Saturday, August 29, 2009

Marukai and the Magic Mandoline

Should I move to Japan?

I finally made it over to Marukai Daiso on the way back from dropping my parents off a the airport today. The Marukai complex has three shops: Marukai Market, a Japanese grocery store which I discovered has the most amazing instant udon noodles in a bowl for 87 cents; Marukai Living, which is sort of like Target; and Marukai Daiso, which is like the best dollar store in the entire world (my daughter came away with a Barbie like doll, with higher quality hair than the spider-web like material used in the Mattel Barbies, for $1.65. And they had bowls and other tableware that looked suspiciously Crate-and-Barrel-like for, yes, $1.65.). I hyperlink Daiso only because it is really worth making a trip if you have party favor needs for a birthday party, need plastic storage containers, or happen to be in the market for an afro wig. They pretty much have everything, addressing needs ranging from fake nail appliques to Hello Kitty toilet seat covers.

But the real score I got today was from Marukai Living. I used to have the MIU Stainless-Steel Professional Mandoline Slicer, which, despite its fancy name, carrying case and price tag (retail value: $119.99), delivered only on being stainless steel. It included a set of instructions warning me to be careful of the ultra-sharp blade, but in reality, I would have been at greater risk with a butter knife. Needless to say, it did a poor job of making perfectly even slices, and required quite a bit of elbow grease to get things cut. It didn't handle things with tougher outer skins like bell peppers, eggplant or tomatoes well at all.

Cue "Dreamweaver" music. I spotted at Marukai Living the simple plastic mandoline pictured here. No fancy carrying case, but clearly a very sharp blade. On the back, and adjustable knob that allows you to vary the thickness of the slices. I recalled reading reviews of slicers and hearing that the simple Japanese varieties were the best. Eager to test it, I went home and tried a variety of veggies: cabbage -- no problem. Red bell pepper -- it sliced so easily I wasn't even sure the slicing was happening. Then I tried making paper-thin slices of scallion. I used a back-and-forth motion, akin to the type you would use if you were gently painting a watercolor onto paper -- and with equal (non) effort. Unbelievable. With no effort, beautiful even slices were flying off of the blade. I was consciously careful to avoid adding even slices of fingertip to the salad.

So run out to an Asian market and find yourself a Japanese mandoline slicer. $16 bucks later you'll want to chuck out all the expensive stuff you registered for at Williams-Sonoma.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Marc Jacobs Totally Turnlock

Will someone please talk me down from the ledge? After subscribing to a most dangerous service, which I'll write about some other time (it emails you things that are on sale, in your size, from designers you like, daily), I came up on this gorgeous bag: the Marc by Marc Jacobs Totally Turnlock Tobo bag. I do love most things Marc Jacobs, but this bag crept up on me like the Botkiers of yesteryear. With its perfect puffiness, casually latched top and part-hobo, part tote presentation, I felt like it was an old friend. Or a baby. I got the feeling I imagine some women have when they see a baby -- that irresistible urge to want to hold it. The simplicity of the design and the versatility of the white (I happen to believe in winter white) pushed me over the edge -- the elements that make this bag appealing are the same ones that make Hello Kitty universally cute -- not so much what is there but what isn't. I also have a weakness for buttery-soft leathers, and this one looks like it measures up pretty well.

I've heard that Jacobs bags weigh a ton. Would that be a deterrent for me? Or could I argue that carrying the bag would be the only exercise that I get -- and then perhaps that I should get two?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Asian Fit Sunglasses

A couple of years ago I took a trip to Taiwan that would change my life. Having spent months prior trying to find a good pair of over-sized sunglasses that fit (and by fit I mean that it needed to meet the following criteria: 1) it should not miss the bridge of my nose completely and have to be fully supported on my face by my cheeks; 2) it should not have so big a gap between my brow and the glasses that the full force of the sun would shine on my eyelids, thereby defeating the purpose of wearing sunglasses in the first place; 3) it should not project off of my face in a mysterious floating manner that would conjure up ideas of man-in-space programs), I finally settled on a $450 Chanel pair (yes, it really was the only pair that vaguely fit me) that was adequate. I'd say it met my criteria 75% -- gap was still there, but not so that I was completely blinded, and it looked mostly okay.

Enter trip to Asia. I ended up at various opticians because I was shopping for a good pair of regular glasses -- being blinder than most bats, I would benefit from the ultra-thin high-index lenses that are available in Asia (apparently, Americans are not blind enough to warrant a market here of this sort). Tried on a few frames. To my surprise, they all fit. Heart pounding, moved over to the sunglasses. Again, they fit. All of them. If I knew how to pass out I would have.

I bought a pair, and from then on, my life was different. I could see outside -- clearly. Nothing sat on my cheeks. I didn't have to squint while I wore sunglasses. It was marvellous, like being in a black-and-white film that just got Technicolor.

Then -- tragedy. A couple of weeks ago, my stomach fell as I reached into my bag (which at the time happened to be my Botkier Stirrup, in case you were curious), and it was gone. I searched frantically -- nowhere to be found. After a day of despair (and several days of mourning thereafter), with fingers crossed I went online and ordered a couple of pairs of Oakley Asian Fit Sunglasses. They arrived within a couple of days, and I hurriedly ripped open the box and pulled out the Script model (I'd ordered two of the same) -- and they didn't fit!!! I was aghast. They still sat on my cheeks. Now normally, I would be apt to believe that this was due to a personal deformity of some sort -- except that I had validation from my trip to Taiwan that most glasses sold overseas actually did fit me.

Which leads me to wonder if Oakley used actual Asians in creating the Asian Fit glasses? Or were they like some of the cosmetics companies who offered "ethnic" colors as they imagined "ethnic" people would be?

The story has a happy ending though. One of my kids had stuffed my sunglasses under the sofa in the family room (this is indicative of another problem that warrants a separate post altogether), and rediscovered them one day when I came home. I nearly cried.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

High School Reunion

If you're ever on the fence about going to your 20-year high school reunion, I have some advice for you: go. I wish I had. My high school reunion is taking place this weekend. I had planned to go all along but was defeated along the way by my brother's wedding being the next weekend, not wanting to take too much time off work given the aforementioned event requiring some time off work, and the logistics of managing a cross-country trek with or without kids and a husband traveling on business. So I resort to obsessively checking Facebook today, waiting eagerly for updates and reports from classmates, who politely say that they wish I were there, and who are having a great time. I think there's got to be some benefit to escaping once in a while to the past, imagining that you're young again, and reclaiming your pre-child-rearing identity. I don't remember too much about that identity except that I had longer hair and didn't have to worry about sucking in my gut on a regular basis. In any case, I'm wishing I were there.

Here's the report from my friend Richie:
Well, under normal circumstances I would ask you to kill me if you ever saw me in the lobby bar of a suburban DC hotel all alone at 12:30 a.m. eating chicken tenders BUT I am having the greatest time!
I met up with Yoonah at the hotel and we went to the Happy Hour at a bar in Rosslyn. I immediately felt like I was back in TJ (anxious), but everyone is so great. Hung out with Kristen Knipling for a while, but also had conversations with people who never spoke to me in school! So much fun... I wish you were here. Everyone looks exactly the same except a little rounder.
Tomorrow, TJ day and the dinner/dance. Will report in the evening.

Photo above is from the 10-year reunion. Although I enjoyed it (of particular note is that Richie attended that one in drag), 10 years isn't such a long time. Most people hadn't had kids yet, and people looked generally the same, if only a bit worse for wear from steady beer consumption. After 20 years, stuff happens. People's lives take drastically different courses, and I think at this age for the most part you are who you are -- for the most part more mature, humbled by life, and able to look back and high school and laugh (and looking back at the hair in the pictures people are posting from high school, there's a lot to laugh at). I've been enjoying the pre-reunion postings online ("Michael Kirkland wants to make sure all his classmates at the TJHSS&T reunion know that he invented Post-It Notes"; "Lorelei Brown Experiencing huge life changes all at once. Feeling trepidacious about HS Reunion - I'm fat and don't think I'm going to lose 30 pounds by 8 o'clock."; "Mike Benton is going to my 20-year HS reunion tomorrow dressed as my day job. Secret Agent Astronaut Millionaire Cowboy."). And when do people officially start looking old? 50? I'll be cutting it close for the next reunion.