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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Nutella

March24

The first time I had Nutella was in 1993. My mom’s best friend had moved to Australia a few years earlier and super expensive trans-atlantic phone calls once a year and letters written in cramped writing on both sides of onion skin paper and sent airmail just weren’t enough. So she used my graduating from 8th grade as an excuse to fly the both of us out to visit them. Happy graduation, let’s go to Oz! I’m not complaining, mind. It was an incredible trip. I fell in love hard with Melbourne, and it’s the one place in my life I’ve ever felt homesick for, which is weird considering I was only there for about 3 weeks. But man, I loved it so much. We stayed with our family friends and I tried Nutella for the first time. We’d been sending them care packages for years of stuff like graham crackers and Oreos and Captain Crunch and some other stuff they couldn’t get over there (coffee that wasn’t instant? lasagne noodles that you had to boil first? I forget what else.) and they’d send us Vegemite. After our return they sent Nutella as well, something you couldn’t get (or couldn’t get easily?) in the States.

OF COURSE I shared this with my friends.

They thought I was crazy.

Putting CHOCOLATE on BREAD? How ridiculous is that! No wonder you’re such a fat fatty! These FOOLS who enjoyed chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate croissants, white and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, pound cake with chocolate ganache, chocolate bread pudding, etc could not FATHOM putting CHOCOLATE (and hazelnut) on BREAD. Ewwww, gross! I made them eat it, because that’s the kind of friend I am, and they all saw how amazing it was and liked it. And for years, Nutella was a staple in my cupboard.

Now it’s super popular and you can pick it up in almost every grocery store and there’s weird ads for it on television and in magazines where it sounds like it’s health food (it’s chocolate, people. chocolate. tasty, not healthy.) and there’s a million recipes and memes about Nutella online. You can find it pretty much everywhere… except my kitchen.

Why?

Because of Nesko.

I married a man who’s allergic to hazelnut. He’s also allergic to chestnuts and brazil nuts.

How allergic is he? I’ll tell you. Years ago, I worked at Fannie May and part of the job requirement was to be familiar with the product. I was sampling the new deluxe truffles (which were INCREDIBLE) and one of them was a hazelnut mousse filling (AMAZING). HOURS after I tried one single truffle with hazelnut Nesko came in to buy some Advent calendars for his cousin’s kids and I gave him a little kiss and his lips started tingling and got a little swollen.

Despite his allergic reactions (swelling, vomiting when he eats chestnuts) he continues to eat stuff with hazelnuts in it unless I remind him not to. His reasoning is that the allergic reaction isn’t THAT bad and hazelnuts taste good. My reasoning is that each exposure ups the chance his allergy will get worse, so stop making bad decisions you fool. So we don’t keep Nutella in the house.

Recently, some peanut butter companies have tried to jump on the Nutella bandwagon and put out their own chocolate spreads. Every time I see them I scrutinize them for hazelnut. Peanuts, after all, are tasty and they are peanut butter companies. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to use peanuts instead of hazelnuts in their java chocolate caramel whatever spreads? But no, they all cram hazelnuts in there.

Then I found these little single-serve packs by Jif. They’re one of the Jif To Go products and they are chocolate and peanut butter and hazelnut free and I ate some with pretzels and I almost died because it tasted so good. I wish they came in a full sized jar, but apparently they don’t. If you want to try out a great tasting nut and chocolate spread but can’t do hazelnut, give this a try because it’s really REALLY good.

This is a totally uncompensated post. Nobody asked me to write it, nobody’s paying me for it, I just wanted to share something super tasty with you because I love you.

posted under CONSUME, eating, life, marriage, Nesko, stuff | Comments Off on Nutella

Brave new opportunities

April7

I volunteer at the Albany Park Community Center, working with Adult Basic Education (ABE) Math students.

I noticed a flyer on the wall for a woodworking/CNC operator training program. It’s open to Chicago residents who fit certain income parameters and want to go into a career woodworking/CNC operating, offers tuition assistance, and has like 90% job placement upon completion of the 12 week program.

It took several weeks of phone tag, but Nesko finally got hold of the place and went to orientation on Wednesday. Where he found out that the program starts next Monday. Which, you know, is too soon for him to join because he currently has a job and we don’t have enough money to tide us over for him not working for 3 months. He spoke with someone at the program, though, who said that with Nesko’s background and experience and skills he should have no problem 1) being accepted to the program 2) getting full financial assistance (which just covers tuition, not living expenses) and 3) getting a job after. So he’s going to call again in July to get Orientated and start the program at its next session in September.

Which means we have about 5 months to work something out regarding stockpiling 3+ months of living expenses, maybe working out something with his current job where he works only late afternoons/evenings, me getting a job, etc. I mean, I’ve been looking for a job for months now. But a friend of mine offered to mind Niko while I’m working, as long as SHE isn’t working, so… that frees me up quite a bit. At the very least, it gives us some time to get some cash banked so we can enroll Niko in day care while waiting for an application for subsidized daycare to be processed.

I’m still looking for a permanent position, but I called my temp agency for the first time in months to get back on their rolls.

I’m tentatively excited about everything going on… me working outside the home, Nesko starting training for something that would be a CAREER (and that, frankly, he’s been talking about doing since 1997, which is when I met him, which means he’s been considering it for even longer) and not just a job.

We’re due for a nice tax refund which should arrive in May-ish. We have more places to put that money than actual money, but at this point, we’re planning on just putting it aside for the three months he (probably) won’t be working, while he’s training. We’ll have THAT if nothing else.

Wish us luck on sorting out this financial situation. We need to get things squared away before he can even consider the program. There’s no way we can live on air for 3 months while he’s not pulling in an income.

posted under life, Nesko | Comments Off on Brave new opportunities

Would you like some fries with your hair burger?

November6

Nesko and I have been talking, recently and hypothetically, about travel. One of the ideas floated was him finding a job in Montenegro and moving there for awhile so that Niko could meet his extended family and get a good, solid feel for where Nesko’s family is from. I joked that it’d be great, Nesko could work all day while Niko and I travel and take the ferry to Italy and Greece and have a really long vacation and soak up the sun on European beaches. That led to talk of actual European travel, and Nesko mentioned wanting to travel to Germany, finding a nice Jugendherberge to stay at.

I tried to continue the conversation, but it derailed utterly when I attempted pronouncing Jugendherberge. I swear I did not add a terminating “r” but Nesko heard one and broke out laughing. Sorry, there are no rooms at the Jugend Hair Burger, although I hear their sandwiches are pretty tasty. We tried to work a mustache ride joke in there as well, but it just didn’t fit.

posted under life, marriage, Nesko, stuff | Comments Off on Would you like some fries with your hair burger?

Ah, love.

October21

There is a reason that I married the person I married.

We were sitting together in Niko’s room reading Best Little Word Book Ever to Niko when we lapsed into making fun of the book because we are just classy that way.

Nesko apparently grew up without experiencing Richard Scarry for himself, so it was an all new experience for him… an experience which became alarming when he got to a certain page.

He caught a glimpse of this image and was very alarmed at their “fixed dead wide-eyed soulless stare.”

I pointed out that ALL the animals look like that. “HAHA!” I crowed like the petty asshole I am, “NOW YOU CANNOT UNSEE IT.”

Then we came to this dude and tried to figure out how he got into his police station. I ventured that he had to go in through the door and then there were steps going down immediately. Nesko countered that his immense head wouldn’t fit through the doorway.

“There isn’t any glass in that “window.” These are animals. They don’t know from glass. They just blunder in through those large openings. These are, basically, Pluggers. No-toilet-paper-holder-having Pluggers.”

That last two comments pretty much broke me.

“They can only afford to buy 3 eggs at a time. Or maybe they’re only ALLOWED to.”

“They persist in wearing too-small clothing that shows off their exquisite beer guts.”

“They don’t have wrists, just stumpy little paw things with barely there sausage fingers. HOW DO THEY USE PHONES AND DRIVE THEY HAVE PAWMITTS INSTEAD OF HANDS.

“They are Pluggers. Richard Scarry should sue Jeff McNally Gary Brookins.”

posted under life, marriage, Nesko | 1 Comment »

The End Times Are Upon Us (for real this time)

February12

The end times are upon us. Seriously.

Nesko has shaved off the goatee and mustache he has been carefully nurturing for years now. I have no idea what the true impetus is for giving it the axe, other than he has a 4 day weekend and so can start growing it back in if he doesn’t like his naked face, and not look like a hobo at work when he goes in that first day. He cited several fairly petty reasons for getting rid of all that facial hair, and in fact, was going to just take off the goatee first and leave the mustache except he looked pretty terrible with a mustache and no chin hairs. So he has barbered his entire face.

He looks weird. Also: hot. You look at the same person every day for over ten years and pretty soon you don’t really LOOK at them. Your brain fills in the blanks. You don’t notice the details. Then they go and do something drastic and shake things up and your eyes and brain LOOK and NOTICE and oh man, he’s so cute. He really is. And hot.

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday, everybody.

posted under life, Nesko | Comments Off on The End Times Are Upon Us (for real this time)

Birthday Prep for Nesko, and our neighborhood is awesome.

October22

Nesko’s birthday is this Saturday (and next Saturday is Halloween and the Saturday after that is his brother’s birthday. The holidays are flying thick and fast now!) I’m making spanicopita, pastitsio, and chocolate-vanilla marble cheesecake.

I wanted to get good feta for the spanicopita and kefalotyri for the pastitsio, so we went to Andy’s Fruit Ranch. There, we found that kefalotyri is like $11.00 a pound, which we can’t afford right now so I got romano instead. I was able to get almost everything on our list except for Spinach (their fresh spinach looks really good and I don’t want it to sit in the fridge for three days; we’ll pick some up on Saturday morning), and chocolate cookies for the cheesecake’s crust.

They had almost no chocolate cookies.

They had some chocolate flavored maria cookies, but I’ve never had those before and have no idea if they taste like a butt or not. I know they’re a popular cookie, but do they work well in a cheesecake crust? No idea. They had oreos, which are nommy, but they were pretty expensive. They had some ladyfingers that were flavored half chocolate and half vanilla, which is not enough chocolate, and they had cookies drenched in chocolate covering.

Mmm, imported cookies.

Upshot is that Nesko’s going to pick up some kind of hard chocolate wafer cookie on the way home from work tonight so I can crush them into crumbs for the crust. It’s not that big a deal, having to make two trips. In fact, a few decades ago, it was common to make multiple trips when grocery shopping: you hit the butcher, you hit the bakery, you hit the green grocer. Stores specialized in what they sold.

Andy’s Fruit Ranch mostly specializes in import and ethnic things. They had cases of Jupi and Cockta. They had one million Polish cookies. They had Goya and La Preferida products out the windows. This is what Andy’s Fruit Ranch is.

I’m glad to have a resource like them, one that sells 6 different kinds of phyllo dough, 4 different kinds of feta, amazing cuts of meat, frozen Burek. It’s really awesome! We live in a cool neighborhood that has a lot of grocery stores like this, catering to different ethnicities (including at least one halal butcher).

So it’s kind of disappointing to read negative reviews on Yelp or whatever, from people who don’t really understand what an ethnic market is. Sorry, no, a place like this isn’t going to have every different brand of doritos, coke, pepperidge farm bread, whatever. If you want a wide selection of American products, go to a chain grocery store. If you want butter from Ireland and Poland and Germany, honey from all over Europe, 15 different kinds of olive oil, fresh fluffy packages of pita and naan, then come here. It’s this weird kind of entitlement. “Improve your selection, and THEN I might consider coming back!” Do these folks write overly wordy reviews of Jewel or Dominicks lamenting the lack of freekeh, poppy seed filling, Dr Oetker’s products? Do they really think that a specialty grocery store with a thronging clientele is going to come crawling after them? Weird.

posted under baking, Chicago, cooking, damn hipsters, home, Nesko | Comments Off on Birthday Prep for Nesko, and our neighborhood is awesome.

Oh my GOD! No explosions!

July3

The neighborhood I live in used to be really shitty. I know this because the front door of my apartment has 3 locks and the very tall chain link fence between our building and the one next to it has both regular barbed wire AND big (sagging, falling down) loops of razor wire along it. Also there’s a large amount of old people here, most of them Ethnic, who were probably warehoused out here when property values were much lower.

It’s a way better neighborhood now, full of awesome old buildings with much limestone and terra cotta, hipsters in low rise jeans and goofy looking glasses walking labrapuggles, a few blocks from the lake, with lots of Russian and Polish food in the nearby stores. (Also Korean and Chinese and Indian food, mmm)

Today is the 3rd of July. Unlike Julys past, there weren’t ANY fireworks overnight and none the past week. There have been very few today.

I am loving the shit out of this.

Explosions make me very nervous, and they make Nesko remember fleeing Montenegro in a taxi while it was being bombed. Good times.

I can only assume that the high concentration of old folks is what’s keeping the fireworks at bay.

We are going to Nesko’s family’s place tomorrow to cook out. I’m making chocolate chip pecan cookies (I think I will chop up the caillebaut chocolate I have) and hamburgers and chicken marinated in yogurt. I WILL LET YOU KNOW HOW IT TURNS OUT.

In completely different news entirely, I am doing a Sims 2 story over at http://www.morgendorfen.com. It updates Mondays and Wednesdays.

posted under life, Nesko | Comments Off on Oh my GOD! No explosions!

Blood, stones, etc.

April23

I had to get blood taken yesterday for labwork. I also had to run downtown on a quick errand (time spent traveling to and from downtown: an hour and a half. time spent on errand: ten minutes max. WOO PUBLIC TRANSIT.)

Anyway, as usual I dreaded the labwork, and since my initial errand took so long I couldn’t go to the lab I was supposed to go to because they were closing and had to nip by the hospital (which was only half a block away, so no huge deal).

I had to do an insulin test which involved more, UGH, Glucola and sitting around for an hour. If you ever need to do an insulin test or glucose resistance test (while pregnant) avoid the red glucola. It is foul. The yellow is ok, the orange is ok. Well, they are terrible, but they are less unrelentingly foul than the red stuff. The colder the better, and don’t let them pour it into a cup. Just straight up take the cap off the little plastic jug and chug the fucker down. I almost didn’t get through the glucola drink this time around because they gave me a cup and I had to keep stopping and refilling the cup and once you stop drinking glucola it is very hard to go back to drinking it.

The last time I had blood taken (which was at this same hospital) it took 45 minutes and three phlebotomists to do it. I forget how many times they stuck me. This time it only took 20 minutes (ho ho ho, “only”), two phlebotomists, and seven sticks. I eventually just had them stick the inside of my wrist.

“Oh, but that hurts!”

“You have stuck me six times and bruises are already forming. You think that doesn’t hurt? Just… just get it over with.”

They did, and got three vials of blood from me. WOW.

I felt really shakey after that and trudged across the street to the handy diner that’s there. Of course, I had no cash and they don’t take credit or debit cards. Defeated, I trudged back to the bus stop to head home. I talked to Nesko on the phone and he kept remarking how tired and out of it I sounded. The upside of this is that his mom (God bless her. One million times. ) Kept Nick overnight. Nesko stayed the night there too, with the plan that he would bring Nick home in the morning before work, but I woke up at 9:30am and no baby! So I guess Nesko was too tired to get up early and bring the baby home. Anyway, Nesko dropped by the apartment last night to pick up clean clothes for himself and some other stuff and was upset at how tired and out of it and crappy I looked. I tried to protest that I wasn’t THAT tired, but kept stuttering every time I talked to him, so… yeah.

I fell thousands times better today, although I have a huge bruise flowering on the inside of my wrist and inside both elbows.

I eagerly await the day saliva can be used instead of blood for diagnostic issues.

posted under baby, health, Nesko | Comments Off on Blood, stones, etc.

Donut adventures

February24

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on my way to my doctor’s appointment, and had the good fortune to be stuck in line behind a young couple who apparently had never been in a Dunkin Donuts before and didn’t know what exactly one does in a Dunkin Donuts but by GOD they had a gift card and they were going to use it. They sounded American when they talked, but the idea of “donuts” seemed to baffle them completely. They eventually settled on a pound bag of coffee, two cups of coffee in differing sizes and flavors, a donut, and a crooler. That’s how the woman said cruller. “Crooler.” “That crooler looks good. The flutey ridged thing. That’s a crooler, right? I’ve never had one. It’s so pretty.” Crooler. Then there was a problem with the gift card, and the coffee promotion which turned out to be error on the cashier’s part, who either didn’t speak English or else didn’t speak at all (mostly she just pointed at stuff and smiled. lots of gesturing going on.)

I forget why, but at some point Matt and Nesko and I were talking about eating food with forks. I think we started off talking about Pommes Frites and I said that one of Nesko’s aunts eats french fries with a fork. So Matt started listing off foods that one would eat with fingers, asking if it’s normal to eat them with forks in other countries. One of the foods was donuts. That’s a finger food, right? Like a muffin. Or a piece of bread. You wouldn’t dig into a muffin or piece of bread with a fork, would you? So Nesko talked about the Montenegrin version of donuts, which sound terrible and awesome all at once. Basically, they are carnival food. When you’re at the beach or whatever, you can get what are basically donut holes or mini donut balls that are fried fresh for you, and then dumped in a bowl and chocolate sauce is poured over them and I think he said sometimes whipped cream as well? It sounded like a sundae only instead of scoops of ice cream you got fried balls of dough. And it’s messy and you eat it with a fork. Vendors with carts sell these, because food from a cart is usually terrible and awesome all at once.

So it’s totally possible for someone to come from a place where donut shops don’t exist, and to be confused by the array of donuts (but no eclairs or danish or cake slices! what kind of bakery IS this?), but generally speaking not if you sound like you’re from Joliet.

posted under Chicago, Nesko | Comments Off on Donut adventures

“Light Rain” my ass

September13

We have comcast as our (unreliable, expensive, fairly shitty) internet provider, and I never got around to changing my home page from Comcast’s stupid celebrity fake news home page to google.com on IE because I am fairly lazy. However, firefox and chrome both give my computer conniptions for whatever reason, so I’ve been using IE lately, even though it burns. So I opened up IE this morning intending to check the weather and see how long it’ll be raining.

Comcast’s forecast for Chicago?

“Light Rain.”

Actual weather in Chicago right now?

Heavy rain, wind gusts of about 11 mph, and a slightly flooded kitchen in our apartment from the window being open and the wind changing direction for about half a minute. This will apparently continue for several days, through the middle of the week, except for the flooded kitchen part because I’ve closed up all the windows and we have the central air on so hopefully when we go to bed tonight our sheets won’t be clammy and damp like they have been lately because we’ve had like 97% humidity. Also, every time I hug Nesko, we kind of stick together. Again, from the humidity.

We were going to head up to Wisconsin and check out this house up there. This is the fourth trip in a row we’ve had to cancel, and since we’re allegedly moving at the end of the month, time is running out.

I’ve been working really hard packing and cleaning, and you can tell, because 75% of our books are gone, leaving nothing behind but battered boxes (some of them ten years old! from college movin’ days!), dusty shelves, and a a really really messy apartment with everything in disarray. I’m at the stage now where I just want to throw some clothes in a bag and burn everything else because fuck it, I am so freakin’ tired of packing and moving and unpacking and all that. This is the longest we’ve lived in one place and even though we intended to stay here for years and years and years, we never actually finished unpacking and have two closets that have a bunch of stll-taped-up boxes shoved into them. And that’s just tiring. Also we can probaby just throw those boxes out because we’ve never needed anything that’s in them in the past two years.

So! It’s storming outside, it’s a mess inside, there’s people coming by at some unspecified point today to look over the apartment and either fall in love with it or be horrified by the disgusting filth pigs who live here, and I need to wash the kitchen floor. And by “I ned to wash the kitchen floor”  I mean “I need to have Nesko wash the kitchen floor” because my asthma’s been acting up lately and the harsh chemicals that are involved in floor scrubbing will make me sick, and obviously we should have done this last night when the windows were still openable and we could have ventilated the apartment some.

Stay dry and safe, everyone.

posted under life, Nesko | 1 Comment »
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