One brave little peeper fighting the good fight…

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Mornin’ all.

Guess what we have?

PEEPERS!!!

…actually, let me clarify. We have a peeper. One singular, lonely little peeper outside going, “Guys? Guys? Hello? Anyone? Guys? Guys? No one? Shit.”

Hang in there, little peeper dude. By tonight you’ll have friends.

SO warm out yesterday! Today is supposed to be the same. Then…well, then we aren’t going to talk about the weekend forecast. We’re just going to enjoy the warm couple days and hope little peeper dude has a sweater. He’s gonna need it.

We grilled last night. Ribs. And in spite of it being a Monday, many of our neighbors did the same. It was almost like a summer night.

Almost.

In the summer, we’ve got enough warm nights for the local folks to wait for a weekend when they can turn their backyard BBQ into one long Friday and Saturday hootenanny. We didn’t get the drunken shouting or fireworks. The “classic rock” end of the street did not try to drown out the “country” side, which is good because our house is smack dab in the DMZ (de-musicized zone) (stop groaning. You know what you signed up for when you opened this blog. Take your lumps.). It was a warm Monday night, and everyone was just happy to char their meat while their kiddies played tag. It was almost peaceful.

Almost.

See, while the people behaved themselves, there was an animal war going on, one that I don’t think many city dwellers would understand. Peepers and BBQing locals aren’t the only sounds of warm weather. Around here, you’ve also got the pets that have spent the winter cooped up inside.

“Bethie, we’ve all heard dogs barking at each other.”

Yes. But have you ever heard how a dog’s barking sets off a rooster, who then irritates a duck?

We’ve got many families around us that keep chickens. In the winter, small chickens wouldn’t do so well under two feet of snow, so they’re either kept inside or folks use them and wait to buy more chickens until it’s warm enough to put them outdoors.

“What do they do with last year’s chickens?”

…really? I mean, I know you’re a city slicker and all, but even city slickers have KFC.

But, like I said, not all. Some folks do bring their chickens in for the winter, though those are more like pets and show chickens.

“….show chickens? Now I know you’re screwing with me.”

Google it. You’ll find yourself looking at some fancy ass chickens.

…did you Google? Apology accepted.

Now, there’s a neighbor who keeps chickens and ducks. They live up on the hill behind our house, so we’re in an audio bowl, if you will. We can hear everything coming off that hill as if it’s happening right next to us.

Their neighbor has a dog. It’s a big dog with a deep voice. The baritone doggie does not like the off-key rooster. The off-key rooster doesn’t give a shit. And the duck? Hell, I think he was just like, “Oooh! We’re shouting now? I’M IN.”

It went something like this:

Cockadoodle doo!”

BARK BARK WOOF.”

Quack?”

COCKADOODLE DOOOOO!!!”

BARKWOOFBARKBARKWOOF.”

Quack! Quack quack?!

*moment of silence*

…peep…”

Ah, the sounds of almost summer in my little hamlet. They never seem to change. I was raised here, not half a mile from where I live now. My grandparents lived up on that street on the hill behind my current house. These sounds are familiar, comforting…nostalgic.

Hey, remember ambrosia salad?

Warm nights around the grill always remind me of my Grammie R’s house when I was a child, when we’d have family cookouts, though we never called them cookouts when they happened at Grammie’s. I have no idea why. Maybe because they were more than that.

When you picture a cookout, you picture a come-as-you-are, relaxed hang out. My grammie wasn’t formal, she was just very “50’s housewife.” She’d have these great parties, and food would be cooked out on the grill. But she was always dressed, her hair done up, the house immaculate. It was structured chaos, where a cookout is just whatever happens.

I’m not saying the structure in any way diminished the good time. Boy, were those nights fun! They’d get louder and louder as the beers and cocktails flowed, and we’d dart in and out of the happy adults, even happier to be able to have fun with the other kids while the grown ups were distracted. And yes, these parties would have us running in the yard catching fireflies at some point like a goddamn Norman Rockwell painting. I said they were very classic American cookouts, and I wasn’t kidding.

And the food. THE FOOD. My gram was an amazing cook. She always put on a spread that was over the top, and yet, just right. And all of it was 50’s and 60’s party foods. Little meatballs on toothpicks, cream cheese stuffed celery, chips and dips, crackers and a cheese ball, the kind that’s covered in chopped nuts and is an unnatural red and orange belly bomb. Mmm. Salads. The salads! Regular tossed salad, of course, but also potato salad, jello-salad, pistachio salad, ambrosia…

The main course would be meat, chicken or steaks, that Grandpa would fuss over at the grill pit he built into their stone wall while the rest of the guys would mosey on over and give their unwanted input. I don’t remember ever eating a hot dog or a hamburger at one of their parties. If it was chicken, it got a good soak in Italian dressing before it hit the heat. If it was steak, it got a luxurious teriyaki marinade that was so good it is one of our Family Recipes.

Potatoes with sour cream. All the accouterments any classic housewife would have on the table, too. Pickles, in several varieties. Olives, green, of course, since they have the cute little pimento stuffing… There was no half-assing it with Grammie. When it came to food, it had to be done right. And in her mind, every party would be a raging success if the food was on point.

She wasn’t wrong.

Good food = good times.

“Uh, Bethie? You do realize that’s not the healthiest attitude about food.”

No. Don’t do that. Don’t you psychoanalyze my nostalgic trip brought on by warm weather, the sounds of the neighborhood I grew up in, and the fighting spirit of the lone peeper. Don’t you dare.

EVERY CULTURE EVER has epic food tied to their major celebrations. You want a good time? Feed people, throw on some music, and let the booze flow. While maybe it’s not the absolute healthiest attitude about food, it’s not the worst, is it? The worst has to be the comfort a quart of ice cream brings you when you eat it alone in a dark room while watching tv because you feel like a fat piece of shit so fuck it why not.

Gah. We got off track.

There is a trend right now to bring back those classic foods, and I’m all for it.

I want ambrosia salad.

All those foods, actually. Wouldn’t it be fun? I want to have fruit magically suspended in Jello. I want my kids to know the simple beauty of stuffed celery, and I even want them to experience the disappointingly fake taste of those cheese balls. I want them to romp around the back yard while steaks and chicken are tended by folks arguing about “one flip or two”, while a couple old ladies sit in lawn chairs drinking cocktails and being sassy.

And I want to do it right along with them.

The classic 50’s housewife trope sucks in almost every way. But they nailed the food. You gotta give ’em that. They nailed a summer evening with the ones they loved. I want to do that this summer.

I think I’ll skip the curlers and the shell of Aqua Net, though. Wouldn’t want to put on airs.

Thus concludes a Nostalgic Musing for Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

Grammie’s teriyaki Marinade:

½ cup veg oil (original recipe is corn oil, I believe, but I use canola. Don’t use olive, as it’ll impart a flavor you don’t want)

½ cup soy sauce

1/3 cup packed DARK brown sugar

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp powdered ginger

½ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp ground mustard

½ tsp secret ingredient

Pour over steaks that have been beaten or poked. (Yes, I know that it’s not food safety standards to poke the steaks. But I always poke ’em. What can I say. I live life on the edge. It’s up to you whether or not you want to walk the tightrope without a net like me.) Marinate in the fridge all day, flipping them around every couple hours. Cook steak on grill, pour marinade into small saucepan. Boil the marinade for 2 minutes to kill any bacteria and thicken, then pour over your baked potato. Trust me. Your mouth will be happy. But, once again, cook that shit. DO NOT use the marinade raw after meat has been soaking in it all day!

…and if you think I’m sharing the secret ingredient, you’re dreaming! It’s a family recipe. Duh. But, this will be a good base. Try different things and make it your own.

Well played, Mother Nature…

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Mornin’ all.

I can’t believe it’s April already. Where does the time go?

I know, I know. Only old folks say that, and they say it a lot. I’m not all that old, but I get it. I blinked for a hot minute somewhere around Groundhog Day, and we fast forwarded in time to April.

Well, we humans did. Mother Nature? Eh, not so much. She’s still stuck in an endless loop of snow and ice and sadness. I just want spring. That’s all.

I’m not alone, either. I was out shoveling the insanely heavy slurpee she dumped on us yesterday morning and I overheard this exchange from two miserable song birds sitting in the tree across the way:

“I told you we should wait another couple weeks, Harold. But noooooo. No-o-o-o-o. You HAD to beat the traffic.”

“Shut up, Phyllis.”

“We could have stayed with the Jensons in that four star mangrove, if you were so itchy to get away from my mother…”

“YOU’RE the one that wanted to get away from your mother!”

“I can’t think in that place! Everything’s so cluttered and…”

“I’d take your mother’s cramped nest over Enid’s cooking! I said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s no way in hell I’m going to spend two weeks choking down stink bugs just because they’re some hipster foodie trend. I don’t care how old fashioned it makes me sound, but give me a plain worm any day.”

“*arches eyebrow* *nods toward snow piles* And how’s that working out for ya?”

“*sniff*…shut up, Phyllis.”

I think the only thing those early birds are catching is a cold.

*author’s note: Yes, I’m fully aware that you don’t actually catch a cold from being cold. Sheesh. It’s just for comedic value. Is that really your line? Really? In everything you read, THAT’S your objection? Hmm??*

It’s a spring snow, though. Heavy. Arm, back, leg achingly heavy. A real shovel-breaker. BUT, it shouldn’t last long. The beauty of the spring snow is exactly the same thing that causes the misery at the shovel. It’s warm enough outside to ensure that whatever accumulates won’t be around for long.

April.

Did anyone do any April Fooling? I did not. I generally don’t. I know people who love the…holiday? I mean, I don’t think it’s an actual holiday, is it? It’s a day of resigned annoyance borne from a bygone era of lifelong serfdom misery. Their lives sucked so badly that for one day- ONE DAY- they just needed a way to laugh at the misfortune of others, to trick someone into being the fool so they could feel just a tad superior for a single shining moment of glory.

If it is actually considered a holiday, it’s a shit one.

I don’t mind mild pranks where no one gets hurt. A guilty pleasure of mine is the show Impractical Jokers. It’s funny to watch someone get tricked, have a harmless giggle, move on.

What I don’t get, though, are the pranks that take it to the next level. I cannot wrap my head around wanting to cause your friends pain for laughs, be it physical or emotional. I don’t get what’s funny about buttering the floor so someone falls and cracks their head open, and I don’t understand why anyone would dream up staging a kidnapping where the friend/victim honestly believes one of his buddies was killed (actual YouTube prank by a hideous human being). The kid now has legit PTSD. Oh, yeah. That’s a fucking laugh riot.

I think anyone who could do stuff like that is a true sadist.

“Bethie, I think that’s a little harsh.”

Is it? I’m not saying they go out and torture the neighbor’s kittens. I’m saying that a mind that thinks, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we abducted Jeff, put a pillow sack over his head, threw him in the back of a van, drove around awhile, shoved him to the ground, shot off a gun, and then ripped off the sack so he could see his best friend face down on the ground in a pool of fake blood,” is not a healthy person. That dude absolutely tortured someone who was supposed to be a close friend, someone he supposedly cared about. He not only tortured him in the moment, but gave the kid lifelong mental problems. For a laugh. And DEFENDED the content when the internet said, “Not cool, bro.”
Think about that. It was bad enough that the internet– the greatest hive of villainy and deceit ever conceived- thought it went too far. The same juggernaut of debauchery that give uninhibited access to Two Girls One Cup drew the line at this “prank”.

That is not someone I would be comfortable being around. And it’s not someone whose “work” I want to watch for shits and giggles. I honestly cannot understand the people who do.

But, a good old rubber band around the sprayer nozzle on the kitchen sink? Comedy gold.

My kids didn’t prank, either. Maybe because they’ve grown up aware of all the idiotic pranks on the internet? None of them ever really got into it at all *knock wood*. The only one that’s really tried is the youngest pup, and his are so benign that the very innocence of it all is what gets the laugh.

I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who is a Spongebob survivor. If you had kids in the early 2000s, you know what I’m talking about. There’s an April Fools episode where Spongebob spends his day pulling off pranks like giving a customer a large drink when he ordered a medium, adding an extra ice cube, etc. The littlest pup does stuff like that, then stands there with twinkling eyes waiting to see if you notice. It is extremely cute, and since he doesn’t read this blog, I can say “cute” free from fear of repercussions. I guess he’s my little April Fool. His birthday is this month, so that really works.

But shh, because he’d be SO pissed if he knew I said that.

It’s supposed to be 50 today. At the moment, my driveway looks like a spring break mud wrestling match is about to begin. Er, minus the drunk girls in bikinis and “bros” in board shorts shouting “what’s good, fam?” in a desperate attempt to sound cool and force people to like them.

The 50 degree day will, in no way, make the situation any better. I’m a bit worried. I drive a heavy clunker, and if the snow melts too fast, it might just succumb like Artax.

*NeverEnding Story fistbump*

It’s happened before. My driveway has honestly eaten a car. Tried its best to, anyway, until the tow pulled the Nissan from the brink of death.

It was right around this time of year in a funky spring not unlike this one. There was late season snow piled high from a storm, and I was having family over after a funeral.

Now, I live in an area with a lot of underground springs, and I’m right by a river. None of my yard is what I would consider stable. In fact, every year, there are new bumps and dips and outright trenches from the shifting water underneath. Our driveway stretches across a large section of this unstable land. Every spring there’s a large area of the driveway that gets squishy and mushy and awful. Usually it’s no big deal to just not park there for a few weeks, but, as I said, we were having people over and the driveway filled up fast.

We had been carefully placing cars away from the suck zone, but ran out of room. The little Nissan Sentra was the lightest car, and we figured, “Eh, seems solid enough,” when the wheels didn’t immediately start sinking. We partied as the Polish do when someone kicks off, and as the day was fading, people started to leave. As soon as the Nissan tried to move, the driveway let it be known that action was not allowed. The tires dug right down into that mud and in seconds the whole car was bumper-deep.

Now, that car was being driven by my mother.

“Oh, Bethie. Tell me you didn’t laugh.”

Oh, how I wish I could!

Was it the nice thing to do? No. Did we try everything to get it unstuck? Yes. We helped. It took a hired tow truck to move the car in the end, but we got covered in mud trying. I think that made up for the laughter.

Maybe?

But come on, people. Things turned out okay in the end, and I’m only human. You weren’t there to see just how quickly things went south. One second, perfectly normal car about to turn out of the drive. The next? Snarlax victim. It was as if the earth itself decided to suck in the rear end of the car like a spaghetti noodle. I’m sorry, Mum, but that shit’s funny. I still laugh about it today.

Maybe none of us should do April Fools tricks. We can’t possibly compete with Mother Nature.

Thus concludes the first April Musing for Sunday, Mass Effect Andromeda Day, 2017. I’m going to be playing. All day. I have been waiting for this game forever and now my screw off day is here. I’ve got soda and chips. I’ve got some kind of meat to throw in the crock pot for dinner. I’ve downloaded the updates, designed and named my character, and I am about to embark on the long awaited adventure. …so what am I still doing here???

This better not be some sick joke, Mother Nature…

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Mornin’ all!

Yep, that was an exclamation point there. Here’s another.

!

“Why the extra pep this morning, Bethie?”

Because it’s spring! Finally! And not just because Hipparchus said it was. The snow has (mostly) melted, the birdies are singing in the the morning, and when that nuclear reactor in the sky is shining, it actually provides…

…get ready for it…

HEAT.

Like, legit warmth. I was outside in a t-shirt yesterday, and not just because I’m from NH and will don a tee in 30 degree weathah just to prove I’m tough as shit. No, it was about 65 degrees yesterday. And the day before. AND the day before! Today? Going to be about the same.

Ahhhhh.

I got outside with my welder on Monday. I have been itching for six months to get going on a project, but you can’t weld on top of a mound of snow.

…hm, I suppose you probably technically *could*, but I don’t think it’s recommended.

Coincidentally, that 40 lb coil of wire I picked up in the free pile across the way IS weldable! Woot.

“Free pile across the way? You lost me.”

There’s an “antique” shop across the street from us.

Oh, wait. Hang on. Most of you aren’t from small New England towns, are you? Okay, so when you’re in a small, admittedly slightly seedy town in this area, there will be antique shops along the main highway. However, they will generally not really have antiques. They’re junk shops that pull in the fancy-pantsy people driving through.

“Ooh, an antique shop, Harold,” the woman says to her bored, zoned out husband as she waves a hand that jingles from all the jewelry towards a run-down shack just up the road. “Isn’t it quaint? We really *must* stop. It’s so New Englandy!”

Poor, beleaguered Harold will indeed stop, as he has stopped at every such purveyor of authentic New Englandiness along the way. He’ll do it to humor Eugenia, and he’ll buy her yet another rooster pepper shaker that she insists is a real antique and exactly what their Cape Cod cottage needs for “rustic authenticity”. Hell, maybe he’s such a pro that he’ll even scape off the “Made in China” sticker before she notices.

Way to take one for the team, Harold.

Now, I’m not knocking the Harolds and Eugenias of the world. There’s a lotta junk lying around, and if someone’s willing to gather it up from yard sales and estate auctions and put it all under the roof, they need Harolds and Eugenias to buy it.

I’m not at all knocking the shop across the way, either. I love them. I’m a hoarder, and they often put out items they don’t think will sell well in a free pile. I’ve mentioned before, so I won’t get into my pathetic, drooling, Pavlovian response to the word “free”. And we’re neighbors. Often they’ll give us a discount on their regular items for sale, too. They’re great for picking up cheap furniture. In fact, half my house is furnished with $6 tables and $1 lamps from over there. I like them. When I call them a “junk shop”, I mean it in the best way possible.

Anyway, last autumn, they had picked up an estate lot that had a bunch of construction materials. They never sell the construction materials they get in. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s a liability issue? When they come across stuff like that, it all immediately goes in the free pile. Oh, did we score! One of the things we picked up was a 40 lb. coil of very thick wire. However, before I got the chance to see if it was weldable, we got snow.

I was very happy to confirm that it is very much weldable. Also, if you’ve got a torch, metal shaping hammers, and cabin fever, the wire can be worked into a very respectable miniature sword.

“You can’t make wire into a…”

minisword

“Oh. Well, then. It really *was* a long winter, wasn’t it?”

You have no idea.

I can weld now. I can also start in on the meaty car repair list that seems to grow every day. I drive old diesels (er, for the most part. We’ve got a gas car in there, but the other diesels haven’t seemed to notice the difference, so if you could keep it to yourself and help me avoid driveway discrimination, I’d appreciate it) which is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the cars are almost completely mechanical.

“ALL cars are almost completely mechanical.”

Actually no, smarty pants, they aren’t. In terms of automotive mechanics, a “mechanical” system is one that’s controlled by the driver directly. Let me explain it by using the brake system.

When you push the brake pedal in an older car, that pedal is connected to a series of linkages and metal rods that push in a pin at the back of the master cylinder. When that pin is compressed, it squeezes brake fluid through the brake lines which in turn makes the calipers (or drums) clench, thus stopping your car.

Now, in modern cars, while the basics are the same, there is a third party involved between the time when you push the pedal and the time you stop: a computer. These computers help determine which calipers will squeeze, how hard they’ll compress, how long they should be depressed considering the ambient temperature and road conditions which another computer has already discussed with this RoboBrake2000 while you weren’t paying attention…

These computers are everywhere, too. You want to roll up your window? Hang on a sec and the vehicle will gather a caucus to discuss the best possible way to make that happen. You want your wipers on? No prob! Just let the Visibility Synod agree on what setting would be ideal for the conditions. Should you put the car in 4 wheel drive? Please submit your inquiry at the c:\ prompt and wait for the .exe order.

A driver of a modern vehicle has little actual say in the running of their car.

While it, admittedly, makes the driving experience easier and more comfortable for the average user, the computerized vehicles are harder and more expensive to work on.

The first rule of any type of mechanics is: more parts= more parts that can break.

So we drive the diesels here (and one renegade gas car) because they are simple machines that we can fix in almost ever circumstance without fancy diagnostic equipment.

On the other hand, they are old, which means they need a LOT of that aforementioned fixing.

I don’t particularly mind right now. It’s spring! And we’ll be out in the sunshine producing massive amounts of Vitamin D. How could I complain about that after the winter we’ve had? I’m sure I’ll get tired of it eventually. I’m bound to get sore and grubby and tired. No doubt after a few weeks, I’ll be right back to bitching and moaning about ANOTHER car repair. I’ll forget my winter of being confined and long for a lazy day on the couch. It’ll happen. I’m sure of it.

But not today.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Wednesday, April 15, 2015. See, folks? I *can* be short-winded and to the point. Now, I put up with new Neighbor’s pipe-freezing shenanigans all winter. Let’s fire up the side grinder and get our paybacks…