February 27, 2011

speaking of . . .

Those of you who know me, know I laugh. A lot. Those of you who REALLY know me, know I cry a lot as well. But just because there are tears for circumstances beyond my control doesn't mean I don't know how blessed I am. So today I am recounting some of my current favorite things. I am calling this my "Sweet Sunday Sixteen".

Number One is children. And not just any children, but this week it is specifically Mayah & Cohen. My daughter's daughter. My best friends' son. They make the people I love happy, and that makes ME happy.

SPEAKING OF happy . . . Number Three is Happy Hour at Sonic, baby. I'm currently on a Peach tea kick. "Hi. My name is Stephanie. I'm an addict. I have a $5 a week habit. I need help."

SPEAKING OF berry . . . Number Four is White Rain Pearberry Hairspray. Dear Pink Bottle, as long as you are in production and I am not bald, we will be partners. Every single day somebody tells me how good I smell, and I usually respond with "Thanks! I try hard NOT to stink." But the truth is, it's all about the hairspray. I love it even more now that I can buy it at the Dollar Tree instead of having to order it online.

SPEAKING OF online . . . Number Five is
"building blog headers" as my new creative outlet hobby. I am SO over scrapbooking. I cannot believe the money I spent on paper and stickers and scalloped scissors and rubber stamps when I could have been doing creative projects on my computer with NO mess! Besides, cool blog headers make reading blogs more fun. Hey, it's not ALL about the words!

SPEAKING OF words . . . Number Six is "Words with Friends" on my iPod. It's Scrabble with a different name. I keep 8 or 10 games going at all times . . . mostly with friends like Jessica and MaryKate and Elizabeth, though sometimes with random opponents. Did you know that "jalapeno" with the J and the L played on triple letter squares and the word played over a triple word square WITH the 40 point bonus for playing all your letters at once gets you 178 points???

SPEAKING OF 178 . . . Number Seven is my 365 project. I have effectively cleared 178 items out of my house since January 1. (Okay, really it's 176, but it WILL be 178 by Monday, so the whole "speaking of" segue still works.) The whole project is very en"lighten"ing and makes me feel less burdened. I may keep it up until it's just me, my jeans and a toothbrush. :)

SPEAKING OF jeans . . . Number Eight is just that. Until recently, I haven't worn jeans in . . . well, I don't remember ever wearing jeans very much. They never fit me right. To fit in the hips, the waist was always WAY too big, and then the uber low-rise jeans came in and, uh, well, I don't think so. But now jeans actually sit at your hips and they fit and I'm so never wearing anything else. Seriously. (Note to daughter-face: Bury me in the boot-cut pair with my turquoise cardigan and those cute dangly earrings you brought me from Saba, and my black clogs - WITHOUT socks. I mean it. Don't think you can bury me with socks on as a joke. I will NOT Rest In Peace. I will hunt you down and make you cry. Thanks.)

SPEAKING OF shoes and socks . . . Number Nine is the road I walk . . . literally. The metaphorical road I am walking these days is pretty sucky, but the physical road is quickly becoming a favorite place for me. I go almost every day now. I rarely see anyone else, not even passing cars, but I almost always see deer or turkey or critters of some sort. It's my prayer time, my alone time, my outdoor time all rolled together.

SPEAKING OF all rolled together . . . Number Ten is Girl Scout Thin Mints. Oh my goodness. I know mint chocolate is not to everybody's liking, but if I'm crying and you give me a frozen thin mint it will make it all better. Give me a whole roll of frozen Thin Mints and I may not cry all week.

SPEAKING OF crying . . . Number Eleven is Loreal Collagen mascara. When the Thin Mints eventually run out, and the tears return, I want my waterproof friend to know she is not taken for granted. That's why she made the list.

SPEAKING OF the list . . . Number Twelve is my prayer list. I'm doing something I've never done before. I have "A Prayer List" that I have been praying every single day for months now. God and I are getting some much-needed talk time. I think I'll do a whole blog about this sometime soon.

SPEAKING OF much-needed talk time . . . Number Thirteen is the infamous, life-changing pedicure which was part of a "Christmas Girl's Day" with Sara and resulted in ten very purple toenails. Actually 20, as Sara opted for a shade of purple as well. My toenails are starting to grow out, so I may not have the purple much longer, but I love them!

SPEAKING OF growing out . . . Number Fourteen is my hair. I've NEVER liked my hair, which is pretty ridiculous, because I have good hair. At least people TELL me I have good hair. But one of my favorite things right now is having it longer. I don't think my hair has been this long since the 3rd grade . . . and that's been, oh, aWHILE. Like 1971. And since I'm getting, well, not younger, I want to enjoy it before it goes gray and I start to look like the Wicked Witch of the West.

SPEAKING OF green ogre-like things . . . Number Fifteen is the fact that Fiona (the green Taurus) has been passed on to Kevin and I have the pleasure of driving Eddie van Honda. Now, if you know me AT ALL, you know I couldn't give a flip about what I drive and I don't really love that it took $60 to fill with gas this week, still . . . the trade-off to be able to travel "in community" has been really nice. The girls all went with me to Indy back in the fall . . . several of us filled it up and drove together to Madisonville for a funeral . . . this week I will have the privilege of driving a new family home from the Nashville airport. I like being able to spend time in it with the people I love the most.

SPEAKING OF the van . . . Number Sixteen is parking in the garage. We have lived in this house for 16 years and I have been able to park in the garage exactly 2% of that time. Greg sold a tractor in December and Eddie has been allowed to move into the empty space until a replacement tractor is acquired. Oh, I didn't know how much I would love getting into a warm car on a cold morning!

SPEAKING OF cold mornings . . . Number Seventeen is this amazingly wonderful almost-spring weather when I don't need to park in the garage; when I can go to my favorite place to walk; and when I can free my toes and enjoy my purple pedicure!!!

Hope your Sunday is just as blessed.

February 24, 2011

the granny gig

A few months back, I was grieving the loss of my youth, when my daughter decided I had mourned long enough. "You are going to be a grandmother. Suck it up and get through the stages of grief." She said the next step was anger, then I could move on to acceptance before labor day arrived. I informed her that she had forgotten depression and bargaining, but she said I'd had enough depression already and my bargaining chip was allowing me to be present at the birth. So just as I was settling on the anger phase, she jerked that one out from under me as well and said there was no way I could be angry about becoming a grandmother.

I started to grieve the fact that she wouldn't let me grieve, when she told me to stop whining or she would force me to sit in the hall during the birth and torture me with an epidural needle . . . or a turkey baster . . . she hadn't fully thought it through.

That was nearly a year ago when my concept of the sensible-shoe-wearing, gray-haired granny gig was almost more than I could bear . . .

This weekend I attended a youth conference in Gatlinburg. It just so happened my daughter, son-in-law and baby granddaughter, Mayah, attended this conference as well, staying in a condo some 2811 feet from my hotel.

Lucky for me, 5-month-old Mayah learned how to butt-dial my cell phone through her diaper. Late Friday night she called and said, "M.E., wanna have a girls' day with me tomorrow?" (It sounded more like "ee wah ooowee hiii", but I knew what she meant.) So, being the wonderfully clever grandmother that I am, I called my daughter and offered to "help out with the baby" so she could enjoy the morning session outside the restraints of motherhood.

Saturday morning arrived, and I forfeited the banana-topped, cream-cheesy French Toast at the nearby Breakfast Cabin with the rest of my group, and hiked the half-mile up the hill in my trendy gray vest and black clogs (sans socks) to see my baby girl.

Once we got rid of her mommy, my granddaughter and I discussed the turmoil in Egypt, the 66th anniversary of the Marine landing on Iwo Jima, and why P!nk is so cool, despite her failure to use ladylike language. We analyzed the appeal of the cellophane inside baby toys and marveled at the amazing job character actor, John C. Reilly, did in his role as Mr. Cellophane in the musical, "Chicago". This led us to speak of the differences between narcissism and self-esteem as we shared a cafe mocha. I assured Mayah that while Stacy London says babies with eggplant-shaped heads should never wear mullets, and zebra-striped knit pants are definitely "what NOT to wear", her own self-esteem should never become wrapped up in external beauty.

After our exhausting heart-to-heart, we stretched out on the couch and I introduced her to a great Creature Feature on SyFy and educated her on the difference between BAD movies and the highly underrated genre of B-movies. During commercials we shared our excitement over the upcoming Arrested Development movie and Liam Neeson's latest action flick, and decided someday we would have to find the time to watch "Schindler's List" together.

We knew our alone time was drawing to an end when one of us needed a nap and the other needed a clean nappy. So while I readied myself for some fresh air and perhaps a glimpse of a winter waterfall, Mayah changed her own diaper and slipped on her elastic-waist, zebra-striped pants just to spite Ms. London.

This "granny gig" isn't really so bad after all. Pretty sure it beats death by turkey baster.

February 17, 2011

midnight at the oasis

Monday night, both the guys went to bed early. I, however, have been getting ENTIRELY too much beauty sleep lately. So, as I was waiting for my coach to turn back into a pumpkin, I browsed Facebook, read blogs, and watched a rerun of my beloved Alton Brown. As I finished the episode "Don't Be Chicken of Dumplings" I heard one of the boys clomping down the hall. Expecting the cowboy (who generally is up and down a couple of times every night), I was surprised to see the manchild (who, once asleep, is comatose until his second snooze alarm).

Kevin walked into the bathroom and closed the door (again, unusual, as our bathroom doubles as the family meeting room. Seriously, I haven't shaved my legs in privacy since 1984. George Orwell may have been on to something.) Anyway . . . After a few seconds, I heard the shower running. Minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom, walked toward his bedroom, turned around and came to the den and stared at me with squinty eyes. I stared back, and, recognizing the oddly familiar look on his face, I smiled and said, "Whatcha doin' Kev?" Blankly he asked, "What time is it?" As I replied it was nearing midnight, he rubbed his wet hair with a puzzled look, then turned and went back to bed.

He has been known to sleepwalk from time to time, sleepTALK, even.

SleepShowering, however, is a new phenomenon.

February 13, 2011

this one's for you

Last night, I was eating fall-off-the-bone tender ribs marinated in a bbq sauce so hot my lips went numb. In the process, I got sauce on my head. Like, a big blob right between my eyes. Don't ask me how. I was sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the couch with my laptop on my knees, typing an inbox one-fingered and eating my ribs in a very ladylike manner with my pinkies up. So how the sauce made it to my forehead is a mystery. But, lucky for me, my son had tickets to this show. He said, "You should blog THAT, Mom. 'Cause THAT'S embarrassing." I informed him that I blog embarrassing stuff all the time. He stated, "Not about yourself, you don't."

So, my son, that was for you.

February 12, 2011

iron steph

There's nothing to eat.

Oh, there's food in the house. The shelves are stocked and the fridge is full, but it's a bizarre hodgepodge of odd ingredients that somehow got left out of their intended recipe - a can of black beans forgotten from chicken nachos, sliced water chestnuts Kevin begged to be left out of the beef stroganoff (because they're crunchy), mushrooms not added to last Sunday's chicken noodle soup, 3 cans of fat-free (aack!) cream of chicken soup clearly bought by accident, 3 jars of jalApenos, frozen blueberries from last summer's pickings, and 4 potstickers (because they are packaged by the dozen and I had 8 for lunch one day). This is not to mention staples like crackers, rice, pasta, bisquick, and Pop-Tarts.

Normally, this is when I would head to Kroger to fill in the gaps with $75 worth of meat and dairy and cookies and berries.

Instead, I'm challenging myself to EMPTY the kitchen before I refill it.

(Read the rest with Alton Brown's image in your head):

Welcome to Kitchen Stadium. My name is Stephanie and I've been cooking for 26 years. My mission is to charm the palate with savory dishes for two men who couldn't BE more different.

Man One (aka The Cowboy) will eat anything as long as it's bland. Forget the spices. Forget the seasoning. Just DON'T forget the mayonnaise. Noodles and rice are fluff and just get in his way. Meat is a prerequisite for every meal, food should be served in abundance, and MUST be followed with something - anything - sweet. He wouldn't touch a Pop-Tart if it was the last item in the house (they are DRY), but will eat an entire box of Pecan Sandies in a mixing bowl full of milk for dessert. He drives through Dairy Queen 10 mornings a month and orders the Jumbo Artery-Clogging Breakfast Platter - with extra ketchup. He likes his food WET - drenched in whatever condiment is available. It's a texture thing.

Man Two (aka the Manchild, the Ginger, the Kevie-poo) is, shall we say, selective. His metabolism rivals that of a small army platoon. He wants cheese, and lots of it - especially if you combine it with noodles and rice. Spice is good - his fries are incomplete unless saturated with black pepper. Condiments are a curse - just a PLAIN burger, thank you very much. Without his Pop-Tarts, he wouldn't know the definition of breakfast. And while green beans and broccoli are fine, don't even think about serving him a brussel sprout. Oh, and most importantly, he doesn't like crunchy food. Yeah, you heard me. Crunchy food. It's a texture thing.

So my quest is to feed these two growing boys something they will both eat using only the existing ingredients in our kitchen until my cabinets look like Old Mother Hubbard's.

This week I pan-seared a salmon, mashed ONE sweet potato, baked a corn casserole (dryer than usual - no butter), grilled chicken breasts with onions & mushrooms, made turkey bacon sandwiches with jalapenos and black beans, and boiled ramen noodles with olive oil & parmesan.

So far, so good. But we're now out of all things dairy and for Man One, we are dangerously low on mayo. There are only a few chicken breasts left and possibly some lunch meat. The only veggies are frozen. We do have an abundance of oatmeal, so constipation shouldn't be a problem, and I made an emergency stop yesterday for fruit, because I have an irrational fear of scurvy.

So tonight, while Iron Chef Roberto created Lobster with a Chocolate & Peppercorn reduction garnished with Mint Leaves, I got inspired to work on Friday night's menu. I call it "Kentucky Fusion": Microwave Popcorn in a canned Cream of Mushroom Sauce, mashed with Refried Beans and Wasabi Cashews, garnished with 2 Girl Scout Thin Mints that have been hiding in the freezer since the spring of 2009.

Eat your heart out.

February 07, 2011

my heart bleeds for you

If God wanted me to give blood, He would've put a spout on my neck.

At least, that used to be my stance. See, I don't bleed. The very few times I have had blood drawn have been less-than-pleasant experiences entailing multiple phlebotomists, multiple needle insertions and multiple bruises.

But a couple of years ago, I decided to put on my big girl panties and get over myself.

I am now a blood donor.

When you give blood, the Red Cross wants to know four basic things:
1. Have you been outside the U.S.?
2. Do you have a disease?
3. Do you now, or have you ever, taken drugs?
4. Is it possible you could have an STD?

But the Red Cross can't risk your forgetfulness, so they ask these four basic questions 172 times in various formats in complete confidentiality behind a very private tri-fold cardboard divider.

So after being reminded that my blood type is "A plus" (of course it is . . . would you expect LESS than perfection from me???), I answered the first few questions something like this:
1. Have you had an accidental needle-stick? YES
(just last month while attempting to thread a sewing needle without my glasses.)
2. Are you a coke addict? NO
(I used to be, but I switched from Coke to Diet Coke last year.)
3. Have you ever been paid for sex? UNSURE
(My husband once left some change on the dresser, and I took it as payment for services rendered. Does that count?)

Apparently, I wasn't understanding the questions fully, which explains why the Red Cross goes on to ask 169 more pointed questions before they take your blood, like:
11. Do you suck down those orange-flavored baby aspirin like they are Sweet Tarts?
28. Could you possibly be a hemophiliac due to the fact that you are 5th in line to the royal throne of Luxembourg?
61. Did you ever have to deboard your 747 in Botswana en route to Frankfurt, Germany following your 1995 trip to the Rugby World Cup in South Africa, and in doing so, accidentally come in contact with a Macaque monkey?
76. Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Once I made it through the list of questions, the finger prick to note my iron level, and a quick check of my temperature and blood pressure, I am given a free t-shirt, an armload of papers and rubber tubing, and sent to a room with a lawn chair and great 80's music where it appears I should expect a pedicure and a margarita. But no. (though there is the promise of a snack once they finish removing all the leeches.)

I won't lie, giving blood is not completely painless, but surprisingly, it's no big deal, even without a spout on my neck. Besides, less than 5% of the U.S. population gives blood on a regular basis, and my little pint has the potential to save three lives. Three. Maybe a premature baby. Maybe a heart patient. Maybe you.

Besides, where else can you lose a pound in 10 minutes and be rewarded with Cheez-Its and a Sprite?

February 02, 2011

dances with wools

Things I Hate:
Injustice. Litterbugs. Mosquitos. Wintergreen. Comb-overs. Fluorescent lighting. People who have to "one up" your stories. Having only vowels in a Scrabble game. The smell of sardines. The lyrics to "Milkshake". Using "would OF" and "could OF" when you mean "would've" and "could've". Cheese Whiz. Not being able to find my keys. Middle school girls who say "I love you, baby" to their boyfriend of 3 days. Pumping gas in the winter. Four friends - three final pieces of sushi. Four family members - one bathroom. Yogurt. The guy who decided Pluto could no longer be a planet. Getting all comfy in bed and realizing I forgot to pee. And any show with "housewives" in the title - desperate or otherwise.

But the thing I hate most?

Socks. Darn them.

Cotton. Wool. Nylon. Striped. Solid. Argyle. Athletic socks. Trouser socks. Ankle socks. Knee socks. Crew socks. Toe socks. They are evil in its purest form. Be a-frayed. Be very a-frayed. Masquerading as "essentials", "comfort items", "fashion accessories", they are nothing more than vile, wretched, sweat-inducing, pedicure-hiding, toe-enclosures. AND. I. HATE. THEM. Wearing them is like forcing my feet to go spelunking against their will. Cruel and unusual punishment. And to add insult to injury, I'm pretty sure some of my toes are claustrophobic.

Three-fourths of the year my toes are happy little campers. Strappy sandals or microfiber mules or casual clogs - all sock-free. But then winter sets in and my choices are roast or freeze. And since I don't particularly look good in blue . . .

Besides, my oh-so-comfy Clark winter-weather loafers require socks. So, for Christmas, I asked my children to buy me socks. Cute ones. Cute enough to get your attention, but not so cute that you lose respect for me. And comfortable ones, though I know in my heart there are no such things. But my children refused. Kacey even went so far as to Facebook her brother saying, "Do NOT buy our mother socks. No matter WHAT she says she wants, she hates socks. You don't want to be remembered forever as the 'child who bought her those stupid, awful, toe-torture devices'" . . . or something like that.

So, I broke down and bought my own socks. And I broke down further and wore my own socks.

I think I may have to start a humanitarian group called "PETF" - People for the Ethical Treatment of FEET, or maybe the ASPCT - the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Toes.

The absolute worst is sleeping in socks. I don't know if it's the fact that my bed is on the north wall of the house, or that my cotton sheets lack warmth, or that I frequently sleep alone, or that I'm just getting older and my circulation lacks oomph. Regardless, I find myself often wearing socks to bed these days. But at some point during the night, poet Emma Lazarus calls to me . . . "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . " and my right big toe grasps the top of my left sock and frees my left foot and my left foot returns the favor by stepping on the toe of the right foot so my right foot can free itself, then both feet push the socks out of the bed and into the floor while my ten toes do a little middle-of-the-night emancipation dance. And for some bizarre reason, despite the fact that the kitchen is clean, the towels are always tri-folded, the sheets are washed every Monday, and the dvd's are alphabetized . . . the socks remain in the floor until their services are required again.

I don't know why. Oh yeah, because I hate them.