Saturday, March 22, 2008

Here's a Stimulus For You (Friday Roundup, a Day Late)

Hey, thanks a lot, internet provider! ... Our HIGH-SPEED AND WIRELESS internet (sounds impressive, doesn't it?) was on the fritz ALL DAY Friday, so if you heard a primal scream or saw a mushroom cloud as far as California, I take full credit. I will not name names here, but my internet provider also is responsible for our cable television. The company name begins with "Ch" and rhymes with "barter," "martyr" and "smarter." For those of us who spend between six and eight hours a day on the computer TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING, this can be rather debilitating. This is why Friday Roundup is being composed on Saturday.

President Bush signs the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 so that Amy's friends can make home improvements and buy lots of fun things for their kids. Amy, however, will be selling pencils in front of the post office.

Economical stimulus my rear end ... The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 may have been passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush, but the funding for this Act comes courtesy of yours truly. We learned this week that we owe more in taxes than Ron Paul spent on his presidential campaign. This should nicely cover the Stimuli for several families of six or eight. (You're welcome.) If you'd like to show your appreciation, perhaps you can buy a box of donuts from us on the street corner or visit our next garage sale.

Speaking of garage sales ... Here are a few items you missed at Caprice's Main Event this weekend.

Add to your family's library with Full House novels, highlighting the antics of the Tanner family, whose love and laughter made a house a home. Michelle Tanner (see cover) rounds out the cast of lovable characters, and these books helped pave the way to fortune and fame for the Olsen twins. Thank goodness!

This custom-framed collage of a graduate from the Class of '94 came from Caprice's office. Nobody knows who she is. The walnut veneer could withstand a nuclear explosion, and the picture quality is rock solid.

These SouthTrust key rings are a collector's DREAM. SouthTrust is no more, but you can own a piece of banking history with these functional and decorative key fobs. Caprice carefully numbered and signed these, to authenticate their value and ensure your investment will be a keepsake for generations to come.

This arthritic cat was not for sale, but he has amassed rather enormous vet bills in recent days, making him the postercat for bargains, bargains, bargains. The garage sale was held as a benefit, with all proceeds going toward the We Love Petey Fund. Any surplus funds collected will pay for Caprice's pool membership.

Happy Easter, which is straight up the BEST holiday of the entire year...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Breakfast at the DMV

A dry-erase board in the lobby of the DMV warns: "Wait time can be 10 minutes to 3 hours." And then a long list of exceptions follows, enumerating the many ways that THE WAIT CAN BE LONGER ....
* If there is a high volume of people taking the test.
* If a low number of examiners is available.
* If the computers are down.
In other words, "just have a seat, and we'll get to you when and IF we feel like it. Or not." It was scrawled in blood.

This is an account of actual events that transpired when I took my 16-year-old to get her license. Our "sales associate" or "customer relations specialist" was Soup Nazi's first cousin, License Exam Nazi, a.k.a. Meanie McMeanster. She comes from the House of Crazy Control Freaks and lives in the land of Bureaucracy.
"I need to see your vehicle registration."
I proudly handed her the papers and tag that I had paid for only 10 MINUTES EARLIER, being the Deadline Girl that I am.
"I don't need to see your tag."
"Oh, yes, ma'am. I'm sorry. So very sorry." Hands shaking, I pulled out the registration paper as she tilted her head back and tossed peanuts into her mouth. She then looked at my paper with such scrutiny, I was certain I had somehow registered the wrong car and that I would be cuffed and tossed into a jail cell, to die hungry and alone. She handed me the paper.
"I hate to ask you this," I asked, "but, um, should I put this in the car now, before the driving test?"
"Yes, put it in the car, and put the tag in the back window."
So I did as I was told (who wouldn't?), walked to the parking lot, put the paper in the glove box and the tag in the back window and returned to the lobby. My daughter came out of the exam area and into the lobby and whispered, "She needs to see you."
Everyone in the lobby took a collective deep breath. I stood and sniffed and mustered as much courage as I could, walked through the door and approached her desk.
"Where's your vehicle registration?"
"Um, it's in the ... car?"
She laughed like she was the Great and Powerful Oz. I cowered and ran to the parking lot as if I were responsible for detonating a bomb, or else the entire building would blow, with my oldest child chained to a metal office chair, tears running down her cheeks and a handkerchief in her mouth.

I delivered the paper to the License Exam Nazi like I was presenting her with the body of the enemy. She looked pleased. I half-smiled and swaggered to the lobby, with armpit sweat marks on my shirt and a slight mascara problem on my face.

For the next 30 minutes or two hours or the entire day (time stood still, so who knows), the lobby was filled with a great deal of inappropriate laughter. Everything, it seemed, garnered a canned laugh track -- CNN on the TV in the corner, the opening of a door, the pop of a soda top. None of these things were funny; it was like whistling in a graveyard -- it makes you feel better and helps you forget where you REALLY are. Takes the edge off. When a mom and son left after earning his learner's permit, I waved and yelled, "Hey, best of luck to you! We'll be here when you come back in a year for your driver's test! We'll be the skeletons propped up in the corner with cobwebs hanging from our arms!" It brought the house down. But then again, their standards weren't very high.

When my next child takes his driver's license test, I will help the next generation of test-takers and their parents with my own dry-erase board. I will display it on an easel in the lobby, next to a basket of complimentary healthy snacks and cans of Diet Dr. Pepper. The instructions on the easel:

* Use only these phrases: "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am."
* Avert your eyes. Do not look directly at the examiner. You may otherwise turn to stone.
* Be humble. As if your life depends on it. Because it might.
* In the event of a high volume of people taking the test, help yourself to a snack. We don't want anyone falling out!
* If the computers are down, no worries. Help yourself to a deck of cards or a board game, like Aggravation or Trouble. (How appropriate!)
* Let's keep in mind that these nice people hold the keys (no pun intended) to your kid being able to drive to the grocery store for you. So, be nice!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What To Do With All Those Eggs (Cooking With Amy)

I found these helpful tips on under "Top 10 Ways to Use Up Hard-Boiled Eggs." After reading it, I have renamed it "Top 10 Ways to Make Sure Your Guests Get the Crap Out of Your House and Never Come Back."

I am not an egg eater, so perhaps I am not the best judge of what to do with the dozens of hard-boiled eggs after Easter. But I have to believe that the best thing you can do with a boatload of colorful Easter eggs is not to eat them in various and bizarre forms, but to display them in a basket, enjoy looking at them over Easter weekend, then toss them in the trash when the kids aren't looking. Sure, they've been cooked, but they've also sat in fake grass for a couple of days at an uncomfortable room temperature and have been handled by germy little hands. Mmm-mmmm good!

The Easter egg is a symbol of fertility and new life, but mishandled, it could represent rapid weight loss and bad memories. I do love, but this may be where we part ways. "If you have old eggs to get rid of or leftover Easter eggs, consider breaking out of the box and trying something new," the site suggests. I am not a garbage disposal, and I would prefer that my Easter dinner not be spoiled by food that someone was just itching to get rid of.

But maybe YOU are an egg lover and could stand a little variety. So climb out of that egg carton you've been living in and think outside the basket.

1. Deviled eggs -- I'll let this one slide. I live in the South. Even if I don't eat deviled eggs, I have to live among people who do.
2. Chicken liver paté. Blchhhh! Fake foie gras may well be the only thing worse than real foie gras. (See photo.)
3. Egg salad with capers and olives -- The color combination alone is enough to make me wince.
4. Egg, nut and mushroom paté -- Enough with the paté. This is bordering on the offensive.
5. Hindoo (that's how they spelled it) eggs -- "The eggs are served in a curried white sauce and served over hot rice or toast points. May be eaten for breakfast or as an entrée," or used as wallpaper paste. What the heck's a "toast point"?
6. Scotch eggs -- "Hard-boiled eggs are wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep-fried. Served warm or at room temperature; great for breakfast or quartered as an appetizer." Also a great precursor to angioplasty.
7. Pickled eggs -- "They can be refrigerated up to two weeks, if they last that long." Does that mean they're so good that no one can resist them? Or, more likely, does it mean they'll sprout legs and scamper off?
8. Tarragon brie sauce with hard-boiled eggs -- Similar to Eggs Benedict, but with waffles instead of English muffins. Tarragon + brie = good; leave out the eggs = very good. This one has promise.
9. Beef and sausage roll -- A beef and sausage roll stuffed with hard-boiled eggs is always good for those trying to raise their cholesterol.
10. Cabbage mushroom pie -- "This delicious savory pie combines cabbage, onions, mushrooms and herbs with layers of cream cheese and hard-boiled eggs." Why'd they go and mess this up with eggs? And cabbage? They almost had me with "layers of cream cheese."

Find more tales of spring, food and lots of stuff that has nothing to do with either at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Peep Show

Warning: This post is everything that I don't like about blogging, all neatly rolled into one -- Mommyblog, craft how-to and "hey, look at my kids." So if you dislike all these things, too, just be patient...and know that I'm one of you.

This whole day smacks of that ridiculous thing my own mother did when I was little. When the weather was rainy or cold and I couldn't play outside, she would pull out The Rainy Day Box. Ugh. The name still makes my eyes roll. The box was filled with markers, paper, glue and other stuff that was supposed to inspire me to make something, stay busy and, as I know now, STAY OUT OF HER HAIR. One rainy morning, when I was about 4, I crawled out of bed and staggered into the kitchen and asked, "You're not going to make me play with The Rainy Day Box, are you?" And that was the end of The Rainy Day Box. I never saw it again.

It may not be raining, but it's a dreary spring break day. "Hey, kids! Stay out of my hair! Here are four shoe boxes, a crapload of art supplies and a gross of Peeps." And then I promptly left the room. For, like, HOURS. These pictures illustrate the results: A Peep Show.

Peeps Taking Leaps, a ballet studio

Cheropeep Indians, or to be PC, Native American Peeps

You Peep What You Sow, a Parable of Peep Gardening

Little Bo Peep Has Lost Her Peeps

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Your Friends Weren't Active This Week; Find More Friends"

When I signed up for a Shelfari account, I thought I was walking into a virtual coffee shop filled with people who would share their thoughts on the books that I'm reading, that I have read or that I plan to read.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong. This is the message I found from Shelfari in my inbox today: "Your friends weren't active this week; find more friends." That reminds me of an infamous conversation I had with my friend-now-husband more than 18 years ago when I asked him why he didn't hang with me and my fun friends back in college. He shrugged his shoulders and grunted, "I had enough friends." While that's about as pompous an answer as he could give, I understand what he meant: Friends can be a lot of work. A bunch of illiterate friends, on the other hand, could be exhausting. (My college friends and I at least knew how to read, for Pete's sake.)

Unless I'm mistaken, the general idea is that when you sign on with Shelfari, you will have the golden opportunity to communicate online with people who enjoy -- or at least have read -- the same books that you have read. It's to be like your own little book club, but without the preparatory housework and cooking.

But MY Shelfari friends have taken friendship work to a whole new level. Maybe they're the stoners who would prefer to hang out in the smoking area rather than study for today's exam. Or maybe they're cute and bubbly and preparing for this weekend's cheerleading competition so no one could possibly expect them to read a book. (The top photo comes from Shelfari. These may very well be my actual deadbeat friends, busily not reading, but compiling a Burn Book like the nasty teens in Mean Girls. Maybe they're burning ME and scrawling Mean Girl notes about the shoes I almost bought at Target this weekend, or how I really shouldn't have eaten those chicken fingers at Dairy Queen Saturday night, or what my kids wore to church yesterday.)

I want to believe that my Shelfari friends aren't so shallow, so lazy, so hopeless. To understand my Shelfari friends a little better, I offer you this example: One of the titles on my Shelfari bookshelf is Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck, which I have read several times and tend to check out from the library every few weeks. I should probably just buy the darn thing. Anyway, here's what one of my Shelfari friends had to say about this book: "No one wants to get old...but guess what? You're going to get old. Haven't read this one but I thought the title was funny so it's now on my shelf." What? A Shelfari friend who doesn't read the book? That's no literate friend. That's a voyeur. A user. A moocher. You don't just pick up a book and put it on your shelf for looks. That's what coffee tables are for. She might as well have written, "Omigosh! Like, what's wrong with her neck? I am so, like, never gonna' feel bad about MY neck. My neck is, like, so awesome."

Here's another title on my Shelfari bookshelf: Jonathan Franzen's How To Be Alone: Essays. Great title, boring cover, OK read. Here is the enlightening feedback from my Shelfari friends: "six new readers, no reviews, no comments." What kind of friends ARE these? They seem to have read the book but didn't even bother to say, "Hey, I read it. You should, too," or "I read it. You shouldn't."

So here I am, caught in the middle and being asked by the Shelfari guidance counselor to ditch my friends because of their inactivity. I know she's right, but should I really ditch them and risk my popularity with people I've never met, or should I play the diplomat and send them supportive e-mails, encourage them to plug along and try a little harder?

Maybe I should just avoid eye contact when I see them in the hallway, maybe sit at a different table in the lunchroom. Or just change schools. It couldn't possibly be that great of a loss. I have enough friends.