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NTKOG #116: The kind of thin-skinned neatnik who spends her evenings wearing a ruffled apron and those ridiculous yellow latex dishwashing gloves.

I am: immune to pain. You’re looking at a dude who ate a steak sandwich twelve hours after getting her wisdom teeth out. I once put an ice pick through my whole palm, then went on mixing mojitos without so much as a schmear of Neosporin.

I am not: so delicate or anal-retentive that I need hand prophylactics just to wash a few dishes.

The Scene: My matchbox-sized apartment, slaving like Cinderella over a teetering stack of bowls super-glued together with soymilk residue. After spending the past year as a kept woman in a palatial converted 1920s mansion, it was a rude awakening to move back into an apartment where the dishwasher is this guy. As a result, I strenuously believe in blasting the water as hot as possible to at least approximate machine-powered sanitation levels.

Problem: I could only wash a glass or two before my skin would scald seventeen shades of fire engine and my finger tips would start peeling off. Great for my secret life as a gentleman art thief (no prints!); terrible for pretty much anything else.

The answer to this, as in all things, came from the charming Muscles. Muscles — as his epithet implies — has the heart of a lion, the physique of a well-groomed bear, and the hands of an 18th century duchess. Last summer, after dinner at his and Justice’s estate, he gathered up the dishes and snapped on a pair of yellow gloves.

“Dude?!” I sputtered. “You look like a promo for The Pacifier 2.”

The power of the gloves was immediately apparent: he didn’t even flicker at my ribbing, just gazed on with the smug serenity of a Bikram instructor. “They’re more helpful than you’d think,” he replied, then thrust his gloved hands into the cloud of steam rising from the sink.

My first purchase when I moved into my Boston apartment was my own pair of dorky yellow dish-washing gloves. And frig it if the ol’ guru wasn’t onto something.

The Verdict: Every time I peel off my gloves after a half-hour spell of doing dishes in 180-degree water, I gaze at my dry, unscalded hands in delight. If I were a 17th century peasant, I would burn these gloves because surely they are tools of magic and of wonder. But I am not a 17th century peasant. I am just a happily unboiled dishwasher — even if I am a slightly dorky looking one.

Also, I’ve fought the draft of this post for months now, convinced that y’all would leave me forever for sharing a story so dorky and banal. But after twenty minutes of passionately proselytizing about rubber gloves to Anglophile the other day, I realized my conviction is too great to keep bottled. If one dishwasher-less person reads this post and goes out to buy gloves, dude, this whole blog will have been worth it.

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Not for me, possums. I’m a few loads of laundry and a rereading of The Great Gatsby away from being pretty okay with things. But my bloggy friend Mel of a little lady’s thug life is at a crossroads with her father and — despite seeming like a dude who would punch you in the dang face if you ever offered her unsolicited advice — really needs some feedback. I know how fraught parental relationships can be, and thought if you had a minute to spare to weigh in on her situation or just offer a little love, it would be a really wonderful thing to do.

Check out her post here.

To give you time to read her post, the shortest NTKOG ever:

NTKOG #115: The kind of Ingalls-lite who bakes crackers. Crackers. Honestly. Isn’t that like the simplest atomic guise of bread? I just assumed they were formed in nature.

The Scene:

The Verdict:

[Edit: for those of you who want to try it, this is Mark Bittman’s recipe for parmesan-cream crackers — which I, naturally, slathered with garlic. Thanks to Leigh at Full Gastronomic Tilt for passing on the recipe a few weeks ago! And apologies that I was too deliriously tired to give credit where credit was due in the first place!]

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NTKOG #111: The kind of thrifty, homey domesticator who eschews preservative-pumped store-bought bread for the fruit of her own kitchen.

I am: a woman living in the 21st century. You know, the one in which the phrase “best thing since sliced bread” is archaic because nobody bakes bread?!

I am not: sure I’ve even bought a loaf of bread since I moved here. I’m more of an English muffin person.

The Scene: My postage-stamp apartment, armed with a few ingredients  and a fantastically easy bread recipe from The Simple Dollar. Although the ingredients are all pantry staples, I had to run to the convenience store for milk and butter, ’cause I don’t keep any moo in the house. Dragged my goods up to the dude at the counter and whipped out my Visa.

Cashier: Ooh, sorry, your total is $3.89. We have a $5 credit card minimum.
TKOG: Bugger. Do y’all sell Nutella?
Cashier: Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love it, sir, and love you. Went home and after twenty minutes, the little cutie was rising. After I rolled it out for the second rising, decided to cinnamon swirl that motha up. My addition to the recipe: mixed two tablespoons each cinnamon and sugar; brush rolled dough liberally with moo juice; sprinkle with delicious. Let rise and bake as noted in recipe.

Also, note the copious amounts of chocolate and V-Day voodoo crap. Yeah. Read tomorrow's post.

Look how cute! Now imagine it slathered with Nutella and warm caramelized bananas! Now stop drooling on your keyboard.

The Verdict: Holy friggin’ gosh are you kidding me?! The whole shebang took less than half an hour of active time (plus two and a half hours of passive rising/baking time) and was some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. For $4 and with pantry staples, I got enough supplies to make dozens of loaves. Which I’m totally doing the next time I have a free afternoon.

Also: whaling on the dough for ten minutes is the second most satisfying thing ever. Waking up hungover and inhaling a warm slice of this smeared with Nutella is the first most satisfying.

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Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a dang iPod. Also, check out today’s Secret Society of List Addicts list of totally insane things I do when you stupidly leave me alone in your room. (Then delete “ask TKOG over for weekend!” from your Google Calendar.)

NTKOG #104: The kind of placid, capable girl about the house who spurns pre-packaged this and processed that, opting to cook in grand old pioneer style.

I am: a typical busy/lazy broke early-20something.

I am not: Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pa would play a low, mournful tune on the fiddle if ever he witnessed my domestic laziness.

The Scene: The refrigerator box that I rather grandly call a kitchen in my Brighton studio. When I’m at home I eat fairly healthily: an almost entirely vegan diet (yogurt is the only moo product I keep in the house); low-fat this and low-sodium that (’cause I enjoy being able to fit into my bathtub). I’m generally okay about cooking two big meals a week and living off of the leftovers, with nutritional cracks filled in by whatever snack I’m currently obsessing over — usually some variation on the life-giving peanut butter.

Where my  basically sound food and financial strategy falls apart (I mean aside from random convenience store jaunts) is the amount of pre-made ingredients and snacks I rely on out of convenience slash “dude, you can make that?!” ignorance. Last week, inspired by your comments on my broke and hungry post, and heedless of the time and expense of the project, I set about to live a more home-made life.

btdubs, this is literally all of my counterspace.

After I was done chopping up the veggies, all the scraps went into homemade vegetable stock. Ma Ingalls is so proud she's probably knitting me mittens AS WE SPEAK.

Black Beans: Full disclosure: not only do I only eat beans made from a can, but I’ve sworn multiple times I couldn’t handle the pressure of the other way. Justice has been on my case about it for months, telling me that home-made beans are cheaper, tastier and no more difficult to cook. I assumed this was just her leftover un-American spirit.

A pound of uncooked black beans set me back $1.69 — same cost as a can of black beans if you’re silly enough to buy them not on sale. Set ’em in cold water in the base of my crockpot while I slept, then while I was at work, let them simmer in vegetable broth and a container of (deli-section) fresh salsa. Came home to some really delicious black beans that were promply mashed into like sixteen black bean and sweet potato burritos. Dude, let me tell you, when I made my next grocery stock-up, didn’t buy a single can of legumes. Home-made is cheaper, tastier and not a huge pain in the ass. Why didn’t someone tell me?!

Vegetable Broth: While peeling the potatoes, it occurred to me: no one composts out here, so is there something more clever to do with my veg scraps? Quick google search told me I should be saving ’em in my freezer, then churning out delicious homemade veggie stock. Once my bag was totally full, I surveyed the ragtag assortment of motley scraps, and filed this one away as a loser: sweet potato peels, onion, bitter eggplant peelings, a few apple cores, and some slightly past-prime tomatoes and bell peppers. Wrapped the refuse up tightly in cheesecloth and simmered it for two hours in a gallon of water — and can you imagine my surprise when the whole thing turned out so delicious that I actually ate a few ladlefuls straight?! Unlike store-bought vegetable broth, the smell of this won’t magically take you back to ninth grade bio.

Granola: Holy shit, people make that?! I’d always assumed granola was one of those things, like batteries, that you either had to buy or live without. Dude, screw you, granola lobby — I am no longer your pawn. I used Alton Brown’s recipe and was blown away by how fucking good it was. It’s a little on the spendy side (due to the price of maple syrup and the fact that I stupidly bought nuts at Whole Foods instead of Trader Joe’s), but everyone I fed this to raved about it. Plus, seeing simple, boring oats transform into golden clumps of lightly sweetened granola? Made me feel like a sorcerer on a terrible Voyage To Health Food ’70s cartoon. My favorite feeling.

Popcorn: Did you know you can make your own popcorn in a brown lunch bag? All you have to do is put in a quarter cup, fold the bag over a bit and staple it or close it with a bit of tape, then put the bag vertically in the microwave and nuke ’til the kernel pops slow down to two seconds apart. That is INSANE. I always imagined there was some kind of miracle air inside the bags or something, to justify the exorbitant taste.

The only problem with learning how easy and cheap it is to make popcorn: it may or may not lead to you blogging at 8am while finishing a bag of cardamom-sprinkled breakfast popcorn…

The Verdict: Whoa! Completely successful NTKOG! I was obviously expecting to Learn A Lesson, but I wasn’t expecting for every single instance of home cooking to be cheaper and easier than the pre-packaged crap. Plus, my sodium intake was insanely low, which makes my inner 50-year-old man happy (you know, the part of me that smokes cigars and sports a badass fedora).

As a result of this experiment, I want to start taking on another pre-packaged kitchen culprit every week or two and giving it a healthy make-over. Any suggestions for me to get started on, you brilliant foodies, you?

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TKOG #93: The kind of relentlessly frugal mistress of the house who can wine and dine the masses on a single blooming potato and spends nary a cent on her daily food budget.

I am: a busy/lazy urban 20something with no great affinity for scrubbing pots and pans.

I am not: even the mistress of a decent-sized apartment.

The Scene: My kitchen, surveying with distress my bare pantry shelves after I idiotically decided to embark upon this challenge. Fun fact: if you want to stretch your creative lady of the house muscles, you might want to consider going shopping first. To wit, my only foodstuffs: a few boxes of dry pasta; jars of peanut butter in every conceivable denomination of crunchitude; two pounds of frozen chicken drumsticks; the rest of a freezer full of flash-frozen spinach and kale; five pounds of onions and a few peppers; an apocalypse bunker’s worth of canned beans; various spices and condiments. And, of course, about sixty cans of Fresca, because I don’t care what my landlord says: the water in Brighton may be potent, but it sure as heck isn’t potable.

Ran this experiment over the course of a week back when I was full-time unemployed, and this much I’ll say for it: once you get tired of all the food you own, snacking to while away the long hours of unemployment becomes infinitely less appealing.

This much I’ll also say: dude, three meals a day is kind of a lot more food than you’d ever imagine. Especially if you aren’t brilliant enough to keep a bar of emergency chocolate around.

Spent an afternoon cooking up barbecue chicken drumsticks and a pot of the best damn vegan barbecue chili ever, and was on the verge of deciding, ‘dude, I am a total friggin’ culinary slash domestic genius!’ when the crazy went in. I don’t know if you’ve ever jolted awake at 2am to rifle through the pockets of seventeen pairs of jeans, praying for a stale old butterscotch candy but … uh, but neither have I? Ahem.

Also, life-saving technique: once you’re down to nothing but pasta and frozen vegetables, might I heartily recommend the world’s easiest peanut sauce (which is to Thai food as Kraft Easy Mac is to Italian): 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter; 1/4 cup hot hot hot water; 2 tbsp soy sauce; 1.5 tbsp rice vinegar; pinch of brown sugar. Whisk ’til it’s creamy and smooth. Dump liberally on everything you eat.

The Verdict: Dude, unfortch, I think it was the peanut sauce that did me in. Contrary to my broke-ass 20something nature, I’ve never been a huge pasta fan, but after I ran out of real food, I reverted to peanut noodles. Despite the fact that I’d cut sugar, pizza and anything fried out of my daily stats — to say nothing of the fact that I was so bored with my limited food options that I really wasn’t eating much — I managed to put on like five pounds over the course of the week that I have yet to shake.

That said, it was a good reminder to actually friggin’ cook every day, if for no other reason than to stop spending $7-12 daily on food of questionable nutritional value. I’m pretty proud of myself for living across the street from the best damn pizzeria in Boston and only violating my strict budget once (to stress-eat a Milky Way after the worst job interview ever).

Okay, though, spill, guys. What do y’all eat when the budget is lean? ’cause I’m saving up for a trip to Barcelona, and sadly see many, many more days of spend-free eating in my future…

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Have y’all entered MY GIVEAWAY yet?! If not, you probably should. I guarantee this story will make you want to take a very cleansing bath.

Tonight, while catching the Top Chef finale at Sister’s to root on my imaginary boyfriend, Kevin (so cute!), Sister and I became aware of an uninvited guest in her kitchen. I was headed in to grab some water when a huge mouse scampered across the floor. And let me say, though I’ve always mocked the cartoonish stereotype that any woman in the presence of a mouse immediately shrills “EEEEK!” while jumping on the nearest ottoman — dude. Totally came to pass. The wonderful experience also reminded me of the time earlier this year when my house in California hosted its own plague.

For much of last March, I woke up every morning from dreams that minnows and crawdads and other hideous beasts were swimming underneath my skin. I’d jerk myself to consciousness in the wee hours, scratching bloody rivulets through my thighs and lower stomach. But since this was a pleasant change of pace from my usual nightmares (killing former flames in car crashes is often thematized), I bandaged myself up and thought surprisingly little of it. As the days passed, I started scratching a lot, but none of the four guys I lived — not even The Ex — had any bites or complaints, so I chalked it up to an overactive imagination.

Then, on April Fool’s Day (of course!), I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and saw a little speck scuttle across my thigh. Holy friggin’ shit. I scoured my skin and saw two of the little dudes — translucent beasts, the size of a pencil point, looking in every respect like miniature crabs. Wait, did I say translucent? Right before my eyes, one of them turned a glowing crimson. The little dude was recharging his hit points by DRAWING IN MY BLOOD.

After some discretionary shrieking, stared down the bathroom and everything looked normal except — jesus, the whole wall by the toilet was moving. It was covered with the bugs so thick that the drywall looked like it was shimmering. But translucent, right?, so you could only see them if you were looking for them. Judicious application of my google fu revealed that not only did we have tropical rat mites, but, inevitably, somewhere, rats lurked.

Frantic calls to all the big extermination companies could only get us an appointment for a screening a week later, with treatment beginning after two weeks. TWO WHOLE WEEKS. During which time, The Ex and I had no choice but to launder our sheets every night and sleep while under siege.

Except for some freaky reason (I blame menstrual pheromones?), rat mites are more attracted to women and children than men. So despite the fact that The Ex was sleeping next to me, he woke up with his skin whole and smooth as a fresh-baked dinner roll, while my stomach and thighs were bitten into a purple, craggy mess. In fact, I’m not prepared to swear my skin wasn’t oozing at some point. (Forgive me. I do so relish the grotesque.)

All that said, the grossest part of the story? I called in the biggest-name extermination company in the area to take a look at the problem, and ended up taking a day off work to show the guy around. What’s the problem?, he asked; tropical rate mites, I told him with authority. He didn’t even ask where they were — just flipped over the mattress, said he didn’t see anything and couldn’t diagnose the problem without a live sample, then got ready to leave. But wait!, I said, and showed him the squirming wall of arachnid delight. Without a living sample, I can’t diagnose the problem, he said, bolting for the front door.

Um, dude, what about all those live mites I just showed you? I asked, then forced him to come upstairs and look yet again. Again, he shook his head and charged toward the door.

I don’t understand why you won’t take a sample, I told him.

There aren’t any mites in your house. It’s all in your head. Are there any men who live in the house? Maybe I could talk to one of them, he conceded to calm down the poor little lady.

It can’t be in my head! I may or may not have shrieked. Look at me, I’m a fucking leper. I showed him my upper arms, purple and bloody with little raised bumps the exact size of tropical rat mites.

Whether he used precisely the phrase “menstrual hysteria” is for historians to debate, but he finally agreed to take a sample of the mites from upstairs, incorrectly (it transpires) identified them as avian mites, then told me to have my boyfriend call him.

I didn’t, of course. I called another extermination company, who managed to eradicate the vermin in less than a week and not even reify the patriarchy while doing so. Still, I ended up feeling shitty and mistreated for weeks after the encounter, but never got up the balls to do anything about it — not even write a pissed-off Yelp review.

Just one of those stories that reminds me of the kind of girl I was, and the kind of girl I’d really like to never be again. Now, of course, it would seem like child’s play to call a manager and complain my way up the corporate ladder until I was sure the incompetent jerk would feel some repercussions. It’s nice to look back on what I’ve done for these past few months and think that I totally wouldn’t take shit from this guy again; I wouldn’t take it from anyone. Except vermin, I guess, ’cause you kind of have no choice about that.

[Edit: My mega apologies! The Ex wants the world to know that he was bitten as well! I just didn’t remember, because apparently he suffered in silence and anyway I was too busy fending off rogue vampires and leper colony recruiters! So spare a little sympathy for him, if you’d like.]

These lovely descriptions of my feasted-upon flesh provided under the auspices of TMI Thursday, hosted by LiLu. Be sure to check out her Post Secret TMI Thursday today, where I promise I am not scarring your eyes with any more of my grostesque secrets.

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NTKOG #59: The kind of crunchy hippie chick whose beauty regimen is comprised primarily of salad-bar staples.

I am: a bathing and beauty minimalist. My idea of an extensive skin treatment routine: shower, loofah, squirt of whatever body wash is on sale. Lather, rinse, don’t repeat.

I am not: in this, as in so many ways, remotely girly-girlish. I mean, I only shampoo once a week, for goodness sake.

The Scene: My gorgeous clawfoot bathtub. For two and a half hours. Truly, is there no greater bliss known to (wo)man than luxuriating for a full afternoon in the bath, with an Oprah magazine at your side? After the suds died down from my Lush bubble bar (Sunny Side! Curiously like bathing in champagne!) and I’d cast a keen eye over Oprah’s holiday gift guide, I set to the work of hippiecraft.

Brown Sugar Body Scrub: So, guys, this was as simple as it sounded. Palmful of brown sugar, and just work it into your skin. I attacked my feet and knees first, ’cause east-coast weather hasn’t been kind to me, and was amazed at how quickly the dry skin was buffed off. Then, I grabbed another handful and exfoliated the rest of my skin. HOLY FRIGGIN’ CHRIST. omfg. There is nothing you could possibly do in a bathtub — with or without another person — that could feel as wonderful as exfoliating your tired, neglected limbs and torso with a handful of plain ol’ brown sugar. I mean. I mean oh my god. Total revelation.

I’ve used lots of fancy and semi-expensive exfoliating rubs, many of them sugar-based, in the bath, but something about the fineness of the grit made this extraordinary. Siiigh. Plus, afterwards I smelled so good that I was tempted to just lay in front of my radiator and bake myself. I’m sure I would have been delectable!

Egg White Face Mask: About as yechy as it sounds. Post-bath, I pulled my hair back, separated an egg and slathered the albumen all over my face, then let it dry. I can see why people think this is helpful for your skin: once the sticky egg white hardens, it contorts your face into a grotesque Joan Rivers mask. But even after thoroughly scrubbing the gunk off, I didn’t notice anything particularly firm or glowy about my skin. Later, I scrubbed my face with brown sugar, just to see, which actually did a nice job soothing the Kleenex-sore skin below my nose.

Hot Olive Oil Hair Treatment: Before stepping in the shower to finish scrubbing off the brown sugar, I microwaved a few ounces of olive oil for forty five seconds, until it was quite warm but not hot to the touch. Then, after shampooing pretty thoroughly (haircare’s the first to go when I have a cold), slowly drizzled the oil in my hair and worked it in with my fingers. I let it set for a few minutes before rinsing it. And dude. I was petrified that it would make my hair or, worse, my skin (about the clarity of which I’ll be the first to admit I’m a trifle vainglorious) greasy, but it was actually a fairly nice boost. My hair had a smidge more luster than usual and the curls were soft and manageable. Plus, although you can’t really get up much of a shine on curly hair, I think were my hair straighter, it would have verged on glossy.

The Verdict: Dude. So every time I do these wallet- and eco-friendly challenges? I am surprised and DELIGHTED with the results! For my money: egg-white facials are obviously to be avoided; oil treatment is quite nice but probably not worth the fuss on any sort of regular basis; brown-sugar body scrubs are a gift from the gods. I will so be adding basic baking staples to all of my soaks from now on.

If you’re a chick reading this, I highly encourage you do the same! Or, dude, even if you’re a guy. Just — probably make sure no one ever finds out? (And my sympathies if you are an actual adult with the kind of responsibilities that preclude marathon just-because soaks. Trust me, I’m well aware of how good I have it right now, and am cherishing every glorious, sudsy moment of it!)

Well, what do you know. A whole naked post and it wasn’t even TMI Thursday material. You should still check out LiLu’s post today, though. Or, actually, every day. Girl’s a bloggernaut.

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