Sunday, December 1, 2019

Team Reed is lit

Ali brought a friend home from college, and the Captain claims I abused the poor kid.

I'm fairly certain I didn't, though I did doubt myself there for a while. I put that nonsense away when Ali told me that Jason confided in her that he was glad put in so many hours of labor. "I ate a lot," he said.

Didn't we all, Jason?

Decorating for Christmas has always been a tradition for Ali and me. We put the tree together the morning after Thanksgiving. I do the lights, but she pretty much sets the theme and decides what goes where while I set about with other areas of the house. Most of the decor is concentrated in the living/dining room, the kitchen and the porch. So, we put in a bunch of CDs from the House of Merle Christmas collection and blast the holiday spirit into being into every room of the house.

Ali usually turns off Toby Keith's "Santa I'm Still Here," but this year, she just cried through it like she did the first time she heard it and realized it was a story about a little homeless boy. Most of the other songs aren't as sad, and Jason jumped right in to hum and sing along.

As the weather was good and I had labor, we started outside. Ali and Jason took on the lights while I got rid of leaves that were clogging prime decorating space. I really didn't mean to bag leaves -- I've been mulching to minimize the need for that duty and was planning to chop them into bits with the mower.

But it turned out to be a bigger pile than Id envisioned and I didn't want to spoil the ambiance. At about bag three, Jeff came out and decided we needed to do even more leaves, so it turned into a big leaf production alongside the light display.

With Jason supporting from the ground, Ali went high and was on the roof when Jeff came out, so of course he set her to work on the gutters as well.

At a loss for hands-on work, Jason asked if I wanted him to switch to leaf duty. But I the Captain on that job, which was the worst job in the yard. So Jason went back to finishing up the lights.

Jason's usual holiday job in California involves putting lights on his family's two-story house, so he was in his element albeit 40 degrees colder than his norm. But he was a super trouper and their work turned out great.

After a Thanksgiving leftovers lunch, we turned to inside work, which involved a bit of structural integrity assessment. We nearly worked too close to time to meet the Jacksons for our annual Friendsgiving dinner.

That was its usual amazing time. We love the Jacksons and our tradition, which I think started when Ali was two-years-old. Jason slid right in. It helped that he's a Boilermaker.

If you think Jeff is proud of Ali, double that emotion for Patrick when he found out she'd gotten into his alma mater. I suspect Ali will be seeing the Jacksons on campus in the coming months.

I had to return my workforce Saturday morning as Ali was meeting another friend for the Old Oaken Bucket game, which had a 12 noon kick-off. I'd have kept them longer if I could. Start to finish, it was a great, great holiday weekend.

I'd heard a bit about Jason, but hadn't met him until Tuesday when I picked him and Ali up. Before we hit the interstate, I asked them if we needed a snack before leaving campus, and Ali told Jason that, on road trips, if I ever ask if anyone's hungry, it really means that I'm hungry and am looking for support to stop for food. (That is only occasionally true.)

On the return trip, Jason had gotten up later than Ali and me. I made them take a bunch of leftovers and various snacks I had around the house, but only Ali and I had breakfast before we got in the car.

Because I'm polite and also I was fretting a little bit about whether I'd worked him too hard,  I advised Jason that we'd have plenty of time to stop for a drive-thru breakfast if he was hungry.

From his spot in the backseat comes, "I'm fine, but are YOU hungry?"

He's going to have to learn to take her statements at face value...

Friday, November 29, 2019

Starch, anyone?

Nutritionists say starchy foods should make up about a third of a healthy human diet that should include carbohydrates (aka starch), protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.

I'm pretty sure my family, several generation back, stopped listening after carbohydrates. They definitely heard the "fat" portion and took it to mean fat wa essential to make all the other stuff palatable.

Evidence? A plate from Thanksgiving past
Here you have your basics of a decent holiday meal:

  • Noodles on a base of mashed potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Corn
  • Not pictures but surely within reach is one of Donna's home-made, buttery rolls (soft butter if Jason Bradbury is in the house.)

You really only need two color schemes to have a fabulous Bickel holiday meal: white and yellow.

There will be other colors available, but they're not the stuff people dream of and fight over:

  • Orange for the sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows depending on who's hosting but surely with butter
  • Green for the green beans bathed in either cream of something soup or swimming in a bacon-grease shimmer and featuring great hunks of iron-skillet fried bacon from a pig that may have spent the better part of a year with you.
  • Pink because that pig had more to give and you must have both ham AND turkey available
  • Brown for the turkey, which could be roasted, grilled or deep-fried.
  • Beige for the gravy that goes with the turkey but not the white potatoes because they get the full-fat chicken-stock broth that makes another kind of gravy.
  • Camouflage which is the only color I can ascribe to the dressing, which may or may not include oysters but started out with bread, butter and a bunch of herbs.

We got to host Thanksgiving this year and all of the above mentioned items were there. Our Jasheway friends brought a mac-and-cheese that was every bit a Bickel production. My guess is there were two pounds of cheese for every box of pasta and probably the same portion of butter. Kirstin attended a family wedding with me once, so I think she must have gotten infected then.

Alison's friend Jason Hickman (not to be confused with my nephew, Jason, Donna's cossetted baby boy for whom she ensures there's softened butter for the rolls. Jaime, Donna's eldest daughter and her daughters claim they get cold, hard butter if Jason isn't around...) made the pies. Including home-made crust.

One pecan and two pumpkin. We had a bit of an issue with the pecan pie but it did get consumed first. Ali's chocolate-chip pumpkin cookies were also a big hit.

Jeff deep fried four turkey breasts after brining two of them. Jim Bradbury kept watch over the flames from the chimenea and made sure Jeff didn't burn anything down with the fryer.

My main job, per usual, was sous cheffing and clean up. It's just safer for everyone. I peeled 30 carrots, six sweet potatoes, 10 pounds of white potatoes and halved about a million brussel sprouts. Two pounds of bacon went into the weekend, but Ali and Jason ate half of that. The rest was for green beans and a shrimp appetizer.

It all seemed to go fairly well. We moved the couches and added tables so everyone could be together, and that provided ample room for euchre with  dessert.

In my least hospitable act, Jim and I handily beat our guests, Joyce Jasheway and Jason. To make up for it, I gave Joyce a recipe and fed and housed Jason and then promptly abused him by having him help with Thanksgiving prep soon to be followed with Christmas decorating.

It was a really great day despite Rachael (IU Hoosier freshman) making the most of the bitter in-state rivalry with Alison (Purdue Boilermaker freshman) and the usual claims of cheating at euchre. 

Like pie tops off a great meal, our holiday finished with a visit from Eric, Tracy and Elizabeth.

Next up is Christmas. Ali got up early and is visiting some high school friends. But Jason is now awake, and he made the mistake of saying that at home in California, his day-after-Thanksgiving job is to decorate outside. So, he and I can get to work while we wait on Ali to come back and tackle the tree. I really thought he'd still be asleep, so this is like an extra bonus.

Jason is my new best friend. He and I will be in the shed soon figuring out the inventory and where lights should go. He's tall! I love him. I would totally soften the butter for him.

Jeff started out the day at 4:15 a.m. at a beer share/Bourbon County beer shopping so I expect he'll be down for the count and out of my decorating way any time now. Because I'm an excellent wife, I tried to get him to nap in our bedroom. (It's more comfortable there. Plus, he won't hear what I'm planning next and try to interfere...) From the looks of thing to my left, I've lost that battle.

It's not going to last for him, poor thing. Because part of the tradition of decorating the tree involves cracking out the House of Merle Christmas CDs. I know Auntie Jen will be doing the same, so we'll decorate together even though we're apart.

And later, I'll review the starch inventory. We sent a lot away with hungry college students, but there's plenty of white and yellow food to heat up. We'll be fully starched before our traditional Friendsgiving with Team Jackson tonight.

It truly is the best time of the year.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A voice for phone sex, a throat for Vick's.

The Captain's voice had never been more sexy, so I knew I was in for it.

The "it" in this scenario wasn't the good kind. The sore throat he'd been complaining about had morphed into his first cold of the season. 

I quickly took evasive action.

I slept on the couch. (The guest room is clean and ready for a healthy guest, and I was too lazy to event contemplate the decontamination efforts that would be required if I stayed there.) 
I avoided being too close to his air space when he emerged from his sick bed. 
I took Tracy Wiseman's advice and started pounding Vitamin D3. 
I got my 10K steps but otherwise rested. 
I had soup.

As a result of my proactive stance, my voice should take on a deeper, throatier sound (ala the Captain) today. Or so I suspect. I'm hoping not as I have a lot of work to do next week.

I may not get my 10K steps today. 

This is what marriage gets you. Someone should have warned me.

Jeff is feeling better, so I figure I'll survive. And Ali called to check in yesterday, so it's not all bad.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Goodbye, old friends. You've been a real and lasting pain, but I'll miss you.

My Pentecostal grandmother kept a hamper of fancy shoes and dresses that my cousins and I would dive into every once in a while when we were little girls.

Mind you, she was Pentecostal. They weren't high heels, but they were fancier than anything she wore during the day. This grandmother made all of her own clothes, wrapped her long hair in a bun and her only nod to makeup was a paper box of loose powder that I think she used for church. Oh! And she wore a broach or some kind of a pin on her church dresses.

But we still loved dress-up from that little hamper. My favorite item was a pair of shoes that had to be fake snakeskin or crocodile low, chunky heels with a buckle.  They might have been worn out and hideous even when new, but I must have loved them because I remember the hamper and I remember those shoes.

I've been thinking about those shoes as I consider bidding farewell to some shoes that my grandmother would never have worn.

I started wearing serious heels when I started working as a news reporter. I was 18 when I started getting paid to report. I had reached my full height by then, so I was not just young, I was short and the heels were a power boost. I had heels in every color, height and fabric. I had real snakeskin shoes that I remember wearing to Mesker Park Zoo. Not that I'd go into a snake exhibit, but I did want to show them what I was capable of should they ever escape and slither after me.

Years of wearing heels coupled with a gene pool that runs deep into bunions and bad knees have taken an obvious toll. This weekend, I decided I could wear these beautiful, red suede bootie heels to a fancy event. I've had them a couple years but never worn them out. They live with the other heels in my collection, on the high shelf in my closet.

The spikiest heels I own were debuted in New York City when I staffed a media event and thought I needed to fit in. The black and white ones went to an Oscar party. In those days, I wasn't smart enough to sneak a pair of flats along.

I made it about 30 minutes at the fancy weekend event before I limped upstairs and put my boots back on. I knew I wouldn't make it all night. I DID think I'd make it longer than I did.

Table 37 at Taste 2019.
I would toss the shoes and some fancy dresses into a hamper, but the chance that I'll have a pack of grandkids wanting to play dress-up is as thin as those Stuart Weitzman heels.

I'd give them to Ali but they're size 8s and she's an 11.

I've considered donating to Dress for Success, but they're not really
Here's just the girls. I would have been as tall as Karin
 had I kept my red shoes on.

Jeff claims they still have plenty of life left in them and that they won't hurt at all if I just relegate them to horizontal use. Because he's helpful like that.

My guess is that next time I host Book Club, I'm going to see if the young bloods in my posse can wear them. Maybe we'll skip the books and just play dress-up.

In other news, Jeff and I visited Ali for Parent's Weekend recently. She's still doing amazingly well in West Lafayette and should receive part of our leftover Halloween candy in her latest care package. It was a monsoon when we drove up and so we skipped out to shop and have gourmet grilled cheese before coming back to a really competitive -- and looonnng -- volleyball game.

Ali was going to Rocky Horror Picture Show with some friends and shockingly, didn't invite us to go a long. We had super fun, though, and I'm kind of glad the rain chased us off campus so we could just hang out together. Jeff scored a new Purdue sweatshirt for his birthday, and Ali and I conspired to also smuggle home a Purdue bumper sticker for him.

Jeff's always represented Ali's school via bumper sticker. I'd get a tattoo before I'd put a bumper sticker on my Mustang. It doesn't mean I don't love or support her. I just wear it in my soul rather than on my car.

Here's us at the volley ball game. We had trekked about six miles through the Tippecanoe County Mall before criss-crossing campus to get to the game, so we were a little damp. And I was super glad I was wearing flat boots.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Back Home again in Indiana

I drove alone to my home town recently and snapped some photos along the way. I often lament the lack of great job opportunity in that part of the state, but I've been remiss in not commenting enough on some of its beauty.

Here's a look at part of my drive, which seems like kind of a country music song in pictures. I might have had the tunes blaring and I might have taken some curves a little too fast, but it was a beautiful day -- one of the last top-down days of the year -- and I was mostly alone on the two-lanes.

Gold stars if you can match the closest town with the shot. The first one doesn't count as there's a huge clue in it.

I should do this again now that the fall colors are coming in and there are pumpkins on display along the route.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Sorry I'm late... I was hanging with my kid

One day, several years ago, Jeff returned from doing something super important to find Ali and I lazing about. We were probably binge watching Total Drama Island or something educational like that.

Anyway, he accused us of laying around like dogs. So of course we cabbaged onto that phrase and looked forward to the next time we could lay around like dogs. Or maybe it was a phrase that I came up with. I don't really remember. 

But Ali and I laid around like dogs this past weekend. And it was wonderful. We'd gotten up early so she could hang out with her friends a bit. I worked while she did that and then took her to a dental appointment and worked more while she went under the scraper.

But then, we went home and binged on South Park. 

It was the first time she'd been home since she went to Purdue. We'll see her again this weekend because the Misadventures of Bindu, a movie filmed in Broad Ripple, will debut on Saturday. She was an extra in it, and we're going to see if she made the cut. Otherwise, we wouldn't see her again until Parent's Weekend and then Thanksgiving.

From Lafayette we went straight to Petite Chou for French onion soup. We didn't even care that to get a table we had to sit outside and bundle up with blankets from the car. 

Afterward, she and Jeff saw the second iteration of It. I'm a chicken and I avoid traditional horror shows and shows that involve tortured children. I did go with them to Joker the next night. We had poutine.
We also had a girls' dinner with Aunt La, Jenna and Amy, which was fabulous. The girls agreed that going to college was an adjustment with ups and downs. But it's evening out for both of them, and for their poor parents as we all find our new normal.

All in all, it was a fabulous four days. I miss her all over again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I might be a bit twisted, but I'm fixing that.

Let me just say that I have a longstanding rule about going to the doctor: I do not web surf to determine what this or that pain might be or to learn what may lie ahead of whatever fix I have coming. I'm a world-class worrier already. I don't need more anxiety from the myriad possibilities the interwebs offer.

I didn't do it when I had a child.
I didn't do it when I had my first root canal.
I didn't do it when my knee hurt so bad I couldn't walk.
I didn't do it when I was sure I was dying of uterine cancer.

Spoiler alert: the baby arrived just fine while I was in a morphine coma; my only root canal pain came from having my mouth open for so long, which surprised me as I can yammer on; I didn't need knee replacement; and it was a UTI easily fixed with meds

So when I was first encouraged to see a chiropractor,  I laughed politely and said I'd consider it. I can pop my own back, thank you very much, I was thinking. Years later, still in pain, I capitulated. How bad could it be? Tons of people see chiropractors every day. And my friend Bree Emsweller owns the place I went to. You may remember her from steering me toward lip waxing. I was temporarily less hairy, but man, I'm pretty sure that's on the list of things Homeland Security does in dark rooms in third world countries.

At Book Club the other day, I was complaining about my leg. Bree pushed and prodded on me awhile and suggested I visit  the Joint in Broad Ripple.

I was expecting a strenuous massage.

I kind of got beat up.

Don't get me wrong: it's been helpful. But I was really expecting something different than what I got. Remember, I did zero research other than Googling to figure out what to wear.

So I was a little tense, not knowing exactly what to expect. There was a moment when I was sure the good doctor had mistaken me for a chicken on a Sunday when the preacher was coming over for dinner.

After a couple of twists and jerks, he said, "I think we'll try something different; you don't seem to be relaxing enough to make that effective,"

I thought: "You got that right, buddy." I mean, it was like he was Tom Cruise and I was a bad guy who had to die silently. Who can relax in a situation like that?

The alternative was he took something like a hammer -- I was face down by this time on the table and didn't see the device he used -- and commenced to thumping on the sides of my neck like I was a watermelon he wasn't sure was quite ripe.

It was waaaaaaay better than the wrenching thing. but all things being equal, it's not something I'd generally pay for.

If you haven't been to a chiropractor to get what they call an "adjustment", let me clue you in: an adjustment requires the chiropractor to prod and pull and push on your body until your joints cry "Uncle." You're on a table that pops with every vigorous pummeling. It sounds like a jail door slamming shut on your innocence.

Sometimes he'll just pull your leg, but not in a fun kind of jokey way. He literally yanks on your leg.

And when you stand up at the end, you feel.... better.

Or I did. I'm still analyzing it, but apparently I have a twisted/tilted/uneven pelvis that needs to be pushed, pulled and prodded back into place. It's been the issue affecting my walk and potentially is why I have had leg pain for the last several years.

I'm kind of excited about it. Until, you know, I have to lay down again and have my joints pummeled back into the position they should have been in all along.

I think I recommend it. But I'm twisted/tilted/uneven.

Take my word for what it's worth.