Archives for the month of: January, 2012

My employer asked me that question today. Practically anyone who’s ever happened to look at my hands asks me the same thing. When I got my finger tattoo, the artist asked me if I worked around acid, warning me that it would really mess up my tattoo were that the case.

The story is undramatic and weird in a sense, but it’s sort of been a running theme in my life. So I’ll tell you about it and then you won’t have to ask.

The things on my pinkies and pointer fingers are all calluses. I chew on my fingers. I suppose it’s a nervous habit, although I do it more then I’m deep in thought than nervous, per se. I have done this since I was five or so. Almost as long as I can remember.

I remember that my parents had to intervene to make me stop sucking my thumb, and then once, when I was kindergarten-ish age, we were watching something on television that scared me and I asked if I could have permission to suck my thumb just that once to calm myself down.

Somehow, I guess, that means to self-comfort turned into chewing on my outside fingers. This wasn’t a conscious choice, but I’m guessing that I picked those fingers because they’re the most easily accessible. It’s an odd thing, isn’t it? Does anyone else do it?

Every adult I can remember having any involvement in my life has tried to “make” me stop chewing my fingers. My Mema was one of the most ardent, calling me out about it before a table full of guests, probably trying to shame me out of it. That didn’t work.

Nor did the Thum that my parents applied liberally to my fingers when I was about late elementary/junior high aged. I would just chew through the burn and it would go away. (And hope I got all of that taken care of before I forgot that it was on and rubbed my eye with a pepper-stained finger.)

My first husband would remind me when he saw me to “Stop chewing your finger.”

This might have to do with my issues with authority as well as my need for efficiency, but it frustrates me to this day how much time was wasted by all of the probably thousands of “stop chewing your finger”s I have heard over the years. Novels could have been written. Encouragement given. Cancer cured. But it was so important for everyone to tell me to stop chewing my finger. I wonder why it was so important.

Is it because it’s strange? Or gross? Or destructive?

Why do people care if I do it?

I mean, I care. I don’t like the looks of the calluses on my fingers. I chew my fingers mindlessly and will often not even notice, until I realize that my finger is damp… and I don’t remember doing it. There has been one time in my life that I successfully stopped long enough for the calluses to heal. It was within the past year, and I was so happy about it… until a really stressful thing happened, and I started again. So perhaps it IS a nervous habit. Or maybe I just have to have so much emotional and mental energy free to concentrate on the “not.”

I also bite my nails. I can stop that for longer, but my nails get to a certain length and break off, and I hate catching my hair and scratching myself on scraggly nails, so I usually tire of the maintenance involved and give up on it.

Combined with the fact that I drink (most satisfactorily out of a straw) constantly, there is a pretty good case that I have an oral fixation.

So. If you happen to notice, you can have confidence that: 1) it’s not an acid burn, 2) it’s not a fungus, 3) it’s not contagious, and, unfortunately, 4) it’s probably not going anywhere.

What about you? Do you have anything you do that you don’t totally understand and would stop if it were enough of a priority for you to devote some serious attention to it? No? It must be just me…

Advertisements

I would like to share with you my Sunday, lest you think that all of my days are full of fun adventure like this:

This morning, Daphne and I got up and went to church. After we’d worshiped and chatted with friends, we headed over to a bookstore where I had a mystery shop (which sounds a lot more glamorous than it is). We read books for over an hour, then came home to relax.

While she played Minecraft, her favorite pastime, I got to work making Whoopie Pies. (As of right now, the cookies are baked; I just have to make the filling, then I’ll take and post pictures for you.) Because our oven is so terribly small, I am able to bake exactly six cookies at a time. This means that it took nearly nearly three hours from start of project to all cookies out and dishes washed.

It is a gorgeous day, and I was able to open the doors and windows to let the fresh air in. We are listening to “The Help” audiobook, and during the eight minutes it took each batch of half a dozen cookies to bake, I did a chore.

First, I cleaned the cat box. I tried a different litter last time because they were out of the pine pellets I usually get. It was pine flakes, and they were an ugly mess. It only solidified my belief that pine pellets are the greatest thing in the history of cat ownership.

I needed to find something on which to put my cookies as they came out of the oven, so I got up under the couch to empty out a 12-pack for the cardboard. It was at this point that I realized something. At first, I wrongly thought that the cats had been taking dumps under the couch, like the cat we “lost” in a far-away neighborhood did at his leisure. Then I realized that it was actually their “sick place.” Thankfully, the junk had dried out, so I got that up, then doused the area with carpet cleaner and scrubbed it up. Finally, I dried the area and sprayed it with Febreze.

I continued on with the cookies, and put Daphne to work. She put duct tape down in all of the floor edges to pick up errant cat hair and detritus. I also needed to replace the water hose outside.

Here’s an embarrassing truth: I had a vague idea that there would be some kind of maintenance issues with the RV; mostly, I just rejoiced in the lesser-than-an-acre-and-a-half-and-aging-house maintenance. So, even though I’d seen my water hose (the garden hose my mom had bought at Dollar General at the last minute, because I was moving in and hadn’t thought to buy it) bulging from the pressure of having water turned on ALL of the time, I left it. Even after the hoses froze (twice), I left it. Finally, this week, I noticed that the green coating was breaking away from the white inner hose, like a snake shedding its skin.

Last night, I bought a heavy-duty, eight-ply hose to replace the old one. I went out, expecting it to be a lot easier and instead found that the old hose had rusted to the fitting. I turned the water off at the spigot and unattached the old hose from that end, then used a wrench to try go unscrew the hose at the wall. It kept turning around and around, twisting the hose, but not making any progress. It was then that I realized I needed more than just my single wrench.

I went next door and knocked at my neighbor’s. I heard him moving around, but he didn’t answer. Then I remembered our old friends from across the street, and went down the road a bit to see them. The wife gave me a rusty Vise Grip and pipe wrench and sent me on my way.

Here’s something you need to know about me: I am a lazy dresser. I do not like to change clothes. If I have a dressy event at any point in the day, I will usually be dressed up all day regardless. This morning was church. So I cooked, cleaned the cat box, and was doing my outdoor plumbing in my mules with wind blowing up my skirt (fortunately, I was wearing tights).

Armed with two extra implements, I tried to loosen the hose again. It was then that I realized that thing was not budging. As I was turning it, I was turning whatever was behind the wall, which means that the wall plate needed to come off.

I came in to get the screwdriver set and took the plate off, then tried to remove the fitting from the interior pipe. Unfortunately, I had twisted the hose so much that it just wouldn’t turn anymore. I called to Daphne for a knife and she handed me a steak knife. I went back over and hacked through the hose, mentally berating myself for having sold so much of what I owned when I moved out of a house. A hacksaw would have been a smart keep.

After that, I was able to successfully remove the interior fitting and brought the whole apparatus inside to work on it where I could better hear “The Help.”

As an aside, there is, of course, so much more to the book than the movie. There is an element that I hadn’t expected, an element that so closely parallels something in my life that it’s been a little painful to hear.

Eventually, I realized that one of the things I’d been trying to turn wasn’t actually supposed to come off and that the hose had rusted INSIDE of it. When I hit on that, I was able finally to pry the whole thing apart. Gleefully — okay, that’s an overstatement… With relief, I went outside to reattach the faceplate and screw in the new hose. As I made a first attempt to put the new hose on, I realized that I hadn’t put the fitting back into the interior pipe, so I had to pull the faceplate back off and start over.

A very few minutes later, I had everything up and running. I came inside for a shower, which smelled wonderfully like the rubber of a new garden hose.

Then, I finished these. They are delicious.

By the way, at one point, making the filling, I turned the mixer on while it was open. Why did I do this? No idea. But there was shortening everywhere, including somehow up my buttoned sleeve on my arm.

I’d write more, but I just had to turn the water off to go take care of a problem involving The Poop Stick. Living the dream, baby! Oh! The cat is drinking out of the murky toilet. Yeesh.

That sounds redundant, right? “Chocolate” brownies? Well, these are double chocolate, and you’ll see why in a minute. This thing is delicious. You should make it now.

First of all, I started with this recipe for olive oil brownies. I couldn’t find hazelnuts locally, so these are nut-free. Also, I didn’t use all of the raw/organic stuff. I just used regular ingredients. And semi-sweet chocolate instead of dark.

When I saw the chocolate and olive oil mixed together, it gave me an idea.

Beautiful sheen, right? My idea (and what makes these chocolate brownies) was that I’d do this again and spread it over the top of the brownies. It’d be almost like a ganache.

I never want to wash this mixer! (I did.)

 

This is what the brownies looked like when they came out of the oven, then this is what they looked like a few minutes later, after they’d settled down a bit.

While that was cooling down, I made this caramel recipe.

Mmm. Caramel.

 


I poured the caramel over the brownies (which, at this point, had a nice ridge around the edge to hold in the stuff) and realized something… that recipe made a LOT of caramel. So I started pouring into my ice/candy trays.

Would you prefer flower, fish, or Han Solo caramel?

And still, there was caramel. I filled up a to-go cup from a local restaurant and have to figure out what to do with that stuff.

Caramel under control, I did the same thing I had done at the beginning, which was to melt the chocolate and mix it with a bit of olive oil.

Poured it over, then...

 

...smoothed it out. Mmmmm!

 

A bunch of treats!

I’m not sure how to plate these neatly, but regardless of how they look, they tasted magnificent. My original plan was to sprinkle Kosher salt over the top chocolate layer, but I liked the smooth look so much that I didn’t. You might want to try it! It tastes marvelous.

Want something a little different at tea time? Try this twist with clotted cream… no jam needed!

First, make sure you have the ingredients. Here they are:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries
  • 3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

Mix the oil and sugar.

Add the egg.

After you add the vanilla, add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

Melt chocolate in the microwave for one minute, then stir; nuke 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each session.

This smells SO GOOD when it's mixing!

Place the blueberries in a single layer on the bottom of a pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cook over medium high heat.

After a few minutes, they should look like this.

Dump the blueberries in and mix...

...until you can't really tell that there are blueberries in the dough.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, then start checking the muffins. They need to bake until the tops are dry but not cracked. They will look like this.

Yummy!

These would be great with clotted cream, or even old-fashioned butter. But, frankly, I was just in a hurry to get these puppies into my mouth!

Yeah, baby! That's the stuff!

Last week, I had come home from a busy morning and was practically unconscious. I crashed, sleeping for more than two hours. When I woke up, I had a message that our small group was getting together for an early New Year’s dessert night, which was to commence two and a half hours later.

This was the first holiday season that I’ve worked at a job outside of the home in more than ten years, and it threw me for a bit of a loop. Whereas in times past, I was the one who showed up at family gatherings and parties with beautiful, amazing, time-consuming offerings; this year, I, too, was hitting the grocery store on the way to whatever event was next. I didn’t like it.

That particular afternoon, I was determined to make something worthwhile but I had only two hours to do it, and I had to be able to use whatever it is that I had on hand.

There are a lot of websites now wherein you can type the ingredients you have and it will suggest recipes. Google does it, but my favorite is AllRecipes, probably just because I’ve used it forever, and I really like their reviews. The first thing I searched for was a plain white cake.

I settled on this White Texas Sheet Cake. (I have no idea what makes it Texas, but I believe them.) I didn’t have butter, so I monkeyed with that a little bit, but it turned out okay.

Since I didn’t want it to be just a white cake, I looked through my cabinets and found something delicious that my parents gave me for Christmas to jazz it up.

 

After making a melty mess in the microwave, I swirled the fruit into the top of the cake.

 

 

It baked up beautifully. I needed icing, though, and I didn’t have any confectioner’s sugar, so I did an AllRecipes search for “sugar,” “cocoa” but NOT “confectioner’s” with the keyword “frosting.” It didn’t find anything, so I omitted “cocoa” and it came up with this Creamy Frosting Recipe.

I added my own cocoa, so it had a hint of chocolate. The whole thing was still warm and gooey when we took it, and it’s just a sheet cake so I didn’t get a picture of it, but it was delicious.

Just because you are short on time and ingredients doesn’t mean you can’t make something fabulous! Try! Experiment! And let me know what surprises you’ve come upon.

Here’s a little something you might not know about me… I fancy myself to be quite the writer. Typically, I can put together a page or two of content. I’ve written two full-length young adult books; a children’s book; a movie screenplay; about fifty short-format skits; two or three incomplete books; innumerable newsletters, programs, fliers, and brochures… I write.

But what I’d really like to do is direct.

That’s a lie. I don’t like directing at all!

What I’d really love to be able to do is to write songs. The main problem with this desire is that I cannot read music. At all. I can’t write it, either. Nor can I play an instrument. Or sing, really. I mean, there are those three notes I can hit, but that’s excruciatingly limiting when one is trying to compose.

I was going through my computer files this evening, looking for something, when I found several bits of songs I’d started but never finished.

Oh, and, you know what? The fact that song lyrics sometimes rhyme gets me, too. Most poetry is contrived and predictable. So I struggle with either making the songs contrived and predictable, or trying something more flashy and experimental and ending up with garbage.

Without further ado, however, here is some detritus of my song-writing attempts that I found on my hard drive.

MOVING ON/LETTING GO
Head above water for the first time in weeks
I’m finding myself now, had forgotten who I am
I wish that time could heal this wound
But time is not my friend
The only thing that’s saving me
Is that I see the end

Never imagined that leaving would be the cure
I thought if I stayed, you’d love me one day
I was so sure
But now I know I can’t just watch
Your life from over here
Since you won’t change and I can’t change
The only choice is clear

CHORUS
I’m moving on to let you go
Wish I could stay but now I know
That though my life is anchored to this town
All I see is you when I look around
And since I can’t say a proper good-bye unless I’m gone
I’m letting go by moving on

———————————————

BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU
The place is packed when I walk in
And all our friends are there
They’re hugging me and saying things
But I don’t ever care
I scan the room and meet your eyes
The smile you flash me is the prize
“You’re beautiful,” you whisper low
I wonder if you know that

CHORUS
If I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful for you
And if I’m going somewhere, I hope it’s where you’re going, too…
I’ve dreamed before, but now my dreams are all coming true
You’re the why, the how, and the who
‘Cause if I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful for you.

I don’t need praise, applause or fame
Whatever I may do
‘Cause if I’m good at anything
It’s all because of you
You always have believed in me
And seen the things that I don’t see
So I don’t care about the crowd
I want to make you proud

CHORUS

BRIDGE
And in your eyes I clearly see
The things I never thought could be
My wishes all are satisfied
When you stand at my side

CHORUS

——————————————

Then here are some sad attempts at actual poetry that I found:
I never knew what sadness was
Until you made me smile
And never felt true loneliness
Before you sat here for a while

But now you’re gone and now it’s dark
And now I’m all alone
My eyes are full, my hands are empty
And my heart is stone

————————————————

There is a place, sacred and secret,
Where I have kept stored away a treasure.
So many years had passed since it saw
The light of day.
I had almost forgotten about it.
I wasn’t sure whether or not it still worked.
But something about you called it forth…
I had no choice…
I had to find it.
I had to uncover it.
I needed to share it with you.
Through the cluttered detritus of my past,
I rummaged.
It took some searching, but I found it.
The box was a little beaten up,
But the seal was tight.
I knew I had kept it well-preserved.
When I moved to open it,
I was surprised how easily the container gave way.
It was as if it knew you were waiting
And it wanted to get to you as soon as it could.
As I unwrapped it,
Some of the packing material fell away:
Hope, and romance, and other things I’d forgotten about
Fluttered to the ground like ribbons,
Remnants of a time when I believed in that kind of thing.
Reminders of the events that had convinced me
To hide it all in a safe place, out of the way,
Maybe forever.
But now, how excitement caused my fingers to tremble
As I removed it from its cloistered storage.
I was overjoyed with surprise that it still looked whole.
It still worked.
It was still alive,
Even after all of those years of neglect and darkness.
It was my heart… still beating.
And when you were around,
It sounded a tattoo.
Health and vitality…
Reunion in use with hope and romance…
Oh, how I rejoiced with my heart
Over these new opportunities.
Without reservation,
I handed it to you.
For a moment, cradled it to yourself,
Lovingly, tenderly…
And then the first storm rolled in.
You tried for a moment or two to hold on.
But you were afraid.
Afraid of being caught with it.
Afraid of dropping it.
Afraid of everything.
So you handed it back
With your sincerest apologies.
Only now, it won’t go quietly back into its place.
Now that it has seen the light of day
And felt the breath of life
And beat like crazy…
It fights.
It scratches and tears at me
When I try to stuff it away.
It is exhausted, and ill-looking, and no longer welcome.
But it will not go away.
It just keeps trying, ever so desperately,
To crawl back to you.
Because that is where it is home.

———————————————-

LET ME IN

Standing outside the circle
Watching your life
Always observing
Never participating

———————————————

I held my heart out to you, but you weren’t ready.
You didn’t say, “No,” but you couldn’t say, “Yes.”
So I stand, and I wait, and I try to hold steady
When you can receive it is anyone’s guess.

———————————————

If life is a song, I want us to harmonize it
If life is a dream, I want to realize it with you
It’s true…

But this is not a song
And these are not my dreams
And everything is pulling, ripping at the seams

When all I ever wanted was a chance to make it work,
I know that we’ll never… I know it can’t ever…
It’s probably time to stop being a jerk

Because what this is, it’s not romance
We’ll never get to take that chance
No, this is more like reality TV
Where everyone is stupid…
Including me.

—————————————————-