Making the case — May 18, 2022

Making the case

A few weeks ago, my bestie wrote an excellent blog post about organization, as in decluttering her house.

Although she has made progress, she conceded there are items she just can’t let go of, including a videotape of the Tae Bo exercise routine. (By the way, I also used to do Tae Bo back in the day, but I gave my tapes away a long time ago.)

Anyway, I sent her a message after I read the post and told her not to be so hard on herself. After all, everyone keeps stuff they no longer need or use. To prove my point, I told her I hold onto the video cassettes I recorded off the TV of Princess Diana’s funeral.

Indeed, every time I consider throwing the tapes into the trash, I hesitate and decide to keep them … just in case.

Just in case of what, you might ask.

The heck if I know.

I no longer own a VCR. Even if I could locate one, I’m not sure the tapes, which were recorded almost 25 years ago, would play. What’s more, if I’m in the mood for self-torture, I’m sure I could find the funeral on the Internets. There is no rational reason for me to hang onto those tapes.

Of course, an argument could be made there was no rational reason to record the funeral and the accompanying coverage. Need I remind you, however, that the world was in mourning. Sir Elton John rewrote and preformed an iconic song at the funeral! After all, she was the people’s princess!

To circle back to a point I made earlier, unless you’re a hoarder or you’ve started keeping more and more stuff you no longer need or use, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a little bit here and there.

There’s also nothing wrong with shoving things in a closet because you can’t decide what to do with it. When I was younger, I would have recoiled at this attitude and stated that everything has a place. Now I nod and say that stuff has a place on the top shelf of the closet, far away from my gaze.

Maybe some day I’ll deal with that stuff. Maybe I won’t.

Just like maybe some day I’ll finally decide to toss the Diana tapes.

Or not.

But I’m holding onto them for some reason and they’re not taking up much space.

So, they stay.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Event planner — May 11, 2022

Event planner

When I discover a writer whose work I enjoy, I make it a goal to read that writer’s entire bibliography.

Such was the case with Australian author Liane Moriarty. So excited was I when discovered her novel, Three Wishes, that I shared this find with my bestie. Imagine my surprise when said bestie told me she was familiar with Moriarty. My surprise deepened when I spied another of Moriarty’s novels, Big Little Lies, on a shelf in a coworker/friend’s office.

As it turned out, by the time I discovered her, Moriarty was not a relatively unknown writer who needed me to spread the word about her funny (and occasionally dark-ish), intricately-woven stories of suburban Australia.

Although Moriarty doesn’t need my help to garner readers, now that I have read her complete bibliography (well, at least the books geared toward adults), I have written mini reviews of each novel.

  • Three Wishes (2003): The book that introduced me to Moriarty, it remains my favorite. As is the case with most of her books, she begins with a traumatic event and works back and forth in time to reveal what lead to the traumatic event. Three Wishes’ traumatic event – an argument among thirtysomething triplet sisters that results in a fork protruding from the pregnant sister’s stomach – is told from the point of view of the triplets’ fellow diners in a fancy restaurant. By the way, one of the triplet’s names is Catriona. I pronounced it Cat-ree-on-uh whilst reading the book. It’s Catrina.
  • The Last Anniversary (2006): This is one of the few Moriarty books I don’t recommend. It centers around a woman who inherits a house from her ex-boyfriend’s aunt. The house is located on a mysterious island. I figured out the mystery by the end of the prologue and spent the book rolling my eyes at the characters for not seeing the obvious.
  • What Alice Forgot (2009): The traumatic event is that Alice falls during exercise class and bumps her head. When she wakes up, she’s a decade younger, but life has marched on. She’s frightened by her husband as well as the changes in her life and in herself. Moriarty’s books always have a deeper level and this one made me wonder if my younger selves would recognize the current me and if they would approve.
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011): This one doesn’t have a traumatic event or much of a mystery. It did make me chuckle, in part, because the hypnotist and her mom are serious eavesdroppers. They legit stop talking at dinner so they can listen to the conversation at the next table, which leads me to another thing I love about Moriarty. It’s like she’s in my head.
  • The Husband’s Secret (2013): I call this one the Easter book because the characters legit go all out for Easter. They hide eggs and/or candy the night before the holiday and I feared a kangaroo or a koala would snatch the candy. Alas, my major complaint about Moriarty is that no kangas or koalas make appearances. The traumatic event concerns a wife learning her husband has a secret. Hence, the title. This is one of her darker books, and it’s also one of her best books.
  • Big Little Lies (2014): Another dark one, it’s probably the most popular but not in my top three. The traumatic event, a parent’s death, occurs at a school’s trivia night. Oh, I should mention that I love how most of her male characters call one another “mate.”
  • Truly Madly Guilty (2016): The one fans refer to as the barbeque book, this is another one I don’t recommend. When I consider her books, I ask myself, “Self, did it hold your interest after she revealed the truth behind the traumatic event?” The answer with this book was “NO!” The characters bored me. I simply didn’t care.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (2018): Controversial among fans, this book doesn’t have a traumatic event. Instead, Moriarty put nine people in a health resort run by a woman who might be a lunatic. I love the main character, Frances. She licks the inside of a candy wrapper to ensure no chocolate is left behind. Who among us hasn’t?
  • Apples Never Fall (2021): Controversial for the ending, this book entertained me. Joy Delaney has gone missing. That’s the traumatic event. As the book unfolds, we meet Joy, her husband of 50 years, their four adult children, and a mysterious young woman. The Delaneys are tall. When a character sees one of Joy’s daughters, she speculates that she’s fixing to perform the long jump. Get out of my head, Liane Moriarty, and write another book.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

What’s in a name? — May 4, 2022

What’s in a name?

Monday, April 25, 2022, will go down in history as the day I learned egg rolls do not contain eggs.

I can hear the guffaws from the smart expletives who were apparently born knowing this. To you know-it-alls, I ask, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!” After all, chocolate chip cookies contain chocolate chips. Orange juice contains oranges that have been squeezed into juice. Bean dip contains beans that, along with other ingredients, have been turned into a delicious dip.

But apparently, egg rolls have been getting by with false advertising all these years.

I learned this historic truth from a friend/coworker who shared the ingredients of a hillbilly egg roll she had during Hillbilly Days. When I inquired about the whereabouts of the egg, she gently explained, well, you know what she explained.

Obviously, I have never eaten an egg roll. Honestly, the thought of eating one repulsed me. I like deviled eggs and sometimes I’ll eat hardboiled eggs. Otherwise, I’m not much of an eater of eggs. So, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of eating a scrambled egg that had been deep-fried in flour.

Yep. That’s what I imagined an egg roll to be.

I repeat, “What was I supposed to think? Egg is in the name!”

Speaking of eggs … my sister and I almost came to blows whilst making cookies last Christmas when she claimed fried eggs and scrambled eggs taste the same. Granted, I have never eaten a fried egg and have rarely eaten scrambled eggs, so maybe she’s right. Still, I maintained that if they taste the same, then why are diners given the option of scrambled or fried?

Anyway, after learning the historic truth about egg rolls, I wondered why a foodstuff that does not contain eggs has the word egg in its name. Thus, I consulted our friends at Wikipedia. Here’s what they have to say on the matter … “it is unclear how the word ‘egg’ appeared in the name, since the predominant flavor in American egg rolls is cabbage, not eggs. A 1979 article in The Washington Post speculated two possible theories: 1) that the Chinese word for ‘egg’ sounds very similar to the Chinese word for ‘spring,’ and 2) that Chinese chefs in the South relied on using actual eggs when trying to make the thin noodle skin from flour and water.”

In other words, who knows?

So, now that I know the truth, do I plan to sample an egg roll? As picky as I am, I’ll take that on an egg roll by egg roll basis.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A doughnut or a dough-not? — April 27, 2022

A doughnut or a dough-not?

As I’ve mentioned before, to the dismay of many, I do not eat peanut butter or drink coffee. Well, dear readers, get ready to once again be dismayed. Thanks to a conversation I had this week, I remembered another popular foodstuff I avoid – doughnuts.

Unlike peanut butter, which I have loathed since our first encounter, I spent years enjoying doughnuts. (I also drank coffee from childhood into adulthood.)

Indeed, one of my aunts is something of an expert when it comes to preparing doughnuts. She frequently made them for my cousins, my siblings, and me when we were wee lads and lasses growing up on and/or near the Goff Estate.

What’s more, one day in elementary school I, a lifelong cheapskate, agreed to go halfsies with a classmate and purchase a jelly doughnut. That was a big deal for me because I had never eaten a jelly doughnut.

And I didn’t eat one that day, either. When we cut into the doughnut, we discovered it was a glazed doughnut sans jelly. As you might be able to infer, I have not let go of that disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I had gotten to eat one-half a jelly doughnut that day. Or if I had asked for a refund upon learning the doughnut was free of jelly. You never know. That could have been the turning point in my life.

Anyway, my sisters and I learned to make doughnuts and for years we would legit jump up at dern-near any hour of the day and whip up a platter of doughnuts. Then, for some reason I can’t recall, we stopped making them.

Maybe it was because we could more readily and easily purchase tasty doughnuts at the stores. And purchase them we did. As an adult, I discovered that jelly doughnuts left a bad aftertaste. This discovery elated me. So, I stuck to glazed or chocolate glazed.

But at some point a dozen or so years ago (it’s not like I noted the date in my journal), I realized that doughnuts made me feel, well, high. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what’s wrong with that?” Nothing. Unless you’re feeling high at work.

Once I studied on the matter, I further realized this doughnut high had been occurring for some time. And it was always followed by a migraine.

Oh, there’s more. I also remembered that I had developed my first doughnut-induced migraine in college. Of course, that was a certain type of microwavable yeast doughnut that I swore off after it caused the second headache. These glazed – chocolate or plain – doughnuts hadn’t started bothering me until a dozen or so years ago.

What changed?

If I knew the answer to that question, I would be penning articles for medical journals.

All I know is that when I tell people I don’t eat doughnuts, I detect their disappointment. It’s as if they just cut into a plain doughnut…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A good read and watch — April 20, 2022

A good read and watch

As a teen reader, I discovered the mysteries of Agatha Christie. And although I eventually read oodles of Christie’s books, I don’t think I ever figured out whodunit. (By the way, Christie’s And Then There Were None is one of only a handful of books I’ve read in one day. Indeed, I might have read it in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good.)

Anyway, even though I tried – and failed – to solve the mysteries, for me it was more about the characters and the settings. I enjoyed being transported from the holler to grand manors or English villages.

I thought of those books again recently after watching the most recent adaptations of two of Christie’s mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Parts of both movies are boring, but overall they entertained me. I preferred Orient Express because I’ve always favored that story – it’s one of Christie’s most memorable – and because of the stunning shots of snowy mountains and landscapes.

Nile, as the title suggests, is set in Egypt and also features stunning shots. But most of them look like they were created by CGI (computer generated imagery) … because they were. Here’s the thing: CGI is kinda like wigs, hair extensions, and cosmetic surgery. If I notice them, then they must be really obvious.

My only other major complaint of both movies is with the character Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the movies. In the books and earlier adaptations, the Belgian detective – the world’s greatest detective (he proclaims this statement frequently) – is conceited, egotistical, and mannered. In fact, David Suchet played him to perfection in the aptly-titled BBC series, Poirot.

Branagh’s Poirot, whilst conceited, egotistical, and mannered, is also so morose and devoid of any spark that, if not for his signature moustache and accent (and for the fact that everyone calls him Det. Poirot), I wouldn’t know who he was supposed to be.

These movies center around murder and death. Not exactly fun-filled times. And in the case of Orient Express, it’s a sad, sad story. I legit became emotional at one point whilst watching that flick. But most of Christie’s mysteries are so over-the-top and filled with such hyperbolic characters that I can’t take them seriously. This includes Nile. More than once whilst watching that flick, I legit rolled my eyes at the characters’ hysterics.

So I’d really like Poirot to be outrageous as well and not constantly moping around with a bad case of the sads. (I’ve read that another adaptation of another book with another actor features an even sadder Poirot. I implore filmmakers and actors to please stop this nonsense.)

Nevertheless, I recommend the Branagh movies. And, of course, Christie’s books. I’m happy to report that after I watched the films, I advised a younger person in my life to read Orient Express. She took my advice.

As should you.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hare pollution — April 13, 2022

Hare pollution

As Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, “It’s almost time for the East-er Bunny.”

If you are familiar with my thoughts and feelings on mimes and clowns, then you probably will not be surprised to learn that the Easter Bunny also creeps me the expletive out.

When I say – or, rather, write this – obviously I don’t mean the real Easter Bunny creeps me out. I’m sure he or she is a wonderful rabbit. Indeed, the Easter Bunny devotes so much time and attention collecting and delivering toys and candies to the good – and no doubt bad – little girls and boys worldwide that he or she has to subcontract much of the pre-holiday work to others.

In fact, one of my nieces played the role of a generic Easter Bunny many years ago at a local organization. She donned a white costume, complete with oversized bunny ears, and posed in photos with children. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, even though I knew my lovely and in no way creepy niece wore that costume, I was nonetheless creeped out.

Think about it. That gosh-darn bunny never blinks. That’s weird.

Something I cannot wrap my mind around is visits to these generic (and creepy) Easter Bunnies so parents can snap photos of them with children. Children who are in some cases screaming their little lungs out because they’re horrified by the giant pastel-frocked rabbit in their presence.

My aforementioned and in no way creepy niece recently took her younglings – my great-niece and great nephew (emphasis on great) – to have their picture taken with a generic Easter Bunny. The children looked traumatized in the resulting photo.

I could relate. Just looking at the photo traumatized me.

Let’s discuss this rationally. The Easter Bunny who visits with children is human-sized and stands on two feet. Perhaps real bunnies do occasionally stand on two feet. I have, however, never seen this occur in the wild. And by wild, I mean my back yard, the side of the road, or the Goff Estate. So, if I, a woman of advancing age, have never seen it, chances are children haven’t experienced this phenomenon. (I have also never seen a human-sized rabbit in the wild and I hope I never see one. That would be more traumatizing than spying a generic Easter Bunny in a store.)

Anyway, if a standing, human-sized rabbit isn’t enough to make kids think their world has turned upside down, it gets worse. The bunny has an enormous head and – I repeat – never blinks those lifeless eyes.

Happy Easter!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Flamingo (on the) road — April 6, 2022

Flamingo (on the) road

Last week, my bestie shared a story about a flamingo named Pink Floyd who has been on the run for almost 17 years.

Now that I have your attention, let me clarify a point. By “on the run,” I don’t mean that Pink Floyd has been running from the law. Well, at least I don’t think the flamingo is wanted by the law.

Here’s what I do know. According to a CNN story, on a stormy 4th of July in 2005, two flamingoes “went rogue” and flew away from Kansas’ Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. The birds had been brought there from their native Tanzania, Africa, in 2003, along with 38 other flamingoes.

On July 2, 2005, when zookeepers went to clip the flock’s feathers, a process that’s described in the story as “completely painless” and similar to a human getting a haircut, Pink Floyd and others made a run for it. Or would that be a fly for it?

All but two of the birds returned to the zoo. Those two hung out in a grassy marsh until the aforementioned storm hit on Independence Day. Then, one flew north (it was later spotted in Minnesota) and the other, Pink Floyd, headed to Texas.

Pink Floyd, who was known as No. 492 in confinement, is obviously a rebel. He and No. 347, the flamingo who headed north, apparently did not want their wings clipped or, in other words, their hair cut. Perhaps they’re hippies at heart. Or hobos. Or both.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife bestowed the nickname Pink Floyd to the bird formerly know as No. 492. Its yellow name band is no longer visible so they’re making an assumption that they pink flamingo they’ve spotted for several consecutive springs is Pink Floyd. It’s an educated assumption. After all, flamingoes aren’t native to North America, so there aren’t exactly a lot of flamingoes hanging out on one leg in Texas.

Although the one who went north has only been seen once, I like to think it’s lying low and traveling the country. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, she’s delusional. If that-there flamingo was still alive, someone would have reported it by now.”

How do we know it hasn’t been reported?

I guess I need to remind you that a couple years ago folks in Tennessee reported seeing a tiger, which turned out to be a bobcat. And that I mistook a crane for a pelican.

Somebody somewhere could have spied that flamingo and mistook it for an ostrich or a swan or a stork. For all we know, that flamingo could be flying around, delivering babies.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Coffee break — March 30, 2022

Coffee break

I don’t drink coffee.

Most people react to this statement with disbelief. They stare at me with widened eyes and open mouths before peppering me with such questions as “Why not?” and “What’s wrong with you?”

There’s not enough bandwidth or time to properly answer that last question. As for coffee, unlike my aversion to peanut butter – another admission that folks struggle to understand – I don’t have anything against coffee. In fact, I enjoyed a cup a day for 20 years or so.

If memory serves, I started drinking coffee around age 11. By Goff Estate standards, that defined me as a late bloomer. I grew up in a family of coffee addicts who still drink the stuff all day. They’ve drunk it for so long that they’re immune to its caffeinated effects. Indeed, my mom and oldest sister have fallen asleep whilst drinking coffee.

At any time of the day, you’re likely to hear my mom, my sisters, or my nieces ask, “Whose turn is it to make a pot?” They go through coffee pots like they’re paper plates. Once, when Mother’s coffee pot started misbehaving, I said, “You’ve only had it for little more than a year and a half. Oh, wait, I guess that’s the life expectancy for a coffee pot around here.”

Of course, a single cup of instant coffee is not out of the question, either. Some people don’t care for what my late father referred to as boiled coffee. During my coffee-drinking days, I couldn’t tell the difference between instant and what he called percolated coffee. It all tasted the same to me.

Even back then, though, I wasn’t interested in anything like espresso or zucchini spiced mocha latte. And I’ll never grasp the concept of iced coffee. At the Goff Estate, iced coffee means you’ve talked so much that your previously-warm coffee needs “hottened up.”

Anyway, in adulthood, I finally sought help for my migraines. During a consultation with my doctor, he advised me to rid my life of caffeine. I complied, curbing my intake of chocolate, switching to caffeine free soda (that didn’t last), and quitting coffee.

If this change in lifestyle resulted in night tremors or hallucinations, I don’t remember them. Nor did I look at a cup of coffee with regret and longing.

Fast forward a decade or so later. Whilst making shortbread cookies one Christmas, my taste buds recalled that I had savored coffee with those cookies. Suddenly, I decided that one cup wouldn’t hurt. I poured some coffee and nibbled on a cookie as I waited on it to cool. As soon as I was sure it would not burn my tongue, I put the cup to my mouth, experienced my first sip of coffee in years and immediately said, “Yuck.”

It tasted terribly bitter and dern-near ruined the cookie. It also reminded me that when it comes to coffee, I’m not missing a thing.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The struggle is no longer real — March 23, 2022

The struggle is no longer real

For years I have shared my struggles in this here space. My struggles, that is, with prepping potatoes for mashing, baking, and/or cooking.

As you might recall, I cannot peel potatoes – or anything for that matter – with a knife. Please don’t tell me I could if I practiced. I’ve, in the words of my late father, peeled away too many potatoes in my day practicing.

Anyway, years ago, I purchased a Rotato, a potato-peeling gadget that changed my life. It was a messy gadget, though, and hard to clean. Thankfully, I ran across a vegetable peeler in a store.

Ahh. Talk about a life changer.

I now have four peelers. Why do I have four? Well, you never know when you’ll get the urge to peel something and the other three peelers might be dirty.

Although the peelers solved one problem, they didn’t solve another one. That is, when preparing mashed potatoes, I still need to dice said potatoes.

Here’s the biggest issue for me when it comes to dicing potatoes: I would really prefer if the diced particles of potato were uniform in size.

As you might imagine, that preference means it takes me dozens of minutes to prep potatoes for mashing.

Thankfully, somehow I came into possession of a gadget that legit chops and dices vegetables.

Unfortunately, it was not a life changer. Sure, the diced particles of potato appeared, more or less, to be uniform. But it took just as long to dice them via the gadget as it did with a knife. What’s more, the gadget was messy and hard to clean.

Thus, I resumed dicing potatoes with a knife.

Woe was me.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling my best. So, of course, I turned to my comfort food – mashed potatoes. I didn’t feel up to dicing or even peeling. I had purchased smallish potatoes, so I dumped them into the pan, peelings and all, and poured water on them. (I am not a fan of potato peelings or, as my late father referred to them, potato jackets, either. But like I said, I wasn’t feeling well.)

You know what? The potatoes cooked up, as we say at the Goff Estate, and they were a breeze to mash. What a learning experience. From then on, I haven’t bothered with dicing. After peeling potatoes, I’ve cut them into pieces about the size of the aforementioned smallish potatoes, dumped them into the pan, and poured water over them.

The potatoes have continued to cook up and I have continued to add butter and heavy cream (a tip I learned from my bestie) to create scrumptious mashed potatoes.

There have been no lumps. No issues. No drama. No struggles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Let’s regroup — March 16, 2022

Let’s regroup

Last week, sister number two told us that her daughter, who happens to be my niece, has been working with younglings at the school on regrouping. Well, that delighted sister number one and me. We thought it was wonderful that teachers and aides are helping the students reset their thoughts and feelings when they experience a setback.

Indeed, as an adult of an advanced age, I know that sometimes when I hit the proverbial bump in the road professionally or personally, I take a breath and regroup. Younglings need to do the same as well.

Wait. What? That’s not what regrouping means vis-à-vis elementary school?

Oh, it appears regrouping is another term for new math.

That’s cool, too.

Indeed, as an adult of an advanced age, I have passing knowledge of this new-ish regrouping math and it makes sense to me. From my limited understanding, the name regrouping comes from the process of making groups of 10 when adding or subtracting numbers that are at least two digits.

The reason it makes sense to me is because that’s how I performed addition as a wee lass.

Yes, dear readers, I was ahead of my time.

Now, maybe my kind of regrouping wasn’t technically correct, but it sort of worked for me. Here’s how I did a math problem. Let’s say it was 23+44. I saw it as 20+40 (10s)=60 and then 3+4=7; 60+7=67.

I’m not sure if that’s how they teach regrouping, but that’s how I taught it to myself.

I’m also not sure if that’s how I performed subtraction, but that’s also the general idea of how I did multiplication.

Wait. What’s that? How did I do long division? I didn’t.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I discovered a little gadget called a calculator, but I still math the old-fashioned way when I must. You might want to sit down for this, but I can also do fractions and percentages. In fact, I can do them much better than I can do long division, which I repeat, I do not do.

As calculators became more available, teachers cautioned us not to become dependent on them because … reasons. Seriously, were aliens going to confiscate all the calculators and take them back to their home galaxy? I know teachers wanted us to be able to math without help from a machine, but calculators were right there. They still are.

Teachers also scolded us for counting with our fingers because … reasons. This one never made sense to me. Were all of us going to lose our fingers in accidents? What’s the harm in letting a kid honestly arrive at the answer anyway he or she can?

Anyway, a few months ago, my great-niece (emphasis on great), gave me a math worksheet to complete. (I got a perfect score without using a calculator!) As she graded my work, I saw that she was counting on her fingers. I learned that younglings today are allowed to do so.

That’s progress, people!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.