Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Amish Friendship Bread Pyramid Scheme

I went out with some chick friends last week and one friend was lamenting the fact that her neighbor had given her Amish Friendship bread starter. She told us that it was too much of a commitment; she was going on vacation. With this starter, one must leave it out for 10 days, kneading it every so often (we were wondering why it doesn't go bad). This made me laugh; I've never heard someone so sad about baked goods before!

My thought was this (probably because I'm not overly domestic): who wants to do all that work for some bread? I'll just make it in the breadmaker, visit Avalon Bakery in Detroit, or make beer bread, which requires hardly any ingredients, doesn't require any time to rise, and is fantastic.

The friendship bread saga continues, though: on day 10, the dough is to be divided and extra is given to friends. They're supposed to start the process all over and then give some of the dough to their friends and the cycle continues.

I pondered this, then summarized the bread process: it's a pyramid scheme. The original breadmaker reels in unsuspecting fools to help with spread the Amish bread takeover who then in turn recruit more breadmakers. Friendship, my hiney.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reaons I love Flint

From Sep 11, 2009
-brick roads;
-Farmer's Market with live music;
-a roadside stand with crepes (go, go, small business trying to make a go of it downtown and make some dollar bills!);
-and, the best part ever, a cute little dude who rides around in a mule to give parking tickets. He's slightly round, gray-haired, wears suspenders, and smokes a pipe while he writes out tickets. I tried to contain my glee at seeing him*, but it was difficult because he was adorable and I wanted to pinch his cheeks.
*I probably would have not harbored the same feelings had I been the subject of the parking ticket.

Here is proof that he actually exists. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Free" pamphlets, get your "free" pamphlets

From Jan 5, 2010
At work, one of the regulars* was talking to my boss. I was engrossed in a project so I wasn't really paying attention. After the regular left, my boss showed me the business card the regular had given him. Apparently he's some sort of "motivational" speaker for those who don't like to pay taxes (or at least that's the impression I got). We checked out his most awesomely done website, replete with American flags, tiled, for your enjoyment.
The gentleman offers "free" pamphlets for the low cost of...$2. See, you must send two $1 bills to this gentleman; one bill is for postage and printing and the other bill is for advertising costs.** But quick! Order now! These "free" pamphlets won't be around for long.
We also were really impressed because the pamphlet was full of "facts"*** that you, too, can verify on the internet; it even suggests that you should. You know, because the internet is such an authoritative and reliable source ALL THE TIME.
*I almost want to call them irregulars because of the odd things they do ;-)
**Since I sometimes feel very evil, I almost wanted to scrounge up a $2 bill to send to him just to rock his little world.
***Ouch, this has been an "overload."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

O, Canada

From Mar 10, 2010
I enjoyed a nice little trip to Canada a few days ago with a friend. I ate some poutine (which is an acquired taste; in other words, I didn't care for it) and went to the most-awful dive bar ever. It was AWESOME. Seriously, there is nothing like a good dive bar. This one was complete with dirt in the corners, weird locals in shorts (it was in the high 40s), cobwebs on the walls, foosball, computer word games, and obscenely named drinks. I wish a clone of the place was down the road from me.
The obscenely named drinks made playing the computerized word games more challenging. Since my friend and I both think we're the supreme gods of Boggle, the "collaborative" rounds we played became more of a challenge, a throw-down of vocabulary, if you will.
The locals added some interesting dynamics to the evening. We got roped into a conversation with the guy in shorts and a winter coat (I thought the coat was a nice touch). It was a very weird conversation, to say the least.
Though a lot of my background actually is Canadian (sorry, dad, but the French is way too far back there to count), I don't know that I am true to that heritage. After all, I don't see the appeal of poutine. Fries with gravy? How about ketchup, instead? And why does there have to be cheese in it? Did someone have a weird mix of leftovers once and threw it together to create a regional dish? However, it's fun to cross a bridge or drive through a tunnel and be transported to a whole different world, country, whathaveyou.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Education a la Catholic school

I spent 13 years of my life doing time at Catholic schools. I received an excellent college prep education but the religious part didn't stick. However, the schools did present an interesting take on sex education.

In grade school and middle school, we learned about the finer points of anatomy from an oddly named series, New Creation. We had sadistic teachers who delighted in making students read aloud from the books.

I do remember a very odd chapter, possibly titled "Petting." It was absolutely bizarre. The chapter indicated that it was wrong to "pet" outside of marriage. I was a bit freaked out by this "petting" term and had no idea what it was exactly. Even then, as naive as I was, I felt that all was not right with the book. Even though we were using the books in the late 80s/early 90s, I bet that the content's original copyright was in the 50s or perhaps the 70s; it's the only logical reasoning for the bizarre statements.

In high school, the fun continued, or perhaps it didn't. The only health-related information we received was in the Christian Living class during our senior year (too little, too late, perchance, judging by the pregnant 16 and 17 year olds?) in which we had to watch a video of a woman giving birth and a Bill Cosby comedy skit. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or throw up. I only did the former.

We did have one assignment where we had to carry around an egg "baby" all week, supposedly to help us appreciate the responsibilities of parenthood. Public schools, who actually have money, usually use a high tech mechanical doll thing that can even measure the quality of care. We had Grade A eggs. We had to draw the name of our "spouse" and the co-parent of the egg baby. I was totally unlucky, however, and drew the name of a kid that I swear had to have been a total crackhead. I had a fit and demanded an instant divorce and that Child Protective Services needed to be called in. To pacify me, the teacher said that I could be a single mom and that there would be no visitation privileges. Thank goodness.

When in Paris/Brussels/Amesterdam

From December 14, 2008

I recently returned home from my week-long trip to Europe with my friend K. We had a great time and saw many interesting things, including many, many hookers, a church in the attic, a crazy flea/antiques market (puces!), chestnuts roasting over an open shopping cart, "coffee" shops, Post-Impressionist paintings, a statue of a little boy peeing that is supposedly world-renowned (um, I hadn't heard of it before), a huge atom sculpture with a restaurant inside, etc.

Plus, I now have a potential husband in every port that we visited, it appears. In Paris at the flea market, I was grabbed by the hand, kissed on it, and kissed on the cheek by a pseudo-French dude (I doubt that he had legal resident status there) who wanted me to take him home to America with me. He also kissed K's hand, too, so she didn't feel left out (he probably wanted to cover all of his bases). I declined to pack him in my suitcase and bring him home with me, but I did buy a pretty freakin' cool hooded sweatshirt there so I could fondly remember my "husband" (actually, I had planned to buy it anyway).

In Brussels, we were walking through an obnoxious restaurant quarter where the servers try to sweet talk people into the restaurants. We were just passing through to get to the other side of the road (just like the chicken jokes go) and a waiter opened his mouth to start his spiel. I didn't want him to waste his breath and I didn't want to hear it anyway, so I told him, "no thanks, we're not hungry." He cried out, "No, that's not what I want; I'm single!" K and I laughed really hard at that one.

Finally, in Amsterdam, K and I were walking around the Red Light District, which also conveniently hosts Chinatown. We were in search of rangoons for her because she had a mighty fierce craving for them. There were two really loud, rambunctious dudes walking in front of us. They were ebullient, exclaiming something and singing. One of the guys leaped into the air, grabbed my arm, and said something very happy. I hypothesized that he either had just experienced some very good luck (if you know what I mean) or was pleasantly surprised by the amount and variety of ladies of the night in that quarter. Either way, I really wanted no part of it as I am not part of the selection, but whatever.

In other words, it was an odd, but interesting trip.

It pays to read first...

Especially when traveling in foreign lands, it is advisable to read packaging on products thoroughly before using them. I experienced this firsthand when I popped into a convenience store to buy some gum in Amsterdam. I grabbed what I thought was Winterfresh gum, my favorite flavor. I popped a piece in my mouth and just about choked. It tasted like Vick's, certainly not spearmint. I read the label and it said Menthol / Eucalyptus. Who thought THAT would be a good idea?!* Seriously! I thought it was so gross that I made K try some. She concurred.

I will say, however, that the taste grew on me and I try to find this flavor whenever I travel in Europe.

*=a menthol cigarette smoking koala bear, I bet you

Friday, December 23, 2011

You might want to x-ray that

From Mar 31, 2010

I found this lovely book today: Arrested: What to do When Your Loved One is In Jail. If I were to write the book, it would only be one sentence.

This is what I'd write: Bake a cake with a file or a shank in it. The End.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Men with mehndi

From Sep 12, 2010
This weekend, I camped at a totally awesome music festival, Wheatland, up north with my family, friends, and various combinations of our/their friends/family. It's a pretty crazy, fun event with folk music and debauchery, but is still mostly family-friendly despite this. As long as you're not hurting/bothering someone else, it seems as if almost anything goes.

I worked a volunteer shift and afterward my brother asked me what I was up to. Since my friends I hadn't seen in ages in were there and I was still feeling way under the weather, I decided to have a more mellow night with them at their camp. He decided to strike out with his friend N and meet new people. He cracks me up; he just wanders around, carries his fiddle with him, and will pull up a chair wherever people seem interested in hanging out or playing music, whether or not he knows them. By the end of the night they'll be like old friends anyway.

We parted ways and I sat with my friends and their family and of course we ended up laughing like fiends. I determined that at Wheatland, the seal breaks you and other such things, and that I did not have a collapsed lung, thanks to my friend's brother, who's a nurse and took the place of Google for me that night.

Around 4 a.m. I returned to my family's camp and ran into my brother, freshly returned from his adventures. He had me in stitches because he found an old friend and he had the inside line on some henna tattoos. He was very, very excited about getting the tattoos, which may or may not have been influenced by the adult beverages he had consumed. In between fits of giggles and coughing fits, I told him that normally when guys get drunk they get real tattoos, not finding excitement in the possibility of henna tattoos.

The next morning he elaborated and I laughed even more. This festival is run primarily through volunteer labor, so this friend was asked to help with the henna tattoos. He has no tattoo, art, or henna experience, but a good attitude, so he said sure, I can draw swirls on people. Well, in a sad turn of events, people were disappointed with his tattoos. They were expecting the beautiful mehndi designs associated with henna tattoos; instead they were given scraggly swirls or happy faces. However, sobriety and this fact still did not dampen my brother's enthusiasm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Too many ----- on the dance floor

From Sep 13, 2010
This weekend, I volunteered at the dance floor at the music festival. My job, I was told, was to keep people from drinking and smoking on the dance floor and to keep the rowdiness to a manageable level. One gentleman likes to dance on his head and at first I was told to not let him do that, but then I was told it was okay.
What they didn't tell me was how to deal with a giant gorilla who ran out on the dance floor, as well as a dude with a giant character head (and it was truly huge but I couldn't tell if it was Elvis or someone else because he went through so fast), or the woman wearing a life jacket. I guessed that the correct response was to laugh, which is what I did.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Take that, in whatever language

From Sep 28, 2010
Tonight marked the beginning of French class for me. Our instructor is absolutely adorable, and of course, very French. She was telling us a story about when she was living and working abroad in an expat community. Her boss was American and used the F-word all the time. She had an inkling that it wasn't a nice word, but didn't realize that it was the granddaddy of bad words. Her boss asked her to work on the f-ing report and give it back to him the following week.

She willingly completed the report, handed it to him and said "there's your f-ing report." Her boss's supervisor heard her say that, took her aside, and asked her if she knew what the word meant. She thought it was something along the lines of "stupid." She was absolutely mortified when she learned the actual meaning of it.

That's always a fear when learning another language and trying to operate in that language's world; will you commit a faux pas? [Will there be fox paws?] At worst, will you say something horribly offensive and get yourself in trouble, or at best, will you call yourself a doughnut? Such are the joys of different languages.
And I apologize to the French language; I did things to it tonight that no language ever deserves. It was bad (but the instructor was so sweet and supportive, even though my pronunciation was probably like nails on a chalkboard to her).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Say what?

From Oct 1, 2010
I'm visiting my family and am working on the computer while my mom's watching Hoarders in the other room. I heard someone on the show speaking and commented that the woman sounded like the mom from Big Love.*

My mom asked, "What? The mom from Big Lots?"
Me: "No, from Big...never mind."

*Bill Paxton's character's mother

Friday, December 9, 2011

Paella in yo' face!

From Dec 9, 2009

If Westerns shot in Italy are called spaghetti westerns, then by my reasoning, Westerns shot in Spain would be called paella Westerns.

The Statue Park

From Mar 28, 2010

I'm back from a jaunt to Europe. My friend and I accidentally almost became fugitives from Hungarian law, tried our darndest not to laugh at a guy who kept tripping on blocks on the Charles Bridge because he was smoking and not paying attention (we failed miserably at not laughing), walked miles and miles, made a music video about sinkholes in Prague sidewalks, and had a great time.

Before the trip, I had been ruminating over getting to the Communist Statue Park in Budapest. The directions we researched, while technically correct, lacked sufficient detail. They said ride to the end of the line, turn left, and walk through the woods. Um, yeah. Ride the tram to the end of the line, turn left, walk about 2-3 blocks, turn left into the woods, take the middle trail which is probably about 2 miles or so (walk about 30-45 minutes, depending on the length of your travel partner's legs/stride and the degree of your jetlag), chug up the last hill (again, only as difficult as your jetlag is), and turn right toward the giant mushroom, as the pleasant, helpful Hungarians call it. By mushroom, they mean the water tower that looks like a UFO or a mushroom (again, depending on the degree of your jetlag). Turn left onto the road that deadends on the trail and stagger another 1/4 mile to the park. You can see it right after the garden store. You can see the arms of Communists poking above the walls of the garden store. Look around at the statues, make the YMCA sign (backwards) with one of the statues, and stagger back to your hotel.The park isn't wildly entertaining, but you can say that you possess the fortitude to get there.

The Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora is about as fun to get to, but it involves multiple buses and a test of willpower of how badly you want to see it. If you want to test the fortitude of your stomach, try out the "charming" bathrooms at the Kutna Hora bus stop. By the way, the ossuary in Rome trumps that one and is far easier to get to, so if it's a tossup if you'd like to see Czech or Roman bones, I'd say go for the Roman ones. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kids say the darndest things

From Oct 4, 2010
I was visiting my parents this weekend and my brother dropped off my almost two year old niece while he took the older niece to soccer practice. My parents were grilling her -- erm, I mean, talking to her. They were asking her where daddy went; where was mommy; does mommy work; where does mommy work?
I could tell that my niece was sick of being on the witness stand so the final question, where does mommy work? did her in. She finally said, "I don't want to talk about it."

We laughed so hard because she's not even two yet and is already saying things like that. I hypothesized that it may be her take on working mothers.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's a fan to do? : Look Like an Idiot

From Apr 11, 2010

Last night in Detroit, I was enjoying a drink with a friend at a bar (Park Bar) that I like very much. A guy walked in wearing what I at first thought was one of those helmets that people wear when they have seizures. Then a few more guys strolled in and they were wearing the "helmets" too. I started getting this hey-dude-bro-man vibe and then realized that the helmets were made of paper. I started to put several key clues together and I came up with the hypothesis that they have just come from a hockey game and the paper things were supposed to look like hockey helmets. I then wondered if the guys realized just how stupid they look.

The crowning moment* was when I saw one guy who took the whole helmet thing even farther: he had created a chin strap for his helmet out of toilet paper. I was despondent that I hadn't brought my camera with me.

* har-de-har-har, pun intended

Friday, December 2, 2011

We're spineless here

From Apr 25, 2010
I was at work when I was asked, "you guys don't have a skeleton here, do you?"

The smarty pants part of me wanted to say, "why, yes, I do, but I'm using it at this moment."

The really scary thing is that I actually answered, "Well, we don't have a skeleton, but there's a skull on the shelf behind me."
The freaky thing is that I don't work in a medical/scientific field so it's pretty darn weird that there's a skull on the shelf. I never did get that one.

Around the...lost dog

From Oct 5, 2010

I was enjoying a nap as I was feeling unwell when I heard the doorbell sound. I climbed out of bed and found a teen girl wearing a bright orange shirt, a Burger King crown, sunglasses, and some face paint at my front door.

"Did you lose a small white dog?" she asked.

I blinked. Um, no. Apparently she had found one and when I answered in the negative she was on her way.

If I had climbed back into bed I would have thought it was a dream but I knew it wasn't as I decided that my nap was shot. I suppose that I probably looked a bit goofy myself since I was in pajama pants and had sleep-tousled hair during the day.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Around where monsters eat...

From Oct 9, 2010

I was absolutely pleased to learn that there is a book titled Monsters Eat Whiny Children. Apparently my friends and family think it's great, too. Maybe I should buy a copy of it for one of the success stories from this site, an expecting couple who also happen to be my friends (the wife knows me from BEFORE I was born; that's how long we go back). However, do I need to create issues in a child that hasn't even been born yet?

I read a review on Amazon (not that the hoi polloi make the most authoritative reviews) and this review cemented that I wanted to buy the book: "This book is absolutely terrible for children. I bought it thinking it would have some redeeming message for kids. It doesn't."

However, the book does have a recipe so it can't all bad, right? Right?