Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas, Vegetable Soup, and Grillades

First, let me apologize if this post is disjointed, unclear, or otherwise strange. I'm a little off kilter today. That being said...

So, Christmas has come and gone. Who else is relieved?

Somehow, I managed to complete my insane list of tasks and did not lose my mind in the process. I did, however, send myself into a fibromyalgia flare. This, my friends, is why I’ve been silent. No blogging and no facebook status updates. I just couldn’t manage it. By the time Sunday night rolled around I was barely able to walk and ready to curl up somewhere and have myself a good little cry. Instead, I spent the next two days alternating naps, yoga stretches, heating pads and muscle relaxers.

I say that Christmas has come and gone; however, in my house it really hasn’t. Tomorrow, my brother and his family are coming for the weekend and we will celebrate another Christmas at my mother’s. This means that tomorrow I will be grocery shopping, helping mom with food for Saturday and baking another pecan pie with another batch of whiskey cream sauce.

J’s Christmas was great. Between Don and I, Mom, and bio-dad I believe he got everything he asked for. It’s great that he’s such a cool kid and so easy to please. His list of things he actually wanted (not talking of those random “I wants”) didn’t include anything extravagant.  It was comprised of simple things like a Nerf Blaster, Star Wars action figures and a Paper Jams guitar. The family gift was DJ Hero for the Wii.

I’m currently exploring work from home options to supplement my income. As of now, there are no plans to make this my sole source of income. We just need a little boost.  I’ve found several good options. I’ve even found some where I can get paid to blog. I just don’t think I’m interested in posting website and product reviews to my blog. Freelance writing is another option.  

This evening I plan to finish a dictation test for a company to see if I’m good enough for that. The audio clip they sent is difficult though. Some guy with a British accent that says “uh” and “umm” a lot. He also is fond of mumbling larger words. I had to listen to a portion of the clip 6 times last night before I realized he was saying “paradigm”….ooh…or was he saying “per diem”? Thinking on it, I believe per diem better fits the context. Guess I’ll be listening to that again tonight.

I haven’t been posting recipes because I can’t take photos. It seems my camera has died. L Anyone want to start a “feel sorry for Erica and buy her a good digital camera fund”?  No? Ok…I’ll grab my mason jar and start saving.

In the meantime here’s a couple for you without pictures to back up the yumminess. Sorry.

I made an awesome pot of vegetable beef soup the other night; kind of a cross between my mom’s recipe and pasta fajiole. You will need:

1 lb ground beef
½ small onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large or two small cans beef broth
½ large can tomato juice
1 can rotel
10 oz frozen mixed vegetables
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz uncooked macaroni or other pasta. Shells would be nice here too.

In a large pot, brown the ground beef. Drain the fat and set the beef aside. Add onions to the pot and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Add the beef back to the pot with the broth, and all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the macaroni. You get that? Just forget that darn pasta for a minute. :) Bring the mixture to a boil and THEN add the macaroni. When pasta is tender remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste and serve. We had hot ham and cheese sandwiches with ours.  I was happy. Don was happy. Ashes was happy. J ate peanut butter and jelly with the neighbors. Would also be nice with cornbread, garlic bread, or even crackers.

I also made something called grillades (gree-yads). It’s a Cajun beef dish that is traditionally served over grits. It’s good, it’s cheap and it’s a great use for tougher cuts of steak. I pulled this together from a couple of traditional recipes to create my own version. We served over rice simply because I didn’t have any grits. It was really good too. Next time I will be making it with the grits.

You will need:
3 medium sized round steaks cut into 2 inch pieces and pounded flat
½ green bell pepper diced
1 stalk celery diced
½ onion diced
Cajun Seasoning (i.e. Tony Chacherez)
½ c flour
2 T vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
½ t. thyme
1 or two bay leaves
Tony Chacherez brown gravy mix (comes in a big yellow can)
1 large or two small cans beef broth
1 (14 oz) can of tomatoes

Cut round steaks into 2 inch pieces and flatten. (If you don’t have a meat tenderizer then just whack the crud out of it with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pot…Caution: make sure all family members you care for maintain a safe distance. The ones you don’t care for…have at it. I won’t tell)

Add oil to large pot on medium heat and allow it to preheat. Meanwhile, toss the steak pieces into a bowl. In a separate small bowl mix together the flour and Cajun seasoning. I can’t tell you here how much Cajun seasoning. Remember, it’s salty and spicy!  It’s a matter of preference and everyone has a different preference. After flour and seasoning are well mixed, pour it over the steak pieces and toss to coat.

Brown the meat in batches in the hot oil; setting each batch aside as you go. You only need a couple minutes per side. Remember, you’re just browning here. No need to get it done. It will have plenty of time for that later.

Once all the meat has been browned add the diced vegetables and canned tomatoes to the pot and cook just until tender. Add the meat back to the pot along with the seasonings and the beef broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Allow to simmer for approximately 2 hours.

Just before serving remove the bay leaves and bring the heat back up.  Add brown gravy mix, sprinkling a little at a time and stirring constantly, until you reach the desired thickness. *clears voice for Emeril impersonation* Remember, a mixture never achieves its full thickening power until it comes to a boil.

Serve over rice or grits.

I guess I’ve carried on long enough. Hope you enjoy the recipes.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I must be nuts and Merry Christmas.

I don't know who told me it was a good idea to spend five days at home with kids and dogs but, when I find them I think we'll have a little chat. *growl*

My schedule the next few days goes something like this:

Wednesday a.m. -- clean and catch up on the laundry, watch J bounce off the walls, fight with the dogs.
Wednesday p.m. -- drive 45 minutes one way to pick up Jack's siblings so they can spend some time together for a couple of days. Beat my head on the wall at the chaos that will begin the moment we all walk in the door.

Thursday a.m. -- finish the last bit of cleaning, entertain children, make a pecan pie and whiskey maple cream sauce and maybe some cookies.
Thursday p.m -- Get together at Sara's. Yay!  (this might be the highlight)

Friday -- drive an hour one way to take kids back home, back to Sara's to help with her turkey dilemma and have dinner.  All at yet to be determined times.

Some point over the next two days -- finish my Christmas shopping.

Saturday a.m. -- breakfast and gifts with mom
Saturday p.m. -- dinner and gifts with Don's family

Sunday all day -- NOTHING!!  I plan to curl up in bed and possibly die of exhaustion and high blood sugar.

For all four days -- other than this post I'm sorry to say there will probably be no blogging.

Merry Christmas. See you next week provided I haven't been committed to a mental institution.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Somebody Has to Say It

Go ahead. You know you want to. Say what you’re thinking…I do.
I’ll acquiesce; it’s not always the best thing to do. I just can’t seem to escape it. Mostly because I happen to be one of those people with a very expressive face; this makes it difficult for me to hide my reactions to things in my environment. I can’t tell you how many times, in an effort to be tactful, I’ve chosen to keep my mouth shut and was rewarded with, “What are you thinking?” by the person I’m interacting with. At this point you would be able to read, “Dang, I thought I was gonna get out of this one” written in big flashy lights on my forehead.
Sometimes, I can get away with saying nothing. I’ve learned that if I just “happen” to notice something across the room at exactly the right moment, while you’re telling me things I really don’t want to know…I can avoid these uncomfortable situations. It’s also good for people not to be aware that I’m envisioning sewing their mouth shut or jamming an ice pick into my eye.
Now for those other times; those times when I know what I’m about to say is going to irritate you and those times when I know and I just don’t care. There are some things that just should not be left unsaid. There are some things which do not require tact and diplomacy and you can bet your britches I’m gonna tell you just what I think. I think many of you have heard from me before, “I say what I mean and mean what I say even if it seems a little mean when I say it.”
I was gifted with that warning label upon my entrance into this world. Seriously, I came with a warning label. Ask my mother.
So, some things that fall into the category “Somebody Has To Say It”….drum roll please….
*Disclaimer* : The following scenarios may, or may not, have happened. *looks away at a passerby* Some are true, some are somewhat true and some are definitely maybe not totally false. However, they’re all good examples of things that I may or may not have already said but may or may not say in the future. *scratches head* Hmmm…I wonder if that’s ambiguous enough?
1.       Do not show me your new flip flops when you have crusty feet. A chipped pedicure I can forgive but I cannot forgive crusty-ness on feet. “Somebody” might offer to buy you a pumice stone, a ped-egg, or even some heel balm after seeing your sorry state. Put on some dang socks and throw the flip flops in the back of the closet until you get that mess taken care of.

2.       If you are my friend and you ask me how those jeans look, I *will* tell you if they happen to make your butt look big. I ain’t scared. I’m your friend. It is my duty to protect you from yourself and make sure you are looking your best when you go out in public.

3.       To certain women who work in a certain building, on a particular street, in a specific town... If you look in the mirror before leaving for work in the morning and think, “Dang, I might get picked up today” or, if you look like you’re about to head to the club…chances are your choice in work attire is not suitable for the office environment. You might find a job more fitting to your attire down on the corner of MLK.  Just sayin’.

4.       Don’t claim to be a Christian and then expect me to listen while you bash everyone who doesn’t live up to your standard and claim they’re going to hell. Defined, Christian means Christ-like. Last time I checked Jesus wasn’t a judgmental jerk. He was a nice guy who helped people face, and then turn away from, their sin by using love and understanding. If you really are Christ-like then I suggest you give that one a try. I’m picturing Jesus writing in the dirt before a woman about to be stoned to death by an angry mob for adultery.

5.       For those of you who feel the need to cuss every other word…really? I’m not one to judge about someone’s choice of words; I’ve been known to issue strings of expletives myself. However, I think you need to hear the truth no one else is telling you. While you’re sitting there proud of your amazing magnitude for using unsavory language, I’m (as are many others) sitting there thinking about how dumb you sound and not actually registering anything in regard to the subject you’re poorly attempting to discuss. The fact that those are the only descriptive words you can come up with only tells me your vocabulary is severely lacking.

I’m only giving you five today. Sorry, but I think any more than that would just look like a list of Erica’s Pet Peeves instead of Somebody Has To Say It.
*singing* Another one bites the dust….

Monday, 20 December 2010

My Grandma Geri

Geraldine Elizabeth Hayes – 10 Aug 1935-2 Jan 1995
I’m sentimental this week, I guess. I’ve found myself thinking of relatives who have passed and things I remember about them; things that made them special to me. Who knows, maybe it’s the flea market trip or related to the crying spells I’ve had lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so down and remembering the way she pampered me is comforting. I really don’t know. All the same, I remember.
What a funny lady she was. As a child I loved to stay at her house. She let me do all the things little girls love to do. Each time I spent the night with her there was a routine. Just before bedtime was a bubble bath. She had an endless supply of that Avon pink bubble bath and I was allowed to use as much as I liked. I would soak and play in the tub and sometimes she would come in and wash my hair. When I was done I was usually given one of her nightgowns. She had the best nightgowns; they were soft and pretty and smelled like downy fabric softener.

Usually, while waiting for my hair to dry, we would sit in the living room and play cards at the coffee table. She cheated. Really, she did. The rules constantly changed and she always won. I knew what she was up to but would never have said so.
I also remember watching The Young and the Restless with her during the day, the time she danced on the back of the couch and nearly killed me when I brought a little garden snake into the house to show her, sitting outside and snapping green beans and hulling peas, and bacon, eggs and homemade biscuits for breakfast every morning. I remember she let me drink coffee too.
We didn’t have much contact towards the end of her life. The last time I saw her alive broke my heart. Always a stocky and heavyset woman she couldn’t have weighed much more than 100 lbs that last time I had contact with her. Her body damaged by a stroke, she seemed to have lost the vitality that always drew me to her.
She’s thought of often. I have a beautiful cast iron chicken fryer that belonged to her. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s coated in lovely turquoise enamel on the outside. It’s my prize kitchen possession and I use it a lot. It’s not just for frying chicken.
I also have her mother’s ring. When I visited with my Aunt Kathy a while back she got it out and gave it to me. I found myself in one of those rare misty eyed moments then. It is so nice to have something that was special to her. I don’t wear it every day but, when I feel like I need a little luck or an extra someone to watch over me, I wear it.
I think, on many levels, Aunt Kathy and I understood each other. She was the only daughter and for many years I would be the only granddaughter. Anyone who knew my Grandma  Geri knew how much she loved little girls.
Grandma Geri was a red head and had the personality to go with it. She was outspoken and loud. She told the best stories for curious little minds such as mine. Yet, for all the things harsh about her, she had a softness that I always felt like she reserved just for me.
In spite of any complaint someone might have had about her, in spite of the mistakes that separated us later in her life and in spite of what anyone else might have thought, I loved her and she was mine and to this day she still makes me smile.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

I cried over THAT?????

Oddly enough, since the decision yesterday to write this post, and due to circumstances which are not at all ridiculous, I’ve become an emotional wreck in the last 18 hours. Let’s just say that diabetes sucks and I hate the bureaucratic nonsense of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. I’ve cried, or felt like crying, at least a dozen times in those 18 hours.
Generally, there isn’t much that makes me cry. It’s not that I’m cold or unfeeling. I just don’t do it. My outward response to things that make most people cry is evident but I just don’t get teary eyed. Sure, sometimes I get my feelings hurt and might tear up a little but I’m overall just not a crier.
Over the past month or so I’ve had various unexpected crying spells attributed to things that I would normally be sentimental about but wouldn’t cry. I discussed this with my mother yesterday. Her response to me was, “You’re becoming normal so you might as well accept it”. 

If this is what normal is then I’m concerned.

We continued our discussion and came to the conclusion that the death of my aunt in July may be the cause of my hypersensitivity to sentimental objects and subjects. That, however, is another post entirely and something I think I’m going to work on in the coming weeks.
So, here’s my list of things (some silly and some not) that have brought tears to my eyes recently. I hope you can appreciate the humor and perhaps you can relate.  In fact, your ability to relate would assure me that I haven’t completely lost my mind. Feel free to comment if you relate. It might help me be a little less tearful.
Toy Story III – what an altogether ridiculous thing for a nearly 40 year old menopausal woman to cry about. I actually saw the movie in July the weekend after we buried my Aunt Iva. I cried towards the end when Andy was making the decision to donate his box of toys to another child. The scenes of Andy reliving his childhood with Woody and Buzz were overwhelming for some reason and Sheryl and Susan had such a good laugh at me sobbing. This led me to the overall awkward state of laughing, crying and blowing my nose all at the same time.
Toy Story III – again – My mother mentioned the movie yesterday and the tears tried to well up. This is what prompted the discussion we had yesterday. This is what led me to today’s post. Just thinking of the movie brought me back to that scene at the end that made me so emotional. In fact, as I write this, that familiar little ache is back in my chest and my eyes are tearing up. Thank goodness I decided this morning to forego makeup because of my strange emotional state.
Babies being born – It could be in the midst of the most ridiculously funny sitcom and I will tear up. There’s something about that moment that has always gotten to me. It reminds me of the births of each of my boys and that first moment when they were handed to me. The first time I was able to count all the little fingers and toes and kiss their sweet little cheeks and …..oh good grief the flood gates are opening again!  Moving on…
Watching Oprah – First, let me say, I’m pretty ambivalent about Oprah. Sometimes the shows are cool and they give me that little feel good thing. Overall though, is kind of like, “Eh, Oprah”. So, I’m watching Oprah and there’s Debbie Boone and she’s singing You Light Up My Life, and my mother reminds me how much I loved the song as a little girl, and the tears came and I felt silly. Cheesy Debbie Boone singing a cheesy song from the cheesy 70’s and I cry like a baby. It took me a good 10 minutes to restore myself to my natural state.
The Flea Market – I was wandering around a flea market with Don. It’s one of my favorite things to do. This last time was very emotional for me though. There were several items that I picked up that just moved me. Don spent most of the visit looking at me like I’d lost my mind. But, in typical Don fashion, he just shrugged his shoulders and went on looking.

Growing up, my mother had a set of ceramic nesting bowls. They were beautiful and each bowl was glazed on the outside with colors from the seventies. As I wandered the aisles I found a set. Not just any set but a set from the 1940’s. I wanted them. I REALLY wanted them. Look at them, they’re beautiful…

They were also $119.00. I didn’t have $119.00 to spend on mixing bowls. Cue tears. Finally, I sucked it up and moved on.

Just as I thought I had recouperated I found another item.  It is a beautiful glass bowl that has been etched with a star pattern. My mother has one just like it. That bowl has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. Similar to this but a different pattern:

I teared up again. I felt ridiculous. There was nothing I could do about it so I moved on.
Then I found item #3. It was a sewing box. It was a sewing box from the 1970’s. It was in perfect condition and it was identical to one my mother owns. It is identical to one my mother has owned all of my life. It is plastic, off-white and has a basket weave pattern on the outside. It has the coolest little tray that sits in the top that has places for thread, bobbins, needles and other odds and ends. I cried again. I almost bought it. I may still go back and buy it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t sew. It doesn’t matter that someday I will have my mother’s sewing box. I NEED that sewing box.

I don’t sew.
I can’t find a photo of one. I almost took a photo in the flea market that day but I didn’t and this makes me want to cry now.
Is this, as my mother says, becoming normal? Surely I was normal before and am not normal now? Why in the world am I suddenly reduced to a blubbering mess with sentimental things?
Tell me. I can take it. I won’t cry. I promise….. *sniff*

I got mad at Young and the Restless and got  <-----this is the link to the page.

I read this column every week. I love what Ms. Kitty has to say about Y&R every week. She's spot on. I've watched this show since I was a very little girl. It was something I did every day with my grandmother. I don't recall ever NOT being a Y&R viewer.  The show has gone down hill since William Bell died. The rest of this post speaks for itself. I was just tickled to be published somewhere. As for Y&R, they didn't respond to my email but, I didn't really expect them to either.

Ms. Kitty…I just have to say how much I enjoy reading your column each week. I gave it some thought this morning and feel that all of us who are disappointed should be sharing our thoughts with Y&R. Not that they care. If they did they would be making the appropriate changes. But, I sent my letter anyway and I wondered how flooded with complaints they would have to be to listen. Here's what I sent them...

I'm just wondering, do the writers of this show ever read any of the message boards dedicated to Y&R? Not just the one on this site, but the ones on other sites as well?

I would have to say they don't. If they did they would realize how disgusted most Y&R fans are. They would realize that viewers are bailing in droves. They would know what we expect to see when we tune in to this show.

For as long as I can remember Y&R has topped the ratings. I expect over the next year or so to see that decline. All viewers I've encountered, including myself, are completely disheartened with this show.

The men and women on this show have become bed hopping (dumpster hopping? glassy floor hopping?) sluts. *cough* Sharon *cough* There's no romance because couples are having rough sex in odd places with people they hardly know. There are no sacred relationships. Legacy characters are being tossed for newbies and cameo appearances. Stories are plot driven rather than character driven. Story lines are dropped without resolution. The writers take too many liberties with character history and simply re-write history when they don't know what else to do. The slow build for story lines has disappeared.

You insult our intelligence on a daily basis. You are clearly out of touch with the fantasy we're looking for.

We're no longer given time to invest in a story or relationship.

Why bother? We roll our eyes at story lines and fast forward through scenes with Lily, Cane, Sharon, Nick, Victor, Daisy, Adam etc. We watch only to see the one sacred relationship...Michael and Lauren. Then, lo and behold, the rumor is that relationship is about to be busted up too.

It's disgusting to think of what the current writers see as entertaining. Clearly, they are out of touch with the viewing public. I know they're out of touch with what I've always believed to be the heart of Y&R. So much so that I no longer record the show or watch on my days off. I have limited myself to reading online updates...and only if I feel like being mocked that day.

Your biggest loss was Bill Bell and I think he must surely be rolling over in his grave at what you've done to this show. After 25 years of being a Y&R fan I do believe I'm done. As for your writers and the remaining member of the Bell should be ashamed of yourselves.

If you want to keep your audience you have to give them what they're looking for. We want suspense, we want romance, we want fantasy relationships, we want legacy characters who are multi-dimensional, we want lasting relationships with real problems, we want stories we can invest in. We want our Y&R back. 
Erica T.
If every one of us who has had enough took a few minutes to write a letter like Erica’s, pointing out the things that have driven us away, maybe TIIC would listen…because it certainly doesn’t appear they hear our pleas when published on the Internet. I am especially in agreement with the statement about having or intelligence insulted on a daily basis. That’s exactly how I feel.

…you can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing ovation.  

Thursday, 9 December 2010

10 Guilty Pleasures....sort of...

First, let me apologize that I didn’t do this yesterday. I had a million errands to run and just didn’t have time.
Second, I am going to do 10 Guilty Pleasures today. But, I will still do Somebody Has to Say It.
So, let’s get on with the show…
Guilty Pleasures…everyone has them. I have a few. Coming up with ten though was a little bit of a struggle. I have things that I thoroughly enjoy. I rarely feel guilt about any of those things. Seriously, why bother with the guilt? You only live once. I work hard and my husband works VERY hard. We deserve to have those moments when we can completely let go and enjoy something special.
In no particular order:
1.       Chocolate – at any given time you will always be able to find something chocolate in my immediate vicinity. For instance, in my desk at work, I currently have hazelnut spread with cocoa (that I’ve been known to eat with a spoon. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really adventurous, I get a spoonful of peanut butter and then dip the spoon in the hazelnut spread.), a box of dark chocolate covered almonds, tootsie rolls and a handful of chocolate and caramel crème savers. At home, I have a stash too. I will not tell you what or where in regards to this stash. If my husband reads this post it would disappear. The chocolate must be guarded at all costs. Sorry baby…I love you, but not enough to share the stash. Now, if you’ll excuse me a moment, I gotta go wash my spoon.
Ok…let’s get on with this.
2.       Make-up – I spend a little more on makeup than most people do. At least it appears that way to the uneducated. Many would be critical about this but, the money I save by keeping my skin clear and allergy free makes it worth it. It also eliminates the guilt. I swear by Bare Minerals. It’s the cleanest make-up on the market. For $18 I get a small container of powdered gold; however, this small container lasts 3-5 months. Cheap liquid make-up from drug stores is worthless. Look at it this way, cheap foundation costs $7-$10 for a little bottle. If you wear make-up daily, as I do, you will replenish that supply every 30-45 days depending on how heavy you apply. Overall, when averaged, I’m spending less per month on quality make-up than you are on cheap drug store stuff and, at least I don’t have to stress that if I go to bed without washing my face I’ll wake up in the morning with skin you can chart constellations on. I guess it’s not a guilty pleasure after all.

3.       Bath products – Bath and Body Works. I love this store. I’m smart though. I watch for the sales. A few times a year they have great sales and that’s when I go in for the kill. I pick up enough stuff to last me a few months until the next sale. Two of my favorites are the ‘coconut lime verbena’ and the ‘Japanese cherry blossom’. I’m a girl. I like to smell pretty. Not for one second will I feel guilty about this and, because he enjoys my company and likes to be close to me, my husband won’t complain either.

4.       I’m a good cook. Scratch that. I’m a great cook. I can make anything I set my mind to. I can go to a restaurant, try a dish and then go home and figure out how to replicate it. I did this with that Woo Pig Hot Dog, eggplant parmesan and chicken scaloppini. However, there are some things that I will never allow myself to learn. Why, you ask? Well, if I knew how to make everything and DID make everything, then I would have nothing I wanted to eat in a restaurant. I would sit there looking at a menu and think, “Why am I going to pay $15 for this meal when I can go home and make it for $15 and feed my whole family?” Besides, if I ever learned to make “A Chocolate Mess” just like Market Place Grill, within 6 months I would look like a 300 lb Pekingnese and not be able to fit out my front door. Some things should just be left to the experts. In fact, I’m thinking now that I should have left that Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce recipe alone. I’m nearly having convulsions thinking on it.

5.       Clothes and shoes – Occasionally, when left to shop on my own, I will pick up a little something for me. It’s usually something I probably shouldn’t have bought and most likely didn’t need. I don’t say anything to Don. I just go home and put it in the closet, wait a few days, and then wear it. Sometimes, when I’m really feeling sneaky, I’ll buy it on clearance at the end of the season. Then, I put it in my closet until the next season. No one ever wonders where it came from when you do that. Sometimes, I think Don does notice when I pick up a little something just for me but, just doesn’t say anything. I don’t know if that’s because he doesn’t care, thinks I deserve it, or is hesitant to call me on it. At any rate, he’s never made a disapproving face or a snide comment and never rolled his eyes at me. So, I’ll take that as his vote of confidence and run with it.  Yeah, baby, I’m running now so get the heck outta my way!

6.       Here’s one I enjoy and haven’t done in quite some time… I love to fix a glass of wine or grab a beer, run a bubble bath with some smell-good stuff and kick back with a book. I run the water as hot as I can stand it and then soak until the water gets so cool that I can’t stand it. Sometimes, I forego the book and just play with the bubbles.  Yeah, I sit in the tub and play just like a kid. Then, when all is said and done, I take a shower. Yeah, you read that right. After a bath I take a shower. Something about sitting in a tub full of water (that the longer you sit in the dirtier said water gets) just doesn’t leave me feeling clean. So, when I’m done, I rinse off in the shower and wash my hair. I bubble bath strictly for play and relaxation. For the record, no guilt here either. So call the environmental police who control water consumption and tell them I said to go jump in a lake.

7.       Ok, I’m 38 years old and I play The Sims. A while back, when J’s dad was in the picture, he helped me create a family to play. In typical 7 year old fashion, he had me create what he knew…his family. Well, when things fell apart with jerk-face I had a moment of weakness. The “dad” in this family had no mechanical skill. That makes sense since we were keeping it real. Oh, how I would love to tell you some of THOSE stories! Anyway, I sat down to play and when this little family came up I had a moment of weakness. First, I entered a cheat code that allowed me to rapidly deteriorate his physical needs – i.e. hunger, sleep, social, etc. then, knowing he couldn’t do it, I led “dad” to the stereo to upgrade it and continued to lead him back to try it until I achieved the desired result. Due to his lack of mechanical skill and deteriorated needs “dad” fried himself and now resides in an urn at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. I guess someone should have told him to unplug it first, then again there’s common sense. Kind of reminds me of the time when jerk-face was going to fix….nevermind. It’s really too bad that “Mom” can’t seem to find anyone willing to pay good Simoleons for an urn containing the cartoon ashes of a jerk-face. But, it made me feel better for just a minute.

8.       I’m a smoker. There it’s out in the open. This is one that I do occasionally feel guilty about. It’s bad for me. I know this so don’t lecture me. *sticks out tongue for emphasis*

The truth is though, I enjoy it. But, this alone isn’t the big secret. The guilty pleasure is that sometimes, when Don isn’t home and I have company, I get out the secret ash tray, light a candle and smoke at the kitchen table. Then, when my company leaves, I get out the Febreeze. Most of the time, I remember to hide the secret ashtray. Sometimes I forget though, and then Don finds me out. Then, he says things like, “Who was smoking in here?” and then I roll my eyes and walk away. I’m the only other smoker in the house. Who else would it be?

9.       I’m stuck. I can’t think of another guilty pleasure. I don’t know what to tell you.

10.   I’m still stuck. I’m gonna go smoke now.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

*singing* Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I found you.....

On days like today, when I am tired and my brain is dull, when I find little to be excited about, there is one thing that can bring me joy. It’s the one thing that my children will verify I have before approaching me in the morning. It’s my fuel for the day. It spawns unrelenting love and devotion from deep within my heart.
It inspired a king to construct the first greenhouse used in Europe. It was worshipped for medicinal properties. Even though Pope Clement VIII was advised that it was a threat to Christianity, he opted to try it first, and blew off all theories of conspiracy and other ill-willed plots by blessing it.  It spawned and fueled revolutions. For centuries it has given life and the will to get through the day to millions of devoted fans just like me.
What in the world could spark such devotion from so many? Coffee, I tell you. Coffee – the nectar of the gods.
What other drink in all of history offers as many variations as coffee? There’s light, medium, dark, and double roast. There are 20 or so varieties based on origin -- Arabica, Brazilian, Columbian and Jamaican. Full caff, decaf, and half-caf…There’s brewed, instant, espresso, frappuccino, cappuccino, Doppio, macchiato, iced, blended, black, sugared, creamed and flavored. It’s used in baked goods and other desserts. It’s been covered in chocolate and called candy. I personally know someone who pours a cup into every pot of chili they make.
Every day, on the way to work, I look at Brianna and pitifully beg, “Coffee? Please?” and she stops at the little store down the road from my house for the best little cup of coffee I’ve ever had as I shout, “Hallelujah”.
It’s rich and nutty and fragrant. It’s perfect with just a little bit of French vanilla half and half. It doesn’t matter that I’ve already had coffee at home. It’s this coffee, this beautiful example of everything embodied by coffee, that I must have each morning. Starbucks ain’t got nothin’ on this coffee.
I have been known to climb out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and trudge to this store, still in my pj’s, mascara smeared around my eyes, pillow marks still on my cheeks, hair standing on end, and un-brushed fangs bared for anyone in my way, to acquire this beautiful nectar served in a Styrofoam cup.
Did you know? 15 facts about coffee:
1.       Countries like Japan and Costa Rica have developed holidays to celebrate coffee.
2.       #2 on the list of highest traded commodities in the world is coffee.
3.       Coffee was discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia over 11 centuries ago. (oh, what I wouldn’t give to resurrect this sweet little man and tell him how precious he is to me)
4.       A single coffee tree will only bear one or two pounds of beans per growing season. That’s why it’s so expensive.
5.       George Washington, the English chemist (not the president), invented instant coffee around 1906.
6.       Coffee, when served, black, is a naturally calorie free beverage.
7.       The growth and production of coffee provides jobs for almost 25 million people world-wide.
8.       Mixing coffee grounds or pouring a cup of coffee into potting soil will help revive plants.
9.       75% of all caffeine consumed in the U.S. comes from coffee
10.   It takes 40 coffee beans to make a single cup of coffee.
11.   Coffee beans are actually berries, not beans.
12.   Coffee was originally eaten. Tribes in Africa mixed the berries with fat and formed edible “balls” of coffee.
13.   All coffee in the world grows in the area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This area is known as “The Bean Belt”.
14.   Contrary to popular belief, Espresso only contains 1/3 of the caffeine found in a regular cup of coffee.
15.   1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed world-wide every day!
So, there you have it. You now know the key to my heart, the object of my affection and my purpose in life.
And now, I’ve come to a most disturbing correlation between my own life and fact number three. I think I’ll have to go next door now and have a little chat with the goats. Then, I’ll call and schedule that therapy session I needed after the rub down I got from Billy D. Goat a couple weeks ago.
Do they make meds for minds as disturbed as mine? Am a I re-incarnated goat herder?
*sigh* I’ll go fix a cup of coffee and think on it…then I’ll get back to you.

Monday, 6 December 2010

I know a lot of you enjoy the stuff J says. Thought I would share a few of those with you.

J***-isms = funny things said by J that have an entirely different meaning for him than they do for those who hear it.

J***-anese = The name given to his little language as a toddler. Until he was about 3 ½ he spoke mostly gibberish with a few intelligible words thrown in.  example:  at the age of three, when asking for a drink, he would say, “garble garble garble juice”.

NOTE:  If you know us personally you know how to fill in the asterisks. I choose not to disclose his name here because he is a minor and I have no control over who sees my blog. I’m all about protecting the little people from stupid big people.

At age 5:

I was reading to him about the Good Samaritan. At the end of the story I paused for a little Q & A.

“So, if you see someone hurt on the side of the road, but they aren’t your friend, what do you do?” I asked.

“Nuffin,” he replied.

“Well, that’s not what Jesus would do, is it?”

I went back over the highlights of the story and then asked again, “What should you do if you see someone hurt and they are your enemy?”

“Nuffin, he’s not my friend,” he replied.

“Jesus would stop and help because that’s the right thing to do. Don’t you think you should stop?”

“Look,” he said while rolling his eyes at me. “I ain’t Jesus. I’m J***.”

At age 7:

We were out Christmas shopping. The parking lots were packed and difficult to navigate. While sitting and waiting for an oncoming car so we could get by, J pipes in from the back seat with his thoughts on the matter.

“Hey! Get on your own side of the road, yo!”

Road rage from the back seat.

On Saturday:  This is a prime example of J being “literal”.

There was incessant whining from the back seat. Every thirty seconds he said, “I’m hungry”. Every thirty seconds I replied, “I know J. We’re going to stop in a few minutes and get something.”

Don decides to tease him by asking him to specify how hungry he is. It goes like this:

D: Are you hungry or are you HUNGRY?

J: I don’t know.

Me: He’s a hungry boy, aren’t you J?

J: I don’t know.

Me: Well, are you hungry?

J: I don’t know.

Me:  Are you a boy?

J: I don’t know.

Me: Are you a girl?

J:  I don’t know.

Me: Oh, good grief.

At this point Don begins a series of “Are you?” questions with J. To each one J replies, “I don’t know.” J is clearly enjoying the game and the knowledge that he’s being frustrating.

Finally, Don says, “Are you a liability?”

J: No, because I don’t lie.

D: Then you must be an asset. Are you an asset?

J: No, because I don’t have gas.

A few months ago:

Dylan was teasing J. Dylan is always teasing J.

Finally, J comes back at Dylan with, “One day, when I’m gangsta, I’m gonna kick you in the face. You know why?” and with swagger he answers, “‘Cause I’m the big boss!”

It's things like these that remind me on a regular basis that I am the mother to the coolest kid on the planet.

Friday, 3 December 2010

These are a few of my favorite things....

There are some things I like about my job. Really, there are. All of these things seem to be more people related than job related; however, they are still things that I like about my job. I thought today would be a good day to focus on some of those things and even share them with you.

Here’s the top 4 in no particular order:
Favorite thing #1:

Mr. Lee is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He pretends to be a grouch. He’s really not. He’s actually a dirty old man. I worked with him for just over a year before I ever received more than a grunt from him as a response. Now he occasionally serenades me (beautifully I must say) and asks me how “the other man” (my husband) is doing.

He is a relentless flirt yet completely harmless. He’s my bright spot in my dim little office. He’s such a charmer…even if I do occasionally roll my eyes at some of the stuff he says. The man does an amazing balancing act on that fine line between funny and inappropriate. If he ever retires it will change the entire atmosphere of the office.

Favorite thing #2:

Ms. G…I love this woman. I see her sometimes when I go on break. Somehow, for all her sailor language, I am convinced this woman was God sent. I may not see her for a week or more but you can bet if I’m having a bad day she will end up in the break area with me. She will always have something to rant about. “Let me tell you about the bleepity bleep bleep bleep that bleepity bleep bleep bleep my bleepity bleep bleep bleep,” she’ll say. This woman could surely give an audio editor a run for their money. Television networks would need more than a 3 second delay to keep up with her. It’s so funny I actually recorded one of her rants so that Don could hear it. At the same time she’s always ready with a good hug and a listening ear if needed. She’s more like “Mama G”.

I remember sharing with her one of my “gangsta” moments to which she replied, “Girl, you need to bleepity bleep be careful. They gonna mess me up when I bleepity bleep show up to bleepity bleep work and there’s bleepity bleep Channel 7  wantin’ to bleepity bleep interview me ‘cause that bleepity bleep co-worker Erica is gonna bleepity bleep be featured on bleepity bleep Snapped”.

I never knew you could drop the “F” bomb that many times in one sentence and it still make sense.

Favorite thing #3:

First, let me say, I do have an appropriate amount of sympathy for the homeless and mentally ill. They are in abundance in the area where I work. They break my heart. However, some things are just funny. Might be wrong but it’s no less funny.

For instance, there was a homeless man who often sat around outside our building. You wouldn’t think so but he was harmless. He wore black long sleeved coveralls year round, tied off in numerous areas on his arms and legs with ratty old t-shirts. It didn’t matter if it was 120 degrees outside, he was wearing the coveralls. He was often seen doing Kung Fu moves with some imaginary opponent.
Jerry (our maintenance guy who I’ll tell you about in a minute) was able to learn from the man that he was in that particular spot each day because he was the administrator of a space station and was waiting for them to pick him up.

Or, there’s the man who was coming down the street making a strange noise deep in his throat. He seemed very focused and very angry. I pressed my back against the wall to be out of his way as he passed by and looked nervously at the lady standing about two feet away from me. As the man passed in front of me he looked at me. This would have been completely ok except for the fact that he also snapped at me.

Snapped you say? Yes, snapped. Not verbally snapped as in getting snippy with someone. This man snapped at me. He snapped at me in much the same way a dog would snap at someone. He snapped with a kind of barking noise. You see, this was no random noise he was making as he walked down the street. He was growling.

He also snapped at the lady standing a few feet down from me. Then, he resumed his growling and kept on walking.

Bizarre I tell ya. Just plain bizarre.

Favorite thing #4:

Jerry. That’s a funny guy right there.  He’s a grouch. He ain’t pretending. He’s seriously a grouch. He’s cynical and has a very dry sense of humor.  But, he did buy me lunch on my birthday, which was nice. So, maybe he’s not a complete grouch but more like an almost complete grouch. These are precisely the reasons why I like him.

However, I’m thinking I’ll buy him a metal trash can and spray paint him green next Halloween.

This is the man that hung a sign in our spot in the alley that said, “This is a work free smoke place”.

There is absolutely nothing that goes on around this complex that he doesn’t know the scoop. Several times I’ve gone to him and said, “What the heck was *fill in the blank* about?” He always chuckles and, in his gravelly voice, says, “Oh, that’s a good one right there. Let me tell ya about this idiot….”

Today I told him that Penny bailed on us. She went on to work in greener pastures.

In between numerous expletives that he muttered under his breath I believe I was able to ascertain that I am to tell Penny he cussed her and his feelings are hurt because she didn’t say goodbye.

At least I think that’s what he meant. It’s hard to tell sometimes. I think I need a Grouch to English Dictionary.

So there. That’s my top four. Those are four things that I look forward to each day. Ok, so they’re not things, they’re people. But, you get the picture.

Besides, who the heck looks forward to paper cuts, sitting in a drab four by four cubicle each day, and talking to cranky providers?  And, why look forward to that when I can look forward to some pretty entertaining people each day?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The crazy lady down the street...

I’m such a slacker this week. I know this. I really do. I just feel so – I don’t know – off? Is that the word I’m looking for?
I think some of this is that I’m just so completely exhausted after the Thanksgiving weekend. While the rest of you were out spending time with family I chose to stay home. Don had to work so we couldn’t plan a trip. Because of that I laid out this big plan to get my house back in order. I washed, dried, folded and put away every piece of laundry in the house. I cleaned every room and cleaned out a couple of closets while I was at it. I asked the crazy lady down the street if she’d taken her meds. I completely emptied and re-organized J’s dresser drawers. The list goes on but, since it’s not very exciting stuff, I’ll spare you.
Well, wait a minute…the crazy lady is interesting…
There’s a lady and her pre-teen son (will be referred to as crazy lady and boy throughout) who live a few houses down the street. Boy rides his four-wheeler back in forth in front of my house and their dogs chase him. Boy often stops in front of our house, and does doughnuts on his four-wheeler, while his dogs come into our yard and antagonize our dogs. I have repeatedly run off one of his dogs (a lab)for getting into my trash.
Any who…the other day I’m cleaning my little heart out and J comes and tells me “that boy with the four- wheeler wants to talk to my mom or dad”. So, here I am in yoga pants and a t-shirt with no bra. To avoid traumatizing Boy I grab a hoodie to hide the fact that I’m flying free. It’s the polite thing to do, you know. 
Boy proceeds to tell me a story I can’t make much sense out of. Something about Sky (our boxer/husky mix who is frequently mislabeled as a pit-bull) was attacking another dog because the other dog snapped at Sky for getting too close to other dog’s pup. At least that’s what I was able to get out of it.
So, I grab the leash and my house shoes so I can go get Sky.
Let me interject here that I had not “allowed” the dogs to wander. J didn’t shut the door all the way and the wind blew it open. I was in the back of the house and didn’t know the dogs had gone out.
When I arrive crazy lady begins to approach and I immediately say, “I heard there was a problem and came to see what happened and get the dog”. Crazy lady immediately begins to scream at me and for once I was completely speechless. I am never speechless and this only increases my anxiety and confusion.
I just stood there and looked at her.
I let her rant. I couldn’t even gather from her which dog my dog supposedly attacked. She was cleaning a small scratch on the leg of this mangled looking dog in the yard that she claimed was a stray. The mangled looking dog that obviously had given birth to puppies recently.
I gathered at this point that she was clearly looking for a confrontation and I declined to give it to her. Not to mention the fact that she couldn’t even settle on which dog the confrontation was with. First, it was the stray. Then it was a little dog who she said had no injuries but was nowhere in sight. Then it was the stray again.
 I gave up and turned to go.
Then, she did it. She pushed my button. She said she was going to kill Sky.
I still don’t know why but I began to chuckle. She screamed, “I mean it”. I chuckled some more.
I’m thinking to myself…first you say she attacked your dog that’d had puppies but then you say the dog that had clearly had puppies is a stray. Then, you tell me she attacked your small dog when I know for a fact that the only dog you have is a MALE black lab with a red collar…The exact same dog that is always getting in my trash and coming into my yard to antagonize my dogs.
Then I said, “Lady, I understand you’re upset but I came down here in good faith to talk to you and was willing to do the right thing. I can see now that’s a pointless effort. Clearly you’re a few bricks shy of a load and you’ve forgotten to take your meds today. I’ll keep my dogs out of your yard so you don’t shoot them and because it’s the right thing to do.  But, you keep your dogs out of mine so you don’t have to pick them up from a dog pound 3 states away.”
Then I turned my back on her and walked away.
When I got back to my house Sky was lying at the end of the driveway and bleeding from a wound on her face.
Now, how much do you know about dogs? Think about it. My dog is bleeding from the face and hers has a small scratch on her leg. When a dog is angry and attacks what part of the body do they go for?
I’ll give you a clue. It’s not the legs. Bites on the legs are usually a defensive bite because it’s all the dog being bitten on the face and neck can reach.
Sky has a big gash on her face. Here’s a picture from after it was cleaned up. (sorry, it's a mobile phone pic) Now which dog do you think attacked?
 And, for the record, Boy was riding his four-wheeler again last night while the male lab and the "stray" were running up into my yard bothering my dogs (who were tethered on dog runs). If I thought it would do any good I'd pay crazy lady another visit.