Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Great Shopping Survey Experiment


My usual response is a mumbled “Thanks,” as I stuff the store receipt into my purse. The survey that the cashier has helpfully highlighted in pink remains unanswered as well as all of my chances to a sweepstakes for a gift card if I simply “go online and complete a brief questionnaire about my shopping experience.” 

What started out as a mandatory salutation from bored salespeople coupled with an offer for their store credit card at a handful of stores has become part of nearly every transaction at retail and restaurant chains across the country. It seems as though everyone wants your opinion and is willing to give you certain shopping perks in exchange for it.

I decided to host an experiment to see just how much my opinion mattered to those cash register receipts.

For a period of about a month, I decided to complete every survey from everywhere I shopped or dined that offered one. I answered each one honestly and independently from one another and recorded the time it took to complete, the ease of the process and what the promised payoff to me was.

Not much, was the resounding answer.


The Good:

Of the 15 surveys I completed only two from retail stores and two from restaurants offered something tangible. Dick’s Sporting Goods emailed me a $10 off coupon immediately after completing their six minute survey, and Off Broadway Shoes gave me an instant $5 off my purchase at the register if I texted a number they provided. I appreciated that instaneous savings. 

And of the two out of three restaurants I tried, Sticky Fingers Smokehouse and Outback Steakhouse gave me a code for a free dessert and an appetizer respectively.

The Not Bad:

JCpenney is offering a button after a purchase at their store. You go on the website, enter in the code from the back of the button, and you are instantly notified if you’re a winner. 

I didn’t win, but by this point, I was used to it.

The big, bad waste of time:

Every other retail store I sampled entered me into a sweepstakes of varying prizes. Best Buy and Home Depot were the most generous with a chance at a $5,000 shopping spree, while Joann Fabric and Craft Center offered a mere $25 gift card. None of this mattered since to date, I haven’t won a dime.

The average time it took to complete a survey was about 7 minutes, but Toys R Us took a whopping 13 minutes. But if you’ve ever stood in line at this chronically understaffed store during the holidays, anything under an hour seems like a bonus. Pier 1 Imports was the only one I chose to answer by phone, and I think this added considerably to the time devoted to a $7 clearance floral stem.

So after a couple of hours of visiting store websites and placing numerical values to whether signs printed in Spanish enhanced my shopping experience, I can’t say that it was worth the investment. To be fair, I am not a particularly lucky person nor am I particularly patient. The nebulous sweepstakes offers seem awfully shallow when stores are asking customers to invest additional time to advance their consumer research. While the store got my time, age, and annual income, all I got in return was a receipt eight inches longer than necessary, strange 800 numbers calling during dinner and a Blooming Onion.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Being a light in darkness

Today, like you, there are things I want to un-know.  Images I'd like to un-see. My throat is tight, my eyes bloodshot, and I have a dull headache from crying before sleep.

The anger hasn't come yet--I know it will will eventually--but I'm just too sad to let that in yet. The few times an articulate thought or word comes to mind, it is quickly replaced by just this overwhelming sadness, that I know we all share.

So this morning when Stevie woke up and announced that he had written letters to our Congressmen and I should do the same, I admit to having trouble with that task.

But after reading what he wrote--so precise, straightforward and right--I knew I had to follow suit.

So I did.




December 17, 2012


Dear Senator;

Earlier this morning, my seventeen year old son wrote you a letter regarding the very timely issue of gun control. As we all are, he is sickened by the events of last Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and feels passionate about doing whatever he can to prevent this sort of atrocity from ever happening again. He asked me this morning if I, too, would write our elected officials urging them to action by ignoring the regurgitated rhetoric from the NRA and initiate and support stricter gun control in this great country.

As articulate as my son is on this subject, I find myself not nearly as so this dark day. Steven is the oldest of our four children, with the youngest being a Kindergartner. Like most parents I’m sure, every time my mind tries to formulate an argument or words of wisdom, protest or outrage, my heart breaks a little more imagining my beautiful daughter and her precious classmates sitting at their desks. I find I am rendered paralyzed by these thoughts.

But my hope is that you as one of our elected officials won’t be as lethargic in words and most of all action. While I’ve heard the arguments and rhetoric my entire life, maybe now things can truly change. Maybe today we redefine who and what “the bad guys,” are, what “just for sport,” is, and the math that says more guns make us safer. Because the day of those talking points are over, and we must as nation come together in common sense to ensure that human life trumps politics, lobbyists and barbarianism.

I know it is too late for the 26 innocent children and teachers murdered last week, but it’s not too late to fall on the right side of history.

Sincerely,

Tracey Henry


And here is my son's:


Dear Representative:

           ...

            I am reaching out to you in wake of the December 14th Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. This devastating attack has shocked the whole world, and it has also shed an international light on American gun policy. Compared to those of the rest of the developed world, the United States has the loosest gun laws and also the highest gun-related death rate. I see that the National Rifle Association donated thousands of dollars to your campaign in the 2012 election cycle. I would love to believe that these donations do not influence the way you vote on behalf of your constituents, but I would be lying to myself. You voted “yea” to national bills that authorized the allowance of loaded guns in national parks, the repeal of the firearm ban in Washington D.C., the Trigger Lock amendment that would require guns to be sold with trigger locks, and a bill that protected gun manufacturers from liability in some cases of injury or criminal actions. You identify yourself as a “prolife” representative, and I understand that you view the Second Amendment as a fundamental right of every American, but you also need to protect the life of every American and your supporting of these irresponsible gun laws does not protect the American right to life. According to Mother Jones since 1986, there have been at least sixty-one gun-related mass murders in the U.S. Of those mass-murders a majority of the firearms used were purchased legally. The Harvard Injury Control Research Centre has found substantial evidence linking the number of guns to the number of homicides.
            A CNN poll taken in August found that about 90% of Americans support stricter background checks in order to purchase a firearm. A Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, conducted a survey on behalf of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and he found that 63% of former and current NRA members agreed that the age requirement for a firearm purchase should be twenty-one. Also 74% of NRA members support more-thorough criminal background checks on anyone who wishes to purchase a gun.
            So Congresswoman Blackburn, I am asking that you take action to combat the issue of gun control in the United States. I understand that the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 did not result in the lower homicide rates that were promised, but the massacres in Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO were both caused by semi-automatic assault rifles. I ask that you seriously consider supporting the Assault Weapons Ban that Senator Dianne Feinstein promises to introduce at the beginning of next year. I also ask that you support legislation to improve mental health facilities and mental health institutions, so that the psychopaths committing these heinous crimes will be treated before they decide to massacre dozens of people. I would also implore you to strengthen background check requirements for gun purchases.
Finally Congresswoman, I would ask you to seriously consider the lives of the twenty children massacred by Adam Lanza last week. These murders could have maybe been prevented with stricter legislation. There is no way to know for sure, but you do have the chance to stop this massacre from happening again in the future, and I ask that you please take advantage of this opportunity and change the American gun policy. Do not listen to the manipulative voices of the National Rifle Association. Listen to your constituents. The people of Tennessee and the American people care more about their lives than their guns, and you have the chance to be a superhero and stop these horrific killings from happening in the future. Thank you for your taking the time to read this letter, and I hope I will be able to support your campaign next election cycle due to the new gun policies you will hopefully support in the next few years.

Thank you,
Steven Henry



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paring down the Pear Tree


You will no doubt read at least 10 articles on how to cut back this holiday season. You will receive tips and newsletters that tell you how to de-stress by letting things fall by the wayside because it’s just not worth the effort.
Well, this post is an attempt at just the opposite: to encourage you to go back along the wayside and pick some of those holiday projects back up. This has nothing to do with gifts. It has nothing to do with going to 28 different stores to find coordinating wrapping paper and ribbons. What it does hope to serve as a warning not to confuse a meaningless task with a meaningful tradition.
Our family has a Christmas cookie that we make once a year. It’s such a long and involved process, that you need a year in between to recover and gain the courage to try it again. It’s made with yeast, cinnamon and sugar and you have to follow the cryptic directions of my great-grandmother’s broken English and horrible penmanship on a yellowing recipe card, but somehow a very delicious German Twist comes at the end of an eight-hour baking day.
It’s not an overly-sweet cookie; it doesn’t come from a refrigerated tube. It rises, gets kneaded, rises again, gets rolled, folded, rolled and baked. It doesn’t look like a Disney character when it comes from the oven, so it’s not really appealing to many under the age of 40, but it’s been in my family’s Christmas table for generations.
Every year I attempt the cookie with varying degrees of success. My kids like to help for a little while, but it’s not the most fun kitchen chore. But I do it nonetheless because it’s always been done.
This year, I almost passed up cookie day. I had lots of excuses -- we have just moved, there’s so many things I have to do around the new house, I haven’t unpacked the rolling pin yet. But as I was reluctantly assembling the ingredients at dawn last Sunday, my oldest son came into the kitchen.
“Are you making German Twists today?” he asked.
I sighed. “Yes, I think so.”
“And are you going to send a box of them to Great-Grandpa like you do every year?”
I stopped, recalling that special man. “Yes.”
“It was his mother in-law who made this cookies every year, right?"
I smiled. “Yes. This is what Christmas tasted like to him for the last 70 years.”
“Cool,” he said walking out of the room.
It occurred to me that kids -- and adults -- don’t remember the gifts or if the wrapping paper matched or what the centerpiece looked like, but it’s those truly unique family customs that make holiday memories.
So when you’re cutting back this holiday season, skip the extra trip to the mall and not the batch of cookies or whatever tradition holds meaning for your family.

This is a post I wrote 2 Christmases ago for the Tampa Bay Times. We lost my grandfather last year, but I will be making those German Twists and putting on Christmas to the nines nonetheless.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas Potatoes


If you’ve been a Suburban Diva reader over the years, you know that it wouldn’t be the holidays without a transcript of the Christmas decoration discussion between my husband and I. If you’re new to this subject, let me enlighten. 

When it comes to holiday decorating, I am inspired more by House Beautiful, he, Animal House. I’m Lord and Taylor, he’s more Lord of the Flies. I’m all about It’s a Wonderful Life, he’s a Lifetime Original movie. Potato, potahto.

So this year we gathered as we do every first Saturday in December to discuss the decorating plan. Now that the kids are older, we have allowed them to be on the planning committee, but they do yet realize they are non-voting members.

Him: What’ll it be this year, kids? Tacky or classy?

Five voices in unison: Classy!

Him: Tacky it is! Great choice.

Me: Honey, we’re still kind of new to this neighborhood, don’t you think we should ease off just a bit?

Him: Ease off??? This is the perfect time to strike! Establish who we are as a light entity.

Me: Um, I think Middle Tennessee Electric Company has that title. And the sun.

Him: Exactly. I want others to be drawn into our orbit.

Me: (Mumbling) And I kind of want our house to be hit by a meteor, so I guess that works out for both of us.

Him: What was that, dear?

Me: I said that sounds stellar, darling. Let’s get started.

A few hours later...

Son: Dad, I saw these new poles they have in the store now that are made especially to hang Christmas lights. They come with little plastic hooks that attach to the gutter so you don’t need to climb on the roof anymore.

Him: Where’d you see those? In the ladies skirt department?

Son: No, but it might work better than the golf club and kitchen tongs we’re using now.

Him: You know, back in my day, we didn’t have fancy things like poles and “grounding wire” and “ladders with all their rungs.” We hung lights with frayed cords and asbestos bulbs. My Dad would take me out in 4 feet of snow and a lightning storm and have me string lights on a rusted weather vane 8 stories high on a pitched roof. Barefoot.

Son: How was there lightning in a snow storm?

Him: Because that’s how things were back then--TOUGH. But we liked it because that’s what Christmas is all about.

Son: Mom! Dad’s turning into a villian from Scooby-Doo again.

Me: It’s Christmas. This is what it does to him. (Noticing progress.) Um, honey? Not to be critical, but do you think that manger you’re constructing is rather....tall? And shiny?

Him: Not in the least bit. If the original had been to this scale, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken the Wise Men until January 6th to find Him.

Me: He was born unto a Virgin, not under a Virgin Mobile tower.

Him: Potato, potahto.

Much later that night, after I slather sunscreen on the kids and we all go outside to admire the finished product.

Me: Please don’t look directly at the lights, guys. View it through this piece of cardboard with a pin prick through it.

Kids: That’s so cool!

I look over at my husband who is standing on the sidewalk with a tear in his eye that I don’t believe resulted from the glare of the LED lights on the team of reindeer.

Me: Oh honey, it’s beautiful. What’s wrong?

Him: Nothing. I was just thinking that the kids are growing up so fast and soon they will be doing this with their own children someday soon.

Me: Not if I don’t get those lead capes across their torsos while we’re standing here.

Him: (Ignoring me.) It seems like just yesterday I was standing on the sidewalk with my Dad admiring our illuminated masterpiece. (Glances over at smiling children.) And I’m so proud of all of them.

Me:   Aw, because of their cat-like reflexes when you drop hammers and staple guns from the roof?

Him: (Wiping the tear away.) No, because already at their young ages they’ve learned to ignore the neighbors slowing down in front of the house and threatening to call the Homeowner’s Association. 

Me: The milestone we as parents dream of.


Maybe it’s more Ground Control and Major Tom thing. Potato, potahto.

At least it’s merry and bright.

©2012 Tracey Henry

Friday, November 30, 2012

#Lockout Problems


The question we get asked most often these NHL lockout days is, “So how are you doing with no hockey?”

And while I cannot legally comment on any specifics, I can reply with a resounding, “NOT WELL.”

I give you a text message conversation between my husband and I on a night when instead of working a game against the New York Islanders, he decided to “help” at home with the two middle children while I took our youngest to a birthday party.

Me: So what do you have planned tonight?

Him: Just ordering a movie and pizza.

Me: Cool.

10 minutes later

Him: What’s your social security number?

Me: What do you need that for?????

Him: I’m trying to order a Pay-Per-View movie and it’s not working.

Me: Why isn’t it working?

Him: I don’t know why it’s not $%&^#* working--you sound like the operator that just hung up on me twice.

Me: I appreciate your frustration sir, how can I help.

Him: If you tell me there are 9 customers in front me, I’m filing for divorce.

Four minutes later..

Me: Did it get fixed?

Him: Text Matty, I’m using my cell phone to straighten out the pizza order.

Me: I’ll just call the house phone.

Him: Don’t--I’m still on hold with the cable company.

Me: What’s wrong with the pizza order?

Him: I made the mistake of ordering cinnamon “sticks” and they only serve cinnamon “rounds.” 

Me: Why does that matter?

Him: It doesn’t unless you’re Archimedes. Which is what I’m trying to explain to them if you’d quit texting me.

20 minutes later

Him: Hey, remember that time last summer when we ordered a pizza and had it delivered to the community pool?

Me: Um, yeah??

Him: So does Papa John because that’s where they delivered our pizza.

Me: It’s November. The pool is closed.

Him: Well, some Tennessee penguins are enjoying some cinnamon rounds right now.

Me: Good thing it’s the rounds--I hear sticks are bad for penguins.

Him: I know where Papa John can stick his cinnamon right about now.

8 minutes later after a panicked text from my son.

Me: Is everything ok?

Him: Yes, dear, why do you ask?

Me: Well, your son just sent me a text saying you were swearing at the lady on the phone. He said you needed “parental control?”

Him: That’s exactly what I exercised when the cable company wouldn’t lift our parental controls and let us order a movie tonight. 

Me: I’m on my way home.

Him: No rush,  we are watching a movie on the computer.

Me: ?

Him: I told them to stick their cable box where the cinnamon don’t shine.

Me: Uh oh.

Him: We are getting a satellite dish on Monday.

Me: I hope they carry the NHL Network.

2 minutes later.

Him: @#$%^%


I repeat: NOT WELL. Please send hockey.




©Tracey Henry 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I leave you with another little ditty from my HOA

For me, this is my transition week between Fall and Christmas.

For my HOA, it is the transition time between autumn tree shedding maintenance and illiteracy.



"Subject: Proper Leave Removal 

Residents,

Please let your landscape vendors know, that is a violation for them to blow leaves from your property to any common space.  Leaves from your property need to collected and removed. When leaves are blown into common areas, not only does it block up natural area drainage but also costs the HOA, since we have to have the crews make several additional trips to remove leaves in areas that have already been addressed.

I appreciate your cooperation.
Thank you
Community Management"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Theme Park Tips--Holidays or otherwise

Our typical Thanksgiving is spent at home with me cooking way too much, squeezing more chairs around a crowded table in between home hockey games. This year (and all other lockout years) we had the opportunity to travel so we did. To Disney World.

The happiest place on earth is also a very crowded one during major holidays, but we were able to hit everything we wanted to, including the newly-expanded Fantasyland.

It can be done, my friends. And here are my quick tips on how to enjoy the Magic Kingdom with 100,000 other people.

1.) Use Fast Passes. EVERY RIDE THEY ARE OFFERED. Standby lines are for rookies.

2.) One of the longest lines we waited in all day was to get on the monorail before we even got to the park. Check the hours because they vary, but if it's a later close, think of shifting your day up by an hour or two. It cleared out around dinner time, and we could have avoided that first wait by leaving the hotel later.

3.) Do the park in a logical order. It astounds me that people crisscross hitting attractions out of order. This just adds needless time, especially if you're navigating large crowds that hate strollers. I once read that most people go to left when starting the park, but I don't think that's true if Space Mountain is to the right.

4.) Send your fastest runner ahead to collect Fast Passes. This saves you oodles of time.

5.) Did I mention Fast Passes? Because often if you are getting them for one ride, you may have the nice surprise of receiving more to another attraction. This happened for us while getting ours for Peter Pan--we got bonus passes for the new Dumbo ride.

6.) Focus on your must-see rides, but don't overlook others that may have a shorter line. Carousel of Progress might seem lame, but it sure is a cool spot to land while you wait for Buzz Lightyear. I'm looking at you, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Hall of Presidents and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

7.) There was not a single reservation available the entirety of Thanksgiving Day inside the park (or at surrounding hotels for that matter) so if you have to settle for counter service, eat at off-times. before 11:30 or after 2:30 for lunch, early or late dinners.

8.) We are not parade people and if you aren't either, still make a note of when they are to avoid Main Street like...Main Street during a parade.

9.) Speaking of Fast Passes, they will give you an hour window in which to return. Try not to hit it at the exact return time, go about 20 minutes after the start time.

10.) Individual events like Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas parties are great if they are offered during your stay. While it seems that a 7:00 pm start time may not be enough time, tickets are less expensive than a full-day admission and you get more bang for your buck with less crowds and wait times.

Get your ears on this Christmas.
The new attractions in FantasyLand had just opened to the public earlier that week, and while we didn't get to go to the new Be Our Guest Restaurant which sounds like a Don't Miss, we enjoyed the new Ariel ride and the new Under the Big Top attractions that used to be Toon Town. Definitely worth the hype and it still has a lot to go including a new roller coaster for us big kids.

So don't be put off by the crowds this holiday season, it's about making memories. While I'm cynical about a lot of things, Disney is still one of the places my whole family enjoys together, and for that I am thankful.

And for Fast Passes.







Monday, November 19, 2012

Smashmob

As I asserted on Twitter last Tuesday, I think most of society's problems can be solved with a well-executed flash mob.

This proves that theory. This Smash Mob was one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of in my many years on this planet.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Fakesgiving


While many of you gear up for Thanksgiving, we here in the Diva household are preparing for Fakesgiving festivities.

Fakesgiving is my favorite holiday. Born from those many, many, many Thanksgivings that didn’t exactly go the way I had planned, Fakesgiving was a perfect pre-cursor, do-over or post-apocalyptic event which is now often more highly anticipated than the real thing.

Let me explain.

Let’s just hypothetically say that your childhood traditional Thanksgiving dinners were often assembled along plastic tablecloth-lined banquet tables in a second cousin’s thrice-removed basement in which marshmallows (in either the salad, sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy) were the main entree. In exchange for sitting quietly in tights and too-small Mary Jane’s, your mother would cook a second Thanksgiving meal later that evening so that leftovers would be more than an empty Jello mold and your Dad could have a goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes, why, that would be reason for Fakesgiving.

Or let’s just say--for argument’s sake--that one year your crazy aunt took a Japanese cooking class at the Y and made everyone sit on pillows on the floor while she served hand-rolled sushi and tofurkey stir fry. Again, a second, more traditional meal would be prepared the day after so your Dad could have a goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes.

Or how about that year when your Dad scored Lion’s tickets and your Mom thought maybe you should eat before the game so you wouldn’t need to eat that crappy stadium food, so at 8:00 Thursday morning you ate cranberry waffles and turkey bacon? After the inevitable loss sitting in traffic, your Mom would pretend that your car was a float in the Macy’s Day parade in the parking lot of the Silverdome, and promise a feast with all the trimmings that weekend so your Dad could have his goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes.

Or, again, let’s just pretend that maybe later in your life you found yourself at the table of your possible future in-laws for the first time, and realized, in horror, that creamed onions, turnips, and the giblets were their Thanksgiving staples and as you wondered if this relationship had any chance whatsoever with these huge cultural differences glaring between you like the sheen from an unmolded can of cranberry sauce, you appeased yourself with a second, more familiar dinner later that week so maybe you could ponder your future over a goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes. 

Or who can forget the year that you and your husband decided to do something different that year, and booked a family trip at Disney? You may have realized soon after arriving that you were not the first person to think of this particular activity, and not a single restaurant on property had availability until Groundhog’s Day. With an exhausted and whiny toddler you finally pushed the stroller up to Sonny’s Star Cafe at 10:40 at night for a cheeseburger since even the turkey leg stand in Frontierland ran out before noon, you then spun tales of lumpless gravy and pumpkin pie as soon as you got home and yes, your husband can get a goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes that doesn’t cost $24 and shaped in mouse ears.

As you can see, there are many reasons why Fakesgiving should be an important date on everyone’s calendar. It’s the day you, as the host and guest, get to decide mashed or scalloped, dressing or stuffing, canned or homemade, and best of all, who to invite without guilt or obligation.

So Happy Fakesgiving, friends. I am as grateful for you as my Dad is for that goddamned turkey sandwich for Crissakes.


This is also being cross-posted at SuburbanDiva.com as I attempt to breathe some life back into the column. Please feel free to sign up for newsletters over there so you won't miss a thing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I've never been thankful for a glue gun

The extent of my Thanksgiving crafting abilities has been limited to a rather racy bunch of burlesque pine cone turkeys and some dried bean studded napkin rings that resulted in a broken vacuum cleaner and two cracked fillings. Fortunately, I have found some other ideas that don't look so dangerous or PG-13.

Here are a  few from my friends at the National Wildlife Foundation. I particularly like the pumpkin vase and leaf display.

And the folks at Spoonful.com know me too well know and sent me some more themed-meal addiction fodder with these Thanksgiving treats.

Spoonful.com

Spoonful.com

I'll make sure Jessie washes her hands before we trace it.

Check out more here, including that Tiny Thanksgiving Dinner of which is not even fair to tempt me with.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cookie chump Mom

I consider myself an expert on very few things in this world. Mummy meatloaf, Twitter, $12 bottles of wine and maybe cookies.

On Saturday morning I found out just what a novice I am in the latter despite my recent intensive training on the subject.

You see, I have been coerced against my will volunteered to be the "Cookie Mom" for our Girl Scout Troop. I thought this would be a relatively simple endeavor--how difficult can it be to order a few cases of Thin Mints for 15 third graders? They kind of sell themselves, right?

OMG.

I have now completed 28 hours of required training which--among other helpful life skills--include the sustainability of palm oil, the nutrition facts of a Samoa and how to bedazzle a card table to set up in front of Home Depot. My schooling was a combination of 39 online videos followed by SAT essay questions, a Saturday morning in-person session beginning at 7:30 am and ending 2 days later, and an on-going tutorial with a website that seems to crash my browser and my spirit.

But I am now certified to compile your Tagalong orders beginning December 24th which I can assert with expert certainty goes nicely with a $12 bottle of Hey Mambo.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I should have started my candidacy earlier than 10 this morning


And since you already know my presidential pick, I will tell you that for the first time in my voting career I also wrote-in two candidates in my local races for the House and U.S. Senate. Me and, uh, me.

Sadly, both races were basically unopposed and I just think that's criminal. The political process needs good people running and not just settling for the loudest (and richest). So hopefully tomorrow I'll be announcing my Senatorial win and shopping for suits and a smart carry-on bag.

But for now, I wait. It's the middle of the afternoon and I've got applesauce simmering on the stove and rolls rising on the counter. Tonight's theme is comfort food as we watch the returns, eat ice cream from the carton and wine from the bottle. No one knows what the outcome will be, so tomorrow half of us will be elated, half disappointed and most all sleepy and slightly hungover.

At least we will all be comforted together knowing that the political ads and campaign solicitation emails will cease for about a week until we gear up for 2016.

Monday, November 05, 2012

More HOA Fun or I live in the weirdest place ever


Actual letter today from our HOA.

Residents,
In an effort to save money and to be more echofriendly, we stocked the ponds with tilapia.  These fish multiply quickly and eat most all the vegetation in the ponds.  This keeps us from having to add pesticides and other chemicals in the water.
Tilapia is a warm water fish and when the water gets to cold the fish will die off.  You may have noticed fish floating in the ponds.  When the fish die, it attracts the turkey buzzards that come around to eat the dead fish.  This should only last for a few days.
These large black birds are causing a lot of attention and I wanted to make sure the community knew there is no reason to be alarmed.
Thank you-
Community Management


My pretend response:

Community Management;

Does being "echofriendly" mean that we will be constructing a stone ravine or cave in which our voices will finally be able to reverberate or will we be hiring people to repeat everything we say three fading times when on designated walking paths? Because it's about time we addressed echo issues in our community.

Thank you for the explanation regarding the large black birds. I was worried that some residents were ignoring the leash laws or it was a sign of the Apocalypse or something. Good to know that it is just a circle of life thing brought on by budget concerns.

I look forward to the annual Fish Fry at the Clubhouse being scheduled sooner rather than later. Perhaps the proceeds can be used for a spellcheck upgrade on the community servers or hiring a marine biologist to consult on a breed of fish that can survive a temperature dip lower than 60 degrees.

Hugs, Hugs, Hugs,
S.D.


The most wonderful time of the year


My favorite holiday of the year just passed this weekend.
It’s better than any Halloween treat. More exciting than Fourth of July fireworks. It’s got the New Year’s Eve magic without the New Year’s Day hangover. It’s like Christmas without all of the shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating and obligatory parties. It is the perfect gift of a day for an exhausted and overwhelmed mother like me.

It’s Daylight Savings Day.

Although it has no official anthem, I find myself humming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” weeks before its arrival. I decorate by fluffing my pillows and wearing footed pajamas. My children and I reverse roles. They send me to bed on Saturday night with a wink and a warning that the clocks won’t turn back if I’m awake to watch it. I squeeze my eyes shut and pretend to sleep as I listen for tell-tale signs like hooves on the roof or incessant winding.
If I were to personify Daylight Savings Day, I would mascot it with a benevolent Mother Nature character. She is warm and nurturing, and every autumn, she turns our clocks back while she tucks us in snugly. She tandems with Mr. Sandman and together, they grant the wish most uttered amongst worn-out folks like myself: “Just one more hour of sleep…PLEASE!” as we hurl the alarm clocks and baby monitors across the room.
The Daylight Savings Fairy must be the patron saint of parents or something. Because Daylight Savings doesn’t occur at 11 a.m. when you could get an extra hour of time at work or on the treadmill. It doesn’t commence at 3 in the afternoon for an extra hour of carline. And it most definitely doesn’t start during the airing of “High School Musical” 1 or 2. No, we are given our additional hour at drowsy 2 am, when you are either sleeping, or doing something that would require an added hour to post bail. Blessedly, all dry cleaners, Toys R Us stores and restaurants with crayons and paper placements are closed.
And if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that the holiday was to commemorate two ancient Greek gods, the lovely nymph, Fallbackius and her horrible ogre of a sister Springforwardusa. The latter is the most evil creature in history, torturing parents with cruel sleep deprivation. Her feast day has all the celebratory spirit as April 15th. I hate Springforwardusa. I will never speak of her again.
And please do not rain on my Easter parade and give me some perfectly reasonable explanation that Daylight Savings wasn’t even practiced until World War I, and even then it wasn’t really uniform until the mid ‘70’s when Congress passed a law blah blah blah. Don’t start yammering to me about energy issues. Because it’s the same as my Chicken Picatta; I’d rather not know where it comes from, just that it goes nicely on a bed a fettuccine. Or in this case, on a bed of high thread count Egyptian cotton.
This holiday requires no phone calls, no mailing of cards or good wishes. It’s the one day of the year that living on borrowed time is a good thing. The more silent, the better. So on Sunday, please just count a sheep for me or two. I’ll sign your name to the card to Fallbackius next to her plate of Unisom cookies and warm milk.
And when I awake on Sunday morning to that beautiful, innocent joy of knowing that it is really 7:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 and rolling back over wrapping up tightly in my blanket, I’ll not know for a blessed moment if it is just another day in November or Christmas morning.
But for my worn out maternal body that lately has been falling asleep during AC/DC concerts and ringside space shuttle launches, it’ll be a day of Thanksgiving.

(©2007 Tracey Henry. Originally a Suburban Diva post way back then, but still holds true today.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

#CMAawards


Last night I live-tweeted the CMA's which is really fun and relevant as the show was broadcast live, but the morning after this particular medium falls just short of coherent.

But if you did watch, and appreciate 140-character observations, here's a recap. 
















 And to sum it all up at the end of a long, but entertaining night:



Taylor to Blake: "I'm going to let you finish, but you should have never ever ever ever ever won that. Like ever."


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Country Music Awards

There's been a lot of seriousness in the recent days behind us, and there's sure to be coming up in the immediate days ahead of us, so how about a few hours of nonsense in between?

I'll be live-tweeting the CMA's (Country Music Awards) from Nashville tonight as I attend the event, red-carpet and maybe an after-party, so tune in and follow me @Subdiva on Twitter tonight for a running commentary of all things bedazzled here in Music City tonight. It will be great fun, I promise.

Recap tomorrow here if I'm not arrested for stalking. Or libel.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween lessons

Our second Halloween in this 'hood and the lessons I've learned:

1.) I need to buy double the amount of doubled-amount of candy that I bought twice as much as last year.

2.) People love Halloween here. There aren't enough aisles of inflatable ghosts, cats and other general spooks at Lowe's to fulfill the demand in Middle Tennessee.

3.) Trick-or-Treating at large, stately, popular country music singing stars homes doesn't suck.

4.) I need to seek professional help for the lengths I go to theme this meal.






Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween was a little hollow in 1979

More and more frequently, I'll recall a warm childhood memory and as I'm regarding now it in my parental mind's eye, I can't help but stop and think, "What the hell?"

We didn't grow up in a bad area of town. On the contrary--it was a nice suburban Michigan home in a subdivision filled with large sprawling yards and growing families. It was a particularly good neighborhood to Trick-Or-Treat in because there was always a porch light on at every house, and easy- to-navigate streets.

I remember going out with my Dad and sister and we'd hit as many houses as possible in our unknown costumes buried under a parka since October in Michigan meant it was 3 degrees outside. My Mom would stay at home passing out the candy and when we returned we'd dump out our pillowcases filled with sugar treasures, and the mad sorting would begin.

Or should I say, my mother would begin the 3 day long inspection process and clinical drug trials.

You must put into context that the idyllic neighborhood I described was set in the late seventies which is when all urban legends were born. I have no idea if there was any concrete evidence or actual events to support the extraordinary means my mother would go through to make sure our candy wasn't tainted, but I imagine some fuzzy-screened news anchor with a wide tie informing the good citizens of Oakland County that Charles Manson was on the loose in the Hershey factory inserting razor blades and Tylenol laced with cyanide into fun size Snickers bars.

Even before one M got stuffed into my mouth, she'd immediately start the torture.

All apples (yeah, that lady lived in my hood, too) were tossed into the trash. "Hello, ever hear of Snow White?" Popcorn balls or anything homemade? "I'm not sure if it's poisoned but you don't know what kind of kitchen that came from. You could get trichinosis."

All loose candy was pitched. Anything in a wrapper that was torn, wrinkled or compromised in any way was an immediate discard. And all Milky Ways were automatically confiscated, but I think it was just because she liked those.

We were then allowed to choose one piece of candy from our bags, but only after Mom chopped it up like a sushi chef to make sure there was nothing hidden inside or any powdery residue on the blade of the cleaver.

After the intense visual inspection and biopsy, you'd think you were in the clear, but you were obviously not aware of the cornucopia of dangers lurking in a Bit o' Honey in 1979. No, then all of the level 1 cleared candy was bundled back up into the pillowcase with the firm declaration, "You can have this back in a few days after your Uncle has had a chance to X-ray it."

Yes. X-Ray.

This was an annual ritual that I thought was just our curse having an Uncle as a radiologist, but one year we had to take it to the local McDonald's for a mobile screening so this must have been a widespread concern in our zip code. I guess irradiation was deemed less dangerous than the possible lockjaw we'd get from biting down on a rusty nail.

By the time the candy would come back well into November, it lost much of its appeal. Still wearing its hospital bracelet and reeking of antiseptic, the bag sat on the kitchen table looking a little lighter and glowing unnaturally. I couldn't help but lose my confectionary appetite a little.

And again, looking back at it through my parental mind's eye, maybe it was all by design.

Trick on my Treats after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A cry for help with my mouth full

At least I can admit I have a problem.

And I fully acknowledge that I am the Queen of the Theme cooking.

I will take any holiday, sporting event, television program, news item, or even an overheard sentence uttered by a stranger in the grocery store and turn it into a themed meal.

It's just kind of what I do--an inside culinary joke I have with myself four nights a week.

This month alone we've had paella and burgers for Columbus Day, Nathan's hot dogs for the playoffs and apple pie for the presidential debates. But the creme de la creme of my kooky cookery, my celebratory savories, festive foodstuffs, and motif meals is Halloween.

Our usual dinner is a pot of chili and the obligatory mummy dogs and cupcakes, but I think I've found a new freakish fare for the table: Mummy Meatloaf.

Spoonful.com


Use this guide from Spoonful.com and this 1770 House meatloaf recipe from Food Network Magazine (which is by far the best meatloaf I've ever eaten, family confirms) and you'll become a permanent member of my themed cook support group.

P.S. Our next meeting is November 1st for All Saint's Day.  Bring divinity, angel food cake, and St. Louis style ribs.


P.S.S. Imagine pairing this with graveyard ghost mashed potatoes? Ok, I'll stop now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My one and only political post--read at your own risk


Fair warning: this is my one and only political post of this season, so if you want to skip this one and return tomorrow for more of the usual, please feel free. I won’t be offended.

So you stayed. Thanks. And to reward you, this will not be about bashing the other guy or opposing positions. This is simply my opportunity to let you know who I am--and who I am not--as a voter.


I am a proud Democrat. 

What I am not is naive.

I believe in social justice, Civil Rights and religious freedom. I am not fiscally irresponsible, a moocher, and or easily dismissed.

I believe my grandmothers fought for my right to vote, go to college, earn equal wages and make my own healthcare decisions. 

I am a wife and proud mother of four beautiful and loved children. I am not a baby killer. Perhaps this makes me a feminist, but I’d like to think I’m more humanist.

I do not see affordable healthcare as an affront. I am relieved that we finally value humans as much as we do our cars, houses and motorcycles. I am grateful that my son will be able to provide for his family someday without fear of his pre-existing condition. I’m happy that no other parent will have to make a medical decision based on whether or not they will be eligible for insurance.

I believe in a social safety net--one that was woven by my grandparents’ generation who lived through the Great Depression and decided a country as great as ours should never be without one again.

I also don’t see my grandparents as a voting bloc or a drain to the economy with their care after working their entire lives contributing to the system. I see them as brilliant architects of a society that allows us to grow and follow our dreams without fear of losing everything if we get sick or retire.

I am a person of faith. But I have no interest in my government making policy decisions based on any one church’s tenants, beliefs or interpretations.

I am an American. I believe one of the many sources of this nation’s strength is our free education system, and the more educated the population, the better off we are as a society. I believe that’s an investment that pays off in every facet of civilization.

Admittedly, I am also sometimes the token liberal. In our school, neighborhood, workplace and church, I have become used to it. What I am not is ashamed of anything other than the parents and teachers who suggest to my middleschooler that overturning Roe v. Wade is an age-appropriate topic, or the only factor in voting for president. I believe a pro-life agenda goes much further than this single issue that has no business being taught to children as a partisan talking point. 

I am a realist. I know that social programs and defense cost money and that money comes from taxes which I don’t like to pay anymore than anyone else. But I can’t imagine living in a nation without schools, libraries, parks, police and a military that makes these things possible and I’m willing to pay for it.

I am a tree-hugger, but in genuine disbelief that no matter how you think the planet was made, that we can’t all agree to keep it clean. I think If bureaucracy is a pejorative term for agencies that keep our medicines and food supply safe and our air and water clean, then I suppose I’m a blasphemer, too.

I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a niece and a granddaughter. I am an equal. 

As are you. And whomever you choose to love.

And I am frightened. Because I believe all of the things I am is at risk this election unlike most others. I see unprecedented intolerance, anger, bigotry and ignorance and it scares me to my core that we can’t have an adult conversation about any political subject without name-calling and suppression of ideas different from our own.

But most of all, I am one of millions of natural-born caretakers this election that would like to see a return to people over positions, individuals over issues and family over fanaticism.

And finally, I’m a lifelong student and another lesson I’ve learned from my grandparents is that neither party can stop time from marching relentlessly forward. I’m determined to continue to progress so I’m not left behind.

And I am now stepping off my soapbox and returning you to our regularly scheduled election.

Please vote.