Archive for January, 2012

Not Too Bright. And An Auction!


“You may be a redneck if you are currently attending sixth grade on the GI Bill,” is a line that always pops into my head when I see someone doing something that doesn’t seem very bright.

Me, for instance.

After my car would not start the other night, I found myself standing out in the nearly-empty parking lot after work on a frigid (-26 degrees) evening, looking under the hood at a cheap and now dead battery stamped September 2009, wondering why I hadn’t noticed it earlier, as I have been driving this particular car since late summer.

Stunned by its newness all these weeks, blinded by it’s lovely red coat, I neglected something important, like checking the condition of a battery that might have to see me through a Minnesota winter. I waited for one of the coldest nights of the year to discover it wouldn’t even see me home.

Not too bright. I admit it.

I figure I’ve proven many times over that I am just about bright enough to be hazardous to my own well-being. Let’s just say foresightedness is not my strong suit.

Chivalry is not dead, as it happens, but by the time people showed up to help, I had already called a tow truck, who got it started right away and advised me to let it run for at least half an hour before shutting it off. Which I did. 47 minutes, to be precise.

And so imagine my surprise this morning when I was happily planning to pick up my sister in Gordon and drive to an auction in rural Wisconsin, when I turned the key and heard that dreadful click click click.

The second tow truck driver was equally friendly as the first, and cheerful, given the chill in the air and the fact that I hadn’t backed into the garage, which a brighter person may have done, considering the events of the night before. (See paragraph five.)

“College battery,” he said. “We call them ‘May Starts.'”

Not my battery, though it was probably on its way.

Another battery jump and a trip to a service station for a new battery, and I was on my way to meet my sister, who by now had driven herself to the auction and was already bidding on stuff. And so I arrived, a few hours later than I’d planned, a bit poorer, but by now better equipped for cold weather. Lesson learned. The hard way.

Giving credit where credit is due, because I so adore people who do what they say they’ll do: My thanks to Thompson’s Express on 27th Avenue West (unfailingly cheerful service every time I go there) and K/J Auto Service at the top of Woodland Avenue. Good fellas. (But not in that “I’m gonna smash your kneecaps” kind of way.)

But oh, the auction! I almost forgot.

My sister Kim and her hubby are avid auction attendees. They sometimes allow me to tag along. It’s hard for me to keep up with the action, since I’m always afraid I’ll bid against myself (see paragraph 5) and so it’s that rare instance when I get to tell people my sister Kim will do my bidding.

Not OUR auction, but could have been. I kept my camera in my purse. Its battery was charged, I hasten to add.

Farm and rural auctions are not the hoity-toity places where scratching your nose will cost you $1,000. They are social events, casual and fun, great for people watching, and (for me) filled with high humor. If you bid on something by mistake, or you bid and then change your mind, you can just say say, and the sale moves on without you, no harm done.

There are a lot of men at auctions. A lot.

Also, they usually sell things like chocolate cake, hot dogs and Coke.

How can this not be a fun day?

My sister is a serious bidder, undaunted by my nattering about dead batteries, chipped fingernails and friendly men, and she ended up with lots of very cool stuff today. While she was hauling treasures out to her car, I bought two turn-of-the-century toasters and an old coffee pot for $2. Not by bidding, but because the auctioneer stared at me until I said “Sure!” which is how we bid for ourselves in Duluth. “Sure! I’ll take ’em!”

They’re pretty. And I do love old kitchen appliances. But that’s another story for another day.

Here are people you would have recognized at the auction: Santa Claus (who has trimmed down since December) and Wild Bill Hickok. You might think they have similar attributes, but I tell you the are two separate men, and they were both there. I had my camera with me, but I didn’t think it would be polite to take photos of them. Wild Bill looked at me once, and I think he was saying “If you won’t go to Deadwood, Deadwood will come to you.”

Sadly, I did not see Calamity Jane, though I did see a calamity between a husband and wife, which sort of surprised me in its decibel level. But hey: been there.

Well, that is my story of car batteries and farm auctions. I spent $2 at the auction, and well over $200 just getting there.

Not too shabby.

And not too bright.

Food For Thought.


So I was in the grocery store the other night (one of my favorite things to do) when a bunch of food mysteries crossed my mind. A few nights before, I had prepared some citrusy chicken wings for dinner, and they were delicious, but they were enormous. It made me think about the rest of the chicken. It made me think of chickens in general. How do they get so big? What kind of miserable, fast lives do they have to live to produce enormous wings that someone will throw under the broiler a few days later and then forget about? Where do these chickens come from? Some kind of Giant Chicken ranch?

I promise I will not begin any sentence with “When I was a kid.” But years ago (when I was not an adult) chicken was smaller, and chicken was tastier. No matter where I shop these days, and no matter how I prepare it, chicken tastes plasticky to me. It is not the chicken I remember. It is twice the size of chickens I remember, but that’s probably because American dinner plates are now the size of what my mom used to call a “platter.”

This is not my mom, but it's probably how she'd look if she wore glasses and if she happened to see the size of dinner plates in 2012.

Speaking of chicken, did you know there are about 75 varieties of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup? I didn’t, either, because I don’t eat canned soup and I don’t buy cereal, so those aisles are largely foreign territory for me. But I had a coupon for 4 cans of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup which I was going to donate to the food shelf. Naturally I became dazed and confused trying to find them, and of course picked up four cans of the wrong stuff, and then had to hold up my grocery line while I ran back for the right ones. (I know. I hate when someone else does that, so I apologize to everyone in that line who had better things to do with their time than to wait for me. I saw you rolling your eyes, but I forgive you. Been there.)

There is Homestyle Chicken Noodle, Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle, Chicken Noodle with Vegetables, Healthy Choice Chicken Noodle, Low Sodium Chicken Noodle… God. I thought of simply running out of the store, but I figured security would be all over that. So I get back to the counter, breathlessly apologize to everyone, and leave with my (probably 15 cent) savings. Mission accomplished.

When the clerk told me I’d picked up the wrong cans, I thought about just buying them to be done, until she told me they were $1.55. Apiece. That would be about $6 for four cans of sodium-enriched plasticky soup. Who buys that stuff? For $6 you could buy an entire (again, plasticky and genetically enlarged) chicken, roast the thing for two dinners and still have parts left to make your own soup. Tasty chicken soup, too.

Meanwhile, down the meat and poultry displays, I am saddened to relate that you can no longer buy a pork or beef roast with a lot of marbling in it. You know what marbling is, of course… it’s fat. It’s the stuff that tastes good. It’s the stuff that makes roasts juicy and tender, taking you back to winter dinners at your aunt Kay’s house. (Okay, MY aunt Kay.) The reason we can no longer buy these is that the public demands less fat in their cuts of meat, and farmers have responded, and the resulting product is generally dry and stringy. I weep for a 1950 pork roast.

Yeah. I don't know, either.

In the produce department, I have to wonder what’s happened to lemons over the years. I remember those small pretty yellow lemons that had thin skins and you could squeeze juice out of them. Remember? Maybe it’s just where I shop, but I can’t seem to find them anymore. The lemons I find these days are huge, with pebbly skins that are about half an inch thick, and the lemon itself is dry once you finally get to it. Where are the good lemons?

Oh, pretty juicy lemons ... how I miss you!

Limes seem to have been spared this fate. You can still buy good limes.

Whew! That was close.

Can you even buy yellow grapefruit anymore? The pink ones are good; juicy and sweet, but where are the tart yellow ones? Did America give up on those, too?

(Where was I when this vote was taking place?)

I can remember when you could buy celery that came with a thick rubber band around it, and I remember when each piece of fruit did not have to have a sticker on it.

Yeah, that’s how old I am.

And really: do we need that many brands of cereal? Cereal at my store takes up both sides of an entire aisle, except for Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal, which is found in the health food section. What does that tell ya? (“Yeah, we know this is all sugary non-food crap, but the kids seem to like it….”)

Do I need to start shopping elsewhere?

Those are my grocery store gripes for this week. Do you have any? Dish, she said, keeping with the food theme.

That's the kind of crop circle I'd like to leave.

Stop Saying This, Part 2.


Last January 27, I wrote a list of words and phrases that drove me crazy. I should know how to make links, but I’m too lazy to figure it out tonight while my brain is on fire. Find it here, I think:

After careful review, I realize they still do make me crazy, though I hear them less and less. (Imagine the feeling of power!)

Anyhoo, I read Lake Superior State College’s list of words we should banish for 2012, and I agree with most of them, although I still think “occupy” is a viable word; I’ve never heard anyone say “trickeration,” and I don’t think “amazing” is quite as overused as the one that starts my list. Please stop saying these things immediately:

Awesome.” This still tops my list of words that can make my brain hurt. Having soup for lunch is not awesome. Seeing snow or rain outside is not awesome. The second coming of Christ… That would be awesome. Save that word for then!

Bucket List.” Probably cute for a movie title, but if there are things you want to do before you die, go do them. Don’t make movie titles a part of your daily speech. Use your brain and live longer.

Push back (or push up) the date.” Maybe it’s just me, but I never understood that phrase. If you push back a meeting, doesn’t that mean you’ll meet in July instead of June? Or is it the other way around? It’s a confusing term. Let’s never use it again.

No problem.” This is not an appropriate response to “Thank you,” though it’s a lot better than “whatever,” which is also dismissive and tends to stop you in your tracks. When someone says “Thank you,” the correct response is “You’re welcome.” We learned it as children. It still pertains!

Nazi,” when applied to anything but an actual Nazi, is really a terrible word. Despite Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, it is not humorous to call anyone a Nazi, and if you can’t figure out why, look up the historical meaning. Being strict about something doesn’t make you a Nazi.

Beautiful inside and out.” When I hear this expression used to describe anyone, I cringe. I can only imagine body parts like livers, lungs, stomach linings and intestines. I don’t know what you look like inside, and frankly, I don’t want to. You may have a wonderful personality (and face to match) but what you look like inside is something I don’t want to know.

Preheat oven,” which I may have used in some of my recipes, though it is a confusing phrase. Pre-heat it? Heat it before what? Heat it before you heat it? If you heat your oven to 350 degrees before you bake something, isn’t that a heated oven? Why would you pre-heat it? How would you pre-heat it? If you want to bake on Friday, do you pre-heat on Thursday? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Suck it.” It pains me to even write this one. “Suck” alone was bad enough, but we had to add the “it,” which makes it 20 times worse. I don’t care how many times we hear this on TV (sorry to note that “Modern Family” took the low road) but it’s just all wrong. Eeeewwwwww.

Put a fork in me, I’m done.” Thank you, Judge Milian, and everyone else who thinks this is cute. We put forks in things to find out if they ARE done, not to indicate that they are done. Stop saying that. You (Judge M) already look like a nitwit for losing your temper at odd moments. Don’t add to it with unacceptable phrases.

So those are mine. I’m sure there are many more. I probably have a list somewhere, but my desk is piled high with other important notes that I’ll never be able to find when the time comes.Surely you must have a few. Let’s hear them!

A parting thought that reminds me of a door sign I saw as a child, and have never been able to forget:

“If you call when we’re not home,

Leave a note and we’ll atone.”

So leave a note and I’ll atone. Which reminds me… if you haven’t seen “Atonement,” see it.

But I digress.

Happy New Year!