Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To my oldest friend on your saddest day

I met my best friend from childhood the first week of 4th grade. She had a gold velour shirt on and that shirt was tucked into her underwear which were slightly above the top of her jeans. She denies this but I am quite confident. This was in the late 70's and not a Sir Mix A Lot song so underwear out of your pants was taboo. One day, a boy in our class yelled at her and she marched her tiny self (she still is tiny) right over to his desk and broke every single of one of his crayons. TAKE THAT. He cried like a baby for about 20 minutes and well, I knew this girl had sass and verve. We became the best of friends. That friendship created some serious shenanigans and adventures.  Including the time we decided to make chocolate chip cookie dough and then hide the entire mixing bowl in my room so we could eat it raw. Bowl of raw cookie dough + no refrigeration + two little  girls weighing in about 45 pounds each = well, you know that story doesn't yield a pleasant ending. PS: Sorry Mom, because you had to be on medic/clean up duty.

We were at Kelly's grandpa's house one day and decided "Let's have fun!" How? Well, we can jump off the roof of the garage onto a mattress! This is brilliant! Her Mom drove up the driveway and jumped out of the car before she even put it in park. She wasn't delighted by our daredevil-ish ways, I assure you. A question was shouted at us 'What in the HELL are you doing?!?!  followed by GET DOWN IMMEDIATELY. Once down from the roof, we went down to the river and decide to have mud fight. For hours. We were covered scalp to toes and her Mom made us stand outside and get sprayed down with a giant garden house. We should have opted to stay on the roof!

We had:
matching sleeping bags (super cool gynmastics themed)
matching overalls (Osh Kosh B'Gosh!)
matching roller skates and skate covers (Uber fierce!)
matching parachute pants (Super FLY)
matching haircuts in 4th-6th grade (Super UGLY. It looked like Madge from Golden Girls sheared us and not like cute pixie style like Olympic skaters but rather like boys. Or prisoners.) 

We once opted to have a water fight at her house. We filled tiny Dixie cups with water and placed them throughout the yard. It is easy to go through those quickly and one of us grabbed the hose and the other ran in the house. Well, dummy in the house DO NOT open the kitchen windows and sass out statements like "HAHAHA. I am in the house!" because the hose can SPRAY into the house. Which is what happened. Many times. It was not a good story to explain but it was awesome at the time. Did we ultimately rot the kitchen floor? Perhaps. I know we did a terrible job of clean up.

One day her Mom bought us Hostess Tiger Tails. Remember these? Basically, a Twinkie but w/ the added ingredients of jelly and coconut. I have never liked the dreaded coconut. Kelly loves coconut and did not want to share this with me. She knew my disdain and explained to me, I could not have the Tiger Tail because it was covered in coconut. "I will pick it off," I say. She replies, "You can't. There won't be anything left." But she gives it to me and after spending about 30 minutes picking it off, she is only getting more and more irritated with me. At minute 32, I give up as the Tiger Tail has been demolished in my coconut removal process. I simply say, "I don't actually want it now." She picks up the mounds of coconut and what happens next? She throws the entire pile in my face. I deserved it. Tiger Tails? Shudder.

There were dance parties, slumber parties, skating parties. We got older and added our 3rd lifelong best friend, Taz, to the mix. We saw each other through crushes, boyfriends, breakups, moving, fights with parents, car wrecks, cheerleading practice,  lip syncing to Push It and hot tub parties w/ boys at my Dad's house when he was out of town.  We drank wine coolers, bad beer and one time only: Tequila.  We tried smoking, Lee Press On nails, Sun In. Even when separated by college and hundreds of miles, we were best friends, bridesmaids, present for the birth of babies. We have laughed in that really great, from the soul kind of way on countless days and nights.

And today we cry. Kelly's Mom died unexpectedly yesterday. She was found at her home with her suitcase packed to fly to Kelly's house this morning. I have known both of these women since age 9. The news gave me that crinkly numbing feeling.  Kelly lost her Dad years ago and spent yesterday afternoon twisting and turning on how to tell her own children the news.

I thought about those many laughter provoking moments throughout my entire childhood and that recall, in the context of death, makes your sadness widen out and push on you. There is no 'sorry' big enough to cover the gap this death has left. As she told me herself yesterday, "It is my mom." I know exactly what she means. After I spoke to her, I immediately called my own Mom. Kelly spent so many nights at our house, of course my Mom called her immediately. And because my own Mom is so good, she offered all that love and support that maybe only parents know how to give when kids are hurting. And aren't we still kids? It wasn't too long ago we were roller skating through mud puddles and prank calling Scooter Peterson, right?

Being supportive and loving your friend through life-changing moments are aspects you would gladly trade if in fact,  you could actually do something to alter the outcome of the situation. I want to wrap her entire day in every great caper, every laugh, every Tiger Tail so all of those minutes counterbalance all of her minutes feeling sick hearted. I can't but I definitely attempted last night via text. To which she replied, "How dare you take off those coconut flakes!" Exactly.

Kelly, you and your Mom loved each other. You both knew the depth of it and for that, I am so very glad.  It does not make today easier, but one day it might. Thinking of you, my oldest friend, on what is truly your saddest day.

We love you. And because we love you I am refraining from including a pic of us in grade school with our despicable haircuts.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Take A Bite Of: Sea Salt Caramels (also known as "yum, yum, give me some."

I know you want some goodness and I am here to help. I have made these several times and they are in-cred-i-ble. Scared of caramel? Dont be. All it takes is a large pot, a few ingredients, thermometer and attentiveness. Once finished, you can share with your friends and family so that you do not consume them all yourself. I took a box to one of our customers yesterday and they were a huge hit.  Once I cut them as seen in the pic, I wrap them in wax paper. They look a bit like salt water taffy when wrapped except they are not green and they do taste about 1.3 million times better.

I make them in the exact format learned from Ina Garten. From my kitchen to yours, enjoy every bite.

Sea Salt Caramels: 


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil or spray with nonstick spray.

Boil the sugar.

In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don't stir -- just swirl the pan.

Heat the cream.

In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Finish the caramel.

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful -- it will bubble up violently. Be careful also means WATCH IT. I left one pot unattended for a mere minute and bubbled over boiling caramel is a real headache to clean up. Then stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.

Fill your prepared pan slowly and carefully. It is HOT. I also then sprinkle the top with sea salt before refrigerating. Pop in fridge for a few hours, until firm.  When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half. And then you can opt for small rectangle or square size pieces.  It's easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil. Wrap the candies.


Friday, August 9, 2013

5 Types of Drunk....

Years ago, we arrived on the front-end of a party at a friend's house. Walking in, I saw another friend who laughingly told us, "I just saw Rick. He is really drunk."
"What kind of drunk?" I asked.  She paused, "Ummm, the drunk kind of drunk."

My question was not that off-base. Think about it, it was approximately 7 pm. The party had started minutes before. How can anyone be drunk unless they were inhaling them via beer bong circa 1990 fraternity party style or they were working on it since early afternoon. For those of you who don't imbibe, good for you. Alcohol is a trouble-maker. However, for those of us who do imbibe, cheers to us because there are many compelling reasons to have a sip or two at night, especially when its red wine or what I like to call "daily fruits." The reality is, there are different kinds of drinking and there are different kinds of drunk as you well know. Let's review them, shall we?

1. I-am-finally-legal-to-drink-drunk: Remember this girl? And boy? Oh, you do. This is the person so excited to finally use real vs. fake id, they go big on the big night. And by 'go big' I mean, watch the f------ out. It is not that this person can finally have alcohol because you know that has been going on for years but it is the reality that the taste of wine coolers or Malibu rum drinks are completely legal. This person is easy to identify at the beginning of the night: For girls: she is the one wearing a "I'M 21" sash yelling "THIS IS MY SONG" at the beginning of every song on the jukebox. For boys: He is the one with the hat on sideways (God love you if its flat-brimmed) calling everyone 'Bro" which sounds like "Bra" and "Dude" which sounds like "Duuuuuuuuuuuuude."  Later in the night this person is even easier to identify as the girls will be saying "I love youuuuuu. You are my bessssssst friendddddd forevvvvvver: (God love you if you use the word "bestie" which is one of the worst fake words in the English language and hopefully only used by 21 year olds who have been consuming wine coolers ALL night.) You want to warn them,  uh oh, you are going to see something you have never witnessed before: Your hair swirling in the toilet as it hangs down both sides of your face as you hug the commode like you just hugged 1. all your friends. 2. the bartender 3. the street sweeper before you lost your shoes, your iPhone and your dignity. For the fellas, well, he will be the one with his shirt off and doing all kinds of 'dares' his less wasted friends can dream up. His warning is: Have fun waking up in someone's yard covered in Magic Marker but sans clothing hugging an orange traffic cone and an empty bag from Crystals. This boy and girl will repeat these actions many, many times before learning any valuable lessons.

2.  I-love-tailgating-drunk: WOW. We love football in this house and by 'we' I mean 'Mostly JMac and increasingly MiniMac'. I love a good time but tailgating is a completely different level. Why? Because people park at 9 am and begin the bonanza of beer guzzling and hotdog scarfing. I once made the foolish mistake of agreeing to go to a tailgate party for a WVU vs. Pitt game. Any college football fans know this is a huge rivalry. We arrived at the tailgate party w/ 150 rabid WVU fans at 11 am. Oh, only 150 you say? Yes, 150 in about a 20 foot area surrounded by oh, I dont know, maybe 80,000 other nutso cukoos. I then learned the game did not actually start until 7:05 pm. Do the math. And when you are done with that you will come to the conclusion "NOT a good use of time." 8 hour tailgate? Or what I like to call "Welcome to the Shit Show." What begins as friends happy to see each other in the mandatory dress code of: Everything on your body must proudly display school colors, mascot or symbol quickly turns into: beer funneling, the school fight song bellowed louder than goats in a megaphone on repeat for at least 100 iterations and sloppy drunk men tossing the football around the parking lot which is about as smooth and graceful as watching a dog react to getting a bee sting on the tail. Oh, you jammed your finger on the ball? Right, because you are 1. drunk and 2. old and 3. out of shape and 4. drunk.  It ends with fans of the home field throwing beer cans (and bottles) onto their OWN field. Because that is what highly intoxicated rabid fans do. This theory applies to many, many stadiums in both college and professional arenas. "Tailgate Party" is code word for "Free-For-All" worse than Lake Havasu at Spring Break minus the sex.

3. Wedding-drunk: Weddings are almost like the female version of Tailgating. As much as many a gal loves her tailgate party, weddings bring out the fun in the ladies. Especially if you are in the wedding party. Why? It is awesome to be a part of someone's very special day and it is basically a weekend soiree with multiple other weekends dedicated to the wedding e.g. showers, bachelorette parties, dress shopping, shoe shopping, 'something blue' shopping. We have been to many incredibly tasteful and classic weddings. We have also been to weddings where the groom was drunk at the reception and claimed (on a microphone so even 90 year old grandma could hear) "Its my wedding and I am going to get drunk (check) and I am going to get laid (ummm, keep it up  and you will be getting just about nothing later. Thank your whiskey dick. )  Wedding drunk is what causes people to RACE to the dance floor to do the Macarena and exclaim with glee: MMMMmmmmberrrr when we did this on the barrrrr in Lauderdale????? I LOVE this dannnnnce! Wedding-drunk also causes people to: Do 10 minute version of the Electric Slide, participate in the Chicken Dance,  the Worm or (actually AND) Breakdance. Wedding-drunk also causes groomsmen to pat your buddy's Mother in Law on the keister and light a joint at the reception. NOT WISE on either count. At least the Worm is just an embarrassing photo of you on Facebook. Wedding-drunk also produces some incredible pairings of people connecting over similar qualities and interests also known as "Liquor-based-love."  Liquor-based-love starts at high school parties in odd places you would never normally go like "The Quarry" or "The Dunes" or in our case "Top of the World." Liquor-based-love abounds throughout college, trips to Vegas, and of course, weddings. The only favorable part of Wedding-Drunk is when you are merely an observer. And outside of the part where you had sex with the groom's cousin who wore a Peter Pan collar dress to the wedding, get your act together people. This is someone's special, special day.

4. Girls-or-Guys-night-out-drunk: Basically, Girls or Guys Night Out (GNO) are amongst the most fun nights out but definitely nights you pay for the next day in increasing amounts of pain and agony contingent upon your age. For ladies: GNO in your 20s: Feather boas and hot pants, dancing on the bar and jello shots. GNO in your 30's is sassy off shoulder shirts, perfect lipstick, vodka tonic and wanting to dance on the bar but instead, dancing in a circle. GNO in your 40's is sassy dresses, killer heels, red wine and shake your ass like you are in your 20's dance party. GNO almost always involves dancing. For men: GNO in your 20's involves beer, hitting on women and discussions of sports, beer and women. In your 30's it involves better beer selection, looking at women, maybe hitting on them and discussions of sports, microbrews and women. In your 40's it involves: whiskey, gin or tequila, looking at women, maybe hitting on them and discussions of sports, whiskey/gin/tequila, children (for 2 seconds as in do you still have them? Yes. Move along) and women. These nights do cause you to think your liver is as healthy and productive as the day you were born so you will often consume a few sips too many, sing as loudly as possible to songs on the jukebox especially songs like: I Love Rock and Roll, Jack and Diane, Living on a Prayer, Funky Cold Medina or Ice Ice Baby. You will know the words to these songs for life so you might as well belt them out. Your spouse loves GNO because to them GNO means randy time or what JMac calls "No Pants Party." Well, sometimes its true and sometimes a few extra sips helps you only to barely undress and fall into bed without brushing your teeth. Don't judge.  But oh, the dance party portion of the evening was AWESOME.

4. I-am-only-having-one-drunk sometimes known as I-am-managing-small-children-drunk: This version is hilarious because you came with the best intentions. You go to dinner with friends, you are only having one and uh oh, next thing you know you are all doing karaoke to PUSH IT. You planned on only one, right? This circumstance also it frequently in many a neighborhood. Typcially, on a 'school night' when your neighbors might be outside with there kiddos and everyone says hello and catches up and then someone brings wine and you say "no thanks" because it is 530 pm and then they insist so, well, ok. Then you sip that and it is tasty. So the bottle is open and well, you may as well have another splash. You don't think are you going down Buzz Boulevard because you clearly said only one. Right. Next thing you know, you are home making dinner and your child says "Let's skip vegetables at dinner tonight?" And you say GREAT IDEA. I know many, many a Mom and Dad managing little people who opt for the "only one" theory which rarely if ever works. The bad news is, children do not care what time you go to bed, their little internal alarm clocks ding at the same time every morning so have fun suffering if you go bananas. I have had one hangover in MiniMac's entire life because I learned my lesson. The hard way. And basically rocked myself to and fro on the bathroom floor petting my own head and crying. My child was far away in the house but really? No thank you. I am not sure what "I-have-surly-teenagers-drunk" looks like but I am years away from that discovery.

5. I'm-so-sad-drunk: Oh boy. This is a tricky one because it kind of goes down like this: Your friend has recently broke up with someone. As we know, break up sadness and lost pet, job, phone, dignity from your 21-run sadness are not the same types of sadness. So your friend has a break up. You decide to approach the night out in one of two ways. Either 1. Let's go get our swerve on! You are a hot commodity! This is a new lease on life! Let's help Stella get her groove back! so you get dolled up, shoes=sexy, hair=fierce and you go out to tear it up. Except whooooops, one or two glasses of Malbec later you notice the more grape juice in equals more water from the tear ducts out. So-sad-drunk is a drunk many of us know first-hand. The problem is not the sadness, it is the TALKING about the sadness over and over and over and over and over and over. (Girls, admit, you know WE love to reiterate our details. Over and over and over.) The more consumed, the more sad crying/talking that occurs until you are nasal toned and dripping from the eyes AND nose. It will get better but not this night bellied up to the bar. The other approach to the so-sad-breakup-back-in-the-saddle night out is 2, F him! You don't need him! He will RUE the DAY! This is also known as very sad AND angry drunk or very sad AND bitter drunk. Back away slowly. Here is what will happen: One or two glasses of Malbec later you notice the more grape juice in equals more water from the tear ducts out. Then that water turns to venom. Then you are telling stories about Bryan's gambling issues, affinity for kink and his small penis. The more liquor in the louder the volume on the voice box goes until everyone in the vicinity knows all about Bryan and his shortcomings. Once all the poison is out, you go back to crying and being really sad because you realllllllllllly looooooooooooved Bryaaaaaaaaaaan.

Now be good and let all of these examples be a warning to you.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Hot Sh*t

At the gym yesterday, I overheard two guys discussing a particular female.

One guy: I don't really like her, she is kind of conceited.
Other guy: Me either, she thinks she is such hot sh*t.

Hmmmm. There are several phrases that make no sense to me and this is one.  If someone is conceited, do they really think they are hot sh*t? Are there NO other phrases to employ that make more sense? Does anyone who actually is conceited look in the mirror pursing their lips, smiling at themselves and ask what do I remind myself of? A beauty queen? Madonna? A super model? Oh, I KNOW, warm feces. It does not make any sense. The only thing worse than a pile of sh*t would be a hot one. I was once out with girlfriends and one of them was getting hit on a man who most definitely did not lack in the confidence sector (see, a clearer way to describe someone who thinks they are hot sh*t) and she asked him, "When you get home, do you kiss yourself goodnight?" It was hilarious because we were on cocktail #3, but really, even that doesn't make sense and it is STILL better than 'hot sh*t' right?

I realize it is just a phrase but it is a pretty horrible one, you have to concur.

BUT, should you or someone you know suffer from classifying yourself as hot sh*t, do not worry. You know what will knock you down a peg from all your comingled self-love and poopy thoughts? A polaroid picture. Seriously. They make virtually everyone look ugly, especially the close ups. How do I know?  Well, because a friend took one for me and when I gazed at it, I thought perhaps I was looking in a funhouse mirror. Except I was not. Yikes. Where is the Photoshop button on those archaic things?!? So, if you have a friend suffering from the disease, snap that polaroid. It will work. I promise.

So, if we can't deconstruct the phrase at least I have offered a cure for it.