Monday, September 30, 2013

Purple People: Eaters

You know what we don't eat a lot of? Purple foods.
For some reason, not a lot of purple edible stuff exists out there in nature.  Below is my account of how I tried to right this glaring palette omission on behalf of our palate.

The company I have worked for over the last 15 years has decided to "split" into two new companies...my division is going into a company that's trademark color will be purple.  In order to get everyone all excited and involved in making the change (change? I hate it...as do most analytical-leaning people...have I mentioned that my company consists of about 90% scientists and engineers?) everyone was challenged to come up with ways to show how purple-y we could be.  I decided me and my co-workers beat the pants off of everyone else by being truly creative.  We would have a purple luncheon.  Here are some of our offerings...


Blueberry pie...not terribly outside-the-box creativity-wise....but it was tasty.  Also, it stained our teeth purple for an entire next weekend, so that should count extra.


Purple chicken.  I know it looks kind of sketchy, but it tasted Absolutely. amazing.  I'd eat this again no problem... apparently it was a cinch to make too...just four ingredients: chicken, Catalina dressing, cranberries and an onion soup packet.  It was extremely festive/Christmas-y tasting with the cranberries.

 
Blue corn chips straight out of the bag...the dip is what made it great.  There's a Tex-Mex restaurant chain in the South/Southwest (Chuy's) that has an AMAZING creamy jalepeno dip.  Our IT guy has been tweaking a knock-off recipe all summer...it is divine:
 
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1-4 oz. can chopped jalapenos (more or less to taste) 
  • 1-4 oz. can chopped green chiles
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (fresh only, please)
  • 1-1 oz. packet of dry Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic

  •  
    Throw it all into a food processor and viola!  A couple of drops of red and a drop of blue food coloring and it fit with the theme.
    

     
    Coconut crème cake sans coconut...Jenn made this without the coconut because she knows I'm weird about coconut...love the flavor, hate the texture.  You basically take a white cake, poke holes in it and then pour sweet coconut milk over and let it soak up...top with a light whipped cream icing.  Food coloring was used here as well to bring it into the correct color palette.

    
    Your basic coleslaw...just using purple cabbage instead of standard...this was your vinegar-based type (my preference) vs. the mayo-based.
     
    Mike's wife contributed cupcakes that were as yummy as they were pretty.

     
    Roasted egg plant...nothing too intricate...eggplant, olive oil, salt and pepper.  The trick is soaking the eggplant in a little briny water for a few minutes and then setting out on some paper towels before popping them in the oven to get the bitter out.

     
    Cori, a lady who works for another company, but shares office space with us decided to join in the fun and make purple deviled eggs.  She just boiled her eggs, halved them, scooped out the yolks and let them sit in some water with food coloring.  She deviled the yolks with your standard mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar.  She's from New York, so of course she did not have an egg plate...she also did something I hadn't encountered.  Normally, I don't much care for paprika sprinkled on deviled eggs...but Cori used Old Bay seasoning and I could actually dig that.  I wouldn't use it every time...but it made for an interesting kick. 

    Yeah...the grapes are kind of a gimme...but I don't get figs that often and I had forgotten how much I loved them.  My Me-maw had a fig tree in her yard when I was growing up and I used to love to scarf those things straight off the tree....where I learned an important life lesson: DO NOT EAT UNRIPE FIGS. Trust me on this one.

    Marie made what she called a pomegranate parfait.  It was much tastier than it looked.  I didn't get an exact recipe out of her...but it was basically low-fat cream cheese, cool whip and pomegranate juice and some sugar if I remember correctly.

     
    This was one of my offerings...purple pasta.  It was very good freshly made...sautéed red cabbage, red onion and garlic...toss with al dente pasta and topped with feta.  The next day it was a cold, purple gelatinous blobby mess...so in the future, only make what will be eaten at the initial sitting.

    I discovered these purple potatoes in the produce section of Publix and man, are they neat.  They are purple all the way through...when you cut them, they have this deep, beautiful variegated purple inside.  We just tossed them with some olive oil, fresh Rosemary picked out of Jenn's garden that morning and sea salt and pepper and roasted.  You really can't screw up potatoes.

    The recipe for this cabbage and kielbasa stew said that it was better the second day...so go ahead and make it the night before.  The recipe lied.  I made it up the night before and Jeff and I both tried it and loved it...it turned more purple overnight...that was for sure...but it really lost something of the taste of the kielbasa to the red cabbage overnight.  Still okay...but it was much better with just a couple of hours in the crock pot.  Full recipe:
    Saute chopped red/purple cabbage with a chopped onion, green bell pepper and two tablespoons of minced garlic.  Throw into crock pot with about 4 cups of chicken stock.  Slice and brown a pound of kielbasa and add to the crock pot.  Add a large can of diced tomatoes...salt and pepper to taste.  In two hours it will smell delicious...go ahead and eat it all because it will taste too cabbage-y in the morning and the kielbasa will be an unholy shade of purple.
     
    Also? Fair warning...after I had chopped up a whole head of the really, really purple cabbage?  It looked like I had violently murdered Grimace in my kitchen.  That shit bled onto every surface it encountered...and was determined to stay there.  It took A LOT of bleach-based cleaner to get the stains off my countertops and cutting board.  I had purple-tinged nails for several days.
     
    

    Finally, we had this masterpiece.  Jeff B (not my Jeff, the other one) made this black plum and fig tart.  Jeff B is our gourmet chef in residence.  I had bought the black plums and figs and had no idea what to do with them...I brought them to Jeff B and he returned with what you see above.  It was as good as it looks.  For the base he used this basic recipe:
     
    2 c. all-purpose flour
    3/4 c. finely chopped walnuts
    3/4 c. light brown sugar
    12 Tbl cold unsalted butter (yes, 12 Tbl)
    1 egg yolk
     
    Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl...add butter and egg yolk...mix until crumbly...press 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of a tart pan.
     
    Then he mixed 8 oz of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla and an egg for the next layer and topped with the sliced plums (with some fig in the very center for effect) and the rest of the crumbled stuff used in the crust.  That's baked at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

    I could have easily (and cheerfully) eaten the whole thing myself...12 tablespoons of butter and all.

    So there you have it...a purple feast.  I guess you could use this menu if you were hosting a Mardi Gras party...or if you were a Ravens or Vikings (or Barney) fan.  What you do with this information is really your own business.

    We did up a little power point presentation for the whole company purple challenge.  Sadly, despite our OBVIOUS superiority, we are running a distant second to a bunch of Yahoos at the home office in purple wigs that posted a video of them doing the Harlem Shake.

    Ah well, there's no accounting for taste.
     
     
     
     

    

    Such a Gem

    Most of you who know me personally are aware that I have some pretty specific instructions regarding what should, and should not happen in the event of my untimely death (or timely, for that matter). It may seem somewhat odd, but there are certain things people do at the passing of a loved one that drive me absolutely bat-shit...
    Those markers people put on the side of the road, for one thing…Jeff and I have always agreed that should one of us perish in a fiery car crash, the other would refrain from putting up a little wooden cross and plastic flowers to mark the spot. The same goes for those decal thingies I’ve been seeing in the back of car windows for the past couple of years ("RIP Smoochy 1968-2001"). (If these methods of remembering a loved one happen to be your method of dealing with your grief...I'm sorry if I've offended you).  I'm just a real conservative, old-fashioned griever...a nice marker in a nice normal cemetery is all I need.  I don't want a t-shirt made with my face plastered across it...I don't want anyone tatoo-ing my semblance on their pecs (not that anyone I know WOULD, but still...)

    I thought it went without saying that should I die before him, Jeff would not try to turn me into Bling. I thought wrong. The other day,  he sends me the following link:
    http://www.lifegem.com/ And said, "I know it’s a little weird, but kinda cool, don’t you think?"  

    In a word, No.

    "You mean you don't think it would be sort of neat...???"
    "No, Jeff.  No, No, No!!"

    What is a "LifeGem?" you ask? To quote the company, a LifeGem "is a certified, high-quality diamond created from a lock of hair, or the cremated ashes of your loved one as a memorial to their unique life." They further add: "LifeGem diamonds are created individually from your specific carbon source (specific carbon source? WTF?) in our patented process
    . Your LifeGem memorial will offer comfort and support when and where you need it, and provide a lasting memory that endures just as a diamond does. Forever." The bold type "Forever." is their emphasis, not mine & kind of cracks me up a little, because you know if this were an audio spot, they’d let the "Forever." kind of echo a few times and then fade away. 

    Anyway, they go on to say that your LifeGem is "just like a real diamond." When I told my friend Kim about LifeGem and sent her a link she replied, "Yeah. You know what else is just like a real diamond? A real diamond." 

    In other words: spare me this bullcrap and just bequeath me a real, honest-to-God diamond. Which you could easily do...because do you know how much it costs to turn a cup of cremated remains into a one "carat" LifeGem? Uh, $15 Grand. And why did I say "cup" of cremated remains? Because in their "shipping instructions" they specifically state that you should not send more than 8 ounces of your loved one to them. They provide a little screw cap container (which looks suspiciously like the packaging of my Nivea hand cream) in their "shipping kit" just to make sure you don’t overdo it. Here’s a picture of said "shipping kit."


    
    They’re a little stingy with the bubble wrap, don’t you think, considering that you’re packing HUMAN REMAINS for Interstate transport? I love that they have a "Tamper Resistant" label too. Yes, that will stop the customs people.  Is it just me or doesn't this seem a little bit casual for the transportation of a loved one's mortal coil?
    Anyway, I guess I’ve ranted on this long enough. If anyone needs a refresher on my first set of basic funeral arrangement requirements, you can find them here. To sum up:
    1. "No" to roadside markers.
    2. "No" to "In memorandum" decals in the back of anyone’s low-rider.
    3. "No" to "Beulah Land." (This is explained in the previous set of instructions)
    4. "No" to turning me into snazzy accessories.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Clumsy

    Warning!!!  This is not a post for the faint of heart.  There is honest-to-God blood and gore.  If blood and gore give you the creeping heebies...stop now.  I have even included a picture of a kitten in a sack to give you the opportunity to stop before you see any of the blood and gore:


    This is Daisy Fay in my vodka sack.  Why is it that the liquor store is the only store that still uses these kinds of paper sacks?  The cats love them.
     
    Okay...I assume the rest of you can handle what's coming next.
    A few posts ago, I alluded to the fact that I had injured myself and promised I’d give the details of the how and why later.  Shortly thereafter, Jenn and I spent a weekend of debauchery (complete with pirates!) in Atlanta, and I had to document that for prosperity before coming back around and telling you guys what I’d done.  Also?  My complete spaziness is a little discomforting to share.
    Did you know that once upon a time and, oh…many, many pounds ago I was a dancer?  Well, neither weight gain nor time have been kind to my once graceful bearing.

    And sometimes I forget that I am no longer coordinated and I attempt to do complex things outside my limitations.  Like walk and talk at the same time.

    Walking down the stairs leading out of my office and into the parking lot, I was yammering away at Jeff when a sudden spazmatic attack afflicted me and I forgot that the spacing between each of the steps was EXACTLY THE SAME. I mean…I’d pretty effortlessly traversed the first four with no difficulty.  Suddenly, inexplicably, on the fifth step I stomped down in mid-air, totally missing the second-to-last step and went ass over tea-kettle.  Fortunately, my left elbow was there to take the brunt of the fall.

    I got myself picked up and dusted off…went back inside and found our Safety dude and asked him to bandage me up.  At this point, it wasn’t bleeding much and I think I was still too stunned to really feel it.  And here’s the thing…You can’t REALLY see your own elbow.  All I knew is that I wasn’t seeing too much blood and that I was intent on getting myself and my bruised ego back to the house. (There is nothing like falling on your ass in front of ANYONE for a good ole dose of humility).  Jeff and the safety guy kept exchanging worried looks but I wasn’t paying them any attention.  I promised to clean and bandage it more thoroughly when I got home.

    We got home, I changed into lounge-y clothes and we ate dinner.  After we ate, I undid my bandaging in preparation for a really good cleaning of my scrape…when my daughter suddenly shrieked “Holy crap, Mom!  You need to go to the hospital.”

    “You really should go look in the mirror at it, babe.” Jeff added.

    Huh?

    So yeah, I went to look in the mirror and there was a dime-sized HOLE in my elbow…possibly down to the bone.

    “Fine.” I said, “but I’m not going to the emergency room. C.A.R.E.S. (our local doc-in-a-box) is still open. We’ll go there.”

    I trudge back upstairs to put my bra back on…because I was already in lounge-y mode.  Lounge-y mode NEVER includes a bra.  Anyhoo…I get upstairs, take off my shirt, put on my bra…and then I do it again.  I try to multitask…I am attempting to walk through a doorway while pulling my shirt back down over my head. Whack!!  Yep. Right on the injured elbow.  Up until then, it really had not hurt that bad…but now it starts to throb.


    We get in the car and Jeff drives me to C.A.R.E.S…we’re there in about 3 minutes.  It’s really close. I get out of the car and go to sign in while Jeff gathers my stuff (purse, Kindle, etc.) because in the 3 minutes to get from home to the doctor, my elbow has woken up and is SCREAMING at me.  I’m signing in when someone notices that I also happen to be dripping blood EVERYWHERE.  Two nurses immediately usher me back to the trauma room and try to staunch the flow.  On the plus side, I am seen by a doctor immediately!  Yay!  On the downside, he orders X-rays to make sure I haven’t chipped my funny bone and a tetanus shot since I haven’t had one since oh…college.  He also lets me know in no uncertain terms that we are talking stitches here. Boo!
    Back in X-ray, I see my good friend Kayla is in charge… “Oh good Lord, Marianne, what have you done?”  Ever the efficient nurse, Kayla whips me in and out of X-ray and comes back with us to the trauma room to stitch me up.  Of course, her and Jeff are giving me grief the whole time.  When she sees that Jeff is trying to sneak a picture around the doctor…she takes the phone from him and gets a really good shot of the gaping wound before it’s stitched up:



    And after:


    Ah, much, much better. And actually, that's the best it's looked since. By the next day, the bruising around it got going...and then it got a little gooey-looking...and then it got a little scabby-looking.
    But finally, the stitches came out last night (Kayla again, yay! She takes good care of me).  I'm probably going to have some serious scarring...but hey, like I said earlier...you can't really look at your own elbow.


    I just realized that when I share on Facebook, the thumbnail shows the last picture on a post...so I'm copying Daisy Fay down here too.  She's still so stinkin' cute.
     


    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Boondoggle's End

    Continued from here. 
    ...After leaving the Buckhead Barnes and Noble and the triple-awesomeness that was Jen, Laurie and Quinn, we decided we'd begin our search for sustenance.  There's so much in the Buckhead area, that the chore wasn't finding a place to get great food...but narrowing it down from all of the choices around us.  We noticed a nice-looking place called Saltwater Ketch that had live music on the outdoor patio & was obviously a seafood joint...JennJ loves her some live music...and I love me some seafood, so we decided to stop there.

    The food was divine.  Both of our dishes had a definite Mediterranean flavor...I had the ahi tuna on quinoa...JennJ, the grilled shrimp with couscous and a chickpea/cucumber/tomato salad.  We were some kind of hongry!  Meeting fabulous authors is hungry work. After we finished our meals, we ambled on over to the bar, where we could hear the music and also see whatever football game was on at the time.

    It took the patrons at the bar all of 22 1/2 seconds to notice JennJ and start homing in on her.  In next to no-time, drinks had been bought for us by a gentleman at the end of the bar, we'll call him John Doe (JD for short) and he sidled on up to strike up a conversation with Jenn.  Now, I've been off the market for the better part of my life.  Jeff and I were high school sweethearts...and I was married before I could legally drink (calm down, it was only 2 months before I was 21).  Watching someone trying to do the pick-up thing at a bar is FASCINATING to me. So I sipped my (free) drink, pretended to watch the football game and eavesdropped on the fella who was hitting on Jenn.
    He had a very intoxicated buddy at the bar who drifted by every now and then to pound him on the back and talk him up to Jenn (I think he was supposed to be a "wing man," but he was waaaaay too inebriated to make a lot of sense).  He'd come by, slap "JD" on his shoulder and say something like, "Man, this guy RUNS THE EFFIN' SHOW! THE WHOLE DAMN SHOW, I TELL YOU!" Then he'd stumble off for awhile and drink some more.  Meanwhile, "JD" was engaging in some of the most convoluted conversation starters I had ever heard...

    Jenn had lived in Texas before?  What did she think of the politicians from Texas?
    Did she have any interest in Electronic Data Processing devices?
    How much did she remember about the Iranian Revolution?

    "Where the hell is he going with this?" I thought to myself, completely mystified by whatever pickup routine this was.  Another round of drinks were ordered, a couple of innocuous questions were lobbed my way...I answered as succinctly as possible so that "JD" could get to the point already.
    Drunk wingman stumbles back up slurring something like, "JD's the best damn litigator in Georgia!" and joins the conversation...it took a full half hour and Jenn was finally asked, "Have you ever voted for an Independent?" or some shit and she replies, "Oh, my!  Marianne and I are always saying how we were young and foolish and put Clinton in office by voting for Ross Perot for our first Presidential election!"

    "Perot" was barely out of her mouth when drunk wing man leans in and an stage whispers (slurs) "Did he tell...um...did JD mention that he, uh, dated Ross Perot's daughter?"

    God.  These two guys had spent over 30 minutes in the most astonishing feat of verbal gymnastics I have ever witnessed in order to bring up the fact that "JD" had dated Katherine Perot for a couple of months when he was in college (some 25 years ago).  Now, I have to give credit where credit is due, because it cannot be easy to work to bring Mr. Perot into a conversation in the year 2013.  But come on, boys, you have GOT to update your schtick.

    About this point, the restaurant was getting ready to pack up for the night.  JD poured his buddy into a car and stayed in the parking lot to make sure we didn't get jumped by a bunch of Iranians and we headed on back to the hotel.  We laughed all the way back until we were practically in tears.

    We had THE BEST Boondoggle...couldn't have possibly packed more entertainment in 14 hours on a bet.

    (Okay, honestly, "JD" wasn't that bad of a guy.  He was sort of good-looking, he honestly was a lawyer and after his buddy got too drunk to actually talk, his conversation got a lot more relaxed and interesting.  And he was nice enough to make sure we got on our way without getting 'jacked in the middle of Atlanta at midnight.  Jenn didn't exchange digits with him...but did give him her email...I'm encouraging her to give him another shot if she goes back over to Atlanta any time soon...as long as he leaves his goofy wing man at home.)

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Boondoggle...

    This is a continuation of my last post.  If you haven't read it, take a minute and go here.
    So, JennJ and I prepare for our girls' boondoggle to the Big City...the A-T-L.  You know, I don't know why we don't venture over there more often.  It's only an hour and a half away and it has SO much to do!  We leave work and head to my house where we transfer Jenn's stuff to my car.  We have the goody-baskets for the authors we are going to meet. We have our overnight bags. We have our refreshments (vodka, grapefruit juice, Combos and beef jerky) so we head East!

    We cruise at 70-75 mph the majority of the way...then we hit the city itself and I remember why we hardly ever come over here.  I loathe the traffic.  It is only 1:00 pm local time and I still get honked at three times and miss one exit trying to find my hotel.  We decide to go to the bookstore and get out tickets to the event before checking into the hotel since we're a little off the path already anyway.  Am really hating Atlanta traffic...it's better off of the interstate, where they are actively trying to kill you...but for some reason streets will be named one thing going in one direction and another thing going in the opposite direction.  Also? Siri is making me crazy. "Turn Northeast onto Peachtree Lane Avenue Road..."  I mean, really!  What the hell is that?  Do I look like a boy scout? I can't just whip out a compass...what happened to "right" and "left?"  JennJ and I are trying to determine which way the sun is moving as someone else blows their horn at us.  I randomly choose a direction and Siri tells me she's "Recalculating the route". Bitch.  And we are on Peachtree Avenue Road, not Peachtree Lane Avenue Road.  Hate Atlanta driving.  Somehow we manage to stumble upon the correct Barnes and Noble, go in, purchase our books and get our event tickets!

    We spend a bit more time looking at our directions to the hotel while still parked at the bookstore (it is 2.1 miles away...surely to God we can do this.)  And we do...I only have to perform one U-turn and it was one that Siri TOLD me to make.  I think she has lost her ever-loving computer mind. When the directions were, "In .4 miles, make a U-turn" JennJ and I just looked at each other...then Jenn shut her eyes and I popped a U-ey and suddenly, we were going up the drive to the hotel.  No one even honked at us that time.  We unload our crap and mix ourselves a restorative beverage to recover from the harrowing journey.

    We've got about three hours before the book event starts, so we head out in search of a place to get a snack and have a drink.  We're in Buckhead, right?  Lots of bars and restaurants and such.  Well, apparently, nothing opens until evening...so we wander around a bit until we see a Sports-bar-looking establishment.  It's called Twin Peaks...and it looks all hunter-lodge-themed. We park and walk into the restaurant, where we are greeted by a pack of scantily clad, well-endowed, 20-something ladies.  Ohhhh...Twin Peaks...I get it now.  Nonetheless, we are here now, the ladies are being extremely attentive even though we aren't their typical clientele, and we're still mighty thirsty.  We order some chips, queso and a couple of martinis.  I have recently been converted to Hendrix gin, and unfortunately, the Tanquery isn't doin' it for me today.  I give JennJ mine and switch off to beer.  Let me pause for a minute here.  Going anywhere with JennJ has its pros and cons.  The pros are numerous.  She usually gets drinks bought for her. There are lots of heads that turn in her direction, so if you're with her, you're near the focal point of any room.  The cons are that you yourself are not going to get noticed except as her friend that will need to be glanced at every now and again so as not to appear rude.  My sweet friend JennJ is exceptionally beautiful:

     
    And I'd absolutely hate her if I didn't love her so much.  I know how much I suffer by comparison sitting next to her:
    But as I've been happily married for 23 years, I can just content myself on occasionally getting a free drink sent my way as well in an attempt to get the lovely JennJ's attention.
    Another con?  JennJ attracts ALL SORTS of male attention.  That afternoon at Twin Peaks, we encountered:
     


    This is Andy. I think he was a pirate.  He scratched his elbow A LOT.  The salt air must not be good for his eczema.  Do you know why I was able to take this picture? Because Andy-the-Pirate's gaze never wavered from looking at JennJ. He kept trying to get a commitment out of her that we (or actually she...I'm not sure he knew I was even sitting there) would come back to Twin Peaks after the book event. We were finally rescued from AtP's swash-buckling by none other than the establishment's owners.  They sent us a couple of drinks and asked if we'd stop by and chat.  Our waitresses and bartenders (there was a shift change while we were there) had told them that we were from Alabama.  They are opening a location in Huntsville next week and were interested in our opinion of their franchise.  Very nice men.  I wish them well.  And if all of their staff are as friendly, courteous and helpful as the ladies that waited on us, they should be a roaring success in Huntsville.  All of the boobs and booty shorts will probably be well received too. (I do want to re-emphasize that despite their lack of coverage and their abundance of cleavage, I have RARELY received the level of service that I did from these chicks.  I DON'T want to take away from that at all)
    From Twin Peaks, we found our way back to the bookstore.  Let me just tell you guys:

    I. HAD. A. BLAST.

    We had a nice gathering of about 60-75 people.  Not too many to be completely overwhelming.  And the ladies themselves were beyond awesome.  First up to the podium was Quinn Cummings:


     
    She's always writing on her blog about how awkward she is...I found her to be absolutely charming, so I don't know why she's always going on about being otherwise.  Her hair, bangs and all looked fabulous, even in our southern humidity.
     
    Next up was Laurie Notaro:
     
    Sorry about the crappy picture.  I suck at taking them.  Anyway...she was an absolute HOOT!  I am so glad I got to hear her...and I can't wait to start reading her work.  The bit she read to us from her new book had the whole crowd howling.  Also, the woman can freaking ROCK the red lipstick.

    And then there was Jen Lancaster:
     
     

     
    She was so cute.  The pop-collared Lacoste, the pearls, the madras capris...adorable.  And FUNNY!  I love this picture JennJ took of us...though I don't know what the hell the polka-dotted cartoon pirate photo-bombing us is all about. (I certainly have encountered many more pirates on this trip than I had expected).  Seriously, folks...she needs to tell us all what she's using on her skin because she's absolutely RADIANT.
    She was so gracious about getting her gift basket (I have to be honest here...I had a moment when I was giving them out where I felt a little like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. You know...everyone else is bringing the teacher an apple and Ralphie comes up with this gi-normous fruit basket with a pineapple in it?)
    I hope I didn't come across as too squeal-y, fan-girl-y...or at least I came across as  a non-stalker-y fan-girl.
    With the gift baskets distributed and my autographs secured...JennJ & I gathered up and went out into the night in pursuit of dinner.
     
    To be continued....(again, I know! But this post is getting too long and there's much more of the night ahead.)

    Saturday, September 14, 2013

    A tisket a tasket

    ...a Suck-Up Goody Basket.
     
    One of my very favorite authors of all time is Jen Lancaster.  Several years ago, my friend Nancy in Canada told me how much fun she was to read & sent me her first book Bitter is the New Black...yeah...the crack pipe is always free. After that, well...I have every single one of her subsequent books...several of them in hardcover (delay instant gratification and wait for the paperback? Hush that crazy talk) and on my Kindle (I like having Ms. Lancaster on trips with me but I also want to bring several changes of shoes the Kindle allows me the suitcase room to do both).
     
    In addition to reading Jen Lancaster's books, I got hooked on reading her blog http://www.jennsylvania.com/ ...especially after she did a complete re-enactment of the Twilight movies using the official Twilight action figures accessorized by everyday kitchen appliances. 
    Through one of her postings, I was diverted to Quinn Cumming's blog: http://qcreport.blogspot.com/. And after laughing myself sick reading her archives, I downloaded her book: Notes from the Underwire. I enjoyed it so much that when she came out with her second book about her first year homeschooling her young 'un, I bought that too...Despite the fact that my kiddo was entering her senior year of high school in public school and I had no intention of home schooling anyone, ever.  So glad I did, because it was still a hilarious read.
     
    Quinn's last book Pet Sounds is something I really, really related to...because I have a house full of insane beasts that are apparently 90% loose, shed-able fur by weight.  Quinn's blog is great...the woman has such a huge heart for all of God's little creatures and does so much for the pet community that she puts my puny efforts to shame.  Also?  I would LOVE to learn how she manages her catch and release fostering.  I am a complete FAIL at the "release" part and have had to give up fostering anything, because once an animal crosses my threshold, it NEVER. LEAVES.
     
    So when I saw a posting on Facebook (and confirmed on Jennsylvania.com that Jen and Quinn were going to be at a book signing with a third author, Laurie Notaro (I had not encountered Ms. Notaro's work yet...but if she was traveling with the other two chicks, I knew she had to be good people)in Atlanta (approx. an hour and a half from the house) I was determined to go.
     
    The three ladies are from Chicago, Los Angeles, and Eugene Oregon...so I decided as long as they were comin' down to Dixie...I'd make sure they got a full taste of the South while they were here.  I made Goody Baskets.  Here are the Goody baskets being assembled (with help from the cats):
     
     
    I put Post-It notes on all of the items to let the ladies know why each item had been included in their Southern Care package.  Here's the range of things that went into them:
     
    Midnight Moon Moonshine.
    Junior Johnson, who owns this company is a NASCAR legend.  NASCAR started out as a past time for moonshiners.  They’d get together and race their bootlegging cars.  I live about 10 miles from the Talladega Superspeedway.  I was actually there when they were filming for “Talladega Nights.”  Say what you will about the redneck NASCAR fans, there is no better people watching anywhere than NASCAR races.  This moonshine came in three different flavors and had some nice, hooch-soaked fruit included: Cherry, Blackberry and Blueberry.
    Lauri Jo's Pepper Jelly
    Made in Georgia & sold in my friend, Janet’s wine & gift shop (Tyson Art & Frame).  You serve with cream cheese and crackers.  I’ve tried making my own.  HUGE FAIL. Now I just buy from Janet.
    (You can read about the fail here.)
    A really funny aside: when I brought the goody bags to the Barnes & Noble for the signing, the manager asked what-all I had in there...when I said I had pepper jelly, she said, "Now, you told them how to use that, didn't you?"  She said she'd lived in the South for 20+ years, and had only discovered that you can put out a platter of pepper jelly, a block of cream cheese and some crackers and folks will act like you have just invented the most gourmet, delectable appetizer EVER.
    Geraldine's Cheese Straws
    I started to buy Cheese Straws from my local bakery, Bonnie Ray’s, because they really are the best, but, since these lovely ladies don’t really know me, I decided Geraldine’s, a commercially available substitute (made in Jasper, GA) was a better idea.  No baby shower or bridal shower in the South is complete without cheese straws.  They are extremely horrible for any diet (seriously, each cheese straw is like 2 weight watcher points) because they are basically: cheese, butter, some flour to hold it together and spices.
    Moonpies
    Originally from Tennessee, they have become more associated with the city of Mobile, AL.  Mobile (home of the first Mardi Gras parade and festival in the US) started the tradition of throwing Moon pies from the Mardi Gras floats sometime in the mid 1950’s.  On New Year’s Eve, we don’t drop a ball at midnight in Mobile, we have a gigantic lighted moonpie instead.
    RC Cola
    You can’t eat a Moon Pie without an RC cola to wash it down.  I think it’s the law. An RC & a Moonpie has always been known as “A working Man’s Lunch.”
    Wickles
    Wickedly Awesome pickles.  They are made in Dadeville, AL.  Original product was a sweet/hot pickle…then they added relish, sandwich topping, garden selection (pickled cauliflower, onions and pickles) and okra to their product line.  Honey hush.
    Boiled green peanuts
    You have to boil green (immature) peanuts, not fully grown and dried ones.  Usually you just see a guy or two set up on the side of the road boiling and selling peanuts.  Lots of folks still call these Goober Peas, like my Granny did.
    Cracker Smack
    My family always had seasoned crackers set out at any family gathering.  It kept folks from DYING as the main meal was being cooked.  We used oyster crackers, a packet of ranch dressing seasoning, lemon pepper, dill and red pepper flakes tossed with canola oil.  Janet carries Old World Gourmet (don't let the name fool you...this is a Southern company too...based out of Atlanta). Cracker Smack is a WHOLE lot less trouble than the stuff Granny used to make and is awesome. It even comes with a bag big enough to do a whole box of crackers.  I figured the ladies would appreciate getting the DIY kit rather than have me show up with a Tupperware container full of the seasoned crackers.

    Here are the finished goody bags:
     

     
    The base of the goody bag, holding everything stable, is a good ole, plain-Jane variety egg plate.  Because, as I have stated before, you cannot be a Southern Lady and not have an egg plate.
    I cajoled my usual partner in crime, Jenn J into making a girls' boondoogle with me over to HotLanta. (Jenn doesn't need much nudging when it comes to boondoogle trips).  I booked us a room in Buckhead near the Barnes and Noble, scheduled a day & a half off of work and waited with eager anticipation for the coming weekend.
    I ended up having to relocate the goody baskets to my daughter's TV/dressing room/extra room upstairs after finding a couple of spots of cat-vomit-curly-ribbon throughout the house and realizing that the varmits had decided that curly ribbon iz DELICIOUS.
     
    Daughter: What are these?
    Me: Goody baskets
    Daughter: For who?
    Me: These three ladies who write books that are going to be in Atlanta.  I know you've seen some of the books laying around
    Daughter: Oh, yeah. Are you SUPPOSED to bring them something?
    Me: No, I don't HAVE to...I thought I'd give them some purely Southern stuff...and I wrote a little explanation about each item.  I put it all on an egg plate and printed out my Egg Plate story to explain that.
    Daughter: Oh. My. God. Mother! I am so judging you!
    Me: What? Why? I'm being hospitable. I called the book store and asked if I could bring it and everything.
    Daughter: This is like going to a concert and taking the band a CD of your garage band for a present.
    Me: It is NOT!!  I mean, sure...it's a leedle bit of a suck-up gift, but it's really to make them feel appreciated.
    Daughter: .....
    Me: Fine!  I'll take out the printed out story.
    Daughter: No, you'd better leave it or they will have no idea what it's doing in their gift bag.  If you don't have an explanation for it, they'll just wonder why you are making them pack a heavy GLASS plate in their luggage.
    ....walks out shaking her head.
     
    So, hopefully, each of the ladies will be delighted in their plethora of prezzies and won't think I'm some crazy, fan-girl, stalker type.
     
    Next post...Trip Report on our Boondoogle!

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Knights and Barbarians



    A discussion started up at work today about toes.  Jenn was telling the rest of us that, allegedly, you can tell your ancient regional origin by what your toes look like.  Now, I have always heard the old wives' tale that if your second toe was longer than your big toe, it meant that you were destined to be the "head of the household."  My Memaw always said this.  But I have never heard that you could tell anything about your ancestry from your feet.  Of course, we Googled it, and sure enough, found this chart:


    Which naturally led to everyone trying to determine what they were.  Apparently, I am some kind of Greco-Roman mutation.  My left foot looks like #2, while my right foot looks like #3 with the longer 2nd toe.  I'll post a picture later when I've had a chance to paint my toe nails.  They are in a sad state right now.  Well, the discussion breaks up and we all go back to our respective offices.

    Later in the day, several folks from the foot-discussion were in my office and one of the guys bursts out with:
    "You know that foot thing reminds me about the "Knights and Barbarians" back in the Army."
    Looking at our non-plussed expressions he said, "You know...after you go to the bathroom...whether you fold it or crumple it determines if you're a Knight or a Barbarian."

    Time out...currently, I am on drugs.  I took a fall yesterday afternoon, ended up with four stitches (detailed story forthcoming), some bruises and a prescription for Loratab.  In my chemically hazed mind, I imagined my co-worker was describing how a person of the male persuasion, um, tucked himself back into his pants after peeing.  I know.

    "What if you wrap it around your hand?" Another co-worker asks.
    "Well, well," I think to myself, "that would be quite the trick" when I stop myself midthought and realize we're discussing toilet paper.
    And apparently, you're a Knight if you fold your toilet paper and you're a Barbarian if you crumple it (which, come to think of it, men probably try to AVOID crumpling their junk no matter what their social status is).  And my co-worker continued on his story about how his company ended up dressing up as Barbarians or Knights and had a grand battle because they are BOYS.  Meanwhile my mind is still reeling with the incredible leap in logic my brain had.  What is wrong with me that I immediately WENT THERE? Hell if I know.

    Turns out, I am a Greco-Roman Knight.  Huzzah!




    Updated with my Greco-Roman feets. Also, I still have Prometheus. I still lurve him.




    Friday, September 6, 2013

    Totally slipped by me...

    I was going back through some past posts looking for my explanation of Southern Ladies and their egg plates, when I realized that I never posted a picture of my latest egg plate acquisition:

    The two bunnies are salt and pepper shakers and HOW FREAKING CONVENIENT IS THAT? An egg plate with salt and pepper shakers for the low, low price of $2??  I would have been insane to walk away from such functional artwork.  As you've probably guessed, this pastel treasure was purchased at a yard sale.
    Jeff and I were out tooling around on a Saturday morning (kiddo was off somewhere) on a bright and sunny summer morning.  If you can count on anything in Alabama, it is the abundance of yard sales on Saturday mornings when the weather is nice.  We got out at this yard sale & I was immediately drawn to this egg plate (did I mention it still had it's original packaging??  Complete with styrofoam with niches for Mr. & Mrs. Bunny?)  It was marked $4.  And guys, $4 at a yard sale is some seriously expensive shit.  What was the dealio?  Had this egg plate once served deviled eggs at the White House annual egg roll or what?  $4 at a yard sale is freaking CRAZY TALK.  So we left the yard sale with me shooting covetous glances back over my shoulder.
    We got back in the car and drove around aimlessly for awhile...went through the Jack's drivethru for a biscuit...

    "Well, Annette would have just made fun of me anyway."
    "Huh?"

    "The egg plate.  She says I have too many egg plates.  I only have 3, and one of those is plastic. It's not like I'm hoarding egg plates or anything.  I'm not EGG PLATE OBSESSED, for heaven's sake?"

    "You want to go back to that yard sale and buy the egg plate, don't you?"

    "God, yes."

    So we go back to the yard sale (it was actually a multi-family yard sale) to inquire who I needed to give the money to in order to take my find home with me.  I was directed to the lady in question, clutching my four Washington's...

    "Well, my, my....if it isn't June's little girl."

    I knew immediately that this was someone I was related to...because only my kin call my Dad "June." (My dad's name is Donald.  Most everyone calls him Don.  However, he was born a Junior, and while my PawPaw was alive, my PawPaw was Don and my dad was "June" short for "Junior.")

    "Yes, ma'am?????" (Dammit, she is going to be on the phone in a hot minute when I leave telling the whole family I didn't remember her)  "I mean, YESS'M!!!  Why, I didn't see you sitting over there!  You must've been trying to stay in the shade and all!  How've you been??  And how's umm..."

    "Deb and RickyJo???? Aw, Lawd, chile, we all need to get together and get to catching up!"

    (RickyJo, RickyJo, RickyJo....I know this. I know this. I know this.)  AHA!

    "Jeff!  I want you to come on over here and meet my Aunt Wannelle!  I TOLD you I recognized that egg plate...why...she must've had it over to Meemaw's every Easter." (This? Right here? Is a bald-faced lie. I am scrambling though because my Dad will never hear the end of it)

    "Meet him? Why, I remember when he had that awful car accident...what was that? Late 80's, early 90's...?" (Okay, obviously I am a horrible, horrible person who doesn't remember Jack shit if it's been longer than 3 years) "You're wanting that ole egg plate?  Well, honey, I couldn't charge you anything a'tall for that...you just take that old thing."

    I insisted that she take at least the $2 for it...and still felt bad about it afterwards.  As soon as I'm in the car, I'm dialing Dad, "Hey!  Ummm...how am I related to Aunt Wannelle?"

    Turns out, I'm not except by marriage.  She was married to my great-uncle who actually passed away before I was even born.  Her kids are my second cousins, though they were a good 10-12 years older than me, so they didn't really have much to do with me during family events. I felt slightly less horrible that I didn't immediately recognize her....but now I DO feel like I can legitimately call this egg plate a FAMILY HEIRLOOM!  What do you think?

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    Litter box cake

    As promised in my last post, the full story on the litter box cake:


    A few years ago, on a Friday, Tim G., the boss of everything out here, was off work.  But, being Tim, and being the boss of everything, he never goes anywhere that he doesn’t call into the office every 15 minutes or so, and that Friday was no different.  So, he had called in to talk to a couple of the engineers down the hall, and they had him on speaker phone, and up loud enough for the whole office to hear him.  In the background you can hear a cat just yowling and howling, as if it were being slowly and painfully tortured.  Seems that Tim was on his way to his daughter’s school with the cat (Alley The Cat) for show and tell.  And Tim hates this cat.  The only reason this cat still lives and breathes is because this daughter does not hate the cat, his daughter loves the cat.  So much so that she'd talked her daddy into bringing her to the school for show and tell.  Anyway, we all  gathered around to hear Tim trying to deal with the cat running amok in the car, the old lady who can’t drive in front of him, while at the same time try to hold a conversation regarding some very technical engineering-type stuff.  Finally, he gets to the school and says that he’ll call back after show n’ tell to continue the conversation.  Everyone at the office goes back to work.

    45 minutes later, Leslie, the Environmental Engineer is heard cackling and screaming with laughter.  I head down the hall to see what in the world is going on.  Leslie’s son happened to be in Tim’s daughter’s class, so Tim had decided to call her and let her in on the tragedy first.  It seems that Alley The Cat did very well during show n’ tell.  She didn’t even seem to mind all of the grubby little first-grader hands all over her, brushing her fur the wrong way, patting her head (dogs like head-patting, cats do not) squealing and giggling as first grade children are want to do.  Tim was very surprised; he had not thought that the “ignorant beast” would do quite so well in this situation.  (Tim’s just not a cat person at all.)  But, pleasantly surprised by how well the cat had behaved, he scoops ol’ Alley The Cat up and heads back out to the car.  When he gets about halfway down the school corridor, he feels Alley tense and relax, tense and relax, tense and relax.  Then he hears a chorus of wee little kindergarten voices (they have come to the doorway of their classroom to see the kitty as she’s carried past) shriek, “Oooo, yuck! Ga-rossss!”  He turns around, and sees, not a trail of bread crumbs, but you guessed it, a trail of kitty ka-ka.  By the time Tim gets to the part of how he has to hand Alley The Cat over to the principal so that he can begin clean-up, Leslie has him back on the speaker phone and we’re all rolling around, clutching our sides and making little snorty noises, we’re laughing so hard.  Tim basically is trying to handle all of this with aplomb, but the interjected 4-letter words are spoiling it quite a bit.  Finally, he gets off the phone so that we, his staff of college-educated engineers, can pull ourselves back together… he’ll call us back in a little while.

    Well, as we're TRYING to compose ourselves, I suddenly remember something my friend Annette had told me about a few months ago.  Around Halloween, we had a mutual friend throwing a Halloween party.  Annette had found this cake recipe that she wanted to take to the party, but she was afraid that she’d go through all of the effort to make it, and then it wouldn’t be eaten.  The cake was called a Litter Box Cake.  I was on the phone at once to start her digging for the recipe.  I knew that I could pull of making the cake because the people here will eat anything.

    So, I bet you’re all wondering how to make this wonder of culinary delight… Well, here is the recipe:

     

    First you bake one white sheet cake (Buy a cake mix and just follow the directions) and one German Chocolate or spice sheet cake (I used a German Chocolate cake mix).  Let those cakes cool.  Then you mix up one large package of vanilla pudding and put it in the fridge while the cakes are cooling.  While everything is cooling and chilling, you take a package of vanilla sandwich cookies and grind them up in the blender.  (You’ll only want to do a few at a time or you’ll make a huge mess.)  At this point, I was going to try to deviate a little from the recipe and use butter cookies that wouldn’t have the crème in the center; I thought it would make less mess.  I was wrong.  If you put butter cookies in a blender and hit it just once, poof, you haven’t got crumbs, you’ve got dust. Anyway, take about a quarter to a half of a cup of the cookie crumbs and put them in a jar with a few drops of green food coloring and shake.  These will serve to look like the little chlorophyll granules in cat litter.
    After the cakes have cooled, take a new cat litter box (Did I really have to specify new?  I thought it only safe) and crumble the cakes up into it.  Put about half the remaining cookie crumbs in and most of the vanilla pudding and mix.  You don’t want the mixture soggy, just moist.  Then you take all but a little of the remaining cookie crumbs and spread on top.  Now here comes the fun part.  You get about a dozen or so tootsie rolls and microwave them for a few seconds to make them soft.  Then you “form” them (I let my kiddo do that part, she thought it was a hoot).Take a few and “bury” them, put the rest on top.  Sprinkle the rest of the cookie crumbs and then scatter the green crumbs around.  Serve with a NEW pooper scooper.  You can even put the pan down on some newspaper, and scatter some cookie crumbs and a few extra tootsie rolls around.  I didn’t for this occasion, since I carried it in to Tim, but serving it somewhere, I probably would have.
    Everyone thought it was hilarious...a good chuckle was had by all...and then everyone dug in.  Not a crumb or a tootsie-roll turd remained 30 minutes later.  Like I said, they'll eat anything around here (except, apparently, zombie-flesh banana bread.)