Rhubarb Tart

There is the regular me who mostly makes sense, can listen to what you say, and interacts in the world as a fairly socially-acceptable human being.

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Then there is the Ikea me, who is in a trance, lost in time and space, and cannot answer basic questions about who she is or her surroundings.

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I don’t know why I go back to Ikea in the flesh, when everything can be ordered online. You’d think that I would’ve learned my lesson by now. But we bought a dresser for Ansel in 2015 that was recalled because it wasn’t safe for toddlers, and when it became clear that Ansel could climb out of his crib and potentially interact with said dresser, we realized that we needed to physically take it to Ikea and return it.

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Our Ikea trip was fraught before it started. We got up early enough last Saturday and had the kid ready to go, but realized the dresser would not fit in either of our cars. So Aaron had to disassemble the entire thing, which felt like a cruel joke given how long it originally took him to put it together.

By the time we got to Ikea, it was around 10:30AM, which we thought was plenty of time to return the dresser, get a new dresser, and put Ansel down in the car for his nap around 12:30PM. This all seems very reasonable, right?

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I gave Aaron the usual “talk.” It’s the kind of talk that werewolves give to their friends. “Hey, once I enter those blue and yellow doors, I’m going to change. I’m going to be possessed and you won’t recognize me. I have no control over what is going on, we’ll just have to get through it. And I probably won’t remember anything that happened. Also, don’t trust me at any point in Ikea.”

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It’s like the bright-colored furniture, cheap meatballs, cheerful showrooms, and umlauts in the names of all of the goods coalesces into an immediate Ikea-induced lobotomy. My brain just shuts down. I become like a malfunctioning host on WestWorld.

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Thus, when Aaron and I arrived, we had a massive miscommunication. When we were discussing our strategy, I was staring at the $1 cookie bins in the “Swedish” grocery store area. Were those lingonberry filled shortbread cookies?! I wonder what they taste like. Do I want to try them because lingonberry is a flavor I like or because they are novel and I can’t get them at Safeway? I wonder if they would carry them at Aldi? Is there an Aldi in Tacoma? Aldi really is the Ikea of grocery stores and H&M is the Ikea of clothing. Do people come to Ikea to get these specialty Swedish grocery items? Are they even authentic? I wonder if they have Haribo candies in the bins. Oooooohhhhhh bulk Haribo raspberries would be amazing…..

“I’m going to take Ansel and get the dresser. Do you have your cell phone with you?”

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While this is still a bit contentious, I believed that Aaron was going to get the dresser that we needed to return, which was still in the car. Aaron understood that he was going to pick out a new dresser for Ansel.

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I took a ticket to talk to someone at the return counter and sat down. For the next 45 minutes or so, I wondered why it was taking Aaron so long to get the dresser dropped off to me, and why was Aaron sending me texts with pictures of Ansel throughout Ikea, until I realized that Aaron didn’t go get the dresser to return after all. No, Aaron and Ansel descended into the inner-mazes of Ikea, the suburban equivalent of the Hotel California.

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They were calling ticket number 99 and I was ticket number 108 when I figured this out. I frantically texted Aaron, “Where are you?!!! WTF??? If we don’t have the dresser when my number is called, how are we going to return it???!!!!”

I was watching other people waiting to return stuff who hadn’t moved since I got there. They were eating Ikea fro-yo cones and Ikea cinnamon rolls with blank stares, like cattle going to slaughter. We were all going to die here, waiting in the Ikea return line.

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Of course, Aaron and Ansel promptly got the dresser to me in plenty of time before my number was called. But by the time it was actually returned, it was almost 1PM – well past Ansel’s naptime – and we didn’t have any time to go back and find a new dresser for him or eat lunch at the Ikea restaurant. Instead, we had to hurriedly checked out of Ikea with the sad purchase of some tongs, a roasting pan, and a small train set.

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When we finally escaped, we realized that Ansel wasn’t going to get a good nap if we went straight home to Tacoma. We ended up agreeing to just keep driving south, in silence, on I-5 until he woke up. Looking back, it seems silly to just drive a sleeping toddler around until he wakes up, but it ended up helping us recover and reset our day. Ansel woke up around the exit for downtown Olympia, so we decided to take him to the Olympia Children’s Museum!

Have you been there? If you have a kid and live in the Puget Sound area, it is definitely worth a visit. There are so many different areas, it’s a bit overwhelming, but we really liked the pretend grocery store, woodlands exhibit, emergency vehicle room, and the giant Lite Brite.

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Even though the museum is chock-full of things that Ansel had never done or played with before, we still ended up spending the most time at a small train table in the corner of the 4-and-under room. We sat there for over an hour while he played with the exact kind of toys that he has at home. Aaron and I kept ourselves entertained by watching other parents, most notably the dad who fell asleep sitting next to a giant oyster in another part of the room (solidarity!).

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All-in-all a productive Saturday. We even became members of the museum!

Earlier on Saturday, before we went to Ikea, we had walked the dog through our local farmer’s market. That is where I picked up this gorgeous rhubarb and decided that I should bake something in-season. I had been eyeing a Martha Stewart recipe for a rhubarb tart for years, and thought this was the time to do it!

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You make a cream cheese pastry dough and fill it with a mixture of sweetened cream cheese and sour cream with a ton of lemon zest. Then you fill it to the brim with some poached rhubarb (that you poach with a beet to accentuate the magenta hues) and drizzle a vanilla-rhubarb glaze on top. I tried to make a sunburst pattern with the poached rhubarb and I think it turned out very pretty. And it tasted divine!

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And now I have something rich and bright to snack on while I pick out Ansel’s next dresser on the Ikea website, because I am not going back to that Scandinavian hell-zone anytime soon!

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