Tuesday, January 27, 2015

If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix Chili

There is one thing I learned a while back - if something works well, don't mess with it. Take chili as an example. I make a really good pot of chili - if I may say so myself. It took a while to figure it out, but once I did - check.

Yesterday my DH sent me an email saying, "Look at this - a great chili recipe. We should try it."  The first hint of trouble that I ignored was that it was from the New York Times Food Section. The second was that recipe came complete with its own video. 

But being a team player and having a good attitude I was game. The list of ingredients was fairly long but I had most of them. Those I did not I picked up. I printed the recipe off, prepped all my ingredients and started. The first step was heating the coriander and cumin seeds. After that they needed to be ground in the mortar and pestle. And so it went. I was very careful to follow the directions. 

After everything was chopped and browned, the ingredients added together and cooked slowly for two hours I had a pot of not very thick spicy stew. What the heck? I pulled up the video. According to it I had followed the directions exactly, it even used the same Le Creuset pots I used (a total coincident). So I added some masa (corn flour) to thicken it and let it simmer some more. 

This had been a four and a half hour ordeal. Hopefully my DH would appreciate all the time spent as well as the dirty pots, spoons, bowls, knives, and cutting boards that I finally had cleaned and put up. Just as I was happy with the chili and ready to serve it, my DH sent me text. He had been delayed and would not be home until late - he added, don't hold up supper for him, he'd pick something up. 

So what was I doing? Never mind, like I said, I make a real good pot of chili and I do not need a video or the New York Times to help. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

You Had To Be There

Yesterday Wal-Mart had a cast of characters that rivaled a comedy one might see on the silver screen. Not, as sophisticated as something by Wes Anderson mind you with everything colorized in lavender and pink or a scouting outfit, coonskin cap, and saddle oxfords. But I digress.

I was in the cola aisle (soda aisle for those of you not from here) when I noticed a little man trying to get a case of Cokes off the shelf. When a young man pulled the case off the shelf and put it in the little man's buggy, the gentleman said in a thick southern drawl. "Why thank you so much. I would have gotten it  myself but I just got this knee fixed," he said pointing to his left knee. "And I certainly don't want to mess it up." With that comment he turned and moved down the aisle.

It was at that time I realized this little man reminded me so much of the character Wallace Buford (played by Bob Penny) in Sweet Home Alabama. Mr. Buford was the attorney who was constantly trying to catch up with Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) to remind her that she, in fact, was still married.

Meanwhile, back at Wal-Mart this large man (reminded me of Icky Woods without the shuffle) was standing in the canned vegetable aisle holding a can and staring at the shelves with a look of total confusion. I excused myself as I reached in front of him and got a can of dark kidney beans. As I turned to put the can in my buggy, the gentleman was still standing there staring at the shelf. "May I help you?" I asked.

"I need a large can of cut beans," he said. "And I just don't see them anywhere." We both looked at the shelf. I spotted a can of what I thought was what he was looking for and handed it to him.

"Is this what you are looking for?"

"That's it. Thank you so much." Then as he put the can in in his buggy he looked at the can in his hand. He smiled and showed it to me. It was the same thing I had just handed him. "This is why my wife shouldn't send me in here."

As I moved on I passed two ladies talking to each other in the aisle (think Wanda Sykes and Jean Smart - Charlene of Designing Women ). One sported a purple hat and matching shoes that were hard to miss. I over heard her (the purple hat one- Charlene) say, "Oh, Marvin's doing fine. He is just working a lot of overtime these days."

An aisle or two later when I was looking for beef stock among the several types of beef broth, I found the lady (the Wanda Sykes one) was standing behind me talking with another lady (who reminded me of Mo'Nique). I only heard, "Un huh, I saw what she had on - purple, Everyone knows you don't wear that color this time of year."

"And she told me Marvin was working a lot of overtime."

"Overtime? Yeah overtime with that young thing that works at the Dollar Store. She gotta know."

"Of course she knows. But what she supposed to say? Poor child."

"Uh, uh, uh, uh, un!"

By this time I was at the end of the aisle when I about ran into the buggy of the little man (who reminded me of Mr. Buford). I quickly apologized, "I'm so sorry."

"Just as long as you don't hit my knee. Just had it fixed." I smiled and moved on. We may be slow. We may still live in the sixties (sometime the 1860's). But damn we are entertaining.

I made my way to check out and I was almost run over by a 300 pound woman in an electric shopping cart with her basket full of ice cream, packages of cookies, and frozen pizza quickly passing the fresh vegetable and fruit area as if some of the produce might just jump into her basket.

A mother (who looked just like Octavia Spencer) was pushing a buggy full of groceries followed by four young boys like stepping stones, each several inches shorter than the one in front. The youngest holding a box of cereal, trying to catch-up yelling, "Mama, can we get this?"

She stopped and turned around. "Lashon, I ain't having nun of that. You hear." Just her look got little Lashon back in line. Just her look got me in line. 

I thought  - Saturday Night Live would have field day in here. They wouldn't know where to start. But telling someone that there was a little ol' man who had just had knee surgery, a husband helpless with a grocery list, two gossiping women, a mother with four boys, and an obese shopper buying ice cream just gets lost in translation. It is a location joke - you have to be there.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Job Hunt - Old Dogs and New Tricks

I have come to the conclusion that trying to find a job at the age of 55 is the most frustrating, convoluted, complicated, inane, and depressing task I have ever attempted. First - everything you have accomplished, all your skills, education, and 33 years of employment is boiled down to one single page of bullet points.

The whole world, short of the AARP, is telling you that reentering the job market in your fifties is damn near impossible. Our generation has been written off. If you have a job, hold on for dear life. Of course AARP touts that employees in their golden years (after age 50) offer the best skills and experience for employers looking for new hires. And for an easy $16 a month (or $21 that gives you "access to experts, tools, and resources that provide a holistic approach to brain health") you, too, can "turn your dreams and goals into real possibilities". The check is in the mail and I'll respect you in the morning - not!

I'm not cynical. The world has changed, the economy has changed, business has changed. We are going through what the world last experienced in the industrial revolution during the late 1700's when those who stayed on the farm found themselves left behind. Well, that is unless they embraced the new inventions brought on by the revolution, put them to work for themselves, and moved along with the "new" world.

The world is flat. The world is digital. It instant. It is young and evolving everyday. New graduates have no loyalty to an employer and having 4 employers on their resumes in 6 years is not an issue for them. They do not see jobs as dispensable, they see the world moving quickly and when a new opportunity comes, they do not fear jumping for it. Where as in our day, we clung to our positions out of loyalty often to the detriment of our future. But that was how we were raised reared. Don't rock the boat, think outside the box, or take a chance. We were but lemmings off the cliff, taking our destiny with us.

If we, in our golden years, are going to recapture our destiny, we need to gain the ear of someone and convince them that we have stepped out of our box, do not necessarily know more that they do, have an open mind, comfortably work in the digital age and have no insecurity with old dogs and new tricks. Somehow I do not feel like AARP agrees with me.

So now I just need to find someone willing to lend me their ear, convince them I have both a lot to bring to the table and am very open to new things. Basically, I am old dog ready to get off the porch and learn some new tricks. And who knows, maybe the young pups, some day, may want to learn an old trick or too. Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Movie Review - The Wedding Ringer

Yes, I went to see this movie. No, one would not think this would have been on my "must see list". However, I found the trailers entertaining from the start. The story line was  funny and my only fear was that all the good scenes would be shown in the trailers. They were not. The Wedding Ringer has a lot going for it. First it is funny as Hell. Second, it is just crude enough to give it the credibility it needs without totally offending the rest of the world. And, Third, it is well cast.

Kevin Hart plays Jimmy Callahan owner of the BMC (Best Man's Club). He runs a business being the best man for grooms who really need one. And he has it down to an art. Be a large WASP affair, Jewish gala, or Catholic mass - he can handle it. He makes the groom look like the best man the bride could have ever chosen. 

Doug Harris (played by Josh Gad) is a successful attorney with no life and no friends who found that he is marrying the girl of his dreams. Clearly out of his league he seeks help. When Doug comes his way, Jimmy learns that Doug not only needs a "Best Man", he needs 7 groomsmen also, what in the "business" is referred to as the "Golden Tuxedo".  And so it goes.

What could be a charade of "It's a Mad Mad World" turns into a funny story with some outrageous scenes with Jimmy trying to create Doug a past life with 7 friends in  a week. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting plays Gretchen Palmer, Doug's fiancee who is more caught up in the wedding than Doug. I will not spoil it, but I will say when it is all over you realize that the good guys do win in the end. 

For an enjoyable evening when you do not want to have to worry about a lot of thought, this is a good film. We are not talking award winner or cult follower, but an entertaining 101 minutes. And afterall, it is the entertainment we seek in the theater, right?

PS I would not advise this choice for any bride to be who does not know her  groom's friends well.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update on the Birds

When we last visited the cage, there were 15 birds, 5 nests, and 3 eggs. Well we have moved along. The Gouldians are now brooding on a nest of 4 eggs. According to what I read they should start hatching any day now. Both parents have been very attentive. They made a soft nest in the nest box from the alfalfa they are feed. 

The Cut Throats have given it another try and have a nest of 3 eggs in another nest box. The cock is sitting on the eggs now which indicates that the hen may have more eggs to lay. (They lay one a day until they are finished with that clutch.) At that point the hen will start doing her part sitting on the eggs. (ie brooding)

Mean time the second pair of Gouldians are looking at one of the other nest boxes, measuring the drapes - so to say. Not quite sure what is going on there. A week or so ago, I would have told you they were not even compatible. Stay tuned.

The one compliant I have with all this is that I cannot clean the cage as thoroughly as I wish each week. You have to be very careful not to disturb the nesting birds. I'm ready for this experiment to be over. A dirty cage does not enthuse me. Maybe I need a sign on the cage that says, "Excuse our mess, we are nesting."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The State of the Union Was Released this Afternoon

I love the annual State of the Union Address. It is so predictable.

The afternoon of the speech the White House will release parts of the speech to the press.

Then the press will report, "Tonight the President will say  . . . "

At 8 o'clock the President addresses Congress and he says " . . . " (just what the WH released and the networks reported).

The Democrats are supportive, the Republicans are less so.

After the speech, the pundits recap. "Well, we just heard the President say, ' . . .' "

Duh.

Now I know why President Clinton's staff went apoplectic when he went off the reservation, ignored the teleprompter one year, and just adlibbed his own SOTU address. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sweet Justification

Sometimes a little research can justify anything. (Caution : this only applies to adults.) 

Fact: 500 extra calories a day or 3500 total a day will cause 1 pound of weigh gain a week

Fact: A small (7oz) bag of Brachs Conversation Hearts has 13 servings @ 60 calories each 

Fact: One small bag of Brachs Conversation Hearts contains 780 calories

Therefore, in one week one would have to eat 4. 5 bags of the candy in addition to their regular 2000 calorie a day regime to gain a pound.

Stay with me here.

Or, one could reduce their daily calorie intake by 334 calories a day and still enjoy 3 three bags of the candy a week. Let's see, if I cut out my daily Dark Chocolate Milky, that would eliminate 220 calories right there. (The Snickers went a while back when I realized milk chocolate was a waste of calories.) Wait a cotton picking minute. I have the solution. By simply not eating 38 of those damn evil dark chocolate covered almonds a day, I could justify 3 bags of Conversation Hearts a week.

One thing about us southern women, we can justify anything if we put our mind to it. Especially when it comes to eating. This subject has always been quite the conundrum for us. Take in infamous scene in GWTW before the picnic at Twelve Oaks when Scarlett was refusing to eat.

Mammy: Oh, no, you ain't. If you don't care what folks says about this family, I does. And I done told you and told you, you can always tell a lady by the way she eats in front of people - like a bird. And I ain't aimin' to have you go over to Mista John Wilkes' house and eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog.

Scarlett: Fiddle dee-dee! Ashley Wilkes says he likes to a girl with a healthy appetite.

Mammy: What a gentleman says and what they thinks is two different things. And I ain't noticed Mist' Ashley axin' for to marry ya.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Major in High School?

I am seriously beginning to think greeting at Wal-Mart may be a good career move for me. The full time job of trying to find a job is simply overwhelming. Just reading through vast amount of emails that flood my inbox daily with lists of jobs "that match my qualifications" is often more than I can handle.

Until now I always thought I understood the definition of the term "match". I never realized it had such a broad meaning. How was I to know that my experience as a paralegal, judicial assistant, executive administrator, IT trainer would "match" so well with jobs such as 'Part Time UPS loader', 'Customer Assistant at Taco Bell' (I kid you not) or 'Inventory Administrator at Love's Truck Stop'. Nothing against these professions I just fail to see what algorithm would have aligned my resume with these jobs. But I digress.

Another issue I find myself dealing with is the emails from these job sites that inform me they have read through my resume and it is 70% effective. For $249, which is $49.99 off the regular price, they will be more than happy to make it 100% effective. They then go on to state that I have listed everything in the suggested order, there are no grammatical or spelling errors. They are impressed with the bullet points I use and the concise wording I chose. Overall my resume hit on all 5 "strong points" an effective resume must exhibit to meet their standard. Then what the hell do they think an unemployed person is going to spend an extra $249 on?

Then my favorite question of the day was in the education part of the application. Under High School it asked "Area of Study"? Now I do not know about you but we did not declare a "major" in high school. In fact the only choice I can remember being able to make was whether I would suffer through the pain of Spanish or the agony of French. And, 37 years later, I am sorry but, first, I do not recall my final GPA in high school, and second, what difference does it make considering I went on to earn a BA in English from a well thought of institution of higher learning.

Seriously, who would remember their high school GPA? well short of the Valedictorian. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Fine Print

I hate the "Fine Print". Now that I have launched into my great job hunt, I am finding more and more "fine print". There are a plethora of job aggregating websites out there. Yes, each one "Promises" a job for everyone. 

"Looking for a job as a full time registered Lab Technician? Here is a job that matches your background perfectly in North Dakota. Oh, that doesn't work, well try this job as a part time ditch digger - think of all the time you will have with your family." 

OK, I exaggerate but not by much. I was looking for a position as an Executive Administrative Assistant and when the search engine could not find one that matched my criteria, they offered me a job as a seasonal worker at Lowes in their lighting department. I missed the segway.

Never leaving any stone unturned I registered with several of these web sites. Suddenly I started getting phone calls. But not about jobs - even those watering plants, laying pipe, or bagging burgers.  These were calls asking if I wanted to further my education? Uh, no. I want a job.

This is where the fine print comes into play. At the very bottom of each home page, in very small print was some gibberish about continuing education opportunities. Of course to opt out, you needed to check this teeny tiny box. Obviously, I had failed to see the tiny box.

After fielding phone calls from four folks most concerned about my education, I finally had managed to tell each that at this point in my life my focus was employment and to please remove me from any calling list they had me on concerning education unless it concerned a position of suitable employment at an institution of higher learning.

Being wary, I applied to one more. The first screen promised access to "The Largest Listing of Available Jobs". The second screen asked a few questions; name, address, work history, education, and then (very slyly) when pressing "Submit" you had to pay attention. There was a large red SUBMIT button that, in very fine print indicated by pressing it I was authorizing a mortgage company to do a preliminary credit check on me and call with financing offers. Of course just below that was a grey button that said NO and in fine print, "I do not not want to participate in this offer, please just submit the information I have completed.

The following screen asked questions about my job preferences. Once again there was a large red SUBMIT button that in very fine print indicated by pressing it I was authorizing a vinyl siding company to visit my home and prepare an installation estimate. And then there was the grey NO button that stated, "No I do not want to participate in this offer, but please submit my information." 

And the last screen asked for information concerning location preference and past salary history. Once again there was a large red SUBMIT button, with fine print stating "Yes I authorize you to submit my resume to this employer as an application for the job." Next to it was a grey NO button that in fine print stated, "No, I am not ready to submit my job application yet, but I am very interested in having someone call me concerning furthering my education."  

Well, I guess the assumption is if you do not have your information correct then you need more education? I could not find that anywhere in the fine print.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

15 Finches, 5 Nests, and 3 Eggs

When I first got my finches the books said, "If you do not wish your pairs to mate, simply do not supply nest boxes, without them they will not mate."

Seemed simple enough - no nest boxes, no eggs. So in my large flight cage my dear birds were given a myriad of perches, three different bathing dishes, two fresh drinking water bowls, and multiple trays, dishes, and feeders each filled with fresh food. I made sure they had everything their little finch hearts desired - or maybe not.

One day I noticed that my female Cut Throat sitting in one of the food dishes and getting most upset when any other bird came near. It did not take long to realize that she was sitting on an egg. By that evening the male Cut Throat was brooding the nest (ie sitting on the egg). The next morning the hen was back and we had two eggs. This continued and soon we had three eggs. The only issue was this was not in a nest box. This was not a soft nest made with straw and leaves. This was a hard plastic dish.

Knowing they were new parents I waited until they were both out of the nest and put some alfalfa on the eggs. When they returned they quickly went to work arranged the hay into a nice nest. And they took turns brooding, with mainly the cock (the male) sitting on the nest. They were constantly being pestered by my Gouldians. In just a matter of days, the Gouldians had raided the nest and broken all the eggs.

Realizing that the birds were going to nest no matter what I bit the bullet and installed nests in the cage. Within 24 hours one pair of Gouldians had picked out a nest and started making it homey with alfalfa hay. It a matter of days we had eggs. They lay them a day at the time. The cock sat on them religiously. The hen would relieve him and take her turn. Often you would find both of them in the nest box. If any other bird attempted to get anywhere near the nest, the Gouldians fought them off.


(The pair of Gouldians in their nest)


(The male Gouldian)



Meanwhile the poor chickless Cut Throats were going in and out of the other nest boxes as if they were searching for a home. Finally they found one and started adding alfalfa to it, albeit a weak attempt. 
(Cut Throat checks out new nest box)

So now I have a Gouldian pair brooding, I know, 3 eggs (maybe 4) and doing a very good job, a pair of Cut Throats making a second attempt, and the pair of Cordon Blues and Golden Breasteds are watching from afar with little interest. 

Stay tuned. I keep reminding myself I did not want to get into the finch breeding business. But, as usual, I must remind myself, my life is out of my control. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Movie Review - Inherent Vice

For months we have been seeing the trailers for Inherent Vice. And with a cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix (can someone please tell me the story behind his name), Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, the movie is chocked full of talent. Joaquin Phoenix has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the film. 

Here's the plot in a nut shell - Set in California, you have "Doc" Sportello (Phoenix) a private eye. This is the psychedelic drug crazed 60's and 70's. There is a narrator throughout the film - Sortilege. She starts, "If it's a quiet night out at the beach and your ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire- developer boyfriend, and his wife, and her boyfriend, and a plot to kidnap the billionaire and throw him in a loony bin... " 

Then Shasta (Katherine Waterston), "Doc"'s "ex-old lady says, "I need your help, Doc!

Sortil├Ęge continues narrating, "Maybe you should just look the other way." She pauses. "But if you're Doc, it may all start to get a little peculiar after that..."


And the story starts.

It is almost mad cap, well mad cap in a slow drug hazed way. The movie is based on a 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon (which I have not read).  As the film moves along, more bizarre characters start popping up. Josh Brolin plays an uptight straight laced crew cut police detective who always seems to be one move behind "Doc".  My favorite character is Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (played by Martin Short) the dentist dressed in a purple velvet suit. Reese Witherspoon plays Penny Kimbell, the Deputy D.A. and "Doc"s' current squeeze. And Owen Wilson plays Coy Harlington who seems to show up everywhere.

Maybe I am slow on the uptake but it took me a while to put all the characters together. The plot seemed very loose and the story made little sense the first half of the film. "Doc" seemed to be looking for the billionaire but the audience was not given enough information to follow along. About three quarters of the way through a new twist was introduced and suddenly it all began to come together. By this time I was looking around to see if anyone on my row was smoking anything funny they would share. Perhaps I needed to be on the same plane as "Doc" to comprehend.

When it was allover it was a good story, a little offbeat - OK, a lot offbeat. But what would one expect when you combine a stoner film with a plot that may or may not include drugs, a herion cartel, the Mason murders, the LAPD, a billionare, and other vices. It is funny. It is well written. And Phoenix does a great job playing "Doc". 

Go see it, but keep in mind it may take a while for it all to come together. But, then it may not for you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The System of Sharing My Insanity

Believe it or not I am not ADD, one would just think so reading this Blog. What you have to keep in mind is that anywhere from 15 to 30 hours may pass between my posts. And during this time a lot (or nothing) may occur in my life. Often when I sit down to write I wish to share these odd (or, in my life - normal) things that have happened, hoping you can share the humor with me.

There are other times when something comes to my mind during the day and I made a note in a little notebook, I carry with me everywhere, so I will not forget it. These thoughts may be something off the wall someone said, some odd situation I found myself in, or a fleeting memory of my past that comes to my mind. I know, even though whatever this is, as funny, memorable, or odd as it may be - there is a good chance I will not remember it by the time I sit down to write a post.

When I was writing my books I found myself constantly noting memories that I had of Mama. And I kept notes and lists about the wedding during the four months we were planning it. I always had my trusty notebooks full of notes.

For a year or two I would pick up these small 3x5 journals I could find (always on sale). Always fearing I would run out of blank space I accumalated 9 or 10 of these. When I was looking for a cover for my ipad I found this wonderful small company in northern California that makes lovely tooled covers for ipads and phones as well as wallets. I ordered a red one (naturally) with the image of the traditional Chinese Dragon tooled in it. When it came I was thrilled.

Leather iPad Covers, Cases | Cloud Dragon in Red


The following Christmas, Santa brought me a gorgeous leather 6x9 notebook cover with several replacement notebooks for it. I was beside myself. Not only was it larger than what I normally used, it was downright good looking. As usual my DH came through in spades - he is such a great gift giver. I use it daily and enjoy it everytime I pull it out of my bag.

Leather Journal Cover | Diary | Dragonfly Pond in Fern

Now the irony of all this is that since I started my Blog it drives my DH nuts when we are anywhere and I start making notes. He will look at me and say, "What are you doing? Making notes for your Blog?" His tone of voice is total disdain. And when I was writing my books, he never took me seriously, when I commented I was making notes for the book. So my question is, just what did he think I was going to use the notebook for; grocery lists, names and addressess, movie times, love notes?

I still keep those small notebooks tucked in various places - the glove box of my car, the drawer of the side table in the den where I usually sit, my travel bag, my bedside table, and in various pocketbooks. I never want to be more than an arm's length away from pen and paper to jot down a note. This Christmas my daughter gave me a lovely handmade leather journal. She asked me if I still made notes and kept one with me. I assured her it would be put to good use.

Sometimes I just wonder. But now you no longer need to. Now you know why my train of thought often seems derailed. 

(And, yes, I have a type of pen I prefer and they are everywhere - in desk drawers, on tables, 3 or 4 at all times in my bag, 2 in the car, 1 in my computer bag, and, at least, 2 packs of new ones in my office. Say I'm obsessed - but there is a system.)