Best Banana Bread I Ever Made

Banana Bread

Baking becomes a bit of a challenge for me in the summer, since I don’t care to turn on the oven for long periods of time and heat up the house on a hot July day. This year, however, has been a bit strange weather-wise. Monday offered temps in the 60’s… I had six bananas that were heavily speckled with brown spots… and a lack of Candy Crush lives.

I really liked how this  turned out. Most of the time banana bread is dense and mushy. This recipe (from America’s Test Kitchen) solved that problem by removing and reducing the moisture in the bananas. It may take a few minutes longer to make than other recipes, but it’s worth it! The sugar sprinkled on the top caramelizes the banana slices and gives the loaf a crispy crust. You can add 1/2 cup of chopped toasted walnuts to the batter before putting it in the loaf pan… if you like that sort of thing.

 

8.75 ounces all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon table salt

6 large very ripe bananas, peeled

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 large eggs

5.25 ounces light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

 

  • Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Place 5 bananas in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents. Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes until the bananas are soft and have released a lot of liquid. Strain the bananas in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow the liquid to drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. You should end up with somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid.
  • Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the banana liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Place the microwaved bananas in a medium bowl, add the reduced liquid and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth.
  • Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. If your bowl of bananas seems particularly hot after mashing, let it cool for a few minutes so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs in your batter (ewww).
  • Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not over mix.
  • Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray and scrape batter into the loaf pan. Even it out with a spatula.
  • Slice the remaining banana diagonally into 1/8 inch thick slices and shingle the bananas on top of either side of the loaf. Make sure you have at least 1.5 inches of space down the center of the loaf to ensure an even rise. It should look like this:

Unbaked Banana Bread

  • Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the entire loaf.
  • Bake at 350 degrees in the center of the oven for about 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Start checking at 50 minutes.
  • Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and finish cooling on the rack.

This is truly best the same day it’s made, but you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it on the counter for up to 3 days, however once wrapped it does lose some of the crispiness on top, but it’s still delicious!

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup

This is not something I normally make during the summertime, however last week we had two unseasonably cool days, so I was willing to heat up the house a bit. This soup is thick and creamy… and with some bread or croissants, you can definitely make a meal out of it. It should be noted that this is not a quick meal, you will need a couple of hours to make this, but it’s not all active cooking time. Here’s what you’ll need:

4 large russet potatoes

1 pound thick cut bacon

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons bacon fat* (see note below)

2/3 cup flour

8 cups milk

6-8 green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon table salt

1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

 

*If using bacon fat in the soup weirds you out, you could substitute more butter instead. Using some bacon fat really gives the soup a full, well rounded, bacon-y flavor.

 

  • Bake the potatoes as you normally would for a dinner side dish. I usually pick out the 4 largest potatoes I can find at the grocery store, poke them a few times with a fork (to release steam… you don’t want a potato explosion in your oven, do you?) and bake them at 350 degrees for about 75 minutes. Sometimes they take a little longer. I usually start checking them after an hour. I wish I had a better way to describe when the potatoes are done, but I don’t. It’s when they “feel right.” I suppose if you’ve never baked a potato before, this recipe probably isn’t for you. No need to oil the skins or salt them or anything. You’ll be removing the skin later. Allow the baked potatoes to cool on a cooling rack for one hour.
  • Cook the bacon until crispy. You can do it in a frying pan on the stove, but I prefer to do it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in the oven. The bacon cooks much more evenly. You want the bacon to be fairly well done (but don’t burn it!). Once you add it to the soup later, the bacon loses some crispiness as it absorbs soup liquid, so if you start with undercooked, fattier bits, they’ll be really rubbery in the final product – not good. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat and set aside.
  • Chop the cooked bacon into bits and set aside.
  • Peel the potatoes with your hands. It will be easier than you think, but may take some time. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. If you want bigger chunks, that’s fine. Do whatever you want. I just like smaller bite sized potato pieces in my soup. Set aside the cubed potatoes.
  • Add the butter and bacon fat to a large pot or dutch oven. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk together to form a roux. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, until bubbly.
  • Slowly add the 8 cups of milk, whisking constantly. Do your best to not form lumps of roux within the milk. If your roux seems to be clumping, just keep whisking. It’ll all work itself out. Once all of the milk is added, turn the heat up to medium and continue whisking constantly until the mixture starts steaming and begins to thicken, but isn’t simmering yet.
  • Once it starts to thicken slightly, add the potatoes, onions and chives. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly until the soup comes to a simmer. During this time it will get significantly thicker. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot while you’re stirring. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the bacon, stir to combine.
  • Add the shredded cheese, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir each addition until completely melted. If you add all 8 ounces at once, you risk the cheese not melting properly, and you certainly don’t want to ruin your soup at this stage.
  • Add the sour cream, salt and pepper. Stir until sour cream is melted into the soup.
  • Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with additional cheese, bacon and chives.

Strawberry Mojitos

With the holiday weekend approaching, I thought I’d post one of my best adult beverage creations. Miss Gillette can attest to their awesomeness (after much discussion, we have determined Hermione would not be an appropriate title, and so Miss Gillette was conceived).

This is a pretty fabulous cocktail. While it may take a little more work than most, your patience will be rewarded. Here’s what you’ll need:

Strawberry Mojito

  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 1/2 of a lime
  • 1.5 oz. Bacardi Limon
  • 1 oz. strawberry simple syrup (recipe below)
  • club soda
  • ice

First, you’ll need to make the simple syrup:

Strawberry simple syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups strawberries, quartered

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the strawberries. Boil gently until the strawberries are mushy and the mixture becomes thick, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it, because it can burn or boil over. You may need to adjust the heat as the mixture reduces and thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the remaining berry solids through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Put the syrup in an air tight container and refrigerate until use. I like to put mine in this salad dressing shaker,

 

B-Bones photo bombed this one.

B-Bones photo bombed this one.

 

  • Place mint leaves in a mortar and pestle, and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of sugar over the leaves. Muddle the leaves until bruised (the bit of sugar helps to make quick work of this process). If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a small bowl or custard cup and the back of a spoon. This step is important, as it releases the oils in the mint leaves.
  • Add mint leaves to a tall glass.
  • Juice half of a lime, and add the juice to the glass.
  • Add the Bacardi and strawberry simple syrup.
  • Add ice and fill the rest of the glass with club soda.
  • Stir gently and garnish with sliced strawberries, limes and mint leaves, of desired.

If you’re having a party, you can multiply this recipe by 10 or 20. All you need to do make a whole bunch of the cocktail base, which is everything but the ice and club soda. Keep the cocktail base ready in the fridge (I usually put mine in a juice pitcher). When your guests are ready for a cocktail, fill a glass with ice. Pour the cocktail base over the ice until the glass is about 1/3 full. Fill the remainder of the glass with club soda and stir gently.

You can play around with the proportions of the ingredients to your liking. If you want it sweeter, add more syrup… and if it’s too sweet, add less.

Strawberry mojito

Enjoy!

Death of the Chain Restaurant – No, I’m not a “Hipster”

I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, where typical big name chain restaurants are in abundance. These days (and for the last six years), I live less than two miles from the center of downtown St. Paul, where it’s pretty difficult to find a national chain other than fast food. I’d have to drive back into the suburbs to eat at a TGI Fridays, Chili’s or Olive Garden.

I LOVE to eat out. In fact, it’s probably what I spend more money on than anything else (well, other than cigarettes, but don’t worry. There’s an “I Quit” post not too far in the future. *sigh*). I don’t try new places often, probably because I am a creature of habit, and once I’ve found something I love it’s comfortable to keep going back. There’s a small ring of three or four places I frequent because of the good food, comfort factor and decent service… but none of them are chains. I realize that ragging on chain restaurants will make a few of you think I’m some sort of “hipster.” I assure you, that could not be further from the truth. I don’t drink PBR, own a pair of aviator glasses, or smoke American Spirits.

This weekend, I was willing to accept some adventure when my husband suggested a place he had recently checked out called Ward 6. What really caught my attention was his mention of “adult milkshakes.” Haha… no. Your dessert doesn’t come with sex toys, but this little gem on St. Paul’s east side crafts an excellent combination of ice cream and alcohol. The menu was small, but I’m ok with that when your offerings include poutine, lemon parmesan risotto, and a burger delicately placed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. In addition, they had a list of fun cocktails (not all of them were “girly”) and the service was great. If the waitress can’t give a menu recommendation, you’re in the wrong place.

And this is why I rarely find myself a patron of the following establishments:

Dennys

Nope. I don’t ever recall entering this establishment sober either. In fact, it would seem there is a prerequisite of either being drunk or elderly in order to enter the building. God forbid you end up here on a Tuesday, when kids eat free. Nothing makes an already questionable dining decision more enjoyable than having a random four-year old crawl under your table. Everything on the menu is one Grand Slam after another, or the latest gimmick advertised. Seriously, WTF is a Hobbit Meal? The last time I went in here I remember being seated, but having to wait for menus because they had run out. That was at least ten years ago. I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d find myself in a Denny’s again. Even after six beers, I know the result will be a toilet full of regret a few hours later.

OCB

Buffets are a hit or miss. OCB is ALWAYS a disaster. Last time I found myself here was during an epic hang-over midway through my college years. I recall picking over the selections, wondering if perhaps I could concoct a bloody mary out of the pickles and olives in the salad bar and the fifth of vodka in my trunk. Maybe that’s what they need to bring to the table. If OCB stayed open late and served booze, I guarantee a bunch of college kids would pack this all-you-can-eat dumpster and consume mass amounts of gelatinous mac & cheese. Instead, I keep seeing advertisements as to how they’ve “improved” their menu in an effort to bring in new clientele. I’m sure if I walked into OCB again, I’d still be confused as to whether it’s a buffet or a diabetic support group.

Ruby TuesdayApplebee'sTGI-Friday-Logo

Is there a difference between these three places? They all have the same shitty burger/salad/pasta selections. They try to revamp their menus by adding something they consider “exotic”… like putting pineapple on a burger, or strawberries in a salad. Then, they advertise the hell out of their “original” creation like it’s never been done before. The number of Applebee’s have drastically diminished in recent years, and I only know of one Ruby Tuesday within driving distance. There still seems to be a large quantity of TGI Friday’s in my area, but I’m still leery every time I order a drink… after that debacle in which they were busted for passing off low-end booze as top shelf liquor (you can read that story here).

logo_Red_Lobster

Here is where everyone makes the Cheddar Bay Biscuit argument. Did you know that you can buy those in the grocery store and make them at home? Now you don’t have to eat sub-par seafood to get your biscuit fix. I must admit, the “Endless Shrimp” promotion is a guilty pleasure of mine. What really grinds my gears is getting your check and realizing that the shitty margarita you ordered was $9, yet you somehow managed to drink three of them. The service is always slow here too (at least at the location near me). The last time I was in here, it wasn’t at all busy, yet I only saw my waitress once after someone else brought our food. Maybe she was trying to help me avoid ordering another shitty margarita.

chili-large-logo

This place has electronic devices secured to all of it’s tables. While these things allow you to play games on them (I think you have to pay, although I’m not sure), I happened to notice that the device allows you to pay your bill as well. This is probably a good thing for a place like Chili’s, since their service is almost as lacking as their boring menu. In fact, I read an article recently that focused on Chili’s and other similar establishments using tablet computers to essentially replace the wait staff. I’m sure this is in an effort to streamline their operation, but it won’t be long before a Cylon is mixing your watered down six-ounce margarita and spilling it in your lap instead of a pregnant seventeen year old. At least the margaritas are 2-for-1.

It’s not like I’m saying I hate these places (well, except for Denny’s and OCB), but I only end up at any of the above mentioned when I’m out with my suburban living family members. It won’t be long before at least one of these chains end up going the way of other failures like Don Pablo’s, Bennigan’s, and Ground Round. And when was the last time you saw one of those?

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies – Resistance is Futile

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

What do you do when you have a craving, but can’t find a decent recipe to satisfy it? You make one up, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

Thankfully, last night it did not result in disaster.

I’ve watched enough Good Eats and America’s Test Kitchen to get a fairly decent working knowledge of food science. I am by no means an expert, but I can hold my own.

Last night, I had a PB/Choco craving. These two are a perfect union. Anyone who says they don’t like peanut butter and chocolate together is either lying, or they’re a Cylon. I had some chocolate chips, some Reese’s PB Chips… and while I first considered just eating handfuls of both straight from the bags, I decided to give creativity a go. I must admit, I wanted to add either melted chocolate or cocoa powder into the cookie dough as well, but I figured the more I invite to the party, the less of a chance this will turn out edible. These turned out equivalent to a gravy so good you’ve licked your plate.

I’ve specified Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips because not only are they my favorite, but you need something darker to cut through the sweetness of the cookie dough and PB chips (plus, the way this chocolate melts is amazing). I guarantee no amazing-ness should you stray from my directions. Spend the few extra pennies for the good chocolate. This recipe made about 16 cookies.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 & 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/2 cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

1/2 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter, sugars, and peanut butter until creamy and “fluffy-ish” (I say fluffy-ish, because the peanut butter is really dense, and it’s not going to look quite like things normally would when you’re just creaming butter and sugar together).
  • Add the egg and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. (It should look much more fluffy now)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until blended.
  • Add the PB chips and the Chocolate chips. Stir until combined.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Drop cookies about two inches apart in rounded spoonfuls, about two tablespoons each.
  • Put the baking sheet with cookie dough on it into the freezer for 5-10 minutes (I know this might seem strange, but the dough is really soft. By doing this, it helps the cookies not overspread, which means you won’t have overdone edges before the center is baked).
  • Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and bake one sheet at a time, about 14 minutes, or until edges are light golden. Don’t forget to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure your cookies bake evenly. Do not over-bake. This is a common mistake most people make.
  • Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The Customer is (almost) Always a Frittata

This is completely out of character for me, as I am a fairly non-confrontational person.

Today, I couldn’t handle it.

I went into Target this morning to pick up a couple necessities. Due to the rain it was a ghost town, which was awesome cause I’m thinking, “I’ll be able to get in and out of here in no time!” Shopping in an empty Target is equivalent to running up and down my own private beach on a tropical island.

But no.

I get in line behind a woman who is clearly at the point of paying for her merchandise, and start putting my few selections on the belt. As I’m unloading my basket, I overhear the woman arguing with the cashier in front of me,

Cashier: “Yeah, but these are the same coupon. You can’t use both of them.”

Woman: “Yes I can, I’ve done it before. Sometimes they have to get a manager to do it though.” (For those of you who have never worked in retail, this is customer speak for, “I know I’m wrong, but I’m gonna keep bitching until somebody caves, and I get my way.”)

Cashier: “Well… yes, you can use more than one coupon, but not the same one for the same thing.”

Woman: “I don’t understand. I’ve used them before when I’ve bought laundry detergent and paper towels…” she proceeds to tell the cashier how to do her job.

Cashier: “Yes, I understand that. But, these coupons are for five dollars off thirty dollars of women’s clothing. If you want to use the other coupon, you would need to purchase an additional $30 worth of clothing.”

I finish unloading my items and look up, unsure of whether the woman is just stupid or trying REALLY hard to save five more dollars.

Oh, GOOD GRIEF! I recognize the lady. She is this B of a soccer mom who regularly pulled this same shit on me and my cashiers when I was working at Sears. Nothing infuriates me more than when a customer gives an entry-level employee a hard time, especially when the customer is so obviously wrong. I can’t count the number of regular assholes that would come into my store and act like complete shit-shows for no apparent reason.

Woman: “But I have two coupons, so I want to use both of them.”

Cashier: “But this is a web coupon, you can only use it for five dollars off thirty dollars of clothing. You would need to purchase another thirty dollars of clothing to use the second five dollar off coupon. Basically, if you want to use both, you need to purchase sixty dollars worth of clothing.”

At this point, I’m still not sure if she truly doesn’t get it, or if she’s just continuing to fight because she’s already balls deep in this battle. This continues between the two of them for another two or three minutes. In the meantime, the cashier has requested the presence of a manager who has yet to arrive…. and I can’t take it anymore…

Me: “If you really believe you should be able to use both of those coupons, why didn’t you print six of them? Then you could use all six and everything would be free.”

I see, for a brief moment, the lightbulb go on in her head… although I’m not sure if it was because she realized the flaw in her logic, or if she was pissed that she didn’t print six coupons. She gives me her best “stink-eye” and says,

“Well, I guess we’ll just see what the manager says,” in the snottiest, snobbiest voice she can muster. Her frustration is mounting, and I’ve clearly provoked her. I pray, and pray, and cross my fingers, hoping the manager will stick it to her.

The manager arrives. She does not appear much more intelligent than the idiot customer. The cashier and manager go back and forth discussing the situation, all while the woman interjects her worthless concerns. As per usual, the manager caves and gives her another five dollars off as a “shut-up” credit. What happens next is the kicker…

She gives me this smug look that says, “I told you so!” and THEN SHE WINKS AT ME! As if to say, “I win!”

It took every ounce of will power I had to not put my clenched fist straight into her throat. Clearly she doesn’t realize I’m capable of pulling off a homicide.

Watch out, you B. I'm coming for you.

Watch out, you B. I’m coming for you.

The B pushes her cart away, as I fantasize about tackling her to the ground, or following her outside and making a different use of the eggs I was purchasing. Instead, I look at the poor cashier and say,

“She owes me five bucks for wasting my time.”

So glad I will never have to deal with this retail bull-shit again.

Happy Humpday… WITHOUT a dryer fire, but potentially with mom jeans

Being it’s Wednesday, I have my weekly date-night/happy hour with “she who shall not be named.” (I’ve been having difficulty coming up with a character name for her that fits as well as Wizard of Oz characters did for my sisters. Any suggestions of high-maintenance, judgemental, bossy females would be appreciated. I’ve considered calling her “The Earl of Sandwich,” as she may become as historic a gambler as he (I have watched her eat at a slot machine before), but I don’t think she’ll want me referring to her as such, as I know she reads this blog).

I had these grand plans of getting up this morning and getting shit done. Shower, vacuum, a few other chores, and intended on posting last night’s dinner recipe (oh boy, is it a good one).

But once I was motivated to get moving (gotta hook the coffee drip up to my veins early so I can meet my caffeine overdose commitment by 10:00 am), I realized I had never moved my laundry from the washer (which had most of my jeans in it, including the pair I intended on wearing today) to the dryer the night before (probably because we all know how I feel about the basement after dark).

So I make my way down the stairs, thinking “I can blog while I wait for this to dry. Just gotta re-prioritize the list of tasks.”

Upon starting the dryer, it makes a “noise.”

I know you’re thinking, “Of course it makes a noise, you frittata. It’s an appliance. WTF?”

But no.

It sounded like I had added a bunch of rock salt or pennies into the thing.

I panic and stop the dryer.

Um. Ok. No pennies. No rock salt. Should I try starting it again? I mean, I really want to wear one of these pairs of jeans. My only other option would be the one pair of “mom” jeans I own, and I certainly can’t wear those tonight.

I start the dryer again. Same noise. I proceed to stand there for a moment and listen. I consider the possibility (because I ALWAYS assume the worst) that if I don’t stick around for a few minutes and make sure things are proceeding normally, the house will burn down due to a dryer fire, and I only have one carrier for two cats, and how am I going to get the animals out of the house and keep them safe? Seriously, this is the shit that goes through my head.

This is my dryer. Yes, it has a gigantic lint pile on top of it. Yes, I realize this would assist in the quick progression of a dryer fire. No, I don't know why neither myself nor my husband have addressed this situation (he says he's going to mold it into a lint bunny rabbit someday).

This is my dryer. Yes, it has a gigantic lint pile on top of it. Yes, I realize this would assist in the quick progression of a dryer fire. No, I don’t know why neither myself nor my husband have addressed this situation (he says he’s going to mold it into a lint bunny rabbit someday).

Then I hear it.

Something different.

What the f*** was that?

A strange “popping” sound comes from across the other end of the basement, in the direction of the Detective Stabler Room (this concept is explained in a previous post).

OH. MY. GOD.

Dilemma. Dryer fire or white walkers? Which would you choose? Because in my head, at that moment, those were the only two timelines my mind was willing to explore… because there’s obviously something wrong with me.

Just as in a nightmare, I freeze, paralyzed by the insane shit my brain conjures up.

And after about six seconds, the dryer is sounding slightly more normal, which is enough convincing for me to BOLT up the stairs without looking back. Not sure how I’m gonna get my laundry once it’s dry.

To top it off, the local media is doing nothing today other than covering the American Idol auditions taking place a few miles from where I live. Clearly, they don’t screen any of the folks they choose to sing on the morning news. I should have been in the shower and avoided this, but alas I am blogging and hearing the Twin Cities’ finest renditions of whale songs. I can’t believe Idol is still a thing.

So, Hermione (this seems like a better choice than Earl of Sandwich), if I show up wearing my mom jeans tonight, you’ll know why.

How to Successfully Pull Off a Homicide

Like most human beings, I am a creature of habit. We all have routines we follow, and wake up each morning with a certain expectation of how each day will progress.

Except I bring this to an entirely new level.

I am ridiculously methodical about how I plan even the simplest of tasks. Take a trip to the grocery store, for example:

  • Make a list of what I intend to purchase.
Thai Peanut Pork is on the menu tonight.

Thai Peanut Pork is on the menu tonight.

  • Re-write the list in order of my regular path through the store, ensuring there will be no double backing due to a produce item being at the end of the list.
How did donuts end up on the list?

How did donuts end up on here?

  • Plan to leave the house sometime between 9:00 am and noon. Outside of this window I have to compete with morning rush hour traffic and soccer moms who have either just dropped their kids off at school or are running their errands before picking their kids up from school. There’s also the potential for a long line of “Lottery Ticket Ladies”, “Money Order Monsters” (seriously, why don’t you have a checking account?), or “Rug Doctor Renters” at the Service Center. All I want to do is buy a pack of cigarettes before I do my shopping so I don’t have to make a second stop at the gas station and be heckled for money by the riff-raff of St. Paul’s North End. While I realize this time window puts me at the mercy of elderly shoppers who block entire aisles with their carts and don’t hear you saying “excuse me” eight times in a progressively louder and more irritated tone… I have to pick my battles. I’d rather deal with that than being run over in aisle 12 by a soccer mom pushing her cart full speed because she’s already late to pick up the kids and doesn’t have my impeccable planning skills.
  • Make minor adjustments to the previous step if it’s summer and school is not in session. This usually results in an early grocery run to avoid the addition of kids bee-bopping around the store and J-walking across Rice Street.
  • Check to make sure the blow dryer and/or hair straightener are unplugged.
  • Check to make sure the cats have water (I mean, what if I’m in a car accident and no one is home for a few hours?)
  • Check to make sure lights/TV/etc. are off.
  • Check the blow dryer/hair straightener situation a second and potentially third time.
  • Do I have everything I need? (looks in purse, says to self, “phone, smokes, lighter, wallet, keys”).
  • Check the blow dryer again.
  • Leave the house. Make sure no cats are near the door (I have this strange fear of slamming one of their tails in the door).
  • Give the door knob a jiggle and push against the back door to ensure it’s locked.
  • Get in the car, only to immediately get out and check the back door again.
  • Arrive at the grocery store. Fuck. All three of my “usual” spots are occupied by other vehicles. I park one row closer to the store than typical.
  • Enter grocery store to discover THEY’RE MOVING EVERYTHING AROUND AND MY “PERFECTLY PLANNED – NO DOUBLE BACKING” LIST IS WORTHLESS!
  • Consider laying down on the floor and dying, but know that someone has to feed your husband, and muster up the courage press on.
  • Manage to find everything you need in the store without incident.
  • Upon exiting, experience a short panic attack when you do not immediately see your car, silently curse about the punk kids that stole your car, then remember that some bastards parked in your spaces, forcing you to adapt to the circumstances.
  • Arrive home and meticulously put groceries away according to temperature (frozen, refrigerated, pantry… in that order).

Can you imagine what I was like when I was planning a wedding?

In conclusion, don’t cross me. If I can spend this inordinate amount of time planning and adapting for a simple grocery store trip, imagine what I could do if I didn’t like you?

Worm Hat, Denim Chicken

Being yesterday was Father’s Day, Neil and I ventured out to visit both sets of parents.

You never know what to expect with my family. It’s so dysfunctional, conversations can turn on a dime.

During dinner last night, the Tin Man (going forward, to avoid actual names and potential embarrassment, my sisters will be known as The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion) mentions a discovery she made shortly after arriving back in the States..

Me: “The Dentist-Waiter?”

My mom: “Stop. Just stop. Don’t ask. Don’t get him going.”

Tin Man: “Yeah, I found his notes.”

Me: “What do you mean, notes?

Tin Man: “Well, they weren’t exactly full sentences, but I was able to get the idea.” I imagine the Scarecrow and Tin Man snooping around and discovering something like this:

Charlie Kelly's Dream Book from "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia."

Charlie Kelly’s Dream Book from “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”

My mom: “Oh my god. Just stop. You don’t want to ask questions.”

Me: “So you’re telling me dad wrote a play called, The Dentist-Waiter?”

My dad finally decides to interject (keep in mind he’s about 8 beers in, as per usual).

Dad: “Have you ever watched Seinfeld?”

I think to myself, “No. Don’t you remember when you put me in cryostasis for all of the 1990’s?”

Me: “Of course I know Seinfeld. Situational comedy. I get it. Did you start watching Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns or something?”

Dad: “No. You know… you always have an appointment when you go to the dentist, but have to wait. It’s like being in a restaurant and having reservations, but you don’t get seated until 20 minutes after the time your reservation was for.”

He then proceeds to quote “one-liners” from his “play,” and describes the receptionist’s dissatisfaction with the unruly patients.

Me: “So the dentist and the waiter are two different people?”

Neil: “Yeah, there was an implied hyphen in there.”

Me: “Exactly, the title gave me the impression this was going to be about a dentist down on his luck who was forced to moonlight as a waiter in the evening to make ends meet.”

Dad: “No, no no…”

Mom: “I told you not to ask.”

Me: “Who’s starring as the lead role? Leonardo DiCaprio?” It’s a known fact that my dad has an unhealthy obsession with Leo. If Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, or Blood Diamond are on TV, you can bet that’s where he’s changed the channel.

Dad (a bit sheepishly): “Maybe.”

Me: “What if he’s not available?”

Dad: “Tom Hanks.”

Neil: “What about Martin Short as The Dentist Waiter”

Me: “Or Danny DeVito?”

Laughter ensues.

We then proceed to discuss the lack of activity my dad’s Facebook account which the Tin Man created a couple years ago on his behalf. At the time, this infuriated my father, who has no idea how technology works and refuses to learn. When he discovered what the Tin Man had done, he threatened to throw her laptop into the bathtub, assuming that if he were able to destroy it, his “SpaceBook***” account would be gone forever.

I hope someday I get to see an episode of The Dentist Waiter.

***SpaceBook: What my dad thinks Facebook is called.

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake

I was warned that there would be “good days” and “bad days.” I thought to myself, “How is not working going to ever result in a bad day?” When I was employed, I LIVED for my days off. I always had grand plans of what I would do on those special days in which I didn’t have to pass out meds to the inmates, or babysit their illegitimate children (managers = inmates, children = their incompetent employees). Ultimately, I would end up spending most of the morning on Annaswasteoftimemachine, make a trip to the grocery store, maybe do some laundry, and consider cooking dinner. Fucking exciting.

Except it was fucking exciting when I was working… because all that mattered was that I WAS NOT AT THE ASYLUM.

Well, it does get boring. Free-time is great… but when all you have is free-time, it starts to lose its appeal.

I very recently had the benefit of spending some time with a friend who is in a similar situation. While his circumstances are significantly more complicated than my own, it was refreshing to chat with someone who understands the emotional part of being jobless. After hearing everything he’s has been coping with (unemployed, marriage is on the rocks, toddler to raise, finances a mess, not to mention the anxiety and bouts of depression), it made me think that I should be able to cope much better.

But I’m not.

Yes, I’m unemployed… and while my anxiety isn’t quite like this:

anxiety amy

it definitely fluctuates between this:

tired_george_michael_arrested_development

and this:

Buster

 

I think I’ve decided that what I’m truly worried about is this:

Gob's mistake

Hank's mistake

Theon's mistake

I’ve been given the opportunity to make a career change without any real consequences. I should be thrilled that I can finally do whatever I want and fulfill the saying, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!”

Except when presented with this challenge, the pressure mounts. I don’t want to make the wrong decision.  Most people are never afforded the chance to make the changes that I am about to. What if I screw this up? What if I choose the wrong career and hate it? What if I disappoint the people I love?

I’m truly afraid of failure. I’m afraid of hearing, “Ya blew it.” I know that even if I choose the wrong path and find myself starting over again, it will not be detrimental; no one will die and life will go on. We won’t lose the house, we won’t be financially unstable, my husband won’t divorce me… I just don’t want to FUCK THIS UP! Does that make sense? I feel like I need to navigate these waters perfectly, but I just picture myself as Ralph Wiggum doggie paddling in a kiddie pool only six inches deep with water… as if I’m going to drown in that. Then I start thinking about actually screwing it up and I get like this:

Sheldon's anxiety

Pretty sure this is how I’m going to feel during tonight’s Game of Thrones finale as well.

How do I get past my anxieties and just do this? Why do I feel like I need to be such a perfectionist about everything? I just wish I could have more of a honey badger attitude about it, but that’s just not me. Any advice you folks have to offer would be appreciated.