Saturday, January 3, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I am terrified of snakes. T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D. Just typing those letters make me cringe. It is a serious phobia that could buy me a lot of couch time if I ever chose to overcome it (which I don't because I don't really see how being deathly afraid of snakes, real or depicted in children's books, hinders my existence and productivity).

There is one and only one way I will entertain the mere idea of a snake. And all thanks to my neighbor John.

The Snake Bite

Get yourself a proper beer glass, not a regular glass or plastic cup that you use for drinking water. I mean a beer glass. Or perhaps a stein if you are lucky enough to have parents who live in Germany and bring you one every year.

Now fill it half way with a dark beer. I prefer Newcastle Brown Ale.

Fill the rest with hard cider. Not the farmer's market stuff in a jug (Public Service Announcement: Beware of any alcohol from a jug!). We're talking hard cider here. Woodchuck Draft Cider is a good choice. Stick to the regular draft cider. Granny Smith and her sissy pear and raspberry cohorts are not gonna cut it.

So refreshing and goes down oh so easily. Perhaps a tish too easily. Drink responsibly lest you feel like a snake bit you the next morning.
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Letter to a New Year: Dear 2009 from a Head Case Oddity

Dear 2009,

Thank you for giving 2008 the boot. Of course, I was supposed to get the boots! I'm the one who asked for black stiletto boots for Christmas that I didn't get. Hmmph. Sure 2008 brought all kinds of whoopty-do in its paper sack of life's greatest hits: Mac Daddy and I turned 40, Bird started kindergarten, Deal saved the planet by ditching diapers and pull ups, we went to Disney Land, Barack Obama won the presidential election (which still makes me high just thinking about it), and all the goes-without-saying stuff that I won't say because well, it goes without saying.

2008 also kinda sucked in its own special the-sky-is-falling way. I mean we are in a recession and all. Virtually the whole world order is crashing at our feet that are clad with last fall's shoes because no one can afford to keep up with fashion anymore. Money matters have driven me to insomnia, a slow down in my business has caused premature graying (granted I'm 40 but I still feel like the gray is premature), I suffered an insufferable chronic cough for nine+ months and discovered some weird growth on my vocal chord, and my cat died. I know this last point comes as a surprise to many. It has been so heart breaking that I cannot bring myself to blog about it. Seriously. I'll get to it. I owe her some time in the limelight. 2008 also marked yet another year that kept us away from close friends. Damn fuel surcharges and obnoxiously high airfares stomped out our planned and highly anticipated trip to Europe with the boys. The raping of the American consumer continued.

Oh, I sound awfully negative and ungrateful, don't I? What a wretch am I. Full of venom here at Dirt & Noise. I am grateful for all the joys that 2008 brought. I am. Really. My family is healthy, happy, well fed, warm in winter, cool in summer, clothed, educated, and spoiled. There I go muttering all the stuff that goes without saying.

But 2009, please bring consumer confidence back to our lives. Rejuvenate the economy so that we can breathe the intoxicating scent of optimism again. Heal our wounds, mend our fences, stitch the fabric of our being, and throw us a bone and scratch our itches while you're at it. I'm also going to go ahead and ask for something that I bet everyone would add to the list but is too chicken to ask for: more sex. I figure the year can't be all bad since it does mark George Bush's final farewell, the end of arrogance and errors.

Bring back the good ole days, 2009. Keep us healthy, make us wealthy. And could you maybe cut Obama some slack? He's inheriting some pretty serious shit. Let's treat those little girls with some respect, mkay? Sasha and Malia don't need to be harassed like the offspring of Hollywood royalty. Basically, don't suck as much as 2008 and you'll go down in history. We're all feeling a bit spent so let's spend the new year being grateful, not greedy, honorable, not ornery. I'm not one for resolutions (no sense setting myself up for failure and disappointment), but I'll sign up for an attitude adjustment.

Thanks for obliging, 2009. I'm looking forward to seeing what you bear in your sack of tricks. I'm going to do my part to make it a rockin' year.

Peace, love, and laughter.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How I Lost 11 Inches in a Day

I did something drastic recently. Yes, drastic.

I lost 11 inches.

And I'm not talking waist line (not that I couldn't use it).

I'm for sure not talking height or I'd be writing to you propped up on a couple of phone books like I did in driver's ed (cuz I'd be 4'1).

Read on, friends...

You gotta love a place that gives out Blo Pops to every client. This, plus the massage shampoo chairs, wine, and water with a slice of lemon, fantastic music, and oh, the awesome staff and haircuts too. This place is totally worth the drive. And you know that means a lot from me because I rarely leave my five mile radius of convenience.

This is the scene of the incident. Where I took drastic measures. But thankfully not into my own hands.

This is me. I'm wearing a cape, which is as close to a super hero as I'll ever get. Please ignore my dark circles. I blame my mother for them. As in genetics, not that she's personally responsible for my stress and lack of sleep.

Meet Rachael. She freaking rocks. She's a hot mama of two. And did I mention she rocks? If I had a million dollars to blo (get it? ha ha!) I'd build a house for Rachael right next to mine so she could do my hair everyday and be my Ken Paves.

Here's my 11 inches. My ponytail died a peaceful death surrounded by supportive friends and the bass of an awesome farewell soundtrack.

This is me feeling freedom for the first time in years. This style might have worked in the 80s with the whole bi-level shag thing going on. But Rachael wouldn't leave me hanging like that. And wow does my hair look shiny. Must be the flash.

See how happy I am. I don't usually go around hugging my stylist, but this outcome deserved it.

Check us out. A picture of perfection. My smile is not fake. Rachael's might be because I think I am encroaching on her personal space and I'm not wearing that protective cape. Also, do you see how we are both short? I love friends who don't tower over me. I don't experience that often. I do, however, think this hair style makes me look tall. OK, tallish.

And voila! Me. Rocking a short do and loving it. LOVING it! I need new earrings and necklaces now. Another reason to shop. Just what Mac Daddy wants to hear.

And those 11 inches didn't end up in a Hefty garbage bag or clogging some drain. They're on their way to Locks of Love. My shorn locks will be made into a wig for a lucky kid somewhere. Hopefully not for someone with naturally blonde eyebrows.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paying it Forward

So the movie Pay it Forward actually kinda sucked. Am I wrong here? I mean Helen Hunt rocked it in her Mad About You days, and Haley Joel Osment was still cute then, but overall this movie blew chunks.

But the concept of paying it forward has really stuck with me. Call it karma. Call it divine justice. Call it what you will.

Case in point:

A tow headed young boy of four asks Santa for a train set for Christmas. The real deal. With lights, pretend steam blowing from the engine, tiny faux trees and conductors, a track that doesn't break if someone creaks on the floor next to it. A Lionel. Unparalled in the world of trainmanship. Yes, I realize that's not a word. Work with me and don't act as if you don't know what I mean. This little boy just wants a train set. A perfect train set. And so his grandmother goes on a hunt. A hunt for a steal. More than a bargain. She's become a highway robber.

Goodwill is about to answer this tow headed boy's dreams. Grandma finds a complete train set in fine working condition. For 90 bucks. Oh, excessive for a four-year old, but answering his dreams on Christmas morning is priceless. Thanks for ruining that term, by the way, MasterCard. Grandma collects the various cars, tracks, and accoutrements. She lugs it all to the counter and starts counting out her cash in fives and tens. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty...Eighty. Sounds of rifling through change, receipts, business cards, expired McDonald's coupons, to-do lists fill the air that seems to stand still. A lousy ten dollars short. No train for her fair haired grandson. Shoulders slumped, face forlorn, she gathers the pieces to return them to their spot on the shelf in back.

In sashays an old friend. "Why the long face?" she asks.

Grandma can barely summon an answer. She manages to faintly gesture to the train and mutters something about her four-year old grandson asking Santa for a train set. She's defeated and lacks the energy to catch up on niceties with this old chum.

"Ten bucks?! Why here's ten dollars! Merry Christmas to you and your grandson!"

And so the universe winked in its wily way, reminding her who's in charge.

You see, a few weeks ago this grandmother met a man at Goodwill. This very same shop. A man clean from months of treatment and job training. A man about to graduate to a new, sober life. He wanted to dress the part of success. He had borrowed a tie and had gently used pants in hand. Now if only he could find a collared shirt in which the collar buttoned snugly without choking his Adam's apple when he gulped. He relayed his story in casual yet ripely emotional conversation as they both pecked through the racks of discarded Joseph A. Banks oxford shirts. He hadn't enough money for a proper shirt and he dragged his feet as he somberly walked away, feeling spent, tired, sad,defeated once again.

Grandma slipped him a ten spot.

And the universe paid her back. Sobering indeed.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fondue is Fun to Do!

Who doesn't like to play with their food and dip their morsels into sauces of all kinds? Fondue is the perfect fun family meal. We map it all out so it's safe, mind you. And while I have germ issues of all kinds, I can roll up sleeves and get into some fondue. I'm eating family after all, not a bunch of strangers in a Swiss cafe.

We, with our Wisconsin roots, use cheese, not oil or broth. It's admittedly not as heart healthy, but what kid (or ahem, grown up) doesn't like cheese?! I melt the cheese on the stove top first (some crushed garlic, grated gruyere or swiss, a bit of flour, milk, white wine) and transfer it to the fondue pot with a lit tea light instead of the sterno stuff. Then I give each person a plate of bite size goodies to dip and devour.

Par steamed broccoli florets, sliced apples and pears, cubes of ham, chunks of sourdough bread, quarters of vidalia onions, snap peas, zucchini rounds. I also give the boys a ramekin of lemon garlic butter and a dijon vinaigrette (ranch dressing would be fine too) for dipping. They scarf down their veggies and have a blast playing with their food. Be warned, it is an ordeal simply choosing a fondue fork that is just the right color.

Melted chocolate in individual ramekins is a delightful end to a fondue dinner. We use strawberries, bananas, angel food or pound cake, madelines (those cakey French cookies that are amazing from Costco!), kiwi, pineapple chunks, and marshmallows.

The best part about fondue is that it's a lingering dinner, which means more family time.

Cross posted at Foodie Mama.
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