a whole lot of these ingredients. Salted Radish, for example, is actually dried, salted radish, as the package says. Should have probably been able to figure that one out myself.
Tamarind Concentrate is super tart and made from the pods from the tree featured on the packaging. Palm sugar is tasty, just so you know, and I am using it in my coffee daily. (The coffee made in my new Keurig. Which I technically bought for a Christmas gift for someone else, but kept at my home to "try it out for awhile." Generosity.) 
I've now given this recipe a go twice. And I'm definitely learning a lot about the individual ingredients, especially how they smell. Whew. A few things to know about pad thai and the "authentic recipe" that might help you:
- It smells terrible at first. Like run the fan above the stove terrible. Then it starts to smell delicious. I promise. You will think you failed, but you didn't. Keep going.
- Wok. You should use one. I didn't, and wish I did.
- Drink a Thai beer while cooking to bolster your courage. I recommend Singha.
- Salted Radish is a good substitute for Salted Cabbage.
- Snip up the dried shrimp into tiny little bits. You'll be happy you did.
- This is worth repeating. Don't smell the fish sauce + tamarind + rice vinegar + palm sugar mix.
- Make sure you have some sriracha for your dinner date in case they want to add a lil spice.
- You'll have enough of the ingredients to try this recipe a few times.
Anthony. I hope you're proud. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Go Go Month October!

Dear 29,
Back in April I wrote "The next race I'll be ready for."  
So in early summer, when it was announced that The Color Run was coming to Des Moines in October, I thought "oh hey let's run three times a week and get fit so you don't embarrass yourself while running through powder color clouds with everyone you know in Des Moines." I also thought "summer is probably going to go really slow." And then I thought "you'll have so much time to do everything you want to do this summer like blog, read everything Rob Sheffield* writes while keeping up on new gems in the music world, and shoot off at least four confetti cannons."
It was ok. My race buddy from 5k #1 jogged along with me.
But then it was September. So I thought "man summer was gulped up as fast as I watched Gossip Girl season 4." And then I thought "well dude, if you watched less Gossip Girl you'd probably have had more time to run."
And then, well then it was October 5th. The night before the race. And I sipped a moscow mule at the Alpine thinking "Looks like you're going to run a race again in the most awesomely unprepared way. Better get to bed, dude."
But hey I did it. Ran through a fine powder rainbow mist. The Color Run kicked off one seriously colorful month of October. Chelsea and I donned full spandex-blend suits and wore socks to a party last night. As evidenced by the photo below, we were some pretty serious power rangers. Go Go!
A super night. Now. I have to get back to Gossip Girl. And my second attempt at Pad Thai**. And Sleigh Bells.

*Dear Rob Sheffield, I know I haven't mentioned you in a blog post in a long time. 
**There's a draft blog post I've been writing called Thai one on. Expect it to be published eventually. Along with a post from three months ago about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. And one called "Tramps." At least one of them will end up on the blog.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#stoopgarden: a summer in review.

Dear 29,
This autumn weather has been a bit of a roller coaster. The #stoopgarden and I experienced some real mood swings. I thought I'd have some wise life lesson to share at the end of this growing season, but actually I have a whole lot of pesto instead.
Back in May, these sweet little plants were purchased because, well honestly, I was in need of something that would need my attention. (I'm a nurturer. Or annoyingly attentive. Depends on who you ask.) And it was either buy a little husky red tomoto plant or a husky red puppy and since I'm still not sure I even like dogs that much*, plants won out. With rosemary, thyme, that husky red, some basil, oh and this trifecta of herbs I bought on a whim the #stoopgarden was born.
You read that right. I needed a project. This is a fairly common problem for me, the need for something that consumes me, and these plants became an obsession. Maybe you know this if you follow xolp on the instagram. My apologies to the followers, but #stoopgarden happened, like a lot. I know it seems silly to say aloud, but I felt like I mothered my sweet little plant. Occasionally I worried I wasn't feeding it enough, I felt delighted when it outgrew it's terrible metal planter and once in awhile I feared my first red tomatoes would be snacked on by a hungry can collector. Very motherly.
When those first tomatoes sprouted I snapped like 37 photos to show anyone who was near my iphone. Just like a mom, or at least like a proud mom with an iphone.
The summer of #stoopgarden-ing wasn't without it's challenges. There was this drought happening which seriously effected my great state and my little garden. There was a windy storm that broke that thriving husky red nearly in half. And until "real tomato stakes" were purchased (from a craft store) I used skewers and embroidery floss to keep it standing. The plant fell down the stoop. That was a rough one, especially because I was convinced it was #stoopgarden sabotage.
A week or so ago the first freeze was forecasted so I lugged the plants inside and reverently stripped them of their basil, parsley, greek basil, chives and green tomatoes. (You might notice there was no rosemary and no thyme. That's because metal pots are stupid. And plants go to die in them.) The tomatoes are still ripening in a paper bag, a trick that actually works and seems like magic. The parsley and basil have been frozen into cubes of pesto. And I feel like I accomplished something. I kept it alive, I ate some food I grew myself, and I felt pretty great about it. 
This is the last post about the #stoopgarden. We grew a lot this summer. Both of us.

*PETA: Because you read this, obviously, please consider this my apology for the animal dis. I just haven't taken a super liking to animals. We Palmers had a couple fish, RIP Flora and Fauna, and a Roscoe, the cat my dad once told me offed himself after he realized the fourth kid born into the house was another girl. He's buried beneath the pear tree. That tree was struck by lightening. Or maybe hit by a heavy wind. And it SURVIVED. Coincidence? Just sayin.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A grown up journey to sappytown.

Dear 29,
It occurred to me this past week, on a big kid trip to Muscatine, after a grown up week at work, during an adult type evening of making shredded pork stew and watching the news, I'm 29. I should know, clearly, considering it's you, age 29, that I'm writing this slightly-less-than-world-famous blog to. (I tried rewriting that sentence without ending with a preposition. Another mature decision.) Being a grown up is kind of hard.
This photo was taken so long ago. Like at least 2.5 years. 26 was ages ago.
They don't tell you this when you are 17, practicing your graduation speech in your football-kicker-boyfriend's car, thinking how cool it'll be when he becomes a professional soccer player/cool teacher and you are "doing something art related" in a city bigger than eastern Iowa at age 23, because clearly by then you'll be ready to settle down, have enough money to drive a Honda with a CD player, spend time with fancy people sipping wine spritzers and picking wall colors for that extra room in the single-family home you own that you've been referring to as the "someday for a baby" room.
Here's the face of that fantasy. My mom made me put on mascara that day.
I can say, wholeheartedly, that I am damn happy that little dream didn't come true, other than the Honda (score), but really, why did I think at 23 I'd have it all figured out? Did Mrs. Larry teach that in 8th grade home-ec (do they still teach home-ec) when she showed me not only how to whip up pudding pops and sew a bag I'd use to hold my disc-man, but also to balance my checkbook? Because I firmly believed my life would be rich with well, riches and babies and handholding in the HyVee before this blog was even a twinkle in my eye.
This is really what 23 looks like at Thanksgiving with your cool sisters.
They should really teach you (no offense to you personally Mrs. Larry) that by 23 you'll mostly feel confused about how to style your hair to make you look still 23, but also be taken seriously as a professional. You'll wish your family lived a little closer, drink cheaply during happy hour at West Des Moines bars, work later than you want to at the office and struggle to find friends in a new city without lecture halls and force-fed study groups. You'll feel tired a lot, wish you could afford cable, get pumped when your window unit air conditioner actually cools your living room and live 3 months with lamps that don't have shades on them. 
Oh dude, college was awesome. So few grown up responsibilities, so many nights at the Sports Column
in matching shirts and one-dollar-you-call-its.
But you know what Mrs. Larry* also doesn't teach you? (Come on, make a guess here while scrolling past yet another photo of me. I'm sure you're are sick of those by now, but I'm making a point here.)
Who knew I'd be in Mexico at 24? Bet I couldn't have done that if I was maintaining that single-family home, I mean I probably could (lots of people do it) but believe me, I wouldn't have, I know me by now.
Mrs. Larry doesn't teach you that even if you are prone to worry about everything and enjoy drawing out your monthly calendar on the first of the month (wake up wake up) so that you can memorize your schedule, you really can't plan exactly what will happen after those moments in your high school boyfriend's super sweet Monte Carlo. (I think that's the name of a car) I'm constantly surprised, mostly in the good kind of way, by how great my post-23 life has turned out.
Getting old is kind of hard, true. You have to pay for your contact lenses (an astigmatism- pain in the ass and expensive). There are budgets and difficult work meetings about goals and outcomes and you have to keep in touch with your sisters via gchat and you'll start fishing even though you don't feel outdoorsy. But 29 has been more fun than 23 ever could have been and more fun than my 17 year old self ever, ever had. (I think this blog post just took a turn toward sappytown**.)
Fishing in Muscatine. Lived 20ish years of life there and this was my first time.
As a grown up there are dance parties and dinner parties and nights where you can watch the Voice in oversized tshirts while eating risotto (because you're a grown up who knows how to make risotto) and sipping petite sirah (because you're a grown up who can legally buy booze and knows how to ask for the best tasting, but cheapest bottle of red.) There are scotch clubs as a grown up. Come on. My fluffy headed, nerdy 17 year old wouldn't have known how to even imagine a future with scotch clubs.
I think what I'm trying to say here (I know, you're wondering where this is going) is that while I might not have lived out the visions I had for my adult life, my life is indeed full of riches.
Being a grown up is kind of hard. But being a grown up is also kind of awesome.

*Seriously Mrs. Larry I'm sorry for using your name so much. I don't know what you're up to now but I wish you well. I'm sure you've retired and don't park in front of my parents' house anymore and I can guarantee you don't read this blog, but you are being honored in this post. You taught me to use a sewing machine, what Junior Achievement is and how to make some delicious microwave granola. Thanks for being a teacher, Mrs. Larry.
**Sappytown isn't a place I like to ride into on the blog, but hey, we all have introspective moments. And if you aren't part of that "we all" you probably don't read this blog anyway. So it's ok.