What I Shed Today

a year of lightening up

a thanksgiving for what I shall not shed

I don’t make them just the way my great-grandmother did, and she almost certainly didn’t cook hers in vegetable broth. But, continuing decades of tradition, homemade noodles will appear at my family’s Thanksgiving meal!


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fear of pastry crusts

“I don’t know why I don’t make pie crust more often,” I said as I cut butter into flour early this morning. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, and we’re making the pies for my family’s feast. Nimue roasted three butternut squash from our garden and prepared a custard of them last night.

“It has a reputation for being difficult,” she answered, “but it’s really not, is it?”

“No,” I agreed, eyeing the wrappers from two full quarters of butter. “On the other hand, maybe I do know why. I never want to stop at a single slice of quiche.”

Whatever I decide and do about that, I’m satisfied with our squash pies so far. I think I’ll shed my fear of making pie crusts.

I could cycle to my parents's house on the calories in that bowl.

I could cycle to my parents’s house on the calories in that bowl.

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homebrewing literature

Shelved with our cookbooks is my collection of literature about homebrewing. It’s not large (a handful of books and about three years of issues of Brew Your Own magazine), but I decided it could be smaller. I had three books meant to take one from beginning to intermediate brewing; I decided two are enough. Though I loved Charlie Papazian’s cheerful coaching, I can give his classic guide up so someone else can learn from him. Radical Brewing is for those ready for advanced techniques and edgy recipes. I need to become an active homebrewer again before I set my sights on journeyman status, so it can go! And the Dave Line volume is a curiosity from the earliest days of the hobby in the UK. I sought and bought it used when I was trying to clone Smithwick’s for a friend, but techniques and ingredients have evolved so much that Line’s recipes are nearly useless. Still, a thumb-through can prompt gratitude for how far the craft has come and the creativity of its pioneers.

I hope to donate them all to the little library at the local homebrewing supply store.

The prune wine is a bookend, not a shed.

The prune wine is a bookend, not a shed.

shedding style: give away
destination: homebrewing supply store

Comments welcome … thirsty?

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Nimue and I purged about half our cookbooks today. I found it slightly unsettling. We’d culled the real chaff sometime before, so what remained held warm associations of relationships or fond hopes. (“These were my guides when I first experimented with vegetarian cooking.” “I got this one on a memorable vacation.” “I’d like to cook like the author of this book!”)

But we haven’t opened their covers in years, except perhaps to review a recipe for a specialty of our house. Those have now been scanned and converted to Google docs. We’ve left ourselves some basic reference texts (like The Joy of Cooking and Cookwise) and a few to challenge ourselves to grow with. Better a handful we use than a shelf-full we don’t!

We’ve yet to decide how to shed the cookbooks … try to sell to a used bookstore? donate to the city-county library’s booksale? save them till we can mount our own sale? But they’re queued up to go. That’s the first and hardest shedding step.

Muffin sniffs, "All these cookbooks and not a single recipe for kibble?"

Muffin sniffs, “All these cookbooks and not a single recipe for kibble?”

Comments welcome … I’ve noticed many simplifying/minimalizing/decluttering bloggers purge their cookbooks at some point. Have you done yours? What was it like?


bicycle transport bag

Things there are in heaven and earth that most people never need nor want, like very specialized luggage. If you’re one of the few who need a bicycle transport bag, you likely know so. I acquired mine to bring the Lady Eliza home to Georgia from the UK.

The Lady Eliza, an early 1950s Hercules roadster

The Lady Eliza, an early 1950s Hercules roadster

Though I can see myself possibly world-traveling with bicycles again, one trial with a soft-side case was enough to put me off that style. (Though, reinforced with panels I cut from a carton, it went through coach and airport baggage handling without damage to the contents.) I’m grateful ads on craigslist are free, because I expect to feel somewhat underwhelmed with interest!

Blueberry are Muffin aren't sure what it is, but are convinced it concerns cats.

Blueberry are Muffin aren’t sure what it is, but are convinced it concerns cats.

shedding style: resell
destination: another adventurous cyclist’s life

Comments welcome … do you have any clutter that’s just too weird to easily pass along?

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I think if I put a little thought into it that I could categorize our clutter several ways. One would be “mine, hers, and ours.” We have enough of each that we tend to leave one another’s clutter alone.

So, this pair of slacks has been hanging on the back of our laundry room door for about two years. It wasn’t in the way, but it wasn’t in its place, either. Nimue thought they were mine, so she left them there. I knew they were hers (I checked the tag) but observed that they needed some repair. Recently we clarified ownership, but there’s another issue preventing her from wearing them: she’s dropped a size or two and they’re too big for her now. (I credit lots of cycling and kale.) I believe the slacks are bound for the thrift store.


shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … do you have any good kale recipes?


hooded litter box

You get a cat. Great! It’s like having a stuffed animal that’s warm, loves you back, plays with you and purrs! Bringing the cat home isn’t enough, however; you have to provide your new friend with some essential accessories—most urgently, with a litter box filled with litter. But lucky you, “housebreaking” is a word that need never pass your lips. Kitteh was born knowing what to do in it. It’s all good!

Except after awhile, it’s not. Litter doesn’t stay in the box. You recoil from the feel of it under your bare feet when you go to the toilet in the middle of the night. You think, “There must be something better … what about one of those litter boxes with a lid?” So back to the Pet Tactical Support Center you go, and out you come with a designer-styled, veterinarian-recommended, state-of-the-art kitty elimination station.

Did you ask Kitteh what Kitteh thought? No, you did not. If you had, Kitteh would have told you that Kitteh likes to do that business with a view, thank you. Would you crawl into a smelly little box to do yours? Neither will Kitteh. Kitteh will just do it on the floor, right outside the fancy new box. Thank you very much.

So you remove the hood. At least the tray can still be used. But after awhile, you think, “There must be something better … what about one of those high-sided litter boxes?”

Ask Kitteh.


Muffin advises: scoop it daily and change it weekly, and no one will get hurt.


Well, our cats strongly prefer open boxes, but cats are notoriously idiosyncratic—someone else’s spillage may vary. Or perhaps every cat household has to try a hooded box once. In the interest of enabling another’s experience, I’m offering ours up on craigslist.

shedding style: resell
destination: another hopeful dreamer’s bathroom

Comments by cats welcome … what waste disposal infrastructure do you prefer?


trashcans, part two

Since there were two trashcans, I can take two days to shed them, right?

I published a craigslist ad offering them together for $5, which I thought would make them a fairly trivial purchase. By evening I had an inquiry about their volumes. Guessing that my correspondent was a graduate student in the sciences, I smiled, estimated as best I could, and replied. Then she asked if the pedal lifted the lid; I answered that it did. She responded that she was interested, but needed to ask her roommate if she were willing to split the cost.

One half of five dollars was a significant amount in her budget? I felt that in the gut. I remember getting through grad student poverty, but don’t usually relive the emotions that went with it (fear, mostly, and irritability, regularly lifted by interludes of wonder and gratitude at the generosity of the universe). I wrote that I’d be glad to give them to her. (I didn’t add: because others have given so much to me. It’s obvious, isn’t it, to anyone with eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear?)

She gushed thanks and added that she and her roommate had been using a clock to hold down the lid of their current wastebasket. When she came to pick them up, I had to ask about the clock. The lid popped up by itself, she explained, so they weighed it down with a broken clock. She was looking forward to not having to do that anymore.

I wish I had a photo of her smile as she stood on our front walk with a wastebasket under each arm. I’ll keep the image in memory for awhile. And in my mind’s eye, I see her and her roommate gleefully shedding that dead clock.

shedding style: give away
destination: grad student kitchen

Comments welcome … do you have a story about how in giving we receive, and receiving, we give?

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trashcans, part one

I’m working through a generous serving of chagrin as I realize how much stuff I’ve acquired by moving into houses where it was left behind by the previous occupants. The almond plastic trashcan that looks like it could be R2D2’s stunted cousin is an example. I should have left it in the bathroom in which I found it, where it complemented the 1950s brown ceramic tile on the walls and floor.

I bought the stainless steel wastebasket in a fit of wanting materials more permanent than plastic. But the lid-lifting mechanism is fussy and it’s been a challenge to keep clean. I’ve gotten past longing for a sports car in the garage; neither do I want one in the kitchen.

If they won’t sell bundled together for $5  on craigslist, I’ll take them to the thrift store.

I've noticed our trashcan capacity shrinking as our recycling bins multiply.

I’ve noticed our trashcan capacity shrinking as our recycling bins multiply.

shedding style: resell
destination: craigslist

Comments welcome … do you find that recycling bins are a necessity but wastebaskets an accessory?

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fireplace screen renewed

Tonight we’re claiming the shed of another project that lingered long on our to-do list: repainting the fireplace screen. (Disclosure: its dull, rusty appearance bothered Nimue more than me, so she took lead and did most of the work.) Washing and wire-brushing preceded spray-painting. She did the grate, too, but with a high-heat enamel. Polishing the knobs that thread onto the frame made it look new, at least to an uncritical eye!


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