Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sssh. We're skipping Halloween.

Halloween has been canceled in north Texas this year. Don’t ring my doorbell and stay off my front lawn. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a World Series underway and all of us in Dallas are watching the Rangers on TV. Tell your kids to go buy their own Milk Duds and Dots, okay?
However, as long as I’m talking about the World Series, I’d be a little happier right now if the Giants were a crappy team and we could beat them. Whenever the camera zooms in on Nolan Ryan sitting behind the dugout he looks like Mister Grumpy Face. Last time I checked the score it was Giants 3, Rangers 0 at the bottom of the 8th.

Before I forget, I tried another product from Schwan’s last week, and this one’s definitely a winner. I didn’t expect frozen tamales to be this good. You just wrap two in a wet paper towel, nuke them for three minutes and poof, you’ve got a pair of decent beef tamales. And they’re cute, too. I can’t wait to introduce a few of them to Sam.
I also should mention that my birthday begins in 90 minutes and I’m not feeling very well tonight. At this point my only symptoms are tiredness and no appetite, but nevertheless I think presents, get-well emails and lemon jello might do the trick. Thank you in advance for your concern and generosity.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

When waitresses suck.

I’ll begin with an advance apology to all you hardworking professional waitresses out there in Howdygramland. There are lots of you, and if you feel hurt, demolished, maniacal or homicidal after you read this post I definitely apologize. I’m not writing about YOU; I’m writing about one specific waitress at one specific restaurant. Her name is Shontae, and she screwed up our dinner experience yesterday at the Black-eyed Pea.

This wasn’t anything SERIOUS, mind you, just some really crappy and lazy behavior. For instance, before we’re even seated at the table Shontae introduces herself three times, because remembering her first name is the most important thing I’m going to do today, right after checking my blood glucose level and voting for governor of Texas. Then she delivers a basket of hot rolls with no silverware or plates. We ask for both. She says, “Plates? Sure, I can bring plates,” as if it’s a novel idea and she’ll try to humor us. Plates are dropped on the table in a stack of three but she hands all the silverware directly to ME, because I’m apparently wearing a sign that says I’m her assistant.

Our appetizer is a nice platter of nice fried green tomatoes, which Shontae delivers after shoving our bread plates and beverages all over the table. When the food order arrives she stands there like the Statue of Liberty with the first entree in her hand, annoyed, and waits for us to rearrange everything and make room. We’re not fast enough and she starts shoving dishes again.

Then we have this issue with BEVERAGES. Mom orders hot water. She orders hot water everywhere we go. She doesn’t drink coffee or tea, just a mug of ordinary hot water. Shontae has trouble with this concept and brings a two-quart plastic tumbler filled with water at the boiling point ... enough to bathe in and so hot you can’t even hold the glass. We look at her like she just landed from the planet Mongo. “You WANTED hot water, didn’t you?” Refills are no trip to the beach, either. When I request more iced tea she stands at the far end of the table with the pitcher and makes me stop eating to pass my glass to her across Sam’s plate.

We love the Black-eyed Pea. We hate Shontae. We left just enough tip to get our point across.

This is mom’s last night with us and we’re taking her to dinner at Saltgrass Steakhouse in Rockwall. Sam and I love Saltgrass, especially the wild west decor. I’ll try to remember my digital camera. In the meantime, thank you reading this and bon appetit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So much fun, so little time.

We’re having a jam-packed week-o-fun with my mother-in-law ... which includes everything from trips to the Dallas Arboretum and Dallas Zoo, eating Klondike bars in the family room and daily walks around Belle’s Lake near our house in Mesquite.

Actually, maybe I should clarify a couple of points so you don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not personally involved in any of these activities ... it’s just Sam and mom because I’m a shlepper who uses a cane. Sam and mom went to the Arboretum, Sam and mom eat all the Klondike bars, and Sam and mom are the ones who walk around Belle’s Lake at least twice a day. At the moment they’re headed to the Dallas Zoo. And as long as I’m so busy clarifying things, I should also mention that Belle’s Lake isn’t really called Belle’s Lake. Mom named it after herself when she was here a year ago. I even designed a custom Belle’s Lake commemorative sweatshirt for her and shipped it to arrive in California the day after she gets home next week. (It’s a surprise because I love her. Don’t say anything.)
I ordered myself a pair of cute new shoes yesterday from ... black leather flats by Soft Spots. If you’ve never shopped with Zappos, you’re missing an amazing experience. They sell every conceivable shoe on the planet in every imaginable size, which is a VERY big hoo-hah to someone like me who wears a size 12. Even better, Zappos also has NO SALES TAX and FREE SHIPPING, even for returns! And for no apparent reason they even upgraded my shipping method from ground to OVERNIGHT ... also for free. Zappos does damn near everything except come over to your house and wait for the delivery truck.
And finally, I want to post this photo of Sam’s Aunt Adie, his cousin Darrell and the twins ... Hailey and Ryan. Adie was in Ontario for a visit and emailed this photo when she got home a few days ago. They’re shown here posing on a log at the Niagara Escarpment. An “escarpment,” contrary to popular opinion, is a long, steep slope, especially at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights. It is NOT a shopping mall or a multi-screen cinema.
Thank y’all for reading this. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All roads lead to the Black-eyed Pea.

Today’s lunch destination with mom was supposed to be Peggy Sue BBQ near the SMU campus in Dallas. Peggy Sue gets great write-ups in snooty “D” Magazine and excellent reviews online, so I figured this must be the go-to place for the city’s best smoked brisket and all the required accoutrements, like good sauce, greasy fries and dill pickles. Unfortunately, unless you live within walking distance or arrive in a private limo that drops you at the door, there’s no way you’ll ever get within six blocks of this place at mealtime.

Peggy Sue is located in the corner of a high-end and unnaturally busy strip mall that’s shaped like a snake pit and packed with a horde of ritzy little stores and other restaurants. From the look of it, apparently everybody in Dallas had nowhere else to go at 11 a.m. on an ordinary Tuesday. We also were flummoxed by the jammed and insufficient parking lot, which was filled with Escalades lined up bumper-to-bumper, circling for empty spots like a bunch of buzzards. We gave up, headed back to the freeway and found ourselves at the Black-eyed Pea a few blocks from home in Mesquite.
The Black-eyed Pea specializes is southern-style comfort food, the kind of place that serves a pile of free corn bread with everything and considers macaroni and cheese a vegetable. We love this place. Sam and mom ordered from the $5.99 lunch menu: he had a barbecue beef sandwich, mom ordered fried catfish. I got the grilled chopped steak smothered in the best mushroom gravy EVER. We also highly recommend their side dishes, particularly the whipped sweet potatoes, squash casserole (my personal all-time favorite) and the cheesy broccoli rice. Mom enjoyed her lunch so much she wants to go back later in the week, and that’s certainly fine with me because I spotted sugar-free cheesecake on the dessert menu. The Black-eyed Pea also offers honey butter for your corn bread, unlimited napkins, good iced tea and lots of parking.

Thank you for reading this. I’m officially hungry again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our seven-day Dallas food fest is underway.

Here we go ... our week-long gastronomic tour of Big D started today at 11:30 a.m., and mom is our honored guest. Every day we’ll shlep her around town to a different restaurant for lunch. We decided to do lunches instead of dinners for a few important reasons: 1) there’s practically zero traffic at lunch time; 2) lunch portions are smaller so we don’t have to stuff ourselves; and 3) we’d rather stay home at night to watch movies.

Today’s excursion took us to Royal China, Dallas’ best (and oldest) Chinese restaurant. We loved it. The food was outstanding, entrees on the lunch menu included FREE SOUP AND EGG ROLL and a big bowl of FREE HOT MUSTARD. I love hot mustard! Our menu choices today were JalapeƱo Chicken for Sam, Orange Chicken for mom and Szechwan Eggplant for me. Plus we all shared assorted steamed dumplings in a bamboo basket (see below) which were color-coded depending on what was stuffed inside.
At no extra charge Royal China’s in-house noodle dude (I think that’s his official title) provides an interesting but non-musical floor show behind the dumpling bar, where he twists and spins huge wads of dough to entertain the diners. It’s fun to watch. He could even make it to the finals on “Shanghai’s Got Talent.”
When we got home everybody took a nap, then I watched an Audrey Hepburn movie on TCM while Sam and mom tried to walk around the block. Unfortunately, they had a little trouble bucking the 35 m.p.h. headwind and didn’t get very far. Sam was afraid mom would wind up in Oz. Thank you for reading this.

Travel in the Twilight Zone.

This won’t be a very long post because it’s almost 1:30 a.m., Sam is asleep and I’m not feeling especially creative at the moment. I just wanted to mention that my mother-in-law didn’t arrive on Saturday as planned. We were bombarded here with thunderstorms and tornado warnings all day long, and her flight from Burbank was canceled at the last minute. To tell you the truth, the situation was almost paranormal because until that point we hadn’t had a single drop of rain — or five minutes of bad weather — during the entire month of October. American Airlines rescheduled mom’s flight and she arrived this morning at 11:45 instead. I have no idea why the weather gods wanted to keep her away on Saturday, but we’re officially having fun now nevertheless. We had pot roast for dinner and grapes for dessert. Life is good.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Shutterstock dilemma, Costco and Raisinets.

So here’s the thing. Every year I treat myself to a one-month membership on Shutterstock sells millions of gorgeous graphics and photos for designers (like me) who don’t really have any illustration skills of their own. I only join once a year because a one-month membership costs $249, for which you can download 25 images a day for 30 days. Trust me, this isn’t as easy as it sounds ... THAT’S 750 IMAGES. I usually sign up around my birthday but have to start planning three or four months in advance by visiting Shutterstock every day and saving images I like in an online “light box.” That way I’ve already got my 750 images set aside by the time I sign up, and I can download 25 a day without too much mental hoo-hah.

Unfortunately, I’m running out of gas. This is only Day 14 of my membership, most of the images in my light box don’t excite me any more and I can’t figure out what I’d rather have instead. I’ve already overdosed on holiday graphics, cowboy graphics, greeting card designs, background patterns, fancy doodads, borders, cute kitty-cats, logos, website banners and so on. I’m sure I’ll dig up another 400 images and get through this ordeal somehow, but I wanted you to know how I suffer as an artist. Thank you.

In other news ... it’s drizzling outside, and Sam and I just got home from a quick trip to Costco, where we bought four important items: 1) cashews; 2) lox; 3) pot roast; and 4) a container of the best scalloped potatoes on the planet.

And here’s an urgent public service announcement in case you missed it. Just in time for Halloween, Raisinets are being recalled for peanut contamination. This refers ONLY to the trick-or-treat “fun size” packages being sold at Target and Shop Rite. Nestle says not to eat them if you’re allergic to peanuts (well, duh) and don’t return them to the store, either, because they don’t want them. You should just call Nestle at 800-478-5670 for a refund. Fortunately, this won’t impact my annual Halloween candy purchase because I only give away total crap like SweeTarts, rock-hard bubble gum and Dum-Dums.

My mother-in-law will be here in 6½ hours. Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here comes mom.

My mother-in-law is coming for a visit. It’s her second trip to Texas since we moved here a few years ago. This adorable Sam lookalike (see for yourself) will arrive around 6 p.m. Saturday for eight days of fun, naps, home-cooked dinners and long walks with her exceptionally tall and precious son. We honestly don’t plan anything too exciting when mom’s here because we mostly love to just hang out and eat grapes in the family room, but this year we’ve got a few interesting restaurants on our “do” list and I’m almost positive that Sam’s counting on another visit to the art museum, which they definitely enjoyed last fall. We also go for a lot of rides to nowhere in particular.

My only big responsibility in all this is to make up the bed in the guest room, reorganize the pantry and plan a few meals. So far my list includes Marcy’s Private Recipe Chili, something Italian and probably pot roast, all of which provide enough leftovers to feed us more than once. This is a perfect example of classy thinking and brilliant homemaking.

For those of you who love a good celebration, tomorrow is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. You might have a problem finding a Hallmark card for this one, however. Thank you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

When you really REALLY need another nap.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I CAN’T WAKE UP. I got out bed at 9 this morning, skipped lunch for a nap on the couch at noon, woke up just long enough to fall asleep again at 2:45, and now I’m sitting at my desk dreaming about nap number three instead of what’s for dinner. The whole day has been such a strange fog that I’m not really positive I’ve been awake for any of it ... although somehow I know that the Vikings beat the Cowboys this afternoon 24 to 21. And I’ve also got enough functioning neurons to know the Cowboys are playing sucky football.

Let me apologize for this. I almost forgot to show you the three new products I ordered last week from Schwan’s. For the most part I’ve been pretty satisfied with a lot of their products, although some are seriously overpriced (compared to the supermarket) and others taste too bland. I guess Schwan’s tries to appeal to the broadest possible audience; the result is cuisine that can be reminiscent of a middle school cafeteria.
The only product I’m really fond of here is the au gratin potatoes. Even Sam liked them, and Sam really doesn’t like ANYTHING except raisins, a lobster tail with butter, yogurt, cashews from Costco and an occasional large chicken burrito. I tried Schwan’s pot stickers a couple of hours ago and wound up feeding them to the garbage disposer. They LOOK normal enough but have zero Asian flavor and a texture like Legos. The crust is so hard (the label on the bag says they’re “pan seared”) that I couldn’t bite through it or even chew. I do not intend to destroy my brand new teeth on plastic food.

As for the brown & serve sausages, they taste fine but seem a little too greasy for me. Plus, they’re frozen in little rock-hard piles of eight, which means a person has to heat up eight at a time when you might only want three. Since I eat sausages so infrequently I know I won’t bother ordering these again when they run out. At this rate, it’s possible they’ll be lurking in my freezer FOREVER.

Thank you so much for reading this. I’m hungry.

Friday, October 15, 2010

All hail our local ambulance chasers.

Over the course of almost 59 years I’ve lived in a number of different cities. In chronological order, they are: 1) Chicago and assorted suburbs; 2) Dallas; 3) Grand Rapids, Michigan; 4) Los Angeles; and 5) Dallas. Incidentally, that’s not a typo. I’ve lived in Dallas twice ... once in the late 1980s for two years, and now I’m here again permanently (and happily) with Sam. The point is, you find ambulance chasers everywhere you go. Here in Dallas we’ve got our very own dynamic duo: Jim Adler and Brian Loncar. I should add that Adler and Loncar are not associated with each other in any way but manage to produce equally annoying TV commercials. They’re personal injury attorneys extraordinaire.
Adler, who nicknamed himself “The Hammer,” shouts like he’s selling used cars, has a Texas drawl as thick as chili and recently dyed his hair coal black to make everybody believe he’s only 35 years old.

Loncar, on the other hand, is characterized as a combination avenging angel and stalker. In his latest commercial he’s shown distributing business cards at a massive car wreck while the jaws of life are prying a bleeding victim out of a Chevrolet. He even manages to show up before the helicopter and ambulance. Frankly, this scares the hell out of me.

And now it’s time for a shower, a late snack and a movie. I’m thinking about one of those old Agatha Christie mysteries with Margaret Rutherford because I love her to pieces. Thank you for reading this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exciting Thursday developments, Howdygram style.

Oy. According to “Newsweek,” the majority of Americans — three out of four — can correctly identify Larry, Curly and Moe as the Three Stooges. Only two out of five, however, can correctly identify the three constitutional branches of our government: legislative, executive and judicial. My only comment to these knuckleheads: PICK TWO, AND SPREAD OUT, PORCUPINE.
For the latest scoop a little closer to home, we had our carpeting (three rooms and the hall) professionally cleaned today by a really nice local company. They showed up early, finished in 45 minutes and offered me their latest coupon special even though I didn’t have a coupon. I’m mighty impressed and the carpet looks terrific. The whole process was so effortless (and cheap) that I can’t wait to start spilling soft drinks and spaghetti all over again.

And finally, Sam’s cousin Darrell and his wife, Leah, sent the following scanned nature shot to prove that trees in Ontario, Canada, are just as pretty as our autumn blaze maple here in north Texas. Show offs. (Just kidding. Smooch.)
Thank you for reading this.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Miscellanea and insomnia.

Okay, I’m not 100% sure I’ve really got insomnia, since it’s only just past midnight and there’s a very strong possibility I’ll go to bed within the hour unless I decide to take a look at last night’s episode of “Mad Men,” which I recorded because Sam and I were watching “A Hard Day’s Night” instead. I fell asleep for half the movie, though, which probably explains why I’m still awake. I think the Beatles movie had something to do with John Lennon’s 70th birthday, which would have been October 9 if he was still alive. FYI, an article today on revealed that Yoko Ono, Lennon’s 77-year-old widow, says she “still hasn’t gotten over John’s death” almost 30 years ago. If you ask me, she sounds like a strong candidate for grief counseling.

For those of you who may be interested, I definitely have the bladder infection I suspected on Friday and plan to call my doctor first thing this morning. I’m hoping she’ll just prescribe the same medication I took a year ago without expecting me to show up for an office visit, but I won’t hold my breath. I never have that kind of luck. Thank you for reading this.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's been quite a week around here.

First of all, I got a clean bill of health during a follow-up visit to the oral surgeon yesterday, which was no huge surprise because everything feels great and I love my new teeth. Afterwards I decided to commemorate this big hoo-hah with a shopping spree, so I drove over to Costco and loaded up on two pounds of lox, a gigantic tub of Sam’s favorite cashews, bread, chipotle chicken taquitos, hand soap, canned ravioli and a nice meat loaf for the weekend. Then I spent the afternoon finishing up a new client’s website design.

Other incredible events this week have included the following: 1) I got a flu shot on Tuesday; 2) the weather is finally cooling off here; 3) my Aunt Matilda is celebrating her 90th birthday; and 4) I think I’m getting a bladder infection. Also, Sam has today off work so we drove up to Carrollton for a dim sum lunch at Hong Kong Royal Restaurant. Click here to examine their dumplings in exquisite detail.
They have the best dim sum on earth ... and that includes all the Chinese restaurants we used to enjoy in L.A. I’d like to go back for dinner tonight except I’m positive Sam would rather have lox and bagels. What a meanie.

Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The mystery lives on.

It’s been 14 years but her face is still in the news. I’m referring to JonBenet Ramsey, the six-year-old pageant princess from Boulder, Colorado, who was found strangled in her family’s basement in December 1996. Apparently a new county district attorney wants to pursue “new contacts” and re-interview JonBenet’s older brother, Burke, who was nine when his sister was killed. Personally, I think the new D.A. is out of his league on this case, since this scary little midget more likely died from a hair spray overdose and lipstick poisoning. And she’s been reincarnated as one of Marie Osmond’s dolls.
In other news, I’m really enjoying my new teeth, and you may be excited to know that it only took me ONE HOUR yesterday to eat a bagel. My next hurdle will be grapes. I may have to cut them in half first, though, because biting still takes a certain level of skill. Chewing is a lot easier. I’ve already mastered mashed potatoes, shrimp, American cheese and Schwan’s turkey pot pies. Life is good. Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I've got a headache.

And I’ve had it all day and it won’t go away, even after medicine, two naps and a really nice dinner that Sam picked up from Boston Market. Turkey and stuffing should make a person feel better, but it’s definitely not working today. I'm thinking cereal might help. I like cereal.

This might be a good time to mention the BEEP. We’ve got an alarm system in our house, and a mysterious backup battery has been beeping every 10 seconds since Thursday afternoon. After three calls to tech support and trying every remedy except a battering ram, Sam is optimistic about relief within the next 30 minutes. I just hope he doesn’t scuff the wallpaper when he starts swinging that ax.

And finally, before I take a hot shower in a last-ditch effort to unload my headache, I’ll try to inject a little Howdygram humor with this photo of the European Beard Championship prize winners in the category of “chin-beard and mutton-chops imperial.” From left to right, here are Franz Mitterhauser of Austria, Juergen Burkhard of Germany and Herve Diebolt of France.
 Thank you for reading this.