Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sipping In Nyack

I'm finally hanging in my favorite state of all time...New York, of course!

Eddie and I are visiting with my cousin and while we wait at the Palisades Center in West Nyack for them to show up, I'm sipping a hot drink with a mountain of whipped cream and Eddie is roaming around Home Depot. No, I didn't make this in the espresso machine - it's my favorite standby, General Foods International Italian Cappuccino, but it's still pretty tasty!

Tomorrow, we hit Saratoga Springs. Cross your fingers for sunshine!

Friday, February 27, 2009

C'mon, Just Do It Already!

I usually don't mind automated options when I call the bank or DMV or random business. It saves me from having to talk to a stupid person and gets me to the department I need quicker than if I had to explain myself fifteen times. What I do not like is when they don't GIVE me an option to talk to a human.

A little over five year ago, I used to work as an operator for the deaf and hard of hearing. I was the person who would listen to the hearing person's side of the conversation and then type it to the deaf person. When the deaf person responded, I would read it back to the hearing person. I was essentially a human telephone wire.

It was one of my most favorite jobs. I did it part time and it had incredibly flexible hours (any shift, any time, any day - they were taking calls 24/7/365) and paid very well for a second job. I was a professional eavesdropper, really. And if the calls ran long enough, they would forget you were even there and my voice and fingers relaying their conversation was all but forgotten.

I learned a lot of tricks working there but the one I use most often is when not to use an automated option. You see, if you wait long enough, they either say something like "If you are not using a touch tone phone, please stay on the line and we'll connect you with the next available agent." This was also for the benefit of the deaf people - they can't "hear" the options and by the time it's typed to them, there isn't time for them to choose the option they wanted anyway, so usually an agent would come on the phone and we'd continue the call.

But today, when I called my bank, I got another directive. After listening to the normal greeting, offering me to "marque dos" if I wanted to hear the options en espanol, they asked for my account number. I don't know my account number and didn't want to get up to go look for it, so I just waited, not pressing any of the options. Then it said to press "9" for more options. I still didn't press anything.

About a minute passed when I heard the automated voice say, "Go ahead." The tone was one that children hear when hesitating to do something their friends are trying to make them do. It was a challenge. The recording might as well have said, "Go ahead. I dare you."

I was so taken aback, I told Ed about it and then called the number again to make sure I heard it right. Yep, there it was. "Go ahead."

I never did get to talk to an actual person; I just didn't want to wait the four minutes they explained it would take for the next agent to take my call.

Plus, I really don't like to be told what to do.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting Our Truck Tweaked While Making New Friends And Enjoying A Free Lunch Pie *

Today we were in Shipshewana, a town located in Northern Indiana's Amish country. Beautiful town. Beautiful people. Beautiful pies.

We were in town to have some tweaking done on our new truck. Nothing major, just some wrinkles we found during our initial breaking in period that needed to be ironed out. The
company who makes our sleeper, is headquartered there.

We spent the entire day at their shop and while hanging out, made two new friends; Jenny and Leif. FANTASTIC people! The live in Wisconsin now, but Leif is originally from Norway and is a wonderfully interesting guy. Jenny was chatty and pleasant and quick to share her "living space" with me and my curious eyes.

They were both extremely warm, invited us to their house on the lake in Wisconsin and they both gave me a hug when I left. I love people who hug! So as we sat waiting on the crew to take care of us they shared their experiences in the trucking industry (he's been driving something like 40 years!), showed us their super cool sleeper (which is 170" long!) and introduced us to their three adorable Maltese companions; Mickey, Reggie and Max. Max was the tiniest of the trio and my favorite. When I first asked Jenny what kind of dogs they were, she answered, "Spoiled."

Later in the afternoon, our sales contact Tim took us all to lunch at a local Amish eatery,
The Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery. What a great restaurant - the smells wafted out the minute the door was opened. After downing a few slices of fresh baked bread with homemade apple butter, I dined on roast beef so tender, a toothless baby would have enjoyed it. Add to that buttered carrots that made me want to dive into the dish and mashed potatoes that....well, I've never met a spud I didn't like. I took home a piece of carrot cake on Jenny's recommendation. She couldn't even form words for it when trying to describe its yummy goodness, so I figured it must be good. Eddie bought me a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches and a special apple pull apart loaf that I wanted to pull apart right there in the store!

After lunch, we went back to the ARI facility to wait on the guys to finish up our work. Now anyone who knows me or has read my blog, knows I have absolutely
no patience when it comes to idiots. I abhor incompetence and cannot tolerate rude employees and poor customer service. I've even been likened to the Devil because I can't keep my mouth shut when any of these things happen.

I mention this because the next thing I'm going to say may shock you.....

I have not had a more pleasant experience in my five years of being on the road, in this industry, than I did today. Yes, never. The crew at ARI was absolutely THE BEST I've ever come across. Out of all the people we've had work on our equipment over the years, these guys take the cake (but not my carrot cake!). From Tim, our sales contact to Kelly, the service manager, to the guys who did the work on our truck; Mel, Greg and Mitch. I couldn't have had a better experience.

These guys were knowledgeable, precise in their work, competent (oh, how I LOVE competence!), friendly, easygoing, able to work around us as we were going in and out of the sleeper and didn't even balk about us being underfoot in their work space. AND, they were working on more than one truck at a time. Their teamwork was seamless. They moved around each other with the precision of an Alvin Ailey dance troupe. They shared tools, drill bits and flashlights. They laughed and joked with each other. They took rest breaks that were necessary yet not lengthy and they got us in and out of there in the normal span of a work day.

Guys from ARI...will you marry me??

Because of them, we're back on the road and will be able to deliver our load on time and accompanied by the beautiful blue glow of the now working rope lights in our sleeper. We can do our job without interruption because they knew how to do their job. Thank you, ARI. We can't wait to see you again!

* If you've ever seen the movie
Waitress with Keri Russell, you will get this reference.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Best Is Yet To Come

I saw this on FaceBook and thought it would make a fun meme.


* Put your iPod or mp3 player on SHUFFLE.
* For each question, press the next button to get your answer (no cheating!!).
* You must write down song/artist even if it doesn't make sense.
* Include any comments in parenthesis.
* Post the list on your blog with #25 as your blog post title.
* Tag people in other blogs. (I'm not tagging anyone, but please feel free to do your list here in comment or on your own blog. Just let me know about it so I can come read!)

1. What do your friends say about you?
Believe - Cher

2. How would your coworkers describe you?
You Are Good – Greg Kirkland with “The Gospel” Choir (Ed is my only co-worker and I'm pretty sure he'd agree that I'm good.)

3. How would you describe yourself?
You’ll Be Back (Volverás) – Gloria Estefan

4. What do you like in a romantic partner?
Take Me There – Rascal Flatts

5. How do you feel today?
Certainly – Erykah Badu

6. What is your life’s purpose?
Right As Rain - Adele

7. What is your motto?
Mambo Italiano – Rosemary Clooney

8. What do you think about the most?
Straighten Up and Fly Right – Natalie Cole

9. What are you going to do on your next vacation?
Tie My Hands – Robin Thicke & Lil Wayne (um, that sounds a little kinky)

10. What do you think of your first love/date?
Jump, Jive An’ Wail – Louis Prima

11. What is your life story?
Fly Like An Eagle – Yolanda Adams

12. What did you do yesterday?
I Wonder If I Take You Home – Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam

13. What do you think of when you see the person you like/love?
A Real Fine Place To Start – Sara Evans

14. What describes your wedding? (I’m not married, but I’ll do it anyway)
Maria Jose – Federico Aubele (I have no idea what this means, so I guess I'm glad I'm not married)

15. What will they play at your funeral?
Don’t Forget To Remember Me – Carrie Underwood (How appropriate!!)

16. What is your obsession?
Trouble Sleeping – Corinne Bailey Rae

17. What is your biggest fear?
Love Is Here To Stay – Etta James

18. What is your biggest secret?
New York, New York – Frank Sinatra & Tony Bennett (Oh, there are SO MANY secrets from New York!!)

19. What is your biggest turn-on?
Restless – Sara Evans (I guess you can say being restless does get my juices flowing)

20. How do you describe your friends?
Haunted – Kelly Clarkson

21. What would you do with a million dollars?
Loves Me Like A Rock – The O’Jays

22. What is your opinion of sex?
Seasons Of Love – Rent Soundtrack

23. What is your biggest regret?
Yes I Do – Rascal Flatts

24. What would you rather be doing right now?
Alfie – Joss Stone (Oh Lord, I would SO rather be doing Alfie right now – the Jude Law character, not the Michael Caine one!)

25. What will you post this list as?
The Best Is Yet To Come – Frank Sinatra

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Seat You Offer To Your Arch Enemy

This cacti covered chair photo was taken Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. It was part of their Bending Nature exhibit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

They Say

I just hung up the phone when it rang once again. It was my mother.

"I keep forgetting to ask you..." she started. "Have you seen that Wendy's commercial? They have a fish filet sandwich now. "

"Oh yeah, we just saw that commercial. But no, we haven't tried it." I said.

"They say it's real fish. Cod. From the North Atlantic."

She's just like my youngest nephew, who loves commercials. And if "they" say it's from the North Atlantic, it is.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sometimes There Are FOUR Sides To A Story

You've heard the expression, "There are three sides to every story. Yours, mine and the truth."

Sometimes though, there is a fourth side.

Take this scenario:

There are four people - we'll call them Abigail, Buford, Carmela and Daphne.

Abigail and Buford used to date and Carmela and Daphne were their friends.

Then Abigail and Buford broke up. Carmela and Daphne stayed friends with both of them, but as you would expect, things were a little different.

Abigail, an only child, has a history of being spoiled. Always used to getting her way, upset when she doesn't get what she wants, acting the victim if she thinks she’s been wronged and often throwing around her family name as if it means something. “Well that’s just how us Chester’s are.” or “They obviously don’t know they’re dealing with a Chester” or “I get my stubborn side from my father. It’s a Chester family trait.” As if that's something to be proud of. She is insecure, has a need to be surrounded by friends, even if they're just “friends” and often pouts if she's not the center of attention. She will snub you without a thought and whip her nose in the air as if you don't exist. She acts nice, but often, really isn't. That’s the insecurity. For example, instead of gushing with a compliment, such as “Oh my gosh, you look great!” or “Wow, you’ve really lost weight!” or “I LOVE that outfit!”, she would rather look you up and down and POINTEDLY not say anything. It never goes unnoticed but it always points out her insecurity.

Buford, on the other hand, is the life of the party. Everyone loves Buford. He's social, good with animals and people, volunteers his time, has great parents, a beautiful wife (who is just as personable and fun) and generally enjoys his life. Buford doesn’t see much reason to dredge up the past, clamor for attention or call people names when he gets pissed off. Also, he’s quick to give a compliment – especially to the ladies!!

Recently, Abigail and Buford ran into each other at the party of a mutual friend. Well, really Buford’s friend. Abigail hadn’t been in touch with their old friend for a while, whereas at Buford's recent wedding ceremony, this friend stood up for him as his best man. Buford's presence at the party wasn't unexpected and the only reason Abigail came is because she heard about it through the grapevine; she wasn’t really invited.

But that’s okay, Buford didn’t mind. He wasn’t even all that surprised to see her since he knew she might show up. Plus, Buford looked great – even more handsome than when they had been together. Abigail, on the other hand, still looked the same and it seemed, still had the habit of turning beet red whenever she was embarrassed.

The telling of the meeting though, gets a little clouded when it was passed on to Abigail’s friends. Abigail of course, made herself the heroine in her story, “You should have seen Buford’s face when he saw me. Eyes big as saucers. He was clearly uncomfortable.” She went on to say how she was the “bigger” of the two (as Daphne would say, literally) by being polite and cordial.

When Buford told his friend Daphne about the encounter, it went more like this: “I walked into the room and guess who was there? That’s right, Abigail. She turned beet red when she saw me, something she’s always done and can never hide, especially when she’s uncomfortable or embarrassed. She made some awkward small talk with me and then left to get herself a drink at the bar. I’m telling you, I thought I handled it pretty well. I felt great, I looked great and most of all, I was nice. I even met her new boyfriend. I went right up to him, shook his hand and introduced myself.”

“The new boyfriend is a bit beastly, isn’t he? Not at all handsome.” Daphne said.

Buford smiled and just said, “I’m not going to go there. Let’s just say he was nice. I don’t have any reason to say much more about the guy.” Buford always takes the high road.

Buford continued, “And when the party came to an end, I really had to get going since my wife was waiting at home for me, but as I looked over and saw Abigail, I knew I didn’t want to leave the party at the same time she did and have to walk out to our cars together. You know how she is, she’d wind up taking it wrong and report to her friends how I just couldn’t stay away. I can hear her now. She’s just the type to say 'Oh, you see that? He just couldn’t stay away from me. He’s still got a thing for me you know, having to leave the party at the same exact time I did, just to be in my company for one more minute. I wish he would just move on with his life.' I didn’t want to be any part of that, so I helped the host clean up a bit and once the coast cleared, I went on my way."

Daphne said, “You did the right thing. You know Abigail would’ve told everyone how you followed her around all night. She’s really delusional. It’s as if she sees things in her very own light, which is always SO far from the way it actually happened.”

And that’s where the fourth side of the story comes in. There is Abigail’s telling of it, Buford’s telling of it, what really happened and then Abigail’s version of what she thinks actually happened. The version that only took place in her own little world.

When Daphne told Carmela the story, Carmela instantly knew that Buford’s version was the right one. If you remember, they’d been friends for a number of years. And it didn’t take Carmela too long to identify the repetitive behaviors of her friends. Besides, Carmela knew Abigail. She’d seen her in action. She knew how Abigail liked to make herself look better to her friends, how she acted as if she was the one who was doing so well after the breakup, how she was the one who quickly got on with her life and found other guys to date, how she had no interest in where Buford was and what he was doing (yet seemed to always have her nose pressed to the window looking for his passing car on the street) and who, to this day, still refers to Buford as, "that horse’s ass that I used to date”. It seemed to Carmela and Daphne as if Abigail still had some unresolved issues.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

It’s the same with Abigail. If she has to keep telling people about how she’s so “over” Buford and how she “shocked him to the core” when she showed up at the party and how she “has such a great life now, with her new man, her friends and her social life” then maybe she doesn’t have such a great new life. Maybe she’s making do because she doesn’t really know how to be happy. Maybe she only knows how to act happy.

You don’t have to keep telling people how great your new love is, if in fact he’s the bee's knees. You don’t have to keep telling people how great your friends are and how many parties you’re having in order to boost your status as a social butterfly if it’s a well known fact. And you don’t have to keep insisting you’re happy if you really are. Because if you’re REALLY happy, it would just show. Not a soul would ever even think to ask, because the answer would be evident.

So don’t create a fourth side to the story. Tell it like it is. You know very well when you’re embellishing your version of a story for the sake of looking like the one coming out on top, but if there are other people who can verify what actually happened, like the other guests who were well aware of the fact that these two exes wound up at the same party, try not to stray too far from the truth.

Someone who has moved on, who has a great new mate, wonderful friends and a beautiful life, isn’t the person who makes up their own version of a story. We’re all human. Many of these events have happened to us too. And those of us who embrace our humanness and tell it the way it is, are usually more accepted and more respected.

Because we are real and everyone loves someone who is REAL. If the ability to be real doesn’t come naturally to you, work on it. It’s certainly a better use of your time than concocting stories that don’t jibe with anyone else’s version. And believe me, people compare versions.

If they didn’t, this story wouldn’t even exist.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eddie Supervises Friday

Eddie supervising the positioning of our over-dimentional load. Because these tires, which we picked up at a CAT Equipment plant, hung over each side of the trailer by two inches, we had to adorn the truck with red caution flags and those big yellow "OVERSIZED LOAD" signs.

We don't a lot of over-dimentional loads, but because they pay much more than a regular load, it's sometimes worth the aggravation. The extra cost is used to pay for permits to travel through each state along the way to your delivery destination. Depending on the dimensions, you can't take certain routes, travel through cities or drive after dark, which was the case with this load.

Once night falls, you had better be in a place where you can sleep for the evening because when morning comes, it's time to get up and start traveling again. This is an easy one though, since we don't deliver until Monday. I like that we get to shut down in the early evening; more time for a nice dinner and movie watching and more sleep means I get to start the day at the crack of dawn!

OK, maybe not dawn...maybe it's more like 930ish.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong

Last night, in the middle of a normal dream (the bulk of which I don't remember) I started to get all excited about the fact that boneless chicken breasts were on sale for $ .89 a pound.

I vividly remember wondering who I can tell about this and where exactly am I going to store all the chicken breasts once I buy them. My freezer in the truck is small, I remember thinking, so I'm going to have to ask someone if they can keep my chicken in their freezer until I have a chance to come back and get it.

Can it be now that I'm able to cook in the truck, I'm so excited about my dinner prospects and the fact that I may be able to get chicken at almost a whole dollar less than what it normally goes on sale for, that I'm dreaming about it??? I mean, I woke up thinking, $ .89 a pound? Really?? I think I might need more non-food related stimuli on a daily basis. I guess that means I'll have to stop watching
CreateTV, which I've really come to love.

Some of my favorite shows on the network are;
Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen (which I really liked), Spain…on the road again (with Mario Batali and GP - that’s what he calls Gwyneth Paltrow), Chef’s Story (where I get to know all about some of my favorite chefs), Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (who reminds me of my best friend's mother-in-law), and the only non-food related one in the bunch, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dreams Of Do-It-Yourself Dolloping Come True

Three years ago, Ed promised me that he'd don beige khaki's and a green apron to become my very own personal barista. That day has arrived, folks.

Today we bought this cute little espresso machine for the truck. Did I just type what I think I typed? I have an espresso machine in my truck!!

Starbucks just came out with instant coffee, a product twenty years in the making, thinking it might help rejuvinate their company; the analysts don't think it's going to work.

Now that I have my little espresso maker (the machine, not Ed), I won't just not be buying their instant coffee but I also will not be buying as many lattes in their stores either. I'm not saying I'll never buy a latte again, but I'm really going to enjoy doing my own steaming, frothing and dolloping.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Under The Black Palm Tree

Peter Demian was one of several musicians entertaining the passing crowds but the only one I felt was picture worthy. Just another attraction on the Ocean Front Walk in Venice, California.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

While reading GiGi’s Blog, I found out that she was featured in Pilot Challenge Magazine, in an article about truck drivers who blog. Besides her blogging, she always impresses me that she actually does this driving/trucking thing by herself. I have Eddie, so if I pull into a driveway or street that has no discernable exit, I can bat my eyelashes at him and he's more than willing to get me out; Gigi has to navigate it on her own.

She got a great little paragraph talking about her blog and what she writes about and photographs while on the road. And it wasn't until I actually read the entire article that I realized I
also made it in! They didn't give me my own paragraph, but I did get put on the list of the trucking blogs of note. Yay for me!!!

This is the second time now I've been in the Pilot Challenge Magazine (the
first time was for winning one of their monthly photo contests) and I'm not at all above plugging myself as many times as it will take!!

And if you're here because you read about me in the magazine, Welcome! And please, please comment. I love to know that people are reading and enjoy hearing what you have to say.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Marion County Shirt Factory Incident

US-412 east of the Arkansas state line had been an uneventful drive, even when I hit the hairpin turns up the mountain on the way to our delivery destination. Driving through the Ozarks in the morning fog, seeing tree after tree hanging over the roads, branches broken and tree trunks split was a little creepy but had me wondering. Did they get hit with a tornado? Northwest Arkansas has been known to get tornadoes, but none of the houses seem damaged. Maybe it was a wind storm? Or that big ice storm that hit areas from Ohio clear down to Texas a few weeks ago? I made a mental note to ask someone when I got to the delivery dock.

It was just after 5 am when I pulled onto State Route 202 in Yellville, Arkansas. As I made the last turn, creeping along the winding road in the morning fog, I looked for the factory "a half mile down" as my contact instructed. First building, not it. Second driveway, nope. Then I saw a building looming in the distance. When I got closer, I saw that it said Marion County Shirt Factory. Yep, there it was.

The first driveway looked too small to pull into and I had remembered that my contact said if we got there early, there was a big lot on the side of the building we could park in. He said he got in around 5:30, our appointment was for 6 am.

So I pulled into the lot, drove all the way around the back side of it, and came to a stop facing the entrance so Eddie could easily pull out. I saw a man sitting in his car and looked over at him. He looked at me, I looked at him, he looked at me, I gave him a little wave, he looked at me again, I half-waved again thinking he was the guy I was meeting and when he didn't respond I just figured he must have been an employee who got there early. Or a weirdo. Or both. So instead of sitting right in front his car, I backed up about 20 feet, pulled the parking brake and went into the sleeper to wake Ed.

It was 5:17 am when I woke Ed up. I know this because whenever I tell him it's time to get up, he mumbles "What time is it?" like a drunk being shaken from his park bench by a cop's night stick. "Twenty after five. Now get up! We're here." I'm a drill sargeant in the morning; if I'm up, everyone in the barracks better be up!

I went back into the cab to wait on Ed and saw a man crossing the lot with a piece of paper in his hand. When he got to the truck window, he said "Gee, I didn't see you come in!" He proceeded to tell me to meet him in the next lot, through the gate, at door number 23. He would meet me in a few minutes. I said okay and got ready to head over to the dock.

I yelled in the back to Ed, telling him again to get dressed because the guy was here and we were going to unload. I started to pull out of the lot, swinging wide to get out of the entrance and began to pull across the road to get into my lane, when I saw a shitload of sparks in my driver side mirror. I stopped immediately. I turned to look out my window just in time to see a pole come crashing down, coming to rest on the ground in a sputter of sparks and flashing light. It seemed as if I'd hit an overhead wire. But how?? I had just pulled into that lot.

I saw a wire laying across the trailer and a wire above the truck, so I began yelling toward the sleeper for Ed to come up front quickly, I needed him! I was worried about him in the sleeper because I couldn't see where all the wires went. He popped his head out asking what happened and then told me to get out and look. I didn't want to get out because I thought the wires could have been live.

We got out of the truck together to assess the situation. Other than the broken pole and downed wires, there was no damage. No damage to our trailer, no damage to our truck (Thank God!) and no damage to our freight. In the picture above you will see how the truck straddled both lanes of the road. It was still dark when this happened, so the Deputy Sheriff had come out and had his lights on in case any traffic passed through. The only people out at this hour seemed to be the employees coming to work at the shirt factory; the shirt factory that had no power.

In this picture (click to enlarge) you can see the one wire that was in front of the truck. Had I not stopped when I did, it would have hit the stack and most likely, damaged it. I've seen guys out here on the road with bent and creased stacks, clearly the result of their hitting something. The other wire in the back is a little harder to see because it's black - that's the one the container caught on.
Here you will see the pole that cracked in half. Ed said he heard a crack, but I don't remember hearing anything. I must have been so focused on the sparks and the noise they made as I watched it come down. As a result of this pole being damaged, it seems all the power in the entire town was out.
In this picture, you can see the electrical wire coming from the light pole that was resting up against the container on the trailer. It was pulled very tight and the electric company had to use their bucket truck to lift it up so Eddie could back out from under it:The Deputy Sheriff that came to the scene was the only one on duty that morning. He said he was on his way back to the station when he saw all the power go out. When he got there, they told him there was "an incident at the shirt factory" so he came on over.

And there we were, in the middle of the road, in the dark. And dark it was; between the thick morning fog and the inky darkness of the night, it would have been impossible to see the wires anyway; they were black and virtually invisible.

The four of us (me, Eddie, the Deputy Sheriff and the power company guy) decided that because there was a little rise at the entrance to the parking lot where it met the road, when I pulled out, the container was just high enough to hit the low lying wires. It didn't happen when I pulled in because we went down into the parking lot, therefore, lowering the height of the container on the trailer.

From what the Deputy Sheriff said, the wires at that location had been hanging low due to the ice storm. When the power company came out, they informed us that they had already been there once to try to fix the pole that had been leaning over, but that the telephone company hadn't come out yet to raise their wires to a safe level.

The head guy with the power crew didn't seem too pleased as Eddie tried to lighten the mood by making a few jokes. He told Ed, "I'm in no mood for jokes. I've been dealing with this for three weeks straight, sixteen hours a day." He later told us that the ice storm had paralyzed the county and all the trees I had seen on the way in, the ones that were down and broken, were in fact a result of the storm.

I was not issued a citation, as the Deputy Sheriff said it was clearly not my fault (yay!) and also said that he would be putting that information in the police report so I would not be held liable for an accident. The company we are leased to (love them!) said they would be putting the incident in the computer as a "non-preventable" accident which means it won't go against my record. There are only two kinds of accidents in their book - preventable and non-preventable - so I'm VERY glad that everything seemed to work in my favor.

So I apologize to the fine people of the Ozarks for being the cause of their power outage just as they were most likely getting ready for their work day and I thank my lucky stars that my first incident in three years of driving turned out much better than it could have.

I guess all that praying my mother does finally worked.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Love Like This Can Know No Death

I've used her poems in other posts and although I haven't read a whole lot of poetry, I still claim her to be my favorite. Here is another fabulous poem, in honor of Valentine's Day, written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:


On the white throat of the useless passion
That scorched my soul with its burning breath,
I clutched my fingers in murderous fashion,
And gathered them close in a grip of death;
For why should I fan, or feed with fuel,
A love that showed me but blank despair?
So my hold was firm, and my grasp was cruel--
I meant to strangle it then and there!

I thought it was dead. But with no warning,
It rose from its grave last night, and came
And stood by my bed till the early morning,
And over and over it spoke your name.
Its throat was red where my hands had held it,
It burned my brow with its scorching breath;
And I said, the moment my eyes beheld it,
"A love like this can know no death."

For just one kiss that your lips have given
In the lost and beautiful past to me,
I would gladly barter my hopes of Heaven
And all the bliss of Eternity.
For never a joy are the angels keeping
To lay at my feet in Paradise,
Like that of into your strong arms creeping,
And looking into your love-lit eyes.

I know, in the way that sins are reckoned,
This thought is a sin of the deepest dye;
But I know, too, if an angel beckoned,
Standing close by the Throne on High,
And you, adown by the gates infernal,
Should open your loving arms and smile,
I would turn my back on things supernal,
To lie on your breast a little while.

To know for an hour you were mine completely--
Mine in body and soul, my own--
I would bear unending tortures sweetly,
With not a murmur and not a moan.
A lighter sin or a lesser error
Might change through hope or fear divine;
But there is no fear, and hell has no terror
To change or alter a love like mine.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eddie Getting His Licks Friday

Ed's parents recently bought an Inversion Table; here's a picture of Eddie testing it out:

Misha (above) got in the first lick, and then Trudie (left) and Chico (right) took their turns.
They were inexplicably fascinated with his ears. I, on the other hand, was fascinated with the reasons why someone would want to hang upside down.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

They Hire 'Em Young These Days

My youngest nephew, who turns six years old today, got a tool belt (which he wears ALL the time) from his parents for Christmas. And Eddie scored big points with the orange caution cones he found up in Canada - we bought FIFTY of them!

Of course, my nephew felt the need to put every last one of them out along the driveway, creating an obstacle course for their bike, scooter and skateboard riding. Apparently, the tool belt really helped with this task.
The tool belt must have worked because you can see how the lining up of the cones worked out here:

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Meal Even 300 Year Old Monks Would Love

Well, yesterday was a bust since we didn't do anything very exciting, but we did drive around L.A. for a little bit and wound up at Barnes & Noble for a few hours sipping lattes and catching up on the gossip mags. I didn't mind though, since bookstores are my very favorite places to be.

Dinner was a treat though. I made the Chicken Frangelico, but with a slight alteration. Since we're not allowed to have liquor in the truck, instead of using actual Frangelico, I used
Torani Hazelnut flavored syrup. And instead of the sage and brown butter (didn't get out to buy sage) I made a hazelnut cream sauce instead. OMG, I think it may have actually been better!

The Frangelico web site says, "Frangelico is a traditional hazelnut liqueur – enjoyed neat, over ice, with coffee or in a wide variety of stylish cocktails. Produced in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, its origins date back more than 300 years to the presences of early Christian monks living in the hills of that area. Its name is part of local legend – an abbreviation of Fra. Angelico, a hermit monk believed to have inhabited the magnificent Piedmont hills during the 17th century." But it doesn't just taste good in coffee and cocktails!

Here's the recipe: (sorry
Sheila, it is a chicken recipe!)

Chicken Frangelico

Boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin
Salt & Pepper
Frangelico or Hazelnut flavored syrup
Olive Oil
Heavy Cream (1 pint)
Fresh Mushrooms (sliced)
Pasta (I would use a tubular pasta [penne, rigatoni] or a pasta that will catch the sauce [radiatore, spirals, gemelli, fusilli, orrechiette] because it's light enough to just get stuck in the holes. I used mini-raviolis filled with butternut squash*. You should too!)

I have realized that if I plan on posting recipes, I'm going to have to get with providing some actual measurements. I don't measure when I cook, so it might be difficult for me. I'm going to estimate for the sake of this recipe. Wing it if you dare!

1. Coat the bottom of your frying pan with olive oil and add a nice big hunk of butter (3 tablespoons?).

2. Salt and pepper both sides if your chicken breast and put them in pan; cook until golden brown. No, I don't know how long. You know what golden brown is, right? If you're not sure, cut one of the thickest ones open and see if it looks done.

3. In a smaller, separate frying pan, add butter and olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan). When melted, throw in your mushrooms, salt and pepper them a teensy bit and then saute until you smell the mushroomy-ness of them and they look as if they've "wilted" a bit. You'll know when they're done, and when they are, just set them aside.

4. When your chicken is almost done, get your macaroni water boiling and keep an eye on it so you can have the pasta and the sauce part done about the same time, depending on what kind of pasta you're using. The mini-ravioli required 15 minutes, but most pasta requires less.

5. When your chicken is done, take it out of the pan and set it aside, keeping it hot if you can. Since I don't have a lot of room in the truck, I just wrapped it in tin foil, which worked. Deglaze (adding liquid and stirring to remove the bit of brown bits on the bottom of the pan) your pan with the Frangelico (or hazelnut syrup) by putting about 1/2 cup of the liqueur in the pan. If you're using actual liquor, you might want to use more since it does cook down.

6. After this step, check your pasta, which should almost be done. Now add the pint of heavy cream to the frying pan. Cook until the cream started to bubble, then add your mushrooms back in - you don't want your mushrooms to cook with the entire time because you don't want your sauce to taste too mushroomy.

7. Once the pasta is done, drain it and throw it back into the pot it was cooking in. Then dump all of the sauce in the frying pan into that pot and toss it with your pasta. At this point, I'm really hoping you could get squash ravioli since the combination of the hazelnut and the butternut squash is amaaaaaazing.

8. Then, plate your meal. A piece or two of chicken on each plate, a nice mound of mini-raviolis (or your pasta choice) on the side, and then a very light sprinkle of parsley for some color.

Voila! Truly delicious. The monks would be proud.

Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe.

* Because Jeni asked, this is the pasta I used and this is where I got it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sleeping Atop Signal Hill

Last night, Eddie and I settled in for the evening atop Signal Hill in California. The hill, which rises 365 feet above the surrounding city of Long Beach, was named so because the local Tongva Indians used it for signal fires that could be seen throughout the surrounding area and even out to Catalina Island, 26 miles away.

We thought it was odd to see all the oil
pumpjacks in the city. Everywhere you looked, you'd see one. In the oddest places too; next to a residential home, near a park, next to a gas station. They were everywhere, even right in the parking lot of the Home Depot where we were parked.

The photo above is courtesy of the Atlantic Richfield Company and was taken in 1932, when Signal Hill was at the height of its
oil production. This area produced over over 900 million barrels of oil by 1980. This made Signal Hill one of the most productive fields per acre the world has ever known.

Today we have a free day and haven't decided what we're going to do (if anything) but these are some of our ideas:

~ Go to the Los Angeles Boat Show (Ed might really enjoy this)
~ Drive by my old place of employment, The Century Plaza Hotel and then continue on to show Eddie where I used to live, right in the vicinity of Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood; an area the old Jewish woman I used to live with said was 75% gay and 25% Jewish. I didn't fall into either group, but it was a cool little neighborhood!
~ Stalk the 51st Grammy Awards, which is being held at the Staples Center and if we go to the boat show, we'll be right in the neighborhood - maybe we'll see some stars!
~ Hit the Santa Monica Pier again (we were there last night) if it doesn't rain.
~ Shop. (This option is the most likely one)

I will report tomorrow on what we did. Likely I'll just be posting another recipe for the delicious meal I have planned; Chicken Frangelico served with Butternut Squash Mini Ravioli in a sage and hazenlut brown butter sauce. Oh my God, I can't even wait!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ocean Front Crowd

Venice Beach, California. Today we walked along Ocean Front Walk, checking out the shops in Venice Beach: typical t-shirt, sunglass and bong stores. There were quite a number of people out even though it was probably a little cool for the Californians.

I haven't been here in over fifteen years and back then, I didn't walk the whole "boardwalk" area. I do remember there being a lot of strange people and that hasn't changed. There were a lot of homeless people though. A LOT. And if this was the winter crowd, I can only imagine what comes out in the summer.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Eddie It's My Birthday! It's My Birthday! Friday

Today is Eddie's 34th birthday! We celebrated by spending the entire day at the port in Los Angeles, which was not at all our plan. Don't you all wish you were here? Apparently, LA County is expecting a lot of rain (and possibly mud) as they are under a flood watch. Oh, joy. I don't think we got the pontoon option on our truck; I hope we don't wake up floating in the Pacific.

we were waiting, I baked him a Devil's Food cake in the convection microwave. Did you hear me? I BAKED A CAKE. In a truck. How freakin' great is that???

We haven't eaten it yet (I have frosting, decorations and candles to adorn it) but while it was cooking, it smelled so delicious I thought I was going to burn my nose from pressing it up against the glass trying to get a closer look. It's not from scratch, as I used a boxed mix, but it cooked up really nicely and I'm very excited at the prospect of doing more baking.

So join me in wishing Eddie a happy 34th...

You may sing now if you'd like.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Desktop Material

I took this picture at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. It makes a great desktop wallpaper. Go ahead, I give you permission to steal it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Buona Sera King Louis

When I was younger, I grew up hearing a lot of Louis Prima. There wasn't anyone in our family who didn't know the words to Buona Sera, Just A Gigolo or Angelina & Zooma Zooma.

His music was usually upbeat, always fun and included many lyrics in reference to his Italian heritage which made it easy for us to identify with what he was talking about. Watch him here with Gia Maione:

I have Louis Prima's Capitol Collector Series on my iPod. I often listen to it when driving at night. It lifts the spirit and make the hours fly by. See some of the infectious chemistry between Louis Prima and Keely Smith:

More of them here singing Hey Boy, Hey Girl and then a real special treat; Louis Prima, Keely Smith and Frank Sinatra! Watch Keely trying to "break in" on these two:

Louis Prima has so many fun songs. Some of my favorites are: There'll Be No Next Time (I love Sam Butera in this one!),
5 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, The Lip (you'll find yourself singing along) and Lazy River. Eddie really likes Banana Split For My Baby and I find him singing when it's on. Check out the lyrics to that one below - if you click on the link, you can follow along:

Banana split for my baby,
A glass of plain water for me.
Banana split for my baby,
Glass of plain water for me

Dispenser Man, if you please
Serve my chick a mess of calories

Banana split for my baby,
A glass of plain water for me.

Flip back the lid, scoop anything in sight,
Make it a rainbow of red, brown and white
Chocolate chip and everything that’s nice,
Tutti Frutti once and spumoni twice

Banana split for my baby,
And a glass of plain water for me.

Spread the whipped cream for at least an hour
Pile it as high as the Eiffel Tower
Load it with nuts, about sixteen ton
Top it with a pizza just for fun

Banana split for my baby,
A glass of plain water for me.
Banana split for my baby,
A glass of plain water for me.
Stack her up with crazy goop
Cause that’s the stuff she likes to wade through

Banana split for my baby,
A glass of plain water for me.

Now add the cherries, the kind she likes to munch,
Skip one banana use the whole darn bunch
Drown it in fudge, six or seven cans,
give her two spoons, she'll use both hands

Banana split for my baby,
And a glass of plain water for me.

Separate checks, It must be
Charge the split to her, the water to me

Oh, the banana split’s for my baby,
A glass of plain water’s for me.
Ain't got no money
The glass of plain water’s for me!

Anyone who is a fan will remember his 1936 hit Sing, Sing, Sing and also his movie debut in the movie The Jungle Book as the high spirited orangutan King Louie, where he sings I Wanna Be Like You. See the actual movie footage here.

This is some really fantastic music and listening to it not only brings a smile to my face, it reminds me of my heritage and the family members that made this part of my life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Taking The Peas For A Ride In A Cozy Little Shell

Another recipe from the road and another family favorite. Can you tell we ate a lot of macaroni/pasta* when we were growing up?

Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)

1 medium onion, diced
1 can (6 oz.) Tomato Paste
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 box (1 lb.) of pasta (I use medium shells because I like the way the peas get caught in the shell, but you can use any small pasta)

1. In your macaroni pot, start boiling the water for your pasta. Open the can of tomato paste and the peas and set them aside.

2. In a saucepan, coat the bottom with olive oil. Put your onions in and brown them. You don’t have to get them ALL brown, but a few brown pieces add nicely to the flavor because they get sweeter as they caramelize.

3. Once the onions are browned, put in your can of tomato paste. Use the empty can to add three cans of water to the pot. Stir until the tomato paste is smooth and nice and liquidy. The tomatoes will probably make this salty enough and there is salt in your macaroni water, so I usually just add pepper. If you like your blood pressure nice and high, add as much salt as you want.

4. Let that pot simmer while you throw your pasta in the boiling water.

5. Just before the pasta is done, throw your can of peas into the pot with the tomatoes. You don’t want the peas to be in there too long or they’ll get mushy. Unless you’re teething, you don’t want them mushy.

6. When the macaroni is done, drain and throw it back into your big pot.

7. Dump the saucepan of tomato sauce and peas into your pasta and stir until it’s all mixed up. Watch how some of the peas jump into the little crevices of the shells. Isn’t that cool??

8. OK….now go eat!

* I'll be using the words
pasta and macaroni interchangeably. It's too hard for me to stick with one word all the way through.

Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe.

Monday, February 02, 2009

LL Cool E

Do you know who James Todd Smith is?

Do you know who LL Cool J is?

Of course you do. It's James Todd Smith. Same guy. James Todd Smith was dubbed LL Cool J, the name stands for "Ladies Love Cool James".

Well it seems the ladies also love LL Cool E; my Eddie. Or should I say they love his hair? My cousin thinks he looks like a hippie and I have to sit on my hands not to want to get up and give him the
Warrior Braid everyday, but everyone else comments left and right on how much they love it.

He came out of the truck detailing shop today and said that two of the girls in there were going on and on about how much they loved his hair. It seems the
curls are quite popular with the ladies. I have to admit, I love them myself and I keep begging him to let me use my flat iron on them to see how long the hair actually is, but so far, he's resisted. If and when I get that picture, you know I'll be posting it!

Until then, I guess I just have to deal with the fact that the Ladies Love Cool Eddie and I have to sit on my hands every time I glimpse the curls bouncing on the top of his head.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


(my brother videotaping me while I was photographing him)
Three years ago today my father died. Oddly, I didn't wake up this morning remembering that fact, but then it came to me. Then I forgot about it again; until my mother reminded me. Then I forgot again; until I saw my brother.

It was obvious by his eyes that he hadn't forgotten. Not even for a minute.

We talked about it briefly, getting interrupted by children and family and never really finished talking. But I was at his house on this day and being there was wonderful. It really was a fluke since we never know where we'll be and although we were trying to get back home, we didn't know it'd turn out to be on this date. The day went beautifully though.

When we first pulled up in the driveway, my brother and the boys were waiting for us, all clad in their Steelers jerseys. The boys were hooting and hollering and jumping up and down, pumping their arms to get us to blow the air horn as my brother was filming our arrival. It was the first time any of them would be seeing our truck.

After we gave them all the grand tour and the boys took turns checking out all the guages, the air horn and oddly, the bathroom, we went inside to scarf some pre-game snacks. My sister-in-law had prepared a great meal, the smells of which smacked us in the face the moment we entered through the front door. The aroma got all stuck in my nose and pulled me into the kitchen. I was ready to dive in at that moment!

Everyone was ready for the big game. I'm not a big football fan, but if I root for anyone, it's the Steelers. And my rooting is unlike anyone else's rooting; I do it silently. Why? Because I really don't care about sports. Have you not read my 25 Things??

That said, I cheer for the Steelers because my two cousins bleed black and gold. And because of their love for the team (I think both of them would leave their wives for Ben Roethlisberger), I have come to root for them by sheer family association.

Now my nephews are die-hard Steelers fans, and the oldest one even has a Terrible Towel. God help us all. And because of them (three boys under the age of 10) I have to pretend to like football. Just a little. So I took my plate of wings, my Diet Coke and my chips and salsa and I sat in the vicinity of the screen, looking up from the pages of Oprah Home magazine and giving my little victory smile at all the right moments. They were easily snookered. I even know some of the guys names, although I jokingly called Roethlisberger "Cheeseburger" and Palomalu, "Palmolive". This got a few laughs.

My father wasn't a huge football fan either, but he was a fan of food and parties, so I think he would have been pleased. And I think he would have loved the truck. What we realized as we thought back on that day in 2006 when we were all together in New York the weekend of his death, was that the Steelers won the Super Bowl that year. And then they won this year. Hmmm. An odd thing to connect, but somehow, the remembering wasn't as sad.

I'm wearing my father's bathrobe right now as I type this; I laugh at how I look in it, but then I smile when I remember how he did.

To look back a little more, here is my
post about that day in 2006 and then me remembering him again in 2007. And then completely off the "death theme", the post about the perky ass in 2008 who fitted my boyfriend for his new glasses.

Glad I didn't go all depresso three years in a row!