Saturday, January 27, 2007

Which Famous Feline Are You?

Which famous feline are you?

You're Hobbes. First of all, the makers of this quiz would like to congratulate you. You have our seal of approval. You are kind, intelligent, loving, and good-humoredly practical. You're proud of who you are. At the same time, you're tolerant of those who lack your clearsightedness. You're always playful, but never annoying. For these traits, you are well-loved, and with good cause.
Take this quiz!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

T Minus 1 Hour

The in-laws are approaching the area. The groceries are in the house. A bottle of wine is already open (and they're bringing another case). The house is clean. The cats have been told to stay away from my mother-in-law. I'm ready!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Job, New Reading Material

I started the morning off with the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.

The first article of the day: "The Soviet Union and the International Brigades, 1936-1939."

If I tell you I'm actually enjoying this, you'll call me a nerd or something.

So I won't tell you.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Pack Rats-R-Us

I've only been at my current job for about 19 months, which isn't a whole heck of a long time, really. But I'm switching departments, and today is the day I pack up my desk. I thought it would be easy - throw my itty bitty pics of stepson and hubby into a box with a couple of paperbacks, a couple of pens, my coffee cup...and move on. To the new desk. Where I can whip out my pics, pens and cup and be right at home. How soon I forget what is in my DNA.... I come from a family of pack rats. A look at my grandparents house, my mom's house, my house, my sisters' houses...we do NOT like to throw anything away (although somehow, my oldest sister has escaped the severity of the gene. Her kids haven't, though, so it's obvious that she was at least a carrier). And while we all laugh and throw out my grandfather's Depression-era rationale for keeping every thing from bread wrappers to the twisty ties that hold hundreds of toy parts on slabs of cardboard to every single box that has ever come in our line of sight ("It's just the thing to have if you ever need it!"), I think that secretly we all like it. Once in a while, one of us will wake up and realize that we have 200 boxes sitting in our attic, and that no matter how long we live we will never give THAT many Christmas presents that need to be put in a box. Or their husband will tell them that their attic is a pile of kindling waiting for a match, because really? All that cardboard? It's just begging the fire gnome to come for a visit. But the rest of the time... the rest of the time we compulsively squirrel away things that will never have value. And if there's any kind of sentimental value attached to it, I'm already determined to keep it. I have ONE ROSE PETAL left from my bridal bouquet. And it is sitting in a shot glass on one of my bookcases, because I CANNOT throw ANYTHING away. Sure, it makes cleaning the house a lot harder. Especially when you know there's something in the back of your closet you need but first you have to get through three years of accumulated "stuff" to get to the sweater that you just KNOW matches your new skirt. Only to find the back of the closet sans sweater and find three other items of clothing that you completely don't remember buying. How many times have the members of my family muttered the words "so that's where that ended up" when we're looking for a screwdriver and come across the owner's manual to an oscillating fan that hasn't worked in five years? And if you're one of the hard-core members of my family, the fan that hasn't worked in five years is probably still sitting around somewhere...either because you hope one day you can talk your dad into fixing it, or because you're the dad and one day you just know you're going to fix it. How long did that broken TV sit in our garage in the house in Pelham?. Anyway, I'm packing my desk. And I find...
  • A two inch long plastic jelly fish, that one of the librarians gave me after finding out I'd been stung by a Portuguese Man O' War on my vacation;
  • Five books that I had forgotten I owned that I picked up at the thrift store, brought to work and shoved into the bowels of my desk in case I ever need something to read on my lunch break. Because even though I work in the biggest library in the Department of Defense, I might one day need something new to read;
  • A bottle of tums that expired two months ago;
  • A steak knife that matches our old set at home; apparently I thought I might either A) Eat a steak at work one day, or B) Need extra protection. On a military base. Sitting in the middle of the most public building on base, surrounded by at least 20 people at all times. And that if I did, my cheap-o steak knife would do better on human flesh than it would on the cheese that it wouldn't cut at home;
  • The ribbon from the present that my husband gave me for Valentine's Day last year, that I wrapped around my ponytail for the day. Is it in my drawer waiting for February 14 to roll around again? Because it needs to give up hope - it's had my decorations for St Patrick's Day, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving AND Christmas put on top of it since last year. But...if I ever need a heart infested's RIGHT THERE next to me.
  • My 2005 & 2006 desk calendars. Because one day, when I least expect it, the CIA might come into the library and say "What were you doing at 10:35 AM on July 12 2005?" And I will be able to magically find my calendar in the middle of all my crap, whip it and open it, pointing gleefully and saying "I was working the reference desk from 10:30-11:30 that day!"
I'll stop there. Because I need to go pack up my dry goods drawer. I have canned pears, pineapples and peaches...vanilla pudding...popcorn...salt and pepper...canned tuna...Because when something happens and I'm forced to live in the library for days on end, with no way to get to food or water, I'll be ready. I'll be PREPARED. I will survive.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things I'll Learn to Cook This Year

Earlier this week, I made French Onion Soup for the first time. I had never even eaten it before, but Hubby loves it and I had two pounds of leftover onions that I needed to do something with. So I made some soup (using the last bit of my homemade chicken stock), and it was awesome. And, in the way of most soups, it tasted better the second day than it did the first. So, in that spirit of things….:

13 Foods I Want to Make This Year

1.) Osso Bucco – because really, can you ever get enough veal

2.) Risotto - I found a recipe for Sunshine Risotto looks really yummy – lots of colors of bell pepper all over the place. Now, if I can just find it again…Ahh! Here it is!

3.) Lemon Sorbet – we’re going to pretend that the one I made a couple of months ago never happened, even though my hubby was a good man and pretended to like it. He loves lemon sorbet so much that I have to get this one down. Of course, it would be a lot easier if I had an ice cream maker - since 99 percent of the recipes I can find call for using one of those machines. And I'm a wuss - my arm gets tired.

4.) Petit Fours; I think I’ll do these in a couple of weeks for a retirement party. I’ve even found a no-bake cheesecake version that I can use if I wimp out. But I want to try the real thing, complete with jam, icing and a wrecked kitchen.

5.) Potato Soup – I love, love, love me some good potato soup with a little cheese and bacon on top. Or maybe I love, love, love me some cheese and bacon with a little potato soup underneath. Either way, I’ve never made it from scratch.

6.) Creamed Cucumbers – mmm, maybe they’re not creamed. But there’s a recipe in Mark Bittman’s cookbook “How to Cook Everything” for some kind of cucumber dish –served warm - that sounds interesting.

7.) Quiche – So many yummy variations that the hard part will be deciding what to put in the thing. And then convincing my husband to eat it.

8.) The salmon in the dishwasher recipe. My curiosity for this is overwhelming. Every time I see salmon in the seafood case, I tell myself that one day I’m going to try it. And now that I’ll be getting home before the husband a few day a week, I may actually get a chance to cook it without him seeing me remove it from the dishwasher.

9.) A few good homemade breads – not the kind that requires a machine. The closest I’ve come to making bread at home is my grandmother’s cheesebraid recipe. And I have a bread machine. But I want to make some whole grain breads from scratch. More importantly, I want to smell them baking in my oven.

10.) A couple of Indian dishes. Hubby dearly loves Indian food, but the closest good restaurant is about 40 minutes away. I’m thinking that something like this eggplant and potato curry might be a good place to start. Finding some of the spices will become the first step in the process, since I’m pretty sure that Wal-Mart won’t have them. And since Calera doesn’t have an Indian population to speak of, then this gives me a really good excuse to check out a few spice stores that I don’t visit often enough.

11.) Chayote Squash. I bought one a couple of days ago, because I’ve never had one and it wasn’t too expensive. So now I have to look up how you cook one, and what you do with it. That will happen either tonight or tomorrow, since it’s already sitting on my counter staring me in the face.

12.)Flan. A good one, nice and smooth and creamy…mmm…

13.)Bouillabaisse - My sister always makes such an incredibly good one that I’m scared to even attempt it. But the taste sensation is enough to get my saliva going. Of course, getting fresh seafood when you’re 1 mile from the coast like she isis a little different than when you’re a couple of hundred miles. Still, there’s a seafood place up in Birmingham that I think I can use. And it will all be worth it, if I can pull of her second trick of culinary magic and transform the Bouillabaisse into a bisque the next day.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! 1. Cheeky 2. Amanda 3 Suki 4 Karen 5 Caylynn 6 Jill 7 Lindsey

8 (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Somewhere, a Deity Laughed. Loudly.

Yesterday morning, it finally got cold here in the Deep South. Morning temperatures were cold enough to require that I go out and let my car start warming up before I actually had to sit in it to drive anywhere. Somehow, it's ok for me to be cold when I run outside half dressed at 6 AM (it's still dark, so no one can really tell if wearing a robe or just an oddly flowing dress), but Heaven FORBID I be even a little chilly once I'm fully dressed and sitting six inches from the heater vents in my car. Wish a scarf wrapped around my neck. And gloves on. And a cup of coffee in my hand. Spoiled, a bit, hmmm? So yesterday I ran outside, no coat for my arms, no pantyhose on my legs, just a skirt and shirt that did nothing to hide the fact that my skin was pruning (the plucked chicken look is VERY good on me), jumped in my car, cranked the heat knob all the way up and turned the key...and nothing happened. No click, no clank, no "I'm-going-to-die-now-so-goodbye-til-you-figure-out-what's-wrong-with-me". Just...nothing. And that's when I noticed that the overhead light was barely on. Usually, it's almost blinding in the pre-dawn time, and it wakes me up almost as much as the extra-strong Colombian blend that I brew for myself. It might have even been flickering. As was the light on the dash that lets you know a door is open. And the drivers door had swung shut behind me - as it does every time I get in the stupid car when I don't pull up enough in our driveway. I had left a door open...and I hadn't driven the car in almost two days. My battery was beyond dead. It had decomposed and become engine manure. Fast-forward to me running in the house, surprising my husband by making actual words come out my mouth. For my mother's sake, I won't repeat what I think I said. Most of it would get me fined if I said it on national television. Hubby spent 20 minutes looking for his jumper cables, before we figured out they were probably a casualty in the divorce. How we went four years without noticing that... I race to Wal-mart in his Big Ole' Truck- sans makeup, which when combined with the look of utter fury on my face scared a couple of people and three stray dogs into the next county. I bought the most expensive jumper cables they had (somehow spending lots of money made sense at the time) and raced back home. Hubby takes over the manly part of the duties - meaning he went outside in the cold while I sat inside on the couch cursing at myself quietly to the cats - and hooked my car up to his Big Ole' Truck. He tiptoed back in the house, swerving in a wide arc around the couch, and we waited about 15 minutes. At which point he went outside and came back in and told me in an "I-Know-I-May-die-For-This" voice that I needed a new battery, and so I would have to take the Big Ole' Truck to work. In the rain. And now I was going to be 45 minutes late leaving, which meant that I would be in rush-hour hell once I got to Montgomery. I like driving Big Ole' Trucks as much as the next gal - more, if the next gal happens to be my best friend - but Hubby's is not an automatic, and I hate driving in rush hour in a stick shift. And it doesn't handle rain well. Not to mention I would have to move all my necessities - makeup, hands-free cell phone stuff, my lunch, my coffee cup. But not my CD's because the Big Ole' Truck has no CD player or Tape Deck. It's like I'm living in the 20's when I drive that thing. So I cursed some more while hubby called a friend to hitch a ride to work and told me to pick up a battery on the way home. Fast-forward to 4:30 PM (work was no more crazy than usual - which means I only had to visit the happy place deep in my mind two or three times to keep from strangling my boss.) I walked outside, mentally preparing myself to deal with afternoon rush hour traffic. Getting off base takes twenty minutes of mostly stopped stop-and-go traffic, because the main gate is closed to outgoing traffic right now. The Interstate is a mess because they're widening it right at the busiest part of the whole thing in Montgomery. And as I walked outside, deciding if the emergency mantra was warranted, something hit my head. and my shoulders. And it was cold. Sleet. And that's when I looked up at the sky and said, very quietly, "You Win. But I have more wine at home than I can drink in one night, and nothing is going to keep me from it." That thought sustained me through the next hour and a half. People in Alabama DO NOT know how to drive when anything resembling winter precipitation happens. And I was in a Big Ole' Truck that reacts to anything close to ice with shudders and brakes that suddenly decide they need a vacation. I made it home in one piece, with a new battery in the front seat beside me. Hubby gets home thirty minutes later, and "gets ready" to change my battery. This included some grunting and other male noises while he pulled out the tool set that has instruments in it that neither one of us can find a use for. But we have them in case we ever need them! We're Prepared for anything, we are. He goes outside to begin the process while I start heating up some homemade French Onion Soup and chopping up veggies for a salad. He came inside to get gloves at one point (later I found out that the windchill was 24 degrees at the time), and I offered my beautiful turquoise Magic Scarf, which he refused using words like "ridiculous". I guess being wrapped in turquoise fru-fru would make changing a battery in freezing temperatures somewhat less manly. Whatever. I didn't care, because the first thing I had done when I got home was open a bottle of red wine. And I was self-medicating as quickly as possible. If I'm going to drop over $100 in one day, I DON'T want it to be on parts of a car that I not only don't look at on a regular basis, but that get dirty and gross. An HOUR - and two more glasses of wine later (it would have been three glasses, but I did have to handle the womanly role in this tragedy - hold the flashlight), we were done. We were eating and drinking and watching Star Trek. Because that's how we celebrate a job well done in our house. By drinking too much and watching geeky shows on TV. We live the high life.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What I'm looking at while I should be working:

Art Garfunkel's reading list.
"Since the 1960's, Art Garfunkel has been a voracious reader. We are pleased to present a listing of every book Art has read over the last 30 years. To view a list of Art Garfunkel's favorite books, go to "Favorites". This book list has been divided into several pages to allow easy downloading. Each page indicates the author, title, date of publication and number of pages (when available)"

The missing period at the end of that last sentence really bugs me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dilbert: Why does this remind me of my best friend?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


deep, cleansing breaths.
In-Two-Three-Four, Out-Two-Three-Four.


{Overheard} "Maybe if she spent less time talking on the phone then she would have time to get the job done instead of trying to create more work for someone else." --Conversation that my department's technician had on the phone with a co-worker. They spend at least 30% of their day talking on the phone or in person. More if my boss isn't here. My boss isn't here today. Two days ago, I spent about an hour doing various tasks that she "didn't have time" to do. Thank God I'm not a supervisor. And before you accuse me of eavesdropping - her desk is against mine. If she didn't want me to hear, she wouldn't have said it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Weekend

High: He loves my Chicken Parmesan! I am the best Stepmother, EVER! Low: I had to work on Sunday, so I don't get to go to his Lacrosse practice match. (Yeah, that almost counts as a high since I'm not a sports person - but there's always a chance his mom will be there and get upset that I'm there. So it's a tough one to call). Maybe I'll make Stepmom of the year in...oh, five or six years when he's in his mid-twenties and takes to living on the streets, getting piercings that I won't want to know about and blaming me for all of his problems. High: He still gets disgusted when he finds his dad and me kissing in the laundry room. Which means that we spend a lot of time kissing in the laundry room. In effect, this is a double high - I get kissed and he gets grossed out. Low: We made the mistake of asking about a female that he took to a dance. Wow. I didn't see that response coming. What I considered an overly-dramatic reaction he considered a reason to be grateful that he didn't throw green beans in my face. High: I didn't find any articles of his clothing gracing the living room floor Saturday morning (I NEVER ask what he's doing in the living room on Friday nights that makes him take his clothes off after his dad and I go to bed. After all, he doesn't ask what I do with MY clothes after I go to bed. But I'm still curious. And just a little bit scared. That is MY living room floor, and by golly, if anyone's going to do something gross on it I want to know so that I don't do anything gross in the same spot.) Who knows what will happen this weekend?

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

I don’t go to many movies. Considering it costs almost $20 for the three of us to go to one, it’s something I don’t try very hard to fit into my budget. And we get such an indecent number of movie channels on our digital cable package so that I really can’t justify it that often. StepSon goes a lot, though, so he usually picks what we see, because he’s usually seen everything that I want to see, and I absolutely will not pay for him to see a movie twice. Call me the hard-nosed, cheap-skate stepmother from Hell (you wouldn’t be the first), but there you have it.

So last month, we went to see The Pursuit of Happyness.

First of all, let me say that I hated Will Smith’s hair in this movie. It was horrible. He’s still a hotie…but this hairdo made him considerably less so.

And his son, Jaden, completely blew me away. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, he’s got the talent coming at him from both directions. (And in case you’re wondering, his hair was…very big for a five year old).He didn’t play an “I’m-so-cute-don’t-you-just-want-to-pinch-my-cheeks” role, and he didn’t play an “I’m-a-five-year-old-so-I’ll-have-a-tantrum-every-ten-minutes” role. He was just a real-live-honest-to-goodness, one-minute-I’m-happy-one-minute-I-want-candy” kid.

The movie made me uncomfortable, but that was something that I had a hard time acknowledging, because to acknowledge that is to have to admit that I know there are people all over the world who have to make those kinds of decisions every day while the hardest thing I decide some days is whether to wear gold or silver earrings with my blue sweater and black skirt. Deciding that a bathroom in a subway is the safest place for your son to get a night’s rest is not even on the same level. And somehow, knowing that the movie has a happy ending didn’t make it any easier to watch scenes like that.

But perhaps one of the best things that I can say about this movie is that it is still making me think about it three weeks after I saw it. And that’s really why I’m writing all this down. I still find myself wondering what kind of choices I would have made if I were in that position (or those positions). My stepson didn’t like this aspect of it. His take was that he goes to the movies to escape from reality, not to watch it unfold with no escape (because the hard-nosed, cheap-skate stepmother from Hell won’t let you leave until you’ve gotten every penny’s worth of money from your movie ticket.) But I told him that he’s never had a reality like that. And chances are that he’ll be lucky enough that he’ll never have to witness the parts of the world that DO live like that, unless he makes a deliberate effort to do so.

In the end, the movie was good. Not stellar. Definitely long in parts, but the closer you get to the end, the better it gets. And it won’t surprise any of you who have ever been to a movie with me to know that I cried, even though there really aren’t any surprises along the way in the last 30 minutes or so. The emotions were real, and that was all that mattered to me. And I think the closing scene was probably my favorite part of the entire movie.

I clicked on a blog and they had a link to a word of the day and this is what I found...

"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
"When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
--Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I bought three chickens this weekend. These are the kinds of initiatives that really can make a difference in someone’s life. $10 to me is going out for lunch and getting sushi. For the above people, it was three chickens – that they’ll have with them for more than a 3 hour period. A couple of my other favorites are: Oxfam International Modest Needs

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What's a Web Blog?

Blogs have been around for years now; years longer than I knew about them, that's for sure. In the past few years, the internet's gone nuts with them. They're all over the place. But you already know that.

So maybe someone could explain this to some media types. I'm too lazy to go looking for more examples than THIS, but I've seen the phrase "web blog" more than once lately. And it drives me just as crazy as when some says the phrase "PIN Number". So, for the record:

Blog = web log

Web Blog = You Look Stupid.

They'll Be Here in Three Weeks

They say the definition of ambivalence is watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your new Cadillac.
-- David Marnet

Humor is always based on a modicum of truth. Have you ever heard a joke about a father-in-law?"
-- Dick Clark

This year, I'm ready. They don't need me - they just need plenty of wine and a kitchen to cook in. A few books to read, and a TV to watch. A couple more bottles of wine. Their oldest grandson, and maybe a visit with their former daughter-in-law (at which point I'll break out the rum).

My mother-in-law hates the cats. Actually, it's more like fear. And since the cats aren't allowed in the bedrooms, they romp and play in the two social areas of the house - the living room and the kitchen. M-I-L gets a squirt bottle when she's here, so that the cats don't come too close to her. It only takes one or two squirts with Sultan and he's learned his lesson. Lucius has a harder time believing that anyone could resist his fluffiness for days on end, so he'll probably end up soaked.

I need a bigger house to fit us all in (StepSon sleeps on the couch when his grandparents are here) complete with a bigger kitchen to hold my stuff and a bedroom that serves better as a hiding place. But I'll worry about that in a few years; for now, I have menus to plan.

And lots and lots of wine to drink.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Year, A New To-Do List

It’s all over. The holidays, the sickness, the vacation time, the partying with my sister, the trip with my hubby and best friend (something I never in my wildest dreams thought would ever happen), the family togetherness, the eggnog, the Christmas music. And now I’m left with a fridge that needs to be emptied of the leftovers I didn’t throw out before I went out of town; a brain that is crying for more caffeine; even more “stuff” to cram into my already crammed-full house; a week and a half worth of catch-up work to do on reviews for Romance Divas; and several bottles of wine with my name on them. And that's just for the next couple of days. Here's what I've got to keep me busy for the rest of the month:

  • A desk that desperately needs to be cleaned out before I switch jobs in two and a half weeks.
  • A boss that needs to learn how to do my job in two weeks.
  • A house that needs to be de-Christmas-ized, preferably before I work this weekend.
  • A house that needs to be prepared for my in-laws visit in three weeks and two days.
  • A kitchen to be cleaned out and restocked before my in-laws arrive to take it over and make more types of goodies in three days than I even attempt in a month - while I sit by drinking wine and handing my father-in-law orange peel or bay leaves or whatever he needs for the dish of the moment.

Ugh. That is too much cleaning to think about this morning. I think I’ll spend the rest of my break playing with the new toy my sis gave me over the weekend.