Tomato Bouquet

Heirloom beauties

Rejoice!  Fresh local tomatoes have arrived at farmers’ markets for a glorious, albeit narrow, time frame. This is a BIG deal for tomato lovers in colder USDA zones. Not only are fresh tomatoes superior in taste and texture to their bleak mid-winter counterparts, they make vibrant center pieces in lieu of flowers. As you eat your tomatoes, downsize the display plate.

Awww…

Tip: The University of Illinois Extension advises storing tomatoes at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Do not store them in the refrigerator, which can make them mushy and tasteless.

Monday Wisdom

Femme Banale has returned from a vacation in northern Michigan and would like to share souvenirs from her trip.

The first is the t-shirt wisdom: “Shut Up and Fish.”

Well, OK.  I get the gist of this, but prefer the softer words of local celebrity Gwen Frostic, a naturalist and artist:

“In moments of solitude, hear all of nature singing…”

Housekeeping Dept.

Femme Banale is done with fancy, thick washcloths. They take forever to dry unless you have the body-builder guns to fully wring them out. They are expensive and prone to mildew. The Banale solution: a pack of inexpensive “lite” cotton washcloths often available at larger drugstores or big-box stores. Those shown above came from Target—$4 for eight cloths.

Picture a nice stack of these fluffy squares in your vanity ready for service.  In Femme Banale’s household, she gets them all to herself because the men folk here do not use washcloths—a mystery she prefers not to explore.  If you are having houseguests, they can be rolled easily and stacked spa-style. Retire them to the cleaning-cloth bag once they get raggedy.

Tip: Throw a couple in your bag when travelling. You never know.

Do you have a domestic tip to pass along?

Spa look for guests

Monday Wisdom

I should like to enjoy this summer flower by flower…

—André Gide

The Magical Realism of Regifting

A Seinfeld episode in the ‘90s brought regifting to the fore, in a way validating the practice of passing off unwanted items—often dressed up in rumpled tissue—as gifts. By Femme Banale’s estimation, regifting could be responsible for flagging US production growth. That is, production will not expand in the face of low demand for consumer goods, especially gifty goods. And demand is low because of the invisible and unmeasured supply of regift-ware.

We now live in a new Macondo-like reality with millions of regifts and potential regifts magically multiplying behind closed cabinet doors. Open the door, let the light in, and there they are! The scented candle, the candy and nuts, the wine bottle with the unusual label, holiday potpourri, gift-sets of all kinds.

Regifting holds risk: There’s the risk of recognition or discovery that the gift is recycled material and the resulting dispiritment. But there also lurks a deeper risk—that is, unknowingly regifting an item that the recipient gave you earlier. Let’s call it circular regifting. Femme Banale gives a firsthand account.

It was a casual dinner for friends in which I did indeed receive a scented candle. No surprise there, but what followed was surprising. A flash of recognition passed as one guest handed me a hostess gift; my brain churned to understand. (Cue: psychedelic music, “And somebody spoke and I went into a dream. Ahahahah ahahahahah…”) That’s it! The Christmas present that I gave them two years ago. A cascade of emotions followed: wonder, annoyance, suspicion (Are they messing with me?), resignation (“Thank you”), delight (Gotcha!), concern (Here comes the memory decline), and finally gladness. Yes, gladness.  I was glad to get the item back because I liked this particular item. Through the dubious channels of regifting, the gift made its way back to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show and Tell

Today Femme Banale shares a few selections from her modest vintage book collection.  Space is scarce, and what has earned these books a place of honor on her bookshelf is their timeless human stories. These classics were written in the early part of the last century, but  they present life’s enduring drama of longing and conflict and triumph and defeat and triumph again (sometimes).

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

This is an “unexpurgated” edition, which contains the book’s original love scenes once deemed pornographic. Critics describe Lawrence’s social commentary and portrayal of England’s idle and ineffectual aristocracy. Femme Banale’s takeaway is this: women prefer men with skillz.

Babbitt

George F. Babbitt is a “manly man” of the 1920s who “made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.” Babbitt is a story of all the folly in social climbing and conformity.

Students of American English usage may be amused to find these words in 1920s speech: chump, buttinsky, and shindig.  Let’s not forget the book’s own contribution to the American dictionary—babbitt, of course!

Obscure Destinies

Obscure Destinies contains three short stories of tender humanity.  In “Neighbor Rosicky,” we see how the immigrant experience has formed the warp of our country’s fabric. “Two Friends” is a story of friendships gained and lost; the truth is things change. The best here is “Old Mrs. Harris”—let’s say you’re a young girl who longs to go away to college but whose family doesn’t have the money…

What treasures are on your shelves?  Show and tell in the comment section of this post.

Easy Meal #3

Asparagus soup with chive garnish. Yay! Fresh asparagus has started to appear in the Midwest.

Soup

For a long time Femme Banale considered homemade soup “hard” to make and thus assigned it to the entertainment-only category. That thinking changed with the purchase of an immersion blender.* With this gadget you can quickly make soup using only one pot. Even without an immersion blender, making soup is not difficult—maybe a little messier with a food processor or blender—but not complicated.

Here’s a simple soup formula calling for fresh or leftover vegetables and your creativity:
1 lbs or 2 cups vegetables + 1 onion or leek + 4 cups broth

Chop vegetables and onions or leeks. Sautée onions/leeks in stock pot. Add vegetables and broth. (Sometimes FB adds a chopped potato to the vegetable mixture for a thicker soup.) Simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Blend mixture until smooth. Season to taste. Add cream or milk for a creamier flavor. Serves 4. Easily doubled or tripled and freezed. Bread, sandwiches/paninis, and salad make perfect soup companions.

*What is an immersion blender? Basically, it’s a hand mixer shaped like a wand. Femme Banale bought hers for about $60.

Immersion blender

 

 

The Finger

Did you know that in yoga the middle finger represents patience? This fact poses an amusing irony given that the obscene gesture commonly known as “the finger” represents the opposite of patience. Let’s see how the former finger has the power to overcome the latter.

A little background first. According to yogic tradition, the middle finger is associated with the planet Saturn and the law of karma.* Karma is a cause-and-effect proposition kind of like Newton’s law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Plainly put, whatever you do has a consequence. Exercising patience has an effect and so does showing impatience.

When you touch the pad of your middle finger to the pad of your thumb, you form a mudra or seal.

Shuni mudra

This particular mudra is called Shuni mudra, and its practice invokes patience, discernment, and discipline. By touching the middle finger to the thumb, “the finger”—a lightening bolt of rage—becomes a grounded gesture of calm.

Last week, a car charged at Femme Banale while she crossed a busy street on the Walk signal. She wanted to give not one but two “fingers” to the driver,  but instead she formed Shuni mudra with one hand in her pocket—a reminder of the choice.** What karmic fallout could “the finger” have brought down? At best, a flood of the stress hormone cortisol for all parties.

So much can change with the touch of a finger.

__________________________________________________

*Femme Banale has heard that you should not wear a ring on the middle finger because like a sled out of control on Saturn’s icy rings, it spins your karmic stuff back at you.  In other words, what goes around, comes around.

**Shuni mudra is typically practiced in meditation, not on the fly as described here.  If you would like to explore more, seek an experienced yoga teacher. Try Yoga Alliance for starters.