Faux slow cookin’…

Other than the runny stuff you have on hot dogs, my family growing up in South Carolina didn’t eat much chili. The standard fare in our house consisted of lots of KFC, TV dinners, macaroni and cheese, roast beef, spaghetti (our international option), and fish sticks (on Fridays cause the Pope said my granddaddy had to). When the chili option was offered, it was because there was a lot of leftover spaghetti sauce, altered only by the addition of red beans and the slightest hint of cayenne pepper. Corn bread (Jiffy with sugar added) and iced tea were served with it and everyone was happy.

When I moved across the country to eventually end up in Oregon, my palette was shocked at first, but I quickly caught on. It turned out that, once you got past the Rockies, Chinese food didn’t involve cans, not all peanuts were boiled, and Tex Mex was a glorious thing! Who knew!?

I had been in Oregon for about 2 years when I decided to participate in a chili cook-off at a company I’d been with for a few months. The office-wide challenge was scheduled for one of our regular Friday afternoon ‘stop work early and drink fancy beer and learn to like your co-workers‘ soirees, and it sounded like fun. I didn’t really know many of the employees outside of my own department, and I certainly didn’t know how seriously people there would take the whole thing.

After looking at tons of traditional Western-style chili recipes (and putting off shopping and cooking until the very last minute), I fired up my off-brand slow cooker and just opted to make a pot of good old spaghetti sauce chili…the kind my grandmama used to make. I doctored it up a bit by adding what seemed to be a sufficient dose of chili powder and I even threw in a few red pepper flakes I figured there would already be a ton of better chili chefs there than I could ever hope to be, and I thought, hey…something different would be fun…right?

Um…not so much.

I set my innocent enough looking Brand X crock pot alongside my competitors’ Rivals and officially trademarked Crock Pots, grabbed a foo-foo beer and headed over to the side of the room to find a spot from which to watch the festivities. I had no more than found a chair and tasted my beer when, from across the room, came the loud exclamation/question that shook me to my core:

WHO THE HELL PUT SWEET BASIL IN THIS POT OF SO-CALLED CHILI???!!!”

I wasn’t quite sure how to react to being outed as a faux chili-maker, so I just looked around the room like everyone else was doing…trying my best to looked shocked at this affront. Who would DO such a thing? SWEET BASIL…the very nerve! Tsk!

I bolted, suddenly deciding remembering that I had some urgent work to finish back at my desk. I made my apologies and sidled out of the room…putting as much space between myself and that off-brand cooker fiasco as possible!

I heard a few hours later that I’d taken last place in the cook-off. I waited for everyone else to leave before I returned to (anonymously) retrieve my (sadly still full) cookware, wondering how they judged it to be last place without even tasting it!

I know, I know…it’s a sad story of wasted food and an ego crushed even more than the tomatoes in a jar of Ragu, but I recovered. It’s worth mentioning that I still don’t care for fancy beer, but I actually do LIKE my own chili. In fact, I have a big old pot of it simmering right now. These days I do add a good bit more chili powder and I learned to replace the basil with cumin, but it still has enough day-old spaghetti flavor to make my inner Southern girl happy, and my cook-off losing inner chef smiles with every spoonful.

Pepper hat girl

Yeah, I’m hot stuff…just sayin’…

 

 

Back on the right (wrong) coast

I’ve lived in Oregon for 22 years now. When I first moved across country from South Carolina to the west coast with #1, I was so busy learning to be an Oregonian (and trying to forget the life that we ran away from) that it was seven years before I finally came back east to see my family. These days, I’m a better daughter/sister/aunt, and I travel the 2320 miles (as the crow flies) once or twice a year.

Currently, I’m on my second trip this year back to S.C. and, so far, it’s been a doozy…

  • I had boiled peanuts for the first time in about 25 years (it may have been that they came from a gas station, but I think I can go another 25 without them and be just fine)
  • I had the worst Starbucks of my life (Portland does ruin you for some things)
  • I ran into childhood TV host Mr. Knozit (Joe Pinner) while out at dinner (and forced him to talk to me)
  • I tried on eye glasses at Walmart and had to explain to the nice lady that yes, I do in fact have a head so enormous that I have to wear men’s glasses (she didn’t believe me until I tried on the lady glasses just to show her how strangely tiny they looked. Thanks, Walmart lady…thanks a lot.)
  • I went to the movies with the entire family (Mama, Lynnie AND the niece and nephew) for the first time EVER (and no seat arms were harmed)
  • I arrived and it was 80 degrees – two days later we woke up to heavy snow (the earliest snow they’ve EVER had here). Thanks, Al Gore Roker.
  • I listened to my sister Lynnie yelling at the Gamecocks (that actually has happened this early in the year) and
  • I discovered the true beauty of Adult Swim TV (thank you, Nephew! Oh Rick and Morty…where have you been all my life?)

The best is yet to come though…today my sissy is going to make her famous fried pork chops for dinner, along with rice with (real) gravy, roasted Brussel sprouts and Sweetie Pie’s macaroni and cheese. I may need an extra seat for the trip back to the other coast…but it’ll be worth it!

Knozit

Oh Mr. Knozit…you haven’t changed a bit!

Did ya miss me?

I just realized that it’s been almost a solid month since I’ve posted anything, and that’s just WRONG. I’ve certainly thought about it plenty of times, but too much work and too little sleep just don’t contribute a whole lot to the creative process.

Not much new and exciting to report…it’s fall again, so my yard once again smells like a Welch’s grape jelly factory — it’s a beautiful thing but I do seem to be buying a lot more peanut butter than I normally would.

Big banking news…I used my debit card online so much that the bank thought terrorists had it and shut that sucker OFF. I didn’t really buy that much actual stuff, but (note to self) it’s probably not wise to have five Amazon repeat orders, two eBay finds and a pet supplies order in the same week. cat thingy

The good news: the cats have a new scratching post tower climby thingy that was on the last credit card charge before the plug on the BofA connection got pulled. The bad news: I must have picked a dud, because those damn ungrateful cats don’t seem the least bit interested.

I’ll try very hard to have some better adventures before my next post.

 

 

My demons are drinking age

I tried today to write about something that’s been gnawing at me for a long while. I thought I was ready to explore (and maybe even share) the true story of my exodus from South Carolina to Oregon, some 22 years ago. I felt that I was ready to recount the tale of how #1 decided that the life we had built together was too badly damaged to salvage. I wanted to explain how we ran, leaving behind our store, home, friends and families…how we escaped without a destination, deserting all that we’d acquired, known and done.

It’s an exciting story of adventuring across this country but, as I started pulling together the words, I could feel the emotions starting to swirl in my gut. My face felt hot and I sensed tears beginning to well up, just as they did so long ago on the day we first drove away from everything I’d ever known and loved. I was transported to the day when all of my life’s history became just a shrinking rear view mirror’s width, and I thought I’d lost everything in the world that was precious to me.

What I know and understand now is that we decided back then that we didn’t have a choice. We decided not to allow ourselves to deserve the life we’d created. Our desperate escape from (what we decided was) the certain hot breath of failure and doom on our necks was a turning point in my life. I wanted to be ready to share my realizations…to free myself from the demons who hang on to painful hidden parts of your heart like a dog with a new toy.

Writing about the ending of such a huge chapter of my life should be cathartic…right? Hell, it’s been over twenty years, and I’m happily settled in a life that I love, in a place that I adore. I thought I was ready to face down those demons of that past life and tell ‘em who was boss…who wears the pants in this relationship!

As it turns out, the damn demons have all the britches. They are, in fact, the boss of me. For now.

So I filed the draft away as something that needs more work…more time…more healing. But be warned, demons–the band-aid has been pulled off.

writing-quote-4

 

I don’t need no stinkin’ penicillin…

When I was little, I had what was known as a delicate stomach (that’s Southern for: It didn’t take much to make me throw up). You could count on it every year after (and sometimes during) the county fair, and any time I got overly excited about something. There were times when it was my own fault, but there were plenty of times when I just got sick for no apparent reason. The only known antidote in our house was warm ginger ale, spoon-fed by Mama (Canada Dry ONLY…and no diet!) There was the one time that my grandmother tried to make me eat some horrible concoction called milk toast (exactly like it sounds), but I may have actually required extra ginger ale after that experiment.

Once I started feeling a little better and was able to keep the ginger ale down, I got to have some sherbet (or sherBERT as I was raised calling it). It’s strange to me that more people don’t realize or acknowledge the medicinal (almost magical) properties of the stuff…especially the rainbow variety. Oh, and don’t worry about buying the expensive (no high fructose corn syrup, foo-foo) variety…for this purpose, the cheap 7-Eleven no-name brand is best. To this day, if I’m sick enough to stay home, I need sherbert. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to maintain that same relationship with ginger ale. Tasting it now has a rather Pavlovian effect on me, and I can’t drink it without being reminded of my childhood…um…issues.)

Other than the occasional tummy troubles, I guess I was a pretty healthy kid. I still have my tonsils, I managed to never break anything, and beyond measles and an occasional earache, I was usually okay. If I did have a random ache or pain, Mama told me to just get over it, because it was obviously gas. According to her, gas was the cause of pretty much everything that could afflict a child. If I had a regular old stomach ache…gas. Leg cramp…gas. A headache? Definitely gas.

I never could quite figure out where all that gas was coming from though. Hey…I wonder if there’s a correlation between sherbert and gas? That would explain SO MUCH!

Sherbert STAT

Get this child some rainbow sherbert… STAT!!!

 

Sissified

There are some definite advantages to living 3000 miles away from your family, but I’ll be damned if I can remember any of them today. I’m having one of those Sundays that would be pretty much perfect if I could just get a big hug from my mama and spend an hour or two laughing with my sister about the silly stuff we did when we were kids.

I’ve written a little about my sister before, but there are so many Lynnie stories left. The little girl who cut apart the necklace to drop a pearl into the Prell shampoo, refused to brush her hair (or teeth), and made (stinky) perfume out of wisteria blossoms…well, she grew up to be a beautiful woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a love for makeup to rival my own. She knows more about movies than anyone I’ve ever met, loves John Wayne more than any modern movie star, will argue politics with the best of ‘em, and has a knack for remembering dates for things that I don’t even remember happening!

She also knows me better than anyone else does and can tell by the tone in my voice exactly what’s going on in my life (it’s kind of creepy, actually).

Ring…..ring…click…”Hey!”she’ll answer.

“Hey,” I’ll start, “I just wanted to check on ya’ll…”

“Mmm hmmm…so, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing! I just wanted to say hi,” I’ll lie.

“Listen,” she’ll say, “you know I know you, and something’s going on. You and Mr. X broke up again?”

Then I’ll tell her about my latest breakup, or a disappointment at work, or whatever it is that’s troubling me. Just the telling of it is like a compress on my soul, and the sting of whatever nastiness life has thrown at me somehow just eases up. It’s pretty damn amazing stuff, that sister love.

Now, the yin to that sissy-love yang is the sissy-aggravation that sometimes goes along with it. I’m not one to argue political points (or any other points if I have a say-so), and that makes my sister nuts from time to time. She just loves to debate, but I rarely indulge her. I’m not good at games and don’t mind losing at Monopoly or cards, while she plays to the death (“What do you MEAN you don’t care if you lose!?”)

Then there’s the bossy gene that we both have in spades…and what better way is there to aggravate a bossy Southern woman than to try to tell her what to do? Given that my own bossiness is accompanied by an overly healthy opinion of my own way of doing things…well, I’m sure you can imagine the head butting that can ensue.

Imagine this…the childless aunt (that would be me) comes to visit and decides to tell her sister how to raise her own kids…BAM! (That was a head-butt.) Or said aunt throws in a little feedback on how her sister’s house should be run…BAM-BAM! I won’t even go into the fun that follows when the aunt offers her two cents worth on how her sister’s hair should be done…oh yeah, it can get pretty intense from time to time. (BAM!)

But my little sister just keeps on loving me and knowing me and always wanting only the best for me…what’s up with that?

Hey Lynnie…pssst…I love you. You’re smart, funny and so much stronger than you realize. You’re a great mom, have a beautiful home, and you know exactly how to run your own life. I’m lucky to have you and have learned more from you than you will ever know.

And no…I still won’t argue about politics.

Maybe as matching tramp-stamps?

Maybe as matching tramp-stamps?

 

 

Too much livin’ I tell ya!

Well, to say that I’m disappointed in how little writing I’ve been doing wouldn’t be nearly whiny enough, so I’m just going to vow to do better. Here’s what I currently have going on, in case you think I’ve just been slacking off…

  • Two jobs
  • Yard work (since I’ve finally acknowledged…after 13 years in this house…that it won’t do itself)
  • A vegetable and herb garden (now that I’ve decided that eating things that grow in the yard isn’t a sin…and hell, if I’m out there anyway…)
  • Two crazed kitties with a new-found addiction to being outside (with their mama, while she slaves over the crops)
  • Worrying about if I still have any followers when I do write
  • A (more than) crazy, on-again-off-again boyfriend
  • A serious addiction to HBO
  • Periodic bouts of totally necessary retail therapy
  • Listening to my neighbor children grow up (to the South we have a budding Ethel Merman in the making who belts out that song from Frozen over, and over, and over …on the North we have a toddler named Wyatt who, if my ears don’t deceive me, may just be the most perfect child ever, cause all his mama ever says is, “Good BOY, WYATT!” She yells it a lot. A whole lot.)
  • Returning a lot of beer cans and…um, never mind that one

See? And I didn’t even mention all the time it takes me to put my makeup on and do my HAIR…I don’t wake up looking like this, you know!

The other issue is regarding what comes out when I finally DO write. Let’s just say that my last post was, well, maybe a teensy bit self-indulgent. Don’t get me wrong, everything I wrote was true, but I didn’t really need to dump all that on ya’ll. This is supposed to be a happy, feel-good break in your day…a time to check in and see what old wacky Tammy has going on. I can just hear you thinking to yourself, “NOW what has that girl gone and done?” or, more likely, “Damn, that girl better get funnier FAST, or I’m outta here,” or, “Hmmm…isn’t America’s Got Talent on right now?”

Well, keep your britches on…I’m still here and, like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m vowing to get back into writing more regularly. I’m also learning to type while drinking and watering the garden, so the odds are in our favor!