05 November 2006

Variety is the Slice of Life

I never thought I would say this, but pizza has become a cornerstone in my life. In fact, I think I've eaten more pizza in these past five and a half months as a newlywed than I ever did in my four years as a college student. Perhaps that is why my most recent pizza discovery (via the portable marquis in front of the strip mall) was so exhilarating:

Little Caesar's Hot-N-Ready pizzas are now available not only in pepperoni, but sausage, too!

Just when I didn't think it possible to improve on an already wonderful thing - a meal and a half for just five dollars and 41 cents, and one which only takes a six minute drive round trip to retrieve - the brains at Little Caesar's go and up the ante. My husband and I were almost beside ourselves with excitement when we brought our first Hot-N-Ready sausage pie to the dinner table. And let me tell you, we were far from disappointed.

But you know what they say: variety is the slice of life (and boy! is it tasty)!

31 October 2006

Happy Ghoul-iday To You, Too

For as long as I can remember, I've anxiously awaited the arrival of Hallow's Eve, the 31st of October. It was a magical night, one filled with caramel apples, cavities, clown makeup, and candy corn. It was a night (well, a day, really) to remember a miraculous event that happened in 1983: my birth. My anticipation of this day was two-fold; I looked forward to my birthday and to the holiday festivities. That is why Halloween has always been so important to me.

My costume was selected with great care weeks in advance, giving me plenty of time to perfect all the details - and to make sure no one else was going to steal my idea. I prided myself on creative costumes, not those $15 drugstore excuses made from flimsy fabric and old ideas. No, my Halloween ensembles were works of creative genius. Amelia Bedelia, complete with flower-studded cap and frilly apron; a gypsy, all decked out in bangles and scarves; Dorothy, with red glitter jellies that left sparkly footprints down the street behind me; a bag lady, outfitted in my grandmother's finest old dress and Easter hat.

The candy, too, was purchased with much thought (mostly which bag gave you the most for your money). My sister and I, of course, tried to persuade our mother to purchase something much tastier, and which we could pilfer just moments before the neighborhood ghouls and goblins arrived. She always won out, but we managed to bring home enough chocolaty goodness to make us forget her stubbornness.

Every year we would purchase a bale of hay from the feed store and fashion a scarecrow to sit upon it from crumpled newspaper, my Dad's old overalls, and a floppy straw hat. We'd buy pumpkins from the farmer's market, then spend the afternoon carving elaborate designs. That evening, we'd arrange the jack-o-lanterns and scarecrow on the front porch and step back to admire our Halloween flair.

I was known, too, for the fabulous costume birthday parties I would throw, complete with a dry ice cauldron of green punch, my mother dressed as a witch (it was the only costume she had besides the one she used for VBS, and somehow that didn't seem to fit the occasion), and a fabulously black and orange birthday cake. We'd play games like mummy wrap or bob for apples or paint our own mini pumpkins. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.

So, of course, Halloween has always been a big deal to me. (And apparently it's a big deal to Pottery Barn, too; on their website they advertised rush delivery for Halloween. Isn't that crazy?!) That's why I was expecially excited about having a house of our own this year where we could make our own jack-o-lanterns and give out candy to our own trick-or-treaters. In preparation, my husband and I purchased six pumpkins and one gourd to adorn our front porch, and we quickly proceeded to carve our house numbers into four of them and stack them like a snowman with Christmas lights inside. We also created a traditional jack-o-lantern to accompany this carving masterpiece (but that was mostly because we went to a party that featured pumpkin carving and Clay felt obligated to participate). We also purchased some delctable candy, erring on the conservative side only because we weren't sure how many kids might stop at our door...and because we were trying to switch dental plans and didn't want to get cavities.

The night of Halloween came and I, for one, was extremely excited to see what it held. The pumpkins were lit, and the candy was ready in a basket by the front door. My husband decided to tally the number of trick-or-treaters we had, and was poised with pen and pad in hand. We were ready.

The first trick-or-treater arrived about 6:00, a cute little five year-old in a turtle gear. Next it was a fairy princess and her pirate brother. Then, to my horror, a teenager showed up at our front door WITHOUT A COSTUME! I reluctantly gave this pimply-faced and red hoodie-wearing youngster a Cow Tale, all the while shooting mean thoughts his way. How dare he expect to receive candy without putting forth effort! I was irked. So when a group of middle schoolers showed up moments later, only one of which had painted a little blood dripping from the corners of her mouth, I was not happy. The next group of children who dared show their faces at our door were wearing awful store-bought costumes which were already unraveling at the edges. And at that, they didn't even say "Trick or Treat," but rather mumbled "Halloween" under their breath as they held out half-full plastic sacks. Fortunately for my sanity, there was a break in the flurry at our front door and I had time to consider how children were making such a joke of this blessed holiday. Whatever happened to putting some effort into your costume? Whatever happened to the traditions and the fun? These children were definitely being spoilsports.

So when the red sweatshirt-wearing teenager showed up again, I was too peeved to notice. It wasn't until my husband asked, "Haven't we seen that kid in the red sweatshirt before?" that I realized my mistake. The gall he had to show up once without a costume, but to do it a second time? This was unacceptable, utterly unacceptable.

58 trick-or-treaters and two hours later, I was left with an empty basket and feelings of bitterness towards Halloween in general. This is such a weak holiday, I thought. I mean, the premise is to dress up in a scary costume (in most cases) and knock on strangers' doors to receive free candy, which you don't say thank you for and which will most likely make you sick and/or give you cavities. There's no family togetherness factor, like Christmas, or wholesome food, like at Thanksgiving; it's a selfish and stupid holiday. It's just a ploy for the candy manufacturers to make more money, and that's just sick. I turned off the porch light, feeling like I had failed in my efforts to make this a great Halloween.

There was a knock at the door, and I was in such low spirits that I didn't get up to answer the door, hoping maybe that this kid would realize the light was off for a reason (it's the universal symbol for "We're out of Halloween candy," Duh.). But he didn't! He kept banging on the door until my husband threw it open and curtly informed the surprised youngster that we were out of candy.

What is happening to kids these days? They don't even know how to celebrate Halloween properly.

20 October 2006

Found a Peanut

When my husband was out of town on business for a couple of weeks, I decided to seize this opportunity to buy items at the grocery that had piqued my interest - but that marriage (and my husband, the picky eater) had prevented me from trying thus far. Namely, organic peanut butter.

Initially, I was wary of the layer of oil on top and the abnormal speckles amidst all those squished peanuts. The label claimed this separation to be expected, but I was worried. And the fact that you had to stir it before spreading - and refrigerate after opening - was a little too high maintenance for my taste. I mean, isn't the joy of peanut butter the fact that it's virtually indestructible? This new all-natural variety was just so darn good for me (or so the packaging would have me believe), and I was curious. So I decided to give it a try.

I brought home this rather small but overpriced (so long, grocery budget!) jar of old-fashioned organic peanut butter, hardly able to contain my excitement about the inaugural PB and J. With each twist of the lid, my anticipation grew (never mind the hesitation upon coming face-to-face with that less-than-desirable liquid topping). As I spread this ooey-gooeyness, although considerably more clumpy, upon a slice of bread, I could almost taste its nutty sweetness mingled with whole grain oats and orange marmalade. At last, I raised the glorious sandwich to my lips, took an overzealous bite...and gasped in horror. Who forgot to put actual peanut butter in this jar? I almost screamed. What kind of an impostor is this? Whatever was on my sandwich was unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.

Needless to say, I broke off the relationship immediately. And really, I should've known better.

When I was growing up, my mother prepared my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with nothing but JIF. On crackers? Just JIF. With a freshly-peeled banana or crisp red apples? Only the best: JIF. To add a little kick to chocolate oatmeal cookies? You betcha - nothing but JIF. I even strayed from this tried and true relationship during my college years by switching to Simply JIF (with no added sugars), but that relationship was doomed for failure. Peter Pan couldn't keep me happy and Skippy...well, it lacked that extra zip. Store brands, although keeping my pockets padded, left my stomach feeling empty and abandoned. Each time I ventured out into the wide world of peanut butter, only to return to my beloved JIF.

My experiences have led me to conclude that this all-natural jazz is for the birds. Bring on the preservatives, the added sugars, the unpronouncable additives; I want them all! I love my JIF with all its imperfections, right down to the very last peanut, however smushed - or synthetic - it may be.

Perhaps that's why, when my husband brought home a jar of full-fat, full-sugar, fully-tasty JIF peanut butter the other day, I made no complaints. It pays to be picky on this one.

Author's aside: I have also discovered a new variation on this classic protein-filled treat, thanks to Rachael Ray. Peanut butter and bacon on banana nut bread. Sounds odd, I know, but it's out of this world. Give it a whirl, and let me know what you think.

11 October 2006

Sweet Sixteen

This morning as I was on my way to work, the radio announcers for a local Christian station were wishing happy birthdays to their long list of call-ins (or email-ins, as the case may be). For some reason, the birthday wishes to Christina on her sixteenth sent me back in time - seven years back - to the time in my life when I anxiously awaited the sixteenth candle on my cake.

I tell you this story with great confidence that you, my cherished reader, will not trample on my already withered pride.

When I was younger, approximately 15 and a half years of age, I distinctly recall a very memorable trip to the DMV one crisp fall morning. According to Oklahoma law (way back then, anyway), any hormonally-controlled adolescent could operate a motor vehicle under the supervision of a licensed driver -- so long as they passed a teensie weensie little written exam. So on said morning, my father drove me across town to the DMV offices where I was to complete such an exam with flying colors. Or so I thought.

In the weeks leading up to this monumentous event, I had calculated the exact day on which I would turn 15 and a half. (It just so happens that this day coincded with a day during which the DMV offices were open and offering the test.) I had picked up a driver's handbook from the high school driver's ed teacher and studied it more religiously than my Bible. I had even paid attention in driver's ed, a feat which, to a teenager with even a moderate attention span, proves difficult. And, most importantly, I had told all of my friends that I was soon to possess a learner's permit. And that I was going to miss first period. (As one of the oldest in my peer group, it was my duty to flaunt my superiority.)

But on that morning, there was just one thing I forgot. Just one thing.

My father and I opened the smudged glass doors and entered the narrow blue hallway. Light streamed from a tiny office to our left, and as we approached the beam, I could see a pudgy police officer seated behind the desk. My dad opened his wallet, pulling out a crisp $20 bill, and laid it on the desk. The officer returned his change and pushed a sign-in sheet in my direction. Without a word, he handed me the one-page test and pointed to a desk in the corner.

I sat there for what seemed like hours, agonizing over those ten questions. Who has the right-of-way at a four-way stop? What do I do when a motorcycle tries to pass me? How many feet will it take me to come to a complete stop if I'm travelling at 55 mph? Stop lights and yield signs, double yellow and dotted white lines, engine functions and timing belts swirled through my mind and I found it difficult to think clearly.

Finally, I circled the answer to the last question, then proudly handed it to the officer. Piece of cake, I thought, trying to psyche myself up. But my optimism quickly crumbled as the officer pulled out his oversized red pen and answer key. He circled each wrong answer with flair, as if he'd never had so much fun in his entire life. I tried to keep track of how many red marks the officer had made on my test, but my head was preoccupied with the shock of this man's gall.

He handed me the test, freshly covered in red ink. "You just missed one too many, "he said with a smirk. "Better luck next time."

I looked to my father for assurance, but he just looked back at me with those disappointed parent eyes.

"Want to take a handbook with you?" the officer suggested, still basking in his victory over yet another ill-informed teenage driver wannabe.

"No, thanks," I replied, fighting back tears as I rushed for the door.

The tears kept flowing as we neared the car. How could this have happened? I'm a good student, voted Most Studious... All my friends know about this; how will I tell them? I know they will ask... Why didn't I study that chapter on semis and their blind spots better?...How could I have been so stupid?

"JB, " my father said, calmly, "I know you're upset about this, but you'll do better next time, especially if you're paying for the test."

What?! I thought. How could you betray me like this?

I continued shooting mean thoughts at the pudgy officer and my father all the way to school.

Two weeks later, I retook - and passed - the learner's permit test.

Five and a half months after that, I successfully passed my driver's test (despite much trepidation).

And now, here I am, seven years later, about to celebrate another birthday. Fortunately for me, there are no tests that 23-year-olds have to take.

27 September 2006


As I opened the rear door of Williams-Sonoma this morning to greet the UPS man, I was relieved to know he only had eight boxes to drop off for me (as opposed to 207 dropped off the day before). The UPS man slid open the latch and forced the heavy brown door upwards with a hard shove, making it clang once it reached the end of its tracks. PDT in hand (that's code for little scanner thing), I approached the truck to scan in the first box of the day.

"Better not get too close, " he said, "I had a burrito for breakfast this morning, so I have a little gas."

Uh...awkward! I thought. Who says that kind of thing to a perfect stranger? I laughed politely, then continued to scan the remaining seven boxes as if he had said nothing, hoping, praying that this awkward moment would vanish.

"I'm just kidding," he chuckled. "I don't really have gas."

Let's hope not, you social outcast, I shot back at him telepathically, an act which coincided with the loading of the last box of salt and pepper shakers onto the rickety red dolly. (Thank goodness!) He handed me the keypad and I quickly signed my name, trying to ignore his joke about the Specially Hard and Intense Training truck he was assigned to that day.

"Thank you, Miss Rich," he said.

Misses Rich, I wanted to hiss. MISSES Rich.

Perhaps he should pick up some manners before he returns with the next shipment.

22 September 2006

There's Best Western, And Then There's Great Western

Moving into a new neighborhood is like being an explorer in a foreign land; there are countless new places to explore, new experiences to be had, new neighbors to meet. Allow me to impart with you a few quirks we've discovered about our new area of residence...

We live less than one block from a Vietnamese church which, every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, lines the street with the cars of local church-goers. You would think it odd that there is such a huge population of Vietnamese in the area...until you see Phu Lam Beauty Supply and Ho Chi Mihn (or some such name like that I can't pronounce, much less type) Specialty Food just around the corner.

Every morning when I drive to and from work, I pass an E-Z Stop. The sign reads "Food. Beer. Gas"...but I have yet to locate the gas pump.

I also pass a high school and an elementary school daily, an occurance which always fills me with great nostalgia. To see those little kids scamper out of blue minivans personalized with "Funky Town" or green Mustangs with souped-up mufflers and across the crosswalk with their oversized backpacks flopping in their wake, it just does something for me.

When I return from work each day, usually around the time that school children scamper from their classrooms, I pass a Hispanic man with a limp who peddles ice cream sandwiches from a hand-painted cart. I never see any children buying ice cream from him, but I hope his business is doing well.

Our route to church takes us past several very interesting places of business: The Dude Motel, with its dated neon sign, and a fortune teller whose sign reads "Psychic Readings Solve All Problems." We'll have to see how the problem solving works out. There's also The Wisdom Center, telechurch extraordinaire. The local pawn shop need not be overlooked, with it's advertised "shut gun sale." A former Taco Bueno has been turned into Go Go China, a fine eating establishment which my husband declares we must try. He must try, he.

The nearby Super Wal-Martis also worth mentioning, where almost everything is in Spanish. You almost expect the cashier to wear a button that says "I Speak English."

$5 pizzas at Little Caesar's, conveniently located next to Super Wal-Mart, have become a staple of our newlywed diet.

The other night as we were returning from Target, we noticed a Great Western Inn. I asked my husband if he thought it was a step up from Best Western, or down. Apparently, I have my superlatives confused.

Our neighbors are not short of fascinating: there is a retired contractor who lives across the street (with whom my husband has quickly become a close friend -- and tool-borrowing buddy) with his oversized wiener dog and blind German wife who, amazingly enough, still cooks for him. To the west, there is a never-ending cycle of people flowing from the house, and we're not exactly sure who lives there or whose dogs are defecating on our front lawn. To the east lives a lady in her late sixties who sells canaries in McDonald's parking lots. Down the street there is a house with a giant Christmas-lighted star still perched atop its roof. In the other direction is a Pepto pink house with kelly green shutters.

I wonder, what will our quirky contribution be to the neighborhood?

06 September 2006

It's About Time

It's about time I posted something on my blog. At least, that's what my husband thinks.

It's about time we got moved into our new little house. And finished painting it. And put up the baseboards and trim. And found a place to eat dinner besides the coffee table. But that doesn't mean we'll do it.

It's about time I figured out how to get from our new home to work in the most expedient manner. (Amazing how a route with a lovely view of the local Cabela's can cut almost 20 minutes off my morning drive.)

It's about time we got mail other than that for the previous homeowner. But then again, she lived here for over 40 years, and I guess the mailman is kind of in a rut.

It's about time that I unpacked all those wedding gifts that have been making sad puppy dog eyes at me from the wall for three months now. Unfortunately for the both of us, our kitchen cabinets remain unpainted because the refrigerator is in the way and, therefore, unstocked.

It's about time I reclaimed the house from all of my husband's tools. A freshly rinsed paintbrush in the sink or an electric drill in the bathroom or a step ladder next to the bed are never pleasant surprises.

It's about time we got rid of our pet turtle, Donatello, who wasn't actually much of a pet in the first place. Which brings me to another story...

Two years ago, my husband went on a canoeing trip with his twin brother and a few of his college buddies and came back with a Nalgene full of baby turtles. Although I'm not one for little slimy things, he begged to keep it and make it "ours." So I went with him to Super Wal-Mart to pick out a suitable aquarium. Two weeks later, I accompanied him on a trip to Petsmart to purchase a plastic rock for "our" turtle's climbing pleasure. Then some faux reeds to give a natural feel to his glass abode. Next, it was a timer for his aquarium light (supposedly to simulate the rising and setting of the sun. Whatever). Then an automatic feeder once my husband got a job in the real world and often forgot to feed the little critter. Various other accessories were considered but quickly dismissed as we had better things to do with our time (like plan a wedding).

Eight months later we married and came home to our little green friend, who, when I reflect upon it, was never really a source of joy or companionship in our lives. We never took him for walks or gave him baths or made appointments to see the turtle doc. I hate to admit it, but there were times when I forgot he was there.

So when my husband and I were planning our move, I proposed an outrageous idea: to get rid of our beloved Donatello. At first, I was met with some resistance, but eventually my husband realized just how ridiculous it was that we still had the critter. We decided to ask our sister-in-law if she'd like to have the turtle for her new classroom, but, alas, she did not and neither did any of her teacher friends. Thus was birthed a new plan.

As we cleared the final items from our apartment last Saturday night, my husband looked at me with saddened eyes full of the knowledge of what we had to do. We loaded the vacuum cleaner and the remaining boxes into the trunk and returned to the apartment to claim our one last item. My husband placed Donatello into a small box, out of which he immediately began to climb. I hurried to hold the flaps up as we scurried into the car and made our way to execute our plan - on the banks of the Trinity River.

It was dark when we pulled into the gravel lot that was peppered with a few other cars. We looked at each other, then at Donatello as my husband reached into the box and plucked the squirming shell from its belly. The lights from downtown Fort Worth glimmered on the horizon as we made our way through the crisp and dying grass, beneath several forlorn trees, and down the steep bank towards the dark and mysterious waters. My husband bent down and set Donatello in the grass just inches away from the river. As the little guy scuttled into the grass and made his way towards his new home, I wondered for a moment if we had made the right decision. How would I feel if I were abandoned by my owners in an enourmously frightening new place? Would I stay in one place or would I venture out into my newfound freedom? Would I be so terrified that I would die alone within a few days or would I quickly make friends and find a joy I'd never known in captivity? Those thoughts quickly faded as I neared the car.

But the next day as torrential rains flooded the Metroplex with some much-needed water, those ponderings returned. I wondered if leaving a turtle like that was consdiered inhumane. If Clay and I were heartless and cruel because we didn't want to keep the little guy around (never mind that we both agreed he didn't quite go with the decor). If somehow karma was going to come around and bite me in the butt because, frankly, I didn't give a darn what happened to this one small turtle except to care whether or not he was cluttering up my new house. Those worries were quickly crowded out by the dilemma of how many coats of red paint our kitchen wall needed and where exactly to place the TV.

It's about time I started worrying about the important things in life.

15 August 2006

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

As the summer draws to a close and all the little tykes reach for their three-packs of Kleenex and new Blue's Clues lunchboxes, so too does the city baseball (or softball, in this case) league play out its final games.

My husband has been playing for the all-male softball team with some of his coworkers, usually about nine other accountants. At first I thought this an odd extra-curricular activity for one who enjoys playing with his tenkey or balancing the checkbook on Quicken, but he wanted to show that he was "involved outside of the office" since it looked good on his CPA evaluation. So every Thursday night for about eight weeks, he'd don his bright blue jersey and we'd head to Arlington for his game.

As if watching ten grown men who specialize in reconciling numbers try to throw around a softball for 55 minutes weren't entertaining enough, here are a few highlights from the season, if you will...
During one of the very first games, the other team's members alternated wearing a sombrero every time they came out onto the field. (They had tried wearing it while at bat, but discovered it wasn't very easy to run while keeping one hand on your head.) This same game coincided with the Mavs in the playoffs, and the catcher had brought his radio so everyone could hear the play-by-plays. Every so often one of the other team's members (usually the catcher) would yell, "What's the score?" And we knew he wasn't talking about the game at hand.
One particular game, the opposite team was especially talented in hitting foul balls, the kind that arc up and over the chain-link fencing (you know, the kind that supposedly protects the fans from those stray little boogers). Inevitably, one of said foul balls flew into the stands where all the wives (myself included) were chatting away. As soon as we realized what was headed straight toward us, everyone scrambled to move out of harm's way, which mostly amounted to curling up into a ball in the lap of the person next to you while screaming bloody murder. The ball bounced safely over our heads, and all the players thought it was pretty funny how frightened we were. But really, it was a close call.
During the second inning of one of the later games, a fly ball was hit towards left field over the foul line. As the scrawny left fielder sprinted to catch the ball, the crowd (and team) was riveted to this figure barrelling towards the fence. We continued to watch, dumbfounded, as he slowed his pace, reaching the fence and sticking his glove across it just as the softball fell right into place, as though he had done it a thousand times.
The second to last game was quite an exciting one, as the third baseman from the opposite team caught a line drive right in the face - in his mouth, to be exact. He held cheap paper towels and a baggie of ice to his bloodied lip as he rushed to his car to drive to the ER for stitches. And who says softball isn't a contact sport?

One win, two forfeits, and five losses later, his season concluded. I don't know about you, but something about those numbers just doesn't seem quite right.

But then again, if you're out on the field, it's hard to audit the scoreboard.

08 August 2006

Bargain Hunters

As a slave to the retail industry as of late, I have come to a greater understanding of the ebb and flow of buying and selling. Previously one to simply purchase what was needed at the time it was needed, I never gave a great deal of thought to the concept of seasonal sales. Sure, I knew about those after-Christmas sales with scads of forlorn ornaments that will never grace anyone's tree and ridiculous sweaters that no one in Texas would ever have occasion to wear, and the back-to-school specials where everyone bought No. 2 pencils and Mead notebooks for half price, and, here recently, the phenomenon known as tax-free weekend where teenagers and their parents flocked to local malls just to save two or three dollars on their Hollister jeans. But did I really stop to consider the logic, the reasoning, the...well, scheming that went into seasonal sales? Not until today.

While my coworkers scurried about, frantically asking the other if they'd found any good finds yet, I marked down the remaining set of fondue forks to 99 cents. A giant procelain rooster was marked down to $43.99 (not quite so much of a steal, but still a heavy discount). A set of three bud vases went to $11.99, and a cast-iron chicken-shaped roaster was marked $19.99 (which caused quite a ruckus as three employees neared blows to see who'd get the last two). Straw placemats went to $2.99 and a tin of dinosaur cookie cutters was marked down to $4.99. This is just a bunch of junk, I thought. But, oh, how quickly would I eat my words.

Not long after, whatever spells the head honchos of the retail world have cast over their marked-down merchandise caught me in its inescapable grasp, and I purchased two bottles of dish soap, a Rachel Ray cookbook, an ice cream scoop and an adorable little round cutting board.

What is it, I began to wonder, about those red 99s or bright orange stickers marked "clearance"? Why are we so compelled to purchase something, never mind that we wouldn't know what to do with red peach nectar or beaded fish napkin rings, just because some retailer deems it a bargain?

I have a funny feeling this will become a ritual on markdown days. I just can't resist a bargain. At least, that's what the higher-ups would have me think.

06 August 2006

Things I Will Not Miss About Our Apartment...Or Will I?

As we have been ripping up linoleum and old baseboards and scouring our new house on contact paper patrol for the past week, I am getting it in my head that this house will be our home, even if we haven't technically moved in yet. The one-bedroom apartment we've called home for the past two months has its charms, I suppose, but I will certainly be ready to distance myself from this place - charms and all (which I've listed below for your reading pleasure).

1. I will not miss swiping my gate access card before I can enter the complex, although half the time the gate wasn't closing properly anyway. (I do suppose a garage door opener is similar, but at least you don't have to roll down your window to use it.)
2. I will not miss the drably painted walls and really cheap carpet, which, although only installed a mere nine months ago, is showing considerable wear. Oh, and there are no baseboards, which is really, really wierd.
3. I will not miss our upstairs neighbors whose creaky bed (and other unmentionable noises) wakes me up at 4:30 am. On a regular basis. And it's not because they toss and turn while sleeping.
4. I will not miss the "leasing specialists" who, every time we retrieve a wedding present from the office, threaten to raid our apartment and take every single one. And the thing is, I really think they might do it.
5. I will not miss the microscopic kitchen with absolutely no room for all our new kitchen gadgets (hence they remain unopened and stacked along one wall in the dining room, making it all the easier for the ladies from the main office to find when they pillage our place). And the oven's finicky, which doen't faciliate perfectly golden baked goods. And that's never good.
6. I will not miss walking across the street to the laundry room, only to discover I'm one quarter short of a load. And I won't particularly miss carrying my freshly-washed unmentionables back to our apartment where I will hang them to dry (I can't tell you how many times I've dropped something...well, almost).
7. I will not miss Raptor Baby who lives in the apartment behind us, and whose parents can't seem to figure out how to make him/ her stop crying...in the middle of the night.

There is some nostalgia, I must admit, that I feel when I think about our first apartment, the very first space that my husband and I shared, where we learned (and are still learning) to share the bathroom and keep our dirty clothes in the hamper and that it's not really all that important to make the bed everyday and that we really can make a meal out of a can of chili. Those fond remembrances, however, are quickly overshadowed by the excitement and thrill of our first home, a place we'll hopefully live for longer than two and a half months.

01 August 2006

Carried Over the Threshold (After Being Rear-Ended In the Driveway)

Yesterday my husband and I signed the official documents to make our little blue-shuttered, two bedroom, one bath home our very own. So after dinner, with the tool chest and two pair of work gloves in the back seat, we drove over to assess more closely the 1100-and-something square feet we now possess.

As we were turning into our driveway off the quiet residential street, we heard brakes squealing and a crunch-thud as a little faded blue 80s-model compact made contact with the rear end of my husband's Camry.
(Minor changes have been made in the language choice of our friend, the negligent driver. This does not alter the main story.)

"What the bleep?! Why don't you use your bleepity-bleep turn signal? Don't you know how to bleeping drive?" A very flustered teenage girl in Daisy Dukes and a worn tshirt spewed profanities at my husband, who, with remarkable calm, asked her to lower her voice.
"I don't have a license or insurance and they're going to send me to jail!" She wailed. So there's a reason why you shouldn't be driving, I thought to myself.
The blonde passenger in the front seat, who I could barely see for the mass of Mardi Gras beads and strawberry-shaped car fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror, was laughing nervously. The driver's Hispanic boyfriend climbed out of the back seat to help review the damage, which amounted to nothing more than a little scratch on the edge of my husband's wheel well and a rather sizable concavity in her fender.
"It's going to be okay. I'll probably have this looked at, just in case, but it doesn't look like it did all that much damage to my car, " my husband attempted to console her. She just flipped her poorly- highlighted hair with a black nail polished hand.
After writing down her information, the rattled teenager and her posse drove off without so much as an apology.

Minutes later, as my husband carried me over the threshold and into our new home, I couldn't help but wonder if this was a bad omen, or a good one.

(The reader may also be interested to know that not even a week ago, I had a little accident of my own when I bumped another car at a stop light. This occurance, perhaps, makes yesterday's events more ominous. ...or does it?)

25 July 2006

100% Magic

As my husband and I were waiting in line to pay for his newly-selected softball glove and ball at Academy Sports and Outdoors, a small display for Magic Boxer Shorts caught my eye. "100% Magic!" it proclaimed from a rather cheesy yellow sunburst. I reached over and picked up a Ken-doll-sized pair of golf ball patterened skivvies. What makes these tiny boxer shorts so full of magic? I thought. Clearly this was an error in marketing, and someone at the Magic Boxer Short Corporation should be notified of this mistake. I leaned closer the small display box to learn more about these mysterious underpants. Perhaps I had been mistaken?
In miniscule print at the bottom of the front panel of the box, I discovered instructions for how to get the most out of your magic boxer shorts. What I read is as follows:

1. Remove shorts from wrapper.
2. Place in water and wait 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Now you have a pair of Magic Boxer Shorts ready to wear!

My interest was piqued. Where could I learn more about these underpants, soggy with magic? Fortunately for my curiosity, there was a website conveniently printed on the display box.

This evening, as I perused www.magicboxershorts.com, I was impressed at the selection of magically-saturated boxers. Sunglass-wearing penguins, a skull and crossbones, or giant pink lips could adorn your very own pair of magical underpants.

As I continued my quest for more information, I stumbled across a link to the company that produces Magic Boxer Shorts, as well as other "Magic" products (their newest release is a Magic Bath Towel Bag, both a towel - otherwise known as a washcloth - and a backpack at the same time!). The Brabo Group can be credited with this ingenious line of Magic products.

But where exactly do these magical products originate?
I wondered. Apparently in Switzerland, the Carribbean and Miami. There's even a picture on the website to vouch for Brabo's high standards of quality and magical abilities.

You can check it out for yourself at www.brabomagic.com/factory/index.html.

I, for one, was definitely impressed, as I'm sure you will be.

19 July 2006

Scarred for Life

As I was frantically marking down bottles of D'janou Pear Vinegar and Italian Taruli today, I overheard a mother talking to her two very energetic little boys as they bounced among the displays at Williams-Sonoma.
One of the two was particularly rambunctious, and apparently his energy was quickly transferring to the other brother. After pulling the catalyst from a straw-filled basket where he had previously been nesting, the mother (in a surprisingly calm tone of voice for her sons' disobedience) commanded, "Criss-cross, applesauce, boys. I need you to sit down." Of course, the boys criss-crossed, applesauced, but as soon as she turned her back, they were up and running again.
The older of the two went over to a crock full of potato mashers, plucked the perfect one, then turned to his younger brother and challenged, "Touchee, kitty cat!" Next, of course, ensued a masher battle of minor proportions.
Evidently, this was the last straw and the mother barked, "CRISS-CROSS, APPLESAUCE!" as she rushed over to the scene of the crime. When the boys did not disarm, the mother threatened, "Do you want me to take your shirts? I really don't think you want me to take them from you."
I stood there, aghast. What kind of mother threatens half-nakedness as a punishment? What ever happened to time out or restricted PlayStation time? Or extra chores, hiny swats, and retracted computer privileges? Apparently this mother had never heard of these forms of discipline.

I wondered to myself about those boys and how they would turn out in the future. What would happen once they arrived in junior high gym class? Would they be able to shower with confidence, or would they remain clothed and afraid that this sort of public undressing was yet another way their mother was punishing them? Or what about doctor's visits? How would these boys handle removing their street clothes and donning a flimsy blue gown? Could they realize that the doctor just wanted to help, that he wasn't in cohorts with their mother to punish them for not cleaning their room? Or, worse yet, when they meet the girl of their dreams and (ideally speaking) wind up marrying her, what will they do on their wedding night? Will they be so petrified of removing their garments that they cannot consummate their marriage? (Okay...so maybe that's crossing the line of what we should worry about strangers, but it did cross my mind.)

As I stood there, a jar of marinade au poivre in my hand, I wondered if these boys would be scarred for life, and I hoped that they weren't. I resolved that when I have children and they misbehave in public places, I will threaten them with the removal of something less intimate, like a sock.

18 July 2006

Inspector (Kitchen) Gadget

Each weekday I unpack boxes of bubble-wrapped porcelain gravy boats, stainless steel scrubbers, imported almond extract, and the like. My role is as a kitchen gadget inspector of sorts. Today, as my fellow stockroom workers and I opened a record 207 boxes, we discovered a most unusual phenomenon: round chafing pans.

Now, I don't know if this strikes anyone else as extremely odd, but I certainly thought to myself when presented with this strangely named kitchen gadget, "Who in the heck would use a chafing pan? It just sounds painful." Besides that, what would you chafe? A block of cheese? Three tablespoons of olive oil? A chicken breast? I can't think of any recipes that call of chafing of the ingredients. But then again, I'm not Julia Childs. Or Chuck Williams.

Needless to say, this discovery falls within the ranks of egg fry rings, checkerboard cake pans, and Italian porcelain fruit. Just peruse www.williams-sonoma.com for a few minutes and you'll see what ridiculousness I unpack every day.

Whoever comes up with this stuff has way too much disposable time - and income - on their hands. Either that or they're really demented.

06 July 2006

Disturbing Things I Saw While Driving Today

1. As I was on my way home from work, I noticed that the man driving the Jeep Grand Cherokee in front of me was brushing his teeth. While continuing at 40+ miles an hour, I watched, horrified, as he pulled a gallon-sized water jug to his lips. (At this point, I'm wondering if he is swallowing the toothpaste or not.) Moments later our vehicles came to a stop, and I witnessed this unidentified man spit out said toothpaste water onto the pavement. That's just sick.
2. While exploring the sidestreets of Keller, Texas, I drove past Mattie's Prissy Poodle Grooming where a freshly preened and overly spoiled poodle was strutting her stuff on a rhinestoned leash in front of an equally-spoiled owner. As if perfumed and sweatered lap dogs weren't alarming enough.
3. A motorcycle cop pulled out behind me as I was driving along Keller Parkway, well below speed limit. For the next two miles, he followed me and, I swear, I could have had a wreck because I kept nervously checking my rear view mirror to see if he'd turned his lights on. Fortunately he turned into McDonald's.
4. When I stopped for gas at a local QuikTrip, I noticed that the shiny new Mercedes SUV across the way was being fueled by swimsuit-clad teenage girl - and she was using Daddy's credit card. I wondered if he'd mind paying for mine?
5. I caught every single red light between Western Center Boulevard and Keller Parkway on my way to work this morning. The traffic light gods have it out for me.

The Metroplex is a crazy place.

23 June 2006

This Desperate Housewife

I used to think I was a good cook, and so did everyone else, for that matter. (Never mind that freak salt incident when my mother let me make banana nut muffins unsupervised for the first time back in the fourth grade.) Freshman year when I made a birthday cake for my friend Brett, my friends swore it looked like Martha had iced it herself. And when Jaci and Cheryl and I made cupcakes for Cheryl's older brother and his roommates, I fussed at Jaci for her poor kitchen etiquette because, after all, I was an expert. Later, I reveled in the cooking bliss of preparing meals for myself and my now husband, Clay. And my family would praise my snickerdoodles, claiming they'd never tasted better.

So, upon getting married and obtaining a kitchen of my own, I was ecstatic when considering the prospects of culinary fame knocking at my doorstep. Visions of piping hot casseroles and gourmet meats smothered in savory sauces danced through my head, and I was fairly certain I could only receive rave reviews on whatever dish I placed on the table. I was fairly certain...until recently.

The first full week I was in charge of planning meals and going to the store to purchase ingredients for said meals, I could hardly contain myself. After poring over our slew of shiny new cookbooks for hours, I finally determined the perfect menu for the week. But that evening when I came home and began to prepare the first dish on the list, I realized my terrible mistake: I had purchased the wrong ingredients! Now for any seasoned cook, this would not cause panic because she would be prepared with an arsenal of dry pastas, spices, and canned goods. This newlywed? Have you seen our pantry? Well, I thought I could improvise - emphasis on the "thought." Turns out I had looked at the wrong picture in the cookbook and surmised that I could use the one box of pasta shells we had to supplement this dish. But this recipe didn't call for pasta shells.
So, in my attempts to be resourceful, I created a dish which surpasses description. My dear husband, a man who is rarely unable to clean his plate, could not down more than six or seven bites. And what's worse, the bread was also a flop (a cardinal sin in Clay's book). My hopes were dashed and I was left with a pot full of Lord knows what, which I kept in the refrigerator for a week in an attempt to salvage my pride. I later threw it out.

However, I wasn't going to let that stop me. The next morning, I decided that I would wake up early and make blueberry muffins for my husband before he went to work (previously I had remained in bed like a slug, only rolling over once to mumble a sleepy goodbye). He had been slaving over all those numbers and I owed it to him to make him a hot breakfast. So I mixed the batter together, poured it into our mini muffin pan then popped it in the oven to bake, timing it so that Clay could have fresh, hot muffins as he stepped out of the shower. After a few minutes, a very strong artificial blueberry smell began overtaking our small apartment so I went to check on this delightful breakfast I was preparing. As soon as I opened the oven door, a cloud of smoke billowed out into the room, triggering the smoke detector. I frantically searched for something to fan the detector with, slamming the oven door in the process (and leaving the burning muffins there to burn) as well as making a terrible racket which I'm sure the neighbors appreciated. Clay, of course, was alarmed by the din and poked his head out of the shower with a worried, "Is everything okay, honey?" (He later told me he had pictured massive flames licking the ceiling, an obstacle he would have to dodge in order to make it out of our apartment alive and only wearing a towel.) Needless to say, he didn't eat the muffins.

Still my reserve grew stronger. The following week, I decided that, in honor of my husband's birthday, I would make the bread pudding he'd been talking about for months - from scratch, bread and all. I cracked open my cookbook, made a list of ingredients, and set off to the store. I returned home with confidence and began preparing my sourdough starter, which I let set out for 24 hours as detailed on page 32 of the Perini Ranch Cookbook. The next morning, I combined the starter, flour, baking soda, and water, then let it set out to rise (along with my spirits - I'm really getting this! I thought). It wasn't until the following day when I pulled the towel off the bowl that I realized something was terribly amiss. An acrid smell was coming from the bowl, and where the dough mixture had previously been, the kitchen goblins had placed a tough crusted layer covering some incredibly sickening sticky goo. Although I was more than happy to discard of this strange concoction, I was crushed to see it bagged up and tossed in the dumpster.

Now this desperate housewife prefers to stick to the pre-packaged frozen dinners and "just add water" meals until this culinary thunderstorm blows over.

19 June 2006

Changing the World One Brassiere at a Time

I remember going to the mall as a middle schooler, driven by the freshly-earned babysitting money burning in my pocket and seventeen magazine's latest article on smiley face shirts and patterned Doc Martens. The mall presented so many options appealingly showcased behind each store's spotlighted front windows - except for one. Victoria's Secret.
I always averted my eyes when walking by that store lest a fellow mall-goer notice my longing looks at the pink lacy panties and scandalous black brassieres displayed in the window. Somehow I felt dirty just walking past the store (never mind that I was clueless as to the purposes of almost all of the garments in that store). I was incredulous that people would actually shop there, and those who were bold enough to do so must surely be prostitutes. Who else would wear such provocative underpants? Surely not I.

It's funny how things change. My unmentionables are now purchased strictly from Victoria's Secret (thank you, lingerie shower!) and what's worse, I am now an employee of this God forsaken store. Yesterday was my first day.

After watching almost two hours of training videos on how to measure a bra and the infinite number of styles Victoria has to offer, I was finally unleashed on the customers and instructed to fine-tune my bra measuring skills. (As if measuring someone's chest wasn't awkward enough, the uncertainty of a first day on the job makes it almost terrifying!) While waiting for further instructions from our co-manager, a client came up to me and asked if she could have a bra fitting. Maintaining my composure, I asked her to follow me to the dressing room area where I proceeded to measure, albeit flusteredly, her chest. When I pronounced her a 38C, she exclaimed, "YES! Yes, yessss!" while jumping up and down. Apparently it was better (and smaller) than the verdict of her previous measurement.
As I sent her into the fitting room with a box of 38C bras to try on, I realized that this job is not just about sexy little underthings to make your husband/ boyfriend/ lover (I won't go into the moral rammifications of the latter two) go crazy, but to make women feel good about themselves. According to my Victoria's Secret training booklet, over 75 percent of women wear the wrong bra size. Here, I realized, is an opportunity for me to help the endowment of the world (or at least of North Richland Hills) to find great support that looks spectacular and makes women feel spectacular too. Although I'm sure Royce Money would cringe if he knew I was working for Victoria's Secret, I am satisfied with the knowledge that I am changing the world - one brassiere at a time.

14 June 2006

Insert Foot Here (In Mouth)

I remember scoffing when the blogging fad began several years ago. Who would actually post their inmost thoughts and feelings on the World Wide Web to be jeered at by all of mankind? I thought to myself. It's really ridiculous. I would never do that. Ever.
But ladies and gentlemen, here I am making the very first post on my very first blog.

It seems that I've been eating my words a lot lately, and whether that's the nature of newlywed-dom, I'll never know. Every time I turn around, I am presented with yet another example of why I should keep my big mouth shut (or keep my foot in it, just to save me the trouble). My wonderful husband Clay is so wise (and so correct 99.9% of the time), and I appreciate the ways he is patient with my ignorance and overconfidence. Humility is a virtue I'm learning these days, as well as the importance of keeping my feet clean should the need arise to stuff one quickly into my mouth.

Although I do find myself wishing I'd kept my thoughts to myself on an alarmingly regular basis, more often than not, I'm just doing something stupid. Of course, I'd like to say that this doesn't happen daily...but that would be grossly misleading.
For example, I went on an outing to the Texas Department of Public Safety late Monday morning to get a Texas driver's license with my shiny new married name. The directions my sweet husband had written out for me weren't quite specific enough and I missed the exit, a navigational error which always frazzles me for the next 20 minutes I'm in operation of that motor vehicle. I had enough presence of mind to turn around with the hopes that I would not miss the exit, and, of course, it presented itself shortly. The helpful green signs were directing me down the access road to the Department of Public Safety - or so I thought. As I whizzed past the building clearly marked DPS, I realized my mistake and decided I still had enough time to make the turn. Tires squealed as I slammed on the brakes and skidded into the parking lot, garnering the attention of all 25 people hurrying to their cars to escape my driving antics. I felt like several DPS officers would descend upon my car momentarily, taking away my out-of-state license and refusing to give me a new one because, clearly, I was a threat to the public safety. Fortunately, no such officers appeared and I am the proud owner of a temporary Texas license (which is almost as cool). But you've got to admit, it was a pretty close call.