Further Proof I Am Weird

If any is needed.

I love to read.  I’ll read just about anything – books, magazines, blogs, cereal boxes, junk mail…even the Podunk Suppository, when I’m in need of a good laugh or feel a burning desire to bathe in provincial ignorance.  To say the local newspaper isn’t exactly a hotbed of unbiased, professional journalism is something of an understatement. Oh, the culture shock…

But I digress.

Mostly I read books, a passion Beloved and Darling Daughter both share.  Two walls of our family room are literally covered in books, and our next large purchase in the way of furnishings will be custom-built bookshelves.

Before I met him, Beloved read non-fiction almost exclusively.  Oh, he’d read everything Ayn Rand ever published, including her cumbersome novels,  as well as a good many of Gore Vidal’s historical novels, but that was about it.  And while I have introduced him to the likes of Stephen King and Jean Auel, non-fiction remains his chief source of reading material – because of that, we have books on such diverse subjects as economics, American History, philosophy, religion and quantum physics on our bookshelves.

I read my share of non-fiction, although it is mostly in the form of cookbooks (which are a marvelous source of information on other cultures), web development and associated software, biographies, paleoanthropology, medieval history, art and film, but to be honest, most of my reading material is pretty damn plebeian.  I don’t read “mainstream” literature very often, although I own everything ever written by Stephen King, Jean Auel and J.K. Rowling, but most of the books I own are of very specific genres, and the authors I read reflect that: Robert B. Parker, J.R.R. Tolkein, Philip Jose Farmer, Anya Seton, Kenneth Robeson, Ed McBain.  We do have a lot of the “classics” on our shelves as well, which simply means that when the kids are required to read them for school we don’t have to hunt them down (nor are they permitted to get away with Cliff Notes).  We’re also fans of Shakespeare and have several volumes devoted to his works and the analysis of them.

Not that I’m claiming weirdness because I read – I’m well aware that I’m not alone in my love of books; it’s more a matter of what I read, which is sometimes pretty damn obscure…even if I am poised to read all of Stephenie Meyer’s teenage vampire novels (hey, you can’t pass up what’s being hailed as the “next Harry Potter”).

One of the reasons I’m only poised to read Twilight and it’s sequels is because of Beverly Lewis.  The covers of her books claim she is a NY Times bestselling author, but I’d never heard of her until I moved to Ohio.  Basically, she writes fiction (I suppose you could call them “romances”) about the Amish.  I’ve seen her books on countless shelves in stores down in Amish country, where they are prominently displayed; in Podunk, she’s been relegated to the tiny “Christian fiction” section of Borders.  Her books are a wealth of information about the Amish, who are absolutely fascinating…at least as far as I’m concerned.  She also writes very well, and really knows how to tell a story.  So much so, she has me – the least religious of people – picking up each new book in the Abram’s Daughters series, exclaiming things like, “Oh, I hope that bitch of a sister of hers gets what’s coming to her in this book!”

Probably not exactly in keeping with the steadfastly held Amish beliefs of forgiveness and pacifism.

And yes, I am ALL caught up in what amounts to an Amish soap opera.  In fact, I finished the third in the five book series last night, and since I found myself out and about today at lunch, I decided to see if they had the remaining two on hand at the local Borders.  They didn’t have both, but they did have the fourth, so I’m good for at least another two or three days (they’re very quick reads).  While I was there, I picked up the first two Stephenie Meyer books – I’d have bought all four, but they were out of the third book in the series and I’m positively anal about things like that.

Checking out was interesting.

Clerk:  Did you find everything you needed?

Me:  Well, you didn’t have all of the books I wanted in stock, no, but you had enough.

Clerk:  Oh, we can look for you – what did you want?

Me:  The third in this series of vampire books and the last in this series of Amish romances.

Clerk: …Oh, well…I suppose we can check…are these gifts?

Me:  No, they’re for me.

Clerk (eyeing me warily):  Okay…(pushes a piece of paper and a pencil towards me)…just give us your name and phone number and we can notify you when they arrive…

Me:  Nah, that’s okay – I’ll just check back in a few days; I’m still looking for “Nuclear Armament for Dummies” and the collected works of Anton LaVey.

I don’t know WHY he ran off like that…

Friday Randomness #3

It seems I have something going on here doesn’t it?  Friday just seems to be such a good day for randomness, though.  And it relieves me from all sorts of pressure to write something that has “substance.”

Oh, shut up.  I’ve a right to my delusions of substance.

This week has been full of ups and downs.  Here’s a sample of the “ups”:

If you’ll recall, in an earlier post I talked some about how The Young One is growing up more quickly than I care to deal with, and how Beloved decided to handle it.  Well, the first Playboy arrived earlier this week, not to mention a “free gift” in the form of a DVD titled “Sexy Nude Coeds.”  (Oh, boy – I see more disturbing fun search terms in my future…)  The whole thing was amusing, I have to tell ya.  When it came in the mail, The Young One wasn’t even aware of it, because the damn thing was wrapped in black plastic and sported nothing other than a mailing label to indicate what might be inside.  Of course, Beloved called dibs on it, stating he had to make sure the content was all “okay” for a young teenage boy to view.

Uh-huh.

He sort of wandered off with it, and I forgot all about it until I found him, a few minutes later, standing in the kitchen with the gatefold hanging open, a slight frown and concerned expression on his face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, wondering if Miss September had some sort of permanent disfigurement that couldn’t be airbrushed away.

“She’s just a kid,” responded Beloved, sounding bemused.

I stepped around and took a peek myself.  A shapely young woman wearing nothing but ballet shoes stood in front of a mirror.  I lifted up the gatefold and peeked at her profile on the back while Beloved continued his worried perusal of her pictures on the opposite page.

“It says here she’s the same age as Darling Daugher and Thing One,” I said, shrugging.  Old enough to have her picture taken sans tutu, if that’s what she wanted.

“Oh, my GAWD!” declared Beloved, horrified, as he dropped the magazine.  “She’s just a BABY!!”

Which explains why the “Sexy Nude Coeds” DVD is still unopened, laying on the dresser in our bedroom where it was carelessly tossed.  Yes, indeed.

As for the downs, I am sharing some of mine with the rest of the country, riding the economic roller coaster, wondering how the hell we’re going to get ourselves out of this fix.  If we can get ourselves out of it.  I spent nearly an hour on the phone this morning with my whacky-but-lovable sister, who is also the mother of AKJ, lending moral support while she deals with his very deep depression and continues her fight with the insurance company and Medicaid, both of whom are giving her the runaround.  Darling Daughter took a Greyhound back to Texas last week after a messy break-up with the boyfriend du jour and has moved back in with Oldest Son, against my advice, but we’ll see how it goes.

And today, as I cracked open a fortune cookie after devouring a huge portion of Kung Po Chicken in a Prednisone-driven feeding frenzy, I got this:

I shit you not.  This is the genuine article.

And it makes me very glad I’m not the superstitious type.

So now I’ll leave you with more amusing search terms used to find my blog.

– Because

Yes, someone searched the word “because” and found my site.  Don’t ask me why.

– Naturist family camping

All I can say is, the family who camps nude has no teenagers.  Or, at least, any who will be caught dead in public with them.

– How to deal with your child who found out there is no santa claus

I hope THAT visitor wasn’t too terribly disappointed, because heaven knows I completely botched the job.

– Crush the hope out of

The most disturbing thing about this term is that it was used more than once.

– Sushi suck bar

I get a lot of searches for things that include “sushi” and that one just cracked me up for some reason.

– Housewives who don’t wear shoes

People are just odd.

Hell YES, I’ll Take Fries With That

I took the last of the Prednisone last night.

Thank gawd.

I was mostly worried it was going to make me, er, persnickety, but not at all.  What it did do is make me absolutely ravenous.  All I’ve wanted to do for the last week or so is eat.

And eat.

AND EAT.

Not a good thing when you’re paying good money for Weight Watchers online to lose weight.  In fact, I’ve been beating myself up for the last week and half because I seem to be absolutely incapable of sticking to plan.  I’ve switched from the Flex Plan to the Core Plan and back again.  I’ve tried to keep myself busy with a myriad of projects, all of which are in various stages of completion.  Nothing has helped.  Most of my “emergency supplies” at work – fat free yogurt, sugar free jello, instant oatmeal, light string cheese, skim milk – are gone, and we won’t even go into the devastation I’ve wreaked here at the house.

That loaf of pecan raisin bread I made yesterday?  Almost half gone.  The huge bag of cheese popcorn I made for the Young One’s lunches Tuesday night?  Just a memory…along with the big bag of cheddar Chex Mix that was meant for his lunches, which is why I had to make the popcorn.  We won’t even go into the three nearly empty boxes of WW 1 Point snack cakes sitting on the counter. I sat down to lunch yesterday with a Smart Ones frozen entree, a hefty salad and a bowl of 0 Point soup in front of me.  Thirty seconds later my stomach was saying, “That was an interesting little tidbit.  What else do you have laying around?”

I shudder to think what I’d have ingested in the last 7 – 10 days if I hadn’t had all this, well, healthy shit lying around.

Fortunately, a little frantic research told me all I needed to know.  Excessive hunger is a well-documented side effect of Prednisone.  And while wandering around the internet, I found this very apt analogy on a blog named Chronic Town, written by a woman suffering from sarcoidosis:

Experiencing prednisone hunger feels like you’re throwing marshmallows at Godzilla. “You call this a meal?” Godzilla bellows. “Forget the fluffy treats. Get me a small city, and I’ll be sated.” So you feed your inner Godzilla Dayton, Ohio, but he consumes it (and its suburbs) in a matter of moments, and then just demands Tokyo or Mexico City. There’s no satisfying Godzilla, especially when he’s on corticosteroids.

Just ducky.  Especially when it appears Godzilla has been joined by Rodan AND Ghidorah and they are bent on a trifecta of world destruction.

And on that note, there are all the ingredients for a barbecue beef sandwich in the kitchen with my name on it.

Hopefully this will all wear off soon now that I’m off the drug, or I fear my wardrobe will go from women’s sized capris to circus tents in very short order.

Adventures In Bread Making II – Pecan Raisin Bread

Raisin Pecan BreadAs you may or may not know (or care), for the last year or so I’ve been baking my own bread.  Sandwich loaves, mostly, although I’ve made plenty of quick breads and breakfast breads as well.  I enjoy it, although my results are not as consistent as I may like; Sunday I had a loaf of jalapeno cheese bread just…deflate when I took it out of the pan.  It still tastes fine – at least Beloved is working his way through it – but for sandwiches, it’s pretty useless.

Today, though, I decided to make a foray into the world of artisan breads, and OMG – am I glad I did.  I’ve had my eye on the recipe this is based on for quite some time, and when it is all said and done, it was just as easy to make, if not a tad easier, than a loaf of ordinary sandwich bread.  It is, all in all, healthier as well, having far less fat than the usual loaves I make, and contains some whole wheat flour, where the bread I’ve been baking is made with unbleached, all-purpose flour.

While it still needs tweaking – I’ll make a round loaf rather than a torpedo-shaped loaf to give it some height next time, and will bake if for a shorter period of time – this bread is heartier and sturdier than standard sandwich bread, and I can already tell it will make a better sandwich.  I’m so impressed with it, as a matter of fact, that I’m going to try a plain hearth-type bread this weekend.  If it turns out as well, it may be a long time before I make another loaf of soft sandwich bread again.

I don’t see why this can’t be mixed in a bread machine, although you wouldn’t be able to let it rise or bake in one.  If you were going to make it using a bread machine or stand mixer, you’ll have to add the raisins and pecans after it’s been kneaded, working them into the loaf gently by hand, because the original recipe says kneading the bread with a machine will cause the raisins and pecans to break down, resulting in a denser, heavier bread with too compact a crumb.

Pecan Raisin Bread

makes a 2 pound loaf

2 1/4 cups bread flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup raisins

8 ounces chopped pecans

1/4 cup hot water

water to make 1 cup

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/4 teaspoons, or one packet, active dry yeast

Place the raisins in a small bowl and add the 1/3 cup hot water; stir, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit for about 30 minutes.  Drain the raisins, reserving the liquid in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup – there should be about 1/4 cup.  Add enough warm water to equal 1 cup.  Recover the raisins with the plastic wrap and set aside.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the chopped pecans into a small bowl and set aside.  Place the remaining pecans in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  You should have 1/2 cup finely ground pecans; set aside.

Pour the 1 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer; add the honey, salt and vegetable oil.  In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour and ground pecans.  Add to the water in the stand mixer, then add the yeast to the top of the flour.  With the dough hook, mix until all the ingredients are blended and a rough dough forms.  Scrape down the side of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and all the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Knead the dough on medium speed for 7 – 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Sprinkle the counter with a little more flour, turn the dough out on top of it, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for another 10 minutes.

Roll or pat the dough out into a rectangle about 10″ x 15″ and sprinkle the raisins and pecans evenly over the surface.  Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, jelly-roll fashion, then form the dough into a ball and knead it lightly by hand util the raisins and pecans are well incorporated.  The dough will become a little tacky, so you may need to add a little more flour, a teaspoon at a time.

Place the dough in a large, well-oiled mixing bowl, turning it until it is coated with the oil; cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and press down on it gently to form a rectangle.  Fold it like a business letter, set it back into the oiled bowl, and allow it to rise again until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it gently into a rectangle.  Lightly shape either into a torpedo or round shape, and set it on a lightly oiled baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.  Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the over to 400F 1 hour before baking.  Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it, and a cast iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating.  When the bread has risen, remove the plastic wrap and allow the dough to dry for about 5 minutes.

Quickly toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes onto the skillet or sheet pan on the bottom of the oven, then quickly but gently place the pan with the bread on the baking stone or baking sheet and immediately shut the oven door.  Bake at 400F for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 375F and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes (I found 50 minutes was just a tad too long), or until the bread is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Halfway through the baking, turn the pan around so it will bake evenly.

Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours.

We Put the “Dys” in Dysfunctional

Beloved and I come from rather diverse backgrounds.  Growing up, his family lived in New England and belonged to a country club, where he and his siblings learned to play golf and tennis – mine lived in Texas and had a garage full of motorcycles and guns, where we learned to take aim at and run over each other.

Yeah, he has a nice golf swing, but I can shoot all the pins off a clothesline with an air rifle.

Despite the differences in our upbringings, Beloved and I have a great deal in common.  Our views on politics, religion, child rearing and overall life philosophies are pretty much on the same page.  Which is a good thing – we’ve been together for 10 years and still haven’t killed each other.  We also have similar relationships with our siblings, and we each have a sister who is just absolutely bug-fucking NUTS.

But in a good way.

My whacky-but-lovable sister has one of the most open and generous hearts you could ever hope to encounter – as far as she’s concerned, there is no such thing as a stranger and she will give anyone the shirt off her back.  That being said, she has also been known to beat one of her teenagers – and any other teenager that might get in the way – about the neck and head with a flashlight on the yearly camping trip because he sneaked off with his dad’s bottle of booze and got totally snockered.

(Disclaimer: since it is techinically against the law to have alcohol in a Texas State Park, the liquor was left in the car quite accidentally before the trip took place, because no one in my family would ever break the law by boozing it up on a camping trip at a Texas State Park.  No, ma’am.)

She also has only three volumes – Loud, Very Loud, and You Can Hear Her in the Next Time Zone.  Combine that with the fact that she has absolutely no filter between the mouth and the brain…well, let’s just say a few hours in her presence is an experience you’re not likely to forget any time soon.  In a family that is gregarious to begin with, my sister sets a whole new standard.

Beloved’s whacky-but-lovable sister simply lacks any sense, common or otherwise.  Don’t get me wrong, she really is a sweetheart, but the first time I met her she sat in a large, old fashioned pickle crock that was in her living room for some reason.  And got stuck.  And we had to literally pry her out of it.  Which is hard to do when you’re laughing your ass off.

Why did she sit in it?  I’m not sure.  I don’t think she knew why at the time.  She’s just a goofball that way.

Saturday she decided to grace us with her presence when she came to our house seeking clothes to wear to a 60s Party she was attending that evening.  Now, you must understand that the party began at 8:00 p.m.  She showed up at our house shortly after 3:00 p.m. and we had assembled her a suitable “hippie outfit” from an old tshirt, granny skirt, beads and scarf in about 20 minutes.  Since her husband was at work and her son out doing things that teenage boys do on Saturday afternoons, she decided she had a few minutes to spare so we settled in around our kitchen table to chat for a little while.

Beloved offered her something to drink.  She asked for a beer.  Once in the possession of the beer (which was really a stout), she decided she didn’t like it.  So we opened a bottle of wine.

It pretty much went downhill from there.

A little after 9:00 p.m. (and about 5 glasses of wine later), her husband finally showed up to take her to the party.  Yes, six hours later.  She was just simply having too good a time to go home.  (My good time ran out about 5 hours earlier.)  Uninhibited by nature, the wine only enhanced that quality, and in the six hours she was at our home, she:

  • Announced to everyone that she does not wear underwear
  • Proved it
  • Flashed me her boobs
  • Grabbed my boobs
  • Grabbed Beloved’s crotch
  • Gave the dog a massage
  • Asked me a very personal question about my relationship with the faucet in our guest bathroom (you don’t EVEN want to know; trust me)

Like I said, she had a very good time.

Families.  You gotta love ’em.  Because it’s still illegal to strangle ’em.

Note: While our kids read my blog – and this story will amuse them to no end – neither whacky-but-lovable sister does.  So I should be safe.  Of course, if one of them should happen to run across this, they can always pay me back with a visit on a Saturday afternoon.