30 August 2012

My Dirty Little Orange Secret

The other day I finally bought "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. 

Excellent basics book.

Jay, if you're reading this, I know what you're thinking.  And the answer is, "Yes!  I do need another giant-sized cookbook to take up more of the limited space we have in the kitchen!"  I have a bajillion cookbooks too many already, but the reason I got this one is because I think our friend Ellen has it and I'm pretty sure she's made some amazing stuff out of it.  Hopefully I'm thinking of the right book.

Anyway, today I was looking through the dessert section.  Holy crap.  Now, one thing to know is that back in February I cut all sugar out of my diet.  I'm not preaching that this is what everyone should do, but it was the only way to put an end to the crazy sugar fiend I was becoming.  And that doesn't mean I still don't love to bake.  I just need to make sure it's not for me.  But today as I was flipping through the pages,  recipes like Butter-Almond Cake and Grand Marnier Souffle taunted me.  I think I need to have a dinner party and force-feed everyone dessert to get it out of my system.

And as I was looking through the recipes I noticed that no chocolate recipes attracted my attention.  Odd.  Then I started to think about what my very favorite sugary thing on the planet is.  I came to the conclusion that if I could have anything with sugar, it would not come from a bakery or an ice creamery.  It would come off the shelves of the drugstore candy section.  And it will probably gross out a lot of people.  It would be this:

Can't you just smell the chemical-y banana goodness?

Hello.  My name is Joanne.  I'm an artificial banana flavor addict.  And this is why it is better that  I not have sugar.  Because it leads to Circus Peanuts. 
And my final question for you to mull over is:  Love them or hate them?  There's no in-between!

27 August 2012

Just One More.

This is it.  The final picture of what I had such dreams for.  Alas, a thriving rosemary bush was just not meant to be.

And so to the compost it goes, though I have to say, I am way impressed with it's camouflage capabilities.  Just look how it blends in with the gray fence.  Those are some 'flage chops.

24 August 2012

That's a Wrap.

I vow as of today not to buy any potted plants other than cacti for my decks and porches.

Day 1.

Day 2.

Day 3.

I'm not being defeatist (as the Dowager Countess of Grantham would say, "It's so middle class."), but let's face it:  the pictures say it all.

23 August 2012

Get Some Water...Stat.

So.  Yesterday I wrote about how I'm the Grim Reaper of houseplants, yadda, yadda, yadda. ( Flora Death and Destruction by the Author, August 22, 2012 )  At the end of the post, I wrote about buying a new rosemary plant and my dreams and aspirations for it.  I was not kidding when I wrote about the plant, "Let's see if my latest conquest can make it to the end of August."

I just noticed the...well, I guess it's still a plant.  You have got to be kidding me.  This is what it looks like at the moment: 
I just doused it with water.  I'm blaming the cooler nights we've been having lately here in New England.  You don't expect it to get as damned hot as it does during the day, thus the (my) subconscious reasoning that the plants can be forgotten for a little while...they can get watered if and when the desire strikes.  That's my story and I'm staying with it.  Not sure if the rosemary agrees.

22 August 2012

Flora Death and Destruction, by the Author

I am beginning to accept the notion that I am not competent when it comes to growing houseplants.  I am in fact the Grim Reaper when it comes to green things that thrive indoors.  Well, actually I'm not that good at growing some outdoor plants, either.  Here's what my last attempt at growing tomatoes looked like:
It's like what tomatoes would look like in Mad Max.  Tomatoes of the Apocalypse.
I have ended all attempts at growing vegetables.  Jay has pretty much made me vow that I will not spend the money on any more plants in the spring, only to have them look like the above by late July.

Back to the houseplants.  My intentions are always good.  But something on either end of the plant care spectrum happens when I bring a new plant home.  I either over-love it and water it too much or I totally abandon it and forget to water it after a week, leaving it to die a Saharan death.  You know how before people get a pet they are supposed to get a plant, and if the plant lives then they know they can take care of a pet?  It's pretty much the opposite for me.  Well, not even the opposite.  I have pets and they are living happy, healthy lives.  So you'd think a plant would be able to live with me taking care of it.  Yeah, no.

Last year my sister, Laura, gave me two jade plants.   I had admired the behemoths she had growing in her living room and she was kind enough to root, pot. and bring me two of their offspring.  Laura, by the way, has the gift of a very green thumb.  I don't think plants have the nerve to die in her house.  That's how good she is.  "There is no way you can kill these things," she told me with the utmost confidence.  Oh, really?  Within six months all that was left of one of them were two sad, leafless stems standing forlornly in the dirt, like two abandoned fence posts in a ghost town.  This is what is left of the second plant: 

There used to be a LOT more leaves.
I sadly know where the story will end up for this poor thing.  Have I watered too much?  Not enough?  All I know is that the fat, succulent leaves turn to a mushy brown, dry out, and fall off in my care.  Impending death is certain.  I'm sorry, Laura.  I feel like I've done you an injustice.  Do not give me any more of your beautiful plants.  I'm not worthy!  On a happier note, the plant to the left in the picture is a bamboo plant that is something like four or five-years-old.  That thing dries out to near death and I water it and it perks right back up.  It is the one plant that I cannot kill.  Kind of like a cockroach.  And it was given to me by the parent of an obnoxious student of mine when I was working as a preschool teacher.  It's a constant reminder of all the bratty things he pulled (sorry if this is offensive to any parents of preschoolers--even teachers have their limits).  Go figure.

Last winter I was also inspired to plant some African violets because Martha Stewart said that they perk a room up in the middle of those bleak months.  She made it all sound so easy.  They sat out in full bloom on my coffee table through last February and March.  I thought I had nailed it.  And then they took on that death look.  They were retired to a corner where they wouldn't depress everyone.  Perk up a room, my non-green ass, Martha!  This is what they look like right now:

How did my grandmother make growing these things look so easy?
There is some green coming out of the middle of a couple of the plants.  Maybe there is hope for them yet.  I'm not holding my breath.

And that brings me to today, when I found myself at the grocery store eyeing a rosemary plant.  Look out, this was the last one among all of the other potted herbs.  I resignedly put it in my basket, trying to be positive and upturning my thoughts to, "YES!  I can and will grow this plant to a huge rosemary bush...maybe even a...a...TOPIARY!"  This is what it looks like now:

Perhaps my positive attitude at the store was a little overkill.  Let's see if my latest conquest can make it to the end of August.

20 August 2012

School's Looming and Coffee Grounds Apparently are not a Dog's Best Friend

I got a jolt this morning while pouring my first cup of coffee (mind you,  in that non-caffeinated state, I should never receive any kind of surprise when holding hot liquid), when Jay asked/stated, "The kids are back to school next week?"  Damn.  Not that reviving and expanding their summer-soaked brains aren't good things, it's just that there's always that same slap in the face every mid-August that reminds us summer is almost over.  But, just as I was reminded by my parents when I was a kid that if Christmas were every day it would totally lose its appeal, summer cannot be year-round lest we take its lazy-ass-gin-and-tonics-on-a-school-night attitude for granted.

Enough waxing all sappy and wistful.  The onset of the autumn months brings about a couple of other occasions.  Our old-woman-dog, Scout, tacks on another year.  This will be number 15 for her in September, warts and all, though the warts are a few years younger than the rest of her bod.
Awesome capture of Scooter's eye-wart.  Sorry if you're eating breakfast.  Amazing how--erm--we don't even notice it.
And Pippet, the Poster Dog for High Maintenance, turns two on her quasi-birthday, which we made Halloween since we only know she was born about eight weeks prior to Christmas.  I don't know much about the zodiac calendar, but she makes me wonder if the sign for late October is The Anxious Worrier. 

And you know where this is going.  Cue the musings on Canis Bizarrus, a.k.a. Pippet.  She's calmed down a lot in the last year, though her love of all paper products is still ever-present.  So she's still in the running for a spot on "My Strange Addiction."

Taken today.  Kleenex the victim.
The thing I'm noticing now is that all of her cute puppy oddities are being replaced by full-on neurotic behavior.  Behavior that makes her a great candidate for Xanax.  Here are some of her latest things that she's sprung on me, just in the last 6 months:
  • Full hatred for Leo, the neighbor's cat.  This vitriol has been a work in progress, which is aided by the fact that Leo has taken over our yard as his own.  Pippet's not buying.
Leo.  One of the most lovable cats around.  But after petting him you have this film on your hands that makes you want to scrub with soap and water surgeon-style. 
  • Howling in the middle of the night, usually when Jay is away on business, so that I have every light and TV on at 3:30 in the morning to make things all the livelier, though not necessarily safer against  hooligans. 
  • Constant stalking of Scout.  Like hiding and peeking around corners and then jumping out at the old girl.  Not nice.
  • Barking at my phone (and only mine), be it a call, text, alert, whatever.
  • Whining like Timmy's Stuck in the Well whenever I knock the soggy coffee grounds out into the sink (yes--I know that's bad for the septic--Jay makes sure to remind me).  Also when I fill the coffee pot back up with water.  This is a fairly new behavior.  And super-weird.  Here she is watching me fill the coffee pot, whining the whole time.  Note the concerned face.
  • Chewing the remaining fringe off the living room rug when nobody will play with her according to her schedule.  She'd forgotten about the fringe for a while, but is currently back at it.  I wish she'd finish it off so that the new look would be complete.

I know.  All of the strange behavior must say something about the owner.  Maybe.  Or maybe Pippet's just a seriously uptight dog. 

One thing is certain.  From the way my mind has wandered through these paragraphs, obviously I need some structure back in my life.  School to the rescue!  We'll work on Pippet later.

14 August 2012

Praying Mantises: The Honey Badgers of the Insect World

Practically every day I catch myself thinking, "Hey, dummy, you should write about that," about a strange assortment of stuff.  Then my feeble, sieve-ish, middle-aged brain takes over and wipes away all memory of what was supposedly a great idea.  Lots of times those ideas are gone forever.  Sometimes little things can give the old brain a kick in the pants, though, and I remember some odd bit.  This happened yesterday.

My dear college friend and sorority sister, Christine, posted this terrific photo of a praying mantis on Facebook:
How cool is this guy?!

I can't help but be mesmerized whenever I see them.  I should know better.  It got me to thinking about a photo I took a couple of weeks ago while out doing the continuous grocery run that will never end until my kids move away from home:

Unassuming, pretty trees that house demon spawn.

What does one have to do with the other?  Oh, so very much in a convoluted sort of way.  The picture of the tree was taken while thinking about stupid things I have done in the past.  Things I should share to let folks know what an idiot I can be.  This is one of those stupid things:

The above pictured tree, and others like it in the grocery store parking lot near where I live are a favorite home for praying mantises.   Last year I was walking past this tree to my car, which happened to be parked alongside.  There was a heavyweight-category mantis sitting on one of the outer branches, surely just knowing what a prize it was.  I could not resist.  I knew that praying mantises eat other bugs.  What better way to have pest control in my herb garden than to have one of these puppies in there, no?  I needed something to pick it up with.  Being the wuss I am not very proud to admit to, I refused to use my bare hands.  God knows what kind of sharp, pointy things were lurking on that monster.  I found an old ski hat and, with people rubber-necking at me as they walked to and from the store (Why couldn't they mind their own business?  Can't a person publicly act like a fool in peace?), I gingerly wrapped the hat around the bug, thinking we would just hang out in the car together for the short drive home.  WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?   As soon as I shut the car door, the devil-mantis went nutters on me.  When it wasn't dive-bombing my head, it was smacking against the windows with alarmingly loud cracks.  And if you think they look big on a branch, they're downright huge when locked in a car with you.  Anyone walking by my car (which most definitely was displaying a lot of animation for not even having the key in the ignition), saw me flailing about the front seat,  swatting at my head in spasmodic fits,  and heard from within, my muffled screams. Interesting.  I finally gave up on my spur-of-the-moment nature project, opened all the car doors and shooed the damned thing from my car, uninjured (the mantis, that is).  I knew that praying mantises were ruthless predators in the bug-world, but had no idea  how bad-ass they could be with something 1,000 times their size.  You live and learn, as the cliche says.  And now I know to leave nature alone and that Praying Mantis Transport by Automobile is not a good idea.  Stupid, in fact.   

08 August 2012

Three Words: Shirtless Running Guy.

OmigodOmigodOmigodOmigod!!!!!  You know, sometimes the best things can happen from the worst situations.  Take this morning, for example.  I was supposed to pick up Janie, our daughter, from a sleepover at 8:30 AM (an unheard of hour for a teenager, mind you) so that she could head out to a water park first thing with a friend.  She promised me that she would be ready to go when I showed up.  You can imagine my utter shock (yeah, right) when I pulled into the driveway, no daughter to be found.  I called and texted her cell six or seven times, no answer.  The parents of the house had already left for work, so no dice there.  I banged on the door, nothing.  These were some seriously heavy sleepers I was dealing with.  Just short of throwing rocks at all the windows, I got in my car and drove away, trying to figure out what I would say to the mom who was supposed to be picking Janie up in a half hour.  Just as I drove away, the daughter calls.  Poor, sleep-deprived urchin could not get a word in edgewise, as I went into full-on yelling lecture mode about being a responsible person and following through with promises.

All that done, I picked her up and on the way home, guess who we see.  Yup.  SHIRTLESS RUNNING GUY.  In a frenzy I tried to grab my phone and get it into camera mode, but I was still all pissy and flustered, so I missed him.  I was not going to let that ruin my chances.  I blew home, dropped Janie off, told her to get ready and blew back out to the celebrated running route.  And there he was.  Oh, the beauty of it all.  I gleefully took shot after shot, giggling maniacally.  So yes, our daughter caused all kinds of inconvenience for me this morning, but she also induced the best photo ops of SRG so far.  As that crafty guy Shakespeare said, All's Well That Ends Well.

And so, here he is, in my best snaps yet, Shirtless Running Guy.
Wait...what's that up ahead?  Could it BE?

Yes!  It is!  I'd know that tan anywhere!

And those shorts!  They're like old friends to me!

Hello, Shirtless Running Guy!  Long time, no see!

I even turned around to get a front shot.  Pretty sure dude knows I'm nuts.