Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I think I've mastered this cooking thing. I just follow recipes. But now I'm so darn good that sometimes I substitute things. And when I get really crazy, I just add in things. Like last night I made King Ranch Chicken (thanks, Jenny Johansson) and I just threw in some jalapeños. Actually, it's usually jalapeños since we got that giant tub of them at Costco.
But apparently when you're baking, you can't do that. For instance, I attempted to make Mandy's rolo cookies the other day even though I lacked most of the ingredients (and a few baking brain cells).
Recipe called for "unsweetened cocoa." I thought Swiss Miss sugar free hot chocolate would work fine.
Recipe called for one cup sugar. I ran out of sugar after half a cup. Why not use 30 Splenda packets for the other half a cup? As I told Frank, "It says 'it's made from sugar so it tastes like sugar.' It's the same thing!" Nope.
Recipe called for butter. I used margarine.
Oh, and I just used the odor-absorbing Arm and Hammer box (which has been with us through two fridges) for baking soda.
After I slaved over these damn things for hours, Frank and I had the following conversation:
Elsa: "How do they taste?"
Frank: "Well, I guess I don't know how they're supposed to taste..."
Elsa: "What kind of answer is that? If they tasted good, you'd just say that they tasted good."
Frank: "They're not good."
Elsa: "Well, maybe you don't like rolos. Is it the rolo that makes it taste weird?"
Frank: "No, the rolo is the only part that tastes good. It's the part around the rolo that tastes bad." (i.e. the part that I made).
So it's not that big a deal that I screwed up Mandy's rolo cookies. It is a big deal that I chose to tackle my first baking recipe for Frank's work superiors and co-workers. I even bought these cute little Christmas bags to put them in. Frank didn't want to take them to work but he reluctantly agreed when he saw the bags. And the bows.
I think for me I need two chances with baking. Remember my double layer pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving?
Yes there are two layers but they're sort of layered together in one pumpkin pudding mess. Still tasted good.
But for Christmas I wanted to get that line between the layers. So I took the advice of Jessi (a friend and loyal blog reader) and put the pies in the freezer overnight. There was a bit of panic when they were still frozen a half hour before we were to have dessert. But after a quick visit to the oven, they looked like this:
Look at that line!! It's magnificent!
So I think I'll leave the baking to experts like Mandy. But I WILL attempt to make those rolo cookies again. This time I'll follow the recipe exactly. I won't even add in jalapeños.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I did not get 100 emails.
I did not get 100 emails.
Why did I think I wanted to receive and sort through 100 emails? Frank said I should have made it 20. Hello? It wasn’t the TWENTIETH blog now was it? That’s something you should have mentioned back in September!
So I took all the emails I did receive (still a pretty good amount) and put your names and favorite blogs into an Excel spreadsheet. So if you voted three times you were in there three times.
I drew the names out of a hat that Frank got for free at the White Rock marathon. Hee hee. I always almost write “marathong” when I write that word. It’s so weird. It’s not like I write the word “thong” that much. Or ever.
Anyway, the winner is…drum roll…Alicia Clayton of Fort Worth, Texas!!!
The funny thing is she WAS the last person to email me and she thought she was too late! But she did make it into the drawing with only one vote.
Her choice? Food for Gross Thought
Here is what she says: “It just reminded me of the good old days when we watched Lifetime movies on our lunch breaks and you freaked b/c we passed by Jenny Jones!” That is true. Also, Alicia makes a damn good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She doesn’t skimp on the PB or the J.
Also, I just thought you should know her husband Doug (who ironically was the FIRST person to vote yesterday) and her daughter Avery (who’s too young to vote both on Writinggal and in political elections) sometimes dress alike…
As far as your favorite blog, there was a four-way tie:
Go, Grannies, Go
Oh, the Places Frank’s Feet Will Go
What Happens in Cabo Stays in Cabo
Tips from Thea
So while Frank always assures me that he is the favorite “character” in the blog, it looks like people are more pleased when Thea makes an appearance. Although Frank's feet have quite a following. I will keep this research in mind for future blogs.
Thanks to everyone who voted and for reading these past 102 blogs! And as Big Daddy Doug Clayton says, “Here’s Looking Forward to the 1,000th!” But then again, this is coming from a guy who dresses like a two-year-old.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Darn it. THIS is my 101st blog now.
So tomorrow, in my 102nd blog, I will announce the winner.
See you then.
Today is my 100th Writinggal blog.
Thank you. Oh, you’re so sweet. Oh, stop. I’m blushing. (That’s me responding to all of your “Congratulations,” “I love the blog” and “You are so multi-talented what with your writing and cooking and spinning. You should run for president against Oprah.”)
Obviously for the 100th blog we have to do something spectacular. And this time it will benefit you, the blog readers, as well.
Here’s what we’re gonna do: Just as if we were a Mom and Pop grocery store, we’re gonna reward the 100th reader of the blog today. No, there won’t be any sirens and confetti and you won’t get to run around the blog and shop for one minute. But it will be almost like that.
You see I can tell once 100 people have viewed the blog but I can’t tell who you are. So after you’ve read this, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (I don’t want you clogging up my Writinggal email) and tell me your fave blog of the last 100. I know, I know. It sounds self-serving and vain. That’s probably because it is.
BUT the 100th person to email me will get a prize. It will be personal, mailable and of course, edible.
Now you want to ask, “But Elsa, do 100 people even read your blog?” Not exactly. I usually get about 105 “page views” a day. But that counts people who go back multiple times. Plus, with the holidays we may have a weak readership day.
SO you can email me up to THREE times but you have to put a different fave blog in each time. This will also help to prevent against people waiting until 5:00p.m. to email me.
Ooh, ooh. I just got another idea. When I announce the winner I’ll also tell you which blog was the favorite. Man, I have a lot of reading and counting to do today. Good thing I've got that calculator handy.
I’ll post it later tonight (around 8p.m.) in my 101st Writinggal blog. Oh, thanks again. Yes, it is like that. No, no, I’m not going to stoop to that level. Well, maybe. (That’s me responding to people saying, “Wow, 101 blogs. That’s like as many blogs as there were Dalmatians" and "What if I send you a steaming bowl of queso? Then can I be the winner?”)
Friday, December 23, 2005
Frank and I rolled in about 8:00 last night. He was wearing short sleeves. He would have worn shorts if I had let him. He ALWAYS asks if he can wear shorts. Sure, it's not that cold but it looks weird to wear shorts in Dec/Jan/Feb. I can't convince him.
I donned my very light-weight "Team Captain" jacket. (Oh, and my mom also asked me what I was the team captain of.)
It's warmer in Pleasantville than it was in Dallas! On the way down I asked Frank to turn on the A/C. He reminded me that his A/C is broken. "Darn! We need that A/C!" I said, sweating.
What kind of warped state do we live in where a gal complains that the A/C is broken in late December? On the first official day of winter!
We poor Texas kids have never made a snowman on Christmas. In fact, I don't think I've made a snowman ever. We've never had snowball fights. We've never laid eyes on a sled. And that one-horse open sleigh? Never dashed through the snow in it.
God, Jesus, Mother Nature (to whom it may concern), I'm not asking for a white Christmas. It would just be nice for a little breeze. Perhaps some brown ice? Or maybe just a Christmas where Frank doesn't even THINK to ask if he can wear shorts.
Writinggal, signing off from lukewarm Pleasantville.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The older brother comes in the house early on Christmas morning. His much younger sister (obviously an oops child) greets him at the door with excitement. She says that nobody is up yet and you know she wants to go jump on their heads and annoy the crap out of them. But big brother Peter knows that Mom and Dad would just say, “Dammit, Oops! Get outta here! I knew we were too old for this. When does this one go to college?”
Instead Peter says, “I know how to wake them up.” He then heads into the kitchen and starts making Folger’s. Suddenly the camera flashes to 80’s-fro mom inhaling deeply, enjoying the fresh aroma of Folger’s. Everybody comes downstairs and mauls Pete. Oops gets shoved to the side. It’s sort of like the Prodigal Son. Except they drink coffee instead of slaughtering the fatted calf.
I love the fact that Folger’s hasn’t improved on the quality of the commercial. In fact, I think they may have purposely made it fuzzier just so people know it’s old and don’t think they dress their talent in puffy vests. Wait. I think those are back in style. Go Folger’s.
Oh, but my main question is: Is the actor who played Peter still single? I’m thinking he’d be a good catch for some of my single blog readers. Hello? He’s hot. Sure, it’s about 23 years later but I bet he’s a distinguished silver-haired man now. And plus, he’s totally loaded. Do you know what kind of royalties he’s getting from having this commercial run for that long? Unless he made some bad deal like a lifetime supply of Folger’s. Then he’s stupid. And poor. So now he’s just a stupid poor old man. Forget it.
Plus, if you married him you’d have to spend every Christmas morning with Oops. Ya know she’s gotta be screwed up by now. She’d for sure jump on your head. And that is not the best part of wakin’ up.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Writinggal was shopping; wishing she wasn’t too old for a doll
Jessica Simpson’s Christmas album played loudly on the P.A.
She sang of happier times, when she was still married to Nick Lachey
Okay, okay. That’s all I got. What I really want to tell you about is how I saw Santa returning from his lunch break.
He was heading back towards his North Pole set-up. (And by the way, the Shops at Willow Bend, the fanciest mall I’ve ever patronized, has the most over-the-top Santa’s North Pole I’ve ever seen complete with snow falling!) He was carrying a bag from Sonic. (They have one in the food court! I told you it was fancy!) He was also carrying a Route 44 Cherry Limeade. (I know because I used to work there. Not at the one in the mall. One in my home town.)
Anyway, I kind of smiled at him like I was spotting a celebrity. It was sort of like the time I saw Joe E. Tata who played Nat on 90210. We were in L.A. and I wanted to take his picture but I had one of those disposable cameras that only worked outside. So I didn’t want to have to ask him to step outside the restaurant. But it was still really cool. It’s like I was this close to seeing Luke Perry.
But back to Santa. It occurred to me that it must be hard for Santa to just wander into the food court and grab some lunch. I mean, do the kids mob him? Do they tug at his pant legs and try to tell him what they want for Christmas? Does he just sit at a table in the food court by himself? And I guess he has no choice but to keep all the garb on. Otherwise he would confuse all the poor Plano kids.
Also, he looked pretty disgruntled. When I first realized there wasn’t a Santa I think I still thought it was a pretty good gig to play him at the mall. Now, at age 28, after looking into the eyes of that curmudgeon of a Santa, I think I’ve figured out something: playing Santa at the mall is like the worst job ever! I told this to Frank last night and he said, “Really? Why do you think that?” I said, “Well it obviously means the guy didn’t have another job!" He must have been waiting in line at the unemployment office and somebody came up and said, “Hey, you’re fat. Wanna put on this beard, red suit, hat and have kids potentially pee on you all day?”
Poor guy. He’s got no money and a bad body image. What could be worse?
Listening to Jessica Simpson's whiney voice sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" all day long. Yep, that could be worse.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Now let me just tell you if I was a relative or close friend of Queen Latifah’s and I opened up a package from her and saw a Wal-Mart GC, I’d be pretty bummed. I mean, unless it was like $5,000.
You see, this is why I don’t want to be rich and famous. Because once you’re of a certain status the only acceptable gift is a car. And then it just gets ridiculous. I mean, did you see Nick and Jessica giving each other cars every year for Christmas? And then her parents got in on it, too. She should say, “Look, Mom. The only reason you could afford to buy me that car is because you and Dad take 10% of my salary. I THINK I can afford to buy my own car.”
Plus, don’t they want to pick out their cars??
If Frank and I were famous (come on, we could be like Reese and Ryan don’t ya think?) I would just say, “Hey, don’t buy me a Bentley. Don’t buy me a Benz. Let’s just buy another home in Aspen and call it even.”
Also, if you’re a celebrity, you have to give a huge tip every time you go out to eat. If you leave even 30%, the waitress will tell everyone at the Ivy that you’re a cheap ass. Same goes for the hair salon. Same goes for the nail place. And even at Subway where they shouldn’t have a tip jar in the first place!
So Queen Latifah, I’m okay if you buy my present from Wal-Mart. I mean, I understand that you’ve got an endorsement deal with them. But at least get me a plasma TV or something. You don’t even have to go shopping for it yourself. Don’t you have an assistant who does that for you? Or just send your mom. Or better yet, send Jessica Simpson’s mom. But just know that she'll take 10%.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Since they’re the “Persons of the Year” for doing good things they make comments like, “We’re so humbled” and “What an honor.” Did they know they share this “honor” with Hitler?
I’m not saying it shouldn’t switch from bad to good. That’s okay. Time just needs to be more consistent in how they pitch it. Like this year they’re going along with the whole “honorable” thing. Instead they should push their point about how it’s the most “influential” person/thing—good or bad. Because next year when they pick Bin Laden they’ll have to defend themselves: “No, no. It’s never an “award,” it’s just whoever makes the biggest difference—good or bad. It’s always been like that.”
Plus, I totally have other ideas for who it should have been this year:
Oprah-It’s her 20th anniversary. And she helps in Africa, too! Plus, she buys people houses. And iPods.
Jessica Simpson-Thanks to J.S. I totally dug out my Daisy Dukes this year. But then quickly put them away.
Tom Cruise-We were all glib until we listened to him.
Weathermen…women…Weatherpeople…Weatherpersons?-That’s who Best Week Ever said had the best year. And I always defer to them.
Aunt Marilyn and Uncle John-Maybe they can be the persons of the year for the blog.
I’m just left with so many questions for Time. Like when they notify someone that they’re the person of the year, what do they say? Congratulations? That doesn’t really seem right. But I bet they do when it’s a good person. Or persons? Doesn't anybody say people anymore? They’re so confused. I'm so confused.
Hey-I wonder what kind of music Bin Laden will request at his photo shoot. I peg him as a Limp Bizkit kinda guy.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I thought maybe we could substitute teach. I actually have experience in this area. You see when I lost my job in 2001 I was a substitute teacher—for one day.
I was assigned to an elementary school in the very affluent Highland Park. Does this mean the children are better behaved? Smarter? Nah. Just means they all carried cell phones. And this was before cell phones were cells.
I was to teach computer class. Great-I’m an IT genius! Well, not really, but come on, this was 1-5 grade, how hard could it be? The computer-teaching part actually wasn’t hard. We cut and pasted, learned how to change the color of fonts and practiced typing spelling words.
I couldn’t, however, master the art of getting kids to walk in a line. I thought they just did it automatically. Not if there’s a sub. Especially a sub who seems easy to overthrow. I tried to walk a class of first graders back to their classroom and they all walked in a mob.
“Get in a line!” I yelled. A couple of kids wandered off towards the bathroom. “Oh? Is it like an organized bathroom break now?” I asked (big mistake). “Yes,” one of the boys answered and giggled. Several ran off to the bathroom. A few more just ran away. The ones I could find I ushered (maybe shoved a little) against some lockers. “Sit there! Don’t move!” I said. “But we’re not even in this class,” a little boy cried. “Oh, well then you can go,” I said. When I finally delivered the kids to their regular teacher, we were probably missing about 1/3 of the class.
Whatever. It was time for lunch. Now this I was excited about. I had missed school lunches for like 12 years! And that day, in the rich elementary school, they were having chili cheese dogs—yes! “I’ll take a chili cheese dog, some tater tots and two chocolate milks!” I said. “Um, you know, the teachers can have salads,” the cafeteria guy said. No way was I gonna waste this opportunity on a teacher salad! The coney was so good. Yes, the other teachers looked at me weird as I dipped my tater tots in catsup and mayonnaise. (Just like old times!)
Later that day I had another first grade class. We were practicing something in Word and the Microsoft Office Assistant (paperclip man) popped up. “Who’s that?” one of the kids asked. “Oh, it’s nothing,” I said and deleted the paperclip man for him. “NO!!!!” the kid shrieked, “I-want-him-back-I-want-him-back!!!” “Oh, sorry!” I said and found the paperclip man for him again. Soon the whole class was shrieking, “I want him too! Why don’t I have him?” I had to go around the room and get the paperclip man to appear on all 30 screens. We didn’t make any progress on changing the font color that day.
As I helped one of the first graders find the paper clip man she looked up at me and asked, “Why is your tooth crooked?” How do you respond to that? “You know. My dad is a dentist. He could fix that for you.” Stupid rich kids. Although she’ll be happy to know that based on her “encouragement” I did eventually get a crown on that tooth. But not at her dad’s office in Highland Park. In the shopping center with the sign that just said, “Dentist.”
So I never substituted again but not because the kids scared me away. Or the paperclip man scared me away. Or because I lost some of the kids. Or because I asked for seconds on tater tots. Just because I got another job. But if it came down to it, I could sub again. But next time, I hope it’s on free ice cream day. I’m so craving a push-up!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I can’t watch certain things on TV and eat. Luckily Frank’s got it down and he knows the rules. If we sit down in front of the TV with food (which is a lot), he must adhere to the following:
- Find something acceptable right away. No flipping!
- No trashy talk shows (i.e. Jerry Springer and I’m gonna go ahead and eliminate Tony Danza and that new Tyra show)
- No surgery—Duh.
- No Animal Planet
- No shows that take place before 1899
- No news…you never know
- No Married with Children
No Science Fiction movies (even when I’m not eating)
I think that covers it. So what is allowed? Sports, actually. I don’t really like ‘em but they don’t make me nauseous. I’m not even sure the other stuff makes me nauseous anymore but I don’t want to risk it. Oh, and most sitcoms are okay too.
Once when I was working at an advertising agency we had lunch at an editing house where we were finishing up a commercial. We all went to eat in the conference room and they turned on the TV to JERRY SPRINGER!! You see that I put that as my #1 no-no. That’s not an accident. JS is the absolute worst thing I can watch and eat. But since I didn’t know these people that well I couldn’t say anything. I just stared down at my food and didn’t look up. The worst part is they weren’t even watching it. They were like, “There’s nothin’ else on.” And did I mention it was my birthday?? Worst birthday ever!
Another time I was forced to watch the movie Dune while eating. I think I just starved. Now Frank likes to play this game: “Which would you rather watch while eating? Dune or the Surgery Channel?”
Oh, and another good rule: I don’t eat during commercials. You never know when an ad for hemorrhoid cream’s gonna pop up.
But it’s not just TV. Once we were at an outdoor restaurant in San Francisco and there was this person dressed up like a clown/street performer/weirdo. We were with a group so I didn’t say anything but Frank could tell something was wrong. He turned around to see what I was looking at and started laughing. He said, “You can’t eat and look at him, can you?” Now that’s another favorite thing of his to bring up. If somebody looks gross he’ll say, “Could ya eat and look at him?”
It’s a wonder I manage to eat anything what with all the grossness, ickiness and science fiction in the world. The good news is that if I need to lose a lot of weight very quickly I could just put my TV on a continuous loop of the forbidden programming. I’m calling it “The Dune Diet.” Hey, don't steal that. I've got a patent pending.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Done? Okay, here goes:
Uni: Yes, she still does her own spin routine and she still wears unitards. However, Uni has made a major change: She now wears a way-too-long t-shirt over her unitard. It goes past her knees like pajamas. She gets all tangled up in it when she spins. Somebody help this woman!
Clepto Clarice: CC is actually really sweet. The first time I ever taught spin she came up to me afterwards and told me I did a good job. She said it was a good workout and she sweated a lot. For some reason I then told her the story about the time I went running and when I came back I was so sweaty that my neighbor asked me, “How was your swim?” CC laughed even though it was a gross story. I like her. Oh, and she hasn’t stolen my bike in months.
OCD Olivia: She’s still obsessed with running too far on the treadmill. And she’s still there at all times of the day. But I found out she was training for something. I spotted her at the White Rock race this past weekend. She ran the half marathon too! We passed her and I nudged Frank and said, “That’s OCD Olivia! I blogged about her!” I looked up “OCD Olivia” in the official results but I guess she ran under her “real” name.
Lisp Girl: For awhile I thought Caithlyn quit working at the gym. I never saw her anymore. But then the other day I taught spin at another location: the Plano SUPER SPORT (it’s like the V.I.P. gym which just means it costs more.) Caithlyn was working there! I didn’t say her name because I refuse to sound like I have a lisp too.
Screwed-up Steve: He’s the same. Still listens to his own music. Still chews on the towel. I do know more about his taste in music though. He likes devil music. I don’t. We’re not compatible.
Since I work at home it’s nice to have this circle of gym friends to hang out with during the day. Even though I don’t know most of their names. And I’ve never talked to most of them. Still, I think I’ll invite them over for a little holiday party. But if Clepto Clarice is comin’ I better hide the silverware.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
The first girl said I was too slow. Well, she didn’t say that to my face but she told a mutual friend, “I just can’t physically run that slow. It’s bad for my knees.” I certainly didn’t want to be the cause of her paralysis. I’d try to run with other people and they would say I was too fast. I like that better than being too slow.
I notice when I run in races there’s usually no one around me. No, I’m not at the front of the pack. But I’m not at the back either. Just nobody is running the exact same pace as me. Or else I smell like garlic.
Also, I don’t really like to talk when I run. I just like to let my mind wander. Running through neighborhoods is my favorite because I like to try to figure out people’s floor plans. I’m not going to rob them or anything. I just like to try to figure it out.
I think it’s funny when people say “but running by yourself is so boring!” Boring? Running is hard. That means it hurts. Is going to the dentist boring? Is having a baby boring? When you’re in pain, boredom is the last thing on your mind.
Yesterday I ran the White Rock half marathon here in Dallas. At about mile 7 I noticed these two girls who were running right next to me. They asked me what mile we were on and we started talking from there. Their names were Dixie and Allison. I knew Dixie’s name right away because Allison kept saying it: “Ya doin’ okay, Dix? How ya holding up, Dix? Look, Dix, we’re almost there!”
We chatted and ran and Allison commented, “You run the same pace as we do! You should train with us!” I told her about how nobody is ever running around me. She said, “That happens to us too! Right, Dix?”
But then we realized that I lived in Dallas and they lived in Oklahoma City. So alas, we couldn’t be the three legendary running ladies. But we finished the half marathon together. Even though Dixie almost gave up. “I can’t go this fast, guys!” she said. Allison said, “We won’t leave you Dix!” I thought, “Speak for yourself!”
We all crossed the line at the same time and had our best half marathon times ever.
So even though I’ve never found the right running partner for me I think the few that I’ve had have helped me along the way. Especially the first one who thought I ran too slow. Oh, by the way, she ran the half marathon yesterday too.
She came in a minute behind me.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Now normally only people who totally rock make my blog but I had to give a shout out to Rick Springfield. Why does he kinda rock? It depends on how you look at it: Is it more important to have A LOT of mediocre songs or one exceptionally awesome, kick-ass song? If that one song is Jessi’s Girl, then I’ll take it.
Jessi’s Girl is a masterpiece. Let me point out my favorite parts:
- First, there’s the rockin’ guitar solos—nah, nah, nah, nah, nananana
- Then there’s the quiet rhythmic verses where Rick’s voice gets softer and the instruments are really subtle (“I played along with the charade.”)
- Natch, there’s the lyrics:
“…and she’s lovin’ him with that body I just know it”
“I’ve been funny, I’ve been cool with the lines. Ain’t that the way love’s supposed to be?”
“I feel so dirty when they start talkin’ cute.”
I heard Rick on a radio interview the other day and he said Jessi’s girl is a REAL person. But the guy’s name was Gary. Can you imagine how different our lives would be if the song was, “I wish that I had Gary’s Girl?” Actually, I kinda like the alliteration. No, no. It has to be Jessi.
But poor Rick. He was doing this radio interview in an effort to promote some new album full of cover songs and all the DJs wanted to ask about was Jessi’s Girl. I mean, the guy sang TONS of songs (although I can’t name any besides JG) and he starred on General Hospital! But everywhere he goes I bet people play air guitar and sing the chorus.
He shouldn’t feel bummed about it though. I mean, some people never have a hit song. I know I haven’t. Have you? So that’s something to be proud of. It’s just weird to be defined by one thing. It’s like Kato Kaelin. Or Baby Jessica. Or that guy with the shampoo bottle from my junior high.
I know if I met him I couldn’t resist either. I’d say, “Rick, I wanna tell you that I love you but the point is probably mute.” And of course I'd tell him that he kinda rocks.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Background: Hillary lives on a ranch in Dillon, Montana with her husband, Jon (both pictured here) and their two kids Savannah (4) and Brock (almost 2). Guess who else lives there? Jon’s family—his parents, his sister’s family and his brother’s family. Guess who his sister is married to? Hillary’s brother.
I was at first too but pay attention:
Backing up More: Hillary grew up in Wharton, Texas and went to college with me at UT. Her brother, Scott, went to TCU for their ranch management program.
Jon grew up on the ranch in Dillon, Montana and also attended ranch management school at TCU. He met Scott there and at graduation, Jon’s parents offered Scott a job on their ranch. So he moved to Montana.
In Montana Scott met Jon’s sister, Jodi. They hit it off. He decided to invite his younger sister Hillary to Montana to hang out on the ranch one summer. She met Jon. They hit it off.
Now Hillary is married to Jon and Scott is married to Jodi. No, there’s no incest there. Just a brother and a sister who married a brother and a sister. Oh, and Hillary’s parents went ahead and moved there too. I mean, why not? Everybody else did!
Anyway, Hillary sends out emails on a regular basis with pictures and updates about life on the ranch. Sometimes I get ranch envy and wish I lived there with the gorgeous mountains, beautiful sunsets and the ocassional outing "into town."
But yesterday she sent an email about the weather. At first glance I thought she said it was 25 degrees. I thought, “That’s how cold it is here in Dallas!” But then I realized she said 25 BELOW! Little Savannah even had a bit of frostbite on her cheek. I felt a tad guilty for constantly whining to Frank, “I’m frozen!”
But when it’s not so cold the ranch seems like a blast. And if you’re starting to get that itch to travel there, well get ready to…uh... scratch it? Their ranch, Hansen Livestock Company, now has cabins for rent—some rustic, some really rustic. You can hunt, fish or just hang with Hillary and the kids.
Thanks for playing, “Have you met Hillary?” I’ll leave you with some pics to help you feel even closer.
Hillary and Brock
Hillary and Savannah
Look how much fun they have on the ranch!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
--There was the time my car got stuck in the ice on a day like today. It was early in the morning and I was driving from my apartment to the gym. I swerved, I spun and then I stopped. I ran up to my apartment and called Frank. He lived about 20 minutes away so he just said, “Go try and push it!” I guess since I was on my way to the gym he thought I had super-human strength. So I did. But it didn’t move. Soon after, a car carrying a couple of other girls, also en route to the gym, got stuck. They were dressed really cute like they were just going to the gym to stand around and pose. They immediately made phone calls and announced that several men were coming to help. “Great! My boyfriend just told me to come push it,” I said, pointing to my apartment. I guess they thought he was actually in the apartment and that I had the meanest boyfriend ever. Their men showed up and moved their car. The thing is, they didn’t even bother to move mine! They just all left—probably to go do some pretty-person activity like drink Starbucks.
So I called 9-1-1. They said, “We have about a thousand other cars to get to before yours. I suggest you leave it.”
--Another time I called because my apartment was on fire. Okay, it was one of those oven fires where there’s a crumb on the bottom so when you cook pizza it sparks up. I was screaming on the phone to 9-1-1 when Frank walked in. He put it out and I had to tell my 9-1-1 friends, “Nevermind.”
--I used to run in a neighborhood in the mornings and one day I saw this house with a blinking light. I mean like the lights in one room were blinking on and off, on and off—very deliberately and very consistently. Hello? I was a girl scout! I know what that means! S.O.S.! I don’t know what it stands for but it means someone’s in trouble. Natch, I called 9-1-1 when I got home. They said they’d go check it out. But every day after that I saw the same thing. Guess it was their alarm clock? Not a bad idea…
--I’ve called several times for things I’ve seen on the road—accidents, suspicious people. One time in Austin I saw a lady crossing the bridge of a major highway because her car had stalled about a half mile back. I didn’t want to stop and help her but I thought maybe my 9-1-1 friends would. I called them and this time they asked for my number in case they had any questions. I was going to a Christmas party but I kept my phone by me all night, explaining to everyone that I was an important witness in a police investigation and I could be called away at any minute. But they never called.
Now I know you’re thinking that I should be calling 3-1-1 in some of these cases and I have—for debris in the road and things like that. But they take forever to answer. I’d have better luck calling MedCo!
--I once struggled with whether or not to call my pals at 9-1-1. I was running outside (you see a lot of things when you’re running) and I saw a very normal looking man standing outside a very normal looking restaurant. The only abnormal thing was that his pants were down around his ankles. I won’t describe what else he was doing (for Grandma Valerie’s sake) but I don’t think he should have been doing that. When I got back to my apartment (after running really, really fast—not sure why. It’s not like he could chase me with his pants around his ankles) I called all my friends and told them the story. Later I decided maybe I should put in a call to my friends at 9-1-1, just in case. So I dialed that familiar number and when I told them the story they said, “Hey! Why didn’t you call us sooner?”
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
1. There’s this portly man who lives in the North Pole and he flies around with reindeer one night of the year and delivers presents to every single kid in the world—even in the remote areas of Cambodia. Oh, and he manages to fit down your chimney.
2. The entire adult population is lying to the entire kid population.
I chose to go with #1. I rationalized it with the old “the elves help him.” When I found out there really wasn’t a Santa Claus I started to become suspicious of everything—
particularly large, money-hungry corporations. That little Enron oops didn’t restore my faith either. I’d like to reveal some other scams happening right under our red noses:
Bank of America is stealing from you:
I know because they used to steal from me. It’s like the Office Space plan. They take about a tenth of a cent from all unsuspecting customers every so often and when you balance your checkbook and see you’re a few cents off, you blame yourself. Hey, you’re good at math, especially addition and subtraction! These aren’t logarithms, people (not that I know what logarithms are. Frank?) After awhile of always rounding down my balance, I got fed up. I started checking my bank account online every day—watching for the little withdrawals. And you know what? I never found them. You know why? Because BofA NOTICED I was online all the time and they figured they couldn’t mess with me! So don’t let ‘em mess with you.
There’s no such thing as a rebate from Sears:
We bought a washer, dryer and a refrigerator from Sears in July. We got free delivery with a mail-in rebate. Great! After the appliances were delivered we promptly mailed in our rebate and waited. And waited. After the allotted 90 days we called Sears: “Hey, where’s our rebate?” Surprise! They never received it. “It must have gotten lost in the mail.” That’s weird. I sent out 200 wedding invitations and none of them got lost in the mail. I send out over 100 Christmas letters every year and they never get lost in the mail. So Sears is telling me (very confidently I might add) that the ONE time I mail ONE thing to Sears, it gets lost? They tell me to fax it in. We do. I call a couple weeks later: “Hey, it’s me, Elsa. Where’s my rebate?” Double surprise! They never received it. “It must not have been processed correctly.” I get it, Sears. You’re counting on your customers to be lazy. We don’t want to have to deal with this. In fact, we might even forget about our rebate. But you obviously haven’t dealt with the Simciks, Sears! We will drive to your headquarters in Chicago if we have to. We WILL get our $50!
You’re not covered by insurance:
The medical insurance scam is similar to Sears in that they try to annoy you into paying. If you want them to pay you have to go through so much red tape, fill out so many forms and talk to so many automated answering services that you might be inclined to say, “Fine! I’ll just pay for it myself!” Plus, you have to go to medical school just to be able to fight with them: “What do you mean you won’t cover Dysplastic Nevi? I mean, I don’t know what it is but I’ve got it and you better cover it!”
I just wanted you all to be aware of these evil plots to take your money. And these are just a few of them. I could probably tell you about scams until Easter. Oh, and don’t even get me started on that bogus, basket-carrying bunny.
Monday, December 05, 2005
I called my Grandma on Thursday and like a good granddaughter I said, “I told you so!”
During one of my visits with her I had informed the 83-year-old that I was going to quit my job to be a full-time freelance writer. She had lots of questions: “So where will you go to work?” “What? What do you mean you’ll work from home?” “Will you make any money doing that?”
I explained to her that while Frank went to business school I worked so that he could follow his dream. I said, “Now he’s going to work so I can follow my dream.” She responded with, “Your dream of not working?”
I thought THAT comment made my blood boil the most but that was before she went on to tell other relatives:
“Frank has a big job at Frito Lay [she thinks he’s like the CFO] and Elsa’s not going to work.”
After awhile of her telling people that and me rolling my eyes and sighing she would follow-up that comment with, “She gets mad when I say that" and then giggle.
“Really?” I asked her, “You noticed? Cause you don’t act like you do!”
I would call her periodically and give her updates on my writing. Try telling an 83-year-old who’s never even turned on a computer that you write articles on the Internet. “What? You mean your articles are on TV?” she asked (rather suspiciously I might add).
I decided that the lady needed proof. I sent her a magazine article I had written in Women’s Health and Fitness. That did it. She immediately called me and gushed about my talent, my fame and naturally, the enormous amount of money I must be making as a result of all of this. I didn’t argue. In fact, since Grandma is under the impression that I’m rich and famous now, I’m pretty sure she thinks that I’m stooping beneath my level by being with a guy who’s merely the CFO of Frito Lay.
After she sung my praises I just couldn’t help it. I had to tell her, “I told you so, Grandma. And you said I wasn’t even working!”
She said, “Well there goes your dream.”
Friday, December 02, 2005
But I guess that’s what you have to deal with when you live in the cold North. Sometimes I hear Al Roker talking about other places that are even colder than Dallas. Like Fargo, North Dakota where it was like 15 below today. I guess if I moved there my toes would just fall off. Yes, I would get off the plane, look down and I’d be toeless.
So I’m not moving to Fargo, North Dakota. And it's not just the cold. I also can’t move there because of the absence of queso. Do you know that people outside of Texas don’t even know what queso is? Sure, they act like they do but if you order it you’re either going to get a cup of shredded cheese or if you’re somewhere semi-southern, they’ll bring a bowl of some white mush. If I lived in Fargo I would have to always have a block of Velveeta and Rotel on hand so I could make it in my queso maker. But do they even have Rotel in Fargo? By the way, did you know that Rotel was invented in Elsa, Texas? How could I leave?
And although I still argue that I DO NOT have any sort of Texas accent, I’m not sure the Fargoians (Fargonites?) would understand me. You see, I once met some people from Minnesota at my friend Jessi’s wedding. I’m gonna lump them in with Fargoians; It’s all the same to me. We got into the whole dialect discussion: You know, Coke v. pop, y’all v. you guys, etc. One of the girls asked me, “What do you call that thing that you carry around that has a strap and you put stuff in it like books or clothes?” I answered, “A bag.” She started laughing and told her fellow Minnesotians (Minnesotites?), “See? She said it! I told you she would!!” I asked, “How do you say it?” She said, “Duh! It’s BEG!”
Obviously the lack of queso has affected their brains. Plus, the fact that their toes have fallen off probably doesn't help. I pity these people.
So I’ll just stay right here in Texas where it’s cold enough as it is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put my toes in the oven.
You can't tell but I'm trying to spell out "Help! My toes are frozen!" with my breath.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Excitement: Wow! Look at all the giant TVs and is that a revolutionary space heater? The kind that doesn’t burn down your house? It’s so warm!
Awe: Everything is so neatly stacked and the aisles are so wide. And the floors? Immaculate.
Serenity: It’s so not crowded and the people who are here are so much more desirable than my co-shoppers at Wal-mart.
Greed: I think I do need a giant inflatable snowman. No, wait! I need 20 of them!
Gluttony: Sure, I’ll take a sample of the sun-dried tomato/cream cheese cracker. And a vitashake. Soy milk? Bring it on! Pass the chicken wings, please. Are those little spiral turkey thingies? I love them!
Regret: I think I ate too many spiral turkey thingies.
Confusion: Hmmm…$50 for 100 rolls of paper towels. I KNOW that’s technically a good deal but I just can’t bear to spend $300 in one visit. Okay, fine, I’ll get them.
Frustration: I can’t lift 100 rolls of paper towels!
Desperation: Help! I’m buried under 100 rolls of paper towels! Somebody…spiral turkey thingie sampler…Yes! I’ll buy the box of spiral turkey thingies…what? The chipotle kind! Yes, I know they’re great for parties! You just defrost them, put them on a plate and everybody thinks you made them. Although no one will believe I could wrap them so perfectly. Just help me, please!
Exhaustion: Glad to be out from under the paper towels but now cart is too heavy to push. Need to take a break…What’s that? A gallon of olives for $12? Can’t beat that.
Frazzled: What? You need my Costco card before I can buy this stuff? Okay, it’s in here somewhere. Yes, I know I should have gotten it out because you ask for it every time. But I’m fairly new to Costco.
Defensive: Yes, I know my eye is closed in the picture. I had an infection. No, it’s not pink eye. No, it’s not contagious. I don’t have it anymore. I just did the day I took the picture.
Embarrassed: Oh? You don’t take Visa? What about Discover? What about Mastercard? I guess I’ll use my check card. Wait. Let me balance my checkbook really quick to make sure I can afford this. If I can’t, the olives are gonna have to go. Yes, I know $12 is a good deal for a gallon of olives. It’s just that I don’t really eat olives. I don’t even like them.
Irritated: Hi, I’m just trying to push this heavy cart to my car…thanks. Oh, right. You want to see my membership card. I’ve got it right here. I kept it out because I knew that they had people positioned at the exits to check them. What? You want my receipt? Yes, I get it that showing my membership card doesn’t prove that I didn’t steal the merchandise. I’ve got my receipt here somewhere. Oh, it’s under the turkey spiral thingies. Yes, I know they’re great for parties.
Relief: I'm so glad to be out of there. Now I'm all set with my paper towels, olives and a bunch of other random crap that I may not have wanted but the unit price was too good to pass up.
Grateful: At least I don't have to worry about buying Q-tips for another 2.4 years.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Let’s focus on the issues:
Oprah just caught three sexual predators who had eluded the authorities for years. It took her a couple of days.
Oprah found a place outside of Chicago that was so poor they had no running water, no garbage service and the people were living in filth amongst rodents. The problem? They didn’t have their own zip code so they didn’t get these services. She brought attention to it so the state government would too.
Hello? She’s CEO of a huge enterprise and is one of the richest people in the country. I think she knows how to help us make money.
The War in Iraq:
Oprah is so persuasive I bet she could talk some sense into those insurgents.
She got all of Hollywood to come help her with Katrina recovery and is building all kinds of houses.
She just did a show with Leonardo DiCaprio about the evils of global warming. I now unplug my cell phone charger when I’m not using it. Thanks, Oprah.
Come on, it’s not all about the bad stuff. She’ll have to entertain too. Did you see her segment on holiday parties with the pomegranate martinis? They’re sweeping the nation.
A Supportive First Lady:
Steadman would make a terrific first lady—always keeping quiet but helping where necessary.
A Brilliant Cabinet:
She’d have all the best people around her: Gayle, Dr. Phil, Nate the decorator, Bob the trainer, Rachael Ray for parties and Kirstie Alley for, uh, dancing?
If Oprah were president I think I would actually tune in for the state of the union address. Word to the wise: turn it on about ten minutes into it after all the clapping, cheering and crying has calmed down.
I don’t think we’ll be quite ready in 2008 but let’s start encouraging Oprah for 2012. We can all get these bumper stickers that say “O, the President.” Sure, it’ll be a big salary reduction for her and the living conditions probably aren’t up to her standards. But I think Oprah will be able to get past all that and help this country come together. And if nothing else good comes out of it, at least we might all get free cars.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Here I am, Cookinggal, stirring up one of my many Thanksgiving recipes. I look happy but I was actually a frazzled psycho version of Cookinggal. Again, my apologies to my guests.
I did however, get some rave reviews:
"This is the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever had."
"I have to say, this is one of the best Thanksgivings ever."
"Pass the asparagus dish. I'm gonna need the recipe."
Now, let's compare and contrast as I promised:
We started with a dip called the three pepper cheese spread. And when I say "we started with" I mean I put it out in front of the boys who were watching football and they destroyed it.
Here is what it was supposed to look like:
Here is what it looked like by Cookinggal. Hey, give me some better lighting and fancy garnishes and they're identical I think.
Then I made this Spinach casserole. I don't want to talk about it.
The popular asparagus dish looked like this:
I got the recipe from my neighbor so I don't have a picture to compare it to. But trust me, this is how it's supposed to look.
Okay, let's skip to dessert. I attempted this double layer pumpkin pie that's supposed to look like this:
But ended up looking like this:
You can't tell but everyone is saying, "Thank you, Cookinggal!"
Stay tuned this holiday season as Cookinggal tackles a Christmas party! Rachael Ray? So yesterday.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
This is my third year to “host” Thanksgiving. But what does that really mean? In the past it just meant that I made sure the house was clean (sometimes via a pricey maid, much to Frank’s despair) and then opened the door. My mom, mother-in-law and sister did all the work. My mom would even bring the turkey in from Houston! This pic is me on Thanksgiving two years ago. Yes, I wore the chef’s hat but just to be cute. The chef’s hat wasn’t even fooled.
But this year—since I’ve morphed into Cookinggal—I’m going to tackle it. Here’s what I’m making:
- A turkey: The real kind that you have to cook, not the kind that you just heat up. Tonight my mom is going to call me and we’re going to “talk turkey” as she says. This means she’s going to walk me through cleaning out its guts. Gross. But I do feel a little bit like Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy. Or maybe Izzy. Except there’s no McDreamy.
- A Spinach Casserole: Frank’s mom and I are on this healthy kick so everyone else is not so excited about this one. (It’s so an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond without the tofu turkey.)
- This Asparagus/Tomato/Cheese dish that my neighbor vaguely told me about. Cross your fingers.
- A fancy cheese dip: To keep my guests occupied while I’m cooking.
- TWO Pumpkin Pies!
I’m letting the other ladies handle a few other sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing and salad. I WILL be supervising though.
Here’s what I’m gonna do, blog readers: I’m gonna take photos of everything I make and since most of the recipes are online, I’m going to compare the pics side by side on Monday. Now, you’ll have to take into account that the people at Kraft (where I get most of my recipes) hire fancy food stylists and secure the best lighting for their food. I tried to do that but the food stylists and photographers aren’t working on Thanksgiving. So I’ll have to do my best with my digital camera.
So today I’m cleaning (no fancy maid this year) and tomorrow I’m gonna slap on my apron and chef’s hat and make a Thanksgiving dinner. The chef’s hat is gonna be so confused.
So happy Thanksgiving! And remember, if you and your family get bored, you can always trace your hands and make a turkey. It’s a total blast. But you should probably get drunk like this guy did.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Mariah mixes old and new with songs like “Joy to the World” and “Miss you Most at Christmas Time.” She even has this awesome tune, “Jesus, Oh what a Wonderful Child” which she sings with a black choir. I like to pretend that I’m the only little white girl in the all black choir and when Mariah’s part comes on, I emerge from the choir and sing. Then everybody goes, “Go little white girl!” Of course, when they find out I’m just lip singing to Mariah Carey I’ll have to dance a jig and get out of there.
Now I'm not even a big Mariah Carey fan. I don't have any of her other albums. Okay, if you count the single to "Vison of Love" which I have on tape then I guess I do. But everybody had that.
Mariah fans and non-fans alike are in luck this year: She's revamped the album with more songs, newer versions and a DVD of some sort. Here’s what people are saying:
Oppie from New Mexico says:
“This has got to be one of the best Christmas albums ever made.”
J. Stewart of Columbus, Ohio says:
“This is a must have...even if you have the original!”
Kelly T. of Tampa, FL says:
"I'm so glad she gave this album a fact lift!" (Hey, just because she can't spell doesn't mean her comment isn't valid!)
The experts at Amazon say:
"A must for diehards, and a pleasant surprise for the unconverted."
Listen to samples here!
Every year I completely overplay this CD. I listen to it at home, during road trips, even in the shower (Yes, I have a CD player in there!) But I never get sick of it. Once December 26th hits, though, MCMC goes right back into….well it’s been in the side pocket of Frank’s car for the last year. But I got it out this morning and I’m ready to overplay it again. Feel free to come over and watch me sing along. I’ll even do “Jesus, Oh what a Wonderful Child” for you. But if you’re gonna watch, you HAVE to yell, “Go little white girl!”
Monday, November 21, 2005
Airline Blanket: My favorite blanket is red, soft, warm and has been used by thousands of disgruntled airline passengers. Frank gave it to me about five years ago. He called me one morning at like 6am. He had just gotten off a red eye flight and said he was coming straight to my apartment with a surprise. When I opened the door he was standing there with the stolen blanket. I was so excited! My very own airline blanket plus my boyfriend was a thief (you know how girls like the bad boys).
Ti-faux: If you don’t have Tivo or the fake version, DVR, you are so missing out. You may think another TV gadget means you’re more obsessed with TV or that you’ll watch more of it. Not true. With Ti-faux you’re in control. You can start programs later and therefore not spend as much time in front of the TV. Take Oprah, for instance. That show is really only 30 minutes once you take out commercials, the theme song and the ten minutes of Oprah worshipping at the beginning.
Dish Dryer: We were using our dishwasher way too much. I was running it like every day. I mean, I would look at a spoon and think it needed to go in the dishwasher. So Frank suggested we get this dish drying thingie—for those items that we can wash in the sink and not put in the dishwasher. We went to Target and picked up this adorable red one! I don’t know if it’s the bold color or the promise of a lower electric bill but when we look at it we say, “I love that red dish drying thingie.”
Chimenea: I don’t have one of these but I really want one. Just in case you were struggling with what to get me this year.
Hopefully I've just made your Christmas shopping a little bit easier. And since we're talking about favorites, I bet you're curious to know my fave Christmas song: It's Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you." And guess what? Next time I see you I'll sing it for you! That's right, you're getting a song, you're getting a song, everybody's getting a song sung to them by me! I am so white Oprah today.
Friday, November 18, 2005
It’s back by popular demand. And when I say “popular demand” I mean Doug Clayton requested more tips from Thea. And he’s sort of popular.
Well she's at it again and this time she’s saved me, made me smarter and helped me win a contest. Some pretty good tips, eh?
The Tip that Saved Me
Last Friday I posted a blog about pyramid schemes. I actually wrote the blog Thursday night after a couple of glasses of wine at the Pampered Chef party. When I went to write the word “sommelier,” I googled it and took its first guess which was, “Somalia.” I wasn’t sure why it needed to be capitalized but who cares? I just bought a nifty rice cooker!
The next morning as I was driving to meet the girls for the Nordstrom’s Grand Opening, I heard Big Al on the radio say something about those pirates off the coast of Somalia. Ah!! Somalia! That's what I had written! I knew Thea would know how to spell sommelier (since she’s the one who taught me the word in the first place). I called her and told her that I had written that a woman was a “Somalia” and she said, “What? She’s a small, irate country?” She then quickly gave me the correct spelling and I sped to Jacquie’s house to change it before any blog readers knew my secret--that I’m no spelling bee champ when I’ve had too much wine. Even when the word has to do with wine.
The Tip that Made me Smarter
I was telling Thea that my sister’s boyfriend owned a business where “I think they ‘sup’ up cars like ghetto style.” She asked, “Is it a detailing business?” and I said, “Yes!! That’s it! Detailing!” So now when he’s here for Thanksgiving I can use this term instead of saying, “So, how many low-riders did you do this week?”
The Tip that Helped me Win a Contest
On Wednesday Thea sent me a link to a contest on D Magazine’s FrontBurner. They asked people to write film reviews and the two winners would get to be Deputy Film Reviewers at the Deep Ellum Film Festival this weekend. I got Thea’s note, wrote a review and won! I’m going to be a unpaid film critic this weekend!
Check it out Hopefully you can guess which one I wrote.
Okay, so all these tips are really only relevant to me. I realize that. But hey, she also mentioned that you can get good deals on Burberry at Overstock.com. So get to Christmas shopping! And if you don’t have any money, I bet Thea would pick your lottery numbers for you.
Sometimes Cookinggal gets Tips from Thea!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
“They deserve to be that way. If I give them money, they’ll probably just spend it on drugs.”
“It sucks to be hungry!”
I’m not saying I’m some sort of saint, but I choose to react the second way. Yes, the first reaction may be true but I also think it’s easy to tell yourself that so you don’t feel bad about not helping.
And since I must be fed every few hours,I really hate for other people to be hungry. So I started carrying Rice Krispy Treats and granola bars in my car to give to my homeless friends. Sometimes they would ask me my name and I always told them Mandy. No, not because of my friend Mandy who you met yesterday. I think there was a Mandy Moore song on the radio when I first said it. Like I said, it was a few years ago.
The worst homeless situation I saw was at the corner of Royal and I35. It was a lady and her teenage son. She looked like a homeless person out of a movie, like she had been sweeping chimneys all day. And I just felt so bad for the teenager. My roommate at the time always had tons of extra food in the house that she was never going to eat. So I gathered up a bunch of it and took it to Hope and her son. I named her that. I don’t think I ever found her again though. Frank and his roommate Mark ended up eating the food.
Then there was Crack Whore Annie (I didn’t name her that.) Some of you from Dallas may know her. She’s “lived” at the corner of Lemmon and 75 for years. One day I was driving home and it was past my feeding time so I was hungry and grouchy. I saw CWA and thought, “If I’m hungry, think how hungry she is!” So I forced myself to go get her a hamburger from Wendy’s. When I gave it to her, she was grateful but then she asked, “Do you also have some money? I really need to get to the shelter…” Okay, okay. Reaction #1 was probably appropriate for CWA.
I never had much luck giving out fast food. One Sunday I made Frank drive through McDonald’s to get several hamburgers and I thought we could drive around and hand them out. But we couldn’t find anybody! Guess they think Sunday is a day of rest too. And, yep, you guessed it. Frank ate the hamburgers.
Then a friend at work encouraged me to come with her to a homeless shelter one night a week to serve food. Feed people at no cost to me? I liked the sound of that. So I worked behind the counter like a cafeteria lady, thinking the other people along side of me were volunteers too. No, they were a homeless couple and they lived and worked in the shelter. The lady started telling the other people that we were sisters. I thought it was kind of funny so I went along with it. But week after week she’d give these Oscar-worthy performances, “Have you talked to mom lately?” she’d ask, “She always liked you better.” Or “I can’t wait till we go shopping at the mall, sis,” and “Call me!!”
I feel bad because now that I live in the suburbs, I don’t see as many of my homeless friends. I don’t carry Rice Krispy Treats anymore and I haven’t gone to see my sis at the shelter in two years. While I hope my old friends are in homes now, it would be nice to head down to Oak Lawn and 35 and see them. Hopefully they’d all say, “Hey, Mandy,where you been?”
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
On my new fave show “How I Met your Mother” (thanks, Thea), Doogie Howser (who calls himself ‘Barney’ on the show), plays this game with his friends: He walks up to strangers and asks, “Have you met Ted?” or “Have you met Robin?” and then walks away.
Today, I’d like to ask you all, “Have you met Mandy?”
No, I’m not trying to set her up. Mandy is spoken for. But she’s a cool gal and someone everyone should know.
Name: Amanda "Mandy" Bartel
Age: 40ish (she won’t tell but she seems to have lots of birthdays)
Status: Married once, has two kids (April and Andrew), now engaged to Tad (no, not Ted. Tad).
Occupation: Works in accounting at Kolar advertising and marketing in Austin. She really might be the homecoming queen of the office. When it’s Mandy’s birthday (which it is A LOT), everybody eagerly gives money for her gift rather than moaning and reluctantly giving a $1. The lady rakes in like $300 from a 50 person office! Okay, that's only like $6 each but there's always deadbeats who don't give at all.
Cooking. Mandy is the best cook ever! She makes cookies almost every day at Kolar (we love the rolo cookies) and is single-handedly responsible for the office collectively gaining 200 pounds this year.
Faxing. She loves to fax and helps Writinggal who still can’t do it.
Complaining about being fat. But she’s not fat. She’s just phat.
Secret hobby: Lying (including telling her children they were adopted, crank calling, crank emailing and spreading office gossip). Nobody suspects she’s lying because she’s so damn sweet.
Fave TV Show: Desperate Housewives. She and Tad (again, not Ted) fight about the plot line sometimes.
Girl Crush: Kelly Ripa
Little Known Fact: Mandy is the former Watermelon Thump Princess of Luling, TX.
Thanks for playing, “Have you met Mandy?” And if you would like to be featured on an upcoming installment of “Have you met (insert your name here)?” well you’ll just have to be patient. Or make me some of Mandy’s rolo cookies.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
His mom perked up: “Free breakfast for a month?”
The kid took his work very seriously and diligently provided helpful insight each and every day. When the assignment was over, he mailed off his report and asked his mother to continue buying him the tasty breakfast treats.
The breakfast treats were Pop Tarts. And the guinea pig was my husband. As a result of this little experiment, we now have giant boxes of Pop Tarts (which we disgustingly call ‘Poop Tarts’ or just ‘Poops’) in our pantry. Frank has eaten them for breakfast pretty much every day since he was ten. He even eats the same flavor—frosted brown sugar and cinnamon.
Sure, I’ve tried to trick him by buying the low fat kind. He wasn’t fooled. I thought surely he would like the French Toast flavor. Nah. It must be the frosted brown sugar and cinnamon. And he eats two every day so we go through them really fast. I never go to the store and don’t buy Poop Tarts.
Recently, though, we had a breakthrough—for me and for him. We started shopping at Costco. On my first trip I immediately visited the breakfast aisle. They had giant boxes of my Kashi cereal (Thanks, Thea!) and yes, they also had enormous boxes of Poops! Only problem? The boxes consisted of half frosted brown sugar and cinnamon and half strawberry. This wouldn’t work. I’d be stuck eating the strawberry and somehow I just don’t think Poop Tarts are packed with all the fiber and goodness of Kashi.
I bought them anyway and presented them to Frank. He reluctantly agreed to try to the strawberry. When he did, he said something shocking: “You know, I think I might like these better than the frosted brown sugar and cinnamon Poop Tarts.”
A miracle! After 18 years, he’s making a change. Call Kellogg’s! Tell them they can decrease their distribution of frosted brown sugar cinnamon Poop Tarts in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. We’re a strawberry family now.
Also, as long we’re talking to Kellogg’s, I’d also like to add that I’ve done some math on this. Assuming he’s spent (or his parents have spent) $3 a week on PT’s for the last 18 years, that means we’ve invested almost $3,000 in their company! Tell ‘em that. See if we can get some profit sharing going. Or another month of free breakfast. I’ll give ‘em feedback: “My husband loves your Poops!”
Monday, November 14, 2005
I think it was a combination of two things: I was the world’s pickiest eater and my dad made my breakfast. So what did I have every morning? A sandwich. A ham and cheese sandwich. But to make it a little bit more breakfast-like, he melted it in the microwave. This went on from elementary school all the way up through high school. We came to have this little ritual every day:
After I’d eat my sandwich I would tell my dad, “Thanks. That was a good sandwich,” and he would say, “You know, I think I’m going to start my own sandwich shop—right here on the Link road.” (That was the street that ran outside our neighborhood.) “I’ll call it Ron’s Sandwiches.”
I didn’t like crust back then so I’d always leave this pile of it on my plate. It looked like a massacre so my dad would ask, “Who won the war?”
At some point in high school he got creative and took some plastic palm trees off a birthday cake and incorporated them into my breakfast. So on my plate he’d put the melted ham and cheese sandwich and then the palm trees around the perimeter. He’d often remark, “You forgot to eat your palm trees!” Of course since I was a teenager at that point this would spark some serious eye rolling.
In college I chose sleep over breakfast but when I got out into the working world and had to make my own morning meal, I once again went with the trusty sandwich. Every morning I’d get out the bread, mayo, ham and cheese and melt it in the microwave. I didn’t have palm trees and I had grown to like the crust so it wasn’t exactly the same.
Sometimes I would be running late for work so I had to bring my sandwich with me. There I’d sit, in my cube, at 8:30 in the morning, chowing down on a sandwich. Yes, people thought I was weird. And yes, they thought I just couldn’t wait to eat my lunch. I became known for it: “The girl who eats sandwiches for breakfast.”
Now, I have to admit, I’m such a cliché: I eat cereal for breakfast. But every now and then, usually on Saturdays, I’ll make myself a sandwich for breakfast as a special treat. No, they’re not as good as Ron’s Sandwiches but, come on, he’s a professional. I can’t compete with that.
Friday, November 11, 2005
But then at the end of the evening (after I had bought my fair share of wine), one of my friends said, “Oh, and she also sells these great lotions and soaps.” What? So the lady’s just a peddler? I should’ve known.
Last night I gave in again. It was Pampered Chef. But hello? I’m totally Cookinggal now and I needed some things. Plus, it was hosted by a neighbor and I’m trying to get in good with them. I mean, driving into Dallas is getting exhausting and I need some 75287 friends. I must admit, walking across the street to a party was so refreshing and easy. Who cares if I hardly know the people? I’ll get to know them! I’ll learn to love them! Have ya seen the price of gas?
So I go with the intention of just buying a couple of things—last time I got a cool super-absorbent dish towel that I actually use on my hair—and then glazing over when she went into the “why we should be Pampered Chef consultants” spiel.
But there I was, a total non-believer, an anti-pyramider, finding myself completely intrigued with this woman’s job. I mean, if anyone could have recruited me, it would have been Fonda.
Get this: She’s been doing this for seven years, given over 700 parties and just works two nights a week. She told us about all the trips she’s been on through the PC program: Germany, Hawaii, Alaska, Disneyland and this year she’s going to Vienna.
She had a little sign up that said, “Wouldn’t you like to make an extra $400 a month?” I thought, “How cute. She makes a little spare change and then goes on some nice trips.” But then Fonda revealed something. She doesn’t mess around with no $400 a month. Yep, add another 0 to that. Fonda makes $4,000 a month working two nights a week!
I’m telling you, one more glass of wine and I would have been signing the papers. Instead, I just bought my rice cooker—which Martha Stewart told me I had to have if I wanted to make perfect rice—and walked back across the street.
So I didn’t join the pyramid of the pampers (as Frank calls it). But I did get to know the neighbors and I have to say, none seem like serial killers. But this morning I’m driving to Dallas to see my friends for the Nordstrom grand opening. Yes, it will cost a lot in gas. Yes, I’ll have to fight rush hour traffic. No, I won’t make $4,000 in the process. But they won’t pressure me to join any pyramid schemes, buy soaps and lotions or sex toys and, I have to say, that’s priceless.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Lately I’ve been forming connections with Canada (which Homer Simpson calls “America Junior.”)
First, I accidentally attended a Canada Day party this summer. Frank and I went to this bar in Austin to meet our friends Stefanie and Jon. We sat out on the patio and after about an hour, we started to notice that we just didn’t fit in. Everybody was saying things like “Eh” and “Ya” and there were Canadian flags on every table. And we were drinking some Canadian beer because it was on special. When the big Canadian flag beach ball landed on me, I knew something was up.
Jon, who is from Buffalo, has an understanding of Canada similar to ours of Mexico. He realized that it was indeed Canada Day and began telling us stories of hockey and other northern, foreign activities. This was a good move because we soon spotted a giant Canadian Flag cake. His tales made us look like true Canadians. And I would do whatever it took to be Canadian. I wanted that cake.
So we played with the beach ball and Jon assigned us all home cities in Canada (just in case anyone asked). Then came the true test: The rowdy group decided to sing the Canadian National Anthem. And guess what? Jon knew it! So we all watched him and sang along. I even danced and waved my arms about. I really wanted that cake. Stef and Frank almost ruined it for us with their poor faking skills.
After the anthem, I went up and cut four pieces of cake and luckily, nobody asked me where I was from. Ooh, that cake was good. They really know how to make a good dessert in Canada.
I thought my Canadian encounters were over but then this week there was another. While doing some internet searching of a title of one of my articles, I found that a girl at the University of Waterloo in Ontario had plagiarized me! She handed in my article to the student newspaper and put her name on it. I emailed the editor and when I didn’t get a response, I called him, fuming. Would I sue? Damn right I’d sue! And they should be prepared to pay up in cake.
Tim, the Canadian editor with one of those silly Canadian accents, apologized profusely and said they would take it down. Then, my third Canadian encounter happened:
He said that I wasn’t the first one to bring this to their attention—the day before a student at the University had come forward to tell them that this article had already run on MSN. A Canadian supporter! A Canadian who’s got my back!
I’ve never been there but now that I have all these buds, I might pay Canada a visit. I mean, I could stay with the people from the bar, the bakers, the plagiarizing priss, editor Tim or maybe random Writinggal fan. Maybe Canada could be the place I go and people get excited to see me—like Mary Kate and Ashley in China. Or the Hilton sisters in Japan. Or David Hasselhoff in France. Yep, start baking a cake because I’m coming to see you, America Junior.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Express Lane Update
While recently visiting Tom Thumb I watched a cashier verbally reprimand a customer for incorrectly using the express lane. I told him, “Thanks so much for doing that! I was at Kroger and they didn’t say anything. You’ve done a great service, saving us from people who take advantage of the express lane. It’s wrong, WRONG!!” He said, “Lady, I think the person just didn’t see the sign.”
I confessed to you that I don’t have eyebrows. I’ve since gotten some. I bought the Clinique eyebrow pencil and I use it every day. I think I like them. Nobody’s said anything but I’ll take that as a good sign.
Hurricane Houseguests Update
I told you about Aunt Marilyn and Uncle John taking in a family of three from hurricane Katrina. Well I’m happy to report that not only did a generous donor give them a nice car, they have also found a home in Spring, TX.
Update on Baby Jessica
She hasn’t fallen into any wells in 18 years. Yea! But she still got a mention on Will & Grace last week! Go, Jess. I still hate pickles.
Update on Eavesdropping Weight
There’s this one personal trainer I eavesdrop on the most. He caught me yesterday and just flat out told me what I was doing wrong. A little embarrassing. But hey, I still didn’t have to pay him.
Halfway Husbands Update
My commentary on husbands has inspired others! I’ve been getting feedback from wives that their husbands only do half of their chores too, especially the garbage bag in the trash can one. But that’s all changing thanks to my unveiling of this horrible practice!
Update on Cookinggal
Too soon for an update? Look what I made last night!
It's chicken with stuffing and vegetables although it looks like it's mush with Halloween candy. Still tasted good!
Oh, and that kid from "Who's the Boss?" I'm pretty sure he's gay.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
My friend Ayn (who is a really good cook, no denial here) gave me a recipe. It was really long. But the blind bad cook doesn’t get intimidated. How hard can it be? Before I headed out to the store I read over the recipe. The first line of instructions immediately threw me off. It said, “Brown Meat.” I thought to myself, “Well I know the meat is brown but what do I do with it?” I immediately called Ayn and yes, I asked her this very same question. She was patient and explained that, in this case, brown was a verb. She tried to explain the process but I got all frazzled and frustrated and decided to take Frank out to dinner instead.
That’s when I became a bad cook who knew I was a bad cook. This lead me to not cook anything for the next four years. Sure, I heated up, I thawed, I stirred. But no cooking. Frank is a decent cook so every now and then he showed me a few things—how to season shrimp for our fajitas, how to cook things on the George Foreman grill, how to make spaghetti. I kinda liked it. Frank even taught me how to brown meat. He told me, “If you can brown meat, you can make anything!”
Then Christmastime 2004 we were at the home of Frank’s Aunt Marilyn. Need I say more? She convinced me that I could make meatloaf. She showed me the recipe and talked me through it. I actually understood! I called my mom and told her my plan. She was excited too and even bought me a meatloaf pan for Christmas! So now I couldn’t disappoint. I had to do it.
And I did! I made it on Fat Tuesday, the night before I gave up meat for Lent:
Then my mom gave me a recipe for Chicken Divan. I know, it sounds fancy! And it kind of is—it’s got curry in it! And guess what? I made it and Frank loved it. And that meatloaf pan came in handy again:
Next I decided to tackle baking. Frank’s Nana in Pittsburgh makes these wonderful cookies/bars called Scotcharoos. Frank thought his Nana invented them but it turns out there are recipes all over the Internet. So I made those for him:
Okay, they don’t look as good as Nana’s but my second batch did. And they tasted awesome. But now I know why we gain 12 pounds every time we go to Pittsburgh.
So now that I’m working at home, I’ve sort of become obsessed with cooking. I look at the Kraft website each week and make some kind of dish. And when people send me recipes—I make them! Oh, and that thing I used to call the “queso maker?” It’s actually a crock pot and I’ve cooked like crazy in it.
Last week I cooked Spinach Enchiladas. They were awesome! And the best part? I sent the recipe to my mom and she made them! Now I’m the one sending people recipes! But I had a lot of ricotta cheese left over and didn’t know what to do with it.
That’s when I did something unprecedented (by me at least). I invented a recipe! I mean, that’s something only people like Ayn or Aunt Marilyn or Nana do. (Oh, somebody, please make sure Nana hears about this!) I call it “Elsa’s Rockin’ Ricotta Shrimp Surprise.”
Must thank Trusty Thea for helping me find the ricotta cheese at the store in the first place (via the phone. I call both her and my mom a lot while looking for ingredients) and for telling me how long to bake it. Frank suggested covering it with Monterrey Jack cheese (which I’m going to do more of next time).
If you want the recipe, let me know. I may even start a Cookinggal blog to share all my newfound knowledge. But beware, some of the recipes may be complicated. They may require you to brown meat.
Monday, November 07, 2005
And not only do I love the food at Chick-Fil-a, I also love the service. The people there really care. My friend Stefanie worked there in college (or was it high school?) and she had the best experience. They even gave her a scholarship. They’re friendly, religious and generous!
But back to the food: I love me some Chick-Fil-a chicken sandwich, the waffle fries, the lemonade, the salad (yes, even the salad!), the fruit cup, the grilled sandwich, the wrap. Oh, not all in one meal! That’s just my fave items on the menu.
Frank and I used to rendezvous at Chick-Fil-a every Tuesday back in 2000-2001. That’s when they had “Two for Tuesday.” It was buy one combo meal, get one free. A feast for two on $5! A Simcik Fairy Tale. We would email about it during the day with romantic messages like, “Can’t wait for CFL tonight!” It really got me through the day. They even started recognizing us there. I mean, we were those people who got asked, “The usual?” We knew the manager by name: Jimmy Taylor. Wonder what he’s doing now. Probably giving out college scholarships. What a guy.
Sometimes I would pick up Chick-Fil-a and bring it to Frank’s apartment. If he wasn’t home yet I’d wait in the car for a little while. Me, alone with all those waffle fries! I had to make up rules for myself: “Okay, Elsa, you can have one waffle fry every two minutes…okay, it’s been one minute and forty seconds, you can have a little one. Just a little one!” And if he took too long I would just eat all his fries, rationalizing that he deserved it for being so late.
Here’s a tip I learned this weekend: We went to Chick-Fil-a with our friends Courtney and John and Courtney got the kid’s meal. They never eat as much as Frank and me so we always feel like savages. Well, especially Frank who wiped his hands on his shirt because he didn’t have a napkin. But that’s beside the point.
What we learned is that if you give back your kid’s meal toy, they give you a free ice cream cone! Courtney didn’t really even want it. And John only half-heartedly took a lick! Frank and I were bursting with excitement over this freebie as we dug into John’s unfinished fries.
I haven’t found a Chick-Fil-a lately that has Two for Tuesdays but if you hear about one in the DFW metroplex, (really, anywhere! I’ll go to Burleson, White Settlement, Texarkana) let me know. Then I’ll invite everyone to meet me there on a Tuesday night. You won’t get a lot of notice or a lot of details. Just look for the email that says, “Can’t wait for CFL tonight” and you’ll know what to do.