Archive for the ‘Life….’ Category

Books That I’m Not Ashamed to Have Read

OMGZ.  I just found this blog yesterday, and I’m laughing nonstop.  Like literally giggling to myself uncontrollably while trying not to piss myself.  Now, if you never read the Sweet Valley High (or Babysitters Club, Goosebumps, Christopher Pike or anything else that falls into this category of 80s/90s trash fiction) books, then you probably want to stop reading now because you won’t get it.  You just won’t, and that sucks for you, and you better go check out your copy of SVH #1, Double Love RIGHT NOW.  But for the rest of you who at one time (or, like me, still do) enjoyed reading worthless garbage (I use this term loosely, friends), please continue.

Okay, so if you didn’t follow the link above, basically it’s this blogger who is recapping the entire Sweet Valley High series.  All of Jessica and Elizabeth’s exploits are being re-told through the eyes of someone who’s not 11, which makes for a hilarious return to Sweet Valley, the land of Pascal perfection.  Because, seriously, I LOVED those books, and they just made perfect sense to 11-year old me.  Actually, I really just wanted to be Elizabeth (not Jessica because she was always such a bitch), and have pretty blond hair and toned legs and a perpetual tan and a lawyer dad and a cute boyfriend that rode a motorcycle but wouldn’t crash it while I was on the back and put me in a coma….anyway, these books just spoke to me.

And so did many others.  Reading that blog made me really nostalgic for my old faves, so I put together a list of some of the ones that were read and re-read so many times that I think they finally flagged my library account to put a limit on how many V.C. Andrews books I could check out at a time.

Anyway. #1

Let’s start with V.C. and her IN-FREAKING-SANE story about the Dollangangers.  First of all, where did she come up with that name?  I mean…Dollanganger?  Wait, it just occurred to me that it’s probably some sort of tie-in to the Dopplegänger theory, since the family members, as I recall, look very much alike.   Anyway.  I could not put this book down when I first read it, and the same goes for the 17th time I read it.  It’s just nuts.  And I love me a nutty story.

So the story is told from the perspective of Cathy, who’s this super beautiful pre-teen destined to be the world’s best ballerina.  She lives with her mom and dad, older brother, and younger twin brother and sister and they have a perfect life.  This all changes when her dad tragically dies in a car wreck, and her mom, who is basically this helpless nitwit that has relied on her good looks to get everything in life suddenly has to fend for herself, and her looks ain’t payin’ the bills if you know what I mean.  Oh, real quick, she’s a blond, just like the SVH twins…why is it that authors always make the blond characters stunningly beautiful?  What about brunettes?  Why are there no beautiful brown haired chicks?  Just wondering.

Anyway.

So the mom is like, “oh dear, what do I do?”  And, like a complete idiot, decides to take her four kids and move into her parents’ mansion.  I should mention that her parents hate her for doing something REALLY, REALLY BAD (i.e., married her frickin’ uncle) years ago and they tell her that sure, she can move in with them, but they’re going to lock her kids in a room while they’re there.  Um, what?  So anyway, as readers, we don’t know this whole bit about the kids being locked up, and we don’t even have a clue until we meet Grandma Evil Bitch.  Okay, so fast forward like 16 chapters….mom’s been off living it up, eating in fancy restaurants, flirting with dudes, and traveling the world, while the 4 kids have literally been confined to a single room that adjoins the attic.  FOR YEARS.  Grandma E.B. brings them food everyday, but wait! The food is being poisoned by THEIR OWN MOTHER.  Arsenic, baby.  Yep, she’s trying to off her own kids so she keep doing exactly what she’s already been doing.  Whatever. Okay, so the kids are getting sick, especially the little twins, and it’s really pretty heartbreaking.  Meanwhile, Cathy and big brother Chris, now teenagers with raging hormones, have developed an unnaturally close bond that results in them banging, and this is the part that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around as a 12 year old.  Actually, I still can’t, but back then I remember thinking, “Okay, wait a minute.  Did they just do it?”  And then I reread that passage like 25 times because I couldn’t freaking believe it.

So the book wraps up soon after that.  I think it kind of needed to…I mean, a brother and sister just did the nasty.  As an author, where do you go after that?  Anyway, the little boy dies (I cried…a lot) and Cathy and Chris devise an escape plan and get the hell outta the crazy house.   I’d like to say they never looked back, but Cathy can’t let it go, so V.C. pumps out four more books.  All of which I read multiple times.

#2

So Stacey has a secret.  And judging from the cheery smile on her face while she’s hanging in the candy store, it’s a pretty serious one.  Psst……she has diabetes.  Looking back on that now, I’m laughing.  I mean, TONS of kids today have diabetes thanks to the shitty food their parents feed them, but back then, diabetes was not as common, especially in children.  At least I don’t think it was.  When I read this book in 3rd grade, I was all, “GASP!!!  Nooooo!  Stacey has a DISEASE?!?!”  And it was all truly shocking to me.

Also, look at the cover picture.  Stacey was supposed to be the super stylish and pretty one of the bunch.  I really don’t think the illustrator captured that.

Anyway.

I have to dig waaaaay back for a plot summary of this book, because let’s be honest….3rd grad was a long time ago.  Here’s the gist of it, as I recall: Stacey is the treasurer (?) of the Baby-Sitters Club, which consists of 4 middle school girls who…take a guess at what they do.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Got it?  Yes, that’s right, they baby-sit.  Anyway, Stacey’s the newest member of this super elite (not) club, and she’s been missing meetings and generally not acting like a responsible Baby-Sitters Club member.  Her friends are like “what is up with Stacey?” but she doesn’t want them to know that she has diabetes.  Apparently, this is pretty top-secret stuff.  Finally, she tells them, they put on their sad faces and make sympathetic noises, and there’s a happy ending.  Not that kind, pervos….these are CHILDREN’S BOOKS.

So here’s what I got from this book when I first read it:  I wanted to have a disease of my own.  Stacey got soooo much attention from it! Then I thought about it some more and decided that any disease where I couldn’t eat Fun Dip and Pop Rocks would SUCK, so I changed my mind.

#3

Wow.  Christopher Pike could write one hell of  a good story.  I’ll never forget the day I discovered his books….that was the day my relationship with R.L.  Stine came to an abrupt halt.  I never got Goosebumps driving down Fear Street again.  Get it?  Ha. Ha. Ha.

Anyway.

So this was one of my favorite Christopher Pike books.   It’s about this teenage girl named Shari who mysteriously dies at a friend’s party.  Everyone thinks she committed suicide, but guess what y’all?  SHE DIDN’T.  Duhh duhhhhh…cue the spooky music.  Okay, so Shari doesn’t want everyone thinking she killed herself, especially since she was MURDERED.  Duhh duhhhh DUHHHH!  She makes it her mission to find out who killed her and why, and along the way she does creepy stuff like attend her own funeral, spy on her friends, and enter their dreams.  Weird, huh?  I won’t tell you the ending of this one because I actually don’t remember it because I want you to read it for yourself and enjoy this classic page-turner by Christopher Pike!

Okay, last one. #4

I need to talk about this cover picture real quick.  Can someone please tell me what is up with this little girl’s hair?  It’s like Cher meets Billy Ray Cyrus circa 1992.  This even bothered me as a kid.  This girl is a little a-hole in the book, and I thought her hair looked really bad way back then.  It still does, in my opinion.

Okay, so also check out the super creepy ghost.  That’s Helen.  And you better just wait till she comes…..shit’s gonna get real.  So here’s the deal: Molly has recently moved into an old house with her brother, mom, stepdad, and stepsister Heather.  Heather’s a real bitch and even though Molly tries to get close with her, Heather ain’t havin’ it.  Pretty soon, she starts talking about this ghost she’s been hanging out with, and Molly spies on her to find out the truth.  Well guess what?  Heather is for rillz; she’s not making it up.  There is a ghost, and she’s not very nice, as they find out when she destroys all the rooms in their home except for Heather’s and her dad’s.  She also gives Heather a locket, which has some significance at the end  of the story.  Okay, so later on the parents leave the house for awhile, and Heather leaves to meet Helen in the cemetery that is conveniently located near their home.  And seriously, where else would you meet a ghost, right?  Molly follows them, and it’s a good thing too, because suddenly Helen isn’t so nice anymore.  She lures Heather to a pond to try and drown her.  What?!  Where did that come from?  Honestly, I don’t know…..I do remember being soooo surprised when I was a kid, and soooo pissed at Helen too.  It’s just like a ghost to win your trust with lockets and destroying your sib’s room, and then suddenly turn on your ass and try to drown you.  Ugh.  Anyway, Molly saves the day by dragging Heather out of the pond.  Helen chases them, Molly throws the locket at her (because that’s what you do with a charging ghost), Helen is distracted, and Molly and Heather fall into a pit of some kind that contains the bones of Helen’s parents.  Here’s where the story got iffy.  I mean, there’s just a pit with bones in it?  And no one knew about it?  What?  So once the girls are rescued by their frantic parents, the bones are properly buried and Helen can now take it easy and stop haunting little girls and gifting them with antique jewelry.  Whew.

I seriously did love that book, though, when I was a kid.  I’m pretty sure that’s where my obsession with the supernatural began.

And oh my gosh!  The wikipedia tells me that Jennifer Love Hewitt is directing a movie based on this book.  Whee!  I will totally be seeing this one in the theater!

Okay.  So that’s my list of some of the books that have shaped me and made me into the incredible person I am today.  What’s on your list?

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It’s Been Awhile

An Open Letter to My 8 Subscribers:

I’m sure you have all been sitting at home, wondering each and every day when I was going to post something again.  It’s okay, you can admit it. I know there’s been a deep and aching void in your heart because of my lack of posts recently, and I apologize for being the cause of such pain.  The truth is, friends, I can’t think of a damn thing to say.  I’ve taken some pictures and tossed around some ideas, but nothing seems to click into place.  And if it doesn’t click, in my opinion, then it’s not worth writing about.  I did feel, however, that I needed to post SOMETHING, which is why this letter is happening.

Since I still seem to be unable to come up with anything of substance, here’s a look at a few of the people/places/things (i.e., NOUNS.  What? I’m an English person) that have been keeping me occupied and thus unable to form a coherent post:

We went to the City Market a few weeks ago, and I gotta say, I love that place.  I wish we lived closer so we could go more often.  I doubt I would even buy stuff every time, because most of the appeal for me is the people.  I love watching the people; in fact, I have something of a staring problem.  Thank God for dark sunglasses.

Also, I found this drawing interesting.  It was in sort of the main walkway area of the market:

Clearly, this is the work of a master.

The next two pictures represent essentially what my life has become in recent weeks:

The kids in the first picture have chosen an activity that takes up all my time, and the kid in the second picture has chosen an activity that takes up all my money.  I’m not complaining….I’m just saying.

By the way, there was a post on here yesterday called “Please Stop Just Saying,” and it was about the most annoying pop culture phrases.  “I’m just saying” was included, as was “epic fail,” “I know, right?” and “ridic.”  I thought it was funny, and quite true, even though I am totes guilty of using some of these phrases from time to time.  I would point out though, that the #1 most annoying pop culture phrase for me personally is “It is what it is.”  Ugh.  Please don’t ever say that in my presence.  It’s stupid, and annoying, and redundant, and everyone already knows that it, whatever it may, actually is what it is.

But I digress…

Okay, so finally, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to come up with vegetarian dishes that won’t taste like shit.  Since we have basically switched over to a meat-free diet (with the exception of a few times, like yesterday when I temporarily lost my mind and somehow found myself at Wendy’s ordering a spicy chicken sandwich), I’ve had to try out a lot of new recipes.  Some of them have been pretty tasty, while others have been EPIC FAILS.  This book has yielded some good ideas:

I’ve made a couple of different dishes from here, including a butternut squash and potato side dish that ranked somewhere between okay and good.  I thought it just needed more cheese, which also cemented my belief that I will never, ever be able to live as a vegan.  Sorry, Trent, but it’s not happening.

Here’s one of the meals from the book:

This would probably be easier to see if it were on a plate, but I didn’t have any clean plates so you’ll have to use your imagination.  It’s pasta (I used rotini) topped with sauteed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and I can’t even remember what else.  I put some fresh basil and spinach in there too, and then a sprinkling of grated Parmesan.  I rather enjoyed it.  My kids didn’t, but I don’t care, because I also rather enjoy the dramatic expressions they make and the impassioned cries of “Mom, you’re killing us!” while I force them to eat it.  Dinner and a show, as far as I’m concerned.

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got right now.  I hope to be feeling the writin’ vibe again very soon, and trying out some new recipes to blog about in more detail.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

Toodles,

Chandigupti

Ham and Beans and Sadness

Sunday I made ham and beans and cornbread.  And I love love love ham and beans and cornbread.  Why?  Because it tastes good.  Duh.  Also, it basically consists of throwing stuff in a pot and walking away, which leaves me lots of time for doing other, more fun things, like watching Teen Mom and judging people.

You might now be wondering why, if I’m doing the fun things I just mentioned, I would entitle this post “Ham and Beans and Sadness.”  And I’ll tell you….it’s because I was shown another side to my beloved Pioneer Woman.  Coincidentally, the ham and beans recipe I was using was from her website, and I’ll give you that in a minute, because they were really good. 

Also, I was sad because my camera battery was dead, so I couldn’t take any pictures of the ham and bean and cornbread making; I only got the finished product.  Boo. Hiss.

Okay, so let’s chat about PW for a minute.  I found her site maybe a year or two ago while I was looking for recipes, and I was immediately sucked in.  Her food always looks good, the recipes are easy to follow, and I enjoy her photography.  And she’s pretty funny, in a self-depriciating, record-her-own-burp-sounds kind of way.  I’ve been checking in and reading about her antics almost daily, and I’ve made several meals and desserts using her recipes.  I think maybe one didn’t turn out as good as she made it sound, which is definitely forgiveable.  It’s not like I’ve never cooked nasty food before….ask Trent.  He’d be happy to tell you about the soupy tuna casserole (FAIL) or the asian-fusion peanut chicken stuff (EXTREME FAIL) I made that one time.

Anyway.

It turns out there are a lot of people who really don’t like the Pioneer Woman.  I mean, they REALLY DON’T LIKE HER.  There are websites devoted to ridiculing her and exposing her as a greedy fraud who’s sold her soul to advertising.  Honestly, I was surprised and saddened.  (Sometimes I’m really naive.)  My first thought was, “How dare they say these horrible things about my friend PW?!?!”  I had to stop looking at those terrible things, so I stomped around my house for awhile mumbling about mean people sucking and things of that nature. 

But….I’ve always considered myself to be an open-minded person, so I decided to look again, just to see if there was any substance to what those miscreant trolls out there were saying.  I also reminded myself that me and PW are not actually friends, she has no one idea who I am, and I really don’t know her at all.  So I took a more objective approach as I began reading some of the information on these sites.  And boy was that interesting.  And maybe those people aren’t really miscreant trolls.  According to public farm records (or whatever), their family is worth millions, and that’s not including the revenue she gets from her website.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being worth millions, but when you call yourself an average farm wife…well, the average farm wife doesn’t shop at Anthropologie and spent tens of thousands renovating a guest house.  Also, according to “local townspeople,” PW’s rude and can barely deign to grace them with her presence unless she’s accompanied by a film crew for her new cooking show on the Food Network.  And guess who else sucks besides mean people?  Rude people.

So, is any of that stuff true?  I have no idea.  But I do know that the interwebs are a cruel, cruel place, and whatever you put out there, people are going to criticize, dissect, and make a mockery of it.  I do, however, still like the Pioneer Woman, and I’ll continue to visit her site, contribute to her crazy high traffic, and probably earn her a buck or two with every click of my mouse.   But I’ve got a more discerning eye now, and I don’t think it will ever be the same.  My blinders were lifted.  Sniff, sniff.

Anyway.  I’m not even really sure why I felt the need to relay all that information.  So how about an abrupt subject change to lighten the mood?

Food!

Let’s talk about ham and beans and cornbread for a sec.  Like I said, the ham and beans recipe came from PW.  They’re SPICY ham and beans, which was exactly what I was in the mood for.  I’ve made regular ham and beans plenty of times, but I’ve never added jalapenos and red peppers and chili powder.  I gotta say, those additions make a big difference, and in a good way.

The cornbread recipe came from allrecipes.com, my number one go-to place for recipes, meal ideas, and just when I’m bored.  Yes, I troll around on a recipe website in my down time.  It’s an exciting life I lead.

Spicy Ham and Beans
1 lb. dry pinto beans, soaked and rinsed
cut up ham, as much or as little as you like
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno, chopped (leave the seeds in for more spice)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt
pepper
chili powder

Sort the dry beans, then soak and rinse per directions on the bag.  After they’re soaked and rinsed, put the beans in a big stock pot and cover with water….there should be about 2 inches of water above the beans.  These will cook for about 2 hours, and then you need to add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 20 – 30 minutes or until beans are tender.  Don’t forget to taste test and make sure you have enough salt and pepper in there.  And don’t try to get cute like I did with the sour cream and cilantro….it looks pretty in the picture but it didn’t really do much for the flavor.

Cornbread
(Disclaimer: This is not healthy.  At all.)
1/2 c. butter, melted
2/3 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have this, you can add vinegar to milk, I think.  Not sure though, so google it.)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a cast iron skillet (preferably) or a baking dish and put it in the oven to get hot.  Meanwhile, mix the butter, sugar, and eggs until well blended.  Combine the baking soda with the buttermilk before mixing both in with the butter mixture.  Stir in the cornmeal, flour, and salt until mixed.  Remove skillet from oven, and pour batter into it.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cut into squares, slather with butter (yes, more butter), and feel no guilt about the 200+ calories per square you are consuming.  Or feel guilty if you want to, your choice.

I’d Much Rather Be Doing Something Else Today

Well, it’s Friday.  (Rebecca Black said so too, in case you were wondering.)  I’m at work, there’s not a lot to do, and it’s pouring outside.  These are the kinds of days where I think to myself, “Self, if you could be doing anything else right now, what would it be?”  And then I start dreaming up wild scenarios where I am whisked off by private plane to a remote tropical island (preferably Turks and Caicos, if anyone wants to make this a reality for me), immediately handed a fruity drink (with an umbrella, please), and deposited with a lounge chair on a deserted beach (except for the attractive man that will be bringing me drinks).

Or I know!  Maybe Ryan Reynolds could come barging through the door because he’s being chased by masked gunman, and he asks to take cover under my desk.  Then when the bad guy comes in, I roundhouse kick the gun out of his hand, Ryan grabs it, shoots the guy (not mortally, cause he’s not like that), then he takes my hand and we flee to a getaway car driven by Ryan Gosling.  Then the three of us fly by private plane to a remote tropical island.  Oh Ryans, you make me swoon.

Don’t those ideas sound fun?  I think so.  Sadly, they’re never going to happen.  Excuse me while I go cry in the bathroom for a moment.  What could happen, though, on a rainy day where I’m stuck at work with nothing to do, is I could take the rest of the day off, go home, make popcorn, and put on my pajamas and lay in bed with my fuzzy blankie and watch TV all day.  Now that is a plausible scenario.  I’d probably put on some Friends, True Blood (duh), maybe some Parks and Rec, I don’t know.  But it would be good stuff.

Unfortunately, I have no vacation time left (read: ZERO HOURS…excuse me while I cry again), so here I am blogging about what I would do and the stuff I would watch.  And since I can’t leave, how about I just make a countdown for y’all of my favorite moments from my favorite TV shows.  I have nothing better to do anyway, and if you’re reading this, you don’t either.

5. Flight of the Conchords

 

4. Parks and Rec

 

3. The Office

 

2. Friends

 

1. True Blood

 

Well, that’s my list.  I had fun rewatching those moments, plus I just killed another hour of this loooonnngg day.  Sweet!  Chandra: 1, Work: 0.  And that’s how it’s done, my friends.

I Love Camping….Psych!

First of all, sorry for the “psych!” I was just reading something about bad trends from the 90s, and while it talked about stuff like Jnco Jeans and tribal tattoos, I’m remembering all the really bad slang from that era.  Booyah!

Okay, so we went camping last weekend.  Actually, technically, it was a float trip, but there was camping involved.  And I’m fine with the floating part, but it’s the camping that I’m not quite as much in love with.  It totally bums me out too, because I like to think that I’m comfortable wherever I am – in the city, country, suburbs, the ghetto, the backwoods of Missouri – wherever.  But the truth is, I’m not.  I’m definitely not comfortable sleeping in a tent in the backwoods of Missouri (cue banjo music from Deliverance).  And if I’m going to be totally honest, I’m probably not super comfortable in the ghetto either.  Just saying.

Anyway.

We camped.  We canoed.  I survived.  Barely.

Rather than give y’all a run-through of the whole weekend, I’m just going to highlight a few adventures and happenings from the trip.

1. The Bathrooms

Unfortunately, this picture doesn’t really do the bathroom justice.  I couldn’t get a good angle for the photo, plus I was sort of scared to go in any farther.  What you can see, though, is the moldy shower curtain that served as a door on the stall.  Behind that moldy curtain was a teeny, tiny space with a toilet, an empty toilet paper roll, and a whole bunch of grody (90s slang alert!) bugs.  Oh, and these instructions:

The fact that they find it necessary to tell people to do something as basic as flush the toilet says a lot, I think. 

2.  The Accommodations

This really wasn’t that bad, as far as tents go.  Not that I’ve stayed in a lot of tents, but it was pretty comfortable.  There was plenty of space, and once I got past the heat and humidity inside the thing, not to mention the rank odor of 4 unshowered people, it wasn’t THAT bad.

3. The Food.

This was my second favorite part of the whole trip.  Why?  Because it involved s’mores and campfire pies.  Duh.

Here’s a s’more:

And here is Trent transcending reality and going to an otherworldly place where only chocolate and marshmallows and joy exist:

Oh s’mores….how I love you. 

My dad, who organized the whole trip, also introduced me to campfire pies.  I have no idea if this is what they’re actually called, but it fits.  You take two buttered pieces of bread, put them in the two halves of a pie iron (butter side out), sprinkle both pieces with cinnamon and sugar, top one slice with pie filling, then put them together and stick ’em in the fire.  And then magic happens.

Buttery and crunchy on the outside, and warm pie filling on the inside.  Oh mama.  By the end of the weekend, I think I put away a record number of s’mores and campfire pies.  I also cried when I got on the scale after we got back.

4. Ricky Danny

This is my dad, Dan.  After driving like a maniac throughout the Missouri hills this weekend, he’s now known around these parts as Ricky Danny.  Never in my life have I felt as car sick as I felt driving through the Ozarks with this man.  Even 3 pregnancies with weeks of nonstop nausea had nothing on this ride with Ricky Danny.

5. The Canoeing

This was….interesting.  There were some definite good parts, but there were some definite bad parts too.  Here’s some of the good stuff:

There was tons of natural beauty here.  People can make all the jokes they want about the Ozarks and the hillbillies that live there, but maybe they’re onto something.  When you look around and all you can see for miles are trees, mountains, caves, rivers, lakes, and about a million stars at night, it sort of makes all the ugly things in the world disappear.  It puts you in a state of bliss.

And then, while you’re riding peacefully in your canoe in that state of bliss, overcome with the beauty of the scenery, your husband suddenly steers you into an overturned tree at the edge of the river and your peaceful world comes crashing down because spiders fill your canoe, sending you into an absolute shrieking panic that nearly overturns the boat, and then said husband yells at you to “calm the f**k down!” and then you get pissed at being told to calm down when clearly the situation calls for mayhem, and becoming completely freaking unglued is the only logical response.  Whew. 

So that was the bad part of canoeing.

Obviously, I didn’t get any pictures of the spiders or of that particular moment because I was too busy screaming and trying to eviscerate the icky spiders with my oar.  Please accept my apologies.

6.  Going Home

My favorite part of the whole trip.