A mask gathering — April 15, 2020

A mask gathering

In case you haven’t heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends we wear face coverings when we go to the store for sundries and supplies. Of course, we shouldn’t be wearing hospital-grade personal protective equipment (PPE). Indeed, if you have any PPE, might I suggest you donate it to a hospital or a long-term health care facility.

There are oodles of tutorials that demonstrate how to make cloth masks. I needed to run to the grocery for provisions, so I watched a tutorial that a friend shared. It’s fairly basic and involves putting elastic hair ties on each end on a strip of cloth (e.g. a handkerchief or bandanna), fitting one end of the cloth into the other, and then placing the mask around your face and the hair ties over your ears.

After retrieving a lovely blue scarf from my bureau, I attempted to make a mask. I wouldn’t describe my effort as an abject failure, but it certainly fell short of success. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t fit one end into the other, so I wrapped the scarf around the lower half of my face and tied it to my hair with an elastic hair band.

These days, no trip to the grocery store is complete without a pair of gloves or, in a pinch, a pair of old socks slipped over your hands. I know that some people advise not to wear gloves because of cross-contamination. That is, if you grab a bag of chips and then a pack of candy, you’re contaminating the candy with the chips’ germs. But wouldn’t your bare hands contaminate them as well?

Regardless, I’ve been wearing gloves for more than a month. And during my three most recent trips to the store(s), I’ve worn the plastic gloves I used a few weeks ago to color my hair. After each use, I’ve washed the gloves. I’m not an infectious disease expert, however, so please do not adopt my practices as your own.

92505799_684244409007070_168426468202774528_nSo, with half my head covered by a makeshift mask and my hands covered with hair-coloring gloves, I went shopping. I’m happy to report that most of my fellow shoppers were also donning masks. Of course, I was the only one who looked like she was fixing to rob a stagecoach.

What’s more, since my mask wasn’t firmly attached to my head, it kept trying to slide down my face. So, I kept pushing the mask up my face, no doubt contaminating the outside of said mask with various germs the gloves had picked up in the store. Fortunately, the mask never succeeded in sliding off my face. Unfortunately, a hole materialized in the gloves just as I finished shopping.

No worries, though. I’m sure I’ll need to color my hair again soon.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Tulip fever — April 8, 2020

Tulip fever

For the most part, I’ve never been the type of gal who cultivates flowers. Sure, I bought a few hanging baskets the first spring I lived in my house, but that experience confirmed what I had always suspected about flowers – that you expend time, money and energy toward something that lives for only a few weeks.

92282445_217515545999820_4288322135484530688_nWhat’s more, unless the flowers reside outside a window, you can’t enjoy their beauty. So, for that reason and others, I decided it was easier to enjoy my neighbors’ flowers than to go to the trouble of planting my own. (Yes, this philosophy also applies to exterior Christmas decorations.)

But after my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff, died, I decided to plant a wildflower garden in her memory. The garden, which also honored the lovely and talented Tom Petty, grew in front of my porch and was visible from my living room window.

The wildflower garden didn’t turn out to be as magnificent as I had hoped. In fact, a guest remarked that my flower garden resembled a marijuana patch. So, I pulled up the weeds, which left a rectangle of dirt enclosed by decorative edging.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the trouble I’d gone through to obtain those decorative edges, I might have grown a garden of dirt. But I remembered the broken nails, bloody knuckles and dozen of trips from the car to the rectangle to transport said edges, and I said to myself, “Self, you’ve always admired the beauty of tulips.”

So, I bought tulips and received tremendous help planting them last fall. Due to our mild winter, I spied the bulbs pushing green leaves through the dirt in late February. Every day, I inspected the garden and noted slight additions. By mid-March, the rectangle was resplendent in yellow, light purple and dark purple tulips.

There’s no other way to put this – I became obsessed with the tulips and momentarily considered planting them throughout my yards. I snapped photos of the tulips from various angles and at various times of the day. I took photos of the tulips in the shade, in the late evening, in the full glory of the sun. I took photos of individual tulips and groups of tulips representing all three stunning colors. I shared so many photos with friends and family and on social media that I probably caused people to say to themselves, “Self, if I see one more expletive picture of those expletive tulips…”

But I knew my time with the tulips was finite and, alas, it is with great regret that I report the tulips are wilting.

Although this expected development has given me a case of the sads, I’m already studying on ways to improve next year’s harvest. I plan to buy more soil as well as additional bulbs to replace the few that didn’t yield this spring. And I have a phone full of photos to remind me of the beauty of this year’s tulips as well as the compliment from a visitor who assumed the near flawless flowers were fake.

Take it from me, that’s much better than hearing that your flowers look like weed(s).

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

That smell — April 1, 2020

That smell

A couple weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen and found Cady, the general of my cat army, staring at the stove as if she expected it to move. I’ve spent enough years with the cat army to realize this behavior typically means a vermin intruder has penetrated the perimeter, so I checked the previous points of entry. I didn’t see any evidence of vermin, though. What’s more, the rags I had stuffed inside holes remained there and my makeshift spackling jobs had held. Nonetheless, I moved the food from the pantry and to the oven, the refrigerator and the microwave.

We went on with our lives and, a few evenings later, I heard a scratching noise underneath the bathtub. The next evening, the cat army and I gathered around the wall between the bathroom and hallway and listened to what sounded like a rhinoceros crawling up the wall. A few nights later, I heard a ruckus that sounded like a crash of rhinos galloping throughout the house.

I didn’t want to interfere, so I returned to slumber. The next morning, I didn’t see evidence of foul play, so I assumed the cats had spent the night engaged in paw-to-paw combat with one another.

That brings us to last weekend. Whilst cleaning, I moved a box so that I could sweep. That’s when I spotted vermin droppings. They were few in number and concentrated in a small area near a corner.

I was perplexed.

I asked myself, “Self, why did the vermin only poo here? And how did it get in?” I returned to previous points of entry, but once again found nothing. But this time I also checked the cabinet above the stove, where I found a few droppings. That made sense because the cabinet was in the general location of the smell…

Oh, wait, I had forgotten to mention the smell that had been offending my nostrils for three or four days. I assumed it was coming from a rhino that had somehow lost its life in the wall behind the stove.

As I had no plans to tear down the wall, I also assumed I would have to live with the smell, which at times took my breath away. And not in a good way. Regardless, I went on with my life, cleaning the cabinet above the stove and stuffing old rags and spackle into holes.

After I cleaned my mess, I attempted to return the stove to his usual locale, but I quickly stopped, backed away from the stove and gasped. The smell overwhelmed me. Apparently, the offensive odor was coming from inside the stove. Specifically, from the top right corner of the back of the stove.

Whatever had died in there wasn’t going to get itself out, so I borrowed a tool from my neighbor and removed the stove’s back panel. When I saw a dead mouse staring at me, I backed away from the stove and gasped.

For moral support, I called to Cady, who quickly joined me in the kitchen. But she gave me a look that suggested she felt the cat army had done their job and now it was my turn.

So, I used napkins and a tool to dislodge the mouse. That’s when I noticed the trail of dried blood. I’ve watched dern-near every episode of “CSI,” so I reconstructed the scene. Apparently, the cat army had corned the mouse, which accounted for the droppings, and then chased it to its death, perhaps even fatally wounding it, on the night of the ruckus.

Either way, the cat army had done their job. So I showered them with praise and treats, and then we held a private service for the mouse.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Half-baked idea — March 24, 2020

Half-baked idea

Due to the coronavirus, I’ve been working from home for a week. And that means I’ve also been lunching from home for a week.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve been required to BMOL (bring my own lunch). Indeed, earlier this month, with the cafeteria closed for spring break, I was responsible for furnishing my midday meals.

For two of those days, I decided to take Red Baron French bread pizza. I discovered the product last year and quickly became a fan of the five cheese and garlic offering. As is their way, however, the stores quit carrying that product soon thereafter.

Alas, life is filled with disappointments, but what matters is how we react to said disappointments. With that in mind, I decided to take a chance on the pepperoni French bread pizza and tossed a box into my shopping cart. I figured I could toss the individual pizzas into the microwave at work and take care of two days’ worth of lunches.

Luckily for me, there was a memory bobbing on the waves of my consciousness, which directed me to check the back of the pizza box. As I read the directions, it all came back to me and I uttered an expletive.

Why? Because there are two ways to prepare the pizzas. The recommended method involves baking the pizzas in an oven for 20 to 23 minutes. The other method involves microwaving the pizzas for one to two minutes and then baking them in an oven for eight to 10 minutes.

Unless you’re so hungry that you’re on the verge of passing out or dying, why would you choose the second method? Either way, you’ll need to use a conventional or toaster oven, so why would you bring the microwave into the relationship? The way I see it, you’d be taking the unnecessary risk of making a mess in the microwave and, as everyone knows, microwaves are dern-near impossible to clean.

The second method also includes an extra step. You’d need to put the pizzas in the microwave and remove them only to then put them in the oven. I’m exhausted even thinking about it.

Clearly, the recommended method represents the only logical way to prepare the pizzas. That’s what I did during spring break. I baked the pizzas one evening and warmed them in the microwave at work for my next two consecutive midday meals.

In spite of the confusing baking directions, I’m happy to describe the pizzas as tasty and filling. In fact, you might have recently seen me standing in my grocer’s freezer so that I could retrieve the last box of said pizzas.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hand to mouth — March 10, 2020

Hand to mouth

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of a worrier. So, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’m devoting most of my current worrying minutes to the coronavirus. Sure, I’ve heard and read that a healthy non-elderly person such as myself should be just fine. But I’ve also heard and read that folks can have the virus yet be symptom free. In other words, I could contract the virus and unknowingly infect scores of unhealthy and/or elderly people.

Although I can’t stop the coronavirus from spreading faster than a rumor at a family reunion, I can take precautions to keep the virus from infecting me. Indeed, that’s why you might have seen me strolling through the Super Dollar with gloves on hands like an extra in a Joan Crawford movie.

I’m also washing my hands with more enthusiasm. This doesn’t mean I’ve just now started practicing good hygiene. It just means that before last week, I squirted the minimum amount of soap on my hands and then rubbed my sort of soapy hands together and under water for approximately three seconds before calling it good.

But since I’ve commenced washing my hands for the amount of time it would take “Free Bird” or in a pinch, “American Pie,” to play, my hands are quickly becoming dry. This, of course, means that I also need to put lotion on my hands more often. Thankfully, I convinced my mom to offer me a bottle of lotion, so now I have enough for home and work.

Unfortunately, though, I have some bad habits that might increase my chances of contracting the coronavirus, or any bug for that matter. I touch my face dozens of times an hour and I rub my eyes scores of times a day. In fact, in the past 45 seconds, I’ve scratched my nose twice and my forehead once and covered my mouth with my hand 14 times. The only reason I haven’t rubbed my eyes is because, now that I’ve written about these habits, I’m super conscious of them and concentrating on not putting hand to face.

I’d like to think that the threat of death would cure me of these habits, but a similar threat hasn’t kept me away from carbs. Regardless, just in case I’m forced to self isolate, I’ve stocked up on supplies. In fact, you might have seen me strolling through the store, with gloves on hands, purchasing chips, candy, and crackers. You know, the essentials.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Sucker punch — March 3, 2020

Sucker punch

Two separate conversations I’ve had with two different sets of people in two different locations over the course of the last two weeks have gone something like this:

Me: “Do y’all remember those powdery suckers?”

Fellow conversers: “No.”

Me: “Oh, you remember them. They were roundish but also kinda flat on top and powdery and they came in different pale colors and they were powdery.”

Fellow conversers: “Oh, yeah. They had those short, hollow sticks. I liked them.”

Me: “I hated them. The powder turned my stomach.”

Fellow conversers: “Hmm. Not sure why you insisted on reminding us of something you hate. But speaking of lollipops, I really miss those Life Savers suckers.”

That’s right, dear readers. Without being prompted, two sets of folks — with only me in common – shared their remembrances of lollipops past. A converser from conversation number two seemed especially attuned to the emotional memories of her taste buds. Indeed, with tears forming in her eyes, she related how she’s told her teenage daughter that she would love for her to be able to enjoy one of those Life Saver lollipops of her youth.

For those of you unfamiliar with the suckers, they were officially known as Life Savers Swirled Pops. Although they were larger than regular Life Savers, I could make one disappear in approximately three bites. They came in four flavors — blueberry and vanilla, orange and vanilla, cherry and banana, and strawberry and vanilla.

I can’t remember trying the blueberry and vanilla, I’m not a fan of orange-flavored treats, and the strawberry and vanilla turned my stomach. But the cherry and banana was so good that I can understand why my friend wishes her daughter could enjoy the fruity lollipop. For reals. It’s something that everyone should experience at least one or two hundred times.

The company quit making the lollipops at some point and, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of the product in dozens of years. What’s more, I can’t remember the last time I had a Life Saver. But when I was a child, I would frequently accompany my parents to the store. It was most likely the Piggly Wiggly or, later, the Food City. When we reached the checkout lane, my mom always let me pick a treat from the rack of candy. Sometimes I chose cinnamon Tic Tacs while other times I selected a pack of bubblegum or a tube of wild cherry Life Savers.

I’m sure I would have opted for a cherry and banana Swirled Pop if given the chance. But not a strawberry and vanilla or one of those powdery suckers. They turned my stomach.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Survey says — February 25, 2020

Survey says

If you’ve bought food and/or sundries at any restaurant and/or store in the last few years, then at least one of your cashiers has probably suggested you take part in a survey. Perhaps said cashier has even circled a phone number on your receipt and noted that by taking the survey, you’d be entered into a drawing to win monies.

In spite of my slight paranoia, a few years ago I took surveys for the Supercenter and the home improvement store. I regret to report that I didn’t win a dime and that the surveys seemed to take dozens of hours to complete. Thus, my career as a taker of surveys was short and sour.

But one day in December, as I completed some last-minute-ish holiday shopping, I swung by the McDonald’s for some nuggets. For some reason, I looked at the back of the receipt and noticed that if I took their survey, I would be able to buy a sausage biscuit or Big Mac and get another one free.

Although I’m not known for having an interest in red meat, I do enjoy the occasional Big Mac. So, I completed the survey and a few weeks later, I cashed in on the BOGO deal. (By the way, the first time I saw BOGO listed on an advertisement, I said to myself, “Self, I’ve never heard of this BOGO brand.”) In case you’re wondering, I dined on one of those Big Macs that very day, put the other one in the fridge, and feasted on it the following day. My arteries can thank me later.

Anyway, you might recall that last week I mentioned my obsession with Wendy’s Asiago chicken sandwich. (As a reminder, it’s not pronounced Asia-go.) As I completed some shopping with my sister last week, I swung by the Wendy’s for one of those delicious sandwiches. And with the memory of the McDonald’s BOGO offer fresh in my memory, I checked my Wendy’s receipt. You can imagine my exhilaration when I saw that they offer a BOGO deal – a single hamburger or regular chicken sandwich — to patrons who complete surveys.

As of this writing, my body is digesting a grilled Asiago chicken sandwich whilst a plain grilled chicken waits its turn in my refrigerator.

There’s supposedly a limit on the number of surveys one can complete in a given amount of time. However, if you have access to multiple gadgets, I’m not sure how they would enforce this. And if you don’t think I would game the system to score some BOGO chicken, then you haven’t been paying attention.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Feed your inner splurge — February 18, 2020

Feed your inner splurge

Whether it’s buying generic toilet paper that’s so thin you could read through it or re-using salad containers, you can count on me to stretch a dollar. (A dollar comprising 100 cents in change that I accumulated by scouring for said change on floors or in parking lots.)

Anyway, due to this thriftiness, it might surprise you to learn there are items and occasions on which I splurge. For example, I buy Lindor chocolate truffles. Yes, I realize a bag that costs in excess of five bucks contains only 20 truffles, which means I’m spending more than a quarter on each truffle. But every time I pop one of those delicious balls of chocolate into my mouth, I consider it (more than) a quarter well spent. Besides, I’m still using that handful of Lindor coupons I scored in November, which means the cost per delicious chocolate ball is less than a quarter.

Although I break my fast every morning with generic oatmeal and lament the fact that I can no longer find generic tea, I buy Toasteds crackers. I also spring for Nestle cocoa mix. (What can I say? Chocolate is important to me.) Of late, however, the stores have not been stocking Nestle, which has caused my stress level to shoot into the stratosphere. Recently, as I stood in the cocoa mix aisle, I debated whether I should buy an inferior brand. Finally, I said to myself, “Self, you’re not getting any weak expletive cocoa.” So, I forked over the money for a “gourmet” brand that’s actually pretty good. (It’s still not as good as Nestle, though.)

And while I don’t dine out every day of the week, I do treat myself to one restaurant meal dern-near every weekend. Lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Wendy’s Asiago chicken sandwich. (By the way, take it from me, it’s not pronounced Asia-go.) When I’m feeling especially frisky, I’ll order the meal. (It’s number 13.) But I make a point to go inside and place my order so that I can choose how much ice to put in my drink. This also means that I can then guzzle said drink and top it off before I vacate the premises.

Yeah, I’m thrifty even when I’m not.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The one and only — February 11, 2020

The one and only

On the heels of last week’s “news” that the postal service still offers collect on delivery services, I’m back with another bulletin of epic proportions. This time I’m here to let you know that the original recipe “Magnum, P.I.” is now on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.

As you might recall, “Magnum, P.I.” ran on CBS from 1980 to 1988 and starred Tom Selleck as the title character. The show followed the exploits of Magnum as he solved mysteries in paradise aka Hawaii. Magnum lived on a beautiful estate called Robin’s Nest, which was owned by the celebrated – yet never seen – author, Robin Masters. Magnum frequently bickered with Higgins, (John Hillerman) the caretaker of Robin’s Nest, who was not amused by Magnum’s laid back approach to life.

Although I adore Higgy-Baby, which is how Magnum’s buddy, T.C., referred to Higgins, I’ve always been a Magnum fangirl. Nonetheless, Higgins had a point about Magnum. In dern-near every episode, Magnum, Higgins, T.C., their other friend, Rick, and Magnum’s love interest of the week found themselves embroiled in dangerous situations that could have been avoided.

Indeed, in an episode I happened to catch a couple weeks ago, bad guys and one bad gal descended upon Robin’s Nest with machine guns. Magnum, with an assist from T.C. and his ubiquitous helicopter, saved the day and everyone’s lives. Afterward, Magnum offered a wisecrack about how Higgins’ guard dogs, two Doberman Pinchers nicknamed the lads, let him down. At that point, I said to myself, “Self, unlike the lads, Magnum is a professional and he has opposable thumbs. So shouldn’t he be held a tad more accountable for weekly ruckuses?”

Regardless, I’ve been a fan of “Magnum, P.I.” since my days as a wee lass. I can remember coming in from a long summer’s day of playing to find Magnum on the TV, speeding through the streets of Hawaii in Robin’s red Ferrari. The show has been in syndication on and off since the ’80s and I’m always overjoyed when it shows up on my TV. It’s one of those shows I can keep on all day without watching a complete episode.

I have, however, never sampled so much as a second of the version of “Magnum” currently airing on CBS. Let’s be honest. The original series owed its success to the various charms of Selleck and Hillerman. There is only one true Thomas Magnum and his name is Tom Selleck.

So, if you want to watch him crack wise his way across paradise, check your local listings.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Collect on delivery — February 4, 2020

Collect on delivery

Did you know that collect on delivery (COD) is still offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS)?

Of course, if you’re under a certain age, you probably have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. Well, according to the USPS website, COD allows a sender to “collect from the recipient money for postage, fees, merchandise, or any combination thereof.”

In other words, you can order something and pay for it upon delivery. There are oodles of restrictions, though. What’s more, oodles of senders do not offer the COD service. But it was all the rage when I was a wee lass growing up.

Again, if you’re under a certain age, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Internet/online shopping hasn’t always existed and that credit/debit cards weren’t always common, either. So, if you saw a television advertisement for, let’s say, ABBA’s greatest hits on 8-track and you were too young to have a checking account, you could call the 800 number listed on screen or mail your order to the address, also given on screen, and pay the mailperson upon delivery of said 8-track.

All this assumes you could find a writing utensil and a scrap of paper on which to write the address or phone number before the advertisement ended. And that, if you grew up in my house and were too young to have a checking account, that you had your parents’ permission to place the order. If not, then the combination thereof the mailperson would have collected would have been one or more minor children.

Anyway, COD recently popped into my head as I marveled over the ease of downloading and/or uploading books. Although I’ve been doing this for years, the instant delivery continues to amaze me. Indeed, I hope I never forget that for most of my life I did not have the option of receiving oodles of books or movies or songs via a simple click of my finger.

That’s when I recalled, with a chuckle, the days of COD. I realized I had never really thought about how COD worked and how it seemed like a heck of a lot of effort on behalf of the USPS and how there’s no way the COD service still existed.

So imagine my surprise upon learning that although oodles of restrictions apply, I could place a COD order if I so desired.

Oh, by the way, if you’re under a certain age, we will discuss ABBA and 8-tracks at a future time.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.