Welcome to the family — August 28, 2019

Welcome to the family

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

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

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

That’s right.

The Nielsen company has reached out to me!

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

And by “you,” Nielsen means me.

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about a personal touch!

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A raccoon’s lifetime — August 21, 2019

A raccoon’s lifetime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

To the last drop — August 14, 2019

To the last drop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those were the days.

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Bowled over — August 7, 2019

Bowled over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Nothing is free — July 30, 2019

Nothing is free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Melt with you — July 10, 2019

Melt with you

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

At least I thought I was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Good gravy — July 3, 2019

Good gravy

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Pick a number — June 26, 2019

Pick a number

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

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

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

As if eating vinegar is anything to brag about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No Whammies — June 11, 2019

No Whammies

The game show “Press Your Luck” is set to return to TV tomorrow night on ABC. In case you don’t remember “Press Your Luck,” which originally aired in the 1980s, it’s the show with the Whammies. When contestants landed on a Whammy, they lost all their money and prizes. If that wasn’t humiliating enough for them, the Whammy would then prance across the screen, taunting them in the process.

I will not be watching the new incarnation of “Press Your Luck” for two reasons. Firstly, the show always made me nervous. Secondly, I cannot stand that smart-alecky Whammy.

When I shared this truth with my bestie, I also told her about a few other cartoon characters I abhor due to their smarty-pants natures – Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, Tweety Bird, and Jerry from “Tom and Jerry” fame.

Before I continue, I should make one thing clear. With a couple exceptions – most notably, the Peanuts – I’ve never been a fan of cartoons. This was true even when I was a child. Indeed, I can remember sitting in the floor watching Wile E. Coyote plot against that beeping Road Runner. When the Coyote’s plan failed – once again – I shrugged and announced to the room, “He’s never going to catch him.”

That was the last time I actively watched the Coyote make a fool of himself in pursuit of the Road Runner, whose beep-beeps have probably driven oodles of viewers to drink.

Tweety Bird’s voice also triggers me. To be fair, Tweety’s lisping nemesis, Sylvester, doesn’t sound much better. Nonetheless, on the rare occasion I was subjected to them, I always rooted for Sylvester.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention that I would cheer on the cat. That’s one of the reasons I also wanted Tom to catch the elusive Jerry and wipe that smug expression off that meddlesome mouse’s face.

But no other cartoon character defined smugness like Bugs Bunny. Everything about him – from the way he held carrots to the way he uttered his “What’s up, Doc?” catchphrase – got on my nerves. In the real world, I like rabbits. When it came to the Looney Tunes world, however, I hoped that Elmer Fudd would indeed kill the wabbit.

Anyway, when I recently ran across a discussion about fictional villains, I was surprised to see Wile E. Coyote and Elmer Fudd included. You know, because they’re not the bad guys.

That smart-alecky Whammy definitely should be on that list, though.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Bandit on the run — June 4, 2019

Bandit on the run

Last week I watched “Smokey and the Bandit” for the first time in eons. For the three or four of you who have never seen the classic, it follows the exploits of Bandit (the late great Burt Reynolds) and Snowman (the late great Jerry Reed) as they attempt to smuggle 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas, to Atlanta in 28 hours. At the time the movie was made, Coors wasn’t sold in the eastern part of the United States. Thus, it would have been bootlegging for Bandit and Snowman to transport it across state lines so that the outrageously-dressed gentleman who hired them could then re-sell it.

Anyway, during the bootlegging journey, Bandit picks up a runaway bride, Carrie (Sally Field), whom he quickly dubs Frog. Texas Sheriff Buford T. Justice aka Smokey (Jackie Gleason) is soon in hot pursuit because Carrie – I refuse to liken Field to an amphibian – left Smokey’s son Junior at the altar.

Although “Smokey and the Bandit” was made for something like five bucks and featured what Reynolds characterized as the worst script he ever read, it became the second highest grossing movie of 1977, behind only “Star Wars.” The movie makes absolutely zero sense and contains absolutely zero dramatic tension. I never worried – not even for one nanosecond – that Bandit and Snowman would fail to deliver the beer to the thirsty boys in Atlanta.

But you know what? I love it.

Indeed, I giggle like a school girl every time Bandit emits his trademark chuckle as well as every time Snowman graces the screen with his presence. And Sally Field, who the studio initially didn’t want to cast because they didn’t consider her attractive enough, is simply adorable. By the way, what exactly did they not consider her attractive enough for? Burt Reynolds? Ha. Burt and Sally showed them.

With all that said, here a few questions I have about the movie:

  • Why did Snowman take Fred, his basset hound, on the trip? It appears that Fred left the confines of Snowman’s semi only twice, so the dog either had to hold his water or he had a bladder the size of a Trans Am. Then again, it also appears he ate nothing but a hamburger during the road trip, so maybe he didn’t need to go potty more than twice.
  • How did the Trans Am end the movie in such good shape when Smokey’s cruiser looks like it’s lost several demolition derbies?
  • Why doesn’t Carrie tell Bandit that the fiancé she jilted is the son of a Texas smokey who sounds and looks just like the Texas smokey who’s chasing them? You know, since Bandit wonders aloud several times why a Texas smokey is chasing them.
  • Why does Bandit uncharacteristically want to give up when they’re only four miles from their destination? They’ve bested seemingly every smokey in the southeast, but a helicopter gives him the jitters?

Regardless of these questions, it’s easy to understand how “Smokey and the Bandit” earned classic status. Near the movie’s end, Bandit elicits help from a convoy of semi drivers. After they avert the crisis and he and Carrie and, later, Snowman, speed by, they exchange pleasantries with the cheerful, supportive convoy drivers. It reminds me of the second best piece of advice I’ve ever received – help people when you can.

And that makes me feel good.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.