I Am Where I’m Going

I’m not ready to purchase GPS for my automobile navigation needs. It’s not an anti-technology thing. It’s mostly pride and a little that I want to turn the radio up and sing and not listen to someone ordering me around.

My driving happens in Cincinnati (the tri-state area if I’m counting occasional forays to the far suburbs and near counties). I’ve lived here my whole life while I don’t know all the street names (‘cause c’mon!), I have a lifetime of local travel to draw on.

My general sense of direction is very good. I’m often headed toward my destination, but I’m taking the weirdest route to get there.

[My directional “challenges” turn out to be a metaphor for how I run my life.]

Since I tend to just need the last couple of turns, I can’t justify “real” GPS, but I will occasionally stoop to using my phone and Google Maps. I still try to do it myself without having the voice directions on.

This is how I usually get where I’m going. I head off somewhere, armed with a street address and way too much confidence. When I get to where I think I’m supposed to be, it often turns out I’ve miscalculated. This always comes as a surprise to me. To correct the situation, I turn around and try the path out one or two more times. Maybe I’ll look at the address again. Maybe I will grudgingly resort to a Google map, but at this stage, I’m all turned around. And then, without warning, I literally say out loud (even if I’m alone in the car), “Oh. There it is.” I say it as if the previous 5 minutes never happened. And if I’m not alone, I get some unbelievable eye rolls sent my way.

Sometimes, even when I’m on a regular route, I still “get lost.” Well, more accurately, I don’t get lost as much as I forget to make a turn or turn too soon (maybe because I’m singing to the radio, or thinking about that one thing I should have said to the bartender that would have been way funnier than what I actually said). Anyway, when I realize I’m off course, I don’t need GPS to tell me what to do. I want to correct my own mistake. All I need to do is find a road I’m familiar with so I can begin again. I have an uncanny way to finding a new starting point and this, too, comes with out-loud commentary: “Oh. Look. It’s ________ road. Now I know where I am.”

The thing about GPS is that it is programmed to take you on the most efficient route, not the most interesting one. Clearly, I could improve some of my regular routes, but does The Google know I like driving through Winton Woods even though it adds time to my drive? No. The Google doesn’t know everything!

The other day, I was in no hurry heading to a new address with Google Maps with the voice on. (I know, I’m weak.) As soon as I heard Google say I was on the fastest route I was like, “Oh yeah? How about now?”, I turned and made it reroute me, and then I did it again. I ended up at my destination 9 minutes later than the fastest route, but I also got to drive on Walton’s Creek Road (which I didn’t know existed). The Walton’s Creek detour meant my head automatically played the Walton’s (tv show) theme music and I said “goodnight John Boy” when I turned onto the next road. Turns out, even if I have GPS, I’m still taking my wayward route.

Turn That Burger Upside Down

Hamburgers. I love a good hamburger. Grilled to perfection. Light on condiments and placed on a bun that can handle the meat. Maybe cheese. A freakin’ simple, self-contained meal.

I was introduced to hamburgers from two very different sources: McDonalds and summer grill outs. At McDonalds I was fascinated by that thin patty and how they used both mustard and ketchup. The burgers had those weird onion squares, two pickles (three if you were lucky), and they wrapped the burger up like a present. This couldn’t be more different than summer grill outs. Dad would use way too much charcoal and lighter fluid, the onions were recognizable, and we could have as many pickles as we wanted. In the backyard, not only didn’t the hamburgers come wrapped, sometimes they fell on the ground and we still ate them.

The next burger era came from sit down restaurants where burgers were served on real plates, with my choice of what to put on it. The choices were humble: mustard, ketchup, mayo, lettuce*, tomato, and/or cheese. Maybe onion. Not fancy.

We’re in a new era of burger dining and simplicity is not valued and burger places love to give the customer adorably named burgers with loads of non-traditional ingredients. Restaurants will put anything on burger.

As a brief aside, we don’t disrespect a b.l.t. or a club sandwich like this. You just eat those kinds of sandwiches without messing with their karma. A hamburger, on the other hand, is now a blank slate for culinary experimentation.

I don’t want to stand in the way of topping progress. I say, put whatever you want on that patty. I will eat my basic/regular burger without shame.

This is just a long-winded way to get to my point. I think in the age of anything goes, it is time to “fix” the way we eat burgers. I’m talking about the physical way we deliver the sandwich to our mouths. We should know this by now. You have to turn the burger upside down so the big part of the bun is on the bottom. It’s a bun to juice drainage ratio thing. You topping lovers will thank me.

I just googled eating burgers upside and was happy to note that “smart people” eat their burgers this way. Of course. Be smart, turn your hamburger over no matter how you order it.
*Restaurants always use one large leaf of lettuce which I refer to as the lettuce blanket

Me and My Lego

I saw the Lego Batman Movie yesterday afternoon at the 1 pm showing. It’s the number one movie in the country, and I like to be cutting edge in my movie viewing, but I was concerned on this damp midday, parents and caretakers might have had the idea to occupy their young charges at the movies. The theater is one of those dine while you eat which I don’t even like with adults.

First, the dine-while-you-watch experience was designed for people who are better eaters than me. I can barely eat when I can see the food and I’m paying attention. I had an unfortunate incident a couple weeks ago with Saratoga chips and bbq sauce that made it look like I’d been splattered by a nearby shooting victim. That happened when my table was well lit and eating was the only thing happening. I can’t imagine walking out of a dark theater after attempting to consume food. Popcorn eating is my highest degree of movie dining difficulty. A plate of nachos seems distressful. How can I pick up the chip with the best ratio of goo and still concentrated on plot points?

Also, I’m kind of a movie geek and a food geek. Maybe purist is a better word. When I go to the theater. I want to watch the film. When I go out to dinner I want to eat. My brain and physical abilities cannot multi-task two things I care deeply about.

The best part about the dining theater was I got to put my purse on the table in front of me instead of the floor below me. So kudos to that table.

The second part of today’s viewing was that not only were there no kids in the theater, there wasn’t another person besides me. When it became obvious that I was going to have a private showing I wanted to act like an old time movie exec. The ghost of Louis B. Mayer overtook me and I told the poor waiter not to bother me. (In my head I said, “don’t bother me kid. I’ll call you if I need you.” In reality, I said something closer to “No thanks, I’m just here to watch the movie.”) By the way, if you’re keeping score, today’s movie had no kids, was a private showing, and I got to boss someone around.

And, I liked the movie a lot. I came to the character of Batman during the campy Adam West years and the Dark Knight, he of brooding crime-fighting, is interesting and arty to me, but I love a little humor in my Batman stories.

Garbage Management

I just moved from a small apartment building where I had to pull my trash cans front the front of the building to the sidewalk once a week, to a larger place where over 100 of us share dumpsters.

The change has put an unexpected kink in my garbage management.

Garbage management started when I felt guilty taking barely full, kitchen-sized trash bags out to the big can. I had to take the bags out of my kitchen though, because, even though there wasn’t much in them, something in there had died anew and the smell made me feel like “before” on a Fabreze commercial.

As a big over-thinker, this problem was ripe for me to tackle and solve. Now I enforce Garbage Management. (Let’s put this in the “It’s good to be single” column.)

I separate my trash into three separate bags: Dry, Wet/potentially stinky items, and Recycling.

The Wet garbage is the issue. When I cook, or just over the course of a couple of days of kitchen use, I keep a small bag (usually a plastic grocery sack) in the sink for food scraps, coffee grounds, etc. When I’m done cooking for the night, or if the bag has been there for a couple of days, I take the wet bag out of my living space.

Here’s where the change in routine caused a bit of angst for me. In my small apartment, the path to the trash can was shorter, and the number of people I could potentially run into was smaller. Not so at the new place.

Why does this matter?

In the new place, I take a long-ish walk down a couple long halls through a complex with lots of neighbors, while holding a grocery sack that looks like I’m transporting body parts. It has that used diaper heaviness and, after all, it is wet inside. Also, I’m rushing a bit because I always picture the bag bursting open, or at least springing a leak. With that horror in mind, I’m holding the bag like it’s precious. Instead of looking like a genius of garbage management, I look more like a serial killer.

There is no good time of day to try to pull this off and once a neighbor sees the bag in my hand, there is no eye contact. I can see them trying to determine what I’m carrying in my little saggy bag. I wonder why my neighbors only see wet trash runs and never seem to catch me casually slinging the “dry trash” bag through the halls so they can be impressed with the way garbage moves from apartment 209.

Cheap Shrimp is Still Shrimp

 

People love shrimp. It is America’s most popular seafood, by far.

Fried shrimp. Shrimp scampi. Shrimp Cocktail. Shrimp is yummy.

This post about shrimp cocktail and how sometimes it makes me sad.

Shrimp cocktail is a throwback appetizer. When I was a kid, me and my brother would split a shrimp cocktail and drink Shirley Temples, while my parents sipped on 7 & 7’s. It was the height of sophistication there at the Red Lobster.

Shrimp cocktail isn’t as popular on menus these days, but it is a very easy appetizer to put on the food table for  home parties where it’s ridiculously popular. I’ve been to parties where the shrimp cocktail on the table is scarfed down so quickly, I feel reaching in would be harmful to my limbs.

But, if it’s the grocery store bought shrimp cocktail, the kind that is lined up side by side like usual-suspect shrimps in the plastic coral, I’m more worried about my soul than physical harm.

Folks, as noted chef Alton Brown would say, this is not “good eats.” The shrimp is bland, tasting more like water than shrimp. And unless you are using the shrimp as an excuse to eat cocktail sauce, I believe you can do better.

Now I get it. Not everyone can afford expensive and exquisite shrimp to make a fancy shrimp cocktail. And if they can afford it, many people don’t have the time to prepare it. But that doesn’t mean eating shrimp shouldn’t be joyful. I mean it’s shrimp. I want you to love it, not shove it down your gullet because you’re “supposed” to like it. So even if, for whatever reason, you grab a pack of frozen, perfect-packed shrimp, you don’t have to take exactly what they give you.

Do this. First off, I know the shrimp looks great all lined up, but this is about flavor. Take the shrimp out of the plastic and throw the plastic away. Gently dry the shrimp with paper towels dish towels. Then, season the shrimp with some seasoned salt and a little pepper. Or just use lemon pepper. Put the shrimp in a bowl. Eat the shrimp. Enjoy the shrimp. It may not be a-grade shrimp, but it will taste a million times better than straight out of the plastic. And when you make a food people already like better, you will be a hero. Oh, and look at you serving food in real dishes instead of the packaging you bought it in. I’m so proud!

 

 

Hunting Down Savings

I love coupons.

I especially love when I have a coupon for an item that’s on sale. When the $1.99 potato chips are on sale for $1.49 and I use a 25 cent coupon, I know I’ve saved 38% off a single item which makes me feel like I’ve conquered the grocery store, and math skills. Every single chip tastes 38% better, of course.

The whole idea of celebrating a small monetary gain is similar to working a penny slot machine at low caliber casino. A few wins here and there, while the house wins every time.

Still, it seems entertaining. Kroger runs deals where if you buy X number of a select set of sale items, you get additional savings. It’s a process. I see what is included in the special sale, see if I use it, and then, hunt it down.

Like this weekend, there was a promotion that if I bought six items, mix and match, from a list of sale items, Kroger would take an additional $3 off my total bill. So I hunted down cheese, ice cream, toilet paper, coffee, cottage cheese, and Craisins*. (Isn’t the term “hunted down” dramatic?) I use all these products, and they were all marked down, and I had a coupon for the cheese, the TP and the cottage cheese.

It feels like Kroger is giving stuff away.

Which they aren’t.

Obviously.

In fact, they are just tricking me into buying more stuff.

But I figure, I’m already in the store so let me go head-to-head versus their marketing department.

I like to think I win (because I don’t want to believe I could lose). I only buy stuff I actually use. If it’s something I don’t really need right away, but I’m holding a coupon, I’ll won’t buy it. I’m stubborn about it. If it’s not dire, I wait for the on-sale/coupon combo. How many times have I waved a coupon defiantly at the Fabreze and said, “nope. You can stay right here in aisle 27 until you go on sale”? (I whisper it under my breath, of course. When I’m product hunting I don’t like to scare the merchandise or the other people in the aisle.)

Miriam Webster says the definition of a coupon is a voucher to receive a discount on a particular item. I like to think of a voucher as a subsidy. I like to think Kroger is subsidizing my grocery shopping experience by providing a savings game. Did I mention I like to think I’m the winner in all this? LOL! #DelusionsOfShoppingGrandeur

 

*Craisins = I have fallen for a marketing concept. The same product comes in clear plastic tubs in the organic aisle under the less flashy name “dried cranberries.”

Can I Borrow Your Umbrella?

I remember my Mom nagging me about wearing a coat. “Aren’t you gonna wear a coat?” That meant it was probably cold out and that was as close to a weather report as I felt I needed.

When I got out on my own, weather was a low priority. Somehow, knowing what the weather was yesterday and quickly glancing out the window to what I was headed out to, told me everything I needed to know. I didn’t own a raincoat or an umbrella. Well, technically I “owned” a borrowed umbrella that I never returned and it lived in the trunk of my car for years.

I would get wet, or be too hot or too cold, but it barely registered. I’m not even sure what I thought about weather, except it was something my parents talked about. A lot.

In time, my own weather experiences accumulated like a slow falling snow. Rain ruined a good pair of shoes. I arrived at an important meeting over-dressed and covered in sweat. I stood way too many times outside of bars shivering my ass off waiting to get inside.

And, to quote Paul Simon, one day I said, “I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore.”

Weather is available all over the internet, and remains the safest topic is discus with strangers…Provided everyone keeps their traps shut about global climate change. I do try to keep up, even pulling up the radar for the local area and making bets with myself as to if and when it will rain where I am standing. (I’m wrong a lot!)

Over the past couple of years, the weather here in Cincinnati has been wildly unpredictable. It feels like Tennessee or North Carolina weather, which is fine if you live in Tennessee or North Carolina. Trees and flowers bloom at different times then what’s written in nature books, I treat my garden for emergent weeds in February, and big snowstorms are becoming rarer and rarer. The temperature is 60 degrees when in should be 30, and just as I acclimate to 60, it really does go down to 30…with blustery wind. And I’m not ready for any of it.

I now check the weather every day, like a mature adult, and still wear the wrong coat (too heavy or too light). I see it’s not “supposed to” rain for hours so I pop out to the store only to be caught in a torrential rain. I keep reaching for my winter wool and keep putting in back on the shelf unworn because it’s too warm in January. Just as I decided to take the weather seriously, it decided to start playing jokes.