Picture this — January 27, 2021

Picture this

Before Christmas, my family asked what I had included in my letter to Santa. I answered that I had told Santa I’m a simple woman who wants nothing more than for her loved ones to be happy and healthy.

After they picked their eyes up from where they had rolled onto the floor, my family members said, “For reals, what do you want?”

I told them that other than a laptop, I couldn’t think of anything I needed.

And that’s when it started. Apparently, during visits to my house, certain family members had been compiling mental lists of items they felt needed replacing. Picture frames held the top spot on that list.

I had to admit that one picture frame had seen better days. Although I had used copious amounts of scotch tape in an attempt to keep it together, one side would not stay attached to the frame.

“Okay,” said I. “I’ll put a picture frame on my list.”

“Oh, you’re so funny,” my loved ones said as they went through my picture frames, one by one, making little strikes on a piece of paper for each frame they felt needed replacing. When I tried to protest, they shushed me.

So, when we gathered after Christmas to open presents, I wasn’t surprised that I received five fancy new picture frames. I was surprised that, when I finally got around to displaying the frames last week – don’t judge my procrastination! I’ve been busy not completing other items on my to-do list! – I realized my family had been right. Multiple frames were held together – and I use those words loosely – by tape.

In some instances, I had also taped the photos to the frames and then wrapped additional tape around the back of the frames to, again, hold the whole thing together. I had wondered how my loved ones had been able to spot the flaws in the frames. Upon closer inspection, I wondered how the frames had not disintegrated whenever anyone picked them up or even walked by them.

Still, tossing the damaged frames into the trash represented a bittersweet moment. While I don’t remember the day I purchased the frames, I do remember the happiness I felt when I saw the price tags.

“Wow,” I recall saying to self, “these gold- and silver-plated beauties are only a dollar each.”

In retrospect, maybe that’s why copious amounts of tape were required to keep the sides attached to the frames.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Kicked the buckets — January 20, 2021

Kicked the buckets

You know how sometimes you’ll make a discovery or a decision and you’ll wonder why you didn’t make this life-changing move earlier in your life? That happened to me recently when I decided to remove buckets from my refrigerator freezer.

As you might have expected, this started with Christmas presents I purchased for my mom. Since I never know what to buy her, I give her, in part, frozen food for Christmas. Between the time I purchase said food and the time I present her with the presents, which I do not wrap, I store the food in my freezer.

In normal times, that’s never been a problem. But in 2020, I hoarded additional meats, vegetables, and other assorted frozen foods of my own, so I didn’t have as much space in the freezer. So, I removed the bucket – at least that’s what I call it – attached to the ice machine. After all, I have never used the ice machine and am unsure if it even works.

Although I removed the ice machine’s bucket, I still needed space. Thus, I removed the bigger bucket located at the bottom of the freezer. Honestly, it’s been a pain in my expletive for years. If you so much as whisper in its direction, it becomes dislodged and then rocks back and forth on the attached rails (at least that’s what I call them). It then takes hours to properly align the bucket on the rails.

Anyway, after I removed the frozen food aka presents, I made a move to return the buckets to their homes in the freezer. But when I opened the door to do so, I said to myself, “Self, look how uncluttered this freezer looks without those bulky buckets.”

But that left me with a new decision to make – what to do with the buckets. Throwing them out was never an option. In fact, last year I replaced my aged mop bucket. No, I did not win the lottery. But the mop bucket had grown stained and, frankly, no matter how much disinfectant I used, I couldn’t rid it of that mop bucket smell.

When I replaced it, I did not toss it in the trash. I tossed it in the garage, where it remains atop an old trash can. I considered relegating the freezer buckets to a new home in the garage, but ultimately decided to place them atop the cabinets in the laundry section of my home. After all, one never knows when one might need a bucket or three.

But not in a freezer. They’re not needed in there.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Come on down — January 13, 2021

Come on down

Well, 2021 is off to a terrible start, but one good thing has occurred this year. I’ve learned that Pluto TV now has a channel devoted to the 1980’s Bob Barker era of The Price Is Right.

You might have some questions, including what the expletive is Pluto TV and how do I access it?

I researched the Internets to find a good description of Pluto TV, but I found the explanations sorely lacking. Here’s the best that I can do. If you can access the likes of Netflix and Hulu, then you can add Pluto to your buffet of platforms. It’s free, offers live TV-ish, and has oodles of channels. Don’t ask me how to add it or you’ll end up in Denmark. Instead, ask a loved one or a neighbor or that pesky feller who keeps offering to upgrade your car warranty.

Anyway, Pluto added TPIR on Dec. 1, but I didn’t learn of its existence until Jan. 1, which means I missed the holiday marathon. (Fun fact, as a wee lass, I thought the TPIR anagram stood for trip. I also thought announcer Johnny Olson was saying cars came equipped with California ignition instead of emission. Yes, even as a child, I was a candidate for a think tank.)

Many of the episodes haven’t been seen since they aired back in the ’80s and, during my down time, I do my best to make sure I watch as many as possible. It reminds me of when my family first got the MTV. My siblings and I tried to watch the channel around-the-clock, as if we expected it to disappear if we turned off the TV.

That’s me and TPIR on Pluto. There are so many aspects of the ‘80s episodes I had forgotten. These include the train, a few of the retired games, and the fact that women didn’t wear much clothing back in the day. I also wince at some of the remarks Bob Barker makes to the female contestants and models, who were known as Barker’s Beauties.

But I’ll give the man his due. He brought energy and pizazz to every single episode and never acted like he was too good or too cool for the show. Other game show hosts act(ed) like they’d been lobotomized, but not Barker (or the recently departed Alex Trebek). Barker maintained a repartee with the contestants and the studio audience that was fun to experience.

Another fun fact: whilst watching my first Pluto episode, I wondered in what year it was set. So, I studied the skimpy clothing, the hairstyles, and the TPIR merchandise and decided on 1982. Then, I watched the credits to see if I was right.

I was.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because the showcase showdown is starting.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The best of the bless — January 6, 2021

The best of the bless

For the past several years, I’ve been writing a blessing on a scrap of paper each week, placing said blessing in a popcorn tin, and then reviewing the year’s blessings at the beginning of the following year.

I’m going to give it to you straight – I dreaded reviewing 2020’s blessings. I figured the year would be filled with variations of “survived another week without contracting the corona.”

Surprisingly, there was nary a mention of COVID-19 amongst the blessings. Indeed, the year started strong with four blessings in week one – we made my great-nephew laugh until he snorted; I watched The Mandalorian and Schitt’s Creek; and the New England Patriots lost in the playoffs.

Actually, the NFL made multiple appearances in my blessings tin. I counted the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl win as the week four blessing, which raised my eyebrows because I had already located a week four blessing in the tin. Oh, well. I had obviously made a mistake and written week four on the scrap of paper when I should have written five.

That’s not the only NFL-related mistake I made. Later, in week 38, I listed the NFL’s season start as a blessing. Then, I listed it again in week 39. Apparently, I really needed some football in my life.

While reviewing scraps of paper, I also saw the words “scripts and shots.” As I scribble the blessings on the backs of envelopes or shopping lists, I supposed I was looking at a note to self. But, no, the words were under a week 36 header. Then I remembered. Boy, did I remember.

There was also the week my blessing consisted of “nuggets and mashed potatoes; yep, that’s it” and another one that comprised “nine hours of sleep.” I’m unsure if I received nine hours of sleep the night before I recorded the blessing or nine hours of sleep the entire week.

And there was the week my sisters, niece, and I traveled to Ashland to take in the Winter Wonderland of Lights. Due to the corona, we masked up as we took in the dazzling display. It was a chilly night and my glasses kept fogging up. At times, I couldn’t see anything, so I literally bent at the waist and felt around in front of me so as not to walk into a tree or a person.

When we weren’t around humans, I removed my mask so that I could actually look at the lights. (Yes, you read that right.) At one point, we had to walk across a bridge that spanned a pond. I didn’t want to fall into cold water. What I really wanted was for my loved ones to lead me over the bridge, but they had forsaken me. When I removed my mask to look for them (again, you read that right), I saw a woman pull her son to her chest. I can only assume she assumed I was intoxicated, and she didn’t want her child near a lunatic who was under the influence.

I also saw my loved ones. All three were doubled over, but not because they were lost in the dark. It’s because they were laughing out loud at me. They had assumed I was having a seizure and they found the spectacle hilarious.

Still, that was the best thing to happen to me that week.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Soap gets in your mind — December 30, 2020

Soap gets in your mind

During normal times, I take down my tree and the other holiday decorations the day after Christmas. As of this writing, however, my family has not celebrated Christmas. What’s more, I’ve enjoyed taking in the tree against the backdrop of the snow that continues to blanket my yard. So, for now, the decorations shall remain within my view and not hidden in a closet.

Anyway, my decision to wait a few days to un-decorate has led my mind to one obvious location – soap operas.

Although I no longer watch soaps, I, like most people who were raised right, grew up watching stories, as they were known to some. Thus, every year at the holidays, I was flabbergasted by how the characters waited until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees. (I was also flabbergasted by how they wrapped presents. They wrapped the top of the box and the bottom, but not the entire present together. So, this meant that characters simply lifted the tops of the boxes to reveal their gifts. It seemed like a waste of dramatic effect to me.)

Back to the subject at hand – procrastinating until Christmas Eve to trim the tree. If you were/are a Days of Our Lives’ viewer, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, once they gather together on Christmas Eve, the Hortons decorate the tree with ornaments bearing their names. It’s a tradition. What’s she got against traditions?”

Nothing. And while I might be persuaded to grant you the Hortons’ tradition, what about all the other families on Days and the other soaps? Trust me, at one point I tried them all, so I can safely say that the lot of them wait until Christmas Eve. I know they’re busy having affairs and plotting revenge and world domination, but you’d think at least one or two of them could squeeze in a few hours to decorate a tree. Or, I don’t know, have a servant complete the task.

Because decorating takes time. One of the reasons I do it around Thanksgiving is because I’m not expending all that effort to create a masterpiece that will disappear in two days.

Speaking of masterpieces…once my mind settled on soaps, it also started thinking about how the genre’s villains tend to have giant portraits of themselves in their homes. I’m not sure if they commission these portraits or if they’re gifts from minions or family members who don’t know what else to give a super villain for birthdays and Christmas.

I do know that there’s a present adjacent to my mom’s tree – it can’t fit underneath – that could be a portrait. Although I usually avoid mirrors and likenesses of myself, I won’t be disappointed if a loved one has commissioned a giant portrait of me. I’ll keep you posted.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No time like the present — December 23, 2020

No time like the present

This is the first post I’ve penned on an actual computer since July.

Allow me to explain.

On a sultry summer Sunday evening, I was putting the finishing touches on a post when my aged laptop quit working. I figured the ole girl needed a break and would be up and running at suboptimal speed within hours.

That didn’t happen. Indeed, she wasn’t up and running at any speed days later.

I considered sending her in for repairs, but an IT expert/friend of a friend advised that it would be more cost effective for me to replace her.

As I appreciate the words “cost effective,” I did a quick search, saw that my preferred company had laptops on sale and planned to order one the next day.

The sale ended before I could place the order, because of course it did.

With no plans to pay full price, I decided to wait for the next sale. But what to do in the interim? How could I pen a post for my dear readers without a computer?

Well, for a few weeks, I used what amounted to a loaner. But I felt like I was taking advantage of the lender. So, then I started penning these-here posts on my iPad.

If you’ve never written anything on a pad or a tablet, imagine sending a 400-plus word text on your phone. Every week. For months. But that represents the lengths I’ll go to for my dear readers.

Who knows how long I would have made these sacrifices if not for my mom and a Black Friday sale.

Of course, at first, I did not react well to my mom’s generous offer to buy me a laptop for Christmas. I think I asked rhetorically, “Do you know how much laptops cost?”

To which she retorted, “No, because you won’t tell me.”

Our heated exchange might have also included her telling me she would spend her money however she expletive well felt like spending it.

Anyway, I consulted my preferred company’s Black Friday sales page, retrieved my abacus, and deduced that, at the sale price, she wouldn’t be dropping an obscene amount of money on me. After all, it’s not like I had my eye on a model that would allow me to play video games or launch rockets. So, I told her I would give her permission to buy me a laptop. She might have rolled her eyes.

No, it’s not yet Christmas. Yes, I am already using the laptop.

This has caused a minor controversy between us. My mom is concerned because I won’t have a gift to open from her. But I opened the box when it came to my house, so that counts, right? Besides, if she wrapped the laptop, that would constitute wasting wrapping paper and tape, which is not cost effective.

Happy Holidays!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Made the moist of it — December 16, 2020

Made the moist of it

fruitcakeAlthough I’m not a fan of fruitcake, except for an occasional nibble of the crust, when my sister asked me a couple years ago if I’d like to make one, I said, “Yeah.” Then, last year, when she asked if I wanted to make one soaked in booze, I said, “Expletive yeah.”

So, last year, we soaked the candied fruit in brandy before preparing the cake and then, after the cake had been baked, we brushed it with more brandy. (We also made the cake a little water bed so it could benefit from even more moisture as it baked.)

All that liquid must have worked because the cake was characterized as “moist” by its adoring fans. This year, we purchased more booze and once again soaked the candied fruit in brandy. By the way, it’s been my experience that you meet some of the nicest and best looking people at liquor stores.

Anyway, if my memory is correct, last year we allowed the candied fruit to ferment overnight. This year, they soaked for several days and nights. You might want to file that tidbit away for later.

The day finally arrived and we gathered in my kitchen and prepared the cake, once again making a little water bed in the pan. With the cake safely baking in the oven, my sister left. As she made her leave, she told me to call if I needed her. I rolled my eyes until they fell out my head. After all, what kind of idiot needs help removing a cake from the oven?

It takes approximately 17 hours for a fruitcake to thoroughly bake. I walked on the treadmill, took a shower, and read War and Peace whilst it baked. (One of those is a fib.) When the skewer I inserted into the cake came out clean, I removed the cake. See, any idiot can remove a cake from the oven.

After letting it sit and settle for a bit, I attempted to transfer the cake from the pan and to a plate.

Note the use of the word “attempted.”

As soon as I touched it, it started to crumble and come apart.

I grabbed the phone, called my sister, and said, “I need you.”

Seconds later, my sister and niece arrived, announcing they had used the car’s emergency flashers. After she washed her hands for 40 seconds, my sister and I attempted to move the cake.

It seems we had made a fruitcake so moist and soaked with booze that it was stuck to the pan and the wax paper. (Yes, smarty pants, we had used generous amounts of cooking spray.) Despite our repeated efforts, the cake would hardly move and when it did move, it was like watching the ground during an earthquake.

Finally, my niece said, “Why don’t you cut it into pieces and then move it?”

My sister and I, who had been bickering over how long we had soaked the candied fruit last year, looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we do that?”

So, I grabbed a meat cleaver and we did just that.

Oh, I’ve nibbled on the fruitcake’s crust and, at the sake of bragging, it’s quite tasty. And moist. And boozy.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Deliver the goods — December 9, 2020

Deliver the goods

A couple weeks ago, I was in my house, working remotely and minding my own business, when I noticed a car pull up beside my mailbox. It wasn’t the mail person or a car that was familiar to me, so I paid attention.

A few days prior, I had put out some “trash” that solid waste hadn’t picked up. When the driver of the mystery car exited the vehicle, I hoped he planned to turn my trash into his treasure because that would have kept me from having to figure out what to do with it.

Instead, he pulled a box from his car, strolled up my driveway, and deposited the box on my porch.

I said to myself, “Self, what the expletive?”

Granted, I had placed an order for my mom, but I’m not used to packages being delivered in random automobiles. Thus, I consulted my sisters and nieces. The conversation went “something” like this.

“Guys, a man in a (color redacted) car that looked like an old school Monte Carlo just dropped off a package on my porch. Does that seem right?”

“What’s a Monte Carlo?” asked a niece

“It was a car,” said I.

“Would they still be on the road?” asked a sister. “I don’t think they’ve made them in decades.”

“I said it looked like a Monte Carlo.”

“Do you mean Monte Carlo like the city in Europe?” asked a niece.

“Yeah, like where Princess Grace lived,” said a sister.

“Who is Princess Grace?” asked a niece.

“What kind of nonsense is this?! Princess Grace was a legend!” wailed I. “I’m going to disown you heatherns, but first, will someone please answer my question about people in random cars delivering packages.”

“Oh, that’s normal,” answered a niece. “You never know what kind of car or who will deliver your packages.”

Huh. Although I have been fortunate to work from home since March, I haven’t noticed a difference in delivery services because it’s not like I frequently utilize their services. Indeed, since March, I can count on one hand the times I’ve had packages too large to fit inside my mailbox delivered. And I’d still have at least two fingers remaining.

’Tis the season to place orders, however, and the man in a (color redacted) car that looks like an old school Monte Carlo has made a couple additional trips to my porch.

Unfortunately, the trash remains beside the mailbox because I still haven’t figured out what to do with it.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Worth the wait — December 2, 2020

Worth the wait

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, we decorated our Christmas tree with store-bought baubles as well as ornaments made by my mom and older siblings. Unfortunately, most of these hand-crafted ornaments fell victim to the 1984 flood that also ruined the greatest Christmas present ever aka the Barbie Dreamhouse.

My mom would occasionally mention the ornaments, saying she would love to find kits so that she could replace her lost ornaments. The loss of one ornament in particular bothered me the most. According to my memory, the ornament featured figures frolicking on a snowy scene set against a three-sided mirror.

We had no way of knowing in 1984 that an invention called the Internets would change our lives or that in 1995 an Iranian-American would create a website, eBay, that would allow people to buy used stuff from strangers.

I made my first eBay purchase in 2001. So, I’m guessing it was around that time that I started searching for the ornaments. I didn’t search every day or even every week or every month. But every now and then, working from my scattered memory, I’d look for those ornaments, especially the one featuring a snowy scene set against a three-sided mirror.

And for 19 years, I had no luck.

Until this September.

Of course, when I saw the price of the ornament featuring what I realized was a snowy scene set against three separate square mirrors, my first instinct was to close the browser. But you don’t walk away after 19, no make that 36, years. I sent a picture of the ornament to my sisters and when they confirmed that my memory was correct, I placed the order.

When the package arrived, I took it to my mom’s and we opened it together. The eBay seller had advised that the glue would be dried, so I had already purchased a tube of craft glue.

It quickly became apparent that we would also need to replace those oft-mentioned mirrors. Indeed, it was actually cheaper for me to order 100 square mirrors than to buy a can of spray paint to repair the other mirrors. By the way, the mirrors came packaged like small sleeves of crackers. As I figured they’d be tossed into a Ziploc bag and then thrown into an envelope, that came as a surprise.

With the excessive amount of mirrors in hand, Mom and I set to work on the ornament. We don’t share the same work style or speed, but we managed to complete the task without engaging in too many squabbles and without stabbing each other. I think the fumes from the glue helped keep us somewhat mellow.

ornamentOur efforts were so successful — and we have so many, many mirrors — that we’re planning to purchase additional materials and make more ornaments. As for our first creation, it has a prominent spot on her Christmas tree, surrounded by store-bought baubles and other hand-crafted ornaments.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

With gratitude — November 25, 2020

With gratitude

Usually, at this time of year, I pen a post comprising a list of people, places and things for which I am thankful. For various and sundry reasons that shall remain secret, I’m not feeling that particular post this year.

Instead, I’m choosing the following days from a social media 30 days of gratitude challenge as prompts for this-here Thanksgiving post:

  • My guilty pleasure. I’m not sure why this is included on the list. For starters, if doing something makes you feel guilty, you shouldn’t be doing it. But people apply the guilty pleasure tag to, among other things, silly TV shows or trashy books. I’ll make it simple — you shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying those pastimes. You can express your gratitude to me for absolving you of this guilt.
  • Something positive about my body. A few years ago, whilst in a hotel gym, I decided to start lifting weights. Do not misunderstand. I am in no danger of becoming a competitive weightlifter. I started small and have not advanced to large dumbbells. But I continue to lift my weights and, at my advanced age, I’ve developed muscles. A year ago, I impressed an older gentleman in the Superstore by easily hefting a flat of water. The other day, I shocked my family by using my upper and lower body weight to snap a board. Make no mistake. These feats might not have impressed you. But I am not in competition with you, just as you are not in competition with me. You can express your gratitude to me for helping you develop a positive body image.
  • A compliment that made me feel good. A couple friends are going through, well, what’s worse than a rough patch? A rough garden? A rough forest? They can’t seem to catch a good break, so I told another friend that I wished there was something I could do for them. He said I was probably doing more than I thought. He added that I had helped him through a recent rough patch simply by being there. I don’t share this so you’ll view me as an awesome friend. (Which I obviously am.) Instead, it’s a reminder that sometimes, people just need to know someone is on their team and there to listen. You can express your gratitude to me for reminding you that you’re also doing more than you think.

Well, that’s about all the prompting I can handle for one day. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.