Top Ten Thursday – Things to be thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving

So yesterday was the first Thanksgiving that the Mister and I have ever spent away from family, and it was definitely atypical, but a wonderful sort of atypical. I spent the morning and early afternoon babysitting Thing 1 and Thing 2, cradling Thing 2’s warm baby softness on my hip more than usual because he wasn’t feeling well. Then I came home and cooked my corn bread casserole in a frenzy, hopping up and down to make the oven cook faster (because that totally works) and sending the Mister on a classic whirlwind dash to the grocery store after the first cornbread mix I opened was, umm… shall we say, not alone?

Anyway. OISK.

It turned out wonderfully, coming out of the oven piping hot just in time to wrap it in blankets and carry it across the island (funny how, here, going literally across the country on a daily basis is normal) for our potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner with our island family. I also made spiced holiday cider, which was well-received despite the group’s initial disappointment about its lack of alcohol.

We are always thankful for each other, for friends and family back home and for the blessings that allow us to be independent. However, since this list is a day late, I’m going to assume you know about all those obvious things and instead focus on the things we are thankful for on this day AFTER Thanksgiving.

1. Meera has not thrown up in the house, even though her belly is full of the rubber duckies she sent to their dooms while we were gone yesterday.
2. Our roommates made more food for their island dinner than we did and have graciously offered to share their leftovers.
3. We have a wonderful island family to be able to share important moments with. We are forever thankful for having such a solid foundation here, even when we’re all so far from home.
4. We get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow afternoon!
5. We head back to the United States two weeks from tomorrow!
6. I don’t have to worry about the temptation to venture out on Black Friday and spend a ridiculous amount of money because stores here have never heard of such a thing.
7. The Mister fulfilled his agreement to do well on at least three of his last four exams, so we are celebrating tonight by having dinner at the Marriott and hopefully seeing Catching Fire in theaters for the second time.
8. A beautiful sunshiney day with a good amount of breeze, and the hope that I won’t be covered in a sheen of sweat by the time I’m done packing without air conditioning.
9. The fact that a half-dozen people told me my corn pudding and cider were wonderful last night and asked for my recipe. One of the highest compliments a southern woman can get, and it rarely happens, so I’m reveling in it. 🙂
10. The fact that this blog has spread wider and become more popular than I ever thought it would, thanks to referrals by viewers like you (cue PBS sponsor music). But seriously, thank you for all your support over the last two years, and I look forward to entertaining you long into the future.

[Oh, and in case you want those recipes, here they are below. :)]
Corn bread casserole : I’ve found that cooking on 350 for 45 minutes leaves the inside too gooey, so I would say either leave it in a little longer or cook on 375 instead. Just make sure you can scoop a little out and it’s fairly solid in the middle.

Spiced holiday cider : For those who were at the dinner last night, I used only about a cup of pineapple juice because I ran out, so it’ll probably be a bit more punch-y if you want to use the full amount.

And now, for the Christmas music! Happy holiday season everybody.

Hop on the Magic School Bus!

So it’s obviously true that if you miss one day in a set routine then  you’re likely to miss more days. I didn’t get a post up last Thursday because of all the excitement surrounding opening night of the new Hunger Games movie (which was awesome, by the way. Highly recommended). And then I don’t know what happened on Monday but I obviously had some sort of brain malfunction because here we are, on Wednesday, just getting the week’s long post.

[And I’m having a lot of trouble with my D key this morning, so if a word doesn’t seem right, add a D and that will probably fix the problem.]

The Mister, our roommates and I had a conversation over dinner Monday night that got me to thinking. We were talking about all the cartoons and kids’ shows we used to watch – The Magic School Bus (MSB), Arthur, School House Rock, Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons – and comparing them to kids’ cartoons today. What happened, America? Kids shows today seem to feature giggling stupid girls, boys who destroy things, animals that speak garbaldygook and dance around like they’re on LSD… the list goes on. I think I learned more from watching MSB than I did in all three years of middle school science class. In fact, I distinctly remember sitting in a science test – 7th grade, I think – and reviewing a MSB episode in my head to figure out a question about space.

The Mister and I have already decided that, when we have children, instead of buying them the entire Sesame Street collection or the Baby Einstein DVDs, we’re just going to buy them all the MSB episodes. They will also know all the words to the School House Rock videos. The only way I understand how proposed bills (are supposed to) become laws in Congress is from those movies. “Oh I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, so I’m sittin’ here on Capitol Hill. Maybe some day I’ll be a law, yes I hope and pray that I will, but today I am still just a bill.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then watch this video.) I also learned about grammar and history from those movies. I think my parents have the whole set lying around somewhere, and you’d better believe that our kids are gonna have the whole series memorized. (And they’re also going to play outside. I did, and I’m fine.)

Our kids, however, are not going to ride the actual school bus, as long as I can help it. That trip was a nightmare two times a day, and I am forever thankful that the bus stop was finally too far from our house in Murfreesboro that my wonderful mother drove my brother and me every day until I could drive us myself. My freshman year of high school I had to share my assigned bus seat with two enormous girls from down the street who really each needed a seat to themselves, and I (being rather small) was squished into a four-inch space between the bus window and my seatmate every morning. Then every afternoon I sat on my backpack in the aisle on the way home. I was always the last one on the bus in the afternoons because I had to get from my last class to my locker on the other side of the high school, make sure I had everything I needed for homework, and then run to catch the bus outside in the five minutes they gave us before they all pulled away. (More than once I missed it. Good thing I had a stay-at-home Mom or I would have spent a lot more time on that bench out by the front flagpole.) Somehow the physics would work out that the two big girls could fit if I was there first, but if they were there first there was no room left for me, and you weren’t allowed to sit anywhere but in your assigned seat. The American school bus system today is terrible. Just because you can theoretically fit three kids to a seat does not mean it’s actually physically possible. Have you looked at the size of some school-aged children today? Seriously.

Anyway, that was way off topic. Kids’ cartoons. Yes. That’s what I was talking about.

Summary: buy your kids School House Rock and The Magic School Bus (just making sure they know that Pluto is no longer a planet, even though Mrs. Frizzell says it is), and they’ll be alright in this world.

What cartoons did you watch growing up? Do you still remember something you learned from one of them?

The Making of Heirlooms

Today I started teaching my roommate, B, how to crochet. (Crochet is a yarn craft that resembles knitting except you use one hook instead of two needles.)

She’s been asking for a while and I’ve been meaning to sit down and show her, but neither of us has ever gotten around to it until today. So now there is a little line of loosely-woven single crochet stitches draped across a table in our living room – the beginnings of B’s very first potholder. I’m so proud. 🙂

I learned to crochet from my mother, who said “yarn over from back to front, back to front” I have no idea how many times when I was younger. I had a hard time understanding why the direction of the yarn made any difference when the product would turn out the same anyway. I remember making endless granny-square circles in ambitious baby-blanket projects that turned out big enough to cover entire beds. (Which reminds me, I made my aunt a blanket when my cousin was born that I don’t think I’ve seen since… I should ask her about that.) My mother learned from her grandmother who, I assume, learned from someone else, and one day I’m sure I will (attempt to) teach my daughter. So B is good practice.

I haven’t crocheted much in past years, but I’ve picked the hobby back up since moving to the island and having very little else to do with my time. I’ve made two baby blankets for my mother-in-law to give as gifts, several potholders and trivet pads, and a rabbit. (Actually two rabbits, but the smaller one somehow looks more like a lopsided gorilla and is therefore not pictured.)

Mr. Flopsy - my first ever crochet animal

Mr. Flopsy – my first ever crochet animal

I normally stick to blankets and other flat items, so Mr. Flopsy is my first foray into the world of three-dimensional objects. (He looks strange because he’s stuffed with balls of notebook paper, since I didn’t have enough cotton pads to fill him.) Mr. Flopsy has his flaws, but the goal is to get really good at it and then sell the animals here as children’s toys (but with cotton stuffing, this time).

All of this got me to thinking – I know how to crochet, but how many family talents have I taken for granted and never learned to do myself? One of my great-grandmothers quilts, and while I think this is an interesting hobby, I never took the time to ask her to teach me. Who will make quilts when her generation is gone? My other great-grandmother and a grandmother can sew and embroider things, and while I have reaped the benefits of their skill my entire life, I’ve never taken enough time to learn well. (I can sew in a straight line and whip-stitch simple holes in socks, but that’s about it.) Who’s going to take in my children’s pants and make my granddaughters creative Halloween costumes when they are no longer able?

I suppose my excuse is that life is busy, things come up and other things get forgotten in the rush, but we really shouldn’t take talents like that for granted. Very few people today have family heirlooms that are more than 4-5 generations old. New heirlooms have to be made and passed down at some point, but if none of us young people learn to do things like sew and knit and carve, who’s going to make those heirlooms? Do we really want to be a society of people whose most precious family possessions have the words “Made in China” stamped somewhere on them?

I think not.

So Google “how to crochet for beginners.” Ask your grandfather how he carved that wooden horse on the mantle. Learn something worth passing down, because that’s how you’ll leave your mark on the world when you go.

What crafty skills do you have? Where did you learn them? Have you created anything you think might withstand the test of time?

Top Ten Thursday – The Brighter Side

Well since my earlier post this week was on such a negative slant, I figured I should probably do something more positive for this week’s Top Ten list. So here is a list of my top ten favorite Caribbean sensations.

1. The rush of cool air as you stand outside and watch a storm blow in from the sea, slowly advancing toward the yard, gradually hiding the pastel-painted houses and tossing palm trees behind a curtain of solid white water.

2. The moment when the sun first dips behind the peak of the mountain behind the house at about 3:30ish every afternoon, when the shadows finally rest in the corners of the yard and everything breathes a sigh of relief that the temperature just dropped ten degrees.

3. The out-of-body feeling of standing on the front stairs watching monkeys run along the fence line and pick seed pods from the trees hanging over the yard. Even better when a few baby monkey screeches become a normal part of your morning.

4. That first shiver when you stick your feet into a cold swimming pool (or step into a cold shower) on a scorching day and wonder if you really want to get in, and then you just do it anyway before you melt.

5. The surprise of climbing down a hillside to a beach that disappointingly looks like it’s covered in trash, and then looking down to realize you’re surrounded by sparkling sea glass.

6. The feeling of isolation when you find a secluded or forgotten beach, leaving you alone with the crashing of the ocean and whatever treasures have made their home along the shoreline.

7. The cool of the night air in the wee hours of the morning when the puppy sometimes has to pee too early, when I’m the only one around to watch the palm trees sway in the breeze and the moonlight bounce off the Atlantic and dance across the candy-colored roofs of a dozen Caribbean houses.

8. The feeling of standing alone at sunrise, in a living room that hasn’t yet become hot, watching the puppy explore the yard in the first light of morning as the clouds over the ocean start to turn pink.

9. The shock of driving along the highway at night and glancing out the window to see a giant, sparkling birthday cake illuminating half the island as a colossal cruise ship pulls slowly away from the dock and takes its passengers to other places unknown.

10. The creak of the gate in the evening when the boys get home from school, and the swish of the puppy’s tail as she runs to the railing to make sure it’s daddy before dashing down the stairs to greet him and get a belly rub on the sidewalk.

The bar can’t get any lower.

If I ever go to prison, it will be for disturbing the peace (or for inciting a riot, depending on how many people agree with me at the time).

Most anyone who’s ever met me already knows that I have a very low tolerance for stupidity. This is not because I consider myself intellectually above those around me, because I don’t, but I do think that common sense and good judgment are becoming increasingly less-standard in the new-model humans we’re churning out these days.

Most of my pet peeves revolve around the concept that people either don’t listen to the whole thing, don’t read the whole thing, or just don’t think about what they’re saying/doing before they do it. This is especially true when the speaker/writer obviously believes him- or herself to be smarter or more clever than the others involved, which in turn only proves them to be farther down the intellectual totem pole.

For example, people who WaNt To WrItE lIkE tHiS should be drawn and quartered. As should people who type lik dis becuz dey think it luks cool or sumpin. That has never been cool. Or intelligent. And while my parents’ generation seems to think that my generation did this (think advertisements where teenagers send what an adult thinks a teenage text message looks like), I’ve never had any friends send me a text like that. Ever. But I see it all the time in kids the next several years after me, especially in foreign students who type on Facebook – which is disturbing because that’s obviously where they’re learning to speak and write English. Heaven help us all.

Also, it drives me NUTS when people (again, this tends to be an older generation that only uses Facebook because their grandchildren set up their accounts for them [and then later regretted it]) click the Facebook “like” button on questions. Typically, I ask a question because I’m looking for an answer. You’re not required to respond in some way to everything, so if you don’t have an answer (that is useful and relevant), leave it alone! You only make yourself look dumb when you “like” a question and then just leave it hanging like that. The exception to this is if it’s a humorous rhetorical question, in which case “liking” the question shows appreciation for the joke and actually trying to answer it makes you look dumb.

Goodness there are so many other things. Like crowds of gossipy women who hang out in the aisles of grocery stores and tell each other the latest versions of their life stories because they have nothing better to do with their lives. Or independently wealthy students with no relevant animal experience who spontaneously decide to move to a Caribbean island and become a veterinarian, even though they don’t go to class or lab and refuse to have anything to do with poop, blood or cadavers because “I’ll never have to do that; that’s what techs are for,” and then think they’re just going to “tell the professors that lab isn’t useful to me and they’ll understand and i’ll still pass” because that’s how self-entitled they think they are. Or when people post a picture of something for sale and include the price right there with the picture, and then someone invariably asks, “How much is this?” anyway.

I could go on and on and on, but I’ll pass the ball to you instead. What are some of your pet peeves? What are some things that make you just want to stand in a public place and scream at the world for its rampant idiocy?

Throwback Thursday – Would the Real Cows Please Stand Up?

So I knew when I started dating the Mister that he was interested in livestock animals – particularly cattle – and that he wanted to be a veterinarian. What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that this interest would lead to a life-long repeating conversation about the legitimacy of various types of cattle and how well they fit the definition of a “cow.” We’ve had this discussion countless times, and now several of his vet school friends have gotten in on it as well. I once published a blog article detailing my feelings on the topic (which, oddly enough, has been the most Google-searched and most popular article ever published on this blog), and for the benefit of certain vet school friends, I will resurrect it now.

(NOTE: I do, in fact, understand the difference between male and female cattle and between different types of breeds; I just continue the discussion to purposefully annoy my husband, because that’s what loving wives do. So for those vet students who tend to act like I couldn’t possibly understand anything about animals because I’m not taking your classes, I’m not stupid, I’m just a humor writer.)

Would the REAL Cows Please Stand Up? – originally published March 11, 2013

As a young child, I, like most other kindergarten-aged children, learned about farm animals. I learned that cows are white and black spotted. I learned that boy cows have horns and girl cows do not. I learned that boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have baby cows. I also learned, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cows say, “moo!”

These are cows.

What we've learned as "real cows" are actually Holstein cows.

See? Cows.

But one shocking thing I have learned as part of my marriage is that everything I learned about cows is WRONG!

IT’S ALL LIES I TELL YOU! LIES!!

First of all, according to the Mister, I’m not supposed to call them “boy cows” and “girl cows.” I’m supposed to call them bulls (males who can make babies), steers (males who cannot make babies), heifers (females who have never had babies) and cows (females who have had babies). The term “baby cows” still seems to be ok, but I’m going to ignore all that for the time being and just address the more major issues at hand.

 

Falsehood number one: Cows are black and white spotted.

The picture above is not a cow. Or at least, it’s not a “normal,” common cow – in our area at least. That is a picture of a Holstein, a type of dairy cattle that is actually not seen very much anymore. (It’s also the Chick-Fil-A cow, which drives the Mister nuts because they are not meat cattle and therefore shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not people “eat mor chikin.”) What IS a “normal” cow? Stay tuned. I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

Falsehood number two: Boy cows have horns and girl cows do not.

Both male and female cows can have horns. That depends on breed, not gender. Oh, and girl cows don’t always give milk either.

 

Falsehood number three: Boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have more baby cows.

Dairy cattle are dairy cattle (like the Chik-Fil-A cows), regardless of gender. We rarely eat them at all – even the boys. When it comes to meat cattle, we eat everything. No cow is safe. (Except maybe those that throw off enough rodeo riders. But those would be bulls anyway, not cows, so the statement stands.)

 

And, finally and most traumatically,

Falsehood number four: Cows say, “moo!”

Cows, as I am constantly being corrected, do not say, “moo.” The Mister insists that in all his time in the cattle pens at work he has never heard a cow say, “moo.” They in fact say something more along the lines of “blugh.” (Did you ever hear about Old McDonald’s cow that had a “blugh blugh” here and a “blugh blugh” there? No. I didn’t think so.)

 

So what IS a “normal” cow? Well, it turns out there are lots of kinds of cows, and practically none of them look like the “real” cows pictured above. Here are a few I have learned to identify since I got married. (And go argue with the Mister about whether or not these are real cows. I dare you. It doesn’t end well.)

 

Angus cattle

Angus – all black; make good steaks

 

Black baldy cattle

Black Baldies – like angus, but with cute white faces

 

Belted galloway cattle

Belted Galloways – or, as we like to call them here in the Martin area: Oreo Cows

 

Hereford cattle

Herefords – red with white faces; very sweet

 

Brahman cattle

Brahman – cows with camel humps, essentially

 

Long Horn cattle

Long-horns – duh

 

Confused enough yet? Yeah. That makes a lot of us.

However, I, for one, will still teach my young children that cows say “moo;” regardless of how many times the Mister cringes.

The Passage of Time

Individual days often seem to drag on into infinity, and I’ll find myself wondering if it’s dinnertime yet and then realize it’s only 2 p.m. and the Mister won’t be home for another 4-5 hours. I watch a lot of “Bones” (a TV series about forensic science that is not for the faint of stomach), and I spend a lot of time online. A LOT of time. I am always amazed by the number of things that exist on the internet that have absolutely no purpose at all. Free website hosting is not always a positive contribution to society.

However, I’m also always surprised when the Mister gets home from class one day and announces that he’s headed off to his Friday night volleyball game down on the Strip and I realize that it is in fact Friday and another whole week has passed by. We have six weeks, including this one, until the semester ends and we head home for the all-too-short Christmas break. That’s 40 days from this posting and I couldn’t be more excited. I am beyond ready to get back to a land where the seasons change, pickup trucks rumble, country music is on every station and southern courtesy and hospitality is a normal thing.

The weeks have been passing faster recently, though, since I actually have something more productive to do these days. In addition to the social media work I’ve been doing for the LOGOLOPE campaign, I’ve also been working for the Ross Office of External Communications, which is basically the counterpart to UT Martin’s Office of University Relations, where I worked before we moved. I love the work – interviewing professors, attending special lectures and events, writing features and formal press releases – but I’m realizing with each piece that I’m either really out of practice or the expectations here are just very different from what Bud would have loved. Either way, I’m trying to figure out the learning curve as quickly as possible.

I’ve also spent most of this week with my babysitting charges, which has kept me very busy and is probably the cause of what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder. (The kids have developed a new game where they start from a fixed point and take turns running to me so I can swing them in circles. They never seem to get as tired as I do.) I originally interviewed for a position as their nanny, which was going to include light housework and occasional cooking as well as babysitting, but they hired a local cleaning woman to do that part instead. However, I still feel a bit like I’m the nanny anyway, since there are often small chores that I’m asked to do while the kids are napping. It’s not that I mind, necessarily, I just find it odd that they didn’t just make me the nanny in the first place.

The only difficulty I’ve come across in that position is that, this week at least, one or both of the parents have been home while I’m there with the children. This leaves me in a confused state, since I can’t really take authority with the kids while their parents (who obviously have all the authority) are there, but I’m not sure what’s expected of me otherwise. This in turn has led the parents to think that I’m not really confident dealing with their toddlers, but at least they have been nice about “teaching” me. Last night they had me stay to help with bath time after they got home. I’m actually pretty good about bath time, but they weren’t able to see that because I have no weight when Mommy is home and I just flail around trying desperately to get Thing 1 and Thing 2 to listen to me, and then Mommy just thinks I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m also decently good at figuring out how to get children to stop screaming, but I can’t do that either if they’re both running to Mom and Dad instead of letting me console them to sleep. So it’s a bit of a frustrating circle, but hopefully they’ll consider me fully trained soon and stop coming home in the middle of the routine to help me with it. I’m the babysitter; I’m supposed to get the children through the hoops and into bed so the parents can enjoy their evening, so it would help tremendously if they would go away and let me do that.

So I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I’m bringing in a bit of money and it makes me feel more useful to our household, so that in itself is a good thing. 40 days until we get on the plane to go home; 26 days until we hopefully have keys to the new apartment; 14 days until “Catching Fire” comes to theaters (we get to see it here a full 24 hours before you guys in the States); and hopefully 10 days until Meera has her stitches removed and can run and play outside like the big dog she’s getting to be. This last one is actually the most important to me right now, since the poor thing is cooped up and DRIVING ME CRAZY with the insane amount of energy that she still has.

Happy Monday to all! And wow how time flies…