Winter Fun in Wisconsin

Cheese-300pxRecently, someone from the deep South asked me, “So what do y’all do in Wisconsin in the winter?” I was surprised. I thought everyone knew what a blast Wisconsin is in January! We have phenomenally fun activities going on all the time here.

First, there are Packer games. The colder it is, the better the turnout. Wisconsinites take great pride in knowing how to dress for these events. Those cheesehead thingies everybody wears? Lined with head-warming uranium-enriched chemicals, this traditional Wisconsin headgear is  made from a secret recipe inspired during somebody’s hours of boredom while freezing in a tree stand, waiting for the legendary thirty-point buck to appear. Basement Packer chapels and decorating our living rooms in gold and green also keep us pretty busy.

People “up nort'” enjoy raking four-foot piles of snow off the roofs of their trailer homes several times during the season. It is great exercise, and although not as exciting, is more fun than having the roof collapse into the living room.

For those who are more inclined to sedentary entertainment, a quiet afternoon spent fuzz-balling your red union suit is guaranteed to enhance your serenity.

You no doubt have heard whispers about the Polar Bear Club. On January 1st, members congregate on the shores of Lake Michigan (or other suitable ponds), strip down to their thermal underwear, and go for a swim. I must explain that these are not sane Wisconsinites. Too much fuzz-balling of the red union suits can push people beyond serenity into hallucinogenic euphoria. I might add that the multitudes of people who come just to spectate suffer some noggin problems as well.

Reading seed catalogs from cover to cover multiple times is also a favorite activity. At the end of winter, Burpee has a contest exclusively for Wisconsinites: whoever sends in the most thumb-worn catalog with their order of $100.00 or more gets a plaque with a big pumpkin superimposed over the state capitol, which reads, “Home-grown Wisconsinite and proud of it!” It may not ever warm up enough to get a harvest out of those seeds finally planted midsummer, but dreaming is almost as good as achieving, right?

The men all grow bushes on their faces. Outsiders think it is in admiration for those Duck Dynasty fellers. Nope. Purely a Wisconsin thing, contrived for survival. The Louisiana guys just stole it.

And we shiver. This is a health bonus. It tones the muscles. The more sleek you want to be, the more you turn down the thermostat. There are no gym fees, you don’t have to leave home, and the added bonus is a lower fuel bill. It’s a no-brainer.

“Remembrance Parties” are a big trend right now. The idea is to gather a few intimate friends, slurp some spicy-hot chili together (in hopes of generating authentic perspiration), and swap memories of the previous summer. “Joe, do you remember when we wore short-sleeve T-shirts last July for a couple of days? Refresh my memory. What did that feel like?”

Some of us find enjoyment in traveling from park to park to watch the bubblers freeze over (probably referred to as water fountains where you come from). It’s not quite as much fun as watching the Polar Bear Club carry on, but it works in a pinch, if you’re going stir-crazy inside.

Contrary to rumors, we do not enjoy lemming races. That is strictly an event in Upper Michigan, which Wisconsin is unfortunately adjoined to — but we can’t do much about them.

Now for a cultural exchange — What do all yous guys do in the winter?

Advertisements

New Study Touts Bratwurst as Health Food

GOOD NEWS FOR WISCONSINITES

Brats and KrautA few years ago, we broke the story on bratwurst as the cure for swine flu.  Based on that find, the results of this latest study should not be a surprise — especially to lifetime residents of Wisconsin.  (We always said we were progressive!)

Right on time for Memorial Day festivities, a far-reaching clinical study just released by the prestigious Masbur Foundation has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that eating bratwurst significantly increases life expectancy. The quantity providing optimum effectiveness is 69.7 lbs. per person annually, with larger quantities producing no additional benefits, but not posing any health risks, either. Apparently “too much of a good thing” only means … more enjoyment of a good thing.

In the study, which covered a dozen brands of bratwurst, consistent consumption of Johnsonville Brats seemed to provide the greatest benefits. Data analysts surmised that bratwurst-induced longevity might be connected to body-healing chemicals released through the taste buds, thereby explaining why Johnsonville had the edge on the other brands.

The study also suggests that generous doses of sauerkraut consumed in tandem with bratwurst helps the anti-aging process.

Aghast at the GastHaus

My husband is of German descent.  I am too.  There is one huge difference between us, though: he wants to eat like it and I don’t.  Paul came from a very Germanic household.  His father emigrated from The Fatherland.  His family says December funny — DeZember.  At least he can keep his v’s and w’s straight, even though his dad couldn’t.

I tried to learn the knack of  German cooking for him, but never quite succeeded.  My mother-in-law did her best to give me the low-down on cooking bread dumplings, but they ended up as little bits of debris floating in quarts of water instead of the tennis ball-sized lumps they were supposed to be.  I used a sieve to salvage the remains.  Mom herself grew royally tired, over the years, of eating pork this-and-that drowning in sauerkraut juice.  She thought of spaghetti in a can as the ultimate treat.

redcabchourizo1 by ranja2006, via photobucketMy husband’s yearning for the Deutsch foods of his youth has been surging to the forefront over the last decade or so, and no amount of feeding him bratwurst has been able to satiate it.   Recently it reached the seriously obsessive level, and he began desperately searching the Internet for German recipes that he could cook for himself.  You should have seen (and smelled) the red cabbage concoction he came up with.  I cannot say how it tasted, for I refused to go beyond the sight and smell perceptions.

Thanks to an approximately 1/2 off coupon, tonight we managed to quell his obsession, at least temporarily.  I can only hope I will survive the experience.  We visited the local Gasthaus eatery.

I should have known we were in trouble when the first oom-pa-pas of the tuba concerto assaulted my ears — or when we found ourselves elegantly seated next to two overstuffed, three-foot-high ceramic porkers, accompanied by an equally overstuffed ceramic burgermeister.   The prices were calculated to cause a stroke (if we hadn’t had the 1/2 off coupon), but they were nothing to what followed.

Wienerschnitzel!!! by cocco354, via PhotobucketI ordered the wienerschnitzel, mainly because it was the only thing on the not-in-English menu that I knew how to pronounce, other than the sauerbraten, which was out of the question because it  came with the nasty red cabbage side dish which I had already been introduced to at home.

My previous wienerschnitzel experiences had all been confined to a pancake house of some sort and could not lay claim to being authentic.  When the real deal arrived, I knew my gallbladder was in jeopardy, not to mention the cardiovascular system.  I am not a fat-o-phobe, but this was beyond suicidal.

“I think I am not going to be feeling so good after this, honey.  On the way home, maybe we can stop for some emergency antacids and one of those do-it-yourself home remedy angioplasty kits they’ve got at the drugstore.”

Paul looked slightly concerned, but only grunted politely through his mouthful of red cabbage that came with the sauerbraten.  I soaked a napkin with what grease was sop-up-able, and then dutifully dispatched the slab of swine frittered in gallons of bacon grease. (Real veal wienerschnitzel cost $3.00 extra.)

We stopped to pick up a few necessary items on the way home.  The drugstore was fresh out of angioplasty kits.  Paul offered to let me sit in the car while he ran in for the goods, but it is January in Wisconsin, and I was afraid if I sat out there in the deep freeze for a few minutes, the lard I had just ingested might immediately congeal in my arteries.

My diet for the next few days had better consist of dry toast and water.  I will pray for an absence of gout and gallbladder attack and run up and down the stairs a few times to get the arteries cleaned out.  I’m still trying to decide whether my desire for revenge against the GastHaus will be appeased by writing this blog post or whether I will report them to the health department to achieve full satisfaction.

Ornesta to the Rescue!

LeeAnnRubsam.com

“Hey, Ornesta!  How’s life in da U.P.?”

“Not so bad.  The thermometer hasn’t blown out the bottom end yet, the bears haven’t moved into town to feast on the inhabitants, and I haven’t had to deal with any sneezified menus lately.  How about yourself?”

“Um, well … Ornesta, may I come live at your house for a while?”

“Sure, Sweetie!  We can put you up in the ice shanty out back.  Bud won’t need it until the Gitch* freezes over, and that won’t happen for a few weeks yet.  You’ll have your own private commode too, even if it does have a little moon carved out of the door.  What’s the problem?  Hubby being mean to you?”

“No, no.  The hubby’s always good to me.  I can’t complain — even if he can’t figure out how to use the phones around the house without disconnecting himself.”

“How about the teenager?  Is she running wild all over town?”

“No, not that either.  The closest Beebee ever comes to running wild is to saunter down Main Street in Little Chute with her guitar strapped to her back.”

“Little Chute!  What does she go there for?  It’s full of Hollanders!”

“She’s got a friend that lives there — not Hollander, either.  But — what’s wrong with Hollanders?  We’re all either Hollanders or Krauts down here.  If you stick a bratwurst in each of our fists, you can’t tell us apart. We all talk like Yoopers*.”

“Heeeyyyy!  Well, at least if you come to stay with us no one will know you aren’t the genuine article.  You know, I visited Little Chute once.  Went there for the Kermit Festival — but I didn’t see the little green guy anywhere, or Miss Piggy either — just a lotta folks clomping around in wooden shoes, with tulips stuck in their baseball caps.”

Kermis, not Kermit!  It just means an outdoor festival in Dutch.”

“Yah, whatever. Now, what’s the matter, anyway?”

“(Sigh!) Money doesn’t grow on the bushes out back, BFF’s aren’t always forever, my creative juices seem to have gotten rancid, I should have taken up Dave Barry on his offer after all, and I might as well apply the Christmas cookies directly to my hips, since they’re going to end up there anyway. “

“Yah, those are problems, all right.  But, how is living in the ice shanty going to fix ’em, do you s’pose?”

“Well, I think I just need a change of scenery — new vistas produce new writing fodder, you know?”

“That might take care of the rancid juices, but I don’t know if it will help the cookie-hips problem much. But tell you what: you pack your duffel bag and c’mon up, and I’ll have Merle Haggard singin’ Everybody Gets the Blues and If We Make It Through December on the tape deck in the shanty to cheer you up when you get here.”

“Throw in  Mule Skinner Blues, and I’m on my way!”

*The Gitch — Gitche Gumee; Lake Superior
*Yoopers — people who live in Michigan’s upper peninsula

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

Oh, My!

It is my birthday today.  And my daughter has given me a unique present — the “unauthorized” tale posted for all the world to see of how I used our homeschooling experience to successfully launch a career in writing and publishing.

She’s engaging, witty, and quite a wordsmith.

Here’s the link to her tribute to Mom.

And for those of you who need a great copywriter (or just like reading fun stuff from writers)  — http://www.byhannahdavis.com

Thanks, Hannah!

Watch that Menu!

LeeAnnRubsam.com

My friend and avid fan, Ornesta Fruggenbotham, called the other day.  You remember Ornesta.  She’s the one who made guest appearances in this blog with her true-life stories about a dead brother who was really quite alive and a fond memory of a Christmas banquet served next to the bedroom clothes hamper.  Life is weird in Upper Michigan, as proved by the latest phone conversation.

“Well, hello, Ornesta!  How’s the weather in Iron Ore these days?  Has the Big Lake frozen over yet?”

“It’s cold enough to give a polar bear frostbite, I had to use a welding torch to thaw out the phone line before calling you, and an iceberg took out the Edmund Fitzgerald last Tuesday.”

“C’mon, Ornesta.  I’m smarter than that.  I’ve listened to a little Gordon Lightfoot myself, and I know how long ago that happened.  It wasn’t an iceberg, either.”

“I’m not really concerned about the temperature.  It’s a different kind of cold threat I’ve had on my mind of late.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.  I was at one of those “bottomless fries”  eateries a couple of weeks ago, and —“

“Pardon me, Ornesta.  You shouldn’t do that.  I just read about the house specialty burger — 93 whoppin’ grams of lardo and a full day’s calories — without the fries.”

“When you live this far north, you need that much grease to keep your joints oiled and moving.  But let me tell you what happened.”

“OK, shoot.”

“The guy at the next table had to sneeze, see?  And he wanted to be polite and not let fly at the woman across the table from him — which was good, ’cause it was one sloppy doozy of a sneeze!”

“Ewww.”

“No, just wait!  I’ll give you an ‘Ewww!’  He used his menu as a sneeze shield!  Germs and gook all over the picture of the chicken burger!”

“Double Ewww.”

“Now, you’ve got to THINK about this a little!  They didn’t send the menu home with him as a souvenir.  Somebody else had it in his frozen little fingers before —“

“Before the gook dried and the germs died.  I’m eating at home from now on.”

“Well, you don’t have to go to those extremes.  Just do what I did the next time I ate there.”

“Hmmm?  There’s more story coming, isn’t there.”

“I didn’t touch the menu the next time.  I asked the waitress to read it to me.”

“The whole menu?”

“Yeah, and she says, ‘Ohhh,’ in this I-am-so-sorry-for-you tone,  and then says, ‘We have Braille menus for the sight-impaired.’ 

“And I said, ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with my eyes.  It’s the germ factor, Miss.’

“And she gawks at me like I haven’t got my buttons all sewed on, so I explained about menus getting passed to innocent customers when the sneeze gook isn’t dried yet.”

“I’ll bet that impressed her.”

“Pretty much.  She scooted off to find a manager.  And pretty soon, she comes galloping back with one.   ‘Madam, I understand there is a problem with your menu,’ he says in this low, drawly voice.

“‘Not as long as I don’t have to touch it and she reads it to me,’ I replied.  ‘I don’t want to take the chance it has been sneezed on, coughed on, salivated on, or who-knows-what on.  You know, with that swine flu stuff going around, you can’t be too careful.'”

“Ornesta, didn’t you read my post about swine flu?  If you eat enough bratwurst and sauerkraut, there’s nothing to fear.”

“It might not work up here.  It’s probably just a Wisconsin cure.”

“Yeah, well, go on.”

“The guy didn’t say anything — just motions to the waitress to come with him and trots off.  I didn’t know if they were going to feed me or not.  Well, pretty soon the waitress comes back, and she’s got an accessory in her apron pocket — a quart-size can of Lysol.  And she plunks that menu down on the table, empties half a can onto it, flips it over with a slap, and empties most of the other half a can on the back side.  My eyes were fogging up, my nose was burning, and my taste buds felt like I’d swallowed a bottle of bleach.

“And then she says, ‘There!  How’s that?  Would you like me to do your water glass and your napkin for you too?’  And she lets fly with the rest of the can.  ‘Psssssst!'”

“Personally, I think I would have taken my chances with the menu-turned-sneeze-shield in all its contaminated glory.  Lysol decongesting my sinuses doesn’t sound like a good thing.”

“No, and I couldn’t really taste the burger and the bottomless fries very well that day, either.”

“Ornesta, you said I should try your method, rather than closeting myself at home to eat.  Why, after hearing what happened to you, would I want to take your advice?”

“Well, I thought it would give you something interesting to write about.”

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

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I was wrong in yesterday’s post about Pittsburghians not knowing that it is good manners to say “hi” to strangers when passing.  It is not Pittsburghians who are ignorant on this point; it is just the ones on the part of the Montour Run Trail behind Susan’s house.

Today I took the trail where it continues on the other side of the highway, and almost all the folks walking and biking it said hello to me before I had a chance.  I will not have to try to elevate their culture after all.  They were a different group: not so focused on building their muscles and seeing how much wheezing they could handle before cardiac arrest set in.  They were the mom-and-dad type with little kids, or the I-am-just-out-for-a-stroll-to-enjoy-the-weather-and-I-don’t-care-if-I-elevate-my-heartbeat-to-its-maximum-potential-or-not type.

I simply cannot get used to all these houses built into the sides of the mountains.  We’ve got some of the same in Door County and the east side of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, but most of our state is mildly hilly or fairly flat.  I also cannot get used to how some houses’ front doors open almost directly onto the highway — or else have a goodly flight of stairs up to the door.  I would be a lean muscle machine if I lived here permanently.  If the up-and-down-hill walking did not do it for me, running from the copperheads in the summertime would.

I am developing a theory: even driving the hairpin turns and up-and-down slopes burns calories.  It would be possible to be quite athletically fit in Pittsburgh even without consciously exercising — if it weren’t for Chick-fil-A to ruin it all at the end of the day.

Susan has always been mystified by part of the local culture.  Although their home is only fifteen minutes from the heart of Pittsburgh, many people from their area — even very youngish people — have never been to the City.  Even more of them have not ever been to the other side of it.  They just live and die in their own small corner of the suburbs (suburghs?).

If Susan had wanted to know the answer, all she would have had to do is ask.  One of the natives explained it to me.  They all get lost if they travel outside of a certain small radius.  You see, because everything is in the mountains, there are no such things as square city blocks.  All the roads wind this way and that, without any organization, rhyme, or reason.  Finding your way around — especially around the city to the other side of it — is nigh-on to impossible.  So they all just stay in their township and the couple of townships nearby.  It is completely a safety issue.  There now.  That makes sense to me!

You might ask, “But what about one of those little GPS gizmos?  Wouldn’t that take care of the problem?”  We tried the GPS gadget to get us to Pittsburgh from Wisconsin.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  It tried to tell us Susan’s address did not exist.  After awhile, it decided the existence was a distinct possibility, but the directions given were not sensible.  If we had listened, we would have ended up on the wrong side of the city, lost forever, never to find Susan or Wisconsin again.

So, I understand.  I would behave myself and stay in my suburgh too.

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 1)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Keeping Fit in Pitt

LeeAnnRubsam.com

As I explained yesterday, we have been visiting in the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh. 

I have been doing quite a bit of walking, partly out of desire to see some scenery, partly to find temporary solitude.  There is a hiking path about one-half mile from Susan’s house.  Getting there is semi-dangerous, as there is only a narrow shoulder along a sharply curving highway to walk on, and traffic is clipping.  I take consolation in not seeing many wildlife corpses on the road, which probably means that if I keep my eyes open, I will not end up as roadkill either.  I instruct the family before leaving that if I am not back in two hours, it is time to mount up a posse and come looking for me.

The hiking trail is an old railroad line, with a long tunnel cut through a hillside for added interest.  Woods adorn both sides, and Susan’s house is up on a bluff overlooking a creek which cuts between the trail and the residential area.

It seems that Pittsburghians do not behave quite like Wisconsinites.  The folks out on the trail are mostly intense types.  They jog, they stride energetically with arms flailing wildly, they are pulled along by unruly pitbulls, but they do not acknowledge each other’s existence as they meet.  My mother taught me as a small child that when we pass someone on the street, we smile pleasantly and say “hi.”  Pittsburghians appear to be very serious about whatever they do, including conscientiously obeying their mothers’ instructions never to speak to strangers.  I perversely insist on accosting them with a “hi,”  although I quickly discovered this is not kosher. The typical response is a surprised stare, as if they have discovered an intriguing new species of insect and are not quite certain whether to squash it or let it entertain them.  I keep trying, in hopes of improving their standard of civilized behavior, and I sometimes even get a response, but it is difficult to change a culture in a mere week’s time.

The trail is not heavily traveled in November, so I feel a little nervous about encountering lone men when no one else is in sight, especially in the dimly lit tunnel.  I am alert to my surroundings at all times, and listen carefully to assess the danger factor.  If the guy is breathing heavily as he approaches, that is probably good.  Loud snorting, wheezing, asthmatic gasping, and pre-cardiac arrest noises are even better.  All of these mean I can run faster than them, and that predator tactics are the last thing on their mind.

One of Susan’s friends informed me that in the summertime, the men are not the main alarm factor on the trail.  When it is warm, the copperheads enjoy sunning themselves smack dab in the middle of the road.  When they get too warm, they cool off in the tunnel — and no doubt lie in wait for silly Wisconsin women who never once imagined that a ten-foot-wide gravelled road would be a snake resort. 

I passed a pleasant elderly couple along the trail one afternoon.  (They said “hi” back and smiled — probably natives of Wisconsin, not Pittsburgh.)  I suppose they were in their seventies.  She was round and he was very lean — like Jack Sprat and wife.

As I approached  the tunnel on my return leg of the hike, I encountered Mrs. Sprat peering intently around the edge of it.  Jack was on the other end, poking around in some weeds.  Shortly after I entered, what I thought was a teenager tore past me in the fastest sprint I’d ever seen outside of the Olympics.  But it wasn’t a teenager.  As he got nearer, I realized it was Jack.  Seventy … spry as a youngster … faster than a speeding bullet … no red cape  or other super hero props though.

“How’d I do?”  Jack asked, lightly puffing.

“Thirty-one seconds,”  Mrs. Sprat replied.

But the light puffing didn’t subside or even continue evenly.  “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!” Jack commenced gasping in high-pitched apparent distress.  I wished I had remembered to bring the cell phone.  Obviously Jack was going to need an ambulance, and no telling how long it would take one to get there and whether the driver would know that he could disregard the hiking trail rule, “no motorized vehicles allowed.”

I turned to gaze in horror.  Mrs Sprat giggled.  Jack didn’t giggle.  He just kept on with the “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!”  At that point I figured that either she was rather looking forward to an early widowhood, or else Jack and the Mrs. just hang out at the tunnel on a regular basis, waiting to show off their stuff for whatever unsuspecting Wisconsinite comes along, hoping to scare the daylights out of their victim.

I headed on down the trail, and I noticed when I got to the end that the Sprats, with no “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUHs” in earshot, were not far behind. 

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Where the Wild Things Are

LeeAnnRubsam.com

We are visiting Susan and family in Pittsburgh for a few days.  They do not really live in Pittsburgh, just in one of the rural, wooded suburbs that surround the city.

I am in the midst of being a very cool grandma.  As everyone knows, cool grandmas come in a wide array of colors and shapes, but they are only really cool if they get artsy-craftsy with the little ones.  I have about three things in my artsy-craftsy arsenal, so it’s good that I am a long-distance grandma and can spread those three things out over my entire career.

Hence, I came prepared with a bucket of seashells and a huge jar of popsicle sticks.  We made treasure boxes by gluing the sticks together in dizzyingly-high layers until we reached the attention span limit.  The seashells became lid decorations.  The small fry will remember my visit fondly forever.  Now you know how to be a very cool grandma, if you didn’t possess that information before.   Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Jason Upton sings, “Do you really want to know … where the wild things are?”  I know.  They live in suburban Pittsburgh — both inside and outside the house.  We arrived to find Susan and her husband in a massive battle with squatters — an army of mice.  These are brazen rodents: they do not wait until we are all snuggled in bed with the lights out to reconnoiter.   They watch us from corners, waiting for the very moment we leave the room, whereupon they scramble from their bunkers in search of plunder.  The killer beagle is not concerned.  He should face a long stint in the brig for dereliction of duty. 

Francis Scott Key described the battle he witnessed as “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”  Here it is more like snap, crackle, and POP — sounds of mice rummaging through the cupboards and their eventual demise in the cleverly positioned booby traps.

I commented darkly that we should consider mouse croquettes for dinner some evening.  I’m not sure that  is any more of a gross idea than escargot or frog legs, but it was merely a conversation starter, not an idea to be seriously entertained.

The house has a history of wildlife intrusions.  Last summer Susan found a baby snake coiled among the children’s toys.  Her heroic husband strode to the rescue, scooped the viper up in a box, and hurled him down the hill to the creek.  I’m not sure it was a real viper.  Chris said you can tell whether they are poisonous or not by how slanted the eyes are — but he didn’t examine the eyeballs intently enough to find out.  He’s a very just-get-the-job-done kind of guy.

Incidents of this sort must be why Susan once announced that she would much prefer to live in an apartment with concrete all the way up to the foundations and not a blade of grass or a tree in sight. 

Anniversary #31

LeeAnnRubsam.com

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.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

%d bloggers like this: