Sunday, December 27, 2009

Let It Snow!

Sadly, the snow that hit Baltimore last week melted away in a torrent of rain yesterday.  Even sadly-er, I didn't have a chance to complain about shoveling OR the Maryland Transit Authority OR the record setting inch count because A) my midwestern friends got hit again with an even more noteworthy storm, making it sort of pathetic to complain about a mere 21 inches, and B) the stupid transit authority actually did a decent job, making it slightly harder to complain about them despite my declaration that they are my arch nemesis.  So what's a girl to do but enjoy the snow?

I was lucky enough to be home in Pennsylvania for my sister's graduation last week while Maryland was in a state of emergency.  So we pulled out all the old sleds we used as kids, and hit the ole' sledding hill.  In the dark.  With beer.

Yes, we're a tad larger than we used to be, but we had a blast!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I Want For Christmas

All I want for Christmas is two toilet seats,
Two toilet seats, see two toilet seats.
Gee, if I could only have two toilet seats,
Then I could poop in peace on Christmas.

It seems so odd that one would choose
Sitting on a seat that's blue and "pinkle."
Gosh, oh gee, how happy I'd be
If I could only tinkle.

All I want for Christmas is two toilet seats,
Two toilet seats, see two toilet seats
Gee, if I could only have two toilet seats,
Then I could poop in peace on Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

I'm so sorry constant readers.  I know, I know.  I have been out there in the wide world, buying Christmas presents and wood stain, packing up boxes and boxes and boxes (and a few bags) of my CRAP, and pulling up carpet, and thinking about blogging.  But I have not actually been blogging, and I apologize.  I WOULD go out and buy each and every one of you a nice bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates, but I am too nice.  I know you would then have to go out and buy me a thank you card, and you would have it on your list of things to do for weeks, and then you would think it was too late to send a thank you card, and you would start to think maybe you ought to send a gift in reply, but then THAT would be on your list of things to do for weeks, and THEN you would realize that I had sent you a nice bouquet of flowers and you hadn't even had the decency to say thank you and you should probably just start avoiding me altogether and it would ruin our friendship (blogship?) and you would feel just terrible.  So do not worry, I am gracious enough to send you nothing.  I am such a good friend.

OK, so.

What have I been doing?  Well, we've been to the house a bunch.  Not as often as I would like, but about as often as I can make it without losing significant sanity, so it is enough.  I had one very frustrating day trying to buy SOMETHING decorative for the house.  I have biological evidence that I am a girl.  However, it seems I am missing some key girl-genes, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out what color paint/curtains/area rugs/shower curtains might be appropriate.  I suppose, looking back on my seven hour shopping extravaganza, wherein I purchased two shower curtains and some cabinet liners, I was too scattered in my objectives.  I went to store after store, attempting to find a shower curtain that would compliment my somewhat hideous baby blue tile, and my undeniably hideous pastel purple tile.  But inevitably, I would be sidetracked by the curtain section and the area rug section.  Also, I HATED EVERYTHING.

Now, I continue to go into stores with different objectives, such as finding a gift for my 89-year old grandmother.  (Seriously, she has had 90 Christmases.  How many blankets and knickknacks can one person use?)  In every store, I find shower curtains that would have been WAY better than the ones I bought.  I still hate all the curtains, and most of the area rugs.  And I have not found the perfect gift for my grandmother.


As for the actual work, it is going fairly smoothly, but waaaaay slooooower than I thought.  I successfully pulled carpet in the two bedrooms and the dining room.  I have been convinced that we can at least save the ugly stuff for potential reuse in the unfinished basement.  Actually reusing it?  It is a battle for a different day. When it came time to drag the rolls down the stair, it became apparent that I am, truly, a girl.  I despise the movies where the girl stands around helplessly while her man fights to the near death to save her, and I have never been a proponent of the men doing the heavy lifting while the women bake the bread.  But goddammit, carpet is heavy and hard to grip with itty bitty girly hands.  I am so ashamed.

I hope I have bored you long enough, but not too much.  I hope you want to read more and have not abandoned my little ole' blog.  I think of it all the time, and I PROMISE to update more regularly.  I may tell you about our lesson in "why the band aids should have been packed first" and maybe even our first plumbing incident.  And, if you don't hear from me - expect some chocolates. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dude! Seriously?

Dude!  Seriously?  It costs THAT much??!

I thought I had an edge over the average Joe, since the construction industry indirectly pays my rent (and occasionally lays me off...)  But it turns out, when I am asked to do pricing for others I am generally not overly concerned with the bottom line.  After all, I didn't choose the fancy pavers in the plaza or the partitions in the restrooms, I just count how many of them there are and add the number to a spreadsheet.  Also, when you are talking bugdets of $2.8 million, a $2500 counter top really ain't such a big deal.

But, $2500 is a big deal to me and my significantly reduced bank account.  Think it can't possibly cost that much? Well, think again.  All I wanted was a nice, granite counter.  Is that so much to ask?  I found out it is freaking $64 a square foot, not including the cost for backsplash or edging.  Poo.

No granite for me.

Guess what else costs more than I thought?

1.  Sheds.
2.  Paint.
3.  Tile flooring.
4.  Overlay for concrete floors.
5.  Fireplaces.
6.  Ladders.
7.  Gardening tools.
8.  Books about gardening.
9.  Trash pick up service.
10.  Composting.
11.  Cable television*

*Actually, on that last one, it is hard to say.  You see, the cable company advertises this "triple play" deal which gives a great price for the first six months.  However, no one seems to be able to quantify the costs after that.  We don't even really want cable tv, but it is actually more expensive to get just a phone line and internet service.  WTF?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Phish with Earplugs

It is difficult to put to words how very very sad I was to have missed the Phish Summer Tour so utterly completely.  This band used to play a much larger role in my life - back when I had time to listen to music nearly all day, every day, Phish was a staple album.  It was not unusual for all five discs in the CD changer to be Phish albums.  It was also not unusual to let the CD player run on random play for hours and hours before we realized we'd heard each song about six times that day.

Though I was a poor college student, I managed to make it to see Phish whenever they came to the general vicinity (as long as you consider the "general vicinity" within a six hour driving radius...)  From my freshman year on, I had not missed a Philly show, nor very many of the Pittsburgh shows.  For each of these, I committed at least four hours of driving time to and from the show, not to mention a lot of missed showers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for meals (which are really delicious when you are very very hungry, by the way.)

This summer, the first summer I have been in Baltimore during a Phish tour, they played in Columbia Maryland, just 45 minutes from my residence.  No hours in traffic, no sleeping in a friend's basement on a floor required.  And I missed it.  We didn't get tickets in the pre-sale, we missed out on tickets in the actual sale, and despite committing four hours to drinking pitchers of less than stellar beer in order to win a drawing, we did not win tickets.  I was very very sad.

So, when the Fall Tour was announced, I was there.  I missed out on pre-sale tickets again and was prepared to miss yet another tour.  We attempted Madison Square Garden tickets, and once again, they sold out before we were able to score a pair of seats.  So, despite the inconvenience of weeknight shows in Philly, we widened our search.  Lo and behold we got seats!!...Section 109 for night #1 and Section 209 for night #2!!

Again, I can't explain the joy with which I awaited the beginning notes of Set #1.  Normally, I attempt to guess what songs will be played, or rather, what songs I want to hear.  But for once, I didn't care at all.  I was just so happy to be there, despite having to leave early from work and battle construction traffic and rush hour traffic and traffic for traffic's sake.

The set began with "Chalkdust Torture", a song that demands to know, "Can't it wait till I'm old, Can't I live while I'm young?"  and I laughed to myself as the crowd cheered during the refrain.  "Am I still young?" I thought.  The members of Phish sang this song, as they have for over 20 years, and I realized it has taken on new meaning for me.  I no longer rejoice in youth, but rather, rejoice in the present.  I no longer wonder, what comes next?  But think to myself, hey this here is pretty cool.  I listened.  I enjoyed.  I raced to the car through the parking lot in order to grab about four hours of sleep before work in the morning.

Like the many Phish fans who used to arrive in two door hatchbacks with questionable axles and cheap tires, I got into my newish reliable four door and got into line with mini vans and SUV's, ready to do it again the next day.  I'm a little older, a little wiser, but still crazy enough to drive a few hours for a show.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Channeling My Inner Gramom

Today I have prepared for that seemingly forgotten holiday - Thanksgiving.  You remember Thanksgiving decorations, do you not?  With the Native Americans and the Pilgrims?  The funny hats, and buckled shoes? The headdresses with feathers?  I went to a few stores today, the weekend before Thanksgiving, and saw nary a hand print with a beak and gobbler on it, not a cornucopia in site.  But Thanksgiving is not forgotten by those of us who love food.  Through snowflakes and Christmas trees, I wandered the shelves, looking for the ingredients to make potato filling.

Potato filling is a wonderful and uniquely Pennsylvania Dutch concoction which I took for granted as a child.  You see, I was not aware that it is not an everyday thing for most of the world.  Most restaurants and school lunches in my hometown include potato filling - a delicious blend of potatoes and bread stuffing - on the menu.  But here in Maryland, and even in my Penn State dining hall, no one has heard of it.

Even as a kid, I knew the best potato filling was made by one person - my Gramom.  Though she cooked a lot when I was small, her batches of potato filling (and pretty much everything else) were fewer and farther between as I grew older.  Soon, she made the coveted dish only once a year, after repeated badgering - on Thanksgiving.

I attempted to make it myself, of course.  I called her a few years ago for the recipe.  I went to her house and searched through decades of cookbooks and hand-written recipes on scraps of worn, stained paper.  Unfortunately, potato filling was one of the things she just did.  She threw the basic ingredients together in a pot, and ended with a culinary masterpiece.  The exact quantities of these ingredients were a mystery.  My own potato filling, enjoyed by college friends at our annual "friends Thanksgiving" received compliments.  But it wasn't the same.  It wasn't even in Gramom's league.

Now, Gramom is gone.  It is amazing how I still miss her daily.  I think it is a shame that such a wonderful recipe should die with her.  And so, I pulled out all the old cookbooks I inherited from her, as well as my sister's verbal account of her method - which includes the basic ingredients but not the quantities - and I attempted to reconstruct the masterpiece.

I had thought is would be a lost cause until I took out the last book in the stack - a PA Dutch Grange Cookbook with "Mabel Graeff" written on the front cover.  This, I believe, was inherited by my own Gramom, perhaps when she was just a few years younger than me.  No index, just a list of general recipe types - "Salads" (a very small section, as the PA Dutch are not known for their low-cal concoctions.  Though I didn't flip to the section, I can guarantee all recipes involve potatoes or macaroni, with limited greens as a garnish.) "Breads", "Meats", "Casseroles", "Recipes for a Crowd", and "Desserts" (of course, this section is nearly half the book.)  Where would potato filling fit in?  I decided on the crowd recipes and flipped hopefully to the section to find it right there - "Groff's Potato Filling".  First ingredient, 20 lb of potatoes...umm...I think a recipe for 70 may slightly exceed my needs, despite my family's "everything to excess" motto.  Sadly, I returned to the choices.  I tried casseroles, but did not find it.

And then, in Gramom's own hand writing, a list of her favorites.  First on the list: PA Dutch Potato Filling, page 527.  Eagerly, I went to the section of the book in the worst condition - where the pages, though still mostly in order, had come loose from the plastic binding.  Naturally, page 527 was the only page missing.  I flipped a bit more, hoping to find it, and did not.  As I began to place the fragile book back into its plastic bag, a page caught my attention. And there it was, page 527.  Now, this, I knew was not her recipe.  But I think it is the one that started it all.  When she was in her late teens or 20's this was the recipe she used.  She tweaked and refined and eventually stopped bothering with the recipe all together.  Combined with sis's account, I confidently went to the store and bought ingredients.  I have just spent over an hour preparing things, trying to replicate that recipe I know so well, yet do not know at all.

Only time will tell now.  On Thursday, I will pop my filling in beside the sweet potatoes and crecent rolls for the final test.  Will it be perfect?  I think not.  But it will be close, I know it.

Because somehow, I think, Gramom helped.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Christmas List Is Getting Bigger

I promise, I am not freaking out.  Really.  Ok, I'm freaking out.  We have been looking for a house since APRIL.  Yes thats...six?  Yes, SIX months ago!  The process has been alternately fun and exasperating.  Like, every house we saw had some thing wrong, that we couldn't live with and/or without.  Like the one with the itty bitty yard which was practically on top of the neighbor's yard, or the one with the four acres of land that realistically would take way too much work and/or a herd of goats to maintain.  There was the one with the awesome two car garage that was larger than the house what came with it.  There was the one with the great layout and the six-lane Interstate in the back yard.  We saw houses that smelled like raw sewage, houses with massive leaks in the bathroom, houses with sagging roofs and walls, and one that was advertised as a "partially finished, livable home." 

We ended up putting an offer in on one that was overpriced, and it went into foreclosure while our contract was being considered.  We attempted to see "short sales" and found that they were tied up for the third time in contractual knots, with no real attempts by anyone to untie them.  We found a great house with a nice yard, and returned for a second look to find that pretty much all the electrical work would need replacing.  We debated on the pros and cons of pool ownership, only to have the house bought from under our noses by decidedly more decisive people.

And then, last week, we found something.  The price was right, the electrical system worked, the carpet could be pulled to reveal gorgeous hardwood.  (Who? Would install aqua blue and pink carpet?  Oh, right, the same person who would tile their bathrooms in baby blue or purple pastel with butterfly accents.)

So....we're buying a house!!  And making a bazillion plans for improvements.  I know this cannot possibly be done all at once, but it is completely overwhelming me.  I could not sleep this morning.  Again.  Not only do we not have the raw materials to build with - the wood studs for the unfinished basement, the tile for the kitchen floor, the counter tops, the paint - we do not have the tools necessary for...anything.  Like, I own a hammer, and a screwdriver, and a few wrench thingies.  But paint brushes? Nail guns? Crowbars, shovels, hoes, roto-tillers, ladders, trowels, lawn mowers?  I own none of these things!!  I am freaking out.  Ahh!  I don't even own a shed to store such items!

OK, breathe.  It will be OK.  This morning's realization was the ladder.  We need to clean the gutters and we have no ladder.  I am trying to prioritize, and I can't figure out where this falls in the list.  "And you want a deep freezer," says my crazy brain.  Umm...I was working on the gutter thing!  "And some fruit trees along the back would be nice..."  Argh!  I don't even know where the rear property line is!  How much sunlight gets out there!  What kind of slope the land is!  When you are supposed to plant trees!  What color the kichen should be painted!

Breathe.  Just breathe.

Can someone please buy me a Home Depot for Christmas?  I would really appreciate it.  Oh, or even better?  That Travis guy can come plant me some dang apple trees.  And paint my kitchen.  I am thinking a soft green.  Anything but aqua.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This Post Will Self Destruct

I'm glad for our military, I really am, but these guys are quite a serious bunch.  I'm working on a project at Fort Meade right now, and I had to attend a one hour long progress meeting on the site.  Some of my team members have "escort privileges" but I have "no privileges".  So, I was told to enter through the "NSA Deliveries" entrance.  Here, I wasn't even aware that the NSA was on Fort Meade.

I was told this would involve a lot of waiting, so I parked my little 'ole Cavalier in line with the contractor's pick up trucks and the semi's carrying produce, and pulled out my current book ("Good In Bed" by Jennifer Weiner, it is OK).  It was 7:10am, and my meeting was to take place at 0800 hours.

Around 7:30, I arrived at the front of the line, and followed suit.  The other drivers got out of their vehicles, and opened all the doors, trunks, and tailgates.  I must have given myself away as a newbie, because the man who took down my license number and checked my ID began barking detailed instructions for my next steps as I nodded my head vigorously, wishing to be ultra compliant and non-threatening.  Next, a military police officer came through with a very happy bomb-sniffing dog.  The dog sniffed all around every car, at each door, and each trunk in a very enthusiastic manner.  My car passed the test, naturally, but even when one is not guilty in this situation, it is nerve racking.  I began worrying about the possible stray empty beer bottle that could have fallen from my weekly recycling run, or the flares that I routinely carry in case of emergency.  Could these items be considered contraband?  Will I be shipped off to Guantanamo?

Instead, I was told to get back in my car and drive 50 yards to the visitor center parking lot, where I would show my vehicle tag and my ID.  When prompted, I typed my social security number into the keypad, and was denied access to the base.  My number was in the system, but it had expired, so I had to make a bunch of phone calls from the parking lot because cell phones are not allowed in the building.  It was now approximately 7:40am.  At 8:20am, my number had been successfully entered, and I was free an clear except for one thing.  It is NSA's policy to fingerprint everyone who enters the base.  Good lord, Big Brother is thorough.  I was printed, and had to tell a perfect stranger my place of birth, birthday, social security number, hair color, eye color, height, and worst of all, weight.  For the first time ever, I did not lie about my weight.

You are not allowed to print maps of the base, so I had to wait for them to give me directions to the building.  I drove to the nearest lot, and drove the wrong way down a drive aisle before I was called over by a guard.  Again, he sensed my newbie status and my mounting distress at the many many protocols.  He directed me to another lot and recommended I drive in the correct direction down drive aisles.

Successfully parked, I walked to the next gate house where I was to meet my escort.  There, my bag was searched, I had to go through a metal detector, and I had to enter my social security number on a keypad, where I was promptly denied entry again.  Not my fault, it turned out, but the visitor badges were not properly reading so the guard had to call in my information and manually verify my escort was present.  At this point, I was so flustered by the "stand here" and "enter over there" and the "state your weight please" orders that I was beginning to lose it, just a little.

We finally entered the building at 9:25am.  The meeting was over except for my part, and my escort turned on a flashing red light as we entered, which meant that I, and uncleared person, was in the room.  Everything was bathed in the redness, which had to be very annoying.  I silently apologized to people as I walked past in shame.

Not that I want clearance.  I don't think I could take it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tread Softly

About two weeks ago, I finally researched and chose a new vet.  This has been on my list of things to do for longer than a good pet-owner would like to admit.  If my little kitty had been in serious pain, as she was when she had a urinary tract infection, I would have been all over it, called the vet, and had pills to shove down kitty's throat in no time flat.  But the issue is chronic -she has been diagnosed with kitty asthma.

For two years, we have been giving her medicine without seeing improvement.  She still had uncontrollable wheezing attacks and was shedding like crazy all over the place, though she did gain weight and had stopped puking everywhere.  I asked my old vet about this, and his only advice was to tell me to go on the internet and find an alternate solution.  Umm...silly me, I thought that was his job.  Good thing he gave my beast her three year rabies shot or I would have thought the $115 bill was for nothing.

As usual, internet research was scary.  I found out that each attack - she was having them two or three times a day - should be treated as a life-threatening emergency.  I found out that the pills she had been on for two years have long term side effects including diabetes.  I found out that shoving pills down her throat without water could eventually cause her esophagus to collapse and no responsible pet owner should subject her cat to such abuse.  I found out that little "kitty inhalers" exist in which you place a mask over the cat's face and "allow her to breathe naturally".  With a mask.  On her face.  I also found out that there are about 12 drugs with varying degrees of effectiveness and side effects I could choose from.

I decided the internet was not for me.  What I needed was a new vet.

OK, so fast forward to the point where kitty needs a drug refill and I am finally forced to get her fix from a new professional.  That would be two weeks ago.

New Vet is very nice, so far.  (Old Vet was nice in the beginning too, so I need to give this a few visits.)  I was impressed that I waited exactly zero minutes and talked to the doctor for nearly the entire hour and forty-five minutes I was there.  I was also a tad staggered by the $350 bill, but, I reasoned, he had done new x-rays, blood work, and vitals check, plus gave me a new medicine that would not cause diabetes.  Surely, the routine visits I normally require will not be too costly.  (ha, ha.  I know, I know.)

"Look Puss!" I said when she finally forgave me for (or forgot about) the car ride and subsequent poking, "new pills!"  My kitty has learned to love her fix, as we always supplement pill time with a few treats.  Pill number one, down the hatch, and treats administered.  I awaited the eureka moment when the Puss would realize she felt all better.

"Blech!" said the Puss.

And it has been that way ever since.  My apartment is like a field of puke-pile land mines.  In the morning, we awaken and groggily head to the bathroom, stepping in a neatly provided puke pile by the bed.  We walk down the hall and find puke right in the center, in plain view.  Many times, the pill would go down ok after a careful balance of pre-pill water and wet cat food.  And we would rejoice.

And two minutes later, spray bottle in hand, we would be cleaning still warm bits of wet cat food from the carpet.  (Or worse, from the underside of our sock.)  On Sunday night, I awoke at 2am to the sounds of regurgitation in my bed.  She had tossed her cookies right there on the blanket (and Adam's robe).

The worst part is that the pills are working when she does manage to metabolize them.  I have not seen a wheezing episode for three days, and the previous viewing was nearly five days before that.  I called New Vet and explained the situation.  "Perhaps I can get the medicine in liquid form, flavored with chicken or fish?" he replied.  I told him that sounded wonderful and requested chicken because my retarded cat does not know that she is supposed to love fish.

He neglected to mention that said liquid medication is $45.  But, if I can walk confidently in my home without fear of slime on my stockings, I figure it is worth it.  I confidently donated the old pills to his "disadvantaged cat" box, and hurried home with a cute little medicine dropper for kitty-sized mouths.

With a sigh of relief, I filled it up at the appointed hour and opened the cat's mouth.  She struggled, and I struggled, and I clumsily managed to squirt the stuff down her throat.

Two minutes later, she threw up.

I cannot wait for the month to be over, when I take her for the follow up visit.  I am sure it will be cheap, since I have already paid $395, right???

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Roasting Halloweenies

Sitting 'round a campfire in the semi-rain, roasting marshmellows and 'dogs, telling ghost stories and carving pumpkins?  Priceless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Chick Sure Plays a Mean Broomball

Last night after our broomball game, we checked out the new sponsor bar for the league.  A couple of guys in business suits (obviously out of towners) asked a common question:  what's broomball?

Well folks, broomball is the ultimate sport, most likely developed in Canada, for those who prefer a few beverages before a game.  (Gotta love them Canadians, eh?)  As with many "sports" I play, there is an optimum level of inebriation required to truly achieve great things in broomball.  The consensus among my teammates is a two drink minimum will suffice - just enough to lower the brain's natural tendency to wish to divert the body from injury, and to raise the body's ability to shurg off said injuries.  We have, of course, obtained this number scientifically through trial and error - we find that four beverages is definitely too many because the brain is required to remember a few basic rules, and the bladder needs to remain un-emptied for the 40 minute game time.  Three beverages is sort of hit and miss.  At this point, the test data is inconclusive and warrants further study.

Broomball is basically street hockey, played in sneakers, on ice.  Instead of a traditional puck, there is a small nerf ball, which is batted around by sticks that look like little plastic brooms.  I am quite certain that the original "sticks" were actual brooms, but the sport is evolving and so participants are no longer able to get by so cheaply.  In fact, there are even special broomball shoes now, owned by most of our opponents and none of us.  Nothing says "I am way too serious about broomball," than a pair of those ugly clods.

I have not played broomball since college, and when I played there, it was pretty much a disorganized bunch of co-eds who just had a few beers, running around on the ice with vague aspirations to smack a nerf ball into a net.  This league has actual rules with actual refs and assigned positions with specific locations on a "field".  I was a tad nervous.  Luckily, my teammates appeared to be fun and several had never played broomball before.

As my Constant Readers would surely guess, I am not the star player.  It turns out:

  • I am deaf.  My raging cold is on its way out, but the eviction process is sort of like those Mucinex commercials.  You know, where the fat cartoon mucus guy and all his fat relatives get simultaneously sucked through a teeny little door?  There's a bit of clogging in my wee pipes, and my ears and nose are totally stuffed, making it difficult to hear and, sadly, impossible to smell.
  • I am dumb.  Broomball is freaking tiring.  You run for the entire period, wacking at a stupid rubber ball that should be easy to wack, then sliding past it as your opponent (with ugly shoes) slides on in to push the thing into your goal.  Talk?  I could barely breathe, let alone talk.  After the game, I was informed that the defender does not need to run so far out, as the offenders will have to approach the general net area in order to score.  That makes sense.  Too bad I was too dumb to figure this out while actually playing, and too deaf to hear this advice yelled during the game.
  • I am blind.  In addition to the knee and elbow pads, a properly equipped broomball player needs a pair of gloves (it is cold), a stick, and a helmet.  These last two are supplied by the league, but I forgot to take into account my abnormally small head.  I would run towards the ball, then stop short to hit it.  Unfortunately, the helmet inevitably kept going due to some crazy law of motion.  It fell over my eyes, effectively blinding me.  Every. Time. Luckily, I was somewhat effective at defending due to my completely erratic and obviously uncontrollable demeanor.  At the very least, I made people fear that I would fall on / near them and they attempted to get out of my way.
In the end, we lost the game 0-4.  The general feeling among our teammates was that we would rather be losers than wearers of broomball shoes.  Thus, we headed to the bar.  Also?  Next week we ought to hit the bar first, as being stone cold sober on the ice is just downright uncomfortable.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buying Used Pads

Based solely on the contents of my closet, one might think I am actually good at sports.  Over the past few years, I have joined several sports and social teams, with an emphasis on the social.  In fact, the motto of one such organization here in Baltimore is just that: "For people who like sports, but love to socialize."  These teams have been a great way for me to pursue my own interests while learning to navigate in the city, and, you know, to make friends. 

However, I also own the following items:

- a mountain bike, including all accessories (the special shoes, the special sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, the helmet, the gloves, and, of course, the spandex shorts which Adam calls his "mood pants".)
- swimming cap, goggles, and various types of chlorine reducing shampoos which doe not seem to do a dang thing.
- yoga mat, with special ($10) strap for easy transport.
- boxing gloves and boxing wraps (with spare pair of wraps in my glove compartment for when I rush to the gym sans equipment.
- cleats (purchased after an unfortunate nose crushing incident wherein I slipped on muddy turf during a football game.)
- hiking shoes and water pack for on the back.
-tennis rackets and balls, purchased on a whim and used in our complex's tennis courts a total of one time.

I am tired of paying sporting good store prices for equipment I only occasionally use (except the bike). So when I was told I need knee and elbow pads to play broomball, I was a tad annoyed.  I went to Play It Again Sports to buy used pads (thinking all the while of sweaty behind the knee areas of other humans...)  They did not have them, so to Target I went.  Unfortunately, not many adults (apparently) need such equipment.  So I bought the "youth" size thinking this would be for a 14 year old.  The size of the pads appeared to cover my knees, so I figured it would be safe.  I am still somewhat the same height and knee-size as I was then, right?  Right.


My thighs?  Just a tad bigger than they were when I was 14.  When I say tad, I mean I was not even remotely able to connect the ends of velcro above the knee.  As safety equipment, these are, of course, non-returnable.

Thank goodness they sell velcro in the fabric section.  A little manipulation, and I am all set.  I'll let you know how broomball goes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Feed a Fever, Feed a Cold

A chick at work got this "horrible" disease over the summer, wherein she felt anxious and on edge constantly because her thyroid was overproducing hormones.  She had trouble sleeping, felt constantly jittery, and her muscles were all tense because she was unable to relax.  Also? She lost 14 pounds.  I'll spell that out for you: f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n.  So.  The doctors finally figured out the problem and she is back to normal.  And she is sooo grateful she had this disease.

My mind, of course, says that this is silly.  Her body was malfunctioning.  This is not cause for joyousness.  But really and truly, I would be lying if I said I wasn't just a little jealous too.  I have never, ever had an ailment which caused me to lose my appetite.  I figure, if I have to be uncomfortable, achy, and sickly in general, at the very least I could stand to lose a few pounds.  However, in most cases, I gain weight while sick.  I picture myself, long in the future, on my deathbed with cancer or some other terminal disease, eating a cheese steak with hot peppers.

This week, I got my annual raging cold.  It started on Tuesday with an obnoxiously sore throat.  Like, my eyes began watering just a tad with every swallow.  Naturally, the best relief for such a thing would be hot beverages, right?  So, in addition to my nice hot butternut soup, I drank a few Dunkin' Donuts coffees.  You probably think this is no big deal.  Au contrair.  When I do coffee, I like the mocha spice latte, heavy on the mocha (but with skim milk, please! this will make it healthy.)  "Whipped cream?" the guy asks.  I decided I deserved a treat for dealing with such pain and agony, so I told him to pile it on (lite version of course).  Looks like the whipped cream isn't even included on the official nutrition sheet, and its still a good 450 calories with 12 grams of yummy yummy fat.  So, a few of those babies can add up pretty quick.

After the awful, ear splitting sore throat, the cold took a day to settle into my sinuses, and there it has stayed.  I lost my ability to smell, and therefore, my ability to taste.  This happens every time I get a cold.  It just plain sucks.  I am not sure you are aware, but I love to eat.  But food isn't quite as good when you cannot taste it.  Actually, this is not quite accurate - I can still taste.  But all I can distinguish are the basic properties you may remember learning in grade school: bitter, salty, sweet, savory, or sour.  All I can say is that people would probably eat fewer frozen pizzas if limited to these sensations.  Frozen pizzas are extremely salty.  Does this stop me from eating another slice?  I think my Constant Readers know me well enough to know the answer to that question is a vehement "no".

In fact, I would venture to say that I eat more when I cannot taste.  Yesterday, I downed an embarrassing number of chips with salsa, a chocolate square, some apple cider, and a granola bar in record time.  I keep thinking that this meal or snack will be The One, the one I will taste.  It is a viscous cycle.  This morning, I got into the shower and realized I could smell my shampoo a little bit.  My brain then has to work hard to convince the rest of me that I should not get too excited.  As whatever is clogged becomes unclogged, the ability to smell comes and goes, sometimes within a breath.  There have been times when I get a few hours, and push the bad memories away.  And when I realize that my sniffer is once again MIA, I get very very depressed.  I am still stuffed to the brim with ickiness (I'll spare the details), so I know that brief hint of Head and Shoulders is a fluke. 

I was lucky enough to get a few eggs and some toast cooked and eaten before returning to my un-smelly life.  (It does have advantages.) I also got a chance to try a little of the stew I made yesterday.  I ate it yesterday too, but I wasn't able to tell if I liked it or not.  It was pretty good.

I'll put up with the sore throat (which is back for round 2, though significantly less painful).  I can deal with a dry, red nose, painful to the touch from constant blowing.  I can even tolerate the tender lymph nodes that ache constantly, the pounding head, and the virtigo.  But I hate losing my sense of smell.

Perhaps I'll be able to taste one of those cookies in the pantry...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I just want to say CONGRATULATIONS to Carabee at Land of Bean! She is officially Miss Maryland.  Well, for "family blogs" anyway.  Despite skipping out on dinner plans with the gals so she could attend the Mobbie Awards Gala, she deserves some kudos.

I am very sad that the Mobbies voting period is over, because I have very much enjoyed coming up with cutsie titles for Mobbie-related blog posts.

In other news, I saw a bag ON a tree today. 

I am not sure this would qualify for the "Bags IN Trees" site.  Perhaps a spin off?

Friday, October 9, 2009


Unfortunately, the whole "working for a living" thing I got goin' on has seriously infringed on my blog-reading time. Though I've gone to the Mobbies site to vote for Land of Bean daily (do it now!), I haven't had the 37 hours necessary to read the other blogs. Today is the last day for the voting, and I do have a few hours to kill, so I checked out the "humor" section which only has seven entries. All I can say is: I totally got this next year.

You: Maybe you just think you are funnier than you actually are?

Me: I do not actually consider this a "humor" blog, but I imagine the competition doesn't consider themselves humor writers either. "Humor" appears to be a great spot for us "Miscellaneous" blogs that happen to amuse our Constant Readers on occasion. And by the way? Shut up. I didn't ask you anyway.

So, let's take a look at this "competition", shall we?

There's one site that appears to be totally devoted to making fun of the outfits worn by a local weather girl. The posts are amusing, but rather repetitive, as you can imagine. The funniest thing about it is that apparently the weather girl has been replaced in the last two weeks or so. The station now has a weather man who wears a suit every day. The blogger has been writing amusing posts about issuing missing person reports and the un-funniness of Men's Warehouse suits, but I suspect the site will wither and die if this chick isn't found. Even if she is found, I think I could win out over such a limited topic.

Speaking of limited topics, another site, aptly titled "Bags In Trees", features nothing but pictures of bags. In trees. While the premise is funny, it is still just bags (in trees). I think I could win out for creativity. Dude, I live my blog. I don't walk around waiting for litterbugs and thunderstorms.

Next: A site about comics. The comics? Sometimes funny, sometimes not. Writing about the miscalculation of "Family Circus" character ages when converted to days? Well...kind of funny. The site probably appeals more to people who actually write/draw cartoons for a living. I? Hell, I appeal to the masses, yo. Wait, I mean "Heck". Sorry, masses.

There is a very amusing blog apparently written by a Towson University student called "Your A Idiot". This was my vote for (this year's) Mobbie because the posts are well written. But - the author has chosen to show only the first paragraph of the post on the main page and the reader must click on the title to read the full post. I, for one, find this annoying. Also, the posts are dated about two months apart, on average. Again, I win out based on quantity, if not quality. If this dude steps it up, though, I could be toast. Hopefully he is taking computer science classes because I happen to know a TU professor who will be able to give him extra work, thereby winning me a Mobbie because he will have no time to write and I use run-on sentences infrequently thus making me the better blogger. (Not that I even know what winning a Mobbie entails...probably I just get invited to spend $30 on an awards dinner that better have an open bar so help you lord.)

There were three other entries, but trust me, I am better than all of them. Or I am just more amusing to myself than I am to others.

Whatever, man.

PS: I also checked out some of the competition for Land of Bean in the "Family" category, and it is tough! There are a few professional bloggers - like, who write books and stuff. But no lie? She is really and truly better than them. Trust me.

PPS - Thank goodness Jen Lancaster doesn't live in Maryland. Because her blog? Is hysterical and would totally beat me. This questioning thing I do? It's totally stolen from her.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


My oft-mentioned blog writing inspiration, Carabee, has been nominated for the "Maryland's Outstanding Blog" award - that's a "Mobbie" to you and me. As a huge fan of her excellent writing, her fun with customized layouts, and her ability (obsession??) with posting pretty much daily on Land of Bean, I have dutifully gone to the official site to vote for her in both the "Family" section, and the "Best Overall Blog" section. This can be done once a day until October 9th, and requires you to enter your email address for free registration to the Baltimore Sun website, but heck, she is worth it. Good luck, Carabee!

While voting, you will see that there are a lot of other interesting (and not so interesting) categories: Foodie, Music and Nightlife, Politics, Neighborhood, Humor, Sports (even broken down into specifics for Baltimore and Maryland teams), Entertainment, Photography and more, including the ever popular "Miscellaneous". While some of these appeal to me very little, I decided I should check out some of the other categories and pick a winner. After all, it is absolutely gorgeous outside, not a cloud in the sky and humidity-free. What better way to spend it than sitting in front of a computer screen?

I started with the Foodie section and was happy to learn that there is more than one site dedicated to Baltimore Beer. This is something I myself had hoped to do one day (after all, what better excuse to drink than to say "It's for the Blog"?) But, as with many things, it's a whole heck of a lot easier when someone else does it. I added a link to one of the sites on my own in the "Blogs I Follow" section and crossed that item off the to do list.

I then found that reading about food makes a gal wanna eat.

After a mozzarella cheese and tomato snack, I settled down to read. Dang, what a hard decision! There's a guy whose site is dedicated to bacon, a gal who writes about pizza, a few recipe-centric ones, and a bunch that post about Baltimore events. One thing I can say is that I will be more informed about the places to go in the city. While I liked a few others, I voted for 990 Square which was amusing, stuck to the topic, and gave me a great idea for the eggplant that's rotting in my fridge. I really liked the Bacon Blog - Ministry of Bacon: spreading the gospel of all things bacon. Unfortunately, I don't like bacon a whole lot. I am now totally inspired to write more about food since I found out that this could be a way of getting more food for free. I love me some free food, and pretty much all free stuff in general.

There were 21 "Foodie" nominees, and I didn't feel qualified to vote unless I read them all. So that thing I said earlier? About sitting inside on this gorgeous day? I think I changed my mind. I'll definitely be going back to the Mobbie site though. I wanna check out some more competition, uhh, I mean, colleagues, and I gotta vote for Land of Bean again!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Sooper Day

Glurg, I'm in trouble. I told my sister I would have a new post up this morning, but instead I shamefully finished off the wine and watched Fringe before falling asleep. Having adventures can be tiring, you know.


Last Sunday's tiring adventure was attempting to ride all ten roller coasters at Hershey Park before they closed. Though I went to this park four to five times a summer when I was in high school, I hadn't really been back since. As a 15 year old, my friend and I would ride the "Sooper Dooper Looper" and race one another back into the line to ride again. Due to our master plan (go to the park on a cloudy Wednesday), the lines were rarely longer than 20 minutes, and the Looper line was practically nonexistent.

As a 29 year old, I went to Six Flags here in Maryland on a sunny Wednesday which happened be shortly after someone lost their feet on a ride at a different Six Flags. Perhaps it was the day of the week or the public paranoia, but the park was practically empty, and we found ourselves waiting under 10 minutes for every ride. Unfortunately, my 29 year old self was not as agreeable to the arrangement as my 15 year old self would have been. Ride number three, a magnetic roller coaster that takes off at 60 miles per hour instead of a slow tow up a hill, left my stomach at the starting gate and promptly shoved it back in when the coaster stopped as quickly as it started. We hung in the little staging area before getting off, and I struggled to keep my innies in and my outies out. I desperately searched for and found some motion sickness medicine, available at most drug stores for under 50 cents per dose. The cost at Six Flags? $6 a dose, which I reluctantly paid since the alternative would probably have resulted in careful inspection of the toilet bowls. Apparently, I need the two hour wait for a ride.

Not wishing for a repeat of this experience, my older and wiser 31 year old self carefully packed some Dramamine in her pocket. We got to the park around 11 am. Only seven hours to ride nine rides (water-coaster was closed). We started with the Comet and the poor old Sooper Dooper Looper. This was THE Ride in the early eighties when it first opened and the first roller coaster in the eastern US to have a loop. But it is practically a kiddie ride by today's standards. Despite the name, it has only one loop, and it is only 57 feet tall. Today, the tallest roller coaster is 456 feet (Kingda Ka at Six Flags New Jersey). Incidentally, Kingda also features the longest drop at 418 feet, the fastest speed at 128 miles per hour, and makes me ill just thinking about it. Kingda kinda makes the "I Survived the Sooper Dooper Looper" tee-shirt seem a bit silly (still available in the original lettering) .

Next, we went for the Great Bear, which winds in and around the Looper, and the Storm Runner, another of those 0 to 72 mph "launch coasters". Ugh. I managed to keep my cool and remain unsick, but we decided to ride the very unscary Trailblazer in order to tone down the tummy rumbles, forgetting that Trailblazer's main attraction is not hills but curves. It would have been very embarrassing to puke there, because the average four year old is unfrightened by the 'blazer.

A new feature at the park is a small zoo, and fees are included with the admission to the amusement park. To keep my stomach in check, we walked across the street to find snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, chinchillas, buffalo, prairie dogs, parrots, hawks, elk, alligators, a crocodile, a bald eagle, and wolves, to name a few. The wolves were all eating except for one unfortunate guy, who paced around the grounds generally annoying the other wolves. He then sauntered over to the viewing area, hunched down, and took a nice dump about five feet from us. This was still less disgusting than the giraffe display I witnessed at the Baltimore zoo a while back, but suddenly the motion sickness seemed like the more agreeable option.

We recovered from the poo and went back for more coasters. It was then that I came face to face with the Farenheit:

I did NOT want to go on this, because I really hate facing the sky when being towed up 12 stories. Just a thing I have. But then Adam gave me these puppy-dog eyes, and I decided I would at least wait in line with him. I fully planned to abandon him at the top. But in the end, I sucked it up and went on the ride. Except for the initial awfulness, which occurs in the first 15 seconds (I counted), the ride is actually really fun.

We managed to hit two more wooden coasters, the Wild Cat (which is a bit bone-jarring), and a new one called the Lightning Racer. The racer is actually two coasters "Lightning" and "Thunder" which run at the same time and loop the people in and around one another. It was fun to see the other carload of people racing towards me, then dipping down underneath or around. We rode Lightning (which lost the race). There was no line, and we could have made a run for Thunder, but we were both queasy at this point. We skipped the Sidewinder for this trip - I have ridden it several times in my day, and Adam had ridden a similar one at Cedar Point. He has had unfortunate experiences with the coasters that go backwards and forwards, and I figured I shouldn't push my luck as I was still able to walk upright.

Our adventure was nearly over. We rode the monorail on the way out, and managed to find the car despite paying no attention to where we had left it in the morning. We arrived home after a stop at Lancaster Brewing Company (eh - it was ok). I fell immediately into bed and slept for 10 hours before heading in to work.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

World's Greatest Pop-Pop

I have been a bit absent from the computer lately. There are two parts to a successful blog: one, having adventures. Two, writing about adventures. Not necessarily in that order. In fact, I am a big proponent of writing about wishing I had adventures. Not lately, Constant Reader. Lately, I have been an adventurer who has lapsed in logging of said adventures.

You would probably expect me to tell you about some of my recent exciting experiences, and yet it is actually a mundane occurance which has prompted me to wake my hibernating computer today. After work, I headed to a Happy Hour for a few rounds with my colleagues. Unfortunately, I left a few minutes after them, and I ended up behind a (sloooow) car with a license plate holder that proudly proclaimed the owner of said car to be the "World's Greatest Pop-Pop".

Umm....I think not.

Seriously, I looked at this guy when I finally managed to pass his slow-ass. He did not look all that great. And I happen to know that the World's Greatest Pop-Pop died in 2000. Yes, nearly ten years ago, and my little pea-brain can still manage to contour up his exact laugh at will. I can still hear him say "Yeah, yeah, yeah," when he hears some random story he likes as if I had last heard him say it yesterday. I hang on to these memories because they are all I have left.

My Pop-pop was a plumber who had big, stiff, working-man hands and whiskers on his chin at all times. When I was a little kid, he came to the house and we rubbed cheeks to say hello. He always wore a fedora-type hat, and he was impossible to buy Christmas presents for. He was the type of guy who didn't need much to make him happy, and who bought whatever he did need. My siblings and I gave him silly things for Christmas - like levels and cheapo tools, hunting gear, joke books, cook books, and pictures we drew ourselves. My parents bought him cigarettes and beer, until he gave up smoking. Yet, he always opened each gift and thanked us so whole-heartedly, that our hard work in thinking of that perfect thing always paid off. One year, I bought him a new fedora with a fancy feather in the band. He never wore it, to my knowledge, but it was still in the house when he passed away, in the original packaging. In his own way, I think he truly appreciated these gifts, even treasured them, but he never really needed them at all.

My Pop-pop loved corny jokes, and he told them all the time. Our favorites were the "almost dirty" kind - What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? A HellifIknow! He told the same jokes nearly every time he visited (like, weekly) and he always always laughed out loud at the punchlines. Somehow, I never grew tired of them.

There was nothing my Pop-pop seemed to enjoy more than making my grandmother argue with him. In fact, I think they both enjoyed it. Even to the days when his body ravaged with cancer, and he was weak with pain, I remember him telling her that she was not removing the lid from the "Ensure" can correctly. Did they argue because they were actually mad at one another? Or because bickering about mundane daily life kept them from worrying about the big issues?

My Pop-pop had endless patience (with us kids, not with the Ensure can manufacturers). When he got home from work, I went into the basement and asked him question after question after question. I do not once remember him being short with me, or ever suggesting that I was asking too much. He explained what every tool in the workshop did, when he used it, why he kept it stored in such a way, how he cleaned it, why I shouldn't pick it up, how it worked, why I shouldn't plug it in, and where the sharp parts were.

My Pop-pop was in World War II, and he flew a plane. Though we often bought him plane-themed gifts (for lack of a better option), we never knew a whole lot about his plane-flying days. It was not until his funeral that we heard the tale of his homecoming from the war - when he flew a plane just above the power lines on a residential street over his mother's house, to let her know he had safely returned. He received only a small fine for the infraction.

Worlds Greatest Pop-pop? He truly was, and it is amazing how I still remember him so clearly. I hope I never forget.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Life Lessons

When I was just a young (very young) tyke, I remember a conversation with my Mom. She told me we would go to church to learn about God. "What's God?" I said. She told me that God was responsible for making all the people, and plants, and things in the world. In fact, she claimed He made the world itself. I had a vision not unlike the Monty Python cartoon God - a man, a little scary, in the clouds. "But Mom," I said, "if God made the world, then who made God?"

I don't remember a response. I think she may have changed the subject or something.

A little while later, I remember eating lunch at a neighbor's house. My friend's mom had made the most delicious meal I could think of: macaroni and cheese. And not that crappy stuff that takes all day to make either - this mac 'n cheese came from a box. As we ate our food, my friend and I compared fingers. Amazingly, we realized that we both happened to have five fingers on each hand. I remember being unbelievably surprised at this coincidence.

At one time, I thought it was customary to pick your last name when you got married. My father's parents were divorced and I knew that their last name was different from our own. Likewise, my mother's parents had a different last name. I asked my mother why my teacher, Mrs. Etchberger, would have chosen such a crazy last name.

In kindergarten, I pretended to go potty so I could be first in line, and an hour later, I realized this was a very silly thing to do indeed. In second grade, I went to a neighbor's pot luck party and ate enough brownies to make myself sick. In college, I made a similar mistake with vodka.

The point, my Constant Readers, is that life is all about experiences. There was a time when we did not know even the simplest things, and somewhere along the line, we picked up little tidbits of information. Some things, like the very beginning of existence itself, we ponder all our lives. Others, like the size of our bladders, we figure out pretty definitively after an unfortunate occurrence.

Sometimes though, we just forget our past experiences and open our big fat mouths. Like today, I entered the gym and was a bit surprised to see that the check in guy had shaved his head. Yesterday, he had long-ish hair, kind of feathered. Not the most up-to-date hairstyle, but certainly not all Michael Bolton-y and sad. He had hair on top; he had no comb over. I handed him my card and calmly reacted: "So, did you lose a bet or something?"

To his credit, he simply said no and left it at that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Farming in the City

I finally made it to the Farmers Market this morning. It's something I have been meaning to do, along with getting my car in for an oil change, getting my wheezy cat in to see a new vet, researching new vets, going to BJ's for a refresher on my gum reserves, buying new pants, etc, etc. The reasons for trying to buy more local foods are many - it reduces ones carbon footprint, it helps the local economy, it saves money, blah, blah, blah. I can practically hear Adam's brainwashed Fox News fan parents yelling from Pennsylvania: "You liberal hippie! It's all a plot to put our hard working Walmarts out of business!" (Ironically, these folks live on 52 acres of land and pretty much already grow or personally kill all of their food...though they do buy canning supplies and ammo at Walmart.)

But I digress. Even if all those real, politically and socially motivating things do not convince you to buy local products, here's one you just can't beat: The stuff tastes better. So, a few weeks ago, after buying yet another mealy peach that was pretty much inedible, even though I know peaches are in season in my area, I took the plunge. I began committing myself almost strictly to the "homegrown" section in the supermarket. I thought this would limit my diet, but it hasn't. For one thing, I have bought and used produce that I would not have bothered with before - like Asian pears (grown in Northern Virginia, don't ask me), eggplant, and corn on the cob (more on this in a moment). This is all well and good, but I know from my handy little pamphlet distributed by Maryland's Best (, that there should be more variety. The grocery store ran out of peaches and corn last week. While they still had tons of eggplant and bunches of absolutely delicious I-could-eat-a-flippin-pint-in-one-sitting baby tomatoes, I grew weary of the same old same old. And really? There's only so many ways to skin an eggplant.

I dutifully printed out the list of local Farmers Markets which actually sync with my schedule and location from the Maryland's Best site, and went to the market on this, a cold, rainy, fall day. They had - peppers (hot, sweet, and bell), butternut squash, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, fresh herbs, tomatoes, peaches!, onions, carrots, beets, green and yellow wax beans, chard, and cucumbers. Oddly, no eggplant. There were only two vendors there, so I made sure I brought some from each, and I was on my way. I bought so many tomatoes! They smell like heaven, and I got bunches of hot and sweet peppers, so I'm going to make fresh salsa if I can ever manage to stop reading blogs and do some recipe searches.

I really can't wait to start a garden if we ever manage to find a house. In fact, my house hunting has actually been yard hunting. It could be a big, woody lot with a tent in the middle for all I care. Umm, scratch that for I do appreciate modern plumbing.

There are some contingencies to this garden though (see how I can now use real estate jargon in my daily communication?). You see, when I was a kid, we grew all our fruits and vegetables. We planted, we weeded, we picked. And picked. And picked. My garden will (hopefully) be a stress reliever, not a stress creator. Read: tiny.

You (an innocent bystander): Oh how wonderful! You must have loved growing up with all that fresh food!

Me (a wise worker): First off, I was a very picky eater and refused to eat pretty much all vegetables except corn. And we had so much corn, that my dad would put three ears per meal on each plate. None of my siblings really cares much for corn on the cob. We all OD'ed on it back in 1987. What I remember? Was the work. When the green beans came in, we picked beans for about two to three hours in the hot sun, then came inside and cleaned them. (We got to do this in the living room and watch a movie, so this was not too bad.) Then, we froze them. My parents operated the stove, boiling the beans in batches for three minutes, then racing them across the kitchen into an ice water bath. We kids were the baggers, pulling out handfuls and tossing them into bags, sucking all the air from the bags, and securing them with a twisty tie. We would finish up around 9pm.

Imagine doing this every three to four days, all summer, for various veggies and fruits. It is not really a kid's idea of fun.

So, it has taken me a good twenty years, but I am finally ready to plant a garden. A small garden. All I need now is a yard. Until then, I'm off to the Farmers Market.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Shower Party

I came home the other night and headed to the bedroom, where a bunch of unrecognizable people were gathered, apparently having a party. I was tired from work and thought I would have a shower, but the people in the room told me Adam was already in there. A friend handed me a drink from the makeshift bar (Adam's desk) and advised me to sit down and take it easy while I wait. I sat with one ear to the bathroom, where I began to hear female giggling. I was told that Adam had two lady companions in the shower.

I wrestled with myself. On one hand, I felt I should be self confident enough to know that the jaunt in the shower was just a friendly (albeit very friendly) thing. He might enjoy the company of these girls, but I knew he loved me, so I told myself it was no big deal. On the other hand, it was a big deal. Why wasn't I enough for him? Tortured, I drank my drink until my friend suggested that I join them in the shower.

I was not confident that I would stack up against these girls. By the sounds of their giggling, they were likely to be supermodel types, while I, ashamedly, am not. I disrobed behind a screen and donned a blanket to cover my nudity as I approached the bathroom.

I opened the door, and the giggle girls were there, as pretty as I thought they'd be. I cried. I just couldn't bring myself to take off the blanket in front of them and I thought it was very disrespectful of Adam to assume I would be cool with this, regardless of whether an actual infidelity had been committed.

The girls laughed at me and Adam argued with me, and I woke up, short of breath and humiliated.

It was still dark out, Adam was sleeping soundly, the cat was likely puking somewhere, and all was well. But the feelings of anger, humiliation, and indignation, remained. I could not go back to sleep until 6:28, when I reached over to turn off the alarm which was scheduled to beep in two minutes. I ventured into another shower-related dream which took place at my parents house in their newly renovated bathroom. They had converted this into an all-shower room, and the water pressure was so great, that I awoke again gasping for breath because I was drowning in a veritable waterfall of water. But the original bad dream stuck with me throughout the day.

I found myself a bit angry with Adam because he was mean to me in my dream. I told him about it, hoping for some reason that he would apologize. However, he did not feel he'd done anything wrong, and was actually looking to me for an apology since my tossing and turning is not conducive to anyone's sleep.

I'd like to come up with a witty ending for this post...but for some reason I am very tired....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Love Thy Booty

I'm in that blissful stage between exercising for the first time in like, months, and the realization that I have possibly pulled every muscle in my body. I blame this on the Girl Scouts.

Allow me to back up, if I may, because truly, the Girl Scouts are not entirely to blame. You see, last week, two children, on two separate occasions, ran into my ass. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has been observed before. I am not sure why, exactly, this happens. I believe it is a combination of my over sized bum, which apparently projects beyond a typical backside, and the generally unobservant nature of children.

I know you must be thinking, "Surely more children have managed to avoid your ass over the years than those who plow into it."

To which I reply, "Yes, but I still think two times in one week is too many (and don't call me Shirley)." And also? One of those times was on the beach, and I was self conscious to begin with. I am certain the face plant in my posterior wasn't so pleasant either, though the little girl merely said she was sorry as she bounced off and began galloping in a slightly different direction.

I resolved to do something about soon as the Creme Brulee Cheese Cake was eaten.

What? You wouldn't want to see it go to waste!


Fast forward a few days to yesterday, when I returned to the gym after a long absence. I huffed and puffed through a workout that used to be easy, and afterward I walked to my door covered in sweat, with a high probability that I had cheesecake oozing from my pores. I got the mail and finally found the magazine I had ordered (like six months ago!) from Adam's niece to support her local Girl Scout Troop. Those dang Girl Scouts. They did not have music magazines, like "Spin" or "Rolling Stone", nor was I able to renew my current cooking magazines. So I decided on something new - a magazine called "Fitness". I am glad it finally came, because I was wondering where my "Girl Scout magazine" was, but I could not actually remember which magazine I had ordered. This makes the complaint a bit difficult. I imagined I would be on the phone making angry accusations to the Girl Scouts, and when they tried to correct the problem by re-ordering, I would admit I had no idea what I was supposed to get.

The headline at the top of the September 2009 Issue of Fitness: "Love your Booty". It includes a "You Can Do It" section which provides a workout intended to make me look skinny in jeans. We shall see, Fitness. We shall see.

Today, me and my ass traversed to the basement gym at the office (incident free due to lack of children at work). I counted the gym as a bonus during my interview, but I have never used it in the five months I have been with the company. So I was a little nervous about carrying a magazine in there and doing my little routine. But it was either this or purchase one of those rubber ball thingies. My apartment is crowded enough with sporting equipment. So, to the gym I went, hoping that there would not be many people there.

The workout itself did not appear too difficult - a series of ten exercises which I was to repeat. I managed to complete all the moves, but as I type, I can feel the pain beginning to set in. It has started in the biceps, moved to the shoulders and upper back. I got up to pee, and felt a slight twang in the hips. This is not good. I may have trouble moving in the morning.

Dang Girl Scouts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

If Cats Could Type

This post is brought to you by special guest blogger, Daisy The Cat.

Oh boy oh boy ohboy ohboy, my PEEPS are back! Yay!! I missed them so so so so much while they were away. I sure do hate it when they leave me all alone, even though I did like that neighbor lady that stopped by, she just didn't stay long enough! I don' much like goin' along either - I tried to tell Nicki, but she just wouldn't listen. I cried and cried in my cat carrier and made her feel all guilty in the car so she would open my lock and give me free reign of the seats. But hahahahah, I got her because I stayed in there almost the WHOLE TIME and gave her an especially evil eye until she was almost there and then, you'll never guess what I did, you silly Humans. So I'll tell you: I came outof my carrier and oh this is so funny, I PUKED all over her arm!! That will show her! I just want to stay home!

And then there was that last time when we went to the vet, which I still haven't totally forgiven her for, and she started checking out the Boarding Prices! I was like "Aaaa!! No Way!" so just to be doubly sure she understood how much I hated bein' in there with all the dogs barking their stupid heads off, I POOPed right there in my cat carrier! I showed her again! I just wanna stay home!

But I don't like so much the stayin' home alone thing. So when my Nicki and my Adam came home I made sure I rubbed myself all over their legs so they couldn't walk without tripping over me because I love them ever so much and I just want them to know. And for the past two days, I have been extra sure to show them I care - like I am making sure I rub my face aggressively on their elbows whenever they are in reach so they will pet me pet me pet me...I like being petted. And I sure don't like it when they watch those papers with words on them. I wonder why they always try to watch stuff?? I am really super nice and make sure they do what they meant to do - watch ME! I love laying on papers with words on them! And I am sure my humans would much rather watch me anyway.

This is all normal stuff I like to do so I can remind them to never ever ever leave me at home alone again! (Silly humans, they keep forgetting this!) But last night, I thought of an EVEN BETTER way to show them how much I care! Last night, I thought it would be fun if we stayed up ALL night to play!! So every time Nicki started to drift off to sleep, I made sure she would wake up because I am certain she would like to play all night. I sleep in the day, it is such a much much better time to sleep. But Nicki doesn't seem to agree because she sleeps at night, that Silly Human! So I jumped on her bed and purred in her face, and when that stopped working, why I just walked all over her. I walked from one side to the other side and back and back and back and back, and then I somehow got accidentally pushed off the bed and so I jumped up again and again and again. We had such fun!!

And maybe this time, my Humans will remember, once and for all: I wanna stay home! And they do too!!

Stay tuned for my next post: Plumbing: What's Up With That??

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Roughing It

Baltimore, you balmy beast, I have returned. Our beach house in Dewey, Delaware was beautiful. The kitchen was well-equipped, the living room had a comfy sofa, and the game room did too. It also had a pool table, a little "reading nook", board games, and a play station that played blue-ray disks. The Master Bedroom had a bathroom the size of my second bedroom, a little sofa and tv area, and a walk-in closet the size of my kitchen. My sister and brother-in-law got that room (early bird gets the big bed!). However, master bedroom #2 was only slightly less super-rific. Unfortunately it shares a bathroom with the hallway, which I managed to lock myself out of once.

The place was equipped with cable and wi-fi the first and second day.

And then...

...Horror of all Horrors...

...we lost the cable. All our tv would transmit was a fuzzy picture of the Fox News channel. We got no other channels. This was bad, but we still had the many DVD's we brought as well as the DVD's that were in the house when we got there. But worse?

We lost the wi-fi. It was amazing how aimless I felt. Like, I had planned to go to a local winery but I was not sure where it was, and if they had scheduled tours/tastings. I had planned to just look that up when I got into town. I thought I would blog and keep up with my gmail account - which is still inundated with house updates since we still haven't heard back on our offer. I thought I might check out some restaraunt reviews, or go see a movie. How did people do things before the Internet? I sure as heck don't know.

Thank goodness for the GPS - it found the winery AND the hospital, for what family trip is complete without a hospital visit?

All in all, I managed to accomplish my primary goals for vacation. I got away for a while and relaxed with a book. I didn't think about work once. And I got sand in my ears.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I finally managed to pack the car, and we got on the road. The trip was unremarkable. Everyone's trip - we had folks coming from central and eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Baltimore - was unremarkable. But this? Was not always the case. Let me take you now, to Family Trip circa 1991 from Reading, PA to Ocean City, MD. According to Google maps, a trip that should take 4 hours, 4 minutes.

At this time, I was 13 years old, that magical age when nothing is fun because I was either too young or too old for most activities. Sister #1 was 11, Sister #2 was 6, and Brother was 7. My parents, who had apparently chosen to ride in a minivan for 4 hours, 4 minutes, with 4 kids, were insane.

It was a HOT day in mid-August, and since minivans at the time did not come equipped with "stow and go" storage, we had to put the obligatory "turtle shell" on top of the car in order to pack all our many many many belongings. Packing at the last minute, as I did yesterday, is a long ingrained family tradition, and so even in 1991, we were packing at the last minute. After a few hours of manuevering the turtle from its normal position (hoisted in the garage) to its final position (bungeed, tied, and double bungeed to the roof of the minvan), we loaded the luggage, and we were off. As usual, we doubled back so someone could run inside to grab that quintessential item which they couldn't live without for an entire week. Then, we were off. Again. About 11 minutes after we started, the air conditioner stopped working. We cracked the rear windows of the minivan as far as they would go - which did nearly nothing to cool us. About sixteen minutes after we began our trip, someone surely had to pee...and we finally stopped an hour later at a Wawa.

Mind you - under no circumstances would my father allow purchases at said Wawa. We were there for the potties, a brief basking/drying out in the fabulous fabulous convenience store A/C, and that was it. However, when we were all back in the car and buckled into place, my father tried to start the car. The little engine turned over and over, but to no avail. A few construction workers who had been on their lunch break suggested that the car should be pushed backwards while Dad tried to start it. Three men pushed us as the engine sputtered. But start, it did not.

My father called Triple-A, who said they would send someone over as quickly as possible. Belted into the car as the temperature rose to 92 degrees, we sat. This time, we did not have even the minuscule window crack to supply air circulation. Forty-five minutes later, we called Triple again. Where were they? What was the plan? My father was assured that his call was important, that they would arrive shortly. That if the car refused to start again, they would tow it to a nearby Ford dealer. Unable to stand the heat, we piled out of the car and sat on the sidewalk, begging for some treat from the store. We were hungry. We were thirsty. We were hot. My father relented, and allowed us to purchase two large tootsie rolls and a fountain drink. To share.

We waited another hour. At some point, the lady who worked at the Wawa took pity on us, and brought more drinks outside to the sidewalk. My father called Triple-A again. The temperature soared to 95 degrees.

About two and a half hours after the call was made, Triple-A arrived. Perhaps we should have yelled at the man, scolded him for making us wait so long. But we were so happy to see him, we crowded around him as if he were royalty. Alas, he did not start the car. This was expected, and all we wanted was to get to the "nearest Ford dealer" as soon as possible so we could be on our way after a quick pop of the hood and tightening of some bolts.

At this point, it becomes appropriate to describe the neighborhood. First, we have the Wawa. Next door, one of those lonely residential holdouts, obviously grandfathered in, living in an area zoned commercial long after the house was built. The house was run down, and a lone tree stood in the front yard. This was no landscaped dogwood or pretty little maple tree. It was a 60-foot tall pine tree which towered over the house...and completely blocked the large sign advertising the presence of the next business over. Had the tree been just a tad shorter, or placed just a hair to the side, we would have read "F-O-R-D" on that sign. Oh yes. We had waited two and a half hours for a tow truck to tow us one hundred and fifty feet. In fact, the tow truck guy decided it would be more of a hassle to hook up the car to his rig than to simply push the mini van to the adjoining property.

Bristling with the injustice of it all, we march over to the dealer, following the tow truck. It is now about 3pm on a Saturday, and the mechanic is just getting ready to leave for the day. I suppose we looked pathetic and desperate enough, because they did agree to do something for us. I am not sure what. All I know is that was again set about the business of waiting. Only this time, we were in a dealership waiting room with air conditioning. And a candy machine where we were not allowed to purchase anything. It was bliss compared to the Wawa sidewalk. We waited 45 minutes, until we were told we would have to rent a second minivan for the week.

In the parking lot, we had to transfer the contents of one car to another. Only now, the bodies of both cars were literally scalding to the touch. One could not very easily reach up to the turtle for the baggage without touching the vehicle. Sister #2, age 6, was hoisted up inside the turtle, and lifted each bag down to us. She was not very happy with this decision. Then, we had to un-bungee and un-tie and un-double bungee the turtle from the car, and hoist it onto the rental. Sis was again hoisted into the turtle, and we lifted the bags high overhead, trying hard not to touch the car.

At 4:30pm, approximately 4 hours and 4 minutes after we started, we got back on the road. WE had maybe 3 hours, 3 minutes to go. The rental had air conditioning!! And perhaps in a fit of heat stroke, my father agreed to allow us to purchase an item from the vending machine to share. Life was good.

And then we hit the traffic. For some reason, the radio reception in the rental was poor. And for some reason, the only station which did come in clearly was stuck in a loop. It played two songs: "Blue Moon" and "Rockin' Robin". For the entire time we sat, unmoving, on a bridge to Ocean City. It took another hour to cross that bridge.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family - my cousins and aunts and uncles - had been pulling into the house all day. They had no idea where we were, and were beginning to worry. This was before cell phones, mind you. Around 8pm, nearly 11 hours after we started, we pulled into the driveway in our fabulous rental car.

How would this trip happen today? We'd stop at the Wawa, call Triple-A. In the meantime, we'd play on our I-phones, maybe check out the local Ford dealer locations. We'd find out it was next door. The mechanic would take a look, having several hours before closing time. He'd fix the car and the air conditioning too. We'd play Tetris on the phone in the waiting room. We'd watch "Secondhand Lions" as we drove to OC. We'd be there by mid afternoon. The family would have full updates throughout as we texted our predicament. Kids today. They just don't know what they are missin'.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ready, Set....

We are getting ready to go on vacation wit' da Fam. We're going to the beach, which is really not my all time most exciting a-one top on the list choice of places to go. But I looked into a few of those: a cruise to Alaska, a week in solitude at Glacier National Park, Europe, Australia, a four day Phish festival in California...they have one thing in common: We can't afford them. So, beach it is. One advantage (besides rental/travel costs) is that you can still manage to eat well with proper planning. So, last night was a frenzy of prep - I made my little breakfasts and lunches. I packed my little snacks. And I made one dinner, to be shared with everyone one night of the week. Today, I will pack all (hopefully all) these lovingly planned meals, and probably end up gorging on cake for the next seven days, with the occassional beer in between. Sigh.

In addition to the food, I have to pack linens and towels, games, beer, water...and I should probably bring some clothes...

...but instead I have just spent an hour an a half reading blogs and generally farting around on the internet. Hey, I'm on vacation!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ooo, That Smurfs!

My brother visited this weekend, so young buck that he is, I figured we best get our drink on down in the city. We pretty much do this every time he visits, but Baltimore has a few distinct drinkin' hoods (peppered with the occasional slum in between). So people can visit us more than once and we do not necessarily have to visit the same old haunts. This Saturday, I decided on Federal Hill.

In my old age (we'll get to more on this later), I have finally managed to learn some new tricks. I have successfully found consistently free parking just a tad off the beaten path. Of course, typing this makes it seem as though it was an easy task. Au Contrair: In past efforts I have: paid mucho dinero to park in a garage that closed before the band we went to see stopped playing; paid mucho dinero for a parking ticket AFTER a friend and I both agreed the parking space was legal - this due to novella posted on street signs indicating when you can and cannot park in the area; circled the blocks on an ever increasing radius from my ultimate destination in a car full of dimes finding naught but 30 minute meters which accepted nothing but quarters, exchanged dimes for quarters with random (possibly homeless) guy, then raced to destination to tell friends that I must leave in said amount of time; circled blocks in similar radius because parking garage with questionable hours was full, giving up and going home after about an hour; taken public transportation to nearest stop which requires walking through ghetto. So if you think I am going to post my newfound nugget of free parking bliss - you are sadly mistaken. Find it yourself.

But back to the drinkin'. We went first to the Pub Dog where I refrained from my diet as usual in favor of peach flavored beer and my ultimate vice - pizza. We had a round at the Dog, but decided to check out more of the local scene, so we asked for the check. And as I reached in my bag for my wallet, I realized I left it by the computer after ordering online herbal nose drops for my sickly cat. (I hope the reviews are accurate!) So, I know you must be thinkin', "Oh, poor you. It is so convenient not to be able to pay." And believe me, I hear your sarcasm, you Smarty Pantses. But honestly, it was not convenient for the following reasons: One, I truly felt bad that my younger brother had to pay for me, even though I knew I would pay him back when we got home. Two, you may have deduced that the 'Hill is more of a younger crowd. On a Saturday night, the place is packed with college co-eds and the occassional Bush twin. This means they post ID checkers outside most bars.

I sat totally composed when I was unaware that I didn't have ID, but once I knew, my brain began working in hyperdrive, trying to remember late seventies/early eighties trivia which might prove I had been alive at the time. Like many toddlers, however, I was not well versed in current events and the extent of my knowledge is obtained from those "when you were born" birthday cards. However, confidently remembering that I had pajamas and coloring books with Holly Hobby and Strawberry Shortcake themes, I went to the bouncer. I was fully prepared to spout out names of Smurfs like it was nobody's bu'ness.*

Me: "Sir, I unfortunately forgot my ID today, but this here is my little bro-"
He: (Interrupting me.) I just need to see his.

My brother flashed ID, and we were in. That was easy.

Actually, that was a little too easy. Like what the hell? Am I a Golden Girl or something? I mean, I'm a bit conflicted. I do not go to great lengths to cover up my age, and I'm not self-conscious about it - I am 31 by the way - but...I don't feel like I look that different from my 21 year old self. I went to the bathroom, searching the mirror for whatever it is that gives me away without a single "Where's the Beef?" or Cabbage Patch doll reference. Then I realize that I needn't go so far back. Twenty one years ago was freakin' 1988. We were into Coca-Cola wear and Swatch Watches by then. Bon Jovi was like, so two years ago.

Maybe I am getting a bit old. Ya know? It Smurfs.

*Jokey, Handy, Hefty, Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy, Scaredy, Vanity, and...shoot. What was the name of the one with the Chef's hat?? Bakey? Cook-y? Dessert-y? Whatever, man. The point is, this is firsthand knowledge. Not some Generation X wannabe s**t picked up off a Cartoon Network. Don't even make me sing the "Picture Pages" song, cause it's on!

**Update: I woke up in a panic last night: Greedy. The chef smurf is Greedy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Easy Come Easy Go

Phew, that was a close one. Have you ever looked at your bank account and found that you have too much money? That happened to me today. Of course my first instinct was to rejoice, thinking that perhaps I had won the lottery or there was a new "stimulus plan" I was unaware of. But then, I looked more closely and realized that I have more money because I have forgotten to pay for things. You know, things like electricity and water and credit card purchases of Wii video games. Important things.

So I look at my balance, and see one more zero than I am accustomed to seeing in my checking account. I checked with all creditors and assigned payments as required.

Dang. No lottery for me.

That split second of excitement was nice though...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why I Do Stuff

I learned a new word today: "swag" (thanks to the always awesome Carabee). For those who already know what this means - more power to ya. But for the rest of us, there is the Urban Dictionary. Swag: Promotional merchandise, usually distributed for free at concerts, conventions, and street-side. As in: My job at McDonalds sucks ass, but at least I get some skanky swag to donate at Salvation Army.

On a side note, a recent "word of the day" at the urban dictionary is "weenis" which is supposedly the skin on your elbow. This serves to undermine my confidence in the site...but as Fox News reminds us daily, there is an endless supply of made up words (and news).

But I digress. Back to the swag: apparently, being "in it for the swag" bears a negative connotation. But I admit it. I am totally in it for the swag:

I confess. At the grocery store, I have no intention of buying your yogurt granola bars or your summer sausage. I am in it for the swag.

I have attended the occassional "party" in which I am sold cleaning products or cookware for three times the retail price. I am in it for the brownies. (Note - Please continue to invite me to parties in which I am sold jewlery or skin care. Though I am likely to purchase more stuff if chocolatinis are supplied...)

I have hovered near the vending machine while the guy removes the nearly (ok totally) expired snacks, pretending to be indecisive about my soda choice. I am in it for the Sunchips. (Though I will still pass on the "pork rinds". Why are those even in there?)

I have placed those little shampoo and conditioner bottles in my bag knowing that they would be replaced the next day.

I have taken peanuts from airline attendants even when I am not hungry.

I have an endless supply of pens, pads, and emory boards with the names of various congress people on them. I may even have voted for a few of them.

I own a purple monkey which represnts my skeeball winnings at a Dave and Busters.

I have not purchased a toothbrush in approximately 6 years, despite the fact that the dentist repeatedly runs out of "adult" size, and gives me a "youth" sized one for free instead.

I insist on getting a free refill at least once.

God help you at an open bar.

So, am I a terrible person? Only in it for the swag? Heck no. I'm in it for the brownies, yo.