Friday, July 25, 2008

Dave Barry always gets it right...

I love Dave Barry. Here's a guy that people love reading. Why? Because he makes sense and he says it like it is. My hubbie sent me these Dave Barry factoids and witicisms today.

Things That Took Me Fifty Years to Learn by Dave Barry

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings'.

There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.

You should not confuse your career with your life.

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. (This one is very important)

Never lick a steak knife.

The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.

You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age 11.

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

A person, who is nice to you, but rude to a waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)

Your friends love you anyway.

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

My favorite statement is the one about a friend being rude to a waiter. It is the absolute truth. I once had a friend that browbeat and harassed wait staff. This so-called friend was born with a silver spoon and never worked a day in her life. It only took a couple of outings with her for me to realize that I didn't want to be friends with someone who would have been nasty to me a couple of years earlier. She had shown her true colors.

I also think I may be crossing the line from hobby to mental illness. The addiction? This blog!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homeless family on aisle 5....

It's hard to keep the kids entertained in Phoenix in July. Swimming is great, but there is a magic number of kids (3) that when hit, makes swimming seem more like lifeguarding. I escape to the library with the kids about once a week, but that gets old. When we've done the puzzles, surfed Nick Jr. and Noggin, and maxed our weekly karate visits, I start grasping for activities. I'm starting to reach the bottom of the idea barrel.

It used to be I would drive. Just load up the kids and start that nap-inducing motor. I would cruise around for an hour and pick up half a dozen "for sale" brochures. At one point I thought I could probably be getting paid for having such a feel for the neighborhood housing market. Drive no more. With the cost of gas, I can't tool around aimlessly anymore.

Today I went to Fry's Marketplace, with the intention of turning a grocery visit into an afternoon much like Chuck E. Cheeses. After stocking up on the toiletries I came for, I let the girls run wild. First they tried on several different shades of nail polish in the health and beauty aisle. We all sat on the floor and got cracking on the polish. I cradled baby Madi (my day care charge) on my lap while we experimented with orange and blue shades on Maggie. At one point an employee breezed by the aisle and then backed up to get a second look. "Don't mind us," I said. "Just entertaining the troops." He gave me a look that was somewhere between "you're a sick, crazy woman" and "ooh, such pathetic squatters ." From there we hit the toy department. Maggie and Nora pined for a million different games and puzzles, only to be told "no" a million times. Then we went and gave the bikes a spin around the Sheets and Bedding Department.
By the time we checked out, we had spent an hour and a half at Fry's. I can tell you now where the best clearance items are. For example, there was a bath mat on sale for $1.50. It started at $15!

We're heading to the beach this weekend, so I don't have to come up with any other cheap, cool activities for a while. But I'm sure I'll think of something equally pathetic when we return. I wonder if the kids will have fond memories of these days, or think that their mother did some crazy shit with them.

My dream ride

I don't want a Prius. I mean, I do, and I should. But, what I really want is completely unattainable. I saw someone in MY car today. It's mine. The damn thing has my initials on it. It's an Audi, which I picture breaking down often and needing expensive repairs, it's out of my price range, and it seats two. In order to take it out frequently I'd have to get the kids to perfect their monkey bar skills. Wouldn't they look cute hanging off the back?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sending out an SOS

I'm out of ideas. I'm officially "Lennie" of freezer organization. Help.

The Bug Guy

We've been using the same exterminating company for two years. In that time, we've had 3 different men come to the house. The first guy, Greg, (yes, I know his name) was a so-called veteran of several wars. He had many years in the military and spent the last 20 years working top-secret missions for the government. Whenever he came over he filled me in on the latest classified information. For instance, I've been on the inside track of the Middle East turmoil. Greg let me know that World War 3 will break out in approximately 18 months time. Israel will instigate, and naturally the U.S.A will come to its aid. In Greg's version of events, our country will be decimated by long-range missiles and millions of American citizens will be killed. You don't know how badly I wanted to ask Greg why he's killing scorpions now when he could be on the short-wave to Petraeus. God forbid I was busy when Greg was spraying. The man wanted to chat, and being a polite listener, he had my ear. And then one day, Greg was gone. Perhaps his theories and Drudge Report rhetoric had gotten to be too much for some customers. Next up was the nameless, old man. He came, he sprayed, he collected his money, and he left. Delightful. But it was not to be. The last 3 times we've had the bug guy come out it's been the Original Geek. I'm sure this one has some bodies under the foundation, but they are probably only arachnids he's saving to eat later. This guy talks, sleeps, and breaths bugs. To say this one freaks me out is putting it lightly. In hindsight, I think I saw him trembling when he talked about removing a wasps nest. I know that scorpions are able to hold their breath for 2 weeks and nothing kills mosquitos on contact. There's a lot else I can fill you in on, so just let me know if you are interested. The last time I scheduled the exterminator, I was sure to do it when Scot was working from home. Thought I would share the pleasure . I wonder how long this one will last, and am a bit afraid of who's next.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Grains of Paradise- An African Spice that's so very nice!

These look like something that would come from Africa. Perhaps in the jungle, from the rear of an elephant. But to season food with these putrid looking nuggets?

Yes, you must. Trust me on this. After all, I am the Condiment Queen. I have earned that title from MANY friends and family members. If I can't season it, shake it, pour it, dip it, coat it, or glaze it, it's bland. I buy every salt, spice, and seasoning that hits the shelves, and I'm hear to tell you that this pepper alternative is a new favorite.

I ran across Grains of Paradise in a book I read last summer, "Cooking for Mr. Latte" by Amanda Hesser. Ms. Hesser gushes about the spice. What is it? Grains of Paradise are harvested in Africa, and have a nutty, spicy bite, most compared to black pepper. But they also share the same essential oils contained in cardamom and coriander. To smell it is to take an olfactory trip. There is a muskiness reminiscent of after shave, and a bitterness you find in many Indian dishes. It is pepper that has been on a journey. I've been putting it on everything from mac-n-cheese to Korma Pulau.

Now, you're probably wondering why the heck it took me so long to share this marvel. After all, if I read about it last year, what's the delay? Well, good luck finding it. I believe you can find it online, but I need a sorry excuse to haunt all my favorite food stores. At the seventh fancy market (Whole Foods), I found the coveted spice. It cost $6.99 for 2 1/2 ounces. Or $26, with all the gas I burned to find the stuff.

Try it, you'll like it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I wonder where they heard that?!

When Maggie was about 2 1/2, she was pulling on a jacket and had a difficult time getting the cuff past the watch she was wearing. "Damn it!" she uttered. I looked at her and had to contain my laughter. Never one to watch the mouth, I have too many curse words I adore to pick just one as my favorite. I love to curse. It's empowering, it feels good, and I don't get the same gratification by saying "oh phooey!" "Asshole" is my favorite when driving, and the expletive I say the most, so it should come as no surprise when Maggie called her sister an "asshole" yesterday. I suppose I should be more upset, but I'm not. The words that bother me are "stupid", "dumb", "idiot", and "God". Those words hurt and are dismissive. She'll deny it, but I get my trash mouth from my mother. "Bastard" flew around my house once when I was little, and I hurled it at my teenage brother soon after I heard it. My butt was raw from that one. My kids hear a steady stream of love at out house, so I don't think I'm screwing them up too much with the cussing. If anything, they seem to be picking up on the good words as well. The other day when I asked Nora where she came from she replied, "the clearance rack."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Girls, what the heck is that?

I was drinking my coffee this morning when I looked out into the back yard and saw something strange. At first glance, I thought it was a palm frond or tumbleweed. After all, this is Arizona. Then I saw teeth. And the dastardly appearance of rigor mortis came into view. "What the fu@# is that? " I thought. I gathered the girls around me, and headed out back to investigate. I knew I needed them. Not so much for moral support, but rather to identify this creature. Ol' Zoe Zoologist thought it was a skunk or a possum. "Mommy, it's a raccoon, " Maggie told me. And so it was. Dead, in my back yard. Now I know, most of you are thinking "so what." But we do not have these type of creatures scampering about in the hot desert. Coyotes, yes. Snakes, yes. But my kids had a lark with the squirrels in Michigan, as we don't have them in central Arizona.

So, what was a girl to do? Call the husband and have him remove it on his lunch hour. How I love being a girl!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Scorpion Scarlett

If you've ever met my parents, you've been invited over to their home. Norm and Mary are continuously hospitable, and invite complete strangers to Thanksgiving dinner. If you are a friend, you have probably been asked to spend a couple of nights, and went on to enjoy their wonderful cooking and gorgeous views. Every couple of months a LOCAL couple even spend the night, rather than drinking and driving. I'm not sure how my parents keep up with the demands of entertaining, but they seem to enjoy it.

Two weeks ago, my mom and dad had a couple come and stay with them. Cliff is in his sixties and is an old childhood friend of my father's. Cliff and his wife Scarlett live in a small town in Michigan, and haven't traveled the world much (when Thai for dinner was suggested, they said 'what?') The foursome spent the afternoon by the pool. Cliff and Scarlett were fascinated with the flora and fauna of Arizona. They asked what sort of bugs and insects we have out here. My parents downplayed the famously-hyped scorpions and tarantulas. Because in actuality, no one sees them much. If you want to catch a glimpse of such creatures, you need to leave the neighborhoods and search out in the desert. This was Cliff and Scarlett's first trip out west, and it seemed a different world from Michigan.

Cliff and Scarlett left my parents' house at dawn the next day to catch their flight home. My parents received a call from Cliff later that morning. He told my mom that Scarlett had been bitten by something when she got out of bed that morning. When she swung her legs down, she felt a sharp, stinging pain. My mother had no idea what could have happened. A while later, Cliff called again to say that Scarlett was now feeling "shaky" and her vision was becoming blurred. My mother ran to the guest room, unsure of what she was looking for. She checked the floor, and then pulled back the comforter of the bed. There, on the flat sheet, was an enormous scorpion. The sucker was running across the bed, and was the size of an index finger. After some screaming and hoopla my mom and dad killed the scorpion. It took both of them to kill it. One to scream, and the other to hit it with a boot.

Scarlett is fine. After sitting in an airport wheelchair for a while, she recovered enough to get on the flight home. I wonder if they'll ever come back to stay at my parents. Next time I'm over my parents' house, I'll be looking for scorpions everywhere I walk. I'll be napping in the living room from now on , too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

These here are the salad AND steak days...

When I have company, I always cook enough for the Hatfields and the McCoys. Usually, a small family of four is joining us. I'm not sure if it has to do with my own fear of missing a meal, or if it's some innate need to please. I cook way too much (Is 3 chicken breasts per person enough?) If it's pasta, it's accompanied with a salad. And an appetizer. Add in a heavy dessert, and I push everyone over the edge into sickness. If we grill, it's fancy steak, or pork tenderloin. The whole dinner ends up being an event, and the food is delicious. But it's overkill. To cook a nice meal is a lot of work, and dear hubbie (who wanted to order pizza) is forced to help me through the whole event. The kitchen is trashed and I'm cranky if there are leftovers. Nothing bothers me more than people who eat like sparrows.

Recently, I went to two different friends houses for dinner. Both friends are from similar social and economic status. Our first dinner date was an ultra-casual get-together. So casual, I felt like family, but the sort of family where cousins spawn. We had burgers on the grill with Kraft slices, chips out of the bag, and warm beer. One warm beer. After the first beer, I was offered a soda. In retrospect, I wonder if I had let the F-bomb fly somewhere along the line. For dessert, we were served brownies out of the plastic tin they came in. The dinner menu was enough to make me think I fell into a coma, entered a transport shuttle and was dumped into rural Alabama. The thing is, the hosts are truly wonderful people. Thoughtful and kind. They would do anything for my family. Many gifts have been bestowed upon me from these folks for no reason other than they like me! They are merely busy people who are more consumed with engaging their guests in lively conversation than with heating up the kitchen.

This past weekend we went over to see some other friends' new pool. It was a spur-of-the-moment affair, and I offered to bring beer and an appetizer. I haphazardly threw together some Velveeta and salsa glop. Oops. Didn't I look like the big schmuck when my hostess presented me with a mint mojito. In between holding her one-year-old and wrangling the 3 year old, she managed to whip together homemade coleslaw and spice-rubbed ribs. All of this was accompanied by platters of garlic bread, brownies, and sliced watermelon. It was decadent. And so unexpected. Here is a woman in graduate school with two small children, and yet it all looked so effortless. The night was perfect, and I felt honored to share in such a tasty meal. And the thing is, the hostess did not appear frazzled in the least.

What these two very different dinners showed me is that a friend is a friend. I appreciate my friends for different reasons, not whether or not they can throw together a five course meal in a jiffy. That doesn't mean I wouldn't rather eat at one person's house or the other. Give me the ribs and the mojitos! Perhaps I'll just loosen my standards for what I deem acceptable entertaining at my house. If they are my friends, they'll be there for me. Friends don't let friends burn themselves cooking their dinner. But I will make sure there is beer- and that it is cold.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I am forever pissed off at the customer service I receive. It's never enough. I'm not sure why I'm such a persnickety bitch about my need to have sales clerks falling over me, but I think it's because when I was in any service industry, I just stopped short of a blow job. I gave and gave and gave. Because in my day, the customer was still right.

Which leads me to today's debacle. Seven weeks ago (who's counting), I got my hair cut VERY short. A young girl named "Kortni" did a fantastic job lopping off my locks while chatting about her old parents (her mother is 49- gasp!) and her lack of boyfriend. She was blond, pretty and rich. Her daddy had sent her to design school, but when that didn't work out, he sprang for cosmetology school so that she could find her way in life. As I exited the chair, I was informed that my haircut would be $60, before tip. Yep, it bothered me that prepubescent Kortni was making more in an hour than I did to watch a crying baby all day. Nevertheless, I dipped into my skinny wallet and handed Kortni her money for that evening's bar bill.

Fast forward to today. I had decided that I would scrimp and save, and suffer for 8 weeks of a grown-out cut, to visit Kortni again. My hair looks THAT good. I called the salon this morning, and was told that I had to call Kortni on her cell phone to make an appointment. After a couple of missed calls, Kortni left a message on my answering machine that said SHE would be available to cut my hair on Thursday at 10:30. THAT'S IT. No elaboration on which Thursday, no, "Hi Toni", no, "Will this work for you, Toni?". I couldn't believe someone would leave a message for a customer without some genial greeting, some salutation, some serious ass-kissing that would shore up the deal of the next $60 haircut. When I got in touch with Kortni, she repeated her offer of "Thursday, at 10:30". I thought that meant tomorrow. But, NO, NO, NO. Next Thursday. Because young Kortni is so busy snipping, that this is the only time she is willing to dole out to mother-of-two, hard working me. For some reason, this enrages me. If I wanted repeat business, I think I would say "WHAT WORKS FOR YOU HARDWORKING, OVERPAYING CUSTOMER?" But I wasn't asked that. I wasn't given any options. I was only told what I had to take.

Guess what? I'm not going back to Kortni. I'll be seeing ol' Fred again. Fred asks when I'm available and what works around my schedule. I usually am asked how I am, and what's going on in my life. I realize that Fred probably doesn't give a shit that my kids are sick and the roof is leaking. But he understands customer service. His $17 haircut isn't going to pay for his bar tab, but it will pay his bills.