Ornesta’s Christmas


I love fan mail.  It’s encouraging to hear that other people can relate to my experiences. 

Ornesta Fruggenbotham, of Iron Ore, Michigan, wrote: “I see that you didn’t post any bizarre Christmas stories — again!  Don’t you have any to tell?  Do you want to hear mine?”

“Sure, Ornesta.  I’d love to,” was my prompt reply.  “It’s not that my extended relatives can’t produce plenty of fodder for a good yarn.  But they’d all get awful mad at me if I told on them.  If you’re not afraid to tell on yours, let’s go for it!” 

Y’all might remember Ornesta.  She did a guest appearance in this blog months back, with the story of searching her (not-dead) brother’s house for his corpse.  You can read about it at Hold the Hysteria, Mom!   (Not to worry, home school mother reading this blog to your kiddies for your cultural studies class.  We’re totally family-friendly here.  The tale is bizarre, but not scary.  It will give you a keen insider look at what life is like in Upper Michigan.) 

So, here’s Ornesta’s Christmas memory from yesteryear.  Once again, it’s an “as told to” piece, so if it sounds like my style, it’s because I polished it up for her.  Remember, these are Ornesta’s relatives, not mine


The four of us got to Mom’s place on Christmas at the traditional 4:00 p.m. and were surprised to find the house already full of all the bodies that normally show up an hour late — plus some fresh ones we’d never seen before.  Apparently Mom had either sprouted a new crop of relatives, or else she had invited a homeless cowboy and his wife home from the grocery store.  

We brought the buns, but everyone had already eaten without us.  Maybe the buns hadn’t been necessary.  Apparently we hadn’t been necessary either.  I steered Mom off into a corner of the kitchen for a private word.  

“Mom!  Who are these people, why are we the last ones here, and why did everyone eat without us?” 

“They’re your brother Sid’s in-laws.  They dropped in unexpectedly, and they decided we should have Christmas at 1:30 instead of 4:00.” 

“Let me get this straight.  Sid’s in-laws drop in unexpectedly, invite themselves to your house, and tell you when to have your Christmas celebration.  Am I smelling the aroma of a  control freak?” 

“I couldn’t refuse to let them in.  They dogsledded all the way from Hibbing across Lake Superior to get here.  Besides, they brought three crock pots full of weenies and beans, Swedish meatballs, and pork hocks drowning in sauerkraut.” 

“I would have had a hard time refusing the Swedish meatballs myself, Mom, but the beanie-weenies and the pork hocks aren’t worth it.  And it’s only December.  The lake doesn’t freeze over solid until January.  I’d ask to see the dogsled before I’d believe that one.  And how come everyone else knew about the time change except us?” 

“I got so flustered I forgot to call you.”  Mom sniffled into her potholder, and it dawned on me that the pork hocks and weenies weren’t adequately compensating for the sudden change in plans after all. 

We made our belated salutations and introductions as best we could.  The cowboy and his wife were quite cordial, and invited us to sit down and make ourselves at home.  There was not a square inch left to fit ourselves into, what with the space they and their Christmas presents occupied, so we graciously declined. 

“That’s all right, we’ll just go sit in the bedroom and eat.  Call us when it’s time to open the gifts.”  

Life was about as delightful as it could get, sitting at our card table in the spare room.  The situation would have made an effective ad for a buffet restaurant: 

“Grandma’s home-cooked ham and potatoes, PLUS three other kinds of meat, including our world famous Minnesota pork hocks, all served in your own elegant private dining room next to the clothes hamper.” 

The food was lukewarm, but the conversation was plenty hot enough.

Having stuffed the intruders’ delicacies, along with our lacerated emotions, into our innards, we rejoined the family circle.  They must be into line dancing or the rodeo, I decided, based on the boots, fringe shirts, and the guy’s flowing mustache.  But if they yodel, I will know it is just an obsession with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.

I observed that Sid’s father-in-law was remarkably well preserved.  He looked younger than Sid.  It turns out he was.  Mother-in-law, cuddling up to hubby, announced proudly that she had robbed the cradle the second time around.  Father-in-law grinned sheepishly, looking way too handsome for his own good.  I wondered what had attracted him to his adoring old feedbag.  Must have been SOME horse she was riding when they first laid eyes on each other.  Either that or the line dancing had gone to his head. 

Mother-in-law decided to win over my teenager with charming conversation.  “So you’re Ellen!  I’ve heard so much about you!  Stand up, honey. … Five-nine.”

Ellen’s eyes popped.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” 

“You’re five-foot nine.” 

“I’m five-seven … and a quarter.”  Ellen is very sensitive about her height, partly because all the boys in Iron Ore come on the short side.  The severe winters stunt their growth, but our family genes must be dominant over the weather. 

“No, don’t argue.  You’re five-nine.  My other daughter is five-nine, and I’d know.  You’re the same height as she is.  Take off your shoes.  … Yep, still five-nine.” 

We endured through a couple more hours of Christmas pleasantries before escaping.  Ellen obsessed about her height all the way home, whenever she could get a word in edgewise between my snorts over the ham hocks we had just been visiting with — not the ones in the crock pot, either. 

“Ellen, just because the rodeo queen said you are five-nine does not make you five-nine.  You haven’t grown a millimeter in four years.  She may be controlling, but she’s not THAT good.”

She was unconvinced.  We had to haul out the yardstick and measure her when we got home, to set her mind at ease.


I was confused by the time I finished putting Ornesta’s story together, so I asked, “Ornesta, I thought that in the other story Sid lived all alone.  What happened to the wife?” 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you that part.  She was so happy to see her mama and step-daddy that she decided she couldn’t live without them anymore.  She hopped the dogsled home with them and never came back.  For all I know, they all fell through the ice somewhere on Lake Superior.”

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

Fix Your Gallbladder!


Someone just left a comment that he or she had read the definitive book on liver flushes.  It was in response to my post on Mountain Dew Gallbladders.  I can’t imagine why anyone would flush his liver, much less read about doing so!   But it got me thinking about the time I took a friend’s advice  to cleanse my gallbladder.  Maybe she had been reading the same book.  She’s fortunate I didn’t flush the friendship.

I had been having some pain that ominously hinted of gallbladder trouble.  My devoted buddy told me about a “treatment” to get rid of and/or prevent gallstones.  She swore she did it annually.  I think she lied! 

Her cure  involved drinking a mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Pour it down the hatch, and in the morning you feel wonderful.  I decided to be conservative and drink half the prescribed amount.  It took some doing to get that far.  This concoction does not taste like Gatorade or Starbucks special blend.

I just about upchucked on the spot.  “Mind over matter,” I told myself, while attempting to force my stomach to retain its goods.  Believe me, there was a titanic battle between my mind and the matter for the next hour or two. 

Shortly after I retired for the evening, stabbing abdominal pains set in.  I thought I was going to die, or at the very least be forced to visit the emergency room and ‘fess up to what I’d done.  I had visions of the ER folks employing gastrointestinal roto-rooters to save my life and the insurance company refusing to pay for my rescue from self-mutilation.

Eventually the pain stopped, I fell asleep, and was relieved to wake up the next morning in the same realm I had dozed off in.  I want to see heaven — just not quite yet.

My friend received a bright-and-early phone call that I can only hope got her out of bed.  I hotly suggested that she keep her home remedies to herself in the future.  She was unsympathetic — said it helped her, and she had never experienced the drastic symptoms to which I was testifying.  She dropped the names of a few famous people who all use the treatment.  Good for them!

We have a forty-year friendship, and it has survived.  Yes, I forgave her.  But shhh!  Don’t tell!  I’ve never had the gallbladder issues since. 


Random Twisted Thoughts


Random thoughts:

If we could find a way to preserve all this lovely, pristine snow until next July, we could make a Warren Buffet-sized fortune selling snow cones.

75% of all Wisconsinites buy underwear for their loved ones at Christmas.  85% of that underwear purchase is long johns.  It is just too cold here.  Suggestion for the white collar worker: buying long johns for your boss is not going to help you climb the corporate ladder — unless they are the frosted kind you find at the bakery. 

Wisconsin postal customers who buy long johns of either type for their mailman for Christmas will be adored.  In addition, have a hot coffee for him when he trots by, and you’ll receive premium treatment all year long.  Your mail will get delivered on time whether your neighbors’ does or not.

Funny article about Alan Greenspan’s solution for the economy.  Yes, it IS buying underwear for everyone at Christmas!  (We’re ahead of ya here in Wisconsin, Alan!)  http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20081130/LIVING/711309980/1021/BIZ07

I have proof that evolution is not true.  Fossilization does not take millions of years.   When my teen does the dishes, the dinner remains fossilize on the plates in the mere hours’ time before she gets around to washing them.  No more Hogan’s Heroes videos for you, Beebee!  Dishes first from now on.

Putting your holiday turkey outside the back door to cool is not a good idea.  The Great Dane next door might saunter over and have it for a snack.  I know.  Anybody want beans and weenies for Christmas din-din?

The Santa Claus at the mall makes $30,000 for approximately six weeks of work.  I know two of him personally and got the scoop.  There are a lot of overhead costs, though.  Eating at the Old Country Buffet five days a week in order to maintain his portly figure taxes his wallet.  And the gout medicine needed as a result of all that buffet eating is expensive.  Not to mention that Santa’s arteries won’t make it to ninety years of age.  Next time you see the old codger, sympathize a bit.  His life isn’t all that jolly. 

Regifting is not only acceptable in Wisconsin; it is our duty — to save on landfill space.  No one should have to permanently hang onto Grandma’s rummage sale purchase of three-feet-tall plastic butterflies, still shrink-wrapped.  It may be her way of saying “Merry Christmas” this year, but it’s going to be mine next.  If she waxes real forgetful in the coming twelve months, I’ll just give them back to her next December 25th.  She’ll never know the difference, and at last the butterflies will have a happy home.  Grandma will love them!


Eating for Less at Thanksgiving


I laugh when I see those yearly articles in the newspaper announcing that the price of Thanksgiving dinner is getting beyond what Americans can afford.  This year they are trying  to convince us that the cost per head will run about $4.50 each. I think I can do it for half that or less. No doubt the problem is all the prepackaged this, that, and the other thing.  We don’t do that at our house unless it is cheaper to do so — which is probably one of the reasons I hate cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Hidden in the following advice for a cheap Thanksgiving, you will find some other reasons as well.

Here is Lee Ann’s sage list for how to do an economical Thanksgiving dinner that tastes good:

Save on water bills by serving all cooked components of the meal right in the pots they were heated in.  It will conserve on dishwater, which translates into $$$ you keep in your pocket.  And you won’t labor over washing so many dishes, either.  This is only a bonus if you are the only dishwashing appliance your house contains (which is my sad condition).

I actually tried serving a la pot for Thanksgiving the first year we were married.  It is the way I normally serve dinner at our house 364 days a year, when we don’t have guests looking on.  I am not one with an appetite for elegance.  However, my mother does hunger for elegance – at least when she eats at my house.  Ever since the first year, I have opted for paying the extra dishwater money.  It saves on disapproving mother-lectures.

Skip the real potatoes and go for the instant mashers.  Buy them cheap at Aldi or Sav-a-Lot.  For that matter, buy everything cheap at one of those two outlets.

My mother, the Thanksgiving connoisseur by which all things must be measured, informed me all through my growing-up years that instant mashed potatoes were “pig slop.”  Well, no, she didn’t really say that, but it was implied.  She never went back a second time to any restaurant that served instant potatoes.

I am the adventurous and sometimes lazy type, though, and thought, “What could be so bad about potatoes that look like bleached wood chips, only cost $.99, and cook up in five minutes?”

The secret to good instant mashers that your kids and your persnickety mother will love is using twice the amount of milk called for, instead of all that water.  Use more flakes, too.  If the potatoes are so runny that they drip off your spoon, Mom will know!  They need to be thick.

The first year I dared to serve them for Thanksgiving, my mother could not tell she was getting instants.  She oohed and aahed over those potatoes.  I confessed their true nature, and the second year she asked, in the days leading up to the big event, if we could have those lovely instant spuds again.

Don’t buy Stove-Top Stuffing.  Make your own.  If you like the stove-top taste and convenience, you will need to have a kid or husband who will not eat the heels of the bread loaf.  Do not throw the heels out for the squirrels.  Peanuts are much more healthful for the little varmints.  Dry those bread heels, break them up into cubes and stick them in air-tight containers until you are ready to use them (unless you enjoy the added protein and flavor of weevils).

If you need a recipe for the proper amount of water and seasonings to make this one turn out right, I’m sure someone listed in Google can help you out.  If not, I’ve got a great recipe.  Call me for blow-by-blow coaching at 1-900-STUFFIN before 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  After 5:00 we will be in the midst of eating, and it will cost you twice the price.

In truth, I only do the homemade stove-top stuff when it’s just my immediate family.  When extended relatives are with us, we do real stuffing in the oven.  My mom does not agree that I do real stuffing, since I refuse to stick it in the turkey’s insides.  I suppose she is right.  If it isn’t stuffing something, technically it isn’t “stuffing” (although if the meal turns out right, some of the relatives will certainly be stuffed when it’s over).  Oh, let’s just call it dressing, then, to keep the peace.

I don’t stuff the turkey’s former intestinal cavity because the idea is repulsive to me.  Think what was in there before!  Besides, if you put the dressing in there, it absorbs blood and fat, all of which I can skim off before using the juice in the dressing I cook in a casserole dish.  Stuffing bird is also a lot more work.  Scraping it out is a lot of work, too.

My mom says my dressing is not as good as hers because I do not stick it in the intestinal cavity.  Perhaps she likes the taste of bone marrow and blood and fat in her dressing.  She has also expressed a loathing for the bits of celery I add in.  I have learned to compromise with her by chopping the celery in large pieces so that she can pick them out before slopping the gravy over the top.

Make your own low-fat gravy.  That runny stuff out of the can is expensive, and it has no substance to it.  When you make your own, make sure it has a few stick-to-your-ribs lumps in it, so that everyone knows it did not come from a can.  Seriously, I don’t have too much trouble with lumps.  If you go to my web site, I’ll give you some tips on perfectly lumpless gravy that will wow even your in-laws — http://www.look-ma-no-lumps.com.

Sara Lee makes pies cheaper than you can — but only at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I used to do pies from scratch.  The mess is deplorable.  Sometimes, so is the result.  I don’t know who Mrs. Smith or Sara Lee are, but they do a bang-up job on pie.  I can only hope their pie ingredients do not come from China.  Melamine or chicken doo-doo in my pie crust does not sound like my idea of a good time.

Volunteer your mom to make the fresh cranberry sauce.  I don’t care too much if my cranberries come out of an Ocean Spray can, but the extended relatives do.  I can’t make the fresh sauce right.  You see, I follow the instructions on the bag, and when I use only the cup of sugar the recipe calls for, it puckers the elderly relatives’ mouths.  My mom is not afraid to put three cups of sugar in, and when she does that, she is happy with the way they taste.  I should do it her way, but it grosses me out, throwing all that sugar in.  So I let her do it and try not to think about all the sugar beets that died for me while eating it.

That, my friends, is how I save money and family relationships at Thanksgiving. 


Thanksgiving Shopping


Today I must do the annual Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping.  I am not fond of shopping in any form, nor am I fond of cooking turkey and all the fixings.  I am a mac-and-cheese kind of cook, so Thanksgiving, the annual obligatory family dinner necessary to appease my mother, is not nearly as much fun as going to the dentist.  More on the cooking part next time.

My husband likes shopping in all its forms, so he takes care of the groceries the other fifty-one weeks of the year.  But shopping the food sales for Thanksgiving takes a special finesse that he does not possess.  I have an ability to get deals beyond our wildest imaginations.  Grocery store robbery is one of the few areas of life in which I excel.

In years gone by, I practiced my art on a weekly basis, even looking forward to the adventure of the excursion.  I was the customer the grocery clerks loved to hate.  I got frowns when they saw me coming, which deeply hurt my sensitive feelings, but not enough to make me change my ways.  It had a lot to do with combining sale items with double couponing and leaving the store with arms loaded down with multiple bags and a total bill of $4.63.  When my favorite place went out of business, I vowed to go straight and never ruin a grocery store again, but the temptation proved too much for me, so my husband took over the shopping.

Thanksgiving, though, is different.   The stores are all begging to be plundered for that event, so I oblige them to keep them happy.  Alas, I can no longer get away with a cartful for $4.63, but I might find a way to abscond with a turkey for that, along with a $1.00 apple pie and a free tub of Cool Whip.


Weird Search Terms #3


It’s time for another edition of Weird Search Terms, where we look at how people get to this blog and ask the all-important question, “Why would you want to know?”  Here are some of the latest goodies I have collected:

“Why should we eat cheese curds?” — There are several very important reasons.

1.)  They are good for the economy.  Without the consumption of cheese curds, Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheese factories would be in grave danger of going belly-up, which would in turn cause soaring unemployment for the entire state, since the job market rests entirely upon the three-legged stool of dairy, paper mills, and cranberries.  Chop off that dairy leg, and the employment platform goes BOOM!  Eating cheese curds also keeps the national economy healthy.  The makers of Ex-Lax and Milk of Magnesia are counting on us.

2.)  If you are a Wisconsinite, abstaining from cheese curds is unpatriotic.  Our mamas ingrain loyalty to the state in us from the moment we can toddle, and eating the right cuisine is part of that.

3.)  Fresh cheese curds keep your teeth clean.  As you chew them, they rub all over your gums and molars, removing plaque and stimulating healthy gum tissue.  It’s true!  Ask your dentist.

4.)  They taste better than escargot, caviar, grits, and jambalaya.

“When it rains, I have maggots in my window sill.” I’m sorry — truly.  I would freak out if I had maggots in my window sill.  I would call Orkin or Roto-Rooter or even the Highway Patrol — ANYBODY who might be willing to help me!  I have had ants who thought they were termites and mice as big as beavers in my home, but never once have I had maggots in the window sills.  If it is any comfort, at least they are not in your corn flakes.

Let’s think creatively for a moment.  Get your man to buy a sturdy chainsaw at Home Depot.  Have him cut the window sill completely out.  (Make sure you keep a disposable bath towel under the area of deconstruction to catch the filthy little wigglies if any fall out during the process.)  Have your guy carefully carry the window sill and bath towel outside so that none escape onto your linoleum or into your carpet.  We don’t want any of them to go undiscovered and then migrate to your corn flakes.  Once he has removed the major portion of the problem to the great outdoors, minutely inspect what is left of the window and surrounding wall with a magnifying glass.  If any maggots remain, unfortunately, you may have to cut out the entire wall.  Call Home Depot or the Highway Patrol to find out for sure.  Do NOT call me!

“Sample Rummage Sale Signs” — Hobby Lobby might have them in a variety of tie-dye styles.  Your local newspaper may give you a couple for free if you buy the $35.00 classified ad to announce your sale.  If you make your own, be distinctive — even creative — in your spelling.  It will make your sale stand out from all the others.  Rumge, rumage, ramuge, and rummidge sail are all acceptable variant spellings for the great summer event here in Wisconsin.  Whatever you do, don’t call it a “yard” or “garage” sale, or you will have umpteen wiseacres who think they are original asking how much you want for the sod or the shed.

“50 or over benching contest” — Believe it or not, we have a yearly benching competition here in Appleton.  Only, you have to be 65 or older to qualify.  The recreation department collects the benches from the parks all over town and deposits them on the main drag.  From there, the fun begins.  We have contests in various categories, such as

1.)  Musical benches — Gets a little rough sometimes.  Some of the geezers are pretty aggressive and are not above pushing, shoving, etc. to get their bench.  Caning another contestant will produce immediate disqualification.

2.)  Guinness Book of World Records event — Who can sit the longest without wiggling a muscle?  It’s a stiff competition.  Serious contenders practice year-round to get their stamina up for this one.  We’ve had some sit from July, when the official contest opens, right down until the frost hits in the end of September.

3.)  Bench-dancing — The judges seem to prefer tap dancing or jitter bugging, although square dance teams have been known to place in the finals.  Dressing up like Sammy Davis Jr. or wearing a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire mask will not enhance your chances of winning.   If you tip your bench over and can’t dance it back up again, expect disqualification. 

4.)  The grand finale is the bench race.  Teams from all over the Fox River Valley spend the winter months streamlining their stripped-down, customized boogie-benches.  Watch your baby strollers, moms!  If you leave them unattended for a moment at the mall, you may lose the wheels.  These guys don’t care how they get the parts.  Winning is everything!   One guy drives, one rides shotgun, and four harness up to gallop down the stretch.  Beats the bed race in Seymour’s Hamburger Fest any day of the week!


Startling New Cholesterol Findings!


The Masbur Medical Research Foundation has discovered a new miracle food that could revolutionize the treatment of high cholesterol patients. Up until now, doctors have been prescribing a variety of cholesterol-lowering drugs, including the “very safe” (but not so very safe) statin drugs, some of which have now been pulled from the market, due to killing the patients on which they were used.

In the meantime, health gurus have touted various cholesterol-lowering “miracle” foods such as brown rice, lecithin, garlic, raw onions, soy, and oat bran. Lowering fat intake, especially saturated fat intake, has been standard counsel for high cholesterol sufferers.

One of the Masbur scientists, a cholesterol victim himself, had personally tried soy, brown rice, and the eat-until-you-neigh oat bran, all without material success. Not wanting to be isolated from the rest of society, he opted out of garlic and raw onions therapy. He also eschewed any form of fat.

After getting thoroughly tired of eating everything tasteless, and upon hearing a nutritionist remark that the body needs a certain amount of saturated fat to keep it from going into cholesterol-producing overdrive, senior scientist Paul Masbur threw out his fat free margarine, began to once again enjoy an occasional gut-busting burger, and quit obsessing about his fat intake. At the same time, he developed an insatiable craving for a daily handful of peanuts.

Much to everyone’s surprise, his cholesterol levels began to drop. Initially, this was only verified by a do-it-yourself, cheap version of the cholesterol test, purchased at a local drugstore. The senior scientist’s wife was extremely skeptical, especially because the senior scientist had great difficulty poking his own finger and squeezing the blood out onto the provided disposable testing paper. (His aim wasn’t good, and the blood got smeared in unpredictable places, but never quite seemed to end up where it was supposed to.) These questionable tests took place periodically for about a year and a half. More conclusive evidence was provided when the senior scientist had his cholesterol blood work done in a real lab at a real doctor’s office. Those tests demonstrated that Dr. Masbur’s cholesterol had indeed dropped forty points since the official test two years before. Previously, his cholesterol had been rising steadily. After adopting the peanut diet his “good” cholesterol was up, and the “bad” was down. The consulting M.D. wanted to know Dr. Masbur’s secret.

“Peanuts,” he smugly replied. “I eat a handful of peanuts every day. And I don’t watch my fat intake very closely anymore, either.”

The family physician, although suspicious of the lowly peanut therapy, and inwardly hoping that if word got out, his stock in the pharmaceuticals companies would not suddenly plummet, agreed that Dr. Masbur should continue his new dietary regimen.

More scientific evidence was now required, so Dr. Masbur attempted to expand the research. He suggested that the assistant scientist, Dr. Peter Masbur, also a victim of high cholesterol, undertake to be part of the peanut experiment. The assistant scientist had never bothered with oat bran, and did not go near fat free margarine. He also indulged frequently in his wife’s butter-laden desserts. 

The assistant scientist hypothesized that if one handful of peanuts proved effective, two or three handfuls might be even better. After swallowing the more concentrated daily dosage of goobers for a mere six months, to the shock of the entire medical community, Dr. Peter’s cholesterol dropped fifty points.

The experiment is now being expanded to people outside the Masbur Foundation. A not-so-controlled study is currently underway at the Greenbriar Post Office. (Postal employees are known to be prone to high cholesterol problems, no doubt due to stressful relations with management.) These postal workers have received new hope after the glowing testimonials presented to them by the Masburs. Since most of them like peanuts, and most are working enough overtime to afford them, trying the new miracle food should not be in the slightest bit painful. The Masbur Medical Research Foundation hopes to publish the results of their research within a year. 

Our cautious suggestion to the masses in the meantime: eat your peanuts everyday.  It can’t hurt.


Microwave Frisbee Issues


Unexpected things often happen when one is minding one’s own business. 

Yesterday, I was reheating a dab of baked beans in the microwave, when I suddenly remembered what beans do when left uncovered.  (They explode and interior decorate the microwave with interesting wall textures.)  

I hurriedly searched for the microwave splatter cover, only to find, as usual, that it was not in any of the normal places.  Knowing that my husband was probably the culprit who mislaid it, I called him in for consultation.  Yes, he was able to lay his hands on it in a matter of seconds.  

At that point he decided I needed a little practice with my hand-eye coordination, so he tossed the cover a la Frisbee in my direction.  Never mind that I was standing a mere four feet away from him, have always been coordinationally challenged, and have slow reflexes to boot.  Never mind that Paul will never be contacted by the Milwaukee Brewers to be one of their starting pitchers, either. 

Let’s just say I took that one on the nose – on the bridge of my beak, to be exact.  I was not enthralled with how wonderful it felt.  Maimed by my own husband, in a moment of goofiness! 

He was most apologetic, while I bellered, until I got it out of my system, about husbands who are too uninhibited for their own good and about nosebleeds not being my idea of a fun time.  We avoided the nosebleed, but I did end up with a dandy little X-shaped flesh wound that I can use as a conversation piece for the next week. 

By the way, we got the cover over the beans in time to prevent interior decoration of the microwave.


Eating for Four


When I’ve got nothing else to do, I co-write an informational question and answer column in The Plains Wheeler-Dealer.  We get some pretty interesting questions from time to time, like this one: 

Erna Persnuckett, from Sunken Flat, Nebraska, writes, “Will eating more during my daughter’s pregnancy give her a bigger baby?” 

First of all, Erna, how much you eat will not in any way, shape, or form affect either your daughter or her baby.  It’s nice that you are empathetic and want to be involved in the pregnancy, but … 

Oh, wait!  I’ll bet you meant if your daughter eats more, will she have a bigger baby!  I’m glad you asked that, Erna.  No, eating more will not give her a larger bambino, but it will give her a larger fanny.  I know this from personal experience.  Seriously!  Let me tell you a true-life story. 

My first child caused me a lot of motherly grief, and it started when she was born.  I doubt if anybody ever had a harder labor than I endured, and, to top it all off, after hours of agony I ended up having a C-section.  When Child #2 began to make her presence known, I was quite confident that this time around the delivery would be a cakewalk — nice, tidy little C-section, and voila! Baby would appear on the scene with a minimum of trouble. 

Not so, I found out during my initial visit with the doctor.  Times had changed, and “once a C-section, always a C-section” was no longer the standard procedure.  “We see how beeg baby ees,” he intoned in broken English. “If baby smaw, you have no’mal deleevery.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me!” was my inward thought.  “I’m not putting up with this, just because some insurance company doesn’t want to pay for the full treatment.”

I came up with the bright idea of overeating until that baby became a respectable size.  I figured an eight or ten pounder ought to convince Mr. Obstetrician that going through a regular labor was out of the question.  I did not consult him or Pregnant Mom-O Magazine to find out if my scientific hypothesis would hold water.  I just proceeded to eat – not for two, but for four. 

By the fifth month, the doc was getting a little nervous.  “You put on nine pounds dees mont’.  Don’ you t’eenk dat ees a beet much?  Where you stuffin’ eet?”

By month #9, I was between thirty-five and forty pounds heavier than when we started the whole adventure, and I intimately understood how beached whales must feel.  Two weeks before delivery, I got the good news: he didn’t think we ought to attempt “no’mal deleevery.” 

The upshot of the whole story is that the baby weighed under six pounds, the C-section wasn’t the piece of cake I remembered from the first pregnancy twelve years before, and I had a powerful lot of tonnage to lose. 

So, Erna, tell your daughter that if she is eating more in hopes of breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest baby on the planet, it won’t work.  The baby might end up a dainty Thumbelina, and your daughter could end up in the book for other reasons – like taking up more territory than anybody else in Nebraska.


We Did the Door


We just got back from a couple of days in Door County.  I could post the pictures and tell you what a wonderful place it is to visit, and I would sound like a travel magazine.  But anybody who ever reads this blog knows that’s not what you’re going to get. 

We did the things we like to do, which means we avoided all the tourist trinket shops entirely, and visited the photogenic places — Cana Island, Peninsula State Park, Cave Point, a few pretty buildings, and the ferry port on the edge of the world.  Beebee had a good time with her dad’s camera.  She probably had a good time with her parents, too, but the camera won the popularity contest.

I restrained myself from bringing little bits of Door County home with me. Last time, my mind got stuck in the groove of crab claws and other lake debris being cool.  I brought home a margarine bucket full of such things.  It resides on a shelf in my closet, and I take it out and look at it every couple of years with my nose plug in place, because all those little marine life thingies smell horrible.  I think someday I will show my crab claws to the grandchildren to see whether they are scared or delighted.  I would imagine at least one of them will be delighted.  I will tell him Grandma got these while sailing the seas in a pirate ship, and he will think I am even cooler!

I noticed they don’t have any homeless people hanging around under the docks and park benches in Door County.  It’s probably because they would freeze to death in the middle of July.  I’ve never been to Door County when it wasn’t freezing.  I recommend bringing your winter coat when you come in May.  We didn’t, and we should have.

I didn’t see too many taverns, either — not that I missed them, or needed one, or anything like that.  I suppose the locals there get the same satisfaction out of a bowl of lingonberries as folks in my neck of the woods do out of a bottle of beer.  (Lingonberries are like a cross between cranberries and currants.  You eat them in a sauce.)

Eating is a problem in Door County, unless you bring your own food or have a wallet the size of Warren Buffet’s.  The lingonberries cost, folks!  And when it is off-season (it still is, in late May) there are not a lot of places open for business.  The owners stay in Florida until June, hoping to store up warmth, somewhat like a solar battery.  They want to bring back at least the remembrance of what it was like not to shiver constantly.  But Al Johnson’s is always open.  I would eat every meal there  —  if I had Warren Buffet’s wallet at my disposal.

We stayed at the same resort that we were at the last time.  Back then, it was elegant to my plebeian eyes, but it was decidedly tired this time.  The entire building was extremely musty-smelling and my nostrils were assaulted with nastier-yet odors upon entering our room.  I did not look under the bed for dead mice resting in an ashtray full of cigarette butts, but I think I would have found that if I had looked.

The lady at the front desk informed us that if we wanted to go swimming and had not brought our suits, they had a supply of left-behinds from previous guests.  We could pick through them and wear them if we liked.  Uh, no thanks. I wonder if they offer free recycled underwear that was left behind, too.  How about toothbrushes?

Which brings me to my husband, who forgot his toothbrush.  He thought he was going to share mine.  There are times when I am not in a sharing mood.  Forgotten toothbrushes are one of those moments.  Beebee thought it should be no big deal if he just didn’t brush until we got home from the trip.  (I see that I am going to have to monitor the child’s toothpaste consumption, to make sure it is being … consumpted.)  Thankfully, my husband did not think skipping the tooth maintenance was a good idea.  We sent him down to the desk, and they sold him a toothbrush.  It was still neatly wrapped in plastic, so I don’t think it came out of the box of recycled underwear and bathing suits.

It’s a good thing that the resort thought to keep a stock of (new) toothbrushes, as we were staying at the absolute end of nowhere, at least five miles from inhabited places, and by this time every store in town would have been closed anyway, because it was after 3:00 p.m., the official time all the businesses shut down and everybody forgets to breathe until morning (except Al Johnson’s, which serves lingonberries far into the night — until 8:00 p.m., in fact).

So that’s the angle on Door County that no one else will tell you.  There’s more, but we’ll save it for another day.

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