Archive for May, 2010

Muskrat Love: Glad Someone is Getting Some…

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Dining RoomPeonies

Our three day weekend started out lovely enough.

We’ve been calling our newly redecorated home: The Jones Bed & Breakfast.

Mr. J got up and made omelet’s w/his proprietary recipe of special ingredients and we sat down in our gorgeous dining room….for the first time in our married life we actually have a dining room table and chairs….drinking my favorite Caribou Coffee: Mahogany.

I stepped outside to our flower bed and carefully snipped off a few peonies: magenta and light pink, making sure the ants which are vital to opening up the blooms are nowhere to be seen; I settled into my favorite chair and contemplated what we should do for the day.

We decided to take a drive downtown to the Farmer’s market. We have an awesome outdoor market: over the years we’ve taken stunning pictures there of the flora, veggies and fruit available with just a little kitsch thrown in for good measure. My dad loves to go there and pick up leather work gloves for $10 a pair. I try to look the other way, afraid they have fallen off the back of a truck somewhere.

On the way downtown we saw two little critters sitting on the side of the road.

Ever since I was a child, when my father would point out wildlife to us during road trips, I always keep my eyes peeled for animals. Today we saw two little guys, who after some searching on the internet we decided were young muskrats. I doubled back and we sat and looked at each other from the car: us at them, them at us. They were so darn cute. I wanted to get out of the car, snatch one up and give them a cuddle but Mr. J put the kibosh on that plan.

Anywho – downtown we went. In and around the Farmer’s Market was a madhouse. No park to be had. After circling for fifteen minutes I gave up, discouraged and then missed my turn and ended up in Interstate Exchange Hell. I swear we “looped” the dang city five times before I managed to get us on the right road, headed back to the ‘burbs where I was going to stop at Trader Joes for some awesome chocolate “Expresso Pillows.”

If I’m drinking wine (which I plan to be doing this weekend) I want a little chocolate with it. These aren’t too bad calorie wise and they taste like sin!

Without too much hassle at TJ we went to my local Co-op where I found out they’ve discontinued my favorite line of Raw Food. What?? That is why I joined that silly Co-op to begin with!

Then to Target. I love and hate Target at the same time. Today mostly hate.

I fill my prescriptions there using their Target credit card: after every 10th prescription I get a 10% off coupon to be used all day at Target. Love that. Today, I go to the pharmacy to pick up my monthly prescriptions…seems like the quantity of those grow the older I get: go figure.

I swipe my card to pay for today’s haul of prescription drugs. The card declines. Or so the wet-behind-the-ears young man tells me. Funny: the electronic keypad in front of me says, “Sales Complete.” He has me swipe it again. And again. Finally he takes the card from me and swipes it himself, behind the counter.

I’m getting suspicious now and begin to wonder if I’m going to find that I’ve paid for my drugs like, oh, I don’t know: six times??

I finally give up and use my debit card. Miffed, I stalk up to the Guest Services counter and demand they tell me what the heck is going on.

“We have no information on your Target Credit Card.”

Of course you don’t.

“You can use our phone if you’d like to call them.”

“I have my own phone,” I say, barely civil at this point. The ineptitude of this place amazes me!

After another annoying five minutes wading through telephone Voice Recognition Unit hell, I finally hit “zero” so many times there is no choice to but “Get me to an agent”.

“What the HECK is going on with my card?” I bark into the receiver.

“We haven’t received your May payment. Your account is closed until such a time that we receive your payment.”

What?

“We didn’t receive your May payment. It was due May 20th.”

Dear God! Could it be that I’ve made a mistake??

I slink off back to Mr. J and tell him my sad tale of woe. Being in the banking field he assures me that since I’m only 10 days past due, my credit rating should not be damaged.

I spend the rest of the Target visit muttering to myself about how I can’t do anything right: can’t even pay my !!#$$%#$ credit card bill. I do all of my banking online through one financial institution. The Target credit card is the only one that I cannot seem to keep on top of and that is because it isn’t issued by my primary bank.

ARRGGHHH.

Just so you know: I did go back and apologize to the Pharmacy Clerk whose ears I’d pinned back 15 minutes prior. Clearly my karma has already taken enough hits for the day.

Then we were off to Costco. Costco on a holiday weekend should be empty, right?

Wrong.

Talk about total chaos! They had more food giveaways and more clearly starving people than were probably at the overcrowded lakes this opening weekend of the summer season here in the United States.

Every where you looked there were stations of food giveaways: marbled Colby cheese, golden pineapple, strawberries, sausage, crab dip, taquitos, chips and salsa, chocolate “protein” bars.

We picked up our standard fare:
• Avocados
• Tomatoes
• Gluten Free Crackers
• Orange, Yellow and Red Peppers

Once home, well after 2pm, we worked on fixing a quick lunch.

And in keeping with the theme of the day the quart of grape tomatoes we’d just purchased decided to jump out of the refrigerator and play 52-card pick up: spilling and rolling everywhere: under the refrigerator, into the pantry, under the cabinets. The cats were in heaven: soccer balls!

We are trying to corral tomatoes and cats, both bent on getting away from us and wreaking havoc to my otherwise spotless kitchen.

I kept taking long, deep breathes and trying not to scream. Mr. J had the decency to look away as he chuckled. Smart man.

Even still: I decided he could round up the wayward tomatoes himself. After all I had a delinquent Target credit card bill to take care of.

I tried logging on to their website to pay my bill. And tried logging on. And tried logging on: guessing (poorly) as to what my login and password might be until I had locked myself out of my Target account completely.

Really? Really?

Having had enough we decided to take a nap. I mean: surely it would all be better after some sleep. Kind of a level setting of the day: resetting expectations, etc.

Four hours later found us prepping dinner. I was slicing up pepper rings to grill on the brand spanking new George Foreman (with detachable plates) when I felt the knife slip and cut deep into my right pointer finger.

OUCH.

This is the reason my mother could never stand to see me with a knife in my hand! My left handedness sometimes makes for clumsy cutting….or at least: bloody cutting.

Who knew that cooking dinner was such a blood sport??

After a yummy dinner courtesy of Mr. J grilling everything that couldn’t get away from us, I glanced over at him, my eyes dropping suggestively.

Every couple has a short-handed way of asking if their partner would like to mix it up between the sheets.

I spoke our code word to Mr. J.

He promptly burst out laughing.

WTH?

“No way,” he said. “Not given the day you’ve had.”

“Not even if I promise not to take the knife to bed?” I wheedled.

“No chance,” he said. “That is equipment I can’t afford to gamble with.”

Loser.

I am sure Sunday and Monday will be better.

Really.

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Apropos of Nothing

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and the checkout clerk is looking at you strangely as she rings up your purchases? I was at my local Trader Joe’s (love them: except the snotty check out girl) stocking up on a few of my favorite things:
• Six containers of hummus, various flavors
• 1 large “party size” salsa, mild
• 2 packages of black beluga lentils
• 1 bag of Thai Lime Pilaf.
• EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs (give me a break: it was the only gluten free cereal they had and I was craving cereal)
• Almond milk, unsweetened chocolate

Now I admit I have a hummus fetish. And TJ’s has some of the best store bought hummus I’ve ever had. My new favorites include: Cilantro Jalapeño and Roasted Red Pepper. The Cilantro Jalepeno has just enough of a kick to make you want to have a 32 oz bottle of water handy. The Roasted Red Pepper is very mild but the color and taste remind me of Pimento Cheese which was one of my mother’s favorite spreads as I was growing up.

So the check out girl says, “You like hummus?”

Duh. I’m not buying it for the cats.

“How do you eat it?”

So many smart aleck comments came to mind. I settled for my standard answer, “With a spoon.”

“No,” she continued. “I mean what do you eat it on?”

I stared at her, not blinking. “A spoon. Why do you think I need six containers of it??”

Honestly. I mean: I get that it is an odd list of groceries. But it isn’t like she followed me to the liquor store (my next stop) and watched me pick up a bottle of Cask & Cream Caramel then followed me home and spied on me as I actually ate dinner from the fixings of my two stops.

If she’d seen me mixing Cask & Cream into my unsweetened chocolate milk and then pour it over the EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs after spooning hummus up with broccoli florets – see I’m eating healthy here – maybe then she’d have been justified to look at me strange.

Know what I’m mean??

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Sometimes You Just Can’t Make this Sh!t up!

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

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Posted in Uncategorized |

The Noise of a Lightning Strike

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

This week finds Mr. J and me together at our condo on a large lake miles and miles from either of our homes. We’re trying out something new: he is on vacation and I am working remotely. We brought the cats who absolutely love the screened in deck. We are literally over the water, the back of our condo lining up with the granite edge of the shoreline: no sandy beaches here.

We come here every year for Mother’s Day. My parents join us. It is the little things we do in life, such as always meeting on a certain day, at a certain place, eating at the same restaurants that create the history between people, isn’t it?

It is the remembered snippets of conversation and silly inconsequential things that we laugh about years later: the crazy house on the lake with more garden statues than trees!

Every year when we come back to the lake we eagerly await passing the house up the road from our condo because they’ve added some new whack-a-do outdoor décor: first it was mustangs, reared up. Then 12 foot pelicans which dwarfed the mustangs. Now they’ve added some interesting brick structure in-the-round reminiscent of something you would see on the road to Jerusalem during the crusades. Apropos I guess. I mean, we are smack in the middle of the Bible belt, don’t you know?

Since I’m actually working, I wasn’t really expecting to have the absolute best time of my life this week, but I was hoping it would be somewhat restful and rejuvenating. It started off well enough:

Day 1 – Saturday, we: Mr. J and I, our cats, my parents and two cases of wine arrived at our retreat at about 6pm. We had a little wine and a little nosh for dinner, catching up with one another and enjoying watching the cats nose around everything, noses on ‘high alert’ as they took in all of the smells and nuances of the lake condo. We watched a funny movie: “Along Came Polly.” I’m not sure it would have been so funny had we not had the wine, but who knows.

Day 2 – Mother’s Day dawns. Mr. J made his famous omelets for breakfast. We go “topside” which is a 15 mile jaunt on windy roads amidst tall, tall pine trees into town to run a few errands and pick up the makings of a BBQ cookout on the grill. It is cold and I have to keep reminding myself I’m 500 miles south of my home in the Snowbelt. I mistakenly purchase Beer Brats (Beer has gluten, so no brats for Lara) and beef burgers.

After dinner we watched another movie, “Time Traveler’s Wife” and a documentary called “King Corn”.

The premise behind the documentary is: “Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn.” It starts out with the film students doing a hair analysis which shows that most people will test positive for a high degree of corn in their system.

Maybe we should have watched the documentary BEFORE we ate the burgers.

Apparently corn fed beef isn’t good for the cattle or for us. Who knew? Since no one really knows what’s in brats anyway (besides beer) I’m not even going to worry about eating those. Brats are known ‘eat at your own risk’ food, right?

I made scones and fruit salad before going to bed so I can feed my parents breakfast before they take off for home and I settle into work on Monday morning.

Day 3 – Monday night – Tornadoes develop all across the plains area where my family lives and where we happen to be located. On pins and needles we spend hours glued to weather radars, first watching them bypass my family, and then closing in on us, feeling like sitting ducks exposed as we are out on the water. Luckily around midnight all calms down and everyone seems to be all good.

Day 4 – Tuesday – Mr. J walks down to the pool area, trips and falls onto cement walk way tearing up his knees, hands, and hurting his back. I’m on a conference call when he returns and in between hashing out business requirements for a project, I’m cleaning him up and applying Neosporin and bandages. I get all bossy (which I know will come as a shock to most of you) when things like this happen: “Get into bed. Elevate that knee. Hold the ice pack here! Don’t move. I’ll get it.”

Day 5 – Wednesday. 12:42 am – A storm hits. I have never been so close to lightening in my life. Again, our condo is out literally over the lake. Howling winds, pummeling rains, and the most frightening sound I’ve ever heard: a lightning strike. I’ve heard the crackle before thunder splits your eardrums before but this was 100 times scarier.

This sound was like hitting sheet metal with a mallet causing it to reverberate with a high enough pitch that you feel it in your teeth and jaw. You wince while simultaneously slamming your hands ineffectively over your ears. The second time I heard it: I screamed and dove beneath the covers, reverting to being a scared six-year-old who thinks the blankets will protect her.

2:54am – Round two of storms. But these are so tame compared to the last two rounds I barely even notice it past the initial clap of thunder which, of course, wakes me up.

5:28 am – One of the cats is sick. I hear the telltale signs of his gagging: the beginning of him throwing up. I wearily crawl out of bed, headed for the bathroom sink, fumbling for a wash cloth to wipe up the sick.

7:45 am – Staggering from bed, knowing I have to be signed on at 8am, I walk to the kitchen to find two very disturbing facts:

First, we didn’t pre-set or pre-fill the coffee pot:
No coffee + no sleep =no bueno.

Second, the bar area is teeming with my favorite nemeses: ants. Really???
Didn’t I kill all of those little !@@#$%! at home?? Mr. J pointed out, “Where did you expect them to go given the biblical proportions of that storm last night?”

With no caffeine and no sleep under my belt I didn’t even have a single snappy comment in reserve for him. I just glared.

2pm – Migraine. I could spend an entire post ranting about migraines and how much of my life has been sidelined because of them, and maybe one day I will.

At this point I’m beginning to think the week at the condo is cursed.

10pm – We’ve killed another couple of bottles out of the cases of wine and enjoyed some awesome smoked turkey and burnt ends from our favorite local BBQ joint, so things are more mellow. So far, there are no signs of storms in our night sky.

Here is hoping that the last half of the week goes much better for Mr. J and me. And even more importantly here’s hoping that all of my readers are safe from the prolific lightening and thunderstorms and rounds of tornadoes that have fired up every night this week!

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The Many Modes of Magical Mulch

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Spring has come early(relatively speaking) for my neck of the woods and that means the most happening places in town are garden centers.

We have awesome garden centers full of amazing plants – mostly trucked in from warmer places, no doubt. Lush coral and crimson colored begonias, calla lilies in ranging in hue from traditional white tipped in green to a deep burgundy, and varieties of roses in every shade imaginable from the palest ivory to the velvetiest ruby.

Having said all of that I’m actually too cheap to go back to the amazing nursery up the road. I mean: I only need mulch. How different can mulch from the hoity-toity upper scale gardening “nursery” be from the mulch you can buy at one of the big box stores?

Of course, there was that one the year that I did frequent the awesome nursery and found that you could purchase mulch made from the shells of cocoa beans. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that meant that every time it rained my garden smelled like a chocolate sundae. It was bliss.

However, after gaining five pounds while applying the chocolate mulch I decided that not only could I no longer afford the $5.99 for a 1.5 Cu Ft of chocolate mulch but per my last post, I’m really not looking to gain any more weight. Seriously people: the smell. Five pounds…..or it could have been the half-pound of Dove milk chocolate I felt compelled to eat when I went inside. No matter.

This year I decided to turn to the Big Box Home Improvement Store which carries everything you could possibly want except clothes….and sometimes they carry those too. Surely they must have mulch.

Strolling through their seasonal gardening area I rounded a corner and come face to face with pallets and pallets of mulch. There are varieties of cedar, cypress and pine in varying colors and chip sizes. It is truly a sight to behold. I step closer: there are a variety of price points as well: $2.99, $3.83, $4.85….clearly I was being taken to the cleaners by the choco-love mulch. Even more proof: the mulch here comes in 2 Cu Ft.

Nice.

Then I notice something peculiar. There are four people standing around staring at the $2.99 Cypress mulch.

I glance around, not sure what they find so fascinating and I continue my price checking, inspecting the various colors of the mulch: trying to remember what I have left over on the flower beds from last year.

I scratch my head and begin to mentally calculate how many bags of mulch I’ll need.

Now I don’t have to get it exactly right: To find the area of a square or rectangle… length x width = square feet (area). The area of a circle equals pie r squared or 3.14 x the radius of the circle x the radius of the circle again (the radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge)

Now my beds are a cross between a rectangle and a circle. So all I have to do is….

HAH! Just kidding. I have NO idea what 2 Cu Ft means! None. Who makes this stuff up?? What I’m really trying to do is remember how many bags we bought last year and if we had excess or not enough.

I look back at the gathering at the $2.99 area. What ARE they staring at? I wander over.

Ah. I see. There are no single bags of mulch there to purchase. All that is left are bags that are broken open or multiple pallets that have been shrink wrapped to within an inch of their lives.

I look back at the $3.83 bags. Do I really want to wait until someone comes to open up the $2.99 pallets of mulch? I mean the alternative isn’t even a dollar higher.

I look back at the group staring at the pallets and check my watch. They’ve been there for at least five minutes. How long ago did they send someone to get box cutters?

Finally I ask, “Is someone coming with a knife or scissors to open those up?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Everyone shakes their head, confirming what the first guy said.

Really? You’re standing here why? Why? Why? Why?

There are FOUR people standing here gazing at the mulch waiting expectantly. One was an elderly lady so I’m going to give her a pass.

The other three were men. The men were in their mid to late 40’s so not so old as to be feeble nor were they 15 and indecisive. Yet there they stood.

Once I again I thought about grabbing my bags of $3.83 mulch but it just amazed me that these adults were standing here waiting for the Messiah or something.

What? Were? They? Waiting? For?

Christmas?

Someone to chew their food for them too?

What was the deal with mulch?

Was it special mulch?

Was it Transformer Mulch and going to turn itself into some kick-butt crime fighter?

Was Harry Potter going to suddenly show up, wave a wand and the pallet of mulch was going to magically jump into their carts??

WTH??

Oh for the love of –

Taking my keys out of my pocket I stepped forward, past the passive people and starting ripping cellophane off. Folks: I’ve had body wraps less tight than this stuff was wrapped around these individual bags of mulch.

After a moment the spell broke and two of the men who had stood there in limbo came to assist me.

“I guess this is what you call ‘self service,’” one of them said to me.

“I don’t need no stinkin’ service,” I replied.

Actually I’d just call it “taking action.”

Mr. J. called me as I was leaving the Home Improvement Center. I relayed to him the oddity of the situation. He said one of those men would probably go home and say to his wife, “Dang. I wish that woman had come along sooner. It would have saved me from standing there for 30 minutes!”

Once home I piled the bags of mulch onto my front porch and considered. Maybe I jumped the gun. Maybe I broke the spell of the “special” mulch too soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping careful watch on the Bags ‘o’ Mulch. I mean: if they’re going to do something worthy of getting me on Oprah! then I’m happy to sit here drinking a cold one (just kidding: beer has gluten in it. Who knew?) watching those bags of $2.99 mulch until the cows come home.

Sadly, not only did they not turn into breathtaking renditions of Michelangelo’s Pieta or David, they also didn’t spread themselves on my roses and day lilies. Nope: they were still sitting there this morning.

Heavy sigh. I guess I’d better get to work.

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Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |