9.30.2010

The Great Flood of 2010

I didn't have 'be in a flood' on my life list, but I think I'll add it just so I can cross it off. I've gotta say, it's an awful thing. You feel so helpless watching the water creep up and the rain come down. Thank goodness the house stayed dry and everyone is ok. We're lucky that the worst we got was being stuck for a couple days.

Waterfront property!

Trucks were making it through, but cars couldn't.

The entrance to the neighborhood

The welcome center

Upside(?): You can fish right on your own lawn!

9.29.2010

Live tweeting my demise

We're having rain in South Carolina.

Lots of rain.

We're talking Biblical, grab-some-animals-and-ready-the-ark rain.

Tonight, Tropical Storm Nicole will pay us a visit. Bringing (you guessed it) more rain.

The canal behind the house is making its way up the not-so-steep banks. The street out front is covered in water. And today's downpour has only just begun.

The property manager assured us that the neighborhood has a system in place to manage the water - pumping from one pond to another and ultimately into the Intercoastal Waterway.

I hate to be skeptical, but driving through flooded streets and watching the pond creep toward the house doesn't inspire confidence in their rainwater-management skills.

Nonetheless, I will soldier on. As I told my husband, "We may get flooded, but I'm gonna tweet every minute of it."

Noah would do the same, I'm sure.

9.26.2010

My favorite rice

Curried rice with raisins and almonds

1 yellow onion, diced
3 T olive oil
1 c long grain white rice
2 t curry powder
1/2 t salt
2 T butter
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c sliced almonds
2 c chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add rice and cook for 3 minutes. Add raisins, almonds, curry powder, salt, and butter. Cook for an additional minute.

Transfer to buttered casserole dish. Add 2 c chicken broth and stir.

Cover and bake for 1 hour.

(adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

9.25.2010

The 21st century has its moments

Kurt's new car came with an XM radio trial. This isn't a feature I thought I'd care about until one evening I was scanning channels when I found it, the holy grail of radio:

Bollywood and Beyond!!!

They weren't playing cheesy Indian restaurant music either. Instead it was one Indian pop hit after another - all with incomprehensible lyrics and wicked beats. I still wonder why P. Diddy or JayZ or whoever the latest rap mogul is hasn't sampled the heck out of this stuff.

Since I wasn't too keen to buy an XM receiver and shell out $13/month for one station - even one as fab as this - I went looking for streaming Bollywood radio on the internet.

Within minutes, I was sitting in South Carolina, listening to the Indian top 40 being broadcast from Paris.

I know the 21st century has had a rough start, with the recession and wars and general gloom, but I've gotta say that was a very cool moment. Perhaps this new millennium won't be so bad after all.

9.23.2010

Mooncake madness

Kurt brought home mooncakes last night to celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival. We had one with the traditional bean paste and salty yolk center and six wee ones filled with durian.

For those of you who haven't had (or smelled) durian, it is known to be stinky. Very stinky. Like illegal to have in public, people wonder where the rotting corpse is stinky.

When I cut open a durian mooncake, Kurt took a whiff and immediately threw it down, jumped away, and said things I can't repeat on a family blog. Oh, how I wish I had my video camera!

I smelled one and didn't think it was so bad really. Kurt claims this is proof that my sniffer is dead from years of sinus trouble.

Clearly he wasn't eating one, so the job fell to me. I managed to down a couple small pieces. It wasn't good exactly but not awful either. It had a rotten fruit taste, possibly with a hint of onion.

The bad part came when Kurt got a whiff of my breath.

And threw up.

I am not kidding.

Next year, we'll keep it Southern and stick to moonpies.

9.21.2010

Driving Mr. Lurch

For our honeymoon, Kurt wanted to rent a convertible for part of the trip. Given the rain and vog (volcano fog) on the Big Island, we decided to get one for our week on Maui.

This sounded fine until it came time to price convertible rentals. The cheapest I found at a major company was over $500 for the week. A regular car: $130.

Um ... heck no!

Being the miser recessionista I am, I decided to go bargain hunting. My dad said he'd gotten good deals at local car agencies, and while the cars weren't always brand new, there was nothing wrong with them.

I hunted through the local Maui agencies and finally settled on one that shall remain nameless (you'll see why soon enough). They offered a weekly convertible rental for half the price of the big guys.

The choices were a Sebring or a Mustang, and you could almost hear Kurt's heart murmuring, "Mustang, Mustang, Mustang" on the drive to pick it up. When we arrived, we were presented with the keys to a not-so-shiny, not-so-new Chrysler Sebring. Poor Kurt.

Upon a (lengthy) inspection, it was determined that amid the dents and scratches and general aesthetic scariness, the ol' Sebring had a malfunctioning convertible top. Jackpot!

Before we knew it, we were ushered into the white Mustang that Kurt had been eying the whole time and were heading off to Kihei. Granted, the seats looked a little off and the car was hardly pristine, but with the top down, the seabreeze blowing, and the radio on, how could we go wrong?

We were so naive.

When we turned onto the main road, we noticed something odd. We got dusted by ... a Corolla?!? Not even a new one at that. Before we knew it, several cars had passed us, and we were barely getting up to speed. What kind of Mustang was this anyway??

Honeymooners, meet Lurch.

Not only was Lurch not the peppiest car on the block, he also made some disconcerting sounds. At one point, I turned to Kurt and warned that from the sound of it, the passenger door might fall off at any moment. It didn't, thank goodness, but I was ready.

When we got out and inspected the seats more closely, we noticed some stains. Concerning stains. Quite possibly blood stains. The pattern on the back seat inspired jokes about a mafioso who met his end back there (clearly a midget mafioso since leg room was sparse). We spent the rest of the trip tugging our shorts down to avoid making contact.

Lurch also had rust in unusual places. Like inside the car. While Maui is humid, it seemed like Lurch might have spent some time in the Pacific at some point. Snorkeling perhaps (or see above re: mafioso).

Lurch hobbled along fairly decently for a while, rattling, shaking, brakes squeaking until one evening midway through a left turn when he decided he didn't feel like going any farther. Maybe he was tired, or he'd had a bad day, or he was feeling put out from the 600 turns on the Hana Highway. I don't know. He just coasted to a stop, and we sat on the side of the road in the dark wondering what we should do.

We sweet talked Lurch a little. Pounded .. er ... patted his dash a bit. Before too long, we were up and moving. We never knew what the problem was.

Our most troubling moment with Lurch came driving up Haleakala to see the sunset. As we navigated the hairpin turns with steep drop-offs to the side, I turned to Kurt and asked, "He will be able to make it back down, right?"

Silence.

"Kurt?"

More silence.

Finally, Kurt said, "Probably."

We did make it down - slowly and with lots of protesting and squeaking on Lurch's part (and in the center of the two lanes since there was no one else around).

It was almost sad to say goodbye when we dropped him off at the airport. If nothing else, he had personality.

But next time? We'll spend the $200.

9.17.2010

Healthy (and yummy!) dinner: White bean and veggie soup

White bean and veggie soup

1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
2 14.5 oz cans white beans (Great Northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
2 14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
bay leaf
salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add celery and garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add corn, broth, beans, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Puree to desired consistency (I often remove 1/3, puree the remainder, and then add it back in). Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with brown bread or top with croutons.

Serves 4

9.12.2010

Breakfast with Topper

Dilbert.com

Kurt and I stayed at a bed and breakfast on our honeymoon. Everything was going well - the setting was lovely, the room was comfortable, the location was good.

Then came breakfast.

Things started out well enough. There was a gorgeous spread of tropical fruit and Hawaiian sweet bread. Jackpot!

As I was loading my plate with pineapple and papaya, I noticed that the conversation at the main table was a bit ... strange.

On the surface, everyone was just talking about what they had done on vacation and their plans for the day. But there was an edge ... an urgency even ... that felt a bit odd. I placed my waffle order and went to eat on the lanai. Better safe than sorry.

Kurt joined me, and I was soon glad I'd veered away from the main breakfast room. The "friendly" conversation had turned into a pissing match. The goal was to see who had done the most extreme, unusual activities and brag about them without appearing to do so. It was all done with a smile, but the meaning was clear: My vacation is better than your vacation.

Since the conversation was loud (why brag softly after all?), I resolved to eat my waffle and get back to the room as soon as possible.

Then they sat down. Pisseurs extraordinaire: Mr. and Mrs. Topper.

It was like Muhammad Ali vs Pee Wee Herman. We had no shot.

"What all have you done?" they asked. This was politeness only, of course. A set-up to allow them to bore share with us their many exploits.

We went to Volcano National Park. Well, they hiked 11 miles, uphill both ways, into a steaming caldera.

We drove to South Point. They braved the turbulent waters of the Pacific to swim with hot lava.

Blah blah blah.

You get the idea. If I hadn't already ordered a waffle, I'd have been out of there in minutes.

The kicker came when they asked our plans for the day (after telling us of their itinerary which involved naked boar wrestling or something along those lines).

"Well," I said, "we're going to a botanical garden and then to the Waipio Valley."

"Will you be hiking it? We are riding down on mules tomorrow. Bareback."

"Um ... no. No, we're just gonna look."

"Look?" they asked.

"Yup. And after, we're getting donuts."

"Donuts," they said, unable to hide their contempt.

Of course, I didn't tell them they were the sixth best donuts in the world. That they were hot and fresh and as close to fried dough perfection as man has achieved. And I certainly didn't tell them to stop by the Tex Drive In to see for themselves.

No, I respected them as the hard core adventurers they claimed to be. And I reveled even more in our mornings sleeping in, our leisurely drives, our days lazing on the beach, and most of all, in some fabulous mango donuts.

9.09.2010

Sorry Tom!


I cursed Tom Brady.

I didn't mean to, if that helps.

It started in the fall of 2008 when I was drafting my fantasy football team. It came time to pick a quarterback, and he was the highest ranking choice left. As a Colts fan I knew better, but in a moment of weakness and lust for fantasy football glory, I did it anyway.

I drafted Tom Brady.

So began the downward spiral for Tom and me. It was announced in early September of that year that Tom would need knee surgery and would miss the entire season.

While I acknowledge that this took a harder toll on Tom than on myself, it was still a rough year for my poor Hapless Hedgehogs (I know ... I put "hapless" in the name. What did I think was going to happen?!?). No other viable quarterback was available, and my team limped through the season to finish last in the league. A distant last at that.

I had fallen from first place to tenth in two short years, and I had only myself to blame.

The moral of the dark saga: Colts fans don't draft Patriots. I heard the message loud and clear, and Tom and I both had a more successful 2009 season for it.

Flash forward to 2010. I signed up for auto-draft and logged in yesterday to see which players I'd be working with this season. Things were looking good - Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Jason Witten - and then I saw it. Quarterback: Tom Brady.

Noooooooooooooooo!

Of course, Tom once again had it worse than I did. Check out this morning's headline:

9.07.2010

Update: The $8 experiment

I recently ordered a couple pairs of prescription glasses from Zenni Optical (story here). They arrived today after only a week's wait, and I am beyond pleased with the results.

The styles are cute, the quality is as good as at a "normal" store, the prescription is right, and they came well packaged and protected. I couldn't be happier.

And all this for under $30. Amazing!

Buying tips:

~ Call your optometrist to find out your pupillary distance. It's often not listed on the paperwork they give you after your eye exam, but they're required by law to tell you and it's not something that expires like the rest of the prescription.

~ When ordering sunglasses, remember that higher percentages represent darker tints. I ordered 80% grey, and it's very dark. Perfect for the bright sun at the beach, but not something I can see well with inside.

~ Grey tints will give the world a blue cast. Amber tints will improve contrast and amplify greens.

~ Check your current frames to learn the size you need. The numbers inside the arm represent the lens size, bridge, and temple length. You have a little wiggle room (as much as 5mm in temple length), but try to stay close to what you already know looks good.

I have a simple prescription, but my dad has ordered a more complicated pair with bifocals and transition lenses and also had good luck. Hopefully your experience will be as good as ours!

** Zenni has no idea who I am. I just took a chance on some cheap frames, had a good experience, and wanted to share.

9.06.2010

If Mama ain't happy ...

Kurt is car shopping. We decided not to bring his previous car down to South Carolina (no a/c was sort of a deal breaker), and the time has come to get something new.

Buying a new car sounds like it would be a fun task. Heck, for what cars cost these days, it ought to be a fun task. We were even fairly excited about it ... at first.

Then came the salesmen.

One had a road rage incident and yelled at another driver during a test drive. One called Kurt a "tirekicker" because he wasn't ready to buy a car right then. Another told us a car with 1700 miles was "identical" to one with 15 - and got irritated when we didn't agree.

My personal favorite not only knew the going rate of heroin, he also shared his insights on area strip clubs and how tourists "drive up the price of p***y." (Yes, that is a quote.)

Even the relatively better ones were unable to answer basic questions and were prone to stretch the truth (if not outright lie) if it might help make the sale.

One of their most irritating strategies is to make it difficult for you to leave without taking a car for an overnight test drive (whether you want one or not) or buying something. Normal, honest, sane responses fly right past, while they continue to talk and push and act as if you hadn't spoken.

On this front though, Kurt has a secret weapon. He found the one thing he can say that will stop them in their tracks and end the madness.

The magic phrase?

"My wife doesn't like it."

That's it. If a man on a car lot utters those words, it's game over. They have an answer on price, on miles, on style and performance. They have an answer to everything except the unanswerable: an unhappy wife.

So after enduring hours of frustration and lies and general insanity, Kurt feels free to use this trump card - whether it's 100% percent accurate or not. As the salesmen themselves would say, "You gotta do what you gotta do."

Photo by Brandon Doran

9.05.2010

Actual conversation with my husband: Heavy metal edition

On tv: a Def Leppard video

Me: Oh! Def Leppard! Are they the group with the midgets?

Husband: The what?

Me: The midgets!

Husband: *long pause*

Me: Seriously, there's a heavy metal group with midgets.

Husband: *long pause*

Me: They wear shorts! Midgets in shorts. That group.

Husband: You mean AC/DC?

Me: Are they midgets?

Husband: No, but they wear schoolboy shorts.

Me: And suspenders?

Husband: I think so.

Me: That's them.

Husband: But they're not midgets.

Me: Huh. But they're short, right?

9.03.2010

Real cats wear pink

A couple weeks ago, someone stopped by our home and met our cat Nelson for the first time.

It went something like this:
Visitor: She's a pretty cat!

Nelson: *preen*

Me: It's a "he". That's Nelson.

Visitor: *looks at Nelson*

Nelson: *preen*

Visitor: I just thought ... with the pink collar ...

Me: Oh yeah, that's his favorite color.

Visitor: *silence*
You could practically hear her thinking, "Cuckoo!" I can't blame her. You put a baby pink collar on a cat, and people are gonna think it's a girl.

And cats having favorite colors? Do cats even see in color?

Of course, Nelson is no ordinary cat. He can open drawers and cabinets and even the occasional closed door. He knows how to start a scuffle between his brothers and then run to us wide-eyed (always wide-eyed!) to get credit for being "the good one". He knows to pull keys off of Daddy's laptop and never ever touch Mommy's MacBook. He's basically a cat genius.

And he has a favorite color: pink.

When he lived at the mini-shelter in the Castleton PetSmart, the staff knew that he would only play with the pink toy, never any of the others. They even sent it home with him since he had such a strong preference.

Nothing has changed. He still loves his original pink rope, and his second favorite toy is a fluffy pink flamingo. He turns his nose up at non-pink options as if they are unworthy of him.

The cat loves pink.

I caved to social pressure and made him wear a turquoise collar for years. I might buy him pink toys, but I wasn't ready to deal with issues of feline gender confusion. Would a pink collar make him a transvestite? This was not a question I was ready to contemplate.

Kurt helped change my mind when Nelson's turquoise collar broke. "He should have what he likes," Kurt said. "Who cares?"

And he was right. I've gotta let Nelson be Nelson. Pink collar and all.

Am I a crazy cat lady? Quite possibly. Anthropomorphizing beyond all good sense? Almost assuredly.

But he's my Nelson.

And he loves pink.

And I'm ok with that.