Friday, November 30, 2012

Hermetically Seal Me for My Own Protection

"Stop crying, or I'll give you something to cry about." 

In a nutshell, that was my childhood.  I heard it often and I took it to heart.  Not only did I pride myself on not being a "crybaby," I had no patience for others who cried.  Especially women.  I once had a roommate who would burst into loud, messy tears every time she stubbed a toe or had a hangnail.  No, I'm not exaggerating.  It drove me absolutely batty.  I used to say things like, "Meg, crying never fixed anything," and "Great, so I cry-when I'm done, I'll have a red nose, blotchy face, red eyes, and a headache, but whatever I was crying about will still be a problem."  My husband must have thought he'd hit paydirt when he caught me--a wife who doesn't burst into tears all the time. 

And then I had our son . . . and EVERYTHING changed.

I cry so easily I sometimes want to punch myself in the nose.  "At the drop of a hat?"  Depends on the hat--yeah, I can see sobbing over a hat if the circumstances were right.  There are movies I've seen a dozen times that still turn me into a woobly crybaby.  Predictably, uncontrollably.  Just yesterday, I saw a video of a deaf girl who's trained a horse to do dressage-type things, and I cried watching her.  I cry during arguments--I try not to, I fight it with all I've got, but invariably, it gets me.  I've been accused of "turning on the water works" as a tool or a way of "winning."  Nothing could be further from the truth--as far as I'm concerned, the moment those tears start flowing, I've LOST.  As soon as the tears start, I know I've made a fool of myself and everyone just wants me to shut up and go away until I can pull myself together.  I have never cried on purpose to garner sympathy, and I never would.  The self-loathing would destroy me.

Today, I was reading someone's blog.  Nice gentleman, don't know him personally.  He just retired a few months back, and I'm hoping his new life is full of adventure.  I then read back a little further into his blog.  Read about his beautiful wife, Nancy, and how leukemia ended her.  And I cried.  I cried and cried.  I'm crying now, just writing about it.  I'm crying for Nancy.  I'm crying for a man I don't even know who loved her so much. 

Going from being a water-works hater to a grade-A crybaby has been illuminating.  You see, I really did believe that tears are something we can choose to turn on or off.  I realize now, that's not true.  I don't know what broke in me when I had my son, I don't know what hormonal or neuro/electrochemical thing was awakened, but there it is.  I mean, sure, I can fight it . . . sort of.  I can clench my lips, turn away, tilt my head back, and keep wiping at my eyes furiously.  Given enough time and space, that will usually stave off a full-bore boobing fit.  Usually.  Though it's still plain to anyone around that I'm crying.  But how am I supposed to do that, say, in the WORKPLACE?  I'm a stay-at-home parent, I home school our son.  But the day will likely come when I'm out there in the workforce again.  What am I going to do the first time a supervisor gets on me for something unfairly and I feel that surge of frustration and anger and sadness and desire to be understood coalescing into tears? 

Crybabies don't fare well in the workplace.  Nobody likes them, and understandably--who wants to be cried at in a professional setting?

I used to have a wall.  A protective coating between me and the things that tore at my heart.  Sure, what put it there was pretty unhealthy, but the thing kept me safe--it was like the tasty icing on an otherwise lousy cake.  But it's long gone now, and I don't know how to fashion a replacement.  I don't know if I can.  I may be doomed to be "that chick who's always crying."  My son's kids may whisper to each other, "Don't upset Grandma, you know how she gets." 

And yeah, that idea did bring a mist to my eyes. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

REM ain't got NUTHIN' on the Mayans!

So, it's almost the end of the world, huh?  Being the skeptic I am, I can't actually remember what date that's supposed to be because--well, because it's bull, and I don't tend to put a lot of effort into committing bull to memory.  But December, right?  Maybe the 21st, right around the solstice?  Or maybe some other date?  The 12th?  Hell, I don't remember.

What I do remember?  Is being in high school when one of these dippy "end o' the world" things hit.  Pat Robertson blathering about having a heart-to-heart with his deity, who let him know about a war in the Middle East that would begin by the close of 1982, eventually leading to world-wide economic collapse and political upheaval giving rise to "God's Kingdom."  When his dippy prediction failed to materialize, he changed it to 2007.  Again, no joy.  That people still send that charlatan money astounds me. 

Anyway, so there it was, the end of 1982.  New Years Eve.  Last day for the Amazing Mr. Robertson to be right.  Being teenagers, we were thrilling to the idea of an apocalypse.  You know, the same way kids bungee jump and drag race--it's exciting to be scared.  Bio-chemically rewarding.  One of my closest friends (at the time--that ship sank a long, long time ago) and I decided to smoke weed (NOT advocating such things--twas a long time ago and smart wasn't my thing back then) and stay up all night playing five card draw--what better way to go out than playing cards and laughing entirely too much?  Playing poker with Lou (so nicknamed because of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song) was always an adventure in rule bending, misdirection, and plain ol' cheating.  You could always tell a game with Lou--half the danged deck was "wild."  One-eyed Jacks, suicide Kings, twos, nines--she'd call as many "wilds" as she could, and when she still didn't have anything in her hand, she'd pretend she'd also called tens, or fours, or Queens.  Even with her creative methods, I won.  Twelve straight hours of poker, and I won.  The prize?

Her firstborn child. 

No worries, we knew we were kidding.  Or at least I knew we were kidding.  Lou?  Might just have tried to collect if she saw some money in it.

The practical upshot of this trip down memory lane?  GROW UP!  If the world "ends" any time soon, it'll be because of food shortages, overpopulation, and temperature increases, not some God whispering in some con artist's ear.  Heck, even at 17 years old, I knew this sort of thing was a sham--why else play poker for a prize not yet born? 

If you really believe that the world is coming to an end next month, please, I beg you--max your credit cards with cash advances and send the money to ME.  Hey, it doesn't matter, right?  We'll all be dead next month anyway, so why not?  If you believe there's a giant, invisible, rogue planet catapulting our way, just take out a second mortgage, send that my way, too!  And won't you have the last laugh when you're right and I have no use for all that cash?

Yeah.

If you laughed at the Hale-Bopp crowd in 1997, if you pointed and giggled at the Richard Noone doomsday prediction of 2000, if the 2008 debacle of God's Church/Ronald Weinland didn't sway you, then what on earth is wrong with you now?  Some ancient civilization that believed in killing animals and letting blood to appease ghosts in the sky doesn't make a calendar that's FOREVER, and you think that means we're all going to die?  These people used to sacrifice humans when the crops went south, and you want to lend this much weight to a calendar they made?  You think a 1,300-year-old fear of some invisible planet is enough to base a life-plan on?  Why stop there?  Why not embrace all the dippy crap humans believed centuries ago?  You know, like ill humors, comets and eclipses being signs of some deity's displeasure, women's bodies determining the sex of offspring, moles and physical ailments being indicative of witchcraft, little baby girls being born sinful, and holes being drilled into folks' heads to release evil spirits.

Seriously, why not?

Well, because that would be stupid.

Right?

So relax.  The world's not going anywhere next month, we're all going to be paying off those Christmas bills, and that "Fiscal Cliff" is still going to be looming around the corner.  And if that doesn't warm your heart and make you glow with optimism, I don't know what will.

Some Mayan-ish thing I discovered on the craziest anti-Jew/Lizard People/Chemtrail/conspiracy website I've ever seen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, that's it--I've fired up the MyFitnessPal again and started keeping track-even if I go over.  That's what worked for me just last year--not just keeping track on the days I was "good," but keeping track no matter what, with brutal honesty.  Today I'm over by 187 calories, and that's going to be okay.  So long as I kept track. 

That really was the trick--I lost 180 + lbs just doing that--keeping track.  But then I stopped losing, even though I was keeping track, even though I was still exercising.  It wasn't the first plateau I'd hit, but it was the one that brought me down.  To my credit, it took almost five months of not losing anything for me to start slipping.  I kept telling myself that the loss didn't matter, it's about being healthy.  And while that SHOULD be true, fact is, it's both, because I still FEEL really good, but I've gained back fifty pounds.  I can still walk four hours at Mt. Vernon or hike up a steep hillside at Ft. Washington and not have my back scream and cry at me.  But it's going to.  If I keep this up, I'm going to wind up housebound again, just like I was. 

The back pain, while absolutely exacerbated by weight, was a problem even when I was thin.  In fact, at 130 lbs, it nearly trapped me in the Grand Canyon after a day hike most of the way in.  It's the result of a series of back injuries when I was a kid, culminating in a spectacular car accident in 1993 that blasted out disks and shredded muscle and tendons.  So the back is a disaster no matter what, but it's a more debilitating disaster the heavier I am.  Before I started losing weight, I was seriously considering a wheel chair.  Making it from the apartment door to the car (about 100 yards) was devastating to me.  I was breathless, and the pain in my back, hip, and into the right leg was so bad I wasn't really even walking--I was just soldiering through and throwing that leg forward. 

And then I wasn't.  Then I was spending five or six hours on my feet, walking through DC, checking out museums, strolling from monument to monument, or hiking around all day in Rock Creek Park.  Suddenly I was able to be the mom to my son I had always wanted to be.

And now I'm blowing that all to hell.  I feel like the poor guy from "Flowers for Algernon." 

No way.  That cannot happen.  But it is.  The other night, my feet blew up like balloons.  Not as bad as they used to, but there it was.  Yeah, I'd had a lot of sodium.  That needs to stop, too.

So today, I keep track.  Today, I am mindful of what I'm putting in my mouth.  Even if it doesn't stop me from doing it, I am mindful.  I will keep track. 

And tomorrow?  I will do the same

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just a Pat Robertson Quickie

Well, that's it.  We're busted.  The evil atheists really ARE trying to murder Christmas!  How were we exposed?  Just LOOK at the image below!  PROOF!




Not the neighbor of the beast, but the NUMBER of the beast!

I suppose I should apologize for the subject line in this entry.  Nobody really wants to contemplate a Pat Robertson quickie. 

That's all--just a lucky catch on my Facebook feed.  Just in case you're really wondering?  No, we aren't trying to murder Christmas.  We put up a tree, decorate with lights, bake absolutely wonderful and completely SAFE, non-Christmas-murdering cookies for our neighbors.  We exchange gifts, watch "A Christmas Story," and all around enjoy each other. 

We don't summon hell-fire until at least June.  Any earlier would be tres gauche.  ;-)

Just in case you were wondering. 

Dentistry

Went to the dentist today.  I'm one of those violently dentist-avoidant types who hides it well.  I've had a few really, REALLY bad dental experiences, and, as a result, I am on the brink of panic throughout the entire appointment.  I don't look like I'm freaking out, but trust me, I am.  On the inside.

Not really liking my new dentist situation.  It's an office with a number of dentists, and I've never had the same dentist twice.  The last one (pre-today) was pretty good--very Denzel-ish, calming, did a good job. 

The guy today?

Not so much.  Chattier, quicker, but the guy slammed so much Novocain into my face that it took almost five hours to get feeling back in my upper lip and cheek, and even now, it's a little off.  Even with the mega-dose of face-deadening chemicals, I was doing okay until I noticed that the guy assisting kept watching the dentist work, then shaking his head in apparent disapproval.  Actually "tutted" a couple of times.  What the hell am I supposed to do with that?  Put a stop to proceedings and demand to know what's gone wrong?

Now that the feeling has returned to my poor face, I'm finding that the filling work (resin) is quite rough.  Grabby, with sloppy spots between and over the two teeth.  I can get floss between the teeth, but it's very difficult.  I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I'm not too happy with the work.

Speaking of being unhappy with the work, the new car has a mechanical issue.  A software problem, actually.  When the car is cold, there's a heck of a clunk when downshifting at around 20 mph.  I did some research, and it turns out this is a known issue.  Well enough known that there's a standing service order out there on the problem.  Hubby called Brown's Hyundai in Manassas about the problem this morning and was told that the work would have been done for free six thousand miles ago, but not now.  He was also told that the warranty's "drive train" coverage doesn't actually include the transmission.  So, if we want it fixed, it's a hundred bucks. 

Nice.  In other words, you sold us a car you knew had this problem, you could have fixed it before putting it on the lot, but instead you chose to not fix it, to sell it to us with this pre-existing problem, and now you want 100 dollars for the repair.  That puts us solidly into "even if we do get it fixed, we won't take it to Brown's" territory.  Way to squander that good will, guys.  You've likely lost a new car sale two years or so down the line.

Trying to decide where to get a warehouse shopping membership.  Sam's Club is the cheapest, but that's not where we're going--we already have a problem with how little Walmart pays its workers and how lousy the benefits are, so why on earth would we go to Sam's Club?  Costco treats its employees like gold, good pay, great benefits, somewhat discounted gasoline, but  higher prices, crappy hours, and they don't take manufacturer's coupons.  BJ's is in the middle, prices-wise, accepts manufacturer's coupons, but is farther from home, doesn't provide for its employees nearly as well as Costco's (but better than Sam's), and is reputed to have a more limited inventory.  If anyone has any insight or experience, let me know.  Our temporary BJ's membership is about to expire.


Tomorrow, the lost autumn of diet and exercise idiocy ends.  Batteries are back in the stationary bike and I'm ready to go!


Me, with Novocain

Me, without Novocain

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Mechanics

So, I posted about the things I'm thankful for, but I utterly failed to mention the FOOD.  What kind of Thanksgiving post doesn't talk eats?

We had two turkeys.  Hubby really wanted a deep fried turkey from Popeye's.  I was iffy--it's Cajun spiced, deep fried, and I wasn't sure I'd like it, so we got a small turkey for me for Thursday, had the Cajun deep fried turkey on Friday.

Thursday's feast included roasted butternut squash and sweet potato with herbs, corn, tatties and neeps and swedes (our first attempt--too sweet, thinking more tatties and less swedes and neeps), regular mashed with red potatoes and Kerry butter, carrots, baby portobella mushrooms, scratch biscuits, and stuffing made with andouille sausage, mushrooms, celery, onion, and walnuts.  The stuffing was actually made with low carb bread--we bought the loaf, dried it out ourselves for the stuffing.  The gravy was made with fat-free, low sodium turkey broth with xanthan gum instead of corn starch or flour for thickening.  Again, that's a blood sugar/carbs thing.  I had only one spoonful of the mashed, two forkloads of the tatties and neeps, and only a couple of bites of stuffing.  In fact, I loaded up on the carrots, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and butternut.  They were incredibly tasty!  The turkey, of which I had a nice slice, was incredibly moist.  Very flavorful!

Dessert was homemade cherry crumble made in small souffle/ramekin dishes.  While the cherry filling was low sugar, the crumble was a full-bore mix of white sugar, brown sugar, bleached flour, cinnamon, and Kerry butter.  Why?  Because we've tried this with stevia, Splenda, saccharine.  We've tried it with spelt, quinoa, whole oat, whole wheat, and various other flours.  We've tried it with low-calorie margarines.  Never did we get a nice, crumbly, tasty topping.  Thanksgiving comes once a year.  I was determined to enjoy what I was eating instead of making excuses for it.

Friday's feast with the Cajun deep fried turkey?  Onion rings, Cajun fries, and scratch biscuits.  Only had two onion rings, but I confess I ate a bumpillion Cajun fries (also from Popeye's).  Pumpkin pie for dessert (yeah, store-bought, what can I say?).  And the Cajun deep fried turkey?  Wasn't bad.  Hubby adored it, son didn't eat much, and I thought it was okay.  Hubby wished it was more spiced, I was wishing for less.  It was certainly moist enough, though I found the texture a little mushy--had it not been prefried and then baked for almost two hours, I'd have said it had just the slightest "underdone" texture.  It didn't look it, and the temp was right, but it just had a slightly mooshy feel.  No doubt Hubby will want it again next year, and I guess I'm okay with that.  Not thrilled, but okay.  Gonna miss my "real" turkey, though.  Yes, he'll make both, but wow, what a waste, cash-wise.  Of course, the price of just the Cajun is pretty hard to swallow.

Thinking about Christmas dinner.  We usually have nice steaks-rib eyes or filets, but this year the Husbandly unit is pushing for Beef Wellington, homemade.  Not sure how the mushroom-hating boy is going to deal with that, and I'm thinking maybe we shouldn't go that way.  We only have Christmas dinner once a year--why intentionally choose a food we can be pretty confident our kid's going to hate?  For dessert, I'm thinking a Black Forest-type cake made with Chambord-soaked blackberries and homemade whipped cream.  And either a lemon meringue or a homemade apple crumble.  Not sure yet.

Dinner tonight?  Leftover turkey on low carb bread with low carb gravy, a splotch of stuffing, plus mashed and carrots, butternut, and sweet potato.  I really do love leftover Thanksgiving!

Requiescat in Pace, Mr. Hagman

So, Larry Hagman died yesterday--81 years old.  Guy was an ex-smoker, struggled a lifetime with alcohol, and even underwent a liver transplant almost twenty years ago, and still made it to 81.  That's pretty impressive.

Now we won't get into the "should hard-drinking folks get liver transplants when there are plenty of people out there in need of organs who didn't booze themselves into cirrhosis?" argument.  Maybe another day.  I'm here to talk about why I absolutely hated Larry Hagman for years (I mean HATED),  and why it's so strange to find myself mourning him now.

I started smoking at the age of 11.  Not really smoking, mind you--I didn't inhale.  That came when I was 14 years old--a boy I liked offered me ten bucks to actually inhale.  I both needed the cash AND wanted to impress the boy (who went on to break into my best friend's car and steal her stereo . . . dang), so I did it.  After that?

It was all over the  but the weepin' and the wailin'.

I smoked for another 26 years.  No pussyfooting around, no quailing, self-hating smoker bull.  No, I smoked 2 1/2-3 packs a day, loud and proud.  I never was one to half-ass anything.  Not even self-murder.

When I was in college (where, at times, I came dangerously close to FOUR packs a day during mad cramming sessions at Village Inn), I first learned of "The Great American Smoke-out" and Larry Hagman's enthusiastic involvement, I was pissed.  I was angry almost beyond words. 

How dare they?  Where do they get off targeting me and mine?  Get off my back, my smoking's not hurting anyone, and besides, your research is flawed, this study didn't control for this, that study didn't control for that, and besides, my Grandpa lived to be 89 and smoked from the age of 10, blah, blah, blah! 

Blah!

Oh, I was a bitter, bitter woman.  In the finest tradition of cutting off my own nose to spite my face, I made a special effort to smoke as much as humanly possible on "Smoke-out" days.  Yeah!  I sure showed them, didn't I?

Durf.

Anyway, you get the point--I was an idiot, and I was very angry at Larry Hagman for wanting to help me not die prematurely.  I pointed fingers at his own past as a smoker (Oh, he got HIS, but now he wants to complain about MINE), his alcoholism (Yeah, Mr. Hagman--you can be a lush, but you're going to hassle me about being a smoker--at least my smoking doesn't cause car accidents, huh?), and anything else I could find in hopes that impeaching the spokesman would neutralize the message.

What a dolt I was, huh?

The funny thing?  I quit smoking 7 years ago next month.  Never been gladder of anything except the birth of my son.  Yet my anti-Hagman feelings never went away.  That grudge held, even though I completely understand now why he spoke up, and the good he was trying to accomplish.  I still found myself edgy and disdainful when I'd see his face on my TV or his name in print.  It wasn't until last night, after I read he'd died, that I went out on the web and dug up Mr. Hagman's biography.  Guess what?

He was kind of a cool guy.  His politics?  I'd always imagined him politically conservative because--well, because that's what we do, right?  If we don't like someone, we ascribe feelings and positions to them that better pigeonhole them in the "I don't like him" category.  But it turns out he wasn't a "winger."  In fact, he spoke quite strongly against G.W. Bush.  He was a huge proponent of alternative energy and conservation.  He was married to the same woman for almost 60 years.  In Hollywood!

He dropped acid and smoked weed.

Holy cow!  I didn't know anything about him, did I?  He didn't like smoking, he tried to inspire folks to quit, and from that, from my angry, fear-biter/addict perspective, that was enough to make him a monster.  An awful guy who wasn't in any way anything like me or anything I might admire. 

I'm not proud.  No, in fact, I'm embarrassed.  I know, it's human nature, it's what we do, but that doesn't make me happy.  Not only was Mr. Hagman right about smoking, but the rest of it had no bearing.  I'm constantly telling my son that someone else's bad behavior doesn't excuse or mitigate your own.  So Mr. Hagman drank too much--doesn't change the fact that MY smoking was horrid.  So Mr. Hagman had smoked himself--wasn't I the one always complaining when people refuse to benefit from my experience, choosing instead to disregard me and rush out there to screw up on their own? 

I think I've learned something here.  I really do.  In fact, I think I've learned a whole bucket of lessons here.  I feel bad.  I feel like I missed out on liking a pretty cool guy.  I'm wondering how many other people and things I've shuffled off into the "no, you suck" pile when they actually have a lot to offer?

I'm sorry, Mr. Hagman.  Larry.  I was wrong, you were right, and, while you weren't perfect, who is?  If we all sit around waiting for the perfect messenger, we'll be waiting forever.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I don't usually engage in the whole "I am thankful for" gig.  Mostly because people assume that one must be thankful TO some grand being somewhere.  I, of course, am not thankful to any ghosties or beasties.  Because I don't want to hassle with the idea that I somehow SHOULD be, I tend to avoid the language altogether.  When I offer up thanks, it's a general, universe/life/existence/happenstance thing.  No deities need apply.

Which is not, of course, to say that you can't have your deities--if you lean that way, I am happy for you.  I hope it brings you great joy.

Anyway, back on point--I just spent two hours doing the "obligatory family phone calls" shuffle.  Gonna take me a minute to get back to where I was in my head.

Thankfulness.  Right.

I started to write this with the little Pakistani girls in mind.  You know, the ones braving Taliban bullets to obtain an education?  And my mind wandered to my own education, something I was so disdainful of when I was a child.  See, I didn't have to worry about being shot or having my family's home firebombed.  No, I had it just slightly easier.  Easier enough that I could look at that risk-free education as no big deal.  I read about these brave girls and their courageous families and I realize just how very lucky I am.

For that, I'm thankful.

Last night, I was cold.  My hands and feet, which tend toward the Raynaud's, were icy cold.  This used to be devastating for me, keeping me awake for hours.  I've found the cure for cold hands and feet when trying to sleep--a warm Cairn Terrier.  Charlie sleeps on my legs, and my whole body warms up.  So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my first little rat dog.  He's a keeper, a sweetheart, a comedian, and a heating pad all wrapped up into one carrot-eating, rolling-over-and-playing-dead, squirrel-loving bundle.

Speaking of thankfulness, we just gave Charlie his first ever Thanksgiving organ meat feast.  Ew, but he sure was impressed.  Impressed enough that he kept kicking around his dish and trying to make more magically appear.  Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie!

The car is back home--picked it up last night.  Haven't seen it in the daylight, so don't know how well they matched the paint.  Regardless, I'm thankful my husband wasn't compacted by the 18 wheeler that did three grand worth of damage to our new car.  Hopefully, come March when our premium period is over, I can be thankful for our insurance company NOT screwing us on devastatingly high new rates.  Cross your fingers.

Our boy is really opening up at Hapkido.  Getting to know the other people, learning to relate on a more grown-up, easy level.  He's having fun, he's learning, and he's coming to more openly relate to other people in social situations.  For that, I am very thankful--it's been a concern.

Speaking of being thankful where our boy is concerned, let me just say that, as we watch hubby's nephew do his level best to be a cautionary tale (you know, if you can't be a good example, be an excellent cautionary tale?), I am SO thankful that our boy isn't striving to be an utter waste like his cousin.  His cousin, which is super-sad because the kid really does have a sweet heart inside that homophobic, blustering, "look how cool I am" exterior.   Sounds harsh, I know, but the kid just turned 18 and is about to be a "daddy" for the THIRD time.  Smokes, dropped out of school, can't support the kids he already has (his mom has custody of one, the STATE has custody of the second), and, whoops!  Here comes a third!  An epic git by any estimation, and, by comparison, my boy is Einstein, Lincoln, Socrates, Isaac Newton, and Carl Sagan all rolled into one.  My boy's a good kid, but it sure does help to have the nephew around.  Keeps everything in perspective.

On a slightly snarky-seeming, yet absolutely sincere note?  I am indescribably happy that I will NEVER, EVER have to utter the words "President Romney."  Joy!

And finally?  I am thankful to have that family that, so often, drives me batty.  Doing the "phone call shuffle" may be a pain, but not being able to do it would be a whole lot worse.  Holidays were never very good with my family--too many fights, too many pitched emotions, too much stress in the air.  Some day, I'll tell a tale or two of Thanksgiving with my mom, of sneaking into the kitchen every few minutes to turn the oven down from the blistering 475 at which she thought a turkey must broil away to dust, only to have her stomp back out and crank that bugger back up.  Surreptitiously creeping to the oven to dump can after can of chicken broth into the pan in a desperate attempt to be spared another year of utterly flavorless, lumpy gravy.  Maybe not good times, and maybe long-distance makes it all easier, but my times, and funny in hindsight.

A couple of funny things--the first maybe not as funny as the second:

1) Went to the store last night to pick up some last-minute things for tonight's dinner.  Hubby whipped out the debit card to pay . . . and it was rejected.  DE-nied!  We knew we had sufficient funds, so we wound up going to the bank.  It was late, after hours, but hubby hoped it was a problem with the store's machines rather than our account.  No such luck.  Hitting the bank's site on his phone, hubby was informed that, by paying for the car repair with the debit card, we had "exceeded our daily transaction limit."  Good thing I had fifty bucks cash hanging out with the emergency kit, huh?  No, the irony of having a limit to how much of my own money I can spend hasn't escaped me.

2) For months, we've been giving Charlie, our Cairn Terrier, chunks of carrots.  Just a round of raw carrot while we're preparing julienne for pasta or whatever.  He runs around with them eagerly, parading about, really, then drops them at our feet.  All this time, we've assumed he just wanted to play fetch, and so we've picked up the carrot and thrown it.  He chases it down, brings it back, and drops it again.  A fun game, right?

Turns out he didn't want to play fetch.  No, he wanted us to break it up into smaller pieces for him so he could more easily chew it.  Yeah, don't we feel stupid?  Imagine how frustrating that must have been for him, bringing the carrots for help in eating and, instead, having us throw the things across the house each time.  Poor Charlie!

On a wildly unrelated note, if you've any familiarity with the cemetery at Old Frisco, Utah, please drop me a note.  I'm on something of a quest. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Be safe, love, be loved, and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are you SERIOUS?

News story today--a New York City public school has suspended 19 four-year-old kindergartners for "exposing themselves." 

I'm sorry, for doing WHAT?

These kids are FOUR YEARS OLD.  They're not "exposing themselves," they're getting naked.  That's what little kids DO.  They aren't sexual deviants, this isn't indicative of some deep-seated and potentially dangerous perversion.  It's just little kids taking off their clothes!  You don't suspend them and put on their school records that they're somehow twisted or sexually un-right.  No, you teach them not to do it, same way you teach them not to eat their boogers at the lunch table or stick paperclips up their noses. 

Even the parents who oppose the suspensions seem to have this screwed-up idea that some massive intervention is called for.  Talk of psychologists and specialists and the like.  Folks, they're FOUR.  There's nothing twisted about a four-year-old dropping trou.  It's COMMON. 

It's normal. 

Just like it's normal to teach them not to do it.  So stop whining, stop SUSPENDING them, stop wringing your hands and crying about psychological interventions and just teach them not to do it.  Matter-of-factly.  Like you would teach them ANY thing it's important for them to know for socialization's sake.  But for goodness' sake, STOP sexualizing our kids!  Please! 

Time to get started on the pies.  Pumpkin, cherry crumbly-topped, and pecan.  The cherry with stevia and no-sugar-added cherries.  I don't eat pecan, so that doesn't really matter.  And the pumpkin?  I'll just have to be good, won't I?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Quick Note on Vandalism

I was cruising other folks' blogs last night, came across a lovely one in which the writer had posted photos from a family trip to an amazing monastery in Turkey.  I just want to toss out this admonition:  if you're ever at this or ANY centuries-old site, or really ANYWHERE, now that I think about it, and you feel yourself being overtaken by the urge to carve (or spray paint, or otherwise indelibly mark) your idiot initials, name, or anything else on the walls, frescoes, floor, ceiling, or anywhere else, STOP. 

Stop, and look around. Be quick, you've got precious little time to work with there!  Look around, find the biggest, sharpest object you can find! 

Now, cut off your damned hand.  Please.

If there are no sharp objects available (and you lacked the foresight to bring your own), crushing your hand will do.  Find a large rock (or just ask a friend to stomp it a dozen or so times) and smash that bastard until it's hamburger (hand-burger?).  Please refrain from doing this on delicate tile work, carpets, etc. 

Thank you.

What a Spectacular Day!

So, we drove into DC-ish yesterday (now day before yesterday--took me two days to type this!).  First near, then into town proper.  See, when we went to Mount Vernon earlier this month, I spotted an amazing, almost medieval-looking fortress across the Potomac as we drove up the George Washington Parkway (known by locals as "the GW").  It captured my imagination, and I've been wanting to check it out ever since.



Fort Washington from the GW Parkway

This behemoth, it turns out, is Fort Washington. Completed in 1809, it was scuttled five years later by its own garrison to prevent the invading British, who were approaching both overland and by way of the Potomac, from benefiting from its strategic location.

We weren't really expecting to even get out of the car.  This was my hunting trip, hubby wasn't too enthused, and my back and heel/plantar fasciitis have been giving me grief.  I figured it was going to be a drive-by sort of visit, something to use up the time between then and dark, when we were going to go into town and see the monuments all aglow.

Arriving, we were immediately faced with this--and I was already in love.  I figured the fort itself would be off-limits, but look at this!



And this!


As we continued driving, it appeared that it was just a loop through park-like grounds.  Disappointing, but still, a pretty diversion.  But then we saw a sign for a side-lane promising a lighthouse and river walk!  Still didn't feel like I wanted to do much walking, but it might make for some nice pictures, right?

The place was nearly deserted for a Sunday, and parking was a breeze.  We parked next to the (clean, open!) bathrooms and decided to walk in.  Just a little walk. 



Just a few hundred feet in, we were greeted by this:




And then this guy:

video


Before really attending to the gigantic fortress on the hill, we strolled down to the small, still-operational lighthouse on the shore below:

Lighthouse overlooking the Potomac

  After that?  I climbed a very steep hill to reach the water battery, which is where the cannons protecting the water way were placed:
Water Battery
    Advancing on the fortress proper, we stumbled upon . . . BAG END!
Bag End (post Sharkey, I'm thinking)
     And the SHIRE!
The Shire, again, after Sarumon's scouring
    Checking out the gate (the stairway is closed at the top), I managed to capture a REAL LIVE GHOST ORB!. 
Ghost orb near left-top of inner arch.  No, I don't believe in ghost orbs.
   
After checking out the gate, we walked around to the main entrance, where the drawbridge once lived:

Drawbridge


Drawbridge




Gosh yes.



The drawbridge stretch is now, of course, a permanent strutcture.  Made of plywood, which left me a little iffy, but I was game.  I was hanging back a bit, with hubby and son a ways ahead.  I like to take a lot of pictures (you can probably tell, huh?).  When I got into the guard's rooms, hubby came RUNNING back, and he was talking a mile a minute, pointing things out, incredibly excited.  I can't even tell you how happy that makes me--his imagination was absolutely ablaze. 




Guard Quarters
Yes, those are cannon balls!


Once inside, it became clear just how huge this place really is. The scale sort of escapes you when you're on the outside looking UP. Sure, it's big, but big enough for two mansion-sized barracks, cannon batteries, out-buildings, and parade grounds? Why yes--yes it is!

Hubby and son ran all over the place--down the steep stairs to check out the gun ports while I wandered about the upper battery.  I chatted with a few folks--there weren't many there, but those present were quite friendly.  It was a gorgeous day, maybe 55 degrees, with enough of a wind that you wanted to keep moving.  One gentleman told me he'd seen the fireworks from the fort, but that they weren't all that impressive because they were so far away.  One lovely woman who was caring for an elderly gentleman told me to be sure and come back in the spring when the trees have fully leafed.  And the young Ranger, who was very friendly and kind, talked about both his love of the job and the plans for the fort in the future.  He said that they're working on fire suppression systems for the two barracks so they can open them up to the public with period artifacts. 



Officer's Barracks

Enlisted Men's Barracks (with our Ranger)

While the two barracks look the same, there is a major difference--the inside of the Officer's Barracks are sectioned into private quarters, whereas the Enlisted Men's Barracks are split into four equal rooms (two per floor), where bunks are arranged.  No privacy for the enlisted men.


video


Sadly, the place closes at 4 pm during winter hours, so we were soon on our way out, though we're planning on returning later this week. That will give us the chance to more fully explore the backside of the battlements and the Commandant's Quarters, which we only saw from a distance this time around.




Commandant's Quarters.  Had to work really hard to get it tilted like that.



It wasn't until after we got home that we discovered hubby had brought home a hitchhiker.  A bloodsucking, scuzzbucket hitchhiker from hell.  Oh, I hate ticks!  Including the tick, though, the cost for a day at Fort Washington?  Five bucks, and the parking is free.  Bring along a picnic lunch and there you go--a beautiful, affordable day.


Hubby's tick--should have taken the pic while it was still embedded in his shoulder, huh?

After we left the glorious Fort Washington, we headed into DC proper to visit the FDR Memorial.  We've been before.  Repeatedly, in fact.  It's a favorite.  But I'd never seen it at night, and hubby strongly recommended it.  Boy, was he right!  I'm not going to post about that now, though.  This is a big, long blog entry and if you've made it this far, I owe you a break.  And a Twinkie, huh?  And maybe I won't even have to pay 200 bucks for a box!

Hope you enjoyed!  I strongly recommend you visit Fort Washington, especially if you or your kids have a love for castles, fortresses, war history, or just really big, cool places.  The feel is European, and if you've ever read or watched Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's series, you'll feel like you're in the middle of it.  Go (and bring the DEET and Permethrin)--you won't be sorry you did.

Oh, and please forgive the Tolkien references.  You gotta admit, though, right?


Monday, November 19, 2012

An Itty Bitty

So, I'm in the middle of this epic blog post, and I realize there's no way I can finish it in one night.  Very photo intensive.  So I figure I'll take a few minutes on the iPad before bed to just type up a "'til then" sort of thing.

Weird dreams again last night.  Dreamed hubby and I were touring the Wasatch Front in a small motorboat, cruising a strange, interconnected series of canals, rivers, and swamps running between Ogden and Provo.  A lot of white water and wishing I had a life jacket.  Oh, and the boat?  A small metal motorboat.  I was the motor.  Don't ask me how that worked.  Dunno.

Had to pull a tick out of hubby last night after he and our boy went bush whacking around some old batteries near DC.  Pics with tomorrow's entry.  Including a pick of the tick.  I hate ticks.   This was a deer tick, which is a change from hubby's usual lone star tick predilection.  I, of course, have now got the hopeless itchy-crawlies.

I was blog-crawling tonight when I came across a blog from Northern Utah.  My first urge, if course, was to leave a "Howdy, ex-neighbor!"kind of post, but I rethought it when I saw the "happily sealed for time and all eternity" bit on the side.  I'm an atheist.  I don't have an anti-Mormon thing going on, but I hesitate to put myself on folks' pages when I fear they would likely be pretty solidly offended by my atheism.  Maybe that's not fair, but, in my experience, the faithful do better with my atheism when it comes up later in the game, after they've gotten a chance to know me.  I dunno.  Maybe I'll throw caution to the wind and drop them a "how do?"

Hubby's nephew (we call him "Bad Rick" to distinguish from my cousin's son, who shares the name) has got yet another baby on the way.  I think this is number three.  Barely 18, works fast food when he works at all, didn't finish school, his mom had to go to court for custody of the first baby.  Anyway, he's got a new "baby mama" (wow, I hate that term), who is, if her Facebook can be believed, just as dramatic, immature, and dim as the last one.  She's four months pregnant, and they've chosen the name "Celica."  Yeah, like the beat-to-hell brown rustbucket my old roommate drove in college.  The one that required a screwdriver jammed between the terminal and the cable to start and would take a vicious hard left if you let go of the steering wheel.  "Celica?"  Heck, why stop there?  Why not "TownCar" or "Land Rover?"

Or Suburban?

Stupid baby names piss me off.  Names chosen because they're painfully cute or represent some insipid inside joke for the parents with no real thought for how that child is going to fare being named Pilot Inspektor or TeeLeeAnne or Celica.  I may just be hyper-sensitive about that.  Heck, I've always been driven batty by the "eight kids, and all of their names start with the same letter" gig.  Just seems uninspired and gaggingly cute to me.  Of course, of my four legitimate siblings/half-siblings, three have names that begin with the same letter/sound as mine.  And, yeah, I think it's lame and uninspired.  At least I'm the oldest "K" name.  That's some small consolation.

Forgive me if you're the parent of Jared, Jason, Jenna, James, Jocylin, Jesse, Justin, and Jello.  I'm sure you had your reasons, and my opinion on your kids' names probably means nothing to you.  That's likely as it should be.

The car is still in the shop.  Really liking the Camry (hey, maybe Bad Rick's next automotive baby name!), though I think I like the Sonata more.  Seats are more comfortable, seat belt less of a hassle.

And that's that, I think.  I'll wrap up the entry I'm working on tomorrow.  G'night!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dreams, Redux

So, last night I dreamed that I was on a road trip with my Mom and sister.  Someday you'll get an earful on the last trip I took with my Mom and you'll know why this automatically qualifies as a nightmare.

Once again, this dream puts my Mom behind the wheel (yikes!).  In this dream, she keeps twisting around to grab things out of the back seat while the car careens wildly into the paths of various large vehicles.  Each time, I scream from the backseat, and each time she gets angry with me for criticizing her driving.  We finally stop in a small town with many Native Americans there--most young, from children through young adulthood.  The younger children, who are brightly costumed, are lining up on the sidewalk, as are various vehicles decorated with spangles and flowers and such, and we realize it's going to be a parade!  I pull out the camera, but my Mom won't unlock the doors for me to get out, so I'm taking crappy, drive-by-tourist shots until I finally manage to convince her to open the cage.

Sadly, the "parade" involved only the little kids walking from one corner to the next, and then they were done.  No photo opportunities.  In the process of walking this one block, they left an unbelievable amount of trash--paper plates, plastic cups, a Saran Wrap box (?), etc.  So I wound up taking off my jacket and using it as a bag to hold garbage as I cleaned the street. 

We finally wind up at a nice-ish hotel (very Hemingway-esque, with a lot of stuffed exotics on the walls and deep, glowing paneling).  I've been in the room, just thinking about taking a shower, when my sister and near-hysterics Mom come in with the manager of the hotel.  My mother's credit card won't clear.  As things progress (degenerate?), it turns out NONE of her cards will clear.  I know I don't have the money, and I'm unsure what to do.  The manager is starting to make "calling the cops" noises, and my sister says she has an idea and walks out.  When she comes back, she tells me she's called my friend Joe and asked him for money, and that he's already sent it. 

I'm devastated.  She called Joe and and traded on my friendship to suck for money!  She doesn't see the problem--she says (and rightfully, I suppose), "Beats jail, doesn't it?"  I ask for her cell phone, agonizing over how I'm going explain this to Joe, how I'm going to apologize, earn his trust again.  I hit redial, but it's not a real redial--instead, it shows the number, but then I have to flip back and forth between the redial screen and the dial screen, entering one number at a time.  I screw it up repeatedly, each time getting more and more pitched.

As I'm about to hit send, I look at my sister and ask, "When are you paying him back?"  Suddenly, it's HER on the other end of the phone, and I'm standing on a corner in front of a city park in Nevada somewhere.  She starts to laugh and says she makes it a policy to never pay back.  I start to chew her out and she hangs up on me.  I'm crushed.  I'm enraged.  And I'm scared to death--we can't afford to pay Joe back, and yet that's exactly what we're going to have to do. 

Crappy dream--I kept bursting into tears every time I thought about calling Joe. 

On the "reality on the homefront" front, the landlord has become a little less than terrific these days.  We've been asking his "handyman" to take care of the ice maker (which only works if you molest it in advance every time you want ice), the sliding screen door (which was broken and on the ground when we moved in), and the sliding glass door (which has been increasingly unwilling to open) since June (earlier for the screen and ice maker).  At this point, we've given up on the screen and the ice maker.  Those are luxuries.  But we really, really do need a BACK DOOR THAT OPENS!   The dog needs to go out a few times a day, right?  We tried adjusting the roller height--no effect.  We tried unhanging the doors so we can pull out the roller assembly and order a new one (on our own dime!).  No joy--the screw for the stationary door half is so stripped out that it can't be worked.  The door won't come out into the house, it has to be able to clear the stationary part, which won't budge because of the stripped screw.  We finally sprayed some wax furniture polish on the runners, and, while it's not fixed, it is moving well enough that, for now, the door is usable.  I've emailed the landlord about it AGAIN--last time I emailed, he said he'd "look into trying to get something done."  That was two months ago.  This is delicate and difficult because, on the one hand, we sure as hell can't afford 800 bucks to replace that door if it needs replacing, but on the other hand, we really need the landlord to renew our lease next fall, so we don't want to be gigantic pains in his ass.  If he doesn't renew, we are absolutely screwed.  We have no money saved up, and no way of getting into a new place.  So I'm trying to strike a balance between getting what we're owed, lease-wise, and not making the landlord want us gone.

Going into DC today.  Not a lot of walking around, my back is being punky.  But hubby really wants our boy to see the monuments lit up.  I wouldn't mind that myself.  Betcha I take pictures!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, the Aftermath

I've been thinking a lot about this.  When Hurricane Sandy was approaching and we didn't know where she was going to hit, there was a lot of nervous joking.  A lot of references to "Deathicane Sandy" and "Hurricane Sandybags" (referring to the sandbags we hauled home and stacked out back).  You know the kind of joking--borne of "oh, hell, we don't have flood insurance" and "what if the power goes out for weeks?" fears. 

Call it "whistling past the graveyard."

We did not take the brunt of Sandy's rage.  We were spared.  New Jersey?  New York?  Not so lucky.  In fact, they got whomped in a devastating way.  Including, I'm sure, the little dog-friendly beach we visited last June with Charlie.  His first (and thus far only) time at the ocean. 

I feel terribly for the folks who were hit so very hard.  And I feel like I need to explain the Sandy jokes.  They weren't borne of callousness or a desire to get a giggle at the expense of others.  No, it was just nervousness and a need to try to lighten things up and allay our fears in the face of something scary.

If it ever came across as anything but that, please accept my deepest apologies. 

I'm RICH!

My son and I like to read SPAM/SCAM mails.  In fact, we enjoy it so much I've kept an old junk email address just for that purpose.  It's an old AOL address from back in the mid-nineties, and I make no effort to clean it up.  Why would I?  It's a well of entertainment!

Yesterday, we received the following email--a shining example of the species:




I AM IN YOUR NEAREST AIRPORT WITH YOUR (FUNDS) WHERE ARE YOU NOW?


From MR. HILARY WAYNE offfilesofffffffffff@yahoo.cnhide details

To undisclosed recipients: ; undisclosed recipients: ;

LEEWING TRADING COMPANY LIMITED



GOOD DAY I AM DIPLOMAT MR. HILARY WAYNE.



HOW IS EVERYTHING AND YOUR FAMILY IS NOW OVER A MONTH THAT I HAVE BEEN WITH U.S.A CUSTOMS WHERE I WAS ARRESTED THAT I DO NOT HAVE A DELIVERY CLEARANCE PAPER AT WASHINGTON DC U.S.A BUT I THANK GOD THAT THEY HAVE RELEASED ME TODAY WITH YOUR PACKAGE WORTH THE SUM OF $2.5MILLION U.S.A DORLLARS BUT THEY NEVER KNOW THAT IT CONTENTS LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY.



SO IT IS THIS MORNING THAT THEY RELEASED ME WITH YOUR FUNDS.YOU ADVICE TO RECONFIRM TO ME YOUR DETAILS YOU KNOW I LOST THEM DURING WHEN I WAS DRAGING YOUR PACKAGE WITH SOME IMMIGRATION OFFICER HERE.



AND AGAIN YOU HAVE TO PAY THE SUM OF $95.00 FOR AIR WAY BILL PAPERS THEY SAID THAT IF I DID NOT HAVE IT THAT I WILL NOT ENTER FLIGHT TO YOUR OR TAXI SO SEND THE FEES TO BENIN REPUBLIC WHERE I CAN FROM THEY WILL GET THE AIR WAY BILL ASAP AND FORWARD TO ME HERE AND IT WILL NOT TAKE MORE THAN 4/HRS OR 5/HRS I WILL GET TO YOUR HOME ONCE YOU SEND THE FEES.



HERE IS THE INFORMATION TO SEND IT.



RECEIVERS NAME ........AUSTIN MMORAH.

COUNTRY .......BENIN REPUBLIC .

CITY COTONOU .

AMOUNT $95.00

TXQ HOW LONG.

ANSWER 5 HRS DELIVERY.

SENDERS NAME

MTCN........
PLEASE CALL MY DIRECTOR DHL DELIVERY COMPANY NOW NAME MR

PETER PALMER // NO +229-99 15 28 45.
(peterpalmer477@yahoo.co.uk)
PLEASE IT IS THIS MORNING THAT THEY HAVE RELEASED ME AND I DO NOT WANT TO TAKE ANY MORE LONG HERE AND I WILL DELIVER YOUR FUNDS IN 5 HRS TIME ONCE YOU SEND THE FEES TO THE MAN IN CHARGE.DO THAT FAST SO THAT THEY CAN NOT LOOK OVER THIS PACKAGE TO KNOW THE CONTENTS,



THANKS

DIPLOMATIC AGENT

MR. HILARY WAYNE

EMAILS:(dip



hilarywayne432@yahoo.com)



Here is a screen shot so you can see JUST how fancy and "official" looking this email was:

With fancy graphics and layout like that, it MUST be legit, huh?


I don't read this to my boy just for entertainment's sake (though that's certainly a good enough reason).  No, I read them so he can learn to spot bullshit, so he can recognize the language of the scam.  My family is full of people who just don't see it.  I get calls from my Mom, asking if I think this letter from the "Auto Warranty Department" or that call claiming to have "important credit card interest adjustment information" is legitimate.  I get messages from other family members asking why their Facebook has been hijacked or what they should do about the email demanding payment for a fine they don't recall incurring.  In other words, there seems to be some strange "hoax me, please" disease going on in my family, and I use these emails to inoculate my boy.  Even more, these mails have spurred much research on countries like Benin, Nigeria, DRC, and others.  We read about economies, culture, life expectancy, common diseases, and educational attainment. 
 
That's a lot of learning to be inspired by crappy SPAM, huh?
 
 
On another, less happy (but still wildly manipulative) note, I tangled this morning just slightly with an actor I really admire.  Online, of course.  Facebook.  I "met" him years ago on a Google "alt" groups forum.  He was quite supportive and kind when my Aunt was battling lung cancer.  Well, today he posted a "meme" that I found terrifically sanctimonious, ridiculing, and pissy.  It wasn't in keeping with what I have come to expect from him.  It wasn't mean, but I felt it was misguided, just a little self-satisfied, and unfair.  In a nutshell, he held up a picture of a starving child as a dig at those who are saying they're bummed about Hostess going under.  I have to say, I am sick of hearing folks tell us all that we're shallow or need to reassess our priorities just because THEY don't like what WE focus on in a given moment.  Come on, folks!   If we're going to hold starving kids up as the standard, pretty much EVERYTHING we worry about or complain about pales in comparison, including "fiscal cliffs," skin cancer, and broken down cars.  But fact is, I don't have to be made to feel guilty over missing my Muscadines this year--my heart is SO big that I can sympathize with the suffering of that child AND feel sad about my missing grapes.  In fact, I can feel sad about an INFINITE number of things (or at least as many things as my brain can accommodate) without short-shrifting even one of them.  It's unfair to hint that, because I might be sad about the demise of an American Icon (and Hostess is that, regardless of nutritional value), because I might be bummed about my car (or my tax bill, or my lost cell phone, or my weight), I'm somehow shallow or in need of a morality check.  In fact, not only is it unfair, but there's something a bit low and cheap about using a picture of a starving child to poke at or ridicule people whose concerns you think are trivial.  No, I don't think my actor "friend" is cheap or low, but I think he made a bad call here.  I think he decided that the whole Hostess thing was unimportant, and from there he took it upon himself to "educate" folks about what they should and shouldn't find important.  Like I said, I'm getting tired of being told that my concerns are trivial in the face of whatever.  My concerns are my concerns, and who cares if you or anyone else thinks they're important?  Who made you, me, or anyone else the arbiter of what does and doesn't matter?  There's always going to be something someone thinks is more important than blahAlways
 
And for the record?  I'm not one of those Twinkie folks.  Sure, I think it's a sort of "end of an era" thing (Hostess is, after all, good or bad, an American icon), and my heart goes out to those workers (who, before anyone starts blaming them, made concession after concession on pay and benefits over the past 8 years while their higher-ups bankrupted the company twice), and yeah, I do think it's a bit of a bummer.  Do I think it's sadder than a starving child?  No, and I'll bet no one else feels that way, either.  Ridiculous to suggest they do.
 
On a lighter note, we did pick up a box each of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs three days ago (when I caught wind of the impending collapse).  Silly us, we didn't stock up and then sell them on eBay.  No, we ate them (not all at once, and yes, I watched how many I had--only two Twinkies out of the whole box).  See, we hadn't had Twinkies in years, and our boy had never had a Ho Ho or a Ding Dong.  What awful parents we are, that he's been so denied (that's a joke--we don't keep things like that in the house for a reason).
 

Our boy, with an already-empty box of Twinkies

Off our boy goes to Hapkido this morning.  Once again, it took almost an hour to get him to wake up and get ready.  "Get ready" means get dressed.  That's all.  He is absolutely his daddy's boy, and I do love him so--slowness and all!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Strange Cuisine of Utah

Living in Virginia, we've had a great time explaining to the locals the strange and anti-exotic foods common to Utah tables.  Not restaurant tables--no, those are the usual national chains with the usual national foods (mostly--small greasy spoons are another matter) .  No, I'm talking about the foods you find in homes.  At picnics.  After memorial services. 

Real Utah foods.

The food guaranteed to elicit an "Ew, no WAY!" response?  Bologna strips in lime Jello.  Yes.  I'm sorry, YES.  I've seen it, I've eaten it.  Yes, it is horrifying. 

Utahns will put any and all manner of things in their Jell-o, but bologna strips is the one that really does it for me.  It woogles my gut and curls my upper lip.  I've heard tell of HOT DOG CHUNKS IN JELLO, but I've never seen it, so I can't be positive it exists.  Might be the unicorn of Mormon food, you know?

In addition to bologna, Utahns have been known to add veggies, fruit, and even cheese to their Jello. 

Welcome to Utah.  I'd post a picture, but apparently no one has dared photograph this beast.  As a public service, I've drawn a picture. 


Lime Jello with Bologna

Other Utah delicacies?

Ever have lasagna made with American cheese and ketchup?  My husband has---his ex-mother-in-law made a mean American Cheese Lasagna.  In fact, when he and I were first getting together, I said I was going to make him a vat of lasagna.  He squirmed and tried to beg off, finally asking me what COLOR cheese my recipe called for.  It was the oddest question he had ever asked (at that point).  I told him I'd be using mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, and Romano.  Maybe a little asiago.  He breathed a sigh of relief and told me about the American Cheese Lasagna. 

I swear, he looked positively haunted.


Not the "real" thing, just a representation

Until quite recently, I had never had "Funeral Potatoes."  Seriously!  It's a potato (preferably red potato), cream of chicken, butter, cheddar cheese, sour cream, onion, and corn flake crumb concoction (some use french-fried onions in place of the cornflakes) that's actually pretty good, though the name is absolutely appropriate--this stuff will clog your arteries and stop your heart.  Yes, we've actually made them at home.  Yes, I gained four pounds just smelling them. 


Funeral Potatoes


Another funeral and Relief Society picnic favorite?  Frog Eye Salad.  No, hang onto your lunch, it's not REALLY frog's eyes.  Though if it were, I wouldn't be struck by the weirdness, but rather by the exoticness.  Real frog's eyes would just be too fancy for Utah.  Frog Eye Salad is a blend of the diminutive acini de pepe (also known as "pastina") pasta, pineapple chunks in juice, milk, instant vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, sugar, flour, cream cheese, and frozen Cool-Whip or other frozen whipped topping.  The small, round bits of pasta are, of course, supposed to resemble frog's eyes. 

Frog Eye Salad
Utahns, by and large, make some of the most bland, beige, overly-sweet foods imaginable.  I remember the first time I had spaghetti at a friend's house.  I was horrified--the sauce was one small step away from the sweetness of Spaghettios.  There was no bite, no hint of herbs.  They'd used a can of Ragu, so I couldn't understand how it could be so sweet, so I asked.  They added SUGAR and KETCHUP to doctor it up.  My family used to doctor Ragu, too--we added oregano, basil, rosemary, stewed tomatoes, and red wine.  The first time hubby had dinner at his ex-in-laws', he asked for pepper for the wowserly overdone (another Utah thing) chunk of meat he was supposed to be choking down.  They asked him to repeat himself, as if he'd spoken a foreign language.  He repeated his request for pepper, and his then-mother-in-law cocked her head and asked, "Um--why?"

The top of the pepper shaker was thick with dust.  So was the pepper.

Hubby's ex was horrified to learn that the red sauce that goes over pasta has tomatoes in it.  In fact, when hubby made fresh pasta sauce, she painstakingly removed every bit of identifiable tomato.  And when faced with parsley potatoes that weren't mashed?  She was struck tharn.  Had no idea what to do with them.  Nearly cried when told she was supposed to just EAT them.  Hubby finally had to walk over, mash them with a fork FOR HER, and then put butter on them.  Even then, you'd think she was being killed with every bite.

No, she's not an unusual case.  I'm not saying that all Utahns are like this.  Absolutely, some are not.  Many grew up this way, and then discovered real food.  It's  been argued that it's a throwback to Utah's pioneer roots, that foods are hearty, fatty, and simple because they rise from that pioneer sensibility.  Maybe so.  But let me tell you, going into a small, locally owned greasy-spoon diner and ordering anything even vaguely foreign?  Always an adventure in plaid--those folks can de-ethnicize any food.  They can blandify Tex-Mex, they can Beef-a-Roni fine Italian, and they can SPAMATE traditional Greek meats.  It's a pure-D miracle to behold.

Another Utah foodism that has actually spread and taken hold in other states?  Fry sauce!  A little chain (which is a little bigger now) called Arctic Circle claims the honor of having invented fry sauce.  It's a "proprietary blend," but most folks say tossing together the usual susects will get you close, though you'll have to experiment with the fiddly bits . . . or just order it from Arctic Circle!  Ordering information is on their site!  It's quite tasty, a bit tangy (think almost Thousand Island-y), and goes great on fries, especially Arctic Circle fries.  If you're ever in Utah (or Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington), absolutely grab a Black Angus Mushroom and Swiss, an order of fries with fry sauce, and chase it with a Lime Rickey. 


Arctic Circle Fry Sauce



Speaking of Utah burger joints, there's a place up in Brigham City called "Peach City."  Some folks love it, others don't, but it was the first place I ever had a peach milk shake.  If you have never had a peach milk shake, you have absolutely missed out!  Peach City has a good burger, decent fries, but it's those shakes that really make the place. 




One thing I really, REALLY miss about Utah and it's amazingly wonky foods?  I miss me some Farr's Ice Cream--Black Licorice, Pistachio, Fudge Brownie, Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Chip, Mocha, Tin Roof Sundae, and a couple dozen more, in cups, cones, plastic baseball caps, splits, or sundaes.  The place is, of course, closed Sundays, but it's open pretty late on Fridays and Saturdays, and attracts a marvelously big crowd.  It's worth it--in a rare example of truth in advertising, it really is "Farr Better Ice Cream." 


Still open at the same Ogden Location after all these years!

Well, hell.  This started as a "look at how funny Utah food is" and ended leaving me really craving some Utah eats!  Go figure!

Oh, hey--if you've got any standout Utah food examples (oddball recipes, freaky offerings), let me know in comments!