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Why I’ve Never Been to Chicago

If you knew me really well, you might be surprised that I work in a profession that requires as much traveling as mine does.  When I was younger, I had a pretty marked aversion to travel.  I would sometimes decide I wanted to go somewhere (like to to Vermont for summer camp) but right before I was set to go, I’d back out.  (The Vermont camping story could be an entry all it’s own – even though I never actually went…)

My last two trips to Pittsburgh had layovers at the Chicago Midway International Airport on the return legs.  I’ve flown in and out of Midway many times, but, as I mentioned to the passenger next to me on my return flight Thursday night, I’ve never actually been to Chicago.  I almost did once, though…

When I was growing up, one summer my mom planned a girls’ trip for us.  I think it was the summer between fifth and sixth grades, but it might have been the summer between sixth and seventh.  She was going to take me to Chicago.

I did not have any particular desire to go to Chicago.  It sounded like a very Big Place.  Then I overheard her talking about talking to someone she knew who had been to Chicago, who was giving her advice on whether the hotel we had chosen was in a safe area, etc.  This put me on high alert.  I deduced that if we needed to be concerned about finding a “safe” place, then there must be a lot of “unsafe” places in Chicago.  At this point in my life, I had not yet been exposed to many situations where I was aware of needing to be aware of the safety of my surroundings.  Now, of course, as an adult, I get it.  But then – the very fact that we had to consider safety told me this was not a place I thought we needed to go.

So I objected.  I told my mother I didn’t want to go to Chicago.

She was disappointed.  She really wanted to go to Chicago.

Instead, we went to Iowa.  We visited an Amish colony.

I have a feeling on the thrill-a-meter scale of zero thrills to ten, a visit to an Amish colony in Iowa is about equal to a visit to Chicago.  *shrug*

And with that, here’s Waylon Jennings, singing about all the places he’s never been:

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The 5 Love Languages

I understand if you aren’t in the habit of taking relationship advice from a person who’s been married three times… maybe I’d be better at writing an entry about “what not to do”, but recent events reminded me of a pretty good book I read years ago.  I think it’s worth reading, and it did change the way I looked at my relationship.  The concept is that each of us expresses love primarily in one (or maybe two) ways:

  • Words Of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts Of Service
  • Physical Touch

And, if someone expresses love to you in a language that’s different than your primary love language, you might not recognize it for what it is.  You might go about feeling unwanted and unloved, when in fact, the other person has been trying to show you love all along.  Thus, it behooves you to learn your partner’s love language, both so you can recognize when they are expressing love to you, and so you can return the favor by expressing love in a way they will recognize.  (It would also behoove your partner to do the same, but hey, we all know that we can only control our own behaviors, right?)

My primary love language is quality time.  Secondary, probably receiving gifts (that’s become less and less important to me as I’ve gotten older, I suspect less so in time as I’ve gotten more and more self-sufficient – nowadays, if I want something, I buy it for myself!)

My husband’s is acts of service.  He expresses his love for me by fixing things, building things, and keeping the outside of our home nice.  I once asked him how he knows I love him, and he told me because I put his medicine out for him every week.

Lately, things have just been going on.  Nothing bad, but we haven’t been spending a lot of time together (remember, that’s my love language) and I’ve been feeling a little… well, neglected!  (He of course, doesn’t notice anything wrong, because that’s not his love language.)  I suggested to him over the weekend that we go for a bicycle ride.  He didn’t want to. I slunk away, feeling rejected.  Then I thought, well, he didn’t recognize my request as an attempt to reach out in love, because… it’s not his language.  So, later that afternoon, I suggested that he teach me how to cut grass.  (Yes, it’s true, I have somehow lived to be 40 years old and never learned how to use a riding lawn mower.)

He looked at me like I had two heads, but once he comprehended that he heard me right, he was right on it!  He had to hurry up and get the lawnmower going, before I changed my mind!  We spent about half an hour with him coaching me, and then he went back to the garage and worked on his current “project” (the one that’s taking all his time away from me) while I cut a big portion of our back and side yard (we have about 4-5 acres of grass total that he cuts, so it took a little bit of time).

He didn’t complain (much) about the results, he took pictures to prove it happened, I got some attention, and (I think) he felt loved.

What’s your love language?

 

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Why I Might Have to Become an Uber Driver

So I’m getting ready to travel to a new Big City for work, one where I’ve never been.  Everyone at the new job says they prefer Uber and Lyft rather than cabs, and it seems that management encourages that, because the cost is quite a bit less.  So I downloaded the apps.

Except, when I was setting up my Uber account on the app, I accidentally told it I want to “drive for Uber”, rather than that I wanted to be a passenger.

Now I’m getting about 5 emails and texts a day from Uber, wanting me to complete my registration to become a driver.  And telling me how excited they are that I’ve decided to become an Uber driver, and how much money I’m going to make and how this decision is going to Change My Life.  And testimonials about other Uber drivers and how wonderful their lives all are now that they’ve decided to take control of their futures and drive for Uber.

It’s all pretty convincing.

I’ve figured out how to stop the emails, but I’m still getting the texts.  I’m afraid the only way I can get it to stop, is just to sign up.  As my friend Jasmyne suggested, then, when my fares ask, I’ll have a funny story about How I Became an Uber Driver.  Maybe they’ll feel sorry for me, the way I was forced into the trade… and leave bigger tips.  I don’t know.

And then, after I make a million dollars, and my life has been changed, I can write a testimonial about how I became an Uber driver just so they’d stop sending me texts.

And I guess… this can be Plan B in case the new gig doesn’t work out.

Recipes

What Happens When You Marry A Man Who Won’t Eat Vegetables

Last night I made one of my all-time favorite meals.  The problem, of course, is that Tarzan won’t eat it.  Because of this, I’ve only made it maybe 3 times since we’ve been married.

*sigh*

This is one of those things, that I can’t fathom why he doesn’t like it.  It’s sooooo good.  He tried it once and he won’t even bother with it anymore.  He had peanut butter and jelly and bacon for dinner instead.

Here’s the recipe:  Vegetable Beef Skillet.

I make it pretty well exactly as written.  This time, I used a 12 oz bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower (I let it thaw in the fridge for a couple days ahead of time, but if you aren’t an obsessive planner like me, I might suggest you zap the veggies in the microwave a few minutes before you add them, otherwise they might not be tender enough for some people) and since I had a can of diced tomatoes that included onion, I didn’t add the onion the recipe calls for.  Also, I’ve never seen plain “nacho cheese” soup, but you can find “Fiesta Nacho Cheese” soup usually.  I’ve never seen it at Aldi, but you can get it at Wal-Mart.

So… this is what I’ll be eating on the rest of the week.  No complaints, it’s really good!

Recipes

Make Your Wagers Now

Tarzan announced the other day that he’d like some ham and beans soup.

Anytime he says something like this, what he means is:  I want [fill in the blank].  But I don’t want to make it.  I want YOU to make it, but I want you to make it the way I would make it, if I were going to make it.

This is exhausting to me, since he and I do not have the same taste in food (have I mentioned that?).  He doesn’t want to eat it my way, I don’t want to eat it his way.  I feel like whoever’s making it should get to pick.  Unless it’s your birthday or you’ve been sick for days and this certain thing, made this certain way, is the only thing that sounds good enough to eat.

*sigh*

The problem with ham and beans is, he likes it soupy.  I don’t really like it at all, but if I do have to eat it, I like it a little thicker.

I only tried one other time to do this, but I cheated and used canned beans.

I have carrots and celery left over from making buffalo-chicken chili two weeks ago (which was good, not great – I only used about half the chili sauce and hot sauce it called for, I think I may have undershot it a bit – but I will say it was pretty good over the leftover spaghetti noodles from the week before)… and I have a thing about REALLY wanting to “Use Things Up”, so I decided to try my hand at ham and beans, for real.

I started with this recipe for inspiration.

  • 1 lb dry great Northern* beans
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • a bit less than 1/4 cup of dried chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

I soaked the beans in the crockpot overnight (no, I didn’t turn the crockpot on… duh, I was just saving some bowls to have to wash).  In the morning, drained off the water, then threw all of the ingredients in the crockpot and turned that sucker on LOW.  It was done in about 6 hours.

Again, in the spirit of wanting to Use Things Up, I have some chicken bullion cubes that just won’t seem to go away, so I’ve been boycotting buying chicken broth until they’re gone.  So I just heated 6 cups of water to dissolve 6 cubes, in lieu of using canned chicken broth.

I tried it out a little while ago, I was pleased.  I’m trying to stay optimistic… this morning when he saw me assembling the ingredients, Tarzan whined, “I thought you were going to make real ham and bean soup?”  (He was alarmed by the presence of bay leaves.)

We shall see.  Make your wagers now.

*Why is Northern capitalized?  I don’t know.

Lifestyle

Logos and Keystone Habits

I’m excited that soon I will be adding my very own, custom-made logo to the blog.  I may also be making some color scheme changes.  Once I get that all lined out, I plan to take the blog’s Facebook page live as well, which I’m also super-excited about.

I created a design contest on designhill to make the logo.  I was apprehensive about it, especially the part where you have to pay up front, not having any idea if you were going to get what you wanted from the service (they do have a money-back guarantee, but I’m always so skeptical).  But, I got a lot of really great submissions, and it was a lot of fun!  I just now, minutes ago, selected a winner, and we’re in the final revision/ handover stage, so I’ll have to wait and give my final review on the service once it’s all finished, but I don’t anticipate any problems.

So… stay tuned, I can’t wait to see how it will look once it all comes together!

In other news, I subscribe to Amy Lynn Andrews‘ weekly “Userletter”, which is mostly about blogging, but also usually mentions one or two other cool lifestyle tips, etc… I’m really enjoying it.  This week’s edition had a link this article about “Keystone Habits”.  No spoilers… but I’m feeling pretty smug because I can honestly say I have instituted 5/8 of those habits on a pretty solid basis.  I don’t know about #8, though.  I’m not sure I would consider willpower a habit?  Anyway, it’s worth a read.

I hope everyone has had a great weekend.

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The Things I Do For Fun

As I say all the time, Tarzan doesn’t like my cooking.

Well, let me rephrase that.  I don’t think my cooking is the problem.  He doesn’t like what I cook.  As my friend Lynn would say… “same, same”.

Anyway, as far as meals go, my stand-by Make Tarzan Happy meal is spaghetti.  It’s also the best bet for the grandkids, although they are historically much (much much) less picky than Tarzan.

Spaghetti was also one of my favorite things my mom made when I was growing up.  I do not like anyone’s spaghetti but my mom’s, except my own (which is just like my mom’s.)

I remember being at a friend’s house for dinner once, and they were having spaghetti!  It looked just like the spaghetti I knew and loved, and I helped myself to a nice big plate!  I discovered too late that it was full of onions and green peppers!  And those chunks of red that looked like tomatoes?  Red peppers?!  And the sauce tasted… sweet?  What in the world?

That was when I first realized that different people make the same dish differently!  That wasn’t a concept I was familiar with at the time.

Anyway, I don’t do anything fancy with spaghetti.  Just a pound of hamburger meat, a jar of meat sauce from Aldi, and noodles… the thin ones.  Our grandkids’ mom says that she spends all day simmering her special spaghetti sauce… and she tries not to get her feelings hurt that her kids appear to prefer my version, made with noticeably less “love”.

The trick is getting the right noodle-to-sauce ratio!  I never get it right.  What I have to do is make way more noodles than I think, and then add the noodles slowly to the sauce until it looks right.  Then I use the remaining noodles for other things (for instance today I ate some cold noodles with my current favorite side dish, a broccoli and mushroom recipe I got from emeals).

So this evening I googled “noodles to pasta sauce ratio”, and according to most sources, the right combination is a pound of pasta to 24 ounces of sauce.

Well, not at the Dalton’s house, it isn’t!  That would be waaaaaay too many noodles.  This last batch I made I cooked about 10 1/2 ounces of noodles, but probably only used a little over half that.

Oh, and I love the pot-sized spaghetti noodles, when I can find them.  You have to really look for them in stores, I always tend to overlook them on the shelves, I guess because the box is a different size/shape than I’m expecting?

Some day, I’ll remember to weigh the uncooked noodles, make a note… then before I add the cooked noodles to the sauce, weigh them… then weigh the remaining unused cooked noodles, once I get the sauce-to-noodle ratio to my taste… and back into the calculation of how many ounces of uncooked noodles that would be.

Yes, that’s the kind of thing I do.  For fun.

If you think you know the answer, if you think you know the right number of ounces of uncooked thin spaghetti noodles per 24 ounces of pasta sauce (plus a pound of hamburger meat, if that matters), go ahead and let me know.  But know, you’re ruining  ALL my fun.  😉

 

Recipes

What Happens When You Marry a Man Who Won’t Eat Leftovers

Last Friday night I had big plans to make dinner for Tarzan.  It’s always a struggle to find something we both like, we have exactly opposite tastes in food.  He doesn’t really like to go out for Mexican food, but now and then I can get him to eat it with minimal complaints if I make it at home.  So I put some chicken taco meat in the crockpot that morning.  (I used 2.25 pounds of chicken, an entire envelope of taco seasoning, and I didn’t have enough chicken broth so I dissolved some bullion cubes in hot water to make up the difference.  Also, when it was done cooking,  I shredded the chicken in my KithenAid® mixer, using the dough hook) I planned to make Mexican rice, and had soft tortilla shells and lettuce and tomato on hand, so it would seem more like a “meal” to Tarzan.

But… he had other plans for the evening and didn’t end up being home for dinner.  I didn’t make the rice, since that was mostly for him.  He won’t eat leftovers so I had an abundance of chicken taco meat on my hands.

I ate chicken soft tacos for dinner Friday, and for lunch and dinner Saturday.  When I got back from my trip I had chicken soft tacos for lunch and dinner Wednesday.  I had had about enough chicken soft tacos by then, so Wednesday after work I went and got the fixings for Skinny Tortilla Soup, which I made for lunch Thursday.  I used bullion cubes for the broth again and I used full-fat cheese (nope, I don’t believe low or reduced fat ingredients are all that much healthier, but that’s just my humble opinion) and I just replaced the 3/4 cup of cubed chicken with the chicken I already had.

I still had about a cup and a half of chicken left, even after making the soup, so I froze the rest of the chicken and put a reminder in my Awesome Note app to remind me in about a month to make a double batch of the soup and use the rest of the chicken up.  I do love the soup, it’s one of my favorites, so eating up a double batch won’t take me long at all (I had finished off Thursday’s batch by last night).  But… even so, I’m about taco-chickened out!  This is what happens when you marry a man who won’t eat leftovers.  *sigh*

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My Secret Talent

Tomorrow I start my new job.  I spent the day traveling across the country, so I could be where I need to be first thing tomorrow morning.

I’ve had a few people comment that I don’t seem very excited.

It’s true, I’m not.  I’m not unexcited (that’s not a word, is it?).  I’m just kinda… well, okay, let’s see where this is going.

I suppose part of my apparent apathy can be explained by the fact that I pretty much know what to expect.  The work itself is not going to be all that much different.

Another big factor is the fact that I left a good job, where I was reasonably happy.  This is the first time I’ve made a job change when it wasn’t blatantly obvious that the change was going to be better for me.

I remember when I was preparing myself for my second interview at my last job.  Tarzan and I had not been married very long.  I commented to him that “I really want this job.”

He responded that he’d never heard me say that about a job before.

It’s true, I’ve changed jobs… kinda a lot?  In the four years we’d been together up until that time,  I’d changed jobs twice, which is a lot by most people’s standards, including my own.  I remember him being worried that I had changed jobs too often when I was interviewing for that job.  I wasn’t the least bit concerned.  I was certain I was doing the right thing that time.  And I was right.

This time just isn’t so cut and dry.  I know I’ll come out okay.  I expect it to be better than just “okay”.  I just gotta warm up to everything.

I’ve tried to figure out what my dream job would be.  In my wildest dreams (well, with the caveat that in my wildest dreams, my dream job is an actual job, and not something like “professional cookie dough taster”) maybe it would be cool to be a private investigator?  Catch cheating husbands (and wives) kind of stuff.  I can’t really come up with anything that’s feasible to switch to, not this late and life, and not while paying the mortgage.

But I do have a secret talent.  I really REALLY kick ass at crossword puzzles.

Well, you know.  The ones in the magazine racks at the checkout line.  The ones labeled “EZ”, “FUN” and “BIG PRINT”.  Not, like, The New York Times ones.

The lady next to me on my second flight had a book of EZ CROSSWORDS.  It was painful to me to see that she had incorrectly answered a clue in the upper right corner, and that had caused her to take a few other clues the wrong direction.  It was mucking up her whole puzzle.

Now, some people like help with crossword puzzles and some people do not.  (I learned this the hard way.) So, I thought I’d ease into it by asking innocently,  “Do you… have any particular method to working on crossword puzzles?”

“Oh, no, not really.  I just start out with the ones I know and kind of go from there.”

“Ah, I see.  I used to do a lot of crossword puzzles when I was a kid.”

“Really?”  this perked her interest, “I haven’t ever seen a child do a puzzle like this.  How wonderful!  I used to be a teacher!  How old were you when you starting doing them?”

I didn’t know.  All I know is I know all the answers in those EZ books.  I once took one to one of Tarzan’s family get togethers, and you would have thought I was doing parlor tricks… the Daltons were quite impressed.

I pointed to the offending answer in her puzzle, “I think that should be ALEE.”

She screwed her face up.  I don’t think she believed me, but she erased her wrong answer.  “How would you spell that?”

I told her.

“What’s that even mean?” she referred back to the clue:  toward shelter.

“It’s some nautical term,” I told her.

She finished that corner of the puzzle.  “Do you know this one?”

She pointed to the clue:  a man in a cast.

“I think it’s ACTOR.”

She slapped her forehead, “I was thinking like, a leg in a cast!”

I nodded, “It’s all in how you look at it.”

“You’re really smart!”

So.  I wonder how you get going in a career solving crossword puzzles?  Professionally.  Only the EZ ones.  The others are above my pay grade, I’m sure.

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Addicted To A Real Bad Thing

I need caffeine in the morning.  Yes, I know no one “needs” caffeine.  I know I *can* do without it.  But I don’t wanna.

Years ago, when I was about 50 pounds heavier, I would get up in the middle of the night, go to the refrigerator, and chug a cold can of Coca-Cola, and go right back to bed.  I suppose it wasn’t really the caffeine I was after, but rather the sugar.  I don’t know how many I would drink on an average day back then, but if I had to guess I think maybe 3-4.  Compared to some people’s soda addictions, I guess that wasn’t terrible.

Over the years, I’ve cut way back.  But I’ve never been able to completely kick the soda-in-the-morning habit.  When Rubies and I were setting up our roommate agreement, I’m pretty sure the first rule was:  Don’t drink the last cold Coke.  (Also, don’t let us run out of toilet paper.)

Sometime in 2014, I came across the Mountain Dew Kickstart line of soda.  I can’t remember what flavor anymore, but it was before they introduced my beloved Limeade. It may have been orange, but that seems wrong, because generally, I hate all things flavored orange (that’s another story, related to years of having to swallow many children’s aspirin on a daily basis most of my childhood).  Maybe it was fruit punch, but I’ve never been a huge fan of that either (I think they put orange flavoring in fruit punch… ick.)

I liked it, though, because it didn’t have the aftertaste I usually noticed in artificially sweetened beverages, and a 16-ounce can only had 80 calories.  I didn’t like it as much as Coke, but it worked in a pinch.  I would grab one now and then when I was at a gas station, but I wasn’t going out of my way to get them.

Then one morning, I noticed a new flavor!  Limeade.  Prior to this, I was neutral to Mountain Dew.  I liked it fine, I might have one if it was offered or if nothing else was available, but it certainly wasn’t my go-to.  But I thought I might like it better than whatever flavor I’d been drinking up to this point.

I was addicted within weeks.  And they were expensive!  And you couldn’t buy them by the carton, only individually – even at Wal-Mart!  They were kind of a pain in the ass to come by, actually.

Certain gas stations had them periodically for 99¢.  The cashiers at the local Moto-Mart began referring to me as “The Kickstart Lady”.  I would come in every weekend and buy up the following week’s supply, making sure I had one for at least every morning I’d be home.  I told myself that, if the time came that I couldn’t find them for 99¢, I wouldn’t buy them.

Early mornings, when I was heading to the airport at 4 a.m., I’d scrounge the bottom of my purse for enough change, hands shaking like a crack addict, almost shouting out in joy when I realized I had the $1.89 I’d need to finance my fix.  That’s more than the 99¢ budget I’d put myself on, but holy hell, it was 4 a.m.!  I’d already been up since 3 a.m.!  I deserved it!  And it was only 80 calories!

Earlier this year, I started noticing the Limeade flavor being harder and harder to come by.  If I found it, I would buy the store out, even if I had a full week’s stock in the fridge already.  Something was wrong, I could sense it!

I told Rubies I was having trouble finding it.

She seemed concerned.  Gently, she interposed, “I don’t know, Ginger.  Maybe this will be a good thing for you.”

For the last two weeks, I’ve been completely unable to find it.  I was at a U-Gas when the Pepsi delivery man was there, so I asked him, “Hey, what’s up with the Limeade Kickstart?”

“What’s that?  Limeade what?”

“The one in the green can.”

“Hmmm.  The only one we have in a green can is, like watermelon.”

“NO NO NO!  The one that’s flavored like Mountain Dew.  The one in the deep delicious-looking green can!”

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.  No, they replaced that with Mango-Lime.”

So, my spidey-senses were right…

And according to this, it was discontinued in the United States in March 2017.  Now, you can only get in Australia.

I thought about ordering it from Australia, surely there’s a way to do that.  But that would be ridiculous.

It WOULD be ridiculous, right?  I definitely shouldn’t do that.  Right?  Right?

With that, I will leave you with my favorite Dan Seals song, which happens to be about a different sort of addiction: