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The Beauty in Boiled Peanuts

My husband MTM is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up eating things like frozen custard and cheese curds and Friday Fish Fry. Amazingly, he is a hot, slender man in spite of that early diet.

On the other hand, I have never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line. While I love to get out of the South, I would probably spontaneously combust if I tried to live anywhere else on earth. My Southern genes would likely attack themselves trying to recreate the hot, humid Hell I’ve always lived in.

I grew up eating all the usual Southern fried suspects – fried chicken; BBQ (vinegar base only – everything else is crap); shrimp and grits; fried okra; fluffy biscuits. I could go on and on and on.

Boiled peanuts have to be at the top of my list of things that make me feel Southern. Hot out of the pot, their salty goodness is next-to-impossible to top. When the hot water runs down my arms and I’m covered in wet peanut shells, I am always supremely happy. I cannot fathom anyone else feeling differently about something so decadent.

Only MTM cilantros boiled peanuts. In fact, one of the biggest arguments in our marriage occurred at a Charleston RiverDogs game over the issue of peanuts. He wanted roasted; I demanded boiled. A stalemate ensued as we purchased enough peanuts to feed our entire stadium section – mine boiled; his roasted.

What was worse, we tore into them at once, loudly proclaiming with mouths-full-of-peanuts why one selection was superior to the other. That MTM eats his roasted peanuts SHELLS AND ALL only added to the dramatic impact of the escalating carnage. I mean, I had never in my whole Southern life seen another human being eat a peanut shell. WHAT do they teach people about eating in Milwaukee?

Our dapper friend Ray Huff quietly came over, sat down next to me, pointedly looked at MTM, and started eating my boiled peanuts with me. “Some people just don’t get Southern,” he said conspiratorially.

Maybe so. But everyone should get boiled peanuts.

When I last made boiled peanuts, I did it this way:

Bring water to a boil in a large, deep pot. Add enough salt to the water to make it briny, anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup. The amount of salt is contingent upon how salty you want them. I prefer less salty, but some people prefer more. Stir to dissolve.

Wash 4 – 5 pounds of raw peanuts, leaving the shells on. When the water boils, place the peanuts in the water. Cover, stirring occasionally, and let boil for at least 3 hours, though I prefer the peanuts very soft, which usually takes at least 3 1/2 hours.

Remove from water and let cool just enough to be able to not burn your fingers when you rip into them.

How *Not* to Dig a Hole With Your Spouse

“A 12 x 12 hole in the ground? Why, that’s the size of two graves!” quipped my mother when I told her that my husband and I were going to dig a hole together last weekend. ¬†Already riddled with misgivings about this hole digging expedition, this was decidedly NOT the encouragement I needed.

I’m not handy. I can barely pound a nail, and I don’t know how to operate a drill or a saw. When it comes to hanging a picture, I just pick a random spot and attach the hanger to the wall. If the positioning isn’t perfect, who will see all the holes I made, right? They’ll be behind the picture, completely covered up.

My husband, on the other hand, is hyper-handy. I think the man can do whatever he likes with power tools or make anything with his bare hands and a few ingredients. Hanging a picture, for him, is a scientific exercise of precision. At least fourteen different tools are required – for measuring, marking, leveling, testing, etc., etc., etc. – until I’m just shrieking, “Hang the freaking thing, already!!!”

Opposites may attract and all that, but they decidedly do NOT perform certain tasks well together. Case in point – our hole. We are digging a hole for a basement that will eventually be an outbuilding.

I arrive at the site in my cute workout gear with my hair done just so. My husband shows up in nasty shorts and a white undershirt. Point one for him.

I stare at the 12 x 12 spot all marked out and think it looks a LOT bigger than the last time I saw it. As I’m pondering this, he attacks the spot and has a whole layer of earth broken up for moving. Two points for the man.

Still dallying, I ask just how long it might take to dig this hole. As he’s shoveling, he cheerily says he doesn’t know, because the top layer is littered with roots and junk. But, he’s working, and I’m still not, worth three points for the dude.

I stare around the site, seeking anything that might keep me from having to DO some actual manual labor. This takes at least 15 more minutes, while the mighty man has cleared the way to the lovely red clay underneath the top layer. “Oh, that will definitely soil my cute workout gear,” I say. “Maybe I could do something else?”

He stares at me wiltingly, picks up a hand saw and says, “You can cut down a few of these brush trees around here. You CAN use this thing, can’t you?” he asks as if he’s sure I cannot possibly work the thing without sawing my leg off.

I’m thinking that I’ll likely saw my leg off when he first suggests such an outlandish activity for me, but the actual challenge to my utter lack of ability makes me forget that I’ve never operated a hand saw or chopped down a tree in my forty-one-year life. Irked, I grab the hand saw and attack the nearest tree – one that, clocking in a almost a foot in diameter, is decidedly too big for a puny girl wielding a hand saw for the first time, no matter how “I’ll show him” angry she is.

My husband calmly dug a hole about four feet deep while I yelled and kicked and sawed myself into a sweaty, filthy froth. Twenty scrub trees perished, but I’ll tell you this much – I can now use a hand saw to chop down a tree.

Booting Bikes is Bicycle Friendly?

Imagine that you’re driving your car. You get in. You crank it up. You turn on the AC, letting it blow mercifully in your face. You pull out of your driveway and propel your car to your desired destination.

Imagine arriving at your desired destination. You drive around and around and around your desired destination. Then, imagine driving around some more, fruitlessly seeking a parking space that is legal, that won’t have you booted, ticketed or towed.

You can’t find a space to park your vehicle. ANYWHERE.

Do you return to this destination again? Or, do you decide it’s not worth the trouble?

Now, replace all those car references with the word “bicycle.” You want to ride your freaking bicycle to the same place. You’re choosing to 1. save some gasoline; 2. burn some calories; 3. take advantage of natural AC; 4. take a car off the road; 5. pave the way for others to ride their bikes for the same (or other) reasons.

Now, imagine a city that makes it illegal for you to do all of those things, because they’re basically making it against the law to park your bicycle. ANYWHERE.

Yes, people, the City of Charleston, South Carolina City Council is considering an ordinance this evening that would do just that. As the ordinance is currently written, parking a bicycle downtown on any surface other than a bike rack will be illegal.

Illegal? For crying out loud!

The King Street area has around 4,000 parking spaces currently. There are probably fewer than 100 bike racks along the same street, leaving bikers who want to visit King Street to shop or hang out the unfortunate option of attaching their bicycles to other things – parking meters, light poles, and signs.

The City currently doesn’t require businesses to provide bike racks for patrons of a given area, nor does the City itself install nearly enough bike racks to service the number of folks who obviously want to ride their bicycles to visit King Street establishments.

I’m one of those people. I ride my bicycle to King Street establishments. All. The. Time.

Or, I used to. I guess all of those struggling businesses won’t be getting one red cent of my money anymore, particularly if I find out they’re behind this accursed “make bike parking illegal” nonsense.

What’s even more ludicrous – and hyper-hypocritical, I might add – is that the City of Charleston just applied to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Community by The League of American Bicyclists. On what planet can a city that doesn’t support bike parking, that would propose such a ridiculous ordinance, actually obtain this certification?

Please, good people at LAB, put a big, fat REJECTED stamp on this application if this preposterous ordinance is passed. This short-sighted city does not deserve it if we care more about what things “look like” than we do about joining the movement of progressive cities in the 21st century.

And, if anyone comments, “But, this is Charleston…..” on this post, please be warned that I will come through the computer and pound you one. With a friendly, Charleston smile affixed to my face, of course.

Inception’s Dream of the Architect

"The Dream of the Architect" by Thomas Cole

After seeing the movie “Inception” last night, I’m convinced of one thing. Christopher Nolan, the writer and director, MUST be married to an architect. Or, he has been married to an architect in the past. Or, one or several of his close friends are architects. Or, perhaps he studied architecture at some point. Somewhere, somehow, the man is intimately familiar with the behavioral quirks of the architectural set.

I ought to know. I’m married to an architect myself. One of my closest friends is an architect, and her husband is also an architect. Much of our extended friendship circle is made up of architects. If you look at many of my friends on Facebook, they’re architects. I’m surrounded by an almost constant stream of banter about buildings and starchitects and roof details and the perfect doo-dad to prop up the thing-a-ma-jig that sits behind a cabinet that no one will ever see.

Architects like to draw – on everything, but especially on napkins and scraps of paper while they’re eating. They all do this with relish, like eating is the ritual that incites creativity. When DiCaprio did it in the movie – a pivotal, serious scene – I started laughing out loud, something that no one else in the theater (and it was FULL of architects) thought was funny.

What’s worse about this tendency for drawing on things is that every scrap – even if they’ve blown their noses on part of it; especially if it’s wadded up so tightly that it would be humanly impossible to press it flat again – every shred represents the INCEPTION of a design that may be useful SOMEDAY. Therefore, none of these things that look like rubbish to the non-architect can ever be thrown away.

I’ve also learned that architects design buildings for everyone else, but their own houses are usually unfinished projects, leaving them in a perpetual bliss of design mode. They see what a modernist miracle of perfection it’s going to be one day, when it’s done. But, it will never be done.

Nothing demonstrated these behaviors more clearly for me than the architect husband and wife dream of the perfect world in the movie. I laughed all the way to the car dissecting that place, where the two of them, entirely alone, constructed a mammoth city of their dreams, a modernist miracle of insane proportions that was built all the way into the sea. Without having to deal with deadlines, clients, construction administration, contractors, subcontractors and so on, they lived for over fifty years in what must be every architect’s dream of how they would practice and live if money were no object. They would just exist in the orgiastic bliss of designing and designing and designing.

Knowing and loving architects adds an entirely different dimension to the pleasure of watching “Inception.” Obviously, I adore them, because I’ve chosen to surround myself with them at every turn. Just don’t laugh out loud in the serious architectural moments in the movie. Call me, and we can laugh together instead.

Desperately Seeking “Support”

From my fave JT song that isn't a JT song.

I am officially in mourning. For much of this evening, I have been Googling my fingers to a pulp looking for a very specific replacement for something that means very much to me. I really don’t know how I’m going to go on dressing without my Calvin Klein 365 bra. I have two of them in buff. They both developed holes in them while I was in England, and while I’m sparsely endowed, this has become a jiggling problem.

I realize this is an over share, but I am so singularly obsessed with finding one of these undergarments that I am willing to push the bounds of propriety. I cannot imagine getting dressed without this perfect assemblage of breathable fabric that totally disappears under anything. It doesn’t bind, twist, poke or cause unsightly back fat.

It might also be that the day that I bought them both, on the inaugural mission for one of them no less, I ended up having dinner one table away from Justin Timberlake. THE Justin Timberlake actually saw me wearing this Calvin Klein bra.

Well, he didn’t SEE the bra, but I had it on.

And, I know he looked at me. He couldn’t help it because I was actually staring at him open mouthed for much of my meal, something that couldn’t have been very fetching given that I was also eating at the time. When I remembered.

So, the combination of this bra’s amazing qualities and being sort of blessed by Justin Timberlake makes it a tragedy that Calvin Klein no longer makes it. Even though it is the plainest, most homely, utterly unsexy undergarment I’ve ever owned, I always stand a little taller with it on.

So, if anyone has any leads on one Calvin Klein 365 Cotton Seamless Bralette in buff size medium, send them my way. I’m just desperate enough to make a brazen, perverse and very public plea.

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