Saturday, July 30, 2011

All little girls love ponies . . . especially purple ones!

A few years and a couple motorcycles ago hubby and I were out for a ride with some friends.  We were cruising along behind them enjoying the road and the passing view. All of a sudden a wayward gust of wind managed to get up into his helmet, ironically through the partially open face shield that he had vented to allow for air flow.  That errant poof of air somehow popped one of his contact lenses out, suddenly leaving that eye practically blind and throwing his depth of field totally out of whack.  Hubby pulled off onto the shoulder.  Our friends were ahead of us, but we had no way to let them know we were in trouble so they continued on.  Now, for all intents and purposes, with only one eye that he could see out of we were pretty much stranded.  I didn’t know how to operate a motorcycle and it wasn’t safe for him to ride in that condition.  Miraculously, when he removed his helmet we discovered that his contact had gotten caught up in the lining and he hadn’t actually lost it.  With a quick rinse he was able to pop the lens back in and we were on our way. 

This got me to thinking . . . yeah, it happens sometimes.  What would happen if we were out riding the bike and something happened and I actually had to operate the bike?  I didn’t have any real idea how and that wasn’t a good thing. So, I discussed my thoughts with hubby.  He didn’t think I was serious about wanting actually learn how to ride a motorcycle and he let it go.  I brought it up again and he finally got the hint that it was something I really meant to do.

Hubby has been riding for years and years . . . since he was a kid.  He had loads of experience but he was self taught and he didn’t want to teach me to ride and thus pass on his bad habits to me.   He insisted that I take a motorcycle safety course so I found the closest one to us, which just so happened to be right in our town, and signed up.   Keep in mind that when I decided that I wanted to learn how to ride I had absolutely no intention of getting my own bike, it was merely a precaution against the unlikely possibility that I would need to get help.

In short order, I was in the classroom and passed the written exam with flying colors.  Then onto the practical course where the hands-on learning how to ride would take place.  They had dozens of bikes to choose from.  I decided on a Honda 250 Rebel because it was small and relatively light weight, a decent little bike for a novice rider. 

We started out with the basic function and mechanics of operating a motorcycle.  Soon my butt was in the saddle and I was actually riding . . . and that was it.  It was all over.  I got home from my class giddy and keyed up.  I announced in no uncertain terms that I wanted my own bike.  I was totally in love with riding a motorcycle after only a short amount of scooting around a parking lot. 

I’m not sure if hubby was thrilled or dismayed . . . maybe a little bit of both. 

Irregardless of any misgivings he might have had, after I passed the riding portion of my class and got the motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license he bought me the cutest little motorcycle; an adorable red Yamaha Virago 250 and I was absolutely delighted.

I rode the bike for about a year.  Despite the fact that I absolutely loved the bike, I was starting to think that I probably need to move on to a larger bike.  Baby-V, as I lovingly called her, was awfully fun to ride but she was light weight, short on power and I hated the way I got buffeted around by tractor trailer turbulence when riding on the highway.  It was pretty scary.

One day we were shopping for new riding gloves or some such thing at a motorcycle dealership and I spied the prettiest purple bike in the whole wide world.  I walked by it gaping and drooling . . . I had to have it!  Within a week I had traded in Baby-V and had my self a brand spanking new-to-me Yamaha V-Star 650 motorcycle.    I still kind of regret giving up the Baby because I loved her so much but I do love my purple bike.

It took some time but I bonded with the purple bike and I love riding it . . . hell, I love riding in general; however, I am often conflicted.  I absolutely love riding my own bike; but there’s also something to be said about being on the back of hubby’s bike with my legs straddling his body, my arms around him and just enjoying the ride.   Sounds kind of sexy, huh?  Yeah, it is.  The good thing is that I have the option of doing either and I am a happy, happy girl!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Firewater Friday . . . To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

Have you ever done anything stupid . . . like really stupid?  I haven’t . . . well, at least not recently . . . okay, okay . . . I do stupid stuff all the time but at any rate I don’t do really stupid stuff on a regular basis.   However, it does happen from time to time.  Sometimes it’s even compiled with a healthy dose of embarrassing and . . . oy . . .

One thing I generally try not to do is socialize with people in the workplace.  That usually helps me to avoid doing stupid and embarrassing things around the people I work with; thus, alleviating having to feel stupid and/or embarrassed around the people who should have at least a modicum of respect for me.

Unfortunately, there are times when I can’t wiggle my way out of a gentle but insistent invite to get the staff together for some casual team building.  There was one such a time when, if I could turn back the hands of time and if I knew now what I didn’t know then, I would have made up just about any excuse to not go to this one particular soiree. 

Yeah, I know, hindsight is 20/20. . .

Okay . . . I’ll stop stalling and get on with the gruesome, horrifying details.

My department . . . which was comprised of two separate groups that didn’t generally interact with each other day-to-day . . . was headed by one man.  A very nice man and a decent boss but not someone you could say no to under most circumstances.  He got it into his head one day that he would have a gathering at his home for both groups to get together and mingle.  It was one of those optional events that was mandatory to attend, if you know what I mean. 

So, a date was set and there was really no chance . . . short of being in a fiery car crash  . . . of blowing it off.

The day came and we arrived at his lovely home where we were greeted by his equally lovely wife and his two darling children.  We were asked to leave our coats and shoes at the door then directed to the kitchen where an amazing spread of food was laid out . . . sushi, fruits, veggies, sandwiches and appetizers.  He had a cooler stocked full of wine and beer.  Some of the guys from the other part of the department arrived shortly after . . . who were all Ukranian – pertinent information, I swear . . . brought a couple bottles of Russian vodka and a big jar of sour pickles. 

So, on an empty stomach, we proceeded to get a lesson from them in the Russian tradition of drinking vodka with a pickle chaser.  Don’t knock it until you try it . . . holy cow . . . I tried it over and over and over again that day. 

After some eating and lots of drinking and more drinking, we were escorted to the family playroom.  They had all manner of amusements . . . a pool table, table tennis, board games, a huge TV with a karaoke machine.

I played a little pool and the sat down to a rousting game of Scrabble with the boss’s wife.  I was enjoying the game and pretty much staying out of trouble.   And then it happened . . . someone fired up the karaoke.  It was like a switch flipped on . . . all of a sudden I was more than a little fluffy and it was imperative that I sing Patsy Cline. 

I graciously excused myself from the game, slid off my stool, stumbled over to the microphone and ripped it out of the hand of an eight year old little girl. 

She said, “Hey! I’m singing now.”

I said, “Hey!  You can play with this any time you want!”, and proceed to belt out an off-key rendition of Crazy.

Most of what happened after that was a blur . . . the next thing I do remember clearly was being escorted by the arm to the door by my humiliated husband.  I nearly fell flat on my face while trying to put my shoes back on.  I vaguely remember him pouring me into the truck and berating me about how really stupid and embarrassing my behavior was . . . AT MY BOSS’S HOUSE. 

When we got home, I seem to remember a nocturnal visit from the vodka and pickle fairy . . . not pretty.

But the absolute worst of it was when I realized what a total ass I made of myself and how I was going to have to go to work and face the music . . . pun intended.

Yeah, I sucked it up and apologized profusely.  Apparently my drunkenness wasn’t as obvious to others as it was to my husband . . . but dammit . . . never again!


That's not to say I haven't done anything stupid or embarrassing since . . . just not at a boss's home or an office party.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

A man cruised down to the biker bar on his Harley Davidson motorcycle . . . for the purposes of this blog I’ll call him Ziggy . . . where he hung out drinking and shooting pool for several hours . . . way past the time when he told his wife he’d be home.  His wife . . . I’ll call her Donna . . . called the bar looking for him.  The bartender answered the phone and shouted across the barroom . . . “Hey Zig, you’re wife is on the phone.” 

Ziggy exclaimed, “Oh crap!  Tell her I’m not here.  ”.   Of course, all the while the bartender is holding out the phone and Donna can hear him as clear as if he were talking into the mouthpiece.  The bartender sighs and says, “he’s not here”, and proceeds to hang up the phone.

Naturally, this isn’t the first time Ziggy’s tried to pull a fast one on her and, then to add insult to injury, she got hung up on.  Now she’s rip-roarin’ pissed off.  Donna’s not one to just to sit back and let things go, so she heads off to the bar the get her husband.

One of the bikers hanging outside smoking a cigarette recognizes Donna’s car as she pulled into the parking lot.  He popped his head inside and yelled, “hey Ziggy, you’re wife is here.”

Ziggy exclaimed, “Oh crap!” And, instead of facing his petite little darlin’, he crouched down behind the pinball machines to hide. Heh . . . a real manly man, eh?

Donna storms through the door and demands to talk to her husband.  The bartender says, ‘I already told you he wasn’t here, Donna.”

So she says, “Dude, I know he’s here”.   And proceeds to look for him.  She looks under the tables, behind the bar, in the bathrooms and there’s no sign of Ziggy.

The bartender says, “I told you he wasn’t here” as he steers her towards the door and outside.

Donna knows he’s inside the bar somewhere.  She’s not stupid.  After all, his motorcycle is sitting right outside the bar in the parking lot.   

Donna was ticked off before and now she was double . . . nay. . . triply enraged.  She walks right up to the bike and kicks it over.

The bartender, who was still outside waiting for her to leave, yelled inside . . .”Hey, Ziggy, your wife just dumped your bike.”

Ziggy exclaimed, “Oh crap! “

True story . . . Hell hath no fury and all that stuff.


Key Lime Pie

5 egg yolks, beaten
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Mix well. Pour into unbaked graham cracker shell.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Top with whipped topping and garnish with lime slices if desired.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who died and left you boss??

Growing up I remember a lot of woman who didn't drive; women who didn't drive just because but because they never learned how.  I grew up during the height of feminism and equal rights . . . and it’s inconceivable to me that a woman wouldn’t know how or even want to know how to drive a car.  But, most of these women were throwbacks to an older time when women were considered emotionally and physically weak and, therefore, could not be skilled, reactive drivers. I can’t imagine being completely dependent on someone else to get to where I want or need to go. 

And, yet, in Saudi Arabia and other countries women are not allowed to drive.  While it’s not illegal for them to drive, it is a nationally accepted custom.  The basis of the convention is due to strict Islamic laws.  Not only are women are not allowed to drive by they aren’t permitted to leave their houses without a male guardian’s permission and if they do manage to escape the confines of their abode they must wear a cloth that covers up their entire body including their faces.

It seems archaic even barbaric; however, even now in the United States of America . . . the land of the free . . . there are communities where women aren’t allowed to drive.    The strictest Orthodox Jewish societies it is mandated by religious law.  It is forbidden for a Jewish woman to drive a car; she may travel as a passenger in a car . . . but only in the back seat! 

I drive, of course.  I’ve been driving since I was sixteen.  I own a car and a motorcycle . . . I can get myself where I need to go without the aid, assistance or permission of anyone.  That is unless I’m riding with my husband.  He doesn’t “let “ me drive; primarily because he hates the way I drive.  I say he doesn’t ”let” me drive but that’s not exactly accurate . . . I just let him think that.  Frankly, I would prefer not to drive if I don’t have to.  That gives me a plethora of time and opportunity to other things . . . like nap, catch up on reading, knit, or whatever.  So, if hubby insists on driving . . . that’s alright with me!  You go to it, babe.

Spicy Guinness Mustard

1  12-oz. bottle Guinness Extra Stout
1 1⁄2 cups brown mustard seeds (10 oz.)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice

Combine ingredients in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1–2 days so that the mustard seeds soften and the flavors meld.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  I don't have a food processor so I used my blender.  

Transfer to a jar and cover.

Refrigerate overnight and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 months. (The flavor of the mustard will mellow as the condiment ages.)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mary, you're a fine girl

Back when hubby and I were first dating he was living in New Jersey.  The Garden State has its fair share of weirdness, from the New Jersey Devil which is said to haunt the Pine Barrens of the southern part of the state to the Gates of Hell which are supposedly located in Clifton.

One such strange place is near the Raritan River in New Brunswick. Located in the parking lot of a strip mall. . . imagine that, a strip mall in New Jersey!   Anyhoo, located in the middle of this parking lot is a small family graveyard.  The cemetery is about 6 feet above ground and is shored up by a retaining wall.  The weirdness continues when you consider that if the bodies are buried six feet down they would still be above ground.

Most people are familiar with the 1972 hit "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass.  The lyrics tell the story of a barmaid in a port town. She is courted by many sailors, but her heart belongs to only one man.  Her true love is a sailor and his first love is the sea.  She waits for him wearing a braided silver chain with a locket that bears his name.  It has been suggested that the song was inspired by the real life story of Mary Ellis, whose grave resides in that very same cemetery.  It’s a distinct possibility considering that Looking Glass is from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Mary Ellis came to New Brunswick in the 1790's to stay with her younger sister.  There she met and fell in love with a man who was a sea captain, and former Revolutionary War officer. The Captain sailed down the Raritan and out to sea one day, vowing that when he returned he and Mary would be wed. He even left her his beloved horse to look after in his absence.

Every day thereafter, Mary would ride his horse from her sister's house to the banks of the river to eagerly await a glimpse of her lover's returning ship.

Over nearly 15 years after her beloved had sailed off into the sunset, Mary purchased a parcel of farmland overlooking the river from which she would maintain her daily vigil. Mary died there fourteen years later in 1827, still faithfully anticipating her captain's return. She was buried on the property, along with her sister, some other family members, and according to local lore, the captain's horse.

The property eventually fell into ruin but the little cemetery was maintained by her descendents from time to time but it was often so overgrown that one could park right next to the grave without even realizing that there were graves nearby.

Eventually, the site was redeveloped and the retaining wall was built.  

Hubby took me to see the graveyard and it is surely something odd to see.  But cool in a bizarre kind of way.

Chocolate Mocha Cake in a Mug

•           2 Tbsp Flour
•           3 Tbsp Sugar
•           2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
•           1 Egg
•           2 Tbsp Milk
•           2 Tbs Oil
•           3 Tbsp Chocolate Chips, Semi Sweet
•           1 Tbsp Instant Coffee
•           Dash Of Vanilla
•           Hot Fudge Sauce
•           Ice Cream, Optional

Add flour, sugar and cocoa to a large, microwavable mug.

Add egg and mix. 

Add milk and oil and mix.

Add coffee and chips and stir.

Add vanilla and stir well, making sure there are no lumps and all dry ingredients are well incorporated.

Place in microwave for 2 minutes on high.

Add warm chocolate sauce then top with ice cream.