TGHP Day 10: Recappin’ and then, telling him how grand he is

My days have seem to have run together in a never ending whirl of aprons, casseroles, scrubbing, threats of jello molds and always present shoulder bursitis.

But, since Ive been doing this for a  little over a week now– and I can only talk about casseroles so many times before I become a terrible bore– I think I oughta start with a recap.

– My house is cleaner and more presentable than it’s been in ages. I wasn’t exactly a terrible housekeeper before, but the new habits I am developing are keeping things at a much higher standard at all times. I like that if I have unexpected guests drop by (and please dont do that, seriously. A girl needs a bit of warning so that she can put pants on.) that I will not be stressed and uncomfortable about clutter/dust I have been ignoring.  Anyway, once I got things to a presentable level, it’s so much easier to spend 5 minutes a day maintaining it, then letting it get bad again and having to do all the scrubbing all over again.

-The routine I have adopted when Johnny Rotten gets home from work is going way better than I thought it would. I never really ignored him when he got home, but quickly freshening up and then going over to greet him with a “Hi, how was your day?” is a whole lot more than than me simply calling out “Hey” from whatever room I happened to be in at the time. He feels appreciated, I feel far more put together and ready to shift gears into him being home, and this whole routine is a win.

-Expanding my horizons into vintagey cleaning products has been great. While there are a few that I’m not wild about, for the most part, they persisted for a reason. My mom pointed out that perhaps vintage cleaning products are meant for vintage materials, like my formica countertop. Smart lady. It seems as though they are.

-I have a whole new appreciation for my modern appliances. A couple of days ago, I decided to make a pot of coffee with my stovetop percolator instead of my coffeemaker, and while the coffee was excellent, it took 25 minutes to make, and that was simply unacceptable to me. When I want coffee, I want it NOW.

corningwareI love you, old timey percolator,  but I can’t wait my whole life for you. Its not you. It’s me.

My immersion blender, my breadmaker, my super quick electric kettle and my microwave are also now treasured items in my life, and after attempting to make things without their help, I have a whole new understanding of exactly how hard ladies from the midcentury worked and the patience and timing they had to have in order to put even a basic meal together.

-I have learned that gartered stockings are the worst thing ever. They look great and far more classy than pantyhose, but only until they start sagging and bagging and pinching your bum with the little clip thingies with every step you take. You cant look like a classy lady when you are constantly dealing with surprise bum pinches, so we’re going to file that under “N” for “No”, “Nuh uh” and “Never again”.

-Vintage cookbooks are fun and the meals– though scary looking sometimes– are often surprisingly tasty and economical. However, I do not approve of the amount of MSG they call for. Two part question: Can you even still buy that? If so, for the love all thats good and right, WHY?

-I cannot bring myself to make jello molds. Sure, they look all pretty, but then I realize it’s boiled horse toenails and it puts me right off that idea, even if it is lime flavored and full of mini marshmallows and celery.

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Does anyone know what wine goes best with horse toenails?

Anyway, The Good Housewife Project has gone smashingly well so far. Yes, smashingly. I’ve learned a lot, developed quite a few new good habits, and I’m having a lot of fun.

It struck me, a few days ago, how indulgent Johnny Rotten was of this idea, even though he clearly did not think it was swell when I first announced that I was going to do this. And, I should point out, that he did not actually have any say in this matter. It wasn’t a matter of “Hey sweetie, what do you think?”, it was more of “For the next three weeks, I am going to make you food with scary names like ‘Party Loaf’ and while you don’t have to like them, you are going to eat them.”

He’s not one to turn down food other people make. I guess years in the military trained him to like just about anything that doesn’t come out of an MRE bag. But, I was honestly surprised how he’s gotten into this whole thing. He’s surprised me with cute new aprons. He’s gone to the thrift store and picked out all the midcentury cookbooks he could find, knowing full well that I’m going to make him eat the recipes inside. He’s been just grand.

But, how do I tell someone who is being just grand that they are, in fact, being grand?

Maybe this’ll help.

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It’s a Wittnauer 10k gold filled watch, from the early 1950’s, I believe. It’s a little beaten up, but it runs, um, like a clock, and it’s so, so pretty. I just got it in the mail today (and can I tell you how happy I am that I don’t live in an era without ebay? Egads, the horror of that thought) and I can’t wait to give it to him.

Cross your fingers for me that he likes it!

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TGHP Day 7: Ready to take on Cobra Kai

I didn’t post yesterday. A lady cannot possibly blog every single day and maintain her wit and charm, or she’ll get the vapors. No one wants the vapors, so yeah. I took a day off from this. I did not, however, take a day off from housewifing, . Today’s entry is all about wax–not the hair removal wax that I have already proven is too dangerous for me to have– and is a review, because I am a helpful kind of lady when I don’t have the vapors.

 

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Step 1: Wax on. Step 2: Wax off. Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until desired level of gleaminess is achieved.

All right. Review time! Here we go!

First is Butcher block conditioner:

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The butcher block conditioner is a new love of mine, and while it’s not super retro-y, it is super handy to have. As I mentioned before, I picked up some battered (and not in the good way, like mozza sticks are battered) podwood/monkey wood/acacia midcentury  snack bowls at the thrift store for about $0.99 each, and the butcher block conditioner took most of the scratches right out.  I then tried it on my rolling pin and wooden spoons, and they looks better than they did when they were new.

This stuff is really easy to apply, is food safe, and has no significant odor. I’d say I’d buy it again, but considering how little I had to use, I think I’ll be having to bequeath the rest of the bottle to someone upon my death of really, really, really old age.

Verdict: If you have heirs to whom you can give wood conditioner, buy this stuff. Its great!

 

Next is Johnson’s Paste Wax:

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As I told you guys last time, I got a new-to-me vintage dining room furniture set. It’s gorgeous and I love it, and I need to stop talking about it before I dissolve into a fit in excited, incomprehensible babbling and idiotic hand clapping.

I used Johnson’s on it, and while I like it, I also hate it, but I like it… but, I hate it. It gives a great satiny shine, and the wood feeeeeeeeeeeeeels good after being waxed and buffed. It leaves a really nice finish, and doesn’t seem to attract dust and pet hair like furniture dusting sprays do.

(You know there’s a but coming, right? Wait for it….)
But.
(There you go. I bet it feels good to get rid of that “She’s going to say but” anxiety!)
But. It stinks like shoe polish, and I got The Vapors at least twice from the fumes while buffing. And holy cow, it is a chore to buff off completely. As I was buffing and buffing and buffing, I realized that pretty much every housewife who used Johnsons would be able to compete in a pro arm-wrestling circuit, if there was such a thing. It is work.
I actually feel like a whiny baby for about complaining about buffing the table. Apparently, ladies of the time used to do their floors regularly with this stuff. My hat is off to them, but I think I’ll stick with my new fangled floor products. Waxing my floor by hand is a serious limit for me. No. Just no. 
The Verdict: Johnson’s paste wax provided a great shine, a weird headache from the fumes, and a workout like I’ve never had before. I don’t know how I feel about this.
Last up is Jubilee Kitchen Wax:
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I saved the best for last, and I’d like you guys to meet my new best friend Jubilee Kitchen Wax. (“Guys, this is Jubilee Wax. Jubilee Wax, these are the guys.”) This was taken off the market for approximately a gazillion and four years, but has recently returned much to the delight of people who are far better housekeepers than I.
And, I admit that I can totally see why. I’m in full on love with it. I guess it’s meant to polish and protect your stove front, your fridge, your toaster and other kitchen food-prep-things, and it does. Everything is reflective and much cleaner looking, and fingerprints seem to wipe off much easier. However, it really shines– pun fully intended– in the bathroom. I wouldn’t use it on the floor or tub because of slipping risk, but omgomgomgomgyouguys, everything now glistens in there, from the faucets to the green tile someone installed to halfway up the wall because it was 1952 and green wall tile was the hip new craze, like the twist or um….going to the sock hop with your best gal in one hand and a malted shake in the other. Anyway, water spots wipe right off, pet hair doesn’t seem to want to stick to the tile, and my bathroom is now so much easier to maintain.
The Verdict: I can’t talk right now, I’m too busy gurgling delightedly over the shininess.
I waxed on. I waxed off. I’m ready to blind Cobra Kai with my shiny appliances, wood furnishings and bathroom tiles. Go me!
 
 

TGHP, Day 3: The Golden Age of Hot Dogs

Please forgive my lateness on this post. I was headachy and feeling yuck last night, and everything I wrote reeked of hot dog water and self pity.

Apparently you couldn’t swing a cat in a mid20th century cookbook without either hitting a gelatin mold recipe or a recipe involving hot dogs.

From the Good Housekeeping ‘Keep Cool Cookbook’, published in 1967, came yesterday’s lunch.

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It’s obviously a loafy thing, and we all know how I love loafy things.

I couldn’t see that photo and just pass it by, you know? It’s too full of hot dog and loafiness. It’s the year 1967 itself, mixed into a pan and baked lovingly for 35 minutes.

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See? Easy, especially if you decide that the gravy is an “over my dead, cholesterol riddled body” accompaniment and don’t make it.

So yes, I made it bright and early in the morning, so I wouldn’t get lost in my cleaning fume high and forget.

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There’s a bottle of 2008 Albarino with it, because 1) I am a lady of class and distinction, and 2) what else would you have with hotdog loaf thing?

Unfortunately, it was stone cold and full of semi-congealed hot dog grease by the time that Johnny Rotten was due home for lunch. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel on it, despite his desperate hopes that I would, so I cut off a generous slice, and grilled it with a bit of butter in a pan like I would a grilled cheese sandwich, and hoped for the best.

He tentatively, gingerly cut off a piece, and put it in his mouth like he was expecting it to bite him back.

“This.”, he said, then paused.

“Ahuh? This what?”, I encouraged.

“This is actually really good. It’s like a corn dog, but the crispy grilled outside makes it better than a regular corndog! You should make this again!”

I couldn’t believe that I didn’t notice that before. Cornbread plus hot dog equals corndog, no matter how you make it or what you call it. This frankfurter loaf is the perfect food for people who love corndogs but are irrationally afraid of food on sticks, who really love loaf pans, or maybe live in an area where sticks are hard to find or something.

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Someone should tell this guy that he can just use his loaf pan, instead of going out to look for sticks on the frozen tundra.

Final judgment: Frankfurter loaf was a success. Not just an “It’s okay for a vintage recipe” success, but a “nom, this is good, you should make this again” success. Would recommend.

TGHP Day 2: I can file 90% of Today under F for Fail, or for Just Being the Facts of Life.

Today was a blur of a doodoo storm (Oh, language, Amy!)  and Im still pretty busy so rather than give a play by play, I’ll be hitting the highs and lows like a soprano and a baritone singing an offkey duet while accompanied by a chorus of fighting cats who may or may not be in heat.

The Bad:

-I scalded my right hand last night, and while it’s not a Very Awfully Terribly Grievous Injury, it affected my everything today because I was trying to protect it. I was trying to do everything left handed, and I have discovered that my left hand serves no purposes other than making me look reasonably symmetrical and being a place to put rings and bracelets. If you ever asked yourself, “Can Amy do anything at all with her non dominant hand?”, you now have an answer, and that answer is a hearty, bitter laugh right in your face for ever wondering something so ridiculously impossible.

-50’s pop music is terrible. I forced myself to listen today, and despite my saintlike patience and endurance of bad situations,  I just couldn’t take more than 90 mins. Do you know why the bad guys in horror movies always go after the lovestruck, swoony, smitten teenagers in those cheesy flicks? It’s probably because the bad guy was forced to listen to Dion and the Belmonts song “A Teenager in Love” on repeat and is trying to remove any inspiration for more songs along this vein. I get you, Movie Bad Guy. I totally get you.

dionHe knows what he did. But, alas, his self-reflection comes too late and we all have to live with the consequences.

– I tried to freshen up before Johnny Rotten got home for lunch with a lovely smelling spritz of the period-appropriate perfume White Shoulders. While the intention was good, my co-ordination with my left hand was not, and I sprayed myself directly in the mouth, leaving a tuberose and gardenia taste for hours.

whiteshouldersSmells like coziness and romance. Tastes like burning and sadness.

-An electrical outlet decided to go out with a literal bang and puff of smoke, so most of the things I had planned for today were put on hold while I investigated whether my house was actively in a state of burning down, and then waiting for an electrician. Not to worry though– all’s well, and it was a quick, inexpensive repair by a licensed professional.

Okay, enough of that. No one likes  a Debbie Downer, so here we go with the good.

– Johnny Rotten is the happiest person in the world with this housewife project, because he gets lunch. Seriously, that’s pretty much it.  If I had known it was this easy to make him so happy, I’d have done it years ago. Im not much of a lunch eater, myself, so I didn’t put a ton of priority on it. That’s not to say I was awful and actively prevented him from eating lunch, but it was hit or miss. Today, I made him a chicken salad sandwich from the leftover party loaf chicken salad mix, and he was THRILLED. I didn’t take a photo to show you, because I’m still pretty astounded that chicken salad sandwiches are that exciting to anyone. If I’m wrong, and you cannot live another day without seeing what he had for lunch, please let me know in the comments, then maybe seek help for your unhealthy interest in other people’s lunches, okay?

-I got my super awesome apron in the mail today, and it fits like a dream! It’s impossible not to be happy while I’m wearing it.

apronI’m too busy making squealy girl noises to properly caption this photo of my apron.

And speaking of little things, do you guys remember the monkeywood/podwood/acacia snacky-serving bowl things I got at the thrift store a few days ago? I didn’t take before photos, but they were incredibly grimy and scratched up. For 99 cents, they were worth trying to clean up, but I wouldn’t have paid much more for them, given the condition.

After using my new best friend Murphy Oil Soap and then butcher block conditioner, look!!

20140107_185437Gleamy!

So, today. It’s been a day. But, as a wise housemother once said to me, “You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both. And there you have, the facts of life.”

Wise words indeed.

TGHP, day 1: I knew it was going to be a good day when I confused David Lee Roth with Bing Crosby and then confused a sandwich with a cake.

The Good Housewife Project started today with the cat scratching at the bedroom door, me getting up to let him in and then back out again, looking at the time, and then shrieking at Johnny Rotten that his alarm didn’t go off and that he needed to get up Right Now or he’d be late for work. On the bright side, there was no time to chat or to even consider making breakfast, so it was a lot less awkward than it could’ve been, given the hard line he’s taken against both breakfast and talking in the morning.

After he left, I set about my task of making my home a clean, pleasant place to be– but first, I put on some period appropriate music and got myself presentable.

First song up?

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Yes. Bing Crosby, singing “Just a Gigolo”. Let that sink in for a minute. Not David Lee Roth as one would assume, but Bing Crosby. That Bing Crosby.

My mind was blown, and I was pretty sure it was a sign of a good day ahead, because c’mon. Bing. Crosby. Singing. Just. A. Gigolo. Here, seriously… go listen. I’ll wait(Fixed so it’ll open in a new tab. Now you can listen while you read! ~A)

I don’t even know what to say.But, you’re totally welcome for that. Kinda makes you want to light a fire, dim the lights, pour a glass of good wine, and hire a male companion for the night, doesn’t it? No? Just me? Okay. Anyway….

Most of my day was pretty uneventful.I cleaned like I was a prideful housewife and that my most judgmental acquaintances were coming over for a game of bridge and some finger sandwiches. I got my apron filthy. I baked a loaf of bread, made lunch, got compliments from the spouse on not looking like a hobo, did dish after dish after dish, and by mid-afternoon, I looked like this.

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Raise one eyebrow if you are under duress, ma’am.

I wasn’t done yet though, as dinner still needed to be made. What to have, what to have? I checked out party food, because today is the first day of TGHP. I settled on something ominously called “party loaf”. I like loaf things. I like parties. How could it possibly go wrong?

I guess I need to explain what “party loaf” actually is. It’s a sandwich, or actually, a bunch of sandwiches, that are dressed up to look like a cake. Please don’t ask me why, because I can’t even begin to guess at ‘party loaf’ logic. It’s one of those things that just is.

Betty Crocker’s version looks like this:

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That’s… kind of pretty-or-something, right? Vaguely celebratory? Festiveish?

Mine turned out like this:

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So yeah. Apparently, I’m not a prodigy at decorating sandwiches to look like cake. But, I spent hours on it, and I even made a weird olive and pimento flower as a decoration (because that seems like it’s totally appropriate in a situation like this, of course). Were midcentury meals really as garnish happy as I suspect? All Im seeing is olive slice this and radish rose that when I look up recipes. Im not sure if it’s really offputting or if I’m just jealous of their mad garnishing skills.

As it turns out though, the party loaf was pretty good. Batman grinned through a mouthful and gave me two thumbs up.Johnny Rotten was a harder sell, and went from, “Well, I don’t hate it” to “this is actually pretty good! I was expecting it to be so much worse! ” in a matter of a few bites. Success, I think? What they don’t know, in approving of this recipe, that they have opened the door for far more out there recipes. Poor family.

Now, I’m relaxing. Honestly, truly, I have not sat down almost all day. I took a few breaks here and there, but I have been so incredibly busy in doing things in a far more purposeful way. When I cleaned today, I did not wipe a few things, get on facebook, wipe something else, play with the dog, rinse my rag, read cracked, and so on. I cleaned without distraction, and got so much done. I’m exhausted and sore, but the fam is happy and my house is starting to look great. Feels good, y’all.

Murphy’s Oil Soap, or, Hey, Does This Smell Like Church to You?

While The Good Housewife Project doesn’t actually start until Monday, I had some time today, and since I have company coming at the end of the month, I’d better get to cleaning when and where I can. I’m not going wild though– the experiment hasn’t started, and no one is making breakfast for anyone yet. That’d just be craaaaaaazy.

It strikes me that housewives of olden days seemed to be able to make whites whiter, brights brighter, wood surfaces gleam and floors sparkle in a way that I have never figured out. Maybe it’s that those homemakers just had better cleaning and laundry products than I do, because it’s not at all that they worked a whole lot harder than I do at homemaking. Just kidding, they totally worked harder. But, since I have acquired some retro cleaning products, let’s give them a try anyway, shall we?

First up in this series is Murphy’s Oil Soap. I think I got mine at Target, but I’m sure it’s available pretty much in every cleaning aisle, everywhere.

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Murphy’s AND a gold flecked formica backsplash in one photo? All I need is a healthy phobia of communism, and I’d swear I’ve invented time travel.

I’d never, to my knowledge, used Murphy Oil Soap. I knew it existed of course, but I always figured that it was for people who actually cared about the gleaminess of their wood furnishings.

I opened the bottle carefully. Because I sort of paid attention in Mr. S’s high school chemistry class, I knew better than to stick my nose over the bottle and breathe in deeply, and wafted the scent towards my delicate little nose instead.

The scent was sort of…. lemony? Ish? I couldn’t really place where I had smelled this particular smell before, but I knew that I had.

Then it hit me, and I bellowed in a ladylike way for Johnny Rotten to come here RIGHT NOW. He came running out of the bedroom, probably thinking that I had injured myself again. He saw me standing there, very uninjured and holding a bottle of cleaner with a confused look on my face.

“Hey, um, does this smell like….church…. to you?”

He stuck his nose over the bottle and breathed in deeply, because he obviously didn’t have Mr. S as a chemistry teacher, and wrinkled his nose.

“Yeah. That’s church. In a bottle. Can I please go now?”

He wandered off, leaving me to my elation and my scrubbing. See, I figure that the ladies in churches probably have many talents, but they seem to be world class pros at two things: potluck food, and cleaning. Finding a church worthy cleaning product was guaranteed to be as good as finding a church fundraiser cookbook. There’s a reason why “Edna Mae’s Perfectly Mediocre Apple Pie” is never featured. It’s always “Edna Mae’s World Famous Apple Pie” or something. It’s all about reputation. Cleaning products should be the same, I reasoned. If it’s good enough for their gleamy needs, it’ll definitely be good enough for me and my dull, fingerprinted wood items.

Holy cow, yeah. After using it,  I’m a believer. It took off all dustiness and fingerprints, and wasn’t strong smelling or harsh on my skin while I was cleaning. Once I finish this bottle, I will be purchasing it again. It’s good stuff, and after getting used to the smell, I quite like it. It’s clean and nostalgic.

Verdict: Murphy’s Oil Soap has been around for more than a century, and for good reason. It’s a winner.

Housewifin’: The Rules of Engagement

As you already know, I have decided to pretend Im a productive, cheerful 50s housewife for 3 weeks instead of actually being a 10s slovenly, snarky housewife. Why? Heck, I dunno. Maybe I want to get the house cleaned well and properly. Maybe I’m looking for a challenge and/or absurdity. Maybe I’ve lost my mind.Image

If you guessed, “She’s lost her mind”, you’ve guessed right!  Please grab your winner’s spoon and stay afterwards for your era-authentic prize– a big steaming bowl of weiner mixup!

If I’m going to do this– and I so am– there have to be clearly laid out rules of engagement, no? I need to have direction and a schedule, or I seriously run the risk of reworking this task in my head until it involves nothing more than me watching Mad Men episodes while drinking old fashioneds all day in bed.

Its been a bit tough finding good information on what life was really like for post war brides. Obviously, families then were as different as families are today, so what life might have been like for your grandmother isn’t necessarily what life was like for mine. The television and advertisement portrayal of housewives of that era ought to be taken with a grain of salt too. Im sure that Leave it to Beaver had just as much in common with the average woman then as Sex and the City has to the average woman now. Grains of truth? Yes. But perhaps, even likely, not the whole truth.

Anyway, I’ve had to cobble together what I think it may have been like then, and I have had to figure out how to fit my 2014 life into that idea for a few weeks. It’s not a time machine, and it’s not perfect, but I think– hope?– that it’ll give me a good sense of the spirit of this self imposed assignment.

From what I’ve gleaned, the housewife of the 1950s:

-attempted to make her home consistently pleasant, welcoming and clean.

-attempted to make herself attractive to be around, both in physical appearance and mannerism. It seems this is was mostly for the benefit of the husband.

-was thrifty, organized and capable of a wide variety of tasks

-filled a support role in the lives of her children and husband, providing them with a stable, relaxing environment to the best of her ability.

This all sounds pretty good, and I think I could definitely stand to build new, better habits.

Im going to attempt to follow a 50s housewife schedule and meal plan as faithfully as I can, but I am not going to be spending money or permanently ridding myself of modern conveniences so that I can look or act the part more accurately. I’m totally going to make an effort to stash the yoga pants (my dear, sweet yoga pants, for whom I already pine…) and look far more presentable during the day, but I’m certainly not going to be shopping for a poodle skirt so I can look 1950s while making this effort. Likewise, Im not putting my washer and dryer up on Craigslist so I can hunt down an authentic washboard and laundry mangle. My cell phone stays with me, and it stays on, and no one will get hurt.

Im also not about to compromise my family’s health by insisting on a full 1950s menu. Good grief, have you SEEN the amount of cream of mushroom soup they put on everything? Have you? It’s the sloppy, gloppy, brown lumped definition of terrifying. I dont think any of us would feel very well at all after a sudden switch like that. So, 4-5 dishes a week will be pulled from my vintage cookbooks, but I am not going to cook up all meals from the cookbooks.

Finally, I’m aiming for that general time frame, and Im not terribly concerned about it being a little wrong. Some of my cookbooks are from the 60s, some are from the 40s, and Im definitely not going to starve because those books are a few years off. I suppose everyone is just going to have to Deal With It. To make it up to you, I’ll be posting choice recipes from my collection, and daring encouraging you to try them. You’re welcome and/or I’m sorry for that.

So yeah! This officially starts when everyone goes back to school and work, and I’m looking forward to it!

Photo: ‘You’re welcome’ and/or ‘I’m sorry’ should be said again. Did I mention yet that I’ve probably lost my mind?

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