And Another Thing, Chefs…

Dear Chefs,

I know you work very hard and your reputation goes out on every plate you serve.  I can’t imagine being in a hot, steamy kitchen (see many previous whines posts about humidity and me) bending over all the time and getting what I’m sure is a walloping backache, and having to do the same dish over and over until you want to use a fork to pluck out your own eyeballs.  (Maybe a little too dramatic?)

What I don’t understand is why you need to sabotage food.  If you offer lobster, and I want to eat it, wouldn’t you think I’d want to taste the lobster?  Lobster is damn tasty food, and I don’t even need the melted butter, so why on earth would you present me with a blanket of brown stuff that looked like it should have been stuffing (which is normally reserved for bland food like turkey, not my beautiful lobster) and tasted like a salt repository?  It literally made my dinner inedible, and I couldn’t really taste anything after that, either.  Why?  Did you have a fight with your spouse?  Did you shuffle this dish off to an underling?  Are you unsure of the labels in your spice cabinet?

There’s another habit that I don’t understand.  You present a beautiful ribeye steak, perfectly done and practically a work of art.  On my first heavenly morsel, I bite down on cracked peppercorn so thick it literally made my eyes water and my breath stop in my throat.  After emergency applications of bread and water, I ask for the menu.  Scanning it, I see no description of “peppercorn encrusted” or “spice-rubbed” or anything remotely hinting at the fire in my throat.  Why, Chef?  Why you gotta sabotage me like that?  I scrape off the stuff as completely as I can, but my mouth is still burning from the pepper, and I really can’t taste anything else.  I love ribeye steak almost as much as lobster, and I am sad at this latest turn of events.

One last thing, and I promise I’m done.  I’m a fan of onions when they are fried, frizzled, or sauteed, but not when they’re raw.  Again, if I don’t see anything on the menu warning me of the impending danger, and you serve me a dish where you’ve cleverly hidden the raw onions underneath something else, I’m not going to be happy.  You have rendered my palate temporarily disabled and I won’t be able to taste anything else.  Unless, of course, that’s your master plan, that you don’t want me to taste the food for whatever nefarious reason you have in which case may I suggest you apply for a job with a local spy company?  I hear the NSA is looking for a few good folks.

A tip, if I may: STOP SMOKING.  Your mouths are coated in tar and nicotine so you are salting a peppering and hotting up your food so you can get past all those barriers you’ve put in there, and taking it out on us poor unsuspecting souls who just want to eat your glorious food even at the overinflated prices you charge.  It wasn’t until all those cooking reality shows came on that I realize every damn one of you smokes and you’re killing me with first hand heat instead of second hand smoke.

Hugs and kisses,

Your frustrated diner

OUCH MY MOUTH!

OUCH MY MOUTH!

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I Am A Glutton

So to celebrate Younger Daughter’s college graduation, we took a little trip south to the land of the Mouse.  Stellar planning on our part, yes indeed.  Florida.  August.  95 degrees.  Thunderstorms every day.  And HUMID.  People had trouble telling me and the Lion King apart.  But we did have fun, we did indulge in food, and we walked freakin’ everywhere.  Disney, you really need to look into moving sidewalks.  Having to walk two miles in such heat just to get to the entrance is a bit cruel.

We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, which is lovely, and has a fairly quick bus service.  I have discovered on this trip (and I would say this is my sixth visit) that I really am not a fan of the Magic Kingdom.  (Listens for gasps of horror, contemplates striking out last sentence, soldiers on.)  I like Epcot the most, followed by Hollywood Studios.  I wonder if Buzzfeed has a quiz about that, along the lines of “What Disney theme park are you most compatible with?” or “What does your preferred Disney theme park reveal about you?”  (Note to self: contact Buzzfeed.)  Epcot has two distinct areas that are appealing, especially the ride Soarin’ and the wonderful water features.  World Showcase is just so cool and we did our best to have an adult beverage at each country.  We missed Morocco (because we thought they didn’t have any) and Norway (because we didn’t think beer would go well with cloudberry horns and schoolbread).  It’s very weird to drink all that and not get a single bit of a buzz because you are SWEATING IT OUT AS SOON AS IT GOES IN.

The highlight, however, was going over to Universal to see Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.  So worth it!

So real.

So real.

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That little guy perched amongst the owls is Ioan the Sheep.  He is wearing a Hufflepuff scarf knitted by Younger Daughter.  He actually had outfits for most of Disney, too, and some confused but amiable people posed with him:

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Older Daughter crafted the moose antlers.  You would not believe some of the outfits…but I don’t have photos as I was not part of the journalistic foray.

It makes me ridiculously happy that my 24- and 21-year-old daughters still enjoy vacationing with us, and how much fun we genuinely all had.  Turkey leg, anyone?

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Snap Out Of It

When I was little, I hated having to stop what I was doing and go take a bath.  It would almost move me to tears and I couldn’t understand why it always had to be at the moment I was having the most enjoyable time.  I would finally haul myself into the tub, enticed with copious amounts of Mr. Bubble in the pink box, and soak away.  Invariably, once I actually began enjoying the sensation of the tub and the warm water and the diamond-like bubbles, I was told to stop what I was doing and get out of the tub.  Why did it always have to come at the most enjoyable time?  This was my first inclination that I didn’t relish transitions.

Those who only know me as an adult will no doubt be shocked to learn that I wasn’t a particularly chatty child.  I kept a lot of thoughts to myself, and had lovely conversations in my head and told myself wonderful stories and kept things pretty tidy in there.  When real life tugged, it was always an effort to leave one world and join the other, unless there was some signal that I would particularly enjoy the change: the jangling of the ice-cream truck, for example.

As a woeful adolescent (and who isn’t?  Woeful, I mean.  Adolescence is a particularly woeful time.) I nurtured all my supposed injustices and hurts and indignities until I was filled with absolute lists of how I had been wronged and how justice should be served.  (And inside my head, I was always redeemed and accepted it graciously.  Outside my head is another story.)  Just like a compulsive personality, I kept checking my list to see if the scales and tipped my way yet and when they hadn’t, I felt even more aggrieved.

I have since come to realize these were all telltale signs.  When my girls were about 7 and 5, I visited my doctor.  “I think something is wrong with me emotionally,” I began.  “I seem to have an inability to let go of my emotions.”  He asked a few questions here and there, then said almost casually, “Any history of depression in your family?”  Blinking, I said that both my mother and her brother were clinically depressed, but what did that have to do with me?  Depression, he told me, wasn’t always manifested as sadness; it could be vast mood swings, a change in personality, a tendency to hang onto intense feelings longer than what was considered healthy….BINGO.  He explained I needed medication to even out the messages that were misfiring in my brain.  The medication would just smooth things out, and I would always be on it, and I wouldn’t have these outrageous bouts of FEELINGALLTHETIMELIKETHISOHMYGODRIGHTNOWYOUHAVETOFEELWHATIFEEL any longer.  Once I got my head wrapped around the fact I had a condition and I should treat it like diabetes or allergies or anything else that needed to be maintained, I felt a lot better.

I felt even more better about six weeks later, when I was talking with a friend about medication.  She said she had started it too, but hadn’t really noticed a difference yet.  I said I’m not sure if mine had kicked in either, then I looked at my husband.  He immediately said “Believe me, it has.”  While I laughed at that quick response, I realized that depression wasn’t just about me, but everyone who loved me and didn’t know what tools were needed to deal with me.

I am grateful every day to that doctor.  When I had a breakdown that caused me to leave the profession I love, I could only imagine how much worse it would have been had I not been on medication.  I am also grateful that I never had the depths of depression that made me want to check out of the only life I have, but I can so very much understand those that teeter on that brink.  To me, it’s like looking at the sky, knowing it’s been blue your whole life, but it’s not blue lately and nobody you ask about it can see the same sky you insist is there, so you are alone in your perception and you wonder (as we all do with those singular perceptions) if there’s something wrong with you.  When that becomes the daily reality, it is not an easy existence, and you wonder when it will be over so you can stop pretending.

There have been a lot of lectures on the internet saying that suicide is not freedom, don’t glorify it, don’t show hugs and freedom together, don’t call it something it’s not in case you influence a younger person into doing the same thing.  All I can say to that is put on the shoes before you walk the path.  We’re all processing it differently.

And with that, I leave you with this:

I'll never not give hugs.

I’ll never not give hugs.

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Backyard Shenanigans Again

I have been very careful to only place black oil sunflower seeds in my birdfeeder, as this is something they prefer and it doesn’t have all the filler junk that they cheap up their bags with.  This made me a good steward of nature, right?  Or so I thought.  Hubby brought home a bag of “Wild Song Bird Food” and I thought “ugh, we’ll just have to go through that quickly.  I should have told him about the really good seed.  Ah, well, he meant well.”

Well, shut my mouth and call me corn pone, I was wrong.  These birds are going insanely crazy over this stuff, and we have been entertained for a week.  Besides the usual sparrows and mourning doves, we have beautiful and refined cardinals, pushy and rude blue jays, imperious grackles, dainty purple finches, red-headed woodpeckers who have to cling to the underside of the bird feeder in order to eat, a gloriously show-stopping yellow oriole, a couple of nuthatches, and my beloved chickadees (whom I normally only see around Christmastime).

We’re also having the party on the ground.  Three chipmunks who like to boss each other around, five squirrels who nibble quietly right along with the birds until they go spazoid and freak out all the birds then quickly gobble the food while they’re alone, a mama bunny and her two babies which produces lots of squealing from my girls, and good ol’ Fred the groundhog.

Good ol’ Fred has still been digging tunnels and last week we’d had enough.  Part of my backyard was a good four inches lower than other parts and decidedly spongey.  Like, if you walked you took the chance of ending up in a hole up to your knee sort of spongey.  We hired a man (ex-Marine, boy was he strong) to excavate the hole and refill, tamping it all down.  He brought an adorable baby backhoe/digger and went at it methodically, neatly, and with as much care as he would show for his own property.  He then seeded and put down hay.  I don’t think he realized it, but our bird posse has been treating this as dessert, so I really don’t expect any grass to grow.

I think there was another development from his visit, however.  We found the unfortunate remains of what we think is a squirrel outside of our garage; the little thing must have been dead for a while as the skin was already becoming leathered.  (This observation brought by Older Daughter who is the scientific/nature observer of the family.  The Younger Daughter and I just say “eeeeww.”)  Probably was killed by another animal someplace else, then dragged over to the spot and abandoned for a reason.

I think I know better.  I think those crazy raccoons who live in the woods beyond our yard got a good look at the baby backhoe and saw the efficient destruction of the elaborate tunnel system and were not only impressed, but scared.  I think they dug the squirrel out of their reserve pantry and gave him up as a peace offering to ensure nothing that big would come after them, and a sign of respect.  They probably would have kissed my ring had I been there.

Don't hurt us.

Don’t hurt us.

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Chapters

Today I attended a memorial service for my next-door neighbor.  It was very sad as he was only 41 and leaves a wife and two children under the age of five.  Those are the kids I’ve been watching for the past year as the parents rushed to many day-long appointments and emergency surgeries, and they really don’t understand what is happening.

I was struck by today’s service because it was so completely different from anything I’ve ever seen.  I have always attended a wake at a funeral parlor where I signed a guest book, took a small card, said a prayer in front of a coffin, murmured to the grieving family, then took a chair and sat silently for 20-30 minutes where other people sat uncomfortably and murmured to each other.  This service was held outdoors in a lovely alcoved area surrounded by trees and a gentle fountain, with a non-denominational pastor asking us all to empty our minds of hustle and bustle, and focus solely on the moment, as the deceased was surely in this lovely space in spirit.

There was a eulogy by his widow, and a more compassionate and complete picture could not have been painted; there was laughter and tears, and she directed most of her comments to her small children who will see a video of this ceremony when they are older.  It was touching and we were all moved to squeeze the hand of the person we were with.

And then there was a progression of people who had been invited to share their recollection: his mother, father, and sister; his wife’s extensive and exuberant family who each recalled the light he put in their sister’s/daughter’s eyes; friends from University; colleagues from his company; the friend who introduced them.  It struck me how each person was recalling certain chapters of his life and their association with him, and that we were all reading the book that was this young man.  Each chapter had a different perspective based on their knowledge, and all the different chapters together bound a story of a remarkably kind, talented, and determined person who left pages of his goodness and honesty in every person and brought them together to complete the story.

We each lit a candle and placed it in a large tray of sand, as a woman softly sang “In My Life” and “Blackbird” from the Beatles.  Then the pastor reminded us that those who die are simply in the next room; that we should not speak of them in hushed and miserable tones, but in natural and loving voices which ensures their spirit is always among us as long as our hearts remember.

It was perfect.

 

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No, Really, It Totally Is About Me

  • Got a nice little icon on my dashboard this morning wishing me a happy anniversary from WordPress.  I’d rather have the cash.  Or a gift card.  I actually like gift cards better than cash, because you get fun stuff with gift cards and with cash you’re like “yeah, I have cash, I can stop for milk and bread.”  Unless it’s a Visa or American Express gift card.  I hate those because they charge you to spend your own money and how 1984 is that?  Except we’ll have to change that to 2084 and I won’t be around for that, so no biggie.

::looks disapprovingly at Visa and Amex

::looks disapprovingly at Visa and Amex::

 

  • I do not like spicy food, and I don’t get the whole sriracha thing.  Why do people want to burn off their taste buds?  Do they not like the taste of food?  Do they not understand the point of food, which is to taste it?  The point is not to sweat and wipe away tears and wave at your tongue in a desperate bid to cool off the raging inferno that is now your mouth.  Just give me tasty food, please, in mah mouf.

 

right here

right here

 

  • I liked doing craft shows back in the late 90s, because it gave me a thrill when somebody admired my work and actually plunked down cold hard cash (to go towards bread and milk, clearly) to buy my things.  I would calligraphy cute or humorous (or even sarcastic) sayings and put some innocuous artwork with it and either frame it or put it in a magnet or some sort of display item.  I was usually the only such craftsperson at a typical show, but then along came Microsoft Word and they had a calligraphy font on there and people started making signs with clip art for next to nothing and customers are not discriminating so they bought those as well and I discovered it’s not fun to sit at a craft show all day and not sell stuff so I stopped.  Well, that, and I got a day job.  Now that I don’t have a day job people are asking if I’m going to return to doing craft shows.

Just don't even go there.

Just don’t even go there.

 

 

  • I’ve thought about writing about education issues since I have experience, background, and a point of view, but it’s dangerous for my blood pressure to go that high.  I started writing a young adult novel and I based it on my students and while I thought it was a pretty good beginning, I haven’t touched it since November and I have not felt a need to do so.  Of course, it made me think of *that place* that I left and there we have the blood pressure problem again.  Maybe it would be better if I wrote something else.  Hmm, maybe I’ll start a blog!  Oh, wait….

Because you already have a blog, see?  See why it's funny?

Because you already have a blog, see? See why it’s funny?

 

 

  • I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy me some pop culture.  I’m in love with the Doctor, I’m currently binge-watching Once Upon A Time (So bad story. Much pretty face. Very wow.), and I will check out all celebrity gowns on all red carpets.  It doesn’t make me a bad person, much like enjoying an occasional Slurpee (without the brain freeze, thank you very much) so when I see those passive-aggressive blog postings about “well I don’t know anyone who owns a TV anymore, it’s so unhealthy for the children” it makes me want to send them a bag of Fritos and a box of Twinkies and say “get over yourself and watch a little Friends.”

Who could turn up their nose at Kermit?  Get real!

Who could turn up their nose at Kermit? Get real!

 

  • This is about as far as I can go on the “All About Me” stuff because I can’t think of one more thing remotely interesting to say about myself.  So on this one-year anniversary of the blog, I leave you with this image:

 

I'll let you know what happens.

I’ll let you know what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

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Grateful

(Besides the obvious good health, a roof, family, etc.)

 

1.  I do not work in a cubicle farm.  

2.  Mental faculties are still fairly quick, though some short-term memory testing is coming up on the “does not compute” side.  That’s okay.  If it was really important it would have left an impression.  Let’s hope the mortgage payment always stays important, otherwise the aforementioned roof will have to be removed from the list.

3.  Ravelry.  That site is a miracle.  If you knit and you’re not there, get there!  I love the groups I belong to, they keep me more informed than the evening news.

4.  Peanut butter.  I prefer chunky because it’s more entertaining, but I will not turn away the smooth.  However, I am now on a search for one that doesn’t belong to an evil corporation.  (Thank you to a certain charming knitting pastor who told me about the “buycott” app so now I don’t support companies that do evil things like paying twelve cents per hour to disadvantaged folks.  But if I can’t find decent peanut butter, we’re going to have to talk about this.)

5. I live in a small town so I’ve got that close-knit feeling, but it’s in the middle of suburbia so I’ve got all kinds of advantages (hello, fast internet!) which is also in between two major metropolitan areas so a little travel puts me at Independence Hall or Broadway.  Of course, our property taxes are downright ridiculous, but everything has a price.  (Yes, I am full of genius quotations like that.  Like “Every dog has his day.”  Or “Make hay while the sun shines.”  I just don’t ever actually say them out loud.)

6.  I seriously love my iPad.  Connect to the world, read books, play games, keep appointments handy, and communicate with others from the palm of my hand.  Gadget whore, that’s me.

7.  Gin and tonic.  What a fabulous summer cocktail.  Little sweet, little tart, little lime, little tingling in my knees when I’ve had a good one.

8.  Color.  Give me some sharpies or colored pencils and some smooth paper and I’ll be as happy as a pig in mud.  (Oooo, look, another genius quotation!  You’re welcome.)  Lots of times I hesitate to sketch something because I’ll be unhappy with what I did and then I’ve just RUINED the paper and when did I ever think I could draw but those colors are just so beautiful….This is kind of how I buy yarn, too.  Which explains my yarn stash.

9.  Any illness I’ve ever had has been attended to and cleared up with no side effects.  (Well, unless you count two caesareans and their resultant issues and why I’ll never ever be seen in a bathing suit again.  No, really, girls, I love you very much and you were worth it.  Just remember what I gave up for you and get mommy a gin and tonic.)  People who are in chronic pain must be Hercules because if I were in their shoes I think I’d be a sobbing mess who needed commitment papers stat, and I know I’m a big baby afraid of pain because I’m even afraid to vomit.  

10.  A place to babble nonsense and have people tell me they like it or agree with it or decide to start following me (and not in a creepy way) and I’m very grateful for readers and commenters.  It pushes me to someday be that writer I think I’ll be.  Or I’ll just keep writing here, either way is okay with me.  Thanks.

 

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…and you guys are never crabby!

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