Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short, but horrible

Once upon a time, the world was new and the words "chemise" and "mossy oak" existed far, far away from one another.  Sadly, that age of innocence and purity has passed.  Now we have this unholy union:

What the hell, people?  Is there really a market for camo lingerie?  WHY?  I don't even get it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventures with Jelly

Any kitchen experiment that ends with me having to 409 my shoes to stop myself from making sticky sounds when I walk should probably be considered a failure.

Last year I was introduced to a wonderful substance…fruit pepper jelly.  My friend, Janet Tyson Prosser owns a little wine store and she gets in neat little gifts and gourmet snack-y things.  You can check her out at:!/pages/Tyson-Fine-Wines-and-Things/110813115687199.  She has a wine tasting event every Thursday from 5:30-7:30, and I try to go as often as I can.  It’s a great opportunity to sample wines I’d never have the guts to buy for myself and she always has some of her gourmet treats out for us to snack on.  Last year, she started carrying a line of pepper jellies: pineapple pepper jelly, apple-walnut pepper jelly, blueberry pepper jelly…and my all-time favorite, scuppernong pepper jelly.  For those of you who don’t know what a scuppernong is, it’s a type of domesticated muscadine.  For those of you who don’t know what a muscadine is…it’s a subspecies of grape found in the Southeast.  Here’s a picture:
The golden/green ones are scuppernongs.  The purple are muscadines.  ANYWAY, after sampling some of the pepper jellies at Janet’s store, I bought some of the scuppernong.  For $8.99 a half-pint.  It was DELICIOUS…but it seemed to me to be one of those things that I could just make myself.  After all, my Dad has a cultivated scuppernong vine in his back yard (he makes some kick-ass scuppernong wine that is always in high demand in the community.)  I figured that when fall got close and the scuppernongs got ripe, I’d make my own.  So I called my Daddy (he’s still Daddy when I want something) and asked if I could have some scuppernongs…he went a step further and told me that as long as he was juicing for his wine…he’d just set me aside some of the juice.  “Woohoo!!!  This is looking easier and easier!” I thought to myself.


Back in the day, I remember my Granny and Me-maw and Aunts preparing to make jelly with a grim determination of an army unit preparing to go off to war.  I remember them strategizing who was to do what, who was buying or bringing what, who was manning which station.  And they made jelly in an all-out, all-day campaign. In my ignorance, I assumed it was because of the sheer quantities of jelly they prepared.  Now I know that if you’re going to make jelly, you need to make a BUNCH just to make it worth your while.

I went by my dad’s this week and picked up my juice.  He had it in a white, opaque orange juice gallon jug.  Not even bothering to look at it, I brought it home & stuck it in the refrigerator to await the weekend when I could make my jelly.  I went to the store & got jelly jars, lids and rings ($15 for a dozen).  I also picked up a jelly making equipment kit at my friend Leslie’s insistence that the jar-picker-upper was a must-have (kit=$16). Then I got some Sure Jell ($3) and some sugar ($2).  The peppers were free, as a co-worker had brought some to work from his garden.  I had a variety of jalapenos, pablano and banana peppers to work with.

Okie-dokie, then.  All set for jelly-makin time!  I had my recipe…I had my equipment…I had my juice.  Oh, wait.  I open the container of “juice” to find that it was really sort of pulp.  No matter!  I’d just go back to the Sure Jell recipe and use the grape jelly recommendations of cooking it off & then straining it through cheesecloth.  Wait, no cheesecloth.  I send Jeff to the store for cheesecloth (two packets, $9/each=$18).  By this time, I have my scuppernong/pepper pulp simmering nicely and I look through the recipe again.  Crap.  I need some lemon juice and vinegar (lemons are 3/$1…so add another dollar to the running total, plus another buck for the vinegar.)  I’ve now spent $56 ($61.60 after tax).

I start to strain my pulp into my really big Pampered Chef mixing/measuring bowl, and some of the (scalding hot) juice gets all over the counter because slow-pouring it from my pan makes it go all down the side.  Fine.  I get a ladle and (slowly) ladle it into the strainer that I’ve lined with cheesecloth.  I finally get it all strained but it still looks really cloudy, so I get out a bowl, open the second packet of cheesecloth and re-strain.  I had thought that since the Pampered Chef mixing bowl had a handle and spout, I could just pour it back through the strainer and skip the ladling.  I’m still pouring too fast or too slow or something and hot liquid flows onto the counter and into the floor as I’m getting it in the strainer.  Also onto my flip-flop clad foot.  Shit!  That’s hot!  But the juice looks much clearer.  So okay!  I discard the steamy, drippy, gross cheesecloth/pulp mass and move on to the next step…putting the sugar and Sure Jell (this is just fruit pectin) into my scuppernong/pepper juice.  I get the juice up to a rolling boil and take a portion of the sugar and mix it in with the pectin in a bowl and add it to the juice.  It immediately forms into gooey clumps.  I don’t know if I had the juice too hot or too cold or what…but I stir and stir and stir and mash the clumps to the side of the pot with my spoon until I get all of the clumps worked out.  I get it back up to a boil and add the rest of the sugar.  More stirring.  It needs to get to a rolling boil & stay that way for EXACTLY one minute.  I get the mixture boiling and start moving my jars close.  Oh, and I need to rinse my sticky ladle.  I turn my back for ONE SECOND and everything is boiling out everywhere.  Crap, crap, crap.  I get it back under control, but the stovetop is a disaster area.  I remove the pot of liquid magma from the heat and start ladling it into jars.  I can’t decide if I’m filling the jars too full, or not full enough…so I go back to the Sure Jell instructions…and knock a half-full jar of hot jelly-crap over.  It runs down the cabinet facing, onto the floor and into the floor vent.  I can’t stop to do anything about it because the instructions stressed that successful jelly-setting and jar-sealing depended on getting this last part done QUICKLY.  I throw some paper-towels down to hopefully contain the spread and continue to fill jelly jars.  I have enough for eight.

I hurriedly put lids and rings on, screw down tight and transfer the jars to the hot, almost-boiling water bath I have prepared.  I consult the directions again. “…should have one to two inches of water covering the tops of the jars…” Shit.  My water barely covers the jars and I’m out of room in the pan I’ve chosen.  I go to my pan cabinet, and start slinging things out of it to get to my big stock-pot waaaaaayyy in the back.  I lift the jars out of their bath (Leslie’s right, this would have been a bitch without the jar-lifting-thingy), transfer the water into my stockpot and start running hot water to add to it momentarily.  I put the jars back in, add scalding hot water from the sink (I get my right hand this time) and check the instructions for time in the bath.  “Bring to a gentle boil for 5 minutes.”  Whew.  I can start cleaning up the spreading jelly catastrophe on the cabinet/floor while it’s doing that.  I get the bulk of the congealed mass in the floor up with paper towels, and head for the garage for my Wet-Jet Swiffer.  “Smooch, smooch, smoosh….” That’s the sound I’m making with every footstep.  I stop, take my flip-flops off & get the Swiffer.  I start over by the juice-spill counter when I realize that nothing is coming out of my Wet-Jet and I’m basically just pushing juice around. Crap again!  The Swiffer is out of cleaner!  I go back to the garage, get a refill and clean that area.  I change out the Swiffer pad and start on the area of the jelly spill…not gonna work.  This mess is too much for a Swiffer, so I get a roll of paper towels, 409 and get on my hands and knees to start to clean that up.  I’ve about got that done when the timer goes off.  “Jeff!!!! Will you throw me down a towel???” Because, you know, I wouldn’t want to drip water anywhere when I pull the jars out of the water bath.  I get the jars out, set them on the towel and turn off the stove.  I finally get a chance to spray and clean the bottom of my shoes and put them back on (I’ve been barefoot for the last half-hour).  I get all of the pots, pans, dishes, cutting board, chopper, measuring cups, mixing bowls and utensils into the dish washer and begin to wipe down the counters and cabinet fronts, where they’ve been polluted with juice, pulp and/or jelly.

Here’s what I’ve got to show for it:

And I don’t even know if they are all gonna seal correctly.  I’ll have to wait ‘til they cool to see if the tops still “pop” when you push on them.  I ended up with eight jars of pepper jelly (I hope…if they all set and if they all seal). I spent $61.60 (which, BTW, is $7.70 a jar) and three hours of my life getting to this point.  This had better be some damn good jelly.  Otherwise, Janet is gonna have a heyday teasing me everytime I come crawling back to buy pepper jelly at her store. (Word of advice...just go see Janet for pepper jelly.  Mine doesn't even have labels.)

P.S. My daughter just came through the kitchen to see what I was typing and asked, “Why’s the whole floor in there sticky?” So I guess I’m going to need to revisit with another Swiffer pass.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I am never “fostering” anything again.  Meet the fifth cat of my household:

Because my friend Jenn is a dirty, rotten, no-‘count LIAR that said if I’d just “foster” him overnight, she’d take him to her mother’s.  Of course, he came into the house and burrowed his cute, fuzzy little ass into the very soul of every other member of the household (except Izby:

who HAAAAAATES him.  Izby's been the littlest and cutest for too long to relinquish).
Jeff asked me three times last night, “Can’t we just keep him?”
Simba, the 70 lbGolden Retriever, just wants to carry him around in his mouth (which actually doesn’t seem to bother him, even if he ends up very, very slobbery) He is the coolest, most laid-back little dude you’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, I have to name him soon before he starts answering to “little turd,” which is what Jeff has been calling him.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Attention to detail

Here's the inspirational quote today in my Franklin DayPlanner:

What went through my head when I flipped over to today & saw the quote?

"Hmmmm, how about that? I never knew Ludacris was so deep."

It was SEVERAL minutes later that my brain tossed up, "Wait. Franklin-Covey is quoting the artist who gave us "Chicken and Beer?""  Then I took a closer look and saw that the quote was from LUCRETIUS.  That Franklin-Covey would quote a first century Roman philosopher seems a little more in line with their MO.

(To be fair to Luda, he was featured in my February Food & Wine magazine-apparently, he has a freaking AWESOME Singaporean resturant in Atlanta-so he IS more refined and cultured than perhaps his album entitled "Word of Mouf" might suggest.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I SAID, "I'll Fly Away!"

Yeah, so I've had this blog less than two months and already, I'm phoning one in. I wrote this a few years ago, but everything in it is still applicable.

Okay, so recently, I had to go to a funeral.  And it reminded me that I have some things that I feel adamant about regarding what should (and shouldn’t) happen in the event of my untimely death.

First and foremost…the funeral.  See, I have this relative, Connie, that is both my second cousin and my great-aunt.  And do NOT start with the dueling banjos…it’s not like that.  My dad’s Uncle David is the same age as my dad…which is a little weird, but not un-heard of.  They were very close growing up…like brothers.  Anyway, when my mom & dad were newly married, they decided to fix my mom’s first cousin (Connie) up with my dad’s uncle David.  So, you see, nothing incestuous there at all.  However, this woman has been related to BOTH sides of my family for the last….oh, 35 years or something.  Consequently, she has been at every relative’s funeral that I can ever recall.  And Connie, God love her, is one of those Southern Baptist women from a very small Southern Baptist church (Mineral Springs Baptist…Pell City, AL) where someone, at some time, told her she “has the voice of an angel.”  But not really.  You know the woman in the choir that sings over everyone else and adds her own dips and sweeps to the notes?  She’s that woman.  And she insists that whoever just died LOVED to hear her sing and so to pay tribute, she is going sing the dearly-departed’s favorite hymn.  Which is always “Beulah Land.”  Now, I LOVE me some old gospel music…particularly the old Southern spirituals where you may even get a little hand-clapping going on.  But “Beulah Land?”  I may despise it more than any other song on the planet, including “We Built This City” by Jefferson Starship.  And guys…besides having notes in it that Connie can use to shatter glass and bend metal, it is depressing as hell.  I don’t know why she loves it; I think she thinks it showcases her talent.  And is DETERMINED to sing it whenever possible.

Case in point…my maternal grandmother’s funeral.  My Granny Mildred died after a LONG bout with Alzheimer’s.  I don’t think she was even conscious the last week or two she was alive.  Mom told me that a couple of days before she died, this quartet of sweet little old black ladies came by who were going around the nursing home, singing to the patients.  She said they sang, “I’ll Fly Away” to my grandmother (BTW, that IS my favorite hymn) and she smiled in her sleep.  So when Connie approached my mother about singing at Granny Mildred’s funeral (Granny was Connie’s aunt) Mom told her she could if she’d sing “I’ll Fly Away.”  And do you know what happened???  Bitch stood up at the funeral and sang “Beulah Land.”  Now, it is not often that Jeff is the voice of reason for me (soooo the role reversal)…but this was one of those times that he laid his hand on my arm and restrained me from jumping up and snatching that woman bald-headed.

So, to conclude…no “Beulah Land” at my funeral.  I really have no idea how this will be accomplished, because no one has ever thwarted this woman before.  But do as you must.  You know, I have harped on this point incessantly for years and years…to the point where friends of long standing have been sort of conditioned about it.  My friend, Annette, and her mother, Judy are both part of a social group I am in…we’re all tight-knit and we’ve all had discussions regarding our final wishes.  Annette and Judy were actually attending a funeral of a relative of theirs a couple of years ago, when “Beulah Land” came on as the background music at the funeral home.  Annette started frantically looking around, halfway got up off her pew & was preparing to tackle her some Connie when Judy reminded her that the conditions did not warrant.

Following the funeral, there will be a meeting of the planning committee to find Jeff a new wife, complete with lots and lots of wine.  The criteria for a new wife for Jeff will be dependant on whether or not our daughter has reached adulthood.  If she’s still a minor, acceptance criteria will revolve primarily on how well the new woman will love and nurture my child…and if she gets along with Jeff, that’s good too.  If the kiddo's out of college & on her own, I don’t care if the committee picks him out a fluffy little hoochie that will spend all of the insurance money.

One final thing…should Jeff and I BOTH perish in some tragic accident…I will need someone to go over to my house and empty out the bottom middle drawer of my dresser in my bedroom.  The contents of said drawer will never be discussed within earshot of my child or my mother (you should probably leave my sister in the dark as well.)  Please let me know if you have any questions regarding these instructions.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ashamed of Myself

So I went to a doctor’s appointment this past Wednesday, and among other things, I was VERY unhappy with the numbers their scales threw up at me.  I didn’t get out of the parking lot before I had texted the hubby and the child to let them know that I was declaring diet jihad. We were all going to start eating right. AND we were going to start getting some exercise. AND I wasn’t going to consume empty calories of wine in the evenings…at least not weeknight evenings.
Wednesday evening and Thursday breakfast and lunch went okay.  I had accessed my free calorie counter app (MyFitnessPal…it’s neat and very helpful) I had recorded my embarrassing weight and had dutifully logged in every bite I had eaten.  The plan for dinner Thursday night was tacos…but I was planning on forgoing the taco shell and just having a salad with minimal (and very lean 96/4) meat, Weight Watcher’s lowfat cheese, salsa but lots of lettuce and veggies.  I got home, prepared the meat and waited for the kid to get home from her cheerleading practice. And waited. And waited.  Finally I texted her, “Where are you? I’m starving!” “Be right there. Had to pick something up.” Two minutes later, she walks in the door carrying this:

Yeah. I whole box of assorted donuts from the JUST OPENED Dunkin Donuts in our town.  We had been seeing the progression of the construction, but did not know they had opened…and they were selling them as fast as they could make them which meant that they were extremely, mouthwateringly fresh. “Well this isn’t good for the diet,” I said. “We’ll walk it off later,” replied my enabling child.  After dinner and a donut, she begs to go to the tanning bed. (I know, I know…we only go about once a week though, and she IS in a cheerleading outfit and honestly, you pick your battles.) So we head off to the tanning bed.  Afterward, we decide to make a run to Target for various sundries…I’ve got my sister’s birthday coming up and a friend’s that I’m meeting up with on Saturday. I buy cards and decide to get a bottle of wine for the friend.  Target stocks a decent variety of wines…particularly with cute labels and I notice a new brand called “Smarty Pants.” Very cute!  I buy a white and a red. Then we head back to the house.
We unload our Target haul, and I put the wine in the (empty) wine rack in the kitchen.  Jeff is coming in the door at about the same time we are…and for whatever reason, this spins the dogs up and they start zooming around the house like a bunch of heathens.  We go upstairs to take our shoes off and put on our comfy clothes and they come barreling upstairs with us.  The cha-weenie (Libby) is chasing the Golden Retriever (Simba) up onto our bed where they do a little wrasslin’ before careening down the hallway and into Jeff’s gameroom, where the kiddo has some neatly stacked piles of freshly laundered clothes.  Yay! Is obstacle course! Jeff turns to me and says, “You’re gonna have to take them out back and let them run off some of this energy.”  Because when they get excited like this, usually you just have to take them out to the backyard where they can chase each other around for a few laps and cause minimal damage.  I holler, “Let’s go guys!” and head downstairs, carefully staying to the inside of the stairwell as they come galloping past me, excited because they LOVE this game.  They hit the tile in the foyer and go skidding around the corner into the kitchen. I’m not completely down the stairs when I hear the crash…
Somehow, they had hit the wine rack in such a way that they knocked the bottle of red (of course it was the red) out…the bottle had the neck broken off, there was a good ¼ of a bottle of wine seeping on the tile and headed for an HVAC vent, but the bottle was right side up otherwise.  You know how in the movies someone will hold the neck and smash the bottle so that they can use the jagged glass to shank someone?  It was like that, except in reverse. The kiddo grabbed the bottle and set it in the sink, I lunged for Simba so that he wouldn’t get cut or anything, Libby quickly retreated to the sofa in the living room with her tail between her legs…happy-funtime was over.
After mopping up the wine, locating the broken off wine bottle neck under the hutch and moving the remaining unbroken bottle of wine to a safer location, the kiddo went over and looked at the bottle in the sink. “Hey mom, there’s most of the wine still in the bottle. What are you going to do with it?” “Well, it probably has glass in it, I guess I’ll just pour it out.” “Really, you’re going to waste this whole thing?”  So then, I did something that I really, really feel I should be embarrassed about:

There was nothing really to do after that but pour myself a couple (or three and a half) glasses of wine (out of a measuring cup). Sigh.  Needless to say, we did not go for our walk.  To sum the evening up, instead of eating a light, healthy salad followed by a brisk, calorie-burning walk, I ate donuts, went to the tanning bed and drank almost an entire bottle of wine.  Biggest diet fail ever.

“I’m sorry I am helping destroy your health, Momma. I’m ashamed too.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hopped up on goofballs

This past weekend was spent reveling in the glory of a holiday weekend.  Also, we got to get together at my step-brother’s house to celebrate my stepmom’s b’day.  I had access to a pool, good food and a deeeeeelightful cocktail that my sister-in-law makes.  I don’t think it has a name, so I’m just gonna start calling them Diana-slammers.  You get a tumbler of ice, pour in a healthy dose of Malibu black rum, a dash of pineapple juice and some V-8 diet fruit blend fusion stuff.  They go down reeeeaaaaallll easy.  Our get-together started around 1:00 in the afternoon.  We played around in the pool, grilled some burgers and dogs…and I had about eleventy-five Diana-slammers.  Around 6:30 or so, we gathered our things, Jeff poured me into the van and we went on back to the homestead.  I had a whole Diana-slammer to enjoy once I got back to the house….so I did.  I got my Kindle, my little fan that I take outside with me on humid nights, my folded blanket, my phone and settled in to read a little while.  About an hour later, I decide that it would be a great idea if I went to bed super, super early so that I’d feel invigorated and refreshed and would have the energy to cajole my family to go to church! I’d finished my eleventy-sixth cocktail by this point, and went inside to get me an Ambien and a glass of wine.  You know, to wash the Ambien down with.
Fast forward to 9:30 the next morning. I wake up (actually feeling quite spry, which is a little surprising, considering) and go downstairs.  I find a neat little stack consisting of my Kindle, some Kleenex, my phone and a cigarette pack sitting on the kitchen counter.  “Hmmm…” I think to myself, “now why didn’t I plug up my Kindle or my phone last night?”  APPARENTLY, Jeff had come upstairs around 8:30 and found me passed out on our bed…with toenail clippers in my hand and, he claims, toe nail clippings all over the comforter.  I really don’t remember making any decision to pedicure myself AT ALL.  But my toenails were indeed clipped (BRUTALLY in a couple of places) and I’m just thankful that he was kind enough to gather all of my stuff up off of the front porch before going to bed.  In the future, I will have to remember not to mix Diana-slammers with my drugs.