Saturday, March 29, 2008

While the Husband Is Away...

Things I Do When My Husband Takes My Minivan Out of Town for Five Days and Leaves Me With His VW Passat:

1. Drive his car like I'm 16 again. It's a much sweeter ride than the Chevy Uplander. (This is a stock image of the 2003 VW Passat. We do not live on Cape Cod.)

2. Listen to the Bee Gees Greatest Hits at a volume level of about 19. And change his radio station settings. All of them.

3. Visit the Starbucks drive-through at 6:15 a.m. Now his car stinks like Starbucks.

4. Toss dirty napkins and bank receipts on his floorboard, as if it were the Chevy Uplander.

5. Let the kids eat Baked Cheetos in his backseat, where they now store their rock collection.

Very Specific Things I Did on Friday While My Husband Was Still Out of Town and the Kids Were at School and I Had Finished ALL MY WORK for the Week:

1. Taught my dog new tricks with Froot Loops.

2. Filled cardboard boxes with stuff that nobody will ever miss. Put boxes in the garage, where they will sit until the next garage sale, or for seven years, whichever comes first.

3. Started to make cookies.

4. Decided against it. Dug through the kids' Easter baskets for Hershey Kisses instead.

5. Called my sister and told her a funny story about Gene Simmons.

6. Read about Earth Hour, which will be celebrated today between 8 and 9 p.m. Is Al Gore behind this? Decided that our family doesn't qualify, as we don't have light switches or "off" buttons on any major appliances or electronics.

7. E-mailed MORE baby names to my sister, who thinks September is, like, TOMORROW.

8. Answered a phone call from someone who wants to boast that she is at home with a sick kid and can therefore rub her eyes because she isn't wearing eye makeup.

Find out what other bored people do on their off days over at ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ocean Management 101 and The Easter Bunny Cleans Up (Friday Round Up)

Ocean management 101 ... You would never know from the quality of this photo that it was taken with a cell phone. But it was. The boy in the cap and holding the clipboard (while in the ocean) is mine, but without his assistant manager sock tie. He's on the Coast this week, and I don't know what he's doing. His friend with the stick is busily clubbing seals. The boys in the background are square dancing.

Thanks, Easter Bunny! ... The Easter Bunny hit Alabama PRETTY hard as evidenced by the gifts left behind. The Sanders family, for example, reports the receipt of several Tide sticks. The Easter Bunny must have shared notes with Santa Claus, who almost ALWAYS delivers practical and consumable gifts to our house, like spray cheese and toothbrushes. The children were reportedly THRILLED to have these new cleaning instruments that were sure to have kept their Easter clothes a stain-free and blinding white. Next year's wish list: Swiffer pads and Windex wipes.

"I don't care how old you are, go get in the picture." That was the command given to the nice-looking young man in the green, over to the left, when he told his mother that he is old enough to fight for his country so he shouldn't have to be in the annual Playhouse Picture on Easter Sunday. Sure, he can fight for his country, but he can't fight his mother ... and expect to win.

Have a delightful weekend...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's Family Reunion Time! Where's the Xanax?

Celebrity and politics come together once again with the revelation that Barack Obama and Brad Pitt are ninth cousins, and Hillary Clinton and Angelina Jolie are ninth cousins, twice removed. (This information is brought to you courtesy of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.)

I've never understood the term "twice removed," so I did a little research.

According to
When the word "removed" is used to describe a relationship, it indicates that the two people are from different generations. You and your first cousins are in the same generation (two generations younger than your grandparents), so the word "removed" is not used to describe your relationship. The words "once removed" mean that there is a difference of one generation. For example, your mother's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed. This is because your mother's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. This one-generation difference equals "once removed." Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. You are two generations younger than a first cousin of your grandmother, so you and your grandmother's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed. (To find how closely you are related to a certain someone who might will you a boatload of money, see the accompanying chart.)

Anyway, if Pitt and Jolie become a commonlaw couple or if they tie the knot, then we may have ourselves a Family Feud at the picnic pavilion when reunion time rolls around.

"Barack, can you please pass the potato salad?"
"Hillary, can you please pass a viable healthcare bill for this country?"
OR ...
"Hillary, your Saab has me blocked in, and we're ready to leave."
"Barack, you've blocked every piece of legislation I've tried to pass."
OR ...
"Barack, did you bring the rock salt for the ice cream churn?"
"Hillary, nobody TOLD me to bring the rock salt. I am not a MIND READER."
"So what are we supposed to do with all this cream and ice?"
"I'll tell you what you can do with all this cream and ice. You can take this cream and ice and ..."

Everyone is related in some way or another to a person of moderate fame. I, for example, am allegedly a descendant of Gen. Robert E. Lee. (See photo at right; know that I look a LOT like him.) To hear my mother tell the story, you might believe the lineage was somehow strong enough to qualify me for gold membership in the D.A.R. I'm no history buff, but I never understood why she thought my connection to the Civil War tied into the American Revolution and D.A.R.

Anyway, according to my late Great Uncle Herman (and he was great), who told me this vital piece of information in a very hushed tone, we didn't bloom on the prosperous branch of the Lee family tree. He put his hands together, leaned forward in his chair and quietly said, "Amy, you should know that we descend directly from the branch that lost Stratford Hall in the early 1800s." (Oh, yes, Uncle Herman, this is a MUCH better story for a little girl to drag around throughout her life than, "I'm going to inherit a Virginia plantation, and I will have lots of PONIES.")

Just as with the Lee clan, someone on either the Obama or Clinton side is going to lose SOMEthing (like a democratic primary), alter the family history forEVER and taint the family reunion. "Hey, kids, don't turn around, but that woman in the suit over there once cost our side the presidency," or "Oh, great, HE'S here. I thought you told me they moved out of state! I'm not even hungry anymore."

Go study the chart and your genealogy ... maybe you'll find someone who owns a plantation, ran for president, owes you money ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spamalicious Meal Solutions (Cooking With Amy)

I picked up a delightful little book--bookLET--at last weekend's garage sale: Great-Tasting Recipes With SPAM Luncheon Meat. Retail price of $2.99. (Free if you went to this garage sale.)

Evenings standing in front of the freezer, shouting, "Hey, what am I supposed to do with this chicken?" may be part of the past if I take full advantage of this fascinating cookbooklet. When your family's dinner menu almost always includes grilled chicken, you'll settle for just about anything. Not that SPAM is "just about anything"...

Caprice said she once was preparing Spanish rice, only to find out too late in the game that she didn't have any meat to add to it. I'm not sure what kind of meat typically goes in Spanish rice, but I'm fairly certain it isn't SPAM. But SPAM was all she had in the cupboard -- because SPAM is the only meat you can keep in the cupboard. So she added it and declared it a crowd-pleaser. My only comment was (say it with me): "Wouldn't that make it 'SPAMish rice'?"

Anyway, SPAM saved her day.

The booklet, published in 1996, begins with an introduction to the World of SPAM and is titled "The SPAM Luncheon Meat Story." And a story is probably in order, since I don't know what the heck SPAM is made of or why it was invented. UNTIL NOW...

SPAM (always in all caps) Luncheon Meat was introduced in 1937, but it was during World War II that SPAM first rose to fame. Since SPAM required absolutely no refrigeration to keep it fresh and great-tasting, it quickly became a military staple. Following World War II, Hormel Foods combined America's newfound patriotism with a SPAM Luncheon Meat promotion that enlisted the help of The Hormel Girls. This 60-member performing troupe traveled throughout the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s singing popular show tunes and providing samples of SPAM Luncheon Meat in supermarkets and through door-to-door appearances. (Editor's Note: That had to be weird, to open your front door and a group of women is singing about potted meat and offering you samples.) In 1940 Hormel Foods introduced what is said to have been the first singing commercial. Featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen backed by Artie Shaw and his 23-piece orchestra, this ad sent SPAM sales skyrocketing. (I imagine so! I loved George and Gracie!)

...and the story goes on and on, never really revealing what SPAM is or what makes it so great, other than its long shelf-life and affordable price point. (That may be all we need to know.)

I would be remiss if I didn't provide you with at least one recipe to assist with your meal planning. I've chosen the SPAM Veggie Pita Pocket, which looks like a predecessor to the Hot Pocket. (Click on the underlined text to view Jim Gaffigan's bit on Hot Pockets. I promise it's worth your time.) And get to choppin' ...

SPAM Veggie Pita Pockets

1 7-oz. can SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed
1 c. chopped broccoli
1 c. chopped cauliflower
1 tomato, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. chopped cucumber (man, this is a LOT of chopping)
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
4 pita pocket breads, cut in half

In large bowl, combine SPAM, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, carrot,cucumber and onion. Toss with dressing. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Spoon salad mixture into pocket bread. Then you can eat it if you want to.

Nutritional information per serving (remember! only one serving!):
calories, 216; protein, 8 g; carbohydrates, 22 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 20 mg; sodium, 539 g

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rock Of Love With Bret Michaels -- Rock On

We all have the same 24 hours in our day, and how you spend your time is ultimately up to you. Making this world a better place, bringing joy into someone's life, helping your fellow man ... or parking it in front of the TV.

I devote about 60 minutes a week (divided into two 30-minute increments) to watching something other than the news. The following are not options:

Deal or No Deal! -- I don't understand it.
Moment of Truth -- Is this still on the air after two episodes?
America's Next Top Model -- Honestly, I don't believe an explanation is in order.
Jon and Kate Plus 8 (sorry, Julie) -- I'll express my objections to this show in the simplest way, by listing a couple of episode titles and descriptions:
* "Jon Turns 30" -- Kate plans a surprise 30th birthday, for Jon, where she announces his fabulous gift, a trip to the Florida Keys!
* "Garage Remodel" -- Jon and Kate decide on remodeling the garage. The garage remodel is going smoothly until Kate brings the kids out into the garage. Will Jon finish the garage?
"Life is just too short." (I think I said that 12 times when I tried to watch an episode when the family of 10 traveled to Disney World with a small army of helpers and a TV crew. I was talking about mine -- not theirs.)

And that was about the time that I found this little gem, sometime around the writers' strike: VH-1's Rock of Love with Bret Michaels. Oh, but this is TV at its B-E-S-T! A description: "Since 1986 when MTV introduced the world to the blue-eyed lead singer of Poison, women around the world have worshiped Bret Michaels as a veritable Rock God. Never out of the spotlight, Bret's career is still rocking with Poison and as a successful solo artist and the women are still lining up (edited here for questionable content that borders on skankiness). But the demands of life-on-the-road for the ultimate rocker have taken a toll...on his love life. (The Pamela Anderson internet video probably didn't help.) Twenty lucky ladies will get their chance for an All-Access pass to Bret Michaels' heart and to share in all his superstar lifestyle. (That lifestyle includes his two children -- he shares custody with their mother.) Bret will invite twenty handpicked beautiful women to move into his rock and roll palace in the Hollywood Hills and compete for his heart (and share his eyeliner). They must win over his mind (huh?) and his body (no comment) by proving their love for Bret (pass the penicillin!), their passion for rock (hey, I know all the words to 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn') and their potential to be the perfect 'Rock Star Girlfriend.' "

In conducting my "research" on everything Bret Michaels, I somehow landed on his MySpace page. What an enlightening trip that was! He has so many friends! One of them even offered to make him a home-cooked Easter meal. That's nice. But it also begs the question: What can BRET MICHAELS offer the future Rock Star Girlfriend? What exactly does HE bring to the table? Does he cook? Fix things around the house? Is he handy with plumbing? Does he know how to restore internet service when it's on the blink? Does he wash his own laundry? Put away his dirty dishes? Weedeat the garden? Pay his bills on time?

The research continues ... stay tuned ...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Let's Get Physical! And Postal, Too!

I met a woman this weekend who works at a local high school and is responsible for the office aides. And, if you ever went to high school, you know that this is not tying a kid to the fast track. These are the seniors who have earned all the mandatory credit and have a little breathing room on their schedule before graduation, so they take the cool route and hang in the office, shuffle papers, answer phones and generally don't do any serious learning for about an hour. OR SO YOU WOULD THINK. When this woman's stack of pre-paid postage envelopes ran out and a mass mailing was looming, she handed the aides a stack of blank envelopes and a roll of stamps and said, "Here, use these." To this stable of teens, this was akin to pulling out a bag of Russian currency and asking them to convert it to the American dollar. They peeled off each and every stamp and STUCK THEM TO THE LEFT CORNER OF EVERY ENVELOPE. Nice.

This is a handy little precursor to today's education news in the Great State of Alabama regarding a piece of state legislation that proposes high school students take four years of P.E. Parents are mad. Kids are mad. School boards are mad. Why? It would cut into the number of hours that kids can take advanced courses and electives. Clearly, quantum physics and German grammar are not the problem. Stamp application is.

From The Birmingham News, quoting State Rep. Ken Guin:
"Alabama is one of the most obese states in the nation," Guin said. "For children born in 2000, there is a one-in-three chance they will be diabetic. While it is important that we stress academics, we have lost sight of the importance of a child being physically fit." (And, apparently, of a teenager knowing how to mail a letter. But I digress.)

For a multitude of reasons, I am so very grateful I am not in high school. This article goes on to highlight about half of them. But not having to take P.E. 225 minutes a week doesn't even make the Top 100. If someone gave me the choice between higher math and suffering social humiliation in P.E., I would say, "Point me toward the gym!" Run some laps, do some deep knee-bends, climb a rope ...

P.E. is as much a part of the American high school experience as driver's ed, the prom and (in my day) the Smoking Area, which effectively carved out a Who's Who in high school society. Without a Smoking Area, I don't know how the high school caste system works. Same goes for the apparent reduction of P.E. courses over the years. Without high school P.E., our kids get more obese, health care costs escalate, and TV and movie scripts suffer. (Just ask John Hughes, who marinated in high school angst and banked on P.E. to prove his point more than once; see Pretty in Pink. LOVE John Hughes.)

Bottom line: If teens aren't getting Postal Education at home (which apparently they are NOT), where are they learning Physical Education? On the streets? Ours is a nation in crisis. Let your tax dollars do the work...