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St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

It was a cold, clear morning, and I left for work early so I could stop at the Dollar Tree to pick up some Luck o’ the Irish beads and accessories. We were having a party at work that afternoon (yes, my office is super fun), and I wanted to look festive.

My community is gated, and the gate I leave from everyday is on a hill. It’s not super-steep, but if the weather is dicey they will leave those gates open so drivers don’t have to wait for the gate to rise and possibly lose traction.

So, on this cold, crisp morning, I drove through the gate and hit my brakes as I descended down the little hill, because there was a car stopped at the intersection waiting to turn right. No extraordinary circumstances…just another morning leaving Lake Monticello.

As I pushed down on the brake pedal, the car wasn’t coming to a complete stop, and then I felt them give a little, so I pushed down even harder on the brake and then there was a whirring sound, and the car just kept rolling. I tried and tried to steer clear of the car in front of me, but there just wasn’t enough room, and I smashed into his rear bumper.

Fuck.

We pulled over, and I apologized over and over, not sure why my brakes decided not to work. It took him a good 5 minutes of digging through a pile of papers in his glove box to find his insurance info, and amidst a flurry of apologies, we exchanged info and parted ways.

The damage to both cars were mainly cosmetic, but it sucked none the less. I cautiously made my way into town and made an appointment to have my brakes checked, pronto.

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And my Kia dealership? They found NOTHING wrong with them. I asked how this could be…they had failed to work causing me to have this accident. Then they walked me through the workings of the ABS braking system.

They assumed that the ground where I attempted to apply my brakes must have been slick somehow…even though is was cold and dry that morning. When I described the accident to them, the whirring sound I heard was the ABS kicking in, causing my brakes to switch from the kind of braking that results in my car to STOPPING to the kind of braking that keeps my car from skidding.

I don’t like this system. I don’t like it because it has proven to me that when I go to STOP, my brakes might have another, brighter idea. An idea that causes me to crash into the car in front of me. An idea that causes $1500 worth of damage to my car.

ABS? I call BS.

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It’s really funny how as I get older, certain cooking techniques just seem to come more naturally. I don’t know where I gleaned some of the information that I apply to my cooking; quite possibly from Food Network, mainly because it’s the channel I watch the most, by far.

Used to be I couldn’t make macaroni and cheese without a full-blown, step by step recipe. I recall using an Alton Brown recipe that required me to temper an egg into the cheese sauce. After all that trouble, the mac & cheese sucked.

Now I know how make a killer mac & cheese with one hand tied. Ditto with creamed spinach, and now, gravy.

I can remember the first time I had to make gravy. I had just moved to Arkansas to live with a home-town fellow who was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base. We were having a couple over for dinner, and I had no clue how to make gravy.

The wife, a good old southern gal, was kind enough to help me. The final product tasted fine, but was so thick, it didn’t really pour. You sort of had to plop dollops of it onto your plate.

As years passed I stuck to either the canned version,  or the stuff in the envelopes that you mix with water. In most cases it was just easier and a real time saver. I mean, it was just gravy after all.

I’m not sure what clicked in me a year or two ago. Perhaps it was from when my sister cooked Thanksgiving for us, and her gravy rocked. she had left a huge container of pan drippings in my freezer, and one evening I decided to use it to make gravy.

I think this is where all those years of watching “Chopped,” “Barefoot Contessa” and Triple D payed off. I sautéed some onions and celery, made a roux, whisked in the stock/drippings and seasoned to taste. A drop or two of Kitchen Bouquet and viola! I had a really good gravy.

For a while my daughter liked her roasted chicken served with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. But not any longer. She knows mom’s gravy is killer – one that makes a respectable pool in her mashed potatoes.

Thanks to Food Network, I guess I’m actually getting wiser as I get older…

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The other day my daughters and I were at a rally in support on International Women’s Day. The room was filled with gals (& guys) of all ages listing to other gals of all ages recite poems and make speeches. At one point an older woman with grey hair in two braids walked by us. Both of my girls turned to me and said, “that is soooo you in 20 years.”

And I had to agree with them. I’m in my 50s and I have pigtails in my hair today.

I don’t know why so many older women succumb to the short hair trend. It seems like when you reach a certain age, women are required to get a short, sensible hair style.  Perhaps women do it because their hair is getting thinner, or they just want to have a simple style that they don’t have to fuss over.

Not me. I need my hair long. Even now my hair reaches my chest, and I still feel like it’s too short. Sure my hair is thinner, but that’s no reason for me to lop it all off.

Yeah, I’m fairly certain I will be that old lady in braids. I may be an old fart, but at least I’ll stand out in a crowd.

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This morning at the office an email went out stating that the refrigerator would be cleaned out at 4 pm. So imagine my dismay, when I return from my walk at 2:45 and go to get my snack out of the fridge and find the fucking thing empty.

Wait, I had a tote bag with 3 pickle spears encased in double ziplock bags (to prevent leakage) in that fridge this morning. They were nice, plump spears and I was really looking forward to them. I look around a little and find my bag thrown on top of the fridge, sans double zip locked pickles.

The dickhead who cleaned out the fridge, PREMATURELY I might add, actually went INTO my bag to throw OUT my PICKLES. And I call BULLSHIT!

I understand that the fridge needed cleaning, but when you give a deadline of 4 pm, that deadline should be adhered to. It’s what separates us from the animals for Pete’s sake!

Rant Over, and craving pickles.

In response to the daily promt Hideout

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My friend John used to throw some decent parties when we were in high school. He always managed to get beer…little nips of Michelob, I think…and there was always an abundance of Donna’s Pizza. You would think that would be enough, but as teenagers, it never seemed to be.

His house was around the corner from a cemetery, and after one of these parties a bunch of us were hanging out at the end of a street that butted up against the cemetery. We were probably being loud and obnoxious to those residents trying to sleep on a warm Saturday night, perhaps with their windows open, because before we knew it, the cops came down the street.

Well, we all scattered like flies. The only place I could run was into the cemetery. It was dark, and I was unfamiliar with my surroundings, so when I saw a giant tombstone with large bushes on either side, I ducked behind it and laid flat on the ground.

I could see the patrolman’s flashlight arcing back and forth as he walked through the cemetery. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to calm my frantic breathing, praying that one of Leonia’s finest wouldn’t find my hiding spot, and make me the “example” of a teenage night gone awry.

It had also not escaped me the fact that I was laying flat on someone’s grave. In the dark. All alone. I’d seen “Night of the Living Dead” and “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” a few times too many, and I will admit, it creeped me the hell out.

I was also being eaten alive by mosquitos, and swatting at them was not an option, not as long as I could still see flashlights and cops’ headlights.

What seemed like an eternity ended with the cop car pulling away, having not located a single one of us. I stayed put for a few minutes and then slowly crept out from behind the tombstone, brushing dirt off my t-shirt and scratching at my sweaty, itchy legs.

I was afraid to go back to John’s house – I was afraid to go back out from the way I came in, sure that there was a dragnet of sorts set up to catch me. So I just walked home. On the way I ran into another kid who’d been chased away and we compared notes, happy to have escaped the clutches of the law.

The next day, via my orange teen phone, John and I laughed over the incident, proud that we had not only had a fun night, but had outsmarted the cops to boot. But I’ll tell you, we avoided that street in the future.

After a night spent laying on someone’s grave I was smart enough to not tempt fate.

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The newspaper I work for is putting out a Summer Camp Guide for local parents, and it made me think of how badly I wanted to go to camp as a child.

From grades 5-7, I was really good friends with a girl named Leslie.  Her parents were divorced, and her mom lived in this beautiful old house in the heart of town. It was fun to hang out with her because the park and the candy store were all within a stone’s throw to her house, whereas I lived at the far end of town close to nothing fun at all.

You could say she was privileged, even though it must have sucked to have parents that were divorced. Her mom was out a lot and they had a live-in nanny, who never seemed to be around any time I slept over. She would be “in the house” but usually was up in her room on the top floor, which was creepy to me.

Her dad lived in New York City, and every now and then we’d have a sleepover at his apartment, which was both a thrill and completely uncomfortable. I didn’t know the father all too well, hence my discomfort.

But every summer, for at least 3 weeks, Leslie would be shipped off to summer camp. I saw it as this magical place where nobody knew you, and any stigmas that might plague you in your hometown, simply vanished. You could be anyone. You were brand new.

She would come home with tales of juicy social interactions, clandestine meetings with crushes, and long nights gossiping with girlfriends. And I was pea green with envy. All I had done was hang out at the Leonia pool, trying to dodge insults while using the diving board…from my future husband.

The following year I begged my father to let me go with Leslie, even if it was for just a week. But there was no way…her camp was just too expensive. I understood, but it was still disappointing.

I especially get it now that I have kids. I would have loved to be able to send either of my girls to summer camp, even a day camp, to give them a fun summer experience while mom and dad were working. I looked into it a few years ago, but just about every camp was way out of our price range.

And it is glaringly evident if you attend one of the summer camp expos in the area. Impeccably dressed Moms and Dads usher their children with straight, white teeth from table to table and try to decide which soul-enriching camp their lucky little offspring will spend their summer at. Because money is no object.

But it’s okay. My kids have great memories of summers hiking up to Blue Hole to swim in a mountain pond, and jumping off the dock at Lake Monticello. Trips to King’s Dominion, Disney on Ice, and weeks spend in Florida visiting my dad.

Yeah, camp would’ve been great for them, and maybe even for me. But I don’t think any of us suffered greatly in the long run.

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Last Friday my boss gave me the day off because we had just finished a very grueling production schedule that required a lot of overtime. I could have slept in and loafed around the house, but it was going to be sunny with temperatures nearing 80°. We needed to get out and DO something.

So, I called my daughter in sick and my girls and I headed to Richmond for the day. We spent the morning walking around Maymont Park, then lunched on Greek food in Carytown. We decided to visit this one candy shop my girls have always wanted to check out.

Now, every time I go to a new candy store I am always on the hunt for one candy in particular…Delfa Rolls – now referred to as Broadway Licorice Rolls. As a rule, I don’t like “red” licorice, but growing up these tightly wound rolls of strawberry ribbon goodness were a favorite of mine.

I was reintroduced to them at the Virginia state fair about 8 years ago, and once I knew their new name, I’ve been on the hunt for them. World Market used to sell them for a while, but stopped a few years back. A local candy shop just a block from my office carried them for a while as well, but also stopped.

When I stepped into this chocolate shop in Richmond, I was immediately encouraged. It was a fairly large store (for a candy shop) and they had a very large variety of old-timey candies. Not wanting to waste any time poking around the aisles in search of the candy of my dreams, I asked at the counter.

While I was expecting the typical look of puzzlement when I asked “Do you carry Broadway Licorice Rolls?” I was instead rewarded with a look of recognition, and a “now where do we keep those?” The clerk lead me to a shelf with a box of those strawberry beauties. I kid you not when I tell you I danced in place, clapping my hands like a giddy school girl.

blog-2There were only 6 or 7 packs left in the box, and I grabbed them all. My youngest said, “you know those are $1.29 each, right?” To which I looked at her and said, “And your point is….?”

It was a happy day. I ate one on the drive home from Richmond, demonstrating to my girls the various methods I had invented to eat a Delfa Roll as a child.

Right now the balance of my candy cache is tucked safely away in my cabinet. I will reward myself with one package each week. And I feel happy knowing that there is a finally place where I can still find my candy.

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This is a repost from 3 years ago… it’s the anniversary of when I got stuck in the snow. A horrible thing I never want to repeat.

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Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

1The weekend when “he who shall not be named” took the oath, my girls and I were in Richmond to see yet another performance of Disney on Ice. When Dad drives the Zamboni, and the tickets are free, you just go, despite the fact that you’ve seen it a hundred times. Plus, we get a free weekend at a hotel in Richmond!

The morning before the show, we decided to take a walk. The Capitol building was right down the street, so we headed over to poke around.

20170121_092142The Poe statue? It’s just okay. Not very dramatic.

2Steps looking up towards the George Washington Statue

3.jpgSteps leading up to the Capitol. The couple at the top were flying a drone. It was cool

4.jpgDaughter #2 mugging for the camera. I was a tad panicky because she was up so high.

5.jpgMy girls In front of the Governor’s Mansion. There was lots of sporting equipment in the yard. FYI.

6.jpgThe Washington Statue…what is that little door for?

Our stroll was really nice…Just me and my girls soaking the the architecture, the statuary, and history that is downtown Richmond.

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As a child I can recall being dragged to countless movies with my father; movies that I had no interest in and, quite frankly, no business seeing. I don’t regard this in any way as a criticism of my father…just one of those odd, and quirky things that makes my memories of my childhood a bit more colorful.

The reason I was taken to these movies varies. Some were drive-in movies, and I guess it was just easier to take us along in the back of the station wagon than to get a sitter. We would play in the park in front of the movie screen until showtime, then eat popcorn and sodas. Who cared what was playing?

Other times I think dad wanted to see the movie, while mom was like, “I’ll pass.” This posed a dilemma to my dad, who hated doing anything alone. His solution? Take one of us along! The promise of popcorn and candy was enough to get us to tag along, and then dread our decision once the movie got underway.

So let’s take a look at some of the cinematic classics I saw as a child.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-10-12-39-amA Man Called Horse (1970) – Seen at a drive-in
In 1825, an English aristocrat is captured by Native Americans. He lives with them and begins to understand their way of life.

Not exactly the movie I was looking for as a 5-year old. I was hoping it would be a bit more Flicka-esque. I remember nothing about this movie, only that I was bored stiff.

 

walkaboutposterWalkabout (1971) – Seen at a drive-in
A white, city-bred teenage schoolgirl and her much younger brother become stranded in the Australian wilderness after their father goes berserk.

I was only 6 1/2 when this came out. Half the time I had no clue what was going on. The only scene I remember is the kids being thirsty and being shown how to dig a hole and drink up dirty water through a reed. Then I went to sleep in the back of the car.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-10-18-18-amThe Emigrants (1972 – USA Release) – Seen in the theaters
In the middle of the 19th century, Kristina and Karl-Oskar live in a small rural village in Smaaland (southern Sweden).

This movie was TWO HOURS AND 32 MINUTES LONG, and I was only 7. Do you see a problem here? I may be wrong, but I think the movie also had subtitles. WTF dad? The only thing I remember is a scene where one kid is so hungry, he/she eats a giant bowl of hot cereal before the grains are fully cooked. They swell in his/her stomach and death ensues.

BTW – I may have that totally wrong. I was only 7.

doctor-zhivago-movie-poster-1965-1010194504.jpgDr. Zhivago (1965) – Seen in the theaters
The life of a Russian physician and poet who, although married to another, falls in love with a political activist’s wife and experiences hardship during the First World War.

Okay, I obviously did not see this when it first ran. Even my father wouldn’t take an infant to the movies. It must have been some sort of revival, because I know he took my sisters and me to see this at the Park Lane theater in Palisades Park, NJ.

THREE HOURS AND 17 MINUTES LATER I was thankful to get the hell out of there. The only scene I remember is when he was marching in the cold and had icicles in his mustache.

deathwishinternationalonesheetDeath Wish (1974) – Seen in the theaters
A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.

I am 9 by this time, and there is a very violent rape scene in the beginning of this movie. Hey Joan, why not bring the kids? I was sitting next to my mom, who put her hands over my eyes throughout the scene. But my sister, who was 11, peeked through her fingers.

I’m fairly certain we were the only minors in the theater. I can only imagine what the ticket-taker thought of us.

To my father’s defense, at least all these movies were critically acclaimed. Well, maybe not Death Wish, but some of the others were nominated for a ton of awards.

As adults my sibs and I laugh about dad’s epic fails at the cinema. One movie I didn’t include, because it didn’t happen to me, was The Last House on the Left. My dad took my older brother and sister to see this movie, which was horrifying for them at the time because it involves the rape and murder of two young girls. Then the parents take revenge on the killers. One dude gets his genitals bit off by the mother.

Hey dad! Pass the popcorn!