Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take 'Trip Advisor' with a grain of margarita salt

   If I were planning a winter vacation, this would be our destination: Sayulita, Mexico, my favorite fishing village-slash-funky surf town, just north of Puerto Vallarta - home of the best fish tacos I've ever wrapped my lips around.
(Seriously, I would go back just for the tacos, and the muffin lady who goes door-to-door on the beach every morning selling warm pastries, not to mention the tamale lady who stops by your beach chair at lunchtime.)
   Before deciding on which casa to rent for the week, I would check Trip Advisor, as I am wont to do before all travel. This story in USA Today warns readers not to believe everything they read on the popular "real people" review site.  Point taken.
   Meanwhile, I'll be spending the winter searching for employment in the warmth provided by the heated tile floors of my new kitchen.  Maybe I'll have to learn how to make those famous Baja Fish Tacos for myself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spidey left hanging on the Great White Way

I've adored musical theater ever since I was a little kid. I've performed in several high school and community theatre productions and have vivid memories of the shows I've been lucky enough to experience on Broadway. So, after seeing "60 Minutes" last night, I was in awe of the ambitious new Julie Taymor/Bono/The Edge production of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Unfortunately, opening night  of previews was reportedly a bit rocky.  Here's hoping they get the kinks out before I can make it back to the Big Apple to see it. That is, if I can scrounge up $300 a ticket to get in.  Geez.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm taking my cue from Lada

Think you're down for the count? Check out this 63-year-old woman - and former "Hullabaloo" go-go-dancer (my 60's fantasy gig) - whose motto seems to be, "If you can't beat 'em, referee 'em."  Read about her latest career move in the Times today.  Inspirational.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A good omen?

Butcher block breakfast bar countertops, made by Hubster and Son from hard maple salvaged from KU's Robinson Gym, were installed - and oiled three times by me - last night.  (I can't help but think the Jayhawk connection will prove lucky for the Big Game. We'll need something to overcome the 24.5 point spread.) Enchiladas and guacamole are made an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.  Bloody Marys are at the ready. This gal's headed to the showers and then...pre-game!

What the world needs now is sexual healing

Interesting story on Philly.com today regarding baby boomers and sex, or the lack of it.   Seems the "Let's Get It On" generation isn't, well, getting it on. We've lost that lovin' feeling, can't get no satisfaction. Something has died inside and we can't hide it and we can't fake it... (OK.  I'll stop.)  Hey, here's an idea: Everyone dig out those old Marvin Gaye records and give them a spin tonight.  After all, it worked in 1973....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh, clip-on tree! Oh, clip-on tree...

How lovely are her branches, bejeweled with my mother-in-law's vast collection of larger-than-life costume jewelry? Earrings, to be exact.  Around a hundred pair of them. We delivered this tree to her yesterday in the nursing home, and she was thrilled.
Such a great idea my mom had!  So crafty....and simple!

Sorry, Black Friday. I have other plans.

Count me among the reasonable individuals who slept till a reasonable hour this morning and didn't storm the big box stores for the precious - and all-too-few X-Boxes - or whatever the must-have of the moment is this year.  I am SO much saner than that, people.
Instead, I am cleaning house and making my famous chicken enchiladas for tomorrow's Border War watch party where my fellow Jayhawk tail-gaiters and I will gather around my TV and - with all the passion and venom of "Free Staters" in Civil War days - cuss and scream and condemn to death those damnable Tigers of Missouri, our mortal enemies.

That, my friends, is sanity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Best Thanksgiving ever!

Everyone agrees this was the best celebration to date. Great conversation, delicious food, and everyone got to meet "the boyfriend." Mom even got to video chat online, for the first time, with her granddaughters who couldn't make it in from L.A.  I call this shot "Skype by candlelight."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I've gotta new gratitude!

I was thankful for unemployment today.  If I had had to work, I wouldn't have been able to help my husband lay the backsplash tiles, which took us from morning to night. It was actually fun and - who knew? - I'm pretty damn good at it, too!  (New career, perhaps?!?) Tomorrow morning, it will take only a few hours to grout it (no longer than the Macy's parade), then I'll be whipping up stuffing and sweet potatoes for dinner at Grandma's.
 Did I mention the fridge is in and running, too?  (A small cabinet will be installed above it.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flash me, someone!

My friend Roe told me about this yesterday.  She and I sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" in high school. (Yes, we were Gleeks.) It was amazing how easily my alto part came back to me as I sang along with the throngs. Oh, how I wish I could get caught as an unsuspecting bystander in a flash-something one day.  A mob like this would be awesome, too:

Self-serve wine: Why didn't I think of that?

Leave it to a French woman to come up with the best idea since someone put rottiserie chickens in grocery stores.  Available today only in France (too far to shop for Thanksgiving with my wine-guzzling family), the concept will be available in the U.S. next year, according to the story.  Trader Joe's, are you listening?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Um, excuse me?! Only honorable mention?!

Jon Hamm makes the list of People's sexiest men but Ryan Reynolds takes top prize? What's wrong with this picture? (Not the one above. It's perfect.  I meant, the figurative picture.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bonfire birthday bash

Back in the 70s, we called them "woodsies" - parties on someone's parents' undeveloped land outside the city limits, usually including at least one keg of beer (alternately called "keggers.") Last night, I celebrated a friend's 60th birthday in the same manner. Entertainment was provided by the birthday boy's son and company, the music reminding me of mellow 70s fare. The beer was in bottles, not cups, but it was fun, and it really took me back.
And, speaking of fire...I'm cooking with gas now, friends!  Cooktop installed; dishwasher soon to follow. Today, I'll have running water after 4-1/2 months of washing dishes in the bathroom sink.  Color me giddy!!

A taxing trip to mammogram land

Here's an old column I wrote about mammograms, which reminds me I must make an appointment for my yearly, which is about two months late.  You've had yours already, right?

It's the way to a woman's heart, too!

Note to everyone thinking about gifting me this Christmas, not to mention my upcoming birthday: You can't go wrong with a cookbook!  My new kitchen will have a floor to ceiling bookshelf full of them. Here's a list of the top ten titles from 2010, according to NPR, in case you want to add to my joy of cooking.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Double my oven, double my fun!

Productive day! Our soapstone counters were installed, sanded and oiled (I did that, not that it required any skill).  This is what soapstone looks like before (right) and after (left) one mineral oil treatment...
The double oven is in, working like a champ. Tomorrow, the cooktop and (possibly) sink are to be installed between sporting events and a good friend's 60th birthday party on their land in the country. As in, in the dark and with no bathroom. Life's an adventure, friends. Tra la!

Good-bye Darvon; Hello Allay!

Back in the day, I suffered from miserable, monthly menstrual cramps. I'm talking stay-home-from-school, writhe-around-on-the-floor, moaning-and-crying suffering. (Unfortunately, it was a family trait, passed from my mother to me to my daughter.) That was pre-Advil, of course, when a girl's choices for relief were aspirin, a hot water bottle and Darvon by prescription. Darvon never worked for me. Sometimes, it made me throw up. Today, I read it's coming off the market.  And, that its ability to fight pain was always considered "dubious."
Enter, the Allay Period Relief patch - a new, drug-free treatment for the pain associated with your monthly "friend" (talk about your gross misnomers!) I received a free sample of the battery-operated product that emits gentle electronic pulsations and let my daughter give it a test drive. (Fortunately, I am no longer qualified to be the lab rat, in this instance.)  She reports that it was effective in lessening her cramps, but she did have problems holding it in place.  (A little surgical tape might help.)  The product was recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top medical  innovations of 2009.  It will run you around 30+ bucks and last 720 hours (turn on and off, as needed).  For most women, that figures to be ten to twelve months.  If you have a daughter who is cursed by the curse, it's worth a try.

Introspection on introverts

This piece in The Atlantic is a must-read for anyone who lives with and/or loves an introvert.  I've always felt that - as with any personality characteristic - there is a spectrum of extroversion/introversion, and that we all reside not on the ends, but somewhere towards the middle. But, this is an excellent perspective from someone who dwells on the quiet side.  Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At long last, countertops!

In a surprise move, my husband and son brought home the long-awaited soapstone for countertop installation this afternoon. Sing hallelujah, sistahs!  I may be cooking for Thanksgiving yet!

George, hands down!

I grabbed this shot off of the Apple site where Beatles songs are now available on iTunes, in case you haven't heard. This, my friends, is why George was always my favorite. He could look right through me from every poster hanging in my room.  My sweet Lord, he was sexy.

I'd like to track his package

Who among us doesn't enjoy a beaming boy in brown - large package in hand (sorry) - knocking on our front door, especially at holiday time? But, those shipping charges can add up fast. That's why it pays to check out FreeShipping. org for up-to-the-minute free shipping codes for most of your favorite online retailers.  I'm holding out for the ultimate deal on the perfect bar stools....with free shipping.  I want it all, baby!

Baby Boomers: Are we really the bad guys?

Interesting editorial in USA Today about my generation and yours. Be sure to read the blistering comments. Is it fair to blame us for everything that's wrong with society?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girlfriends: The cure for what ails you

The day after I lost my 9 to 5, my dear friend - Alice the Social Worker (K.U. Professor of Social Welfare, to be exact - 2nd from right) -  took it upon herself to organize a girls' night out with close friends for my social welfare. Tonight was the night.  8 women, 4 bottles of wine and 3 hours later, I am feeling blessed and lucky. Thanks, everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oooh, Rob!

I don't even know if this story is true, but I love DVD - always have - and if some dolphin saved his neck - on porpoise or by chance - I am forever in its debt.

Who's the hoarder now?

   For the past four days, I have taken an hour out of my afternoon to sort through my mother-in-law's vast collection of costume jewelry - picking out the pieces I might want for myself and extracting dozens, if not hundreds, of clip-on earrings I'm using to decorate a Christmas tree for her room at the nursing home (my mom's genius idea).
   Although what you see hanging in my closet (more than half of it, my own stuff) is but a mere drop in the bucket - compared to the entire collection - I'm astounded at how difficult it's become to give the stuff away. Maybe it's the job loss and the uncertain economy, but I'm beginning to understand where the Depression era people were coming from.

Foreboding words from Gary Trudeau

    According to Poynter Online: "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau says, "I don't think 'Doonesbury' will be a legacy strip."  Some comic strips have gone on through four or five artists, "and actually the second and third artists sometimes improve the strip, but I think mine will go with me." He goes on to say: "I have a feeling that newspapers are going to perhaps make their exit before I would make that decision about myself [retiring the strip]."

It's National Memory Screening Day

     'Scared of those touchy-feely TSA screeners?  Here's a screening that will prove less painful: 
   The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials about brain health during its 8th annual National Memory Screening Day (NMSD) TODAY, November 16.  
       Qualified healthcare professionals will conduct the face-to-face screenings at more than 2,300 venues nationwide, such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, senior centers, assisted living facilities, pharmacies and libraries.  In addition, all 1,006 Kmart pharmacies will offer memory screenings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of the chain’s Senior Health Event. To locate a screening site, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving dessert: Apple Plum Crisp

One more recipe from the "I Can't Believe..." folks.  This one might have to be my contribution to the family dinner.

'Better for you' Thanksgiving recipes

   I'm participating in tonight's 'Taste & Tweet' for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, who sent me a great baking set from Crate and Barrel to inspire me to healthy culinary greatness. Unfortunately, the kitchen isn't quite ready for cooking tonight, but I'm happy to share their 'Better for You' recipes with you.
  Here's one for Twice-Baked Fingerling Bites.
  And another one for Orange and Port Glazed Turkey Meatballs.
  Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Better than chocolate!

No, I'm not talking about sex. (Not this time, anyway.) I refer to floor tiles. Specifically, the ones that were laid yesterday...
 ... giving me far more pleasure than the seven concoctions I tasted under pressure (with no red wine chasers, by the way) as a chocolate contest judge yesterday afternoon. (I kid. It was one of the more pleasant tasks I have had to endure.)
Have you ever seen such cuckoo cocoa carnage in your life?! My vote went to the flourless chocolate torte with raspberry sauce on the far left. I had two bites of that one; only one nibble from the others. The ultimate test of self-control! Still, you can't imagine the buzz I had for an hour afterward. (I will try to get the recipe for you chocolate lovers.) 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Someone's gotta do it

   Today, I'm a judge for the chocolate contest at the annual "Chocolate and tea at three" event, a fundraiser for our local homeless shelter. I accepted the invitation a few weeks ago, and considered begging out after the "pink slip incident," but the organizer of the event said she still wanted me and I thought, "What the heck!? It may be momentarily awkward, but it's for a good cause. And - duh - it's chocolate!!"
   The question is: How does one prepare her palate for an onslaught of cacao?

It's rerun season!

    On the first Sunday my column does not appear in the newspaper, I'm digging up one of the early ones, just for my loyal blog readers.  I have many favorites from back then and this one - about the conversational chaos of dining out with girlfriends - is among them.  It's timely, too, since I have a night out with the girls planned later this week.
    Ironically, while tiptoeing through the archives, I found this TV piece of mine from Feb. '09 about how to handle being laid off.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Change of plans

Late yesterday, we found out our countertop material is shipping from Denver on Monday, arriving in Kansas City on Thursday or Friday. (That is one slow-moving truck.) So, my contractor decided that, instead of installing the double oven this weekend, we would put the floor down.  I spent the past five hours on my hands and knees laying the radiant heating coils that will go under the ceramic tiles.
The mats have to be cut and precisely pieced together.
Then, approximately 9,878 staples are used to keep the mats in place.  Because the contractor's knees are shot, I volunteered to be the cutter and the stapler.  Fortunately, my son arrived just in time - albeit two hours late - to apply the Thinset. I think my energy spurt is officially over.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Office (minus Dwight Schrute)

When I told my 29-year-old son I was converting his old bedroom to my office, thereby destroying any dreams he might have of boomerang'ing back home again, he said, "Are you going to paint over those awesome Zach Morris walls?" He was referring, of course, to the must-see TV show of his past: "Saved by the Bell." (Who can join me in singing the opening theme song?)
His response - and the cold weather outside - made me decide to postpone the painting until spring and just make the best of a very turquoise situation.  I like it.  And it's much better than it was four days ago (scroll down to view 'before' picture).

Kitchen update: Loading in!

Despite the distractions of late, things are moving along in the kitchen. Cabinets, drawers (see lowers) shelves and knobs have been installed and, even without the crown molding, they look fantastic! (It pays to sleep with your cabinetmaker, although I wouldn't recommend to just anybody.)
The soapstone counter tops, scheduled for delivery this week, appear to be late.  But, that hasn't stopped us from loading in a lot of our stuff.
This is - be still my heart - my tea drawer, located close to the future cooktop.
This is the "baking center" in one of the lower drawers. We don't bake that much, so it didn't make sense to have all those supplies cluttering up prime real estate.
On the pantry side behind the cabinet doors, a whole shelf is devoted to oils and vinegars.  A spice drawer is below, to the immediate left of the cooktop.
 On the opposite side are the dishes.  One tidy cubby for bowls; one for plates...and never the 'twain shall meet. Stay tuned! This weekend, we're installing the oven!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hats off to veterans everywhere!

I'll return to the blog in earnest tomorrow, but am taking a moment this evening to toast and thank all the vets on their day - as well as active duty soldiers and their families - whose sacrifices make our challenges seem so tiny in comparison. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"I am a media professional."

As part of their severance package, my former employer is providing two full-day sessions with an outplacement coach. Yesterday was day one. I have to say, as reticent as I was to participate, in the beginning, the course has proven beneficial, beginning with the way I think of myself.  Yesterday, I was a journalist.  Today, I am a media professional "with extensive experience in print, TV and web development." In addition, I'm an "innovative strategist with proven abilities in content development, new product launches, public relations, marketing and advertising."  That, my friends, is what you call a positioning statement. Now, it's on to the resume. 'Think I'll make mine scented for a 'little something extra' ("Legally Blonde.")

Monday, November 8, 2010

It might not pay, but my work's cut out for me

I woke up on the "first Monday of the rest of my life" with one goal in mind: transforming the extra upstairs bedroom into a nice office for moi. Something in a light, periwinkle blue...white beadboard wainscoting....caramel-colored upholstery, perhaps. There's only one problem....
 It looks like the hoarder's hole from hell! It's stuffed to the dormers with all the junk we hauled out of the attic when we installed the new furnace. Throw in all my son's worldly possessions that didn't fit in his apartment and my daughter's cast-offs and I'm looking at a 3-day job, at least. The good news is, I've always found back-breaking manual labor a good thing to do while pondering life's great questions, like what one will do with the rest of one's career?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday sayonara

Wouldn't you know my last column, pre-approved by Mom and her new beau, would get a bitter comment right from the get-go?  I've developed a thick epidermis over the years, but maybe this is God's way of saying all things happen for a reason.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

All that was missing was George

As friends email and call with condolences (thank you, dear ones), asking how it all went down, I tell them, "It was a lot like 'Up in the Air' except that I didn't cuss or cry." There were differences, of course - the big one being no one in the room looked remotely like George Clooney, which surely would have cushioned the blow.

Boomer Girl Review: Ultimate Oriole Feeder

I've still got a way to go before I'm feeding pigeons on the steps of St. Paul's (which I never thought was a bad thing to do ...