Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Great Ketchup Smackdown!

Barbecue season is approaching! (Or for some, already here!) I've never understood the whole ketchup/catsup thing. Who would want to eat something that sounded like a feline's dinner? Cat = cat and sup = eat, or short for supper. Gross. So it's ketchup for me.

We don't use ketchup a ton, but they're essential for veggie hot dogs and veggie burgers. Also mostly essential for fries. I've tried the generic brands and I just don't like them at all. I used to be a Heinz girl all the way until Hunts reformulated their regular ketchup and got rid of the high fructose corn syrup. I switched, and boy, can I taste the difference! (I know Heinz has a sugar variety, but it's expensive!) But here's a weird thing: I have a total yum/gag relationship with the stuff.

I love ketchup with other food, like God intended it to be eaten. If some gets on my thumb, I'm out of food to wipe my thumb on and I'm nowhere with a napkin, I have to lick it off--then shudder with revulsion. Ketchup is so gross by itself. I still remember when I somehow got some of the dried stuff from the cap in my mouth. I almost lost my lunch. I have no idea why this happens, but it does. For cleanliness reasons in a place like the car I've been known to suck on a ketchup packet briefly before putting fries in my mouth, but I hold the sauce gingerly on my tongue and stick the fries in so I don't accidentally swallow any solitary ketchup.

Yes, I'm well aware that I'm weird. Totally conscious that as far as ketchup is concerned, I'm stark, raving mad.

Which brings us to the Great Ketchup Smackdown!

Do you prefer: Hunts or Heinz? (Or as in the BNL song "If I Had a Millon Dollars," fancy ketchups such as dijon?)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm Lucy, She's Ethel: How We Escaped Being Arrested in Omaha

In February, my sister Karen took me to a concert for world-famous violinist David Garrett. She was originally supposed to go with her husband, but since he got a new job, he wasn't comfortable taking time off. So Karen drove an hour to my house, left her daughter here, and she and I traveled the three hours to Omaha, Nebraska.

We had a great drive on the way up, talking about lots of things. It had been way too long since we'd done anything like that. When we finally got to Omaha, we were glad that we'd gotten there early, because we couldn't find the venue! We drove around and around several blocks in a big circle, and finally I saw the words "Holland Performing Arts Center " on the side of a building. Gray building, silver, small words. Not so good when you're trying to find a place as it's getting dark.

So, since we'd finally found the building, we needed a place to park. We drove around another couple of times looking for the parking garage we thought was on that side of the building. We saw valets in red coats where we thought the public parking should be, but obviously the valets were there for the ritzy folk. We were beginning to get desperate. After all, we'd been driving in circles for over half an hour.

It was bitter cold, near zero degrees with the wind chill, so we didn't want to park far away. As we made the rounds of the block again, I pointed out a door to a parking garage that had opened every time we'd passed it.

"Isn't that an exit?" Karen asked.

I shrugged. "I thought so, but it must be on some kind of sensor since it opens every time we pass. No cars came out of there. I mean, the door wouldn't go up if it weren't an exit."

She was still unsure, and so was I, a little, but the fact that the door kept opening convinced us to go in. It did seem a bit odd, but we found a nice spot, went up the elevator and came out by the gate to the garage. "That is weird," I said. "But maybe they open the garage for events like this." I didn't want to think about it any further, and neither did Karen. We were both about to freeze our buns off walking half a block to the concert.

Once our buns were sufficiently frozen and we got inside the Holland Center, we found out we'd gotten there really early, so we walked down the quiet hall near the bathroom, leaned against the wall, and talked. There was a lady standing at the end of the hall, an usher. The words on the door next to her were "Green Room." Not long after I noticed the room name, we heard a violin singing from that direction. The elderly usher watched through the window, back turned, oblivious to us. "That might be David!" I whispered to Karen.

She nodded knowingly. "Yep, that's him." (I think Karen could recognize David's music if she were wielding metal trash can lids against swordfighters in the middle of an ice storm.)

I choked back a laugh. "If we run really fast, I can take her out and you grab her walkie-talkie."

Karen chuckled. "I was thinking the same thing."

Of course we left the usher alone, but the thought had been tempting. After another forty-five minutes, it was time to go in. (I'm the one with glasses.)

We had seats so close we could see the scruff on David's face and the twinkle in his eye. Fifth row, center. Booyah!

It was a fantastic concert, and one I never will forget.

When we left, the air was even colder, so we hurried the half-block to the parking garage, only to find the place we came out of locked. Barred. So we tried the revolving doors. They were locked too. It was then I had the sick feeling that we were in trouble.

"Can I help you?" a voice asked from a speaker box outside.

Karen spoke up. "We think we're parked here."

"You think you're parked here?"

"Yes," I confirmed. "We're parked here."

"Then come inside." The security guard pressed a button, and we went in, up to the fancy, big, curved desk and explained the situation. "So," he said, "Let me get this straight. No one used their card to let you in." We told him that was right. "Then you can't be parked here."

I felt like an old piece of gum stuck to a barnyard boot--no, I wished I were an old piece of gum stuck to a barnyard boot. We threw ourselves on his mercy. "We're from out of town, and we weren't sure where to park, but since the door kept opening we thought it was okay to park there."

Karen kept her cool and I squirmed as he looked on his security cameras, then agreed to escort us down to find our car. "Does this look familiar?" he asked, as we rode the elevator down.

"Yes," I said, feeling sheepish. Karen took it all in stride. We got out of the elevator and went around the corner, and like a white lighthouse beacon with tires shining through the dark night, there was her car. "It's here!" I laughed, so relieved.

But our adventure wasn't over.

The security guard grilled us on where we came in, pointing to a direction opposite us. "You came in there, right?"

Frustrated, I said, "No. We came in over there--" and pointed to our left.  "We wouldn't have come in at all, but the door opened every time we went by."

The guard's expression changed and he became a little less like a member of the Spanish Inquisition. "That's an exit. You ladies were lucky." He took a breath and went on. "I blocked that door a few hours ago. It was malfunctioning. It would go up halfway, then come down again. Just go out that way,"--he pointed to the first direction he'd quizzed us about--"and it'll take you out."

At least we felt a bit justified about the mistake, and more than a little relieved not to have had the police called on us or anything. My imagination went wild, and though we were both really hungry (having skipped dinner to make sure we got to the concert on time) we got out of Omaha before stopping at a Burger King for  before heading home. I didn't want to chance getting lost again and parking in--I don't know, an entrance to the sewer or something.

So I guess I'm Lucy and Karen is Ethel--though I'm not a redhead and Karen is far more pretty and fashionable than Ethel. I hope we get to go on another adventure soon, but I think we'll avoid suspect parking garages.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Favorites: TobyMac, no Cheese

Yesterday, the kids and I drove home from my parents house, in the rain. We were about halfway through the forty minute drive when the drops slowed and finally stopped. As the sun broke through the clouds, rays bounced off the slick pavement and shone with a near-blinding light. The gray skies closed in again, and all God's creation was subdued in anticipation--the earth held her breath, waiting for another dose of radiant warmth.

My soul thrilled from the energy around me, happiness racing through and filling me to the brim. While I love the calm before the storm, there's nothing quite like the peace after the rain stops falling. Nature's art feeds the soul, I thought, while drinking in the sight of rich farmland: dark chocolate chunks with a smattering of vivid, green sprinkles.

When the sun shone through again, I laughed and pointed out cloud shadows to the children as we chased the fleeing, dark shapes up the road. I changed stations on the radio and laughed in amazement as the blessing of having the most perfect song for the moment come on. The kids and I sang along as sunshine broke through the clouds again and again.

When I experience something like this, it feels like a hug from my Heavenly Father. My spirits were greatly uplifted, and I received a much-needed boost!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Along Came a Spider and Sat Down . . . If Only, If Only *Shakes Head Sadly*

I don't mind spiders. Actually, I like them as long as they're not poisonous; however, I only tolerate them from a distance. No spider-holding while singing "Kumbaya" here.

There was a large spider on the corner of my bedroom ceiling two days ago. My kids came into my room and pointed out the long-legged arachnid, more than once. "Mom, there's a big spider on your ceiling!" I think it was a variation of one of these, known as a crab spider:

"Yeah, I know," I told the kids. I didn't really mind that the spider had taken up residence--after all, if we began getting mosquitoes or flies in the house, Mr. Spider could take care of them. When I was a kid, we named our house spiders and let them work for us. We paid them in free insects. Crab spiders don't spin webs; they just catch their food. That was my reasoning for letting him squat in my bedroom, anyway, blissfully unaware that the leggy dude was more curious about me than I was about him.

If I'd only known what the blankety-blank spider was plotting.

Now I think about him crouching in that corner, and shudder at what his devious mind was up to. Gullible me, who had done him a nice turn by not throwing him out into the cold, windy night. There I was, thinking that he wiggled his legs in preparation for catching bugs, when he was most likely cackling his evil spider laugh, rubbing appendages together in glee. I've since learned my lesson about trusting anything with eight legs. With several eyes, the spider is highly qualified to be a spy for the CIA--or a Peeping Tom.

Yesterday afternoon I had a nice bowl of salad and was leaning on my side on my bed, propped up by some pillows, eating while surfing on my laptop. The salad was nearly gone, and I was fully engrossed in whatever I was doing, when something the size of a SILVER DOLLAR sprinted across one of my, uh--let's just say where no spider had a right to be--and up toward my face.

I let out a strangled scream as I quickly brushed the spider away. (I hoped I did, because I had no idea where he went.) Then for good measure, I ripped off my shirt, hoping I wasn't transferring the spider to my hair and jumped around, waving my arms like I'd won the lottery. Which I guess in a way I had, because how many people are fortunate enough to have a spider make a mad dash for their face?

After my breathing calmed and the silence meant that I hadn't woken Bean (who was napping in the next room), I looked at the bed. There was the spider, not moving. Not even a twitch. He wasn't dead; I'm guessing I had scared him to the point of unconsciousness. (This would, strangely, be the second time I'd caused a bug to pass out. The other time was a cricket. I have a powerful scream, apparently.) Either that, or I'd mesmerized him with my dancing talent. He came to and made a run for freedom when I grabbed him with a cloth and tossed him outside.

I didn't want to kill the rascal. After all, he wasn't a poisonous spider. However, his house privileges were forever revoked after attacking me.

Something similar to this happened a few months ago, too. Either it's the same spider and he has an odd attraction to me, or word is spreading that a massive, juicy, wingless fly is free for the taking.

I have news for those insects or arachnids who may be planning my destruction:

This fly will not be subdued. 

I hope they don't take that as a challenge.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Unspotted Love--Hopefully

"I can't wait to have my own baby." Princess hugged her damp towel close as we searched through the basket of clean laundry for her pajamas.

"You want your own baby?" I asked, pulling out a pajama top which she paired with a mismatched bottom. (By day she has great fashion sense, but at night--anything goes.)

"Yes. Then I can dress it and play with it." She proceeded to tell me how she wanted a girl baby, because it would be more fun to dress.

"Well, get married first, then have a baby." She agreed. I thought for a second, then said, "I'll be your baby's Grandma! I'll even come and help you, if you want me to. Like when Grandma **** (my mom) came and helped me when I had my babies. But if you don't want me to, that's okay too."

Her eyebrows furrowed. "But if you're a grandma, you'll be old like Grandma ****." (Sorry, Mom!) To my surprise, she teared up. "If you're a grandma, you won't look like you anymore. Will you still have your spots?"

My heart melted. "Well, I hope not. I'm trying to get rid of my spots right now. But I'll still look like me!" (She was referring to my sporadic adult acne.) She was crestfallen at my declaration, and I did my best to reassure her that my spots weren't supposed to be there. (A few months ago she even mentioned wanting spots like mine when she grows up.)

Princess struggled with her tears, but finally caved. I gathered her up in my arms, towel and all. After a while of cuddling and talking while I brushed her damp hair with my fingers, she calmed down and got dressed for bed.

I promised her that I would always look like her mom, which is true, but not in the way she thinks. It's wonderful to have such unconditional love from my little girl. I hope she doesn't change her mind if I ever succeed in getting rid of my spots. Somehow, I think we'll be okay.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Favorites: I'm a Wannabe Old Softy--On My Feet

Now that spring is here, and I tossed my beloved six-year-old worn out Skechers sandals weeks ago, I have to go shopping. But before I can expose my tootsies to the world, especially if there are any secret shoe agents salespeople popping up around displays, my feet need attention. 

I don't like wearing shoes in the house, which means my dry, rough heels make the Sahara look like a tropical paradise.

The other big problem with having my feet in this condition is that I have a husband who will rub them, as long as my heels don't exfoliate his hands during the process. So, I was excited last year when he so thoughtfully gave me this:

I had doubts at first, since I don't fall for "Only on TV" products--especially when they're in the store two months later. But, I tried it. 

And was amazed.

The Ped Egg works so much better than a pumice stone; the texture of those rough rocks makes me cringe just like licking wooden popsicle sticks does. (Just typing that sent shivers galloping up my spine!) Or that weird razor slicer thingy which made me sweat every time I used it, sure I'd slip and slice off a toe. With regular Ped Egg use, my feet were massageable, and I wore sandals with pride.

So, it's that time of year to get my feet ready, and it has been way too long since I've had a foot massage. I need my Ped Egg, but there's only one problem . . .

Where did I put it?

***I have not been given any compensation for my endorsement, not even a free Ped Egg. That's a hint to the  manufacturer in case they want to send me more to "try."***