Pickled Okra & Roasted Peanuts? Don’t mind if I do.

My friend Gaby recently made the mistake of making me interested in something.

She told me about a lovely farmers’ market and farm located right in the middle of New Orleans called Hollygrove Market & Farm, and they have a weekly “box” (spoilers: it’s actually a bag.) of amazing farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other glorious food items that come from all kinds of wonderful backyard and independent farms in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, and it’s only $25. How awesome is that? It is remarkable that after living 6 years in Colorado, I somehow never got in on a CSA-subscription, but know that I have been enlightened as to Hollygrove’s existence, things are a-changin’.

Part of what’s great about Hollygrove is that they put up on their website what’s going to be in the “box” each week, so that you can choose if you want to get in on that or not. Right now I am kicking myself for not going this week because homemade organic blueberry jam was involved. And sweet potatoes! Sigh.


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Since I started making Hollygrove a part of my grocery considerations, I have received some treasures (like this amazing okra that has no business being so beautifully green) that needed some extra prep work, with awesome results. Working from a CSA-style box makes you change the way you think about cooking. It makes you want to eat seasonally all the time. It makes you want to go put your own hands in the dirt for a while. And it makes you wonder how hard it would be to make things that most normal people usually buy.

Enter pickled okra.

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People from the South go crazy for pickled okra. Every single person that I talked to about the possibility of pickled okra proclaimed their undying love for pickled okra right there on the spot. Even Dan enjoys pickled okra, and that’s saying something.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking really helped me out on this one with this super easy recipe for refrigerator pickled okra. For those not in the know (and you’re looking at food blogs on the Internet, so how could this be?) refrigerator pickling is a quick-pickling method that doesn’t involve lengthy boiling periods for brine-making, sealing, and sterilization, since the contents are usually much, much smaller and meant to be consumed within a month or slightly longer. These types of things are especially appealing if you only have enough okra to fill one quart jar (about a pound) and the grocery stores in your area would look at you sideways if you asked them where they kept the wide-mouth funnels.

Directions were followed, with the one exception that I put a few peppercorns into the mix instead of hot peppers, because I have come to terms with just not being badass enough for that. And then the waiting ensued. You have to wait to eat these for at least two weeks, otherwise your okra will somehow be both fibrous and slimy, a disgusting combination. But, if you diligently wait the two weeks?

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You will be rewarded.

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And then you will eat a whole bunch and brag to everyone on Facebook and Instagram that you did something that countless millions of other people have done before you, but oh my god it doesn’t matter because pickling is a miracle.

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These are sour and crunchy and amazing, with little seeds that pop in your mouth. You will probably never ever buy a jar of pickled okra again.

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In fact, you’ll now be looking for more opportunities to spend an inordinately long period of time hand-crafting something that any other person would have used a 2-for-1 coupon for.

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Like roasting your own peanuts!

The next time I got the “box,” Hollygrove had included a pound of green peanuts. What on earth are green peanuts, you ask? Oh wait, you already knew? Well, I had no idea and needed some assistance. Avalon Acres helped me out. Green peanuts are basically totally raw, straight from the ground, chock full of water and ready for boiling or roasting.

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Something that they don’t tell you is that peeling green peanuts is not a walk in the park. Peeling this one pound of peanuts took me at least half of a game of Scrabble. Good thing I had coffee to aid me.

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The peeled peanuts were soaked (floated, really) in some salt water…

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…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

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…and then roasted for waaaaaay longer than the recipe told me to. I’m thinking that I probably need to get my oven checked out now, since I had a very similar problem roasting pumpkin seeds last year. The recipe claims that 20 minutes at 350 degrees should be enough, but we went more than double that time before anything looked vaguely roasted.

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Good news, though. They were delicious.

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Normally, the little papery inner shells of peanuts give me the heebie-jeebies, and I always am careful to peel them aside if eating roasted peanuts. On these? They were the best part! Every bit was super crunchy and smokey, and they only lasted about 48 hours.

My desire for making common household condiments and appetizer-type things has only intensified. I think I need to rush into this headlong and make my own ketchup now. Who’s with me?

Russell the Carrot, your new best knitted friend

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My friend and coworker Stevi had a baby last winter, and I never got a chance, what with school and all, to make her new baby boy anything fun. However, as my summer draws to its close, this problem has been officially solved.

Meet Russell the Carrot. Russell is a fantastic orange friend who will add joy to your life. Not only is he good for your eyesight, but he is extra huggable and squishable, and has a smile for every occasion. Apparently, Stevi’s son is really into hugging, and he loves anything with a smiley face, so Russell should be right up his alley.

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I had the (rare) presence of mind to write all of Russell’s creation down as I was making him, so I am presenting his pattern here for all to enjoy. When I was searching for knitted and crocheted carrot patterns originally, I was a little discouraged to see how tiny they all were, because we were looking for something big enough and durable enough for lots of play. I think that Russell will fill that void nicely in the knitting world.

For his eyes, I went ahead and tried to do something similar that I did with Mr. Sedaris’s Owl, and came up with something that’s halfway between Heidi Kenney (Are you familiar? You should be.) and the Muppets. I feel like that’s a pretty good place to be.

Here we go. Want a clean and easily printable PDF? Just click here.

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Russell the Carrot
a knitted carrot friend

Peaches & Cream Cotton in color 1628 – bright orange (but any worsted-weight cotton will do)
small amounts of worsted-weight green and red yarn for carrot leaves and smiley face

US size 5 (3.75 mm) double-pointed needles (Gauge is not the most important thing in the world here, but you want to make sure that the resulting fabric is tight enough to not allow stuffing to poke through. I got about 6 sts per inch with this particular yarn and needle combination.)
Size F/5 (3.75 mm) crochet hook
tapestry or yarn needle
polyfill stuffing
white and black felt for eyes
sewing needle
sewing thread in black and white

Abbreviations & Definitions:
m1: Pick up the bar between the st just worked and the next st, and place it on the LH needle. Knit into the back of this loop to inc 1 st.

ssk: Slip the next 2 sts as if to knit. Insert the LH back into the front of these two sts and knit them together to dec 1 st.

k2tog: Insert the RH hand needle through the front of the next 2 sts as if to knit and knit the 2 sts together to dec 1 st.

For all crochet stitches and abbreviations? The internet is a much better resource than me for this, trust me. I am not so good at explaining those. Have fun with Google.

Carrot Body:
CO 3 sts. Keep these 3 sts on one double-pointed needle, and knit in I-cord for 2 rounds, pulling the yarn across the backs of the sts to close the resulting “tube.”

Divide the 3 sts onto 3 separate needles.

Round 1: *k1, m1* 3 times (6 sts)
Rounds 2-6: knit all sts
Round 7: *k1, m1, k1* 3 times (9 sts)
Rounds 8-12: knit all sts
Round 13: *k1, m1, k2* 3 times (12 sts)
Rounds 14-18: knit all sts
Round 19: *k1, m1, k3* 3 times (15 sts)
Rounds 20-24: knit all sts

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Round 25: *k1, m1, k3, m1, k1* 3 times (21 sts)
Rounds 26-30: knit all sts
Round 31: *k1, m1, k5, m1, k1* 3 times (27 sts)
Rounds 32-36: knit all sts
Round 37: *k1, m1, k7, m1, k1* 3 times (33 sts)
Rounds 38-42: knit all sts
Round 43: *k1, m1, k9, m1, k1* 3 times (39 sts)
Rounds 44-48: knit all sts
Round 49: *k1, m1, k11, m1, k1* 3 times (45 sts)
Round 50: knit all sts
Round 51: *k1, m1, k13, m1, k1* 3 times (51 sts)
Round 52: knit all sts
Round 53: *k1, m1, k15, m1, k1* 3 times (57 sts)
Round 54: knit all sts
Round 55: *k1, m1, k17, m1, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 56: knit all sts
Round 57: *k1, m1, k19, m1, k1* 3 times (69 sts)

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Rounds 58-65: knit all sts

This is a good time to start stuffing. Make sure you use something to get that stuffing all the way down into the carrot point, like a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil, before you fill it up too much. Keep stopping to stuff the carrot intermittently as you go through the following steps to ensure a firm, but squeezable, carrot friend.

Round 66: *k1, ssk, k17, k2tog, k1* 3 times (63 sts)
Round 67: knit all sts
Round 68: *k5, k2tog* 9 times (54 sts)
Round 69: *k4, k2tog* 9 times (45 sts)
Round 70: *k3, k2tog* 9 times (36 sts)
Round 71: *k2, k2tog* 9 times (27 sts)
Round 72: *k1, k2tog* 9 times (18 sts)
Round 73: k2tog all the way around (9 sts)

Break yarn. Put in your final bits of stuffing, pushing it down as far as possible. Thread the remaining sts onto a yarn needle, and draw the yarn through the sts, pulling them tight to close the top. Fasten yarn securely with a small knot, if necessary, to keep the hole closed. Weave in ends.

Carrot Accoutrements:
Attach green yarn to top of carrot, using the top “ring” of sts that you pulled closed, with crochet hook and a slip stitch. Make a series of chain sts of about 3-4″ long (or however long you want). At the end of the chain st row, turn back by skipping the first 2 chain sts and making double crochet stitches in every following chain st. Because the crochet hook used for this is much smaller than customarily used for worsted-weight yarn, the strips of double crochet will corkscrew around themselves, resulting in fun, curly carrot leaves.

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At the end of the row, when you get back to the top of the carrot, secure the strip by slip stitching into the top “ring.” Then make another strip! I made five of these, varying the lengths slightly throughout, and that seemed to fill in the top nicely, but you can make however many you want. Just be sure to finish the last strip by slip stitching into the top of the carrot. Then break your yarn and draw it through the last loop, pulling tightly. Weave in ends.

Cut small circles of white and black felt for the carrot’s eyes, and sew them securely onto the carrot. Just pick whichever of the three sides you think is the prettiest. I sewed the black “pupils” of the eyes onto the white circles first, and then attached the entire thing afterward, just for ease of handling. Make sure you knot everything securely and pull the ends of the thread through into the stuffing so that they can’t work loose.

Embroider a big smile onto your carrot using your yarn needle and red yarn, using back-stitching to get a nice smooth curve. In order to keep the stitching from pulling out, I was sure to thread my yarn through the stuffing (with the knot on the outside of the stuffing) before beginning and finishing the stitching. Keeping the knot on the outside of the stuffing will make it much harder to pull through, but keeps the yarn hidden inside of the knitting.

Hooray! You are done! Be pleased with yourself and your new carrot friend.

365 Project – Week 17

I know I’m a little bit late this week with the 365 update, but it’s been a crazy weekend of bird-watching, garden-watering, and Tekken-playing. Because we’re awesome, that’s why.

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Pay no attention to the fact that the top name up there bears a striking resemblance to #2, which is a thinly-veiled attempt by my friend Jonathan to psych me out. The true situation remains that I beat him by over 10,000 points on In Bloom in Rock Band, and no amount of fiddling with the high score display will change that.

I also totally killed it on Blitzbrieg Bop on expert bass mode, much to our mutual surprise.

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Sometimes work days are a little slow on the creativity, but Dan came out punching with the smoothie-making right before I left. Yum!

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Bowie found a new place to nap in my office. Now he can track my every move in here from someplace other than my lap or the back of my chair.

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Breakfast for dinner! Scrambled eggs, sausage, and spinach is our go-to thing to make when nothing else sounds worth the effort. Delicious!

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Dan and I gussied up a bird feeder that had been languishing under our patio and put it out in the open where the birds could enjoy. Since then, it’s been crazy bird times out there. I predict that when we get to our 60s, we’ll be out in the woods with binoculars, counting warblers while wearing funny hats.

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A new kitchen experiment, created by Dan. A neighbor gave us a big bag full of hot peppers from his garden, and we filled them with homemade mashed potatoes and bits of ham and then baked them, turning them into tiny little twice-baked potato pepper bombs.

Dan enjoyed them, but I was physically unable to eat more than two before being forced to hold in a mouthful of milk for several minutes to quench the burning. Oh, the burning.

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Our library opened! This significance of this event is probably not immediately obvious, but New Orleans East has been without a proper library since Hurricane Katrina. Nearly seven years with just a little mobile-home-trailer Bookmobile sitting in an empty parking lot, but now it’s a real place with lots of great brand new stuff. I intend to be a loyal patron.


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Baby possum! Opossum? Possum! This little guy likes to cut through our yard every afternoon for some reason, and the first time he was spotted, he trotted into the garage and seemed to make himself at home. He is adorable and probably vicious. I hope he figures out a new route if he chooses to become less skittish and unfriendly. Right now, he’s just big-eared and cute.

Buried Treasure

I feel that I am a fairly crafty-type person, but there’s one lady who totally puts me to shame with her ridiculous body of work. That lady is my grandmother, Winnie.

Back in the day, she was a crocheting, quilting, pottery-glazing, porcelain-doll-collecting machine. She made quilts for every single member of her family in all stages of their lives. The ones for me featured Cheer Bear and little gingham cats cavorting in a field of flowers, lots of pink and purple.  The quilts she made for herself were a great deal more classy, flying geese and flowers, interlocking rings and nine patches. She has much better taste than my twelve-year-old self, obviously.

When Dan and I first moved in, we had to go through a bunch of boxes of my grandparents’ old things, and we found – amongst the copious amounts of Christmas decorations, model cars, and porcelain dolls – a number of treasures like photo albums, diaries, and a project journal that my grandmother started that featured photographs of every quilt she had made since the early 80s. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to find another treasure.

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I was going through closets to find Goodwill donations today, and I found a super-cute kitschy little project bag that I wanted to try to use for some knitting projects.

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There were some bedsheets or something tucked in on the top, so investigation commenced.

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Is that embroidery?

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Holy crap.

Yes, this is a giant cutwork embroidered tablecloth, in progress, with everything needed to finish it. Just sitting in my closet. For months, at the very least. Who knows when my parents picked this up and stuffed it in here, not knowing what was inside?

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Look at all that beige goodness!

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And all that incredibly complicated work that has yet to be finished.

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I wonder when she stopped working on this, if there was any particular reason. Did she put this aside a really long time ago because it wasn’t capturing her attention or because it was too much work or just not what she wanted to work on at the moment? Or was this a casualty of her quickly developing Alzheimer’s a few years ago?

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I wish I could ask her, but she doesn’t often remember who I am.

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Back to the moderately amusing observations, eh? What on Earth are “japanned” hair pins?

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I’m assuming it means that they are black lacquered. What do they have to do with embroidery?

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And what was the plan for all this crochet thread? Matching placemats and coasters?

So many questions!

Well, we have a very large dining room table that needs covering with something classy, and think this may be just the ticket. Loads of satin stitch might seem boring, but it’s much more my speed than attempting to repair the quilt that she gave me before I left for college that has slowly succumbed to age.

Now I just need some sort of long TV series to get on Netflix to accompany me through all this work. Any suggestions?

365 Project – Week 7

Another week — more homemade food, gardening projects, and Valentine’s Day silliness!

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I know, we’re right back on food again! I couldn’t help it. Dan came up with these little smoked salmon, spinach, and balsamic vinegar on delicious Triscuits canape-things, and they were faaaantastic.

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A lazy Sunday morning spent drinking coffee and playing Hangman on the backs of envelopes.

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Bowie helped me eat my breakfast one morning by keeping an eye on the birds outside. They might get a shot at my Cheerios before he did, apparently.

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Ingredients for a great Valentine’s Day at home? Tacos, When Harry Met Sally, homemade cards, and chocolate lava cakes.

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A belated Valentine’s day gift from my love! Pink roses and white carnations making our kitchen table all pretty.

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Burgers with red peppers and spinach with fabulous lemony, garlicy green beans and peppers on the side (courtesy of everybody likes sandwiches‘s great recipe), and watching The Wrestler. A great way to end an afternoon of gardening. The green beans were from my dad’s own vegetable garden! I can’t wait until we get some of our own.

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A row of onion bulbs, now planted, watered, and hopefully soon sprouting in our vegetable garden.

So far, the garden’s got beets, cabbage, onions, radishes, basil, a rosemary bush, and a rose tree/bush-thing. Happy, happy, happy Jinger! Hopefully they all properly grow now. Fingers crossed.

Facing Some Fears

I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. I’m a little scared of my sewing machine.

Of sewing machines, in general, actually. I don’t know what it is about them. The pointy, stabby bits? The hidden machinery cranking away loudly? The speed and fact that it’s constantly pulling things into the pointy, stabby bits? Scary.


The beast itself. Notice the manual sitting right there? I’ve owned this machine for about 10 years, and I still need the manual in order to thread it and wind the bobbin properly. This is ridiculous.

I’m also kind of scared of my iron.


However, I’m in love with the way the act of ironing smells. And the legs of my grandmother’s old ironing board are a bit of a work of art.

Put these fears together, and you have to wonder why on earth I’d want to tempt fate and make something. I have a wonderful purse that I’ve had for years that used to get a huge amount of compliments. It is small and cute and originally meant to be a knitting bag, but got upgraded to my everyday bag (when I’m actually using a purse, that is, which is not terribly often due to the invention of pockets and my love of those little clamshell credit card wallets). However, due to my overwhelming love for this object and the fact that it is only made of cloth, it has started falling apart, particularly at the handles. This does not elict compliments.


I had a ton of fabric for a Halloween costume that never happened sitting around, plus a copy of Bend the Rules Sewing by the fabulous Amy Karol, or angry chicken, as I tend to think of her. I bought the book forever ago (probably around the same time that I moronically thought I’d be sewing a Halloween costume for myself in one weekend).  More recently, I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge and putting all of these things together into a handmade creation and decided to finally use my day off and make something of myself. School and my new job have made me forget that I am a crafty person, so I jumped right in.

Meaning, I took several days to write ‘make purse’ on a to-do list and didn’t do it until today.  And that the whole thing took me about 3 hours, if we’re counting prep work, trying to find the stupid bottle-thing that helps you fill your iron with water, re-learning how to thread the machine, reordering my Hulu queue, checking Facebook a few times, taking a few deep breaths, and then just going for it.

First, we face the iron and the intimidation of interfacing.


Which turned out to not be so scary when you actually follow the instructions.


Although still a little nerve-wracking in the clutch. Part of what I’ve gotten used to with knitting and crochet is the fact that any mistake can be unwound and fixed relatively quickly. With sewing, there is cutting and stitching, and everything is just that more permanent.  And really, really hot.


I persevered, though. I glued some stuff to some other stuff with my iron. I was quite proud.

Then I cut out all the rest of the fabric. Again, experienced some anxiety during this process, but with my handy drafting triangle by my side, I felt a little more comfortable. But then I had to turn some ends under and press them, an activity that has always made me extremely nervous. As I type these words, I realize how stupid it is to be so intimidated by inanimate objects, but these are the facts.


Again, we have success. Also, renewed determination in the idea that I should probably make this ironing board a new cover.


Then, I sat myself down and faced my demons. Or just a tiny needle with variable speed control. And I sewed.


And then sewed some more.


And I got the miracle of a pocket! And after that, I realized that maybe I might be pretty good at this. Maybe I’m tapping into a hidden talent. Maybe it’s just like baking where all I need to do is enjoy the process and follow the directions in order to make something great.


And then I make a huge mistake and sew the outer pieces together stacked on top of each other rather than with right sides facing. In true Jinger-fashion, I got cocky about my perceived skill in something and then quickly got slapped down back into my place by the crafting gods.

Keep in mind that I am also using a relatively tiny stitch length in order to keep the sewing machine from going too fast and eating my fingers because sometimes they do that in my fantasy world. I spend the next 20 minutes or so getting well-acquainted with my seam ripper.


I persevere again, despite my flailings and the crappy light that the sewing machine floods into my pictures.


And then something happens. Suddenly, I’m finished. And it doesn’t look terrible.


It actually looks pretty awesome.


And it has a pocket!


It holds things in it, just like a purse. It is a purse. I made a purse!


And then had cold homemade vegetable pizza to celebrate.


It didn’t take me long to put all my stuff in it, which is probably just too much stuff, but I was excited. I can’t wait to use it. I’m also excited to try sewing other stuff, but I better keep my seam ripper nearby, just in case the crafting gods decide to teach me another lesson, which is highly likely.

Just a Little Love & a Little Rubbing Alcohol

When Dan and I first met, we liked each other right away.  However, when we both discovered that we each had a passion for vinyl records, it may have been what sealed the deal that we were meant to be.

I started early, with Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears records, moving on quickly to stealing my parents’ records and keeping them in my room, listening to the Doors and Iron Butterfly with incense lit and blacklight on. The only records from my parents’ large collection that made it through Hurricane Katrina safely were the ones that I had stolen long ago and were safe in Colorado in my greedy mitts.  I added to my collection from Goodwill and other thrift stores and garage sales, never buying a record unless it was preowned and preloved.

Dan has a ridiculously large collection of pristine techno, dance, and breaks, rounded out by lots of alternative and classic rock. He’s the real deal, buying new, still-wrapped albums on vinyl if it’s available rather than CDs (Are we really old? Do people buy CDs anymore? I think the evidence that we are might be in the fact that I don’t know either way.) or downloading them. He’s got an unnatural aversion to used records, thinking that they might taint both his equipment and the rest of the collection with their battered covers and scratches.  However, both my preloved records and I won him out in the end, and the rest is history.

Since we got together, our collections have merged into one really big, weird, electic mix that demonstrates how two very different people came together. There’s Chemical Brothers next to the Kinks, Lady Gaga residing by Pearl Jam, and all kinds of crazy stuff in-between.

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Which brings me to my point. Upon moving back home, Dan and I discovered boxes and boxes of albums and 45s that needed some extreme TLC.

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All of the records that didn’t make it safely through Hurricane Katrina have been sitting in my parents’ garage ever since in their rusty carrying cases and mold-ridden sleeves. I’ve been taking my afternoons and using them to dig out these jewels and help restore them to their former glory.

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I was scared to start at first, but I discovered (after a little online research) that rubbing alcohol can work wonders. All I’m doing right now is using a towel and some 1:1 isopropyl alcohol and water solution. I’ve been taking this…

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…and coming out with this…

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…much to my surprise. Now, the final results are a little less striking in person after the rubbing alcohol dries because then you get to see all those years of tiny scratches and dings, but it’s still an amazing change to me. All those people who have taken proper care of their records since they started collecting are probably not so impressed, but I can’t even say how excited I am.

I can’t wait until I give them a few more passes and make sure that they’re all ready for their maiden voyage on the turntable. I’m excited about getting them all new paper sleeves and cataloguing them and alphabetizing them, although I know that there’s no way they’ll stay that way. I’m especially excited about this one.

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Harlem Globetrotters? This is awesome.