Inside The Lines

Harold takes his purple crayon and draws himself a balloon so he doesn't tumble to his death.

I’m not doing it, but I know people who are. They say it’s relaxing. They find it a creative outlet. Some find it mindful. Some are obsessed, as people are when they embrace a new activity.

Adult coloring.

When I first heard the term, I thought it had to do with a type of sex play. I didn’t read those shades of gray “books,” but the popularity of adult coloring and safe S&M porn for the bookclub set were overlapping if not simultaneous.

If it wasn’t sex play, maybe it was adult themed coloring. You know, NSFW stuff. Don’t look at me that way. It’s a reasonable thought. I mean why else would they modify the action of coloring with “adult?”

I was wrong. There really isn’t much difference between adult coloring and just coloring. You get a piece of paper with a line drawing and you take your crayons or special pencils or even paints, I guess, and you color.

Remember all of those affirmations about it being cool to color outside of the lines? That we won’t be constrained by the rules imposed by our mean first grade teachers? That we will push beyond prescribed limits and put our pens wherever the hell we want to? No more. It’s all about playing within the lines. Au revoir, adios and adieu freedom.

It’s about the constraints. The comfort of knowing where you are supposed to be. The certainty of limits. Success via conforming. A new coloring order.

Folks can go online and download coloring sheets to print out and color. For ten bucks, you can go to Target and buy a Crayola™ branded book of “folk art” for your coloring pleasure. “Folk art” is a euphemism for cartoons that are easy for people to color. Big blocks of spaces to fill in with your favorite colors. Here’s how they sell it:

Lose yourself in a complex-but-relaxing coloring art activity with these captivating, bold, and colorful images. Includes 80 detailed art patterns on high-quality paper. Perforated for easy tear out and framing.

My favorite part? “Perforated for easy tear out AND FRAMING.” Emphasis, of course, mine. I would love to see that person’s bill from Michaels. Eighty from one book. All framed! Their hallways are covered in framed coloring pages of primitive cartoon chickens.  Or even worse, imagine being on their Christmas list.

Here’s the thank you card:

Thanks, Friend, for the thoughtful, framed coloring page of that rooster and the pig in the farmyard! You really are making me think about roosters differently. And is that Crayola™ crayon shade Barn Red? Thanks again, but next year, please don’t go through all that trouble for me. Love, Doc

Seriously, I love that people are enjoying simple, mindful or even mindless activity. I bet that people who are coloring see their breathing and heartbeat slow down, their brain waves relax and tension levels drop exponentially.

It’s cool that you color. I mean I write this stupid blog. Go on now. You do you.

Chop & Pop

tomatoes, avocado, scrunchions, secret cukes and lemon mint dressing.

I rummaged to the bottom of the vegetable bin. There were some of those cute Persian cucumbers. I don’t know why a recipe calls for English versus Persian cukes. They taste the same. They’re cucumbers. Especially from the grocery store.

There are six of seven left in the package. They are pretty skinny. I toss the one that is mushy and discolored in the center. I take three, trim the ends and quarter them before I run the knife up to the top, chopping into fairly even pieces. Kelly Clarkson is singing Since U Been Gone.

I stir the bastardized ropa vieja that I have on the stove.

Next up are the green onions. The recipe wanted red onions. I have them, but the scallions are more fragile, and anyway I like the crunch of the green parts. Same trim drill, but the tops of the onions are different lengths. It would barely waste anything if I cut them straight along the top, but I am in no hurry. I nip the bits of brown at the top. Before I chop, Pharrell and Daft Punk challenge me to Get Lucky. Dance steps ensue.

I’m interrupted by a friend who needs to go out. He really had to go so there was little time elapsed. I came back into the kitchen to a roaring Dave Grohl. He supposedly said Prince’s cover of Best of You at the SuperBowl was better than their original. I can’t help but think of Prince singing in the rain with that head scarf protecting his mane. I readjust my clip to keep my bangs out of my eyes.

The water comes out of the faucet fast. I am not sure why it sometimes comes out in an single stream and other times like a shower head. It’s shower head today. I soap up my hands to get back to my knife and wooden board. This playlist skips all the cursing in Gold Digger. I sing those words anyway.

I piled the onions next to the cucumbers in the white bowl. As I grab the plastic clamshell with the little tomatoes Shakira totally distracts me. I salsa back and forth through my kitchen galley, telling only lies with my hips. I wouldn’t even care if the neighbors saw, but they moved last week, so they can’t.

The first grape tomato gets sliced in half. They are very small, but I think that they look better if they are closer to the size of the other vegetables so I slice the rest in thirds. I pop one in my mouth. I pull out small handfuls, slice them and place them in the bowl. I keep going until it fills the space with enough red to break up the green. I eat two more and then slice two more.

I pulled out the large half-avocado. It was in better shape than I thought it would be. Sexy Back comes on. I cut around the pit. Someone said that it keeps better if you leave the pit in. It may have. I had a small whole-avocado, too. I didn’t think it was necessary.

My knife slid through the fruit. It was like a hot knife in butter yet still produced distinct squares that I piled between the tomatoes and the onions. The bowl was filled as Teenage Dream played. What a dumb song. I know it seems unfair to pick on this song versus the rest, but I don’t get Katy Perry. And, I get less why that cut allowed explicit lyrics. I woulda let Kanye finish.

There is a silly technique where you take a big pinch of kosher salt between your fingers and from a foot above the food “rain” it down. Somehow this distributes it better. I end up stirring the food anyway so it’s really unnecessary. I do it because it’s dramatic, and I feel like a celebrity chef. So I rained some salt and twisted some pepper.

I opened the cabinet literally above my head. I have to stand on the tips of my toes and really stretch to reach the mini-stainless bowl that sits on the top shelf. This prep bowl is well used, but in an inconvenient place because I don’t have anywhere else to put it in this barely functional kitchen. Taylor is whining about how We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. I’m unconvinced. This was on her last country album, even though most of it was pop.

I take the EVOO–it always cracks me up when I see that on a menu. I want to find the pretentious menu author and punch them in their pretentious author neck.

I pour the exact amount, in that it’s exactly the amount I poured, if only measured by my squinted right eye. I don’t have fresh lemon but a fairly fresh bottle of lemon juice. I squeeze about the right proportion to join the oil. I pick up my super cute baby-whisk. I ordered this whisk from either Crate and Barrel or Sur la Table. They came in a pair, which is good because I wore one of them out. Speaking of worn out, that Lumineers joint comes on. Hey! Ho!

The recipe, that I am not really following in any meaningful manner, wanted me to add fresh cilantro. I don’t have that or the dill they suggested to swap. I go through the spice jars twice. I even go to the way back of the cupboard where I have the extra bottles of valencia orange peel and smoked paprika that I bought by mistake. Nope. No dill anywhere. So I go for some dried mint. Seems like a fresh substitute. After I added it I remembered that I have some actually fresh mint on the back porch. Went too fast there.

Here’s my favorite part. The whisking. I get oddly excited by how quickly that little whisk emulsifies the oil and lemon juice. It seemed exceptionally fast tonight–like only three or four turns and it was like melted caramel.

I’m not ready to dress the salad yet, but worry that the avocado will discolor before The Spouse gets home. I shake a few drops of lemon juice over the concoction. I take the cookie sheet lined with discs of polenta out of the oven and flip them. Whoa, that oven is a little hot.

Lil Jon comes on. Seriously. Right then. Turn Down for What? In this case, turnt down to keep dinner from burning.