wood jewelry stand

Discovery Friday

31 May 2013

In two weeks we’re leaving California for a summer full of warm nights, fireflies, our lively Ohio clan and my dream kitchen. I’ve been limping along here at chinese grandma during a prolonged transition year, and I want to thank you, kind friends, for sticking around even when I haven’t been at my best.

Bear with me, I should have more time to cook, write and breathe this summer.

As for my assorted collection of discoveries, food and otherwise…

Are four kids easier than three?

I laughed when I saw an NBC survey of moms early this month which indicated that three is the most stressful number of kids. I can say from experience that four kids does not get easier than three. I think what happens is that parents of big families quickly learn one of the Big Lessons in Life:

You are not in control.

And that realization is surprisingly stress-relieving, empowering and uplifting.

Of course a lot depends on the spacing and temperament of your kids, but this pretty much sums up my experience:

  • One child – relentless
  • Two children – frazzled
  • Three children – breaking point
  • Four children – total capitulation

Surrender, I’ve found, is a major step on the road to maturity as both a person and a parent. The defeated me is a better, more grateful, more relaxed person and parent than the uptight person who thought she was in control. And now I think it’s comically naive that I ever thought I was in charge.

Rooster sauce

Who knew the rooster-labeled, green-capped sriracha sauce that has become so ubiquitous in recent years is an American creation? I thought it was an import from southeast Asia until I read in this Los Angeles Times article that it was created 30 years ago in LA’s Chinatown.

Vietnamese-American founder David Tran first formulated his version of Thai chili sauce (apparently sriracha sauce from Thailand is quite different) in 1983 and has grown the company steadily since. With no advertising, just a strong focus on quality and value, sales have grown 20% a year to more than $60 million. A fantastic American story.

A bus for groceries

I’m too picky to order groceries delivered, but for everything else I am a total Amazon Prime junkie. This NPR article, “How grocery home delivery may be greener than shlepping to the store,” makes me feel better the fact that our UPS guy in Ohio is like a family friend (hi, Mike!).

Cooking pasta without boiling

I’ve been using this passive pasta cooking method from the Kitchn, and it works surprisingly well. Bring water to a boil, add pasta, boil for a minute or two, cover and turn off the heat until done (don’t use this method if you are using a less-than-ideal quantity of water). It’s oddly peaceful to cook pasta without the gurgling water and steam. Just be sure to set your timer.

Too many choices

As I march through endless house-building decisions in advance of our summer away, I think often of the great TEDtalk by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice.

When it comes to choices, is more always better? The modern world offers vast variety, but instead of feeling empowered by the options, we often feel utterly paralyzed.

Not so long ago you could send someone to the store with a list: bread, butter, milk, eggs. Now it wouldn’t be nearly specific enough. Every item has a bewildering number of variations.

Pretzels used to just be pretzels. But now you have to think about whether you want little sticks, big sticks, square grids or classic twists; salt, less salt, no salt; regular, whole wheat, gluten-free; flavored or not, and which flavor.

I love having choices. But sometimes I just want to move on with my life.

My favorite line of Schwartz’s talk is when he relates a visit to the Gap in which he is perplexed by the multitude of options for blue jeans. “I want the kind,” he says to the salesperson. “that used to be the only kind.”

With 3.4 million views, this is one of the most-watched talks at TED. I love how Schwartz, a psychologist and professor at Swarthmore, is unselfconsciously dressed in a ratty t-shirt, baggy shorts, white socks and sneakers. Anyone who gets up at TED Global dressed so casually has got to be blessedly confident in his material. It is a great talk.

A lesson in living well

I’m not one for heart-rending stories, but this video about Zach Sobiech, a bright, songwriting teen who died last week of cancer at age 18, is beautifully told. A testament that the great lesson of cancer is life, not death.

Follow-up on La Boulange

My wanna-be Pain Poilane bread, a whole-wheat levain, is back at our local Trader Joe’s (Trader Joe’s-es?) after being discontinued earlier this year. It’s now called pain Pauline but sold in the same clear bag with a faux-raffia tie. I’m assuming it’s still from La Boulange – it seems the same – but in any case I’m happy to see it back.

My cute new jewelry stand

I almost forgot to tell you about the jewelry stand, pictured above, which I just bought from a woodworker in the UK via Etsy.

I used to put my jewelry in a little dish, but I got tired of tangles. I love the efficiency of this compact stand, which at less than 6″ tall holds more earrings than I own (it has holes for 16 pairs). The top finial acts nicely as a ring holder, and I drop chains in the tray below. Super nifty, right?

jewelry stand top

I think the place to buy these is at craft fairs – I saw at least a couple of woodworkers selling similar versions at Winterfair Columbus a couple of years ago. There is a version on Amazon, apparently crafted by free-trade artisans, but reviews indicate quality is uneven.

Or keep an eye out on Etsy – the woodworker I bought mine from doesn’t have any now, but of course inventory fluctuates in the handmade marketplace. You could also see if someone will make you one – many of the Etsy artisans take orders. I paid $15 for mine, which is in line with ones I saw at Winterfair.

Recipes I want to try

Happy Friday! Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Miley 31 May 2013 at 4:18 pm

I look forward to getting your emails in my inbox — recipes or not. I love everything you write about. Looking forward to a long (but short) summer which started at 12:26 p.m. yesterday here in Palo Alto.
Signed: A “frazzled” reader…


cg 1 June 2013 at 2:37 pm

hi susan, my frazzled reader – you made my day, thanks so much! hope you are surviving this hot start to summer. =P


mm 1 June 2013 at 5:45 am

Thanks for the interesting links, CG. I really enjoyed the TED talk regarding choice. It’s true that we’re often free to express a preference, which gives us the illusion of limitless choice.


Joy 21 August 2013 at 12:08 am

I just want to say hi and let you know that I have been visiting you here :).


cg 21 August 2013 at 10:31 am

joy! i always love hearing from you.


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