Smooth operator — October 13, 2021

Smooth operator

If I hadn’t fallen to the floor and covered my major arteries, you could be reading a story with a catchy headline like “Raccoon woman injured in freak smoothie accident.”

This near-tragedy almost happened because I needed to add more fruit to my diet. After all, it is so hard to find good, reasonably-priced berries this time of year.

Someone suggested smoothies. I conferred with someone else, who patiently explained that I couldn’t simply dump berries or other fruit into a blender and call it good. I would need to include yogurt, nuts, spinach, etc., to keep from lapsing into a coma.

As I didn’t want to lapse into a coma, I added nuts and yogurt to my shopping list and asked my mom if I could borrow her blender. When I shared my plans to make smoothies with my family, both my sisters assumed I intended to get a head start on my holiday baking.

Firstly, I have never participated in the making of peanut butter smoothies. Secondly, I abhor peanut butter. Thirdly, that would be one heck of a head start.

Anyway, as I transported the blender through the Goff Estate, I noticed that a part was missing from the lid. My brother and a sister advised me to affix duct tape to said lid to prevent ingredients from splattering around the kitchen.

A few nights later, I decided the time had arrived. I dumped walnuts, fat- and flavor-free yogurt, and mixed berries into the blender. I affixed duct tape to the lid, plugged the blender in, turned it on, and pressed the smoothie button.

Although it made a noise, nothing noteworthy happened.

I turned the blender off and on a few times. Still nothing noteworthy happened.

Then, I removed the jar, aka the thing with the handle, from the base. Most of the ingredients had packed into the jar. There were but few nuts around the blade. So, I hardly thought once about turning on the blender with the blade exposed.

I was super pumped to see that the blender worked. Indeed, the blade literally started rising in the air and twirling around the kitchen.

That’s when I fell to the floor and covered my major arteries.

Seriously, if my reflexes had been a tad slower, my life could have been made into a horror movie titled “When small appliances attack!”

The blender didn’t decapitate me, though. And as there were but few nuts around the blade, I had minimal cleanup. Then I put the blender back together. This time, something noteworthy happened when I pressed smoothie.

That first night, the taste could only be described as adequate, but it improved over time. I’m not sure if one should eat leftover smoothie or eat a smoothie with a spoon, but you live your life and I’ll live mine.

Anyway, the fun continued when I tried to remove the base from the blender and, later, clean the contraption. Tune in next week for part two of as the blender blade turns.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Constant craving — October 6, 2021

Constant craving

I eat goat cheese.

Yeah, I know that might seem like contradictory behavior from someone who’s so cheap she’s been known to crawl around on public floors to pick up change. But I splurged a few months ago on some goat cheese at the Trader Joe’s – a store that’s not nearly as expensive as I was led to believe – and I’ve been hooked since.

For those of you who’ve never sampled goat cheese, don’t expect me – a writer – to be able to describe the taste. Just know that it’s good. And not cheap.

When I finished off the TJ’s goat cheese and crackers, I headed to the Food City. After I located a container of goat cheese, I made my way to the cracker aisle in search of a cracker boasting no taste.

You can only imagine my happiness when I located Crav’n Flavor brand water crackers in said cracker aisle. Firstly, if you’re looking for crackers with no taste, look no further than water crackers. Secondly, I had never heard of this Crav’n brand, but the water crackers appeared to be on sale. I dern-near knocked the Food City associate down as I grabbed two boxes.

I could not have been more pleased with the goat cheese and water crackers. I hoped the water crackers weren’t priced outrageously the next time they made their way onto my shopping list. I would have to crawl around on a lot of floors to pay for the regularly priced goat cheese and outrageously priced water crackers.

Nevertheless, I went on with my life. In fact, I decided to make a cheesecake. (I like cheese.) But I needed graham crackers for the crust. As I don’t keep the item on-hand, I asked my family members if I could bum a cracker…or sleeve of crackers. My brother offered a sleeve but added that it wasn’t a brand name.

That seemed like an odd thing to say to me, a known proponent of store brands, but I decided he must have heard about the goat cheese. Anyway, when he brought me the graham crackers, I immediately noticed they were in a Crav’n box!

That’s right!

As it turns out, Crav’n is a Food City store brand!

I’ve since learned that the water crackers weren’t on sale. They’re always inexpensive. I’ve also seen Crav’n cookies and crackers at the Super Dollar. According to Food City’s website, the Crav’n brand includes frozen appetizers and snack rolls. I have not seen those products with my own eyes, though, so we’ll have to take the website’s word.

One can only hope Crav’n offers goat cheese, too.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hashing it out — September 29, 2021

Hashing it out

As I’m sure all of you know, Sept. 27 marked National Corned Beef Hash Day.

Then again, dear readers, you might be asking yourselves, “What the expletive is corned beef hash?”

If you’re asking yourself that question then, unlike me, you were not forced to endure The Little Rascals’ short film, All About Hash.

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, we watched The Little Rascals as we waited for the school bus to lumber up the holler each morning. We might also have watched The Three Stooges, but I wouldn’t swear to that in court.

I will swear in court that I never enjoyed the Stooges or the Rascals. But what could I do? I didn’t control the TV. Furthermore, we had only five channels. What else were we going to watch?

Regardless, the aforementioned hash episode has stayed with me. According to my memory, Darla was upset because her parents argued every week about…hash. It seems her mom made hash out of leftovers and her dad just could not deal.

My memory wasn’t entirely reliable. When I researched the episode for this-here post, I learned it was Mickey’s parents who argued about…hash. But when the rascals put on a radio show – I am not making that up – to teach Mickey’s parents a lesson, Darla played the mom. So, I did remember Darla being upset about…hash.

At the time, I had no idea what they were carrying on about. All these years later, I still don’t. Our friend, Wikipedia, didn’t have much information on corned beef hash, but a website called Days of the Year offered up this on the topic:

“This is a meal that became popular throughout and after the Second World War. Because of the rationing that occurred during these years, fresh meat was very limited in availability, which resulted in corned beef filling the gaps. Cooks used their creativity, experimenting with leftovers, spices, and herbs to make different dishes. Nothing was wasted during these years, with stretching meals a main priority.”

The website added that there are no rules when it comes to making corned beef hash and encouraged cooks to get into the spirit of the World War II era and use whatever is in their refrigerators and pantries.

As a fan of leftovers, I encourage that, too, but I will not be making hash anytime soon. I have also never had corned beef. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. I thought I had, but I was thinking of dried beef, which comes in a jar that’s not much bigger than a container of Vick’s. (By the way, my adorable great-niece calls Vick’s “gray rub.”)

Anyway, I’m semi-obsessed with meat that comes in jars. But I guess that’s a different post for a different day. Wonder if there’s a Meat in Jar Day?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Follow the leader — September 22, 2021

Follow the leader

Last week, as I enjoyed the opening Sunday of the NFL season, I used the facilities during a station break. As I did so, I thought I heard snippets from The Who song that served as the theme from the original CSI blaring from the TV.

I didn’t give the matter much thought. Indeed, I went on with my life and continued enjoying football.

Later, when I wandered into the kitchen during a station break, I again heard the familiar tune. I made it back to the living room to catch sight of the words, CSI: Vegas, flashing on the TV.

“Hmm,” I said to self, “isn’t CSI already on a streaming service? So why would they be playing ads for the show nowadays?”

The Vegas aspect most puzzled me. The original show was known only as CSI. It was never marketed along with the city in which it was set. I consulted my niece, Sierra, who was equally puzzled. If only there existed a way for us to research the matter. Thankfully, I remembered the existence of the Internet and typed in CSI: Vegas. This is what I read on the Wikipedia:

“CSI: Vegas is an upcoming American crime television limited series that is set to debut on CBS on October 6, 2021. It is a sequel epilogue of the long-running series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and will be the fifth series in the CSI franchise. The series is set to star William Petersen…”

Oh! My! God!

William Petersen is returning to my life as Gil Grissom!

Dear readers, that is all we CSI fans need to know. We can go ahead and set those VCRs to record CSI: Vegas.

For those of you who have never watched CSI, Grissom was the graveyard shift supervisor for the show’s first nine seasons. My sister, Pam, and her family were also intense CSI fans. We still discuss favorite and/or emotional episodes. We mourned Grissom’s departure. I stayed with the show until a certain late-season character chased me away, but it hadn’t been the same since Grissom bid the lab farewell. His rational attitude grounded the other characters, who could be judgmental jerks, and the storylines, which could be a tad unbelievable.

Anyway, whilst watching an episode of 48 Hours mid-week, I accidentally stopped fast-forwarding during commercials. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I finally got to see a CSI: Vegas commercial. It features Jim Brass – yes, that Jim Brass! – and Sara Sidle – yes, that Sara Sidle! During the commercial, Sara says that every crime the lab investigated is now under review. (Why? I guess we’ll have to tune in to find out.) A forlorn-looking Sara also wonders what they could do to solve this mystery.

The commercial ends with Grissom delivering his signature line.

They’ll follow the evidence.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The ones that got away — September 15, 2021

The ones that got away

So, apparently there’s going to a fourth movie in the Matrix franchise. This one is scheduled to be released in December. The first movie was released in 1999 to worldwide acclaim and a bountiful box office.

I’ve never gotten around to seeing it.

Oodles of Matrix fans throughout the years have insisted that I just had to watch it and the subsequent sequels. They obviously haven’t been convincing.  

Part of the reason why I’ve avoided all things Matrix is its star – Keanu Reeves. I’m sure everyone is right and he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood, but I don’t watch his movies. I haven’t seen once since circa 1993, and I stand by that decision.

Also, the gist of the film doesn’t draw me in. Here’s how the Wikipedia frames it: “The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of mankind, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led the way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system — the Matrix — to be farmed as a power source. Occasionally, some of the prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside of it.”

If you knew how much trouble I had following the first two Terminator movies, what with their self-aware machines, you’d understand why I believe I’ll have even more trouble following The Matrix.

Although I’m known for being something of a movie fan, The Matrix isn’t the only movie from way back that I’ve never seen. I haven’t watched a second of Gremlins or The Goonies.

People from my generation freak the expletive out when they hear this.

But you can’t watch every movie. What’s more, you can’t care about every movie, either.

As they wipe away tears, folks my age encourage me to watch The Goonies, a flick about a group of kids who follow a treasure map to save their homes from foreclosure. These teary-eyed folks are coming from a place of nostalgia. Maybe if I had seen the movie during its original mid-‘80s run, I would feel the same. But I’m a woman of advanced age who has no connection to that movie or those characters. I’m not going to feel the way an ‘80s era tween or teen would feel.

When I was a wee lass on the Goff Estate, we subscribed to a premium network channel that seemingly played Gremlins around the clock. I never once had the inclination to spend time with those ugly bug-eyed creatures. What’s more, I heard so much about those dern critters – don’t feed them after midnight, don’t expose them to sunlight, don’t let them come into contact with water – that I felt like I had actually seen the movie.

Basically, I missed my chance.

Just like I missed my chance with The Karate Kid and Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours and…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Half and half — September 9, 2021

Half and half

You’ve probably heard that half the fun is getting there.

When it comes to vacations and road trips, I believe this to be true. Indeed, there have been plenty of times when I’ve laughed ‘til it hurt whilst en route to my destination with trusted traveling companions.

When it comes to sports, I’ve struggled with the half the fun is getting there concept. Sure, I applaud my teams at the end of their respective seasons. But depending on which team wins the championship, I might also yell obscenities until my throat hurts whilst flinging sharp objects at the TV.

This is especially true when it comes to the NFL because He Who Shall Not Be Named and/or The Team That Shall Not Be Named frequently win.

My hatred – yes, hatred – for them cannot be healthy or normal. Yet, there we are. And every season that ends with He Who Shall Not Be Named and/or The Team That Shall Not Be Named hoisting the Lombardi Trophy also ends with me swearing off the league because I can no longer handle such pain in my life.

I cut the cord soon after the NFL season ended – my decision was unrelated to football — which meant I no longer had access to the NFL Network. That helped steel my resolve.

Then, as it has every year in my life, August happened. And as I have done every other year, I started searching the NFL Network for preseason football once I bid farewell to July. Oh, yeah, about that. The streaming service I selected added the network on Aug. 1, and I’m one of those people who watch preseason football. I do not restrict my viewings to my favorite teams. I watched an Eagles-Jets preseason game and then told my fellow football fans about the exciting last-second Hail Mary pass the Jets nth-string quarterback threw.

Their responses went something like this: “Is this a plea for help?” “Have you had a stroke?” “Exciting and Jets do not belong in the same sentence. Who are you?”

I’m a woman of an advanced age who enjoys the NFL. That’s who I am. And this year, I’m going to take it game-by-game and week-by-week. I’m not going to start thinking about the playoffs – the playoffs! – in September. I’m going to enjoy the ride. I’ll have half the fun during the seasons and then we’ll see what happens afterward.

Perhaps I’ll have the other half of my promised fun or perhaps I’ll yell obscenities until my throat hurts whilst flinging sharp objects at the TV.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Prime time — September 1, 2021

Prime time

I don’t have an Amazon Prime subscription.

I’ll understand if that admission causes you to quit reading and/or to report me to the authorities.

This subject came up last week when a friend suggested I watch a movie via Prime. I haven’t told her about my lack of a relationship with Prime. I suppose she’ll find out when she reads this. I’ll understand if she unfriends me in real life and/or on social media. In fact, when I revealed this shocking truth to another friend, she literally gasped.

Anyway, a few years ago I did share a discounted Prime subscription with the sisters and nieces. I wasn’t impressed. Call me unreasonable, but when you promise me next day shipping, then I expect my orders to arrive the next day.

When I consulted with longtime Prime subscribers about this discrepancy, they explained that not every item is eligible for next day shipping. Or even two-day shipping.

Oh, and so it was a coincidence that every item I ordered happened to be ineligible for one- or two-day shipping?

Right.

A Prime subscription also offers you access to oodles of TV shows and movies. There’s also a catch to that. You have to pay extra to gain access to many of those oodles. When I consulted with longtime Prime subscribers about this discrepancy, they literally asked me, “You didn’t know that?”

Apparently not.

Is this something everyone in the galaxy is supposed to have knowledge of when they are born? On what page is Amazon Prime listed in the instruction book on life? Is it before or after the listing for how you can’t put aluminum foil and other metals in the microwave?

Why should I think I would need to pay extra to watch shows and movies? Call me unreasonable, but when you promise me access, then I expect access with my paid subscription.

Regardless, when our discounted subscription expired, we did not renew. I haven’t missed it. In the ensuing time, I have never felt the urge to click on a trial membership when given the offer.

This seems to confuse people. They react much like my friend who gasped. When I explain that I don’t need Prime because I don’t place many orders – I have ordered from Amazon only four times this year – they counter that I could order so much more if I had Prime.

That seems unreasonable.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Mail call — August 25, 2021

Mail call

This weekend I became consumed with figuring out how my family received the packages my mom ordered from Sears when I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, is that all she has to think and/or worry about?”

No, but it was better than thinking and/or worrying about the health and well-being of people I love, so that’s what my mind chose to do.

This, some might say, obsession arose from a conversation one of my besties and I had about, you guessed it, the Kmarts. During our discussion, I told her I was fairly sure our Christmas presents came from the Sears catalog.

Indeed, I can remember hearing my mom order all sorts of merchandise. She’d sit at the kitchen table, with the receiver from the yellow rotary phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, saying, “Page 40, item number 720XTC, color red, quantity one.”

So, that got me thinking…how did the merchandise get to the Estate? What’s more, there was no Internet back then. How did she track those packages?

There also weren’t delivery vans zipping up and down the holler with frequency back in the day, so I ruled out front-door deliveries.

While I didn’t rule out mailbox delivery, I felt sure that’s not how the packages arrived at the Estate because in the summers, I made the long walk to get the mail.

What’s that? Oh, our mailbox did not sit outside the estate. It was a half-mile or so (I have never gotten out a tape measure and marked off the distance) down the holler. We shared the mailbox with two or three – or more — other houses/relatives. It occurred to me as a teen that people who only knew our address would think all of us lived in the same estate instead of on estates of our own.

During the summers, my cousin and I usually volunteered to walk to the mailbox. We would leave our houses as our moms yelled out warnings to watch for snakes. Unless an unfamiliar vehicle wandered up the holler, retrieving the mail was the highlight of our day.

Anyway, I don’t remember many or any large packages arriving in the mailbox.

So, how did we get our hands on that merchandise? I decided to ask my mom.

She and my sister didn’t say so, but I got the impression they suspected I had suffered a stroke. After they exchanged knowing glances, one of them simply said, “We picked them up at the Sears store.”

Oh, yeah, that makes sense. After they said so, I can remember frequent trips to the store. Nobody needs that many appliances.

Dern. I just remembered I forgot to ask Mom how she tracked her orders.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Commercial appeal — August 11, 2021

Commercial appeal

If you watched the Olympics, then you probably saw the commercial featuring Walter the cat.

The commercial advertises a truck of some sort, but that is not the point. The point is that Walter is wonderful. He fishes. He herds cattle. He fetches a ball. He chases a stick. He trees other cats. He gathers firewood. He relaxes in the bed of the truck with his human.

As someone who is sensitive to the anti-feline propaganda that we cat people are subjected to on a near-daily basis, I am thrilled that cats are finally receiving some good press. Usually, if cats are in the news, it’s because a study has determined they’re plotting to kill humans or are actively killing birds.

Whatever.

Walter performs the aforementioned tasks as Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain” plays. Yes, I had to look that up. The actor who plays Walter’s human seemed familiar to me, so I looked him up, too. He also played the Dilly Dilly King in the beer commercials that aired a couple years ago.

I did not enjoy those commercials.

Indeed, as I am a sensible person, I do not enjoy most commercials. So, it’s a good thing my streaming service comes with record and fast-forward options. I watched the Olympics semi-live, though. Hence, that’s how I came to meet Walter.

But watching the Olympics semi-live meant I was also subjected to some duds, most of which were meant to tug at my heart. Instead, they made me reach for the remote.

Other than Walter, the only commercials I enjoy feature the patient man who’s trying to prevent homeowners from becoming their parents and the ones that showcase Flo the wacky yet proficient apron-wearing insurance salesperson and her crew.

In fact, I think the patient man who’s trying to prevent homeowners from becoming their parents hawks the same insurance as Flo and her crew. Let me give you a pro tip: If you can’t remember what product a commercial is trying to convince you to buy, assume it’s insurance.

The emu and the half-man/half-motorcycle peddle insurance – possibly the same brand, I can’t remember – in two separate, but equally ridiculous advertising campaigns. Trust me, if you haven’t been subjected to these duds, they’re as bad as they sound.

Commercials are so stupid that a jewel like Walter should be celebrated. No, it doesn’t make me want to purchase a truck. But it does make me want to teach the cat army to herd cattle.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Be a good sport — August 4, 2021

Be a good sport

I know people have different interests, but if I live to be Master Yoda’s age, I’ll never understand why everyone in the galaxy doesn’t watch the Olympics.

Sure, one could argue that the entire Olympics enterprise is corrupt. But when I ask folks about their anti-Olympics feelings, some say they don’t like sports whilst others say they don’t like Olympics-style sports.

If you don’t enjoy sports, then the Olympics is marketed for you. The coverage is full of stories of orphaned athletes who considered limping away from their respective sport, but decided to risk their bodies for one more shot at an elusive medal. And all for love of country or athletics or to honor an ailing coach or a sick goat. These stories are designed to tug at your heart and make you care who wins the BMX freestyle race even if you’re not quite sure what BMX freestyle is.

If you only enjoy the big-name sports, then you’ll be happy to know the Games have been featuring basketball, baseball, and soccer for decades. In fact, I recorded the Slovenia-Spain basketball game and watched it at my leisure.

No, that is not a misprint. No, the game was not played in the medal round. Yes, such is my madness for the Games.

Golf was added a few years ago, too, but as much as I heart the Olympics, I draw the line at golf. When NBC switched to it the other night, my hand reached for the remote.

I’m also not a fan of soccer – except during the Olympics and World Cup – but I kept up with a men’s match between Egypt and Mexico. At one point during the match, my great-niece walked in front of the TV and I almost asked her to move. Longtime readers of this-here space will realize how out-of-character such behavior would have been for me.

As with Olympics in the past, I checked out handball – it’s a combination of basketball and soccer – as well as table tennis and badminton. One of the announcers pronounced both ns in badminton and I cannot stress how much that triggered me.

I watched men’s synchronized diving finals like I had money on the results. By the way, male divers and female beach volleyball players compete practically in the nude. Perhaps that will persuade you to tune into the Games.

Of course, there are only a few days left for you to do so. Swimming, my favorite part of the Summer Olympics, ended Saturday. I had several breakdowns during close races. I might have lost consciousness once. Or twice. Perhaps a few times.

As I say as the Games come to a close every time, I don’t know what I will do when they’re over. Wait. What’s that? The Winter Games start in six months?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.