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.

Peer reviewed — January 21, 2020

Peer reviewed

It seems like everyone I know has an instant pot and/or air fryer. For those of you unfamiliar with these small appliances, don’t look to me for an explanation of how they work. Based on their names, however, I theorize that the air fryer uses air to fry food and the instant pot uses magic to cook food instantly – and in a pot.

For a couple years, well-meaning friends and family members have been peer pressuring me to join the instant pot and/or air fryer craze. The conversations have gone something like this:

Well-meaning friend or family member – “OMG! Fries made in an air fryer taste amazing! You should so totally get one!”

Me – “I do love me some fries, but I don’t want a bag of them constantly tempting me from the freezer, so I’ll pass. But thanks so much for thinking of me! You’re the best!”

Well-meaning friend or family member – “OMG! Rice made in the instant pot tastes amazing and it’s done in, like, an instant! You should so totally get one!”

Me – “I do love me some rice, but Uncle Ben, a saucepan, and the stove are currently meeting my rice needs. But thanks for thinking of me! You’re the best!”

Actually, it doesn’t make sense for me to obtain an instant pot and/or air fryer because I don’t cook much. Indeed, as a well-meaning friend said to me, “I guess you don’t need an air fryer to make oatmeal.”

If you’re a longtime reader of this-here space, you might be confused. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, isn’t she always going on about making some sort of mouth-watering baked good?”

Well, yeah, but that’s baking. It’s a hobby. In fact, I enjoy making mouth-watering baked goods even if said treat is something like fruitcake, carrot cake, or red velvet cake, aka stuff I don’t eat. Even if I could air fry and/or bake a cake instantly – and in a pot – I’m not sure I would enjoy doing so.

As for cooking…at my advanced age I can finally concede that it’s not something I enjoy doing. If need be, I can cook a multi-course meal. But I’m more of a one-course meal type of gal. Although that one course could be white meat I’ve thrown onto the George Foreman grill, the meal could just as easily come out of a can or a box.

And as I’m not sure making those meals in an instant pot and/or an air fryer would improve the quality of my life, I shall not be giving into the peer pressure.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

What a mess — January 7, 2020

What a mess

Last year, as in years past, I kept a blessings jar. As you might have deduced, every week I wrote a blessing on a slip of paper and placed the paper into a jar. (Well, actually it’s an aging popcorn tin.) And at the beginning of this year, I reviewed last year’s blessings.

Some of the blessings featured nature. For example, one week I included a tree I had passed billions of times on the way to my mom’s house yet had somehow never before noticed. I also made note of watching the river flow past the dentist’s office as I waited for him to come in and yank out a tooth.

There was the week I was grateful my car was still under warranty and, the following week, when I was grateful it was out of the car hospital and once again running well.

And then there was the week that my great-niece, aka the world’s most adorable kindergartner, told me my hair looked messy.

I had forgotten her proclamation until I reviewed the aforementioned blessings. If my memory is correct, she made the observation one weekend as we gathered in my mom’s parlor. What I can’t recall, however, is why I considered it a blessing.

Of course, there is the possibility that I deemed it a blessing simply because it came from her mouth. After all, I consider her daily declarations to be philosophical phenomena that should be shared far and wide. Indeed, I frequently send messages to friends that contain nothing but her musings on life.

Or it could be that I regarded her innocent remark as a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it spurred me to spiffy up my hair or to make an appointment with the hairdresser.

Regardless of why I scribbled the exchange on a scrap of paper so that it could be kept for posterity, its inclusion makes me question what else was going on in my life that week. Even if nothing exceptional happened in that seven-day period, one would think I would have at least enjoyed a good meal. After all, chicken nuggets comprised another week’s blessing. Or, baring good food, perhaps I would have taken a good nap, which showed up in two separate weeks’ blessings, or taken a good walk and/or run.

Nope. The best thing that happened that week was that a child insulted my hair.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Dough girl — December 18, 2019

Dough girl

76781467_10221205068818778_3035515819174920192_oWhen I was a wee lass, my mom, aunts, and grandmothers occasionally treated us to homemade crackers. They made the crackers by frying leftover pie dough in lard or bacon grease. The former came out of a huge plastic bucket while the later was poured from a metal canister that rested on the stove. The canister was labeled “GREASE.” I assume so that no one would forget the nature of its contents.

While the crackers weren’t exactly heart healthy, they sure were tasty, especially if you ate them while they were warm. The crackers of our youth came up in conversation as my siblings and I gathered the day before Thanksgiving to bake pies and other goodies.

Of course, no crackers were made that day, but I wouldn’t say the extra dough went to waste.

After placing the bottom layer of dough, the filling (either apple or cherry), and then the top layer of dough in the pie plate, my mom gently trimmed the excess dough from the pie. And as soon as the excess dough dropped onto the table, her helper, my great-niece, scooped up said dough.

The world’s most adorable kindergartner then played with the dough, squishing it between her fingers and rolling it onto the table. Or, as we say where I come from, she gommed in it. Indeed, she even whipped off her socks, placed the dough in the chair, and kneaded it with her feet.

There were quarter-hearted attempts to make her stop gomming in the dough, but none of these entreaties came from Aunt Cookie (that’s me). Instead, I praised her for making use of her imagination and for showing an interest in baking. What’s more, she made sweet memories with her great-grandmother. So what if she also made a mess?

She was, however, a tad possessive of the dough. When my brother reached over for a little of that freshly-trimmed dough, she demonstrated Ninja-like speed as she grabbed most of it from his grasp. I think I heard her giggle. I’m sure I saw an extra twinkle in her eyes.

When the pie-making concluded, she shaped the dough into a mound that could have been a troll or a volcano or a Shar-Pei’s face. She then stuck two small whisks into either side of the mound. They could have represented horns, but I like to think they represented flags and that she was staking her claim.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Better late than never? — December 11, 2019

Better late than never?

I have a confession to make. And after you read this-here confession, I will understand if you delete me from your reading list. Here goes – I have never seen any of the “Home Alone” or “The Santa Clause” movies.

Of course, even without having seen the flicks, I understand their respective premises. In the original “Home Alone,” a family forgets the existence of their little boy and flies to Paris for the holidays, leaving the tyke to fend for himself. Somehow, similar scenarios play out in sequels. Having never had children, I probably shouldn’t judge, but it seems to me that, after the first incident, parents would count their kids before boarding a plane.

In “The Santa Clause,” Tim Taylor from “Home Improvement” becomes Santa or takes over for the jolly old man or something like that. Having never seen the movies, I cannot be expected to know everything about them.

Anyway, I’m apparently the only person in the galaxy who hasn’t seen these flicks, and I have no plans to rectify the situation. Of course, it’s not that I harbor ill will toward them. Indeed, I’ve wondered why I didn’t watch them in their infancy.

But I didn’t and now it seems that, much like backpacking through Europe or training as a trapeze artist, I’ve missed my chance. Honestly, though, it doesn’t bother me. Well, maybe I’m still haunted about not studying the trapeze. But my ignorance of the movies is not what keeps me awake at night. After all, I have seen two other holiday standards – “Elf” and “Christmas Vacation” – each once. Neither of those viewings occurred until years and, in the case of “Christmas Vacation,” decades after their releases.

After oodles of years of buildup, there’s no way those movies could have met my lofty expectations. So, when doofus Cousin Eddie showed up in “Christmas Vacation,” I said to myself, “Self, people laugh until they wet themselves over this?”

Having had little exposure to these movies, I’ve forgotten much about them. So, when family, friends, and coworkers quote Cousin Eddie or Buddy the Elf, I have next to no idea what they’re talking about.

Sure, the movies had their moments. It’s just that I don’t want to relive those moments. Then again, I did enjoy the local theatre’s production of “Elf,” especially since it featured younglings in the roles.

Maybe that’s what I need to do. Maybe I need to watch younglings perform in theatrical productions of “Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone,” and “The Santa Clause.”

Or maybe not.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Skirting the issue — December 4, 2019

Skirting the issue

78708555_427740308110462_7948906814651760640_nMy gently-used Christmas tree has a lovely new skirt. And, to think, it took me only four years to buy the tree skirt.

Well, the transaction didn’t take four years. But it did take four years for me to find a tree skirt I deemed worthy enough to play an important role in my holiday decor.

Of course, there wasn’t anything wrong with my previous tree skirt. It was winter white and featured a silver-and-gold Santa and snowperson as well as raised stars. Well, I don’t think it was genuine silver and gold, but as I didn’t have it appraised, I guess I’ll never know for sure. Anyway, I can still remember the day I bought it at the Supercenter. Feeling guilty for behaving so extravagantly, upon my return home I called my mom and asked if $12 had been too much to spend on a tree skirt.

She assured me that it wasn’t and, for the next 16 years, the tree skirt added a touch of grandeur to my household. But thanks in part to my cat army, the silver and gold had frayed and many of the stars had quietly disappeared.

So, four years ago, I started shopping for another tree skirt. But choosing one represented a huge commitment. After all, I would have to live with my decision one month a year for the ensuing decade or even longer.

Faced with that realization, I struggled to find a tree skirt that suited my fancies. Sure, I’d run across one I considered cute or even cozy, but then I’d focus on a feature such as fake fur or felt reindeer antlers and reconsider.

This year seemed like the right time, though. Indeed, I welcomed a hand-me-down tree into my household and it would have been gauche to drape an aging skirt underneath a gently-used tree.

As luck would have it, I spied a lovely tree skirt during an autumn visit to the home improvement store. The skirt, resplendent in Christmas red, featured the words “merry and bright” stitched on the front in white as well as white scalloped edging.

Of course, I didn’t buy it right then and there. I needed time to mull over my decision and make sure an even lovelier skirt didn’t reside in various and sundry stores or on websites.

When I failed to find lovelier décor, I scurried back to the home improvement store and bought the aforementioned tree skirt, which now decorates the floor underneath the tree.

In spite of its loveliness, I was worried that Alice, the youngest member of my cat army, would not care for the new tree skirt. So fond was she of its silver-and-gold predecessor that she seemingly took up residence on it before I placed it under the tree each year. My worries, however, were proven fruitless. Alice, who regards Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year, quickly settled onto the tree skirt as if it were an empty box or freshly-laundered clothes. What’s more, she and/or another member of my cat army has already deposited a fur ball on the lovely new tree skirt.

Yes, it’s officially part of the household.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Whatever floats your boat — November 27, 2019

Whatever floats your boat

During a chat about Thanksgiving, one of my besties expressed unbridled love for the holiday. She said she loves cooking the meal with her daughter whilst watching the parade and then eating the meal with her family whilst watching football.

I certainly identify with the football-watching aspect of her schedule. But while I cook and bake specific dishes and desserts, I don’t make the entire meal. Besides, come Thanksgiving, I pretty much stick to eating mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and pie. In other words, it’s food I could eat on any random Thursday.

Still, I eat and I watch football, so we’re on the same page there. But when it comes to the parade, we’re not even reading the same book.

Now, before you get all judgmental and advise that I simply need to give the parade a chance, you need to know that I’ve given it dozens of chances. For most of my life, I excitedly tuned in to the parade every Thanksgiving morning. I couldn’t wait to experience tunes from the biggest Broadway hits or watch the newest floats drift in the air. But approximately two and a half minutes into the parade, I’d ask myself, “Self, can a person die from boredom?”

This scene repeated itself oodles of times over the years until I finally realized that, for me to start enjoying the annual event, either the parade or I would need to change. For starters, I would need to enjoy parades in general. That’s right. I’ve never met a parade I like. I cannot fathom the premise of standing – sometimes in cold rain – on the street just to watch people walk by. If I wanted to do that, I’d hang out near a cross walk.

Of course, the Thanksgiving parade offers me the chance to sit in the comfort of my home and watch people dance and march by.

As it turns out, I don’t enjoy that spectacle, either. As I relax in my rocking chair, eating my morning oatmeal and trying to concentrate on the TV, my mind wonders from the lip-syncing performers and canned banter to thoughts of dusting. Do you know how bored I need to be to even consider dusting?

But that’s how much the parade bores me. In fact, it’s always bored me. But when I was younger, I tried to convince myself that it was fun. Although I never made it through an entire parade (or even half a parade), I’d try again the next year.

Until the year I’d had enough. I’m happy to report that I haven’t so much as watched one second of the parade in years. But if it’s part of your holiday tradition, I hope you continue to enjoy watching people dance and march by. Indeed, I hope you enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Dear diary — November 20, 2019

Dear diary

As you might recall, a few months ago, I shared the exciting news that the venerable Nielsen company had contacted me about taking part in their surveys. What you probably don’t know is that I didn’t complete the introductory form.

You know how it is. At first, you’re really excited about a suitor or a TV show or a granola bar. Then, the enthusiasm abates and, all of a sudden, you’ve lost interest in what once appealed to you.

I guess that’s what happened with the Nielsen company and me.

Well, at least with me. As it turns out, Nielsen was quite persistent, following up with a second letter that contained a crisp five dollar bill.

Retrieving my abacus, I added five to the one (dollar bill) Nielsen had previously sent and decided I could be bought for six dollars. So, I completed and mailed the form.

I didn’t hear from Nielsen for weeks. Finally, a letter arrived. Wasting no time clawing through the envelope, I developed an immediate case of the sads when I read what appeared to be a Dear John letter. Although the letter did contain another crisp one dollar bill and Nielsen’s thanks, it did not contain a formal request for more information.

Oh, well. I put the dollar in my pocket, dried my tears, and moved on with my life.

Then, in a surprising turn of events, the very next week, Nielsen sent another letter. That one contained not one, but two crisp dollar bills, as well as an invitation to participate in a survey.

Oh, my heart!

After once again consulting the abacus, I determined that my tally from Nielsen added up to nine dollars, which can buy two months’ worth of oatmeal.

A few days later, my ratings diary arrived. It didn’t contain additional crisp bills, but it did contain the news that, when I complete said diary, Nielsen will send me a check for five whole dollars.

According to the abacus, that will bring me up to 14 dollars.

Demonstrating that Nielsen has a sense of humor, the company asked that I complete a radio diary. This tickles my funny bones because I straight-up told them during our first correspondence that I do not listen to the radio.

Anyway, I’m halfway through my assigned week and, as predicted, my exposure to radio has been scant. Indeed, the 21 minutes I’ve listened to the radio this week have been accidental.

That shouldn’t change Nielsen’s opinion of me, though. According to words clearly written on the top of my diary, no matter if I listen to the radio “a lot, a little or not at all,” I’m important!

Oh, my heart.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.