Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever (Or Yesterday)

First, the soundtrack. . .

There. That's better.

When this weekend rolled around, I didn't have high expectations. A husband who has worked nights for 13 years and has to "cover" Sunday nights usually means the Kidlet and I fend for ourselves in the world of weekend diversions.  There are only so many manicures, movie marathons and cozy-up-with-a-cup-of-tea-and-a-good-book days you can have during a grey winter and rather damp spring, but we've managed. Kidlet's love of Animal Jam and Webkinz websites may have become an addiction, but it's a too-convenient way to manage her love of animals while we live long (but not exactly prosper) in an apartment that is 1/3 of the size of our house in Texas (that we still own). She also visits her menagerie of stuffed animals in the garage (weekly) - as well as her Razr, Razr Vespa, and bicycle (daily, weather permitting).

For those of you who haven't been nagged, here's animal ownership without buying stuffed animals (although, a paid premium membership is available - of course.) Animal Jam - National Geographic.

And the site where many a shopping/gaming/stuffed animal ownership addiction begins: Webkinz.

As much as Kidlet loves these, there are only so many times I can walk over to admire the new online outfit, accessory or home furnishing she's bought for the online zoos she's managing, so I was hoping we'd find something else to do this weekend.

Who would've thought Hubby would be the source? Since December, he'd been suggesting that I meet one of his co-workers, and maybe work out with her at Planet Fitness. Of course, what with his Y chromosome, he didn't understand that most women do NOT want to meet another woman for the first time while wearing exercise clothes and glowing so profusely from exercise that the sweat stains look like odor-enhanced Rorschach tests. It's not as if she's going to stand near the door carrying a cardboard sign with my name - like a limo driver at the airport. However, with my luck, she'd be wearing these - with a smile - and Botox-paralyzed sweat glands:

Flower power can be highly overrated - and over-used in fashion.
Photo courtesy:

She's the mother of three, so it wasn't likely, but it was possible. (Admittedly, I am the "glass is not only half-empty, but the glass is cracked and the liquid is poison" kind of person. It's part of my charm.)

Fortunately for all of us, busy season at their office meant no "workout blind date" - and although they have to work tonight - Sunday - Hubby suggested we all go berry-picking at a Strawberry Festival near our new-ish hometown. I admit when I first heard the idea, the Von Trapp children popped into my head. (Scary how my mind works sometimes, but there it is.)

Marta: Friedrich told you, Father, we were berry picking.
Captain: I forgot you were berry picking!
Children: Yes! yes...
Captain: All afternoon?
Children: Uhmhm!...
Louisa: We picked thousands of them!
Captain: Thousands?!
Children: Yes!

It sounded like fun, especially since we prefer fresh fruit that tastes, well, like fruit - and the Carolinas do have that, in abundance (in addition to Republicans). Produce at the mega marts tastes like preservative-infused plastic in various colors, much like toddler toys.

Hubby got off work at 7 am, was home by 7:30 and announced, "I'll sleep for an hour and a half and then we'll go." After Prince Charming awakened from his slumber, we got ready for the fields. It was another gloomy, grey 60-degree day in the Carolinas, which meant people were either in hoodies and jeans, or shorts and a tee shirt.  (They say Texans are strange.)

Thankfully, Hubby's co-worker, Amanda, turned out to be very nice. She, too, dresses like a mom who would be berry picking with her kids after getting off work (solid color tee and jeans - like I did) and we did what all moms and long-marrieds do: discuss our "other child" - the husband.  It was part of Hubby's plan, of course, when he commented on the way there: "I think you two will hit it off. Her husband is a mechanic and there's a broken down boat and car in her yard. You can complain to each other." He knew this would work because, as all wives know, at least the other woman will be LISTENING.

So, in his defense, he was right. She and I are part of the sisterhood whose husbands who are responsible. . .AT WORK.

Oh, yes! What else did we do? The berry picking. It was less Sound of Music/Strawberry Fields Forever and more, "Mom, can I eat this berry?" (times 20) and "Mom, can she come over to our house?" (Not today) and "Mom, can we go to the park together?" (No, because we have two parents who are going to have sleep-deprived mania if they don't get home soon.)  Four adults and four kids had a pretty nice time. Oh, and those berries? AWESOME!

Handpicked with love - and greed.

We went on a hayride (free), got our exercise taking the scenic little walking trail (free), bought a strawberry slushie ($2.50) and picked berries ($11 for a heaping gallon - and we get to keep the farm logo-laden bucket). A band performed - and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches were available for sale, too. Nice folks. Nice time. The festival is the only time you can pick your own berries (I think), and Kidlet made a friend, so it was all good:

Native Carolinian on a 60 degree day: shorts/short sleeve tee/brother's hiking boots (because it was muddy).
Native Texan: jeans, old sneakers, long sleeve tee AND add'l short sleeve shirt (because we were COLD).
Amanda (the co-worker) and I "hit it off" - I think - and we did the exchange of contact information. Now, the wait begins.  The good signs: In addition to the shared understanding of what it means to be a wife who doesn't want to have to act like her mother-in-law (!) in order to get things done, Amanda complimented my hair (which was a mess) and my phone case (which is, I admit, kinda purdy - for an Otterbox):

Available from Amazon - like most things in my life. :)

The bad? She has no internet access at home, can't get on Facebook at work - and, oh yeah, also works third shift. It will be another person I can't see very often because she, well, sleeps during the day.  Kidlet and I know the drill - and the drain it puts on a family. Amanda and I  agree that humans aren't meant to stay up all night and sleep all day, but you go where the work is and do what is required (we both are beholden to that reality). So, we'll see.  Fingers crossed and phone checked not too neurotically for texts/e-mails/calls. (She's working tonight. . .remember?)

"Living is easy with eyes closed," John Lennon sang, but for us, spending time in a Strawberry Field yesterday, living here - far from home - felt a bit easier. Period.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Five Fab Faves for Friday!

Thanks to Kate from The Small Things Blog and Lauren, who writes From My Grey Desk, I've decided to accentuate the positive today. . .because the gray skies near Charlotte, NC, have not made it the most happy week. A transplanted Texan is used to this kind of cloudy day:

Lake Waco - raindrops do not fall on one's head - nor in one's lake that often. Today's high: 91 degrees.
(Photo courtesy:

We are NOT used to this:

Lake Wylie, SC - I think I'll call it Lake WillIeverseesun? Today's high: 79 with isolated storms tonight (PTA Carnival Night with outdoor movie) 
Photo courtesy:

Right now, however, the sun is shining and all is right in the world - as long as I don't watch the news, read the paper - or talk to my in-laws. (I kid, I kid.)

In the spirit of being positive and putting my Pollyanna on, here's my version of the "glad game" this week:

1. I'm glad Kidlet did extraordinarily well on the MAP test administered at her school this week and extremely proud to be her mom.  I think MAP is an acronym for "Measure of Academic Progress" - but I'm not going to dwell on it because standardized tests are like designer clothing lines - changing and occasionally more absurd with every season.

Kidlet is eerily book smart, wise and intuitive. . .and we still tell her to look "on her other right" when she can't find something in the fridge, cabinet or closet. I LOVE HER.  Seriously.  She scored above her grade level in both Reading and Math, but her father and I are arguing over who will have to teach her how to drive:

Photo courtesy:
Did I mention she and I are both blonde?

2.  I was invited to a breakfast to thank school volunteers. Since we moved here in October, well into the school year, it was a challenge for all of us. Kidlet was used to my working at a school, but I became a SAHM again (with her school hours from 7:30 - 2:15).  I couldn't substitute teach - with 5 years' experience as a school office employee and classroom aide - until I attended a 3-hour workshop. While I was waiting for the life-changing training session, I offered to help in any way I could, which meant quality time with a cordless glue gun in the school hallways.  That was fun. No. Really. I got to know teachers and students, which is what all moms with only one child like to do. Snoop. . .with permission. 

3. I discovered how to make cake mix cookies. BEST. HOMEBAKER FAKE. EVER.  Kidlet and husband prefer them to cookies I make from scratch, because I like crunchy cookies (and since I'm the one making them, they tended to be, well, crunchy.) Nom, nom, nom.  Anyway, I discovered that by adding eggs and oil - or eggs, oil and water, you have happy people in a fraction of the time and your house doesn't smell like the garbage hubby forgot to take out. Again. 

Making these made me so happy! I had no idea! Some people get really creative by adding nuts, chocolate or candies to the mix, but they're just fine without them. Seriously. It's cake mix. It's all there, including all those preservatives and additives that coat our insides. Bon appetit! 

You can learn more here (I flatten the cookies with a glass dipped in sugar rather than flour, btw):

Read the comments from other pastry chefs, er, home cooks, about how they make the batter better:

Even if you don't add anything extra, they do taste pretty darn good and you only mess up one bowl. Yay!

4. I'm not scheduled for a colonoscopy, nor being nagged by medical personnel to get one. . .nor by anyone else, actually.  Anyone who can say that should be happy, don't you think?

5. What always makes me smile: my favorite tee shirt, inspired by my favorite sitcom: 

"All hail, Sam Kass."

So here's the shirt, which I wore on vacation to visit my parents, who might have appreciated the shirt more - or stared quizzically at me less -  if they had seen the above-referenced clip of "The Big Bang Theory."  As it is, they finally broke down the second time I wore it (after laundry, naturally) and asked, "What does that mean?" - pointing to my chest. (I love my dad.) 

I realize now that a depiction of hand gestures on a your daughter's upper body could be cause for concern:  

Actual age: 42. Age when in the company of my parents: 12 (tall and big-boned, I think is what they call it.)

So, there you have it. I've laundered, loitered and listed - and it's not even noon yet! Hope you find or ferret out some favorite things this Friday - and we'll see if I can blog a bit better. . .later.