Weak in the knees — September 11, 2019

Weak in the knees

Last year, I participated in a 5k race. As someone who only runs away from snakes or toward treats, I walked the course and never considered attempting to so much as jog. But this year, I decided to train to run the race.

So I consulted several from-the-couch-to-a-5k training regimens, finally settling on one that began with three minutes of running and 30 minutes of walking until I reached a mile. The regimens also included several rest days, which I gratefully observed.

But on my training days, I’d perform stretches and warm-up walks and then run laps around my back yard like a hyperactive greyhound. I chose the backyard as my training ground because it afforded me privacy, which was important because I was secretly training. You see, I planned to surprise my family on 5k day. When the three minutes of running felt like three hours, I’d imagine their shocked and encouraging faces when they saw me running from the starting line.

That, combined with the numbers displayed by my faithful Fitbit, Esmerelda – Esme for short – kept me going when I wanted to quit. Indeed, it didn’t take long for me to increase my endurance, my distance, and my calories burned.

I was doing well. So well that I started ignoring the rest days. In fact, I ran for five consecutive days.

Excruciating knee pain kept me from running for six consecutive days. Actually, it’s kept me from running since.

Although I haven’t suddenly earned a medical degree, I believe I developed something called runner’s knee. As an overachiever, I have it in both knees. In retrospect, all those turns I took in my back yard couldn’t have been kind to my knees.

Of course, I didn’t immediately learn my lesson. For days after my self-diagnosis, I continued walking until I reached my daily step goal. To my defense, my right knee had started to feel somewhat better. The left one, however, continued to feel like it was on fire. Finally, after the pain woke me in the middle of the night, I submitted to the will of my knees. For the past few days, I’ve been adhering to the four components of RICE. Right this very second, I’m resting and alternating an ice pack and a compression wrap on my left knee, which is elevated.

RICE is helping. If nothing else, the compression wrap prevents me from walking at my normal pace. The worst part of this ordeal, though, is that I’m unable to exercise and it’s my own dumb fault. I have no one but myself to blame for not taking my rest days and for running laps around my back yard like a hyperactive greyhound.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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Simple past tense — September 4, 2019

Simple past tense

Except for Eastern Kentucky’s own Chris Stapleton, I don’t actively listen to current country music. Sometimes, however, the music is forced upon me. This usually occurs when I’m in someone else’s car or inside a store.

That’s exactly what happened recently while I strolled the aisles of the Super Dollar. As I compared the prices of tea, I caught snippets of a song that recalled the halcyon days gone by when everything wasn’t automatic.

I would later learn that the song, by Miranda Lambert, is aptly-titled “Automatic.” Although it was released in 2014 and won oodles of awards, I heard it for the first time in August 2019.

According to Lambert, the song is “about slowing down, taking a breath and remembering what it’s like to live life a little more simply.”

Although I agree with those sentiments, Lambert and I don’t have the same definition of living a simple life.

For example, in the song, she reminisces about using an atlas to find the way to Dallas. I’ve never been to Dallas, but I once consulted an atlas for a trip up north and, let me tell you, that was a disaster. Thankfully, a 10 year old used her wits to get me on the right track or I would still be driving around the backroads of Delaware.

Also in the song, in a nod to Polaroid cameras, Lambert muses about taking the kind of pictures you had to shake. My sister had a Polaroid and we enjoyed posing for photos and then watching our images come to life.

But you know what I didn’t enjoy? Watching those images come to life only to realize that we wasted film on a photo that made us look like rejects from a horror movie.

For some reason, Lambert also suggests we roll down windows, the kind with cranks.

I’m not sure if this means we should keep crank-less windows shut. Heck, I’m not even sure what kind of windows she’s talking about, but if it’s car windows, it makes me wonder why anyone would miss rolling a car window up and down by hand. Maybe the cars we drove required a healthy dose of WD-40, but if my memory serves, it was no easy feat to crank those windows. Indeed, I was usually so tired after rolling them up and/or down that I had to take a nap.

Anyway, I’m sure the song has millions if not billions of fans, and I can appreciate feeling nostalgic for times gone by. But it’s not the tools, be they atlases, cameras, or windows, that made the times so worthwhile.

It’s the people we did them with.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Welcome to the family — August 28, 2019

Welcome to the family

My mother has always cautioned that self-bragging is half scandal.

So, when I hear people boasting about their accomplishments or possessions or when I’m tempted to brag about my ability to eat an entire can of potato crisps in one evening, I’m reminded of her advice.

But one of my dreams has come true. So I’m throwing her caution to the wind and announcing to my dozen or so readers that my household has been selected to participate in an important research study.

That’s right.

The Nielsen company has reached out to me!

For those of you unfamiliar with Nielsen, maybe this snippet from the letter will prove illuminating: “Have you ever wondered how radio, television and other media outlets decide what shows to broadcast and cancel? In large part, those decisions are based on feedback from people like you.”

And by “you,” Nielsen means me.

I’ve been hoping to receive recognition from the company since I first heard of the Nielsen ratings in the 1980s. Back in the day, I wanted so badly to help decide which shows remained on air and which ones got the ax. And, at the sake of sounding boastful, I would have been such a good Nielsen family member because I used to watch the heck out of the TV. Believe me when I say that I watched it so much that there was no chance it was going anywhere.

Nowadays, I’m not so sure I’m a good fit for Nielsen. Although my television is dern-near always on, I don’t actually watch much TV. And I listen to the radio only when I’m forced to do so. Indeed, for question four – “In a typical day, how many hours of radio do you listen to?” – I’ll have to mark zero.

So I’m not sure how helpful I can be to my new friend, Nielsen, and that gives me a case of the sads.

After all, the letter explains that my household, which Nielsen characterizes as “unique,” “may receive cash rewards or check rewards” for participation. I’m not sure what a check reward is, but to thank me for doing something as simple as opening an envelope, Nielsen enclosed a crisp one dollar bill.

Due to such generosity and a decades-long dream, I really don’t want to let Nielsen down, especially since he and/or she addressed the letter to “Dear Area Household.”

Talk about a personal touch!

But I can’t exaggerate my TV viewing or outright lie about listening to the radio. I’m fairly certain that doing so would constitute a bigger scandal than bragging.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A raccoon’s lifetime — August 21, 2019

A raccoon’s lifetime

Last week, police in a Florida town responded to a call at a school to find a raccoon trapped in a vending machine.

The photos that accompanied this breaking news, especially the one that showed the varmint with his/her head resting between bags of gummies, elicited an, “Ahh,” from me. And then I remembered that raccoons are disease-ridden, potential assassins.

Of course, it’s not that I dislike raccoons. In fact, as long as they’re not bothering me and mine, I mean them no ill will. After all, except for spreading rabies, roundworm, salmonella, and whatever giardiasis and leptospirosis are, I’m sure they also serve a positive purpose in the animal kingdom. But it’s been my experience that they’re not nearly as cuddly as they appear.

Then again, the only raccoon with whom I’ve been in close contact was in a cage. So, that could have accounted for the animal viciously baring its teeth and lunging toward me all the while snarling and hissing. This aggressive behavior convinced me that, if the raccoon were to break free, it would sink its sharp teeth and/or even sharper claws into my exposed jugular. (By the way, the animal was freed – far, far away from me – without injury to him/her or anyone else.)

This experience represents only one reason I’m apprehensive about raccoons. According to my late father, a raccoon slit the throat of one of his dogs. Now you know why I was so concerned for the safety of my jugular. (In an unrelated story, Daddy also told me about the time a fox bit the toe of another dog, which might or might not have belonged to my uncle. Yes, he used the word “toe.” And, yes, bad things apparently happened when the brothers Goff’s dogs encountered wild critters.)

As far as I know, the masked bandit who broke into the vending machine didn’t slit any throats, bite any toes, or give anyone rabies, roundworm, salmonella, and whatever giardiasis and leptospirosis are. Although none of the stories I read explained how the varmint gained access to the school or the vending machine, the reports did explain that authorities loaded the snack machine on a dolly, wheeled it outdoors, and released the animal on his/her own recognizance. I only hope he/she grabbed some Pop Tarts and potato chips for later.

See, I told you that I mean the disease-ridden, potential assassins no ill will.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

To the last drop — August 14, 2019

To the last drop

I haven’t felt my best the past few days. Due to my symptoms – runny nose, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip, head pain, itchy and scratchy throat, congestion, general malaise – the culprit could be allergies, the sinus, or a cold.

In an attempt to ward off whatever it is, I’ve been taking the generic equivalent of liquid Mucinex. Trust me. It tastes just as good as its brand name equivalent.

Indeed, when I take my dose of liquid goodness from the handy little measuring cup that’s included with the miracle medicine, I make sure I enjoy every drop. After initially chugging it, I tilt my head, hold the dosing cup above said head, and let the last of the medicine drip into my grateful mouth.

While I’m not prepared to say the taste of liquid mucus medicine, generic or otherwise, makes feeling unwell worth it, I am prepared to say it helps knowing that I get to chug that dosing cup every four hours.

Of course, long-time readers might recall that I’ve previously mentioned a fondness for cough syrup. So, they shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I also have a penchant for liquid (generic) Mucinex. (By the way, if I’m ever forced to choose between the two, I’m picking cough syrup.)

But what surprises me is that more people don’t enjoy liquid medicine. Upon learning that I do, some folks have recoiled in horror and all but puked on my shoes. While making Mr. Yuk faces, one friend negatively compared such medicines to the liquid antibiotics we took as a child.

Gasping, I said, “I loved the pink – or was it light orange? – stuff.”

As my friend continued to be horrified, I explained that as a wee lass, I would pick off the crusty remnants of the pink – or light orange – medicine that gathered around the top of the bottle. And, yes, I would then eat said crusty remnants.

Those were the days.

If you think I’m some sort of freak for having picked off – and ingested – crustified medicine from the side of a bottle, you should know that I seem to have inherited a taste for liquid medications. According to my mom, when she was a wee lass, she would sneak and drink Pepto-Bismol.

The last time I tried it, Pepto made me gag. But since we’re on the subject of antacids, I do enjoy an occasional dose of the generic equivalent of liquid Mylanta.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Bowled over — August 7, 2019

Bowled over

The one thing you need to keep in mind as you read this is that I am not a hoarder.

With that out of the way, you should also know that my cupboard is stocked with more than a dozen take-out salad bowls from such restaurants as Wendy’s and Panera and at least a half dozen plastic cups from the Double Kwik.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, I reckoned she’d be too cheap to eat and/or drink from such fancy establishments. I’m kinda disappointed in her.”

I know how you feel. I’m disappointed in myself every time I order a tasty salad or pour myself a refreshing fountain drink. But I have to do something with all that change I pick up from various floors and parking lots. What’s more, keeping the bowls and cups allows me to re-use them.

For example, on the occasion of my recent Fourth of July Jubilee, I served my grateful guests drinks in the Double Kwik cups. Afterward, I washed the cups and returned them to the cupboard.

Of course, if my guests are reading this, they might be saying to themselves, “Selves, why didn’t she mention those plastic salad bowls when we were rummaging through her cupboards for Cool Whip bowls? We had to wrap up leftovers in paper towels.”

Well, I forgot about the existence of said bowls until I decided to make salads for my lunch. I don’t eat Cool Whip and, thus, do not have a cupboard filled with the hillbilly Tupperware, so I couldn’t figure out how I would transport the salads to work. Thankfully, whilst cleaning my kitchen, I spied the dozen or so salad bowls resting on the top shelf of my cupboard. Smiling, I retrieved four bowls and made enough salads for dern-near an entire week’s worth of lunch.

In case you’re wondering, the salads were my version of Panera’s strawberry poppy seed salad. However, after comparing the price of fresh berries with the price of frozen fruit, I settled for the frozen variety. Sure, this had a less tasty impact on the salads and rendered them a tad runny, but there’s only so much change lying on the ground.

Anyway, after eating the salads, I washed the bowls and put them back in the cupboard. There they will remain until I once again recall their existence or until my future Fourth of July Jubilee guests use them to transport leftovers.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Nothing is free — July 30, 2019

Nothing is free

This summer, Mountain Dew has been, according to the company’s website, “celebrating how fans in every single state get out and do,” by issuing bottles “inspired” by each of the 50 states. In addition to learning “what makes each state bold,” finding all 50 bottles will score you a $100 prepaid gift card.

Although this promotion started June 3 – and ends Aug. 10 – I didn’t learn of its existence until the other day. Considering that I’ve been subjected to just one sip of Mountain Dew during my existence, which happened when I accidentally sipped from a friend’s cup, my ignorance of their marketing campaign is not surprising.

What is surprising – at least to me – is that the company is awarding successful bottle hunters with only a $100 gift card.

I know that characterizing it as only $100 might sound a tad ironic coming from someone who keeps her eyes on the ground to spot dropped change. But the change I pocket is free money. Winners of this Mountain Dew contest will have to expend time, money, and effort to bag those gift cards.

Firstly, they’ll have to spend money to buy said bottles. They can get a six-pack of Mountain Dew at the Supercenter for approximately $2.88, plus tax. Assuming every six pack contains a different bottle, they’d still have to buy nine packs, at a cost of $25.92 plus tax, to accumulate all 50 bottles.

Sure, their return on investment would be more than $70, but that’s a best case scenario. Do we really think that someone will be able to find 50 different bottles in the first 50 they buy? Besides, if they’re buying single bottles, they can expect to spend more than $25.92, plus tax.

Secondly, and I think this is the most important point, they’re going to have to drink at least 50 bottles of Mountain Dew to bag those gift cards.

I might drink one bottle of Mountain Dew if you offered me a crisp $100 bill to do so. But at least 50 bottles that I had to purchase with my own money? I don’t think so.

Of course, I’m viewing this from the taste buds of someone who doesn’t do the Dew. If my favorite generic brand of oatmeal or dern-near any brand of plain potato chips had a similar promotion, I’d be skipping down the halls as I contemplated how to spend that gift card. So, if Mountain Dew fans were going to buy the product anyway, then I guess it is like free money for them.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Melt with you — July 10, 2019

Melt with you

This year for my annual Fourth of July Jubilee, I decided to surprise my guests with red, white, and blue strawberries. No, I’m not genetically engineering blue and white strawberries in my basement laboratory. But I am capable of melting almond bark.

At least I thought I was.

I spent the day before my jubilee readying for the event and debating with myself vis-a-vis whether I should dip the strawberries ahead of time or wait until my guests were knocking on the door. In the negative column for dipping them a day I early I noted that dipped strawberries tend to gather moisture overnight. But in the positive column I listed all the tasks I would need to complete before my guests knocked on the door. So, I took a chance, melted the almond bark, and commenced to dipping the berries.

At first, everything went swimmingly. Sure, I had to reheat the almond bark after lumps materialized, but it was worth the effort. Indeed, the contrast of the white almond bark on the red berries nearly blinded me, and I couldn’t wait to behold the strawberries in their full patriotic glory.

I would have to wait, however, until the white-dipped strawberries dried. In the meantime, I frosted cupcakes. Then, upon returning my attention to the strawberries, I melted more vanilla bark, which I tinted with blue gel coloring.

You might recall that I previously shared the saga of my disastrous attempt to melt white chocolate. As I would learn all those months ago, white chocolate does not easily melt. Instead, it seizes. As I would learn last week, almond bark does not easily accept coloring. Instead, it seizes. And by seizes, I mean it forms into clumps that, I imagine, would resemble mashed potatoes if the cook had forgotten to add butter and milk.

Looking back, I should have been suspicious when the recipes I reviewed suggested using tinted baking melts instead of almond bark. Yet, I said to myself, “Self, you don’t need baking melts. Just use the almond bark and blue gel coloring in your pantry and call it good.”

No one could describe that blue-colored blob in my mixing bowl as good looking.

It was late and I was tired. So, I put the white-dipped strawberries in a secure location. The next morning, I made an emergency trip to the metropolis and purchased a bag of navy blue baking melts.

The resulting red, white, and blue strawberries filled me with a patriotism I hadn’t felt since the American men’s swimming team chased down the French to win the 4X100 freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics. Sure, the strawberries had retained some moisture overnight, but that didn’t affect the taste. Just ask my guests, who gobbled up so many so fast that I considered making an emergency trip to the metropolis to buy more berries.

By the way, my subsequent research indicates that liquids cause almond bark to seize. It is recommended that you use paste or powder to tint it. Considering my history, I’ll stick with baking melts.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Good gravy — July 3, 2019

Good gravy

For the past two weeks, I have won the “most holler” superlative from my co-workers. As this is a new award, I’m also the first recipient. I won the title the first week because, among my colleagues, I was the only one who had eaten squirrel and squirrel gravy. I won it in week two because I was the only one who had eaten red-eye gravy.

At this point, you must be simultaneously wondering: 1) how this came up in conversation; 2) how a picky eater such as myself could ever knowingly consume squirrel; 3) how I found myself – in Eastern Kentucky, no less – surrounded by people who have never eaten squirrel and/or red-eye; and 4) how I intend to defend my title.

  1. Although I took part in the conversations, I can’t recall how we meandered to gravy-related topics. I can recall that these dishes were discussed over meals, so it’s not like we were pontificating on the nutritional value of flying rats and coffee-flavored grease whilst we were supposed to be working.
  2. My mom and siblings can confirm that I’ve always been a picky eater. No matter how many times I was informed that I would have to remain at the table until I cleaned my plate, the likes of tater-do, kraut, and beets remained on said plate whilst I scampered away to play with my paper dolls or Barbie Dreamhouse. (Spoiler alert: I am not currently sitting at that table, so take it from me, they’ll eventually let you up.) Anyway, I can’t remember how squirrel tasted. But I can remember that, as I got older, I lost interest in the stringy meat and I found myself needing to douse it with more and more gravy in order to make it palatable.
  3. The fact that my colleagues hadn’t eaten squirrel and/or red-eye didn’t surprise me, but I was surprised that a few of them had never even heard of red-eye. They listened with wonder as it was explained that red-eye is culled from the drippings of breakfast ham and mixed with coffee. I, in turn, wondered how these people I thought I knew could have gotten this far in life without so much as an accidental introduction to red-eye.
  4. I haven’t decided, but it might involve wading mud holes and counting bug bites.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Pick a number — June 26, 2019

Pick a number

From time-to-time, a picky eater test shows up on my Facebook feed. As the name suggests, the test attempts to determine if you’re a picky eater by listing 66 assorted foods and condiments and then assigning you one point for everything on the list that you will not eat.

The test didn’t require me to do anything but read and count, so I thought it would be fun to take part. So, after perusing the list and consulting my abacus, I arrived at a score of 33. As I’m known for being something of a picky eater, I congratulated myself on not scoring in the high 50s. Indeed, a score of 33 meant that I’ll eat half the assorted foods and condiments on the list, so I felt pretty good.

But then I had to go and read the comments. (Word of advice: It’s never a good idea to read the comments.) Thus, I subjected myself to the boasts of smarty-pants posters who scored only five or six.

As if eating vinegar is anything to brag about.

Speaking of vinegar…I question its inclusion on the list. After all, does anybody actually sit down with a spoon and eat a bowl of vinegar? I do not, so I gave myself a point for having the good sense not to eat something I use to clean my floors. But I’m sure I’ve knowingly and unknowingly eaten foods that contain vinegar and will probably do so again. So, should I have given myself only half a point?

And what about peas, grapes, and raisins? I won’t eat any of these as stand-alone items, but they each add an edible flavor to certain soups, salads, and oatmeal. So, should they count or, in this case, not count?

And what about coconut? I’ve never had the occasion to turn up my nose at actual coconut, but I do enjoy coconut-enhanced treats including Girl Scout cookies, Mallo Cups, and piña coladas.

And what about sourdough bread? I counted it among the foods I will not eat, but that’s because my only interaction with the bread didn’t go well. What if I got hold of some bad bread? What if it’s not normal to need to take 14 sips of water for every teensy bite of sourdough bread so that you can avoid choking to death?

And what about tomatoes? I won’t eat them, but I will eat tomato basil soup and tomato-based sauces.

The more I think about this test, the more I think I’ve sold myself short by counting too high. If I deduct the aforementioned foods, I could easily be in the 20s. As long as I avoid reading the comments, that won’t make me seem too picky at all.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.