Monday, September 30, 2013

Valiant Liars in the Pool

My dad, who is 86.
Every competitor you meet at the Senior Olympics, every Speedo-d, grizzled, white-legged swimmer, will say the same thing. You will be introduced to that person, and he will say "I just do this for fun."

Every one of them is a liar.

No one is more serious about winning than the steely-eyed individuals in this group, many of whom who have driven in from several states away. These athletes are serious about winning whether they are 55 years old and the youngsters of the group, or almost 87 and the most senior of these Olympians.

And still, to a person, you will hear every one of them say, "I just do this for fun." Oh, they may put a spin on the lie by saying "I'm just hoping to stay in shape," or "I just do this to keep off the couch" or some other variation that boils down to "I don't care if I win or lose."

They are lying. Every single one of them.

That's why an hour before the races began on Saturday my father was checking his list of races. His variation of "I just do this for fun" is "I just want to let people know that they can still do something like this at my age."

This is not a complete and total lie, but if he did not want to win, my father would not be scrutinizing the list of heats to see if anyone else has entered in the 85-90 year category, and if there is competition whether that man is liable to beat him. Dad is the one from whom I get the competitiveness that prevents me from playing board games with those I love: If I compete, I will want to BEAT YOU DOWN and that is not a trait that endears me to friend or foe. He wants to win.

You know pretty much from the moment they enter the water who is going to win. The woman in lane 3 dives from the starting pad in a shallow arc and doesn't come up for her first breath until she is halfway down the 25-yard lane. She laps her slower competitors before the race is half over. She has a personal coach on the side of the pool correcting her stroke.

She is valiant and awesome.

The woman in lane 6 barely appears to be moving. Her stroke turns over slowly, slowly--if there were any current at all, floating probably would carry her along faster. But the stroke keeps turning over and she makes progress. When she finally touches the finish line the crowd applauds.

She is valiant and awesome.

All of them are awesome, these swimmers who are grandparents and great-grandparents. Every day they climb into the pool and swim lap after lap as they practice for this state meet, and they climb out of the pool smiling.

These valiant, awesome liars are winners.

To be continued.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Orts and the Cutest Thing Ever

This week's edition of Friday Orts starts with the picture above. The postman left this newspaper at the House on the Corner a few days ago and it's one of the more exciting things I've ever seen. It signifies that the bar results are out, and that if I'm ever accused of a crime in Missouri, Boy#1 and Lovely Girl now will be sitting there at the defendant's table with me and I can tell them when to object. (Of course I'd be telling them when to object--they may be lawyers now, but I was watching Perry Mason before The Good Wife was even born so I've been an expert on courtroom procedures for decades. Also, what did they expect when they took my case?)

Lawyers! Both of them! Wooooo!

Another reason I keep Husband around (besides his charm and good looks and willingness to change lightbulbs) is that he is increasingly the memory of our marriage. I wrote last week about how much we've loved our next door neighbors, which is a good thing because our houses are really, really close and they had to put up with my yell-y parenting and piano practice when the windows were open. Husband reminded me of when Boy#1 was a baby and we kept hearing him cry on the baby monitor. When we'd go upstairs to check on him, though, he would be sound asleep. Finally we realized we were hearing the neighbor twins, who were exactly One's age. Our houses were so close the monitor frequencies were mixing.

Needless to say, this had a profound effect on any further conversations held within pick-up range of the monitor.

A lovely reader who also knows me outside of cyberspace commented on my post about being a mediocre cook in which I bragged about making pretty good crescent rolls. I asked which recipes moms were passing along to their children these days and she said, "My kids are still too young to answer that final question but I must say this...your rolls...your Thanksgiving rolls are out of this world!!! (Yes, that called for three exclamation marks)."

That's awfully nice of her, especially since the recipe (found here) is so easy. Nicest thing about it? You make the dough the night before the big day, so you can sleep a half hour later on the actual big day.

My favorite commercial of the week:

And finally, this may be the cutest thing ever posted. Yes, I've seen all the cats and pandas, but for my money, a four-year-old and her pink-ukele-strumming dad have now won the internet.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cranky Day

Well, apparently it is Cranky Day in Small Town.

I call this a failure of technology: None of my iPhone alerts warned me of what the day would bring, although they did remind me of two appointments I had already cancelled.

But so far this morning I have taken phone calls from (a) one person who was irritated because we had changed her mailing address on her permanent record (as directed by the Post Office, an official government agency) and she was concerned about "who else might find me?", and from (b) a community member who cannot choose between a lecture and a play going on tonight and apparently believes that's my fault. I've also opened one (c) "please unsubscribe me immediately but I'm not going to tell you why" e-mail, as well as an e-mail from (d) someone who had thought (mistakenly) that her message would be in today's e-message to the campus.

Of all of these issues, guess which one is totally and unequivocally my fault? Also, guess which person was the most gracious and pleasant to deal with? If you guessed (d) in both cases, you are the winner of the Cranky Day Grand Prize.

I know, I know. Just by writing this post I have qualified myself to participate in Cranky Day, but at least I'm trying my best to stay out of the fray. I have followed my standard steps in determining how severely to beat myself around the head and shoulders in response to these complaints: A couple minutes of fact-finding in which I determine if I can fix the problem, a couple minutes fixing the problem if possible and apologizing in any case because no matter whose fault the problem was someone felt bad, a couple of minutes of feeling bad for the other person, a couple of minutes feeling bad for myself.

Then I take my coffee break and run to the yarn shop, where I buy some delicious silk yarn that just arrived in town yesterday, and just like that, Cranky Day is over. Deep breath, and smile.

Next time, morning alerts, don't fail me. My unfinished crafts stash can't hold many more Cranky Day projects.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Passing the Torch

As the mother of four sons, I was pretty much guaranteed to be the most popular person in the house when it came to food. Boys have this habit of eating at regular intervals, and when they're teenagers the exact time they're hungry would be "all of the."

I've mentioned before that I'm really not a very good cook. I make dynamite crescent rolls, and a fine chocolate sheetcake, but most of the rest of my efforts go into the edible-but-not-memorable category. (Huh. I just realized that this is one more example of my willing semi-competence. I'm beginning to think that trait defines my life.) 

I was fortunate that the Boys and Husband weren't picky--once they reached the age of knowing it was pretty nice to have supper waiting for them when they got home, the Boys would eat almost anything if it didn't include (in the case of Boy#1) tomatoes or (Boy#4) mushrooms. Husband won't eat lima beans or egg salad, both of which I'm just fine with omitting from our menus. Of course no one could eat the experimental Cheesy Shrimp Grits that I tried a decade or so ago and which had the consistency and gustatory appeal of wallpaper paste. Wallpaper paste that required about $24 worth of ingredients and which Our Dog Pepper loved, but none of the rest of us could swallow. But hey--Cheesy Shrimp Grits became the absolute bottom of the food chain in the House on the Corner. If something didn't turn out just right, someone was sure to say, "Well, this may have poisoned us, but it wasn't as bad as Cheesy Shrimp Grits."

Anyway, now that they're out and living in their own apartments the Boys have discovered that some of the things I cooked that really weren't all that good also really weren't all that bad and they're asking me for recipes.

"King Ranch Casserole and anything else you think I might want to cook," Boy#3 specified in his request.

That was easy enough--KRC is on the internet in about eleventy-seven places so I sent this recipe on, then I opened my cookbooks to see what I've cooked over the years. It's not hard to find those recipes: The pages are grease-stained and steam-crinkled. Wonderful Waffles. Betty Crocker's Beef Stew. Molasses Crinkles. I'm typing them all out to distribute.

And now the Boys can start their own food legends in their own homes. One of these days they'll be cooking for me, and I can't wait.

Until then, moms out there, what recipes are you passing along to your kids?

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

Ohmygosh! I've been nominated!

The lovely Katherine at Pillows A-La-Mode invited her readers to nominate a blogger they would like to have for a neighbor, and a lovely someone who I'm sure is awfully smart and wearing gorgeous (but sensible) shoes nominated ME!

I did not win the contest, but that's beside the point. The point is that someone on the internet would like to be my neighbor, to live next door to the House on the Corner. I am going to have to do my very best to keep that someone from ever crossing paths with the neighbors who actually do live next door to the House on the Corner.

You see, we're not very good neighbors. We're earnest and well-meaning, but we're kind of...well, loud. And we're open-window types. The house next door is close enough that if our arms were just slightly longer we could reach out and touch it from our dining room, and have I ever mentioned that the piano is in the dining room? All that fresh air that flows in has been accompanied by the flowing out of a lot of piano and trombone practicing, not all of it the kind that would make you want to put your head on the pillow as much as put your head under a pillow and ask someone to press down hard.

I was also kind of a yell-y mom, a fact I'm sure has been much appreciated by our neighbor, who has worked nights for most of his career and whose bedroom is thiiiiiiis close to that dining room window. I should have sent him a case of earplugs when we moved in beside them 26 years ago, but I was busy gestating and didn't get around to it. Four Boys later it seems a little beside the point.

Still, we had way more in common than just a shared property line and our neighbors are lovely human beings and even better friends who have loaned us sugar and brought in our mail more times than I can count, even putting up with the shenanigans of Our Dog Pepper in her younger, yappier days. In spite of our (my) yelliness and all that piano playing and trombone practicing, we've been friends for lo these many years.

Thank you, anonymous nominator who doesn't even know me but has nominated me (ME!) for Katherine's Good Neighbor Award. You've warmed the cockles of my heart. Let's cut a hole in the fence so we can talk while the kids play, just like my actual neighbor and I used to do.

Just don't ask her if I'm a good neighbor--she might tell the truth. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Orts and a Blurb

It's time for Friday Orts and a Blurb! Again! And we begin with the final remnant of the Four Friends Weekend.

We were getting ready to light a patio candle to up the mellow of an already mellow setting, but then D discovered that someone had flown too near the flame and waxed himself. I believe this bug is of the "Icarus" species.

We did not light the candle because a) there is a parable somewhere in there waiting to be unpacked, and b) we didn't have any matches.

Lest you think Husband really is a spoilsport, I need to follow up with the report that he returned to the site of the free bowling balls and was going to bring them home to allow me to not finish another craft project. Alas, the garage sale remnants had been packed off to Goodwill, which probably was the best outcome for everyone.

There are times when I think God gave me short stubby thumbs for a good reason: I am the world's worst texter, and I rarely share anything on Facebook unless I'm on an actual computer because it's too haaaaaard with my Vienna sausage-like thumbs. This week, though, I was on the exercise bike checking Facebook when I saw a link to the Huffington Post opinion piece on "Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy."

"Yeah, there's a lot in that article that makes sense to me," my overheated brain thought, and I hit the button to share the piece with my friends.

Well. While I stand by my contention that Generation Y is displaying a lot of employment shock and feelings of thwarted entitlement that have been underscored by many, many participation trophies, my Boys (understandably) pointed out that the majority of their generation have worked very, very hard but also inherited a disastrous economy that MY generation can take credit for creating.

I stand chastened, and next time will listen to my thumbs.

And finally my weekly (stubby) thumbs-up-or-down.

You may or may not be familiar with this product, but if you are not, you should be. I first encountered Sazón Goya in Costa Rica, where Mama Chena basically threw it into whatever she was cooking. When I saw it again years later I bought several packages of it (although not the full case WalMart recommended when I stole this image from them). One internet description says "Inside this box you'll find what good cooks have always dreamed of, an absolutely foolproof way to make everything taste not just good, or even great, but sensational - every time." 

That might be hyperbole (ya think?) but last night I made a gravy out of leftover chicken, onions, peppers, mushrooms, the usual stuff you throw into a gravy made of leftovers. I also threw in a packet of Sazón Goya, and people, that gravy served over fresh cornbread was yummy, yummy.

Definitely a thumbs up. Maybe I should add some to the next batch of cookies?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Craft! Tell Us About It!

Well, of COURSE our friends' weekend included a craft. It always does, and these hands-on projects have been successful on the Fujita Scale from -3 (the beading project that was tooooo haaaaard and resulted in one very misshapen angel and several new deployed expletives) to the respectable +1thumbprint note cards (rating based on enjoyability and outcome) to last year's solid +2 Christmas tree ornaments.

The Castle was perfect for our canvas-tote-painting efforts, what with the big glass table (easily cleaned of acrylic paint) and the cool weather. And three of the four of us came up with some top-notch totes.

There was D's artistic homage to an artist the name of whom everyone except me knew:

And K's garden-y looking beauty:
As well as the doily-lace design by both C and D that made their bags look vintage-y:
And then there were my bags. As I've admitted before, I am neither crafty nor patient, but I am completely confident. I followed the vision in my head and in about two minutes flat had my bags drying on the chaise longue:
Yeah. The visions in my head are always prettier than what I can produce in reality.

BUT--my friends have known me forever, and they said exactly the right thing.

"Hey! I remember that! That was my favorite dress  you ever had!"

And I smiled happily because that was exactly the vision I had in my head.
My family in 1970
Me, on the left, at age 16 already four years into my friendship with these three.

This crafty bag may not be art but it's certainly history.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Where Was I?

Okay, since a lot of people (well, two) have asked, here are the details on the fabulous location of the Kansas Castle where my oldest friends and I spent the weekend. First, feast your eyes on that picture.

Is that the most wonderful building perhaps you've ever seen? Do you not imagine climbing to the top and waving your scarf from the parapet as Prince Charming rides into town?

No? Huh.

Well, then can you imagine yourself in a 1926 Chevrolet Series V Superior pulling under the arch of that brand-new filling station and telling the attendant to fill 'er up and check the oil?

Not that, either?

Can you at least look at the lawn ornaments that usually make you roll your eyes because taste, people, get some of it, but in this case they're simply adorable and make you think the fairy next to the garden hose is waiting for someone to turn on the water and unlock her magic?

Okay, then, I guess that's just me. But if you had any of those same thoughts, get yourself immediately to the Castle Lodge in Glen Elder, Kansas, because it's about the most charming place I've ever stayed, and it cost less than the local Super 8 charges. Really!

I don't have pictures of the inside because carving a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom out of the original filling station means there's not much backing-up-to-take-a-picture leeway, but you can find interior pictures on the lodge's website--here. It's cute and clean and well-stocked, although I'd recommend being good friends with anyone you stay here with; we slept four quite comfortably but to put six in here you'd need to like each other A LOT.

Besides, we spent most of our time outside on the patio, where we had rocking chairs and comfy spaces and a fire pit, as well as a large table for the craft project. (Well, of course we did a craft project.)

Our one complaint came from the noise-averse member of the group, who has a thing about wind chimes. There are two in this sitting area and when the breeze kicked up she began looking a little wide-eyed. The moment we mentioned that to owner Dan,  though, he tied those puppies down and all we heard was the owl hooting from the park across the street. 

You'll also want to take your own snacks because Glen Elder is not exactly a booming metropolis, so you have to go clear out to the convenience store on the highway to buy a candy bar if you're feeling peckish. However, when it's time for breakfast that same convenience store provided hearty breakfasts for under $10, and the pancakes were yummy. That's $10 for all four of us, in case you thought that was a hefty tab for breakfast. (I know! So cheap!)

I'm aware that not everyone in the world will want to visit this castle because maybe you don't want to have a good time or maybe you don't appreciate great hospitality. But me? I'm going back.

Do you suppose Dan would mind if I just left a toothbrush there?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Still Lucky (Just Not Rich)

Three of the luckiest things that ever happened to me, and me.
Every year this is almost too hard to do.

The four of us have managed to pull off this annual get-together for almost a decade now, but the coordination of hectic schedules is almost too hard to do. We live in four different states, four different time zones, four different realities that have little in common. Two are retired, two of us still work full-time, each of us has dozens and dozens of other responsibilities pulling at our weekends.

There have been years--and this was one--when I almost said I couldn't make it. Those other responsibilities were swirling around my ankles and threatening to pull me down.

But somehow we've made it happen, and when it does, we remember why we've been best friends since  junior high: We've just been lucky.

This year we met in a Kansas castle, a tiny stone building that had been built as a filling station in 1926 and converted to a beautifully efficient lodge in 2012. It was the perfect location: With the entire building just for us and the thick limestone walls, no one was bothered by our late-night laughter.

Because even though we've known each other for going on half a century (and some of us longer than that), there is always something to talk and laugh about. Our roles in the sandwich generation that places us squarely between our grown-up children and our aging parents. Our jobs or our retirements (and the ever-so-slight jealousy between those two states). We press each other for pictures of the grandbaby, the almost-daughter-in-law, the just-completed landscaping.

Always, always, always we remember how lucky we are to have found friends like these because there are some people who don't have this kind of a relationship for even five minutes in their lifetimes and we've had each other for so many years.

We've gotten in the habit of buying a lottery ticket just before dinner Saturday night. Wouldn't that be a hoot, to win $317 million and split it four ways? We talk about what we'll do with the money--"A cook! A housekeeper! A cook AND a housekeeper!" We talk about risks we're willing to take (for the record: skydiving, yes; bungee jumping, no) and places we would go if we won the money.

Sunday morning we wake up, check the lottery numbers, and laugh because every single time we actually think we will have won because we're so lucky to be able to do this every year we assume that luck will rub off on the Powerball drawing. It doesn't, of course, but as we hug and get back in our cars to go back to our separate states and time zones, we're not really disappointed.

We know we're so lucky. We're just not rich.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Orts and Blurb

I think it's the sign of a very good life that it's Friday! Again! Already!

Another sign of a very good life? The magnificent sunrise that greeted me literally at my front door this morning. People, this is the view from my front porch and if I were a better photographer you'd know that there's not much in life that is more beautiful than a sunrise behind the main administration building at Small College.

It occurred to me yesterday that the armadillo I encountered on my morning walk a few weeks ago probably wrote an entirely different blog post about the incident than I did. I amused myself for several minutes writing this imaginary post in my head. ("There I was, just peeking into the attorney's window to see if he'd left me any tasty treats, when this MONSTER appeared. She was huge and smelled terrible, and she jumped straight up in the air when she saw me, but I CHASED her....") 

Why, yes. I'm easily amused. How could you tell?

It's a big day in my extended family--we're officially gaining a member! Today my nephew and his tiny armful of sweetness are tying the knot, the first of three cousin weddings over the next 60 days. Blessings to you, J and K, and may all your troubles be little ones.



Finally, a blurb.

I love garlic. Love it, love it, love it. I use it in practically every savory thing I cook, from spaghetti to potato salad. But I do not like the way the garlic peel sticks to every surface, especially my just-washed hands, so my eyes lit up when I saw the big bag of peeled garlic at Sam's.

Husband was skeptical. Would I really use that much garlic before it spoiled? At $2.98 for the enormous bag, though, I decided to give it a shot. (The size we got did not come in the jar, as pictured, but in a bag. This point is crucial to my blurb. It was, however, this brand.)

The good news is that pre-peeled garlic truly is convenient. The bad news is that the bag apparently is made of some kind of atmosphere-permeable material that keeps the garlic fresh but is completely ineffective in containing the garlicky odor produced by several hundred peeled cloves. We found ourselves opening the refrigerator just enough to pull out the milk jug then quickly slamming the door shut to try to contain the fumes.

In fact, a few minutes ago when I asked Husband to verify the brand of the garlic he didn't want to brave opening the crisper. "Just say 'Stinky.' Or 'Odorous,'" he told me.

So I'd give mixed reviews to pre-peeled garlic since the whole house reeks of garlic. But is that such a bad thing? And we've had not a single problem with vampires this week, so I'm giving this product  a thumbs up.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Interesting Mix

I'm sorry about the terrible screen grab. Photoshop and I are not friends.
I do love Facebook, except when I hate it, but there are days when I don't think this anonymous social medium knows me at all, its gargantuan data mining capabilities notwithstanding. Today is one of those days.

Facebook often recommends pages for me to "like" (a verb I'm not yet using in the same un-quotation-marked way that I use the verb google) based on my internet history. This morning I opened my browser to find that they're recommending a Mulligan stew of topics and products.

Barbara Kingsolver, a wonderful author. (Her Poisonwood Bible still haunts me.) Marcus Borg, a theologian, which I only know because I googled him. The Kansas attorney general. A local recording studio and a design studio located four hours away but only 20 miles from The Farm where I grew up.

Orange juice, which I don't drink because oranges are so much more delicious and FIBER.

Pee-wee Herman,, I'm drawing a blank here. I am the mother of boys who once were young, perhaps?

And cream cheese.

Well, huh. Given that last item, I'm afraid Facebook knows me all too well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Married a Spoilsport

My husband is a sweet, smart, hardworking, funny, good-looking guy, I think we can all agree. We won't hold his lack of enthusiasm for dance against him, because he's such a doggoned good husband, right? Well, I'm sorry to tell you that he is not perfect.

My husband is a spoilsport.

I know! Who would have thought that this Mary Poppins of a man (practically perfect in every way) could be such a Dudley Downer when it comes to his wife and all things artful?

Take the above photo, for example. How adorable is that? It's from this webpage, and I found it on a Pinterest page I stumbled across called "bowling ball garden art." (Also, do we live in a great moment in history, when both Pinterest and that topic exist?)

This weekend was the annual garage sale put on by the youth of our church. The sale is on Saturday, and Sunday morning everything that's left over is free for the carting away. People, there were TWO BOWLING BALLS left over on Sunday! No one had bought them! They would be FREE!

As I shared my enthusiasm for the find with Husband, I could practically see thoughts running across his forehead like share prices running across a Wall Street ticker except that this ticker kept track of my unfinished projects already filling up the basement. There goes the single bed headboard that was going to become a bench...and the rocking chair that's half stripped of its orange paint ...and the cute little church pew that has been completely stripped and propped up on blocks waiting for finish for at least five years...and the two trunks that I keep forgetting about because they were stripped then moved into the coal bin to make room for more projects...and add to those the unfinished projects in the rest of the house--the heaps of yarn...and the stacks of t-shirts ready to be made into quilts...

Or maybe it was my own mind those projects were running through, because Husband didn't say a word.

"Oh, FINE," I grumbled. "I'll leave them for someone else."

But I assure you of one thing--if I had brought those bowling balls home, and had gone against my usual pattern and actually gotten them converted into ladybugs, and then had again gone against character and actually moved them from the basement to a flowerbed, they would have been adorable.

He's such a spoilsport. It's a good thing I don't have any flowerbeds.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Two Questions

It's my favorite time of the year again! Woooo!

We have successfully navigated the months of sweat and mosquitoes, and can now expect crisp days and cool nights. Never mind that Kansas is setting records for heat--it's SEPTEMBER and this cannot go on forever. Can it?

Anyway, perhaps my favorite activity in the world is watching professional football on Sunday afternoons, through my eyelids. I sit down to see how badly the Chiefs will get beaten, and before I know it the thud of colliding beef has lulled me into a nap and three hours later I wake up and say "Hey! How badly did the Chiefs get beaten?"

Yesterday, wonder of wonders, the Chiefs did not get beaten at all. In fact, they DOMINATED. That was the actual word used by the color commentator, who (little known fact) had the mumps at my parents' house when he was four years old and I was eight because his family and my family were friends and his parents had an out-of-town family emergency so he and his brother were staying with us. True story.

Anyway (again), in the four minutes that I watched the game before I fell asleep I saw the Chiefs quarterback get tackled by an opposing player. It was a sack, but only in the loosest sense of the word because I think the net yardage loss was something like two yards, and at that point Kansas City was leading Jacksonville by....well, I don't remember how many points, but it was a lot. (And this is why I don't write sports--I don't care enough to look it up.)

At that point, after he made the tackle, the opposing player (a Jaguar--I did look that up) struck a pose that looked exactly like the Ad Astra sculpture on top of the Kansas capitol dome in Topeka. Well, he had on more clothes, and did not actually have a bow and arrow in his hands, but the pose was this:

So I have two questions: 

1. Do football players practice these poses in the mirror, just in case they're losing by many, many, many points and want to show how completely manly they are when they sack a quarterback for a two-yard loss? And if so, 

2. Wouldn't it be more effective if they were dressed exactly like the Ad Astra sculpture? 

Just sayin'.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Orts and Blurb (Grammar Edition)

Well, what do you know. I've been so busy meeting a killer deadline (and un-laboring on Labor Day, and eating pupusas) that I've arrived at Friday without accumulating enough orts to make a whole post. So this week let's talk about grammar! Yay!

1. I acknowledge that I cannot throw a baseball reliably enough to not hit my own feet with it (yes, I have done this). I cannot broil a steak that doesn't require extensive chewing. There are so, so many things that I do so, so poorly. However, I spell like a boss, and now I understand why all those people who could throw baseballs laughed as they saw the ball bounce off my toe. This seat WABILS? Hahahahaha!

2. If I were not at the end of the week (see: killer deadline) I could maybe flesh out an entire post about punctuation inflation. Has anyone else noticed that the marvelously efficient single dot used to end sentences (also known as the period) is quickly being replaced by the exclamation point? In the olden days, whippersnappers, exclamation points were reserved for true exclamations. (Dang! I burned my hand. I should have used a potholder.) The exclamation point, though, has become the go-to punctuation for any sentence that isn't a question, with the number of EPs indicating the passion in the statement. (Dang!!!!! I burned my hand!!! I should have used a potholder!) I have resisted this trend by ruthlessly slashing the multiple exclamation points that come past my desk in the course of a day. (Really? The barbecue you are inviting students to attend will have DELICIOUS FOOD!!!!!!!!!?) I'm only human, though, and my resistance is being eroded to the place where I use this punctuation myself! And than I slap myself on the forehead. Ouch! That hurts.

3. I'm sure you already know this, but you've seen the instructions on how to comfort a grammar nerd, right? Just say "There, their, they're."

4. I will read almost any book, as long as it's well-written and not about vampires. Romance novels? Detective stories? Biographies? Bring 'em all on. The key phrase there, though, is "as long as it's well-written." Last week I opened a book on my e-reader to an opening sentence that was something along the lines of "The girls always had loved shoes, because they were shallow." I wish I could quote the sentence exactly, with its ambiguous meaning (The shoes were shallow? Or the girls?) but I was so incensed by this opening sentence that I deleted the book from my reader. Poof. It was gone. And in spite of this deletion being the modern equivalent of book-burning, I can't believe my grammar purist friends wouldn't approve.

5. Finally, another snooty picture taken because it made me laugh:

One day I'll let you watch me try to throw a baseball, and you all may laugh at me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Usuluteco. Remember That Name.

On our way to the farm Sunday (yes, the same trip that turned out to be unexpectedly unencumbered by luggage) Husband and I stopped to eat at a Salvadoran restaurant in nearby Big City. After my years of culinary indoctrination during the Peace Corps I salivate at the thought of Central American food and this little place in a strip mall had earned great reviews on Yelp and Urban Spoon.

I must preface this story with a bit of background, though. If you were to pick three words to describe Husband and me, those words would have to be "Whitest. Couple. Ever." When I was young(er) someone told me I looked like I should be in a milk commercial, but that was before milk commercials featured famous athletes. As it was it meant that I was a stereotypically wholesome and wide-eyed Heartlander, and I did not marry out of my species.

Anyway, I had read the restaurant reviews that raved about Usuluteco's fabulous pupusas and I could not wait to try them. If you have never eaten one of these cheese-filled thick corn tortillas, your life has been wasted, and sadly, up to now Husband's life fit that description. So we walked into this restaurant and it felt just like this:

We were surrounded by beautiful, compact Salvadorenos, each family with its gorgeous woochable-cheeked baby babbling away in Spanish gibberish.

The waiter was a charming teenager who switched effortlessly between Spanish and English. For some reason, he automatically talked English with us. Go figure.) When the pupusas arrived, though, he probably figured from the puddle of drool on the table that I was a fan.

I was so much of a fan, in fact, that I pulled out my phone to take a picture of our lunch so I could remember its deliciousness and think "so worth it" long after it had settled onto my hips.

That's the moment that the already-stellar service kicked into top gear. I had barely put the phone back in my purse when the restaurant manager was beside our table.

"Everything taste okay?" he said with a smile. "Oh, mrpheryes," I mumbled through a mouthful of melty cheese tortilla. "Sooooo delicious."

"Well, if you need anything else, just ask!"

We rolled our eyes and stuffed pupusas into our mouths for a few minutes without talking. Then the manager was back again.

"We have some wonderful plantains today--how about trying some of those?"

I am not strong enough to resist an offer of fried plantains--with pureed black beans and crema--and soon that sweet deliciousness was sitting next to the half-demolished pupusas and the manager was back.

"Everything okay? Need anything more?"

We assured him we were more than well taken care of and beginning to bloat a little, and when he walked away Husband looked at me.

"Do you think, maybe...he thinks you are a food critic?"

Oh, my gosh! Were we getting special treatment because the boss mistook my cell phone documentation of the meal for a professional judgment that people would actually pay attention to? I sat up a little straighter, wiped some hot sauce off the edge of my mouth, and pretended to assess the deliciousness that had just been served to us. Unfortunately, by this time all I had left to assess was this:

So here's my review of the restaurant in Wichita, Kansas, where we ate: You don't have to be Salvadoran to eat there, because they are incredibly nice and incredibly welcoming, but please don't eat all the food because I want some MORE.

The name of the restaurant is Usuluteco. I will repeat that for any search engines that might be searching--Usuluteco, Usuluteco, Usuluteco.

And with that, we paid our (very modest) bill, left a huge tip because I'm sure that's what food critics do, and left the building.

 I'm the one blowing kisses.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ultra Low Maintenance Travel

Waiting patiently.
The following is an exact transcription of the conversation between Husband and me just after we arrived at The Farm Sunday night. My dad was going to carry my suitcase up to the guest bedroom, and I had opened the trunk to find only the ice chest inside.
Me: "Honey, did you put my suitcase in the back seat? I don't see it back here."
Him: "I thought you said you put it in the car--I didn't."
Me: (unprintable thoughts)
I have traveled a fair amount in my life, what with being a Peace Corps volunteer and having married a preacher's kid whose lifetime of moving around gave him an insatiable urge to travel. I also have never pulled away from the curb without thinking "What have I forgotten?"

And every single time I could answer that question with one word: Something. I have never in my life traveled without forgetting my jewelry, or my phone charger, or my moisturizer, or my nightgown. This was the very first time I could answer the question with a different word: Everything.

A mix-up in communication meant that when I had told Husband I had my bag he interpreted that to mean I had my suitcase, when I really meant I had the bag that contained my knitting and book and would keep me from whining and asking repeatedly if we were there yet for the three hours we would be on the road. The bag that contained my toiletries and nightgown and clean underwear (and clothes) was still on our bed, where it would be waiting for me when we got back a day later.

We live in a great country, though, and the nearest WalMart was only 20 miles away. Even though I'm a big supporter of supporting independent businesses and buying locally-produced items, I could not have been happier to hand over a check for $72 and have the cashier hand me back a bag holding hair products, deodorant, new underwear, and the other basics I would need to function in the civilized world for the next 24 hours.

All in all, it wasn't such a bad experience. Now when I forget something on my next trip (which I invariably will) instead of panicking I'll think "Well, that could have been a lot worse! At least I didn't forget EVERYTHING."

Also, I will be reminding Husband that most women are a lot higher maintenance than I am, and that $72 would not completely outfit the majority of adult females from skin out, especially since most of that was spent on hair products. (What? Comb, brush, shampoo, styling mousse, gel, hairspray. Do the math.)

Also, now I know that everything I really need to travel fits in a single WalMart bag.

My travel habits may have changed forever.