April 30, 2010

his and herpfest

Today was . . . emotional. Not in the traditional "Steph is on the rollercoaster ride today and is weeping for no reason", but the non-traditional "Went on a herpetological field trip with several friends and their kids and turns out our tour guide was the first guy I ever loved and who still had all his hair when I saw him at my sister's funeral 15 years ago." Wow. I think he saw me before my eyes even adjusted to being indoors, and I was greeted by a "Hi Stranger" from some cute old guy with a corn snake around his neck. The next thing I know, my heart is pounding a million beats per second, my face is flush, and all I can think is how different I look now than I did in 1995, and how it really stinks to be old and, well, not thin. So in-between running the gamut of reptiles and amphibians, we did a bit of catching up. I was my usual sarcastic, insult-comedian self and he was mostly sweet, though he did throw in a couple of good zingers (some smart-alec comment about how he might be bald, but at least he doesn't color his hair!) to which I feigned protest, but since it's true, it was fake feigning. Lindsay (my niece) was with me, and he recognized her instantly, though they'd never met. He took one look at her and told her she was gorgeous just like her mom. (Which, with the exception of their hair color, is completely true.)

So, our field trip consisted of tree frogs and vipers and salamanders and all manner of cute and slimy and scaly and venomous and spotted herps . . . and one ghost from my past. I don't know if the 15 kids we took today had fun at Herpfest, but I think I did. I say "think" because after I got back to the car I had a good cry. It stinks to be old and hormonal.

After Herpfest, we went out to dinner with Nana and Papa, and I saw another "old man" at the restaurant who called me by name, but who, for the life of me, I couldn't place. Turns out we were friends in high school. It stinks to be old and forgetful. Now Lindsay and I are watching the Best Chick Flick Ever, so I can continue to educate her pop-culturally. (Yes, it's a word! If you want to know what the movie is, here's a hint: Daisies are the friendliest flowers.) Kevin has hit the sack early because he is taking the S.A.T. in the morning.

It's now after 11, and I was hoping to stay up for another movie, but I'm getting sleepy. It stinks to be old and, well, it just stinks to be old.

April 06, 2010

word to my peeps

Clearly I like to eat. And I will try JUST ABOUT anything once. I say "just about" because right off the bat I MUST exclude anything organ related, anything unborn, or anything I might buy Raid to ward off.

Before I begin the Top Ten Gross Food List, there are some potentially offensive foods that deserve an honorable mention:

>Grape Nuts: "a cross between gerbil food and gravel".
>Brussel Sprouts: Kevin describes them as "vomit disguised as a tiny little lettuce heads".
>Souse (head cheese),which I'm told is pig brain jelly. This is Dad's #1 gross food. Since I've never eaten it, and don't intend to EVER eat it, I'll trust him on that one.
>Mushrooms: they rank really high on a lot of people's lists, and I guess I can see why, but I LOVE THEM. Except the ones that used to grow behind our toilet in that humid one-bedroom apartment we lived in for 6 months in Georgia.
>Sushi: While it ranks as my favorite food EVER, I've heard my beloved sushi referred to as "amorphous mounds of raw flesh." Clearly this person has never eaten sushi with ME.
>Fonduta: As I sit here writing this blog, Olive Garden is advertising its new "Fonduta". I'm sure it's delicious, but I refuse to order anything that sounds like something in a baby's diaper.

Top Ten Gross Foods
So, I broke the "Raid Rule" once with my dad at a local seafood restaurant. He ordered the escargot. I have to "try it", he said. When it arrived, it took me a while to work up the nerve. Finally I stabbed one with the tiny little baby fork and mentally prepared to take a bite. "No," Dad said, "pop it all at once." The whole thing? I pulled the fork away from my mouth, looked at it again and, realizing there was no way I was ever going to WANT to eat this, I popped it in. My face turned inward at the nastiness and I began to chew. And chew. And chew. I double-checked in front of me to make sure I hadn't accidentally eaten a rubber placemat. Then I began to think about WHAT it was I was eating. I mean, visually imagining the slugs that sometimes get into the catfood bowl on the back porch in the summertime and leave slime trails on the concrete. At that point it was either swallow or gag. Dave Barry's description is right on the money for what I consider Gross Food Number One: Escargot is French for "fat crawling bag of phlegm."

Gross Food Number Two: Greens. Cooked spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, etc. Tastes like you mowed the yard, scooped up the clippings, and boiled them in a big pot of oily water. My daughter, on the other hand, sometimes buys frozen spinach, zaps it in the microwave and eats it with a fork. Then again, she snacks on frozen corn, still frozen, with a spoon.

Gross Food Number Three: Sauerkraut. Shredded, soured cabbage, which is even more offensive to the olfactory sense than the taste buds. Need I say more?

Gross Foods Number Four, Five and Six: I list these together because they all three look like the same red gelatinous muck.
>Beets. When my kids were babies, I made their baby food. Organic veggies and grains, cooked at home, mashed by hand, and tasted by me before I fed it to them. I bought the beets, cooked the beets, mashed the beets, tasted the beets, threw up the beets, then dumped the
beets in the trash.
>Canned Cranberry Jelly. Looks like beets. Wiggles like rubber. Everybody puts it on the table at Thanksgiving, but nobody ever really eats it. And for good reason.
>Tomato Aspic. Basically, ketchup jello. Tomatoes, the black sheep of all fruit, are liquified and turned into a wiggly bundt cake. Again, looks like beets. Wiggles like rubber. Nas.Ty.

Gross Food Number Seven: Sardines. Little tiny herring, canned in mustardy disgustingness, heads, tails, fins, bones and little tiny eyeballs.
Every now and again, my dad would scroll back the little tin lid and stink up the entire neighborhood. Mmm, mmm, gag. At this point, I would also list anchovies, but frankly, I've never had the desire to even try. I've read that "they're very salty and hairy, and make me feel as though I'm chewing on somebody's sweaty eyebrow." Well, sign me up for the hairy fish of the month club. Yum.

Gross Food Number Eight: Chocolate Buttermilk. This was an accidental and unfortunate discovery in the fifth grade, when, after searching the house unsuccessfully for anything nutritionally deficient, I defaulted to Quik as a last resort. Four heaping teaspoons of powdered chocolate in a 12-ounce glass of cold milk, stirred not shaken, and gulped. Well, gulp. That's when I discovered the yellow carton was buttermilk, not 2%. The brown-colored water they bottle and sell as YooHoo is almost as unpleasant.

Gross Food Number Nine: Cheese "Foods". Cheese Whiz, American cheese squares, the powdered junk that comes with boxed macaroni & cheese, anything served at a ballpark with nachos or soft pretzels, and mostly, Velveeta. Velveeta's label refers to it as Pasteurized Processed Cheese Product containing MILKFAT, WHEY, PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, ALGINATE, SODIUM CITRATE, APOCAROTENAL, ANNATTO, ENZYMES, and CHEESE CULTURE.

Number ten is a rare food indeed. It is highly seasonal. And, while considered a delicacy by some, it is surprisingly affordable. It comes in a vast array of colors. It is apparently best served by rolling it in a crunchy sugar coating, while its cousin is most often roasted to a golden brown before eating.

Gross Food Number Ten: Peeps.

April 02, 2010

a redneck petting zoo

I'm not much of a critter person. Especially when it comes to pets. Don't get me wrong . . . I love animals, I just don't WANT animals. My daughter's recent acquisition of two, yes two pound puppies who yap and snag your clothing with their little doggie claws and chew on your shoes and require constant attention and use your carpet as their own personal diaper (not to mention various other forms of disgusting canine behaviors) further validates my "no animals in the house" philosophy. Well, maybe not "NO" animals in the house . . . more like no MAMMALS in the house, and that includes some small children I've known. I have, however, welcomed hermit crabs and turtles and such into the family with little fanfare, and frankly, anything that's noiseless and stinkless and messless doesn't ruffle my feathers too much.

The worst offenders are the uninvited critters.

One day not long after we had moved into our current house, something on the kitchen counter caught my eye. Where Kevin's peanut butter sandwich remains still graced his lunch plate was Mickey's Kentucky cousin. Before I could sprint the 18 feet from the den to the dishwasher (and when I say "sprint" I really mean "approach slowly with much trepidation"), the little rodent darted behind the fridge and disappeared. Freaked me out. Clean houses are not supposed to have varmints. I made every effort to dissuade them from visiting my home and to ensure their demise should they return.

A couple of years later my mother-in-law was visiting. We were in the den and I had my back to the kitchen. She, however, did not. A few minutes into our conversation her demeanor changed. Her expression of horror conveyed to me the unthinkable: a little mouse. And not just ANY mouse, but one with impeccable timing. I mean, my mother-in-law, for crying out loud. The one person in the world you most want to be "clean" for!

On another occasion we noticed a smell. Just a slight rancid odor. We took out the trash, did some laundry, poured a box of baking soda down the drain, and called it good. A day or two later the odor became more of a stench that emanated from, surprise, the kitchen. I took the smell as a hint I might need to defunkify my refrigerator. I took everything out, threw away anything rotten, expired, black, or unidentifyable, along with anything that could be considered a tribute to Alexander Fleming, and scrubbed the fridge with vinegar-water. It fairly glowed. The next day I walked in the front door, took one whiff, and turned around and walked right back out. "I cannot live in there until whatever reeks, reeketh no more!" A whole house search brought us right back to the fridge. Upon complete inspection, we discovered a very VERY dead mouse which had met its demise in the fan some days earlier. The memory of that pungent smell nauseates me to this day.

Still, on occasion, we hear one rustling (it's an unmistakable sound), or catch a glimpse of one scurrying across the floor. Traps are baited with peanut-butter-dipped-cat-food, and within the hour we almost always humanely execute the unwanted intruder.

One day, in my church office, where no mouse has ever been detected, I heard the rustling. Reigh Anne was standing in the doorway talking and she heard it too. The sound kept interrupting our conversation, drawing our attention away from each other and over to the silk ficus tree in the north corner of the room. It ceased and we forgot about it. A couple of hours later I heard it again. And again. I decided the best way to deal with this critter would be to quickly carry the entire tree out the front door, lift the tree out of the basket, and hope the mouse goes in the direction opposite my toes. So I approached the tree and it rustled again . . . but not from the base.
The rustling came from the leaves at the top . . . not a mouse-friendly location. I peered in. I reached out my hand to grab the trunk and a 6-lined racerunner lizard flew across my hand, down the trunk, between my feet, and vanished in the hallway. Okay, that was kinda cool, actually.

The last of the offending critters have been skunks. Plural. Living under the house this winter, along with a stray cat that decided to use our crawl space as an obstetrics ward. E
very week or so, Pepe LePew and Fluffy would have an altercation that resulted in my house getting "skunked". Finally, after many weeks, and many skunkings, Greg set a live animal trap. The question is: "How does one rid oneself of live skunk without getting oneself skunked in the process?" The answer is: Tie a really, really long rope to the trap. Over the course of several days, we caught 2 skunks and a few cats. . .one of them being Mandy-kitty, our own little outside/barn cat.

There have also been squirrels in the attic and possums under the car and even a snake or two in the garage (which, much to the dismay of some, are always "catch and release", because, after all, Mr. Reptile helps keep Mr. Mouse out of my house.)

While I will always be a city girl at heart, country living does have its perks. . .but being a veritable petting zoo is not one of them.