26 December 2009
That's right: I've been doing things worse than texting with my Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) while behind the wheel. (I don't know about you, but I always figured if I ever needed to confess anything about PDA behind the wheel, it wouldn't involve any sort of battery operated gadget or concerns about car chargers. I'm kinda disappointed in myself.) On January 3, 2009, I left Los Angeles for a cross country drive I needed to make. The picture at the right shows me when I stopped for lunch on the second day. I think I was in Tucumcari, New Mexico that day. I rarely stopped for lunch. I rarely stopped for anything. But my problem started when I was only a few miles down the road. I began to suffer separation anxiety. I was worried about being disconnected from the Internet for the roughly 2700 miles of driving ahead.
So I pulled out my PDA and typed "AOL" into the search line. A few seconds later, I saw google.com offering "aol, America Online," and I clicked on that. I logged into my email box and felt the rush! Mmmmm! Hello Lover! I guess you could say I'm an email-addict. I suffer withdrawal symptoms if I don't check email at least once per hour of my day. You know what that's like, right? Wondering if the business email I sent before leaving the house bounced back? Did the product inquiry I made get answered? Has the friend who got a medical test the day before received the results? And of course, how many different Canadian Pharmacies are standing by right now to fill my Viagra order. (Ha! Just checking to see if you're awake!) Considering that I have five email boxes (counting only the ones I regularly check) and two, er, three social network profiles, I am dangerously devoted to my PDA. There is no doubt about how disastrous my nasty habit could be, if allowed to continue. Experts are already saying that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving. Numerous states have laws against it. More are making laws. It's bad. I'm bad. Or I was. Add in the fact that I didn't just text and it's true: I was an actual menace. In 2009, I logged on the Internet to surf while making three cross country trips, and usually at high speeds. And every time, I would promise one of my loved ones, "I'll quit. No more emails at 85 mph. I promise!" Except most of the time, I was surfing before I reached the far edge of the little town where they live.
But this will be the year that I stop it. I'm going cold turkey. No more surfing or texting when I am behind the wheel. I would advise you to do the same. Of course, you probably didn't ever hear the siren call of the Internet on your Treo at 80 mph in Kentucky, did you? Nor did it speak to you as you drove... and drove... and drove... across the Texas Panhandle. And it certainly never whispered in your ear outside of Nashville, "Oh, just log on for a moment. It'll only take a few seconds. And then you'll feel so much better. You'll be relaxed and able to drive another couple of hours." I mean it. This is where the going gets tough and the tough get going; where the web link gets cut comple. . .
Sent from my AT&T Wireless Treo as I tra-la-lah'd home from Fawn Grove, PA after a wonderful Christmas with a friend and her family.
22 December 2009
But I do love to drive around during the weeks leading up to Christmas for a look at holiday lights. These are a few of the snaps I took prior to the big snowstorm that hit Washington last weekend.
They look a little bare, in that context, don't they? But I find myself charmed by the simplicity of some of these light displays. I like the honest, simple honor of the holiday.
Or exactly what do these little critters signify? Love of all things bacon, perhaps? A sausage fetish? I have a friend in California whose last name is Lamb; she puts lighted sheep figures on their front lawn at Christmas. Maybe it really is the Hoggs, Hawgs or maybe bikers (people who ride 'Hogs') living inside?
I liked this picture again, because of the intensity and the simplicity of feeling. They only put up one strand, but it was nicely done, wrapped around in the branches of a small, unusual tree in the front yard. This next one reminds me of my past life in Southern California. You can see it from half a block away. You know why it reminds me of Los Angeles?
And finally, my favorite picture. This house is half a block away from my apartment. I like it best because of the kind of lights that are on the tree: red and green and retro. They are the larger bulbs, about 3/4 of an inch, just like the ones my Dad used to wrap around the tree when I was very small.
He'd put up the lights, plug them in and stand back for a look. After a few adjustments, he'd give the go-ahead, Mom would bring out the boxes of holiday ornaments and a couple of packages of extremely environmentally unsound tinsel and we'd be amused for hours.
And every few nights thereafter until Christmas, we'd gather there at the end of the day to sit with the lights out and sometimes, sing carols.
I guess that's what it all boils down to for most of us: a simple reminder of holidays past, family far away and emotions we thought were packed away that suddenly come to the surface at the sight of a simple strand of lights. At least, I hope you're having that experience again this year.
19 December 2009
I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...
Snow really does cover a multitude of the sins that Washingtonians heap upon their historic city. The snow started falling early Saturday and covered right over all the grey prospects, bleak attitudes and dark worries that we all seem to have this year very nicely. Very nicely, indeed!
Just like the ones I used to know.
So very much snow. This is the next street that runs perpendicular to the one where I live. That's my little black car, buried under a foot of snow on the right. I dug it out. I can't underestimate the value of good leather mittens, particularly now that I've returned to the east coast and multiple seasons. *Sigh.
Where the tree tops glisten...
It's true that if you smile and fake it, you might start to feel it. In this weather, you might also get chappy lips! This weekend, walking around in the snow, it didn't feel so cold. I started to run and play a little. Someone passing by said, "You better watch it! Get that childlike enthusiasm under control this instant!" And I had to admit to myself, I was having fun.
There were lots of kids out with their parents. The neighborhood where I live, is very "up and coming," with a mix of races and ages that I find appealing. However, the camera went down. So if you'd like to see pictures of children in snow, check here, as the Washington Post's current crop of photography recruits seem to prefer children and dogs. (Someone call and remind them that CREATIVITY is actually what WashPo subscribers prefer.)
No bells where I live. I woke to a remarkable silence both Saturday and Sunday. Snow inspires quiet and it's a cherished benefit.
This man is shoveling the walk in front of his neighbor's sidewalk. Now that is holiday spirit!
With every Christmas card I write.
You wanted to see this picture, didn't you? I didn't take the Capitol picture. I didn't get this far from home and besides, the camera died. It's little holiday gifty for you (and me!) from the cyber-world.
13 December 2009
Ah! But which Santa to ask? Walking along the sidewalk in downtown Washington, DC, this was the sight coming our direction:
I was with two of my cousins (having a wholesome, family-style celebration in the city) when we were visited by these four personages.
Naturally, I stopped them for a chat. Wouldn't you?
It turns out they came down from Pennsylvania (the Harrisburg area, I believe) for Santa-Con, which is short for Santa Convention. The Santa Convention is a roving party which arrives in major cities bringing the Christmas Spirit (*ahem in copious amounts) to good girls and boys wherever it goes.
For instance, there is a Santa-Con in New York:
Santa-Con in the Midwest. Branson, Missouri is shown here:
This is her escort:
08 December 2009
But today, I offer a different type of sweets. I'm going to give up one of my best recipes. (NO, NOT the recipe and method for the cake at the bottom of this post! Be a grownup and wait for your birthday, then demand I show up with it! Sheesh, you people are such troublesome little licorice snappers!) I'm doing it because we all know I love to cook (even if I do live in a weird little arrangement with limited access to a real kitchen at the moment) and to support a fun cookie contest on this cooking blog, offered in the holiday spirit of my good friend Brooke. Please click there after you look over the recipe and vote for whoever, whatever flips your skirt. But do remember who'll be putting the stamp on your holiday card this season. Or not.
At this time of year, I love to make cookies and indulge my friends' sweet tooths. I've been known to do this in many forms, but by far the most popular one is a known as "Marti's Best Oatmeal Candy Cookies," and you're about to find out why. When I lived in Los Angeles (*sigh), I made these in large numbers and delivered them with a bit of chocolate coconut chews, spiced nuts, over-sized triple fudge brownies and the like to friends. And those I wished to befriend. One fellow took particular childlike joy in wolfing down his almost before they were out of my hands! It was a little alarming at times. Made me somewhat glad I'd carefully cleaned all the cookie dough out from under my nails before I ventured out on that cold winter night. Considering the amount of sugar, candy and general calories in them, I don't know how he got to sleep. Ever. But... not my problem! His lovely wife mentioned them the other day, so I gave her the recipe. Now I'm giving it to you. And with a more accurate name.
EX-treme Chocolate and Toffee Chunk Cookies: Makes 4 dozen substantial (Ok, HUGE) cookies Sift together:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt Cream well: (FIRE UP THE KITCHENAID!)
2 cups butter
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla Add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed butter.
Mix in 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal. (That "instant" stuff isn't going to hold up to these cookies. Old-fashioned, please! Like the sturdier stuff we are made of!) Next, turn off the KitchenAid and add:
1 1/2 -to- 2 cups dried cherries or craisins
2 cups chopped chocolate bars (I use leftover halloween candy, Hershey bars, Ghirardelli bars. I draw the line at Guittard and other snotty brands. That's ridiculously expensive. But at all costs, DO NOT USE "CHIPS" of any sort!)
1 1/2 -to-2 cups chopped SKOR bars. (Buy a big box at Sam's or Costco. Heath bars also work well.)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Don't over mix. Just get it all in the bowl and try to turn it on slowly so the stuff doesn't fly out and try to combine it. Now, form this stuff into logs. They should be about two inches. Get out the plastic wrap, pile it on in log shape, wrap it up and give it a few rolls on the counter to even out the bumps.
Put the dough in the fridge to chill for 3-6 hours or more. Overnight is good. Take the evening off and have some fun. Go to a movie. Watch a DVD. Smooch someone you love. (*sigh)
When you're ready to bake, cut the slices about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, and sorta smoosh them down a little. These are huge cookies, about 4 inches across and close to 3/4 thick. I'm sure you don't want YOUR friends and loved ones to enjoy anything less. Make sure you bake them on parchment or the silicone sheets. With all the extras, they are pretty much as billed: candy with some cookie bits stuck in there. Which means, they can really stick to a pan and WE HATE CLEANUP.
Bake them at 350 degrees for about ten minutes to start. Don't overcook, but I like mine done. I don't know how you like your cookies. So make them and find out. Meantime, NO, I don't happen to have any pictures of these cookies or making them. Since some of you are new here, let me explain, we're mostly about PEOPLE AS SUSTENANCE here at this blog. So I offer you a few other pictures. Seen inside the freezer of a man I once dated:
Peter Pan Lives!!!!! I said I once dated him, didn't I? Birthday cake, a very few minutes after assembly:
29 November 2009
Dear Ex-Pat Pal,
How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was pretty good. Pretty DARN good.
I was invited along by a sweet friend from church to her brother's apartment in Springfield. Hoping to alleviate an overcrowded kitchen, I offered to bring the potatoes and was extremely gratified as the host, his wife AND his mother all commented on my thoughtfulness in taking that particularly onerous chore off their hands. It's always nice to feel appreciated.
The dinner was very nice. My friend and her brother each have been married to their spouses for a little over a year. Their parents were present along with an adult brother. Oh, and the turkey was pretty DARN moist.
And bonus! I found out a couple of weeks ago that one of my two favorite Sunday School Teachers is their cousin. He and his wife and their 7 month old boy were there along with his mother and younger sister. So it was a convivial group that included me in their festivities.
I was the odd girl out. Of course, I'm always the ODD girl. Someone needs to put a post-it note on my forehead: "ODD WOMAN OUT... unless you invite her." Or perhaps they already did? That could explain why I never seem to lack for invitations. Because I am, as you may be realizing, pretty DARN odd.
Anyway, the only problem with this jolly gathering (which spent all afternoon playing WII sports and laughing genially at the results--both good and bad) was that someone... or ones... brought NINE PIES to the party.
In case you lost count, there were only 12 adults in attendance. And I refused to be accountable for others' unscrupulous over-culinarizing! I did manage to eat a tiny 1/1 inch sliver of the pumpkin cheesecake, banana cream, chocolate and peanut butter pies. BUT THAT WAS IT! My patience and gastrointesti-nullified space simply ceased to cooperate. My waistband simply refused to rise to the occasion.
Most of the afternoon forward, I sat and played with the 7 month old who amused himself by clutching large handfuls of my blonde stuff to use in pulling himself to his feet on my lap.
I think it horrified his parents more than me. My hair is extremely firmly attached, so no worries: I'm not beginning the week bald. And he had such a big handful that it didn't hurt. As long as the little guy wasn't trying make his escape to the ground, clutching and dragging it with him, we were okay. Seriously... he was just using it to steady himself and pretty DARN fortunately, his mother had cleaned all the sticky butternut squash muck off his hands long before he could attempt that. We had a great relationship---my tiny beau and I... until his Daddy came to collect him. Sigh.
I saw him at church again today, but... alas, he was asleep and in another's arms! Well, ok, the "other woman" was his mother. But I really liked him. And his mother. She was a vegetarian, but not an obnoxious one. I've often thought I could convert, except for I can't give up fish. (Note to self: must try blow fish before next Thanksgiving with my family.) And except for how rude I consider it to show up at dinners and parties to demand the accommodating veggie platter, as I've seen some others do. But she was lovely and not demanding at all. She was pretty DARN cool!
She also brought a huge salad. (Why is there never anything green in my teeth? Because I check constantly!) Anyway, I won the door prize: took the salad and four homemade rolls home for leftovers.
Leftovers: the OTHER Thanksgiving tradition.
So... tell. What did you and your family do? :)
Dear Stateside Friend,
We muddled along another pretty DARN French weekend in Paris. No over-sized, dried out roast bird in sight.
Disclaimer: I did not take the above picture. If one from the actual gathering turns up, I'll post it. Tonio & Katrina: If you have it, please forward it soonest.
20 November 2009
It is my long-held contention that some areas of the South (in particular the DEEP South) do not have any *normal people living there.
Rather, I believe that much of the Deep South is populated with characters waiting for books to be written about them.
Or perhaps just blogs. I've believed this for a very long time.
This is Anita Phillips and her husband Allen. I came in contact with the Phillipses in a Walmart (that'd be "Walmarts" for some of us) in Springville, Alabama on Tuesday. They were in the frozen food section. Shouting. At each other. (Dig her blue jumpsuit. I have one of those in fleece wear. Except in mine, I look like Smurfette.)
That's Anita's cart. She buys those and makes them for Allen. She admitted that fact with all the coy smiles of a 16 year old about to go to her first prom.
I like this about Southerners. These are folks who until the day they die will call their spouse "Baby." There's something warm, nourishing and right about that. Something that recognizes that the other person is to be babied and cosseted and cherished and loved.
19 November 2009
It's a beautiful time of year in the South. And I rolled along taking pictures like the one above with beautiful blue skies.
And this one, where the clouds seemed to be clearing. I must admit, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I often didn't stop the car and just relied on the scenery from the drivers' seat. It was very pleasant seeing the Deep South as I motored west.
A bit of a theme, you might call it.
(Here's a little Waffle House Trivia [WHT]: Waffle House restaurants serve more than 3.2 million pounds of grits each year; enough to fill 86 semi-trucks.)
And the next:
"It was a dark and stormy night..." Haha! Sorry, just wanted to try out that sentence. (WHT: If you stacked all the sausage patties WH serves in one day, it would reach the top of the Empire State Building.)
This one loomed up on me so fast that I could only point and click.
Not exactly sure where this was, but somewhere in Tennessee, I believe.
The sign is behind the tree. I put a little arrow in, just in case you struggled to see it behind the tree. Click on the photo and you'll see it.
I don't want you to go away thinking that I wandered and meandered all the way across five states taking these pictures without ever getting a meal in one.
Ordering salad in a Waffle House is rather like ordering a burrito in a Chinese restaurant. It'll arrive, but you may wish to rethink that choice. I wish I had.
After a day of junk food and sandwiches in the car, and with another 5 hours in the car still ahead, I couldn't face more carbs. I ordered the chili and BLT ("with six slices of bacon!") combo with a soda for $5. (It's a "recession special." Please: nobody tell them the recession is over; I don't think they like change.) I had the sandwich wrapped to go and ate the chili and added a salad. The chili was pretty good; the salad was um, a salad. But here's what made the whole experience stand out as fresh: