PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Pardon My Twang….

…But I keep hearing an old-timey version of a Ralph Stanley song running through my head, specifically the refrain, “The darkest hour is just before dawn”.

Now, those who know me, and even those who don’t, yet come here for all the sparkling Grief Blogging might worry that I’m in a depression. Fear not. Well, I am, a little, but really, anyone over the age of 14 is bound to get the blues this time of year, what with all the manufactured joy and pre-packaged expectations that come with “The Holidays”. Nope. I’m in the darkest hour because I am cleaning and reorganizing all the kitchen accoutrements. Holy shitballs, Mabel, this is a Task and A Half! And basically, with most un-cluttering and organizational projects, you have to explode the whole thing before you can put it in order. Right now, Houston, we have esplosions.

This morning, I moseyed down to Index, a restaurant supply store in the River Market, and boy, it’s easy to drop your whole wallet there. It gets hypnotizing, as you walk around looking at all these…things… you start to think, “Well of COURSE I could use a dozen of those little stainless cups they serve ketchup in at McCoy’s,” and you catch yourself mentally visualizing and measuring your oven, just in case this enormous cookie sheet could fit in it. And of course you’d need the matching Silpat. I caught myself eyeballing a sugar pourer. It was only $1.50. I was certain that would be useful. I could throw the old one away. Update the sugar pouring aspect of my life.  You wouldn’t believe the siren songs I hear in my head in that store.  Anyhoo, I did NOT buy anything off my list, my goal was to get some large foodservice-grade containers to put baking supplies in (flour, sugar) and then at least one more big one for rice. This is the downside of the CostCo shopping – enormous bags of flour and rice, and where in the hell do you put them? Shove ’em in the back room off the kitchen, that’s where. Alongside last winter’s birdseed, which, upon unearthing, I later caught Tripper EATING. He is such a motherfucking black lab it makes me crazy. Birdseed. To him, it must have been some gourmet trail mix. (That is going out to the greenhouse. I did not buy a tub for it.)

So now my fantastic birthday-present-to-myself from this summer, the KitchenAid 6, sits on top of a chrome cart, and stacked in glorious organization under it are the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and on the bottom shelf, rice. I will be able to just pull the cart in to the main kitchen area & use the mixer on the cart, instead of having to lift and move the beast onto the countertop (because it’s so tall, it blocks the cabinet doors. Yep.)  And this one beacon of organization and containment is in the middle of the dining room, and its strangeness is making Suzy crazy, so she’s been lying here GROWLING at it the whole time I’ve been typing. Dogs. Thank god they can’t drive, they’d lose their minds.

OH, but see, there’s more. There’s a huge big ol’ reason all of this is happening, besides the fact I’m on vacation, and alternating between lolling about & knitting and being productive. I got a really kickass Christmas present. Two, in fact. One from my MIL (Momma Linda) and one from my husband. We draw names in his family, and she got mine. And she has heard me bitch and pick fights with said husband over …wait for it…. a french fry cutter. He has refused to buy it for me because it is…impractical. A unitasker. No. I am not married to Alton Brown, but sometimes it sounds that way! I wanted one because the cheapy one I  had broke, and I wanted a solid, restaurant-quality, never-gonna-break sort of french fry cutter. DO NOT ASK ME how many times a year I make french fries. Because that is not the point. Here was something I genuinely wanted. For years. It started to take on a lifeblood all its own.  James would complain about how hard I am to buy for, and I would always look at him and say, “French fry cutter.” Yet he refused to get it. (There were arguments made about our walls and the fact it has to be mounted to one, blah blah blah DETAILS, people. Trivial details.) So, since my MIL and I are not unlike each other, she went and ordered me the mac-daddy french-fry cutter to beat the band. Doesn’t have to be mounted on a wall, either. And when she informed my husband of this gift, he knew his goose was cooked. Or tater was sizzlin’, whichever metaphor you prefer. Because in the past – and as recently as last week – others had offered to pool resources, to go around him, to buy it for me. I refused. I purposefully never told my father, because he would have had it shipped express the next day to make a point.  This was my lynchpin. My sand in his Vaseline.  So the Wo knew he had to do something. And he ordered a twin deep-fat fryer from CostCo. Yes. That clanging noise was everyone’s arteries slamming the doors on crazy. CRAZY. But he had to get with the program or have it forever held against him, and it has made me laugh repeatedly since Christmas day, because it’s partly an O’Henry short story, partly a clash of personalities and priorities, and through it all, completely filled with love.

Anyway, now, all this stuff has to go somewhere, and some things need to be removed, since they are ever-so-rarely used. And I’m taking FULL advantage of the no-limit-on-trash-bags opportunity this week, going a little crazy with the tossing, but it feels good.  With the bonus that now I can have my very own State Fair in the kitchen anytime I want.


The sun is slowly sinkin’
The day’s almost gone
Still darkness falls around us
And we must journey on
The darkest hour is just before dawn
The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul at jesus’ feet
The darkest hour is just before dawn

Like a shepherd out on the mountain
A-watchin’ the sheep down below
He’s coming back to claim us
Will you be ready to go
The darkest hour is just before dawn

The narrow way leads home
Lay down your soul
Let jesus in
The darkest hour is just before dawn
The darkest hour is just before dawn

For everyone who found their heart aching over the holidays, just remember…. you are not alone.


  1. When’s the party and can you make Funnel Cakes in that fryer??Love this story, love you, love James.Jane

  2. OH baby, thank you for sharing this. YES, I would have bought that dang French Fry cutter for you 😉 And Ralph Stanley takes me back to my bluegrass roots… hugs, moi

  3. I wish I lived next door! I’d be knocking your door down for fresh fries at 3AM.

  4. Oooh you can make sweet potato fries too! And you could probably use it for other fun stuff. Like up, I dunno, apples?

  5. French fries at Jen’s house … just let me get a pencil to write down the address!!!!

    Happy New Year, Jen. May all the fat blobs turn to hugs and kisses before they ever reach your arteries :GRIN:



  6. Dude, I am totally making that Vietnamese appetizer with the sweet potatoes & shrimp in lettuce with cilantro. NOM! And, of course, apples. For the healthy side of the fryer. 😉

  7. Isn’t it just kick ASS when the m-i-l will give you what her son refuses to? In the kitchen, I mean. Um… For cooking, of course.

    Happiest of all things to you, Jen!

  8. Dude! When is the party? Because I LOVE homemade french fries. Have you ever had horseshoes? Oh they are the best with homemade fries! My ex-future MIL made them al the time and they are wonderful. Heart attack on a plate, of course…but so yummy!

  9. you know the first time you make fries, jWo is going to ask what took you all so long to get said fry cutter.

    one of my fondest memories is when we got our egg cooker one year from my ‘rents. kev acted as though the world would end because where in the hell would be store it?! our kitchen at the time was tiny. he ended up using that thing far more than i did!

  10. Sounds as if you had a good Christmas. I know that thing about getting to go to TLE Spring Fling was a great early present. I tried to get in but not even on the wait list. BTW, the linen drape is working up nicely-not hurting my hands at all. The photos of you in the hat-wow! That was not your Saturday morning parking lot look. When the mood hits you can fancy with the best of ’em.

  11. This post cracked me up from start to finish. there’s nothing that gets a guy more motivated than the thought that someone else will show him up 🙂 i have to admit that I was quite envious reading about all teh room you have in or near your kitchen and wishing we were in a house.

  12. One word: Poutine!

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