Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thank God for Wendy's

Tonight Hubby wanted his fish fried with Saltine crackers, just like the way his mom fried his freshly caught fish when they were camping. Sure. Back in the 50’s his mom didn’t have the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs that someone already crumbled and put in the little can. Nor did she have the Pepperidge Farm dressing someone already prepared and filled in the little plastic bags, all ready to stuff the turkey.

Saltine crackers? Who in their right mind has a box of Saltine crackers in the pantry? I’m not running over to Safeway to buy a box of Saltines for a measly 8 crackers to dip our fish in.

Then I remembered the chili we like to take out from Wendy’s. They always give us a generous supply of crackers – 2 to a package. I always keep those darlings. Why throw away perfectly good food. They come in real handy – just like the little pouches of soy sauce with Chinese carry out. And the ketchup we get with our French fries from McDonalds. I don’t throw anything away. Just think of the meals I can make with the Taco Bell salsa – and the Arby’s horsey sauce. Not to mention all the napkins and utensils I have accumulated in my pantry. This type of food hoarding really cuts down on my grocery bill and shopping time.

All I have to say is “Thank you, Wendy’s.” “Thank you, Burger King” “Thank you, Bamboo House.” You all have helped season numerous meals in a pinch! I even have an empty "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" container to store all these luscious little pouches in my refrigerator.

And you better believe – Hubby likes my cooking just as much - no better than - he likes his mother’s.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What's for Dinner?

One of the first things hubby asks in the morning is “What’s for dinner?” You’ve got to be kidding me! My only concern that early is if there is coffee, and am I in any condition to make it.

I love to shop at Costco. Not only can I have a free lunch by grazing at all the little “Hot/Caliente” carts, I can buy a year’s supply of toilet paper and underwear that costs under $75. The last time I went to Costco, I bought a huge chunk of salmon, Christmas stamps that will last me 2 seasons, and a bottle of vitamin C that won’t fit on my shelf.

So, I get home and decide to have salmon for dinner. There’s enough for at least 10 meals, so I cut it up and freeze most of it. Then I start to pan fry the little pieces I saved for tonight’s dinner. Hubby likes to have a juicy meal – gravy with chicken, saucy stir-fry, and lots of spaghetti sauce with his noodles. I look in the refrigerator for some kind of sauce – nothing. Holy Moly, what am I going to do? Wait, I see some little packages from carry out. I confiscate everything; you never know when a squeeze of ketchup is going to come in handy. Let’s see, I have hot mustard and soy sauce from China House, regular mustard from Wendy’s, and Arby’s sauce. Hmmm, Arby’s sauce sounds good. I mix a little Arby’s with the soy sauce. What’s in that little jar? Oh, capers. I must have made something 8 years ago that called for capers. Why not? I add a few capers and pour it over the salmon.

The meal is over. Hubby usually won’t say anything unless he likes the dinner. Some men belch; some men retire to the sofa and sleep; my hubby will say something like, “New recipe?” or “Did you write it down?” He knows that if I make something up, it will probably be the only time he’ll ever get it.

He likes my Thanksgiving meals, though, because I make the same thing every year. If I vary anything, boy, do I hear about it! He’s a routine kind of a guy. For years it was Raisin Bran for breakfast, now I can’t keep enough split pea soup on hand for his lunch.

I remember the time I tried a new meatloaf recipe. He knew right away. “Don’t mess with the meatloaf!”


Little does he know that I just shake and add stuff to the meatloaf without measuring. It is actually different every time – shhh, don’t say anything.

Back to the salmon – it turned out pretty tasty, even if I do say so myself. Hubby didn’t say anything – but at least he ate it. Oh well, the Arby’s packets are gone, so he won’t be getting that sauce any time soon – unless we have carry out from Arby’s.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Good Enough is Never Good or Enough

Struggling with the grocery bags, Denise nearly fell into her house. She set them on the counter, then closed and locked the front door, bolting the top lock first, then the second. It had been a long week - she was exhausted - and she was looking forward to watching a movie, snuggled with her crochet throw wrapped around her shoulders. She separated the groceries - one pile for the pantry and one for the refrigerator. She stacked the milk, cheese, vegetables, fruit, meat, and eggs all on the top shelf, thinking, “That’s good enough” - then collapsed on the living room sofa with the remote.

No, that’s not good enough.

She heaved herself up, went back into the kitchen, and pulled all the grocery items back out. She placed the cheese and meat in the middle drawer with the other deli items; pulled the egg box out and arranged the eggs on the little plastic crate; threw the cardboard egg container away in the recycling bin in the garage; put the vegetables in the top crisper drawer; the fruit in the bottom crisper drawer; and set the milk on the top shelf with the label facing towards her.

There, that’s good.

She took the pantry items off the counter and placed them carefully on the shelves – soups organized left to right from creams to broth; basil to the left of the bay leaves; spaghetti into a Tupperware container with the noodles.

There, that’s good.

Denise climbed the stairs to her bedroom, counting each step for the millionth time - seventeen, counting the top step. She took off her shoes, put them in the box that was marked with a magic marker, “brown stacked heels" and placed them on the top shelf next to the box marked “brown flats.” Her closet was arranged according to style and color - suits on the left, then skirts, slacks, then long sleeved blouses, short-sleeved blouses, tank tops. It calmed Denise to know that everything was organized properly.

Counting seventeen steps downstairs, Denise was ready for her movie.

Tomorrow was all planned out. Denise needed to do laundry - whites first, then coloreds, then darks.

Nothing else would be good enough.

Denise sat on the sofa, tears starting to spill over on to her cheeks.

This is not good enough.

She realized then that her life as it was would never be good… or enough.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


My daughter minored in Photography while attending Grand Canyon University. One of her assignments was a field trip to……wait for it……Tahiti.  And lo and behold, she invited me to tag along. To this day I don’t know if it was because she enjoyed my company or because Mommy would be bringing her wallet – but I didn’t ask and jumped at the opportunity. The real reason I wanted to go was because of the burning question in my mind – does the water flushed clockwise or counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

After a very long 9-hour flight, we were greeted at Moorea, Tahiti with fresh floral leis, a guitar, ukulele, & drum quartet, and extremely humid weather. I guess there’s a reason the terrain is so green  – it’s called rain – and rain can fall at any given moment. It truly is a beautiful island, noted for its high volcanic peaks, banyan trees & palm trees, exotic flowers, down to its white beaches & low coral rings…and black pearls. Nobody leaves Tahiti without purchasing a black pearl – to be specific - a black pearl pendant, a black pearl ring, and black pearl earrings.

We stayed at the Moorea Village close to the soft white beaches with a beautiful view of the clear blue/green water. In the Tahitian style, our room was a stand-alone hut called a garden bungalow, which had a grass-thatched roof, a front porch, and our own hot water heater attached outside. The water heater contained about 5 gallons of water, meaning my daughter and I had to alternate shower days if we wanted hot water. They welcomed us with a Tahitian “tamaaraa” (feast) with food cooked in the traditional “himaa” – a pit filled with heated volcanic stones. I was a little worried at my vegetarian daughter’s reaction to the pig with a rotisserie stick stuck through its butt and out its nose roasting over hot coals. But the Tahitian dancers wearing coconut bras diverted her attention – she even got on stage and swung her hips with them at some point after dinner. I must warn you, however, stay clear of something called breadfruit if it is ever offered to you – our little hut did not have enough water in the toilet to take care of what I went through after eating that.

We toured the island, visiting the Museum of Tahiti, the Gauguin Museum, and passing by the really expensive hotels – thatched huts sitting on stilts out in the water. We cruised the lagoon and went on a picnic on another island. But there are two highlights of the trip we will never forget. My daughter went snorkeling with stingrays (This was a very brave thing for her to do because of her fear of sharks. When we used to go to Lake Powell in the summer, she would always ask, “Are there any sharks in here?”) and we both were able to swim with a dolphin and pet him (her?). We both can cross that off our bucket list.

The air flight back to the states seemed longer than our flight to Tahiti for the simple reason my daughter had a fever and chills all the way home. I was concerned she had picked up a tropical disease called Dengue Fever that I had just read about in a novel I was reading (coincidence – not sure – but I had never heard about it before – and my daughter had all the symptoms of that disease). Luckily she did not have Dengue.

Our travel to Tahiti was exciting and an adventure I will never forget. By the way, the toilet flushes clockwise.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Trains, Planes, Cars, and Vans

It sounded simple enough - attend a two-day conference in Phoenix, be honored by the outgoing president, drink a few beers, enjoy the heat (did I really say that?), and learn something in the process. The caveat was…I was in Minnesota. This means searching Travelocity for the cheapest flight to fly 1,700 miles in the middle of August.

I had two options – fly from the Fargo airport or fly from the Minneapolis airport. Fargo is only 45 miles from Detroit Lakes – Minneapolis is 200 miles away. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

The airlines flying from Fargo are Delta, Alaskan Air, and Allegiant. Delta and Alaskan Air are the big Kahunas in the sky and charge accordingly – like $500 accordingly. Allegiant is the no nonsense airline, with cheap flights, but they only fly to Phoenix on Mondays and Fridays – not the most convenient schedule for a Friday/Saturday Conference. Not only that, but they fly into an airport in East Mesa that is just short of a 2 hour drive to central Phoenix – I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Minneapolis is a destination of Southwest Airlines – my personal favorite. I don’t care what they say about cattle call airlines – I like the adventure of walking on a plane and taking my chances between sitting next to a samurai wrestler or a toddler with a nervous leg tic and high-pitched cry.

I book my $331 flight, and was even able to use some of my points. Next challenge – getting to Minneapolis. Hubby wasn’t going to interrupt his fishing schedule to drive 4 hours to and 4 hours from the Twin Cities in one day.

Therefore, I investigate the train schedule. The good news: Amtrak makes a stop in Detroit Lakes. The bad news: Amtrak makes this stop in Detroit Lakes at 2:00 in the morning. That is, providing it’s not delayed by the oil tankers hauling crude from the fields in North Dakota. Hubby doesn’t mind interrupting his sleep to take me to the train station; after all, he doesn’t usually fish when it’s dark.

I bought my train tickets and carefully planned my transportation to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It’s just a short walk from the train station to the bus stop where I catch the #501 to downtown where I catch the light rail which will take me to the airport – all this for a mere $1.50. I am getting excited just thinking about it.

At 1:00 A.M., I decide to call Amtrak to see if the train from the west is on time. I am informed that it is running 4 hours late. This can’t be! My flight leaves at 10:00 A.M. If I leave Detroit Lakes at 6:00 A.M., I’ll never make my flight.

At 1:30 A.M., I frantically Google van shuttle services to and from the airport. There is one that leaves Brainard at 4:00 A.M., arriving in Minneapolis at 6:00 A.M. – I might have time to eat breakfast before my flight! Now I just have to drive to Brainard, which is 1 ½ hours away.

At 2:00 A.M., I throw my luggage in my little car and head off into the night. I am so afraid of hitting a deer that I motor, white knuckled and with the headlights on high beam, down the highway. Now, deer are cute when you see them grazing off in the woods, but I sure don’t want to see their eyes staring at me in the middle of the blacktop.

At 3:30 A.M., I find the pick up point and wait for the van.

At 4:00 A.M., I’m on the van heading for the Minneapolis/St Paul airport.

At 6:30 A.M., I’m grazing on a breakfast burrito at one of the airport bars – I deserve it.

My flight arrives in Phoenix at noon – just in time for lunch.

The conference was uneventful, I wasn’t honored at all, I drank a few beers, and it rained – so it wasn’t so hot as it was muggy.

Read this story in reverse and you’ll experience my journey back to Detroit Lakes a day later. I’ve made up my mind not to go to the conference in Phoenix, in August, from Minnesota, next year. A no brainer!