Category Archives: Lists

Things I Discovered in 2014

Wow. I haven’t written a blog since early summer. I’m not sure I remember how. No…wait a second…I remember! What have I been doing these last six months you ask? I’ve been discovering things that have slowly taken over my life. Not all of them are food, either.

Xfinity On Demand

I probably shouldn’t admit a love for cable television. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my TV for decades which now seems to be hovering closer to love. I enjoy being able to watch TV when I feel like it. Janet and I caught up with Game of Thrones these last few months and I look forward to April’s new season. Although, GOT does leave me a little jittery and nauseated. Good stuff! Our new binge watching show? The Good Wife. It just wouldn’t be normal for us if we didn’t totally ignore a show for the first several seasons and then try and catch up over the summer for the new fall season. Love On Demand!

Zatarain’s Dirty Rice with Cheese

When my daughter Jesse (now thirteen) was really little, I enjoyed telling people she only liked to eat five things. One of those things was ketchup. She was so picky I worried about her ability to grow. Thankfully, she has broadened her palette for food. I never thought I’d see the day she wouldn’t want McDonald’s nuggets for dinner. Not only was she picky but she never wanted any of her food mixed. No casseroles, soups (she’d only eat tomato soup) or heaven forbid a burrito came into view. Now she can’t get enough burritos and has discovered a love of potato soups. She still won’t eat a salad but, hey, neither will I.

I bought a box of Zatarain’s Dirty Rice with Cheese and Jesse and I instantly fell in love. I’m not sure why we like it so much but I’m thinking it’s probably the same reason why I love Jack in the Box’s weird tacos. I’m not sure what it’s made from but, darn, that’s good stuff! We’ve had this once a week for a few months now. I panicked when I couldn’t find it at Bartells, our local drug store, and ordered a case from Amazon. That’s probably why Amazon sends me a Christmas card every year.

Cadbury Crunchies

This is a candy bar which originated in the United Kingdom. All I can say is: Bless you, UK! Bless you! This delicious milk chocolate wrapped honeycomb delight is hard to find here in the states. A specialty candy store in Portland sells them occasionally but Janet determined it was cheaper and easier to have them shipped directly from the UK through Amazon. Yes, I am that serious about what I put into my mouth. I blame my mom for my new candy addiction. She brought me home a Crunchie when she visited London last year. Rotten woman. Brought me home an addiction to another candy, where’s my t-shirt for godsake!

Athens Pizza and Pasta

One of our many resolutions last year was to eat and shop locally. We did a pretty good job in 2014 and will try and keep it up in 2015. One local restaurant we now love in Des Moines, Washington (yes we have a Des Moines too) is a Greek restaurant named Athens Pizza and Pasta. Their meatball grinder (we called them hoagies or subs growing up; some people just call them sandwiches) is delicious! We loved the roll so much we determined all of their grinders must be wonderful. Our favorite item, however, is their to-die-for BBQ chicken pizza. It was my very first BBQ pizza and I’m so glad it came from Athens. The crust was crispy, the chicken lean white meat and the BBQ sauce had just the right amount of tang. Having spent some time in Texas, Janet and I have had our share of great BBQ. We will continue to eat at Athens when our calorie counts allow (it’s a new year so of course we’re trying to lose weight yet again).

Stack the States

Janet sent me a link to free apps from Amazon (I’m all about that: free and Amazon and together is even better). I picked out one game because it said it was fun and educational. It’s called Stack the States. When I first showed Jesse the app, she gave me a disdainful look and said, “I’m trying to read here, Mom.” Rotten kids aside, the states game is a blast. It starts with a platform at the bottom of the screen and a line a few inches above (the line moves higher the more you play). You’re asked a geography question about various states and if you answer correctly you get to drop that state down on the platform. You keep answering questions, and keep dropping the states on one another, until your stack of states reaches the finish line. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds. The higher the level you drop the states from the harder it is to keep them on the platform. The states are also proportional to their relative size. Alaska and Texas are huge and sometimes cross the lines all by themselves. Other, smaller states such as, um <throat clearing>, the New England states are rather tiny and not very helpful when trying to stack them. You know who you are Rhode Island! It’s so much fun I now can’t pry my Kindle out of Jesse’s cold, long fingers.

I hope everyone had a great 2014…I know I did! I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us.

Happy New Year,

jenn

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New Year’s Resolutions 2014

Every year I like to create a long list of resolutions so I have a good chance of finishing at least a few. I won’t bore you with all of them; I’m trying to be more concise.

Lose five pounds a quarter for a total of 20 pounds. I’ve done this same resolution for years now but I think I will take it seriously this year. I should weigh -320 pounds, if you add up all the 20 pounds over the years.

Gun safety class. We’ve been watching a lot of zombie and Hunger game movies; it seems like knowing how to handle a gun might be a good skill.

Introduce one new veggie a month. I have a hard time with vegetables. I just don’t like them. We tried to pick veggies which were in season and weren’t a normal part of our diet. January is Kale. Mmmm…I can’t wait.

Destination dinners once a month. Janet had a great idea, one of many I might add, a few months ago where Jesse picked a country and we made their national dish. She picked Morocco and their national dish is a stew called Tagine which we made with chicken. We bought the food together, cooked together and ate this together. It was delicious! Jesse even ate it declaring “these little garbanzo beans are good!”

Learn four songs on the Ukulele. Janet and I took a ukulele class and I just fell in love with the sound. How can you be in a bad mood when someone plays the ukulele? You just can’t. We learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in class but I really need to branch out. Right now I’m trying to learn Let Me Call You Sweetheart, and it sounds lovely. Oh btw, Janet: I now know the lyrics and they’re not “Let me call you sweetheart…I forgot your name”!

Learn Geography. I once read an article about a group of nuns in France who never (except for one case) see Alzheimer’s in their ranks. Their secret? They pick a subject they know nothing about and learn all they can about that subject for a year or two. For Janet and me that would be geography. Okay, a lot more topics but we picked geography.

jenn

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TV Shows I Adore

I probably won’t write a letter to Jessie extolling the virtue of watching countless hours of television per week but I also won’t pretend I don’t like TV.  After the first time I used Netflix to watch a complete series, I think it was Bones, I realize how archaic it was to sit in front of the TV, at a specific time during a specific day, and watch one episode of a show. After I first streamed shows on HULU, like the Fosters, I realized I didn’t really need the TV or cable ever again.

I still have cable, of course. I went years without cable but when the FCC switched to high definition I couldn’t stand using rabbit ears: the image kept freezing on me and I don’t know how to watch regular TV anymore freeze-free. I want to stop cable altogether and just stream what I want but I like watching CBS Sunday Morning on Sunday morning. I also love watching football on Sundays – what a great TV day! – and the season is just about to start.

I’m working on my cable TV addiction…I’m thinking of at least going down to basic, basic cable…but in the meantime I thought I’d share a few of my favorite TV shows (besides Castle, Bones, CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes):

Justified

What a great TV show. I’m not sure I can explain why I like this show so much, just know that I do. It’s well written and believable (as far as any TV show can be). The characters seem real and flawed and they mesh better than a lot of other shows. I’m currently watching this through Netflix and am into the second season.

Tim Olyphant is a joy to watch and his character’s ability to justify his multiple shootings is interesting. I’m also a big fan of Walton Goggins (from the Shield) although I never know if his character is lying or not; makes for good TV. I’m not sure how realistic the show is, as far as setting, but I hope to never find myself in the backwoods of Kentucky.

Homeland

Another great cable series I enjoy. I love the tension this show creates between the characters and the guessing of who is doing what and why. I’ve only seen the first season, the second season is available from Netflix starting next month I believe, but am hooked by Brody and, especially, Carrie. Claire Danes, as Carrie, is the main reason to watch this show. She is Carrie with all her neurotic twitches and delicate tightrope dance between sanity and the abyss; sometimes she falls off the tightrope.

The acting in Homeland, to me, is some of the best on TV right now. I know a show is good when I get lost in the storyline and forget my surroundings. Homeland grabs me by the lapels and doesn’t let go for the entire one hour ride. My emotions run the gamut and I’m exhilarated and drained by the end of a disc.

The Big Bang Theory

Where have I been for the last few years? I’ve been watching this show frequently now since it’s been on syndication and had no idea how funny and clever this show is. I had seen Bang a couple of times and thought it was cute but never managed to watch it on a regular basis until now.

The main five characters (Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard) are fun to watch and have great chemistry together but I believe the addition of Bernadette and Amy Farrah Fowler have made this show great. Sheldon is a hoot, the smartest emotionally and socially stunted character I’ve seen, but Mayim Bialik, as Amy, is a riot dressed in her grandma’s clothes, rolling one liners off her deadpan tongue causing me to laugh out loud every time I see her.

Bang is one of those shows which starts out good and grows and evolves into one of the best TV series I have seen. Definitely the best show on the big three. The humor is clever, the characters are endearing, and even the peripheral characters are fleshed out and interesting.

The Fosters

Finally, a TV show that kinda sorta resembles my family: with a much nicer house and way more children. I’ve been waiting for this show for a very long time and I didn’t even realize it. I love the way this lesbian couple and their five kids are written as a ‘normal’ family without all the gay drama usually associated with LGBTQ shows.

I like the fact the couple, Stef and Lena, with not much rewriting, could be an opposite sex couple just as easily. I admire in-your-face lesbians and gays; their work has brought us to the brink of equality in my lifetime. But I also think families like the Fosters, and my own real family, have also done a lot, in our own quiet way, to bring about the world you see today. Not a perfect world, no, but getting better for a lot of us.

Shows in my queue to watch next:

Breaking Bad – Don’t tell me how it ends! I haven’t started watching yet, but have heard wonderful things about this show.

Game of Thrones – I’m not sure if I’ll like this one, but the fan base is rabid, so I’ll give it a look.

Orange is the New Black – I’ve only watched one episode but Janet has raved about this show for days. I can honestly say I’m not thrilled about the premise: women in prison. Surprisingly, that doesn’t appeal to me.

Walking Dead – I’ve thought about this one since it first aired. I’m a little scared but if my 65 year old mom can watch it so can I. I’m tough! No really.

House of Cards – I’ll watch anything with Kevin Spacey.

jenn

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What’s Playing Tonight: The Books on my Nightstand

I like to be entertained.  I enjoy movies, music, funny stories, and listening to Jessie talk (she can be very funny). There’s something about reading, though, that really entertains me. I think it’s the fact I can use my imagination fully when I read. I enjoy it when authors paint a picture for me and I completely see what they’re talking about.

I like to read authors who don’t go into too much detail about the characters in their books. I remember reading a story where I had a clear picture of the people involved until the author mentioned one of them having blonde hair. What? That’s not how I pictured her in my head. That’s what makes it so difficult to watch certain movies based on bestsellers. They rarely pick an actor who matches the character in my head; especially if that actor is Tom Cruise.

I usually have several books going at once and not just because I have the attention span of a gnat. I try and pick not only interesting books but ones that either teach me something or completely entertain me.  Here are the books staring on my nightstand tonight:

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

I saw the movie several years ago and had no idea what was going on. I spent the whole movie thinking, ‘wait, now he’s a she? What happened to Orlando? I’m sorry, what?’ Beside the fact I was a little lost during the show, I found it interesting enough to google Virginia Woolf and read about her and her friend Vita Sackville-West. I read a biography of both women and even watched the BBC miniseries ‘A Portrait of a Marriage.’

When I found out my book club had picked Orlando as February’s read, I was so excited at the opportunity to read the book. Now maybe I can figure out what I had missed in the movie. I started the book three weeks ago and have thought, ‘wait, what happened to Orlando? Wasn’t he a boy last chapter? What’s going on?’ the entire time. I still don’t have a clue.

J is for Justice by Sue Grafton

I love reading Sue Grafton’s series. They are so much fun and she has some interesting characters. I enjoy mysteries and like to be kept guessing until the bitter end. I’ve noticed in some series, especially long ones, that sometimes the books tend to get bogged down in the familiar toward the middle and lose their spark. I haven’t noticed this with Grafton’s series yet. As a matter of fact, I think J is her best book so far and I look forward to getting up to speed: I think she’s up to V already. I’m almost done with this book and I meant to read Gone Girl next but since Janet is taking her sweet time reading (Janet wanted me to let you know she works for a living) that I might have to start Grafton’s K.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Not only am I reading Walden currently, but this book is also on my list of books I will never get rid of, which I’ll have to write at a later date. I love this book. I wish I could go out into the woods (if I could find some) and live the simple life Thoreau writes about. I’m currently reading the chapter where Thoreau is sitting with neighbors and he doesn’t understand why the man works so hard to buy the things he needs to work so hard. If you live a simple life, you only need to buy simple things and you can spend your time learning and living and breathing. I wish I was more like Thoreau.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Here’s a book I’ve wanted to read for quite some time and Janet bought it for me as a stocking stuffer (you really should see the size of my stocking) this past Christmas.  I’ve just started it but it seems like an enjoyable read. The dormant microbiologist in me always dances a little jig whenever she sees the word ‘germ’ in a title. I just hope it’s not a hard read, although I don’t think it is from the foreword. I don’t mind reading textbooks; it just takes me a while and they hurt when you fall asleep reading in bed and they hit you in the face.

I don’t read them all every night. I just pick the one that works for me at this moment in time. What’s on your nightstand?

jenn

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A Few Differences Between Washington and Texas

When I first moved from Seattle to Texas, back when the ‘90s first arrived, it was a startling change for me.  When I moved back to Seattle the changes weren’t quite as pronounced (I knew then how very different two states could be) but they were still noticeable.   Whenever I say Washington here, I mean Western Washington.  Eastern Washington is like an entirely different state, in more ways than one.  If you’re making a change from Texas to Washington, or vice versa, get ready for a few differences.

Happy Lights

On our return to Seattle, Janet bought something called a ‘happy light’.  I had never heard of these before but if you live in an area with very little sun (oh…say…like Seattle) you can buy a mini version of a tanning bed for your face.  It sits on Janet’s desk and she turns it on most mornings to simulate that giant bright orb in the sky.  In Texas, we called this ‘the sun’.

The happy light is good therapy for people who get a little depressed in cloudy weather: roughly 40% of the population of Seattle (of which, 99% of those people are from California).  Since I grew up in Seattle, I have lived through numerous winters here and I didn’t realize depression was an option during the long winter months.  Ignorance really is bliss.  As I sit here writing this blog, I can see Janet’s happy light out of the corner of my eye.  I will still see the light, seared into the retina of my right eye, for days to come.

Exercise

I’m a natural heater.  Just the thought of hot yoga makes me a little faint.  In Texas, if I didn’t exercise before 9am, for about 9 months out of the year, I had a very hard time with overheating.  I drank a lot more Gatorade in Texas than I do here.  In Seattle, for about 9 months out of the year, I have to wait to go walking or jogging until the afternoon thaw.  No matter how many layers I wear, my poor nose gets so cold.  I’m afraid I’ll have to start wearing a Hannibal Lector mask to keep my nose warm.

Climates

The middle part of Texas is classified as a subtropical, subhumid climate and I think that seems about right.  Washington is classified as a temperate climate and I used to think that meant a mellow climate that was neither too hot nor too cold.  Now, after living in Texas for a long time, I realize temperate actually means freaking cold and incredibly moist.

Texas was never too humid, probably only 30 or 40%, but Seattle usually hovers near 98 – 100%.  Yeah, it’s either raining or seriously thinking about it.  When I was growing up, we never used the term humid (we left that for the south) for our hot spells in August, we used the term ‘muggy’ to describe the weather.  One person described it as such, “walking outside, during your one hot week every summer, is kind of like waking up in someone’s mouth: hot and moist with a slightly unpleasant odor around.”  Thanks for that.

The surprising thing about rainfall is Texas averages about 34 inches a year and Washington averages about 37 so on paper we seem very similar.  In reality, those 34 inches in Texas are mostly limited to hurricanes along the coast with occasional deluges in the Dallas area and Washington’s rainfall is really drizzle which is stretched out over 90% of the year (hence the lack of sun).

Some miscellaneous differences

My towels don’t dry here in Seattle unless I decide to switch from daily showering to the less pleasant twice a week showering.

The Seattle Times double wraps my newspaper because the ground is usually wet.

In Texas, in the winter, the static electricity which built up in my body bordered on the dangerous.  I have actually turned off a TV by zapping the hell out of myself.

The Prius gets worse gas mileage in Seattle, not just because of the hills, but because the air conditioning runs off the batteries and the heater runs off the gas engine.  45 mpg is still pretty good, though.

Seattle has something called ‘freezing fog’.  Yeah, I’d never heard of it either.

Even though I’m back in the land of coffee (Janet likes to point out the very obvious reason why the Pacific Northwest is the home of Starbucks and Seattle’s Best and Tully’s), I have discovered the joys of hot tea in Seattle.  In Texas, their teas are best served cold.

Some things are the same no matter where I live

I can’t fold a fitted sheet.

I love to read and write.

I don’t like vegetables and don’t know why people keep growing them.

My idea of a perfect day is the same everywhere:  80 – 85 degrees with a few wispy clouds in the deep blue sky and a slight breeze.  Washington: mid July – end of August; Texas: three days in March, if you’re lucky.

Any day of the year is a good day for ice cream.

jenn

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Bob, Brittani, and the Lime and Bitters Assault

I love to laugh and there’s a lot out in the world I find downright funny.  The things people say to me, the things which make me laugh out loud, are usually things I’m not expecting them to say.  When I’m shocked or surprised by someone, my first reaction is to laugh.  Sometimes it’s inappropriate, but if you know me well enough you realize I don’t mean anything by my outbursts.

I like to surround myself with original and funny people.  I’ve met quite a few people over the years that had absolutely no sense of humor, at least no humor I could find.  I was afraid Jessie would turn out to be a serious and very literal person but, I’m happy to say, she has turned into a very funny and quirky pre-teen.

Janet is another funny and unique person I have surrounded myself with, although I’m not sharing any of our stories here:  I couldn’t think of an appropriate one I would want my mom to read.

Bob: the Guidance Counselor Guy

When I decided to go back to school, I had a hard time picking a degree.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up; I still don’t.  I asked myself: “myself, what classes did you enjoy in high school?”  That was a lot harder to do than one might imagine.  A lot of high school is just a blur and I wonder if some of my memories are actually movies I’ve seen over the years.  Hard to tell.

The only class I can really say I enjoyed in high school was genetics.  For anyone who groaned: I was born this way…I can’t help myself.  So, I settled on Microbiology as a major and went to talk with someone in the admissions office about what classes I needed to take after wrapping up my community college career.

Bob: Hi, my name is Bob and I’ll be your guidance counselor today.

Me: Hi, Bob. My name is Jenn and I would like a degree in Microbiology.  What classes should I take?

Bob: Really?  Are you sure?  You need 2 years of a foreign language, cell biology, pathogenic microbiology, organic chemistry 1 and 2…as a matter of fact you have to take so much chemistry you have no choice but to minor in chemistry.

Me: Oh, that doesn’t sound like fun to me.  I don’t really enjoy chemistry.

Bob:  Hey!  You picked this degree!  (I was not expecting him to say anything remotely like that and I laughed until tears rolled down my face.  So, here was Bob, who already thought I was a little loopy for my degree choice, thinking I’d really gone off the deep end.)

Brittani: The Nurse’s Aide

I now realize, with my diploma in hand, how scary hospitals are for people who have studied science and pathogenic microbes.  I tend to be very nervous in hospitals and doctor’s offices and I try to relax by cracking jokes.

Brittani: Hi, I’m Brittani and I’ll be helping you today.

Me: Hi, Brittani, I’m Jenn and I’ll be your pincushion today.

Brittani: You are so silly, Jenn.  Come over here so I can get your weight.

Me: I’m sorry…what?  Do you really need to see how much I weigh?  Can’t you just eyeball me?

Brittani: No, silly.  We take everybody’s weight and blood pressure.

Me:  Can I weigh myself alone and give you the number?

Brittani: No.  Come on now, Jenn.  Don’t make me get mean.

Me: Can I weigh naked?

Brittani:  Oh my God!  Not out here in the hall!  (I think I found this so funny back then because she seriously thought I wanted to strip in front of all those people.  I find it funny now because I weigh 20 pounds more than I did then.)

Sally: The Lime and Bitters Barkeep

I used to go out and drink a lot.  When I drink, I get the hiccups…a lot.  Just another charming quality of mine.  I went out one night, about 20 years ago and had a bad case of the hiccups. <shudder>.

Sally: Are you alright, honey?

Me: Yeah, I’m just enjoying my Jack and coke with a side of hiccups.

Sally: Would you like me to help you with that?

Me: Yes, please.

Sally: Here, this never fails to cure hiccups.  It’s called lime and bitters.  Let me go and help these people at the end of the bar.  I’ll come back and check on you.

(Without realizing what I was doing, I grabbed the lime, soaked in bitters, and bit into it.  I cannot describe what it tasted like…I’m not sure it had an actual taste…I just knew I had put something evil in my mouth.  Have you ever tasted something sour and the inside corners of your mouth pucker up and salivate?  It was like that except on crack riding a tsunami.

I spit the lime out and tried to stem the flow of saliva from my mouth with a rag from the counter.  My mouth tried to suck my face into it, but I fought it hard.  My eyes were flooded, my nose was bubbling up and I’m pretty sure something was running out of my ears.  I’m glad all my sphincters work properly because everything else stayed right where it should.

I have never had my tongue, before then or since, grow a mind of its own and work independently from the rest of me.  My tongue worked for about 5 minutes at getting every last shred of liquid out of my mouth and spit it on the floor.)

Sally: (after finding the lime in between 2 bottles 20 feet away) Oh, honey, you did that wrong.  You’re supposed to eat it!  (I actually didn’t laugh at that point because I was unable to (Sally sure did laugh)…but, for the next 5 years, every time I had the hiccups all anyone had to say was lime or bitters or anything remotely resembling bitters and my mouth would clamp shut, the salivating would begin, my tongue would flop around uncontrollably in my mouth, and I would no longer have the hiccups.)

Jessie: The Only Child

My ex and I have an agreement: he will teach her how to drive and I will have “the talk” with her.  I decided, last year, to have that talk when she was only 10 because I wanted to influence her thinking before she got old enough to not care what I said.  I want her to be prepared for the birds and the bees and I don’t want anything to happen to her because of ignorance.  That and I wanted to scare her with STDs and teen pregnancy.

You should have seen it:  I had a slide show with graphic pictures and anatomically correct dolls with Velcro private parts and everything.  It was quite impressive, if I do say so myself.  I gave her “the talk” in my very serious, I’m not messing around, you’d better pay attention if you want to live, Must Obey Me voice.  Jessie was very quiet, taking it all in, covering her mouth (in horror, I hoped) occasionally.

Me:  So, Jessie.  That’s the end of our slideshow for today, although we might pick this up later when I find the slides for Chlamydia.  Anyhoo…do you have any questions or comments for me?

Jessie:  No, but thanks, mom.

Me:  Why Jessie, you look happy, did you enjoy my presentation on sex that much?

Jessie:  God no, mom, that was really embarrassing.  Now I understand the joke on the bus this morning.  (THAT’S what she got out of our talk?  So much for Velcro and slideshows.)

jenn

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