Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Catering Service is Limited

As I begin today's post, I am a bit nonplussed.

One of the leading search terms that landed people at this blog this week was "hairdos for fat people". While I do not begrudge proper-BMI-challenged folk the right to a kick-butt coiffure, I am not so sure they will find what they need here at Unbagging the Cats. I've discussed bad hairstyles, and my personal stylist, the Butcher of Seville. But I don't recall advocating one specific hairdo that was flattering for fats. Go figure. Believe me, if I knew of one, I would be the proud Poster Val, and display a banner of my likeness.

I could understand if people with bladder-control issues showed up at my virtual door, after my post about the gas-station-chicken checkout line used the word "incontinence" in the second sentence. While they are not my target audience, it's a fairly large demographic, if we are to judge from the number of pharmaceutical commercials featuring full water-balloon class-reunion attendees and leaky pipe people taking drives in their pipemobiles.

Now that I've mentioned that topic again, even more might drop in. Any traffic is good traffic, right? Surely they have a sense of humor. Maybe a few will check in regularly. I promise to strive to keep my writing at a wry smile level, to prevent inopportune bladder leakage. No ROFL allowed.

But I'll be darned if I'll cater to those "fat proboscis monkey" people.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Severe Tongue-Bashing

A malady has befallen me on this holiday week. Not a malady of epic proportions. But not an insignificant malady, either.

I have a bump on my tongue.

You know that bump. He's a rogue taste bud. He grows bigger than the complacent taste buds who loll about on their fleshy tongue carpet, enjoying, then imparting, a plethora of Christmastime flavors to the non-rent-charging landlord of their mouth. Big Bud acts like he can make an escape. Sometimes, he blusters until he's flushed and red. Sometimes, he works out his anger and pales in comparison to his taste bud buddies. That's the stage my malady is in right now.

It's right on the tip of my tongue, as the saying goes. Off to the left side just a bit. It catches on my left Bugs Bunny tooth if I check to see if it's gone. Big Bud is a bit painful. Not as bad as earlier in the week. But he still makes his presence known. I blame his appearance on holiday gorging. I first noticed him after nearly foundering on Chex Mix. It was not the Mix itself, but rather the constant searching for crumbs stuck in my teeth. Big Bud must have snagged himself on one of my snaggleteeth.

There's nothing I can do to hasten the departure of Big Bud. And he is blatantly obvious about his presence. When I lean over to look in the mirror, there he is. I can even see him from a good three feet away. And that transfers to six feet away counting the reflection. In all actuality, Big Bud is no bigger than a grain of rice. But he feels like a mini marshmallow perched on the end of my tongue. Honestly, he feels like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man has plopped down to sit a spell in my mouth. But I will not describe Big Bud as Mr. Stay-Puft, because...well...even my exaggeration knows some limits.

I am eager for this uninvited guest to take his leave. To blend back into the billowing mosh pit of regular tastebuds. He has worn out his non-existent welcome.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Gas Station Chicken Establishment. Where Val is Always Next to Next in Line.

I can hardly contain my excitement. But I will. Since the alternative is incontinence.

Around noon, I made a trip to town for some caffeine. Since I cannot readily buy the pure, uncut product (what do you think I am, a frequenter of highway truck stops?) I settled for a 44-ounce Diet Coke. It's not the same in a can or bottle, you know. It has to be a fountain drink.

Since my dust-up with the Sonic drive-thru dude, I visit that establishment sparingly. Okay, I've cut it down to twice a week. But the point is, I only ventured as far as the gas station chicken gas station for my beverage. Did you know that if you take your cup, you can get a refill for $1.39? Tax included. Thirty percent cheaper than Sonic. I threw in that little fact for all the math teachers. Don't lecture me on how I could buy a whole two-liter bottle for that. Pay attention. It's not the same out of a bottle.

I trekked down one aisle and around the bend to the soda fountain. I filled my recycled cup with about four fingers of ice. I suppose that reference is for bartenders or labor-and-delivery nurses. Take your pick. I added the Diet Coke, and reached for a lid. No dice! And no lids. They were out. Out of 44-ounce-cup lids! I should have recycled the lid as well, but I never see anybody carry in the lid for their refills. Still, I was not leaving without my magical elixir. I figured I could sip it on the blacktop road, enough so that sloshing on the gravel road would not breach the rim.

I got in line behind a woman buying lottery tickets, and a man paying for gas. At some point, another man appeared, off to the side of the original line. For some reason, the check-out counter has been modified of late, allowing people on both sides of the register by the door. That only encourages encroachers. It used to be perfectly clear where the line formed. But seriously. There's only one cashier at that register. One cashier, with two arms. It's not like she's the Hindu deity, Vishnu. I'm sure Vishnu has more pressing matters to attend to than ringing up gas station chicken, sodas, and lottery tickets.

When it was my turn, I said, nodding to the off-side man, "I'm not sure which of us was here first." I did that to be polite. I'm pretty sure I was in line before he came in and stood there.

Encroacher stepped up to the counter. "I want you to check these lottery tickets for me."

Cashier looked at me. "Just the soda?"

"Yes. But go ahead with him."

"Oh, you just have the soda. That's a dollar thirty-nine."

I handed over two dollars. "You're out of lids for this size."

"Well, I'll go get you a lid. That's easy enough." She handed back my change.

"It can wait a minute."

"No. This comes before checking lottery tickets. They're last." She came out from behind the counter, walked to the back of the store, and grabbed a bag of lids. "Here you go. Sorry for your wait." She carried the bag up to the counter with her. "I can put these in later."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. You come back."

All this while, the lottery-checker Encroacher was glaring at me. Too bad, so sad. I was a paying customer. Or maybe Checker knew this guy from experience. She said, "Do you think they're winners? Or do you just want me to check them?" Because they were scratchers. Normally, you can tell if they're winners if you read the instructions. It's not like they were Lotto or PowerBall and he didn't have the numbers. He looked like the kind of guy who would win, trade for more tickets, and stand at the counter to scratch them. I have nothing against lottery players. I've won a couple of big jackpots myself. But have the common decency to step out of line while you do your scratchin'.

So there you have it. Val's act of kindness was repaid by karma. Or by Even Steven, the poor man's karma.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Whatever You're Buyin', I Ain't Sellin'

This BLOGGER is driving me crazy!

Say that with all the different inflections, like Kramer practicing for his line in the Woody Allen movie that was filming on his street: "These pretzels are making me thirsty!"

And, like in the Cigar Store...Person episode, I will dance around using a certain word.

BLOGGER thinks I am a...not-real commenter. One who leaves messages to sell products that may not be a good investment, or to solicit funds for my own personal gain by tricking others.

I assure you, I do not have one of those not-real-commenter bones in my body. To think, I have been conscientiously perusing my daily-read blogs, and leaving thoughtful, if lame, comments, only to have them go to the not-real-comment folder! Where's the fun in that?

I have an old blog buddy who ends up in my not-real-commenter file. Six years we go back, yet still BLOGGER sends her into limbo. I can always rescue her, because I use comment moderation. Before that, I was missing comments on older posts, because I didn't go back and check them every day. Now I get them in a pretty little list, by post, as well as email notification. So when I see her in email, I go back and mark her as NOT a not-real-commenter in the dashboard/comment/not-real-commenter section. Sometimes it works for the next time. Sometimes it doesn't.

Now, for reading through this, I would like to announce that you have all been awarded...NO! I'm not one of those not-real-commenters. What was I thinking? I am not awarding you anything. Nor am I allowing you to be my trustee, make investments for me, bail me out of jail, or wire me moolah to replace what was stolen from me in another country.

You just read it for free. The horror!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When It Snows, I'm Deluged

Gosh! Here I've been, partying it up, playing games like there's no tomorrow, and people have been trying to contact me via email! Okay, so it's actually via SPAM email. But still! I'm in high demand. So much so that I deleted a whole boatload of requests just so I could start fresh. But here are the latest.

I'm a brand new one-hundred-thousandaire! It's true! The Western Union Board has awarded me the sum of $100,000. Or as they refer to it, $100000 USD. Because you know, that's how we wacky American United Statesians refer to our money around here. And that's simply for doing nothing! I didn't have to enter a contest, buy a lottery ticket, or even contact Western Union. I was rewarded for sitting here in my basement pecking away at the keyboard, with brief intervals of intrafamilial game-playing to liven up my existence. Kudos to me! I can't wait to get my fortune.

Oh! I don't have to wait. Because you know what? The first $5000.00 was sent today. Today, as in December 23, according to the Transfer Alert from Western Union Money Transfer. I'm surprised it didn't arrive TODAY. That's plenty of time. Four days. I wonder how they got my bank information for a direct deposit? Those zany Western Union cut-ups! They are all about giving during this holiday season. They even sent me the $5000.00 before they awarded me the $100000. Can't beat that with a stick!

If that's not enough money for me, I also have a business to fall back on. Perhaps it is a business instructing people how to use prepositions to end sentences with. Perhaps not. But whatever it is, Mr James Adom is a potential buyer. He contacted me on December 21. What a polite fellow, though a bit challenged in the capitalization, punctuation, and syntax departments. "Good day and how are you. please am interested in your product i want to know more about the price and your packaging and more also send me your product details and your website" I hope he will not be disappointed in my as-yet unwritten instruction manual. I'm sure he won't mind sending me the money first. He might even be a Western Union one-hundred-thousandaire himself!

I wonder if Mr James Adom has relatives operating a business called JADOM'S TRADE? Because I'm thinking he shared the news of my fabulous non-product with them. They are so interested that they contacted me on Christmas Eve. And they are also very polite. Though I might need a makeover, because they apparently cannot tell if I am a man or a woman. Or their mom. My bad. Attention SIR/MA I want to buy your product kindly send me your website and your contact phone number and more also the new product you have in the market now, Please get back to me as soon as you can with this details i requested for, Thank you and have a great Christmas and New Year calibrations" Who could resist such a polite request? Me, for one.

But wait! Back up the Brinks truck, because BBC One National Lottery congratulates me on my success in the email electronic online sweepstakes! "A Draft of £1,263,584.00 GBP (One Million Two Hundred and Sixty Three Thousand, Five Hundred and Eighty Four Pounds Sterling) will be issued in your name as one of the lucky winners." I'm rollin' in dough! All I have to do is send my full name, address, nationality, phone number, age, sex, and occupation/position for validation. I don't know why I even bother to work.

Money is practically falling out of my nether regions. As if my award and current profits from my future business were not enough, a kindly foreign lass by the name of Zara Bulle wants to make me trustee of her inheritance! She is a Somalian citizen, female, age 24 years old, whose lawmaker father was killed in a bomb attack. Poor Zara just can't catch a break. She needs a trustee in another country to help her clear her refugee status. All I have to do is deposit her money in my bank account. "Before the death of my father, he told me that he made a fixed deposit of the sum of Four Million, Eight Hundred thousand United States Dollars (4.8Million USD) in one of the Banks in Burkina Faso with my name as his next of kin." I think she might give me a portion of that fortune, even though she doesn't specifically say so. You know how shy those Somalians are.

Everybody wants to give Val money! A Sergent Thomas Allen wants me to make an investment for him. He can't, you see. He's all tied up serving his country. I would suggest that he invest in a crash course on how to spell "sergeant" but that might be unpatriotic of me. He asks if he can trust me. Thomas! Zara trusts me! Why you wanna be that way? "My name is Sergent Thomas Allen. I am an American soldier presently on active service with Squadron battalion here in Afghanistan. I served with the Third Infantry Division in Iraq since 2003, before thousand of my lucky colleagues were pulled out in August last year, leaving my superior and myself among the unlucky ones redeployed to Afghanistan where I am serving presently. During my call to duty in Iraq, my superior and I moved US$25million (Twenty five million US dollars) being part of funds from late Saddam Hussein during a search in one of his palaces in 2003. Through the assistance of a Senior Red Cross Delegate to Iraq, this fund has been safely moved out of Iraq to a secured location" For helping, I could take 30% for myself. According to Sergent Thomas, that's $7.5 million. I didn't do the math, but I'm hoping he's better with numbers than with words. Gosh! I could be helping a serviceman! Not to mention Zara the orphan! I'm a true humanitarian!

I also have a Christmas Day email that is written in Chinese. I do not yet speak nor read that language. But I'm sure it's from somebody offering me money.

"When it rains it pours," as the Morton salt umbrella girl says.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not as Serious as a Soccer Riot

We are a family of game-playing fools.

It's a good thing that we only gather for competition on holidays. A melee was brewing yesterday, midway through a game of adult Hedbanz. I think that's how to spell the game. You know kids and their creative spelling these days. The object of the game is to guess what you are. Everybody has a plastic headband with a slot on the forehead section in which a card is placed. A mini hourglass, perhaps a minute-glass, is turned over, and you can ask questions of the group until time runs out. Then the person to your left gets a turn to guess his card. The first person correctly identify five of his cards wins. Well. Let me tell you, our family needs adaptations. We lowered the bar to three right. And still, nobody won.

It didn't help that NUDE BEACH bossed everybody around. LIBRARY was downright shaking in her shoes, afraid to make a mistake. Then GLASSES cheated by looking in the mirror and asking questions like, "Do they help people? Do we use them everyday? Can you carry them in a pocket? No! I did not cheat! Just because I looked in the mirror and said 'This is like looking at the optometrist's chart' does not mean that I could read my card in the reflection!" Like we wouldn't notice that his questions were way more specific than the standard, "Am I a place? A person? A thing? Am I alive?"

BICYCLE was chided for asking, "Am I a hose?" while looking at the player who was HOSE. "C'mon already!" hollered GLASSES. "You have figured out that you have two wheels and you might be red. Seriously? A hose?" PARKING LOT was confused by people responding that she was visited by adults, but answered with seven exclamations of, "No!" when she inquired whether children like to go there. SHERLOCK HOLMES suddenly asked if he was a detective, right after taking off his glasses, peering at them, then shining them on his shirt. And SARAH PALIN could not understand how she could be a woman on television, yet not be blond or have a regular show.

No prizes were given. Which is a good thing. OZZY OSBOURNE was getting testy, and PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE was getting antsy. So it was a relief, kind of, when CHEESECAKE and NEWSPAPER had to leave, and the game broke up.

We might need to hire security for next year's Christmas Challenge.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Games People Played

I regret to inform my well-wishers that I have been dethroned as supreme Christmas Eve Game Champion at my sister's holiday finger-food festival.

My performance was just not up to snuff. I am suspicious of her motives. Upon gathering at her kitchen-counter smorgasbord, we were informed that she had forgotten to lay in a supply of Sprite. That is a major beverage faux pas for the Thevictorian family. The Pony, you see, is forbidden to consume caffeine. He is very good about refusing such elixirs when his drink of decreed choice is available. And still, he turned down the Mountain Dew which Sis so courteously offered him in lieu of Sprite. I started to suspect a conspiracy when her husband said, "Mountain Dew is okay. It's a clear soda, isn't it?"

Throughout the meal, I kept an eye and an ear on the kids' table. The Pony was quite animated. Like his cousin said, "He appears to be a social drinker." He regaled them with tales of his friend in the trombone section of the eighth grade band hiding Oreos in his unruly halo of hair. He licked his elbow. He clicked his other elbow. Funny how breaking both of them infused him with such super powers. Just before game-playing time, my niece asked, "Can The Pony have some coffee?" Um. NO.

I was a bit distracted during the Christmas card jigsaw puzzle competition. That's how I lost. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. That, and I was too lazy to stand up and grab at puzzle pieces in the center of the oval table. It was like a game of PIT in there. Except we were risking life and limb for pieces of cut-up Christmas cards, not commodity cards for wheat and barley and flax. And even more vicious that a Saturday night game of spoons in off-campus college housing.

So...I lost the individual competition and the prize of noodle soup. It was in a gift bag: a jar of dry noodles and a bouillon cube and a recipe. If that's chicken noodle soup, I'll take mine rare. Pardon me for paraphrasing Kurt Russell as Drew Stephens in Silkwood, in the scene where he learns that Cher's girlfriend, Diana Scarwid as Angela, is a beautician. She has just applied her makeup to Cher, who looks like a corpse. And Drew says, "If that's what a beautician does, I'll take mine rare." To which Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood replies, "Drew, Angela works at Thayer's." And Kurt says, "Funeral home? Hell, why didn't you say so?" Just before pouring a beer over his head and walking out.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I lost. But my team won the Unwrap Ten Hershey's Kisses While Wearing Oven Mitts Relay. And everybody won the game of Pass the Gift Bag to the Left and Right During a Reading of the Wright Family's Christmas. We all won a 750-piece jigsaw puzzle. Mine was the Chicago skyline. The Pony had a fruit market. Genius had a trolley. And Hick won a puzzle of a pile of gumballs.

Sis declared that I was in charge of prizes for next year, and I told her that I would buy them throughout the year. She said the cost had to be one dollar or less. I said I thought I could swing it, a dollar a month. Then my mom handed me her puzzle, on top of the Thevictorian stack, giving me five. So I told Sis, "I've already got it covered up through May, for zero dollars."

She was not amused.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not the Struggle, But the Triumph

In a few hours, we are off to my sister's house for a Christmas Eve evening of finger foods and game-playing and wine-tasting (for some, not me). The imbibers cracked me up one year, sipping the most terrible wine ever, then urging others to give it a try. "Here. It's terrible. Try this." Of course it made my super-secret blog. Here's an excerpt:

The wine tasting was the same as years past. I, myself, do not imbibe. That doesn't put a crimp in Hick's style. The Ex-Mayor brings out bottles of wine he has collected, and the imbibers swirl them around in little glasses and then pretty much chug them and try another. All was going well, with blackberry ruling the evening, followed by pinot noir (pronounced around Backroads as peanut nor), then mixed berry that smelled like plums (I am the official wine sniffer). The party came to a screeching halt when Ex-Mayor's bro took a sip of St. James Pink Catawba. Not to disparage a local Missouri wine, but that stuff did not even smell good. Granted, it had been opened last year and lolled about the Ex-Mayor's fridge since then. Let's just say that it did not age well. Or perhaps they did not enjoy it last year, either, since so much was left in the bottle.

In true Backroads High School teacher lunch table fashion, Bro proffered the bottle to his wife, and urged, "Try that. It's terrible!" So of course she poured a glass and sipped. "Yuck! Here, taste that!" The Ex-Mayor held up the bottle, spun it around, announced "Pink
Catawaba," and poured himself a glass. He frowned. "That's not good. Here, Hick. Try it. I'll give you that to take home and hide from Genius. I guarantee one sneak of that stuff, and he won't want to drink." Hick showed remarkable restraint in only pouring about an inch of Pink Catawba into his glass. He swilled. "Nope. That's not any good." The top was screwed back on the bottle. For all I know, Pink Catawba was stored away for another year, to earn sour faces again next Christmas Eve. The imbibers returned to the mixed berry for another round.

According to Sis, complaints have been lodged about my game-playing. Not so much my game-playing, it seems, as my winning. Can I help it that I have an IQ higher than that of Hitler? Just be glad that I use my powers for good, not evil, I say. And if I catch the little crybabies who complained, I'm going to give them what for! So...apparently, the games this year will not be so mentally taxing, but of a different nature. I can only guess physical, what with my wrists being debilitated over the past week with all that Chex Mix tending. Sis went on to say that several of our regulars won't be there this year. In fact, other than my immediate family and the kids of Sis, my brother-in-law's mother will be the only competition. I know where I stand with my people. As far as BIL's mom...I think I can take her in a physical competition. She is pushing ninety. Then again, her wrists remain supple, never having known the toil of Chex Mix baking.

I'd better come home with a prize! I'm in it to win it, not just to take part. Those Olympic folks who live by the creed, not the triumph, but the struggle, are no doubt a bunch of non-medal also-rans. "Go big or go home," says Val the Victorian. Nobody's going to write your epitaph as "She elbowed an old lady to the ground in a game of Christmas Twister."

The Perfect Gift for the Val Who Has Everything

I let time get away from me today. Funny how that happens when you're baking two cakes, and washing dishes from the previous evening's Chex Mix creation, and wrapping gifts, and attending a holiday get-together from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday all I have to do is bake another cake, make a pie, whip up some vegetable dip, churn out a batch of potato salad, and devil over a dozen eggs. Oh, and finish wrapping presents. After I dash out for a couple of last-minute items. Then attend a Christmas Eve bash at my sister's house.

We are having a sandwich Christmas this year. My mom is our hostess. No need for her to try to prepare a big spread after church. The kids always want to rush through the meal anyway. Not that they're tiny tots anymore. But they don't appreciate a lavish banquet the likes of Mr. Bumble's in the movie Oliver! Food, glorious food, indeed. They would be just as happy with a single bowl of gruel if it meant we could get to present-opening and game-playing faster.

I am asking Santa for a few more hours in a day. He doesn't even have to wrap them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Has a Mean Streak

Some people are afraid of clowns. Whether they are born with an aversion to red foam noses and white pasty faces, or develop it due to a traumatic clown experience, I'll never know. But I do know this: why my old neighbor is afraid of Santa's Naughty or Nice List.

Before I met Hick, I lived in a Backroads townhouse. My neighbor, let's call her Shelly, lived three doors down. Shelly worked in a neighboring school district. We met at the pool, and commiserated about local dating options. Shelly had students, like I did, who would gladly fix her up with a date at the drop of a hat. Mine proffered up their brothers, "There are eleven kids in my family. I know I have a brother the right age for you. How old are you, exactly?" Shelly's students fixed her up with a custodian/bus driver.

Shelly agreed. "It's not like they're related to him. I've seen him around school, and he seems like a nice guy. He's about my age. And it's only one date. What could go wrong?" You know something bad is going to happen, right? That's how I felt, sitting there on my earth-tone-plaid couch, listening to Shelly justify the date more for herself than for me.

The evening was a moderate success. Shelly and her beau went out for pizza. They talked. He was nice enough. But Shelly didn't click with him. Not a love connection. She was cordial to Beau around school. But when he asked her out again, she politely declined. She wasn't into the dating scene just now, she said.

The original date occurred around Halloween. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Shelly received a Christmas card. On the front was a jovial Santa, holding his Naughty or Nice List, pen poised to place a check mark in the box. The inside read, "I'm making a list, and checking it twice." The sender had written below that. "And you're not on it, B*tch!" No signature.

Shelly knew it was Beau. But she couldn't prove it.

Now I think of Shelly every time I see Santa with his list.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hallelujah, Chorus!

Hallelujah, chorus! You may now commence humming tasteful huzzahs as I regale my readers with a tale of semi-success.

A few weeks back, I was in the midst of a writing frenzy. I sent off eight contest submissions in one week. Now you might think, "Val, that is pure folly. The name of this game is Quality, Not Quantity." And you may very well be right. But this morning, I was greeted by an email notifying me that I was named a finalist for the first of those eight pieces I submitted. Granted, I finished out of the prize money top five. And there were eight other finalists sharing my spotlight. But still. I've submitted there twice before, and only got honorable mention, and nothing. So I'm moving in the right direction.

If you care to take a foray into the dark world of humor, and see what ol' Val's been up to, you can find my piece here, 'Tis the Season of the Whacker. I've suppressed my Valness, and am listed alphabetically under my proper name. I souped up a story from my super-secret six-year-old blog, and VOILA! Instant contest entry.

When I first found this site, and earned honorable mention, I thought to myself: They must give everyone who enters a prize. So I submitted again. And won nothing. So much for that ten dollars. If you are still wallowing in Christmas vacation free time, and want to see how far ol' Val has come as a writer, my first "winner" can be found here, Grinding the Axe. As you might notice, I enjoy a timely Christmas theme.

One of the other contests I entered announces winners on Christmas Eve. There are just three places, but they all pay. And the entry was only five bucks. However...my entry fee check has not yet cleared the bank. As well as a second check for a different contest. Perhaps that's how mail-in contests operate. I hope those dead-mouse-smelling-post-office clerks who tossed my entries so unceremoniously into battered milk crates didn't have anything to do with that.

Hallelujah, chorus. I've completed another blog post. Any writing is good writing to Val. Like a rambunctious dog needs a walk, my humor needs to be let out for a spirited romp every evening.

Hope you can Handel it. Get it? Huh? Handel. Because my title is Hallelujah, Chorus. Sometimes my humor behaves, and sometimes it chews up the newspaper.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Milking the Chex Mix

Once again, I shamelessly rely on my old standby for a topic.

Monday morning, I doled out my world-famous Christmas Chex Mix to select co-workers. In one building, anyway. My little elf, The Pony, was sent packing a poke of plastic containers into his school.

I felt a teeny bit guilty, putting The Pony under such pressure. He was in danger of being ripped fetlock from fetlock. A pack of wild jackals would show him more tenderness than teachers wanting Chex Mix. They become addicted.

Picture the poor Pony as a young, male, Elaine Benes, walking alone. Instead of Gramma Mimma's napkins stuffed with mutton in the pockets of a borrowed coat, The Pony has seven tubs of Chex Mix in a plastic bag. He is not followed by barking dogs, but by salivating faculty. I worried that he might jettison the sack to make an escape.

Oh, I've tried to teach my free customers to fish. I've provided the recipe so they can spend hours of their own time creating this crunchy concoction, and enjoy it year-round. That went over about as well as handing out poppy seeds to heroin addicts. When teachers want Chex Mix, they want it NOW! It's like Christmas crack.

I distributed my wares at 9:15. By 1:30, I had an email and a phone call asking if I could supply a refill.

Make it stop.

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Chex Mix Aficionados Only


Corn Chex                                 1 box
Rice Chex                                 1 box
Cheerios                                   1 box
Pretzels-stick                            1 bag
Pretzels-twist                            1 bag
Mixed Nuts                               small can
Cashews                                  small can
Pecans                                    half pound 
Vegetable Oil                            2 1/2 cups
Worcestershire Sauce                ?
Garlic Powder                            ?
Garlic Salt                                 ?

Pre-Heat Oven to 250

I use two 9 x 13 nonstick cake pans, and one larger roasting pan.
That's how much these ingredients will make.

Layer the ingredients in this order:

Twist Pretzels
Corn Chex
Mixed Nuts
Stick Pretzels
Rice Chex

Drizzle on the vegetable oil. Just under 3/4 cup for each of the 9 x 13 pans,
            just under 1 cup for the roasting pan. ( I have cut it back to 1/2 cup
            for the 9 x 13s, and 3/4 cup for the roaster, with good results.)

It will look like too much oil, but this will be absorbed during baking
            if you are a good stirrer, and bring the bottom pieces up to the top.

I don't measure the 3 ingredients below. Good luck!

Shake on some Worcestershire Sauce
Sprinkle with garlic powder.
Sprinkle with garlic salt.

Stir the mixture gently before placing in the oven

BAKE AT 250 degrees for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

Take the pans out for stirring, and rotate them when returning to oven
You can't speed up the process, or use a different temperature.
Don't taste the pieces that fall out, because they won't get their full flavor
            until the last 15 minutes of cooking, and you might be tempted
            to add more of the ingredients, and ruin it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chex Mix, the Harsh Taskmistress

Once upon a time, I fell into the habit of giving people at work a small token of my appreciation during the Christmas holidays. Depending on the school, it was the custodian, or secretary, or colleague, or committee members who assisted me in shoveling paperwork, or an administrator, or counselor, or my kids' teachers. Unfortunately, my generosity knew no bounds. I created a monster. A polite, well-behaved monster, to be sure. But a monster with a voracious appetite.

The problem with giving folks my world-famous Chex Mix is that they assume it is a gift that keeps on giving. I only weaned my boys' kindergarten teacher off of it two years ago when The Pony entered sixth grade. Thank goodness, for the most part, The Pony followed in Genius's teacher footsteps. I actually blame Genius, not the teachers. He decreed that all of his teachers would get Chex Mix every year. Because it wouldn't be fair to leave them out, just because he had moved on from their classes. He's quite generous with my time, effort, and money like that.

Then there is the issue of my building assignment. For seven years, I was a traveler. I worked a half-day in one building, and a half-day in another. So I had two principals, and two secretaries, and two counselors, and four custodians, and so on. They still expect me to share the wealth. And I most certainly can't leave out the superintendent, and his two secretaries.

A couple of years ago, my bestie brought back her container the next day. "Do you give refills?" I had some left over, so I humored her request. Now I am on the hook for multiple Chexes for her. Oh, how my appreciation list has grown. I now have to fill 25 plastic Walmart containers with Chex Mix. I need some elves.

Yesterday and today, I made two batches. It will take four to fill the bare minimum of containers. Because Hick and the boys will want some, and I'll have to whip some up for the extended family. Chex Mix is a harsh taskmistress. It's not like I can open a bag of store-bought mix and pawn if off as my own. That would be like an Iron Chef plating a Little Debbie oatmeal pie as a dessert. Without a fancy swirl of sauce.

Cruel Madame Chex Mix requires as much supervision as a newborn. A newborn that needs to be removed from the oven every fifteen minutes, stirred, rotated, returned to said oven, and repeated over the course of a two-hour session. I'm surprised I do not develop carpal tunnel syndrome every December. My right forearm would put Popeye's to shame. My right hand is frozen into the shape of a C-clamp. At least I have had the good sense to buy a second non-stick 9 x 13 pan, rather than using my Pyrex.

I have a special recipe, handed down from my mother, that she has labeled as "Scrambles". I think she probably copied it off the Chex box back in the 1950s. I saw one on the box this morning, and it was a blasphemous bastardization of the one true Chex Mix. Today's recipe called for oyster crackers! Who puts oyster crackers in Chex Mix? And while I'm picking that bone of contention out of my side, let me voice my disappointment in my mother for adding Bugles to her current recipe. That is just wrong.

Here's a picture of my Chex Mix, circa 2005. The real deal. It's perched on the very heavy cutting block that my husband dragged home from work after a remodel, with a lovely roll of paper towels in the background. I don't know why I felt it necessary to include the paper towels, unless I wanted to prove that I'm clean. I got hired for that very reason one time. Because I looked clean. But that's a story for another time. This one batch of Chex Mix. I can get ten small containers out of a batch. I used to give more, but the creation of this other-worldly treat is quite taxing. And my bestie gets three of the larger containers, which is equivalent to about seven regular ones. It takes fifteen minutes to properly layer the ingredients and get them ready for baking. So we're looking at almost nine hours of oven-tending.

My generosity has spiraled out of control.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Aesthetics is in the Eye of the Beholder

I saw the most amazing sight today!

I was on the way to town for some last-minute Christmas shopping. There's a connecting road that cuts by an elementary school. The school is set off that thoroughfare about a quarter of a mile, and has its own access road. Every morning, I fear that one of their speeding school buses will dart out in front of me.

Today I noticed that someone had put a marker by the access road. You know how people sometimes pound a stake into the ground with a reflector, or stack up some white concrete blocks, or plant an old tractor tire full of pansies right beside their driveway entrance? Or maybe you don't, not being from Backroads. But play along with me. It makes the edge of the driveway easier to spot, so folks don't run off in a ditch. I assumed that was the purpose of this school road marker.

It was a beauty, too. Bright white, with a red-clay-colored pattern. I'll be darned, if it didn't remind me of a Grecian urn, or a Ming vase. "People in this district go all-out on their road markers! That's pretty fancy stuff for these parts." This flitted through my tiny mind in a matter of seconds. Then I was upon it.

It was a PVC pipe sewer vent, splattered with dried, red-clay mud.

Not this:

But this:

In my mind, the world is a much more beautiful place.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Unmentionable Crossword Faux Pas

Pardon me in advance if you find this tale to be offensive.

No, I didn't just say that to make you all curious so you would read it in its entirety. That's my disclaimer, up front. An indelicate subject will be addressed.

My students have been reading a subject-matter magazine that I receive through Scholastic Inc. I use it between units, to give them a taste of current happenings in the world of science. A plethora of on-line reproducibles is included with the subscription. For their assignment yesterday, I chose a quiz and a crossword puzzle.

One of the articles concerned a freshman boy who attends school from home by using a robot. He controls it with his mouse and directional arrows. It rolls from classroom to classroom, and has a screen with his face. He can talk through its speakers, and take pictures of notes on the whiteboard.

The reason the robot boy can't attend school himself is because he has polycystic kidney disease. He had a kidney transplant, and things were fine until his body started to reject the kidney. Now his meds weaken his immune system, and he needs to avoid contact with germs. And kids.

So...the crossword puzzle started out with the clue: a __________ was growing on Robot Boy's kidney. Now the obvious answer is "cyst," a four-letter word that starts with 'C'. The article even put cyst in italics when explaining the disease. And every student but one filled in the answer correctly.

I was grading papers at a good clip, churning them out, right on schedule to have only one set left at the end of the day. And then I saw it. The wrong answer. Instead of writing in C Y S T for that answer, one poor, misguided soul had scrawled another word. I choose not to write it here. But I'll give you a clue. Remember when Jerry Seinfeld forgot his girlfriend's name, and all she would tell him was that it rhymed with a part of the female anatomy? And after she stormed out in a fit of pique when he called her Mulva, Jerry had a sudden flash of insight, and rushed to the window to holler, "Dolores!"

The mistaken word is the diminutive form of the female anatomy part that rhymes with Dolores.

Seriously. I did a cartoon double-take. My eyes bugged out like they were attached to their sockets by Silly Putty. A titter started down in my throat, but I refused to let it out. Nothing else was amiss with the paper, so I chalked it up to an honest mistake. Not an attention-getting move. Nor a prank. The author of such a crossword faux pas would not say boo to a goose. Very polite. Never any trouble. No squeaky wheel there.

Of course I had to run tell a colleague about it before she left the building. She has that same student earlier in the day.

"Heh, heh!" I said. "I nominate you to give a lesson on the difference between a cyst and a you-know-what. And the worst part is, the kid thought that boy grew one on his kidney!"

She had a good snort. And said, "Well, that was a waste!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Not Like I'm Sending My Kids to an Oliver Twist Workhouse to Become Future Sad-Faced Funeral Mourners

I'm about to have a cow, man!

I've been making some last-minute gift orders online. Last night, I chose a special gift for a special friend. I had been waffling on which specific item I wanted to bestow upon my bestie, and put it off a bit too long. To get it in time for our grand gift exchange, I chose 2nd Day shipping. Because I want that item in two days. I realized that the order would not go out until today. And that two days would mean a Monday arrival. Which is doable.

A few minutes ago, I checked my email. The service department had sent me an email this morning at nine. Was I SURE I wanted 2nd Day shipping? Because they could save me ten dollars if I chose regular ground shipping. But that would take three days. And my item would arrive on Tuesday.

Since when do customer service departments make judgments on the relative wealth of their customers? How is it their place to decide who gets to use 2nd Day shipping? If it's not available, don't offer it. I don't need a nursemaid to oversee my financial decisions. Nor a nanny to second-guess my purchases. What's next, an email asking if I'm sure I want that certain version of the item? Are they going to micro-manage the tastefulness of my gift as well?

I just replied a bit snarkily. "Yes, I want to keep the 2nd Day shipping. I want my item before Tuesday. That's why I chose 2nd Day shipping. I hope my purchase has not been delayed while waiting for a response to this email."

Jiminy Christmas! I saved $5.00 on that item right off the bat by going to retailmenot.com. And a few minutes ago, I reduced a $169 order from a different entity to $102 by using a promotional code. That's sixty percent savings, people. I know my way around the checkbook. So if I want to splurge on shipping for a special item, that's my business. As Sandra Bullock said in 28 Days, "If it is not too much to ask, will you all just back the eff off!" Of course, Sandy's scriptwriter should have punctuated that with a question mark, but it's probably better not to broach that subject. Especially since I took a little creative-spelling license with the key word in his quote.

I would love to be paid to second-guess other people's purchases.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Salad Days of Sidestream Smoke

How many of you ever entered a teachers' lounge prior to 1994? Anybody...anybody? Oh. Did some hands go up? I can't quite see clearly. My corneas acquired a smoky tint in the years leading up to the Pro Children Act of 1994. I might have a permanent case of red-eye. Quick! Somebody notify Ben Stein to send me a crate of Visine. I need it worse than the offspring of a flower child after a Bob Marley concert.

Yes. I said teachers' LOUNGE. Because that's what it used to be. A sanctuary. A place for teachers to let their hair down and smoke up. Only tobacco. That's where the line was drawn. A teacher could carry in a carton or two of cigarettes, and smoke them all if time allowed. Right there on school property. With only a thin wooden door separating the demon carcinogens from the student body.

Oh, the years of prime tidal volume that I wasted in those dens of impurity! All it took was one or two smokers to defile our precious adult clubhouse. Did anybody dare ask the chimneys to stop smoking? Nope. One colleague would open the door, let us see her take a maximum breath of hallway air, then plunge down the two steps into our thinly-carpeted, poorly-furnished, subterranean lair, and put her coins in the soda machine. She must have been quite the record breath-holder. Sometimes, she even bought an additional soda for her buddy. Then off she sprinted, into fresh air once more.

We had three hard-core smokers. They sat around the pedestal table with one short foot. Its teetering did not deter them from their mission. Cig after cig piled up in the ashtrays. It's amazing how much one can smoke on a thirty-minute lunch period. Students dared not enter our haven. When sent on a sortie to acquire information for an unenlightened member of the faculty, the student rapped on the hollow, windowless wooden door. Kids knew better than to open it and peer inside. They waited until one of us stuck our head out to see what was needed.

No intercom, no telephone, no window, no ventilation. Our lounge was the place to hang out if you were cool. We rocked the threadbare brown carpet over concrete slab, saggy overstuffed couch, chrome and vinyl-cushioned couch, mismatched olive-green and harvest-gold padded metal chairs, and bare overhead lightbulb that illuminated the faux-wood-paneled walls. That was it. Frat houses had classier lounges than we.

The teacher workrooms of today have no such ambiance. They are colder than a dentist's waiting room. Bright lighting, tile floor, long table with hard plastic chairs, second-hand fridge, industrial trash can, rickety mailbox cube, working copier, and nonworking copier comprise the amenities. A narrow window faces the front parking lot. Students dart in periodically to run a copy, or grab something from a mailbox. I don't know why teachers send them there to violate the sanctity of our sanctuary.

It doesn't really matter. Nobody wants to hang out there. We have too much busy work for too many new programs. No time to gossip. No time to commiserate. Why bother to take your work to the teacher workroom when you can do everything more easily in your classroom?

The salad days of sidestream smoke are long gone, my friends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Know Why the Paged Word Flings

Okay. The title should actually be, "I Know Why the Paged Word is Flung." That doesn't have quite the same ring, now does it? Sometimes, ya gotta sacrifice proper grammar for creativity. And proper syntax as well.

Did you ever need a copy of something in crisp laser ink, and print it from your classroom laptop to the copy room printer? Yeah. Me neither. But I know of people who have. Not at my place of employment, of course. But those pages you hypothetically print are usually not waiting for you in the print tray when you go to retrieve them. I'm about to let you in on a little secret. Shh...here's what goes on in that copy room when you are not around.

The minute that old Kyocera hums to life, all manner of gremlins snap to alert. A student, perhaps, who has ducked into enemy territory to surreptitiously cop a pop from the machine. "Oh, what's this? A fresh copy of tomorrow's test? I think I do not care for that. I'll just take every other page. There. Nobody digs through the trash in here."

Maybe a colleague is running copies when your document lines up in the queue. "Oh, no she didn't! Not on my watch! I didn't fill four drawers with four thousand sheets of paper for some freeloader to print on. Clear! That'll fix it. Come on up and look for your copies. Heh, heh, heh."

It might be the week that orders are due from one of two bookselling vendor displays that have been set up in the copy room. Which means a cafeteria worker may wander in and decide to copy a few recipes. Not for school, of course. Are you kidding? For home. "Hey! What's this coming out of the machine? I didn't copy that. Whoops! Better sort through and make sure my recipes aren't mixed up with it. I'll just put these over here. And that one there. Gosh! There's another one! Nobody's going to miss this. They can print it again."

What if it's the hour with six teachers on plan period? There they sit, enjoying some leftover red velvet cake that somebody brought in for some mysterious reason instead of keeping it home to enjoy, all giddy with fifty minutes of free time, hopped up on sugar, looking for an outlet for their daily stresses. "Do you hear what I hear? Printing! Somebody's printing from their room! Don't you hate that? Copier might jam! They'll expect us to clear it! No way, no how! Get it!" A half dozen cronies fling your papers willy-nilly, to and fro, high and low, floor to ceiling, back and forth. They wallow on them, stomp them, make a mini-paper-leaf-pile and take turns jumping into it, kick through them like crispy fallen foliage, then return them to the paper tray.

And you wonder why you can't find one clear set of six pages that you printed two hours earlier.


Monday, December 12, 2011

All's Well When My End's Well

Whew! I seem to have dodged a major health crisis.

This morning, I rushed to the car and hauled my butt to school for a.m. parking lot duty. The temperature in my neck of the woods was 24 degrees. No big deal. Mornings are always cold out here in Backroads. That's why I have a car with seat heaters. A better invention was never invented than seat heaters. I'll stack them up against sliced bread any day. Except maybe on grilled cheese days in the school cafeteria, because seat heaters are not nearly as greasy and crunchy as those baked grilled cheese sandwiches. Don't ask me how I know.

So there I was, driving to work, seat heater a-blazin' on all three cylinders, or whatever you want to call those little orange lights that show how much and what area your heat is a-blazin'. Orange. Get it? Like a flame. Fire. HEAT!

Except I didn't feel the warmth. My buns were not toasting. Every other cold morning for the past four years that I've driven my hot-seated Tahoe, my cheeks have been burning by the time I drop The Pony off at his building. Sometimes, I have even turned off the seat heater! But not this morning. I reached my hand around behind my back. I could feel warmth on the leather with my palm. But not so in my nether regions. I was left to face the grim conclusion:


Duty called, so I could not rush myself to the emergency room for a professional evaluation. I unlocked my classroom, logged on five times for maximum access in my control center, and grabbed two coats to insulate myself from the elements. That's the only way to go, you know. You wear one coat, and put the other one on backwards. Pull it over your arms so it completely covers your chest and lap and gives you a little face mask if you bury your nose in the collar. Short of a Forever Lazy, the front coat/back coat style is the epitome of a.m. parking lot duty comfort.

When I sat down on the 24-degree concrete slab by the locker rooms, I made a startling discovery.


Such a happy ending to what could have been a tale of woe.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Excuses Are Like Livers

I have not been this ashamed since I jumped out from behind the elementary school girls' bathroom door, shouting "BOO!" only to find myself impaled by the stern gaze of Mrs. Elvins, my third-grade teacher.

I have been lax in commenting on my favorite blogs.

Here I loll on my luxurious litter, having red seedless grapes dropped into my gaping maw, being fanned with a palm frond, regally surveying my blogroll kingdom, while reeling in comments like a Bassmaster at a fishing derby. And not sharing the commenty love. What am I, some kind of freeloader who feels entitled to receive comments while doling out none of my own? That's downright un-neighborly of me.

Have I become that customer who takes pennies from the spare change bowl on the cashier's counter, yet never leaves them? The driver given a nod and waved into congested traffic who refuses to allow even a small gap for others to merge ahead of him? The faculty member who takes all of the insurance rep's free pens out of the cup, yet does not even sit down for a consultation? The browser at Sam's Club who comes for a smorgasbord of samples, but leaves without making a purchase? As Magic 8 Ball might say, "All signs point to yes."

Oh, I have an excuse. But you know what they say. Excuses are like livers. Everybody has one, and they all should be kept deep inside the abdominal cavity, and not proffered to a blogger on a filigreed silver serving tray as a tasty peace offering for leaving her posts hangin' without a comment. Or something like that.

But I am bound and determined to bare my liver today.

I read blogs at night. I post at night. I take care of family obligations at night. And sometimes, I even sleep at night. Occasionally, I run out of night before I run out of blogs to comment on. Even though I arise before the chickens, my morning is monopolized by the task of getting myself and my boys off to school on time. Oh, and a fifteen-minute phone call to my mom.

Sometimes, when I see a bunch of comments already there, I feel like mine would be superfluous. Nothing new to say. It might look like I am commenting just to draw traffic to my own blog.

Sometimes, I feel like I am unqualified to comment. I don't know much about the topic. I don't want to be flip and make a joke when all the other comments are serious.

Sometimes, I can relate a personal experience, but in doing so, I take up more than my fair share of commenty room. Or look like I am hijacking the post for my own devious purposes.

There's no way around it. I am an insecure commenter. I feel like all the other commenters know each other, and I am not in their clique. I think that comes from way back when I first started my original super-secret blog in 2005, and left what I thought was a friendly comment on a blog I had visited a couple of times. It was something innocuous. The post was about redecorating a bathroom. People shared their unique bathroom styles in the comments. I mentioned that my husband insisted on decorating our basement bathroom with an airbrushed NASCAR countertop, put down black-and-white tiles like a finish flag, and hung Hot Wheels race cars on three walls. The blog owner and most of the commenters above me ripped my comment to shreds. I was the uncool kid who dared to sit down at the cheerleaders' lunch table. I got the distinct feeling that they were not fans of NASCAR.

Ever since that time, I have been leery of dipping my tootsies into the vast blog-comment sea. I poke my head out of the changing tent, survey the situation, tiptoe across the hot sand in my ankle-length swimwear, and spread my towel on the periphery, to watch the gals in their itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis. Not in a creepy pervy stalker way. To judge the climate. Will I be welcomed, or will I be shunned?

I don't mean to act aloof or stand-offy or entitled. It's my insecurity not-talking.

I vow to exercise my comment muscle until it's fit as a fiddle, and put forth a concerted effort to serenade my blog buddies at regular intervals.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It'll Be Selling Like Hotcakes


Get it? I'm the ghostwriter for my son's new work-in-progress, The Official Cookbook of Sixteen-Year-Old Males. Hope I didn't scare anybody. But here's something that IS scary: the first recipe.


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 giant spoons of Nutella (supposed to be 1/2 cup, but Nutella is impossible to clean out of the cup)
  • 1 scoop sugar
  • 1 cap milk
  • 1 egg

Apparently, you just set these ingredients out on your cutting block and they automatically turn themselves into cookies. Because that's all Genius wrote down for his recipe. The ingredients. Excuse me for a moment while I contact the chef for clarification.

Cook at 350 for seven to eight minutes. Put them on a tinfoil sheet. On a pan. Mix ingredients in a bowl until the consistency of slightly dry cookie dough. It might be slightly crumbly. Form them into a ball and flatten the ball with your hand. Space them an inch apart. Let them cool enough to solidify. So they don't fall apart. Like a normal cookie. Take a bite. Make your mom take a bite. Yell at her when she spits it out. Proceed to eat three more cookies. Don't throw the rest out to the dogs. It'll kill 'em. The chocolate. Not the recipe.

Seems that boy watched the "The Betrayal" episode of Seinfeld one too many times. The backwards one. Where Jerry, George, and Elaine go to India for Sue Ellen Mischke's wedding. Must have been that bra on the outside of her sweater that drew him to it.

I did inquire about some measurements. Not for Sue Ellen Mischke, but for the ingredients. Giant spoons are of the serving spoon ilk, not the big wooden spoons that some folks cross with big wooden forks and hang as decorations on their kitchen walls. A scoop? No clue, really. Perhaps a pink plastic half-tablespoon, which resides permanently in our sugar canister. The one cap of milk stymied me. A baseball cap? A thinking cap? Bottle cap? Newsboy cap? Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. It's the blue plastic cap off the half-gallon 2% plastic milk jug. Silly. How could you not know that?

I don't think Bobby Flay will be challenging Genius to a throwdown. I have tasted these cookies (technically, a cookie), and the flavor is indescribable. The closest I can place it is burnt flour with a dusting of cocoa powder. The texture was like, if your made a mudpie, and let it sit in the blazing sun all day, but you didn't mix if very well, and the center was dust...a crumbly hard-shelled mouthful of powder.

I'm shopping for a publisher. Does anybody know if there's a book of recipes from preschool kids on how to bake a Thanksgiving turkey? Because that would be right up our alley. We could be the companion tome, for desserts. And maybe the occasional snack of a baloney sandwich with only one green spot.

Here's the refined picture for the cover.

I think Genius might better utilize his talents to photograph magazine food. Beautiful, but inedible. There's another project. A coffee table book, with that very title: Beautiful, But Inedible.

I might as well give notice at my day job.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Blog-Reading Routine to Bring You This Special Horn-Tooting Announcement

Anybody here old enough to remember the Imperial Margarine jingle? Da da-da daaaaaa! "Fit for a king!" It happensed every time somebody took a bite of Imperial Margarine. I'm not hawking margarine, though. I just want to steal their little fanfare ditty. And I'm pretty sure they're not using it anymore.


The official announcement of my 89th place win in the 80th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition, Memoir Division is out. Right here. It's proof. I didn't just make it up.

The Official Cookbook of Sixteen-Year-Old Males

I'm wasting my time writing humorous memoir. It's time to get down to brass tacks. To the nitty-gritty world of culinary treats favored by sixteen-year-old males. There's an immense demographic hungering for such a tome, a cookbook for, about, and by sixteen-year-old males. One of them, anyway. And I will be the ghost writer.

I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew. My first thought for a title was: The Official Sixteen-Year-Old Male Cookbook. But that opened up a large economy size can of worms, which most folks frown upon in the kitchen. It sounds like maybe it would tell you how to cook sixteen-year-old males. Which I'm pretty sure is illegal, even here in Missouri. Or with a different inflection, it sounds like the cookbook has a gender. Or that the volume was written half-score and six years ago. Or that it is the official version of a common edition.

The inspiration for my new work-in-progress hit me in the ear this morning as I was driving to work. Genius called for advice. "I'm making a sandwich to take for my lunch. There's just one green spot on the baloney. Can I use it?"


"But it's only on one slice. I need something for a sandwich."

"Don't eat the baloney!"

"What's here? Is there any turkey? I would even eat ham."

"There's ham in the bottom of the fridge. It should be okay."

Let the record show that the night I baked the ham, Genius had no qualms about consuming a thick slab, along with potatoes, carrots, and onions cooked alongside. It was only the day after that he informed me, "I really don't like ham. I only ate the ham because I wanted the potatoes, and you would have complained if I didn't eat the ham. "

He brought his bag lunch to my classroom to store in the mini-fridge. Along with some Sun Chips that his grandma bought for him, Garden Salsa, though he told me upon opening them that he really preferred plain. After shoving my stuff aside, he deposited his two ham sandwiches, and baggie of chips. Scooping up some chocolate-caramel cups stored in the fridge by The Pony for after-school snacks, Genius went on his way, commanding, "Don't eat my Sun Chips." The irony was lost on my students.

Before 2nd hour, Genius accosted me in the hall. "Give me a dollar. I want a sausage." The juniors are selling Slim-Jim-like snacks as a prom fundraiser. Genius is already on Prom Committee from previous selling success, so he is a mere customer for his classmates. A customer who enjoys a spicy, greasy meat snack at 9:00 a.m.

Apparently sated by his bag lunch, he toughed out the rest of the day without foraging for free food.

After a full evening meal, he declared that he was going to bake some cookies. A colossal fly in that ointment was the fact that we have no cookie dough. Check. We had a tub of sugar cookie dough in the back of the refrigerator. I did not employ carbon-dating techniques, but the estimated age of that tasty treat is three years. That it had already been opened and had the consistency of a slab of concrete did not deter the future Iron Chef.

Genius was forbidden to use any of my spoons, so he hacked off hunks of that petrified dough with a butter knife. I heard it hit the floor, and could only picture the action a story above my head. Genius stabbing a sugar-dough stone like the unkillable slasher in a horror flick.

He carved out the bottom of each cookie, and filled the hollow with Nutella. Then he molded the barely-malleable dough over the cavity, creating, in effect, a Nutella sugar-cookie hot pocket. The results were less than appetizing. Because this labor of love was so labor-intensive, Genius only created two sweet hot pockets. And one of them oozed some kind of bubbly nuclear waste while cooking. So he did not sample his first creation, but threw the failed attempt to the dogs.

The unflappable Genius then proceeded to Plan B. Which will need to be expounded upon tomorrow, as my ghost cookbook has languished too long in the foreword of background information.

Disclaimer: I know the processed tube meat is spelled B O L O G N A. I am no stranger to Oscar Mayer commercials. But here in Backroads, a person would be laughed out of town for saying, "Bologna." That, and assumed to be some kind of spy sent to Hickville to poke fun at the hillbillies, or perhaps try to trick us into telling the butcher that baloney makes us horny, like Doolittle Lynn tricked Loretty in Coal Miner's Daughter.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe

I hate to be one of those curmudgeony old battle-axes, but other people's kids annoy me. I could never be an elementary teacher. Or Chuck E. Cheese. I can't smile and nod and pretend they're precious. I want them to stay away from me. Creepy kids. Not the youngsters I work with. None of the school family. I feel protective of them, like they're part of my pack. It's the strange, wild kids I want the dingo to eat.

Save A Lot is the scene of the most recent affront. I ran in for some milk and tomato sauce Wednesday evening. A dysfunctional family unit met me at the door. And proceeded to block both ingress and egress. Two girls and a boy, probably five to eight years old, and a frazzled mother with a cell phone glued to her ear. The Boy and Girl 2 forged ahead, opening the automatic door, while Girl 1 stopped to block the exit door and tie her shoe. A finished customer and I waited for them to clear out.

Boy stood in my way while I tried to pull out a cart. Girls ran ahead to grab some Little Debbie cakes. I'm not faulting them for their taste. I'm no stranger to Little Debbie. And her white and dark Christmas tree cakes were on a center display. Those kids followed me down the first aisle like geese in formation on a long trip. One minute I was ahead, then a kid would swoop past me, then I would retake the lead. It was close to being a beautifully-choreographed ballet. Except, well, they were dingo bait.

At some point, parents, you need to teach your children not to squeal and squall in public, begging for things or taking them and refusing to put them back. Teach them not to run up to people and stand and stare. Because curmudgeony old battle-axes want to shout, "Get away from me!" It was like running a slalom with my cart. Go to the right side of the boy, then the left side of Girl 2, then the right side of Girl 1...oh, here's Boy again. Left side.

It was like playing chicken with a really, really accomplished, world-class. chicken-player. That little grocery dash took three times as long as necessary.

At the checkout, Boy darted in front of me to the only open cashier. Being a skilled road-rage graduate, I maneuvered my cart at the last minute to cut him off by the big dill pickle/hot fries/Sugar Babies end display. Hey! All's fair. I doubt he had the money Little Debbie required. He looked at me all creepy-like again. He was like those twin girls in The Shining, except there was only one of him, and he wasn't a girl, was in pants and not dresses, and no wall of blood poured out from an elevator behind him. But other than that, he was just like those twins. The googly eyes. Silent. Staring through my soul.

The Mom caught up to him with her Girls. They all plopped their cake boxes on the counter while she continued to talk on the phone. Then she suddenly saw writing on the wall, or the sugar on the conveyor belt, and yelled at them to take back one box of cakes. It didn't look like that was happening. But I'm not real clear on that, because I was peeling Creepy-Eyes McCreeperson off my left hip.

I'll be gosh-darned if they didn't reattach themselves to me at the bagging counter. You know, the one with the sign about not letting your kids climb on the counter? Boy jumped up there like an Olympic-caliber high-jumper. He stood by the bag rack so I couldn't get one. Girl 2 closed in on my other side, playing with that bag rack. I rummaged for a box under the counter. The Mom was still at the checkout. She hollered at Boy to wait a minute, but he ran out the exit door ahead of me.

I rushed past him, hoping he didn't try to follow me home. Then the whole crew swarmed me, swirling on all sides, until they eddied away to car parts unknown.

I felt like I needed a shower.