Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An all-day celebration of Sam.

Light the skyrockets and Roman candles ... everybody’s favorite cowpoke is officially 51 years old today. I think Sam looks totally terrific for a dude starting his second half-century. Please don’t tell him I said this, but his birthday suit is still a perfect fit and it’s my #1 favorite outfit.

This year my birthday gifts to Sam are a homemade card (I’m world-famous for my homemade cards) and a new leather executive chair for his desk at home. He’s got a week of vacation beginning today so we’ll kick it off with a trip to Office Depot and then go somewhere for lunch.

If you want to help Sam celebrate you can send him a nice happy birthday email. He likes email. He also likes money, raisins, pulling weeds, long drives in the country, Humphrey Bogart movies and Mexican food. But email will be fine for the time being. Thank you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Where's Auntie Em when you need her?

Howdy. I’m sitting here watching a bunch of ominous black clouds roll in from the west and I sure wish Sam was home. He loves thunderstorms even more than I do (if that’s possible), and it’s a family tradition to sit in the garage with the door open and watch the lightning. This time, though, Sam is at work, and it’s no fun to sit in the garage by myself. Plus I wouldn’t want the neighbors to think I'm weird or anything.

Here’s the approaching storm as it looked on Weather.com about five minutes ago. I’ve highlighted Mesquite with a bright red star on the right side of the map.
There’s actually no other news to report, except this morning I finished redesigning a client’s website. It turned out GREAT, and she’s thrilled to pieces. You can check it out here. Incidentally ... don’t forget to tell your friends that I design websites, okay? You can send them to OvationCreative.com for all the details. Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I think I'd rather eat Haitian mud cookies.

To begin, let’s be clear about one thing: it’s been more than two and half years since Sam and I ate at Cici’s Pizza. The only reason I finally decided to write this review is because on my way home from Pep Boys yesterday morning I drove past Cici’s Pizza on Galloway and there were customers lined up around the building waiting for the doors to open. Under the circumstances, I feel it’s my public duty to warn the good citizens of Howdygramland that you should avoid eating this slop at all costs.

Cici’s is basically a chain of poorly-conceived and miserably-executed pizza buffet restaurants with no ambiance and exceptionally cheap prices. The day we were there our local Cici’s in Mesquite was populated by several hundred bussed-in middle schoolers loading up on free Mountain Dew refills. The pizza itself was a nightmare of extraordinarily terrible toppings on rubbery, previously-frozen dough and included such house specialties as Macaroni & Cheese Pizza, Japapeño Pineapple Pizza, Sloppy Joe Pizza, Hamburger Helper Pizza and Alpo Double-Cheese Surprise. If any of this makes you nauseous there are other meal options as well, like tubs of room-temperature Chef Boyardee pastas and cinnamon churros that walked over from Taco Bell across the street.
Pictured above is a platter of Cici’s finest, including Alpo Double-Cheese Surprise and (on the bottom) Macaroni & Cheese Pizza. The other two pizzas on the plate refused to give me their names without an attorney present, and I couldn’t get the Hamburger Helper Pizza to pose for me.

Bottom line: rather than eating at Cici’s I strongly recommend that you stay home and consider peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a bowl of cereal. Thank you for reading this. RATING: F.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nerdlike activities abound.

Sam is still in Houston. I know this for sure because he calls every 27½ minutes to tell me that’s where he is and that he misses me and wants to come home. The coming home part will probably happen tomorrow unless the clients delay their project and he has to stay an extra day. Either way, I’m keeping busy with a pile of design projects, occasional naps and lots of visitors for a quiet Wednesday. My maid service (a team of three Mexican tornadoes armed with mops and Lysol) shows up this morning for an hour and a half, my Schwan’s delivery guy arrives at 12:30 with most of this week’s frozen food order, and at 2:30 a technician from Time Warner Cable drops in to reboot our cable box because we lost some of our high-definition channels last week. Apparently they upgraded their software to accommodate new channels and in the process there was an outage for a whole crowd of customers in Mesquite. And at 4:45, the very moment I decide to watch a movie and take my very first nap of the day, the Schwan’s guy comes back with my missing bag of Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls.

Hot tip. The most incredible TV show on earth in HD is “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel. You can see EVERY SINGLE DROP OF WATER in EVERY 30-FOOT WAVE on the Bering Sea. Check it out.

Incidentally, I think Sam is secretly having a good time in Houston. Yesterday he had a chance to explore Galveston Island and today before work he spent a few hours at the Houston Museum of Printing History. Initially I thought I’d poke some fun at this until I checked out their website and realized it’s actually an interesting place for a couple of nerds like Sam and me. He’s got three decades of experience in commercial and financial printing, and I’ve been fascinated with print and type since I was eight years old and my cousin Bobby taught me how to use a manual typewriter. I was hooked for life. In case you’re interested, my top typing speed back in the 1980s was 125 w.p.m. on an IBM Selectric. I even burned out two Selectric motors when I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade and actually made them SMOKE.

See? I told you I was a nerd.

Sometimes I even forget to eat.

On Tuesday Sam went to Houston on business for a few days. This time he decided to drive (it’s a four-hour trip) so he could spend a day on Galveston Island looking for tarballs. I don’t think he found any, but I warned him to steer clear of Gulf seafood and greasy birds just in case. While he’s gone I’ve been working on a variety of client projects, including a new website and redesigning a complex five-page blog. I get so intense that I totally forget to eat, take pills, throw laundry in the dryer and empty my bladder until it’s almost too late. Since it’s already past midnight I think it might be a good idea to grab yesterday’s lunch before it’s time for bed.

For your possible interest here are a couple of new family photos. The one on top is mom with my sister Robin on Mother’s Day. I think mom looks absolutely amazing at almost 90 years old. She gets her hair and nails done every week and even hinted recently that she has a BOYFRIEND at her nursing home. (Oy.) The other photo is my brother-in-law Ron and his grandson Tyler, who just turned two on June 18. I have no idea where Tyler got that little mop of curly red hair, but he’s the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. (I’d say that even if he wasn’t a relative.)
 Thank you for reading this. Seriously.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Celebrating our dads.

First of all, happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there in Howdygramland. We hope you have a terrific day no matter how you choose to celebrate ... whether you’re shlepping somewhere to a brunch, watching the U.S. Open on TV or just pulling weeds in the back yard. Sam and I are a little at loose ends on Father’s Day because both of us are dad-less now. Sam’s dad (Ben) passed away only one year ago; mine (Herb) died in 2002.
It’s interesting how your memories evolve after you lose a parent. In the eight years since my father died I’ve started remembering a lot of very small incidents, like playing Peter Pan when I was four years old and dad would “fly me to bed”. We also danced to Rosemary Clooney records and watched Cubs games on TV, the latter because I mostly loved the commercials (my favorite was the Hamm’s bear) and Ernie Banks.

Dad was a great teacher. He taught me to recognize (and name) every automobile logo by the time I was three so I’d identify all the parked cars whenever we walked around the block. I guess everybody thought I was a baby genius, shrieking “STUDEBAKER!” from my stroller, but I know I made dad proud. He also taught me to order fried rice with a Chinese accent when I was two, turning me into a runaway sensation at the Golden Pheasant restaurant. (If you ever wonder where I got my strange sense of humor, now you know.)

So Happy Father’s Day. Go make some memories!

Friday, June 18, 2010

My favorite guilt-free dessert.

As a diabetic and perpetual dieter I’m always on the lookout for a decent homemade dessert. I’ve tried making pumpkin pie with 1,548 packets of Equal, but it’s not the same as the real thing and you have to wash down the aftertaste with half a quart of Coke Zero. This rice pudding recipe, however, which was invented by yours truly, is the real deal and my all-time favorite. As a bonus it’s also extremely easy to make and you don’t have to wait very long to dig in.
  • 3 pkgs.* Jello sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 6 cups cold nonfat milk
  • 1½ cups cooked white rice at room temperature
  • ½ cup raisins
  • cinnamon to taste
Prepare vanilla pudding in a large bowl according to package directions, then stir in the cooked rice and raisins and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon on each individual serving. *These are regular-size packages of pudding mix that require 2 cups of milk each for preparation.
This recipe actually makes enough to serve six people or you can keep it all for yourself if nobody else wants any. That’s the case in MY house because Sam doesn’t like rice pudding. Thank you for reading this.

Miscellaneous stuff on a Friday.

First of all, Sam and I celebrated another milestone yesterday! After breakfast at Scrambles (see photo below), our favorite local greasy spoon, we drove around the cattle ranches in Sunnyvale for a few minutes until the odometer on our 2001 Saturn coupe hit 100,000 miles. This was a very large deal, to be sure, but not nearly as much fun as big odometer changes in decades past when it was analog instead of digital and the numbers actually took several seconds to roll over from nines to zeroes. Digital rollovers are so damn fast I was afraid we’d run into a steer trying to watch the odometer. (We didn’t.)
While I’m on the subject of vehicles, has anybody ever seen a Nissan Cube? I spotted one yesterday for the first time on my way to AAA to pick up a 2010 Oklahoma tour book (details to follow). While I seriously hope I’m not offending any of my Howdygram readers, this thing has to be the ugliest car on the road and reminds me of a plastic toy from a Disney Pixar movie. The driver looked like Buzz Lightyear.
Sam has a week of vacation time coming up so we’re planning a three- or four-day driving trip into Oklahoma, maybe somewhere around the Arbuckle Mountains and Turner Falls. This might not sound very exciting to YOU, but we really love road trips and it almost doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, as long as we’re in the car making up songs and eating pretzels. I’ll post pictures when we get back, so stay tuned. In the meantime, don’t forget to floss.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fat-free, self-contained Fried Eggs-in-the-Shell.

I’ve been making this simple recipe for years with occasional unintentional variations, but the results are always the same. Please feel free to try this one for yourself.
  • 1 nice Calphalon saucepan
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 6 jumbo eggs
  • My Cousin Vinny on DVD
  • 1 leather sofa
Carefully place your six eggs into the saucepan, add water, and place on the stove on medium heat. Make a vague mental note to check the eggs in about 30 minutes, then lie down on the sofa and accidentally fall asleep watching My Cousin Vinny for an hour and a half until you practically melt your 10-pound hard-anodized Calphalon pot. You won’t ever need a timer for any of this because the smell of sizzling eggshells will eventually wake you up ... guaranteed. Then just plunge the eggs into cold running water for 10 minutes and refrigerate. Once these little orbs of white lava cool off you can use them like normal hard-boiled eggs.
I’m going to use some of mine to make a bowl of salmon salad this afternoon. (Salmon salad is a lot like tuna salad except I don’t have any tuna.) It’s very good on crackers or a bagel. Thank you for reading this.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Things that can scare your husband.

    Actually, it’s just ONE thing. I’ve been making Sam the same turkey and pepperjack cheese sandwich on Orowheat Oatnut bread with one teaspoon of mayonnaise every day for six years, but last Wednesday, for whatever reason, I FORGOT TO CUT IT IN HALF. I just wrapped it in wax paper, maneuvered it into a quart-size ziploc bag and sent him to work with a whole sandwich, a bag of baby carrots and a nice yogurt.

    I first get wind that something’s amiss when Sam calls a few hours later from work and says, “Is everything okay?” Sure. Why? “Are you feeling all right?” I’m FINE. “Are you mad at me?” Of course not. WHAT’S GOING ON?

    “You didn’t cut my sandwich today.”

    Wow. If a momentary kitchen misstep is all it takes to propel Sam to doubt my love, my health or my sanity, from this day forward that damn sandwich gets sawed into triangle fourths with ruffled toothpicks and a cloth napkin. Thank you for reading this, and bon appetit.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Sometimes a girl just can't catch a break.

    This morning I was whining to Sam that I’m really REALLY sick of doctor appointments. I can’t even keep track of how many I’ve had in the past two years ... countless visits and follow-ups for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, experimenting with various doses and combinations of medications, nonstop lab tests, plus treatment for a urinary tract infection, ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis, a botched frontal lobotomy, carpal tunnel syndrome and most recently — of all things — ANEMIA. (Just kidding about the frontal lobotomy.)

    I should be careful what I wish for, though, because I LOST A TOOTH while I was eating dinner a little while ago ... so now I have to add DENTIST appointments to my never-ending list of DOCTOR appointments! The tooth in question is actually the crown from my upper right bicuspid, which fell out in one piece, post and all. I had root canal on that tooth two or three decades ago, so at least it doesn’t hurt, but now I’m sure I’ll be faced with the inevitable battle with a dental professional over how to proceed with the restoration. I have my own agenda on this subject for reasons that will remain unwritten for the time being. (If you’re interested in details you can send me an email.)

    I think I’ll go gum some carrots. Thank you for reading this.

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    I swore I'd never do this, but what the hell.

    It’s already after midnight, so it’s Monday now. And that means Sam is coming home today! He’s been in California since the Friday before Memorial Day, horsing around in the San Fernando Valley with his mom, his aunts and assorted siblings, friends and acquaintances. To say I’ve missed Sam would be the understatement of the century, because I desperately need somebody to scratch my back, kiss my face and drag out the garbage cans, but not necessarily in that order.

    So to prepare for my big sweetie’s return I decide to go to Costco on Sunday morning for a variety of his favorite food products, including organic raspberries, a two-pound package of lox, chicken flautas and a gigantic tub of cashews. Unfortunately, it’s 100° outside with tons of humidity, a hazy sky and probably way too much pollution, and I’m thinking I really shouldn’t get carried away buying too much food in this heat because shlepping through Costco can be exhausting for me, and there’s nobody waiting at home to help unload the trunk and put everything away. As I’m limping into the store with my cane the 18-year-old greeter at the main entrance figures I look pathetic enough for an electric riding shopping cart ... and I decide to do the unthinkable: I SAID YES AND GOT ON.

    This was the experience of a lifetime! After a 30-second driving lesson — “push this to go forward, push this to back up” — here I was, Princess Marcy, sitting on my ass in Costco, careening up and down every aisle and maneuvering three-point turns like Mario Andretti at 5 mph. I didn’t hit any people, I didn’t ram into that tower of Windex and I didn’t block traffic. I bought everything on my shopping list and was back in the parking lot 20 minutes later. I can’t wait to do this all over again ... except next time I think I’ll try offering cheap rides to old people and pregnant women. Does $2.25 sound like too much?

    Thank you for reading this. Seriously.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Meet the Windy City sleazebags.

    Many of you probably know that I grew up in Chicago. Even though I moved away 23 years ago I still love to follow their local news, exposés and scandals because nobody does sleaze quite like the Windy City. Although a lot of this stuff may seem funny from a distance, I’d be a nervous wreck if I still lived in Chicago and my tax dollars were funding any of this corruption.

    The latest hoo-hah involves Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, a short-timer/lame duck since losing the February primary. With less than six months left to serve, Stroger has been on a spending spree ... adding aides and assistants (most with six-figure salaries) to his staff despite a county-wide hiring freeze. One new hire was Carla Oglesby as Stroger’s deputy chief of staff at $120,000 a year. Oglesby is highly qualified for a job in county government based on prior experience as a promoter for hip-hop artists.
    Immediately after joining Stroger’s staff she weasled 11 lucrative contracts for friends and former co-workers, each in an amount just under $25,000 — the level at which County Board approval is required. One contract for $24,995 went to her own public relations agency. Others were deals for ridiculous projects that were never completed, including $24,995 to a professional basketball promoter for a “composting awareness program” and $24,995 to Wallace “Gator” Bradley, who refers to himself as an “urban translator.”

    But the latest fraud is Carla Oglesby’s $150,000 expenditure to various local bogus companies for “census outreach contracts.” The deals were all awarded to cronies recommended by Oglesby and Eugene Mullins, one of Stroger’s boyhood friends. Two of the census contracts were given to the Chicago rap duo Dude ’N Nem, best known for their single “We Are Going to McDonald’s.” (Stop laughing.) A website for one of Oglesby’s other recommended companies asks job applicants for their modeling experience, measurements and four photographs. The contact for another takes you to nearly-nude photos on a MySpace page.

    I need to know why these gangsters are not in jail. I mean, I watch “Cops” all the time and see people getting chased and tackled and arrested on $200 warrants when they forget to pay a TRAFFIC TICKET. How can crooks like Todd Stroger and Carla Oglesby steal from taxpayers and get away with it? THE PEOPLE OF ILLINOIS NEED ANSWERS. Thank you. I’m going to bed now.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Two adorable things.

    I watched a terrific film on cable last night. I’ll bet nearly everybody else on the planet has already seen it, but WALL-E is probably the cutest movie I’ve seen in YEARS. The lead character is a little trash compactor (Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class) who’s apparently all alone on earth after humans left it too filthy to inhabit and decided to live in outer space. Little WALL-E barely makes any intelligible sounds at all, but you have no problem figuring out what he’s thinking and feeling. Always lonely, he watches a “Hello Dolly” video over and over and over, collects cigarette lighters and has a pet cockroach who lives inside a Twinkie. Disney Pixar did the animation, and it’s really breathtaking. I can’t wait for Sam to come home next week so we can watch it together. Here’s the original theatrical trailer:

    And speaking of Sam, he’s the OTHER adorable thing I’m going to write about here. Last night he went shopping with his mom at Trader Joe’s — the best grocery store on earth — and called to give me a detailed, aisle-by-aisle rundown of everything on the shelves so we could reminisce together. Sam knows how much I miss Trader Joe’s. (Every now and then I email their corporate headquarters and ask them to open stores in Dallas. They always write back and act polite, but I think they’re ignoring me.)

    Incidentally, I had to cancel my appointment this afternoon with the hand surgeon. I know this will sound idiotic, but I wasn’t feeling well enough to go to the doctor! I guess it was a fatigue thing ... an occasional side effect from some of the medications I take. I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to shlep to Rockwall today in 99° heat, so I’ll reschedule (again). And speaking of hot weather, we’ve got a dangerous heat situation developing this weekend. Temperatures will be 105° here on Saturday, Sunday and Monday but will feel more like 110° with the humidity. If you think I’m leaving the house in weather like that, you’re nuts. I’m going to stay home with a bottle of Coke Zero and redesign Ovation Creative’s logo and website. Thank you for reading this.

    Lunching in Calabasas.

    News flash ... Sam is still in California. His Aunt Adie emailed some photos she took yesterday at lunch in Calabasas with Sam and his mom. (Those club sandwiches really look good.)
    I’ve got an appointment with a hand surgeon this afternoon. I’m hoping we’ll be able to make some definite plans to cure my carpal tunnel problem because my right hand has been basically USELESS since the beginning of March. I can’t hold a toothbrush or a pen, can’t sign my name, blow-dry my hair, dice an onion, push a shopping cart or grip a steering wheel. I know I’ve whined about all this before, but after a round of steroid medication and three months in a surgical wrist brace NOTHING HAS IMPROVED. So my internist referred me to a surgeon, and that’s where I’ll be at 2 p.m. this afternoon. I’ll post again as soon as I know what’s what, okay? (Thank you for your concern. Send presents.)

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Some of my favorite places are websites.

    Scroll down a little, keep an eye on the right-hand column, and you’ll see a section called Fun Links. Trust me ... you’re definitely missing something if you’ve never checked out any of these web destinations! My favorites are Engrish.com (which I’ve been enjoying for YEARS) and AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. A sample of the latter appears below. Incidentally, it’s always pleasant to see happy, flabby people enjoying their pets. Do you think they used this shot for their Christmas cards?
    In other news, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial starts Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Chicago. I wish this was being televised! The sleaze and drama factors will be off the charts and it’s bound to be even better than the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” ... which is pretty revolting in case you’ve never seen it. Apparently the government’s evidence against Blagojevich is staggering, but since I won’t be able to watch the courtroom hoo-hah on TV I guess I’ll have to get my daily serving of fresh baloney on the Chicago Tribune’s website. Thank you for reading this.