Sunday, January 31, 2016

At LEAST Ten Things Of Thankful

I did it. I signed up to participate in this year's A to Z Challenge. This will be my third year to participate, and I'm looking at it as a way to jump start my sorry writing efforts of late. I haven't decided on a theme yet, though, and am open to suggestions. My first year, I had no plan (shocker) and flew by the seat of my pants each day. Last year, I did a Pinterest project every day, and I had SUCH a good time with that theme that I am tempted to do it again, but feel free to give me your ideas.... 

Now, to be thankful:

1. Our security alarm went off while I was at school and my husband out of town. I didn't recognize the number when the company called me, so I didn't answer it. My husband texted me from his out of town meeting (sorry, dear) to tell me to go check it out (why do these things always happen when he's not around to take care of them?). I called the company on my way home, found out it was the motion sensor in the family room, and told them to cancel the police. Well, I was too late, because as I drove up my street, I saw the police officer at my door. He went in with me as I turned off the alarm and walked around the downstairs with me, which was somewhat comforting, except I worried he was judging my housekeeping skills. At least he didn't shout, "STAY BACK, THE HOUSE HAS BEEN RANSACKED!" False alarm, possibly the result of a fat cat jumping on top of a chair and getting caught in the beam, so that's a good thing.

2. Because it wasn't the first time the alarm has gone off recently, and because each time, it has been the family room motion sensor, and because my husband was out of town and it's a rather large, old house, I was afraid it would go off in the night and scare the everloving shizz out of me. It didn't, but I sure didn't sleep much in anticipation of it happening.

3. The War of the Litter Boxes is officially over. I have surrendered. The only thankful here is that I don't have to battle over trying to get the cats to use the fabulous litter I provided for them that renders their pee odorless and their poo easy to dispose of. The coup was spearheaded, without a doubt, by a certain little calico princess who expressed her displeasure at the new litter by pooping on the floor all around the box. Now it's back to the messy, dusty, expensive, scoopable litter that they love, probably because it's FUN to sweep it out of the box on the pretext of digging a hole and to track it all over the house between their toes. Sigh.

4. The College Boy found out he was accepted to work on a research project at his college. He's pretty excited, as he will be working with mice and their brains and I won't elaborate any further, because it isn't a pretty thought, but it's autism research, so I'm comforting myself with that thought.

5. Speaking of the College Boy, I rode to Springfield, where he attends college, with my husband, who had to attend a Chamber of Commerce dinner, and College Boy and I had dinner and did a little shopping. 

6. While we were together, the College Boy explained at length about a quiz he had over microtubules (it has something to do with the nervous system). He lost me pretty early on, but I am so thankful I never had to try to learn such stuff and even more thankful that he not only understands all of it but also enjoys learning about it (he did his best to dumb it down for me).

7. As I am in the habit of drinking a diet coke on any car trip more than, oh, six blocks (just kidding, or am I?), I arrived in Springfield (a little over an hour's drive from us) with a very full bladder. I tried to make it all the way to my son's apartment on campus, but it became apparent that that was not going to happen. There is a Burger King a few blocks from him, so I pulled in there to run in and avail myself of the facilities. I got out of the car, scurried to the door as fast as I could, clenching all available muscles in the bladder area, and was greeted with a sign saying the restroom was for patrons only. Unfortunately, there was no going back, so I ran on inside, used the restroom, and slipped back out the door and into the car without being caught. Truly, I think they owed me, because I have spent money at many a Burger King over my lifetime without using the restroom.

8. Another thankful related to the Burger King Incident: if security cameras caught me, then the car they would have seen was not mine but a Red Cross fleet car, so good luck with that, Burger King Security.

9. There are new filters on Snapchat.

10. Emma and I went prom dress shopping yesterday. We did not buy a dress. Do you know how much prom dresses are? We went to two different places in a nearby town, and they ranged from $280-$580. Kid you not. But she looked so pretty in them! She can put anything on and it fits. I am not like that, and I know most girls aren't like that, and I know it may be shallow, but I'm thankful that our issue with buying a prom dress will be paying for it, not finding one that fits or looks good on her.

You're looking at a $480 dress right here....

I am currently caught up in watching "Making a Murderer" on Netflix. If you haven't seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! I'm off to binge watch a few more episodes....

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Madonna Monday And Many More Thankfuls

A week ago today, I was devouring the best French toast I have ever eaten (and still have the food baby to show for it) at Party Fowl in Nashville. I wish I could do the "I Dream of Jeannie" DOINNNK! and go back there. Hang on, let me try it....

Nope, didn't work. That would have been Thankful #1 in this week's Ten Things of Thankful. Now I have to start all over. I guess I'll start where I left off last weekend, when I was midway through my road trip to Nashville.

1. My long time friend Janice met me for brunch at the Copper Kettle, where we caught up on life and ate and ate and ate. Okay, I was the one who ate and ate and ate (making another substantial contribution to my growing food baby); Janice was much more restrained. I may have worried the waitress a little bit when I told her I was never leaving. Oh, and I had THE BEST SALAD I HAVE EVER EATEN here. No, really! THE BEST. 

Coconut encrusted goat cheese, mesclun greens,
spiced pecans, mangoes, strawberries, with
sundried cranberry vinaigrette

2. Monday, my Person, Terri, and I went to my veryveryvery favorite place to eat in Nashville, San Antonio Taco Company. It almost makes me cry to see this picture, because I want some RIGHT NOW.

3. And a trip to Nashville wouldn't be complete without a trip to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.

Salty caramel, browned butter almond brittle,
and bourbon salted pecan

4. The reason I went to Nashville this particular weekend was to see Madonna in concert. Terri's son gave her tickets, and she chose ME to tag along. It was bitterly cold that day, and we were dreading parking the car and walking blocks and blocks in the cold and wind, so this thankful goes to Terri's 17 year old daughter, who drove us to the venue and dropped us off at the front door and to Terri's brother in law, who picked us up in front at close to 1:00 a.m. (We were going to make our maiden voyage with Uber, but we decided the learning curve was too steep for us to attempt it for the first time when it was going to be very late and very cold and we are very old dogs to learn such a new trick.)

We're in!

5. Our tickets were printed at home, and naturally, the scanners couldn't read the bar code and we had to go to the ticket booth. When the woman handed us our tickets, we had been upgraded from the upperest of the upper balconies to 8 rows from the stage. How sweet is that?!


6. I made a new friend at the concert (plenty of bonding time, as the concert was supposed to start at 8 p.m., but Madonna didn't take the stage until 10:30 or so). This is Hayley. She and her husband were sitting in front of us, and we are now Facebook friends. Isn't she darling?

7. Madonna puts on one hella show! The production was nothing short of spectacular. We were also pleased to note that, while she can still dance (including shinnying up a pole during one song), her upper arms are no longer taut, her waistline has disappeared, she has a booty and her legs are thicker, and she has that neck thing happening; in other words, she's normal. Sort of. She's still Madonna, still out to shock, and if you are easily offended (fortunately, I'm not), this might not be the show for you. I lurrrrved it!

Check out the heels.

Fun fact: my husband used to be Madonna's
co-writer's music publisher.

Hanging out with my friend Madonna.

8. Tuesday morning, as I was packing up to leave, I looked at the weather forecast and saw there was a winter weather advisory (which was a HUGE surprise, as I had been keeping an eye on the forecast for two weeks and winter weather was never mentioned). Snow wasn't supposed to begin until 2 or 3 in the afternoon in Joplin, so I figured I would be fine, as I would be arriving in Joplin around 4 and just snow wouldn't be too bad. Now ICE, that's another matter, but just some snow would be no big deal.


I was a little over halfway into my eight and a half hour drive when a fine mist began. Then the fine mist was freezing on the edges of the windshield. And on the wipers. The pavement didn't look more than damp, however, so I forged on. And then I wasn't forging any longer. I was on a divided four-lane highway IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE southern Missouri when all traffic stopped. For a good fifteen minutes, I just sat there, assuming there must be an accident somewhere and waving to the trailer full of calves next to me, and when cars started moving a little, I let up on the brake aaaaaand my car slid sideways. Just a little slip, but it scared me! We were all creeping along in our vehicles and then stopped again at the top of a hill. Ever experienced black ice before? I never have like this! One car or truck at a time was going down the hill, so it didn't become a bumper car track. I went from scared to terrified, but I made it down and up again on the other side. There were cars off on both sides of the road for the next 60 miles (which took me two hours to cover). I gave up in the little town of Seymour and got a room in a motel. The parking lot was like a skating rink (again, barely looked damp; you couldn't see ice at all), but I was at least safely off the highway.

Salt truck. Never a good sign while driving.

Hoping they didn't know I just ate a hamburger.

9. The reason I parked where I did at the motel (the far back corner) was because that was where the car slid to a stop. And the reason it slid to that spot, I found out when I tried to get out of the car, was because it was a solid sheet of ice in that area. It was so slippery, in fact, that I couldn't get out of the car without losing my footing. If they would just bring some salt out and sprinkle it there, I would have something to step on, but the phone went unanswered when I tried to call (five times). Next, I went all MacGyver and tried to use the floor mat (it had sharp little teeth on the back), but it slid away. I dug in my bag, looking for something with alcohol in it to melt the ice. Hair spray! That should work! Yeah, it doesn't. I then called the 800 number for reservations for the motel chain, and the woman I talked to there was so kind! She first made me a reservation for a room, because I feared that other motorists sliding into the motel would fill it up before I made it out of the car, then she managed to get ahold of the owners inside and tell them I needed help getting from the car to the building, and she called me back to tell me that someone should be coming. The owner (reluctantly) came out and helped me in, and at last, I was able to get warm.

10. I was nearly two hours from home at this point, and as there was no way I was going to make it to work the next morning, I am very thankful that I was able to get a sub (thank you, Miss Janet!). I didn't leave the motel until nearly 10:30 the next morning, when I saw someone else finally make it out of there (a light layer of snow that fell on top of the ice in the night helped with traction). 

Doesn't LOOK slippery.

I may not have wanted to leave Nashville, but it sure was good to make it home!

This is how the boys greeted me.
They are a little perturbed about the
empty dish.

Ruby was a little happy to have me home.

How 'bout you? Good week? Survive anything? Link up with us, below!

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Food And Frivolity And Other Thankfuls

When your Person lives 500 miles away, and you get a chance to visit, you go, or at least, I do. Besides being thankful to my family for being whiny butts gracious about me being away for a few days and for my Person's son for giving her tickets to see Madonna and for my Person for inviting me to attend the concert with her and for my boss for letting me take two days off work, here are Ten (more) Things of Thankful:

1. Road trips in general.

2. Road trips in motorized vehicles.

3. Spur of the moment stops on road trips, just because you can.

This is a levy. This is not a Chevy.

What was on the other side of the levy.

The Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.
So. Much. Razor wire.

4. Long conversations with long distance friends that help make the time go by. Thanks, Ivy and Christine!

5. Pretty scenery (although it makes you lose cell phone reception).

6. Innovations in public bathrooms.

You can write your own caption.

7. Towns that make you appreciate the one in which you live just a little more.

It's pronounced CARE-o

There are a couple of hidden gems
in this little town, however.

8. Delicious food.

My person's son's restaurant.

French toast made with cinnamon brioche,
stuffed with apples and bourbon cream cheese
and dipped in orange custard with hot chicken
on the side, because I don't like my food to touch.

9. Way too much silly fun with old friends.

Hanging out with our friend Larry at Studio 19
at Sound Kitchen

10. Knowing you still have two more days for food and shenanigans.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Thankfuls In The Nick of Time

I really don't like this habit I've fallen into of waiting until the last minute to post my Ten Things of Thankful for the week. That being said, here's my last-minute entry in the Ten Things of Thankful: 

1. It was back to school post-Christmas vacation, and it's tough to go back after two weeks off, but the Supreme Ruler of the School Calendar saw fit to have the semester start on Tuesday rather than Monday, so FOUR DAY WORK WEEK, GUYS!

2. I gained maybe three pounds over the break, but by Thursday, they were gone. YESSSS!

3. I made spaghetti squash for the second time ever. The first time was probably 25 years ago, and I microwaved it and tried to eat it with marinara sauce and it was gross. THIS time, I cut it in half, brushed it with olive oil and added salt and pepper, then baked it, cut-side down, in a 400 degree oven for at least half an hour. I served it with sauteed chicken breasts and marinara sauce and it was DELICIOUS.

4. I got a zoodle maker for Christmas and gave it a try this week as well. Actually, it's called a Veggetti. I zoodled three zucchini and three carrots. The bad news is they cook down to nothing, so that wasn't nearly enough produce, but it tasted pretty good (I stir-fried it) and the effort required to twist those veggies in the Veggetti will eventually give me fabulously toned arms. Remind me to invite you to the gun show.

5. Ruby is very naughty, and her new favorite thing to do is hop up onto the fireplace mantel via a wing-backed chair. It's disconcerting to walk in the room and realize she's sitting up there, but I lurrrrrrrve her so! 

6. The College Boy and I went out to lunch together and shared a piece of pie. Chocolate covered cherry pie. I could have eaten a whole piece by myself, it was so good, but I didn't because I shouldn't. Yay for self-control!

7. Emma went to a theater conference in Kansas City from Thursday through Saturday with other members of the theater troupe from her school and had, according to her, the time of her life. She learned to salsa dance, to swing dance, got chosen to star in a short film, made new friends, and then came home and recounted every detail to me. I feel sorry for parents whose kids don't tell them anything.

8. We got our first snow on Saturday. Ordinarily, I only want it to snow if it will net me a snow day, but this was nice, as there were giant, wet snowflakes falling from the sky and clinging to the trees, yet it didn't stick to the streets, and it was all melted by evening.

9. In honor of the first snow, I did absolutely NOTHING all day Saturday. Okay, nothing except bake chocolate chip cookies and make a batch of fudge and clean out the litter box and fix dinner (totally against my will). The rest of the day, Ruby and I did this:

10. While in the car today, my husband and I spent an hour or so deciding what we were going to do when we won the Powerball money. It was a lot of fun to mull over where we would want to travel and to what charities we would make donations and how much we would give to our family members. We're ready, willing and waiting should they draw our Powerball ticket!

Bonus thankful to my co-hosts in the TToT for taking care of a problem in the linky thing so there is no longer a problem. I glazed over as soon as they started talking about code.

It's not to late to link up your post. Really.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yet Another Reason Why I Am Not A Boat Person

It all started as a nice idea for a Christmas gift for my parents. My husband got the winning bid on two tickets for a dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle, a riverboat (is it a riverboat, though, when it's on a lake?) on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. He thought my parents might enjoy going, and they might have, if (a) my mom wasn't still recovering from a fall in late October and (b) it didn't have to be used by the end of December (fine print not noticed by the winning bidder during the bidding process).

With only a few more days left to use the tickets, we made plans to go to Branson and stay at my parents' lake house for a few days. We further complicated this decision by taking two cars, two kids, and three cats with us, but that's a story for another day.

It was unseasonably warm on Saturday, and we drove through heavy rain and fog, punctuated by lightning and thunder, for the entire two hours. It continued to rain all afternoon and evening. And all night. And Sunday morning (at which time it was no longer unseasonably warm, and I knew this because my family thought there was nothing wrong in sending me to the grocery store in the pouring rain to get provisions to prevent certain starvation after turning their noses up at all the food I brought with us). We made a reservation for the 4:00 cruise that afternoon, although after getting soaked on my trip to the grocery store and coming home with numb feet and hands, the thought of getting out again to go on the cruise had lost a lot of its appeal. 

It is quite a hike from the parking lot of the Branson Belle to the actual boat, one that would be lovely in warm, dry weather, as there was nice landscaping and a winding path, but was long and tortuous when being pelted by cold rain with no umbrella, because Mr. Red Cross didn't have an umbrella in his car (so much for being prepared for a disaster). The wind was blowing and the surface of the lake was rough, with white caps and swells. 

And we were getting on a damn boat and going out on it.

There was a sign at the ticket booth that I thought would be my salvation (if I'd known it would be key to the evening, I would have taken a picture of it) stating that, at the Captain's discretion, the boat might stay moored to the dock due to weather conditions. Hallelujah! With flood warnings, rising lake levels, buckets of rain falling, and a stiff north wind, we obviously would stay safely tied up at the dock.

Two lousy pictures of the boat, but keeping my
phone dry trumped good visuals for the story.

If you look just past the paddlewheel (spoiler alert:
it's FAKE), you might notice how heavy the rain is falling.

Once we were seated, however, our waiter said he was sure we'd be going out on the lake, and I'll be damned if he wasn't right. Shortly after we were served our salads, I realized we had pulled away from the dock and were out on the water (breathe breathe BREATHE). The pre-show had begun when *poof* the lights went out and the emergency lights came on. Oh, yeah, and the boat's motor quit motoring. And the heat wasn't heating. We were adrift on a flooded lake. There was partial power, somehow, and the band was able to keep playing ("You know, the band kept playing on the Titanic while it was sinking," my husband kindly pointed out to me). Then a belated Christmas Miracle occurred as the lights came back on, the ship's engine kicked in, and we began cruising in earnest. The band took a break as dinner was served, and the food was delicious and I was REALLY TRYING to relax, even as my eyes kept darting towards the windows, watching the water rolling outside, when *poof* darkness. No emergency lights this time, although there were lights outside the dining room/theater area of the boat, so we caught some of the glow from there, and the engine was still humming beneath our feet, so there's that. We heard one waiter tell another that we were returning to the dock (Christmas Miracle #2).

First time the lights went out. I sent this to my
kids, who were safe and warm at the lake house,
 and told them to use it for our obituary picture.

The water on Table Rock Lake is usually calm
and a lovely shade of blue, not angry and gray
with white caps and swells and the promise
of near-death.

A sample of the outpouring of love and concern from my children:

The emcee announced that there would be half an hour between dinner and the show, and we were free to walk around the ship or go out on the deck (in the driving rain, on the flooded lake, sure, show me the door...). I took this opportunity to avail myself of the facilities, so we left the dining room and found the restroom. I walked in, pushed a stall door open, and nearly gagged. Unflushed poo. I tried another stall. Same thing. I hurried out of there and reported my findings to my husband. We went up to the second floor. Repeat of the first floor restroom, but this time, I heard someone saying the toilets didn't flush because THERE WAS NO POWER. Terrific. I finally found a stall on the third floor that had no poo, relieved my bladder and got out of there. 

Oh, just panicking a little while eating
my dinner in the dark.

It was announced that the show would begin in fifteen minutes (and thirty minutes after those fifteen minutes, it did start), and as we headed back to the dining room, I happened to look out the door onto the deck (the same deck they told us to go out and enjoy while we were waiting for the show to start) and saw an employee standing out there, a flotation device strapped to him, as he stood guard over a manhole on the deck. For real. You can't make this stuff up.

Who wants to meet me out on the deck?

The ship made it back to the dock (Christmas Miracle #3), and soon after, thanks to shore power, the show did go on. I will assume the toilets became flushable at that time, but I was willing to wet myself before I gave them a try again. It took me two days to get warm again, the show was fine, but it wasn't really to our taste, it didn't occur to us we would have to leave a tip, so we were scrambling through pockets and fishing change out of the bottom of my purse for enough to leave our waiter, and it was obvious the captain was (fortunately) unsuccessful in his attempt to kill us all at sea lake, but you know what? We're going to go again.

They gave every passenger a voucher to come back again next year for a free cruise.

Can't. Wait....

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Dull Rundown Of My Year-End

I didn't do a big Year End post this year. Life has me discombobulated right now, and I am not in the mood to write much, so here is the best I can do and give you a few things that happened from Christmas through New Year's:

We went to Tulsa to have Christmas with my husband's sister and her family. Best gift of the day: the deep fryer that my 16 year old nephew wanted so he could make his own french fries.  

We had french fries in the new fryer that day for lunch, but on our way home that evening, we came to the conclusion that the whole french fry production resembled Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of the fence, as potatoes were sliced, the fryer assembled, the fries cooked and served, and we are pretty sure Eli did nothing except "supervise." Smart kid, that Eli.

My niece nearly killed us all when she decided to saute some onions and jalapenos for her hamburger (non-traditional Christmas dinner here), and the fumes from the jalapenos had everyone in the house coughing. It was like ripples in a pond; the people in the immediate vicinity of the stove (i.e., the french fry makers and supervisor) started coughing first. My daughter and I, sitting in the far end of the kitchen and facing the other direction, wondered why the others were laughing and coughing. Then the cloud of jalapeno fumes reached us and we joined in. Chemical warfare has nothing on jalapeno fumes. 

The girls in the family got glove/scarf/hat sets. I look like Gomer Pyle in a hat at best, and one that is too small for both my head and my big hair is just about the most unflattering accessory I could possibly wear. Proof:

I discovered I had put my underpants on backwards when I went to the bathroom and found the tag was situated in the front. Who does that past the age of, oh, four?

In my defense, I was wearing Victoria's Secret Cheeky Panties, and they are nearly identical, front and back. I took pictures to prove it, but I worried that they would take this post from PG-13 to R rated.

Oh, what the hell, here is a picture of them, front and back. Or back and front; I OBVIOUSLY can't tell which is which.

My son picked out and received some basketball shoes for Christmas, because he NEEDED them for the pick-up games he plays at the Y with his friends. These are not white boy shoes, and they especially are not GINGER white boy shoes, but he loves them and swears they will make him jump higher and run faster. Or, as he told my husband, they would make him jump higher and run faster than HIM, but he didn't need the shoes for that.

He says the shoes also make him shoot better.

The only cat who can figure out how to get the treats out of the little mouse treat dispenser they got for Christmas is the one who doesn't need to be eating treats. 

That same cat has an affinity for wrapping paper, especially tissue paper. When we came home from Tulsa, the trash bag with the Christmas wrapping paper trash that we left in the living room was turned over and the contents were all over the floor. For four days, that trash bag got turned over and the contents scattered on the floor, and for four days, I picked it all back up once or twice a day and put it back in the bag. 

I know you're wondering why I left a trash bag full of paper in our living room for four days, and the answer to that is because he was having such a good time that I hated to spoil his fun. After the fourth day, however, I decided I had refilled that trash bag enough and his fun was over.

I got a surprise Christmas gift in the mail from my good friend Christine. It has made me laugh and laugh at a time when I really needed to laugh!

We had several adventures when we went to the lake house for a few days, all involving water and none of them good, but those are stories for another day. 

I got all the Christmas decorations put away, with a little help.

Both kids ditched us on New Year's Eve. 

We may or may not have stayed awake until midnight.

Happy New Year!