Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let’s Talk Turkey

Ah . . . Thanksgiving . . . a chance to be with family and friends . . . a chance to remember the unlikely cooperation between two very different peoples upon which this country was founded . . . a chance to eat as much as you want without being stared at strangely . . . a chance to wear those old maternity pants once more so that you can eat as much as you want without being stared at strangely.

Love Thanksgiving.

But . . . T-day has brought something disturbing to my attention. It seems that certain members of my family may be under the impression that I am an actual bona fide grown-up. Just to be clear, I am not a grown-up, I just play one in real life.

I . . . my dear friends . . . I . . . was in charge of purchasing the turkey this year. Yes, I know you're impressed.

This came about because in my interest of convincing Husband that it is in the family's best interest that I not get up at six o'clock in the morning to go to an actual job, I have begun clipping coupons and perusing the sales flyers for local grocery stores . . . yes, I have. I know, you're impressed again.

Anywho, in my recent perusing I found turkeys on sale for 39 cents a pound. I didn't know if I should be impressed by this or not, so I texted Mom about it because she has discovered a fascination with the text in that it allows one to communicate without having to actually speak.

Mom says (Beep. Beep.): yes, good, go get one.

Now, I know better than to know that she knows that 39 cents a pound is a good price. In fact, Mom knows that I know that she doesn't know what is or is not a good price on a turkey. And I know that she knows that I know . . . but, we have to pretend like we know what we're doing or else we'll all starve on Thanksgiving.

Now. If it were my mother-in-law that we were speaking of, I would have no doubt in her ability to know what a turkey should cost the week before Thanksgiving. This is a woman who once, no lie, told me where I could get Jelly Belly's ten boxes for ten dollars the day before Easter when I expressed my dissatisfaction with store brand jelly beans. How the heck does anyone know what Jelly Belly's cost????

I'm not a great shopper.

I don't really like it. I don't care that I can get it ten cents cheaper at the store down the road. I will pay you ten cents to let me have it now. I want to be awed when people tell me what they have found on sale, but I find myself either bored with the information or jealous that I didn't find it myself. But . . . I know that to find it myself would mean that I would actually have to go out and go shopping more often . . . and . . . I would rather just pay the higher price.

So don't be surprised on Friday if I'm all nice and snuggled down in my bed in my flannel pajamas that let out in the waist to make room for that second helping of pecan pie that I had which we all know is like 150,000 calories a slice or something while you are circling a parking lot looking for a spot so that you can elbow your way through crowds to get five dollars off an X-Box.

Good luck with that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Knitty Gritty

I have discovered the greatest invention known to man. Indoor plumbing? Vaccinations? Those really cute grey suede shoes I bought the other day? No, no, and no. Size 50 knitting needles. OMG!

I've seen these knitting needles before and always scoffed at them. They're as big around as a baby's arm and something about them just looks . . . well, kind of vulgar. I was loathe to try them.

But . . . I wanted to knit some blankets for my sofas to replace the giraffe print ones that we've had for, like, ten years (that I still dearly love, by the way). I've been saying every winter that I was going to do this, and still, I never quite get around to it. The whole task seemed so incredibly daunting. It takes me a couple of weeks to knit a scarf. Two entire blankets would take eons!

But, the giraffe print was starting to get on my nerves and I found this pattern that claimed it only took six hours to complete. The reviews were excellent with everyone exclaiming how quickly it worked up and how easy it was. I was hooked (pun intended) even though one had to use the vulgar needles to create it.

So I bought my needles, feeling very silly as I checked out and started on my six-hour-throw. I was shocked that in just two sittings, I was half-way finished! And it was so easy!

I really do love to knit. It's fun and relaxing and I like to say, "Yes huh, I did too make that." But it is sooooooo time consuming. Usually, when I go to knit something, I'll start off all excited, thinking about the baby for whom I'm knitting and how the little blanket with cover him/her up at night and I'll get all wistful. Then after a couple of weeks, I'll lose steam and start thinking to myself that a scarf is really a better present for a baby because everyone will be giving blankets, no one will give the poor thing a scarf. Then a couple of weeks will go by and I'll start using the knitting project as a coaster and I'll have spilled a couple of cups of coffee on it and then I'll just say, "Forget it! I'll get them a gift card for Target!"

But with my new needles, a whole other world has been opened up to me. I'm proud to say that I am morphing quite nicely into a crazy old lady with a roomful of yarn. Now I just need a couple dozen cats to make it complete.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Marrow of Life . . . Tastes Like Chicken

Papa Thoreau said it best: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . . to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

For me, sucking the marrow out of life must mean staring cross-eyed into a fire for as long as other obligations permit me. I must admit, I don't do much when I go into the woods. And by woods, I mean a campground at Virginia Beach where I could hear traffic and helicopters go by non-stop for two days. Probably not what Thoreau had in mind, but the closest that I could get this past holiday weekend.

I did learn some very important lessons on this camping trip though. If one is cold at night in a tent, all that one needs to do is have a baby, let it age 3-5 years, place said child in sleeping bag with self, and one has a nice mobile heater that is safe and cuddly, though maybe not so clean.

I also discovered the career that I will be perfect for when it comes time for me to re-enter the work force. Yes folks, I will be joining the fire department. I can envision it. The alarm rings for a house fire and everyone jumps into their gear and slides down a pole. I pull on my blue jeans and crocs and follow after. We get to the house that is ablaze, the heat is searing, my eyes are watering, there is danger of the house next door catching fire as well. The fire marshal walks up to me with a long stick. "Go stoke the fire, Hollie," he says. I approach the blaze with my stick and prod a few times and it is extinguished immediately.

If my home owner's insurance knew how hopeless I was with fire, they would have to give me a discount.

But seriously, what is it about the woods? I mean I'm tired, stinky, dirty, cold, the place where I'm sleeping is crawling with granddaddy longlegs, and I'm happier than I could ever be in a heated house with indoor plumbing.

Am I the crazy one, or is it everyone else?

Can't be me.

Right?

Right?

Right.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yeah I’ve Got Your Squat Right Here

Fit people must just be naturally happier than the rest of us. I don't get how these aerobics instructor women can be so cheery first thing in the morning. Maybe it's because by the time I get to the gym I've already done my get-your-butt-up-and-get-moving-because-if-I-have-to-take-you-to-school-because-you-missed-the-bus-I-am-not-going-to-be-happy-do-you-hear-me-not-happy exercise routine for an hour before I even get to the gym in the morning. Whatever the reason, they annoy me.

Here's a typical Wednesday for me:

8:15 a.m. at home

Me (to daughter): Come on girl, let's go, hurry, hurry, hurry, I've got my cardio core class in a few minutes and I don't want to be late. I love cardio core. Love, love, love it!!! I can't wait!

8:30 a.m. aerobics room at YMCA

Little Miss Ball of Energy: Whooooo Hoooooo! Good morning everyone!!!! Let's start running in place! Whoo Hoo! Cardio core, let's go! Let's get those heart rates up!

Me (internal): Crap, I forgot! I hate Cardio Core! Why did I come to this class?

L.M.B.O.E: Whoo Hoo! I didn't even have coffee this morning!

Me: What? No coffee? Blaspheme! No one should speak of such things in my presence.

L.M.B.O.E: Whoo Hoo! Who's heart rate is up?! Cardio core! Whoo Hoo!

Me: Do you think anyone will notice if I leave?

L.M.B.O.E: Whoo Hoo! Everyone stand on your Bosu and jump up and down a bunch! Keep jumping! Keep jumping! Let's do 100 squats! Yeah, keep going!

Me: Bite me.

L. M. B. O. E: More squats, more running, don't you feel so great?!?!?!?!?!

Me: Oh and don't think that you have that perfect body because you live at the gym either. You just got good genes. You're just lucky!!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? JUST LUCKY!

L. M. B. O. E: Okay, time to stretch, everyone relax.

Me: I LOVE cardio core!!!!!! I can't wait until next week!!!!!!

There are times when I find it difficult to be me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Green. It’s the New Black

The lady on the news who seems to know so much was giving out tips on how to stay healthy this cold and flu season. Well, naturally my ears perked up because I am quite the sickly girl. In fact, I get sick so often that instead of getting sympathetic noises and offers of soup and OTCs when my head suddenly fills with mucus, I get a rolling of eyes and an are-you-serious leer.

So, smart lady on TV says to eat lots of yogurt. I smile. I already eat lots of yogurt, no problem there. Smart lady also says to drink green tea. Ooh, green tea, it sounds so healthy, like something that they would drink somewhere really exotic like California.

I go to the store for my green tea to ward off the winter ills and see that it is loaded with antioxidants. My initial response was, Yes! Antioxidants! That's fab! I have some oxidants that I've been wanting to fight!

But then, immediately, my skepticism reared its head. Hmm, you know this is one of those words that smart people on TV throw out there and tell us that we need, but they don't tell us why. What exactly is an antioxidant? Maybe I like my oxidants. Maybe I need my oxidants.

So I get my oxidant fighting, cold-battling green tea and bring it home, promising myself that I would drink a cup every night. So the first night, I'm all reved up and start the pot of water for my tea and Husband asks if I'll make him a cup of regular tea while I'm at it. Well, the water takes . . . like . . . forever to boil and then the daggone tea has to steep forever and by the time it's ready, I forgot why I wanted it in the first place! They must be very patient in England.

Well, Husband's tea looks all dark and luscious and decadent and mine looks . . . green, barely. It looks like I steeped some lawn clippings in hot water. And it tastes . . . green.

So are these oxidants really that bad? Does anyone know? 'Cause I might just deal with them another way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Soup for You!

I have discovered a culinary delight unlike any other.

Don't know if anyone reading this has ever had the pleasure of La Madeline's restaurant, but it can only be described as extraordinary. I stumbled upon this particular pleasure after a very interesting night in Dallas in which Husband and I were escorted to Gilley's for a lesson in the Texas two-step where I constantly berated him—

Me: You're not pushing me!

Husband: Sorry.

Me: You're still not pushing me!

Husband: You want me to push you?

Me: It's called leading, Husband.

Husband: So . . . pushing . . . good?

Me: Tell. Me. What. You. Want. Me. To. Do. Using. The. Pressure. Of. Your. Hand. On. The. Small. Of. My. Back!!!

Husband: So . . . I don't get it.

Anywho, after that fun experience and a ride on the bull from someone in our party, rest assured that it was not I, we went in search of ice cream for a pregnant girl in our group, rest assured that it was not I, and stumbled upon La Madeline's (which does not, in fact, serve ice cream). To make a short story long, they had the best tomato basil soup that I thought I would ever eat in my entire life.

I think that no longer.

If you're a fan of tomato basil soup, you must try this recipe!!!! Like . . . right now!!!!

In a large pot, simmer 1 large can of peeled roma tomatoes (or whatever kind of tomatoes you can find, fresh peeled and seeded is the best, but who has time for that?) with about 3-4 cups of tomato juice over medium heat for 30 minutes. Puree tomatoes with 14 fresh basil leaves and return to pot. Add ½ cup of heavy cream and ¼ cup of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through.

The original recipe calls for 1 cup of heavy cream and ½ cup of butter and strict instructions not to deviate or substitute from this in any way!!!!! My butt grew, like, three inches just reading that, so I halved it and it was still divine. I also tried it with half and half instead of heavy cream and it was ehhh, not terrible but not as great. If you're going to eat it every once and a while I say go with the heavy cream, if you want to eat it every single day like me then you might want to do the half and half.

Get some fresh bread to accompany the Nazi good soup and sit back and smile. It will make you wish it was winter all year long.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Freedom’s Just another Word . . . Not Anymore

"Have you read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom?" "Have you read Freedom?" Have you read Freedom?" Yes, this is the question that I can't seem to stop pestering friends, family, unsuspecting strangers, and even small children with.

But the real question is: Have YOU read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom?

It's possible that I may recommend it. Me, Oprah, and every person able to decipher the English language who has been fortunate enough to come across it.

Usually I scoff at the Oprah Book Club. I hate the idea of people reading something just because Oprah said so. I hate the idea of myself following in all those people's footsteps. I hate the idea that she's going off the air and she will never recommend one of my books!!!

However, I was tired of feeling left out of the Freedom conversation and I read some reviews on it before I knew what I was doing. After reading the stellar reviews, I knew that I must read it or die.

Just so you know, this isn't a book that you read. This isn't a book that read and put down and pick up again. This isn't a book that you read a few pages of if you get some time at the end of the day. This isn't a book that allows you to go about your day while you're not reading it.

This is a book that you live, that you absorb. If you can pry it out of your fingers, you don't merely put it down, you wake up from it. You remind yourself, no, that's not me living in the Victorian house in St. Paul, that's a character in a book . . . or is it? No. It's not me. It's a character in a book. It's a story. It's a story that I am reading.

This is a book that makes you resent anything else that you have to do—like eating, sleeping, bathing, helping kids with homework—because it's that much less time that you have to read it.

This is a book where you hop into someone's head and stretch out for a while. Franzen doesn't draw a picture of his characters, he crafts sculptures and then breathes life into them. And I really want to know what woman gave away all of our secrets? Who told Franzen how women really feel?

I mean really: "Richard looked her over carefully, piece by piece. It felt to her as if, with each new piece of her that his eyes alit on, she was being further tacked to the wall behind her, so that, when he was done looking over all of her, she had been rendered entirely two-dimensional and fastened to the wall."

How did he know that is exactly what it feels like to a woman to be ogled by a man? Who told him these secrets of ours? Franzen gets it. Not only does he get wrecked women, but also selfless men and ego centric rock stars and boys finding their way and suburban politics. He gets all this and he shares it with us in an amazing prose that left me salivating for more and a little depressed and a little drier in the tear ducts when I was done.

The entire book reads like a five hundred page poem—tragic, lyrical, evocative, nuanced. It really helped me to see the worth of my novels and I am of a mind to print them all out and use them for what they deserve—bird cage lining, bacon grease catchers, aids to start a fire on a cold day.

My only negative is that I got a bit sick of the political idealism in the book and felt like he wrote the novel as a platform for his political beliefs. Though his liberal characters were fully fleshed human beings, the conservative ones were caricatures of actual people. If I was from another planet and read the book, I would think that all conservatives are backward thinking, emotionally stunted people. It was like Franzen didn't take the time to understand these (minor) characters because if we try to understand someone, there is a big possibility that we may also sympathize with them. There were points when the politics were a little tedious and all I was thinking was: get back to the story, get back to the characters! But I forgive him because of the anti-cat sentiment at the end. We all know that cats are evil creatures.

So now the question is: Are you going to read Freedom?

Friday, November 5, 2010

They’ve Got a Month for Everything

November is upon us which means that NaNoWriMo has begun. For those of you who are not writers who routinely troll the web looking for tips on getting published, NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writer's Month, or something or other. The purpose is to write 50,000 words in the month of November (BTW, 50,000 words is almost never enough for an adult novel, just to let you know) and you "win." Don't ask me what you win. I think it's one of those things that my lazy five-year-old will do. If he wants something, but doesn't want to get up and get it he'll say, "Whoever gets me a blue crayon, wins!" Funny enough, but my two other children will usually run to get the blue crayon. He is wise beyond his years.

I've never done this before because usually with writing I need someone to tell me, "Hollie, STOP WRITING!!!! It's three o'clock in the afternoon and the kids are still in their pajamas and today was a school day, ya know!"

And I'll say, "Lemme just finish this chapter and I'll get them to school."

But lately, I've kind of lost some of my umph. I don't know if it's because we moved recently and I'm still settling and trying to get my reality straight before I delve into fantasy. Maybe I've lost heart because of piling rejections. Maybe the writing thing was just a phase and I've moved on. Whatever, the reason, I miss it.

I miss creating worlds and characters and then being surprised by those very things that I created. I miss writing something and then stepping back and reading it and saying, "Daggone it that's good!" I miss taking humorous/tragic/ordinary things from my life and giving them to someone else to deal with. I miss knowing for a fact that everything is going to work out in the end one way or another.

So I will be a part of this NaNoWriMo thing this year. If anyone wants to sign up, it should be fun. They also have these forums where you can meet up with writers in your area and write together and stuff. I may pass on this. Us writers, we're not the coolest crowd of people. You know those kids in high school who the geeks and nerds rejected? Yeah, that's us.

Sorry if I've hurt any feelings out there, but if this is true about you, then you probably already knew it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Boo! Scared ya didn’t I?

Another Halloween has come and gone and still . . . the Great Pumpkin didn't come to visit Lionel in the pumpkin patch. Poor Lionel. I'm kind of like Lucy, I always had a little crush on Lionel. Really, you have to admire a man (or child) who doesn't care how stupid he looks, doesn't care what anyone thinks about it, doesn't care about the taunts of his sister—he's carrying that blanket by God!

Another Halloween has come and gone and still . . . my boys kept up their streak, three years running (which is like fifty years for a five and seven-year-old) of dressing like characters from Star Wars. This year's costumes were quite nifty geek-spotting-radar devices. Anyone who didn't know who they were, we knew were cool. If someone came yelling, "OMG! Look it's the father/son duo of Jango and Bobo Fett!!!" we knew they were geeks of the highest order.

Another Halloween has come and gone and still . . . I ate my weight in mini chocolate bars like I swore I wouldn't do. But, I have made a deal with my body that if it takes the chocolate and distributes the fat from it evenly over my entire frame instead of depositing it all on my thighs like it is wont to do, then I will take it to the gym five days a week for the next two months. We'll see if my body holds up on its end of the bargain. Traitorous thing is known for reneging on its deals.