The Pile a.k.a. “Danielle’s Nest”


For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a very effective method of organizing my personal items: The Pile. Yes, I stack things: mail, documents, pictures, clothes, anything stackable or pile-able I will find a way to get into a mound. In high school, my dad dubbed my room “the nest” because my items were piled around the periphery of my bedroom. There were my worn clothes on the back of my desk chair, my tennis bag, my book bag, shoes, etc., all in a neat circle around the center of my room. He was right, it looked like a nest. But notice I said a NEAT circle. There was method in the mayhem, order in chaos. Crazy as it might sound, I knew where everything was. I never found myself searching for items. I knew where things were at all times because I placed them in The Pile. Maybe I just have a great memory, I don’t know, but it has worked for me for a very long time.

I should note the nest was such a part of me that my dad kept a Post-It sign reading “Danielle’s Nest” on my bedroom door until I graduated from college and got a job away from home officially marking the end of nesting in my parents’ home. He did not throw it away, though; he mailed it to me, symbolically passing the permission to nest elsewhere. At least that’s the way I took the gesture and have gladly transported The Pile with pleasure.

That is, until now.

Now, I’m married. Now, I have to care more about the state of our house. Now, I have an 11-year-old nephew who visits for a week during the summer and decides to “organize” my desk out of boredom and I CANNOT FIND ANYTHING. Seriously, it has been 7 months since the incident, and I’m still not quite sure where things are.

In other words, my organized chaos has collided with another human being’s chaos and my method has to change whether I like it or not. The introduction of unpredictable outside factors greatly diminishes the effectiveness of The Pile. My nephew is the extreme example, but on a daily basis there is the chance that my husband might want to find a bill or borrow a pen or pad of paper or his could clothes get thrown on my clothes or my clothes get kicked somewhere because he doesn’t understand the important role keeping The Pile neat plays. Before I know it, I’ve lost the checkbook and can’t find half of my socks.

The sanctity of The Pile has been irreparably violated. The method must be abandoned in favor of hangers, drawers, and organizing bins. *tear* I will miss you, old friend. I hope in time we may meet again, if not on my desk at work, certainly in the back seat of my car.


Everything You’ve Ever Seen on Food Network Is True


heart food

Lately my Saturdays have consisted of taking my husband to work and immediately driving 15 minutes to our favorite grocery store, Cermak. I do live in Milwaukee, so there are other closer choices available, but let me tell you, Cermak is awesome! For those of you not in Chicagoland or Milwaukeeville (contrary to popular cheesehead belief, Milwaukee is not a metropolis and therefore not a ‘land’), Cermak is a Mexican grocery chain that offers a huge selection and fantastic prices on produce and meat. You’ll find this in most Mexican grocery stores, even the small ones. I presume this is because Mexicans (and I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably most Latin Americans) actually cook most of their meals from scratch with real ingredients. Yes, I’m dissing on the rest of us Americans a little bit (while making broad generalizations), but I’ve been one of the worst offenders, so don’t hate me.

Back to my Saturdays, I drive immediately from dropping off my husband to the grocery store because if I don’t do it then, I’m likely never to do it which will then send us into a spiral of hunger, confusion over what to eat, and eventual submission to ordering pizza. We’ve been there many times and have learned we both tend to become despondent and very indecisive when not fed regularly; it isn’t pretty (See: Me getting teary because nothing “sounds good” to eat and him desperately searching our cupboards and hastily making something out of canned tuna to keep me from a meltdown – yes, I appreciate the gesture, but yes, it is gross). So I resist the inviting couch and endless supply of entertainment via Netflix/Hulu and get to my weekend work as soon as he gets to his real work.

The worst part of the entire day is lugging a slew of bags upstairs to our apartment. Generally I don’t want to have to go back out to the car, so I trudge along with 10-15 (easy) plastic grocery bags in hand, juggling keys, awkwardly opening, closing and locking the door, then hiking upstairs to another locked door. I thank my lucky stars I’m tall because I can’t imagine this feat even being a few inches shorter. Bags would drag; it would be bad.

By the way, there are a lot more bags of food now that we are trying (and mostly succeeding) to eat more healthfully. No one warned me about that, so I am warning you: there are a lot more groceries in general if you want to eat better, so hire a butler or at least have a couple of kids to help you with the process. To be fair, my husband helps with the majority of bags when he is around, but that isn’t often on Saturdays since he’s currently enmeshed in the glory of retail splendor.

The most remarkable (to me) part of the routine that I’ve now adopted is preparing (as in washing, chopping and storing in zip lock bags) all the vegetables as soon as I get home so that they are ready to go to when we want to cook them during the week.

It is remarkable to me for two reasons:

1. Because I’ve actually been doing it consistently, and

2. Because it is something I heard on 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray on the Food Network years ago AND IT WORKS.

There are a couple of interesting things about this:

I. Long before I had a steady boyfriend or cooked fresh food or ever needed to know how to make a meal in 30 minutes or less, I watched AND REMEMBERED this tip. Somewhere in the back of my female brain there must have been a storage area labeled “Useful Tips for Running a Household if I Ever Need to Be Even Indirectly Involved in the Health of Another Human Being.” Outstanding.

II. IT WORKS. It takes a little while (about an hour), but it absolutely saves time when cooking and makes us more likely to use the food. Pretty impressive little tip, Ms. Ray.

I’m excited about this because:


Two: Did I mention IT WORKS?! Therefore, you can trust me when I say you can believe everything you hear on Food Network. These people actually know what they are talking about! Yes, I am making a blind generalization. And, yes, I expect you to believe me. But if you don’t, just try it for yourself, even if you harbor a secret hatred toward Rachael Ray and her big smile and peppy ways (you know who you are), just try it.

You will see.

You will believe.

Becoming a Culinary Goddess (or How I Learned to Eat Spinach and Be Okay with It)


Here’s the deal: my biggest concern going into marriage had nothing to do with finances or losing my freedom or having to share a bed with someone for the rest of my life. Maybe it should have been those things since my husband had to quit his job in another city to be with me (subsequent 6 month unemployment), I haven’t seen most of my friends in months (in fairness this is due to relocation and the aforementioned extended lack of two incomes), and my husband snores (please don’t tell me I do as well, I refuse to listen to such nonsense – btw a pair of earplugs works just fine to block him out). No no, my friends, my biggest concern going into marriage was how our palates would collide. His internationally-schooled-on-the-streets-of-Chicago-organic-loving-fresh-food-fixing-actually-cooks-meals-on-a-stove taste meeting my rural-Midwestern-happy-when-everything-on-my-plate-is-white-and/or-cheese-the-microwave-is-my-best-friend-Tuna Helper-is-real-cooking-what-is-a-vegetable self.  I resolved not to let his “let’s cook dinner with the pots and pans we got for the wedding” ways (why did I think registering for those would be a good idea?) change the food I love.

That resolution is rife with issues, however. The most notable being how can you argue with someone who wants to buy food for its nutritional value? You can’t; I tried, “But I don’t WANT brown rice, white rice tastes so much better! And I NEED Kraft Mac & Cheese because I love it so and it was the first thing I ever learned to cook, so I’m really really good at it!”

Even in my desperate state, I knew I was on the losing end of that argument.

I get it. Everyone has to eat food to live. But why would anyone really want to ruin the pleasure eating can bring by consuming “healthy” foods? Do you hear that, Honey, I said WHY WOULD ANYONE REALLY WANT TO RUIN THE PLEASURE EATING CAN BRING BY CONSUMING “HEALTHY” FOODS?! So, please, stop trying to get me to eat green, leafy vegetables. I won’t enjoy them. I can’t enjoy them. Their bitterness makes me bitter. I hate them.

This was my secret plea for the first few months of our marriage as I begrudgingly (yet politely, I mean I did want my new husband to like me) went along with his food purchasing desires. And I found ways to work in things I loved under the guise of both of us being too tired or stressed to cook – frozen pizza and delivery to the rescue!

And then it happened; my husband herniated a disc in his lower spine and was stuck in bed for two weeks. One sleepless night of him writhing in pain, and my secret stubbornness went out the window. I wanted to do everything I could to make him comfortable and help him get better. This included making sure he consumed good food so his body could heal.

Up to this point, he had done almost all of the cooking. So, I pushed past my inexperienced cooking phobia and set out to make him real food. I had little idea what I was doing as I sauteed brocolli and mushrooms, but the Internet said I could do it, so I tried. And what did I discover?

Olive oil and garlic can make almost any green vegetable (even leafy ones) edible, sometimes even delicious.  Remember that; you’ll thank me.

I also learned sometimes you just have to eat something even if it isn’t your favorite thing in the world simply because, like every parent everywhere has ever said, it is good for you.

Caveat: Tomatoes. They literally gag me; yet everyone else in the world seems to be obsessed with tomatoes. What is with tomatoes?! And onions. Yeah, yeah, the flavor is fine, but biting into a piece? Ick. And bean sprouts. It isn’t that I detest them so much as I don’t see the point in them. They have no flavor and are a nuisance to eat. And-

Okay, so learning that lesson didn’t entirely cure me, but I really am okay with eating spinach. And that is something.