No follow through — September 16, 2020

No follow through

As I might have mentioned before in this-here column, occasionally I wake in the morning to find that I’ve forwarded recipes to myself. (Due to my amnesia, I can never remember what I’ve mentioned to you, dear readers. So, I apologize if the existence of these recipes is news to you.)

Accordingly, I’m also not sure if I’ve shared the fact that I rarely follow through and make said recipes.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that this pattern of seeking and finding an “interesting” recipe only to allow it to languish in purgatory began in my childhood. Indeed, when I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I amused myself by looking through my mom’s cookbooks.

Better Homes and Gardens’ red plaid cookbook was my favorite and I especially enjoyed recipes that were accompanied by photographs. As I flipped through the pages, I planned the meals I would make in my future kitchen, which would be furnished by merchandise purchased from the Sears catalog.

Most of these planned meals fell victim to my amnesia, but I do remember that I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to make eggs Benedict.

In retrospect, I don’t know what I could have been thinking because eggs have never been a staple of my diet. What’s more, eggs Benedict looks the messy result of a mob of egg-wielding trick or treaters’ attack on an Egg McMuffin.

Maybe the dish caught my eye because, at the time, the Atlanta Braves had a player named Bruce Benedict, and the announcers called him eggs Benedict. All I know is that I’ve reached an advanced age and have no desire to eat or prepare eggs Benedict. 

I still desire to bake and, sometimes, cook new foods, so I spend oodles of minutes perusing new recipes. To my defense, on occasion I do prepare newfound recipes. Last year for the holidays I made cranberry-Brie appetizers that were so well-received that I made a second batch. This spring, I made a blueberry-lemon cake that was wildly successful.

Most of the time, though, I give the recipe a second or third look and come to my senses. For example, I’ve been on the search for a pumpkiny baked good. After finding several, I acknowledged that none of my loved ones or I like pumpinky foods.

Regardless, I’m not sure why I continue to look for recipes I’ll never make. But I am sure I’ll continue to do so.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take a crack at it — September 9, 2020

Take a crack at it

One or more of my siblings and I share an unusual trait: We cannot properly open bags of food.

Upon reading these words, our mom is probably shaking her head as she recalls the countless potato chips and cookies that we flung onto cabinets, tables, and the floor due to this deficiency. And that’s not even taking into account all the potato chips and cookies that went stale because the improperly-opened bags could not be properly closed.

Mom is probably also thinking that I could mention that one or more of her children also don’t know how to properly open envelopes, but that’s another matter for another day.

Anyway, I was reminded of our inability to properly open bags again this week when I improperly opened a bag of oyster crackers. Thanks to my ninja-adjacent reflexes, I was able to keep the crackers from being flung onto the cabinet, table, and floor.

The bag was split only a quarter of the way open, but my attempts to stabilize the situation resulted in the split reaching halfway down the bag.

To my defense, the generic brand of crackers had been packaged in a flimsy bag.

I can see my mom shaking her head as she thinks to herself, “Sure, blame the bag,” and adding that if I wasn’t so cheap and had sprung for the brand name then maybe I would have been opening a higher quality of bag.

Regardless, I had to take action to save the crackers from going stale in a flimsy, half-torn bag.

So, I tried to wrap a twist tie around the top of the bag. But seeing how the top was split open, that didn’t work. I then retrieved a chip clip, aka a clothespin, but there wasn’t much to close.

I considered storing the crackers in Ziploc plastic bags. Not that I spring for the brand name, but you get the drift. But I didn’t want to waste bags, and this was definitely a multi-bag job.

Next, I looked in the pantry cabinets. In the bottom drawer, I found a container that had once held lemonade mix. And not just any mix. It had held Country Time mix, so you know the container is top quality.

Most of the crackers fit into the container and I was able to salvage enough of the flimsy bag to hold the remaining crackers. And I must say that, with its easy to open lid, a former lemonade mix container makes a perfect current cracker container. And it can be properly opened by one or more of my siblings and me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No more words — September 2, 2020

No more words

As I’ve mentioned before in this-here column, I keep track of the books I read through Goodreads. Although I don’t take part in the discussions offered by the website, I do read reviews and peruse book-related questions.

In fact, just the other day, my eyes settled on the following question posed by a fellow reader: Is it ok not to like a book?

Well, yeah.

That’s like asking if it’s ok not to like a certain food, person, or blog. I could never imagine asking permission to dislike, well, anything.

Anyway, the question also addressed an issue that haunts book readers – to finish or not to finish a book that you’re just not into.

With one notable exception – a trashy memoir of a Z-list actress that was even too tawdry for me – in my youth I finished every book, story, or reading assignment I started. It mattered naught that my mind occasionally wandered and that I didn’t always retain the material. I read every word.

But in my junior or senior year of college, a literature professor assigned an Ernest Hemingway story that was basically a fishing manual. That was the first of many times to come when I wondered if anyone could actually die from boredom.

The professor frequently quizzed us on assignments, so I pulled out the abacus and determined that I could fail a potential quiz and still maintain my grade. Thus, I did not read the story. (By the way, it wasn’t The Old Man and the Sea. I don’t remember the title, but, for reals, it was basically a fishing manual.)

Thankfully, we were not quizzed on the boring story. Nor did the professor engage us in a class discussion. What’s more, this did not set a precedent for me. I still read every word and finished every book, story, or reading assignment I started.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve developed a self-diagnosed attention disorder and I’ve become even more impatient. I’m also not into self-torture, so I will not finish a book that I’m not into. Indeed, the book that led me to the Goodreads question about whether it’s ok not to like a book…well, I didn’t finish it. In spite of the good reviews and laurels heaped upon the book, I could not spend one more word with the characters.

It would be wrong to say I didn’t care what happened. Hence, my visit to Goodreads. It’s just that I preferred spending a few minutes rather than a few hours learning the characters’ fates.

And that’s ok. Because everyone has different likes and dislikes and maybe the next book will be so good that I’ll wish it contained more words.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Tip the scales — August 26, 2020

Tip the scales

After the death of my sweet, beautiful and dern-near perfect cat, Alice, I started subjecting the rest of the cat army to weekly weigh-ins. You see, Alice had been losing weight, but since it was gradual and since I saw her every day, I wasn’t aware of the weight loss.

So, the morning after she died, I weighed my remaining two cats. Even though the process is painless, every week one of them acts as if she’s undergoing surgery without the benefit of anesthesia – and I have the scratches to prove this. Nonetheless, I reward them with treats following my weekly ordeal.

Some weeks I don’t want to know my true weight, so on those days I make sure I’m fully dressed and shod before stepping onto the scales. After checking my weight, I weigh myself holding one cat, then step down, catch the other cat, and once again step onto the scales.

For the past couple weeks, however, I have doubted the results of the weigh-in. Indeed, either I have the capacity to gain and/or lose multiple ounces in a few minutes or my bathroom scales were faulty. In case you’re wondering, I know my weight dramatically fluctuates because I weigh myself a couple times before I weigh the cats and a couple times afterward. I acknowledge there is no good reason for doing so.

Due to my well-established cheapness, I didn’t want to replace the scales. But this week, when the scales showed that I weighed the same amount no matter which cat I held, I knew something was amiss because one cat is heavier than the other. Trust me on that.

Anyway, my pantry was in need of several staples, so I added bathroom scales to the list, grabbed a mask, and headed to the Supercenter.

In spite of my advanced age, I had never bought scales. I received semi-pricey scales one year for my birthday and they performed admirably until a corroded battery leaked acid onto the sensors. The other scales were hand-me-downs and, as I reviewed my history with scales, I decided that maybe that’s why none of them performed admirably.

So, in the market for scales, I found myself in the Supercenter’s bathroom aisle. I didn’t know what I was doing. Buying scales is not as difficult as purchasing light bulbs or toothpaste, but it has its share of stress. Every product looked the same — like a square iPad. I couldn’t tell the difference between the digital offerings. I considered the lone analog scales – the type with the needle that settles on a number – but my vision is so poor that, even with glasses, I‘d have to crouch to read the numbers.

In the end, I selected mid-range scales that also promise to analyze my body composition.

I’m already questioning this decision and wondering how many human treats I’ll need after next week’s ordeal.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Not missing out — August 5, 2020

Not missing out

On occasion, I tell the person to whom I am talking that I miss video stores. As a movie aficionado, a trip to the video store represented an event to me. As an experienced video store visitor, I knew they might not have the titles I wanted to rent, so I always went armed with a list – sometimes in writing – of alternative selections.

I’m sharing this “thing I miss” with you, my dear readers, because I recently stumbled onto a discussion about things people don’t miss. For example, the subject of video stores reminds me that I don’t miss having to rewind VHS tapes. Yes, I was kind and always chose to rewind.

In fact, I splurged on a rewinder to aid in the chore because someone told me doing so would help save the VCR heads. By the way, I have no idea if that is true, what it means, or how many heads an average VCR boasted. For all I know, the person who offered the advice could have owned stock in a company that produced rewinders.

Of course, the rewinder didn’t help if I had recorded a week’s worth of TV and/or movies and needed to rewind or fast-forward until I located that sweet spot on the tape that featured the latest episode of “Alf.” All that rewinding and fast-forwarding couldn’t have been good for the VCR’s heads. Maybe that’s why most of the VCRs in my past eventually malfunctioned, mangling tapes in the process.

So, no, I don’t miss VCRs, VCR tapes, or, for that matter, cassette tapes. Sure, I miss making mixed tapes for myself and friends and receiving mixed tapes as gifts. But you never knew when a hungry tape player would eat a cassette, either homemade or brought on. And I don’t miss 8-tracks and the annoying way they interrupted songs, either.

Nor do I miss rotary phones. What’s more, I shudder when I consider how we tempted fate by answering the phone without already knowing the identity of the caller. What were we thinking? Literally anybody could have been on the other line.

Anyway, when I moved into my house nearly 16 years ago, I found a rotary phone in a closet. It eventually found its way to the garage and, back in the spring, into the car of the family hoarder. Although they initially seemed flabbergasted by the relic, my great-niece and great-nephew eventually became enamored by it. They took turns dragging it across the floor and making calls.

Someday, I’ll tell them about pay phones. I’ll explain that although pay phones saved me a couple times, the reception was poor and I always wondered about the hygiene of the people who used the phones before I did. And I’ll make sure they know I don’t miss them.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Bad hair day — July 22, 2020

Bad hair day

If the old saying can be believed, then we learn something new every day. I’m not sure that’s true, but one day last week I did learn it’s not a good idea to color one’s hair whilst one suffers from a migraine.

Allow me to explain.

Pre-global pandemic, I paid professionals to color my hair. Sure, there was a period of time in my youth – I spotted the first gray when I was 21 – when I washed that gray right out of my own hair.

Or at least I attempted to do so. Truth be told, I wasn’t that good at the endeavor, which was a tad messy. Indeed, when I finished the task, it looked like a beaver had exploded inside the bathroom.

Eventually, I turned to the professionals and was pleased with the results.

But then the Coronavirus descended upon an unsuspecting world, leaving me with two options – give into the gray or buy a box of color.

So, I bought a box.

Although my technique had improved, the task remained a tad messy. Indeed, when I finished, brown blobs stained the sink, the walls, and my face. But at least the gray was gone and a box of color costs approximately eight dollars, including taxes.

With that in mind, once the salons opened, I decided to continue coloring my own hair.

That brings us to last Saturday. I had spent most of the day in bed, writhing in pain due to a migraine that had haunted me for a week. That evening, however, I experienced a burst of energy. I had plans for Sunday and Monday that would involve humans being exposed to my head, so I decided to color my hair. I opened the box, slipped on a pair plastic gloves, mixed the crème (number one) and the activator (number two), and applied the mixture to my hair.

When I checked my work, I was pleased because no medium brownish streams of color ran down my head. Perhaps, thought I, you’ve found your calling. Perhaps you were meant to color hair.

With the clock ticking, I relocated to the kitchen to wash dishes while the mixture did its work. When the time was up, I returned to the bathroom.

When I checked my work, I was stunned. The top of my head was white.

Thinking I had accidentally bought a box of platinum color, I checked the box. There, I saw my friend, the medium brown model. I couldn’t figure out what had gone so horribly wrong. While I washed the mixture out of my hair, I decided there must have been a mixup at the factory. I decided I would run to the dollar store the next morning and buy another box. Sure, I had wasted approximately eight dollars, including taxes, and my time, but nothing could recoup those losses.

But at least I had gotten a tube of conditioner (number three) for my troubles. But when I picked up the tube, I saw that it was emblazoned with a number one. Because it wasn’t conditioner. It was crème.

That’s right, I had picked up the wrong tube and had applied 55 milliliters of conditioner to my hair.

The way I saw it, I had two options – proceed to the dollar store the following morning or apply the color crème and see what transpired.

So, I applied the color crème.

Whilst this experience does not represent the best method of coloring one’s hair, it did the job. Except for a few strays I missed, the gray is gone. Of course, my head itched for days. What’s more, every time I scratched said head, I spotted medium brown blobs under my fingernails. And, thanks to the conditioner, my hair was so shiny that you could see your reflection in it.

But at least it’s not gray.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Mix and match — July 1, 2020

Mix and match

If you’ve learned anything about me, dear readers, then you should know that I’m a tad thrifty. Sure, sometimes I splurge. In fact, I’ve come to realize – at my advanced age – that potato chips taste better if they come out of smaller bags.

Thus, I’ve been splurging on those jumbo packs, which contain smaller bags that are made to fit inside a child’s lunch box. Buying the snack size has the added bonus of preventing me from splurging on an entire adult size bag of chips in one sitting. Sure, sometimes I realize I want and/or need a second bag of the snack size to feed my chip addiction, but generally one bag does the job.

Anyway, as you might have deduced, I’m one of those annoying thrifty people who enjoys telling everyone how much money she saved on various and sundry items. So, as I was putting away my groceries today, I said to myself, “Self, you must tell dear readers about Super Dollar’s amazing Pick 5 deal.”

Here’s the gist: Pick 5 allows shoppers to mix and match specially-marked meat items for only $19.95. According to the abacus, this means that shoppers pay only $3.99 for each item!

Yes, you read that right!

Although I’ve been taking advantage of this incredible deal for oodles of months (please forgive me for not mentioning it sooner), its mere existence never fails to surprise me. When I reach the check out, I always triple check the monitor and, later, my receipt to make sure it hasn’t been a cruel joke.

So far, it hasn’t. What’s more, several months ago, I happened to be shopping on a day when the Pick 5 deal allowed shoppers to mix and match specially-marked items for only $14.95! I’m not going to lie, I feared I’d be arrested for theft as I exited the store. I also feared I might pass out from excitement.

I usually mix and match chicken breasts, pork chops, and bacon. And since I cut the breasts into smaller tenders, which I then spread across two meals, I’m spending less than two bucks for a meal – of chicken!

Shoppers can also select from, among other items, certain roasts and steaks, ground beef, wieners, and, wait for it, non-meat items such as cheese sticks and microwave-ready/pre-packaged mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and pulled pork.

As great as this is, if they ever offer my brand of potato chips as part of Pick 5, I might never recover from the excitement.

Note: Super Dollar has locations in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Burn notice — June 24, 2020

Burn notice

Last Sunday, I decided to treat myself to hot dogs for dinner. Yes, hot dogs are included on my list of migraine-inducing-foods-to-avoid list. But since I develop migraines on days that end in the letter y and since Sunday does end in y, then odds were pretty high that I’d develop a headache no matter what I ate or did.

Surprisingly, though, I did not end up with a migraine. I did, however, end up with a boo-boo.

Although I prefer hot dogs prepared on the grill, I settled for boiled wieners. But with a functioning toaster oven in the house, I saw no reason to settle for microwaved buns. So, I tossed the buns into the toaster oven until they were toasted to something much less than perfection.

When I removed them from said toaster, the forefinger on my left hand grazed the top heating element. I felt next to no pain and quickly forgot the incident.

By the next day, a reddish, angry-looking raised blister on my finger had reminded me of the incident.

I ran cold water on the blister, treated it with boo-boo medicine, and covered it with a bandage. But every time I washed my hands – for something less than the recommended 20 seconds – the dern bandage came off. So, I decided to continue sans bandage. Besides, maybe the blister could benefit from some air.

Unfortunately, I kept hitting my hand on various objects, resulting in the blister’s bubble bursting and a smidgen of skin tearing loose. Even though the blister remained raised, red, and angry, I viewed this as potentially good news and a sign that the finger was healing itself.

By Thursday, however, part of the blister had turned yellow and green and it appeared to be oozing liquid. When I showed the blister to others, they recoiled in horror and advised me to wrap that thing up. When I explained that handwashing was adversely affecting my bandages, they screamed, “Quit washing it!”

I wasn’t really sure if, by that, they meant for me to quit washing that part of my finger, the entire finger, or the hand. I’m also unsure what to make of an adviser’s theory that burns don’t heal as fast as they used to. Regardless, I started using more powerful boo-boo medicine and I re-committed to bandages.

As of this writing, I am happy to report that the blister is smaller in size and pink in color and no longer angry or raised. It still throbs at times and the bandages are itchy. On an unrelated note, I’m also seeing auras and their arrival usually means a migraine is imminent. This day does end in y, so the odds are pretty high anyway.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Pest control — June 17, 2020

Pest control

Earlier this spring, as you might recall, I wrote about my lovely tulip bed. The perfect, colorful flowers brought beauty into my life during a global expletive pandemic. Axl Rose warned us, however, that nothin’ lasts forever, not even lovely tulips. Watching the tulips wilt gave me a case of the sads, but I was comforted by the knowledge that they’re perennials and, thus, will return next year.

But that was before something – or someone – romped through the garden, eating several of the tulip bulbs in the process. I’m no horticulturalist, but I believe it’s dern-near impossible for a tulip to bloom without a bulb.

Anyway, a bear has been spotted in the neighborhood and I frequently spy rabbits and birds in one or more of my yards as well. It’s also been brought to my attention that a certain chipmunk could be responsible for snacking on the bulbs. As you might recall, I recently devoted this-here space to a certain chipmunk who has been hanging around like he/she owns the place.

Come to think of it, though, neither the cat army nor I have spied the chipmunk in a few days. I hope the chipmunk hasn’t run into any bears.

In other news, I’ve also been battling gnats and/or fruit flies. I’ve killed at least a half dozen in recent days. That might not seem like many to you, but gnats and/or fruit flies annoy the expletive out of me and turn my stomach. One evening, I became so vigorous in my pursuit of a flying pest that I slapped the eyeglasses off my face.

Random ants also show up occasionally and, as you might recall, I’ve encountered dead mice and a live snake in my garage in recent weeks. This led to the initiation of what I refer to as the steel wool project. An expert in the field of extermination cautioned me that vermin can fit into holes that are equal to or larger in size than a nickel and he advised stuffing those holes with steel wool.

I’ve purchased more supplies, and I’m prepared to resume the steel wool project. I also must admit that this experience has caused me to constantly be on the lookout for nickel-sized holes. So, if we should be engaged in a conversation and if my eyes should wander above your head or to the side of your face, then I’ve probably spied a hole and I’m probably estimating the size of said hole.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Common ground — June 3, 2020

Common ground

As I finished a recent work day, I noticed that something in the back yard had captured the attention of Cady, the leader of my cat army. With wide eyes, she paced at the French door, moving her head to follow the action. From the way she was acting, I knew that whatever had captured her attention had to be more exciting than a bird or a bug.

So, I joined her at the door, hoping I wouldn’t spy a snake.

I didn’t.

96772544_188395462296916_5362753069807304704_nBut I did find a small critter sitting on the back step like it had a clear deed for the property. I grabbed my phone and took photos and shot videos of the critter, which was nibbling on the remnants of a raspberry. (Don’t ask.) I then shared the evidence with others and asked them to identify the critter’s species.

My sisters and niece agreed that the critter was a ground squirrel, which made sense to me because whilst I recorded it enjoying its supper, I had said to myself, “Self, it looks like a miniature red-ish squirrel.”

Besides, I also recalled hearing my dad refer to scurrying critters as ground squirrels. Of course, I had never been up close and personal with those critters.

Anyway, I posted the video to Facebook, where it proved to be one of my most popular posts of all time. However, several of the dozens of commenters called the cute little critter a chipmunk.

Huh. A quick search indicated that those little critters I had spied scurrying over lawns my entire life had not, in fact, been ground squirrels. That means that, unbeknownst to me, I had been in the presence of chipmunks for my aforementioned entire life.

Even as a wee lass, I was never a big fan of cartoons, but I made exceptions for certain shows including “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” So, I should be forgiven if the cartoon skewed my idea of what real-life chipmunks look like. For the record, I did not think chipmunks wore glasses, walked upright, and/or sang. Well, at least not all of them. But I did figure they were larger in size and had chubbier cheeks that the critter I spied on the on my step.

Regardless, after I studied various photos of chipmunks and ground squirrels, I came to the realization that I’ve probably never seen a ground squirrel scurrying across the lawn or anywhere for that matter.

I have, however, repeatedly seen my resident chipmunk, which continues to demand Cady’s attention. She frequently sprints from window to door to monitor its activities. Of course, I’m not sure if she spied it this morning as it relaxed in the shade like it had a clear deed for the property.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.