Monday, January 28, 2013

Mardi Gras to All Y'all

As the Mardi Gras season approaches, I thought I’d share the following seasonal story with you.
Disclaimer:  All of the funny stuff is Annette…
The weekend prior to these documented events, I had hosted a Reveler’s Ball party at my house.  We have a Reveler’s Krewe in my hometown…and though I am not a Krewe member myself, my good friend Annette is & she never fails to invite me to the annual Ball. (All the fun and benefits and none of the work…woohoo for me!)  After several years of having all the fun and doing nothing…I thought it would be fun (er, fair) to host a pre-ball party for Annette’s troupe. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mardi Gras world, I’m sure this is not making a lot of sense.  Lemme pause a minute and explain:

Alabama was actually where the whole Mardi Gras stuff started here in the states (Mobile, AL was the actual home of the first Mardi Gras festival)…but New Orleans is now more famous for theirs.  Lots of places have their own version. Anyway, although we do not have a parade or anything…the Krewe in our town does have an annual ball.  Active members of the Krewe (they are all ladies) form up into groups and each group performs a skit in line with a chosen “theme.”  “Sustainers” (former Krewe members after they have served their time as active) as well as guests attend the ball, watch the skits and generally spend the evening dancing and imbibing adult beverages.  Many people around town who are attending the ball have pre-ball parties where food is served and those who wish can get a head start on their partying mood.  I kept the party in line with the theme of the year (The Groovy 70’s or Hippy Chic or something along those lines).  I had the whole house kitted out with hanging beads in all of the doorways, lava lamps, funky lights and even a disco ball. I tried to do a lot of 70’s era food (the fondue was a bust…I tried to keep it melted with a can of sterno and it didn’t even taste like cheese anymore.  It was more like a runny, gooey plastic/petroleum paste). Fortunately, many of the guests had offered to help me out by brining dishes with them.  A mutual friend of mine & Annette, Jenn, brought a King Cake.
It was DIVINE.  Annette immediately demanded the recipe.  A week later, the following was reported:
From: *****, Annette S.
Sent: Monday, March 02,
To: ****, Jennifer
Cc: ****, Marianne
Subject: the king cake

Ah, Martha, I mean Jenn ~
The King Cake: recipe for disaster
According to your recipe, it’s “very easy” and “bakes up beautifully”….please believe me when I say that this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to you, but to expose myself for the complete and total retard that I am in the kitchen.
I finally began work on the masterpiece last night, as I had not had the time to devote to such a creative undertaking until that point.  Hands washed and ingredients at the ready, I dove in with the zeal of Edward Scissorhands attacking an overgrown shrub and walking away from an elegant topiary
Let’s start with the cinnamon rolls themselves, shall we?  I never realized just how much cinnamon-y goo came in each can of rolls!  Let me tell you, by the time it was all said and done, that stuff was packed underneath my nails so firmly that I needed a toothbrush to get it out! 
Back to the rolls….I unrolled them, as instructed, and began trying to seal the seams with a fork.  Either my technique was wrong, the fork was wrong, or I somehow selected seam-resistant cinnamon rolls…in any event, they were defiant – almost in a mocking way – and refused to adhere properly.  After struggling for what seemed like an eternity, I proceeded to the next step, which was….
The filling.  This part was easy; the most difficult aspect was keeping my fingers out of the bowl.  Then there was the improvisation on my part – AKA “if some filling is good, then MORE filling is better!”  That’s right, I had the brilliant notion to add the cup o’ icing that came with the rolls…slapped it right on top of the cream cheese filling I’d already lovingly spread on the refuse-to-seam cinnamon roll plank.
Next, I tried rolling it up, which was pretty interesting, given the pound or so of filling inside.  I finally managed to form a log-shaped slab, which I then twisted (all the while, gooey white filling was plopping out everywhere) and then transported to the baking sheet.  By the time said log was placed on the baking sheet, it appeared to be, oh, around 6 feet long – not surprising, considering the intense manipulation the poor thing had undergone. 
Then I repeated these steps – minus the extra filling – on two more cans of rolls.  I had them all on the cookie sheet and laid them out in hopes of forming an oval (which inexplicably morphed into an oblong-ish shape, given the fact that laid end-to-end, the three sections would have stretched about 3/10 of a mile) and then began in vain to seal the ends together to form a continuous loop.  HA!  What made it even funnier was that the one section – the one with the extra filling – was really thick, while its counterparts were lean.  Oh well.
Into the oven, then out right on schedule (by this time, it was 10:15 last night)…the extra filling had oozed all over the baking sheet, but no problem. 
It was too late to wait for it to cool, make icing, etc., so I covered it with foil and a “no touchy” note.  I tried sticking the baby in, but he jumped out, whining that the cake was too damn ugly.
Will report back after icing and then taste-testing (or is it test-tasting?) tonight….
Baking Must Not Be My Forte

Annette ****

From: ****, Jennifer
Sent: Monday, March 02
To: *****, Annette S.
Cc: ******, Marianne SAIC CMA-ANAD (PKI)
Subject: RE: the king cake

Oops, I forgot to mention…..
You’re not supposed to consume any alcoholic beverages during any part of this process!!!
I have a feeling this is where you went wrong.
I apologize for leaving out this very important instruction, and I take full responsibility for whatever the end result may be!
Jennifer *****

Well, there may well have been traces of alcohol remaining in my system from the previous night’s Mardi Gras celebration, but other than that (believe it or not) the only beverages I consumed were Vitamin Water (Revive!) and good ol’ H2O.  In other words, it’s just me.

Annette ****

From: *****, Annette S.
Sent: Tuesday, March 02
To: ****, Jennifer
Cc: ****, Marianne
Subject: the king cake

The King Cake: Recipe for Disaster
part deux
So I get home last night and decide to revisit my attempts to create an edible masterpiece.  Trying to stay positive and approaching the situation with a fresh perspective, I gathered the necessary icing ingredients (sans purple sprinkles) and began my work.  First, I threw a box of confectioner’s sugar into a bowl, then added vanilla flavoring and milk “to desired consistency” – which ended up being pretty consistent with, oh, milk itself.  Hmmm…more sugar?  Sure!  Grabbed another box, adding about half, and mixed away.  A little lumpy, but definitely thicker. 
Place baby in cake.  Baby jumps out.  Stick baby back in cake, holding him there till he falls asleep. 
Time to ice the cake.  Guess what!?!  No spoon required!  Pour the icing onto cake, trying to make pretty patterns and cover the imperfections of the cake.  Not in the cards.  Watery icing trickles down sides of cake and pools onto baking sheet.  Niiiiiice.  Cover with sprinkles anyway.  Green!  Gold!  Pink!  Mardi Gras is over, so colors no big deal.
Taste cake.  Very good, but icing tastes oddly similar to potatoes.  No complaints from child or spouse, though – they LOVE IT! 
Note to self: next year, buy all ingredients + big bottle of wine, invite Jenn and Marianne over.  Jenn makes cake while MA and I cheer!
Annette *****

Sounds like a plan to me!
I find it hard to believe that you had this much trouble sober…
I’m certain you were drunk baking and just won’t admit it.

Jennifer *****

Me & Annette Revellin' it Up. Circa 2009

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Animal

My office, Tuesday Morning...
Me: You will not believe how incredibly lame I was this weekend…and it cost me money.
Jenn: Ha!  I spent money on something very lame too.  I bet I was lamer than you.
Me: No way, I spent $600 on a Dyson vacuum cleaner…the one especially made for animal hair
Jenn: Okay, that’s bad.  I just spent $150 on a pot.  To cook in.
Me: What kind of pot costs $150?
Jenn:  A Le Creuset.  They’re the cast iron enameled cookware…I’ve been wanting one for ages but couldn’t justify it.  This one was 40% off.  At least you needed the Dyson.
Me: Okay, but I’m lamer because I spent my entire Sunday evening vacuuming the house & I enjoyed it.
Jenn: I sat my pot on the counter, poured myself a glass of wine and just looked at it, thinking how pretty it was.
Me: I kept yelling at Jeff, “Don’t touch my bag of dirt! I want to show the kid when she gets home.”
Jenn: Okay, that’s pretty bad.
Me: Also, I weighed it after I was done showing it off to the kid.  I sucked up nine pounds of pet hair and dirt.  I’m shocked that I was living in such squalor.  It’s a wonder adult protective services hasn’t been called in.
Jenn: Well, at least you have proof that you needed your Dyson.

Me: I find myself singing "I want to vacuum like an animal" to the tune of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer."

Jenn: That's a little disturbing.

Me: Yeah...I know.
Behold: "The Animal" Dyson model DC41.  At least the name is cool.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The biggest moment in (my) history

Setting: A one-story, 3 bedroom ranch-style brick house on a hill in a moderate sized town in Alabama

Time: 17 years ago.

Me: Take me to the hospital, it's my due date.

Jeff: I don't think that's how it works.  I don't think you get to just show up on your due date because it's your due date.

Me: I'm having this baby. Today.

And I did.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Got my Goat

This past weekend, a large portion of my group of runnin’ buddies made a road trip to visit Jamie…one of our group that had moved to the big ole city of Atlanta (okay, Decatur…basically the same thing…Decatur is 8 miles from Atlanta).  Anyway, we caravanned on over there…we had 7 of us in two vehicles.  The drive was uneventful as far as weather and traffic went.  I had had a Red Bull (sort of unusual for me, but I wanted to be all alert and stuff) It was actually close to 75 degrees in January!  We made the decision to go on into Atlanta first and visit Trader Joe’s (we small town Alabama hicks do not have anything CLOSE to a Trader Joe’s).  Once we were well stocked with Two-buck-Chuck (which has actually suffered inflation and is now Three-Buck-Chuck) we headed on down to Decatur.  In case you’re wondering, “Two-Buck Chuck” is the wine label “Charles Shaw” sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s.  It used to be $2/bottle and is really a nice wine…a really, really nice wine for the price, even at $3.  Anyway, I digress…
Jamie and her roomie, Ann have a LOVELY townhouse that is just perfect for slumber parties.  Three stories…sleeping room for 8…gorgeous kitchen…and what was an already-well-stocked bar.  The visiting seven of us proceeded to unload our stuff…add to the well-stocked bar…and were handed our first Mimosas as we walked in the doors…our gracious hostess had them ready and waiting for us.  It was bliss.  Well, it was bliss except for some drama going back on at home…teenager-y, angst-y stuff.  And how do you handle that while you are 2 ½ hours away on a girls’ weekend???  Why, you have your good friend Jamie pour you another mimosa, that’s what you do. So I did.  We sat around, laughing, talking, and sipping our fine, fine drinks.
Jamie is an avid Broncos fan, so we put the game on the TV, fixed more drinks, got Jamie’s good-luck-Broncos-tobbagan out & continued to enjoy our evening.  We decided we’d go for a late dinner in downtown Decatur (shut up, 9:15 is late for me).  Reservations were made and the gals started primping…stopping occasionally to freshen our drinks.  The decision was made (because we are RESPONSIBLE ADULTS, Y’ALL) to call a cab for our comings and goings.  I heard Jamie specify that we had Nine women to transport…so of course the first cab was a sedan…who had to call for a van backup.  And we’re off!  I will note that even with the van, we rode with Ann’s skinny little butt balanced on my lap.  A mere 2 ½ miles (and a $20 cab fare!) later…we were in downtown Decatur on a Saturday night.  And it was fun.  The temperature was cool but not cold, the people watching was excellent, the atmosphere of downtown Decatur kinda hipster-cool.
And then there was the goat.
The restaurant we had reservations at was called the Iberian Pig.  Jamie said it was her very-most-favorite place to eat of all time.  She had picked where she was living based on proximity to it.  We asked Ann (who is a hard-core vegetarian) if it was any good & she said that even she could find something to eat on the menu…so after a drink at one of the pubs to kill some time, we made our way to the Iberian Pig and were seated almost immediately.  The d├ęcor was dim, but pleasant, the wait staff very attentive…but almost upon entering I detected a funny smell.  And by funny, I don’t mean funny/haha, I mean funny/stinky.  I can’t QUIIIIIIITTTTEE describe it, but it smelled like you expected to hear animals lowing in the distance.  Not exactly like a barn…but sort of like a barn.  No one else said anything, so I figured it must have been my hick-like, uncultured olfactory senses.  Surely a glass of wine would help?  So I ordered one.
Scanning the menu, I decided just to go with one of the “platos” vs. several of the “tapas” that Jamie recommended.  Getting a bunch of little dishes seemed like too much work, and I was hungry…I just wanted to get some food…I’d been through two mimosas (upon my arrival), a vodka/cranberry (during the game), a gin and tonic (at the pub).  So I picked one of the house specials, Cabrito Carbonara, without reading the description.  I thought, “Why not?  I’ve had Chicken Carbonara a thousand times at the Macaroni Grill.” Guess what guys????  “Cabrito” means goat. Generally, I think it means a baby goat. Specifically, in this case, it means slow roasted then shredded goat.  And it didn’t smell good.  When they set the plate down in front of me, that almost-stable-floor odor was definitely stronger.  Also, it looked like this:

I know, it’s blurry, but I was so focused on not retching that I didn’t hold my phone still enough to get a good picture.  Oh, and see that thing up in the upper right?  That’s not a ball of delicious mozzarella cheese.  That is a poached egg… a lightly poached egg.  Once it was punctured, the raw egg yolk mixed with the already-bile-colored sauce you see above to create an un-holy yellow color that you should never, ever put in your mouth…no matter what someone tells you it is.  However, I did.  I called the waiter over and asked exactly what was in “Cabrito Carbonara” and he replied, “Goat, Chittara pasta, Carbonara sauce and a poached egg, dumbass.” I mean, he didn’t say “dumbass,” because he was nice and professional.  But I felt like a dumbass because when I snagged a menu later to check for myself, that is EXACTLY what the description said.  I really had no one to blame but myself.  But to cut myself some slack, the Macaroni Grill does not plunk a big ole almost-raw egg onto ANY of their dishes. I bravely twined some of the “chittera” onto my fork and ordered another glass of wine.  I managed to choke down about 4 mouthfuls and had to throw in the towel, er, napkin.  Everyone else seemed to be enjoying what they had ordered (because they LISTENED to our hostess, I suppose) and I did get a bite of SammiJo’s mac n’ cheese (called Manchego-something) and it was great.  Not wanting to deprive my tablemates, I sent my plate around, with a “Here, everybody, y’all need to try some goat.”  Everyone knew I was joking (because my end of the table had watched me suppress my gag-reflex all evening) except Annette, who whipped out her fork and stabbed the faux-mozzarella/poached egg and took a bite. And declared (Loudly), “Gah!  That’s not cheese!”  I felt sort of bad about that.
Following dinner, the majority of the gang was all for going to another local pub.  I, on the other hand, was feeling kind of woozy.  Red bull, orange juice, vodka, goat, wine and poached egg do not burp well together.  There were a couple of others that were looking to make an early night of it as well…and three of us proceeded the others back to Jamie’s townhouse.  I managed to get home, into my pajamas and have my makeup off before the goat made its second appearance of the night.  Wasn’t any better for its trip from downtown Decatur to Jamie’s house, let me tell you.  I did feel much, much better afterwards and was downright perky by the time everyone else got back.  All-in-all the trip was worth it, and I enjoyed spending some time for myself with just me & my best girlfriends.
But next time, I think I’ll just stick to macaroni and cheese.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Arrgh!! Siri, you beee-yotch!

Above is an exchange I tried to have with my daughter this week.

One of the ladies at my office called to let me know she had left early to go to her son's school because she heard there was a riot.  The school (Saks) is local, but not my daughter's school.

When I left work a half an hour later, I decided to check up on the issue.  Teenagers know EVERYTHING that is going on locally...they would certainly have the skinny on anything as exciting as a bunch of rioting students.  I was using Siri instead of texting because I'm RESPONSIBLE and you're not supposed to text and drive.

“Siri” does not get my southern accent AT ALL. Siri interpreted riot as “ride.” When I tried to send a text to correct the text, and carefull ennunciated (I thought) I got “Wyatt.” Then when my daughter said “Huh?” and I tried to just spell it out and Siri came up with “Rolyat” and I don’t even know what that word MEANS.  Also, this time around, Siri thought "Saks" was "fax."

Update: Urban dictionary has this definition for Rolyat: Noun. A situation in which a being (male or female, most commonly a mammal) engages in sexual activity with an entire football team simultaneously.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Baby-love: The life of a very good cat.

 He came to us already scuffed up.  There he was, this little fur-ball of a yellow tabby kitten with a hare-lip.  Someone had apparently tossed him out of a still-moving car towards the house where the “suckers” live that take in all of the strays (that would be us).  His little ole muzzle and chin were scraped raw, and the first thing Dr. Hendley did for him was give him a stitch on his upper lip.  He always kinda had a little snarl-y look after that.  My daughter was about a year old when he came into our lives…and one of her first words was “baby.”  Thus, he was christened.

Here's an artist's rendetion of Baby when he was three years old (the artist was the daughter, who was at the time, 4):

For those of you with no imagination, here's Baby with the kiddo when they were both relatively new:

Baby was an unusual cat in a lot of ways.  He never wanted to be an indoor cat, but he never wandered.  Usually, with a male cat, you know when it’s getting time to take him to his “special vet appointment” when he doesn’t show up for breakfast 3 mornings in a row and then comes home with his ear half dangling off from an encounter with a rival for his girlfriend’s attention.  Baby hung around the carport at our old house, napping in the mower seat of our Snapper riding mower, or sleeping under the big holly bush around the back of the house.  He was four years old when I took him in for his annual booster shots & Dr. Hendley realized we’d never neutered him.  Baby, ever the cool cat, barely seemed to even notice.
He did gain a little (okay, maybe a lot) of weight afterwards.  He may or may not have gotten too fat to clean the base of his tail good & had to have the matted fur cut off with scissors, giving him a rugged, edgy look.  But that was fine because Baby was never one to put too much stock in appearances.  By that, I mean that he was the dirtiest cat I have ever known.  You know Pigpen, the friend of Charlie Brown’s that had the cloud of dirt around him always?  That was Baby.  He’d roll in dust and dirt constantly…you could pat him and it would look like you were cleaning chalkboard erasers.  The only thing that ever seemed to piss him off was flea drops or ear mite medicine.  That stuff disrupted his eco-system he had going.
Baby, over the years, had become my husband’s “funky old yard cat.” When we moved to our current house, Baby made the move without a twinge of concern.  He seemed to actually enjoy the fact that the fenced-in back yard meant that his dog would keep away any unwanted feline distractions.  There was a mean old Tom across the street that tried to come into the back yard to harass Baby a couple of times after we moved in…but after our three-legged Lab mix (Rosie) consistently gave him a run for his money, he didn’t try to cross our backyard & Baby didn’t have to deal with him.  Baby had a glassed-in back porch with a cat door.  The porch had a ceiling fan in the summer and a heater in the winter.  Life has been pretty damn fine, even when he lost his last tooth about five years ago.  We thought about switching him to soft food, but he never missed a beat scooping up the Meow Mix, gumming it a bit and swallowing.  He certainly never lost weight.  In the summer, we still had to frequently cut the matted-fur places where he was too fat to reach.  Every winter, he seemed to be just fine coming and going off of his porch.
Two winters ago, we had a particularly harsh (for Alabama) winter.  We had something like ten sold days of temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit). The daughter and hubby conferred and decided that Baby was too old to endure that kind of cold, even with a cat bed and a space heater, and brought him in the house.  For the ten days that the temperature was really, really low, Baby was fine with being inside.  He didn’t much care for the bath that the daughter gave him to make him fit for indoor living…and he didn’t much care for the fact that he had to go up a flight of stairs to the litter box…and he didn’t much care for the indoor cats who were all acting like assholes and hissing at him…and…as a matter of fact, Baby decided he wasn’t fine with being indoors.  He started darting out between our legs every time we came in or out…he finally protested his incarceration by not obeying proper litter-box etiquette.  So, back onto the back porch he went.  Which was cool by him.  He immediately started cultivating a new population of fleas and ear mites to keep him company and scrounged around to find an un-frozen patch of dirt to get the proper patina worked back onto his coat.
Despite being funky, and snaggly-muzzled, and toothless, Baby was not anti-social regarding his humans or his dogs.  When any of us were out back, there was Baby, rubbing our ankles and purring.  He put up with the Golden Retriever puppy’s antics when he joined the family. He cuddled up with the Rosie on cooler days as they both got older and enjoyed sunning themselves together.  He always was in the middle of whatever activity was happening out back.
Jeff was really the first one to notice when Baby wasn't acting like himself.  About a week ago, Baby wasn’t following any of us off the porch anymore but was content to stay curled up in front of the heater.  And then he lost his interest in food, when he normally never skipped a meal.  As I explained earlier, Baby was never the sleekest, meticulously groomed cat…but even by his Pigpen standards, he was looking a little rough.
I took him in to see the vet hoping that he was just experiencing a cold…a respiratory infection…something.  But Baby is now 16.  And that’s a lot of years on a cat.  A WHOLE lot of years for a cat that insisted on being an outdoor cat.  And the verdict came back…renal failure.  We were told that we had a couple of options:
1.       Euthanize him.
2.       Give him subcutaneous fluids a couple of times a week, change his diet and put him down in a couple of months…maybe get so much as several months if we chose to add dialysis.
I asked the doctor to administer some fluid to rehydrate him enough to take him home and talk it over with the family.  I had already made my mind up about drawing the line before dialysis…but I wanted Jeff and the kid to be able to voice their opinions about how far to take treatments.
The vote was unanimous…we weren’t going to put Baby through anything that would only frighten, hurt and confuse him.  We’d spend the next day or so spoiling him rotten, and then we’d have him put down humanely, surrounded by his family.  The child asked if she could bring him in and let him sleep on her bed that night.  I said she could as long as she kept her door closed so none of the other animals would come in & bother him.

The next morning, she told me, "I prayed last night that Baby would just die in his sleep, safe in my bed."

And I had to tell her, "Oh, sweetie, last night I prayed that you wouldn't wake up with a dead cat in your bed."

Guess I screwed that up.
And that is where we are right now.  He doesn't seem any worse, yet; but he isn't any better...and God help me, but I just can't seem to pick the right day to do what needs to be done for him.
I love that damn cat.  And I'll tell myself that I'll do it when I wake up, or when I get home from work...and then he does something like he did this afternoon...which was to jump up on the counter out on the porch and inhale half a can of canned chicken.

But I remember reading a book a while back (Quinn Cummings: Notes From the it, she's HILARIOUS).  The book is full of really cute, insightful stories...they are not all about dead cats...but one particular anecdote involves Ms. Cummings was watching a cat for some friends and the cat in question NEEDED to die, but its owners kept DRAGGING this poor beast through life.  And I wonder: Is that's where I'm at?  I'm not actively prolonging Baby's existence by sticking needles into him twice a week...and he's still getting up (slowly, so slowly) and rubbing my ankles when I go out to check on him.  He's still going out in the backyard to potty.  He still purrs when I talk to him or pet him.

Some advice here, people?

Or, God: I take it back...the kid was probably right 5 days ago.

Update: I have had a huge outpouring of love from my friends (and from folks I don't know but begged advice from, because I know that they have had similar the lovely Ms. Cummings that I mention above and the fabulous Jen Lancaster herownself who were so kind to respond to me on Twitter).  Most everyone has told me that I won't have to told when it's time, that I will know without a doubt.

Checking on Baby just a few minutes ago, the sun was shining and he seemed to be enjoying his warm porch:

Final Update:  I realized recently that I never updated on my blog about Baby...After the last update I made, he rallied and we got almost another 3 months with him...and we didn't have to take him twice a week to the vet to give him dialysis or fluids or whatever. He was very happy and loving and those three months were a true blessing.
But everyone told me I'd know when it was time...and it was time. We took Baby in to the vet on March 28th. The lovely people at  Animal Clinic were so kind and compassionate...and my sweet, sweet kitty passed peacefully, surrounded by his family that loved him.
I miss him all of the's now mid-August and I swear, I still see him sometimes out of the corner of my eye when I'm on our back porch.  But all-in-all, he had a good life, he had a family whom he loved and who loved him and an easy passing.  We should all be so fortunate.