Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Legend of the Pillow Case

Years ago someone told me that she always slept on a new pillow case on New Year's Eve because it was supposed to bring prosperity in the new year. Last year, as part of our crafty new year celebration, I suggested decorating our own pillow cases so we bought plain white pillow cases and fabric paint.

That morning Liz attempted to assassinate me with one of her "fresh eggs" and I missed the party. However, my friends decorated a pillow case for me and I (unlike the others, I believe) used my pillow case. It made me happy to go to bed thinking of all the nice things my friends wished for me. There were three wishes for me from my friends in 2010.
1. Love
2. The absence of a person from my life who caused me a great deal of distress
3. Sell a book.

The first item came to pass almost immediately. The second item came to pass in a very dramatic way as well. I won't go into a lot of details, but I will say that Pat is not allowed to decorate pillow cases any more, despite her effectiveness.

The third thing hasn't happened and probably won't since there's only a couple days left in the year and, more importantly, because I didn't write a book.

I stopped using the pillow case this summer because Chris said it sort of creeped him out. But, I wonder if I had continued would I have sold a book?

Happy/Bitter New Year

It seems that every major media runs their "Year in Review" feature. On the Bitter Train, we constantly review everything, so a full year's worth could be a little overwhelming.

And undocumented.

The most bitter event that I (Lynne) would like to mention is the Jingle Jog. The PSA's promised a t-shirt with jingle bells on it. Jingle Bells! When I brought this to the attention of a couple friends, we all had visions of happy runners making a joyful holiday noise, hopefully covering the cries of pain and heaving gasps of air.

Upon arrival at registration, the absence of any bell sound was deafening. Deafening! No Jingle Bells. None. Fortunately, the three of us wore our Santa Hats. Did I mention it was 1 degree, with wind chill? Soon, I'll post a picture of this happy day.

Fortunately, plarn is still with us. See the Ape? That's where it all began, Baby. Right there in Cave City, KY. I stopped there on my way to Nashville, where the plarn bag had one more adventure. I love my plarn bag - it does fun things and usually I'm along with it.

And what year would be complete without a Christmas gift from Trina? Yes, the same fun gal who brought you the larger-than-life cut out of Uncle Sam and Betsy Ross has a unique eye for cool gifts. Below is this year's "Growme." Look how happy he/it is!

How can one stay bitter with that around?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry/Bitter Christmas

Here on the Bitter train, we talk a lot about being bitter. Most of the time, we're kidding. Bitterness is a choice. Not always a good one. Life is to be embraced. And in that spirit, please enjoy some images of the holidays and a rather poor limerick.

There once was a creepy peeping Tom Santa

Who drank that old soda called Fanta.

But if he only knew, that girl named Sue

Then he wouldn't need so much mylanta.

Sorry, it's the best I could do on short notice.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Adoptions

I have several friends who have gone to China to adopt babies. I think that's wonderful. It's a long process, but it should be. Kids are a long term commitment and they're people. Real human beings who need love and care. Filling out a bunch of paperwork and having a criminal background check seems reasonable.

Dogs, contrary to what many think, are not people. However while trying to adopt one recently, it sure seemed like getting a top secret security clearance would be easier. Humane societies and rescue groups now require applications where you have to tell them what happened to dogs you've had in the past. "Under what circumstances would you return a dog to the agency?" was one question. Some won't let you have one of their dogs unless you have a fenced yard. Most require a reference from a vet. One wanted to visit our house first.

While I'm not opposed to these questions, it occasionally seemed excessive. And, since we are simple people, we just went to the pound. Look who we found:

This is Dooley: The guys at the pound were very nice and helpful, but they didn't ask a bunch of questions and no one seemed interested in visiting our house. Within twenty minutes we'd written a check and left as pet owners. That seems reasonable.

There was another adoption this week that could possibly be cause for concern, though for whom is not yet clear. Our church has several "gifts that give" for Christmas which are based on helping others locally, nationally and globally. One of the possibilities was adopting a senior citizen, usually a church member who is not always able to attend services. Lynne and I decided to adopt one together. We continue to maintain our stance that we are not a couple. All we had to do was put our names on a piece of paper and they gave us the name and address of some poor, unsuspecting woman in Lima.

I have a feeling that 2011 will bring more stories about Dooley and the nice woman in Lima and attempts by Lynne and me to be useful to her.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Fantasy

If you haven't noticed, Christmas is on the way. Some people get all charged up about this holiday. I'm not one of them.

My ideal Christmas would look something like this: Christmas Eve would include a nice dinner, a trip to church, and then a quiet evening with family and friends drinking wine, listening to Christmas music, and looking at the lights on the Christmas tree.

Christmas day: A nice breakfast, probably including something decadent like fresh cinnamon rolls. Shane would arrive and maybe other family members. We'd eat more of the cinnamon rolls and open gifts. Each person would give a gift to everyone else---one gift that was thoughtful and creative and cost no more than $25. The gifts would show that the giver had put forth more time than money. We'd have a nice meal and then spend the rest of the day relaxing and playing games. Friends would stop by and we'd just enjoy being together.

And of course, all the time before Christmas would be spent relaxing and enjoying the fact that I have time off from my job.

I was going to write here about what I expect to be my reality this year, but I decided, in a rather anti-Bitter Train sort of move, that I'd continue to hold out hope for my fantasy.

What about you?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Dessert Gone Bad

It's cold here in Ohio. Florida is six weeks away (I think). I'm in the process of emptying out my freezer. Today I had homemade pesto (made from my own basil) with pasta - for lunch and dinner. It was particularly good after a week of cabbage soup (lost 3.5 pounds - woohoo!).

After all that garlic, I was jonesing for dessert. I found one last orange pineapple slush in the freezer. See it there? Yay! With great anticipation, I waited for it to thaw. It was taking forever.

Desperate, I scraped off what I could. I tasted it. It was frozen butternut squash.

Now, even more desperate, I needed a squash chaser. But what? Then, I opened the refrigerator.

I free-based Hershey's syrup. It did the trick.

Looks like I'll be back on cabbage soup tomorrow. Don't let this happen to you.

This has been a public service announcement.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why Friends are Good - make that Awesome

Because I'm mostly an idiot, I suggested to a local organization, of which I am a board member, that we put on a 5k as a fundraiser. While the idea isn't one of an idiot, I'm an idiot because I know better than to suggest something I'm not willing to plan myself. And that's how I suddenly had the title of "Race Director," much to my dismay and even denial.

Overall, the planning was a bit harried, but going along well. Two women were doing a lot of the work and I fully appreciated it. Three days ago, when it was time for us to stuff goody bags for the runners, I realized I was the only one who thought we were gathering as three people working together toward a common goal. Instead, I encountered coldness, lack of eye contact, and whispered phone calls.

As if I wouldn't notice. Seriously, I'm not THAT big of an idiot.

That's when I, again, realized the value of good friends. First of, most all of the close friends I have in this area I wrangled into volunteering (getting up and leaving your warm bed in the dark of a cold November Saturday....these are special people). Four people in particular took a major chunk of responsibility. When I realized these two "Mean Girls" were creating drama where none need be, I fell back on said friends for sounding and soothing. Of course, they came through for me.

I had two more days to endure with the Mean Girls and their attacks. By this morning, the day of the event, I was somewhat worn, but ready. When my friends came in force to volunteer today, the Mean Girls were impotent.

The face of true friendship and sincerity scared them off like water on the Bad Witch. The event was a success! If the Mean Girls wanted to sniggle and snipe any more at my expense, it was even more obvious they had no grounds for it.

What a comfort to me, to have such wonderful people in my life.

While the Mean Girls merit a scrap of respect for their bitterness, that scrap kills any respect because of their adverse meanness. It's like they even made bitterness bad.

And we won't tolerate that kind of attitude around here...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dwight Shrute's Are Bigger

And that's not code.

This is Beet Harvest of 2010. I've never grown beets before, but the plants were free. That's good, because if I'd paid money to grow beets this pathetic, I might be sad. Of course, I don't eat beets, so I still wouldn't be sad.

Notice how the beets fail to impress Carbon.

Bitter Writing

It's Tuesday, the most bitter of days in a week (perhaps this could be a new poll). It's also Day Two of "National Write a Novel in a Month" challenge. My writing yesterday really stunk. Sue pointed out that NANOWRIMO now records "successful days in a row of writing." This is pressure we simply don't need.

Anyway, my strategy is now "more caffeine." However, this leads to confusion on my part, and I already have a lot of trouble with confusion. I read a blog post this morning that listed items for a snowman that went something like "carrot, coal, and tophat." I spent a lot of time wondering just what a tophat was.

While I was still pondering this, I noticed a school bus stopped outside my home. The little stop sign was out and the driver had opened the door. There are no children here, ma'am. I kept watching, wondering if Dooley had decided to enroll in school. This wouldn't surprise me, since I'm sure he'd like to study nuclear chemistry or macroeconomics. Of course, Dooley would never leave home, so I know that wasn't possible.

There was no one on the bus, and no one got on (two or four legged variety). It is mysterious.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fun Friday FAQ

Q: What is Fun Friday?
A: Good question. Fun Friday is a time set aside, primarily for those people like Lynne and me who don't have employer provided health care, but are free to pretty much do as we please on Fridays. It's your reward for putting up with Bitterness for four or more days in a row.

Q: What constitutes a Fun Friday activity?
A: There are no specific rules about Fun Friday, that would take away the fun. However, you should do something that makes the day a tiny bit more special than other days. It often involves food, like going out for lunch or breakfast, or donuts or all three. You should leave your house and, if you can stand it, include at least one other person. If you don't leave home, then you should do something that is a litle bit creative, like trying a new recipe or a craft project. Knitting sweaters into rugs or making laundry detergent would be perfectly acceptable fun Friday stay at home activities.

Q: Are there any Fun Friday rules?
A: As stated above, there are no specific rules for Fun Friday. However, there are a couple of guidelines which you might want to keep in mind. First, you probably should shower first thing in the morning. I've learned from experience that sometimes Fun Friday will take off and last well into the evening. If you aren't showered and you're like me and have hair that really needs some attention on a daily basis, this can lead to some awkward situations. It's also a good idea to have a bit of cash on hand and a full tank of gas. I'd suggest taking care of these items by Thursday night at the latest.

Q: Must Fun Friday be a daytime activity?
A: Well....anyone can go out on Friday night. It takes a special breed to dink around an entire day that most of the world still considers a work day. It is acceptable to extend your Fun Friday activities into the evening to accomodate your leisure-challenged friends. However, putting off your own fun until after 5 pm over a period of time can lead to actually accomplishing other things during the day on Friday which is a direct violation of the Spirit of Fun Friday. Proceed with caution.

Q: Can I exercise on Fun Friday?
A: This is a tricky one. Exercise is discouraged as a Fun Friday activity unless it also includes something going for a walk in a beautiful Fall or Spring day would be ok. Running is discouraged. A bike ride to the ice cream stand would be a good Fun Friday activity. Bike riding to a root canal would not. When in doubt, sit it out.

Q: Can I clean my house on Fun Friday?
A: Only if it is to clear a path to the front door.

I hope you have found this helpful. Please feel free to submit your own questions about Fun Friday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Throw My Hands Up in the Air Sometimes


Frustration? I touched something hot? I slipped on the ice?

No, because I'm at ZUMBA! It also happens to be the opening line to a zumba song. Last night, Liz made her first ever appearance at zumba. She had a sampling of it at school and apparently got hooked.

She joined me at zumba. She loved it. She said she felt alive and "moving parts that had not moved in decades." So what if she couldn't get all the steps down. I've been going for two months (and five years) and still misstep.

Remember the old movies where couples went out to eat at "supper clubs?" After their sophisticated late night dinners, an orchestra would play and couples would sail across the dance floor.

Later, there was jitterbugging at Arnold's. Then the 60's, which of course ruined everything, particularly couple dancing. Last time I saw Jersey Shore, there was lots of grinding, resulting in sex in the bathrooms, but that is as far from romance as one can get.

Is it a human need to dance? I'm suspecting it is. I know the college students who are 99.9% of the zumba population wonder why us "oldies" are in there. How can I explain that once you're a grown-up, the only dancing you get to do is in your living room?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Creepiest Thing EVER

Reading the Sunday paper should be relaxing, right? Then I saw this ad among the coupons. Questions: who thought of it, who green lighted it, and who buys it?

A collectible "orangutan toddler doll" made from real vinyl (as opposed to that fake vinyl?).

Seriously, this picture frightened me so I've had to keep it face down on the paper. It actually induces nausea.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When Left to Her Own Devices...

It's been a hectic few weeks here on the Gold Coast.

You know about Boggle for Breast Cancer. Well, the very next day, there was the first ever pumpkin cook and/or bake off. It was delicious. After it was over, I decided I needed to cut sugar from my diet. For at least a little while. And I managed to lose a pound within three days. Yes, healthy eating...salads, smoothies, and cabbage soup.

It's Saturday. I decided early in the day that I really needed a break from all the games, cooking, zumba and yoga. Ocean Breathing wasn't helping. Training for the 5k I'm planning (oh yes, add that to the mix of stuff I have to do), I've been eating pretty well and tonight I decided that for my big Saturday night treat, I'd cook up the bacon that's been in the fridge for awhile.

First of all, I haven't bought bacon forever, let alone make it. I had to look for directions and decided on the oven method, which was 9-12 minutes or until desired doneness. Desired doneness for me ended up being about 25 minutes. I pulled it out of the oven.


Mysteriously, it was crispy on top, but the parts that were layered, even a tiny bit, were sort of mushy.

As you will see, that didn't slow me down. Ten minutes later....

I've long suspected I could be a competitive eater if I put my mind to it. It's really a toss up whether I'm bragging or confessing.

All I can say is, the house smells great!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When is 3rd Place Better Than 2nd?

Answer: When you're bitter.

Today was the Second Annual Boggle for Breast Cancer Competition. Lynne and I got our Bog On and headed to Lima. Last year we had so much fun because we didn't know what to expect or how'd we'd do. We ended up having a great time and bringing home the third place trophy. We giggled with delight the whole way home.

This year, we knew what to expect and we had a fair idea of how we might do against the competition. We both expected more teams, but in fact, there were fewer (could be poor PR or maybe we scared them off).

Also---no zither music this year. Not that it would have mattered to me, but it did throw Lynne off her game last year.

After each round the scores were posted. After round one we got a shout out for being in first place. We felt the bitterness of those around us, but it only spurred us onward to more words.

We continued in the hunt, moving from third to second to first and back to second a couple times. Going into the final round, we had a 30 point lead. No one could catch us and we could feel the thrill of taking home the first place trophy. I wondered if we might need to put the back seat down in Lynne's car in order to get it home.

The final round was a behomoth 10X10 grid of letters. In previous rounds, extra points were awarded for words of 5 letters or more. Imagine our excitement when we found "Bitter" (Lynne underlined it on our answer sheet). But in the final round all words were worth one point each,regardless of size. We filled one sheet, then a second and moved onto a third. The buzzer rang and we turned in our score sheets. The woman who picked them up said "wow, you used three?" We smiled and tried not to get too puffed up.

We waited while the final round was scored by the judges. Some scores were posted, but then they hid the screen so that it would be a surprise. We tried to act nonchalant, but as you know, we are both very chalant. Ok...I'm not really sure that's a word, but we are the opposite of nonchalant, which one might think would be chalant.

The final scores were revealed...we had 911 points for the day...but team "Squeeze Your Boobies" beat us by 30 points and so we settled for second.

What's happened to us? Have we become spoiled celebrities who are no longer satisfied with every day life? How can second place (out of 17 teams) not be good enough? Last year we were thrilled with third, this year, frankly, we were bitter.

On our way out Lynne chatted with one of the judges who told her "You guys had the best words." In the world of word-gamers, that's high praise. Of course, I've always thought that "quality over quantity" argument was just a sad excuse used by losers.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Candy and the Lies It Tells

When I was a kid, my family ate Chinese food nearly every Sunday after church. No matter what Chinese restaurant we went to, my grandma always ordered the chopped sirloin. That's just an interesting side note. The point is, fortune cookies always rocked. Reading our fortunes out loud was always fun. Then there was the crunchy cookie with its almond-y goodness.

Of course, there are the "bad fortune cookies" that Sue recently found that had sayings such as "your friends don't really like you." The Bitter Train would like to award the "Biddy" in Food Marketing to the bitter fortune cookie. Kudos to you.

Not content to let the Chinese corner the market on food messaging, Dove has their "Promises" line of chocolates.

I say, stick to Bitter chocolates. Who does Dove think they are? I mean, I opened one chocolate and the message on the foil was "Learn from the past but live in the present." Snore. Please? This is wisdom? The next wrapper told me to "Be proud and just run the race, no matter the finish." Really "Joni" in Miami Lakes, Florida? I should run, with a sense of pride, into a brick wall? This is not wisdom. It is tomfoolery (I've been just waiting to use that word).

As you can imagine, the majority of the messages run from the banal to the ridiculous (I won't tell you how many I ate). But what one message really put me over the edge was "Most things you worry about never happen." Yes, this is true. Most of the things that have happened to me I never imagined - it was always so much worse. Thanks, Dove Chocolates, for setting society's sights too darn low.

And just shut up "Kallana" in New York - "He who walks in another's tracks leaves no footprints." Does it not snow in New York? The false optimism of "There are new opportunities around every corner!" doesn't fool me "Toby" in California. Who told you that? Your grandmother?

Perhaps I'll follow "Michelle's" advice from Georgia, "Laugh every day - it's like inner jogging." Because it makes no damn sense.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Road Hazards

That little yellow thing in the road is why I hate to drive this time of the year.

It is the Woolly Bully. The only insect with a near-wordless theme song.

They are all over the road, moving as slow as a, well, caterpillar. While I don't like to see dead raccoons or deer, they at least have a fighting chance of crossing the road. Not the woolly bully caterpillars. They haven't a chance when they are in the sights of a vehicle. I've swerved to miss them. The idea of them mushing in the tires is just too much for me.

Another poor decision:

Sure, talking or texting on your phone may be a hazard, but what about the Woolly Bully? Shouldn't there be signs for THEM crossing the road? Laws enacted? There must be a better solution than waiting for the first frost.

So close, yet so far...

Yes! Smart Woolly! Smart!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Love A Parade

It's homecoming at ONU. That means a parade. And since I live across the street from the school where everyone is lining up, you might say that I have a primo location. And, you'd be right, if I cared. And if I wanted to change out of my pajamas (which I don't). I may just peek at the whole thing out my front window, but frankly, once you've seen one pick up truck full of cheerleaders, you've seen them all.

It's like I'm the Ebenezer Scrooge of Fall. Yay!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Significant Sociological Differences Or The Heart of Darkness

Sure, this picture has been used before. However, it bears repeating considering the events of today. Frankly, you would not want pictures of what I'm about to tell you.

Liz asked me if I wanted to join her while she ran some errands in Lima and I said yes. I should have stayed home and watched college football. After all, that's always the right decision and I should know that. Amateur mistake, forgive me.

We go to Stites, the best scratch and dent grocery store for finding such bargains as five pounds of grits for a dollar (yes, I bought one - I love grits). It was rather crowded today, being the day after government checks arrived. There are always some interesting people loading their carts (or two) with frozen pizza rolls, oyster crackers (10 bags for $1), and pretty much anything with low nutritional value. Sadly, many of the shoppers on this day also looked like their diet never included fresh vegetables. Were they embarrassed by this? No. They have vanity license plates proudly touting it. In the parking lot, a van was parked in the handicap space with "FAT MAMA" on the plates.

Fortunately, we had a respite from weirdness at Tractor Supply, where Liz bought a salt cube for her goats (no really, that is not weird - although I didn't know that deer salt licks and goat salt licks are two different things).

Then, we went to Ray's. All this excitement meant we needed to use the Ladies Room, emphasis on LADIES. When we walked into the two stall room, a young girl was washing her hands. In the stall closest to the door, we saw adult-sized fleece pajama bottoms around the ankles of the occupant. And because that wasn't icky enough, she was on her cell phone. We knew this because the caller was on speaker phone and all of us could hear the incessant yammering of the woman friend with her slight Kentucky accent. The stall occupant occasionally said, "yeah" or "uh-huh." If we weren't so appalled, we probably would have busted out laughing.

Sue pointed out that I seem to have a pattern of unfortunate public restroom incidents (all of which seem to be documented on this blog). This is true. Of course, unlike her, I've never had to inform the agent at the Michigan Welcome Center that there was a "(wo)man down" on the floor of their public ladies room.

There seems to be epidemic of ickiness.

I'd ask you to share your public restroom stories, but frankly, I'm still queasy. I think I'll go take a shower. Then, I'm never leaving the house again.

The horror...the horror...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Observations from a Road Trip

Yesterday morning, I packed up (covertly packed, so my dog wouldn't puke at the sight of a suitcase - it's not pretty) my car and left for a quick visit to see Julie in PA. A mere fifteen minutes from my destination, I took a wrong turn and ended up driving through Amish country. Once I finally figured out what I did wrong, I turned around. Pulling into the nearest driveway, I noticed a man peeking out from the door frame of the barn.

It was Mose. Mose Schrute, Dwight's brother. Would he run really fast, arms straight at his side, and jump in my car? Throw beets at me? Should I take him to Hardin County for diversifying the gene pool of our Amish? Should I eat the thrown beets? Fortunately, I was able to quickly turn around (it wasn't a high traffic area).

Finding my correct path, I made it to my destination and had a nice time. After all, how can you not have fun at a Mexican restaurant in Western Pennsylvania with a Russian Exchange student, a Kenyan college student and a little girl from China?

Returning home (on all the correct roads), I was zipping down Interstate 71, somewhere around milemarker 200 and 195, and saw a commotion on the overpass. It was two Amish buggies, facing each other, with one horse seeming very indignant about the encounter. Traffic on the bridge was backed up. As I drove under the bridge, I saw one buggy driver getting out. Looking (carefully) in my rear view mirror, the driver turned his buggy around and headed the other way across the bridge. Amish Traffic Jam. Who knew?

As you can see, it wasn't really an eventful road trip, and that's good. It's nice that the Amish had all that excitement. However, I must make mention of the one vanity plate I saw. "PHD IN ED" Puke.

In other news, the housecoats are back in the stores! I'm pretty sure it's Sue's fashion trendiness that has brought them back.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

(Don't) Take Me to the Fair

When Queen Guinevere sang to Sir Lionel the following lines:
"Then you may take me to the fair
If you do all the things you promise
In fact, my heart would break should you not take me to the fair"
She did NOT have the Hardin County Fair in mind. If she did, she would have requested Sir Lionel let her mount his steed (not code) to flee the state.

The above scene is one that you'd expect. It's so wholesome. Youth working hard all summer to raise an animal, providing carefully for its care, grooming it meticulously. While I don't know how they get past it's inevitable "demise" at the butcher's after all that work, their efforts are admirable.

4-H kids work hard. They have to obey all the rules, including these:

There are also fun things to do at the fair, and you hope those hard working 4-H kids take a break. Look at the aqua gerbil attraction we saw this year:

These kids were having a blast.

Yet, there are different kids who go to the fair. They seem to lack the focus, responsibility and stamina of the 4-H kids:

Look closely. See those? Yes, those are cigarettes in their youthful hands. It was one of the saddest sights you could witness. This is like a promise that by the time they are old enough to drive, they'll have their very own well-developed smoker's hack.

They won't have the stamina to walk around the fair without the aid of their own oxygen tank (we saw a lot of those - there is a lot of handicap parking at the fair). Fortunately, there will be many benches for them to rest and resuscitate.

As Sue, Pat and I observed the sights, sounds, and frightfully mysterious smells of the fair, one of them said something deeply profound. "The Hardin County Fair doesn't have a side show with freaks on display. You can just sit here and watch them go by for free."

Well said. And true. A trip to the fair makes me want to eat all vegetables and spend a lot of time on the treadmill. And moisturize.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Quandry

Hanging out with Lynne is incredibly fun. If you've had the chance to spend time with her, I know you agree. I'd say that I'm an expert in hanging out with Lynne and it's one of my favorite things.

However, I'm starting to question the wisdom of going out in public with her. Is it because she sometimes makes fun of clothes in stores?

Absolutely not! That's part of her charm.

No, it's the gruesome dog death stories.

I first became aware of this a year or two ago at the Harvest and Herb Fest here in Ada. We made the mistake of having a booth. I forget what we were hawking at the time, but there we were, trapped behind a folding table, vulnerable to all who passed by. Mostly we were able to smile and be nice, though she's better at it than I am (hold your comments).

Seems reasonable enough...but then it started...gradually at first and then it built up to a cacophay of gore.

People would stop by and say hello to Lynne. Easy enough. But then she'd ask about their dog. If the dog was still living, we were forced to listen to endless prattle about the dog's antics. I thought that was bad enough, but then the stories switched from "You should see how cute it is when Fluffy carries around my slippers" to "We...sniff....lost Scruffie. Eight months ago. It started with him not being able to stand up long enough to go to the bathroom, so I had to hold him while he did his business. That lasted for two months, then he started having gastric problems. Oh, you wouldn't believe the mess that caused." And it went on and on and on from there. In gruesome detail. Lynne was sympathetic and said things like "oh, what a shame. He was a nice dog." I pretended I had a cell phone call.

So, we just don't rent festival space any more. Problem solved.


This morning we stopped by a business in Lima and Lynne said to a woman there "Didn't you have a dog named Rusty (not his real name)."

Almost instantly the woman's eyes filled with tears. "Yes...we lost him a few months ago..." and then she started with the details.

To her credit, Lynne has gotten better at getting out of these situations. Not having a folding table around also helps.

I'd hate to miss out on our adventurs (especially since today she bought me breakfast at IHOP), so I'm thinking that we just need to have a few rules/guidelines and possibly some hand signals. My other plan is to just start coughing uncontrollably when these things happen since that's distracting and sometimes frightening. Or maybe I'll try to top their gruesome dead dog stories with some of my own.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Shoes are the Enemy" and other thoughts on the End of Summer

"Shoes are the Enemy!" my doctor told me after I'd been in for an infected toe.

I'd always suspected as much. As a kid, I went barefoot all summer, and had the callouses and black-bottomed feet to prove it. After more than my share of bee stings while going barefoot through the clover, I'm more cautious now (though I still managed to get a nasty bee sting last month).

This summer has been one of the best I've had for a long time - I got to see lots of friends, Sue went and got herself all married, and the weather was extra warm - just the way I like it. I read a lot and ate a lot of ice cream.

It's Labor Day. The word work in Hebrew is "abad," which means "to serve." This definition is not limited to serving each and every person around us in humility, but also to serve ALL of creation. Radical thoughts.

Not so radical was the ice cream man speeding down my road at 60 miles per hour as Music Box Dancer blared. Guess that means summer's over.

The garden is so overgrown that picking tomatoes has turned into a game that is some hybrid of Twister (don't step on the potato stalk) and Jenga (pick that little red tomato in the back without going through the spider web). Summer's over.

Just now, as I heard the last of the hummingbird's zooming by for nectar, the neighbor was out with his gun for a little target practice (not at the hummingbirds). Yep, Summer's over.

The popular saying is that all good things must come to an end. I've never really believed this. After all, I've still got ice cream in the freezer. And I refuse to put away the sandals just yet.

"Shoes are the Enemy!"

What was the best part of your summer? Did you get any bee stings? What's your plan to survive Fall and Winter with happiness??

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Phrases I Hate

"Daylight's a failin' us and we got to chop more wood for the fire. Let's quit yappin' and get 'er done." Said Tex.

Except more people than Tex say "get 'er done." It's annoying and possibly even offensive. Who exactly is "'er"? Is it supposed to be "her"? Eww!

And what exactly does "it is what it is" supposed to do for me, besides want to slap someone upside the head? Yes, annoying phrases seem to bring out the violent femme within.

While these phrases are annoying, they aren't nearly as soul-splitting as the sound of Tilly running around the house with her Kooky Chicken Swim Party Squeeky Toy.

What phrases put you over the edge? What is the worst pet toy ever?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who Keeps the Crockpot?

Perhaps some of you are wondering how I (Lynne) am faring with Sue's marriage and subsequent moving out. Well, into every life of bitterness, a little happiness must fall, and I'm so darn happy for her, I can hardly stand it. I mean eventually Shirley and Carmine Ragusa got together. Laverne wasn't left wandering the earth with Lenny and his (L)One Wolf jacket not unlike the Hulk (different tv show, same generation).

If anything, much can be said for "ending on a win." It was a successful roommate venture. Dooley the cat, however, may be bitter. It's really hard to tell from that expression on his face.

Liz bought me my very own crockpot, so no fighting over that. Splitting up the Sam's Club giant box of toilet paper, though, is just a little weird to pack up and move. Yet, I plan to leave it on her doorstep if she's not answering the door (she IS married, you know). And, if it's not raining. Maybe I should TP the little tree in her front yard, just as a kind of celebration.

Yet, Sue will miss living out here on the Gold Coast. Who wouldn't miss Tilly and Foster playing "the Barking Game" at 6:30 a.m.? Being woken at 4 a.m. to Olive's hairballs (pre and post)? And the basement. I KNOW she's going to miss the basement.

I will miss Sue. I mean, I never knew someone could drink that much tea (see above for tp quantity purchases). And she did the dishes so I didn't have to. Then there's the cool white bowls she used (that I'm still using - I'm hoping she'll forget them).

Most importantly, who's going to help me eat all those tomatoes in the garden?! The dogs? NO! Olive? NO (but maybe a solution to the hairball problem).

Perhaps I will just have to take some to her house for her and her new hubby to enjoy. After all, sharing, whether NEAR or FAR (see Grover), is what makes life more fun. And less bitter.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Toast ...

To a day without bitterness. And many more to follow. [I know those aren't complete sentences. Get off my back.]

That's my freckly hand in the foreground. Can you see the wedding ring? Yep. Got married. See the guy in the black robe? That's the judge. He did the marryin'.

It was perfect. I don't know how those "Say Yes To The Dress People" get through wedding planning. It was making me crazy. Besides, it was really fun to get people's reactions when we told them we were married.

Here are some of the highlights of the whole process:

Picking out my wedding dress from a street vendor when I went to the Celtic Fest with Lynne.
Who needs a fancy dressing room when there's a cubicle made out of blankets?

I haven't been to the probate court for about three years but when we went in to get the license, the clerk recognized me and a few minutes later the judge came out to congratulate us. He offered to do the honors right there. It was tempting, but then I was afraid that Lynne wouldn't make the almond cake, so we declined.

The other highlight of the trip to the probate court was raising our right hands and swearing that we "weren't intoxicated, did not have a communicable form of syphyllis and were not more closely related than second cousins". Fortunately, we passed.

On the appointed day (last Saturday) Lynne and Shane arrived. Lynne brought cake. Then the judge (not the probate judge, but Ada's own Judge Grimslid who lives around the corner) arrived wearing a baseball cap (due to rain). He took off the cap and put on his robe and the event began.

For some reason, the judge had written my son's name on the vow's instead of my fiance's. It was a little freaky to hear "Do you Shane take Sue..." finally the judge stopped the proceedings, got a pen and corrected the vows.

And now it's official!

We're at "Marriage: Day Five".

And we're very happy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If THAT is in My Pond, Then Why do I Swim in it?

While not an adequately scary picture, that's one HUGE catfish. For perspective, those little white things around it are oyster crackers. Yeah. Now you're scared. There's also gnarly bumps on its head, not unlike a shark. Maybe more like a manatee, but they aren't scary.

Why are there oyster crackers in my pond? After all, they aren't made of oysters. In addition to the oldest, biggest catfish in the world, there are three very large grass carp. Since it's been such a dry summer and they've eaten every last pond weed, they've started on my water lillies. Now that's a problem. SO I've fed them crackers and thrown random weeds in the pond for them to eat.

Perhaps the greater question is why would I want to swim in a pond with soggy crackers, dead weeds AND huge fish.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sometimes I'm a Pinhead

Last week, I sat outside on the porch for dinner. The weather was perfect and my plate was filled with baked green tomatoes and I had a glass of wine in hand. After a few bites, an annoying mechanical noise filled my ears.

At first, I wondered if it might be a passing city vehicle with its alarm going off (not that I'm near a city, but that's what it sounded like). Perhaps one of the cats had been abducted by aliens who reprogrammed its meow. Or, maybe the neighbors had an ATM in their driveway.

Yes, it really sounded like an ATM. I got up to look at the neighbors' driveways when I passed by my back patio door. The noise was louder.

It was coming from inside.

It was my oven.

The timer had gone off and apparently there's a button for turning off the timer instead of it just stopping like normal timers. To be fair, it's a new oven, and when my tomatoes were done, I just took them out, figuring the timer would take care of itself. Fifteen minutes later, the timer was still going off. Yes, it took me fifteen minutes to figure out that the neighbors did not get an ATM.

Sure, that's embarrassing, but there's more.

This past Saturday night, I went to a local grocery store to pick up a few things. A rather cute guy was in the store and I saw him a few times as I shopped, but figured he was way too young for me.

He ends up behind me in the checkout lane. As I put my meager items on the conveyor belt, I wondered what he might be thinking of them. What does one think of a single woman on a Saturday night buying yogurt, one orange, one onion and 12 cans of cat food (they were on sale!)? Uh-huh.

Then some guys got behind him and they seemed to know each other and were yucking it up and joking. I turned to smile at their jokes. THEY were buying two twelve packs of Leinenkugel. My favorite beer. And then there's me, single-Saturday-night-12-cans-of-cat-food-buyer.

I paid for my groceries and went to the parking lot. Since my little black pick up truck had not been driven for a while, I got in it. I started it up, resulting in the usual puff of blue smoke. I looked over my shoulder to make sure I didn't run anyone over. I noticed the cute guy. In the puff of blue smoke.

He walked around the back of the truck and then by me, in the driver's seat. I waved politely. He waved back.

Then he got in his shiny black Hummer. (not code)

And, just for documentation purposes of further pin-headedness, a week and a half ago, I went through McDonald's drive-through. The conversation went something (or maybe exactly) like this:

"Welcome to McDonald's may I take your order?"

"Yes, I'd like a small medium coffee with-"



"Ma'am, you keep saying 'small medium.' Which do you want?"

Obviously, what I needed was a HUGE coffee.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Big Reveal - Gold Coast Gothic

Remember Trina's project for the 4th on the 5th party? There was a promise for full pictures. Finally, you can see it. Here's before - a blank slate that Liz helped put together:

Ta Da!!! Insert head here! Photo opps abound!

Now people really will vacation along the Gold Coast! Trina's title for it is: "I Want YOU to have a Burger."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Big Big Lots Adventure

Today I became a member of the Big Lots Buzz Club. It does not involve a secret handshake, but eventually I'll get 20% off something.

Trina, the apparent winner of the essay contest allowing her to experience the Gold Coast of Hardin County firsthand, needed a few supplies for her last day of rest and relaxation. As we set out this morning, the plan was to get Diet Coke and puzzle books, then to stop by our favorite scratch and dent grocery store.

Instead, we spent entirely too much money at the brand spankin' new Big Lots nearby. It seems I bought something from every department: housewares - a new toilet seat cover (as the one I had spontaneously lost elasticity, not unlike my very own waistline); grocery - dijon mustard at a bargain price; beauty - cocoa butter, face masks and new weird hair clamps (my hair now looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book); pets - two lambswool dog toys - there's a whole lot of squeakin' goin' on. Then there was the Mr. Clean Collector's edition of cleaning products. I suppose this means I must use them...

However, the highlight was Literature. Or maybe it should just be "books." I found the autobiography of the real Marcia Brady. It has rocketed to the top of the book pile for next read. She's the big sister I never had, not destroying my self-esteem with her perfection and boy-magnetism.

Trina found THE BEST BOOK EVER: "Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens." It has everything!! Bitterness! Chickens! And Dioramas!!! My fingers are trembling as I could something so all encompassing be only $5?!

Yet that is the beauty of the blogosphere - you now know too. You are no longer deprived.

This has been a public service message from the Bitter Train.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yeast: Good in Bread, Not Bed

This is a picture of the last slice of my new favorite bread:

It's tomato basil bread from Panera. It might even have some sourdough in it, making it even BETTER! If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you may wonder if that is the same darn watermelon in every picture but it is not. This is not the watermelon for the July 4th fete and it is not the watermelon for watermelon's sake watermelon. This watermelon will be made into watermelon lemonade. Yes, it is fantastic.

But that's not what I wanted to tell you. We're talking about this bread. I bought the loaf, which is HUGE for the purpose of having with corn on the cob - butter the bread, put corn on the bread, cover corn, salt corn, eat corn. Eat melted butter with salt on the bread. It's awesome. The rest of the bread has gone toward daubing up salad dressing. The best feta salad dressing in the WORLD!

There they are together. Aren't they beautiful?

Many ingredients make bread wonderful. Without yeast however, it'd just be unleavened bread. While I'm all for manna, it sounded a bit more crunchy. You could hardly butter it up and use it on corn. You couldn't dip it in salad.

Yeast has its place.

It is not in the bedroom.

Recently (as in fifteen minutes ago), I told the story of my husband and how he was a really great home-brewer. He once made a phenomenal batch of mead. He used champagne yeast. However, when it was cold, he'd worry the yeast packet would not stay warm enough. One night, I was getting in bed and there was a lump under the covers. It was not a cat. I asked my husband about it. "Oh that? It's the yeast packet."

I got out of the bed. I then explained to him how women feel about yeast. It is our enemy. We do not like it around us anywhere, particularly at night, in our beds.

I don't think he understood. Only women can appreciate that yeast has its place.

It is not in the bedroom.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I (heart) the Gold Coast

Perhaps there should be an essay contest for "Why I (heart) the Gold Coast."

But I might win. Since I already have the privilege of living here, it wouldn't be fair to others.

Nearly every day, I walk the dogs down the road. As regular readers of this blog will note, interesting things happen on the road. There's the time Sue got chased by Spanky while he had a dead squirrel in his mouth. Or the giant glass pickle jar we found (which is still there). That and many dead things make every walk an adventure.

Today, I am happy to report, was no exception. The first mile was uneventful. It was about 80 degrees and it was just starting to get uncomfortable. Before I turned around to head home, a neighbor came out carrying a plastic grocery store bag filled with "something." The possibilities were dazzling my mind. It was sweet corn - that treasure trove of Ohio goodness. Fresh picked. Today.

He set it on the ground, thinking I'd be walking a bit further. I thanked him profusely and then his giant dog, resembling a very cute furry keg, ambled over to sniff Foster and Tilly. Fortunately, Foster did not start a fight. I had not yet retrieved the bag of corn, and if there was a dog fight, the offer may have been rescinded. I learned the dog's name was "Teddy" (or Ted-D). I worried Teddy was going to pee on the bag of corn. He didn't. Foster did (but only a little).

Maybe it was the McDonald's mocha frappe I had earlier (I had a coupon for a free one - woohoo!), or maybe the two hashbrowns I bought to go with it so I didn't look like a mooch, but that bag of corn suddenly weighed a hundred pounds. I switched to the other hand, the one with the leashes in it. It didn't help.

About that time, I got to another neighbor's driveway, in which a sport utility's engine was running, with a young girl screaming at the young man who had come out of the house. Lots of f-bombs dropping, left and right. And of course, there's me, ambling by with my dogs and dozen ears of free sweet corn. It was hard to look nonchalant. It was also hard to hear every word, which I wanted to hear! From what I gathered, she didn't want to be his friend any more. Ever. Or something like that.

With relief, I passed the house. Only a half mile more to mine. Ugh. Not too much later, the sport ute and driver went zipping by, still yelling, with the young man in the passenger side.

It's entirely possible that this was a sweaty mirage, imagined by the high humidity. Gotta go - I have corn to boil.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do You Resemble Produce?

An old lady collected potato chips with interesting shapes, like Jay Leno. This is funny.

Being pear shaped or apple shaped has a bearing on your health. Not so funny.

Recently a friend, who will remain nameless, joined a work-out place. Signing in came with the joys of having her measurements taken. This is fun when you're going to be a bridesmaid. It's not fun when you are having it done because you're trying to change the numbers.

Of course, our friend didn't know the kindly woman who carefully measured her. She did recite the findings to said friend. Said friend noted that all numbers seemed pretty much the same, prompting her to blurt, "I knew I was shaped like a brussel sprout!"

The measurement woman was taken aback. Apparently our friend was the first to match her shape with a fruit or vegetable outside the norm.

And one must be careful with produce comparisons. Just yesterday, an old man who likes to fish in my pond (not code) brought cucumbers and zucchini out of his garden to thank me. Why yes, reaching into the back of the truck to retrieve these items was creepy.

One must simply have a sense of humor when dealing with the fruit and vegetables of the world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bitter Betrothal...

I'm engaged! It's true...and I have a beautiful ring to prove it. I'm very happy and often find myself smiling when all alone as if I were the village idiot. Being engaged has been very fun since our friends and family are very happy for us.

However, there have been a few comments, which, though possibly well meaning just haven't come off too well. For example, is it really necessary to say things like: "Good for you---continuing to believe there is happiness despite the previous two!"

Or "Of course, I'll be at the wedding. I made it to the first two didn't I?"

Or (upon hearing that Chris is moving into my house) "Have you thought about selling that place and getting something nicer?"

Or "Are you changing your name....again???"

And, my personal favorite (from my son) "This is you and Chris, right? Not you and Lynne?"

Ain't love grand?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Fourth on the Fifth

If you saw the previous post about the watermelon and the July 4th get together, then you'll be happy to know that the melon was a darn good floater. When thrown in the pond, it sank down, then popped up with a pleasing splash. Yet somehow, I missed when it fell apart and the ceremonial "flinging of the pieces" took place.

The other news at this year's event is that Trina was extremely ambitious and created a fun "piece" for all to enjoy. The pictures of her are the artist in action, followed by Liz, who gives a nice preview as it was in development. The full picture will be disclosed soon, but you really need to work up to it. Let's just say "it's a keeper."

The Wagner 8 brought a special guest this year. No, it wasn't one of the girls' boyfriends, though they were in tow. Meet Millie:
She's a mini pot-bellied pig and she was the hit of the party (except to Foster). After all the Charlotte's Web and Pork-related jokes (there were many), she still wanted to hang out with us. In the picture, she's sniffing the "Kooky Chicken Swim Party" squeek toy that Trina brought (I think for the dogs, but I like it quite a bit myself). We admired the pig's spunk, particularly when she got tired of Foster barking smack at her and she attacked him, shocking him, and giving us a laugh. She also was particularly cute when she rolled in the sand, then suddenly shoot off in some random direction, prompting yells of "Speed Pig!"

Yeah, we know how to party.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What's Your July 4th Tradition?

Sure, watermelon may be part of your July 4th picnic. It is at my house too. But, it's not what you think.

The ceremonial watermelon doubles as flotation device as well as a tasty snack. Yes, as my friends' children pour into the pond, the watermelon does as well.

Last year, sadly, the watermelon broke. Yet, the ever enterprising children made do by throwing the pieces at each other. My dogs helped on clean up duty (my clean up duty after them wasn't so pretty).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Bees Knees

Honey Bees made a home in the foundation of my home. It is not a compliment.

As Sue said, "Everyone wants to live here!"

However, bees and four cats and two dogs don't mix (not to mention the humans).

Thanks to the world wide web, I did some investigating about honey bees in the home. It would seem that experts agree that bees and humans don't live together in the same place very well. That's probably why people aren't trying to live in hives.

One aspect of the article did disturb me though, which was the section helping me to identify the type of bee. Here is what I read:

"Honey bees are characterized by the presence of a long, pointed tongue, social habit, front wings with three closed submarginal cells, and no spurs at the tips of the hind Tibiae (4th segment of the insect's leg)."

Considering the bees were in a swarm, I'm not sure how I was supposed to ask them to "open up and say 'ahh'" to determine their tongue shape or see if there are spurs (whatever THOSE are) on the 4th segment of its leg (what if it was on the third?). And just how does one figure out the social habit of a honey bee? "Hey, drone, come here often?"

Fortunately, when I woke up this morning, there was no more activity near the crevice where they'd been swarming. Maybe word got back to the queen as to the condition of my basement. Or maybe they don't like a western exposure. Either way, they are gone and I'm grateful. Though maybe, just a little, I feel a touch of rejection.

Friday, June 25, 2010

County Fair Special Guest: The Giant Inflatable Colon

This morning as I was reading the paper, I came upon the article that sent me straight upstairs to the bathroom.

No, it was not the call of nature. I had to tell Sue about the article I found. I knocked on the door with great urgency. She was blow drying her hair and I almost scared the poo out of her (if I had, she'd been in the right place).

That's when I told her about the featured guest at the Putnam County Fair: The Giant Inflatable Colon.

Sure, some fairs have the tiki twirl, the world's strongest clown, and chainsaw jugglers. But can they boast of an inflatable colon that people can actually walk through? Why (oh, why) do people have this opportunity? It's a part of the campaign to "Wipe Out Colorectal Cancer." While this most certainly is an important issue that is not very funny, it would win a contest of "Most Unfortunate Use of a Word in a Slogan."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homemade Everything

This morning, I threw in a load of laundry. I used homemade laundry soap.

Then, I washed dishes. I used homemade dish detergent.

Frightfully overdue, I got around to brushing my teeth. Yes, with homemade toothpaste.

Soon (but not soon enough), I'll shower and use no shampoo (just baking soda and vinegar), followed by - you got it - homemade deodorant (which works great).

Something tells me I've gone over the edge. I would like to point out that is not me in the photograph. But, I'll be that is a homemade cigarette.

(for a snack, I'll have homegrown raspberries!)