Monday, April 25, 2016

How Little House on the Prairie Turned Me into a Hypochondriac

As I'm sure you all know by now, I love the Little House books. But I am one of those rare people who love the books and the show. I consider them two totally different things that don't relate to one another in any way because I don't recall any chapter in the books where the Ingalls family adopts three extra kids or an entire town gets blown up. But, despite it bearing no resemblance to the books, and putting aside that by season 6 they weren't even being historically accurate anymore because they trying so hard to introduce the 1970's into the show (women's rights, Laura deciding to be a working Mom, and don't even get me started on Almanzo's hair) I still love the show.

I mostly love it for the heartwarming, feel-good episodes. But then there were the bleak episodes - and they were a barren dessert wasteland of bleakness. People almost starving to death. A young girl getting raped by a guy wearing a clown mask (really, what were the writers thinking with that one?) A woman faking her own death to try to get her family to pay attention to her. Oh yeah, times were hard on the fake prairie.

And then there were the episodes that made me into a hypochondriac. A few weeks ago, someone told me about their horse kicking them and it was all I could do to keep from yelling out, "You know Mary Ingalls almost died from that. Be careful. DO YOU WANT TO END UP LIKE MARY?" (which is an absurd question anyway because no one wants to be like Mary Ingalls. Could she have been more annoying? Oh wait, yes she could have been more annoying. She could have been Carrie.)

Yesterday, I scraped my leg. Not on the chicken wire of a covered wagon, of course, but on the edge of the door of the car. So, you know, close enough. Today the thought keeps running through my head what if this scrape turns into a raging infection and I end up having to cut my own leg off with a kitchen knife. I mean let's just completely dispense with logic and common sense here. Let's ignore that Ma almost had to cut her leg off because Neosporin didn't exist on the prairie, and because the writers of the show decided to finally throw Karen Grassle a bone and give her something to do other than just smile pleasantly in the background while Michael Landon got to do all the talking.  No no no, let's push aside that reasonable line of thought. Clearly it's time to panic. Or it's time to stop watching the bleak episodes of Little House on the Prairie. One of the two.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Pregnancy Jar

I dedicate this blog post to my sister-in-law, who is currently pregnant with my soon-to-be-nephew.

I don't have children, so I've never experienced the highs and lows of pregnancy. As far as I can tell, the highs are amazing. People give you a seat on every bus you get on when you go to Disney World while the childless of the world end up standing up and holding onto a pole with our armpits wedged in a strangers face. And then there's meeting the baby for the first time. Which is, of course, much more exciting than getting a seat on the bus, but let's not diminish how great that bus thing is, okay.

And then there are the lows. I would imagine there are a lot of them; backaches, sore feet, etc. But, from what I've observed, the biggest low of all is the random rude comments strangers make in public. My sister-in-law was venting to me about how people keep telling her she looks huge. I have seen this happen to pregnant women in public many times. A pregnant woman is in the grocery store, just minding her own business when a random stranger, who isn't even looking all that cute themselves, walks up to her and says "you're huge." Oh wait, no. The lowercase letters I just used seem to imply that this is said in a quiet voice that no one else in the store can hear. It's more like "YOU'RE HUGE," said in the loudest voice possible, so everyone from the produce section all the way back to the frozen foods aisle can hear it. The pregnant woman stands there, wavering between embarrassment and murderous rage, while the stranger stands there with a look on his/her face that seems to imply that what they just said was cute and clever and inoffensive.

It was during one of these what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-those-random-strangers discussions with my sister-in-law, that I came up with the idea for the pregnancy jar. It's kind of like a swear jar, but for pregnant women. Every time someone tells you "you're huge" they have to put a dollar in the jar. If they say, "Are you sure you're not having twins," they have to put in two dollars, one dollar for the rudeness of that response and another dollar for their belief that this response is so clever and original that others couldn't help but be amused by it. At the end of the pregnancy, you can use the money to do something nice for yourself. Like, take a trip to Europe, for instance. Or hire a night nurse so you don't have to be assaulted by the post-pregnancy rude comments of, "Wow, the bags under your eyes huge. You look exhausted."

Other possible responses that warrant putting a dollar in the jar:
"I think as big as you are, you're definitely going to have this baby early."
"You look like you're miserable."
"Wow, how much weight have you gained?"

I'm sure you've been insulted in ways I can't even begin to imagine, so feel free to add your own special touches to this list, dear readers. And please know this, pregnant women of the world, even if we haven't been in your shoes, we're with you. Except for those horrible random strangers who need an etiquette lesson. The rest of us who actually have manners, we're with you. We cringe when you cringe. We are horrified when you're horrified. And, just like you, we also fantasize sometimes about saying to the rude strangers, "Well you're not looking so great either. So while you're climbing down off that high horse, maybe you should remember that people who wear pajama pants to the grocery store shouldn't throw stones."

And if you are one of the random strangers of the world; 1. Stop it. Stop it right now and 2. You can make amends for your grievous offense by going out right now and doing something nice for a pregnant woman. Give her your seat on the bus, for example.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Baked Potato Experiment

Happy First Day of Spring, dear readers!

Before I officially kick off Spring here on the blog, let's talk about something my sister and I did this past Winter, The Baked Potato Experiment.

A little background information before we get to the actual experiment. In Little House in the Big Woods, there is a passage that describes how Laura's relatives used baked potatoes to stay warm in the Winter:

"They put on mittens and coats and warm hoods and shawls, and wrapped mufflers around their necks and thick woolen veils over their faces. Ma slipped piping hot baked potatoes into their pockets to keep their fingers warm. . .  "

Thanks to that passage, my sister and I have spent the last decade or so making lame baked potato jokes every time we're in the car. In this case, the seat heaters serve as our metaphorical baked potatoes. The following conversations have actually happened:

Sister:  Do you need another potato? (It's important to note that this is said in a tone of voice that implies that it's totally normal to refer to seat heaters as baked potatoes. Because it is, dear readers, it's totally normal. The rest of the world just hasn't realized it yet.)

Me: No, my potato is perfect right now.

Another example of the totally normal conversations we have:

Sister:  How's your potato?

Me:     My potato is a little too potato-y right now, could you turn it down.

And strangely enough, spell check doesn't recognize potato-y as an actual word. Weird.

So on a chilly, two-baked-potato-kind of winter day not too long ago, my sister and I were having our usual baked potato discussion when I said, "I wonder how warm a baked potato really keeps a person in the winter." And just like when I was 10-years-old and I heard Truvy from Steel Magnolias say, "Cup a cup a cup. . . a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, a cup of fruit cocktail with the juice and you just mix and baked until golden and bubbly," I simply HAD to try it. And in case your wondering, dear readers, Truvy lied. Attempting that recipe will result in a wad of dough that won't really ever fully cook and that tastes DISGUSTING. It might possibly be the grossest thing I've eaten since that time I tried fat free cheese.

Despite my past failures with trying things that I saw on TV or read about in books, I decided to try the baked potato experiment anyway. After discussing it for a few minutes, we decided that the weather in Indiana (where I live) and Wisconsin (where the Ingalls family lived) are probably pretty similar, so I just had to wait for a really cold day and I would be all set. And then we were hit with a warm spell. I just might be the only person in the entire state who walked around saying things like, "Stupid warm weather. When are we going to get lucky and have a really cold day."

And then a cold day arrived, and it just happened to be a day when my sister was visiting:

Since my sister is the only person I know who is willing to indulge me in this kind of ridiculous behavior, I had to jump on the opportunity. When she asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, I said, "I'll go for a walk if you'll put baked potatoes in your pockets while we're walking." And the sister of the year award goes to her because she said yes!

We suited up:

And, just like a character in a novel from 1910, my sister has a special walking coat that she has owned for YEARS (Which proved to be her downfall. More about that in a minute.):

This picture doesn't really relate to anything, but I just wanted you to see how cute my sister's boots are. She's whimsical and a snappy dresser, which is pretty much my definition of being a huge success as a human being.

We set off on our treacherous journey through the wilderness of the suburbs (Didn't make this picture look like it was taken 100 years ago on purpose. The crappy quality was accidental but I think for this particular blog entry, it works!)

I frequently like to read books about pioneers while standing in the middle of the road on a 20-degree day:

Kidding. Just kidding. I would never actually do that if I wasn't working on a blog entry. That would be insane. And I'm a totally normal person . . . who just happens to occasionally walk around with baked potatoes in her pockets.

We made it halfway through the walk when (imagine dramatic soap opera music playing right now) my sister discovered that there was a hole in the lining of the pocket of her coat . . . which the baked potato fell into, resulting in a really unpleasant couple of minutes of having to try to pull the baked potato back into the main pocket of the coat (imagine a baked potato/pocket version of trying to pull someone back up off a ledge they had fallen off.)

The lesson here, and pay attention because this might be the most important life advice you'll ever get, is to never wear an old coat when you're putting baked potatoes in your pockets.

And now, I'll end your suspense (just play along here and pretend like you're on the edge of your seat with curiosity) and tell you whether the baked potatoes kept us warm. Shockingly enough, IT WORKED. The only part of us that felt cold while were walking were our faces, so we probably should have paid more attention to that part of the passage from Little House in the Big Woods where they talked about covering their faces with thick woolen veils. Even though I'm not really sure what a thick woolen veil even is. Or where to buy one. Or how you breath while wearing one. I guess that's an experiment for another time.

So in review, dear readers, my sister and I are totally normal and the pioneers really knew what they were talking about!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My All-Time Favorite Books - Part 2

Last week I told you about some of my all-time favorite books, and now I'm going to end your suspense and tell you about the rest of my favorites (just play along here and pretend you were on the edge of your seat for the last week.)

Cheaper by the Dozen. I saw a horrible version of the cover of this book a few years ago that had a picture of the Cheaper by the Dozen movie starring Steve Martin. Do not be fooled by that cover, dear readers, the only similarity between that movie and this book is that there are 12 children in both the book and the movie. I love this book. It's funny. It's charming. It's comforting. 

Yes, sometimes I do read books that wouldn't appeal to old white ladies (don't worry, dear sister, I'm not offended by that insult at all. Okay, well maybe a little.) I only took a picture of one David Sedaris book, but I actually love every David Sedaris book I've ever read. One important reading tip, dear readers: don't read this book on a plane. Unless you enjoy having random strangers shoot you dirty looks because you've been laughing so loud. 

I first read this book when I was in high school. It inspired me to start writing a journal, and even though the journal entries I wrote then make me cringe with embarrassment, I still love this book. 

Oh, Auntie Mame, a book that never fails to amuse me. I love the movie version as well (the one starring Rosalind Russell.) And the extra bonus is that I read this book for the first time on vacation, so every time I read it I feel like I'm transported back to that wonderful vacation spot (the downside of this being that every time I read it, I also want one of the fantastic chocolate cupcakes I ate on that vacation.) 

And now I'd love to hear about your favorite books dear readers. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My All-Time Favorite Books - Part 1

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I have a rather odd system of organizing my bookshelves (and yeah, that's right, I'm linking back to the previous blog entry in a shameless ploy to get more blog clicks.) So today, let's talk about the books that have made it all the way to my all-time favorites bookshelf.

We've already discussed my unnatural love of Little House (shameless, I tell you, I'm just shameless) so of course those books are on the shelf. There's just nothing like coming home after a bad day and reading a chapter of one of the Little House books.

And of course there's Jane Austen. Although I've never been excessively fond (see what I did there) of the covers of these books. I should probably search for a prettier version. Did I mention that even thinking about reading Jane Austen causes me to use Jane Austeny-type words and phrases. Brace yourself dear readers, it starts with "excessively fond" and that could snowball into me using phrases like "exceedingly bleak" and then before you know it, I could very well be talking with a British accent.

I don't even care if this makes my bookshelves look like they belong to a 10-year-old. I love The American Girl books!

The Anne of Green Gables books are my absolute favorite books (although I feel a little bit like I'm cheating on the Little House books by saying that.) I can never decide which book in the series is my favorite. That would be like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. I love them all the same, but in different ways. Within 30 seconds of reading any one of them, I feel instantly happier.

To be continued (imagine dramatic soap opera-style music playing in the background right now). . . .