Friday, December 31, 2010


The highway sign flashed TORNADO WARNING and the CB said to take cover NOW. We were in the thick of it, driving on the highway in torrential rain as wiper blades lost their battle, allowing us to catch only a hint of red tail lights in front of us. We slowed to a 20 mph crawl but some drivers pulled onto the shoulder, sitting ducks for anyone who might find themselves outside the lanes which were no longer distinguishable. We almost decided to turn around and return home but thought we could make it a few more miles to the next little town and my fabric store. There seems to be a reason for everything. What would have made us decide to continue on in this rain when we could have easily been home in eight miles?

We stopped for lunch in a little family owned café with home cooking and portions large enough for two or three people. Of course, my phone rings- I hate when that happens but I always forget to turn off the ringer. My daughter is on the line making sure we are OK. The television has just reported that the tornado touched down by our house so I go out in the rain to check on my in-laws who live next door but there is no answer. No answer either when I call my neighbor who is never farther than arms reach from his really cool IPhone. Now I’m a little concerned but odds are in our favor.

The ladies in the fabric shop passed along the location of the tornado - Hwy O and N, right down the street from us, and the damage is extensive. It is our route home but the roads are closed so we will have to detour. Not only that, but our entire area has been severely damaged by several tornados and flat line winds. Major roads are closed, houses flattened, businesses destroyed, cars overturned, power poles actually snapped in half leaving the lines intact but dangling over major thoroughfares like a canopy. There are injuries and a at this point three deaths reported.

My house is ok. Could it be due to blessed packets placed on the four corners of the property line? This is not the first time we have seen storms literally split around us. The neighbors on our street are safe but some others are not so lucky. The path was about 100 ft wide and 75% of the homes are damaged or destroyed. It passed by the back of our Catholic church, damaging a little home nearby. The members of the little Baptist church worked so long and hard to raise enough money to build but it is one of the casualties.

I will go back to my original question, why would we have decided against returning home? Things happen for a reason. As it turns out, had we turned around it would have placed us at the exact point of impact.

If you are reading this please take a minute to offer prayers for those who are affected by these tornadoes.

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poof, You’re a Bubbette – The Early Years

The universe broke all laws of physics in the Spring of ’74, rumbling, tumbling, turning inside out at that pivotal moment when my fifteen year old husband-to-be asked me out thus beginng my slippery slope from a West County princess into the wife of a country bumpkin yearning to learn the ways of the past. It was simply inevitable, given his family’s antics, and my six formative years in rural southwest Missouri where Mom’s daily prayers revolved around Dad getting offered a job in the big city. Prayers do come true. (Circa 1965)

It was a great time to be a kid in the sixties and seventies. We moved to the burbs, way out in St. Louis County which used to be the extreme edge of town, one of those fast growing areas with upscale housing and everyone was a first owner. The parents had a nice ranch house with full basement, finished of course, two car garage, new vehicles every couple of years and annual vacations to fantastic locals. For me it was dance and piano lessons, swimming and diving team, Girl Scouts and vacation Bible school. It was playing kickball in the street with the twenty or thirty other kids living on the nearby streets. It was playing cards at the neighborhood pool or perhaps Truth or Dare while jumping off the low dive, hoping no one asked you about your current crush- while he was standing there! Somehow I still preferred sneaking down to the creek to play with frogs, to swing from one of the many hanging vines and run across tree trunks turned to bridges -hoping to arrive on the other side rather than find myself soaking wet from one false move. We planted a weeping willow which became my club house, sitting up there for hours with my friends hidden deep inside it’s trailing branches. That should have been the first clue. (Circa 1970)

Fast Forward to the late 70s. Their daughter, me, attends a private college, graduating magna cum laude with a double major and as a member of several scholastic honor societies, editor of the college paper and writing for the town’s weekly publication on the side. They have dreams. Dreams of their only daughter, only child at that, living the good life, joining the junior league (which I did try), having 2.5 children and breakfasting on the lanai while vacationing in Maui. Dreams can be shattered too. (Circa 1982)

To be continued.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Get Hitched to Those Carpenters

It was One Hundred Sixty Eight straight hours of holiday company sequestered on a ridge top in the snow. Within the first 24 hours the hot water tank decides it has had enough lime deposits for a lifetime and takes a rest - after the dinner had been cooked and more dishes dirtied than you can shake a stick at. As hosts, we are trying to be accommodating. Political and religious differences require careful selection of both television programming and casual conversation, which is a stretch around here. Contrary to our normal practice of cooking on the fly, we are preparing full meals with all the whistles and bells, even salad and dessert. We try to make interesting small talk but our interests are quite different than the “city folk.” Then about 9 PM or so we say our goodnights, listen to our granddaughter say Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep with all the blesses, tuck her in bed and call it an evening. Now is the Golden Time. The few minutes that we have alone to talk about our day, make plans for tomorrow, joke, laugh or just open a good book and relax in comfort.

It was then I discovered that all my mother’s worst dreams had been realized . . . I have become a Bubbette, wife of a Bubba, grandma and mother to a pair of Bubbinis.

To be continued.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Somehow Christmas Always Comes

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope your day is filled with joy. Ours is a bit different than we anticipated. Little Taylor, our granddaughter, has the flu as does my sister-in-law, so they were not able to have Christmas Eve dinner with us.

We all gather next door at my in-laws house since they have the big table. My mother is visiting from out of town so we needed another setting. Our daughter was going to bring her "guy" for the first time and everyone was excited. My father-in-law set the table, adding another setting but then received the call about Taylor's illness. That was three down so he rearranged the settings. My daughter called later and said she may come out alone. He quickly added the setting back to the table. Well, Taylor wanted her mom to stay with her, so Becky cancelled afterall. Then my sister-in-law fell ill, so another place setting down. By this time he is a bit confused so he just added place settings at each chair, just in case.

We're creatures of habit. By the time whoever was coming arrived and dinner was ready we filed into the dining room and sat in our regularly assigned seats. That left my husband's mother two or three settings from the next closest person to her right. How would we pass the food without flinging platters like Frisbees? Then came grace. My daughter always leads the grace but she was not there. Who was going to lead grace as well as Becky and Taylor? We somehow muddled through but I have to say Becky gets the gold star for graces. We should have put our cell phone on speaker and called her.

It is Christmas morning and everyone else is still asleep. I'm up feeding the cats and catching some coffee before church. There's not going to be the patter of little feet as Taylor makes her run to her Christmas stocking this afternoon. We had expected to have her here for the night but not today. We will have her stay with us next week while school is out and my husband has time off to watch her. We'll open her gifts and have a wonderful second meal.

So Christmas was not exactly what we expected but that is only the presents and merriment side of it. It will still be Christmas regardless of kids, treats, stockings and cranberries, just like in Whoville (Dah who dor-aze). As one of my Facebook friends wrote, "It doesn't matter if your tree is real or artificial, somehow Christmas always comes."

Merry Christmas to All.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Hubby Drank the Dog Teeth

Smiling Dog Cartoons

“The big coffee cups are on the top shelf,” I said to my mother who is visiting for Christmas. “Check to make sure there are no, um . . . trinkets . . . inside,” I added. She turned to me with a questioning look on her face.

From across the room my husband yelled, “ I drank the dog teeth one year.”

“What?” mom questioned.

“She put the dog’s teeth in a cup. In the cabinet with all the other glasses! “ he exclaimed. I filled up the cup, took a drink and had a mouthful of nasty, dirty, old dog teeth! ”

By this time my mother is doubled over, hand covering her mouth so she doesn’t spit out her entire gulp of water all over my kitchen floor. I am literally crying from laughter, unable to do anything but shake my head in confirmation, true, true, true!

Mom looks over at me and says, “Did you think the Dog Fairy would show up and put treats under their pillows?”

I still can’t talk. My mind is replaying the moment all those years ago when I walked into the kitchen to find my husband spitting out canine “baby” teeth into the sink. Being the person who was not spewing teeth into the sink, I am thinking “Oh, that was so funny.” He and I were not of the same mindset that day.

The way I see it, it’s just one more great story we have to pass down through the years. I may share a few more of these with you along the way, and with this family, there is no lack of material!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Light in the Darkness

When you wake up in the predawn hours to a dead stillness it is an indication that our ridge top is blanketed in several inches of glistening white snow. If we are lucky it is pure snow, bright, powdery and pretty to the eye, lasting only a few hours until the sun’s warmth transforms it into tiny rivers snaking down towards the woods. Other times it has a hardened crust formed as the winter mix blew into town and just as likely to be concealing a slippery sheet of sleet below. Sparking with a coating of ice, the power lines may hang low, looming under weakened branches cracking with each gust of wind. Those are the scary snows, the ones that pull down the power lines and in this rural area it can be several days before crews restore power. We’re all electric and on a well; consequently, when there is no power there are no lights, no oven, no furnace, no water and no toilets unless you are prepared.

My grandmother never threw anything away because “you might need it someday.” She lived to be just a little over 100 and saved each and everything she ever purchased, inherited or received as a gift. All three stories of her house were filled to the brim with stuff--lots and lots of stuff. To many it was nothing more than a junk filled house but to us it was a treasure trove.

We brought home this oil lamp in 1981 when we made the Furnishing Your House trip before our wedding. It was built in the 1890's and known as a center draft fount lamp popular during the Victorian era because of the amount of light they produce. The light output is very much like a Coleman lantern and runs on lamp oil or kerosene, which is what we're using. It has a conical wick that surrounds a central tube allowing air to pass through the bottom of the fixture and up past the wick, exiting at the top of the globe. It has not been used for about eighty years, until yesterday.

It appears that this design was a breakthrough:

“It was just seven months after he applied for the patent for his improved new lamp, that the patent office approved the revolutionary burner on January 15, 1884. Thus Leonard Henkle was to give the world what would soon become perhaps, the best known kerosene lamp ever introduced. It certainly was the choicest lamp to be devised in the pre-Thomas Edison era. To explain its remarkable properties an 1891 ad from the Rochester Lamp Company provided this description: ...the result was at once most wonderful: all parts of the flame all around its inside surface for over an inch high, were fed... peppered as it were, with nearly a thousand little jets of hot oxygen of the air. From a dull red, with the old button burner, the flame was instantly changed to one of dazzling white.”
The Crooked Lake Review

Through the marvels of the internet we have a source for replacement parts and wicks, plus an expert to guide us through its history and provide care instruction. It is brighter than you might imagine, better than a 60 watt bulb, bathing the room in a warm light perfectly comfortable for reading or a little needle work. We found out that it is a referred to as a piano lamp. The center post allows it to have variable height settings from proper chair height for reading to a full six feet- in case you are playing the piano? Best of all, it does not use electricity, something that we won’t have during a power interruption.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So, You Don't Sew?

I must have been out of my mind! I signed up for a nine month Block of the Month club at our local quilt shop. This would normally be a fun thing to do—if I knew how to sew- but I don’t, not at all. In fact, I was not certain how to use the sewing machine but it came with instructions. We purchased a used Pfaff from a Singer sewing shop several years ago. It was a trade in; however, the store didn’t service that brand which was fortunate for us. It must do everything. There are enough buttons and displays that it should require some sort of certification to operate. I figured out how to make it sew forward and back but that’s about all, and in any case that’s all I have needed up to this point.

Sewing is an essential skill, one of those goals I have set for myself, plus I couldn’t let this machine go to waste. I saw an advertisement for a new Block of the Month quilt project in the next little town and I decided to sign up. The owner explained that we would not sew on site but she would demonstrate how to make each block. I had 30 days to get one 12 x 12 block completed plus the price was right. We pay for the pattern which comes with fabric to make the first block. If we come back each month and at least attempt to complete it, the fabric for the next block is free- providing we sit through her half hour advertisement for upcoming events and new products. Perfect- I can do this! How hard could it be?

It was hard. They didn’t sew as I thought they would. I suppose my definition of demonstrate was different than theirs. I envisioned one person cutting the various shapes and showing us how to sew them together. Then, if there were any questions, we could ask before we went home for the month. No, that wasn’t the plan. They simply hung up the pieces on a “felt board” so we could see them.

The pattern is an entire packet and one page provides the instructions for cutting and piecing material, not that I understood a single instruction. To make matters worse, she called all the other ladies by name. They are all quilters. There was only one non-quilter in the room of 40 women and she didn’t sew. Guess who that was? I was done for!

But wait! I did have another resource: You Tube! Yes, you can find anything you need on You Tube, in color, close up and from several different angles. I started adding them to my “favorites.” Then I started measuring and cutting, which is another story all in itself. I had no idea I would truly ever have a need for all those angles and formulas they tried to force feed me in high school. “This was supposed to be fun,” I sobbed as the tears came flowing out. To make a long story short, it was only with the help and guidance of my very patient, carpenter husband that I was able to make heads or tails out of anything.

I made the first block. Then the second. Then the third. Now I have #4 finished and I’m hooked! I may not be very good. My quilt may have mistakes but I discovered even the quilter ladies make mistakes – frequently. I look at them and tell them that it’s not a bad thing; in fact, it’s what makes their quilts perfect. All those little “goofs” make it very personalized and filled with love, unlike the foreign mass produced bedspreads that are identical to every other one in the world.

The class will continue until May when we decide if we will make the entire bedspread and purchase the finishing packet plus that “fluffy stuff” that goes inside (did you like the techie term there)? Once I am done piecing everything I will have someone machine quilt it due to time and space constraints.

What did I gain through all this pain? They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This didn’t kill me, although it came close to causing a breakdown a couple of times. I am trying to move outside my comfort level. Maybe I’ll need to know how to sew someday or maybe not but either way I can chalk up another couple of skills and my confidence level is growing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa Rides a Harley

Sleet and snow blanketed our area unexpectedly December 2007 on a most important day, at least for three year old Taylor, our granddaughter.  It was the day she was supposed to see Santa and tell him what a fine girl she had been all year.   We were going to the mall which was at least thirty miles from our home and twenty of those are over curvy, hilly, two lane, no shoulder roads where roll-overs are the norm.  The fortunate ones don’t land upside down in the many small creeks. 

How was I going to break the news that we just couldn’t make it?  She truly is fine girl.  One of the most well behaved children, kind and sharing.   I don’t say this simply because she is my grandchild, it was a concentrated effort of all parties involved to set limits, examples and actually provide discipline rather than have a kiddie free-for-all that is so common these days.  Then it hit us-

Our local paper advertised Santa’s arrival at the nearby Harley dealership.  It is located at the cross section of Hwy 44 and 50 just outside of Union, MO.  It stands by itself, very rural and of course has motorcycles in the parking lot.   I have passed by it several times and there have been some pretty strange looking people there.  I was a bit nervous; I had watched movies where Hell’s Angels terrorized towns.  They rode Harleys.   There were tatted up, leather capped, long hair bearded men - also women in tall boots donned in pure black leather with more than a hint of silver studding.  We could get there, but would we get back?

It was only eight miles away, we could make it.  We all jumped into the 4WD truck and headed to the dealership.   I asked my husband to wait in the truck with Taylor while I checked out the store, just in case we had to hightail it out of there.   No, I’m not the brave one, I just can’t reach the truck pedals to make the fast getaway.  He thinks I am ridiculous, a West County princess, but gives in to my request. 

I gingerly approached the door, entered the building and what to my wandering eyes did appear . . . . . ?  Sitting atop a beautiful, shiny motorcycle was a wonderfully jolly, white haired, bearded Santa donned in Santa red and white from tip to almost toe-the required black boots as the finishing touch.  The pretty lady elves in elfin garb, their pointy caps all green and red, ushered the little children to Santa, snapping photos of each- compliments of the dealership.   Little play areas were set up among the aisles where awaiting tots could build with blocks, play with tiny cars or hug stuffed bears. 

The store had been transformed into a winter wonderland with homemade decorations of candy canes and packages high up on the walls.  Display areas were filled with stuffed animals, an unusual selection with anteaters, opossums, skunks, chipmunks and squirrels, all at very reasonable prices.  There were Christmas trees- the traditional green bushy variety. There was also a very special orange and black tree covered in Harley ornaments, all very pretty and quality made.  Across the store was the bake sale with freshly made cookies, fudge and candies which rivaled any PTO selection I have seen.  All proceeds would go to charity, just one of their many charitable events throughout the year. 

I ran back to the truck to get Taylor.  She couldn’t miss this, and I couldn’t pass up this photo op!  Now this is our annual Christmas event.   She loves that Santa and you can tell how much he loves the kids.  He takes his time with them, no rushing.  He has an actual conversation with them, and also with the parents. Then he pulls everyone in for a group photo.   I’m no longer uneasy around the long haired, bearded, leather capped and tatted up patrons, in fact, I would really love to have one of their leather tooled black purses complete with the silver studding  but they are way above my price point!    I make certain to purchase several items from their bake sale and Taylor always gets her pick of unusual stuffed animals, my favorite being the opossum.

So the magic of Christmas didn’t stop at a child’s wonder but also transformed the preconceived ideas of a grandma.  Peace on earth and goodwill to all.  Merry Christmas.   

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The “Stand Up Bottles” are in the Back

Wow.  I didn’t know liquor stores were redlining these days!   I entered our local liquor store searching for a bottle of Pinot Grigio.  This is an awesome liquor store, so huge that you need running shoes to get through it.  It’s right next to Chucky Cheese.  I guess you drop the kiddos off to bang on the heads of moles while the adults stroll wide eyed and drooling through the aisles of incredibly unusual micro brews, unending rows of wines distinguished by type, country or vineyard, limited distillations worth hundreds of dollars locked behind display cases and every alcoholic condiment known to man.   Then there is the wine tasting area next to the humidors brimming with fine cigars.

I had a specific brand in mind so I went to the white wines section, searching back and forth without success.  I finally broke down and asked for directions.  The store employee walked me over to the white section but I could not find that particular brand.  I did notice that all the wines were a bit above the price point I was expecting.  Maybe even more than a bit.  When he asked me what brand it was I realized that my bottle was not exactly the grade that was laying in these wonderful wooden racks for $20-$30 per bottle.  He must have noticed that I blushed when I described the bottle as having a footprint on the label.  “Oh,” he drawled as his interest waned.  “the stand up bottes are in the back.”

I made my way to the back of the store, back to where the picnic wines are hidden. I found my brand right away and asked that it be packaged in a brown paper wrapper so I didn’t offend the other styles of Pinot- the ones that did not have labels with footprints on them.  But this one is perfect for me.  I’ll kick off my shoes so I am barefoot too.  I’ll throw an ice cube in a wine glass (yes, I do that).  Then I’ll drink my little bottle of cheap wine sometime over the holidays and it will be every bit as good to me as a $30 Jerman.  As an added bonus I won’t have to worry if it has herbaceous notes and nutty undertones.  At least not until we begin to bottle our own after our grapes have matured a bit. 

Simply enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Mane Event

It took all the courage I could muster to enter my office building today.   I arrived at work well before dawn after braving the icy back roads, remnants of the weekend’s snowfall.  I chose the lower basement level of the dimly lit parking garage, using the tunnel that would keep me out of the elements and buy me a little time before I encountered any of my co-workers.  I swiped my badge and made a beeline for the bathroom, just to see if everything was OK before I entered the main corridors.  They would notice immediately and I wanted to be prepared.

I had Christmas gifts for the grandson of my closest work friend.   She’s not in my department so it’s a fairly safe place to start this morning.  If it didn’t go well I might have time to do something about it.   What a relief to see a broad smile appear on her face and have her tell me it looked great. 

For the last 10 years, which is forever to everyone at work, I have had the same hair style.  To make it worse, I’ve had the same style since I was 18 although the 80’s wings became a bit softer, the wavy blond locks a little less bright and the length varied from shoulders to mid back -all with the help of blow driers, curlers and hot air curling wands.   Today I have a flat iron.  Today, it was pin straight, parted on the side and I have bangs.   They are the sort of bangs that start on the left and merge into the layers on the right, across the forehead just a bit, with some wispy pieces filling out the middle. 

I grabbed another person in her department and began taking a poll:  Flat or Fluffy? 
Pretty soon this was Big News around our buildings and people were approaching me in the cafeteria to get a peek and place their vote.  So far all votes are for Flat with one abstention because he finds himself in trouble when he comments on female hairstyles! 

When I find something I like I tend to hang onto it and stay in my comfort zone.  It is that comfort zone that I have set out to break over the last year during my journey to rediscover the old ways.   So it’s goodbye 80’s with that wonderful big hair and hello to a more simplified look which requires fewer appliances to get there.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thirty Ladies in a Bathroom

I can envision the news article now.   Thirty women were rescued from a fifth floor bathroom today after spending four hours shivering in terror.  It was only by sheer luck that a co-worker wandered in, catching the door with her foot before it slammed shut, imprisoning yet another unsuspecting female.  The incident unfolded after the company made a “green” decision to  install automatic hand driers.   The ladies, unaware the switch had been made, were inadvertently trapped after they discovered the absence of paper towels which they would use on the door handle when exiting.

Yes, I know that restrooms can be dirty and disgusting.    Yes, I have seen things in the women’s room that amazed me, “how they heck did That happen, and how could they not notice!”  I know germs live on surfaces for hours and that not everyone really washes their hands so the door handle can be reasonably clean. But really, I couldn’t believe the outcry when the memo was released.    

Maybe it’s the camper in me, you know, outhouses, campground toilets, gas stations or the unguarded porta potty.   Maybe I’m just tough- all those years of cleaning up dirty diapers and animal accidents.  Maybe I just don’t think you should worry about each and every germ known to man.  I would imagine the copier buttons have a whole host of little critters invisible to the naked eye but I don’t see anyone wearing a handful of rubber fingers as they collate.  I also remember what happened to the natives when the Europeans arrived with their diseases.  No immunity.  That’s not a good thing. 

Everyone needs a little dirt and a few germs- a little exposure to build up immunity.  Now if you actively have a cold, the flu or even feel a little off, absolutely!  Grab the Wet Ones and wipe down your area to prevent the spread.  Keep some antibacterial gel handy and sneeze into the crook of your arm.   Better yet, if you have the flu, stay home.  The company will survive a day or two without you, and if it can’t, they need to pay you a whole lot more.  But don’t tremble in fear of a door knob.   You’re touching it, not licking it.  And if you are, you’ve got some critical issues going on and there’s not a whole lot a paper towel can do for you anyway.

Enjoy-and don’t fear.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Will the TSA Consider my Sharp Tongue a Weapon?

Generally,  I try to be nice, respectful and professional.  At work I aspire to maintain a calm gentleness, consider my words carefully and always offer to revisit processes with co-workers . . .  for the tenth time . . . as if it were the first.   When it’s gossip time for the girls, they tell me I am certain to add the sole compliment “Oh, but she has such beautiful eyes.”  

Boy, do I have them schnuckered! My husband knows ALL ABOUT my “gentle nature.”   Oh, and those “kind words”-  well, we have “cook’n words” around here.  I’ve spent more than one confession discussing my penchant for “cook’n words.”   As a result, the kids have been banned from the kitchen since 1985.  I wish I could say the same.

If anyone read the last post where I discussed my (love/desire/lust) for coffee, well it ended up getting me in some pretty hot water yesterday, no pun intended.   I have a 1999 Desert Tan Jeep Cherokee.  Together we have chalked up 212,000+ miles.  This car is my heart’s desire and its tires were bald.  So, on my vacation day, the use it or lose it kind, I had an appointment when all I really wanted to do was to curl up in my recliner with a warm cuppa joe and harvest my FarmVille crops.  Yeah, I know it’s lame, but I love my virtual farm and all the nice ladies that are my neighbors, even though I have actually never met most of them.

 I’m late- which is very unusual for me.  I’m flying around here trying to get dressed and my hair isn’t cooperating.  I can’t find my tennis shoes and I’m packing the wrong purse.  My husband makes crack about something and I snap back.  (Cook’n word number one).   I didn’t get my coffee quota or breakfast and I’m in no mood.

I am driving behind my husband as we’re on our way to the tire shop.    It’s located just off the highway but about 40 miles from our house.  I don’t typically travel in that area and there has been some major construction so I want to follow him.  This started out great, until he got across the railroad tracks just before all the lights flashed, warning bells sounded and safety gates came down.   Not a problem.  Eighty five trains travel through town daily, I’m used to it and besides, I have a few minutes to spare.  Just as it is almost through the crossing, here comes another train in the opposite direction on the adjacent track.   I am stuck in Train Hell.   And the cook’n words are starting to form. Just.  .  . Remain . . . Calm.   I call my husband, who is waiting on the other side of the tracks, and tell him to go without me, so at least one of us arrives on time but just then, we get the All Clear sign. 

So, we’re dropping off the car a bit early.   My husband’s truck needs tires as well.  This means that we have no spare vehicle to go somewhere while the tires are being replaced.   It’s cold- somewhere in the 30s-- but there is a big box bookstore across the parking lot.   Maybe we can get some coffee, pick up a few gifts and then do something when one of the vehicles is completed.  Right?   Oh, oh.  It doesn’t open for 10 more minutes.  (Cook’n word) it’s cold out here.   “No, I did not wear a heavy coat.” I tell my husband.  “It’s in the car.   I don’t want to carry it while I’m shopping, along with my giant purse (that holds my sunglasses, money, tissues, cell phone and all the other extremely important things that girls can’t live without) plus carry packages.”   In my mind I end with “wallet boy.”   (Sorry, honey). 

After the employees have their daily inspirational meeting, in plain view of the shivering lady pawing at their door, the store finally opens.  We pick up a few things and I decide this was my opportunity to get that cup of warm, sweet brew with just a touch of creamer.  Do you know how much they want for a small cup of coffee?  It was a quarter of the cost of my 34.5 oz tub! Add a doughnut, since I had not eaten for almost 24 hours by this time, and we would have been well over half the cost.  Sorry.  No way.  We decided to pay for our book purchases and go back to the tire shop- they have coffee. 

What?  No coffee?  Why is the thermos empty?   Wait.  Wait.   Hold the Cook’n Words.     You’ll make more?  We’re are spending $1,500 today.  Worth making a cup of coffee?  Thanks. 

Hey, my car is done! Let’s go find something to eat. By this time it is after 11 AM.    I ask my husband to drive because he really is better at getting around that part of town but no, he wants me to see how the car feels.  OK, I’ll drive, but I don’t wanna!  So I go around the parking lot to an exit.  “Wait,” my husband says, “it’s better if you go that way.”   There’s a delivery truck that way, but whatever, that’s the way we’ll go.   I pull back around and start to turn left down the aisle.   “No, go straight” he says.    What? I turn right, oh (cook’n word)  there’s a car.  Why am I going this way?  I thought I was supposed to go the other way.  Well, now that I drove over here, there’s a closer exit onto another road that will meet the one I need to be on.  Cook’n words abound.  Why the (cook’n word) didn’t you drive the (cook’n word) car in the first place, like I asked?  

I’m close to a sugar crash by this time and I just want to get to the restaurant.  It’ll all be OK when I have had something to eat.  We get to the restaurant.  The signature appetizer is fried pickles -  really.  They are wonderful.  They are hamburger sliced dills with a tempura breading, deep fried and served with a sauce which must be a combination of ranch and horseradish, perhaps?   Truly great,  warm and salty.

The waitress comes over to our table to hand us the menus.  She asks my husband if he would like something to drink, took his order and started walking away.   As an afterthought, she turned around to me and said.  “Did you want a drink?” 

Guess what-  she did not have beautiful eyes.  Nope, not a bit.   I’m not saying anything bad about her mind you, (keep the cook’n words to myself).  She came back a bit into the meal and asked my husband if everything was OK with his fish n’ chips.   She smiled when he said it was fine and . . . then . . walked  . .  away.    “Hey lady,” I’m thinking, “ how was my meal ? “  and “Lady, do you know if I need anything more to drink?”   Nope.   Her eyes are getting less beautiful by the minute.

I’m a great tipper, always have been.  Waitresses don’t have it easy.  They work their tails off, keep smiles on their faces regardless of how irritating the customers are, and have to give up some of their money to tip the bartenders and busboys their set percent, regardless of how much  the tip actually was.   I was not such a great tipper yesterday.   When the bill arrived- given to my husband of course, I told him to tip her only 15% and then deduct a buck.   Maybe she noticed, maybe not, but she was terrible. 

Did the day get better now that our vehicles are up and running? Yeah, right.   No, the day did not get better.  I’m used to bald tires, my front end still needs repair and afterward I need an alignment. The car, not me.    Now it shakes and jerks on the highway.  I was scared to death to drive. What did that bad man do to my car?   I called my husband and used every cook’n word in the book plus a few I made up along the way.  He drove it and thinks it’s just peachy.   You know what I think?   (Cook’n words). I hope your day was better.

PS:  I drove the car today- still shakes and jerks. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Save it for a Rainy Day

My husband laughed at me as I brought in the 15th Maxwell House Master Blend 34.5 oz tub and stashed it on the basement shelves.  I've been forward buying (note: not hoarding !) these tubs of heavenly brew over the last year- all purchased at almost half the current shelf price of anywhere between $9-$12 depending on where you shop.  Not such a bad deal looking back.    Ok, ok, to give him his due- my grandparents hoarded coffee too.   Oh, I didn't say "hoarded" did I?   They emigrated from Denmark and heard there would be a US shortage.  I recall every cabinet filled to the top with cans upon cans of coffee. So, yes, it may be in the genes; however, you can't say I didn't get a good deal! 

Speaking of groceries, has anyone noticed a difference in their grocery bill over the last several months? Have you picked up on the fact that some packages have stayed the same height and width but are much skinnier than they used to be?  It gives the appearance that the box is as large as ever, but take a good look at the weights next time you walk down the cereal aisle.

During our forced austerity plan we've gotten quite proficient at finding “steals and deals,” stocking up on nonperishable staples.  Every trip to the store includes extra packages of dried beans, pasta, Raman noodles or rice.  We scour the ads for 10 or $10 deals unless we can find it at the discount grocers for less, assuming equal quality.   We don’t generally purchase extra items that need freezing or refrigeration such as frozen fruit, dinners or ice cream- except for meat.  Since I drive a good distance to work I can pass up to six grocery stores depending on the route I choose; therefore, we are not offsetting our deals with increased fuel costs. 

Perishable items can be more difficult but with a little planning you can stretch your dollar a bit as well.  We have a meat slicer so we can purchase a small full ham for much less  than Boar’s Head at $8-$9 lb.  We slice it up paper thin and store it in weekly packets.  We keep a packet in the fridge and freeze the rest for the next weeks.  Our last purchase of Black Forest ham cost us less than $3 per pound for absolutely wonderful ham.   The left over Thanksgiving turkey sliced up quite nicely as well, looking as pretty as a deli display. 

We purchased 1/4 of a cow from a farmer friend who had it processed and packaged up all nice and neat.  Hamburger, steaks, roasts, etc.    We plan to split a hog with our neighbors this year ( ahhhh, bacon!).   This can be a nice savings, the quality is generally better and you can avoid meats from animals that were given growth hormones, which is a topic for another day.

If things take a turn for the worse, you have a good stock of staples that might get you through until your situation improves.  If everything is coming up roses for you, then you simply have gotten some great deals.  Take your savings and have a nice night out on the town!   Enjoy-

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Must Have Been Switched at Birth

That’s what my mother said to me when she found out that I enrolled in a Block of the Month Club at our local quilt shop.  Really, I thought they were going to teach me how to quilt-step by step.  I knew I wasn’t going to actually sew in class but I thought the instructors would.   I was wrong.   So, now I have signed up for this nine month quilt project—and I don’t sew.   Never let a little thing like that stand in your way.  Call up a few demos on YouTube and there you have it.  Block Three complete.

I don’t know how to crochet, but I made an afghan.  It isn’t quite rectangular, in fact, it’s trapezoidal at best, and a horrendous design, if design would be an appropriate term.  I don’t knit either, but I ordered a spinning wheel.    I found a llama farm near me so I drove up and asked for some fiber from their recent sheering.  I purchased the carders to comb it and I’m going to spin- after I figure out how to do it.  I’m sure YouTube will have a whole host of videos walking me through that process too.  Then I’ll learn to knit and purl and perhaps make a prayer shawl.

My husband and I made maple syrup by tapping our trees, we learned to can our home grown produce and how to make a soft herbed cheese from store bought milk. We learned to raise chickens and joined the beekeepers society although I have no great interest in beekeeping.  I’ll learn to do that too despite the pain of occasional stings and the fact that I am really not very fond of honey.

I work in town at the headquarters of a world wide company in a finance position.  My co-workers think this is all very interesting, but at the same time quite odd.  There are not too many chicken farming, syrup making, beekeeping analysts in our department.  

“No, we’re not turning Amish,” I explained to one of my co-workers (but I wish I had their knowledge).   Then why are we learning all this when we could just jump in the car and pick up almost anything we would ever need or desire at Wal-Mart?   Well, what if there wasn’t a Wal-Mart?  Or a Target, Sears, Kroger or any of the other major players?    Just imagine a time where you might just have to get through life depending on your own two hands.  I don’t know how far my spreadsheet capabilities will get me if I am hungry, cold or need medication.  

My great grandmother did all of these things in the normal course of her day.  Heck, even my grandmother made turtle soup in her kitchen- starting with a live turtle.   How did we lose such critical skills in the matter of two generations?  How are we going to get them back?  Who will pass them on?  Is the day coming that we may need to depend on them?  We’re learning.   Just in case.

The absolute worst thing that could happen is that we develop some new hobbies, meet some very nice people who have similar interests and have fascinating tidbits to share with our friends.  But if the worst should happen, we might be a bit more prepared.    

It’s been about thirty years since I wrote publically so please excuse me if I seem a bit rusty. If you care to come along on this trip, feel free to comment- send me your suggestions, tips and tricks, great websites and anything else that might be of interest.