Archive for October, 2011

Mix until it looks right.

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

What do work, church and family reunions all have in common?  Potlucks.  If you take part in any of these, you will, at some point, be asked to cook something.  And if you’re any good at it at all, someone’s going to want your recipe.

I’m no world-class chef, but I like to think that I turn a pretty mean spatula.  Like many of you, I’m often asked for a recipe for this or that.  That’s where it gets complicated.  I am happy to give you my recipe, truly I am.  The problem is that I don’t use recipes.  On the occasions that I do start with a recipe, I inevitably tweak it this way or that way to suit my tastes.  I’m far too lazy to write all that down and I’m forgetful enough to never be 100% sure that I know what I added.  The result of all this is a variety of tasty dishes and really irritating recipes to share with my friends and family.

You will get instructions such as:  Stir it until it looks right.  I think I added a few shakes of garlic powder.  I might have put paprika in.  Somewhere between 1/4 cup and 3 cups of broth.

Now, I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for this.  My mother in law was the champ of these sorts of recipes.  I will never, ever forget the day I called to ask her how to make biscuits.  She told me to add some of this and some of that and I would be fine.  Biscuit fail.  It took me quite some time to work through that cryptic recipe.  But since a vast majority of my cooking skills were derived from trying to duplicate her recipes for my husband, I adapted.  And the world gained another “until it looks right” cook.

So I will give you my recipe, but odds are that whatever I tell you won’t be exactly what I did.  It’s not on purpose.  I’m not trying to sabotage you and I’m not selfishly hoarding recipes.  (Oh yes, I’ve been accused!)  That’s just the best I can give you.  For my part, I think there’s merit to playing fast and loose in the kitchen.  You like onions?  Then, by God, add onions!  Don’t like basil?  Leave it out!  Recipes aren’t laws and the best cooks worry more about what tastes good than what they read in a magazine.  You might have a few bad results, but that’s what frozen pizza is made for – emergency rations.  The more you play around with things, the more you will learn about flavor combinations that appeal to you.  You’ll also learn nifty little tricks like using cream cheese for a quick and easy creamed spinach.  (How much?  I have no idea!  Add it til it looks right!)

There’s a lot to be said for cooking with gleeful slapdashery.  It’s not always restaurant quality, but it’s fun and it’s a whole heck of a lot more interesting than eating what someone else thinks you like all the time.  My husband and I discovered a recipe for a delicious mushroom rice soup over 16 years ago.  We make it a couple of times a year and what we make now bears only the vaguest resemblance to the recipe.  Partly because we lost the recipe years ago, but also because now we make it exactly how we like it.

So, by all means, take my ideas and run with them.  Just be prepared to receive a confused look instead of a recipe.  Just add stuff until it looks right and tastes good.

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Creating a monster

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I am a huge football fan.  I bleed green & gold.  I put on my jersey every Sunday morning, I search for nail polish to match my team colors and I am in the early planning stages for my Green Bay tattoo.  I’ve probably been a fan my whole life, right?  Nope.

Growing up with no brothers and a father who wasn’t interested in sports, I never cared about any sports.  I was in the marching band in high school, so I went to all the football games, but I certainly didn’t watch any of them.  I was just there for halftime and the stunningly delicious nachos from the snack bar.

Then I married a football fan.  In the early years, he caught the occasional game on Sundays and I suffered through the Super Bowl every year.  It bored me, I didn’t know the rules, I had no idea what was going on and I really didn’t care.  I was the wife who thought up creative chores for Sunday afternoons (hey, let’s replace all the curtains, then scrub the floors with a toothbrush!)  Oh, the shame.

Cue Super Bowl XXXI.  My husband and I had quiet plans, just he and I, watching the game.  I decided to give it a shot.  He was rooting for the Patriots, so in the interest of friendly competition, I decided to pull for the Packers.  What a game that was!  I know I had to be the most annoying person ever, interrupting every play with questions.  Why did he do that?  What does that mean?  And of course, the concept of football that took me a really remarkable amount of time to grasp… What the hell are downs and how do they work?!

Bless him, he answered all my questions with patience and clarity, even when I asked the same thing over and over (fourth down?  what does that mean?).  Of course, there was a lot at stake for him, too.  He tells me stories now of talking football at work with guys who missed most of the game because their wives needed them to do something else (curtains, anyone?).  So now, not only do I get to watch football all Sunday, Monday night and sometimes Thursday, but I also get to be the cool football wife to my hubby’s coworkers.  (It’s not much, but I take it where I can get it).

Many years of casual fan-dom led to our inevitable NFL Sunday Ticket auto-renewal every year.  Sunday is not just Sunday during football season.  Sunday is football day and we will watch football and talk football and eat football food.  If your chores are not done on Saturday, they are not getting done, my friend.  Sunday mornings mean coffee and fantasy strategy.  Our family discusses player issues during dinner, we smack talk at all times, and just last season, I was torn between my love of my team and my motherly duties as the Green Bay Packers brought the Super Bowl smack down on my son’s beloved Steelers. (I did manage to be graceful.  Motherhood won the ugly battle in my head.)

Husbands, wives, mothers and fathers… it is possible to create a football fan, so get to work.  Get that game on and be ready to explain the rules.  Over and over again.  My daughter is guaranteed to ask at least once a week for clarification on downs.  It’s genetic.  (But seriously, why don’t they just call them “tries”?)  Be careful what you wish for, though, because you may create a football monster.  Apparently, the biggest challenge is getting your new fan to pull for the correct team.  My family is too contrary for such things, so we fight over which game to watch and I say a silent football prayer that at least one of my children will see the green & gold light. 

While we may be on opposite sides of the ball, at least we’re all watching.  Is football insignificant in the face of the tough times in the real world?  C’mon man.  Everyone needs something to cheer for.

Boo. I’m a ghost.

October 15, 2011 2 comments

I am certain that I’m haunted.  Not my house, but me, or possibly my husband.  In the spirit of the Halloween season, I want to share some of my ghost stories.  It’s nothing dramatic or scary like you’ll see on TV, but spooky, nonetheless.

It all started about 15 years ago, with innocent phone calls.  You know the ones, the phone rings, no one’s there.  We all get those calls, but we got them A LOT.  This was in the days before caller ID, so naturally, we didn’t know who was calling until we actually answered the phone (scary enough in itself, I know).  For a very long time, we got the calls.  At the time we didn’t think much of it, other than the annoyance factor.  Until we moved, and the phone calls came with us.  Once we continued to get the high volume of strange calls at a new number, I got suspicious about it.  But still, nothing terribly spooky there.  One day, they just stopped and we carried on with life and mostly forgot about it.

Driving home from work one night, I noticed a green car a little way behind me.  No big deal, we were on the highway, after all.  No big deal, until it disappeared.  I’m not kidding you.  There had been no exits, no turn-offs.  It was just gone.  Weird, indeed, but surely there was an explanation.

Not long after the car incident, I was home alone, doing some housework.  As I walked past the stove, I saw one of the burners burning red-hot.  Since I hadn’t been cooking, I immediately set down the laundry in my arms and turned to the stove to turn it off.  You guessed it.  It wasn’t on.  It wasn’t even hot.  That was  about the time I started getting spooked.  At the time, we were expecting our first child and I was certain that something supernatural was trying to tell me something.  (Chalk it up to hormones if you like.  But as I type this, it occurs to me that the child I was carrying then now has a great passion for cooking.  Hm…)

Fast forward a couple of years to a night when we had my sister’s family over to the house for dinner and cards.  We enjoyed dinner, then set out a pan of Rice Krispy treats for dessert (don’t make that face, you know you like them).  After we served dessert, we left the knife in the pan and went into the next room.  Just an ordinary night at home.  Until we heard a noise in the kitchen and investigated.  The Rice Krispy knife was on the floor in the middle of the kitchen.  Somehow, it had been thrown out of the pan.  Once again, no logical explanation.

Fast forward again to our current home.  I don’t mean to imply that nothing at all happened in the years between, but, honestly, I just can’t remember all of it.  Most of the happenings are so insignificant that, taken alone, you just shrug and carry on.  It’s only when you put it all together that you have to wonder, “Just what is going on here?”

The last couple of years have been getting more interesting and more tangible.  Before we bought our house, we brought our kids here to get their “approval.”  Their favorite part of the house is that the upstairs is theirs alone, with two bedrooms and a bath.  They loved the idea of it!  So we moved in, excited and happy.  However, not long after we moved in, both kids informed me that there’s a ghost upstairs and they both refuse to be up there alone.  I didn’t think much of it.  They were around the ages of 8 and 10 with vivid imaginations and they were in a new house with new sounds.  They traveled upstairs in pairs and everything was peachy. 

One day I was home alone and went upstairs to my daughter’s room to put away laundry.  (It’s funny to me now that I was doing that for her…it may have been the last time I ever put away laundry upstairs)  I was standing at the closet with one of my cats sitting at my feet.  Suddenly I heard a loud burst of static-y noise from a far corner behind my back.  (It wasn’t exactly static, but I don’t know how else to describe it.)  I whipped around, saw nothing but my child’s bed and stuffed animals.  My cat bristled, then tore out of the room like his tail was on fire.  Friends, that’s all it took for me.  I was right behind him, shaking all the way. 

Okay, so maybe there is something weird going on upstairs.  It scared the bejesus out of me, but surely there was an explanation.  I didn’t tell anyone about that for a long time and to this day, the child in question has no knowledge of it.  I’d be a fool to tell her that happened in her room.

Another morning, I was upstairs to wake the kids for school; always a fun activity.  I had carried my MP3 player and speakers up to try to wake them with music.  I set it down at the top of the bannister.  While I was trying to wake them, the music stopped.  I went to the landing and found the speakers where I had left them, but with the cord dangling beside my son’s door and MP3 missing.  I assumed that one of the cats had knocked it off, so I started looking around his room for the MP3 player.  With the way the cord was hanging, it would have had to have fallen into his room.  Well, that’s clearly not true, because I found it at the bottom of the stairs.  It would seem to defy the laws of physics, but that was another one that I ignored.  I have a special MP3 player that can leap OVER the bannister to fall down the stairs.  Yay me.

Now, because of our ghostly second floor (and heavily influenced by the fact that our kids aren’t allowed to have TVs in their rooms), the kids often beg to sleep in the TV room downstairs on the weekends.  We let them do it as a treat.  Once, as they were sleeping downstairs, my daughter woke in the middle of the night for a bathroom run.  She went back into the room, lay down and soon after heard a knock at the door.  As she described it to me, it was a human level knock, definitely not a cat, and every other human in the house was sound asleep.  But she could have dreamed that, right?

All this brings us to our one piece of tangible evidence that I can’t explain away and my husband steadfastly refuses to discuss.  A few weeks ago, letters appeared on the ceiling of the aforementioned TV room.  Viewed one way, they read “RM.”  Another way, it could conceivably read “W8.”  I don’t enjoy the implications of a the ghostly etching of the word “wait,” so I choose RM.

Where does all this bring us?  Well, it would seem that I’m haunted, friends, but I am fortunate enough to be haunted by a friendly ghost who just wants to be acknowledged every now and then.  I could probably explain every bit of this away with some logical explanation, but why go to all that trouble?  Most of us believe in an afterlife, so is it really such a stretch to believe that there are spirits among us?  Besides which, it makes life more interesting.  

So we go on with our regular, ordinary lives.  I’m sure the cats go nuts at night just because they like to play.  I’m sure that all the things I think I see in my peripheral vision are nothing.  I’m sure someone secretly paid tribute to Rickey Martin or Rashard Mendenhall on our ceiling.  I’m sure there’s really nothing to it.

After all, who you gonna call?

Those old homophone blues

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

In this age of social media, text messaging and email, one thing has become perfectly obvious.  People do not grasp homophones.

 They’re, there and their are the clear winners (losers?) with your and you’re running a close second.  Two keeps its own identity pretty well, but to and too are twins wearing matching outfits.  Today I saw a classic – patients and patience.  People are becoming creative monsters in their errors and spell check cannot save you!  I applaud the creativity, but I’d much rather see it put to use in your email subject line rather that sending a hundred emails titled “Question” or “Problem.”  Ah, but I digress…

These are not hard things, guys.  We all went to third grade.  We all learned them together; now let’s use them correctly together!  I know, I know, they’re hard to remember.  I myself have difficulty with those slippery little devils, affect and effect.  (If you, too, suffer from this plight, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Problem solved, huzzah!)  Point being, it seems to have become acceptable to get these wrong.  IT IS NOT!  Every time you type “Your great,” a member of the Grammar Police dies.  Surely you don’t want that on your conscience.

I know I’m not alone when I cringe and shudder at these mistakes.  I never know if I should let it slide, or correct the person.  I truly am not out to make anyone feel stupid, but am I being a friend by allowing you to carry on like this?  Because, I promise you, for every email you send asking for “patients,” there’s someone like me on the other end, giggling.  So would you like me to kindly point out the correct word, or would you rather I suffer in silence?  I promise I won’t be (very) obnoxious about it.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Sure, I know about homophones, but I can never remember which one to use.  What does this woman want me to do?”  Aha!  I’m glad you asked.  I have the solution.  This afternoon I discovered a delightful resource that will end your homophone heartbreak now and forever.

There you go.  Your welcome.

*note – please excuse my not using quotes for each and every word I referenced, it was making my eyes hurt.

**also note, my use of “your welcome” is ironic, and irony never killed the grammar police.  It did kill a little piece of my soul to type it, though.

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May I offer you some cheese?

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I hate a whiner.  I mean, I am nearly physically allergic to whining.  I taught my children from a young age that once you start whining, I stop listening.  (That doesn’t stop them, but at least they understand why I walk away when the whining starts.)

But kids aside, because they will whine, no matter what you do.  I don’t think they can help it; it’s hard wired into them alongside the gene that makes brushing their teeth or cleaning their room seem worse than pouring hot lava on themselves.  So, the kids get a pass this time.  What I cannot tolerate are the whining adults.

Adults are much more creative and subtle about it.  Rarely do you hear an adult turn the word “please” into five syllables.  Instead you get excuses and complaints and long-suffering sighs.  It’s still whining, and it’s time just stop it!

We all have problems.  We all have things that make life difficult and cause us pain.  Is your problem harder and more painful than mine?  Well, that’s not for either of us to judge, is it?  The only important thing is that we understand that we’re all overcoming something.  The only differences are how big our challenges are and how we choose to face them.

I propose that we all come together as mature people and stop behaving like children.  It’s perfectly fine and appropriate to acknowledge your issue, make the people around you aware of a challenge you face, and then carry on.  If it’s in your power to change it, then change it.  If it’s not, then put on your brave face and muscle through.

I get slammed sometimes for being cold-hearted.  Not true.  I do have a heart and sometimes it breaks for people, but I can’t make allowances for everyone’s problems all of the time.  I don’t expect the world to cut me a break when I have a problem, so why should you?  Life sucks sometimes, but it never slows down.  We just have to suck it up and keep on going.

I’ll acknowledge it now on behalf of everyone.  We’re all hurting from something.  That one’s husband is sick, this one isn’t sure if she can pay her bills.  That guy there is worried about his kid’s math grade.  You get the idea.

No one gets a prize for the most suffering.  Overcoming adversity is what we’re made to do and in most cases, we do it well.  Let’s man up, people.  Let’s take pride in our accomplishments and stop wallowing in the things that try to derail us.

Life is hard, but it can’t break us unless we let it.  And we’re better than that, aren’t we?

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The thrill is gone

October 9, 2011 1 comment

Next Friday is my sixteenth wedding anniversary.  If you include the two years of dating, it will mark eighteen years together.  Half our lives, we’ve spent together.

That’s a LONG time, my friends.  Sometimes I hear of friends embarking on a brand new relationship, with all the spark and excitement and I can barely even remember what it’s like.  It’s been a long time since we had any newness in our relationship.  After this long, there aren’t really any surprises left.  I may as well be psychic when it comes to my husband.  I can tell you at any given time what he’s thinking and what he’s going to do.

Sound grim?

Surprisingly, it’s not.  Especially not for a girl like me who rates spontaneity and surprises right up there with dentist appointments.  I’m a planner and I like to know what’s next.  So maybe I’m just perfectly made for a long and comfortable relationship.  But overall, it gets a bad rap.  Don’t misunderstand, there is nothing like a brand new relationship with all the “magic” involved.  But who really wants that forever?

Sure, we had that in the early years.  But now our “magic” has evolved into something infinitely better.  Comfort and content.  Doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s what being “home” is all about.  It’s not boring, we just have a different kind of excitement.  When I say, “hey you know what I just thought of?”, the answer is usually, yes, he actually DOES know what I just thought of.  We’ve become two halves of a whole.  The years have intertwined us in a way that eludes explanation.  While it may not make my heart skip a beat, it never fails to make me smile.

Flowers are nice, but I’m far happier knowing that I can say anything that pops into my head at any time and not have it held against me.  (Unless it’s really, really stupid, in which case, I have earned ridicule.)  I’m happier knowing that he’ll tell me if I look fat, not to be mean, but to keep me from going out in the world in those pants.  I’m happier knowing that I can cry and yell and be unreasonable sometimes and he will still love me more tomorrow than he did today.  He’s got my back, and I’ve got his.  Isn’t that where the real magic is?

So, yes, the spark dies out because it has to.  If you’re lucky, though, it will be replaced with a far more intense flame that will bring you warmth and comfort for as long as you tend to it.  You can make your magic be whatever you want it to be.  I want mine to be laughter and honesty and I wouldn’t trade it for a million first kisses.  Isn’t it more exciting to know you’re with someone who will try to make you happy every day you’re on this earth?  Bonus points if he knows how to cook your favorite meal and remembers when it’s trash day.

The spark and the magic?  It’s all an illusion.  The thrill is in finding what’s there after all the smoke clears.

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Occupy, schmoccupy

October 8, 2011 1 comment

So, about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I don’t get it.

Oh, I understand the part about the need for tax reform, the serious problem of corporate greed and corruption and the fact that it feels like our government is screwing with all of us.  But, guys, this is not new.  What I don’t get is… what do you WANT?

I did some reading on it, since I feel absolutely certain that I’m missing something.  I stumbled onto a website on which there were a collection of stories from the “99%.”  People seem to be REALLY pissed off because they’re living paycheck to paycheck.  They went into debt to get an education and now have a low paying job.  They’re struggling with medical expenses.  I saw one gem in which a fellow with debilitating OCD cannot take time off work for treatment because if he doesn’t work, he can’t pay his mortgage.  Please tell me – in what utopian fantasy world can people stop working and still pay their mortgages?  Because I’ll move there tomorrow.

Really??  I mean, really?  This is where we are?  Are we so incredibly entitled and devoid of personal responsibility that we’re going to protest…what?  What exactly are you protesting?  A number of complicated and diverse circumstances that, over a period of time, has plunged our economy into a recession?  The corruption in corporations and government that has ALWAYS existed?

I have two things to say about this and you’ve all heard it before.  It is what it is and life’s not fair.

Are government and big business corrupt and greedy?  Sure, some of it is.  Maybe a lot of it is.  Quite frankly once we get into economics, my eyes start to glaze over a little.  But I do know that this entire debacle looks to me like that kid in the grocery store throwing a full-blown tantrum because Mom won’t buy him a candy bar.  If you want to make a difference, do something useful.  At the very least, have the ability to intelligently articulate your demands.  You don’t like what has happened to America?  Neither do I.   If you know how to fix it, please run for office.  I’ll vote for you.  If not, maybe you need to ask yourself just what you’re hoping to accomplish here.  Because it seems like you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

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