September 30, 2010

A culinary delight...for four-year-olds. And me.

In certain areas, my taste in food tends to lean toward that of a preschooler in church.

I enjoy a gourmet meal as much as the next gal, but hand me a baggie of dry Cheerios and a glass of apple juice and I'll probably be just as happy.

So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that I came up with this equation recently:
+

Two days in the fridge

Then warmed up

+



=

A fabulous fall treat for the tastebuds.


It sounds random and weird, but it's seriously fabulous. The extra time in the fridge makes the chili thicker and heartier somehow, and the little cheesy fishies are the perfect complement.

(Disclaimer: Eating this in church not advised.)

September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Drifting across the moors...of my backyard


It's not a lake. It's just fall fog in Ohio.

I think it's beautiful. :)

September 28, 2010

Inexplicable

Will someone explain to me why these guys now have ANOTHER show on television?




Two rapping brothers who are famous because of their awful dating shows, searching for Sasquatch and other legendary monsters in swamps and forests and...

Um...why?

Especially when the people who actually do this sort of thing for a living are FAR more entertaining:


The folks on Swamp People are just...real people. Not caricatures. Not wannabes. They just do what they've been doing for generations: Hunt alligators and fish and take care of their families and pass on family traditions.

Personally, I don't love the hunting/killing aspect of Swamp People, just because I hate the idea of slaughtering animals, period. But I do eat meat, so I can't be a total hypocrite. (Also, alligator is tasty.) The alligators aren't hunted for sport, nothing goes to waste, and the people on the show at least appear to do it responsibly and within the law. And they're...compelling personalities.

And they aren't rapping brothers who are famous because of their awful dating shows.

I'm sure not everyone agrees with me. Which is why Real and Chance: Legend Hunters exists in the first place.


Blech.

September 27, 2010

Fall is yummy

There are 500,000 reasons why I love fall.

Bonfires.

Air so crisp and devoid of humidity that I feel like I can take my first full, deep breath since we left April behind.

Crunching leaves on sidewalks.

Apple cider.

And these:




Ohhhh, concord grapes. So unlike any other, inferior grapes, with their show-offy sweetness and seedlessness and easily-digestable skin, and being all, "Oh, look at me, I'm available all year!" You are sour and sweet and tart and gooshy, and you pop right out of your deep purple skin and leave behind hard little seeds that require awkward spitting into a napkin.

(OK, as I'm writing this, it's sounding less and less appetizing.)

Every fall, I scour our local farmer's markets for these little seasonal beauties, since the stupid national chain grocery stores are apparently too good to carry them. And from September to early November, I'm in heaven.

It's my secret dream to have a huge vineyard filled with nothing but concord grapes, and then eat all of them myself, fighting off anyone who tries to share my bounty.

Sigh.

Also, quick callback to an earlier post wherein I extolled the virtue of the Andes mint and vowed to try a few recipes including those little gems. 36x37 did indeed come through with some Andes mint brownies, and they were little chocolate squares of minty HEAVEN (thanks again, M!).

And, I created this at the office last week:



That's Swiss Miss hot chocolate with Andes mints crumbled on top. Slowly melting into the cocoa. Creating a smooth, creamy, mint-a-riffic chocolatey confectionery delight that I intend to recreate upon every opportunity. In other news: IT WAS REALLY, REALLY TASTY.

It almost made up for the return of football, and my subsequent Sunday-afternoon widowhood.

September 24, 2010

Inspiration

Don't you just love when someone gets you the PERFECT gift?

(The only thing better, of course, is getting the perfect gift for someone else.)

In my life, the giver of the perfect gift is usually T. I swear, for a sports-crazed, "typical" male, he has an uncanny way of knowing exactly what I want/need at any given moment. And he cooks, and gives great backrubs, and remembers all major holidays and anniversaries. I know: He's a keeper.

But I digress.

This time, I'm talking about my best friend, B. Who's not only incredibly talented herself (I hope someday the whole world will see your amazing photos, Beezy!), she's incredibly encouraging and supportive of her friends, too. And lately, she's been on the receiving end of a lot of my rants about my "failure" to really make any progress on the non-day-job writing projects I'm longing to finish.

She took me out for sushi (the girl knows the way to my heart, for sure), and handed me a gift bag with a sparkle in her eye.

"I thought maybe you could keep this in your home office, or wherever you do your writing," she said. "Sort of like your little muse."



Love. I just love it.

And every time I look at it, it reminds me that I not only HAVE a story to tell, I also have someone (many someones, actually) who believe in my ability to tell it.

Thank you, B! And thank you to every one of you who read this blog, and who encourage me in my other projects, too. It's been a rough, uphill summer, and each one of you is helping me climb.

September 21, 2010

Semi-Wordless Tuesday ('cause I break all the rulez)


This is a window box from the house where my cousin got married last weekend.

(The house was built in 1848, but I'm pretty sure the window box doesn't date back that far.)

I'm sort of obsessed with this picture. I even made it the background on my phone.

It's my secret dream to have window boxes like this.

Although I'm fairly certain they'd look less rustic and perfect on my vinyl siding.

September 20, 2010

Best laid plans, blah blah blah

So, remember that weekend of nothing I was all jazzed about on Friday?

Well, that'll teach me to brag.

Long story short, I ended up working most of the weekend. And then I did some laundry.

But in between editing content documents and writing marketing copy and deciding if I really cared enough to separate the lights from the darks, I found time to do some of this:



And a little of this:



Not sure what's happening here. I think he burped. Lucky for you, I caught the magic moment on film:



Looking sort of worried -- maybe that Pupperoni from earlier was repeating on him:


All better and back to being the handsomest boy around:


What? Is that a cat??


Pouting, because it WAS a cat, but Mommy wouldn't let him chase it:


Twenty minutes outside, chilling in the yard with my two best boys, enjoying perfect, sunny fall weather...


Work? Laundry? What?

It was the best part of the weekend, and I guarantee it's the only part I'll ever remember. As it should be.

September 17, 2010

In all its wonder and glory


That's what I have planned for this weekend.

No. Thing. NOTHING.

I'm so excited I could cry. Or squeal most unattractively. Accompanied by an equally unattractive interpretive dance depicting my excitement about said nothingness.

I'd never complain about the time I spend with friends and family and volunteer organizations and the like. I LOVE those times.

But sometimes, it just feels GREAT to look at the ol' planner and see nothing but blank space. With endless opportunity to fill it up with whatever I want. Or...not.

To look around my house, see what needs to be done and think, "I could do any or all of these things this weekend. Or, I could do NONE of them."

It feels like I just took a huge breath of crisp, autumn air, and then nestled into a warm blanket.

(Ooh -- maybe THAT'S what I'll do this weekend.)

Whatever I do, I fully intend to enjoy my nothing time. Please enjoy yours!

September 16, 2010

Unsolicited advice: Once you slide the lock...


Things to do while in a bathroom stall:
  1. Go to the bathroom.
  2. Change your clothes (with your shoes on, because: ew).
Things not to do while in a bathroom stall:
  1. Breathe heavily.
  2. Have a phone conversation.
  3. Grunt.
  4. Talk to yourself or others.
  5. Sing and/or rap to yourself.
  6. Tap your foot (we’ve all seen where that can get you).
  7. Catch up on work (no one wants to be handed a document you were holding while making wee-wee).
  8. Play games on your cell phone, muttering expletives when you lose points. Or drop your phone in the toilet.
  9. Do anything except go to the bathroom or change your clothes. With your shoes on.

This has been a public service announcement, courtesy of the person in the next stall over.

Thanks ever so.

September 15, 2010

The Reveal (and Some Revelations)

So, before you scroll down (or just look down, depending on how big your monitor/phone screen is) to see the glorious new 'do, please allow me to share a few revelations with you:
  1. I don't know how it happens, but every time I get a haircut and I think this is going to be THE greatest haircut ever because the stylist did something completely different this time, and wow, is my life going to be different... Yeah. It somehow ends up looking like the same hair I had before, only shorter. So the impact is kind of...wanting.
  2. It's apparently really hard for me to take a picture of myself that A) isn't from a weird angle, B) shows the actual thing I'm trying to show (in this case, the hair), and C) doesn't make me look like an absolute weirdo. The faces below would seem to range from "bewildered surprise/bemusement" to "mugshot." And these were the GOOD ones.
  3. I...like my haircut. :) Even though the stylist was an absolute lunatic with only a tenuous grasp on reality, miracle of miracles, she did a good job. I think the straight (which I did for the wedding) looks better than the curly (which I do for the everyday, since I don't like spending 45 minutes with a flatiron), but overall, I'm pleased.
So now that I've placed way more importance on this than could ever be warranted, I give you:

"Yes, I will give you my kidney, kind sir!
As soon as I remember how to blink."



"I'm ready to serve my time, warden.
With strength, and quiet dignity. And frizz.
Amen."

(A side shot of the curls.)

September 14, 2010

On the road (again)

"Are we there yet?"

"Funny, Grandpa."

We're five minutes into the trip, and we're just settling in. Mom's at the wheel, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa are sitting semi-comfortably in the back. I'm riding shotgun. From the mirror in my visor, I can see the back-seat occupants shifting to find a comfy butt-groove.

Since we're stopping for breakfast in 15 minutes, it hardly seems worth the effort at this point.

Gone are the days of my youth, when a family road trip meant logging as many miles as possible at a clip, and stopping to go to the bathroom was considered a sign of weakness (something I'm still trying to train out of my husband). Now? We're relaxed! There's time to spare if we need. Because the wedding we're traveling to is three hours away, and it starts at 4:00...

...and it is now 9:30 a.m. There's no sense rushing, after all.

After a leisurely breakfast at Cracker Barrel with enough sodium to kill an ox (say what you will, though -- there's something about a table piled high with biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, eggs and grits; it just feels homey), we...don't hit the road. I emerge from the bathroom to find the other four members of my party in different corners of the gift shop, browsing for cheesy merchandise.

But once everyone's satisfied with their purchases (and I've misread a label and therefore purchased Garlic Dill-flavored pretzels), we're off! Same seats as before, five happy bandits (now with full bellies and an armload of over-priced crap) hitting the open road!

If you're confused, it's OK. I did tell you on Friday that we were driving two cars on this trip. Friday evening, my mom called and said, "Grandma said she's sad that we're taking two cars. She thinks we won't get to talk if we do that. So we're all driving in their Lincoln Town Car. I told her you get carsick, so she and Grandpa and Dad volunteered to sit in the back so you could ride up front."

Now, hopefully in the time we've spent getting to know one another, one thing has become clear: I am sarcastic and, at times, mean. And the idea of being sandwiched in a car with four other people does NOT sound like my idea of a great weekend.

But I'm not a robot, people! I'll be damned if I'm complicit in making my tiny, adorable grandmother SAD, of all things! And the fact that she volunteered to ride in the back -- because I do get extremely carsick -- well... I'm powerless against that, OK?

As we jump on I-71, though, one thing becomes apparent: Grandma is not only generous and adorable, she's now also extremely hard of hearing. "Conversation" involves repeating things multiple times and/or turning around in my seat and shouting in her direction.

"WHAT? Shark bites?"

"No, no -- they put up new lights."

"Mark Price?"

"NEW LIGHTS!!"

Bless her heart, she eventually gets tired of the whole thing, and the back seat occupants turn to their newspapers while Mom and I chat.

When we near the hotel, though, she perks back up -- and all of a sudden I remember why this trip may make me insane.

DAD: (talking to my mom, who's driving) G, you have to watch for 275.

GRANDMA: (yelling) 75? Doesn't that go to Florida?

DAD: No, TWO-seventy-five, Mom. It goes around Cincinnati.

GRANDMA: (now appointing herself junior navigator, since apparently one isn't enough) OK, G, you're going to be looking for 275. North.

DAD: No, South!

GRANDMA: What? Pouch? What?

EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CAR: SOUTH!!!

GRANDMA: OK, G, what you're looking for is 75 South.

I realize I may not make it to the wedding, because I may have to throw myself out the window before we even get to the hotel.

On the way to the wedding, it's even worse. The map provided by the couple isn't proportional, and we're WAY out in rural Indiana, and we quickly have no idea where we are. I try to take advantage of the GPS in my phone and punch in the address of the family farm where the wedding is taking place; GPS's official position is "Huh?"

We stop in front of a one-room house with an open door that has a sign reading "Mike's Palace. Back Off!" Miraculously, Mike of said palace knows the farm we're heading toward and gets us on the right road...which leads us through a town called Friendship, which sounds lovely but which today is hosting the most bizarre flea market/festival/campsite I've ever seen. We pass by a giant banner that says "Body Piercing: Half Off!" next to the largest display of cow skulls in the history of time, and I hysterically think we may have passed into another dimension from which we can never return.

All four members of my party are alternately reading signs from Bizarro Flea Market out loud, yelling at people in the road, shouting directions at one another or trying to call someone from the wedding party. I consider making a break for it, but I'm too scared to get out of the car.

But then: We've made it. We're there. And the farm is nothing short of amazing: Acres and acres of land several miles from any other home, with a breathtaking view of rolling, plush, wooded hills. The house was built in 1848 and is simply exquisite. The driveway is lined with lights and tulle and flowers and greenery. Our family is there to greet us, and are simply thrilled to pieces that we've made it, and hug us extra tight to prove it. My dad checks out my mom's wedding duds and tells her she looks cute.

It's a wedding!




And my cousin S faces the love of her life under a beautiful trellis, and they take their vows:



Her son and daughter are junior attendants, and the newlyweds' three-month-old son serves as "Little Groomsman":



And S is more radiant than I've ever seen her:





And as we're listening to a reading from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift from the Sea," I can't even remember feeling irritated before. The couple is standing before us, so in love, and every member of my family is crying with happiness, including yours truly.

And then, of course, it's time to party -- in the decked-out, AMAZING-looking barn the groom's father constructed just for the occasion:

When it's time to go, I offer to drive. I hear my grandma whisper to my dad, "Is Shannon a good driver?" Sigh.

The next day, after another long family breakfast, we hit the open road once more. This time, all of us are exhausted, but we can't stop talking: about the wedding, how beautiful S looked, how much fun breakfast was, how happy we are that we came.

And we sing: You Are My Sunshine, Amazing Grace, K-k-k-katy, I've Been Working on the Railroad, hymns we remember from church, songs we made up.

And my heart just overflows.

(Here's where I was planning to post the video I have of us singing, which my phone just steadfastly REFUSES to give up. You'll just have to take my word for it -- we're a family of pretty good singers.)

I can't believe I ever balked at taking this road trip, smooshed into a car with these people I adore. It's something I'll always remember.

Then, around the midway point in our journey home, my 64-year-old father gets antsy in the backseat and turns into a four-year-old:


When they drop me off at home, my grandma hugs me tight, grabs my face with both hands and says, "I like you. You know that?" Then she hugs me again and says, "Oh, I'm just so glad you came!"

Oh, me too.

September 13, 2010

While we're waiting...

I'm having some trouble getting the video/photos of my weekend -- which was awesome -- and the hair -- which was...hair-like -- off my phone. The issues will be resolved, for better or for worse, tomorrow, and I'll deliver the goods.

In the meantime, I thought I'd show you this:


No, it isn't poo in a bowl with a raspberry garnish. (Ew.)

It's dark chocolate sorbet that I made with my ice cream maker!! With a raspberry garnish!

My best friend B and I rocked this out on Friday night, and let me tell you friends: If tastebuds have their own heaven, it could easily be within this bowl.

It's essentially just frozen sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder and water, but somehow it came out...creamy. And smooth. And dark chocolatey. And absolutely, ridiculously delicious. Like angels dancing. In my mouth.

After taking the first bite, I'm fairly certain I sang an aria.

See you tomorrow!

September 10, 2010

A request and a promise


First, the request:

Tomorrow, my cousin S is getting married. Yay, S! I couldn't be more thrilled for her, so of course I will be there with bells on! However, it's in Indiana, so T will be on Bubba duty while I attend stag. (Zero problem with this, as the T is not so much a wedding person, anyway; I barely managed to get him to agree to attend a non-Elvis-officiated wedding for US.)

Plus my parents and grandparents are going, so it'll be some good, quality family time.

The wedding's being held at the groom's family farm somewhere smack-dab in the middle of rural Indiana. Since it's a bit of a haul, the wedding isn't until 4:00 and it's literally in the middle of nowhere, the plan is to drive out tomorrow, attend said festivities, stay the night and return Sunday.

See where this is going?

ROAD TRIP! With my parents. And grandparents. And NOT with my husband or my brother or his wife.

In other words: I'm 10 years old again.

The original plan, God help us all, was for all five of us to drive in one car. I had visions of myself on the dreaded b-tch seat in the back, sandwiched between my (perfectly lovely) grandparents, singing 500 choruses of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "You Are My Sunshine" like the family road trips of my youth, only this time peppered with long stretches of conversations that begin with, "So, why haven't you had any babies yet?"

I started panicking.

So I casually suggested to my mother that PERHAPS we could caravan -- I'll drive my nice, roomy car, she can drive her equally roomy car, and we can swap passengers. You know, to maximize the family fun.

Is it the greenest solution? Perhaps not. But is it the sanest? Hoo-yes.

(Incidentally, when my mom pitched the idea to Grandma, here was her response: "Oh. Hm. Um...is Shannon a good driver?" My mother's response, God love her: "No, she's awful. We're all going to crash in a ditch and go up in a ball of flames." Clearly I've taught her well.)

So the request? Say a prayer for us and/or me. For as much as I love and adore my family (and I do, I really REALLY do), I fear this may be a true test of my sanity. When you're a kid, a road trip is A) kind of an adventure and B) not exactly something you can opt of out because, well, you're 10 and your parents kind of rule your life. At 33, I can barely tolerate a road trip with MYSELF. To KROGER.

And now, the promise:

I realize it was WHOLLY unfair of me to post the reenactment of my bizarre salon encounter without saying how I felt about the actual haircut or ponying up some pics. Please accept my apology.
So let me tell you:
  1. Against all odds and the laws of nature and/or reason, Little Miss Cuckoopants somehow managed to turn out a decent haircut. I KNOW! I was as surprised as you are. As baffled as she appeared to be throughout the entirety of the process, somehow my instructions soaked in amid the lack of understanding of what holiday it actually was, and she did a good job. (And I tipped her accordingly, even after she implied I might be old enough to receive Social Security benefits. I'm not made of stone, people.)
  2. As with any new cut I get, I've spent the better part of this week trying to figure out how best to style it, which is my excuse for not showing you any pictures up to this point. This weekend, however, I'm snap some glamour shots and on Monday, I'll give you the goods. I may even try a few different styles just for funsies.
But you have to hold up your end of the bargain. And if you aren't the praying or meditating type, just hum a few choruses of "The Wheels on the Bus" in your head and have a little chuckle at my expense. Either/or.

Best. Fortune. Ever.


Heehee.

September 9, 2010

"No Appointment (or Personality) Necessary": A Play in One Act

SCENE 1

T's car, en route to the nearest largish town. It's the Sunday before Labor Day. My objective is singular in nature. It's been a long time coming, and, with an afternoon free, at long last I'm out of excuses.

And it's not as though I had to make an appointment or anything.



ME: (inner monologue whilst driving) I'm just going to pull up to the first one I see and go in. Enough already.

In less than five seconds, I spot one surrounded by familiar neighbors: Game Stop, Starbucks, a Verizon store. I park in front of the plate glass windows.

ME: (still with the inner monologue; I know it seems weird, but just go with it) It's going to be fine. Just because you ended up with a head that looked like one of those orange traffic cones last time, it doesn't mean something bad will happen THIS time. I'm sure the people here are extremely talented.

And anyway, you aren't asking for much. A quick cut. No frills. No 30-minute blow-dry. No overpriced products. Easy peasy. (Exits car, walks hesitantly across the sidewalk and grips the door handle, steels self, then goes inside.)

~*~*~

SCENE 2

Best Cuts. With the exception of its name, it's virtually interchangeable with all the other walk-in hair salons: Great Clips, Fiesta Hair, Fantastic Sam's -- who is in charge of choosing the horrible names for these establishments?
Then again, no one's going here for the name.


In fact, I'm here for one reason and one reason only: I'm cheap. I'm buying what they're selling: No frills and no perks. Unfortunately, in my experience, that tends to extend to the stylists themselves, at least in terms of personality. Well, you know. Generally. Today I'm greeted by...we'll call her Confused-Looking Spiky Bob. Much like her predecessors, she does not disappoint.



CONFUSED-LOOKING SPIKY BOB: (Seating me in the washing-hair station chair, for which there's probably a technical name but which I'm too lazy to look up, and beginning to wash my hair) Is that too hot?

ME: (Unable to hear as scalding water is thundering around my ear holes) I'm sorry?

CLSB: WA-TER. TOO. HOT?

ME: (Slightly taken aback at being spoken to like a two-year-old) Uh...no. No, it's fine.

Silence.

Washing.

Washing, washing, washing.

More silence.

Odd hair flicking for undetermined reason.


CLSB: (Abruptly) Got kids?

ME: (Tearing focus away from odd hair flicking) Um...no. Not yet. We have dogs. You know, for now. They're like our practice babies. And we think of them as our kids, so...

CLSB: Oh.

Silence.

Conditioning.


ME: So...do you? Uh, have kids?

CLSB launches into a long explanation of each of her three children, their ages, the origins of their names, what they are best at in school and what their hair looks like, during which my responses of "Oh?" and "Uh-huh" are completely ignored.

As my eyes are hitting full-glaze mode, she leads me to her styling chair, capes me and gets down to business.

CLSB: So, what are we looking to do here today?

ME: Well, I want to get rid of some of this length--

CLSB: So you want to chop it all off, huh?

ME: ...n...no. I'd like to cut it shorter, but I still want to be able to pull it back. And still have some layers--

CLSB: So shorter layers all around the crown of your head, yeah?

ME: (Breathing deeply and trying to avoid rolling eyes) ...uh...no. Long layers. And some pieces around my face that are sort of bang-like, but not really bangs--

CLSB: So short with layers and bangs. Got it.

ME: Wait. Not bangs. just a few shorter pieces around my face. LONG layers. Still long enough to pull back. And I'd like it to be sort of choppy. Not all one length and flat or blunt or whatever.

Silence.

More silence during which CLSB looks even more confused than ever.

CLSB: ...what?

After repeating my description of my desired haircut, this time with fewer interruptions, she appears to understand. A few snipperoos later, the floor is littered with dark brown hair, my head feels about three pounds lighter and I'm politely refusing her offer to style my hair before I leave.

"No, thank you," I only think and don't say out loud, "I've seen your colleagues' attempts at 'styling' before, and while you may be the exception, I'd prefer to go through the rest of the day NOT coaxing a big brown, hairy football helmet through every doorway I encounter."


~*~*~

On the way to settle my bill, the subject of Labor Day weekend plans is broached. After listening to her perfectly lovely plans of pizza and the Wii with the kids, I mention that we'd just attended a party the day before and were still recovering.


ME: Yeah, we just need some rest. I retired early, but my husband stayed out pretty late, and we're both exhausted--

CLSB: Wow, you're retired? You don't look THAT old.

Silence.

ME: ...right. No. I'm not retired. I just went to bed early.

Silence, during which CLSB appears to be thinking really, really hard.

CLSB: ...right. OK. I'm, like, not good with ages. But you look really young and stuff. And, well, anyway, thanks for coming! And have a happy Memorial Day!


Exactly.

FIN

September 8, 2010

Happily not a pro. Or an amateur. Or...whatever's even less skilled than an amateur.

It starts the day before, when I get this text from my neighbor: "Could we store 100 Jell-O shots in your fridge?"

After I hesitantly reply that, yes, I can probably make room, her return text offers even less comfort: "Oh, good. We have the other 200 over here, and we're out of space."

And thus, the dread begins. Why? Four words:

The 2010 Beer Olympics.

Full disclosure right up front: I'm not much of a drinker. Scratch that: I just don't drink. I don't have a problem with drinking or with being around people who do; I just...never do. It just isn't my thing. Water and Diet Coke taste better, alcohol makes me sleepy and gives me a headache -- the reasons are many and varied.

Plus, the rest of the attendees? Well, let's put it this way: They don't call these the Beer Olympics for nothing. These people have been in hardcore training since high school and are ready to compete on a moment's notice. To carry the analogy a little further, I'm the delegate from Luxembourg who was chosen by default because everyone else in my country was on vacation the week of the qualifiers, and I'm going up against China, the U.S. and Russia. I'm picturing a combination of a male rugby team, an MMA fighter and a frat party at OSU.

(Oh, and did I mention most of them will be in their 20s, making me the grandmother of the competition at 33? Am I too old for this stuff? OMG, I'm way too old for this stuff.)

Also: I don't drink beer, which seems like it could be an issue since, you know, it factors heavily in the title of the event.

But this hallowed event is hosted annually by our next-door neighbors (and good friends), and since we literally live within shouting distance, it seems poor form to pretend to be out of town. (Not least because our garage is a disaster, and hiding our cars would require a tarp-and-foliage feat of engineering that I just don't have time to construct.) It becomes clear that my only option is to suck it up and put on mah drankin' shoes.

On the day of the event, speaking of drinking duds, a surprising amount of thought goes into wardrobe. This year there are team colors, and therefore I need to find a shirt that's red and nice enough to wear in public but not so nice that I also don't mind potentially ruining it with copious amounts of spilled alcohol. Also, it's freezing outside, so my standard summer uniform of comfy shorts and sandals just isn't going to work.

At 2:00, it's time to stop dreading and just dive headlong into the wild. We fuel up first with a potluck-style lunch that, apparently, is governed by the rule of "Snoozers are Losers": We almost immediately run out of potatoes, baked beans, macaroni salad and nearly everything else except for meat, buns and Doritos. I'm also tricked into eating some kind of homemade chocolate bark that turns out to be chocolate, almonds and...BACON. (I'm distressed to report that it is both chewy and...kind of good.)

I'm not even done eating yet when the team "captains" start debating about how today's festivities are going to work. Apparently, we're eschewing the running of the torch and the opening ceremonies and getting right down to brass tacks. I immediately know I'm out of my league when I see one of the other teams doing calisthenics and creating a team handshake in a corner of the yard. Our team is warming up by...eating more Doritos.

This seems like the best time to level with my team captain: Anything that involves hand-eye coordination is NOT going to be my strong suit and oh, by the way, I'll be drinking my own girly drinks tonight instead of beer. He eyes me suspiciously, probably wondering both why I'm here and what he did to get stuck with me, but then shrugs and leads the way to our first effort: Flip Cup.

Some games are individual or two-person events, but since Flip Cup is a team effort, I have no choice but to participate. I put in an OK showing, although I instantly spill my drink all over my carefully-selected red shirt. And then I'm promptly eliminated. By my own teammates. Please keep in mind this is approximately five and a half minutes into the Olympics at large.

But, to my surprise, the rest of the afternoon is both fairly benign and kind of fun. I wisely steer clear of Beer Pong and Hillbilly (aka Ladder) Golf. I play a few games of cornhole and DU Ball (a game invented by the host that involves throwing a ping-pong ball at your opponent's can/bottle/glass, then chugging your own drink while he or she scrambles to grab the ball). There are more girls than anticipated, and everyone is nicer and more supportive toward this uncoordinated novice drinker than I expected. No one seems to care that A) I really, really suck at these games, and B) I'm not really drinking all that much. And/or at all.

(However, this lack of caring is partially due to the fact that most of the 12 or so couples who arrived together are now in different pockets of the yard in varying stages of fighting, and are therefore too distracted to care what anyone else is doing. At one point, we have yelling, crying, pointed-cold-shouldering and "I'm sorry" making-out-ing happening simultaneously. Entertainment, thy name is Other People Who Are Not Me Getting Into Stupid Fights.)

In the end, it's a pretty fun day, despite my total lack of skill and the fact that I choose to beg off at 11 p.m. rather than party 'til dawn with the rest of them. I have ZERO idea who "won" or how my team fared, and I'm choosing to think that's a good thing.

A few other highlights:
  • While no one seemed to be taking things too seriously, one good-natured trash-talking episode somehow escalated into our host's brother jumping the host and hogtying him with duct tape. In his front yard. At 5:00 in the afternoon. Rather than help, we all stood around laughing and took pictures with our phones.* As you do.
  • After a certain point, it got dark. Silly me, I thought this was my cue to go sit by the enormous (awesome) bonfire in the backyard and relax after a hard day of drinking and sport. Then they brought out the 5,000-watt utility light and parked it in the front yard so the festivities could continue unabated. I had a brief fantasy involving our other neighbors calling the police, thinking we were landing planes across the street. You know, if the earlier hogtying episode didn't have them worried enough.
  • All night, we'd heard at least 15 of the 35 people boasting that they planned to pitch tents and sleep outside. The next morning, after a frosty night in the vicinity of 40 degrees, I got a text from my neighbor: "30 people sleeping in our house. Couldn't get to the bathroom even if I wanted to." I've never been so happy to live next door.
  • Remember those 300 Jell-O shots? Gone. All of 'em. I had two. SO out of my league.
  • If nothing else, I will take this away from the experience: Testosterone is predictable. Get a bunch of men out in a yard, give them alcohol, and eventually you WILL have wrestling. Conducted, monitored and refereed by other drunk men. Armed only with the vaguest understanding of MMA terminology, and a complete lack of reserve about throwing it around. Loudly.
But my favorite highlight of the night? My husband (who knew I was nervous about the whole thing) shouting, "That's my baby!" across the yard when I (finally) scored a point in cornhole. Embarrassing, yes, but also...kind of cute.

In the end? Yes, I'm too old for this. But I don't think I'll ever be too old to laugh at others doing this. :)

*Apologies for the lack of photographic evidence of...any of this stuff. None of my pictures turned out, and, after awhile, I just gave up trying to find anything usable. So you'll just have to take my word for it. :)

September 3, 2010

Protected

Every morning when I step out of the shower...




It's entirely possible he just likes the warmth of the steam. Or the sound of the water running. Or the fresh, clean smell of my shampoo. Or the caress of the fuzzy green bathmat.

But I choose to think he's guarding his mama.

And yes, I have to step over him, precariously, every time I exit said shower. Which would be awkward even if I weren't wearing a towel, balancing on wet toes and squinting to try to see without my glasses.

And yes, it's entirely possible that I have, more than once, slipped and nearly fallen headfirst into the linen closet. And/or out the window.

Do I mind?



Nope.

Have a wonderful long weekend, y'all. And please say a prayer for me, as I'm attending an event that has the word "beer" in the TITLE, and I am not much of a drinker. Also I'm 33 now, and thus a little old for all drinking games that don't involve how many times someone says "Woohoo! Big balls!" on Wipeout. In other news: ...help?
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