Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – Wrap it up, Lent!

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While I haven’t blogged since the start of Lent, my Lenten journey this year was about giving to others, instead of giving something up. I have to say, it feels good to be at the end of the forty days and look back at all of the random acts of kindness that occurred, as well as think about how much satisfaction and kindness it ended up giving me in return.

I started the process, thinking that I would blog about it every few days, talking about what I did and what I learned. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that random acts of kindness should be just that – random. That writing about them daily took away from the whole idea that they were random. Like a millionaire who gives money to a charity to get the publicity, something did not feel right about shouting about what I’d done; and that, in itself, was the best lesson I could have ever learned.

There’s also that question of anonymity. Did that person go out of their way for me because they wanted to, or because I was some sort of output of a social experiment? I didn’t want anyone in my life wondering this. Doing nice things for others came extremely easy at times. At others, I had to remind and ask myself, “What have you done for someone else today?”.

But I will share a few things that I learned along the last forty days.

If you know me personally, or from reading my blog, you know that exercise is a huge part of my life. It is what keeps me sane, what allows me to get out of myself and my own way. My favorite thing to do is yoga, especially hot yoga. The practice allows you, no…mandates that you focus on your breathing (unless, of course, you’d prefer to pass out). In doing so, you are incapable of having a full and direct train of thought for the entire time. Sure, your thoughts come in and out and you are taught to listen to them, to examine them. Are they negative thoughts about yourself: “I can’t hold this pose for this long. The girl next to me can go farther in the pose than I can. My stomach looks like a giant blob like this, why is she making us stay like this for so long, I don’t want to look at myself anymore.” Yoga is about accepting yourself as you are in that moment, being kind to yourself. It’s a lesson I’d been sorely missing for the first thirty-one years of my life.

I know how stressful adulting can be on a daily basis. I know how much yoga has helped me, so thats why I’m always inviting people to join me. When I ask you to come with, it’s not because I want to show off my dancers pose (which is awesome, by the way), it’s because I want you to have the feeling that I do; a feeling of self-acceptance, of love. Then that person brings someone, and they bring someone else. We pass it along. Who wants to be the only person happy in a room full of others who are miserable? That’s zero fun. Help other people figure out how to be happy, how to be calmer, how to relax, even if it’s only for a little while…though yoga and swimming are the only two exercises that continue working in your body after you’ve stopped doing the actual act of them. For everyone who said “yes” to me dragging them to yoga during lent, for everyone who then invited someone else, thank you for helping to make this a truly meaningful forty days.

It was after yoga one Saturday morning, and I went to the farmers market on the way home. I needed to pick up some bee pollen for a friend with allergies and get my usual: a chicken pita from the Lebanese guy. Oh this chicken pita…soooo good. I got up to the table ordered my pita, along with a mom and daughter who came up shortly after. We chatted about what we’d purchased already and I shared that I’d bought a jar of lavender, grapefruit infused honey. “Oh!” said the mom, “You know what that’s really good with? Tequila! Just put a little honey and tequila in a shaker with ice. It’s amazing.” We got to talking about the milk guy and the fact that he has all kinds of options: whole, skim, chocolate, root beer (yes, root beer), strawberry, etc. The daughter showed me the glass bottles in her bag, “You just pay $1 deposit for the bottle and bring them back to him each week.” My pita was ready and Costas rang mine up.

I should mention that I don’t know if his name is really Costas, but that’s what I call him in my head, because he reminds me of the father of the Greek guy that Gilmore girl falls in love with in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the one her grandmother tells her to stay away from…

Anyway, Costas adds it up on his iPhone and I say to him very quietly, “I’ll pay for there’s.”

Have I mentioned there is nothing quiet about Costas? “Oh, you paying for them today, woo hoo, ladies it’s your lucky day!” He laughs loudly and swipes my card.

“No, no, please, you don’t have to do that.” But I told her I wanted to. The tequila recipe was worth the cost of the pitas alone (just ask my friends that I made it for later that night).

I waved goodbye and went through the rest of the farmers market. I was buying some homemade dog biscuits when someone tapped my shoulder. It was the daughter with a glass bottle of chocolate milk.

“Here.” She handed it to me. “We want you to have this.” She walked away before I could even properly thank her.

I walked back to my car, fresh bottle of milk in my canvas Jets bag and thought, wow, see what happens when people are nice to each other? How often do we run about our day without stopping to make a connection with those we come in contact with.

P.S. That was the most amazing chocolate milk ever…

P.P.S. “But where’s the recipe” you ask? “Most of your blogs have recipes!” Oh my friend, but there is…two spoonfuls of lavender grapefruit honey, one cup of cold water, one cup of tequila, one cup of ice. Shake well and serve!

…and now, to figure out what my next writing journey will be…

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – The Lent is on!

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For those of you catching up (or living in a heathen hell hole…hmmm…that place sounds cool, actually) it’s Lent! Which means that most Catholics are now giving up some food that’s a real sacrifice for them in order to…understand Jesus’ suffering…or something like that.

Instead, I am spending the 40 days doing something for others every day. Why take away when you can add?

I’ll admit, I thought this was going to be incredibly easy. How hard is it to do something nice for people every day? In actuality, I think we all do so many nice things, that it’s hard to point them out. In fact, it feels weird to think that smiling at someone, saying hello in the hallway to people you don’t really know or saying thank you when someone says something nice is even something that you’d point out or strive to do. Unless you are a total dick, we all do those things every day, without acknowledging or realizing it.

It became apparent to me, that in order to really feel like this 40 day journey was making a difference, I was going to have to go out of my way everyday to do more than just smile at people in the hallway, which I already do…almost to a creepy point…

As with everyone, I am not perfect (though I hate to admit it!). This is going to be a journey for me as well and hopefully by the end of it, I will have learned just as much about non-judgement of others as I have about acts of kindness.

All of us are kind people at heart, but think about the judgements that we may be putting around that kindness. Who do we offer kindness to? Is it people we like already, or we know from experience will appreciate our efforts? Is it someone who looks beautiful already, so it’s easy to tell them that you love their dress or their shoes? What about someone who isn’t put together? Do we exhibit our kindness to them? Do we help the homeless or stay away because it’s scary for us to do so, or because we judge that they got there for a reason and assume any help we give will go to drugs or alcohol, so we decide not to help at all? Be honest.

Day two started out with me realizing that I probably would do better to have an intention every day of what I want to do as my random act of kindness. I was in the Dunkin drive thru, waiting to get my bagel and thought, oh I should probably pay for the person behind me. Nice thought, right?

Here’s where the judgement side comes in. I looked at the person behind me. Did she look like she would appreciate her meal being bought for her? Did she have a nice car, because I swear if she has a Beemer, I am NOT buying her coffee! Did she look like she was going to eat a lot and/or does she have eighteen people in the car with her – i.e. is this going to be expensive? All of these thoughts, as horrible as they are, went through my head. Then, after chastising myself for thinking it, I of course paid for her meal.

It was $10. Who knows what she got. Then I started thinking, I wonder if she did the same for the person behind her? I wonder if she got a dozen doughnuts to bring to work, where did she work, who would eat those doughnuts? Would she tell the story at the water cooler and inspire someone else to do the same the next morning? How cool would it be to follow the trail of kindness…if only kindness came with a go-pro attached to it and we could watch it’s journey…

…and then I remembered, it doesn’t matter. Kindness should be given without judgement, without thought about whether or not the person should deserve it or would appreciate it. Kindness should be given freely without caring about what happens at that moment in time. Kindness is not about what you did yesterday or what you’re planning tomorrow; it is about that exact moment.

I am the last person to remember (let alone quote) a bible verse (trust me), but my parents had a tapestry hanging in our front hallway when we were growing up, you know, the one they read at every wedding: Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

This is really what this journey is about: to get to a place that is kind, without being boastful (which I realize is going to be super interesting when I’m writing a blog specifically about kindness).

I am going to mess up along the way, I can promise you that. I am probably going to insult someone who thinks I am only being nice to them because of this journey, but I’m not going to let that stop me and neither should you.

My friends have all found their own inspiration in this and I encourage anyone who wants to come along to share their stories, especially if they are hilarious. I’m waiting for one of my guy friends to congratulate someone not pregnant on their new baby, or something along those lines.

I called my mom today and she laughed and asked if today’s act of kindness was about reaching out to senior citizens…

…maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t…

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Blog About It: The Adventures of MEL – To Lent or Not To Lent. That is the question.

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Today is Fat Tuesday, which makes tomorrow Ash Wednesday, which if you’re Catholic means you have to go to church and have them put ashes on your forehead (which p.s. I pronounce “farhead” and get made fun of for it). Then, you’re supposed to walk around with it on your head all day long so that: a. People know you’re Catholic and that you don’t mind showing it by having soot on your head all day and/or b. people can tell you all day you have a little something on your face. It usually ends up being a mix of both.

You’re not supposed to wash off the ashes until the next day (I think that’s, like, a rule some Pope made up a long time ago?) so when I was little and my parents asked if I wanted to go to Ash Wednesday mass before or after school, I always said after, because well, I’m no dummy. Soot is not a good look for me.

Did you know that the ashes are from burning the palms from Palm Sunday the prior Easter? Way to go Catholics for having this recycling thing down before it was cool.

So as a part of lent, to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert…though for the life of me, I can’t remember why he was in the desert, or what he was doing there for 40 days (I must have been busy paying attention to anything else possible during CCD) but for whatever reason, we are supposed to suffer like he did by sacrificing something that we love for the same time period.

Suffering on purpose. It all seems a little self-negative, if you ask me. To purposefully deny yourself and make yourself feel guilty really goes against my whole self-love philosophy. If you’re not nice to yourself, then why should anyone else be? Catholic guilt 101.

I’d tried to give up plenty of things as a child that did not match the definition of sacrifice (according to my parents). Evidently, giving up homework or your brother for 40 days is not what Jesus had in mind? But he was chillin’ in the desert, so how do we really know how Jesus feels about me trying to give up eating green beans?

As I got older, I got better at it…and by better, I mean giving up things that were an actual sacrifice at the time: Doritos. Pizza. Coffee. The Cow. That’s right, one year I gave up the cow – literally anything that was made with cow’s milk or had cow in it. That lent sucked!!!

But in all honesty, the things that were the hardest to give up were almost like addictions and after 40 days away from them, I tend to eat them less now. I barely eat Doritos (though I had some today, but that doesn’t count because it was Fat Tuesday). Except for pizza. Nothing could break my love affair with pizza. Nothing.

I’ve heard recently that as an alternative to sacrifice, you can ADD something to your daily routine that brings you closer to God, or something like that. Maybe that’s a new rule from the cool Pope we have now? Since I already live in a desert, I figure, how hard could this be? So this year, instead of giving up garlic or wing sauce, I will, instead, institute 40 days of Random Acts of Kindness.

This could be anything, from giving the homeless guy that works my highway corner some change, to paying for the person behind me in the drive thru line at Dunkin, to giving blood or volunteering at a food bank. I’d love suggestions or ideas; I’ve got 40 days to cover!!

Since my last blog focus was about sacrifice, this will be about an abundance of love and kindness.

When I begin thinking about it, there are small acts of kindness every day in my life. Take today, for instance, traveling in Chicago where it’s snowy and beautiful and really, really freaking freezing. It snowed last night and we realized quickly that our rental car had no ice scraper. I grew up in a cold and snowy place and although it’s been a while, I know how handy (and sometimes necessary) an ice scraper can be.

After dinner last night, it started snowing, which by the way ruined our plans to drive to downtown Chicago for doughnuts…no idea why doughnuts, but I think it was because we’d just finished some deep dish pizza and thought, if we’re going to have a cheat day, we might as well go full out. Regardless, we decided we’d be better off sticking close to the hotel the harder the snow started falling.

We went to CVS and asked if they had any ice scrapers. He searched and said they were all out. As we were walking out, I said it was a bummer, because our rental car didn’t have one. “Rental car?” he asked. “I just got side swiped in Portland in a rental car by another rental car. Let me go in the back and check for you.” and he did, brought back a whole box of them, even gave me a discount. Random. He didn’t have to help us, he didn’t have to go search for them, but he did. Kindness.

Even thought it snowed all night and all day today, it was such small flakes, most if it melted as soon as it hit the ground. There was barely any accumulation, so of course we didn’t end up needing it. But that’s not the point. The point is, I really wanted to make a snow man and/or sing about wanting to build one. Total bummer.

When we dropped off the rental car today, I joked about having to buy an ice scraper to the attendant and laughed about the fact that we didn’t even need it. He was like “what do you mean, there wasn’t one in there?” and gave me a gift certificate off my next car rental. Seriously. How kind!

How easy will it be to consciously go out of my way to be kind? I’m guessing this will be much easier than I think. How many random things do you already do for people; holding a door, asking someone if they need anything at the store, picking someone up from the airport, remembering to breathe and not go off on someone because something doesn’t go your way that day? How many random acts of kindness have you received today? Be grateful for those small things, acknowledge them.

…so if, over the next 40 days, I ask you to sit with us at lunch, think about whether it’s because I want your company, or whether I’m throwing you a bone as a solid act of kindness. LOL. Just kidding!!!!

Feel free to join me in 40 days of random acts of kindness or whatever your 40 days of Lent happens to be filled with…or not filled with as it were, if you’re addicted to Catholic guilt and have to give something up so that baby Jesus doesn’t cry…or whatever happens if you don’t follow the exact rules…

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25 Days Sans Refrigeration: Conclusion. I said burr, it’s cold in here, I said there must be some fridges in the atmosphere…

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When I last left you, I was joyously celebrating the early delivery of my new, gigantic, beautiful fridge. I’ve been told by several friends and family members that my posting a picture of me kissing the new fridge was not enough closure for those of you who followed the story from the beginning. So here is some refrigeration full circle for you. You’re welcome.

13 Days Ago:
I was the first delivery of the day and all I kept thinking about (no matter how many times I had measured) was: Please dear God, let it fit.

I like to think of myself as a smart girl, but sometimes, things just catch me off guard.

Delivery guy (we’ll call him DG): Is your husband excited for the new refrigerator?
Stupid Me: Oh no, I’m not married. (Damnit!! What was I thinking!?)

I went back to my dining room table and tried to work while they removed the front door from its hinges in order to have enough room to out with the old, in with the new.

Me: You’re going to put that back, right?
DG: Don’t worry girl, I got you.

Oh Jesus. Here we go. It’s probably important to explain that I met my ex husband in college when he delivered my mattress. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. This delivery guy did not stand a chance. Fun fact, guess what I discovered that morning in an envelope on top of my old fridge? My marriage license. Wait, what? I certainly didn’t put it there, I need a step stool to reach my top cabinets, so I can only imagine how it got there some seven or eight years ago.

As I was happily and gloriously ripping aforementioned marriage license into a million pieces (exaggeration), I thought about setting those pieces on fire (not an exaggeration-I’d searched my house years ago to try to find and burn it), I settled for throwing the pieces in the garbage. Then I realized that I didn’t even want the pieces messing with the chi in my house for one more minute, so I took the trash out to the dumpster. I know it was just a piece of paper, but with every rip I felt a sense of freedom. Freeeeeeedom!

Back to Mr. Has No Chance In Hell Delivery Man, who is now telling me about how much he loves the San Francisco 49ers? (Really? People actually like them?)

Me: How do you feel about getting Chip Kelly? (For those of you non-sports followers, he is the coach that ran the Philadelphia Eagles into the ground, got fired and then somehow got hired by the 49ers, most likely, to run them into the ground…though, they’re already there…)

DG: Girl, how do you know who Chip Kelly is?! (Dude, strike number 2! Don’t question my sports knowledge.)

Me: (here’s my chance to redeem myself) Oh, my boyfriend is an Eagles fan. (Lie! I wouldn’t date an Eagles fan) and he’s going to be so happy that I can cook for him again!

And that’s how you save yourself from a random delivery guy. Almost.

Working, working, (and now in an epic meme war with my friend trying to find the funniest Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” memes in honor of my delivery man – my personal favorite being a Catholic-themed “Hey girl, don’t worry, I won’t let you forget to say “and with your spirit”) the new fridge comes in on a dolly and delivery guy #1 now has delivery guy #2 (where did he come from?) positioning the fridge.

DG: Oh girl, it’s not going to fit! It’s too tall, girl.

Wait….what?! Of all of the things to go wrong, after all this time and seriously, it doesn’t FN fit?!!

Me: (Running over to confirm) Oh my God, it’s too tall!!
DG: (Laughing) Girl, I’m just playin’, it’s still on the dolly. You’re good, girl.

Strike. Number. Three.

After unwrapping the fridge in all its stainless steel glory, oh and on top of him pretending the freezer handle was the fridge handle and didn’t fit (seriously, dude, that’s only funny the first time), delivery guy decided to give me his number “you know, girl, in case you have any problems with the fridge or want to talk about…..your fridge….or anything else…..”. Unfortunately, he already had mine from the delivery slip.

After they left (yes, they put the door back on its hinges), I thought, this fridge is so pretty! and so gigantic! What am I going to put in it? So I headed to the store to get the incredibly important things that I had really missed over the last twenty-five days: almond milk, garlic paste and buffalo wing sauce. You know, the essentials. Oh, and the delivery guy texted me a few times throughout the day to make sure “my fridge was working good, girl”.

The great habits that I have learned over the past month are far better than filling up my new fridge with things that I don’t need. I’ve grown to love going to the store and getting only what is required for that night’s dinner. It’s made me be more creative. It’s saved me so much money and saved me from wasting all of the food that I used to regularly throw out because I never got to it.

Most importantly, it gave me an outlet and a reason to write again, which has made me feel more alive creatively than I have felt in at least a decade.

This journey helped me to remember to be thankful for the things that I have, to appreciate the things that I don’t have and to reflect on how important it is to shake things up at the core every once in a while; to see if those things that you were so dependent on actually matter in the big picture.

I did state at the beginning of this journey that by the end, I hoped I would meet the man of my dreams at the grocery store (cue the witty dialogue over opposing ends of a pineapple). While I didn’t meet him at the grocery store, and while it’s too early to use phrases like “man of my dreams” (which P.S. is probably way too cheesy of a phrase for me to use, ever) there was, in fact, a meet-cute with witty banter over ice hockey and waffles (mine filled with peanut butter, jelly and bacon and his with strawberries and cream cheese) and while he does fit my major qualifications of being close to six feet tall, having played baseball professionally, hating all Boston-based sports teams and being gainfully employed, he’s also extremely sweet and a giant nerd, which surprisingly, I like. Oh, and he is NOT an Eagles or a 49ers fan, let’s be clear.

While I’m sure he thought I asked him his middle name to put him in the blog (I did, but then chickened out a few times – I don’t like to jinx things too early) it also makes it extremely helpful to have a middle name when your friends like to google everyone you date to ensure that they are truly not serial killers; which if he is, he is damn good at hiding. Seriously, my friends should work for the FBI. For real, my friend once found a guy’s charitable donations while stalking him on my behalf and then I had to sit and wait patiently date after date and practice my surprise face if/when he was ever going to spill it that he’d donated money to inner city children. Thank God that one never worked out, way too much pressure!

So I guess sometimes when it seems like you are losing, you actually might win the thing you’ve been waiting the longest for while you’re not paying attention.

It’s with a bit of sadness that this sans refrigeration journey comes to an end. What to write about now? (No, not my dating life, you are lucky you got anything!) Lent is coming up, so for us Catholics, it’s about sacrificing something you truly enjoy or adding something to your routine that benefits others every day. I’m sure an idea will come to me.

One of my friends suggested that I give up TV for the Lenten season (which is 40 very long days).

What is she, nuts?!

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25 Days Sans Refrigeration: Days 23 & 24. The fridge will come out, tomorrow.

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It’s my last night sans fridge. Thursday will bring about shiny, new stainless steel-ness (that’s right, stainless steel-ness, I said it) to my kitchen to replace the old stainless that graced my home for the past ten years.

After enough time without a fridge to have created new habits, I have… drumroll… created new habits. What a concept! If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that I suffered from the following:
1. Standing-in-front-of-open-fridge-itis
2. Aimlessly eating at night after dinner because it was there
3. Buying groceries every week that I never used and ended up throwing out

As I embark on returning to a life with a fridge, I think about the fact that I don’t really want to readjust after the way I’ve been living for the past 25 days. I’m going to tie a little something onto the fridge handle (which I’m sure will be pink and sparkly) to remind me to stop and think before opening aimlessly.

I keep checking my bank account. I keep going over my bills and trying to confirm that I didn’t miss paying one of them this month, because suddenly, I have more money than I’m used to having left every two weeks. You know why? Because I’m not spending $100 at the grocery store every week on crap that I won’t eat. I’m not buying a package of four sausages when I’m only going to eat one. I’m not buying a pound of ground beef when I’m only going to eat a fourth. I’m not buying stuff to put in the freezer to eat “whenever.”

Yesterday (day 23), I spent less than $3.16 at the store for my dinner. I bought one sausage link ($1.40), one organic tomato ($0.51) and one organic orange bell pepper ($1.25). I made a fabulous pasta dish out of it. Photo below. Just cut up the tomato and bell pepper into small chunks. Take the sausage out of its casing and brown it, throwing the tomato and bell pepper in halfway though. Add a little white wine and some cooked pasta. Toss it with a little parm and manga!

So, what did I make on my last night sans refrigeration? Absolutely nothing, and I’ll tell you why.

It all stared a while back, when a friend told me I had a brake light out on my car. I’m not going to lie, I completely forgot about it. Dad, when you read this, don’t get mad. I legitimately forgot. When I remembered, it was time for me to get an oil change anyway, so I made an appointment to drop my car off this coming Friday.

After work today (day 24 if you’re counting), I was on my way to my massage (ps if anyone in the P.H.X. needs a good masseuse, lemme know, she is awesome!) and this crazy lady starts honking at me on the freeway and trying to pull up next to me.

Have I mentioned that this is Arizona and everyone has a gun? You kinda tend to be worried when someone is tailing you, honking and trying to get your attention. Her lane slowed down and she cut off a few cars to get in the lane next to me on the other side. Honking and pointing at me.

My car seemed okay, I could feel all the tires were still inflated, there was no smoke coming out. Finally she caught up to me (going full speed on the highway and still continuously honking). I rolled down the passenger window, not sure if I should be more worried about her or about what was so earth-shatteringly wrong with my car.

“You have no brake lights!!!!!” she screamed at me and sped off. In hindsight, I wonder if this woman realized now much she put herself in danger by spending four minutes cutting off traffic to yell at me.

So yeah, I was a little freaked out. Like, I knew one was out but could all three really be out? This B is probably just crazy. I made it to the spa and tried to not be worried about driving home while trying to relax and enjoy my massage. I figured, this chick is nuts. It’s sunny out, I use cruise control a lot, I bet all my brake lights are not out.

I rode home, scared the entire time that someone was going to hit me, but I made it. When I got home, I asked my neighbor to look for me (it’s kiiiiind of hard to check your own brake lights). She was like, nope, all your lights are on just fine. So I stepped on the brake. Yup. NO BRAKE LIGHTS. Not a one.

After a brief moment of panic, I remembered that I’m working from home tomorrow because the fridge is being delivered. I have AAA, everyone should, especially if you are a single white female. Actually, the white part has nothing to do with it. It just sounded catchy. I could chance it or I could have AAA tow my car to the dealership. It would work out. It always does. Super calm!

Then I started thinking…how hard could it be to change a light bulb…ok three light bulbs? I started YouTubing it. Maybe it wasn’t the light bulbs, maybe it was the fuse said a chat room post. So I YouTubed that. That didn’t look so hard either.

Remember at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life (one of my favorite movies, by the way), the note that Clarence (the guy trying to get his angel wings) writes in the book that ends up in the basket of money? It says “Dear George, remember no man is a failure that has friends”. I think of that quote all the time. All of my family is 2,500 miles away. Without my friends, where would I be?

Side note: Coincidentally, I also use that movie as a barometer to know when I really love someone. When George goes over to Mary’s house and she puts on the Buffalo Gals record and they are both talking into the phone receiver to Sam Wainwright (ok, I watch this movie too much) and he grabs her and tells her all the things he’s not going to do and the person he’s not going to be and then kisses her!? That!

Back to friendship. I am lucky enough to have amazing friends in my life, who also make me feel like a part of their family. My work-husband (yeah, that’s a thing) is great with anything home improvement related. For those of you who don’t know, a work marriage is like when you look out for and take care of each other a work, minus all of the fringe benefits, hassle and responsibility of a real marriage. It’s great, everyone should have one. My work-hubby is great at carpentry, tile and plumbing. He drew up the plans to build me floor to ceiling shoe-purse display case two years ago, but has since had a slew of surgeries on a torn achilles, which led to the need for back surgery. Man, some guys will do anything to get out of their honey-do list…

But the issue today was car related, so I called the friend that knows the most about cars: Mt. Pita. For those of you who don’t know how Mt. Pita got his name, go back and read the blog. It’s a funny story.

I shared the issue with Mt. Pita and asked him if he was up for an adventure. He’d been talking about craving pancakes earlier in the day, so I thought, hey, this is perfect, I can pay him in pancakes!

While I waited for him to get here, I went over my the owners manual (just pull that stuff up on google) and felt fairly confident that it was a blown fuse. I mean all THREE brake lights? What were the chances? Except actually it was two brake lights (left and center), because the right one I already knew needed fixing.

I’m the sort of girl that doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, unless I’m learning how to do something knew. I am notorious for eating things with a fork and a knife, especially pizza. I don’t eat bone-in wings because you have to pick them up. There’s also a story floating around that I once used a fork and a knife to cut a Snickers bar, but I think that’s a fake, because I don’t recall that happening…and you’d think of all people, I would remember! My mom says I’ve been like this since I was little. I despised mud pies and finger painting. When I’m cooking, I hate when I get breading or anything else that coats your hands on them for too long. It makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic.

But give me sledgehammer for tile, a paint brush or anything else hands on where I am learning something new, and I am in! (I might just wash my hands a lot).

Did you know that you have multiple sets of fuse boxes in your car? Do you know how to find a fuse, take it out and tell if it’s blown? Did you know that your car comes with a little tool to pull out said fuses and even comes with spare fuses to use if you blow one out? I didn’t – until tonight! If anyone wants me to check their fuses, I charge by the minute (something has to make up for the fact that I’m getting my hands dirty.)

After checking the rear light fuses and realizing they were fine (like, geez, don’t blow a fuse) we dismantled the rear right side taillight to check to see if the bulb had blown out. To do this, you pop off the thingies (yes, thingies-technical term) that keep the lining of your trunk (that carpet-like stuff) in place. Then you unscrew two bolts and voila, your entire tail light section comes off! Twist out the light that’s having this issue, pull out the bulb and oh yeah, mine was burnt out.

After getting in the zone…AutoZone that is (that’s right, get their jingle stuck in your head too) twice, and spending a total of $11.93 on light bulbs…in hindsight, we should have gotten the third tail light bulb out before we went the first time…all three of my brake lights were replaced and working. Total, not counting the two trips to AutoZone, it probably took thirty minutes. Even at that, it probably only took thirty minutes because I was slow-Mt. Pita made me do the left brake light myself.

We went to IHOP in celebration and in search of all you can eat pancakes (Mt. Pita, not me. Three pancakes and I’m out). As we approached the front door, a homeless man took something from the outside trash can, looked at us, pointed to the trash can and said (very emphatically) “That’s MY business!” Okay then. I don’t know what he took out of the trash can, but obviously, that’s none of “my business”. Two re-orders of pancakes and $20 later, we left feeling accomplished.

I never thought I would be able to check a fuse or change a break light. I can tell you the dealership would have charged me soooooo much more than $30 worth of parts and pancakes! It just goes to show: with preparation, logic and a friend, you can accomplish anything!

P.S. Car light bulbs are commonly sold in packs of two, including the center brake light (the one in your back window) of which you only have the need for one. Next time I see another Altima driving around without a third brake light…maybe I’ll offer to change it and give them my extra bulb…and make them buy me pancakes.

 

25 Days Sans Refrigeration (that’s right, 25!): “Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

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Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. As far as I know, “the struggle” did not include lack of refrigeration.

Day 22. MLK Holiday. I remember the campaign a few years ago, that today should be “a day on, instead of a day off”. While I’m sure that was meant to rally people to do something significant within their community on their day off, at least I chose not to just stay in bed all day. So…that should count for something, right?

My friend Nicole and I love to hike. We try to fit it in whenever we can, and usually end up going after work once a week, which during Arizona “winter” when the sun sets at 5:30, doesn’t give us all that much time. We decided to try out a new hike on our “day on” and she convinced her ten year old daughter to get up early on her day off to go with us. While I would have liked to have gone at sunset, I didn’t mind the extra hour of sleep; and who can compete with a ten year old that’s willing to hike four miles on her day off of school?

As I drove to the trail (which is in the Superstition Mountain range), I caught the most beautiful sunrise over the buildings of downtown Phoenix. I was at a standstill in in traffic (evidently, everyone did not have the day off) and caught a beautiful shot of the skyline, including a dark spec in the sky. While it’s most likely a plane, I chose to think that it might have been Superman, finishing up a night of Phoenix crime-fighting, flying off to his next destination.

I remember when I first moved to Phoenix and saw the “skyline”. I grew up outside of New York City; now that’s a skyline. My dad worked at Penn Plaza, across the street from Madison Square Garden or just “The Garden” if you’re a local. I remember always hearing people say that my dad “could see the garden” from his office and being very confused the first time I was there because there was no “garden”; at least not the one I was expecting. Of course, being near The Garden is far cooler than any other garden out there.

The first time my mom came out for a real visit (aside from driving across country with me when I first came to school) I took her on a tour of all that I’d learned about Phoenix. I pointed out downtown and she kept asking “Where?” and I kept pointing to the skyline until she said “Oh, those eight little buildings over there? How cute!” I loved that. I still think of that every time I pass it. Maybe there’s ten buildings now. Maybe.

Regardless, on this morning, it was like God had let MLK borrow the paintbrush and create the most breathtaking scene. It was a thought-provoking sunrise and one of my favorite of his quotes came to mind: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It was inspiring.

As we kicked off our hike, my phone rang. I went to silence it and realized it was the Electrolux service center calling. Kinetta (who was one of the managers I’d talked to last week). Wouldn’t you know, 45 new refrigerators just came off their line and I was “the first person she was calling” (cough Bullshit cough) and would I like my fridge on Thursday? “This Thursday?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes, this Thursday”. I remember saying thank you and I love you before hanging up the phone and doing a dance. Thats’s earlier than the fridge was originally supposed to show up.

I wonder if I still get my $100? Who cares! I’ll have a fridge in less than a week!
I wonder if my complaint on their website worked? Maybe it was the survey I completed for Home Depot, because they called later that day to try to help work things out for me. My faith in customer service had returned.

I know it’s a trivial thing to compare my refrigerator woes to a lifetime given and lost to the plight of equality, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from MLK, it’s that a voice and words can make so much of a difference. How often do we just bitch and complain to others, rather than just taking action in the right way, with people who could actually do something about it.

While I’ve lived 22 days so far with the loss of a refrigerator, I have gained so much more. I have learned that what one person sees as a struggle, another person can view as a challenge. I’ve started writing again, feeling creative again; something that I had forgotten defined me some fifteen years ago. I remembered that I have a voice and that when you find a respectful way to share it, amazing things can happen.

So with less than 72 hours left without a fridge…I’ll have to figure something else to keep writing about…

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55 Days Sans Refrigeration. Days 19 – 21: A Devil, a Cardinal and a Girl Scout walk into a bar…

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Electrolux? More like Electrosux.

Day 19. After taking my complaints to the Electrolux Facebook page since, ya know, that’s what their customer service rep told me to do when they said that my fridge was yet another month on back order and offered me $100 for “my trouble”, I figured it would go unnoticed. I was surprised when someone named Theresa responded, thought truth be told, I would have preferred a more exciting name than Theresa (where is Mandolin in all this?!). She stated that while they “do not provide food loss coverage under any major appliance warranty” that she “certainly understands that I am unhappy with the offer made to me”. This is not about food loss: this is about unfulfilled orders, poor planning and horrific customer service. Did she even read what I wrote? Is that like when someone tells you that they love you and all you can think to say is: “I know”?

She asked that I private message them with my information, so that she could look into it. So, evidently, if you ever want anyone at Electrosux to listen to your concerns, you must first shame them on the Internet. That seems a little masochistic, no?

Now I have Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango” song in my head. Look it up. When you’re done with that one, listen to “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. Good stuff.

After sending a private message with my reference number and phone number, I posted back to “Theresa”, who probably isn’t an actual person, but an amalgam of several people named “The” and “Resa”, or “T”, “Here” and “Sa” but they’re keeping it anglo for Facebook purposes… anyway… I responded and noted that it was late on a Friday and that Monday is a holiday, so I’d be fine with response on Tuesday. I am not a monster. Everyone deserves vacation; even “Theresa”. Besides, I’m still in the time period where I knowingly agreed to live fridge-less, so what difference does a few days make?

On the advice of some friends at work, I also logged on to Home Depot’s website (where said yet-to-be-made-fridge was purchased) and used the reference number on my fridge receipt to fill out their survey. I then went onto the website for 3 On Your Side (a local channel here in Phoenix with a segment devoted to help the little guy fight the big guy-or in this case, the little woman fight “Theresa”) and advised them of my Electrosux dealings.

I am sure that there are people in Phoenix who have more pressing problems that they need help with. My issue is certainly not of dire need. I’m just pissy, as someone who has devoted her career to customer service, that a company’s motto would be “don’t call me, shame me on the Internet”.

Maybe 3 On Your Side will read my blog and fall in love with me and make me their new food columnist? The Lord does work in mysterious ways.

Do you ever get really into what you’re doing that you forget what’s going on in the background? Like, right now I’m writing this and all of a sudden noticed that whatever I was watching before is over and now Busta Rhymes is loudly rapping to a sick beat and kids are “dance fighting” on the subway. What the….? A quick check of my guide and oh, it’s “Step Up 2 The Streets”. Actually, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, no one saw this movie.  Ever. The only reason anyone watched the first one was because Channing Tatum was in it…dancing…shirtless. This acting is hurting my eyes…and…enter token white guy dressed like Vanilla Ice, stage left. Time to go to bed. I hope I don’t dream of subway-dancing refrigerators.

Day 20: Sports, sports and more sports.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a little over the top about my sports fanaticism. Saturday started off with a trip to another stadium that I refuse to call or acknowledge whomever owns it and has been the last to put their name on it. To me, it’s still jobbing.com arena; it’s where the Coyotes play hockey. Hockey is the least of my sports, which is funny since hockey is the only real team that NJ can call it’s own. While I normally root, root, root for the home team; today, the Devils were in town, so they win in the “my affection” category.

Our game was originally set for Saturday night, however, when the Cardinals made the playoffs (Arizona Football, keep up) it pushed our game to noon, since both facilities are next to each other. I guess they didn’t want hockey fans and football fans fighting for the same parking spots? After getting out of the car, pointing out and taking pictures of the guy who “famously” dresses up as the Pope of Green Bay (Google it-his wife wears a bra made to look like two cheese-wedges), my friends and I (one, a fellow New Jersian and Devil’s fan) ate at Crave, a place where everything is served on a waffle.

I have so-so feelings about waffles. I don’t mind them, I don’t have anything against them, but my go-to breakfast of choice (after eggs) is a pancake. This place, however, made me think twice about putting the waffle higher on my breakfast list. Kind of like when Magic Mike 2 came out, and Channing Tatum wore his hat backwards-sideways the whole time and he moved down from number 2 to number 4 on my potential husband list. Same concept.

I ordered the PB&J waffles (add bacon). My friend, Ian (man, this blog is helping me learn all my friends’ middle names; I hope they don’t expect me to remember all this) learned that maple syrup goes great with hamburger. Evidently. He poured it all over every single bite. Ian is one of those people who should be a competitive eater. He’s not a giant guy, but he eats enough for three medium sized football players. Seriously. At my birthday party last year, we went to an all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse. Dude was still eating a good half an hour after the rest of us were full and ready to puke. Then he asked if they could stop for ice cream on the way home. Today was no exception.

After complaining of chest pains and a possible heart attack induced by the hamburger-maple syrup combo, followed by spelling out the letters “N” and “J” with our bodies in front of the arena for an epic picture, we proceeded into the game where Ian ate another three hog dogs. Love him. In all fairness, a hot dog came free with each of our tickets and since two of us didn’t want to eat ours (I opted for the highly nutritional pretzel bite-nacho cheese combo) I really can’t blame him for not wanting to waste free food. However, I can totally blame him for dousing his hot dogs in so much mustard that it looked like a yellow smurf had committed smurficide all over it. Oh, and the Devils won!

Who wasn’t watching that Arizona playoff game last night? Evidently it was the highest watched playoff game in history.  My heart stopped at least four times. Thank god I had gone easy on the maple syrup. Local news is now calling that last play “The Hail Larry”.

Day 21: When am I going to make a recipe and complain about my lack of fridge, you ask? I mean, I guess that’s what this blog was intended for, right? So let’s get to it, in a roundabout way. Everyone’s been talking about the fact that Girl Scout Cookies are coming. Like winter is coming, but with less blood and guts and incest. The Girl Scouts of America should get Jon Snow, all dressed up in his furs for cookie press photos. Beware: Cookies are Coming. (If you still don’t know that this is a Game of Thrones reference, get on it and watch that show already! How many times do I have to tell you?)

I never made it to the Girl Scouts; I was only in long enough to be a Brownie. I found it to be too conformist for my eight year old tastes. One day, we were decorating paper bags for Mother’s Day. Doesn’t that sound fun!? I wanted to write “Happy Mom’s Day” and some poor mother who devoted her free time to our troop, had the nerve to tell me I couldn’t, that it had to be “Mother’s”. Well, the word “mother” was too long to fit in the large scale-theme of what I had going on, and in hindsight, this was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back in a long line of dumb, Brownies craft projects. I put my crayola down and said, “I quit”.

After using the pay phone to call my “MOM!” to come get me, I sat out on the front steps of elementary school in defiance, waiting for her. My best friend at the time came outside and sat next to me on the step. “What are you doing?” I asked her. “Don’t get in trouble too”. She looked at me and said “If you go, I go. This place is stupid anyway”. The Brownie leader came out and told us we could go back inside and do whatever we wanted. Like this was a protest and we had just won the battle. Except we could have cared less. When my mom got there, I told her that Brownies was “stifling my creativity and I was over it”. Yeah. That. My best friend and I never went back.

So, I barely knew the joys of selling cookies, but I do enjoy eating them.

Except that I have hypoglycemia, which is basically the opposite of diabetes. Instead of not having enough insulin, my body makes too much of it. That’s why I’m so sweet! In short, my body can’t regulate sugar levels properly, so I have to eat small, frequent meals and stay away from sugar. If you’ve ever met someone that gets super hangry when they haven’t eaten (oh, that’s a mix of hungry and angry for those of you who don’t keep up with today’s slang) chances are, they are either an overactive drama queen, or they have blood-sugar issues. Or both.

So, I really try to watch my sugar intake, which is also why I’m a one-drink kind of girl. I’d decided that I wanted to make my own version of my favorite Girl Scout cookie at home, just a little healthier. I’d had these before at my friend Lee’s house. Lee is very into healthy, organic eating, which sometimes rubs off on me.

The ingredients are easy enough, except for the outside coating, which is almond bark, something that I’ve never used before. Lee told me that in order to get it, I needed to go to Walmart. Let me just set the stage for you. I hate Walmart. Hate. With a passion. So having to go to Walmart did not make me happy. Ewww.

But I went anyway. I headed to the organic section, which was sooooo small, and picked up a small, shrink wrapped zucchini (which has nothing to do with this recipe). I pulled my hand away and noticed there was something red all over my finger. It looked like blood. Great! This is why I don’t go to Walmart. Why the hell is there blood on my zucchini!? Why is my zucchini even shrink wrapped to begin with? After freaking out on the inside and trying to wipe it off of a baggie, I realized that it was red marker. I grabbed the almond bark in chocolate (it also comes in vanilla) as well as some single-serving containers of instant grits and got out of there as fast as I could. I love grits. I hate Walmart. Still.

Homemade Tagalongs (makes 12 cookies)
24 Ritz Crackers
6 tablespoons natural peanut butter
2 blocks of almond bark

Put half a tablespoon of peanut butter on a Ritz cracker (be careful, they break easily) and top it with another cracker. Place on a tray lined with parchment paper (wax paper works too). Did you know they sell pre-cut sheets of folded parchment paper in a box? It’s a godsend at Christmas baking time. But I digress. A lot.

Take one block of almond bark (it looks kind of like a really fat bar of Hershey’s chocolate) and microwave in a bowl for 60 seconds. Dip one side of the PB cracker sandwich in the almond bark. Place on the parchment paper, almond bark side up. Repeat with all twelve cookies and let the almond bark sit until hard. Once hardened, take another block of bark, melt, repeat on the other side of the cookie, so that it’s completely covered in almond bark. Let harden, enjoy!

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55 Days Sans Refrigeration. Day 18: Rachel Ray gets $40 a day, but I only get $3.85

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For those of you who didn’t read yesterday’s weeklong blog catch-up; shame on you. I will walk behind you with a cowbell and say “Shame. Shame. Shame”. That’s a Game of Thrones reference, and if you didn’t know that was a Game of Thrones reference, then double shame. (My brother showed me the ShameBell app when I was home. Download it, you won’t be disappointed. I personally like to shame-cowbell random people when I’m walking behind them down the hallway.) Back to shaming the non-readers…

What you missed, among other things, is that my new fridge, originally scheduled to be delivered on January 25th is NOW on back order AGAIN until February 20th! I have been fridge-less since December 28th, when my ten year old refrigerator died.

Speaking of death, R.I.P. Alan Rickman. If only Harry Potter had a spell to bring back the dead. But there isn’t, because if there was, then Harry Potter wouldn’t have been an orphan, and then where would we be from a character development standpoint? Also, I know because I looked it up:

Known Healing spells:
Anapneo — spell to clear the throat of a choking victim
Brackium Emendo/Ossio Dispersimus — heals brachial bones (debatable, as its usage removes said bones instead)
Episkey — spell to treat mild to moderate injuries including split lips and broken noses
Ferula – binds and splints fractures
Reparifors – heals minor magically-induced ailments like paralysis
Tergeo — spell for clearing up dried blood from a bleeding wound, similar to the Scouring Charm
Vulnera Sanentur — spell used to heal deep gashes like those caused by the curse Sectumsempra

Wow, this blog got nerdy for a minute there, didn’t it?

After learning the extended back order news yesterday and asking for a manager to call me back today (since one was not available at the time), I was happy when I received a voice mail from a woman named…wait for it…Mandolin. I had to listen to the voice mail twice to make sure I’d heard that correctly. Not Mandy Lynn. Mandolin. It’s like God really wants this blog to be funny.

I contemplated calling back and asking for ukulele, but figured that would not help my cause. Mandolin confirmed that there was a glitch in the system with Home Depot and that the refrigerators should have showed two months, instead of one month, on back order. That they were 500 orders behind. That all they were allowed to offer, even as managers, was $100 for my troubles. I explained that $100 a month is less than what I’d get on welfare (oh yeah, you know I looked that up) and that it was less than $4 a day; one tenth of what Rachel Ray got when she had her $40 a day show on the Food Channel. You know, back when she was cool and made stuff you wanted to eat, before she sold out to everything that she could possibly put her name on? E.V.O.O. Rachel. Not talk show Rachel.

I then asked to speak to her supervisor, who was named Canal or something like that – not sure if that was a step up from the name Mandolin or not. She confirmed that corporate came down with the mandate, that they have no authority to do anything but give me, and the other 70,000 people who were effected…wait, wait, how did we get from 500 to 70,000? I wanted to cough the words “bullshit” while she was talking, but again, it would have done me no good. I could take the $100 or cancel my order. Since I actually DO want this fridge, what more could I do? I asked to talk to the person at corporate. Who made this decision? I want to talk to them!

She told me that she was the highest I could go, and that I was welcome to “take my grievances to the Internet”. I laughed out loud at her. What I wouldn’t give to tell that to a customer! But I would never, ever, dream of saying that to someone. Oh, you don’t like what I’m saying? Feel free to complain about me on the Internet.

I went to the Electrolux page (which owns Frigidaire), acted like it was Festivus all over again, and aired my grievances. Next, I’ll work my way to a letter to the president. Someday, when this blog is turned into a movie (you know, with Anna Kendrick playing me) I’m going to mandate that there be no Electrolux appliances on set. I’m going to give LG the contract for all of the on-film appliances. These people have no idea who they are dealing with!

$100 divided by 26 days (that’s my additional wait time) is $3.85 (roughly). That’s what my calculator says (rounded to the nearest penny). No one hired me for my math skills. That’s less than $4 a day, can I even make dinner for less than $4 a day? I think I have my new challenge…

I stopped at the Fry’s by my office to pursue $4 dinner options. I settled on a pork chop at the butcher counter that was pre-seasoned and didn’t look like it was really portioned for four people. Then I thought, what goes with pork chops? Come on Peter Brady…applesauce! I found a nice, organic apple and four small red potatoes. Like baby, fingerling potatoes. I probably could have gotten away with three.

The Peter Brady Special
1 Pork Chop (this one came pre-seasoned) $2.87
1 organic gala apple $1.10
4 baby red potatoes $ .90
Total cost: $4.87 (okay, so I’m $1.02 over, sue me)

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 405 degrees. Why 405 and not 400? Because my oven has a dial, not a thing where you punch in the numbers. When it reads close to where I want to be, I stop, or I just end up turning the knob a tiny bit back and forth yelling at the stove because it’s almost impossible to get it to move by less than 10 degrees. So, 405 degrees it is! Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Step 2. Chop the potatoes and half of the apple into a small chunks. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika (for a little color), 2 swigs of apple cider vinegar (you should have some in your pantry because you should be taking a swig of it every morning -it’s amazing for your complexion and your liver), 2 mustard packets (procured from my last trip to the movies).

Step 3. Cover a pan with aluminum foil (don’t forget to scare your dog when you take out the aluminum foil. Mine runs when I open the drawer it’s kept in. I have no clue why she’s scared of foil). Spread your apple/potato mixture in the foil-lined pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Cook the pork chop just like you would cook a good steak – you need to get it crusty on the outside, juicy on the inside. Start this process about 15 minutes after you put the potatoes in.

Step 4. Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil. When it’s super hot, toss the pork chop in, letting it sear for 2-3 minutes.

Don’t touch the pork chop during that time. Don’t move it, don’t pick it up to look at the bottom. Leave it alone. Go play fetch with the dog to make up for scaring her with the foil.

Step 5. When the 2-3 minutes is up, turn the pork chop over and put it into the oven with the potatoes for the remaining time. You set the timer when you put the potatoes in, right?

Step 6. After the timer goes off (roughly ten minutes), take out the pork chop-don’t forget to cover the handle of the frying pan so you don’t stupidly grab it. Take out the chop and let it rest. Tent it with some foil (scaring the dog again, unintentionally). Heat up the frying plan again and pour in about half a cup of white wine (warm of course, because um, hi, I have no fridge) and a packet of honey mustard sauce (this one was from Jack In The Box). Add some parsley and butter (if you have it. I didn’t).

Step 7. Turn the oven to broil for one minute to get a little crust on the potatoes and apple. Pour the sauce over the chop and serve with the potato/apple mixture.

Step 8. Get out your mandolin, ukulele, guitar or banjo.

Step 9. Sing a blues song about not having a refrigerator.

🎼 On the day I came back from vaca (dun duh nuh nuh nuh) my refrigerator had died (dun duh nuh nuh nuh) tried to buy me a new one (dun duh nuh nuh nuh) but I was denied. Oh I got the blues. The non-refrig’ration Blues. Said I got the blues. Won’t somebody buy me some ice.

Something like that.

Optional-Step 10. Eat above meal while watching Project Runway Junior. Try not to hate the host just because she’s engaged to Derek Jeter. It won’t work, but you can at least try.

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29 Days Sans Refrigeration…or is it? Days 11-17: Distraction of National College Football Importance (subtitled: Frigidaire sucks!)

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Distraction (noun\di-ˈstrak-shən\):
1. Something that makes it difficult to think or pay attention
2. Something that amuses or entertains you so that you do not think about problems

Disclaimer: For those of you expecting my normal blog, about my lack of a refrigerator for a month, filled with grocery store visits and recipes-that’s not what this week is about. Nary a meal was made out of this kitchen in the last seven days. But, I will still talk about food. I promise.

Back to distraction.

Distraction for days 11-17 came in the form of a visit from one of my oldest and best friends from New Jersey, Brooke. Brooke and I both had the same job as a high school senior (though not at the same time): working at Mail Boxes Etc. You know that job, senior year, where your parents get a new car and give you their old one and say that you have to get a job to pay for the gas, but you really just figure out how to get your dad to borrow your car when you’re dangerously close to being out of gas so he will fill it up for you anyway and you can spend your money on important things like CDs, clothes and make-up? Yeah that kind of job; the one that taught you everything, but you didn’t realize it until later?

Brooke was a year behind me in school, and in a high school of less than 700 students total, everyone knows who everyone is (and what car they drive) so we knew each other’s names, but little else. After my senior year, I blissfully flew off to Clemson, South Carolina, where I had dreams of warm weather, spacing out my classes to suntan on the great lawn, pep rallies and football games and finally getting out of the safe, happy (and unrealistic) bubble that was my New Jersey home town.

I’d lived in the same town my entire life; in the same house, on the same street, with the same kids. I’d never known anything else. What I did know is that I was shy (until I got to know you and then forget it, you couldn’t get me to shut up). I was a good student, who despised doing actual homework and would rather be singing or acting, or writing a play, or a musical…or a book that was going to get turned into a movie someday. I was pre-law and after graduation, planned to go to Seton Hall law school. I was going to be a defense lawyer and write crime novels while doing double duty as novelist and eventual Supreme Court Justice. That, my friends, is a goal.

South Carolina may as well have been Kuwait.

There was school, 11 miles of cows, the Piggly Wiggly (that’s a grocery store for us Yankees), 20 miles of more cows and finally: a Walmart.

As far as I could tell, people were still fighting the civil war. With some exception, northerners hung out with northerners; southerners with southerners. Race was a real issue, as opposed to where I came from, where the biggest difference between people was whether you put up a tree or a menorah in December. People stopped you on the way to class to talk to you. People you didn’t know. Are you talking to me? Are YOU, talkin’ to ME?

One of my very sweet, southern friends pulled me away from talking to a guy who happened to be black at a party because “we don’t do that”. In debate class, one guy actually argued that slavery was okay because his great, great (however many greats) grandfather had been nice to his slaves. I asked him how he knew? Was he there? Did he possess a time machine that had taken him back to witness this? Were there first hand diaries of said slaves that he was ready to produce to back up this “fact”? (PS, I was not too shabby at debate class). Clemson was a beautiful school, but this south, was not for me. I don’t even like country music! What was I thinking?!

I truly believe everything happens for a reason and that every experience, “good” or “bad” can have a profound affect on your life. I ended my freshman year of college with some amazing friends, some great stories, a new found sense of identity, and for the first time; a voice.
I decided to come back next year, that this was maybe just the way school was supposed to be? I went home, back to “normalcy” and to half a dozen friends, who had also had a similar experience to me. The places we thought were perfect to us as wide-eyed seniors, were now imperfect. They were all surmising what they liked and didn’t; what they needed and did not need. It was then I learned a very important lesson: NO ONE is in charge of your happiness except for you.

My amazingly cool parents were very supportive, whatever I wanted to do, they were behind it, as long as I continued with school, wherever that may be. So, a month after driving the 17 hours down to pick me up, they drove me back the 17 hours to pick up my stuff from storage (which I’d left down there in a shared storage unit with my friends). As we packed my stuff in the car, my dad looked at me and laughed and said “are you sure, because I’m not doing this again.” I was scared and uncertain about my future, but I was sure that this was the right decision. Now I think, what that heck was so important that we had to drive back there for? Clothes, my TV/VCR combo? My Dan Majerle poster?

I eventually decided that warm weather (minus the deep south) was where I needed to be, which is how I ended up at Arizona State University. Sometimes you don’t know why you make the decisions you make, sometimes you can’t explain or justify your reasons. Like somethings is guiding you, and you just move towards it. The minute I stepped foot in Arizona, I knew.

What does this have to do with my lack of a refrigerator? Nothing. But it’s a good lead in to why Brooke was here this week.

Brooke, on the other hand, got my job her senior year and also decided to go to Clemson (what are the chances?) When I came home for Christmas break, I was like, 1- who is this girl, 2- I bet she doesn’t need to use a ladder to restock stuff on the top shelf, and 3- should I warn her that South Carolina sucks? I tried my best not to let my experience be hers and we became instant friends. Brooke went off to Clemson and loved it (despite working with me everyday as I had made the decision not to go back). When I look back now, I realize HAD we gone to college together-neither of us would have graduated…ever. We have that much fun together.

Fast forward, somewhere close to fifteen years later. Brooke was visiting me around Halloween this year, when she stepped off the plane, saw the 2016 National Championship sign, saw me and maaaaaybe said hello before she said “Excuse me?! The National Championship game is HERE in January and you didn’t tell me?!” Nice to see you too! For anyone who knows me; Brooke’s obsession with college football mirrors my obsession with the Yankees. It is life. By the night she’d gone back to Jersey, airline tickets were purchased for game week. An undefeated Clemson team beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which created a dream scenario: Clemson IN the National Championship game. It was like God had said “what would Brooke’s perfect weekend be?” and snapped his fingers (or whatever God does to make stuff happen) and so it was.

Which brings us (finally!) to this past week. Who needs a refrigerator when you have every minute of the next 120 hours planned with football weekend preparedness?

Have I mentioned how much I love Jersey bagels? My mom had sent me a package with my Christmas presents that had been too big to carry back on the plane. When I’d pitifully asked her the night before she sent it, if she’d added any bagels to it, she said no. I should know by now that my sweet, little, perfect mother would not let me down. My package arrived on Thursday with half a dozen bagels in it. They smelled like gluten amazingness. I was overjoyed.

Brooke’s flight landed at 11:30 PM. I paced Terminal 2, trying to get some extra Fitbit steps in. I thought about starting the Clemson cheer (which you are taught even before stepping foot on campus as a freshman) and then thought no, let’s find Tiger Rag (their fight song) on YouTube and have it playing when she comes out. I’m a pretty great friend. I should have made a sign.

After making our way back to my house, Liz produced another four NJ bagels from her bag! With my Jersey bagel count now up to 10 (for all of you math whizzes), I went to bed a happy girl, dreaming of everything-bagel wonderfulness.

Friday morning started with a few conference calls (you can never totally take a vacation sometimes, but that’s ok!) and a walk to Safeway to get some egg salad for the bagels. Evidently Brooke doesn’t do peanut butter, honey or coconut oil on her bagels. Have you tried coconut oil on warm bagels!? You should. It’s like sweet, sweet butter.

At the store (for those of you following the blog regularly, this is the “crazy Safeway” around the corner of my house) there was a lady (I’m not going to say she was crazy, because one of my 2016 goals is to make less judgements) was waiting for her prescription and arguing that her case worker was a “stupid idiot who never called her back”. I think she said stupid idiot at least ten times. Loudly. We procured some single servings of cream cheese for 99 cents each (after being bummed there was no pre-made egg salad at the deli) and walked back to my house just in time for me to take my last conference call before vacation officially began.

After going to my lady to get mani-pedis (with alternating fingers in Clemson purple and orange) we headed to Ingo’s Tasty Food in Arcadia, a place I’d been wanting to try. Brooke is not a spice girl (but if she was, she’d be sporty). I don’t think I really could handle much spicy food when I first got to Arizona fifteen years ago. Now, I love it. So I never notice that most restaurants we have usually have a bit of a kick to their sauces. We’ll call this spicy sauce experience #1 of the weekend. Try that place out if you get a chance, it’s amazing. We dropped off two bagels at work to my fellow Jersey girl; far be it from me to deny another Jersey transplant her own bagel happiness when my bagel cup runneth over.

For what would be the first of many light rail trips downtown that weekend, we headed into Phoenix proper amid a bevy of beefed up security (good for you, Phoenix) that included security guards at each light rail station and random dog sniffing at certain stops. Good thing I’d left my eighteen kilos of cocaine at home. Kidding! Could one person carry eighteen kilos on them? What is the right measure for cocaine, anyway? Pounds? Kilos? Who knows. Who cares. I’m sure they were sniffing for bombs.

We had apps at Copper Blues, overlooking the ice skating rink.Yes! We have an ice skating rink downtown during Christmas. Phoenix is the coolest. Trust me. We went to the Suns game and watched them lose to The Heat. Good thing the Suns’ colors are also orange and purple because our wardrobe, and our fingernails, were ready.

The parking lot outside of the Suns arena (which I refuse to call whatever the newest sponsor’s name is, it will always be America West to me) had been transformed into a giant National College Football party zone: stage, ESPN broadcasts, national champion gear sales, you name it. 80% of the people walking around were Clemson fans; we were in good company, except they had prepared for 80% Alabama fans to show up, and the amount and choice of merchandise reflected that. We decided to wait until tomorrow to get our swag.

Saturday morning started off early, with a bit of my usual routine: yoga. While waiting at a stoplight in Scottsdale, a police motorcycle stopped traffic right as the light turned green. I expected him to turn in front of us, but he got off the bike and asked three directions to stop. Brooke, whose brother had played college ball and had been to her fair share of bowl games, started screaming “oh my god, it’s the motorcade!” We readied our cameras, not sure if
Clemson or Bama would be gracing us with their presence. Have I mentioned that we’ve been pretty blessed with lots of things just working out and falling into place? This was no exception. The Clemson team busses drove by as we screamed. I thought Brooke was going to jump out of the car and do a cheer in the middle of the intersection. It was good we were going to yoga, we needed some external force to calm us down.

After yoga and a little breakfast out with the yoga crew, we decided to stop by the Hyatt on the way home, as I had a sneaking suspicion from a picture the team had posted the night before of where they were staying.

Do not, I repeat, do NOT test my resort knowledge! I am level: expert.

We drove up to the Hyatt Gainey Ranch and were greeted by the giant life-size 2016 National Championship Logo. The Clemson hotel had been found! After posing eighteen ways in, on and around the logo, we went inside to find it transformed into a Clemson oasis.

While Brooke checked out the merch at the little pop up store they’d created in the lobby, I snuck over to the concierge to ask if the restaurant had any open reservations for lunch. They did! We went home, showered and got dressed up. We hoped that perhaps the team would get back from practice while we were eating, but no such luck. After enjoying a southwest lunch, which included guacamole with jalapeños (Brooke food-heat event #2) we snuck into the pool area (if I told you how, I’d have to kill you) purchased powerball tickets (hey, we were feeling lucky!) and then headed back home to feed the doggie and head back downtown again, for another fun night among fellow college football fans. Ask for ranch as a side in Phoenix at a hip, urban restaurant. Nine times out of ten, it will be chipotle ranch. (Brooke food-heat event #3).

The light rail at night is an interesting place. I never feel unsafe, but just like the subway, sometimes you get some…um…interesting people. After dealing the night before with a drunk guy who kept asking this kid if he was autistic (I would have smacked him if I was that kid’s mother) we were prepared for anything. What we found that night was the cutest older couple from South Carolina who shared with us a little tradition that we were unaware of.

Whenever Clemson plays in a bowl game, the fans go and get $2 bills out of the bank and either stamp or draw an orange tiger paw on the bill. Then they spend it locally throughout their visit in the hosting city, so that even after they leave, they leave an effect on the community. How cool. They gave us each a Clemson-marked $2 bill to use and spread the love.

Did I mention the 5K? We signed up for a 5K that was a part of the festivities and when we awoke on Sunday morning, we wondered what the heck we were thinking?! But we got back on the light rail, headed downtown and finished the 5K with a little more walking than running. We went to breakfast downtown at Lola, another great little Phoenix gem (because the line at Matt’s Big Breakfast was, of course, way too long). After a good shower and a tiny nap, we headed back on the light rail and back downtown for the Clemson Pep rally, after stopping along the way at Pizza People Pub for the best mac and cheese ever (and ranch, that was, you guessed it: Brooke food-heat event #4). By the time she leaves, I thought, she’ll be eating jalapeños whole…maybe not. Mmmmm mac and cheese. 2016 is about not judging, remember? Did I mention the 5K?

Clemson Pep Rally, pictures with the Orange Bowl trophy, the Heisman Trophy (we had to do the pose, you know we did), the Lego version of the National Championship trophy, John Mellencamp performing on stage (good god, just sing Jack and Diane already!!) and it was time to head back home and get a good night’s sleep before Monday’s festivities.

We started the day off with banana pecan pancakes at Fast Eddie’s, a great little diner-type restaurant in my hood. We then went to a UPS store to print out our parking pass in color. UPS purchased Mail Boxes Etc. right after we graduated from college, and this store was stuck in 1999. It was like coming home for Brooke and I. While fighting the urge to restock the paper in the copiers, we paid, using a Clemson $2 bill.

Tailgating without a fridge can be a challenge. There was no prep, no ability to chill things ahead of time, but we adapted. We ended up getting a package of hot dogs. Have I mentioned that Brooke and I make friends easily? We figured a few extra hot dogs wouldn’t be a big deal. I had plenty of mustard and ketchup packets at home. Score! We got some chips and pre-made onion dip, which I knew wouldn’t be as good as the one I usually make, but figured, we’d deal. We also settled on a dip whose ingredients do not need to be refrigerated prior to cooking.

Chili con queso dip
1 small log of velveta (anything that comes in a measure of “log” must be good)
1 can of no bean chili (eww, beans)
1 can of rottelle or any jar of salsa you like (preferable one that’s not made in New York City)

Heat together until all the velveta melts and enjoy with Tostitos.

We planned on making this in a disposable pan on the propane grill we’d borrowed from a friend at work. Doesn’t that sound good? I bet it was, except we never made it, nor did we eat the hot dogs. We had found the perfect spot to tailgate, next to, between and all around Clemson fans. I forgot how much southerners say “y’all” when speaking to only one person and “do what?” when they haven’t heard what you’ve said. I’m 5 foot nothing. Literally. Everyone is taller than me. Trying to hold conversations in the middle of loud music, crowds and drunk people when you’re a foot shorter than everyone else gets you a lot of “do what”s.

We had a blast and food became an afterthought. We “borrowed” a flag from our new friends across the way (don’t worry, we gave it back…eventually) and Brooke waived it around while we started and joined an uncountable amount of “C-L-E-M-S-O-N. T-I-G-E-Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-S! Fight, Tigers. Fight, Tigers. Fight, fight, fight!” cheers. (That’s the cheer you learn before you step foot on campus, now you know it too. Oh, and there’s hand motions). Brooke jokes that every Clemson grad knows how to spell at least two words when they graduate: Clemson and Tigers.

We stood behind Tim Tebow on the ESPN broadcast and cheered. I wanted to yell out “I love you, Tim Tebow!!” but that would have been a lie. I do not love him.

We stood there and looked pretty on several local South Carolina news broadcasts; cheered and chanted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And then Clemson lost…I’ll give you a moment to mourn.

After a fun day of horseback riding the next day (I want a pony!) and kicking butt at trivia with my friends (that’s right, we came in first place…boom…) I dropped Brooke off at the airport on Wednesday and went home to relax. You know when you need a vacation from a vacation? Yeah.

I was enjoying my afternoon, until a call came through from Georgia. Frigidaire calling about my new refrigerator. For a brief moment, I thought oh my gosh, I’m getting my fridge early! Cold, refrigerated cartons of almond milk danced in my head like synchronized swimmers to an operatic melody. And then I came back to reality. “I’m sorry, I zoned out for a second, did you say FEBRUARY? As in, the month after January?!” Guess what, my illustrious new refrigerator is NOT going to be here on January 25th, as expected.

Now, it’s Feb 20th.
Yup. Another FN month.

He offered me $100 “for my trouble”. Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahaha. “You make me laugh” I actually said. He had to be kidding. Did someone put him up to this as a joke? After asking if he was authorized to give me a comparable refrigerator or more money (he wasn’t) I said thank you and asked to speak to a manager. “Oh, there’s no managers here right now”. Of course not. “Have one call me tomorrow, someone who is authorized to make decisions”. I hung up and burst out laughing. I mean, at this point, what good does getting upset do? Nothing. Maybe God wants me to keep writing my blog for another month? Maybe my future husband-grocery store “meet-cute” over the grapefruit is supposed to happen on a random day in February? Time will tell.

“Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” – Unknown

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29 Days Sans Refrigeration. Day 10: The best is yet to come…

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At this point, I’ve made it a third of the way through my month-long lack of refrigeration! Rejoice! Rejoice! I’ve had people offer me mini fridges and tell me that I’m crazy for turning them down. Like, you needed that to tell you that I’m crazy? Pshhhh, please.

The best journeys are the ones you didn’t even know were ahead of you. We spend so much time worrying about the what ifs, instead of just taking it day by day, meal by meal. Stick to the present; it’s so much more fulfilling.

Every time it rains, I get this song in my head from Sesame Street. “It’s a rainy day, it’s a rainy day. It’s raining outside and we can’t go out and play. Why do we need the rain, anyway?” Then it goes on to explain why we need rain. I love it when it rains here, it’s such a rarity to have a full cloudy day. It’s that day you want to stay in your pjs and read. Lucky for me, I had to work from home today to be here for a service call on my security system, so I spent a good part of the morning working in my pjs. I turned on my Pandora (I like to listen to a perfect combo of Michael Bublé, John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band while I work, maximum output.) I was singing the Sinatra favorite “The Best Is Yet To Come” as Pandora started up. Guess what song was on?!?! You guessed it, the Bublé version! It was a sign. The best IS yet to come. “You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine.” (Feel free to sing along.)

…and then the sun came out, and I realized that it was time to get out and enjoy it (before it started raining again).

My breathe-right strip; my new best friend. I’d slept wonderfully in one last night and thought, hey it’s still on, let’s see if it lasts through my run. I was craving Mexican food. Filly B’s. Since I’ve introduced you to Pei-Wei, let’s get into another Arizona gem, Filiberto’s, or any name that ends in “berto’s”. Some say they are a front for a Mexican cocaine ring, some say they don’t use real meat, but I say, its 100% deliciousness, as long as you don’t have to go anywhere in public for a few hours after you eat it (toilet access is important after eating at Filly B’s). I was craving an Arizona burrito, which consists of: potatoes, carne asada (that’s steak for the white people reading this) and cheese. But they’re huge. I can usually get two meals out of one, but I don’t have the luxury of that today. So I settled on getting a half order of supreme nachos, and ran towards them on my lunch hour.

Today’s encouragement came in the form of a honking van (the kind of van you would never go near if they offered you candy) with a hearty wave out the window as they drove by. I waved back, who cares? I’m developing a love-hate relationship with this new running/sprinting app. I’m now regularly yelling at the lady in my ear out loud when she tells me to sprint at 80% for 30 seconds. “What if I don’t want to!?” I yelled today. She didn’t answer. Bitch.

Oh that reminds me, I should explain that the shirt I chose to run in today says “Namaste bitches” across the front. One of my favorite shirts. I feel very zen when I wear it. Around mile 2, I made it to Filiberto’s. I was sweaty and ready to yell at the lady in my ear to shut up when I realized what a waste it was to run and then eat greasy, deliciousness. So I made a left and went to Safeway instead.

My Safeway is, well, as odd as my neighborhood. We call it “the crazy Safeway” because you never know what you’ll see. Today, among the guy in the wheelchair in bare feet and the lady with the fake, dead bird on her hat, there was sweaty me…in a Namaste Bitches shirt. A few people looked at me weird and then I remembered! My breathe-right strip! Still on!!! Well now, it was too late to take it off, so I made my way to the pre-made salad area and held my head high. This is probably what it will be like after my nose job (just visualizing that happening), I thought, so why not practice? I purchased a bacon, tomato, spinach salad and tried to hide the words on my shirt as I got into line behind a sweet, old lady that I didn’t want to offend. Who am I kidding, she probably couldn’t see that far.

Back home in time to meet the security guy, who said he didn’t want anything to drink (good, because all I have is room temp water) but asked if he could use the bathroom. What am I going to say, no? That seems inhumane. So as I sat down at my dinning room table to get back to work, when it seemed like he’d been in there a little too long, I set my timer. Why not? 8 minutes and 39 seconds later, he emerged. Really, dude? I hope he didn’t eat Filiberto’s for lunch…. After stepping on the dogs toys a few times (you know, the squeezey, squeaky ones) I told him to feel free to move anything in his way (e.g. I’m about to get on a call and don’t need you squeezing dog toys, buddy). Yeah, he didn’t get the hint. Ten squeezey dog toy noises later, he was done…and thank god he didn’t ask to use the bathroom again.

Yoga was amazing! Ah-may-zing. I have a specific teacher that I love and I try to plan my schedule around going to her classes, when I can. She’s probably in her early sixties and I would bet a million dollars taught Jazzercize in the 80s. She plays top 40; she is beyond inspirational. Today, she was talking about self care and self confidence, while we were all dying of heat exhaustion and upside down in a pose. So often we take care of everyone else, worry ourselves to exhaustion and treat ourselves as if we don’t matter; as if our needs aren’t important. If we all treated ourselves the way we treat the people we love, there would be a lot more happy people in this world. Just sayin’.

Went to Albertson’s afterwards (grocery store #2 in my Namaste Bitches shirt for the day). I asked the butcher to cut the smallest chicken breast he had in half. I’m getting better at this. I spent 87 cents. That’s right, 87 cents.

Honey Dijon Chicken for One. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
-1 chicken breast that you have to convince the butcher to cut in half
-3 packets of mustard (taken from a Scottsdale movie theatre)
-1 spoonful of honey (thought I was going to get through a whole post without mentioning my local, desert wildflower honey, didn’t you. No such luck)
-Salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley

Cover both sides of the chicken with a mixture of all of the above. Cook for 40 minutes.

Sautéed Spinach for One.
-Olive oil (and a little butter if you had a refrigerator and had butter)
-2 giant handfuls of fresh spinach (that’s right, giant handfuls, it’s a real form of measurement we can all get behind)
-A few splashes of white wine from the open bottle you had before your fridge broke, that you now have to use as cooking wine.

Sauté on low for 10 minutes.

Eat while watching the premier of American Idol, which you haven’t watched since Simon left, but feel nostalgic because it’s the last season and you figure you might as well…then remember there’s something better on and change it..though you did really love JLo’s shirt in the Atlanta auditions, the flowery one…and Harry Connick Jr is pretty hot…maybe you can switch back and forth.

The best is yet to come and babe, won’t it be fine?image