Friday, November 29, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

So I learned something new today.
It all started with wanting to make Turkey Tetrazzini.  Stacey Ballis (wonderful her books...wonderful chef...though most of her recipes are a little above my abilities) had posted a recipe here on her blog.  It looked easy enough to pull off and her suggestions a couple of posts earlier about dry brining a turkey had resulted in the best turkey I have ever presented for Thanksgiving.  Even Jeff liked it, and he is not a poultry fan.  Anyway, the recipe called for sherry.  I didn't have anything but cooking sherry and asked Ms. Ballis on her blog if that would do.  She replied (did I mention that she's really nice too?) that the real thing really was worth the effort of my getting out of my PJs, putting on a bra and combing my hair to go get.
My black Friday plans usually do not include doing any of those things...unless I get leftover gravy on me and have to change my pajama top.  As soon as I got into the shower, the kiddo was alert to the fact.
Somehow, someway, over the last few days when I was off work and she was out of school, she had convinced me to let her get her bellybutton pierced "sometime."  She's about a month away from which point she could do it without my consent.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened, during our 10 hour long "Modern Family" watching marathon and mother/daughter bonding session, she convinced me that it would mean a lot to her if I went ahead and let her do it with my consent and my presence.  Now that I was washed, dressed and combed, she wanted to do it now.
I had gotten the health ratings of a few local establishments and we decided on a place called "Artistic Additions."  After stopping into Winn Dixie for the sherry (not the finest of sherries...but I only needed 1/4 cup) we headed over to the tattoo/piercing place.
For the day after Thanksgiving, I thought the parking lot was surprisingly full.  We went in...apparently some (odd) folks like to hang out in tattoo shops.  There was an area with couches and chairs and a TV and several highly-inked late-teen/early 20-somethings with many metal protuberances lounging about.  They didn't pay us much attention.  We found the guy running the counter and inquired about piercing the daughter's belly button.  Nice enough fellow, he gave us the waiver to sign and took the kiddo back for her piercing:
While he was sterilizing everything in the autoclave, I noticed a whole wall of the shop dedicated to someone named Percy Waters...a native of our town. 
There were several of his pictures, a tombstone rubbing, some magazine articles and a copy of his 1929 patent of the electrical tattoo machine.  Apparently, Mr. Waters's design is the basis for modern-day tattooing equipment  and until recently, his Anniston, AL based company was the largest tattooing supply company in the US.
So that's the something new I learned today.  Also?  The Turkey Tetrazzini was delish.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Last year, I completely dropped the ball.  It was a perfect storm of late business travel, out-of-town guests coming in, Thanksgiving coming BEFORE, the fact that there was nothing in particular he wanted as a gift...

Still none of that is really an excuse for only half-assing my husband's birthday.  He was very good-natured about he is about so many things.  And of course, he is not the birthday diva that I am.  We didn't FORGET his birthday or anything...but we didn't give it a whole lot of attention either.  The gifts he got were appreciated...but still a little "meh."...nothing there that really flipped his wig.  We were still stuffed from Thanksgiving, and had two refrigerators full of food, so we didn't do anything particularly special meal-wise either.

I was determined that this year, I would try to make up for all of that.

Even though he had to work on his special day...I had snuck out in the middle of the night to purchase freshly made Dunkin Donuts and place them with a sweet note in the passenger's seat of his car where he'd see them first thing.  I had already purchased his gifts ahead of time and got those all wrapped and ready.

One of them...a brand-spankin new iPhone 5s I had to go get ready for the change-out as soon as he had it opened (he needs to download his old busted 4 (no s) with his contacts and all before the hand over actually takes place).  But I got all of the paperwork and legwork done.

The other gift was a game for his new Xbox One system...and something the whole family will actually play together...a Lego game.  This one with the Marvel characters.  Very cool.

While he was at work, I set about making his very favorite dish of all time...spicy red clam sauce with linguine.

It came out perfectly.  I cheated a bit because I found the refrigerated noodles in the grocery store and went with those instead of home made...but it was DELISH...
The sauce isn't HARD to make, but it does take some time.  Abbreviated recipe:
sauté 8 garlic cloves and a two bay leaves in 2 Tbl olive oil.
remove garlic & leaves, add 1 cup of chopped onion to the olive oil.
chop the cooked garlic and return to the sauté-ing onion.

1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1Tbl chopped basil (fresh is better, dried will do)
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Another bay leaf

Drain 3 cans of chopped clams...put 1 cup of the juice into the sauce

bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer....simmer for 30ish minutes and then add the clams...simmer for another 15ish minutes.

chopped fresh parsley sprinkled on top if desired.  Jeff doesn't like, so I just have it to the side for whoever wants to sprinkle it on top after making their plate.

And because we aren't really cake people, I decided to make one of his favorite pies...a peanut butter pie:
I didn't think to take a picture this is after we murdered it.  The holes are where the candles were.  If you aren't from the South, you may not have ever had the wonder of an ice-box peanut butter pie.  It is heaven.  You take a cup of peanut butter, a cup of cream cheese, a cup of confectioner's sugar and a dash of vanilla and mix until smooth.  In another bowl, you make fresh whipped cream (1 1/2 cups whipping cream and a 1/4 cup sugar).  You fold the two together and put into a graham cracker crust (you can make your own...but the store bought tastes as good and is too easy to pass up).  Pop into the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  If you serve with coffee, you can reduce the probability of your guests dropping off into a coma after they eat it.  Otherwise, all bets are off.
After the meal, but before the presentation of gifts, the daughter decided that the whole house needed in on the festivities:

They are every bit as pissed off as you would imagine.  Maxx was at first thoroughly disgusted:

But later got a little violent over the fact that the daughter would NOT LET IT GO ALREADY:

You can't really tell in this picture, but the kiddo had decided that since Maxx didn't seem TOO affected, (the other cats all walked backward until they fell off the table and then continued to walk backward until they hit a wall, like they could somehow back out of the hats) she'd make him into a sort of feline-stega-bday-a-saurus and put pointy birthday hats all down his which time he completely lost his patience and all of HIS pointy ends came out.  He was like a fluffy, festive chainsaw.  I told the kid that if I were her, I'd lock my door that night.

All-in-all, everyone agreed (MOST importantly the hubs) that we had a birthday success and that I had redeemed myself from the mediocre birthday celebration of last year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coming home

We had a welcome home party last night for one of my nearest and dearest sweet, sweet Jacquie.  She is a doctor/surgeon and for the last year, she has been helping out in New Zealand.  I was at her farewell party last going away gift was a necklace with a compass on that she could find her way home.  Jacquie got to spend a year in a wonderful, beautiful country where she used her gift of compassion and her talents as a doctor to help others.  And then she came home.
Last night we had a wienie roast for of the only things that the bright, beautiful country of New Zealand did NOT have to offer was a good hot dog.  As we spent the evening welcoming her back...we ate, drank and were merry.

I was sitting out back just talking to another of the party-goers and I heard it...Jacquie's unrestrained laugher.  She was gathered 'round a fire with some of the other guests and she was laughing at something someone said.  I wasn't paying attention until I heard her laugh.  No one laughs like my Jacquie does.  It is full of joy and sunlight and love.  It sounds like coming home.  I am so glad she's back.

Friday, November 22, 2013


On this day, one score and eight years ago, in the year of our Lord 1985, a particularly fine and strapping young man (and buddy do I mean FINE) decided that he needed to make a change in his routine.
As the celebration of his 17th birthday drew nigh, and the leaves began to change and the weather grew blustery and cold, he realized that his regular weekend activity of cruising through the parking lots of Moore's (the local hangout/arcade) and Taco Bell with his buddies was getting less and less fun as the temperature continued to drop.  Also, less and less people were doing it...instead, they were seeking indoor entertainment.  That was when he decided, "I need to find a girlfriend for the winter."

And so he did...with every intention of flying free again once the weather turned favorable for more of whatever antics young studly men get up to when improperly supervised.
The young lady, however, realized what a wonderful catch she had snagged and had other plans.
28 years we are.
I love you, honey.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

I've GOT this

A few of years ago on some random weekday night, I was sitting outside reading and Jeff was upstairs in his man cave playing video games when the kid from two houses down (a classmate of Mileena's) runs up to me.  He is in an utter panic.
“There’s water spraying all over our kitchen, and my dad’s not home and my mom doesn’t know what to do!!!  Please…can Mileena’s daddy come help????!!!!???” (Humphf…daddy, schmaddy…I’m the engineer in the house, he’s the computer geek.)
“No problem…I got it.” I got up, went inside and got my pipe wrench out of the tool drawer, the neighbor kid quick on my heels.
“But shouldn’t her dad….”

“No, kid, I got it.”
So we truck on over to the neighbor's house and I take a look at what’s going on…
There’s about an inch of water in the kitchen and what appears to be every towel, blanket and linen in the house forming a barricade around the perimeter…sort of a sea wall to keep the water from the carpeted areas.  The youngest child of the household (she’s about 5) is standing in a kitchen chair shrieking a single note at the top of her lungs.  Neighbor Mom is spooling out paper towels as fast as she can.  Their Chihuahua is doing donuts in the living room, on the furniture (couch to loveseat to recliner to recliner to couch to loveseat…barking at the top of its lungs.)

It was the perfect illustration of the word “pandemonium.”

In the kitchen, the cabinet under the sink is open and water is spraying out…the hot water tie-in to the dish washer has popped loose from its quick disconnect.  Below the gushing water is the cut-off valve to the whole shebang…so I just waded in, reached under the sink and cut the water off (the hot water is only warm by this time, but I still get soaked as I’m cutting the water off).

After the water stops spewing, I repair the tie-in and open the water valve back up.
The next day, Neighbor Mom sent her oldest son (he was about 13 or 14) over to bring me a box of chocolates (Godiva, yum) to say thank you.  The kid had put on his cummerbund, top hat and cape to bring it to me (this is a teenage boy, mind you…not some 6 year old).  He bowed to me, kissed my hand and called me “m’lady”.  It was surreal.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Worth a thousand words

Jeff recently got out his skier hat (not that we've ever skied...but he has a skier hat for his bald head.  My sister got it for him from some ski shop a few Christmases ago.  You can see Jeff in action wearing his ski hat here.)  The kiddo's high school's football team has made it into the playoffs and we were preparing for a very cold night at the stadium to watch her cheer.
Jeff decided to give the ole thing a quick Frebreze-ing and let it air out.  So he HUNG IT ON A CHANDELIER.  We have FIVE cats in the house...two of them still technically kittens.  I do not know what the hell he was thinking.

Oh...and about the giant blue vodka box in the background...NO, I don't have a WHOLE CASE of vodka just sitting around on my great-grandfather's sideboard in my computer room.  It's just a box where the liquor store put the Kentucky bourbon and bottles of locally made wine (Acres of Land winery in Richmond, KY) that I bought during my last Kentucky trip.  So yeah, it is an entire box of booze...but not and entire box of super-cheap vodka. (Not helping myself, am I?)

And Yes.  That is a painting of Bears Dancing.

My delightful friend Lori (she of the Chickmaster fame) gave me this painting when she redecorated her own office space because she knew how much I LURVED it.  I had made her swear to me that if she ever got rid of it FOR ANY REASON to let me know.  So she did.

I think that's all that's interesting to note here in this one picture...oh, except I really should probably get that neck pillow off of the coat rack and put it up's only been hanging there since March.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Chickmaster 109

One of my very dearest friends, Lori let me know the other day…just real casual-like, that she had papillary cancer (thyroid)…she’s already had her thyroid removed last month and she was scheduled to go to the hospital for a radioactive iodine pill and quarantine. (because she would be Chernobyl Lori for a few days)…when she stopped glowing enough to go home, she was still gonna have to be isolated to a certain extent and stay away from everyone at home a few more days. Afterwards, that should be the end of that...they don’t think they’ll have to do anything further.

I just got off of the phone with her and apart from suffering from a slight case of cabin fever, she sounds fine.  Whew! Such a relief!  Lori is one of those friends that, even though we don’t see each other as much as we’d like to…my mind is eased just knowing I can pick up the phone and call her.  And she is definitely on my call-down list, which right now looks something like this:


Consoling glass of wine: Jennifer

Hiding a dead body (allegedly): Annette

Ranting about the knuckle-headed teenager daughter and/or whoople-headed teen-aged boy de jour: Leslie

Planning a get away (possibly after hiding a dead body): Belinda W

The truth, even if unpleasant: Jacquie

Talking me down off the ledge: Lori

International affairs (potential political asylum): Canadian Nancy

Hmmm…laying it out like that, maybe I should move her to the top…or at least before the (allegedly) dead body. A-hem.  ANYWAY…

With all that going on with Lori, I wanted to share my very favorite Lori story.  It is old…her kids in this story are 7 and 3.  They are now 19 and 15…

Note: I did not make any of this up.

The director of our church's preschool department, for reasons no one is really sure of, decided that a fun outing for the tots would be a trip to the Tyson chicken hatchery.  I'm sure that she was only thinking of the joy and delight the kids would get out of getting to see all of the little chicks and thought very little of the thing that always accompanies chickens, namely chicken poop and its smell.  So anyway, Lori takes Jack, age 3 who is in the preschool department and her oldest son, Alex, age 7 to this little field trip.  The parents were encouraged to bring all of their kids, so she did.  Now, for a little background, Alex and Jack are just flat diametrically opposed.  Alex is very quiet (but smart) and introverted until you get to know him.  Jack, who is also smart is just a little wild thing, not in a bad way or anything, but he doesn't mind being the center of attention.


Anyway, they get to Tyson & go into the lobby where they're met by the little tour group leader person.  He gives a little spiel about what goes on at the hatchery and how they have 20 hens per rooster, making the rooster “extremely happy, but very tired.” (Yes, he said this to a CHURCH preschool group.)  Don't you know all of the little Sunday school children had questions about THAT on the way home?  Anyway, they then proceed into the hatchery.  Lori said that she was near the front and that when the Tyson guy opened the door the SMELL was just like a slap in the face with a wet, dead squirrel.  At this point, the adults and kids alike are given little plastic boot baggies to put over their shoes so that they don't track in germs or whatever into the hatchery.  They move past the area where the laying hens and the lucky, lucky roosters are kept and head for the incubating area.

Lori said that as they hit this area (which is now HOT and SMELLY) she notices that workers are putting the freshly produced eggs into the ChickenMaster 109.  This is not a joke.  You can go to Google it and see for yourself that it really exists.  (Or it did…by now I’m sure the Chickmaster 109 is woefully obsolete) We looked it up.  Anyway, as Lori is trying to get over her awe of being in the presence of a real live ChickenMaster 109 (she said that she was looking frantically around for someone who would GET just how funny the name ChickenMaster 109 was) she starts hearing murmurs from the back of the group that one of the kids has gotten sick.   Of course the Chicken-man tour guide says something like, "Yep, happens every time." 
Photographic proof of the existence of the ChickMaster 

At this point, you just have to ask that if, in fact, some poor little preschooler throws up every time, why do they continue to invite groups of preschool kids to their plant?  Of course, no one asks this question.  As a matter of fact, logical thought goes out the window for everyone as another lady from our church cuts through the crowd.  In one hand, she's got her 4-year-old's hand, trying to get him out of there before things go from bad to worse.  In the other hand she's got one of the baggies off of her shoe displaying evidence of her son's recent misfortune.  So, as she's making her way through the throng, Lori says to Alex (he has a very low tolerance for this sort of thing) "Don't look!"  Which, as any parent knows, is a sure-fire way to get them to rubber-neck so fast, there is no way to block them from seeing what you know is going to be a very bad deal.

Alex gets a good eye-full and immediately turns six shades of green.  He starts tugging on Lori's hand moaning, "Ugh, I don't feel good.  I want to go home."  Jack is climbing her other arm, practically vibrating with excitement: "Baby chickens!! baby chickens!! baby chickens!!  Baby chickens are next!!  I want to see the baby chickens!!" 
The only thing that Lori could do at this point was to hand Jack off to the day care director, who is the one who had the idea to bring the kids there in the first place, and hustle Alex back to the lobby, where at least it was cool and un-stinky.  Thankfully, Alex does not have an unfortunate incident himself.  Once Lori gets him settled, she goes back after Jack, who by this time is in baby chicken heaven.  Lori says that they have this huge conveyor with THOUSANDS of little yellow chicks on it just spewing chicks forth and a person standing there who gets a rough count of the chicks and then TOSSES them into little bins from where they are loaded into little chicken buses and taken to chicken houses for raising. (Just how far astray do you have to go in life to end up as a chick counter in a hatchery, by the way?)  As Lori gets there, one of the littlest kids backs up against one of the peeping chick bins and falls in.  They haul her out of there, but unfortunately, there are now several very sleepy chicks in the bottom of the bin.  That's the last straw for the Tyson chicken man.  He quickly wraps up the tour and escorts all of the Baptists, both puking and non, as well as their offspring back out into the lobby.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Throw-back Thursday: Halloween

When my child was three, we asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween.
"A toothbrush." was her reply.  "A toothbrush? Really?  You don't want to be a princess? Or a monkey? Or something spooky?  Or..."
"Nope.  I want to be a toothbrush.  Daddy, can you make me a toothbrush costume?"

We asked her every day for weeks if she really and truly wanted to be a toothbrush...and also, why?

"Yes!  Please!  A purple toothbrush! "
"Because it will be neat!"

And it was:

My husband, who is apparently the source of my child's blend of weird and creative set about to create the perfect toothbrush costume.  The body of the costume is your basic toddler sweat shirt/sweat pants combo.  He PAINSTAKINGLY cut iron-on felt into the appropriate shapes to be the rubber grip and the "Reach" logo.
For the head of the toothbrush, he started with a shoe box.  The back of the toothbrush is the lid of the box.  He just trimmed the box and the lid to have angles and cut a hole out for her face.  He painted the box white and the lid purple.
Then, he bought some whisk brooms and dismantled them.  With a blow torch, he melted bundles of whisk broom plastic straws together...then he spray painted some of them indicate when you're supposed to replace your toothbrush, apparently.
For the Pièce de résistance he bought a tube of toothpaste, squirted all of the toothpaste out, cut the tube open so that it would lay flat and then scanned it...then found a plotter big enough to plot out a very large picture of it.  After that, he used coat-hangers to get the right shape, glued the gigantic toothpaste "wrapper" on and stuffed with pillow stuffing.
It was awesome...particularly to me.
I couldn't believe how off-the-beaten-path my child already was at the AGE OF THREE...she was THRILLED with her purple toothpaste costume...even insisted we go get formal pictures made in it (Walmart, $9.95 package).
I also couldn't believe what lengths her Daddy would go to in order to make sure her vision was carried out.
When I say this was awesome, I really mean it.  I was freakin' awed.