Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who needs Karaoke on the cruise ship when you can play with firearms?

It's official, we've kicked off the '07/'08 J Family shooting season. All six of us drove out to Coplay, PA to make good on a belated Father's Day gift. Before I get started, I would like to point out that two things seem to be true.

1. People think my family is generally a little weird and,
2. They also think shooting is reserved for rednecks.

#1 is true. #2 Not true - Sporting clays date back to the early 1900’s in England to keep hunters in practice and Skeet was created in Massachusetts in 1920 for a similar reason. I don’t believe either of those places had any rednecks – SO THERE. And yes, I realize that it’s a fairly unusual hobby for a family from the ‘burbs, but we are most certainly not hayseeds. I’m finished, I’m starting to sound defensive. The better question is "how did this happen?". I’m not entirely sure how my father started shooting, but I can account for the rest of the family.

The story starts like this…For my parent’s first Christmas my father bought my mother four snow tires and a shotgun. I would imagine she was a bit perplexed since he was a city kid and it’s a little weird (at least I would have been if it were me). According to her, she responded with “Well, I understand the snow tires but what am I going to do with that gun?” He told her he was going to teach her how to shoot. This may well have sent any normal female wondering if she married a lunatic, however this was my mother and she was not easily phased. Thus many years of happy shooting ensued for both my parents who ultimately became pretty good shots. Which brings me to my next story…

A few years after they were married my father decided he wanted to take a cruise. He told my mother that he was taking a cruise and that if she wanted to come she had better wean that kid. So she did and they went. My mother claims the kid was me, but to the best of my knowledge my parents have been on one cruise and I remember them going (so I couldn’t have been 9 months old – the age I know breastfeeding stopped*). I remember this cruise because my mother had some seriously 80’s one piece strapless pants outfit with a stretchy waist and billowy legs .. you know the one I’m talking about.. it could have only been pulled of in the 80’s. My mother will likely argue with me on this point (the age, not the pants suit) and insist that despite the fact that I am the child who remembers nothing I some how have a vivid memory of this from the age of 9 months old. Not likely. I bet it was my sister. It doesn’t matter either way since my mother will never admit to not remembering things. I digress. The real point of the story is that my mother came home with a trophy.

Apparently in the 80’s, and I’m not quite sure if this is still true, they allowed you to shoot trap off the back of the ship. This seems rather reckless and far too crazy to happen in today’s safety conscious cruise environment (they can’t even keep people from going missing let alone give them guns) but in the 80’s they apparently didn’t care. My father enlisted my mother to enter the shooting competition. She was the only woman in a long line of men. The guy running the event explained to her how to shoot the gun like she was a toddler. She didn’t bother to correct his assumption. After several rounds of elimination it was just my mother, some guy and a gun. She turned around to find women on each deck of the ship cheering her on. At the end of the day she kicked all their asses and got a trophy. Go Mom.

So given the history, it only stood to reason that I got my first shotgun at 12. I went shooting a few times and then disappointed everyone by moving onto boys and high school. For many years the J Family was quiet. Then my sister, who had never shot a gun in her life, decided she wanted to shoot. 3 months later everyone was shooting, we joined the gun club and Dad gave us all firearms under the tree that year. Mom says he always wanted to give a boy his first gun. Two son-in-laws, neither have even held a gun before, sorta like a twofer.

Anyway, after many months of shooting skeet, we figured it was time to branch out. We told Pop we would take him to shoot sporting clays. We made the haul up north past Allentown to Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays for 100 rounds of fun. It’s an old limestone quarry in the woods and was the best 35 bucks that I've spent in recent memory. It also didn't hurt that I was on fire that day. Or as my mother likes to say "the hormones were just right". She's convinced that certain times of the month throw off your game. There may be some truth to that since I can shoot like a rock star one day and a half blind idiot the next. Although I didn’t win (congrats to my sister who hit 70 out of 100) I did have 5 stations worth of straight report pairs. Yay me.

You can count on the next few months involving many weekends spent at the gun club. Yes, we are the loonies in the subzero base layers firing away like a bunch of happy idiots in the snow. It’s really fun except I need warmer socks. Last year I think I almost lost a toe or two. I can always find a reason to justify shopping and the coolest place to shop for shooting stuff is Cabellas. Its like a sporting goods store on steroids. I think everyone should take a trip up there, it’s fun to ‘git yer redneck on every once in a while. (To put it in perspective, they have a furniture section that is entire dedicated to camouflage La-Z-Boys.)

So if anyone needs any orange warning gear or perhaps a nice rifle scope, let me know. Here’s hoping for a good season – perhaps I’ll finally crack 21. Wishful thinking…

*Hey girlie, and you know who you are. Wouldn’t it be funny if this was a tragic slip up in my mother’s story telling and it turned out I was breastfed until I was like 5. Perhaps my trauma is deeper than yours and I’ve blocked it from my memory. MAYBE my bitchiness is really just a PTSD thing manifesting in some weird dysfunctional way… just a thought.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whiskey Makes your Face Ugly and other Useful Observations

So I'll apologize for my lameness lately. We were in CA for a wedding last week and far too busy drinking wine. I'm sure most of you would agree that wine drinking is more important than sitting in front of a computer.

However, I was thinking about writing and as a result I have a few critical lessons learned or useful observations, if you will.

#1 Avoid the “direct, but not really direct” flight.
I have an unnatural love of Southwest Airlines. My co-workers do not understand this. They’re busy being mileage/airline status junkies (you know who you are!) and I'm busy loving Southwest. Those Southwest people crack me up and best of all, they're usually on time. It’s a novel concept when your local airport is a US Airways hub. I decided that since I had a free ticket I would use them to book our vacation. I knew I had a connection in Vegas on the way out, but I did not know we were ALSO stopping in Pittsburgh. This plane was nothing more than a giant bus in the sky. We simply landed, picked up some more people and then took off again. The same thing happened on the way back but twice instead of once. I was in six airports over as many days....that is bad.

Quotes of the Flight:
Husband watching people board in Pittsburgh:
“Is it just me or are all these people missing necks?”
Taking off from Orange County:
Flight attendant whispered in the PA, "Shhhhh, we're flying over rich people’s houses".

#2 Carpool lanes are cool! Minivans are not.
We got a sweet deal on Orbitz for a weekly rental. I had never rented from Dollar before and now I know why - we were riding in style in an electric blue minivan.

Since there were three of us we avoided lots of traffic in the carpool lanes and we went through the toll booth for FREE - it's like Christmas in October. As we pulled up to the toll with our $4 the guy shouted at us "CARPOOL!". Being from the wasteful state of Pennsylvania we had no idea why this guy wouldn't take our money and was yelling at us. Apparently that means you ride for free - I love these tree huggers.

We had a really excellent dinner our first night at Barndiva. (www.barndiva.com) Should you ever find yourself in Healdsburg, CA it’s a lovely little place with really killer food.

We then kicked off the official festivities Friday night with what my friend Kelly likes to call a backyard BBQ. This was nicer than most actual weddings. She's a bit obsessive with her event planning, but that's why we love her. Great food, a bluegrass band, a fire pit and lots and lots of wine.

#3 Drinking too much at wedding events can be highly entertaining for party guests, but may piss off your spouse.
I had been careful with alcohol consumption for the first two days in preparation for the wedding. I can’t say as much for the Bride’s brother-in-law. Our other friend commented that he must have incredible balance. His feet were firmly planted on the ground while his torso swayed at a dangerous angle. He later walked up to a group of people (including his mother-in-law) and asked “Anybody got any weed?”. Classic….. His wife looked like she was ready to kill him. He topped off the evening by attempting to lean against the wall of the outdoor tent….as you can imagine, that didn’t go so well. We’ve all been on both sides of that fence. The drunk side is far more fun. Cheers to the brother-in-law!

#4 Need a priest, no problem www.rentapriest.com
The wedding was beautiful. The ceremony was at sunset overlooking a gorgeous golf course. It was almost too perfect. There were wild turkey and deer running around. Bishop Carlos married them. As we all know Catholic priests don’t do weddings outside the church. This guy was a an Orthodox Catholic and apparently they don’t mind the country club and the wild turkey. Seriously…..they found him on the Internet.

Favorite line from the wedding service:
Bishop Carlos during the wedding vows: “If you’re Christian, pray with us. If you’re an atheist, why not just in case

So it was time and I attacked the wedding bar with vigor. Champagne, wine, dancing, hiding from the scary photographer…all was well until I encountered the B&B. Bed and Breakfast you say? No. It was The B&B Lounge. Our after party. Sort of like the road house equivalent for wine country. If I were smart I would have stopped drinking at this point. However I am not and so I did not. Hence...

#5 Whiskey makes your face ugly.
I can't take credit for this observation. It was sage advice from my mother-in-law. She once told me that I should never drink whiskey because it makes your face ugly. This may in fact be true but I think the statement needs to be amended to read – “Whiskey makes your face ugly but sometimes it makes your face look nice to people from whom you should definitely stay away”. I decided at some point that I needed to tell the groom's 6'4" friend that I would like to do shots of whiskey. It really wasn't my fault. He was making fun of me for drinking coke. It's an unwritten rule that if you're really drunk and someone makes fun of you for stopping consumption you should immediately challenge them to drink the worst thing you can think of just to shut them up.

After a few shots of Beam I stumbled upon Beef Jerky man. Maybe he found me, who knows. I'm not so sure he was speaking English at that point but he told me I was delicious and proceeded to feed me beef jerky. It was probably not wise to eat it but I did anyway. It almost seemed rude to refuse since he just paid me compliment….I think. My husband decided it was time to take me home.

The next morning was bad. It involved the bathroom, a complete inability to pack or shower and a lot of self loathing. I made it as far as Kelly’s couch. I then ate half a bagel, prayed that it would stay down and pulled a blanket over my head. My friends took pictures. The groom later showed up and told me while he was happy I had such fun at his wedding he felt that my current state was payback for my own wedding and how hung over he was. I have such good friends.

So the moral of the story is, if you plan to drink whiskey with a guy eating beef jerky, leave the minivan and the rented priest elsewhere because it’s not a pretty sight. Oh yea, and remember to pray, just in case.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ms. Cranky Pants

I’m tired, irritable and jet lagged. This would explain my general apathy toward blogging about my trip. I have decided that happy hour is more important at this point than my blog. Deal.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

eBay + Vintage Handbags = Crack-like Addiction

It's official, I have an eBay addiction. There's so much stuff out there that I can't help myself. I go out to eBay with the best of intentions. I have a specific thing I'm looking for and I search for it in earnest. The problem is that I often find things I didn't know I wanted. I have no idea how or why it happened but I somehow fell in love with pin-up girls, specifically Gil Elvgren. I thought it would be really cool to decorate our bedroom in 50's pin-up girls. I began searching and bidding on lithographs. I was repeatedly outbid so I ended up with a really cool coffee table book instead.

Then I had a great idea to complete my mother's silver pattern so she could serve 20 at Christmas. I was like a woman possessed. Everyday.... searching, digging, teaspoons, serving pieces. Then I started to find things I liked. I started bidding on silver for myself. This is totally unnecessary since I have silver from my wedding but mine isn't Art Deco so I felt it made complete sense. Who knew that was so competitive. I actually forced one of my co-workers to choose a happy hour locale with wifi so I could finish one of my auctions. I never did win anything for myself but I did manage to get everything but the soup spoons for my mom.

There have been a variety of things since then but my latest purchases have caused my husband to become concerned. I doubt its my mental health he's worried about, my guess is he's can't figure out where I'm going to put all the stuff. If you know me, you know I have an obsession with handbags. Old, new, weird, you name it, I'll buy it. Before you give me crap about how ridiculous this is I would like to point out that I actually carry these bags. It started when I randomly found two handbags listed together for $9. I bought them. I loved them. I started digging for more. Why didn't I think about this earlier? eBay is a perfect place to find vintage handbags. Silly me, I've been wasting time at antique markets and garage sales. This is instant gratification and far more rewarding because I get to beat those other bidders with my super human bidding skills.

I've won three in the last few days at ridiculously undervalued prices. May favorite is pictured at left. Walborg made some fantastic bags. I have a black beaded one I found a few years ago at an antique market. My husband calls it The Armadillo.

This is why I love eBay, lots of lazy people clearing out Grandma's stuff with no knowledge of how much they could actually get for these things. It's going to be Christmas in October. I realize I sound like a complete psychotic, but I'm being serious. I told my husband that when I die he can sell them all and take himself on vacation. That seemed to make him feel a little better about it.

I also found a lot of 24 wonderful vintage hankies. How can you not love those little embroidered squares. Aren't they required when you carry those really old bags? Hand rolled edges man...I couldn't stop myself.

Currently I'm watching three Corde bags from the 40's. I would be willing to bet that most people don't know (or care) what a Corde bag is, but let me tell you - they're worth fighting for!

On a side note, I'm loving my new blog photo. (One of my co-workers pointed out that the previous picture's reference to drowning cats wasn't pleasant - PEOPLE, IT'S ART!) It was time for a change anyway and since I have a thing for Gil Elvgren and fall/winter skeet shooting starts soon I thought this one was a good choice. We're kicking off this year by taking the old man to shoot sporting clays somewhere near Reading. And, in case you were wondering, I have the coolest shell bag - it's orange suede.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hitchcock's Birds ain't got Nuttin' on my Birds

We've all been grossed out at one point or another. The guy on the subway who coughs without covering his mouth or the one who wipes his nose with his hand and then grabs the same rail you're clinging to for dear life. People who only rinse in the bathrooms, people who don't wash at all, those same people touching the door handles that you touch. Chewing of pens. The hacking up of phlegm and spitting onto public streets where it gets on my shoes and I bring it back to my house. Oh dear....I think I just threw up a little in my mouth so now I'm going to stop. You get the picture.

Generally speaking I'm opposed to anything antibacterial. This may seem in conflict with my previous rant about people and their germs. If I were a real anti-antibacterial woman I would belly up to the dirty people and relish the opportunity to strengthen my immune system. I just can't do it, I'm too grossed out. So while I don't go out of my way to come into contact with bacteria and viruses, I also don't try to scrub every last bit away.

This is actually harder than it sounds. Have you ever tried to find non anti-bacterial hand soap? There's all of one option in the liquid hand soap variety. Every single cleaning product has started throwing in a little antibacterial somethin', somethin' for good measure. Another good reason to go natural. My husband carries those little antibacterial disinfectants with him when we travel. It must be a doctor thing - something about hospital germs and carrying illness from one patient to the next. As much as I like to make fun of him for this peculiar habit, it has come in handy more than once. As a result of incidents like those listed below I've relaxed the ban while traveling.

No soap in the airplane bathroom? No problem!
Big fat dude next to you just sneezed all over himself and then proceeded to touch everything around you? No problem!
A scary bum spits a half eaten gummy bear in your hair on the street in Chicago and then runs after you and throws her dirty shoe at you? No problem! (100% true, you just can't make this stuff up)

So now you understand that I'm sort of a germ-a-phobe at war with myself. My latest activity on the home front is to wage war against my neighbor two floors up. Not necessarily the person per se, but their bird feeders. This person has a collection of illegal (per our apartment bylaws) feeders that swing wildly from their illegal window boxes. For the life of me I can't figure out what pleasure they even derive from these since they hang below the balcony. We're now knee deep in discarded seeds and fallen feed on our balcony. As a result we now have a bird party on our balcony every day. The bird crap on our railing is threatening to take over and it's starting to pile up on the cement floor as well.

Hey! Don't let me hear any crying! These aren't cute little song birds, they're huge flying rat like pigeons. It's a damn infestation!

So my husband, being the helpful person that he is, happened to mention a while back all the nasty illnesses you can get from pigeon feces. I now imagine dried poop particles flaking off and flying into my nose, leaving me for dead. Think I'm kidding? Try one of these beauties on for size:

Cryptococcosis - causes acne like ulcers on the skin (bad rash? I think NOT)
Histoplasmosis - flu like symptoms, fever, death and in some cases blindness (at least 2 out of 4 don't cause permanent damage - right?)
Toxoplasmosis - central nervous system damage

and my personal favorite.....

Ornithosis - fever, chills, fatigue, a rash and lung problems such as shortness of breath and a cough. It can also lead to rales, which are small clicking, bubbling sounds coming from a portion of the lung.

Clicking sounds from a portion of my lung? Are we living in a 3rd world country?? Next thing you know the kids in the building will be kicking around a dead chicken in the courtyard and we'll all die from Bird Flu.

I have no idea who lives two floors up. With my luck it's probably an old woman whose only joy in life is waiting for the birds every day. You know what? I don't care. I can live with stealing her joy, I can't deal with the birds. Curiously though, I'm starting to sense that the birds have started exacting their revenge. Today as I was walking home from work, a bird took a big crap on me and missed my head by about 1/2 an inch. It landed squarely on my scarf, dangerously close to my mouth. Perhaps that was just a warning strike.

"Hey lady, there's more where that came from, back off the old broad who feeds us!"

All I have to say is, "BRING IT ON you diseased flying rats". I'm bigger and I can kick you with my impossibly pointy not-so-practical shoes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When Bad Suits Go Worse...

I would like to ask a simple question, "Do some people not own mirrors?". Sounds silly but it's a question I ponder because it's the only reason I can come up with that would explain some of the atrocity I see walking to work, walking around work and in the actual office. This question is second only to, "Are you blind?" and "Have you no common sense?".

At one point in my life I had a large staff. During my tenure HR established a business casual dress code. Enforcing this thing was like a living nightmare. It wasn't so much explaining to people the difference between a shirt and a t-shirt that was challenging, it was the conversations about wearing a bra, off the shoulder shirts not being work appropriate, your pants shouldn't be so tight I can see your underwear (or lack thereof) and my personal favorite - if your thong is hanging out of your pants that's not good....yes, even if it only happens when you sit down.

I came from the consulting world where life was easy - wear a suit - all day, every day. If your client is business casual, wear a suit anyway. You can never go wrong in a suit. As a result, I had a closet full of suits and so I found this new environment baffling. I didn't know how to dress myself so I turned into my grandmother and wore sweater sets every day. Sure, I'll admit to the guilty pleasure of "Jeans Friday". There's nothing better than pulling on a comfy pair of jeans and rolling into the office. I've since moved back to a corporate environment and I was sad about Fridays but I thought at least I wouldn't have to look at thongs and sloppy cleavage.

No such luck. It seems my old partner was mistaken - you can go wrong in a suit, very wrong. Especially when said suit has a skirt that barely covers your ass and the little shred of lingerie under the jacket is the only thing preventing you from a Janet Jackson like wardrobe malfunction. I wonder if these people look around and think about that old Sesame Street sketch about One of These Kids is Doing their Own Thing.

I decided to think through the possible reasons for looking like a tramp at work, other than 1. not having a mirror, 2. being blind or 3. having no common sense:
  1. You didn't bring a change of clothes with you to the bar last night and your one night stand didn't have an alarm clock to get you home early enough to change.
  2. You had a massive house fire over the weekend and all of your suits went up in flames. The only place open the next day was Forever 21 and so you were forced into that thing that many little polyesters had to die to produce.
  3. You're sleeping with your boss and looking like a tart is part of your yearly performance goals.
  4. You're part of a new reality television show and your immunity challenge is to get some unsuspecting chump to violate the office sexual harassment policy.
  5. You've just been diagnosed with an incurable disease and with 24 hours to live you're looking to go out with a bang!
  6. Your "office" IS actually the street corner.
So now that I think about it there really are some legitimate reasons to look like that. I'm glad I took the time to think about it. Perhaps it will make me more tolerant of such visual assault in the future.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Those Google People are so Smart

Here's a little something to keep you entertained when you're feeling like you need a break. The blogger team developed this nifty little site that shows you all the pictures that are uploaded to blogger real time. It's a little bizarre and voyeuristic, but cool none the less.


Plungers Rock!

My cousin came over for dinner last night. He saved me from an evil eye infection while I was in San Francisco by calling in a prescription. The least I can do is make him dinner. He's also a bachelor and I have visions of him eating out every night or ordering take out so I feel compelled to cook for him. This is probably not even close to the truth but it gives me an excuse to have company come for dinner.

I asked what he wanted me to make and he decided on spaghetti bolognese. Hmmm, never made it but I figured what the hell. This better be good after the mess I knew I was about to make. My dear husband decided to go to a German/American beer tasting event. He left and told me he would be home in two hours.

1PM: Start of the sauce is in the saute pan. Used half a brick of butter - no wonder these things always taste so good. Sliced into thumb nail, took brief interlude to cut remainder of nail off.

2PM: Did something with tomatoes in a blender. Too many pots and pans on the stove. Slightly out of control. Large quantities of veal and pork added.

3PM: Sauce mooshed together. Husband was still at the beer tasting and called to tell me he had managed to get far drunker than anticipated. Hung up, started caramelizing onions.

4PM: Attempted to cut ridiculously small organic carrots & parsnips diagonally. Gave up and busted out mandolin. A very nice warning on the blade told me that I should proceed with caution because it is very sharp. Cut other thumb nail, took second break to cut remainder of last thumbnail off. Dump mess of veggies in ziplock to marinate.

Took shower to remove kitchen funk from myself.

5PM: Pulled veggie mess out of ziplock to begin layering. Recipe called for fennel - no fennel at the Whole Foods. Decided to do a carrot/parsnip ensemble instead. Threw in some Anise seeds - that sort of tastes like fennel - right? Realized garbage disposal was shooting water in the wrong direction. Stuck a hand in the disposal, pulled out carrot and parsnip mess. Still no luck. Called maintenance. Apparently this is not an emergency and it will wait until tomorrow. Don't they know I'm TRYING TO COOK! Sent text message to husband: "u better not show up drunk 5 mins before dinner or you're going to be very hungry tonight". Realized I smell like garlic.

6PM: No husband yet. Preheating oven for veggie mess. OCD kicked in. Desperately wanted to wash 5 qt saute pan. Considering bathtub. Husband arrived and started snacking in the fridge. Put veggie mess in the oven. Realized I'd used the wrong cheese in the veggie mess. Crap. Decide to wash pan in bathtub. Managed to get sauce funk on shower curtain. Double Crap. Husband started nagging because he wanted to make beef stock. (He enjoys choosing the most opportune times to do things that drive me crazy) At wits end, I told him he's not going in "my kitchen" to make a mess while I'm trying to cook and guest is arriving in one hour. He replied that it's "his kitchen" as well and that if I wanted my own kitchen I should have married someone who doesn't like to cook. I tell him I will kill him if he sets foot in there. He decided he would rather take a nap on the couch.

7PM: Cousin arrived, ate dinner. Bolognese sauce wasn't half bad. Declared edible by cousin and husband.

8PM: Sink situation was driving me mad. Kitchen looked like a bomb went off in it. Dishwasher was stuffed. Retrieved plunger from closet. Began plunging sink. A few minutes later a disgusting sucking sound came out of sink and it immediately drained. I rejoiced. Immediately began to obsess over fact that plunger was in kitchen sink. Disinfected everything in 4 foot radius of plunger activity.

I learned something new about myself. I take great joy in that sucking whirling sound. I was able to sleep soundly knowing that I didn't have 10lbs of dirty dishes and stagnant water in my kitchen.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Finding a New Outlet for my Obsession with Kitchen Stuff

Here is a list, for no apparent reason, of some of my most favorite kitchen & kitchen related things. Keeping in mind that I am not trained, have managed to cut myself on more than one occasion and I have a problem with compulsively buying kitchen gadgets. Perhaps this is a way for me to feed my kitchen obsession without buying more stuff that doesn't fit in the drawers. Please feel free to add your favorites!

The 40001 Zester (left)
Sounds super fancy and is hands down the best zester, grater thingy I've ever used. I've never taken off skin with this thing and it's scary accurate. Put these in the stockings last year for my mother and sister.

The Smooth Edge Can Opener
Forced to go to a Pampered Chef Party? Here's something to buy so you don't have to feel bad. Again, no more tetanus shots necessary. I can run that can lid along my wrist without having to call 911!

The Classic Cheese Grater
No more cutting knuckles on the big metal grater when trying to grate Parmesan. (Are you getting the sense I'm prone to accidents?) Ours also came with a nifty attachment to collect the cheese and just pop a cap on it and put it in the fridge. Brilliant!

Metal Gear Corkscrew (right)
Someone gave this to us as a gift and being a wine key girl I scoffed at the idea that I needed a complicated opener. This thing is superfast and comes with a nifty foil remover. I'll save the wine key for picnics.
The Wine Saver (left)
Feel like not finishing that bottle you just opened? No problem. This thing helps you keep your wine tasting as good as the moment you opened it for a few more days.

The Pineapple Slicer (right)
Sounds useless, doesn't it? I like pineapple, i hate cutting it. This thing lets you cut an entire pineapple in a giant perfect ring in less than 10 seconds. No mess and you get a glass of juice at the end too!

This magazine is like a feeding frenzy for kitchen gadget people. Every issue has reviews for everything from dutch ovens to whisks. You can't help but love a test kitchen. It only comes out every other month so it's almost impossible to let them accumulate without reading them. Who knew you could be so excited about something that costs more and is less? Next time you see it in line at the Whole Foods, pick up a copy....you know you want to.

I defected to Gourmet for a little while but found the recipes too involved and time consuming. I also tried Cooking Light, but something about trying to make things low calorie kills the fun. This magazine however is single handedly responsible for giving my family and friends the mistaken idea that I can cook!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Master of Suburban Warfare, Protector of God Given Rights!

Recently a co-worker forwarded me a letter that another co-worker had placed in the mailboxes of his neighbors. Apparently they had received complaints about their dog and his constant barking. Please see letter below:

Neighbors are an interesting thing, especially in suburbia. This thing reads like an FAQ off a corporate website. A twelve step program for reorientation of your dog. I especially like the creative use of the baby monitor with service level agreements! “target within 5 minutes” This is exactly why I live in the city – I don’t know my neighbors, I don’t want to know my neighbors and if they piss me off I’ll call the cops. It seems a lot has changed in suburbia land since I was a kid. I vividly remember the disputes in the ‘hood, there were plenty.

“So and so leaves their trashcans at the curb too long”
“So and so’s yard looks awful, look at the weeds in those flowerbeds!”
“This one doesn’t trim their hedges, it’s starting to look like the Adams Family”
“That one came over to my house with a plastic fetus and asked me if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior”

There was carnage in the wake of neighborhood disputes. People didn’t speak for 30 years over ugly shutters or blocking someone’s view of the street by parking a car in front of their home. None of this wackado politically correct flier in the mailbox crap. We had an air rifle for a reason damn it!

Ah the good old days.

My childhood neighbors were “saved” and as a result, everyone else should be as well. The wife had a curious fear of lung cancer. She was highly agitated that my father had an equally powerful desire to incinerate things. Perhaps he was reducing the household waste sent to the landfill or simply a functioning pyromaniac. Either way, he liked to burn stuff and she was convinced she was going to get lung cancer from his burning.

Makes no sense, but that’s suburbia for you.

As I've said before, I don't remember anything. Life before 12 is a montage of little snippets that don’t add up to much of anything. This pisses my mother off tremendously as she feels her efforts to expose my sister and me to every museum on the East Coast before the age of 10 was completely wasted. I do however remember everything that involved an explosion or required emergency services. Hence my memory of the street fire incident.

Early one summer evening when I was a child we were having cake at my parent’s house for my grandmother’s birthday. That day my father had forced my sister and me to do what we hated most – pick up sticks. We had big ‘ole trees, therefore we had big ‘ole sticks on the lawn. Picking up sticks involved walking around the lawn (significant bitching and moaning was almost required), finding the sticks and then stuffing them in the storm drain. (More on that later) Hours of torture in my childhood simply to avoid damage to his riding mower. He also liked to burn paper, boxes or whatever else he might have lying around that was flammable. On this particular day he had replaced an old wooden garage door with a new super fancy electric one. This gave him lots of wood to burn.

It was fairly typical of my father to burn in the street’s storm drain. He would stand out there and watch smoke pour out the grates on both sides of the street while the inferno raged below. Neighborhood kids would come out to play with The Big Man and his fire. Eventually things would wind down and he could walk away and check back periodically. The entire neighborhood was accustomed to the burning rituals. Everyone except our next door neighbor. On the particular evening in question she was stewing in her house while my father was creating a blazing inferno in the street. After an hour or so he had retired to the house and was about to put a fork full of cake in his mouth when the first siren started.

Mass hysteria ensued. A fire truck, medic vehicle, police officer and a park ranger came barreling down our little cul-de-sac of a street. It seems someone had reported a fire and they were here to put it out. The commotion turned our front lawn into a neighborhood party. My old man talked himself out of a fine by promising to clean out the storm drain the following day. As it turns out burning was allowed in our township but it had to be in a closed container. The next day he returned home with a huge hulking tin can looking monstrosity which he rolled up the back hill to the top of the property line. My sister and I weren’t sure what to make of this thing but we were quite certain it would involve manual labor on our part.

He started burning again, but only when the wind was blowing in the direction of the crazy neighbor’s house. It was far too practical for him and less exciting for the neighborhood kids, but the slow and painful torture of the crazy woman was a labor of love.

And that, boys and girls, is what I call a neighborhood dispute.

Let this be a lesson to all you kids in suburbia land - some of us were raised by the master of suburban warfare and we don’t write no stinking letters!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Note to Self: Wear Practical Shoes so You Can Run from the Bad Man

I just walked home from work. It's less than 10 blocks and since I was in not-so-sensible shoes I was concentrating on not tripping on the pavement and knocking out my teeth (a phobia of mine stemming from early childhood, story for another day). Somewhere around the 5 block marker a weird guy looks over and says "Hey, how are you?". I say "Fine thank you" and check my left hand to make sure I've remembered to wear my wedding band. Ring on - check. Next I thought he had mistaken me for someone he knew. My hope faded as the blocks passed.

Block 1: I learned he'd had a long day and now had to go to school

Block 2: He has off for Columbus Day but he was bummed because he had to paint his house. However his friend was coming over to help. He hasn't had off for Columbus Day since high school.

Block 3: Are they giving you the day off? he asks. I said "who?". (I thought this might be a good way to point out that we don't know each other) He said "your work." (No luck, he is fully aware he is talking to a stranger) He works for PNC. I asked him if Blackrock was still in the same building or had they moved to the Merrill office. He asked me how I had known that (in a weird accusatory way like I knew industry secrets); he's going to check his notes from the last meeting (uh, didn't that happen like a year ago??)

Block 4: He wants to get into securities or foreign trading.

Block 5: He was saying something, I wasn't listening because I was fast approaching my front door and I didn't want him to see where I lived. I decided at this point to walk past my front door and around the block. I said good-bye and tried not to run (not that it was possible in my 3 inch heels anyway).

This was the second time in less than a week that someone trapped me to tell me weird things about themselves. This past weekend I went to a bridal shower. Everyone knows that even the nicest shower is painful enough. I made it though, won a prize at shower bingo and thought I was home free. Then enters the groom's father. I now know the following:
  1. Times were tough in '67 when he got married, no one gave him nice stuff like this, the best gift he got was $10.
  2. He hasn't spoken to his brother in 10 years
  3. His mother died and screwed up her will
  4. He bought his brother out of his share of the mother's house for $70K
  5. His real estate agent took a commission on that of $3500 (criminal!)
  6. Same real estate agent had the house on the market for 9 months, advised him to take $250K
  7. Had to pay capital gains on the house the following year because it was "bought" for $70K when he purchased it from his brother and sold for $250K
  8. New owner sold the place for over $500K only a year later without making any improvements
  9. His mother didn't gift any of her money to him or his brother and they had to pay tax on all of it.
  10. He bought his first house for $32K and put $18K down but because his father paid him in cash he couldn't prove his income and the bank wouldn't qualify him for a colonial. He had to take a bi-level but in retrospect this was a good thing because he only has a few steps now.
  11. After paying mortgage payments for 2 years he went to the bank to see how much he owed and basically hadn't made a dent in the principle. He was angry about the interest and so he went home, got the cash and paid off the loan.
  12. And finally, his mother shouldn't have died. They brought four ambulances and none of them had defibrillator paddles on them. Had she not died he's quite certain she would have sorted out the will, the money and the house in time to die.

About 45 minutes later his wife intervened and told him he had to go home. I walked back to the house and found his three children and the bride-to-be laughing hysterically about the fact that he had trapped me for 45 minutes. He apparently chooses one unsuspecting female at every event to corner and torture. They also told me that their mother gets insanely jealous of him talking to young women. They also described their parents as Archie & Enid, if that gives you any perspective. Great.....making friends already.

Why do people feel the need to share their lives with total strangers? I guess I could ask myself the same question since I'm here blogging away for the world to see. I think the difference is I won't likely see all of you at a wedding in 3 months.

So when you feel tempted to do the "over share" just remember that the person on the other end may have a blog and your bizarre behavior will be forever memorialized on the Internet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's all downhill when the "Lady Parts Doctor" starts to operate like The Cheesecake Factory...

Most mornings I shut off the alarm and pick up my blackberry. My husband calls it an addiction, I call it managing my schedule. I like to take a look so I know what the day looks like. I need to decide what I should wear. Important meetings, early meetings, no meetings, I want to know what's in store. This morning I didn't look and it wasn't until I was on my way to the office that I realized I had taken a half day to go to the doctor's office.

There's a reason why women live longer than men. It's simply because we go to the doctor. Men typically go to the doctor when they feel like they're near death and have no other option. The problem is they sometimes are near death by the time they finally go. For my male friends out there, here's a nifty little link to see if you need to make a little trip to the doctor's office. http://www.poodwaddle.com/realage.swf My husband currently has a terrible death rattle. Every time he coughs I cringe; I'm convinced there's small pieces of his lungs coming out with every cough. He refuses to go to the doctor - "it's viral" he says, "what are they going to do about it?". I think he has SARS. Doctors are the worst patients.

I, like most women, am fairly anal about my doctor's office scheduling. This is also helped along by the handy little reminder cards that are mailed to me at regular intervals. (I especially like the Garfield ones mailed to me by my quirky dentist. It makes me happy because I like him and it means I get a new toothbrush.) My "lady parts doctor" is not this helpful and as a result I was so busy with nonsense over the last year and a half that I forgot. Of course when I called all those pregnant people had taken the appointments so I had to schedule out a few months. I've long since forgotten the appointment so here I am, the day is upon me and I've been blindsided by my blackberry.

I find myself sitting in the paper gown around 2PM today waiting for my doctor. I've read all the wall posters, looked at each piece of framed art and I've now begun investigating a piece of dry skin within eye sight just below my neckline. Enter my "lady parts doc" who is actually a big man about my father's age. I've recommended him to most of my friends. He's fairly practical, efficient and fast. The latter being the most attractive given the circumstances. He starts in the northern region.

Lady Parts Doc: "How long has that been red?"
Me: "Since I scratched at it about a minute ago"
Lady Parts Doc: "So it wasn't red before you scratched at it?"
Me: "No"
Lady Parts Doc: "Why are you scratching at yourself?"
Me: "Because I was lying here with nothing to do and saw the dry skin and decided to scratch at it"
Lady Parts Doc: "You should read the posters on the wall instead"
Me: "I did, that one has a typo"
Lady Parts Doc: "Which one?"
Me: "That one."
Lady Parts Doc: "Hmmm, well it's old anyway and we don't offer that service anymore"

He moves South. He's now begun talking about cancer patients, application of make-up and a fundraiser he was trying to get off the ground. All I see is eyes above the paper gown and a head between my knees. I can not concentrate on what he's saying so I keep nodding my head and agreeing with him. For the love of all that is holy, move it along man. He had to choose today to be chatty??

After what seemed like an eternity I meet him back in his office. Of course he's found things that I didn't know were wrong and sends me off with prescriptions, a slip for lab work and prenatal vitamins because to quote the good doctor, "You never know and so you might as well". I think the man is willing me to get pregnant. He says "these are the same vitamins I put my father on when he was old and anemic, you don't have to be trying to get pregnant to take these". A likely story.

So I shuffle across the street to Pennsylvania Hospital to open up a vein. After two waiting rooms I get what looks like the pager you get when you're waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory. (Is there a bar where I can get a cocktail while I wait?) I knew they were going to make me pee in a cup so I had started drinking tea in waiting room #1. Now I am staring at the little pager waiting for the blinking and buzzing to start just so I can go to the bathroom. Why is it so impossible to time these things appropriately?

Thankfully the little beeper starts flashing and buzzing, I give them plenty of DNA and I'm turned back out to waiting room #2. I walk home acutely aware that after all that trouble I have no health insurance cards (they have somehow ended up in my husband's wallet). I can't stop at the pharmacy....how anti climactic. Alas no drugs, but then again I didn't even realize I had anything wrong with me, I suppose I'll survive one more day.