Monday, February 28, 2011

please don't take this personally hillshire farms

Today is my Dad’s birthday.

I know exactly what you’re thinking.  Thank goodness he wasn’t born one day later, because having a birthday on February 29th opens up a whole can of leap year birthday related worms.  Trust me-I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of nearly every leap day birthday scenario under the sun.  It’s what I do.

We celebrated my Dad’s birthday on Saturday night, and I cooked dinner.  Despite the fact that it was suggested from a source that shall remain nameless that perhaps I should wait until after the actual day of my dad’s birthday to ensure that my food preparation doesn’t prohibit him from seeing another year, the dinner was a delicious success and we all lived to tell about it.  Speaking of food, we were at Sam’s Club yesterday and my dad spotted a “yard-o-beef” for the bargain price of $7.98.  Even though nothing says happy birthday quite like three pounds of summer sausage, he made the decision to leave the poor, salty yard-o-beef on the shelf.  

Given the opportunity I would have made the same choice because I have always been somewhat skeptical of room temperature meat.  I prefer any meat I eat to go right from roaming in the pasture/chicken coop straight to the freezer.  Part of this may have to do with the training I received prior to beginning my career in food services in college.  And by “my career in food services” I mean I stood in the middle of the sandwich assembly line at the commons sporting a very flattering baseball cap and matching apron and said “cheese?” no less than 427 times per shift. 

However, the requirements for the coveted “cheese” position at the commons consisted of detailed knowledge of what we in the biz call “critical temperatures.”  And I don’t care how much salt the particular meat product is soaked in, I know from my extensive, rigorous training at the commons that nothing good happens in the danger zone between 41 and 165 degrees, or what I like to call bacteria central.  In fact, I kept a portable thermometer in my handy apron pocket at all times during my career at the dining hall to ensure that all food stayed out of the danger zone.  I was the most popular girl in the sandwich assembly line.

Despite the fact that my dad does enjoy room temperature summer sausage, he also recognizes the value of critical temperatures, as evidenced by the fact that when I announced dinner was ready the other night he encouraged me to take out our trusty cooking thermometer and make sure the temperature of our dinner was not in the danger zone, or on the highway to it.  Coincidentally, my dad worked at the same exact dining commons that I did when he was in college, so I am choosing to view his suggestion to double check the temp of my dinner as a result of his rigorous college dining commons training, and not as a commentary on my cooking skillz.

Although, I wouldn’t blame him for the latter.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

her pearls could make up a very lovely necklace

My mom really appreciated my inclusion of her belief that “nothing good happens after 11pm on a Tuesday” in my post last week.  She has even strongly suggested that I start a regular feature here on Oh Laura Darling where I could showcase some of her other “pearls of wisdom” like my personal favorite “you gotta look out for number one.”  There are many more, and they all come from a valuable place of grown up experience.    

Although, speaking of being grown up, several things have happened in the last few weeks that make me feel like I am well on my way to adulthood.  Never mind the fact that I still live with my parents and someone else packs my lunch every day. 

Exhibit 1

I had to take Old Blue into the shop a few weeks ago.  Contrary to what one might think given the first word in her name, Old Blue isn’t really old at all-she’s a one and a half year old spring chicken.

Earlier in the month, in a twist of NEVER BEFORE SEEN circumstances, I was driving Old Blue, and Phil, my mom, and Emily were my passengers.  On the way home, two warning lights on the dashboard flashed on, and Old Blue’s get up and go simply got up and went.  Phil was in the front passenger seat, and he flew into action, whipping out the manual and insisting that WE NEED TO GET TO A FORD DEALERSHIP IMMEDIATELY.

I can’t fault Phil for his strong insistence about getting Old Blue to a dealer STAT because he was only trying to prevent me from starting down the expensive car repair road that he has been traveling the past eighteen months or so.  Poor Phil has been burned by the car repair bill many a time, just ask him or his new starter or bumper or the motor for his driver’s side window or the battery or any one of his tires. 

However, since it was 9:30 on a Monday night and we were miles away from the nearest Ford dealership, I did the next best thing in the world of car repair, which is to say that I rolled into a convenience store parking lot, turned the car off, and then turned it back on again.  It worked like a charm, the warning lights went out, and I began to contemplate stopping by Pep Boys for an application because clearly I am a mechanical genius.

That period of misguided career contemplation was brief and ended abruptly the next night when I was driving to school and noticed HOLY HIGH RPM, BATMAN.  I went straight home for some investigatory googling, and guess where Old Blue was at 8:30 the next morning.  If you guessed the Ford dealership, you were right. 

But, lucky for me not only is Old Blue a spring chicken, she’s a spring chicken with a three year, thirty thousand mile warranty.  BONUS.  And now she’s sporting a brand spankin’ new transmission range sensor.

I must mention that this entire saga included no less than eight phone calls and conversations with my dad about the fate of OB, and then him taking her on a test drive on the turn pike to ensure that the RPMs were acceptable and the transmission range sensor was indeed sensing and that his lovely daughter/favorite child had some PEACE OF MIND.

Exhibit 2

As you probably know, Monday was President’s Day.  If someone had asked me during the last 21 years of my life when President’s Day was, I would not have been able to provide a confident and/or accurate answer.  But this year?  I started counting down the days in January, because it meant work was CLOSED!  So, on Sunday night, I went out with Phil and my cousin. 

Out!  On a Sunday night!  There I go, living on that edge again! 

We were chatting and laughing and talking about elementary school and having a great time and then we started yawning.  And yawning some more.  All three of us.  We were straight up EXHAUSTED and so ready to go to sleep and convinced that it MUST be way past our bedtimes.

I looked at my watch.

It was 9:45.   

Exhibit 3

I will be going on a business trip next week.  If you giggled when you read that last sentence, don’t feel bad.  Rest assured that no one is more shocked and amused at this unexpected turn of events than I am.

Exhibit 4

We had a little bit of a WINTER WEATHER EVENT on Tuesday night, and because Old Blue was parked in the street, she was covered in about four inches of fluffy snow on Wednesday morning.  I know…she’s had a rough go if it this February.  Anyway, I had to face the reality that I was going to have to brush her off before work because when you’re a grown up in the real world, there is no such thing as a two hour delay.  Okay, actually there is, but not this particular day.  So I put on my work clothes, zipped up my high heel leather dress boots, grabbed the sandwich my parents made for me, and headed for the street to brush off Old Blue. 

I had just finished the roof and was working on the front windshield when I heard my mom yell, from the second floor all the way across the front yard and down to the street, “Hey, Laura…great choice of footwear!!!”

And I pretended that I didn’t hear her because as I mentioned I am a TOTALLY MATURE GROWN UP. 

A totally mature grown up who is thinking that “Wear waterproof winter boots when walking in/brushing/shoveling snow” will make her mother’s collection of pearls of wisdom.

And with very wet, cold, good reason.

Monday, February 21, 2011

i think it's time to buy some stock in maybelline

When talking about how many lip products and/or hair accessories I own, my dad's favorite number is forty seven thousand.

Normally I think his estimate is a tiny bit on the high side, but last night I cleaned out two purses. 


And found all of these...
Apparently my dad is not far off at all.

What can I say?  It's important for a girl to have options in the lip care department.

Friday, February 18, 2011

i can't come up with a creative title

Well, nothing funny or out of the ordinary has really happened to me this week.  I normally hesitate to just write summaries of what I’ve been doing, because I feel that those types of things can quickly cross into the boring territory, and that’s a territory I would rather not spend a great deal of time in.  However, my adoring fans (my mom and Emily) have been begging for a new post.  And I aim to please.  So I’m working with what I’ve got.

I visited Matt this past weekend.  I left after work on Friday and the drive was going along great until I got off at the wrong exit, despite the fact that I have made this particular drive before.  More than once in fact.  I forgot that exit 295B comes before exit 295A, maybe because that makes no sense to me at all and the next thing you know we will be reading books right to left.  Or tfel ot tghir, as the case may be.  I knew immediately that I made a mistake, but in an effort to restore my poor navigational reputation I tried to correct things without having to make a tearful SOS call to one of the men in my life.  Those men being my dad, Matt, my brother, or Brad Paisley. 

(The ironic thing is that this fancy new phone I have can do pretty much everything except actually drive the car for me.  It has at least ten GPS features and programs and apps.  That was one of the features that SOLD me.  Unfortunately, I was so confident that I knew exactly where I was going last weekend that I didn’t take the time to set any of them up, and because I packed my common sense I knew the last place I wanted to be fooling around with my phone was alone in a car off a dark exit in Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania.  I’ve watched CSI.  And nothing good happens off dark exits in the Middle of Nowhere.  Reminds me of when my brother and I were in high school and would ask why OH WHY our summertime curfew was midnight on weekends but only 11 on weeknights.  My mom’s answer was always “Because nothing good happens after 11 pm on a Tuesday.”)

Anywho, I regret to inform you that I made things worse and eventually had to make a call.  Unfortunately Brad Paisley was busy so I called Matt and told him that I was on the fast track to the other side of the world known as WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO THERE MATT.  PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO GET BACK ON THE ROAD TRAVELING EASTWARD.  The good news is I keep my dramatics and tears in check, and made it to Matt’s safe and sound.

Sorry you didn’t get to see me, Western PA.  But, chances are I will end up unintentionally headed your away again soon, so fear not.

On Saturday Matt and I took a self guided driving covered bridge tour.  Lest you think I am the only one who struggles with directions, I will share that things got off to a rocky start because we missed the first bridge on the tour.  Flat out skipped a turn and sailed right on by.  After that I took on the position of navigator and got A LOT of mileage out of the phrase, “Go west, young man.”  Every once in a while I would add, “Go west, young man, go west and grow up with the land!”  In a totally cool, not at all nerdy way of course.

It was supposed to be a sunny, spring like day at home, so I supposed the weather would be the same at Matt’s school.  Well, you know what happens when you assume.

It was snowing.
And cloudy.

With a high of 28.

So we made it to the first (which was technically the second) bridge, and in a fit of boundless excitement I leapt out of the car and onto the pavement, which happened to be a complete sheet of ice.  My legs flew out from under me and I fell flat on my back.

I am graceful like a swan.

Halfway through the trip we were planning to stop at a state park to do some hiking.  I thought we had packed everything we could POSSIBLY need for the day,
but sadly, we forgot our ROPE AXES!
So between our lack of rope axes and my recent experience with ice, there was no hiking for us.  We ate our lunch there though and kept an eye out for cabin people. 
We didn’t see any.

We journeyed on though and had a lot of fun and the drive was SO PRETTY.

And we ended the day with a stop at the Tractor Supply Co, because how else would you end such a day?
Okay, maybe we went out to dinner.  And maybe the desserts were half price.  And maybe I had two.

Then we went to the Red Box to rent a movie and Matt picked.  I am a fan of cheesy, romantic, cinematic masterpieces.  Matt is usually a good sport about it and always tells me I can pick the movie, but I have been noticing for the past few months that every time we watch one of those movies, Matt insists that it’s the same one we watched the time before.  I will admit that the majority of the plot lines are strikingly similar, but how can you mix up P.S. I Love You and The Holiday?!  If you don’t count the ways those movies are exactly the same, they could not be more different.  But, I’m sad to say Matt is suffering from a case of All Of The Romantic Comedies Are Running Into One Another-itis. 

So, Matt picked on Saturday.  We watched The American, which wasn’t a total loss because hellooooooo Mr. Clooney.  Plus Matt enjoyed the suspense and danger and lack of love songs.  Can’t blame him.

So, that was the weekend.  ‘Twas a happy Valentine’s Day indeed.  I am staying home this weekend and plan to spend my time watching Sleepless in Seattle, 500 Days of Summer, and Return to You.  I also should probably figure out how to use my GPS, I would hate to get lost on the way to the Red Box.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

let it be known that i actually can make a mean tuna melt

There is an unofficial rule in my family that everyone takes turns cooking dinner.  The rule happens to be, for the most part, completely unenforced because since June I have only made dinner five times.  Now, my parents and brother love to cook.  They always prepare some sort of elaborately marinated, perfectly grilled, deliciously seasoned, slow cooked, beautiful dinner.  And they enjoy doing it.  I am a different story altogether.  I hate to cook about as much as I love to eat, which is a lot.  So it’s no surprise that my track record of family dinners is a little disappointing. 

The first time I cooked dinner for my family, I made some VERY FANCY chicken.  I dipped the chicken in a mixture of butter, crushed cornflakes, and powdered ranch dressing mix, and then baked it.  HOLLA.  It was a HIT.

So, when my turn came around again, about seven weeks later, I made the same thing since, as I always say, why reinvent the wheel or the delicious cornflake ranch chicken?

And once again, a HIT.

Five months later when I had to make a meal again, I was feeling slightly more adventurous because I had two successful dinners under my belt.  So I decided to make this pasta with tomato and blue cheese sauce, because it sounded delicious and was rated “easy.”  Things were going along swimmingly until it came time for the red pepper flakes.

Hello, nosedive to the south.  The lid to the red pepper flakes?  It looks like this...
However, in a fit of overwhelming enthusiam, I took the entire lid off without even realizing what I was doing.  I used it like this.
And I gave three HEARTY, CONFIDENT shakes.  Whoops.  I tasted the sauce because seriously, how hot could some red pepper flakes really be?

The answer is VERY, VERY HOT.  BURNING HOT.  IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE DONE TO THE MEAL hot.  After I got that answer I proceeded to make what was probably a rookie mistake, and poured in many, many cups of sugar in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to counteract ALL THE HOT.

I even added a can of premade tomato sauce, thinking maybe that would calm things down JUST A SMIDGE, but it didn’t. 

The meal was truly inedible.  Not only was it burning hot, but it also had a slightly gritty texture due to the abundant quantity of sugar.  I basically served my family noodles with hot sauce and sand.


A few weeks ago it was my turn once again.  And you know what they say, once bitten, and twice shy.  So my dinner that night consisted of me VERY LOVINGLY heating up pulled barbecue beef that came from a tub in the freezer section at the food store, dumping store bought coleslaw and fruit salad into bowls, and putting chips in a basket.  As we sat down to say grace, my mom announced, “Okay, let’s pray.  We even have to thank God for this food.”


Well, at least this time the burn was just figurative.

Last night, my turn to cook came around for the fifth time in eight months.  I was going to make some chicken.  All I had to do was cut up some vegetables, lay them in the baking pan with the chicken, and sprinkle on a packet of seasoning, and bake it for an hour.  It sounded easy, but thanks to my poor performance with the last "easy" meal I attempted to make, I was apprehensive.

First of all, it involved cutting an onion, which reminded me of my first onion slicing experience.  It was about eight months ago, and I was in my apartment at school.  I was making pierogies for dinner and decided I wanted some fried onions to go with them.  Clearly I was brimming with culinary confidence and naivete.  I took the onion out of the bag.  Got out a nice, sharp knife.  Pulled out a cutting board.  Looked at all my supplies for a moment, just taking things in. 

And then I texted my old roommate Heather.  “Hey, how do I cut an onion?”

She walked me through it, my eyes stinging and tearing with every cut of the knife.

On Wednesday, in what may or may not have been a last minute effort to get out of cooking, I dramatically informed my parents that slicing onions makes me CRY AND CRY.

They didn’t even FAKE sympathy.

So last night, I cooked the chicken, and things went surprisingly well.  I kept waiting for tragedy to strike, but that didn't seem like it was going to happen.  After an hour of baking, I took the beautiful, golden brown, fragrant chicken out of the oven and served everyone with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I sat down and cut into the chicken.

It was raw.  R.A.W.  I'm not talking "Oh dear, I may see a tiny bit of pink" raw.  I'm talking the chicken was STILL CLUCKING and could probably go for a lap or two around the barnyard raw.  

Back in the oven it went.  Unfortunately I had to go babysit, so I ate a re-heated version of the meal around 9:45 last night. 

There may have been a few tears, but my story is that they were TOTALLY from the onions.

And as for the next time I have to cook dinner, which will likely be about June or so?

 We're going to Sonic. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

i am nothing if not verbose and long winded

I'm back.  Just call me the Prodigal Blogger. 
Or not. 
At any rate, I have returneth.  Just a quick public service announcement: I will be test driving the occasional “th” ending instead of “ed” on verbs in the past tense in an effort to bring back good old fashioned sophistication. 
Speaking of old fashioned and sophisticated (except, not really), my siblings and I spent a lot of time together in the car this past weekend driving back and forth from some family obligations.  Despite the fact that I possess some pretty impressive driving skillz, the Powers That Be (Mom and Dad) designateth Phil as Chauffer #1.  Emily sat in the backseat and put a great deal of effort into pretending that she couldn’t hear, see, or speak to me or Phil.  That’s not necessarily different than your average day, but this weekend it earneth her the official title of Teenage Sister #1. 
 And last but MOST CERTAINLY not least, I took the position as Peacekeeper and Navigator #1. 
 (I don’t know where all these "#1"s are coming from.  I guess I think they make these titles sound somewhat legitimate.) 
 If you’re thinking, “Wow, Peacekeeper and Navigator #1 sounds like a really tough job!”  I will take this opportunity to tell you that you have never been more correct.  It’s not easy sitting in the passenger seat reminding Chauffer #1 and Teenage Sister #1 of the importance of staying CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED because no matter how angry you get, it won’t make the salt truck driving in front of us at the speed of a tired snail move any faster and won’t you will all be grateful tomorrow morning when we get an ice storm that these roads have been salted?!!
Combine that with my occasional directional suggestion like “I REALLY THINK YOU SHOULD TURN LEFT AT THAT GAS STATION” or “I SURE HOPE YOU SEE THOSE BRAKE LIGHTS IN FRONT OF US!!” and you can imagine the peace and joy that filleth the car.
Not only is the position of Peacekeeper and Navigator #1 is an emotionally exhausting job, it’s a thankless one too.  I know this because Chauffer #1 is still the person who gets to pick the music.  Which meant that for the first two trips back and forth to my grandparents’ this weekend, Phil changed the radio from one classic rock station to the next no less than 17 times a minute.  Evidently he is allergic to a good chorus.  Which is ashame, really, because the chorus is usually the only part of a classic rock song that I know all the words to. 
And now that I think about that, the whole thing is very coincidental.
Anyway, by our third trip the other night, we had all had enough of the oft-changeth rock and roll songs.  Even Chauffeur #1.  The time had come to say sayonara to classic rock and HOLLA to a new genre.
I campaigned solidly for some Delilah, the self-professed Queen of Sappy Love Songs.  Anyone else a fan?  I’m not ashamed to say that I envy her natural, unrivaled talent for picking a song that is perfectly appropriate for any given person’s life story.
“Oh, hello Marjorie.  You mean to say that in the last year, you have been in a car accident, fallen in love, lost your job, bought a new car, painted your house, fallen out of love, gotten a new job, planted a beauuuutiful garden of tulips, discovered a long lost cousin, traveled to Spain, joined a book club, found love once again, discovered the true meaning of life, and found the perfect jeans that don’t shrink in the wash or get too tight around the knees for a bargain price?  I have just the song for you.”
And then after a quick commercial break, Delilah comes back with a song that was just WRITTEN for Marjorie, her jeans, and the tumultuous past twelve months of her life.
And no, I NEVER, EVER PRACTICE HYPOTHETICAL DELILAH SCENARIOS.  But eventually Delilah will need to retire, and someone will have to replace her.  And that someone better be prepared.  That’s all I’m saying.
Plus, Delilah and I are kindred spirits, because we both happen to have a deep appreciation for eighties ballads.  I’m looking at you, REO Speedwagon.
I’m sad to report that even though my campaign for Delilah was a hard fought one, with the bonus of a quick Peter Gabriel imitation by yours truly, I couldn’t win Phil over.
Instead, he turned on Power 99FM, Philadelphia’s Best Bangin’ Hip Hop n’ RnB.  The DJs on that station say the FM part every time.  It is absolutely vital to the station name, lest you switch your dial to AM and become perplexeth as to why the station numbers are in the thousands and WHY OH WHY you cannot tune into any Ginuwine or Lupe Fiasco.  A great car ride can take a horrible turn when one cannot locate Mr. Fiasco on their radio dial.  Not that I would know from experience or anything.
For a little while, we rode along to the melodic sounds of Fabolous and Tyga.  Keep in mind that we were traveling through suburban Pennsylvania in a family sized SUV, so our street cred?  THROUGH. THE. ROOF.  I think Emily actually took her coat off and put it over her head. 
After three or four songs, Phil pointed out that there has been a noticeably wimpy change in the alcoholic drinks the rappers of today are enjoying.  Rappers of 2008 were enjoying Patrón and Cristal.  I can attest to this fact not only because my buddy T-Pain sings about Patrón on a regular basis, but also because in college I attended both a TI concert and a Jay Z concert, and they both mentioned Cristal. 
However, the rappers of today are apparently daintily sipping rosé.  According to Phil, one must look far and wide to find a drink girlier than rosé.  Never fear though, it was a long car ride, and Phil had time to search his brain far and wide, and came up with two drinks that are indeed girlier.  Chablis and hot tea.  English breakfast, to be exact.  He even composeth a little rap song of his own about them right then and there, and it was one that would make even Ludicrous envious.  Just call him Phil-Swizzle.
Our favorite song of the trip, though, was “Fancy.”  A compilation of Drake, TI, and Swizz Beats.  I think it was our favorite because it was the only one we could really understand, because pretty much the only words were, “Oh you FANcy, huh?”  Well, there was one part where one of the guys (I think it was Swizz) started talking about how he had some sort of a falling out with a girl named Tammy, but we couldn’t figure out exactly what had happeneth between Tammy and Mr. Beats because it was a lot of BLEEEEEEP.”
So we just kept saying, “Oh, you FANcy, huh?” 
We kept it up the whole night.  Unpacking the car.  “Oh, you FANcy, huh?”
Feeding the dog.  “Oh, you FANcy, huh?”
Finally poor Emily had enough, and went up to bed.
I went into her room a few minutes later, because every night around her bedtime my feet JUST WALK THEMSELVES IN THERE and my mouth JUST STARTS TALKING.  I really have no control over it.
The whole night Emily had rolled her eyes at us.  Sighed loudly.  Implored us to please, just act normal.  Saying that none of us were indeed "fancy." 
But oh, look how I found her...
A satin red sleep mask adorning her lovely face.  You know what I have to say about that?

"Oh, she's FANcy, huh?"

Anyway, that's pretty much what's been going on around here. 

And I bet you wish you had poureth yourself a glass of rosé before you sat down to read this.