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Friday, June 30, 2006

Unemployment Tips for Star

Star, being unemployed isn’t that bad. I’ve been unemployed too, girlfriend. Can I call you girlfriend?

In my case I wasn’t actually “fired” like you were. I was laid off. The difference? When you’re laid off you can collect unemployment. So check the terms of the exit papers. If it says “laid off” then you can file. It’s a little bit of a pain and you have to call into this number every week to prove you’re looking for a job but it’s totally worth it. You’ll get about $300 a week! Here are a few other tips for you, girlfriend:

Update your Resume: These babies have changed a lot since you looked for a job nine years ago. Besides listing your past jobs and education, you have to list languages you can speak, activities you’ve participated in and computer skills. Do you even have computer skills, girlfriend? Well, you might want to take a quick Excel class and get caught up.

Eat tuna: Since you don’t know how long you’re gonna be unemployed you’ve gotta make every nickel count. This is especially true at the grocery store. First of all, you’re gonna have to start shopping at Wal-Mart. Second of all, you gotta stock up on tuna. It’ll get you through these next few weeks, months, years…however long it may be. Now, girlfriend, you can’t eat one can of tuna in one sitting. You gotta spread it out. Ration a little bit. If you can turn one can of tuna into three meals, you can get your food budget down to $3.50 per week.

Run: Girlfriend, you thought you lost weight before, just you wait. When I was unemployed I started running. And when I was tired and ready to head back home, I thought, “What’s the point of going there? It just smells like tuna.” And I kept running.

Find a part-time job: Try substitute teaching. I did. I bet you could do it, girlfriend. You get, like, $70 a day. Now of course you have to report that to the unemployment office. And it’s summertime so you’ll probably have to wait until school starts again. But still. Maybe you could practice at VBS for awhile.

Get a hobby: You’re gonna have a lot of down-time. Well, I guess you only worked like one hour a day anyway, right? Well, during that hour, find something else to do—like knitting, scrap booking or making fun crafts out of all of those tuna cans! Just whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV! Your former co-workers will probably be talking about you, girlfriend.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 3: I Hate my Soft Diet

Who wants to eat soft food for 14 days? Yogurt makes me yawn. I curse at cottage cheese. And I’m definitely done with soup.

Even my much-anticipated VitaTop ice cream milkshake was at best palatable.

On day one Frank did soft foods with me too. Well, he had a bowl of soup with a corn dog so he partially did the diet. By day two he was done with soft foods and I made him this chicken, pasta, veggie dish I’ve been wanting to make. Who wants to cook food you can’t even eat? If I wanted that I’d be a food stylist. They put too much glue and sheen on food to eat it.

I want to chew. I want to bite. I want to devour!

And I really want a drink.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Softer Side

I had gum surgery yesterday. Now I’m left with stitches, a couple of “gum band-aids” stuck in my mouth (including one that makes me look like I’m dipping) and the best part, a diet consisting of only soft foods! Why am I excited about this? It means I have to follow rules! Well, really just one rule: no chewing. Oh, and they also discourage the use of straws.

Last night I went to the grocery store to stock up on softies for the next two weeks. I got:

Oatmeal (which I’ve already eaten twice now)
Cottage Cheese
Ice cream (It’s like I got my tonsils out!)
Tons of soup (tip: don’t get private label soup. Gotta go with Campbell’s. The other stuff tastes like toilet bowl cleaner. Not that I know what that tastes like but you know what I mean.)

I also got bananas for my smoothies. Yesterday, while I was recovering and before we went to the store, I was still groggy from the drugs and had to create some sort of soft meal based on what we had in the house. For some reason, a peanut butter and banana smoothie sounded really good:

1 banana
3 tablespoons of whipped peanut butter
Some milk (not sure how much cause I was loopy)
A few pieces of Kashi

Even though I couldn’t use a straw it was excellent! One of my better smoothies I must say.

So today on the meal plan is:

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: PB and banana smoothie; some yogurt
Snack: Cottage cheese
Dinner: Soup (The exciting part will be picking which kind. I’ve got ‘em all.)
Dessert: Ice cream

So on day two that still sounds pretty good. I’ll let you know what I think by day 14. I probably won’t even want to hear the word soup. And I’ll be dying for a straw. But hopefully I won’t pick up a dipping habit.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Public Service Announcement from Writinggal

Get out your hanky or your off-brand tissues. I’m going to tell you the saddest story there ever was. It’s a tactic I like to call “making an impression with depression.”

There once was a couple who went to Mexico. But this story is not about them. It’s about the people the couple met on the bus traveling from the airport in Cozumel to the hotel. It was a family. Well, part of a family. There was a daddy, a little girl (about nine I’d say but I’m really bad with kids’ ages. She could have been six. Or twelve. Definitely not three. She could talk. But not a teenager), and a boy (between ages 4-11).

The kids looked sad. Why so glum? They were in Mexico! I never got to go to an all-inclusive resort when I was their age (whatever age that might be). No, I had to go to Civil War battle fields. There was no pool. There was no “kids' club” with ping pong and Candy Land. And there certainly were no virgin strawberry daiquiris. I was just getting to the part about the “no swim-up bar at the site of the battle of Vicksburg” when the dad said, “They’re sad because their mom isn’t here.” Yikes. Dead mom. Whaddya say to that?

“She’s coming on Monday,” the dad informed me. “We got to the airport, all ready for our trip and they wouldn’t let her on the plane because her driver’s license was expired.”

And the big bummer? This day was Saturday and she couldn’t get to the DPS office until Monday when it opened.
And the biggest bummer of all? They were only staying until Wednesday! So mom would get there on Monday and have to turn around and leave again on Wednesday.

I felt helpless and I wanted to do something. So I’ve made it my cause (second only to my cart crusade) to tell the world (or my dozen or so blog readers) to CHECK YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE! DOES IT NEED TO BE RENEWED? You better renew it or you could end up like this poor family. You won’t get to go to Mexico. In fact, the only place you’ll get to go is on a tour of Civil War battle fields. And trust me, they don’t know how to make a good mojito there.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lootin’ Tootin’ Good Time

We Simciks get excited when stores close. You know what that means—big discounts! In the last few months we’ve been truly blessed—both the Tom Thumb and Albertson’s near us have closed.

Shopping at these going-out-of-business extravaganzas takes a delicate, strategic plan. You can’t go too early (not enough of a discount) and you can’t go too late (not enough merch left). You see, it takes stores about six months to officially close so you gotta get the timing just right.

With TT we went too late. The store was probably going to disappear the very next day. Most of the shelves were bare except for random, unwanted products. And then, of course, there were bins of crap. That doesn’t mean the store wasn’t crowded. People didn’t care what was left—they just wanted cheap stuff. As we trekked through the remains of what was once a “Flagship” Tom Thumb, I really felt like hurricane victims, looting a store (except for the electricity, lack of flood waters and the fact that we still had to go through a checkout line).

So here’s what we got on that visit:
One bottle of wine
Two Pria bars
One bottle, hot sauce
One can, matzo ball soup
Total: $8

On Saturday Frank came home, bursting with the news of the Albertson’s closing: “There’s a man standing on the street corner, wearing a sign saying that Albertson’s is closing!” (By the way, we were wondering why stores always hire a person to wear sandwich signs rather than just sticking them in the ground. Frank thought maybe the store thought it was more effective. I said that having a homeless man stand on a corner smoking a cigarette and wearing your sign isn’t really more effective than the sign just standing there on its own. We decided it must be illegal to just stick a sign in the ground so they have to hire someone).

Anyway, because of this smokin'-sign-man, we went to Albertson’s and got the following:

Three bottles of wine
One bottle of Nadia
One bottle, conditioner
One tube, mascara
One pound, ground turkey
One box, Smart Start cereal
One bag, frozen veggies
Two boxes, brown rice
One bottle, nail polish remover

Okay, I can’t remember everything but somehow it all added up to…

Ah! In the end we decided that since a lot of stuff was just 10% off, it was now equivalent to shopping at Wal-Mart. So we’re not sure we really saved much. In fact, we think our visit was premature. We plan to wait a few months and return, when the real lootin' begins. We'll probably need some matzo ball soup by then.

Friday, June 23, 2006

House Peeping

One of my favorite things to do is to look at other people’s houses—either on HGTV, just visiting friends or peeking into neighbors’ houses while on a walk. Oh, and by the way, if I’ve never been to your house before, you BETTER give me a tour the first time I come to visit. There’s nothing worse than a tour-less house visit. When you come to my house, I give the best tours—closets, inside the washer/dryer, drawers…everything.

So you can imagine my delight when Cul de Sac Carrie and I paid $11 for the Parade of Homes tour a couple of weeks ago. After the first of five houses I said, “I would pay $11 just to see this house!” We took turns pretending who owned each house:

Elsa: Oh, Carrie. I love what you’ve done with the dining room.
CdSC: Thanks. I like having that formal bench on one side of the table; that way guests can just pass out there if they drink too much.

CdSC: Elsa, it’s cool how you have a TV in every room plus buckets of champagne (even in the closet)! It’s like all you do is watch TV and drink.
Elsa: Well, it IS a dream home.

Of course we got tons of ideas for our own dream homes on the Cul de Sac: Wine cellar? Check. Pool with a sloping entrance so you don’t get a torn up bathing suit when you sit on the side? Check. Stripper pole for dancing or to use as an alternative to stairs? Double check.

But there is one room I refuse to build into my dream home—the media room. I really don’t like media rooms. That’s not to say that when I attended Alicia’s friend Kate’s Oscar party in her media room that I didn’t have a good time. I like other people to have media rooms. I just don’t want one for myself.

“But Elsa, you LOVE TV! In fact, you said you hate it when people say they don’t have time for TV!”

Yes, omnipotent person, that’s true. But when I watch TV I hate to feel cut off from the outside world. I like to know that at any moment I could get up and do something else. Or if someone called I could talk to them. Or if I was hungry I could eat and not have to worry about getting crumbs in my stadium seating. Plus, can you really channel surf in a media room? It’s like too much of a commitment—like you have to sit in there and watch old movies like Giant. I would feel weird watching anything trite like Tuesday Night Book Club or the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Gauntlet Part VI or anything on UPN.

So on the Parade of Homes tour, every house had a media room. But this one house actually had a BED in the media room. CdSC and I immediately put our hands on the bed, both breathed a sigh of relief and simultaneously said, “Not a water bed.” Talk about tacky. That would be the ultimate in media room madness. This coming from a girl who’s not opposed to stripper poles.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Get ready to say, “Eww,” and “Those Simciks are nasty!” I don’t care; I’m proud to admit that this morning Frank and I drank milk that was TEN DAYS past the due date. In Frank’s defense, he didn’t know it was ten days past the due date. If he even knew it was one day prior to the due date, he probably would have opted to skip breakfast. But I knew it tasted fine. How?

Yesterday we returned from a five-day vacation and I checked the milk, thinking it would be just a couple of days old. When I saw that the due date was June 12th I didn’t even want to pick it up, much less drink it. But out of curiosity I examined it. And then of course, I smelled it. The problem is that milk ALWAYS smells weird. It’s milk. So there was no other choice. I had to drink it. I poured the tiniest amount into a glass and sipped it. It tasted fine! So naturally, I put the carton back in the fridge and turned it so Frank couldn’t see the due date.

Then, this morning Frank got up earlier than usual. Ah! I had to get down there to make his cereal before he could see! I managed to make both our cereals (he the Smart Start, me the Kashi) before he caught on. He didn’t notice that it tasted bad (because it didn’t) and he’s feeling fine now. Aren’t ya, Frank?

Now why am I sharing this “accomplishment” with you? Because I know someday soon you’ll have some milk in your fridge that’s two, maybe even five days old. You’ll think, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” Then you can remember me and my ten day old milk. I hope to be a milk idol for you—your milk mentor of sorts. Oh, and don’t worry, I did dump the rest of the milk out and I’m buying a new one today. I’m not THAT disgusting.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Evite Etiquette

My whole social calendar revolves around Evite. It’s not that I’m like a major butterfly or anything but my friends like to do Evites for even the smallest of gatherings. Cul de Sac Carrie even sent one JUST to me!

So since I’m a regular, I’m pretty familiar with the Evite functionality. Apparently, some people aren’t. That’s why I thought I’d offer this brief FREE workshop which I’m calling “Evite Etiquette.”

Please note that the “yes” bubble is automatically checked for you so you don’t need to do anything there. All you have to do is decide if you want to make a comment. This is encouraged. It makes the event more anticipatory for the attendees. If you’re not so clever just write, “Can’t wait!” or “Looking forward to it!” There’s really no need, however, to say “I’m in!” This is repetitive as your name already appears in the “yes” column.

Also, if you add a “plus one” please come forward with the name of that “plus one” otherwise we’ll all discuss it behind your back: “Who’s she bringing?” “Is it a date?” “Is it just her cousin?” “Does she think her dog counts as ‘plus one?’”

You MUST move your checked bubble to “NO” otherwise your reply will end up in the “yes” problem with a note like “So sorry but we will be drinking margaritas in Mexico at that time. Have fun anyway!” This completely messes up the head count tally for the host.

And speaking of your excuse, you needn’t make it lengthy. This just make the party look lame because the “No” list looks longer than it really is.

Oh, and BIG Evite Pet Peeve: DO NOT add a “plus one” or “plus five” or any plusses whatsoever in the “no” category. This is just like saying, “Not only am I not coming, but my boyfriend isn’t either and neither are any of my friends. Your party sucks.”

Go ahead and move your checked bubble to “maybe” BUT when you have a firm answer (which you should by the time the reminder goes out) please move your checked bubble to either “yes” or “no.” I once hosted a party with six “maybes” and had a mini-panic attack when I couldn’t decide how many individual parfaits to make.

I have been known to remove people from future guest lists simply for not responding to an Evite. This is as rude as leaving your trash in a movie theater, as despicable as not calling your mom on her birthday and yes, even as appalling as leaving your cart in the grocery store parking lot.

When you fail to reply it’s like saying, “I don’t care that you took the time to invite me. I don’t have any respect for your party, your planning, your time, your friendship.”

Do you non-repliers not know that the host can see that you checked the Evite? We can also see WHEN you checked it. And if you check it more than one day, we can see that too. So if you’re one of those disorganized people who can’t keep up with their emails (don’t even get me started), just reply as soon as you open the Evite. As stated above, you can say “maybe” and then when the reminder goes out, change it.

I hope this workshop has been helpful to you. Please refer to it next time you receive an Evite. Oh, and happy partying!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More Lost Works of Writinggal

This is another one from my college creative writing class. Just as in my jaw surgery essay, nary a comma has been changed from the original (which will be very evident when you read the very dated pop culture references).

The assignment was "Amateur Sociology" which I (along with several of my classmates) just used as an opportunity to rant.

Elsa K. Weidman
Paper #1-Amateur Sociology
January 28, 1998

Seventy- Six Trombones Lead the Big Charade

I hate to rain on a parade but blocking off streets for the purpose of watching beauty queens, politicians, marching bands, and giant-size paper mache characters is a bizarre tradition.

Who enjoys parades? The individuals in the parade (the parade participants) endure hours of waving at strangers. The marching bands lug heavy instruments while wearing uncomfortable, not to mention unattractive, uniforms. How about the float caretakers? These guys in matching UPS-style jumpsuits have it the worst. They work for months to create oversized replicas of characters like Charlie Brown, only to spend a morning gripping a rope to hold down the useless thing. They unsuccessfully attempt to wave at the sea of faces in the crowd while the audience focuses on the gigantic Garfield or Marvin the Martian or Barney. This is a job with much sacrifice and little recognition.

The only people more pathetic than the participants in the parade are the parade supporters who get up early to watch this display of nonsense. Families trek down to Main Street with nana, paw paw, and the youngsters to grab a front row spot for the festivities. Inevitably they will spend the morning mindlessly staring at people walking, marching, or driving down the main thoroughfare of their town.

The parade supporters also encompass an even more pitiful sub-group, the parade television viewers. They make the conscious decision to refrain from watching their other sixty channels to watch a parade. I suppose they like to look at it from all sorts of interesting camera angles.

Perhaps they particularly enjoy listening to commentators like Kathy Lee Gifford and Bryant Gumble explain the complicated process to them:

“ Here comes Miss Pre-Teen America and Miss Tiny Little Bitty America!”

“Wow, look at that tickle-me Elmo float! All the people under him are wearing little red jumpsuits! That is just adorable!

“Oh, watch out for the horse droppings, Miss Big Mama America!”

Perhaps the most unusual parade custom is waving. Waving generally signifies 'hello,' but not in this case. Instead, the parade participants are waving in an effort to say, "We are superior to you, the parade supporters. We were chosen because of our power and/or good looks to glide through the center of town so you could all stare at us." The parade goers stand trapped behind barriers waving back at these people as if to say, "We, the lowly parade supporters, worship you, the parade participants, and are not worthy to promenade through our own streets."

The pleasure these parade supporters receive, if any, is not worth the cost and inconvenience of a parade. The city must hire security to enforce the roadblocks and to deal with intoxicated or rowdy audience members. The whole town suffers from traffic complications. The city blocks off the main vein of the town in order to hold the blessed parade. Those that choose not to attend the parade must take all sorts of detours so as not to impose on the parade route, honking and causing noise pollution. As the parade goers set out on their adventure, these frustrated drivers pose a threat to their safety.

Parades are also dangerous. Sometimes the rows of onlookers stand twenty people deep. People risk death due to trampling. At a recent Thanksgiving Day parade, the float caretakers could not compete with the strong winds and a giant float escaped their grip. Several people avoided death but suffered injuries due to the parade mishap. Is it all really worth it?

The responsibility for destroying this practice is up to the people it hurts the most, the parade supporters. They must realize that it is okay to admit that they are not actually having fun, that many other methods exist to express the joy of gaining independence, celebrating the homecoming of old friends, or giving thanks for food.

I’ll admit I’ve attended and participated in my fair share of parades--even watched a few on TV. However, as I reflect on my parade experiences, I realize that I never felt happy while taking part in this tradition. I believe that others resent parades yet choose to hide their true feelings for fear their peers will make fun of them. These people need to come forward, as I have done, and say, “You’re right! Why am I standing here in this massive crowd fearing for my life, causing inconvenience, staring at these foolish floats, and pretending to have a good time?” Their efforts are our only hope for a parade-less world. I am convinced that the end of parades will lead to a more comfortable, classless society, and a world where waving simply means ‘hello.’

Monday, June 19, 2006

Words of Wisdom from my Dad: Post-Father’s Day Edition

Borden created Elsie the Cow in 1939. Did you know that? I don’t think my parents did. When they named me Elsa in 1977 they were handing school children a ready-made target. And it wasn’t only because my first name kinda sounded like Elsie. It didn't help that my last name was pronounced WIDE MAN. Good thing I grew up before the childhood obesity epidemic.

I wasn’t really insulted or hurt that kids would call me Elsie the Cow; I was more just annoyed. You see, I don’t like repetitive things. So, like, if I had a carrot growing out of my head and everyone said to me, “Hey, Carrot Top” over and over again, that would be so annoying. Or if I was Baby Jessica and people always asked me about that damn well everywhere I went…you get it. I just wished they could come up with something more original.

Once I complained to my dad about it and he gave me the best advice a dad could give a daughter:

“Just say ‘my name’s not Elsie. It’s Elsa.’”

OH! Nothing a bunch of second-graders respond to better than good ol’ logic.

So this day-after-Father’s Day, remember: even if your dad has read every book ever published and can do The New York Times crossword puzzle like nobody’s business, he’s no match for elementary school bullies. So take his advice with a grain of salt…or better yet, with a glass of milk.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stylists on Strike?

It was bad scheduling, really. Matt Lauer had landed an exclusive interview with fallen pop princess Britney Spears only to find that all the stylists in L.A. were on strike (apparently protesting Loreal’s announcement that they would begin testing their products on eight-year-old girls sent to detention).

Left to style themselves, Britney and Matt made some less-than-flattering choices.

Britney remembered a stylist telling her once that you should accentuate your best features:

“I know right now that’s not my belly!” joked the expectant mom, who’s “6 or 7 months along” (she’s not exactly sure). Instead Spears chose a blouse that not only accentuated her chest, it almost didn’t cover it at all. Poor little Lauer. Throughout the whole interview he kept saying to himself, “Just focus on her eyes. Don’t look down. Don’t look down, dammit!!”

But focusing on her eyes proved to be a challenge as well. Like every girl Brit loves to wear fake eye lashes. But like every girl, she can’t apply them herself. Yet that’s just what Mrs. Federline did the day of her Dateline debut. Her eyelashes looked worse than mine the day I let a 17-year-old Cosmetology student do my make-up for my bridal portrait. And I’m pretty sure I used the word “tarantula eyes” several times that day.

The stylist strike gave Britney the opportunity to experiment with different shades of blush—a freedom that made her absolutely giddy: “My top was this bright, pretty pink color so I thought I’d use bright pretty pink blush.” Lots of it. And then apparently young Sean Preston got in on the fun and applied some more blush onto mommy’s face.

So who should we thank for her tousled, no-frills, bleached-out hair do? K-Fed? Another creation by SP? Lauer himself? Nope, that was all Brit. The busy mom doesn’t have time to go to one of them fancy salons; she just picks up a box at Walgreens. Hey, Brit—me too! Let me know next time. I have a coupon.

As for Lauer, he was just excited for a free trip to L.A. “I’m hittin’ the beach after this. I got my trunks on under my jeans!” exclaimed the now first-banana of morning television. In the absence of his regular stylist, Lauer chose dungarees that came so far above his waist, he really didn’t even need a shirt. And in lieu of shoes he opted for aqua socks. Maybe he thought he’d get an invitation to swim in the Federline’s pool?

Of course that would mean Britney and Kevin would be forced to choose their own swim wear. Any chance Lauer could escape before having to witness K-Fed in a Speedo?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Cart Crusade

I’ve made a decision. Shopping carts will be my cause. Everybody needs a platform, right? Katie’s got colon cancer. Alex P. Keaton’s claimed Parkinson’s. Pam’s got her paws into KFC. And if you opt not to choose a cause, you can be sure that one will find you.

I’m sure one day I’ll have a big fancy gala in order to raise money and awareness for my cause and I’ll be sure to invite you. But until then, I just gotta spread the word:

Since I began writing on behalf of buggies I’ve had several people tell me of their own tales of cart corralling: One reader said that she saw someone fail to put their cart in the cart corral so she immediately pushed the cart into the corral, all the while glaring at the perpetrator. Good job! Another said she confronted someone in the parking lot about it and the suspect said, “If I turn the wheels just right, it will stay in place. It’s okay because it’s not very windy today.”

Then I had a little run-in of my own. I was walking out behind a man who I just KNEW was not going to put his cart away. Do you know what he did? He positioned it right NEXT to the cart corral. So it wasn’t doing anybody any good—it could still roll into someone’s car (like mine)! I said to him, “Oh, come on. You couldn’t put it in there?” He said, “Huh?” I said, “Nevermind. I’ll just go put it in there myself,” (thinking he would then do the chore of taking ten extra steps to put it in the right place). Instead, he said, “Yeah, you do it.” I said, “REAL NICE!” to which he said, “Well if it bothers you so much!”

People, do I have to remind you of the consequences of not taking back your cart? Higher cost to grocery stores and therefore, higher costs to you! Potential damage to your precious car! And if that doesn’t convince you, how ‘bout plain old BAD karma?

Okay, one more little aside which is more about general bad parenting but it did take place in a grocery store:

I was in line at Kroger behind a father and son. They were buying TWO shopping carts full of groceries and the dad said, “Hey, we forgot Spam” (or something like that). So the kid picks up his SKATE BOARD, jumps on and rides through the store to get it. I expected the dad to say something fatherly like, “Don’t ride in the store, son! You could knock down jars, run into people or slip in the frozen aisle and bust open your head!” Instead he looks at me and says, “That skate board comes in real handy, doesn’t it?” And just when I thought this dad couldn’t get any worse he answered his cell phone while he was trying to pay for the two carts of groceries. He then had a long conversation with the other person. Oh, and when the cashier asked for his Kroger card, he didn’t have it but still insisted on using it by giving her his phone number. All while he was still on the phone. When he and his skateboarding son started to leave the dad turned to me and said, “Sorry if I held you up.” I guarantee Cell Mel and Boardin’ Bart left their cart in the parking lot. Both of them!

Like every charitable cause, we’ll need a good slogan: Here are some initial ideas:

-Do your part. Take back your cart.
-Push it out. Unpack. Push it back.
-Don’t want to pay a lot? Don’t leave your cart in the parking lot.

Please feel free to vote on the above or suggest your own. Together, we can lick this problem, one cart at a time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Choosy TV Viewers Don’t Choose Jif

I hate the Jif commercial with the dad showing his daughter how to fold over his peanut butter sandwich. You know the one. It goes like this (synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia):

[Dad’s] about to have a slice of bread with a spread of the peanut butter in a living room when his young daughter walks in, asking, "Hey dad, what are you doing?" He replies, "I'm fixing a snack. Come on, plenty of room", in which she joins him on the couch. After she sees him fold the slice in half, she asks why. He reponds that his father did the same, and he wanted to be like him. She replies with, "That's silly!" She, too, folds her slice, and her father laughs as the two cuddle close enjoying their snack.

So why do I hate it? Is it because I don’t think dads should be involved in food preparation? Nope. Is it because I don’t like people eating on the couch? Not really. Is it because I hate folded bread? Quite the opposite.

I hate how he says “plenty of room.” Ugh. It just bugs me so much. I have to change the channel every time it comes on (which is a lot, especially during the show formerly known as Katie). I can’t explain why that bugs me but it gives me the same feeling as when TV characters say, “Why you little…!” Double ugh.

So whenever I say, “I hate this commercial” and change the channel, Frank says, “I hate it too.” But his reason? “I hate how they’re saying that dads can only make peanut butter sandwiches.” Frank, Jif MAKES peanut butter! What should they say? “Choosy moms (and dads) choose Jif for peanut butter sandwiches but when they’re making more complicated meals like lasagna they choose other products.”

For some reason this commercial came up in a conversation we were having with Thea and she agreed that she hates it as well.

I ventured to guess why: “Because when the dad says ‘plenty of room’ it’s just like nails on a chalkboard, right?”

“I bet it's because they’re saying that dads are stupid and can only make peanut butter sandwiches," Frank suggested.

Neither. She said she hates the face the girl makes when she asks her dad why he folds his bread.

We'll take it.

Can you believe a company can cause this much distress in thirty seconds? It makes me just want to put my hands around the CMO’s neck and say, “Why you little...!”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mr. Frank-Fix-It Follow Up

Last night I did a radio interview with Dr. Fitness and the Fat Guy and the first thing they asked me about was my blog and Frank. “What’s Fabio doing in your pictures?” (referring to pics from our hike) and “How big is his chest?” This confirmed Frank’s theory that he is the “favorite supporting character on the blog.” I suppose I need to give the people what they want so here’s what Mr.Frank-Fix-It's been up to lately:

This weekend he went on a fixing, building and refinishing spree with all sorts of household projects.

He spent Saturday building these shelves for our garage:

We got them at Ikea so it’s not like he bought lumber and designed them but still…it was quite a project. My favorite part? Ikea's $.50 hot dogs.

He spent Sunday afternoon cleaning our hardwood floors with the new “Flip-It” floor cleaning device. I sat on the couch and lifted up my feet while Frank made the floors look like this:

Later that afternoon he did the biggest job of all: finally fixed our master bathroom toilet. It’s been running since we moved in. He bought some part at Home Depot and was in there getting grease and toilet water all over him. I laid on the bed watching Real World reruns (that Paula is such a freak, isn't she?)

He may be your favorite supporting character but trust me, you don’t want him having any authority in the kitchen. He totally abuses our dish draining device. Instead of letting things dry for a little while and eventually putting them back in the cabinets, he just keeps piling dishes on top of other dishes and look what happens:

Ah! But I guess a girl who's married to Fabio really shouldn't complain.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pink with Envy

This weekend I attended a baby shower in honor of my oldest friend, Misty. No, she’s not 93, she’s just the first friend I ever had. While it was great to see the expectant mommy and other old friends, the event also brought up some feelings of jealousy. You see, Misty was wearing pink pants which reminded me of another pair of pink pants she had when we were about eight-years-old.

I think she got this outfit for Christmas or her birthday or maybe it was just Tuesday but here’s what it looked like:

Pink parachute pants—complete with plenty of pockets and silver zippers.
A grey, purposely torn, off-the-shoulder t-shirt that said “Flashdance” in pink letters across it.
Pink Converse

How cool is that? There were so many variables that escalated my envy:

I didn’t have parachute pants in any color (and I’m pretty sure Misty had black ones too).

I wasn’t allowed to see Flashdance (neither was she, by the way). In fact, I still haven’t seen it. Gonna have to rent that classic.

I didn’t own a pair of Converse in any color and I know Misty had the pink ones and turquoise among others.

The only pair of pink pants I had were cotton and pleated and I think they were Osh Kosh B’Gosh.

Later, my jealousy would resurrect when Misty (and every other 7th grader but me) all came back from Christmas break with Z Cavarricis.

So there’s only one thing I can do to rectify the situation. When I have a daughter I will definitely buy her the outfit described above (“What the heck is Flashdance, mom? Is it some sort of strip club?”) and I’ll buy Misty’s daughter a brand spanking new outfit courtesy of Osh Kosh B’Gosh.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Lost Works of Writinggal

We freelance writers sometimes write stories that people never see. Maybe the magazine went defunct, the story just sort of vanished or it just wasn't accepted. But I thought, "Why deprive the world of reading those stories?" And with that, I give you an article that was rejected by a travel mag:

A Hike To Remember

Hiking seven miles in Italy’s gorgeous Cinque Terre didn’t scare me. But hiking seven miles in 112° weather did. Okay, it wasn’t really 112° but it was according to my personal heat threshold. My husband, Frank, and I were doing the cliché trip to Italy—visiting all the touristy hot spots like the Vatican, the Colosseum, our friend the statue of David. And we were doing it for cliché reasons—he a recent graduate from business school and me, feeling a little burnt out and that “almost-30-and-haven’t-been-to-Europe” anxiety. But that’s where the cliché ends.

My parents had told us about the Cinque Terre, a group of five towns on Italy’s coast. Even though the word’s gotten out that it’s heaven on the Mediterranean (thanks to super tour guide Rick Steves), the Cinque Terre is still a less predictable stop than let’s say, the leaning tower of Pisa (where we did go and yes, we did take that picture that looks like we’re trying to push it back in place).

We were staying in Monterosso, the furthest north of all the five towns. You could get to the other towns by train but why do that when you can hike seven miles? I’m sorry, pay to hike seven miles. Despite the cost, the hills and the heat, we were determined to do it. And the warnings we heard from fellow travelers didn’t stop us: “We couldn’t do the whole thing,” said a girl we met at the Colosseum, “We had to stop in the third town and take a train back.” Ha. Clearly this girl was out of shape. I mean, I work out on an elliptical machine. I’m used to hills and heat, right?

The first phase of the hike would take an hour-and-a-half, our trusty Rick Steves tour book told us. And it would have. If we didn’t get lost, stop to remove layers of clothing and walk extremely slow. At the end of the first stretch, we got this clever idea to take pictures of ourselves holding up numbers to represent which town we were in. Frank took a picture of me holding up two fingers. Fellow hikers just thought we were sweaty American Bush-haters.

The #2 town was Vernazza and it offered quite a reward—a beach complete with cold water for swimming. I wanted to jump right into the ocean. And I did—after I removed my shorts, folded them neatly under my shoes so no one would steal them, re-applied sun block and secured my pony tail. The water felt so great, we stayed until we had the wrinkly-finger syndrome.

The next stretch between Vernazza and Corniglia also promised to be long and treacherous. We faced steep hills, some rowdy Germans and that darn heat. But the views—I mean, from what I could see through my sweat-filled eyes—were just magnificent.

By the time we arrived in Corniglia and did our obligatory #3 picture, we knew the hard part was over.

Our next two hikes were much shorter and less hilly. After a disturbing and less-than-sanitary stint at the Corniglia train station bathroom, we were on our way. The 45-minute hike between Corniglia and Manarola was so much easier than the last two that I didn’t even mind the impatient Germans and their walking sticks. Or the gorgeous Brits who hiked in only their bikinis and eyed my husband. And when we arrived in Manarola, we had another watery reward—a lagoon.

Forget Brooke Shields’ Blue Lagoon (or even the Milla Jovovich remake), this one is where I’d make my next—well, first—movie. The water was the perfect temperature and my high-school-water-polo-champ husband was able to tread water for at least ten minutes. Since I could only last a few seconds, I decided to chill out on some of the rocks nearby. I was only slightly embarrassed when I slipped and had to be helped up by a hunky French guy. Take that, British bikini babes.

With only a 20-minute hike ahead of us, I felt euphoric that we were going to complete our coastal climb. We took our time on that last stretch, taking in the views, chatting with fellow hikers (who cares that the only Italian we knew was “excuse me?”) and taking advantage of the photo opps. We asked another couple to snap our #5 picture at Riomaggiore and I have to say our smiles are the biggest and our sweat no doubt the stinkiest in that one.

We decided that food would be our final reward after our six-hour hike. So there we sat on the coast of Italy, at a restaurant we found in our American tour book, chowing down on pizza and toasting red wine. Hey, we’d come this far, what’s one more cliché?

Note from Writinggal: We did this hike a year ago this week!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Belated Blog

I've been trying to post a blog all day but the picture function won't work. And this particular blog NEEDS its pics!

So I'm giving up. No blog for you today (except this little one).

I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6-6-6: You Don’t Scare Me

All you people with your not crossing black cats, not opening umbrellas inside, not walking under ladders, not breaking mirrors, not stepping on cracks, picking up pennies, knocking on wood, rubbing rabbits’ feet…you’ve got it all wrong.

You only need one superstition and that’s the one I believe in: My only superstition is not being superstitious.

Then I’m totally covered.

Plus, wasn’t the real danger during the year six? June 6, 6 A.D. I bet they were really freaked out that day. As for today, I’m not gonna let the bad omens get to me. I’m gonna do whatever I want—step on cracks, walk under ladders, pet a few black cats…I may even open an umbrella inside the house. Actually, I’m gonna avoid that. I'm not gonna put an eye out just to prove my point.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Friend Jen

I was worried about my friend Jen for awhile there. Right after she finished filming Friends she made four movies: Derailed, Rumor Has It, Friends with Money and the Break-Up. The first three flopped, tanked, sunk, bombed.

I don’t know why but I feel bad for movie stars when their movies don’t do well. I mean, she still has pa-zillions of dollars and a great head of hair, does she really need my sympathy?

I think it’s because I’m convinced Jen is my friend, my buddy, my gal-pal. I feel like we could hang out and talk about clothes, food, hair products, grocery cart theft…you name it. We could even do all this at Oprah’s house.

So you can imagine my dismay when I heard bad reviews for Jen’s new movie, The Break- Up. “Well, this is it for her,” I thought. “She’s gonna have to go on the Surreal Life with people like Kevin Federline, Oma Rosa and Tina Yothers.” Then I don’t think we could be friends.

But this morning I heard good news about Jen’s latest movie, The Break-Up, with her boyfriend, not-boyfriend, fiancé, un-fiancé Vince Vaughn. (If we were real friends she would tell me the truth about all that.) It came in at #1 and made more money than expected. Hurray. It’s a movie-making miracle.

And even though I fret about mega-stars’ movie careers like my friend Jen’s, I’m not really doing my part. I rarely go the movies and this weekend when I did, I saw The Da Vinci Code. Although I did rent Derailed which so far is pretty good.

But I’m still rootin’ for her. I’m not sure if it’s her down-to-earth personality, her good nature or the fact that she would take me and a gaggle of girlfriends to Acapulco on her tab, I just like her. And really, I would hate for anyone to have to share a bathroom with K-Fed.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Why TV Theme Songs Rock

It’s a dying art form. Our kids won’t even know what they are. They’ll watch a re-run of Friends on Nick at Nite one day and say, “Why are Chandler and the gang dancing around a fountain before the show starts? And look at Rachel’s 20th century haircut!”

Yep, the theme song is gradually being eliminated to make room for more commercials. Now they just tease us. They’ll play one chord of the song, slap up a logo from the show and we’re supposed to sing along. I remember the days when the TV theme song was the best part of the show. And with that, I present Writinggal’s TV Theme Songs that Rock:

Growing Pains
Sample: Show me that smile again, show me that smile. Don’t waste another minute on your crying.
Best Part: The end when they all try to form the family photo and somebody comes in late. Is it Mike? Or Carol? If it's Carol she was probably throwing up her food.
Trivia: Did you know Alan Thicke (Dr. Seaver) wrote the theme song plus the Wheel of Fortune theme song and the next one on our list? He gets like $.08 every time they play any of them.

Diff’rent Strokes
Sample: Well the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some…Diff’rent Strokes it takes, Diff’rent Strokes it takes…
Best Part: Shots of Arnold before he got weird
Trivia: Yep, Alan Thicke wrote it AND sang it. This guy did more than just counsel three people out of his home office.

Sample: It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear...when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year…I’ll be there for you
Best Part: Duh. Dancing in the fountain. Oh, and when they turn that random lamp off at the end. Is there an outlet in the fountain?
Trivia: I always feel better about myself when I think, “Oh, they’re always stuck in second gear too…their lives aren’t so great…” And then I remember that they’re fictional and in reality, are all obnoxiously rich and can afford to fly a cupcake First Class in the seat next to them if they wanted to.

That 70’s Show
Sample: Hangin’ out, down the street, the same old thing, we did last week. Not a thing to do but TALK to you, We’re all alright. We’re all alright.
Best Part: “Hello Wisconsin!”
Trivia: Danny Masterson (who plays Hyde) is responsible for yelling out that last line.

Family Ties
Sample: “I bet we’ve been together for a million years…what’ll we do baby without us?”
Best Part: Sha-na-na-na
Trivia: It was Tina Yothers’ (Jennifer Keaton’s) idea to add the “sha-na-na-na” at the end and she later went on to a front a semi-successful rock band. Just kidding. About the sha-na-na AND the semi-successful part.

Facts of Life:
Sample: You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you have the Facts of Life, The Facts of Life.
Best Part: When Mrs. Garrett Chimes in, “When the boys you used to hate you date…”
Trivia: Guess who wrote it. That’s right. I think I owe him like $327 by now. Oh, and I can sing every verse of this theme song from the Molly Ringwald days to the George Clooney days.

Honorable Mentions:
Malcom in the Middle: “You’re not the boss of me now”
Silver Spoons: “Together…we’re gonna find our way…”
Cheers: “…where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came.”
Mary Tyler Moore: “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” Best Part: If you don’t know, you don’t deserve to know.

I got this whole idea after jammin’ to “The Office” theme song four times last night (they had a marathon). I LOVE that song but it’s too hard to write about since it doesn’t have words. But trust me, it rocks. I bet Alan Thicke wrote it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cooking with Columbus

Last night I attended a cooking demo at Whole Foods with neighbor Carrie (let’s call her “Cul de Sac Carrie” for purposes of the blog). The theme was brunch and I have to say, pretty much everything coming out of the chef’s mouth was new information to me.

She would do that trick like teachers do where they make you fill in the blanks like this:

“If we want to slow the boil we want to add…”

And then she would have to finish it herself because nobody would know: “…salt.”

The whole thing was like that:

“Once we finish cooking the food we...anybody?...we eat it.”

“Potatoes come from the country of…” (Idaho is wrong. I tried.) “…Peru.”

And somehow from there she got into a history lesson. Apparently I didn’t pay attention in 6th grade when we covered the explorers. Nor have I been listening when Frank sings a song he learned the same year about them. (Frank, be sure to post the lyrics in the comments section.)

The chef said:

“When Christopher Columbus was setting sail on his journey King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella wanted him to bring back…what?...spices…they especially wanted him to bring back…what?...pepper…But when Christopher landed in…where?...the Caribbean…and he told them he wanted peppers…they didn’t…what?...have any…but they did have…they did have…anybody?...chilies.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: Chris snatched up the chilies and brought them back to Ferdie and Izzy and called them “chili peppers.” That way they gave him credit for sort of finding pepper. And then they could overlook that whole “landing in the wrong place” situation.

Now I have a new respect for Chris. Cul de Sac Carrie and I also have a new respect for brunch, which apparently can include salad, pizza, salmon, asparagus and banana pecan pancakes—none of which we will be able to make again. But we did consume it all last night. I’m not sure why but the chef says we owe it all to…who?...anybody?...Christopher Columbus.