Wednesday, March 21, 2012

relaxed housewife: rice and beans

I went out to lunch the other day.  One of my favorite Mexican restaurants.  The food is fantastic and the service is always great.  I had a bit of a glitch ordering that day though.  It felt like an Abbott and Costello skit by the time the server and I understood each other.  The confusion had nothing to do with a language barrier either.  I think it was just that I was trying to talk with a friend and place my order at the same time.  It went something like this:

Me: I'd like two enchiladas please.  With ground beef.  (I felt it was important to make sure he understood the  ground beef part.  I soon found out that was the easy part.)
Server: You want two enchiladas with ground beef.
Me: Yes.
Server: Would you like rice and beans with that?
Me: No rice and beans.
Server: You don't want rice and beans.
Me: Yes.
Server: You do want rice and beans?
Me: No, I don't want rice and beans.
Server: You don't want rice and beans?
Me: Yes.
Server: Yes you do want rice and beans?
Me: No, I do not want rice and beans.
Server: You do not want rice and beans.
Me: (By now I realized if I answered yes we'd be off on another round of rice and beans.) Yes, I do not want any rice and beans.  No rice and beans.  None.  Just the enchiladas.  Two.  Ground beef.  On a plate.
Server: Ok, I got it.  (But at this point when he read back our order, he had gotten so confused he had to retake the other orders because he wasn't sure he had gotten any of it right.)

I made sure to tip him well.  He earned it.  And I got my enchiladas without rice and beans.

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie

Thursday, March 15, 2012

relaxed housewife: bathroom tips

Mom always taught us to be neat.  And I have one sister who is an immaculate housekeeper like mom was.  The other sister is pretty close to that.  Me...well I failed at housekeeping.  Epic fail.  I managed it when the kids were small and crawling in the floor, because I didn't want to clean dirt off the kids.  I figured it was easier to run a mop two or three times a day than try to scrub a squirming kid that often.  It was a downward slide after that.  As the kids got older, mom's standards slipped.  Because I was just too lazy to clean.  It wasn't like it would stay clean, after all.

Mom also taught us proper etiquette.  Especially when we visited someone else.  I think she must have learned it from her Mom, because Grandma and Grandpa came to visit me after I was married and had kids.  The day they left to drive home, I discovered Grandma had stripped their bed and put the sheets in the laundry.  I really wasn't too surprised by that.  She was Mom's Mom after all, the person who taught the person who taught me all about cleaning.

Mom being Mom, she was thorough in her teaching.  First she taught us what it takes to keep a bathroom clean.  That ended up being my job when we were kids.  Vix got the rest of the house, but my job was to clean the bathroom.  It had to pass inspection too, and Mom was not easy on me.  I had to be able to see my reflection in the porcelain of the sinks, and the toilet too.

After I mastered that, she taught me how to use a guest bathroom.  It amounted to being stealthy, like a thief.  I figured out pretty quick that the goal of using a guest bathroom was to make the host/hostess think I had been in there but never used it.

It wasn't easy at first, and took lots of practice.  I am so good at it now, that I even feel compelled to wipe up those lakes of water on the counters around sinks in public bathrooms.  Airports, movie theaters, restaurants.  When I leave the bathroom, it looks sharp.

Here are my top ten tips on using a guest bathroom:
1. Leave the toilet lid down when you leave the bathroom.  This one is a no-brainer, but there are an amazing number of people who think that toilets lids belong upright.  This is important to remember, especially if the toilet lid has a cover with a clever saying or design on it.  If the owner wanted the lid up, they wouldn't put art on the lid.  This will actually be the last thing you do, but I listed it first because of its importance.  It is the single most visible failure a bathroom guest can make.
2. Soap. This one is tricky, because many people don't use bar soap anymore.  If they have it in the bathroom, before you use it, look around and see if there is a soap dispenser in the bathroom.  If there is, don't touch the soap, it is for display only.  It's fake soap.  By this I mean the hostess wants you to see the soap, but not actually touch it.  It is decorative soap.
3. If you use the soap by accident, use a bit of toilet paper to dry off the soap.  This means the lid should be up on the toilet, because you don't want to touch the fancy lid cover with wet hands.  Dry the soap, making sure you don't rub it.  There is usually some kind of design on the soap, and if you rub it off, the hostess will know you touched her display-only soap.
4. Dry your hands.  If you use the towel, you can smooth is between your hands after you use it so there won't be any wrinkles in it.  I have gotten so good at this one, that I can use a towel on the rack without putting a wrinkle in it, or having to refold and rehang it.
5. If the towel is too far and you drip water getting to it, grab some toilet paper and wipe the drips up.  Again the toilet lid should still be up at this point.
6.  Check around the sink.  Any drips?  Toilet paper, lid up, paper in toilet.
7.  If you are lucky enough to be an overnight guest,
and use the shower, make sure you bring your own shampoo and body wash.  If you forget, and have to steal a bit from the hostess, add a little water back into the bottle.  They'll never know it was used.
8. If there is soap in the shower, it is ok to use.  Soap left there is usually not the fancy kind left for display.  Just be sure you don't leave any body hair on the soap.  Gross, and sure to get you off the invite-to-visit list.
9. Speaking of hair, don't leave hair of indeterminate origin in the shower or sink.  Treat it like a crime scene, and get every last strand up.  The host/hostess may like you, but it doesn't mean they like you enough to clean up your body hair.
10. If you use their toothpaste, be sure you squeeze it the way they do.  If they are top rollers, then roll the tube down.  Those types are OCD, and if you squeeze it in the middle, there is a good chance you won't be invited back.

Take one last look around before you leave the bathroom for anything left out of place.  When you go out the door, the bathroom should look the same way it did when you walked in.  Unused.

And don't forget to put the toilet lid down.

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

my social disease

First posted on 2/10/2011, this social disease has grown to monstrous levels I fear.  I have added Pinterest to share and reshare all those to-die-for ideas out there, Instagram to share all those to-die-for photos I take, Hipstamatic (more photo sharing), Stumble Upon so I can discover more things to share, and Google+ to share the stuff I share on other social media.  There is Twitterfeed to share the blogs I love, and I have just begun to delve into Empire Avenue.  I am not sure what the heck that one is about.  But I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of "eaves" because people I don't know buy shares of whatever it is I am selling.  This is beginning to look like a twisted convoluted jungle.  Is there an end in sight?  I am not sure.  Some days I feel overwhelmed and wonder what I would be doing if I wasn't using all this social media.  Then I see something new, and it sparks the creativity in me, and off I go in another direction.  So the adventure continues... :D

I am amazed at social networking.  At how everything links together, how we can communicate every thought (Twitter), connect with friends and family, their friends and family, and the friends and family of the friends and family of ours and theirs (Facebook).  I can chat online in Facebook, and on MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger with different people.  At the same time.  I am a multitasker you say?  Well yes.  But I was a multitasker before all this, the person in my family who could read a book, watch television, and talk on the phone at the same time.

Confused?  Well so am I, with how these programs all overlap and tie in to each other.  I have 2 laptop computers (a mini for travelling and its predecessor that was just a bit too heavy to lug thousands of miles while I was working in other places), a desktop computer, and an iPhone.  Between these I have downloaded and used:

1. Twitter- computer
2. Hootsuite- computer (for Twitter)
3. Hootsuite- iPhone
4. Tweetdeck- computer
5. Tweetdeck- iPhone
6. Twittelator- iPhone
7. Facebook- iPhone
8. Facebook- computer
9. IM Pro- iPhone (ties Twitter, Facebook, and MSN Messenger together in one app)
10. MSN Messenger- chat
11. Yahoo Messenger- chat
12. Paltalk- yakkity yakkity yak...

Then there is Blogger for the two blogs I write, Flickr for the photos I take, Google Reader for reading all the blogs I follow, Networked Blogs for linking most of those blogs together.  And the list goes on.

If I had to draw it, it would look something like this:

Pretty shocking isn't it?  And I am sure I have forgotten a couple {dozen} programs I use occasionally.  I find that what started out as one small program has blossomed and runs the risk of becoming a runaway train with no brakes.

So I try to limit myself somewhat.  OK, I'm lying.  I limit my time with Steve...I mean I give him some time every day.  That is why it takes me a bit of time to catch up on my day off, to overdose on the computer, which is usually on Fridays.  And of course that means that after a hard day on the computer, being social with everyone who I can get to interact with me, I need my Friday night #wineparty on Twitter. 

I may sound whiny, but I am not whining.  I find some fascinating people on here (with the occasional horse's ass appearing and getting squashed with a click of my mouse).  But for the most part, my online experiences have been so positive that I get the warm fuzzies thinking about it.  And look forward to tomorrow.

Friday.  My day to be social.  To let my disease run amok.  Will this social disease ever run its course?  Well it hasn't in the hmmm, almost 10 years since I discovered my first interactive chat and file sharing program (Direct Connect, or DC++ as we called it).  And I still keep in touch with some of those friends I made years ago.  Wonderful people.

So I would say I am happily terminal.  But I am also colonized with the germs of this social disease.  So watch out, if you come in contact with me.  You may become contaminated with the same disease.  But no worries, you'll have lots of company.  On Twitter, Facebook, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Blogger, Flickr, and blah blah blah....

See you in cyberspace.  Live long and prosper.


Monday, March 5, 2012

mum's stuff

I got back from a quick trip to California a few days ago.  Both sisters were there.  It was a whirlwind trip, time to see each other briefly and go through some of mum's stuff before she gets rid of everything and moves in with Vix.  The moving in was a mutual decision, easier on mum, who is on oxygen 24 hours a day now, and more convenient on Vix who is not able to keep two households running by herself.

Many grown children meet resistance from parents when the time comes that they can no longer manage on their own.  I have to say I thought my mum would be one of the "oh hell no I'm not leaving my home" type of parents.  She has proven to be cooperative, and not attached to any of her "stuff" except for a few small items.  This has been quite a surprise for me.  And I am grateful that it has been an easy transition so far.

We actually had a good time sorting through mum's things, and a lot of laughs at the stuff she had collected over the years.  She had a few magazines with some really unique decorating tips, and I saved them.
Save the foil from the turkey, and create art with it!
Vienna Sausage and Velveeta cheese, magic on a Rye Krisp!
Ok, Martha Stewart and Julia Child it isn't.  It surprised me that someone got paid to think these ideas up.  Life was so much simpler when you could decorate with crumpled aluminum foil and serve Vienna sausage on a cracker as an appetizer. 

There was a plate no one seemed to want, although mum insisted that Vix had said she wanted it.  It's kind of pretty.  One of those things that no one remembers anything about.  It just appeared magically sometime in the distant past and planted itself in mum's stuff.
Mum had also collected a folder of things from school days for Dooj and me, and I had a linoleum block print that I had made in crafts class in high school.
I answered this 3 kids and 41 years ago.
I left two plastic bins of stuff that will require a road trip to get next fall.  My collection includes books I read when I was a child, a creamer and sugar set that was my great grandmother's, some shot glasses from mum's shot glass collection, a Fostoria crystal plate and candelabra set, a shot server that looked like an old time water pump (you pump it and it serves one shot at a time), and assorted other stuff.  Nothing worth a lot of money, and I tried to keep it to a minimum.  Most of the stuff I chose will be given to my kids immediately.  

I brought home a couple things with me.  A paperwork sorter that mum used at work for years, and the first racy novel I almost didn't get to read (I had to convince Grammy to let me read it).
Sort-All and Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (pub 1944)
Forever Amber was the raciest novel I read as a teenager.  I actually read it when I was about 14 and loved it.  The novel was set in 1644 and was very descriptive, about the plague especially.  When I saw the book, I told mum that was MY book and it was going home with me.  The mystery was how she ended up with it.  I had read it at Grammy's, and don't remember bringing it home with me.  Also a mystery was why mum kept it.  She kept very few books.  It's a mystery.

As we went through mum's stuff I thought about what we all keep, and why we keep it.  And wondered how much stuff is buried in my closets.  My sisters and I laughed as we sorted, remembering some of it, and having fun trying to decide whether to keep it or Goodwill it.  Most went to the Goodwill.  The Cosmopolitan magazine centerfolds of Jim Brown and Burt Reynolds went in the garbage.  (Sorry Burt, you never were my cup of tea.)  My sisters and I are all of an age now that makes us shy away from collecting too much stuff.  A few things for sentimental reasons, and that was about it.  At our age we don't want to add to much to the pile of stuff we already have.

My stuff will get sorted through soon.  Mum was a neat person, and I am not.  I don't want my kids talking about what a pack rat I am.  I'd rather keep the laughs to myself.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

rolling on the river...

Spring is arriving and with fever.  Today I am reliving our first fishing trip from last spring, as I eagerly anticipate our first trip of 2012.  That trip is on hold because of lousy weather, so all I can do right now is dream of the fishing pole in my hand, and the spinner bait speeding through the water....

February 18, 2011
Today was our official first fishing trip of the 2011 season.  Stevie Wonder spent the past week getting the boat ready and checking everything out before we hit the river today.  Oil change, poles checked, minnows bought and a 50 gallon drum turned into a minnow pond to keep the minnows alive.  Wretch came to spend the weekend and destress from college and work, so we were all mellow and ready to fish as we headed out.  I had Big Girl and the telephoto lens so that I could get some real "nature" shots.

SW stopped at the store to get some ice and I made him get some peanut butter crackers for me to munch on, since I had not eaten breakfast (Wretch had skipped eating too) and he came back bearing ice, peanut butter crackers, Oreo Double Stuff, and Fig Newtons.  I was trying to avoid too much junk, and decided I would eat the healthier snack and leave the cookies alone.  I didn't know it then, but that was going to be the high point of our day.

It took us about an hour to get to the place on the river we wanted to fish.  It is one of SW's favorite fishing spots and has always produced fish and fun.  He dropped the boat in the water, and Wretch and I stood by the boat until he got back, then we all climbed in and started down the river.

For some reason the boat didn't want to plane out, so SW told Wretch to sit up front, so the boat would level out.  It was sluggish and just didnt want to ride like it normally does, and the front end of the boat was pointed up for most of the way.  The boat finally flattened out on the water, but it took forty forevers for it to do it. 

We finally got to the mouth of the smaller river we were going to fish in, and were getting our poles out and getting them rigged and baited when Wretch looked down and screamed "DADDY THERE'S WATER COMING IN THE BOAT!" 

I looked down and sure enough, we were taking on water, and not in a slow way either.  Suddenly it made sense to me why the boat was nose up down the river, and the motor didn't seem to have any power.  We had about 500 extra pounds of water in the boat with us. 

I was ok with it and not really worried, after all SW has taken good care of me for over 40 years of fishing trips, so I just kind of stood there.  Until I looked at his face and saw he looked just a little panicked around the edges.  Then I panicked.  And three people in a small aluminum boat full of poles, tackle boxes, an ice cooler, life jackets and my camera bag, and cookies, doesn't give you much room to run in circles and scream.  SW managed to hold his panic in enough to finally tell us to hold on to our poles and SIT DOWN NOW.  He took off down the river and I looked back at the back of the boat and saw Niagara Falls spurting out in a giant arc.  Steve at that point could not figure out what was wrong, and Wretch and I were making plans to abandon ship...

but then SW idled the engine down and told me to steer the boat forward while he checked the back.  He was squatted down in the back and leaning over looking at things, and he told me to ease the boat forward a little faster.

Now you don't tell a 58 year old woman who is facing the prospect of a cold swim to shore and pumped up on adrenaline, to ease anything forward.  I thought I eased it, until I heard Steve cussing and telling me I was gonna dump his ass in the river, so I backed off and slowed down a bit.  Wretch was still gauging the distance to swim to shore, and making plans.

Steve fiddled around at the back and finally figured out what was wrong.

He had put the plug in the wrong hole.

Now you think someone who had been putting boat plugs in his whole life would know the right hole from the wrong hole, but evidently he goofed.  This one time he goofed.

He replaced the plug in the boat, we ran the water out with the bilge pump, and he looked at me and said "you know I need to get an extra plug sometime, to have in case we lose a plug."  I just looked at him and was thinking the next plug we would be buying would be a butt plug for him...but I kept my mouth shut.

My nerves were shot at that point and I started screaming for a cookie.  I actually wanted a tranquilizer, but those cookies were the nearest thing to a nerve pill we had in the boat.  I finally calmed down and told Wretch that every fishing season some little something goes wrong, because it is the first trip out and we have little kinks to work out and get adjusted.  We turned around and headed back to our spot to fish, and I was certain that nothing else could happen after that near miss of a fiasco.

Wrong.  It was only the beginning.

At one point, I got my hook stuck in a tree in the water in front of us.  I tried to whip it out, and it turned loose, flew backward, and caught in the tree directly behind me.  I repeated the motion, and it whipped free and flew back into the tree in front of us and got stuck again.  So I began whipping the pole back and forth like a fly fisherman, causing these unidentified dried up puffy balls on the tree in the water to explode all over Steve (he was in the direct line of fire).  We were all unable to agree on what those puffy things were (I said sweet gum balls, Steve said sycamore whatevers, and Wretch said she didn't know or care what the hell they were), but I can tell you they made some vile looking dusty poofs all over Steve.  At some point he was screaming and telling me to be careful before I hooked him.  But I didn't hook him.  Not then.  That came later.

We saw a muskrat swimming over by the bank, and I thought this would be a good chance to try my telephoto lens and get some photographs.  I got out Big Girl, changed lenses, focused in on the little critter who was on a bank by then grinning and posing just for me, and pressed the shutter button.

Nothing.  No click, no sound of any kind.  I looked down at the camera and saw the battery was dead.  This was the battery I thought had a full charge on it but I wasn't upset.  I reached in my camera bag for the spare battery and as I felt in the bag I realized....

The battery was still at home.  I had forgotten to pack it.  Oh I got my lip gloss so my lips wouldn't get all scaly, and my eye drops so I could focus as I looked through the lens of the camera....that I now realized had no battery.  At all.  I was pretty disgusted, because I had risked Big Girl's life with a near drowning and then found out I couldn't even take one lousy photo with her.

A bit later we went past fish we could SEE on the depth finder, to go to a spot way up the river where Steve said he ALWAYS caught fish.  And Wretch did catch a fish.  A large mouth bass that weighed at least 8 ounces.  Right after I dropped the box of hooks in the water and had to splash around and fish them out.  We weren't getting any bites at all, so we headed back out to the spot where we had seen the fish on the depth finder.

Only while we were up there they were locking a boat through the dam and had lowered the water.  Enough so that the rocks we barely skimmed over coming in, became white water rapids going back out.  All we could do was raise the big motor out of the water, Steve pulled up the trolling motor, and our aluminum boat became a kayak that bounced across the rocks and finally back into deeper water.

We got back to the tree where the fish had been, according to the depth finder.

They were gone.  So we sat there for a while with bobbers floating in the water, and finally called it quits. 

 All these calm, serene photos you see that I took today (with my iPhone), they are all fake.  There were no fish on the ends of those fishing poles, the water tried to kill us twice, and the trees conspired to grab our minnows off our hooks. 

It was all a sham. 

But there was one positive point.

It didn't rain.

Twitter @jonesbabie