Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Drop in the Bucket (List)

Pre-concert cocktail. And yes, that's a one gallon fishbowl.
Last week, I am proud to brag say, I crossed an item off my bucket list. For my birthday, Clint gave me tickets to see Dave Matthews Band and the concert was Wednesday night. Since I got the tickets in April, I had been plotting and planning every little detail of an amazing evening.

I even found a cocktail worthy of celebrating a bucket list event (coincidentally, it was also the size of a bucket, so perfecto) for a pre-concert tailgate. Everything was fully arranged. But, as you may know by now, things happen to me that don't happen to most people. Case in point: after looking forward to the concert for months and giddily anticipating a fantastic night, around concert go-time, big, black Armageddon clouds began to roll in and a downpour ensued.
Rain ravaged, but still all smiles.

It rained so hard it came down sideways. Lightening strikes zigged and zagged. It was, as the meteorologists like to say, a severe thunderstorm (which is a severe understatement). The concert was delayed for about two hours and the lawn seats at the amphitheater had to be evacuated. My carefully tousled beach waves got drenched, and my new turquoise earrings and well-planned outfit got accessorized with a chic plastic poncho. We grinned, we beared it, we bought t-shirts. When life hands you raindrops the size of lemons, make lemonade.

But I have to tell you, now that I have crossed an item off and checked that box as 'done,' I have examined said bucket list, and the bucket is pretty darned empty. I find this highly alarming because somehow I feel as though a short bucket list might cause an early demise...and that leaves me eager to add to my want-to-dos.

So far (and you will see from what my little heart desires that I live a semi-sheltered life), here's what I've got:

1. Have a surprise party thrown for me. Preferably to celebrate my birthday, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

2. In a word: ITALY. See it, tour it, eat it.

3. Buy an insanely big, fantastic hat and take it to the Kentucky Derby. Drink mint juleps and accept compliments on said hat.

4. Renew my and Clint's wedding vows at one of those ultra tacky drive-thru wedding chapels in Las Vegas, officiated by an Elvis impersonator. Use the picture from the ceremony for our Christmas card that year, with a tagline saying something about your holidays being full of surprises.

5. Throw a band party in my backyard. Band, and occasion for party, TBD. Start brown nosing now and you might just make the guest list. Flattery will get you everywhere.

6. I am not a big sports person (duh), but the Days of Our Lives celebrity softball tournament would be so awesome. I have been watching Days since preschool, and I would adore watching Stefano DiMera catch a fly ball.

7. Have season tickets for Clemson football, and a major tailgate spot to go along with it. Orange-filled, tiger-paw-covered fun to follow. (I could probably add Clemson items numbering up to a zillion, but for the sake of brevity, I won't go there. I love it, you know it, you get the idea.)

8. See the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade--not from the street level, but from a hotel balcony overlooking the parade route so I can be warm and have the luxury of my own private bathroom.

9. Sail on a yacht. Preferably in Greece or along the French Riviera, but I don't want to knit pick. You know me, easy breezy.

And that's pretty much all I've got. Clearly this list needs to be padded, so I'm opening the floor to suggestions--what else belongs on my ultimate to-do list?

Let me also add that I have already checked off visiting New York City, seeing a Broadway play, and going to Hawaii. I've been indoor skydiving, parasailing, and have managed to meet a President (that would be G.H.W. Bush '41). Further, be aware that suggestions of sporting events (as a spectator or participant) need not apply.

Beyond that, I'm all ears. Tell me what belongs on my list--and hey, it's not all about me (well, maybe a little)--tell me what's on your bucket list, too. Fill 'er up!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

House Crashers

When we bought our house, my granddaddy told me, "Now that you own a house, you will never be bored again." That was his nice way of saying that owning a home is a constant chore. If you own a home, believe me that as I speak, there are multiple things that need attention. And when you finish those, a few more things will have accumulated. Our house was built in 1973, which makes it older than myself, and heaven knows I need maintenance on an ongoing basis. So it makes sense that the house would need a certain amount of attention to keep it looking its most fetching.

We have also come to learn that household projects are a lot like pulling a thread on a sweater...and then watching a large hole unravel. Like the day we moved in, when we took down the bathroom mirror and discovered it was covering a gaping hole in the wall with electrical wiring hanging out. Welcome to the joys of home ownership.

Much to my chagrin, my husband is a big believer in DIY (or, in my opinion most of the time, DIWhy?!?). We have painted every room in this casa, plus all the trim work, hung wallpaper, removed wallpaper, painted ceilings, plus several other projects that are really "he" and not "we" so they will go unmentioned. Side note: never hang wallpaper yourself. This is clearly a product manufactured by Satan and his minions, designed to drive you insane. Let a paid professional exorcise those demons. I have spent plenty of weekends with paint in my hair, my upper lip sweating (this is your body's way of telling you that what you are doing is absolutely miserable and should be stopped ASAP), and my project manager crew chief foreman husband and I bickering over each beloved project.  There is definite sweat equity in this home, that much I can tell you.

I was thrilled when we decided to have the outside of the house painted and were finally going to hire someone to make that happen. At long last--we could just sit back, relax, and have the work done for us with no effort on my part. What a na├»ve, sweet, home owning fool I was.

Let me preface this by telling you that it has rained in the city of Charlotte three and a half of the last four weeks. I am starting to feel like Noah, and I never realized that my red Hunter rain boots would become such a practical purchase. The painting should have been done two weeks ago and would be but a distant memory, except for the fact that the entire city is a giant fish pond at this juncture.

We were told that last Monday, the crew would come and pressure wash the house to get ready to paint. Progress! Only they never showed. Tuesday was the same story, and again on Wednesday. The guy at the painting company assured us that they would, in fact, come and that there was no need to even be home while the pressure washing was being performed. Right. And I actually believed that.

They finally started work on Thursday. Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang not once, not twice, but five times throughout the day and I was flooded with a bevy of questions. Did I want the storm windows off? When did I want them off, before or after the pressure washing? Which boards needed replacing? What kind of paint? Um, aren't professionals supposed to know these things?

The day went a lot like this: doorbell rings, dog goes berserk, I stop what I'm doing, try to answer questions that I hired these people to know, repeat. I can also tell you there was somewhat of a language barrier going on; Southern belle was clearly not this gentleman's first language. At one point, I jerked open the front door in all my P90X glory to answer yet another inquiry. (The guy looked a little scared at that point. I am certain it was my rippling muscles and not the state of my appearance that caused his anxiety.)

Do you know what happens when someone removes storm windows, then pressure washes? Why, I can tell you from experience that all the dirt, debris, and filthy water runs in the window, onto the inside window sill, blinds, walls and floors. It was super convenient and luxurious when the hired workers created this little chore and I got to go window to window and clean it all up. I looked like Cinderella being forced to clean by her evil stepsisters, on my hands and knees wiping muddy water off the walls and the floor. Yep, this little venture is paying off in spades.

I opened my bedroom window the next morning and came face to face with a rather large man with a caulking gun. Hello, sunshine! No need to ring that doorbell that you loved so much yesterday to maybe tell me you were here and working around my home. Just let me find that out for myself while I am still wearing my retainer and fuzzy pink slippers. During this latest home improvement project, I have quickly realized that nothing makes you more aware of how often you walk around your house in your underwear than having men on ladders outside every fricking window, peering in all day long.

We are now entering day five of this beautification. I keep telling myself (over the lively mariachi music playing outside) that this is an adventure which will soon be over. All the banging, hammering, sawing, spraying, and messiness goes with this crew when they move on to their next job (and they will move on, right? Right?). And then my 19 pound watch dog can stop growling and let down his guard, I can move freely about the cabin without these extra "roommates," and things will get back as normal as they ever are at this palace of pandemonium we call home. And that paints a beautiful picture.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Say Cheese

I am always on a diet. Well, except for the times when I am cheating on my diet or searching for a new, better, faster, easier diet. I would say this has been the case my entire life, but technically I did make it to the ripe old age of four before it hit me. My mom went to buy size 4 clothes for her baby girl, and lo and behold, they didn't fit. Size 5s were too snug, too. My poor mom, a string bean her whole life, had to go all the way up to a 6X, which is basically code for big girl clothes. And so it began.

I have done low fat, low cal, low carb, South Beach, Abs Diet, the DASH diet, liquid fasts....I even took Slim Fast, wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it cold, in my lunch box during the elementary school years (which I convinced the unknowing skinny kids was a tasty milkshake and traded for Doritos on more than one occasion--what can I say? I come from a family of salesmen). Some people are suckers for get-rich-quick schemes; I am powerless to resist anything that claims to shed unwanted pounds.

My friend Jen has been doing something called the Omni diet, and I have to say she is looking summertime svelte at this point. Thus, my interest immediately turned towards this Omni plan, on which an "actual customer" lost 12 pounds the first week* (*results not typical). On this slim down, you eat 30% protein and 70% fruits and veggies. You avoid as many processed foods as possible, including sugar, soy, gluten, and some other stuff I blatantly glossed over, like cocktails (I'm keeping those, for everyone's sake). I don't really know what gluten is, but let me tell you the stuff is in practically everything--even mustard. But with the potential to lose a dozen pounds in a week or two, I will kick gluten to the curb like a Rockette lineup at Radio City Music Hall.

I did raise an eyebrow when I came to a recipe which called for Vegenaise. Apparently, this is a vegan version of mayonnaise, which skips the eggs. I would personally like to know why the use of Duke's Light mayonnaise is not approved on this plan. It is light, after all, and being that it is Duke's, it is delicious. If Duke's mayonnaise is wrong, I don't want to be right.

So whatever, no gluten, get away from the sugar, put that baguette down and back away. And then I get to the part where it says no dairy. No milk? Never liked the stuff all that much anyway. No cottage cheese? I will gladly do without. And since bagels aren't allowed, who cares about skipping the cream cheese? Done, done and done. Am I getting thinner yet?

And then I saw it. Just casually tossed out there like it is no big thing: no cheese. No cheese? Wait a second. Did that really just say no cheese? Surely, mine eyes have been deceived. How can a person live in a world without cheese? Not even part skim string cheese or a smidgin of blue cheese on a salad? Think of what you are giving up: grilled cheese sandwiches (which, on this plan, would be made on gluten free bread), cheeseburgers, brie and crackers (sprouted grain crackers, right, Omni plan?), macaroni (or not) and (you guessed it) cheese. I can't! I won't! Faster than you can say freshly grated Parmesan, my flirtation with the Omni diet was over.

And I'm left to wonder--are other people really willing to make this sacrifice? We are now living in a world where New Yorkers are paying $100 a piece for a cronut, for Pete's sake. Am I supposed to believe that John Q. Public is switching to Vegenaise and happily chugging almond milk? That the average dieter is ready and willing to say ciao to cheddar, farewell to feta, goodbye to gouda? It's just all a bit too much, even for this habitual dieter.

There is good news, however: while looking online at the Omni diet, I saw a banner ad for some meal replacement shakes with a natural appetite suppressant. And appetite suppressants are even higher on my must-have list than fad diets. The shakes will be here in three to five business days, so in the meantime, I'm feeling like some mac and cheese. Or cheese toast. Or cheese pizza. Or nachos....Say cheese!