Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Almost Vegetarian

I took the lid off of the crockpot and stirred the fabulous masterpiece that we would eat for dinner. The smell that wafted throughout the house was amazing. I took a fork out of the silverware drawer and snuck a bite. I was congratulating the crock pot on doing fine, fine job with dinner when the doorbell rang for the fourth time that day.

The nice Mormon boys had come by in the morning. They wanted to do a few chores for me and have a little chat about how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I’m always tempted to hand those nice boys the husband’s honey do list and tell them to have at it. Later on that morning, the UPS man ding dong ditched a box of car parts for the husband. In the afternoon, the cute girl scouts came by and convinced me that a few boxes of the cookies they were selling wouldn’t have any effect at all on the size of my hips. Liars.

And then, just before dinner, the doorbell rang yet again. When I opened the door I was greeted by a very friendly and energetic man named Sam. Friendly Sam pointed to his special freezer truck parked in front of my house. He offered to sell me some steaks he had stored in the back of his truck. Apparently, Mr. Rodriguez on the next street over, whom Sam assumed was my closest neighborhood friend, had ordered too many steaks this week and was unable to fit them all in the extra freezer he kept in his garage. Sam was going to give me a very good deal on Mr. Rodriguez’ rejected steaks.

I informed Sam that I would not be interested in buying Mr. Rodriguez’ steaks. Sam didn't like rejection. Not surprisingly, Sam told me that he had lots of other kinds of meat he wanted to sell me…and some seafood too. I firmly told Sam that I still wouldn’t be interested in purchasing anything from him.

Friendly Sam was shocked. “But, why?” he asked. “I have very good deals and the very best quality!”

“Well,” I answered, “I only have one small freezer and it’s already full of bread and popsicles and water bottles. And also, we are almost vegetarians and don’t eat that much meat.”

That made Friendly Sam stop. He squinted his eyes and cocked his head a bit to the side. “What the heck is an almost vegetarian? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, we don’t eat meat that often. And when we do it’s usually in small amounts. We’re not really vegetarians. Just....almost vegetarians.”

And as he stood in my doorway, Sam broke out a substantial smile and then let out a hearty guffaw.

“I see, yes….I see.” he chuckled. “Well, I must say ma’am, I can smell some mighty fabulous smells coming from your kitchen right now. I can tell you that is the best smelling almost vegetarian cooking I’ve ever smelled. I’ll be going now. Thank you for your time. “

I watched Friendly Sam walk back to his freezer truck, shaking his head back and forth. Still chuckling to himself, he turned back to me and yelled, “Enjoy your dinner!”

I walked back into my house and lifted the lid on my crockpot. I grabbed the fork and reached for another bite of the 4 pounds worth of beef chuck roast that had been simmering for the last 9 hours. It was heavenly. It was good enough to turn a vegetarian into an almost vegetarian.

And as I was setting the table that evening, I began to wonder...maybe I should have asked Sam if he had any chuck roast hiding in his truck freezer.

Check This Out!

Slow Cooker Mexican Style Meat

This recipe can be used with beef, pork or even chicken. Use it for burritos, tacos or any other Mexican dish. We’ve even spooned it over rice and pasta.

1 (4lb) chuck roast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 TBL olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 ½ cups diced green chile pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 (5 oz) bottle hot pepper sauce
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Remove excess fat from roast and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Brown meat quickly on all sides.

2. Transfer the roast to a slow cooker, and sprinkle onion, chile peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot sauce and garlic powder over meat. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast. Stir it all up a bit.

3. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 2 to 4 hours or until meat falls apart. Shred the meat a bit more, if desired. Always make sure there is some liquid in the bottom of the slow cooker.

NOTE: As usual, I have a hard time following a recipe. I skipped the olive oil and just used spray. I used canned chile peppers, an onion and a half, doubled the chili powder, threw in a few shakes of cumin and only used ½ a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot sauce. This amount of spice was tolerated by the boy and the teenager. We used the meat for soft tacos which were fantastic. Because we don’t eat a lot of meat, I’m not very good at cooking it. This recipe however, made me look like I knew what I was doing. When I’ve spooned the meat over rice or pasta I’ve added more water.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Air Ball

I was 11 years old on the day things went so horribly wrong.

It was supposed to be my one big chance. It was supposed to make me a star.

It was supposed to go in the basket.

After the game, instead celebrating our win with my teammates, I made a red faced escape from the Jefferson Elementary School gym. Walking quickly with my head down I attempted to hide my tears and my embarrassment from my family, from my teammates and especially, from the lady with the sore head.

In 1980, we played basketball because it was fun. And we played basketball because our friends did. And we laughed when we played. We practiced shooting free throws in our driveway at slumber parties until it got dark. The floor burns and bruises on our knees came from the rubber gym floor in the school’s cinderblock multipurpose room where our team practiced. Parents watched games from worn wooden steps in front of the stage at the end of the room. They talked to each other and not to the ref. There was always one problem mother who pushed her daughter to be a superstar. Some of us would be lucky enough to play in high school, but we certainly didn’t think about it when we were 11 and 12. We wore short shorts with white piping and long tube stocks that reached our knees and had colored stripes at the top. When basketball season was over we dug our mitts out from the back of the closet and started playing softball. In 1980 we played softball because it was fun.

29 years later, following in my infamous footsteps, the teenager is playing basketball for her school team. She wears her painful, bruised knees with pride, just like I did. She ignores the fact that she’s one of the shortest players, just like I did. She’s always wishing for more playing time, just like I did.

But in 2009 that just might be where the similarities end. In 2009, many of the girls play for the exposure, they play for the fame and they play for a college scholarship. They practice free throws at the Saturday open gym on the high school court after an hour in the weight room and a 3 mile conditioning run. Floor burns and bruises on knees come from polished hardwood floors with a painted mascot in the middle. Parents watch games from 20 rows up in the metal bleachers that have seats in coordinating school colors. The ref can still hear them complain. There might be one or two parents who don’t push their daughters to be superstars--maybe. In 2009, girls wear baggy, shiny shorts that reach to their knees, with Under Armour compression shorts underneath, and sleeveless jerseys with technologically advanced moisture wicking capabilities. With club play, competitive teams and year round tournaments, in addition to weekly training, basketball season is never over.

After a particularly hard practice last week the teenager limped into the house exhausted and bruised and bleeding. She relayed how she was yelled at by a teammate, fouled to the ground by the 6 ft tall girl and ran lines until she could barely walk. And despite her improving skills, she was certain she wasn’t going to get much playing time this season.

“Honey, “I asked her, “Why are you even playing basketball? It sounds like you are miserable.”

Without hesitation, she turned to me and grinned wide. “Are you kidding, mom? Basketball is great! I’m playing because it is fun. ”

At my mother’s funeral last year, a woman walked up to me and enveloped me in a hug. She offered her condolences. I inquired about her two girls, twins, which I had gone to school with from 2nd grade through our senior year in high school. She mentioned that one girl now had a son who was playing basketball. As we reminisced about the basketball teams her girls and I were on so many years ago, I asked her if she remembered the incident.

“It was the worst air ball in history. “ I told her. “I shot the ball up and over the backboard and it flew through the air into the area where the parents were sitting. My ball ended up hitting you right on your head. Your head was turned at the time so the ball caught you by surprise. You stood up and yelled out in pain. The whole gym saw. I was so embarrassed. I’ve never forgotten it. “

She laughed. “Oh for goodness sakes. I don’t remember that at all! Boy those were good times though, weren’t they? Those basketball games were great. My girls had so much fun. Didn’t you?”

I was 11 years old on the day I shot that air ball. I was 38 years old when I told the teenager about it. She laughed out loud. "That's hilarious mom. But, if it bothered you so much, why did you keep on playing?"

Without hesitation, I answered. "Because basketball was great, honey. I kept playing because it was fun."

Check This Out!

The Afghan, by Frederick Forsyth is a roller coaster of a read. This book about a planned Al Qaeda attack and an imbedded British spy was shocking, thrilling and suspenseful. The ending was a bit flat....but the book is still an escape and well worth checking out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Facebook Saw Me Pee

Once upon a time, back in the olden days, the husband and I were engaged to be married. Because we wanted to ensure that we would stay madly in love forever, and the priest told us it was required and we didn’t have a choice, we received some pre-marital counseling. During this counseling we were told that there are two types of people in the world. There are people who go to a party, and when the party is over, they are excited to go to another party. And then there are people who go to a party, and when the party is over, they can’t wait to get home.

If we were getting married today I wouldn’t be surprised to find that these thoughts had been updated a bit. Today we would be told that there are two types of people in the world. There are the people who are in love with Facebook. And then there are the people who make fun of them.

Facebook is powerful and all knowing. I had an account under a fake name for a year and a half. Facebook still managed to use my email address to help friends find me. I couldn’t decide on my Facebook profile picture and changed it numerous times. Facebook told all of my new friends about my erratic behavior. Facebook tells me things about my friends too. Sometimes, things I’m not sure I want to know about. And once, I had to turn the computer off because Facebook saw me pee. You just can’t be too careful these days.

Facebook isn’t the only one watching however. My credit card company called and wondered why I had purchased a Fatburger in Canada. Netflix has put me into the documentary/musical/70’s TV show category. My grocery store sends me coupons for granola bars while my neighbor received coupons for macaroni and cheese. The teenager’s friends can’t sneak over to a boy’s house because a GPS tracker in their cell phone will tell their parents where they are. The bank surveillance camera took a picture of the guy that robbed the bank last week. Google’s new Latitude program can tell you exactly where someone is at any moment of the day. Tracking cookies, search engines and spyware can record every keystroke we make on our computer.

Zoom lenses on a paparazzo’s camera can record a celebrity sunbathing from half a mile away. Super zoom lenses on a satellite’s camera can tell if I need to mow my lawn. Employment, college and scholarship applications and even endorsement deals with Kellogg’s have all been denied because someone posted a photo online of someone behaving badly. If you are in an auto accident a data logger, which is on any modern car, can provide lawyers with evidence as to how fast you were going, if you applied the brakes and what gear you were in at the time of impact.

I’m not always comfortable with all of this new technology. I don’t usually want people to know every detail of my life. I don't like being secretly watched. Sometimes, I like to have a little privacy and a little technology downtime. Last Tuesday was such a day. I was going to go to bed early and read my super thrilling book about a British spy imbedded with Al Qaeda. As I went to turn the computer off I saw that at 10:42 AM, someone in Parow, South Africa, who has Windows NT, Firefox for a browser and a really big monitor, Googled the words “my turtle is always sleeping” and found their way to my blog. As I turned the phone off, I saw that my cousin had called 3 times, leaving a message only once. As I pulled the curtains shut I saw that the neighbor behind me was having dinner a bit later than usual-I think it was soup. As I locked the front door and looked out the front window, I saw that the scary boys across the street were smoking in the neighbor’s yard. As I picked up a magazine off the floor I saw that Tony Romo had cheated on Jessica Simpson with someone who hadn’t recently gained 7 pounds.

And as I went to turn the TV off I flipped through a few channels. I caught a glimpse of my favorite television preacher. I stopped to see what the topic of the day was. The preacher bellowed out from across my living room, “Modern technology keeps track of our every move. Your boss tracks your computer usage at work. Cameras take pictures when you run a red light. There could be pictures of you online right now that you don’t know about. Sometimes it feels like technology is watching us 24 hours a day. But I’m here to tell you, modern technology has nothing on the all powerful God in heaven who sees more than technology ever could. God sees all. Not one single thing you do will ever escape his eyes.”

I turned the TV off. I proceeded to walk upstairs to start my private, technology free evening. I opened up my book and started reading. God just watched. But as I sat there in bed my mind began to wander... I bet if God had a Facebook page he’d totally have the most Facebook friends EVER.

Check This Out!

This week the Slightly Exaggerated family thoroughly enjoyed the 1969 movie, Hello Dolly!. Directed by Gene Kelly it stars Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau and many other greats. We can’t stop singing the songs. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have seen it, watch it again.

The two very different songs of the week at Slightly Exaggerated are the PG-13 Guns N' Roses song, Sorry, off of their much delayed Chinese Democracy album and the much tamer Barry Manilow version of the classic song, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, off his album Singin’ With the Big Bands. Give them both a listen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Person I Hope to Become

Olympian Michael Phelps called his pot smoking incident “regrettable” and that it showed “bad judgment”. Former President Bill Clinton stated emphatically that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”. When reports initially surfaced about politician John Edwards ‘ affair he called them, “false and ridiculous”.

There are new reports, almost daily, about athletes, political leaders and celebrities being forced to confront an embarrassing public outing of their own questionable behavior. Standing before the media and the public they will issue their statement. Some will deny. Some will justify. Some will admit guilt and apologize. But there is almost always an assurance that this small behavioral blemish is not representative of the good person that they really are. For they are normally a fine, moral, law abiding citizen with a lifetime of stellar and admirable achievements that are far more indicative of their true character.

Afterwards, their public relations people sit back and hope that the public fell for it while the famous person quietly slips out of the public eye for some period of time.

How refreshing it was then to read the story of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill. Hill was arrested last month outside of Atlanta. Apparently, Hill had fallen asleep behind the wheel of his car. At a major intersection. With marijuana in the car.

Mr. Hill then proceeded to issue the obligatory statement to the media and the public. He was appropriately embarrassed by the “poor judgment I showed.” But then, surprisingly, Mr. Hill did not claim the incident was isolated and promise that it wouldn’t happen again. Mr. Hill did not then proceed to list his on field accomplishments and proclaim that his love for football would keep him going. Mr. Hill did not then schedule a photo op with him feeding inner city homeless children a turkey dinner.

No, Mr. Hill bit the bullet and told the truth.

“Please understand my actions were not consistent with the type of person I hope to become.”

Initially I had to chuckle. But then I started to think. I think Mr. Hill is someone I can identify with. Someone who knows he is a work in progress. Someone who acknowledged what he had done. Someone who acknowledged that his actions were representative of who he is today. Someone who hopes that maybe tomorrow, just maybe, he would do better. And isn't that all any of us can hope for? That someday, just maybe, we will be the person we hope to become.

Check This Out!

I've put off reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini for a long time. Despite pleading recommendations from friends I just didn't see how it could compare to the author's first book, The Kite Runner. And it didn't seem like a very happy book. Well, in spite of much of the book not being particularly happy, A Thousand Splendid Suns certainly equalled or perhaps even surpassed The Kite Runner. Mr. Hosseini has done it again. Don't put off reading it as long as I did.