Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Food Does SO Equal Love!

I really like to cook.  What makes it even better is when people I love like to EAT what I cook.  I heard from a counselor one time that food does not equal love.  Um-hmm.  I think that's when I stopped believing him.  Okay, maybe it shouldn't equal love, but for me, as for many of you, it surely does!

Kind of unfortunately for me, I live in a rapidly shrinking household.  Once the fall semester begins, my husband and I will officially be "empty-nesters".  Our four children have gradually been leaving us to head off to college, and the two of us really don't eat all that much.  Even with our youngest daughter Rachel still at home, we don't eat all that much.  She has a very small appetite to go with her petite body, and while my husband has a large appetite, it is not always for the things I like to make.  He goes for the low-fat, low-sugar, low-taste type of food, while I like to make good old fashioned FOOD!  So, a lot of my enthusiasm for cooking lavish meals is wasted.

Until Michelle comes home for the summer.

Michelle is a VERY enthusiastic eater. She is great to cook for, because almost everything I make, she can't wait to eat (unless it has mushrooms or clams in it).  It makes it SOOO much fun to cook for someone who actually roars and attacks their food as if it is prey and they are a large and hungry dinosaur!

Michelle is working two jobs so that she can return to college in the fall. When Michelle gets home from her first job, which is very physical, she is hungry.  However, she has been rushing off to her second job so quickly that she hardly has a chance to eat dinner (just something scarfed down in the car) and has been very hungry later on.  What makes it worse for her is that at night she is a server at a popular restaurant chain that serves breakfast 24-hours a day-- I HOPe you can figure out where I'm talking about!  She has a particular favorite on the menu, and whenever someone orders it, she has confessed that she sometimes fantasizes about eating it on the way to their table.  Thus far she has refrained, as she realizes this is not a good tip-getting practice and she likes to get good tips.  She told me that last night she was ravenous, and a customer noticed her looking longingly at her food and commented on it.

Well.  This should not happen.

So, tonight while Michelle was in the shower cleaning off her cotton-field dirt from her day job, I decided to make Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Pancakes for her. She was so excited!  This is only the second time we have attempted this recipe, and since I have not actually eaten the restaurant version I don't know if they are the same, but Michelle tells me they are similar.  She ate four, along with four pieces of bacon (nice to have a 20-year-old metabolism, huh?) and should be able to look at any plate of food with detachment for the rest of the night!

For those who may be interested, I am including the recipe (which I have already altered from the original!).

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Pancakes*

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
¼  c. sugar
½  tsp. baking soda
½  tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ c. chocolate chips
Powdered Sugar, whipped cream, chocolate chips, and chocolate syrup for topping

In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add milk, egg, and oil. Whisk until well blended.   Stir in chocolate chips. The batter may be slightly lumpy (and not just from the chocolate chips!).  Heat griddle to medium-high.  Once hot, pour about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake on griddle.  Flip once batter is set around edges. Cook until baked through.  Immediately after pancakes are cooked, sprinkle chocolate chips so they start to melt, then sprinkle with powdered sugar, top with whipped cream, and drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Makes about 8  4-inch pancakes.
*Similar to IHOP Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Warning:  This dish is not suitable for diabetics, dieters, or most adults! Eating too many can result in fatal levels of satisfaction and fullness. The faint of heart may not survive.  

Funny (but true!) side story:  One of Michelle's customers of the young, male variety ordered these pancakes as well as a large omelet.  He was with three friends, also guys, and when Michelle came around to see if any of them needed take-home boxes, he said he might need one for his pancakes-- he was getting pretty full. Both Michelle and one of his so-called friends called him a pansy, with Michelle asserting that she could eat them, and insinuating that his manhood was in question. The poor guy managed to choke them down, Michelle granted that he was indeed a man, and the four of them left her a great tip!  :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Good 'Ole Days

I have been thinking of some of the things I remember from when I was a small child.  There aren't many memories there, but the ones I have are interesting, in an odd way.

One of my first memories is being with my mom. She tells me this happened when I was three, and it's a little vague.  I remember we went out on the porch to eat tacos, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!  It's funny, because the "porch" was one of those that is a concrete slab just big enough for the screen door to open out on to, with maybe three steps leading up to it.  We put a TV tray out there and ate.  Fun times!

Another memory comes from that same time period.  My mom was taking me to preschool, and I was all excited because I had new slippers for nap time.  I had the old ones on one side of me on the seat and the new ones on the other side.  I remember that I was demanding that my mom look at my slippers on the seat next to me, and then suddenly we were being pulled over by a policeman.  Sometime later I remember sitting and coloring in a courtroom next to my mother.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that it wasn't my fault that my mom got pulled over!  I had thought that I distracted her with my slippers.  Turns out, the car she had bought from someone was stolen (she didn't know!), and the policeman behind her had recognized it or something.  Funny how children blame themselves for things!

Another car memory:  I was sitting in the front seat (no car seats back then!) and I remember that I loved to sit up front with my mother.  I couldn't see out, I was too small.  The dashboard seemed so high and the glove box was at eye level for me. My mom and I were coming home from somewhere, and were close to home.  She turned a corner, and my door swung open!  I fell out! (No seatbelt laws then, either!)  Of course, my mother stopped and ran back and picked me up.  I was fine, just a little scraped on the elbow, but there were no band-aids in the car, which I thought was too bad.  The worst part of it, for me, was that I had to sit in the back seat after that, because that door stayed shut!  I think it was far worse for my mother, really.

When I was five I began to live with my dad and step-mom.  One of the neat things about where we lived for a while was the lemon tree in the back yard (this was in California).  I loved that lemon tree!  For one thing, sometimes my mama would let me pick a lemon and she would cut it in half and give me a bowl with a little sugar in the bottom and I would dip the lemon in the sugar and suck all the juice out.  Mmm!  I still love lemonade.... Another great thing about the lemon tree was the slugs.  Great huge fat ones lived in it, and I would find them and play with them.  I liked to make grass houses and decorate them with flowers and put the slugs in them.  Too bad the slugs did not appreciate my efforts!  And it's also too bad that we have to grow up.  There is no way you would catch me playing with slugs these days, but back then an afternoon with the slugs was always loads of fun!!

The summer I was six, I managed to break my arm.  I was playing with some friends and one of the boys had caps for a cap gun.  We were pounding them with rocks to make them go off while sitting on a low wall.  Once in a while, Randy, the lucky cap owner, would let me bang on one.  He dropped a roll and I decided to jump down and be all helpful and get them for him (maybe he would let me have some more!) but I neglected to remember that I was kneeling and one cannot jump well from that position.  I launched myself into space after the caps (it was only about three feet up from the ground) and landed face first, and with my arm under me.  My mama heard the shriek from inside and came running out.  I remember that it was hard to get her to understand that it was not my face that hurt, even though it was pretty scratched up, but my arm.  Finally she understood and we went to the hospital.  When we came home, I was the proud owner of a cast.  With the cast and my scratched up face and my missing teeth (NOT a result of jumping off the wall-- I was just six) I looked like a real troublemaker! The best thing about it was my mama felt so bad she let me eat a whole can of Spaghettios instead of half a can--which I could not finish, being only six!  I spent the summer keeping my cast out of water, which was really not fun, and got it off the first day of first grade, in the morning, so I was late for school.  But I was sure happy to get that cast off! (That's me on the first day of first grade, in the picture on the right, with my cast kind of hidden!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Perchance to Dream

I had a really odd dream recently. I was with a girl who had just discovered she had awesome super powers, but who was really stupid. She could morph into a bird-like creature and fly, and also a sort of a dolphin. Some bad guys were after her, though, and I was trying to protect her. She kept leaping into the air and soaring around, or diving into the water to be a dolphin, laughing and squealing in a carefree manner, heedless of the danger that I felt lurking everywhere, and I was very nervous. Plus I had to go to prom. And I was going with a guy who was insisting on wearing a dress, so I was quite disturbed about that. I didn’t even like the guy! My dream ended with me getting my prom dress off of a long rack of dresses (it was a deep blue dress, and quite pretty!) and worrying about both the silly blonde girl and my date.

Where do dreams like this come from? It has been a very long time since I went to prom, and I don’t actually know anyone who can fly like a bird or swim like a dolphin. I mean, I don’t think I am a disturbed person in my waking life, just in my dreams!

It got me to thinking about other strange dreams I have had.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I dreamed that I went to see my midwife for a check- up. She removed the baby (it HURT!), examined her, said, “Nope, not done yet”, and put her back in. I was crushed. She did end up arriving two weeks late, so maybe it was a sign!

Another set of bad dreams I had as a child were actually recurring nightmares. Have you ever had those? I don’t recommend it! In one, I was in the very back of our family’s teal Volkswagen Beetle (we called that spot the “way-back” and I LOVED to ride back there--this was before seatbelt laws). My mom and dad were in the front seats, and my dad was driving somewhere. We went up a LOOOOONG grassy hill, and they stopped at the house at the top. I was asleep (yet totally aware), and so they got out and left me sleeping in the way-back. The car started rolling backwards down the hill, going faster and faster, and there was nothing I could do. That’s when I would wake up.

I think I was around five years old when I had this dream, and I had it several times.

Another nightmare was very strange. I was in the woods with my mom. We got to the edge of a large, newly paved area that was totally surrounded by trees, and she had to send me across to my dad, who was waiting on the other side. She put me on a magic carpet, which started flying me across the new asphalt, but only about a foot above the pavement. The problem was, there were tar sharks swimming in the asphalt, and they were trying to get me. Yes, TAR SHARKS! I was rightfully terrified, with those tar sharks leaping and snapping and trying to eat me. Fortunately, I finally made it to the other side, although just barely. The magic carpet ran out of steam just about a foot past the paving and as I ran to my daddy, one lunged out of the tar onto shore, snapping at my heels.

I had this dream several times, also, at about the same time as the rolling-down-the-hill-backwards dream.

The last recurring nightmare that I remember was also when I was five.

I was in the house where my family lived, and there was a witch who was coming to get me. My daddy and mama hid me in the way-back of the car (see how important it was to me?) and covered me with a blanket. The witch didn’t find me that night, but later I was walking by her house, and fell into the drainage ditch that ran in front of it. I was swept down into a little room that was full of other children who had gotten caught there. It was a stark, square, white room, and there were probably around ten children in it. A couple of children were dead, and most were in an extreme state of emaciation. As I realized that there was no way out, I would wake up.

So apparently I WAS a disturbed little child! Also very insecure. I am glad that I don’t have those dreams anymore.

On to other disturbing topics:  Here is a picture of me in the protective gear that I SHOULD have worn for my lawn-mowing escapades last week.  I tried to get my husband to pose, but he's not into public humiliation.  Anyway, I look pretty hot, right?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Party Animal

So, an amazing thing happened this weekend, one that hardly ever happens. My husband was out of town and both daughters (the ones who are home for the summer) were at work, so I had a Friday night by myself! I did what any woman on her own would do...

Girl's Night Out!

That's right, I went out and mowed the lawn. And it was great.

I did this as a surprise for my husband, so that when he got back into town late on Saturday it would all be done, and he might not feel like he had to spend Memorial Day doing all the yard work. I did not count on the way things worked out.

At first, everything went fine. I was making neat diagonal lines on our lawn out front, the mower was working well, and it was not unreasonably hot. However, I utilize the plod and trudge method of mowing, which takes a long time. I plod behind the mower for a few turns of the lawn, and then I disconnect the grass bagger and trudge over to the edge of the yard and dump it out. This is in contrast to my husband's method, which is the sprinting method. He RUNS behind the mower, getting both his exercise and the chores done at the same time. One consequence is that he finishes in about 45 minutes and it takes me at least two hours. I would like to point out here that I go as fast as I can. It's just that I am a less-than-svelte middle-aged woman, while my husband is in very good shape. He bicycles to work every day, and is the neighborhood champion at juggling a soccer ball. (He can juggle the ball over 1000 times without missing!) Anyway, so my point is, it takes me a while.

I had started in the evening, reasoning that the sun would not be so hot. I was right, since the sun went down when I had only done about a third of the lawn! No problem, right? My husband has this great headlamp that he wears while mowing in the dark, and it seems to work well for him, so I found the headlamp and went out to fearlessly finish conquering the lawn.

I could not see.

Yeah, okay, I could see a little. There was a pale circle of light on the ground, and if I leaned forward I could kind of tell where I had last mowed. Still, it was not good. Things got trickier when I was on the side of the house, where there is not much grass because the trees block the sun. It had been a while since the last rain, and the ground was very dry. So it was dusty. Every time I mowed on that side, the dust was fairly overwhelming. It got really bad in one area, with dust so thick that I could not even see my little, pale, circle of light on the ground. It was like when it is very foggy and you turn on your high beams in the car. Yeah. It was like that. Only, I was not safely inside a car! It finally dawned on me that there was WAY too much dust, so I turned off the mower and peered down at the bagger. Some of you more experienced people have already figured out what I saw. The bagger was only connected on one side, so the mower was mowing up dust and blowing it directly on ME! Well. I fixed it, and things were much less dusty. Then I started noticing that the ground was sparkle-y. I could think of three explanations for this.

-The dew was starting to form.
-I had dust in my eyes.
-I was mowing over fireflies.


I'm pretty sure it was dew.

I think.

But it was hard to see.

My husband doesn't seem to have these problems. He runs along, looking all cool in his head lamp and his hearing protection and his safety glasses. I probably looked pretty cool, too. Imagine a hunched over Pigpen, with a dust cloud flying around me. I know I must have been hunched over by how sore my shoulders were the next morning.

Funny side story: One thing I never do anymore, is mow barefoot. I actually only did it once. Yes, I know I'm supposed to wear shoes, but I have found a more compelling reason than safety! One evening I was mowing as it was getting dark (again), but I was nearly finished. I don't like wearing shoes much in the summer, so I was mowing barefoot. Nearing the end of the job, I started going quickly so as to finish before it got too dark. As I walked very fast, not quite jogging, I mowed over a toad and then stepped on it. Really. It was terrible.

Anyway, back to Friday. It got too dark. I realized I was probably mowing the same spot over and over again while missing other spots, so I went in. It had only been about an hour, but I was filthy, sweaty, and sore.

The next day, I finished mowing. Since I was in the back yard and I was getting bored, I abandoned the mature, back and forth method and resorted to making designs in the grass. Not crazy designs, just squares, triangles, rectangles--that kind of thing. It is very satisfying when mowing a large yard to finish small areas! So, after a little more than another hour, I finished the last triangle (yay!) and trudged to the edge of the yard to dump the final load of grass, put the mower away, and went inside. I got a drink of water and was thinking that maybe I should turn on the sprinklers when there was a roll of thunder. It had been sunny, but within five minutes of coming in, rain was absolutely pouring down. It was amazing! I was sooo happy. I had mowed the lawn AND it was thoroughly watered! Not trimmed, which is too bad because my husband really likes it trimmed, but I don't trim. I have tried, but I don't get along with the trimmer. The parts I trim just look like they need to be trimmed again, and I get frustrated. I figured he wouldn't like coming home to ragged borders and an angry wife! Kind of ruin the whole point, right?

So, I mowed for my hubby, and he did notice on Sunday morning, so even though I was very sore, it was all worth it!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I have been reading a few blogs lately, and enjoy it immensely, so I thought I would jump into the already overcrowded blog pool. Actually, it's more like I am sticking my big toe in, to test the water, before I get totally wet. I might even wait a few days before clicking on the ominous "PUBLISH POST" button at the bottom of the page, so I can see if I will actually write more than one entry. I started following one blog, and it turned out to be the day the author stopped writing it. Figures. I have saved the link to that blog in my bookmarks toolbar, and click on it every once in a while, and it has not been updated for over two months. If I find that I have the same tendency, I think I will save us all a little frustration by just keeping this experiment to myself.

How does one pick a name for their blog? People seem to be able to come up with some nifty, imaginative names for their blogs. I might change this one. For one thing, it sounds a lot like the title that my daughter chose for her blog, and I don't want her to think I have no imagination at all. However, I do have a good reason for picking this title.

Ahem. I will try to make a very long story brief enough that only a few of you will fall asleep.

Like many young people, I began college directly after high school. At the beginning of my second semester, I met and fell in love with another student. We were married three days after the last final of my freshman year, and are living happily ever after.

Okay, my story does go on after the wedding. To our delight (and a little bit of surprise!), I became pregnant three weeks after we were married. I attended one more semester of college, but did not feel like I could continue school and be a full-time mother, so I dropped out.

Time passed and more babies were born, until we had four young children. After being subject more than once to the dreaded (and RUDE!) query, "So, what do you DO all day?", I determined that I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree, so at least I would no longer be a college drop-out. Accordingly, the day our youngest began attending kindergarten, I started going to classes. I declared my major to be English, and really enjoyed the experience. I went part time, since I was also a full-time mother, and it took me nine (yes, 9!) years to complete my degree. During that time, I was often asked what I was going to do after graduation.

I had no idea.

I mean, what does one do with a B.A. in English?

It was suggested that I could teach. Hmmm, I suppose so.... 
I could get a Master's Degree....Hmmm....
I could go into business....

I decided what I REALLY wanted to do was to be the Sign Police in our town. You know, the person who gets to go around and correct the public signs that contain misspellings or bad grammar? The problem is, as far as I can tell, no one is willing to pay for this kind of service. I have tried it in a very small way, on a volunteer basis, but the reception I have received was underwhelming. I mostly get puzzled looks, and the signs are never corrected.

I tried this once when my husband and I went out for dinner at a fast food place. This is a rare occurrence for us, and usually a cause for much rejoicing, but in this case my pleasure was dimmed by the fact that the sign outside was advertising a "Smashed Potatoe." I mentioned to the person who took our order that potato was misspelled, and received a blank look in response. The sign stayed that way for at least another week, until a new special was advertised. I contemplated driving a different way to avoid that restaurant, but it is right next to the store that I shop at the most.

Another sign that drove me crazy was on the way to my children's school. It was painted on the windows of a furniture store, and advertised their end of the year "clerance" sale in letters at least four feet high. I had to pass this store four times a day, and the sign was up for MONTHS. I wished I had the authority to arrest someone for murdering words-- or at least make them fix it! I fantasized about it!

I was not at all surprised when they went out of business.  It's a daycare now.

Sometimes there are glimmers of hope.  I live in the South, in a state that is often maligned for its low level of education, but on a recent trip to a western state I noticed several highway signs that advised drivers to "Drive Safe."  Back in our home state, I was pleased to note the same type of sign admonishing us to "Drive Safely."  

While I have been dithering about my true calling in life, it looks like someone else is already doing something about America's grammar problem:

It's like he read my mind.

Here's another one:

Thank you, Al Yankovic, for providing hope in a dreary, ungrammatical world! 

May the Sign Police thrive, wherever they may dwell!