Oops, I Ate it Again…

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...
English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I ate my way through another Thanksgiving meal–make that two Thanksgiving meals.  Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy each and every bite.  But, now I’m stuffed, even more than the turkeys I ate for Thanksgiving.  Of course, there were the usual suspects, turkey(both were smoked), dressing/stuffing(a more appropriate term for this particular side), mashed potatoes, gravy and, of course, cranberry sauce.  Then, there were a couple of variations on a green bean theme.  First, we had my mom’s famous green bean casserole.  This recipe’s been around for years, but nobody makes it quite like my mom. This is my son’s personal favorite.  The second variation was more traditional green beans, made even more delectable with crispy bacon and red peppers dancing amid the buttery tender green spears my sister-in-law made.   A relatively new side dish making a dual appearance this year was corn casserole.  My corn casserole evolved from a combination of recipes I found in an old church cookbook.  Everybody knows that church ladies would give even an Iron Chef a run for the money when it comes to good eats.  You just can’t beat church lady food.  So, I took my favorite parts from different corn casserole recipes, and came up with a real winner.  It’s Chipotle Shoepeg Corn Casserole.  Here’s how I did it…

Chipotle Shoepeg Corn Casserole

-3 11 oz. cans shoepeg corn with chipotles,drained

-small can chopped green chilies

-1 8 oz pkg cream cheese

-1 stick unsalted butter

-1/4 cup heavy cream

-pinch California garlic salt(kind that has bits of parsley in it)

-sprinkle of black pepper

-1 cup Velveeta Shreds, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray casserole dish with butter-flavored cooking spray.  Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, using only 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.  Warm just until cream cheese is melted.  Pour corn mixture into casserole dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of Velveeta.   Place in oven, and cook for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool for several minutes before eating.  Enjoy!

Everyone loved my casserole.  During our second Thanksgiving dinner, my sister-in-law fixed her own version of this luscious casserole, using regular whole kernel corn, and shredded cheddar cheese.  It was equally delectable.  Any corn lover will go corn-crazy for this casserole.

In our home, Thanksgiving is a real family affair, with everyone pitching in to do his part–from perfect and spicy deviled eggs, my brother Steve’s special contribution, something I never could quite master–my peeled eggs look hideous, more like a science project gone bad,  to carving the turkey so everyone gets just the right piece, which my  brother Rich does so well.  The monumental task is not so monumental, after all.  And, the end result is a table full of simply delicious and comforting food.

I am truly thankful for the bountiful spread we’re so blessed with on our Thanksgiving table.  But, I’m even more thankful for the loved ones sitting around the Thanksgiving table.  And, that the Thanksgiving feast comes only once a year, which gives me just enough time to take off some of this weight before next Thanksgiving rolls around .


Walmart Woes–Part Two

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...
This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Per the clerk’s suggestion, I showed up at 9 a.m. Monday morning to get links taken out of my watch.  Several minutes later, I spied a nearby clerk, and asked if someone would be available in the next millennia.  The clerk called a manager over.  Admitting they were short-staffed and  he didn’t know how to take the links off, but that he would at least try.  He feverishly looked through a drawer for a tool to accomplish this.    Unable to locate such a tool, he apologized and said that someone would be in shortly who could help me.  Needing to do more shopping, I went on my way, and would circle back to  jewelry department later.

Next thing on my list, two small decorative lamps for my bedroom dresser, which is where I apply my makeup.   I need one lamp on each side,  otherwise I end up looking like the villain “Two-Face” in Batman.  Not exactly the look I’m going for.  I found two nice lamp bases.  Now, all I needed were two red shades to go on top.  After rearranging the entire lighting display shelf, I located the perfect red shade.  Only one.  I still needed another.  So, I found another clerk working in the vicinity.  He scanned the tag on the shade, and said there was one in the warehouse.  I was elated.  My joy was short-lived when, right before the clerks’ eyes, the red shade that appeared on his scanner located in the warehouse, was no longer there,  nabbed by another clerk right under our noses.  Really?!  The clerk offered to look around in order  to locate the errant shade somewhere in this massive store.  “Good luck”, I mumbled.  The clerk finally reappeared with a “Sorry, I couldn’t find it”.  Surprise, surprise.  So, I asked if he could check other nearby Walmart stores to see if they might have the matching red shade.  He advised me to check with customer service, and they could check on that for me.  Two lamp stands, one red shade, watch band dangling from my wrist, I made one last glance over to the jewelry counter, hoping to glimpse any sign of intelligent life.   Not detecting any, I asked another clerk, of course unaffiliated with the jewelry department, if someone would be in that department any time soon.  Politely she wasn’t sure, but would be happy to get a manager for me.  Initially thinking this would be a thirty minute trip, silly girl that I am, I decided I could wait a little longer, deciding that three hours is my absolute limit for resolving these issues.  After all, my time is worth something, right?  A few minutes, yet another manager appears, stating he would make a call and get a clerk there to help me.

Still no competent jewelry clerk in sight, I decided to make the best use of my time, and go to the customer service desk to check on the status of the red shade at other Walmarts.   Fortunately, there were only a couple of people ahead of me in the customer service line till I heard the word, “Next”.  I was pleasantly surprised to see someone I recognized as one of the many managers at this Walmart.  Finally, I would get some actual assistance locating the shade.  I showed her the shade, and asked if she could check inventories of nearby Walmarts since this store only had one.   She quickly made a call, and, with a smile said, “You need to go to the hardware department, and they can check on this for you.”  Isn’t that where I just came from, and didn’t they tell me to go to customer service and they could help me?  Coming up on the three hour mark of my epic shopping experience, I made one last glance at the jewelry department.  Oh rapture and joy, there appeared to actually be a clerk working the counter.  Thinking I’d hit the jackpot, I strode over to the counter.  Unfortunately, a couple of other customers, closer to the department, and also anxious for the mysterious jewelry clerk to emerge, beat me in a foot race to the counter.  I finally garnered the attention of the prodigal jewelry clerk, and, demonstrating the dangling watch band,  explained that I needed some links taken out.  She studied my watch, and said, “four links should do”.   Again, she rummaged through the nearby drawers, looking for the elusive link-removal tool.  Finally, she located it, and Wa-la, the job was accomplished.  Yea!!  And,  it only took two hours and 45 minutes to do it.  Famished, and feeling weak from the unexpected prolonged experience, I decided to go home and eat, figuring I needed nourishment  before tackling the hardware department about the location of a red shade.

To their credit, every clerk and manager I encountered was polite and courteous.  Plus,  I managed to remain calm through this entire ordeal.  No small feat.  Later, I realized this experience presented me with a unique opportunity to exercise my patience, an unexpected benefit.  So, in a funny way, I guess Walmart is helping me to grow  and mature as a person.  So, thank you Walmart.  Now, if only I could find the other red shade, and all will be well.

Walmart Woes–Part One

English: Inside the Walmart (still branded as ...
English: Inside the Walmart (still branded as Wal-Mart) at West Plains, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Walmart.  Love the convenience and bargains–price matching is awesome.  Hate the hassles and long lines.   Here’s why…

After a couple of years, my $10 Walmart watch finally gave out.  Figuring I’d gotten my money’s worth, I made a trip to a nearby store, hoping to find another bargain watch as a replacement.  For a Saturday, the store was surprisingly quiet.  Since I frequented Walmart nearly as often as my own home–I know the floorplan like the back of my hand.  Surveying the choices, I found a watch to my liking, and quickly made my way to the jewelry counter where two women were standing behind the cash register.  One woman appeared to be wrapping up her shift, while chatting with another clerk.  Neither of them even noticed my husband and me standing within a foot of them.  In fact, it seemed they were actively ignoring us,  particularly aggravating, since, as a quality assurance facilitator,  I trained and coached customer service reps at a large call center.  We called it “acknowledging the customer”, especially important when the customer is standing right in front of you.  The one lady finished her shift, left and, after a few minutes of awkward silence, the other clerk, looking like the proverbial “deer in the headlight” finally said, “Can I help you?”  Shopping is not one of my husband’s favorite activities, especially when it does not involve food products, so I was feeling more than a little hurried.  Plus, patience is not one of my finer qualities, and  God often presents me with these types of  situations to exercise it.  So, I took a couple of deep breaths, in order to respond calmly. In front of the obviously inexperienced clerk,  I set the watch I’d chosen down on the counter. Withholding any comment about being previously neglected, I paid for the watch.  Then, I asked if she could take it out of the plastic packaging for me, so I could try it on.  Again, the “deer look”, then she finally figured out how to release the watch from the container.  For the first time I would see the watch out of the package.  Since my hands are slightly arthritic, I needed an expandable band.  On closer inspection, I determined the band was not.

So, unfortunately, it was back to the drawing board to look for a watch with an expandable band.  Now, I needed a refund of my previous purchase, so I could put the new watch on my credit card.   Except the clerk, with that familiar headlight look,  and multiple tries later, finally called for a manager to come over and help her with my transaction.  The manager was able to complete the process, successfully putting the money back onto my credit card so I could purchase the new expandable band watch.

After trying on the watch,  all I needed were a couple of links taken out of the band, since my wrists are one of the few smallish parts on my person, along with my feet.  Surprise, the  clerk  politely informed me that she was incapable of helping me with this, and that I would need to come back during the week, between 9-4, and there would be someone in the jewelry department qualified to help me.   So, watch dangling freely around my wrist, dignity and sanity intact, my husband and I calmly made our way out of the store.  Like the Terminator, “I’ll be back”, ready to take on the next installment in the Walmart saga.

Country-Fied Chick

English: Line dancing at a Country Western Dan...
English: Line dancing at a Country Western Dance Hall and Saloon. Italiano: Esempio di Line dance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watching the CMA’s this past week reminded me of how much I love country music.  Here’s how that love began…

Boring.  Dull.  Dowdy.  Not the most flattering descriptions.  A couple of years ago, that’s who I was.   On a typical Friday night, clad in an oversized robe and sweatpants, trough-sized popcorn in hand,  and mesmerized by some news drama, there I sat alone watching TV in our bedroom.  I was about as sexy as a cafeteria lunch lady.  Meanwhile, my husband, nearly as exciting, would be lying across our definitely inappropriately-named “loveseat”, watching one of his favorite manly shows, like Ice Road Truckers, mindlessly chomping on plastic-wrapped faux meat products he’d purchased at the convenience store on the way home from work.  But something happened which disrupted  our routine.   My husband announced that he’d be working in another state for a few months,  with few visits home.  The first week, nothing much changed, and my normal Friday night routine continued except, I started to miss my husband.  Then, I caught the CMA’s on TV. Those country girls with their perfect makeup, beautiful hair, and gorgeous dresses, were absolutely stunning.  I started thinking, what if instead of lamenting my husband’s absence, I used this time to remake myself, and hopefully reignite the passion in our lackluster marriage.

Shortly after my epiphany, I received an e-mail about continuing ed classes at a nearby community college.  Curious, I perused the offerings, and one in particular peaked my interest.  Country Line Dancing.  Sounded fun, no partner needed, and hopefully I’d benefit from some much-needed exercise.  Please be kind, but the last time I danced, it was to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  Disco helped me get in shape in my twenties.  Perhaps, country line dancing would do the same for me in my fifties, albeit a little slower.  Nervous and excited at the prospects, I signed up for the class.  Before signing up, the only “country” I knew was gastronomically, as in chicken fried steak smothered in black pepper cream gravy.  Delicious on the lips, not so much on the hips.  Once I signed up for country line dancing, I not only ate all things country, I was into all things country, from purchasing a cowboy hat and boots, to listening to country music whenever I got the chance.

Walking into my first country line dance class, expecting more of a Blake Shelton look-a-like,  white hair, sparkling blue bespectacled eyes, and slightly pudgy belly,  my teacher looked more like a beardless version of a department store Santa.  In fact, if he’d had on a red suit I might have jumped on his lap and given him my Christmas Wish list.  However, his wife, also in the class, might have objected.  Still, he had a friendly and warm presence, and once he began dancing, it was apparent that his talents were not limited to gift giving.  This guy knew his stuff.  And, it was actually comforting to see a “regular Joe”, or, Santa, in this case, who could dance.  I figured if he could do it, so could I!

Twenty people showed up to the first class.  Most were menopausal ladies, like me, along with a couple of brave men, one young, the other closer to my age.  The young man, looking about my son’s age, wanted to learn how to dance to impress the young girls at the honky-tonk.  The older gentleman, quite admirably, wanted to impress his wife with his new dance skills on their anniversary.  Lucky girl.  Class was only supposed to last an hour.  But, we were having so much fun,  we went over by thirty minutes.  After a good deal of sweat, from rampant hot flashes and exercise, and tears– of laughter, we completed our first class learning two dances along the way.

What a blast!  I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so invigorated.  From that first class, I was hooked.  Unlike some folks in my class, I didn’t pick up the dance steps so quickly.  So, to prepare for my next class I’d practice–a lot.  My instructor posted dance demonstrations on You Tube.  Of course, the more I practiced the better I got, which gave me more confidence.  And, my jeans, always tight, began to loosen.  Yee Haw!

During the course of my lessons I learned a whole new vocabulary, too.  Wobble and Tush Push held new meanings for me.  For instance, I learned that Wobble was more than what a Weeble toy does,  and Tush Push, unlike when you’re constipated, can actually be a fun activity– both providing great opportunities to shake my booty.

I was having so much fun that the time flew by.  Soon, my prodigal husband would be returning.  Wearing my new tighter fitting jeans, tucked into my tan, fringed cowboy boots,  I welcomed my husband home with my best southern charm.  My husband had left behind Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies, and come home to Elly May.  Okay, maybe not exactly Elly May, I am in my fifties, after all.  But, country line dancing had infused me with passion and excitement, and it showed in both my appearance and behavior.  Noticing the change, my husband was eager to know what had happened to me.  Instead of telling him, I let my feet do my talking, and demonstrated some of my best country moves.  Well, one thing led to another, and let’s just say we ended up enjoying some long overdue southern comfort, if you know what I mean.

When my husband finally unpacked his bags, to my  surprise, he pulled out a fairly new pair of size 14 black and red cowboy boots.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one learning country dancing while he was away.  Turns out, my husband was learning, too!  We’d become such different folks, that my husband said it felt like we were cheatin’.  Oh, that’s another part of my countrification–a made-up word that fits.  When you talk country, you lose the final “g” in words ending in “ing”.  So, lying becomes “lyin'”,  cheating becomes “cheatin'”, you get the idea.  I highly recommend country line dancing.  It’s cheaper than seeing a marriage counselor, and a lot more fun.  And, if you’re lucky, you might just end up doin’ the Cupid Shuffle under the covers with your favorite cowboy.

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