Getting Away

Shedd Aquarium

Chicago Nick and I both have a tendency to bring work worries home. We don’t take the stress out on each other per se, but I cannot deny the taciturn coexistence that settles over the evening every now and then. Since work is so heavy during the week, we try to have fun once the weight lifts for the weekend. We schedule a few weekend getaways every year to enjoy life with each other—we went to Chicago last weekend.

We typically visit Chicago every year but missed the trip last year for some reason. (I think the problem was that we stayed in Schaumburg and got all snagged up in IKEA…I don’t think we had much of a budget left to hit The Magnificent Mile!) I love going to Chicago for a couple days, but I’m always ready to come home. I can’t live with that level of frenzy around the clock!

This year’s trip was inspired by Elton John tickets. I think you probably know by now that I am a huge Elton John fan. Levon gives me chills every time I hear “He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day…” It holds a certain Cat’s in the Cradle-esqueness for me…the reminder to pay attention to the important things before it’s too late. Anyway, Nick brought it to my attention as soon as the tour stop in Madison was announced…despite the fact that he’s rather indifferent to Sir Elton’s music. That’s love, folks.

He even took some video with his phone:

Since the concert was a Thursday night and I’m old (read: I need much more sleep to function), I scheduled vacation for the next day. I wanted the day off solely to sleep in, but the rest of the vacation day was going to be a bit of a waste…so why not go to Chicago for the weekend instead? Why not indeed.

Do you think I can link out to much more in this post? I think that’s a sign of the ADD taking over, so I’ll have to continue this story another day. For now, I can tell you that I absolutely loved seeing Elton John again…and I will go to his concerts as often as I can. I am so awed by his talent. If there was just one thing I would go back and change in my life, it would be that I give more of my young life to learning how to make music. Since I cannot go back, I deeply, deeply appreciate those who can.

Elton John Concert

Is it ever too late to learn?

Ad Hoc Budgeting

How many times has this happened now?—I walk into the store to buy one thing but leave with enough bags to fill the entire backseat of my car. The most absolutely sneaky trap is the grocery store. I seem to always shop when I’m either hungry or prone to the striking inspiration to create a new recipe—that one gallon of milk that I actually came for be damned!

Either of these maladies sends me on a bumblebee’s journey crisscrossing through the store, and I notice so many other items that I didn’t realize that I needed…and the need is so great at first glance that it really isn’t even a decision point as to whether or not it ends up in the cart.

I know this about myself all too well and have major shopping cart avoidance issues (at least mono e mono…I do marginally better with supervision). When I shop alone, I completely bypass the cart corral and forge on with only my limbs and determination as my allies. I consider this a way to keep myself in check because I only have the two hands (and I am not terribly dextrous to begin with).

I find that the shortfall of hands and dexterity both fail to stem the bleeding as much as I had hoped. Instead of adhering to these limitations, I start using my armpits, hips, and elbows (and occasionally my chin and teeth) in addition to those two measly hands. I start waddling down the aisles making sure that I haven’t missed anything I need, praying to make it to the checkout without dropping the bag of apples straddling my hip.

The high school students stocking the shelves stare at me and begin to ask questions. “Do you need a cart?” “Would you like me to get you a basket?” Really, they come up with the strangest questions…and even stranger are the ones they ask with their eyes: “Did you forget to take your meds?” and “What are you doing to those apples!?”

“No, I’m fine, but thank you!” I cheerily reply to the spoken questions. To the silent questions, I narrow my eyes to communicate, “Maybe.” and “Leave the apples out of it!”

In the end, I save about five dollars per trip. I know, right? FIVE DOLLARS! Don’t be jealous…I was born this awesome.

Sophie Sunday

The SubjectI’ve had to work today. I have more to do yet tonight…but as the work on my project involves coding, I need an intellectual reset. Any HTML tinkering that I might have to do to blog isn’t real programming, so this counts as a suitable break.

I woke up with a raging headache—probably knowing what was in store for me today. I was having trouble debugging a long section of code because it was irksome staring at the computer screen when it felt like I needed to drill a hole in my skull to relieve some of the pressure.

So, I printed the bit problematic programming—about six pages— and wanted to tape the pages end-to-end to have one nice long string of gobbledegook to decipher. I placed the papers on the floor on the living room and set about lining them up to tape.

Do you have any concept how difficult a tiny project like this is when you’re a perfectionist? After taking care to align two pages, often putting my face an inch or so from the seam to make sure it lined up along the entire eight-and-a-half inches, a pent up exhale would flutter my work askew.

I finally got the breathing thing figured out and was making good progress when Sophie decided that I was having fun without her: she wanted to play the game too. She always finds my frustration entertaining and does what she can to feed the fire. She lay in wait while I painstakingly matched one page to another. Finally happy to the millimeter with the placement, I slowly (so as not to disturb the air current) leaned back to grab the tape.

Just then, she burst from her crouched position and skidded across my line of printouts, sending them scattering. Rolling over in bliss, she looked back at me with her dazzled eyes as if to say, “Dude, let’s do that again!”

The Subject

Holier than Thou

I tend to be a little snooty when it comes to cheese. I don’t think I’m that insufferable, but I do have standards. Maybe it’s the Wisconsinite in me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s that no self-respecting adult should be eating a food that comes wrapped in flimsy plastic1.

When I lived in North Carolina, a southern woman gave me some of her recipes for casseroles. I was appalled that so many of them called for processed cheese! What was wrong with these people? Didn’t they know there was a whole world of cheese beyond “American singles” to explore? I hope I was able to hide my horrified expression before the woman noticed that I was glassy-eyed and headed toward shock.

Our refrigerator is almost always stocked with some form of legitimate cheese. Cheese makes everything better. Also, a blanket of sharply flavored cheese can really help to hide the taste of an otherwise unpalatable meal. In short, real cheese is the mythical pair of rose-colored glasses.

Sure, we had processed cheese singles at home when I was a kid. Would you like to know what we used them for? Well, I’m telling you anyway: we used them to get the dog to take her medicine. She never put it together that we folded the cheese to hide the pill. Instead, she was always giddy to be given a whole wad of cheese! There are times I miss the guileless trust of a dog—cats are often sardonic, hormonal teenagers who never mature out of it—but then I remember the non-discerning way that loveable mutt gobbled up that wad of yellow “gunk” (that, and the whole litter box conundrum). Sorry, pooch…you’re just not snobbish enough for me.

So, just imagine my surprise when Nick requested fake cheese for his sandwiches. I curled my lip at it for weeks as I made lunches. Distracted one morning, I accidentally put a slice of cheese chemicals on my sandwich. Imagine my further surprise when I sort of liked it. I hunkered down over my lunch to make sure no one could see the crap cheese in my sandwich (because everyone looks for that sort of thing and passes judgement).

It’s not like it actually tastes like cheese…more like a bland, thick spread of some sort. I’m still not happy about this development, and as soon as the fake cheese is gone, we are not replacing it: I’m pretty sure there isn’t a way to doctor Kraft Singles into something more socially acceptable. If I had known that I would be susceptible to its charms, I never would have allowed it to flirt with me in the first place.

Given the title, I meant to work in something about Swiss cheese.

Oh well.

1 I have discovered that I have quite the complex about eating “childish” foods. I bought tater tots several months ago to make tater tot casserole. Well, I never got around to making the casserole, but I didn’t want to be wasteful and toss the tots. But really! Tater tots!? At my age!?

I took out a portion of them when I was rolling cod in a blend of spices and rolled the tater tots in my “scampi-like” blend. I thought that maybe this would disguise them and throw out any flashbacks of the intimidating lunch lady who smote the ruins of overcooked potato pellets across our little red lunch trays. Nick’s first reaction over my gourmet side dish? “What’s the crap on the tater tots?”