Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Delectable Disagreement

In honor of my favorite veteran, my husband, and posted with his blessing.
Jay is good-natured and level-headed. But, like us all, there are times he's not in the mood to listen to reason. On those rare occasions, I've learned that it's easier to agree with him than to argue.

For example, when we were first married, he wanted to learn how to cook. I used the term "learn" loosely since he refused instruction and abhorred following recipes. He just haphazardly threw food items together hoping an edible dish would miraculously emerge. Most experiments rapidly emerged from his mouth directly into the garbage can.

I'll spare you the details of debacles he concocted at home, and merely mention that he was banned from the firehouse kitchen for "helping" with dinner by surreptitiously adding arbitrary ingredients to meals as they were being prepared. You don't get between hungry firefighters and palatable food without suffering consequences.

When he complained, I was unsympathetic. "Sorry, babe, I don't blame them. First, you can't add something to a meal without telling the person who is cooking it. Second, until you have experience, you have to stick to recipes."

"But I see people grab stuff out of cupboards, add it or substitute it for something else, and the meal turns out great. If they can do it, than I can do it," he insisted.

"But, honey, we don't add random ingredients. We've cooked from recipes long enough to understand which flavors work together," I reasoned. "When the Oriental dressing ran low, I added sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar to stretch it. Not olive oil, lemonade, Dr. Pepper, cinnamon, and jelly beans. You have to know what you're doing if you want it to taste right."

He remained unconvinced.

One weekend, friends were coming to dinner. They'd asked if I would serve a casserole that I'd made them on a previous occasion. (Well, not that casserole exactly, because we ate that one, but one remarkably similar to it.) Jay had been my sous-chef in the past, but this time he wanted to make the casserole by himself. It's not a difficult recipe, so I didn't mind as long as he agreed not to change anything without consulting me.

He reluctantly promised, and so I stayed out of the kitchen.

Later, Jay came to the bedroom to tell me that the meal was progressing well. As he walked away, he tossed over his shoulder, with feigned nonchalance, "Oh, and we're out of unsweetened cornflakes for the casserole topping, so I'm using something else."

"Wait!" I yelped.

"What?" He poked his head back into the room with a set expression.

Trying to sound calm, I answered, "Yeah, see, honey, I'm just curious about what you plan to use in place of unsweetened cornflakes. Especially since we don't have any unsweetened wheat, rice, or oat flakes."

"I'm using granola," he firmly replied, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, no, see, we have like mango yogurt granola. And a berry, vanilla, and brown sugar granola. Neither of which will work on a chicken, veggie, and rice casserole."

"The recipe calls for cereal," he enlightened me, with exaggerated patience, "and granola is cereal."

"Yeah, no, see, sweetie, the recipe specifically says unsweetened cereal. And we don't have any."

"I don't have time to go to the store, so I'm going to use granola," he informed me, determinedly.

"Yeah, see, that won't taste good with chicken, celery, onions, mushrooms, and rice."

"I'm using granola," was his stubborn reply. "Cereal is cereal!"

At that point, my patience waned, and I wanted to yell, "Are you crazy? Don't you dare do that to our guests. What is wrong with you!" But 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not irritable or rude, and I vowed to love Jay, so (for better or worse) my response options were greatly limited. Also, had I forced him to go to the store "unnecessarily," he would have been grumpy for the rest of the evening. I didn't want that, so instead of arguing, I agreed with him.

"You know, Jay, you do have a point," I acquiesced. "Cereal is cereal."

"Yes, it is." He affirmed, nodding with satisfaction at my capitulation.

"Then leave the topping off 3/4ths of the casserole, make a topping with granola, like you want, and put it on the remaining 1/4th. That portion will be just for you."

That gave him pause.

"Who knows? It might even be edible, " I added, brightly. "You can let us know."

He mulled that over, and then muttered, "I may have time to go to the store."

"Really, darling, if you're too busy, you don't have to," I assured him. "We'll enjoy the meal without the topping, and you can have the wonderfully unique experience of eating sugary berry-granola-chicken casserole."

Another pause. 

"That's okay," he finally said, grudgingly. "I think can find time to go to the store."

"You know, honey," I encouraged, "I think you should make granola topping. For your personal portion, that is." I was beginning to get curious. Not curious enough to subject our guests to the experiment, but curious enough to let him try it. 

"No, no. I'll go to the store for the cornflakes," he answered, dryly.

"Unsweetened cornflakes," I reminded. "Come on, be adventurous; put granola on your section," I coaxed, because by then I really, really, really wanted him to try it. "You might start a whole new food trend!"

He rolled his eyes as he put on his shoes.

"You might become famous," I continued, optimistically, "for inventing chicken and celery oatmeal cookies!"

He tried to hide a smile as he reached for his wallet.

"Or chicken, blueberry, and onion breakfast bars!" I enthused.

He snickered as he reached for his keys.

"While you're there, pick up some Lucky Charms. The marshmallow bits might taste 'magically delicious' with chicken, rice, and vegetables!"

He was openly laughing as the door shut behind him.

Yep, it's easier to agree with him than to argue.

Mushrooms, celery, chicken, onions, and Lucky Charms® are a nutritious part of this complete breakfast!

Verse of the day: (Ephesians 4:2-3) "Always be humble and gentle, making allowances for the faults of others because of your love." I've perfected the art of humbly and gently spitting out the culinary results of "the faults of others." Because of my love.

Follow up:  Shortly after this episode, he decided to leave the culinary decisions to me. So if we invite you to dinner, you can eat without fear.
For another Jay story, check out "Preplanned" Packing

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pranking the Human

As I've said in a previous post, our cat Louie Belle likes to carry live, unharmed animals through her cat door and set them free in the house so that I can chase them through our humble abode to capture them (hopefully) and release them back outdoors. 

It's important to note that Caleb (our Jindo dog), Zoe (our little, black Bichon-mix), and Louie Belle flatly refuse to help me catch them. To the point that the feral critters have literally climbed over the lounging bodies of my pets to escape me.

Louie Belle most often brings in lizards, mice, and voles, but she occasionally catches baby bunnies in the early spring.

One of the many baby bunnies brought in by Louie Belle
Usually the wee rabbits are calm and subdued, but occasionally she grabs a lively one who vehemently protests the kidnapping (or bunny-napping, as it were). Don't let their tiny bodies and mild nature fool you; their screech can rival a fire alarm (seriously!) in volume and shrillness when they're upset. 

One early Sunday morning (while Jay was at work, of course), I was jolted from the deepest sleep by ear-splitting shrieks. As I lurched out of bed, I instinctively grabbed a shirt that was in a Goodwill pile. I threw it over Louie Belle who was crouched in the hallway with a screaming bunny in her mouth. As she dropped the little cottontail, I scooped it up in the shirt and stumbled out of the front door, still half asleep, while Zoe barked and ran circles in the foyer, overstimulated by the startling event.  

I quickly dropped the loosely-wrapped bunny under a bush next to the porch, and then turned to go back inside.

Just in time to see Zoe, in her considerable excitement, bump the door.

Which closed it.  

And automatically locked it. 

I stood dazed, disheveled, and wearing only my knee-length sleep shirt. I tried to tell myself that I was surely still in bed, dreaming, but the freezing rain on my bare feet finally convinced me otherwise.

Louie Belle and Zoe bounced from window to window to watch as I waded through frigid puddles and squished through mud to get to the backyard (I swear they were giggling), desperate to find our hidden key and fervently praying that the neighbors were still sleeping.

Caleb is now my favorite pet.

Zoe and Louie Belle trying to look innocent while thinking:
Baby bunny:  Free
Door nudge:  Free
Look on Mom's face when she realized we locked her outside in her sleep shirt:  Priceless!

Verse of the day:  (Revelation 3:20) "I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in..." 
To read about a lovely gift that Jay did not appreciate, click here.To read about more presents from my pets, click here

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thanks! I Think.

Today is my birthday, so this post will be short (like me). 

I've flattered myself that because I've kept my face out of the sun for most of my life, I look younger than I actually am. People have kindly kept me floating in this delusion as I've aged, but I was abruptly brought back to earth a few years ago when a dear friend (who was much older than me and close to fifty years old), talked with her mother and my name came up. 

Her mother assumed my friend and I were around the same age, and, thinking to compliment me, remarked, "You know, Pamela doesn't look like she's fifty." 

Which was a relief considering I was nowhere near fifty

Had to laugh. Happy birthday to me. 

She doesn't look like she's in 5th grade

Occasionally when I tell this story, someone bristles, "What's wrong with being fifty?"  

Nothing at all.  

And someday when I turn fifty, I won't be any happier if someone says to me, "Honey, no matter what anyone says; you don't look a day over sixty-two!"

Verse of the day: (Proverbs 20:29) "...the glory of the old is their gray head of wisdom." I color the gray out of my hair so I don't intimidate anyone with the profusion of "wisdom" sprouting on my head.

Caleb: You still look like a puppy to me (wink)! Happy Birthday!
Zoe: Oh, brother! Caleb, you are soooo embarrassing (eye roll).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mare's Milk, Anyone?

(Emails below have been edited for length and personal content)

After our first visit to the church we currently attend, we set up an appointment with one of the ministers, Pastor Scott, to learn more about it. We enjoyed talking with him but ran out of time to cover everything we wanted to discuss. He asked if we'd email him to schedule another meeting. 

Pastor Scott said he gets around 100 emails a day so we should make our email stand out from the others. Thus, I wrote in the subject line: Alien Monkeys Play Marbles with Dogman in Desert Cave. It worked! Pastor Scott responded right away. We tossed out a few dates and times, but none worked. He finally, graciously, offered to come over to our house...at 6 AM for coffee. 

We wrote back: 

From: nastase
To:  scott
Subject: visit
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 

We're not sure we know you well enough to have you over--we haven't done a background check on you yet--but it's an opportunity to trust God for His protection. July 28 works--that gives us time to clear anything objectionable from the house. We happen to already have an appointment at 6 AM that day (with a Serta mattress), so 2 or 3 PM would work much better.

We don't drink coffee, but we can offer you kumis (fermented mare's milk) or oyster juice with hot sauce (you can supply the vodka if you'd like--we only drink fermented milk, not fermented grain). 

Let us know which time works for you. Or just surprise us. We might sic the dog on you if it's before noon, but that would be a good conversation starter. We're looking forward to it.

God bless you!
Jay and Pamela

From: scott
To: nastase
Subject: Mare's Milk Rocks
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 


Thanks for this informative email...I think I'd like to hire you to take care of all of my correspondence.

Unfortunately, Thurs afternoon from 2-4 has me at a meeting here at the offices. Are you open to doing it a little earlier? HINT: if you can get to bed by 3:30 AM and get 8 hours of sleep, I can be at your house by 12 (after you've showered and brushed your teeth) and stay for one hour.

I was actually joking about coming to your house - however, I'm more-than-happy to do that!!! I do charge double for house calls.

Let me know if noon at your place can work....c'mon - you can do it!


From: nastase
To: scott
Subject: RE: Mare's Milk Rocks
Date: Wed, 20 Jul

Most people don't even know mare's milk has rocks in it! But you're welcome to ours. 

I don't think you were joking about coming over--we inspire fascination. We're used to it. You can come at 11 AM and have lunch with us. How does that sound? Unless, of course, you're scared of what we might serve.  

We know it will cost triple, but we trust it'll be worth it. 

He called and said a lunch meeting would work.  When I asked about the menu, he made the rookie mistake of saying he'd eat or drink anything we served. Well, I expect my pastor to be a man of his word, so surely you see that it was my godly duty to test his integrity. I clearly had no choice in the matter.

I heated some milk on the stove, crumbled Gorgonzola in it, and added one drop of green food coloring--just enough to turn the milk a sickly gray color. Then I poured it into a wooden pen holder with Korean writing on it because, to the uninformed, it looked kind of like a ceremonial cup,

Jay forgot to buy Gorgonzola cheese, so I used mayo and basil in this pictorial recreation.
The drink looked much worse when I made it for our poor pastor.
When Pastor Scott arrived, I said, "We're thrilled that you're willing to try unusual food and drink. Even kumis! Most people are leery of fermented mare's milk."

He laughed and said, "If you serve it, I'll drink it!"
I resisted rubbing my hands together while saying maliciously, "Oh, reeeeeally?" Instead, with an innocent expression, I brought out the wooden mug. The Gorgonzola cheese floated like curds, and Pastor Scott turned almost as gray-green as the milk. "Is this really fermented mare's milk?"

I wasn't going to lie, so I ignored his question and gushed, "I do hope you enjoy this drink that I made especially for you."

"Do you really want me to drink this?" he asked, with a nervous chuckle.

Jay shook his head violently behind my back. I threw a glare at Jay over my shoulder, and then answered, sweetly, "Well, you said you'd eat or drink anything, didn't you?"

"Don't drink it," Jay advised. 

It was then I realized that I hadn't washed out the pen holder, but I was already committed. I threw another ineffective glare in Jay's direction, and then smiled brightly as I handed Pastor Scott the unsightly concoction and said, "Of course, he's going to drink it! He's a man of his word."

God bless him, Pastor Scott gamely took a sip. A real sip--because I was watching to see if he'd try to fake it. Then I whisked the cup away and assured him that it was only cow's milk with bits of cheese (OK, and maybe a little residual ink from uncapped pens). That's when he told us a story about his baby finding an old bottle of curdled milk under the seat in the car, drinking it, and then spewing the contents everywhere. 

Which means that the one thing in the world that violently turns Pastor Scott's stomach is the smell of warmed milk.  

Now that is a man committed to integrity.

Verse of the day: (Deut 23:23) "Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do..." Even if it means choking down "fermented mare's milk."

To read how I pranked one of Jay's firefighters, click here

UPDATE: I now actually know how to make fermented mare's milk! I'm serious! I took a class. To read about that experience, click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pajama Pants

I suspect being home all the time has affected my view of which clothing is appropriate for which occasion.  

I moseyed out to our side yard one recent morning to see how much progress Jay had made in the construction of our soon-to-be raised garden bed. I found him talking to two boys from our neighborhood. The youngest looked at me oddly, so I answered his unspoken comment with, "Yes, I'm wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt. And, yes, I slept in them. Leave me alone--this is the South, so I'm allowed to be eccentric."

Hens (appropriately dressed in feathered ensembles) and Pamela (caught in the yard in her pajama pants)

To be fair, the pajama pants matched my coat perfectly. And they were advertised as "lounge wear." Since I had no intention of joining Jay in digging, there was no reason for me to change into "exertion wear."     

Zoe, on the other hand, always wears what's appropriate. Once, while my dad was visiting, she wore a cute, comfortable dress all day. When we were ready for bed, my dad picked her up to take her into his room. She was half asleep, and I didn't feel like changing her, so I lazily said, "That dress is just like a nightgown, isn't it?"  

Jay agreed.  

Dad agreed.  

Zoe disagreed.

This is a dress, not a nightgown

A few minutes later, Jay's and my bedroom door popped open, and Zoe stood, swaying sleepily, in the doorway. She toddled in, put her nose on her pajamas lying at the end of our bed, and looked at me with drowsy eyes like, "Surely, you didn't expect me to sleep in a dress."

Another day, my dad called out, "Pamela, something's wrong with Zoe! She's always excited to go for a walk, but now she won't leave the house."

I know her well, so I yelled back, "Dad, what's she wearing?"

"What's she wearing? What does that have to do with anything?"

"Dad, is she still in her pajamas?"

"Um, yeah. Are you trying to tell me she knows the difference between pajamas and the rest of her clothes? Don't be ridiculous. "

"Dad, just change her clothes."

He did (no doubt rolling his eyes). As soon as she was appropriately dressed, she raced to the door. I could hear my dad muttering, "I just can't believe this. I see it, but I just can't believe it." 

Sleep attire--not to be confused with STREET attire

Surely, he didn't expect her to walk though the neighborhood in pajamas.

Perhaps I should get her some "lounge wear."

Verse of the day:  (I Tim 2:9)  "...wear modest and appropriate clothing..."  
I have "modest" down, but I'm still working on "appropriate."  If you see me in Wal-Mart in pajamas, it's time to stage in an intervention. 

For a story about Jay's questionable clothing choices, click here.
For another story about Zoe's attire, click here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Daylight Nightlight

I've never been a fan of birds, but since Jay had to have backyard chickens, I agreed under three conditions:

1. We'd eat their eggs, not them,
2. I wouldn't have to clean a stinky cage, and
3. that they'd get love and care like our other pets.

Jay built a coop (an enclosed house with roosts for sleep and nests for eggs) on wheels with an attached run called a chicken tractor.
The coop (with the wee doorway) is in the back and the run (with the gate) is in the front.
It's not pretty, but we were advised to make our first chicken tractor from scrap.
It doesn't have a floor so the chickens can walk on the lawn, eat weeds and bugs, dig for worms, and "fertilize" the yard. We move the coop to a new spot every other day, and there is nothing to clean because the droppings dry and crumble into the grass. 
Caleb watching over "his" biddies
Since the chicken tractor is on wheels, it isn't flush to the ground (like a normal hen house). It's built with warped wood so there are gaps between boards in the coop. When the cold weather began a few months ago, I worried that our chickies would be chilled by icy drafts blowing up their tail feathers while they were trying to sleep.

I suggested we buy our hens little capes for warmth (I'm not crazy. They sell them on etsy.com. OK, it's a little crazy that I know that.), but Jay had a rather hostile reaction to the idea. It might have something to do with the fact that Zoe, our Bichon-mix, has accumulated at least nine coats of varying warmth (three of which are shown below), as well as several sweaters. At least she, unlike our poor chickens, was well prepared for inclement weather.

"But, honey," I coaxed, "it would help you tell the biddies apart. I could get a white cape for Blanche, a yellow one for Goldie, a pink one for Rose, and a green one for Henrietta! Of course, they'd need two capes apiece: one to wear and one to launder. And waterproof capes for rainy days and fleece-lined capes for snow..."

Jay was not buying it (or capes). Instead, he lined the coop with cardboard to stop drafts and add insulation. I countered by putting a thermostat inside the coop (it's hard to foil me when I'm on a mission) and found it was still only a few degrees warmer than outside. 

After I woke him several times on cold nights fretting about our girls' comfort, he finally hooked up a heat light to pacify me. We attached it to an outdoor thermostat outlet that turned the bulb on when the temperature dropped to 35 degrees F. 

Coop interior--cardboard over gaps & heat lights by the roost.
(That's Miss Blanche's backside in the doorway
Rookies that we are, we used a regular white light bulb instead of a red one (that registers as "night" in coops and submarines). Since chickens habitually enter their coop at dusk and leave it at first dawn, they were incredibly shocked when "sunlight" suddenly flooded the interior of their house around midnight. In a flutter, they raced outside only to discover, in cackling confusion, that it was still night.

Caleb, my service dog, was frantic when he sensed that "his" hens were distressed. Jay was at work (of course), so I had to put on my coat and boots and trudge out in a sleet storm to open the coop door so Caleb could see for himself that his fowls were flustered, but fine. Shivering, I calmed them down enough to roost, and Caleb reluctantly followed me back into the house.

I toweled the icy rain off of my hair and crawled back in bed. Did I get any sleep? Of course not. Every half an hour, the hens looked to see if the sun was shining outside as well as inside. How do I know this? Because they'd argue over whose turn it was to check. Their squabbling would wake Caleb. Caleb would wake me. 

The only thing I could see in the dark yard was the square cutout door glowing from the heat light inside the coop. I'd see the silhouette of one of the hens fly down into the doorway. She'd look left, look right, look up, and then she'd fly back to the perch to vociferously discuss her findings with the others: 

"It's still night outside."

"But it's day inside!"

"I know! But I checked, and it's night outside!"

"But it's day inside. How can it be night outside?"     

"I don't know. But it is night outside."

"But it's day inside!"

"I know! But it's night outside."

Finally, they'd argue themselves into a light slumber. Caleb would settle down, and I'd crawl back in bed. But in a half an hour, one of them would wake up and rouse the others, which would wake Caleb, and he'd whimper (ignoring my "They're fine--go to sleep") until I'd get up. I'd go to the window and hear the chicken version of:

"It's light. We always go outside when it's light."

"Last time we checked it was night outside."

"How can it be day inside and night outside?"

"I don't know, but it was."

"Go check again."

"You go check."

"'The early bird gets the worm.'"

"You can have the worm. I'm not budging until I know it's day. Besides, it's Rose's turn to check."

"But I don't want to check. Blanche can go."

"I checked the first time! Henrietta can check." 

"It has to be day. It's light inside."

"Fine. I'll go."

I'd see the silhouette of the next hen poking her head out the doorway, looking left, looking right, then looking up. She'd fly back on the roost, and then I'd hear their strident squawking of "It's still night outside!" "But it's day inside!"  




I called Jay in the morning before he left work to tell him that the only way he'd get in the house was if he first stopped by a pet store for a red heat bulb. I said, "The white light kept your chickens up. The chickens kept Caleb up. Caleb kept me up. But you'll be happy to hear Zoe snored blissfully through the whole thing."

The cat is now my favorite pet.

Verse of the day: (Psalm 139:12) "To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You." 

For another chicken story, see "Hidden Hen Hazards."