Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Recommendation: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

In Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, Nora Ephron, Ann Patchett, Steve Almond, and others provide essays about the experiences of eating alone, along with a scattering of recipes designed to feed one.

I read this on vacation, which was unfortunate because the book made me want to go out immediately to buy ingredients to cook myself a fabulous meal. In particular, Phoebe Nobles' Asparagus Superhero made me sad that the asparagus season is over for the year.

The thread that connects all the pieces in the book is that feeding yourself, when you're by yourself, is an acceptably selfish act. When you don't have to worry about the needs and wants of another person, you can cook whatever you want. Whether you choose to treat yourself to a nice place setting and garnishes, or eat straight out of the pot, it is all about what feels best to you. (Personally, I tend to run the gamut between cooking lovely dinners for myself with fancy ingredients to having cornflakes for dinner.)

I didn't connect quite as much to the section on eating out alone. I've done it and I'd do it again, especially when traveling, but I think that restaurants are fundamentally a social experience for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spinster of the Week: Shakespeare's Beatrice

Okay, so she caves and agrees to marry Benedick at the end of the play, but who couldn't love the woman who said:

(...) He that have a beard is more than a youth, and he that have no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him. Therefore I will even take sixpence in ernest of the berrord and lead his apes into hell.

Leonato: Well then, go you into hell?

No, but to the gate, and there will the devil meet me like an old cuckold with horns on his head, and say, 'Get you to heaven, Beatrice, get you to heaven. Here's no place for you maids.' So deliver I up my apes, and away to Saint Peter. For the heavens, he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there we live as merry as the day is long.

Furthermore, Beatrice is clearly not going to get married just for the heck of it. When the very eligible prince presents himself as a suitor, she turns him down with charm and wit. Because that's how she rolls.

Woman places ad to 'barter' her Jeep for a husband

Sigh. - Woman places ad to 'barter' her Jeep for a husband

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How Not to Woo a Spinster

So, of course I am still delighted with the spinster lifestyle, but recently I've been taking a little dip in the online dating pool. Folks, it's a jungle out there, but at least I'm learning something. Here is a "dos and don'ts" I have compiled based on my experience.

  • Be interesting, but not too interesting. One or two cool hobbies? Great. Seven or eight (none of which you can stop talking about long enough to let me get a word in edgewise) make me think that you're desperately trying to keep me from figuring out how boring you actually are.

  • I know I "deserve happiness," thanks. You don't really need to tell me that, and when you do, it is awfully patronizing and it kind of makes me want to punch you in the nose. Furthermore, I am pretty darn happy already, and whether or not you want to go to a movie with me is not going to have much bearing on my joy levels.

  • You don't have to be rolling in the dough, but please at least make sure you have enough cash and/or room on your debit card to pay a small tab if you've invited me for drinks or coffee. This is particularly relevant if you have just made a big show of refusing my attempt to pay half.

  • On a somewhat related note, if you live with one or both parents, please at least have the decency to be slightly ashamed of yourself and/or have a really good explanation.

  • Look at and remember my profile. If you have to ask what I do for a living after viewing it, you don't meet the minimum reading comprehension requirement.

  • You don't get to be sulky and posessive until we've at least had coffee. Sometimes it takes me awhile to return a message. Maybe because I'm busy with something else, maybe because the last thing you said was kinda weird and I'm not sure how to respond to it, maybe it was charming and I'm trying to come up with an equally witty response. Whatever the case, taking a little spin on your Huffy bike is not attractive.

  • If you message me telling me you'd "like to paint" me, please make it clear whether you mean "paint a picture" or "swirl paint on the cold skin of my lifeless corpse." Frankly, both are rather creepy, but there's obviously an exponential increase for the latter meaning.

  • It's okay to have exes and it's okay to talk about them eventually. But if the first thing you type after the compulsory "Hello, how are you?" message includes the phrase "I don't care if she was cheating on me, she was an awful girlfriend," you might want to get back to me after after you've finished your summer stay at Camp Bitter.

  • Don't list any hobbies that I have to look up on Urban Dictionary. I don't care if there's a slight chance you might really be talking about actual plumbing projects. Just don't do it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What to get your spinster for Christmas.

There are still a few more shopping days before Christmas. Do you have a spinster to shop for? Don't get her a hug pillow. She won't think it's funny.
But who wouldn't love the Crazy Cat Lady board game? Even if she is a dog person, she will love the retro-style game that reminds me of the games I played as a kid. It's like Candy Land, with kitties. You can also get the accompanying action figure.

While you're shopping at Archie McPhee, check out the affirmation ball. It's a convenient compliment delivery system!

Help her weather the holidays with a sassy flask from Ann Taintor:
The Sex in the City movie is new out on DVD, but everybody knows the series was better. The complete set comes in a fuzzy pink binder. What could be better than that?How about a cook book? There are lots with recipes that make one or two servings. This one has healthy recipes, and I love the big crock-pot version of this one. You could even get her a small-size crock pot to go with it!

Finally, spinsters tend to be independent in nature and like to pick things out for themselves. A gift card or certificate is always a good idea. InSpa has lots of locations, and since they have a no-tip policy, it is easy to a gift card for the exact amount of the service.

An experience gift is also always good. Tickets to a concert or show are great, but so is an IOU for brunch or another fun activity.

Finally, I have really enjoyed giving and getting charitable donations lately. Charities are hurting in the current economy. Heifer International allows you to "give" livestock to a needy community. Pasado's Safe Haven is one of my favorites; you can make a flat donation, or you can sponsor one of the animals at their shelter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Potato-Leek Soup

One of the drawbacks, for me, of being a spinster, is that I really do like to cook, and it's fun to cook for other people. I still like to make a big batch of something, even if I'm not having company, so I can have leftovers in the freezer. It's cheaper and healthier than take-out or packaged convenience foods. Not that I don't have my fair share of dinners consisting of Totino's Pizza Rolls and Rice Crispies. (Not together, of course--that is a two-course meal.)

I'm getting over a cold this weekend, so I decided to make Potato-Leek soup in the crock pot. The recipe is from Not Your Mother's Slow-Cooker Cook Book. The cookbook authors adapted it from Julia Child, which made me feel very accomplished and fancy, even though it was a really easy recipe. It only has four ingredients!
4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
4 peeled, diced russet potatoes
4 leeks, chopped, white parts only

Leeks can be hard to get clean, if they have grit between the layers. The trick I use is to slice them, then let them sit in a bowl of cold water for an hour or so. All the grit settles to the bottom, and you can just scoop the leeks out of the top with a slotted spoon.

All the ingredients cook in the crockpot for 4-6 hours. I'm sure it smells really good, but I can't smell much today.

After it's cooked, you can ladle small batches into the blender, or use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If you're clutzy like me, I recommend an immersion blender. It saves lots of clean-up and the potential of 2nd degree burns. Believe me. It is one thing to accidentally splatter a milkshake all over yourself, and quite another to do it with hot soup.

I end up with a yummy dinner, and lots of leftovers to freeze for future lunches and dinners.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Spinster's Guide to Office Holiday Parties

The office holiday party is right up there with weddings on the list of events dreaded by spinsters. Especially if you're a spinster studying to be a hermit, like me. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are a few tips to get through it.
  1. Go. Don't worry about roping some poor friend into going with you, unless you know some fabulous extrovert who might actually enjoy himself. You work with these people every day, so there will be plenty of people to talk to, and depending on the political climate of your office, avoiding the party might be a poor career move. But...
  2. Remember that once you've put in a perfunctory appearance, you don't have to stay. Nobody is going to remember what time you left.
  3. Glam up, but be comfortable. Don't make the mistake I almost made, which involved a 1 size too-small pair of Spanx. Getting into them required a martial arts-style workout. (And kick and tug and squat and PULL!) This kind of thing is going to seriously cut down on the fun-factor.
  4. Don't feel like you need to spend a lot of money on a new outfit unless you want to. Nobody is going to remember what you wear, so dress-up a basic black dress with jewelry if you don't already have something suitable. Last year, I bought a dress I thought was cute because it was a good price, it fit, and I thought it was cute, but this year I didn't want to get anything new.
  5. Enjoy a cocktail, but don't get drunk. Nothing is sadder than a drunk single girl alone at a party.
It's not the prom, even if some people in your office treat it like it is. You needn't invest a lot of money, effort, or time to have fun.