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 .

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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.

Scary Good Times–Memories of Halloween

"MOSAIC" of Harborland in Kobe, Hyog...
“MOSAIC” of Harborland in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smiling Jack-O-Lanterns, pumpkin-scented candles glowing, pumpkin spice coffee creamer in my pumpkin spice coffee,  and candy–lots and lots of candy.  Boo!  It’s Halloween.  What’s not to love.  I don’t know about you, but my memories of Halloween are both scary and sweet.  Here are some of my favorite Halloween memories.

Today, the haunted houses scream horror movie set, with one located on nearly every block.  Back in the old days, there was only one truly haunted house in our area,  known as “Scream in the Dark”.  Renowned for being extremely intense, my brothers and I waited in line for hours just to say we survived this horrific experience.  Set in a truly eerie, condemned, old mansion,  “Scream in the Dark” sat on a huge lot of land, off one of the main streets in our city.  Actually, the scariest aspects of “Scream in the Dark” were the “Headless Horsemen” that roamed the property, and exorbitant admission fees they charged.

Another of my favorite Halloween memories featured our dog, Machen, and a neighbor/friend of the family.  First, you need to understand that Machen was a registered German Shepard, trained as a guard dog.   Machen’s previous owners, were moving and needed someone to take her.  When my mom, a true dog lover laid eyes on this majestic dog, it was love at first sight.  Apparently, the feeling was mutual.  So, without giving a thought to the consequences of having a guard dog as a family pet, Machen became our pet.  One Halloween, Mr.  Dailey, neighbor and family friend(at least prior to this incident)dropped by our house, unexpectantly, to show us his Halloween costume–a black and white striped prison convict’s outfit.   As soon as the door opened, Machen caught sight of the “convict”.  In a flash she was off, charging toward the door to protect her family from this “dangerous” intruder.  Fortunately, Mr. Dailey, fairly spry on his feet, bolted out of our house,  and reached the front door just seconds before our dog caught up to him, his life flashing before his eyes.  Though traumatized, Mr. Dailey remained our friend–but made sure to call our house before any personal visits to verify our dog was secure, and he would be safe.

Costumes, a hallmark of Halloween, bring up fond memories, too.  My mom, a working mom, came up with some truly creative and inventive costumes for us to wear.   What she lacked in time, she made up for in originality.  Draping and wrapping oriental fabric around me like a kimono,  face powdered , perfectly applied make-up, hair styled,  and, instantly I transformed into a Geisha–a real china doll.  Too cute.  Then, there was the year mom, seeing how important it was to me, agreed to make a homemade  Lil’ Bo Peep outfit for me to wear to the school carnival.  It was made of a beautiful shiny blue and gold brocade-like material, lace on the hem, neckline and sleeves, and, instead of a bonnet, Mom made a sweet matching cap out of the same material.  I wore my costume proudly through the halls of my school carnival, and later on as Meg in the play Little Women.  Recently, I ran across a photo of me dressed up in another of my mom’s creations.  About eight years old, wearing an elegant turquoise dress, with a slim black-belt,  fashionable straw hat, tiny stocking feet perilously perched on oversized high heels, face perfectly painted, wearing elbow-length white gloves,  standing next to my parent’s car, I was a genuine Glamor Girl.  Stunning.

Not only was it fun to dress up in costumes, there was another reason I looked forward to Halloween–the annual Halloween Carnival at my grade school.  It was awesome.  I’m not sure who designed it, but there was an amazing haunted house  set up in the school’s art department, where the fantastic props were no doubt created.  I distinctly remember bodiless, bloody heads sitting on tables draped in white, no doubt covering the bodies underneath the tables that were, in fact, thankfully attached to the bloody heads on top.  These “bloody heads” freaked me out because they would talk to you as you walked by.  Really creepy.  I also remember a slithering, live snake at one of the spooky stations in the haunted house.  That’s all it took, and I was out of the room in a flash, screaming all the way.

In addition to the scary stuff, the Halloween Carnival featured fun games for families to play, like Go Fish.  My favorite game was called Cake Walk.  Similar to Musical Chairs, players walked around a circle located on the floor covered in numbers, while music played.  As soon as the music stopped, you stopped, and located the number nearest to you.  A number was drawn out of a hat, and the person standing on the corresponding number was the winner.  The prize was, as you may have surmised, a cake.  Not a slice, but a whole freakin’ cake.  The winner would walk over to a table brimming with all sorts of cakes, some homemade, some store-bought, and choose their favorite cake.  The earlier in the evening you won in the Cake Walk, the better the cake/prize.  I looked forward to this game every year.  In fact, one year, not only did I win a cake, but my brothers also won cakes.  That makes three cakes–one a piece!  Another delightful game I absolutely adored was the Doll Walk.  Exactly like the Cake Walk, only the prize was your choice of dolls.  Some of these dolls were very nice, indeed.  Plus one year, my brother, Rich, in a rare act of humility and kindness, actually won a round of the Doll Walk and picked out a beautiful blond doll in a lovely red dress, and presented her to me.  Shades of the generous man he would ultimately become.

As for the sweet, you can’t talk about Halloween without mentioning Trick or Treating, and, of course, candy.  Another year, my mom, the consummate costumer, worked her magic yet again, dressing us in some of dad’s old torn shirts, floppy felt hats, and charcoaled cheeks.  Suddenly, we were three, albeit, cute hobos.   Eager to head out the door, mom taught us a song, “just in case someone asks you for a trick before they give you a treat”.  Now, as experienced Trick or Treaters,  we had never encountered anyone ever calling us on our offer of Trick–ever.  So, as usual,  mom, was “over” preparing us for something unlikely to happen.  Smart kids, we wisely patronized our mom, and learned the Trick, consisting of learning the song, “Side-By-Side”.  I still remember the words.

Though we ain’t got a barrel of money,

Maybe we’re ragged and funny.

But we travel along,

Singin’ a song,

Side-by-side.

After enduring mom’s music lesson, we were off.  Typically, we ran down to the end of our block, working our way back toward our house, stopping only briefly for updates and the latest reconnaissance from neighbor kids who’d already surveyed the sugar situation. Homes with Snickers–good.  Unidentifiable taffy–bad.  Nearly home, we stopped at a house located across the street from ours.  A lovely, little ol’ lady answered our knock.  Opening the door, and spying three little hobos, simultaneously we cried, “Trick or Treat”.   Opening our bags wide with anticipation, we fully expected the automatic dumping of treats into them.  However, with a rather sheepish grin, the dear lady muttered, “Trick first, then Treat”.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding–in all our years of Trick-or-Treating, no one had ever dared ask us for a trick.  Until now.  How did my mom know?  After the initial shock of her request, and the horrible realization that we’d have to perform in order to be rewarded treats, I started to sing, “Side-By-Side”.  Dumbstruck, my brothers mouths were wide open, but nothing was coming out.  So, instead of singing “Side-By-Side” as a trio, I was singing solo.  In retrospect, the song I should have sung was “All By Myself”.   Such is the plight of being the older sister.  As my solo rendition concluded, our neighbor lady finally rewarded us with many treats.  Proving once again, that mom is always right.

Today, we still celebrate Halloween, though a little differently than when I was a young girl.  One of my family’s favorite traditions is watching Disney’s version of “Sleepy Hollow”.  You just can’t beat Bing Crosby narrating and singing his way through Washington Irving’s Tale of Ichabod Crane.   We’ll also be enjoying fifty cent corn dogs from Sonic, along with a free Halloween-themed donut from Krispy Kreme.  I also keep a large bag of candy ready, just in case there are any Trick-or-Treaters.  And, if you happen to find yourself in my neighborhood on Halloween, beware.  Don’t say “Trick-or-Treat” unless you really mean it.   Now, go scare up some Halloween memories of your own!

Doggone Funny

Kalaöljy kapseleita Fish oil capsules
Kalaöljy kapseleita Fish oil capsules (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joyce Meyer recently told a story about something that happened with her little dog.  In the morning, Joyce’s normal routine was to let her dog out to do its business, rewarding them with a treat afterwards.  However, on this particular day, when her doggie came back inside, instead of giving the dog a treat, Joyce popped the tasty morsel into her own mouth.  Which, reminds me of something that happened in our household recently.  I must preface this with a little background information about my husband, Steve.  First of all, I love my husband, warts and all.  Goodness knows I’ve got my share of warts.  But, some of his habits are, how can I put this, less than “tasteful”.  Early in our relationship, I invited my husband to lunch with my parents, whom he’d never met.  Already smitten, I was hoping he’d make a good impression.  We were having a delightful lunch, and right in the middle, Steve stabbed his fork into my last bite of meatloaf, “You don’t want that, do you?”  Stunned, “I guess not” was all the response I could manage.  My dad, known more for his quick wit than civility, said, “You picked a good one here”.  Even though my husband failed the school of social graces, I married him anyway.  Some battles are worth fighting–this wasn’t one of them.  Well, one of his habits came back to “bite him”, so to speak.

My son, Zach, a college student,  usually feeds Rosy, our dog, her dinner.  But, school has been requiring so much of his time, that I decided to give him a break and feed Rosy myself.  The problem was that I was also simultaneously fixing our dinner.  While preparing dinner, I normally set the spoon that I’m stirring the food with onto a paper plate.  Multitasking as always, I set about fixing Rosy’s meal, which consists of dog food crunchies, fish oil, arthritis pill, and no salt French green beans, which I mash up with a fork, and stir into the rest of her concoction in her dog bowl.  Without thinking, I set the fork down on the same paper plate that I had set the stirring spoon for our meal. I stepped away to fold a little laundry.  As usual, my husband made his way into the kitchen, and lickety split, pun intended, licked the contents off the fork.  “What are you cooking? It tastes sort of like fish, but not any fish I’ve ever eaten before.”   Right then,  I realized what had happened, and died laughing, totally at my husband’s expense.  I wanted to tell him what he’d actually eaten was from Rosy’s meal, but couldn’t stop laughing.  Finally, composing myself, I revealed the truth about what my husband had unknowingly just ingested.  Grunting, “That’s gross”, he made his out of the kitchen.  You know what, I think I’ve figured out how to break some of my husband’s bad habits.  He hasn’t licked a random fork in a long time.

Maybe You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

A Border Collie descending an A-frame at an ag...
A Border Collie descending an A-frame at an agility competition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a proud moment this was for me.  I was attending my first graduation ceremony as a parent.  Like any other doting mom, I made sure that I had a good camera so I could take lots of pictures during this momentous occasion.  Of course, my graduate had to have clean teeth and brushed hair.  She looked absolutely radiant, the blue mortarboard delicately perched on her dark, wavy locks.  This was not just my triumphant moment–it was Rosy’s.

I eagerly snapped the proud graduate’s pictures, capturing the brightness and intelligence shining from her eyes.  Surprisingly patient through the first couple of pictures, Rosy, the graduate soon grew tired of the headpiece, and shook it off her head, throwing it onto the floor.  Most parents would have been mortified by this brattish behavior, but I laughed hysterically, as did the other parents attending the ceremony.  Thankfully, this was not the behavior of a defiant teenager.  No, this was the response of a confused, middle-aged dog during her graduation ceremony from Beginner Obedience Class.

It all began when my teenage son decided he wanted to get Rosy into Agility, after watching too many dog shows on Animal Planet.  After all, most agility champions are border collies, and Rosy was part border collie (we think).  She’s a rescue dog, so there’s no way to know for sure.  But, she’s got the distinctive black and white markings of a border collie, so, we figure she’s at least got a little bit somewhere.  The other part, is up for grabs (based on some of her habits, I’m guessing junkyard dog’s not too far off the mark).  Anyway, based on her possible border collie heritage, she had potential in agility.  Potential is the key word.  So far, her potential had only been explored as to how much food she could consume.  She demonstrated great ability in eating anything and everything that didn’t eat her first.  This “skill” netted her about ten extra pounds than the charts indicated healthy for her frame.

Despite her weight issues, Rosy did have other qualities that showed promise.  She chased squirrels and possums scurrying along our back fence with amazing speed.  Plus, in spite of some of her rather disgusting habits(remember the previously mentioned junkyard lineage), Rosy was quite alert and certainly intelligent.  Yes, the potential for a great agility dog was there.  The problem.  Rosy was six years old when my son decided to train her.  That’s forty-two years to you and me.

My son was persistent in his pleas, and we located a good school that was close to our home.  Proximity was important because Rosy was a very anxious traveler.  This was understandable since her only car trips resulted in multiple pricks and prods, humiliating explorations of every conceivable orifice (at the vet’s office) and the drenching, soaking, and clipping noise contraptions blowing hot air (at the pet groomer’s).  If those unpleasant events had greeted me after every road trip, I might need heavy sedation during car trips, as well.

We finally got Rosy enrolled in Beginner Obedience Training (the first step in the long journey toward agility).  And, we would soon find out if it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks.  Our first class, the teacher recommended a pronged-collar for Rosy, since even my rather large husband could barely control her during walks.  We were assured that this collar did not actually hurt Rosy, but rather gets her attention for training purposes.  So, Rosy was fitted for a pronged-collar (which did, in fact, get her attention almost immediately).  We were also told to bring plenty of treats for her training.

The first class was awful.  Since my son was not yet eighteen, I had to stay outside the perimeter of the training ring, for insurance purposes.  Rosy and I go way back.  My son was only ten years old when we got Rosy, so I was the one who “raised” her.  I fed her, potty-trained her, and we ended up being roommates, even sharing a bed.  So, our bond goes way back and runs deep.  My son’s desire to train Rosy, however sincere, was only recent.  Prior to this training experience, Rosy had seen him as more of a playmate.  So, the transition from playmates to teacher and student was going to be tough, if not impossible, on everyone.

So, this first class was a bust.  Rosy whined and paced the whole class period, and kept looking over to me every five seconds, in hopes of a rescue, that was never coming.  And, I must admit, it was hard sitting idly, trying to remain nonchalant while my “baby” was being jerked around and chastised.  But, I began to notice something rather remarkable.  It was working.  Rosy was beginning to respond to my son’s commands.  The teacher brought in her dogs, who were extremely impressive and well-trained, of course.  Watching her work so well with her dogs, gave us hope and a vision that perhaps with persistence, hard work, and a little luck, our dog, too, could be one of those dogs receiving admiring glances from other envious dog owners.

But first, some of the dynamics in our home involving Rosy’s care would have to change in order for success to be possible.  First, my son would have to be Rosy’s primary caregiver.  He would need to start feeding Rosy.  Wow!  This would indeed be a monumental change in our normal routine.  I had not only been feeding her, but I even made Rosy homemade food.  This would be the second change.  My food, along with the indiscriminate tidbits of food which “happened” to drop from my husband’s plate, would, of course, have to stop.  The teacher mentioned Rosy’s girth (See my earlier post, Leftovers: Chicken Ala Compost Heap) confirmed by a subsequent vet visit.  Rosy was definitely overweight.

So, Rosy and my son began working together almost every day.  I’d try peeking out the patio curtain, so as not to distract the “master” at work.  I was amazed.  My son was giving Rosy commands, and she was following them.  It was a beautiful thing to witness their teamwork.  Both of them focused on the same goal–working together.  Before long, my son would take Rosy for walks around the neighborhood.  A truly amazing feat in itself, since prior to obedience training, Rosy was affectionately referred to by some of our neighbors as “Taz”, short for Tasmanian Devil–completely appropriate given her behavior prior to training.

Now, however, my son and Rosy are poetry in motion.  Rosy, walking perfectly aligned by my son’s side.  Stopping when he stops.  Waiting until the moment he admonishes her with a quick “let’s go” and their off again, on their astonishingly peaceful sojourn around the block.  What a triumph for both of them.  That my son can actually walk Rosy around our neighborhood without fear of Rosy going AWOL or being charged with disturbing the peace.

Yes, this was indeed progress.  My son proudly reported that they had strolled calmly past a busy garage sale and an unsuspecting patron had remarked what a lovely dog Rosy was.  It made my son proud, and it made me proud when he told me the story.  Proud of both of them–my teenage son who had gladly, and somewhat naively, taken on the responsibility of training our middle-aged, heretofore, stubborn female border collie mix dog in hopes of some day competing in agility.

Which brings me back to the graduation ceremony.  When my son accepted the Certificate for Beginner Obedience Training, it was a very proud moment for all of us, especially for Rosy.  This experience taught my son to be more responsible, our dog more adaptable, and me to believe in miracles.  It’s been awhile since Rosy’s training.  Since then, my son’s gone on to college, and I tend to be the one caring for “my girl” these days.  Because of my son’s hard work during training, though, I’m able to walk Rosy around the neighborhood.  Eleven years old, Rosy has yet to appear on Animal Planet, though, we did see a dog show recently, and one of the stars was a twelve year old dog, so, who knows.  But, even if she never competes, Rosy and my son are already winners in my book.  Apparently and amazingly, you can teach a young man responsibility, and maybe even teach an old dog new tricks.

Trial by Fire

Awww, I hate these hot flashes!!!
Awww, I hate these hot flashes!!! (Photo credit: jinterwas)

At 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, clay turns into fine china, carbon dioxide turns into diamonds, and, give or take a few degrees,  middle-aged women, like me, turn into human microwaves, just shy of spontaneous combustion.  Welcome to the wonderfully warm world of hot flashes, ladies!

Even before menopause,  I was entrenched in an offensive known in our home as the “Great Thermostat Battle”.  Always chilly, I would sneak stealthily down the hall and,  with a magician’s slight-of-hand, turn the thermostat up to a more balmy level.   Meanwhile, my hottie husband, displaying less finesse but more bravado, followed closely behind, turning the dial down,  to a temperature only a popsicle could love.  Naturally, now that I’m in meltdown mode, my hubby’s cooling off, so, the battle continues.  Peace talks are, however, ongoing.  You don’t stay married for as  long as we have without them.

In order to win this “Cold War”, I’m determined to embrace my hotness, go with the flow, even if it is a lava flow, and, like carbon dioxide, become the precious and sparkling gem God created me to be.  Approaching life with grace, humor, and a great air conditioner, I can beat this heat.  Besides, there’s nothing hotter than a woman who’s comfortable in her own skin, whatever the temperature.  And, that’s pretty cool.

Leftovers: Chicken Ala Compost Heap

I just polished off a Styrofoam container full of lasagna, fettucini alfredo, and grilled chicken with goat cheese–for breakfast.  You see, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with leftovers. Love the

Leftover Turkey Dec09 - 9
Leftover Turkey Dec09 – 9 (Photo credit: andynash)

taste; hate the calories.  Some foods, like lasagna, actually taste better the second time around.  The problem is, leftovers in the fridge call my name.  I don’t know how, but last night’s lasagna was able to communicate with my too-easy-to-entice brain, whispering “Eat me, you know you want to, eat me, already”.   Now, there are certain vocalizations I’m completely equipped to ignore, like the vocalization from my conscience, urging me to “exercise”.    Against the siren song of leftovers, however, I’m completely defenseless.

For my husband, a charter member of the “Clean Your Plate Club”, throwing out food, even bad food, is a sacrilege .  Having leftovers in the fridge seems to give him comfort;  as long as we have leftovers, we’ll never go hungry.   My son and I agree, more than two meals in a row containing the exact same components is going above and beyond our gastronomic capacity.   My preference is to throw out less-than appealing cuisine.  Once is enough.  Put the food (and us) out of our misery.   During my husband’s daily inventory of the contents of the fridge, the question of “What’s happened to the leftovers” inevitably comes up.  During these inquisitions, I’m torn.  Am I honest  with him, and confess to throwing out the undesirable food, resulting in a tirade about wasting food, and threats of cutting the grocery budget to the essentials (cheese and dog food).   More often than not, I tell him that we ate the atrocious food for lunch (a little white lie),  because, like Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, my husband “can’t handle the truth”, and peace in the home is preserved, at least until our next meal.

Some people are able to “morph” their leftovers into a culinary creation virtually unrecognizable from the original dish, like turning roast chicken into chicken “magnifique” (a term rarely used to describe my original culinary creations.)   To my credit, I have tried this Power Ranger tactic a couple of times.  The results have been less than stellar.  The reactions to my latest creations run from “Nice try, Mom”, to “Do we have any fast food coupons?”  Let just say, Rachael Ray I’m not.

Unsuccessful at morphing leftovers, I started giving them to our dog.  Often, in fact. When my son started looking up stats for the World’s Heaviest Dog in the record books to see how our dog compared, I realized the error of my ways.  Fortunately, she wasn’t  a record-holder– yet.  After a stern talk from the vet at our dog’s annual check-up, and a prescription for doggy diet food, the dog’s no longer an acceptable receptacle for leftover disposal.

So, we’re back to the problem of what to do with all those leftovers.  Restaurant portions are large enough to feed a family of four.  If you’re able to convince your spouse  to share a meal with you, great, problem solved.  I’ve not been successful  at this request, however.  My husband wants an eighteen ounce Porterhouse steak, while I want chicken or fish.  Finding ourselves at an edible impasse, there’s always leftovers to wrap-up.

And, speaking of wrapping up, I’ve got to wrap-up my thoughts on leftovers.  My husband wants to take me out to eat–so, we can, you guessed it, have some more leftovers.  And, so on, and so on…Eat it again, Sam.

 

 

 

 

Ode to Donuts

English: Apack of donut Français : Un paquet d...
English: Apack of donut Français : Un paquet de donuts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donuts.  You know you’re in trouble when that’s the first thought that pops into your head in the morning.  Plus, I had already gained a little weight recently.  Okay, maybe more than a little.  Anyway, there are some foods worth fudging a little bit on our diets for, like, well fudge for one, and donuts, of course, for the other.  So, instead of feeling guilty over my bad choice, I decided to let destiny determine my fat.  Oops, I mean fate.

I diligently scoured the “coupon drawer” for a coupon for donuts, figuring my financial budget didn’t have to suffer along with my caloric budget.  Ah-hah!  I found one.   And, even better, the coupon was promoting football-shaped donuts.  Since two of my favorite teams were playing football that afternoon, what a perfect way to kick off the day.  And, with a coupon, I could be both frugal and festive(won’t my husband be proud).  Plus, saving money would make me feel a little less guilty about my decadent indulgence.  A little. Except for one minor detail–the coupon expired twenty-four days ago.  (Sadly, this coupon was one of the more current coupons in the drawer).  Organizational skills aside, at least my intentions were good.

Just then, I remembered that I had not looked in yesterday’s paper.  Perhaps, there would be a coupon for my precious donut there.  By the way, my favorite donut is the chocolate long john.  This delicacy defines lusciousness.  Puffy fried dough covered in a rich velvety chocolate blanket.  What’s not to love.  I’m obsessed.  I reasoned that if there was such a coupon, then surely I was meant to eat it.  Eagerly shaking the paper out of the yellow plastic bag, I unfolded it with great anticipation.  It was a miracle.  Right there at the top of the front page was a coupon.  No kidding.  And, not just any coupon, my friend.   No, this was the rarest of coupons–a coupon for a free donut.  Score!  So, I hurriedly got dressed and headed out the door toward  my “donut of destiny”.  There was still one major hitch, however.  Everybody else in town apparently likes these lovelies almost as much as I do.  Whenever my eyes wander toward the pastry shelf, those tasty long johns are very often long gone.  And, under the circumstances, only my donut of choice would do.  If I was going to sacrifice my diet and health, it better be for a very good reason(I absolutely crave these suckers!)   So, only the real deal  would do. Thankfully, this coupon was for a store located on just about every corner of town.  Determined, I would search far and wide, if I had to, for my beloved chocolate long john.  (Never mind that gas prices were at an all-time high;  I had a free coupon for a donut, remember!)

That was not necessary, however.  The very first location I visited was a success–there it was, the love of my life, john, chocolate long john (Sorry hubby, you may have my heart, but my stomach belongs to john).   At last, it would be mine.  I quickly grabbed a wax paper sheet along with a plastic bag to protect my tasty treasure.  Triumphuntly, I strode up to the counter, proudly displaying my conquest, along with the free coupon.  What a coupe.

Sure, donuts have about a thousand calories, give or take.  None of which benefit me physically, in the least.  We all deserve a little indulgence every once in awhile, especially one ordained by a sign from above, like a free coupon.  Besides, I watched a nutritionist on TV talk about healthy eating, and drank a glass of skim milk, while eating my donut.  That’s got to be worth something, right?!

You know you love ’em, too.  So, what’s your favorite donut?

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