Journey to the Highlands

I don’t know what you did for Thanksgiving, but our family visited cool places, not counting the hotel we stayed in.  We have just returned from an exploration of life outside Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is unanimously viewed as being cold, while a few of us think it is cool, but not cool like where we have just been.

Many moons ago, our daughter and her family left their spacious wildlife-infested parsonage in Pittsburgh suburghia and relocated to a teeny-tiny apartment in Louisville.  They are there to plant a church.  Through years of large black snakes sunning themselves on the outside door frames of their house and tinier serpents infiltrating their basement, Susan prayed for the day when she could be surrounded by concrete.  Her prayers have been heard. 

We must start out right.  For the sake of educating America, we did not visit Loo-iss-vil, nor did we visit Loo–ee-vil.  It is Loo-uh-vul.  Say that three times.  Loo-uh-vul.  Now you know where we stayed.  I knew how to pronounce it long before going there, thanks to reading Ann Landers and Mark Twain in my younger years, but I listened carefully to the locals just to make sure I was getting it right.

Susan and her family reside on Bardstown Road, in the Highlands of Louisville.  It is a gathering knot of the culturally colorful, a haven where old hippies never die and younger ones currently live the lifestyle to one degree or another.  It is a place that confirmed I am fashionably valid — something I never suspected, but will now milk for all it is worth.

We spent an afternoon exploring the shops up and down Bardstown — many of them filled with semi-pricey vintage clothing.  Upscale, fashionably savvy people come in droves from other parts of Louisville to buy garments identical to some I currently have hanging in my closet.  Apparently, I am not a clueless fuddy-duddy after all.  I am chic and never knew it.  Next time you see me sashaying around in my hunter green Nehru jacket with the tapestry-covered buttons and the football player-size shoulder pads, remember what I have just said.  I am not an oddball; I am trendy and cool.  Now those of you who know me in real life will all wish you had not snickered, and you will be calling me for advice on how to morph yourselves into being cool, too. 

I now know how to pronounce hookah (who-kah, not hook-uh).   I knew what one does with a hookah from bygone days of reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but I did not yet have the correct pronunciation (unlike Loo-uh-vul).  There are hookah lounges on Bardstown, along with the Hubbly Bubbly Smoke Shop, which specializes in whatever you need to get your hookah experience going.  Susan and her family sometimes do second-hand hookah via the air vents from their downstairs neighbors’ apartment.  It makes their dog sneeze.  Susan assures me that not all hookah lovers smoke the substances that Monte Cristo’s heroine indulged in.  I am not entirely convinced, though.  Nothing like living the culture.

We scrounged the Peddler’s Mall for antique chairs at cheap prices for Susan and Chris’s church building.  If I were to move to the Highlands (which I will not, but it is a safe form of entertainment to imagine it), I would sell all the furniture I currently have and start fresh with the stuff from the Peddler’s Mall.  It would need to be fumigated or otherwise sanitized somehow, but it would be a fun, economical experiment. 

Thanksgiving Dreamin’

My husband had a deprived childhood. Never once in all his growing up years did his family sit down to a Thanksgiving turkey. You see, he and his twin brother were the little tykes who stayed home with Mom, while Dad and the older brothers were all off in the woods tracking Bambi every Thanksgiving. 

Still, Paul has pleasant memories of their peculiar holiday tradition: Spaghettios. Yes, you read that right. The left-behind part of the family gave their thanks with the help of spaghetti in a can. Mom dressed it up real fancy by adding ground beef and kidney beans. She and the boys thought it was a fabulous treat, because it was the only time of year they got to eat noodles of any sort. Dad hated noodles and forbade them at his table, while Mom craved pasta 364 days out of the year.

Why am I telling you about it? Because I find Paul’s childhood tradition inspiring. I am beginning to raise my family’s conscious level to the radical concept of Thanksgiving without the turkey and all the fixin’s. I hate cooking, and the day I hate cooking the most is Thanksgiving.

One of these years I will push past all the accepted traditions and plop spaghetti down in front of their faces — with baby carrots still in the bag as a side dish. I will not do the noodles-mummified-in-a-can version. I loathe Spaghettios and all of its cousins. No, the spaghetti will come out of a box and the sauce out of a jar.  And I will not adulterate our entree with kidney beans. They make me think of  their namesake body part, and that is not appetizing.

I will serve up our meal on a tablecloth-less table, and the spaghetti and its accompanying sauce will appear in their original cooking pots, not fancy bowls.  The silver will stay in its box and remain tarnished if it wants to, while we eat with the everyday flatware.  I will still bake pie-out-of-a-box to ensure that there will be no mutiny. And we will ALL enjoy ourselves immensely — especially the cook, who will not spend hours after the repast fighting food coma while painstakingly picking all the remaining meat off that poor gobbler’s bones and preparing stock for soup. 

Lest you think I will shock all my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and cousins ten-times-removed who expect the real traditional deal out of me, I must explain that the family gathering has shrunk down to four of us.  My mom will always get her turkey dinner if I have to buy it in a Swanson TV dinner box for her.  And we’ll work into this gradually. I am a long-range planner and can salivate over a revolutionary new concept for a decade before I actually put it into execution.  The rest of my family will be all right with the idea once they’ve heard about it a few times. My teenager doesn’t like turkey or any of the fixin’s anyway.  She endures until the moment of pie arrives.  My husband may miss the turkey and dressing, but when I remind him of how his mom used to do it, the pleasant memories of his childhood will carry the day.

I think it will work. And I may be doing the women of America a humongous favor just by writing this. The Internet is a powerful tool for raising up an army of radical thinkers, you know. I could create a grass roots  uprising of middle-aged women all over the country who never before had it cross their minds that they do not have to be slaves of  Thanksgiving dinner the way their mamas were.  The trend will eventually snowball to where grocers cannot keep enough pasta and Ragu on their shelves to satisfy the public demand at Thanksgiving time. All the turkey farms will be converted to fields of Roma tomatoes.

Yes, I like the idea.  Anybody with me?  

Anniversary #31

Today was our wedding anniversary — thirty-one wonderful, adventurous, romantic years together.  Paul provides the wonderful and I provide the adventurous.  The romantic just is.  I thought I’d give a report on our day, so that all of you who don’t have the first idea how to have a great anniversary together will get a few pointers.

Gifts — For weeks I pleaded with Paul to give me some ideas of what he wanted.  My eyes glazed over when he mentioned the technology items.  I don’t do technology.  It mortally confuses me. 

Finally he announced the need for a new set of dress trousers.  I had just about simultaneously gotten the same brilliant idea, having noticed a  huge white wear spot on the pocket of his navy blue slacks just that morning as he stood at the front of the church.  The entire church family saw the need at the same moment I did.  Humility is not something I have to strive over-hard for.  Opportunities abound.

So I thought the problem of an anniversary gift was solved.  Not.  Finding Paul trousers is a monumental challenge.  He is long and thin.  The trousers available have the dimensions switched around.   32 x 34 will work; 34 x 32 will not.  I was still looking today without success.  Fortunately, I had a book stashed away for his birthday, which had to do anniversary duty.

When he hauled out several presents for me, I felt like a heel — until I opened them.

Gift #1 — A homemade Fernando Ortega CD case — without the CD.  “Thank you, Paul.  I have always loved Fernando Ortega’s CD cases.  Usually they come with a CD inside.”

“Oh, did I forget the CD?  Duh.”  He ambled off to his man-den in the basement to retrieve the music portion of the Fernando gift.  He had downloaded the music (legally) from the Internet and made a lovely case and all — just forgot to put the CD in it.

Gift #2 — A Hershey Milk Chocolate-flavored lip balm — with instructions to smear it, but not to eat it.  I normally do not use lip balms.  Petroleum jelly out of a jar serves the same purpose quite effectively.  Beebee asked if I knew how to use lip balm, or if she needed to demonstrate for me.  She probably just wanted the first lick.

Gift #3 — A bag of Lemonheads.  Yes, exactly.  The same candy they sell at swimming pool concession stands.

I now understood why, whenever I had pleaded for gift ideas, Paul had consistently stated he only wanted a bag of circus peanuts and a tube of braunschweiger to fulfill his fondest dreams.  He had hoped to put our gifts on an equal plane.

(The man gave me roses and truffles, too, but Lemonheads and CD-less CD cases are more fun to talk about.)

Other festivities —  We spent a romantic afternoon together at ShopKo Optical.  I have needed new glasses for a while, not being able to see overmuch out of the old ones.  They had a huge 25% off sale, and Paul generously offered to buy me any $49.95 frame in the place.  (Actually, I was the one who opted for the $49.95 pair.  The $99.95 frames looked a little nicer, but the price tag hanging from them wasn’t near as elegant as the one on the $49.95 pair.  I know cool when I see it.)

We dined on petite sirloin at Applebee’s.  It was a weird experience having the cook bring our steaks to the table and stand over us, demanding that we cut it and make sure it was done to our taste.  He refused to leave until we had done so.  It must be a custom peculiar to Applebee’s.  A few minutes later, the waitress came by and asked in a whisper if we had “cut our steak for anyone yet.”  I’ll bet it has nothing to do with whether the steak is done to perfection.   They probably don’t trust the customers to handle knives without supervision until the management is sure they are mature enough to manipulate sharp objects alone.  We were being tested.  I got so nervous I tried to cut with the serrated edge up, but they let me keep my knife anyway.

While I demonstrated my knife-wielding prowess for the cook, precious seconds were lost, and the butter ran off my baked potato and into the zucchini.   I was disappointed.  If they had wrapped that potato in traditional foil, the butter would have stayed put.  Sigh!

We dressed up for our big occasion.  Paul wore a sweater and white jeans (because I could not find dress slacks for his anniversary present, no doubt).  I wore my beautiful hunter-green tunic with the Nehru collar.  I fell in love with it and its $3.00 tag at Goodwill three years ago.  I look ever so chic in it, but have not had the courage to wear it in public, since I don’t see other ladies flaunting football player-size padding in their jacket shoulders right now.  I keep hoping such fashion will come back into style eventually.  (Beebee tells me it is coming back, but only young ladies who have never yet had opportunity to do huge shoulder pads are allowed to wear such things.  Old ladies who had their chance back in the 80’s do not get a second shot at it.  I will never understand the rules of fashion.)  Anyway, I figured nobody at Applebee’s would know me or care, so I wore it and enjoyed myself.  I sashayed around Target after dinner in it, too — again looking for the elusive 32 x 34 trousers necessary to restore my man to respectability.

The Cure for Swine Flu

I know, I know.  Nobody is freaking out about swine flu anymore.  But, the experts are direly predicting a comeback of this hysteria-producing disease, come autumn.  Consequently, just in case they are right, we should all protect ourselves with a little common-sense preparation.

I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but the surefire antidote to swine flu is bratwurst.  Yes, bratwurst – not the turkey or the beef kind, mind you.  It’s gotta be the pork variety.  It’s a very simple concept: fight swine with swine. 

Before you roll your eyeballs right out of their sockets, think about it.  What did they do to stop the polio epidemic?  They injected everybody with a weakened polio virus.  How did they devastate measles, mumps, and chickenpox?  Same story. 

I’m not suggesting that we inject bratwurst into anyone’s veins.  Swine flu is a most virulent disease, and a weakened dose of pork will not do the job.  The bratwurst must be applied full strength via the digestive system, in large doses.   Besides, immunologists are just beginning to realize that the more fun a vaccine is to take, the more effective it is.  Modern science is wonderful, isn’t it?

This is why in Wisconsin, where we are progressive and savvy about most things, every man, woman, and child will be porking up on bratwurst all summer long.  Cumulative dosage is key to jump-starting the immune system.  Here in the Badger State, we are anticipating eating an average of 39.35 pounds of brats per capita between now and Labor Day. 

You may ask, “Why, if bratwurst is such a wonderful cure, was Wisconsin the #2 state in the nation for swine flu cases in the spring of 2009?”  Obviously, if you have to ask such a question you do not understand the culture and climate.  The swine flu hit before it was warm enough to grill brats outside, and we were caught off-guard.  Besides, you didn’t hear of anybody in Wisconsin being seriously harmed by swine flu, did you?  This is because, as soon as the cases started appearing in hordes at our hospitals, the medical personnel knew exactly what to do.  They started stuffing Nesco roaster-loads of brats down the patients’ gullets.  They power-dosed the victims by force-feeding them quarts of sauerkraut (loaded with vitamin C for immune system boost).  It worked, and they all went home feeling euphoric about the whole recovery experience.  Nary a complaint was heard about the deplorable state of hospital cuisine. 

As everyone knows, not all drug brands are alike.  Sometimes those generic versions do not work as well.  This is why it is important for Americans to understand that not all brats will work equally as effectively in protecting against swine flu.  Johnsonville brats are still at the top of the heap, and their priceyness is well worth it, if you want to stay healthy.  Klements are a somewhat distant second in efficacy, while the low-income or exceptionally frugal-of-heart individuals will have to muddle along the best they can with the greatly inferior store brands. 

A tragic epidemic among people of lower income could be averted if President Obama would merely issue an executive order allowing the federal government to seize ownership of the Johnsonville Sausage Company.  He could then declare free brats for everyone to make sure all is fair and square.   As a by-product, many jobs would be created, as the company would have to go through enormous expansion to meet the demands for all that free food.  The new jobs would mean more income for the IRS to abscond with, thereby creating a bottomless barrel for pork projects dear to the hearts of politicians.  More pork in the barrel would mean more swine flu antidote, and the cycle would spiral ever upward into an increasingly healthy economy. 

So there you have it, folks.  Bratwurst – the answer to all the nation’s problems, from swine flu to the economy.  You heard it here first, and I don’t mind at all if you share it with Wall Street and the American Medical Association.

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!)

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 —

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.

Trip to the Man Store

I went to “the man store” with my hubby a few days ago.  I try to avoid setting foot in it as much as possible, but we had to shop for kitchen flooring, and I couldn’t let him go by himself.  When you are planning on living with the finished product for the next twenty years or more, it’s wise to make sure the husband does not come home with tiling done in chartreuse stripes intermingled with olive-drab polka dots, just because he got it cheap.

I admire my husband’s adventurous spirit and his handyman savvy.  If it has to be done around the house, he can probably do it.  So, when I expressed my desire for a new kitchen floor, seeing as how we can practically gaze through the current one into the basement, he began investigating how he could replace it without depending on winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.  He found out the local Mega-Hardware store had a new product that was right up his alley — snap-together porcelain tile that would sit right on top of the old floor and not even demand to be glued down.  He gave me a glowing report and we trotted down there for hands-on investigation.

I warned him as we walked in from the parking lot, “Paul, I may not be able to handle this.  When I get in the door of this place, my brain usually fuzzes up, my eyes glaze over, and I become helpless as a baby.  All the man gadgets just overwhelm me.” 

He smugly assured me he would try to be understanding.  Hardware and home fix-it stores give our guys a rare opportunity to feel superior to their women.  Some men drag their wives there even when they don’t need anything, just so they can savor a male dominance moment from time to time.

The major selling point of the snap-together floor tile was its ease of application. The usual ninety-pounds-dripping-wet supermodel grinning from ear to ear graced the outside of the tile packages.   She knelt there on her almost finished floor with her grout trowel in one hand and the last piece of tile in the other, looking ever so pleased.  The idea, I think, was to bamboozle the rest of us into thinking we, like Miss Supermodel, would have more fun tiling a floor than spending the afternoon at the circus.  Too bad they couldn’t fool me: I’d already seen that same gal when we passed through the plumbing department — hefting a hundred-pound toilet into place, with the same stupid grin on her face, not a drop of sweat on her elegant brow, and not a slop of sewage on her designer shirt and jeans.

The no-mortar tiling system was tempting.  It looked fairly disasterless.  Should we run into a few handyman challenges, at least there would be no danger of ending up with our feet in hardened cement.  But then my mental calculations of how much it would cost kicked in.

“One hundred sixty-two tiles at approximately $5.50 each — that’s $900.00, Paul.”

His jaw dropped.  Having been a mailman, but never a mathematician, he’d had some vague notion he was going to get by for about three hundred bucks.  His previous career had demanded mental calculations of the price of a few stamps, but never anything in the ballpark of 160-some kitchen floor tiles with all the accessories.

“Then there’s another $200.00 for the grout stuff and the wet saw, that’s $1100.00, then throw in a few miscellaneous unexpected incidences and the sales tax, and we’re talking $1400.00 total.”

It took the wind out of his sails.  We left Mega-Hardware without the tile, a brochure sporting the grinning supermodel, swinging her grout bucket by one finger, in Paul’s hip pocket.  We will either wait for the snap-together tile to go on a massive clearance sale or go buy a reasonable facsimile at the Dollar Tree.  Let’s hope we end up with something other than chartreuse stripes and olive-drab polka dots.

The Hair-Cutting Experience
Dutch Boy 
I am a frugal person, which is why I went to the discount hair salon holed up in my local Stuff-Mart yesterday.  I figured, “How hard can it be to get a decent, no-frills haircut, anyway?”  Let’s just say the next two months will be one long continuous bad hair day.

It is a good thing that I do not have high aspirations to be a movie star, because if I did, I would have to limit myself for the time being to bag lady roles.  In fact, I may have to literally be a bag lady for awhile — as in, covering myself from the neck up with a paper grocery bag, so that nobody can see the ‘do.  A few holes cut for eyes, nose, and mouth, just like we used to do in kindergarten costume parties, and I’ll be all set.

Dutch Boy 2When I gaze in the mirror, I am seriously reminded of the picture on the Dutch Boy paint can — only the Dutch lad is much cuter than I am.  I suppose I will live through the whole experience and even manage to be jolly in spite of it.  At least I have something to talk about.

Which brings me to observations about the hair styling profession and how it has evolved since I was young.  Years ago, on the rare occasions when I visited a salon (I had the no-maintenance long hair, parted in the middle and cascading down most of the distance to my ankles), I was amused and amazed at what the other clients would tell their hairdressers.  All that could be imagined in the line of seamy or steamy secrets was revealed and discussed over the snipping, curling and dyeing of their tresses.  The stylist doubled as a psychotherapist or pastoral counselor.  And she did it with finesse!

Alas, it is not that way any longer.  Apparently, Psychology 101 is not one of the required subjects in cosmetology school these days, and therefore the intimate conversations of bygone beauty shop days are no more.  My stylist did not ask so much as what I had for lunch, or where I was going on vacation, much less how my marriage was doing, or whether my children were behaving themselves.  In fact, she did not say twenty words during our whole session.  I was rather relieved that she did not probe my personal life, but at the same time, the silence was a tad uncomfortable.  I noticed that the other stylists were not overly chatty with their clients, either.

It could be, I suppose, that it is only in discount salons in Stuff-Marts that no counseling goes on.  Perhaps the cheap prices preclude extra frills, such as talking to the customers.  Yes, that must be it.  If I had chosen a full care salon, I would have gotten the package deal.  Or, maybe Stuff-Mart does not want to be embroiled in lawsuits for allowing third-party businesses on the premises to practice psychotherapy without a license.

In any case, I missed the cheap thrill of overhearing women parade their family linen throughout the beauty shop.  And I wish I did not presently look like my picture belongs on a paint can.

More Weird Search Terms

I think I am going to regularly collect weird search terms from my blog stats.  They are just too much fun to pass up.  If you have odd questions, I’ve got the answers right here!  (Wikipedia, eat your heart out!)

1.)  “How do they do a lobotomy?”  — I’m assuming this is from neither a medical student looking for help on his finals, nor Dr. Frankenstein’s faithful assistant.  It could be from a dissection-happy high school biology teacher.  Watch out, kids!  Make sure the lab specimen in front of you is really a frog, and take a head count on your classmates before starting the procedure.

2.)  “What are retirement dinners?” — What do you think this blog is, the web home of Jeopardy?  Retirement dinners are the backyard cookouts that add the final perfecting touch to an afternoon get-together of bubbas who are bonding by outfitting their pickup trucks with monster-size retreads.  If you do it in a group it’s a lot more fun.  Honestly!  I thought everyone knew that!

3.)  “Prayers for doubt and confusion” — All I can say is, I wouldn’t pray for that.  If you want doubt and confusion, be my guest and go ahead and ask for it.

4.)  “Mountain Dew gallbladder” — Which puts many ??? in my think-tank.  Is this a new song title, like Foggy Mountain Breakdown?  I like Flatt and Scruggs, and I like Foggy Mountain Breakdown, but somehow I don’t think Mountain Dew Gallbladder is going to make it.

And if we’re really talking about gallbladders, is a Mountain Dew gallbladder one on hyper-overload?  What does a Mountain Dew gallbladder look like?  Is it greenish-yellow?  For that matter, what color is a regular gallbladder?  I don’t think I really want to know — but somebody does.

5.)  “Chicago Cubs bubbler” — Let’s get this straight: bubblers reside in Wisconsin, while Chicago Cubs only visit Wisconsin occasionally to humble the Brewers.  Do you want a Chicago Cubs bubbler?  You can probably get it at eBay.  But then, there’s always the risk of 169,543 other people wanting one at the same time, and the auction spirit will drive all reason out of your noggin, and the price will go up to $997.01.  You will be riding high on the euphoria of your victory and will be so indiscreet as to tell your missus, who will shriek, “Honey, what have you done??!!  Now we’ll have to eat dandelion greens all summer, because you’ve spent the family fortune on a sports bubbler!”  I’d say the cheapest way out of a tragedy is to just buy a plain old white one at a resale shop and plaster Cubs decals all over it.

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