Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do Stacy and Clinton have it right?

So, hopefully everyone is familiar with the TLC show "What Not to Wear." I'm a big fan. Mainly because watching it makes me SO okay with my own fashion debacles. Side note: if anyone would like to nominate me for this show, feel free. Just let me know so I can make sure to wear my absolute WORST outfits for the next two weeks while you videotape me. I promise you that being mocked on network television and letting go of my entire wardrobe are TOTALLY worth a $5000 shopping spree in New York City. Pretty sure I have an old pair of jorts and some white sandals that I would gladly don for the occasion.

I'm pondering this question because a co-worker informed me that she was called out by a stranger in our office today for wearing leggings before Labor Day. My question to you is...when did this become a rule?! I'm familiar with the no-white-before-Easter-or-after-Labor-Day regulation. (I actually believe this also originally expanded to a no-opened-toed-shoes-before...after rule, but geez, people, this is Alabama!) Outside of that, I really don't know of any hard and fast rules for dressing.

Interestingly enough...Stacy and Clinton--fashion police, hosts of the popular show that critiques people's inability to dress themselves and helps them learn to look presentable--say there are no rules when it comes to fashion. They say to disregard trends, what's in style, etc. and wear what works for you. Street signs displayed in the show's opening sequence proclaim that bag/shoe matching is not required, that white is permitted after Labor Day, etc. But does that actually work in the real world?

Apparently not, as my friend was cited on the escalator today for wearing leggings. I applaud her. She managed to keep her cool, while the offender rattled on about how she noticed that my friend was wearing leggings...and how she's just DYING to wear hers, but you're just not supposed to wear them until after Labor Day. I didn't witness this whole encounter, but I can imagine that the above statements were probably followed up with a "Clueless"-esque giggle. For which I applaud my friend again for not slapping the broad across her spray-tanned face. From what I understand, the offender was really quite the fashionista herself...what, with her ankle-length pants, noticeable dark roots, and teased bangs. Um, hello, pot. This is the kettle. You're black!

So, are we really safe wearing whatever the heck we want whenever the heck we want to wear it? I can honestly say that I don't know. I must say that my sandals will be making appearances well into the end of September...probably until my toes start turning blue from the cold. I'm sorry. If this is a fashion faux pas, then so be it. It's hot here. I sweat.

As for white, I don't' know what to say here. My white pants will probably be retired for the season after my upcoming Labor Day beach trip. As for white shoes...I'll defer to the mother of one of my sorority sisters, who once put on a seminar for our entire chapter regarding dressing/interview tips. When asked whether it was okay to wear white shoes after Labor Day, she replied, "In my opinion, it's never okay to wear white shoes EVER."

So, if there's nothing valuable to be said about my four years in a sorority, or the countless hours I've wasted watching TLC to affirm myself based on others' least I've learned I'm not the most unfashionable one out there.

Q: Do Stacy and Clinton have it right?
A: Probably. But this is the Deep South, so I'm not going to risk it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why don't my biscuits taste like my grandmother's?

I'm currently making a dessert. It's a recipe I got from my grandmother, Carolyn. Wait, let me rephrase. It's not a "recipe." It's a bunch of vague scribblings that I jotted down while trying to make sense of what my grandmother was saying as she explained how to make this dessert. You see, I have the same problem that I feel most women my age have when it comes to trying to recreate dishes that their grandmothers have been making for years. They. just. don't. know. how. they. do. it.

I must admit that I find this mind-boggling. I have several things that I make quite often. My signature Caesar salad, Paula Deen's gooey butter cake, chicken name a few. I. use. the. recipe. every. time. Furthermore, I insist on measuring every ingredient. All of them. Kiss that, Rachael Ray! You won't catch me "eyeballing" it! It's really quite inexcusable, I realize. I could make any one of these dishes in my sleep. But still I refuse. Call it paranoid. Call it OCD. I'm just so afraid of messing something up!

One of my biggest, most epic failures as a grown-up, domestic woman was the time that I tried to recreate my grandmother's biscuits. I should back up and explain that some of my favorite memories, growing up, were the times I would stay with my Grandmother Carolyn while my mother worked. Granddaddy would already be gone to work. Grandmother would be waiting outside on the porch swing when we pulled up. We'd sit on the porch for a while, swat mosquitos, talk or sing, and then go inside for...BISCUITS!

My grandmother makes the absolute, hands-down, BEST biscuits I have ever tasted in my life. They're small (read: you can eat three!), the perfect consistency, and have the best flavor...even without butter or jelly. She's made them for as long as I can remember, as long as my father can remember, and heck probably as long as SHE can remember. She mixes them up and cuts them out once a week and freezes them. Then she takes out enough for my grandfather and her to eat each morning and cooks them. Repeat. I always loved to help her when I was there. She'd let me use the rolling pin or cut the biscuits out with the small jar she uses...oh, how I wish I'd paid better attention to how she does it.

As I grew up, I always asked her for the recipe. She never would give it to me. It became a running joke between my cousin and Gran was so desperately trying to keep her famous biscuits from being replicated. It was only years later that I realized the true reason. It wasn't that she wouldn't give out her recipe. It was that she COULDN'T! There WAS no recipe!

I'll never forget the day I came to this realization. My husband and I were out of town on vacation. My grandmother had called to say 'hello.' I jokingly kidded her about how she'll never give out her recipe, and the next thing I knew she was blabbing out ingredients. I quickly scrounged for pen and paper. (Luckily our hotel had provided a pad of stationery.) She started giving amounts of flour, Crisco, and buttermilk. At one point I stopped her and said, "Gran, I need to know the actual quantity." She replied, "Well, I have this little scooper that I use. It's probably about a cup, so, say, three cups?" Then she told me to add a certain number of cups of flour...and then a little more. "How much is a little more?" I asked. She couldn't really say. "Just enough until the dough is the right consistency."

I literally couldn't WAIT to get home. I had hit the culinary JACKPOT! I got up early the following Saturday to make what would soon be MY famous biscuits. Into the oven they went. My emotions were running high. I pulled out the pan. Success, I thought! They looked just like hers! I made a plate for my husband and one for me. I'm quite sure I was beaming.

(Cue the drumroll.)

They were awful.

(Insert clanking cymbal.) AWFUL! An outright disaster. My husband said they tasted like manna. I have to agree. Or at the very least, they tasted like the little squares of bread that we eat during Communion. The flat, stale crackers. Sustenance, yes. On a slightly more positive note...I did discover that, if I gave each individual bite approximately 3 squirts of Parkay, they weren't half bad. So, consequently, I'm quite sure the problem was too little Crisco. The truth is...I'll never know. I don't believe there will ever be an Attempt Number Two. Some things, I believe, are just better left to the experts.

I've since convinced myself that my failure is not an indication that I'm not a good cook. It doesn't mean I'll never be a domestic goddess. And it certainly doesn't mean my grandchildren will never envy my culinary skills. It just means that I, currently, do not have the qualifications required to bake an exquisite biscuit...Carolyn-style.

My grandmother was born September 11, 1934. Next month she will have been married to my grandfather, Bill, for 57 years. She's raised 2 children, and helped raise 3 grandchildren. She is now a proud great-grandmother. Good biscuits don't just happen overnight. Besides, she doesn't measure in cups and ounces. She's been using the same utensils to make her phenomenal biscuits for longer than my parents have been alive. It's not a matter of 1 teaspoon of salt or 1 cup of buttermilk. It's that orange scooper full of flour and a LARGE dollop of Crisco plus a "little more" flour until the consistency's right.

Going beyond that, it's a gigantic accumulation of love that's missing. My gran has been making the same breakfast for my grandfather (and whomever else decided to stop in) for over 50 years. Through thick and thin, 2 heart attacks (one apiece), and God-only-knows-what-else. Until I've experienced even half as much "life," I'm pretty sure it's arrogant of me to even begin to think that I could ever aspire to anything close to her flawless biscuits.

Until then, I will continue to carry out my recipe-guided, pales-in-comparison, trite little dishes. And when, on the offshoot, I try to recreate one of her masterpieces that I've scrawled down in a flurry...I will re-read my scribbled "bake crust until brown and flaky," shake my head, and make a mental note to go back and update the recipe with the ACTUAL bake time...lest my grandchildren think I'm conspiring against them.

Q: Why don't my biscuits taste like my grandmother's?
A: Because I took them out of the oven 57 years too early.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things I would LOVE to see on facebook!

Gathering my thoughts about my prior post made me think about some valuable untapped resources in the world of facebook. So, here are a few things I would like to see replace some of the nonsense I mentioned in my prior post...

Things I would LOVE to see on facebook:

*Traffic/weather/sale updates. Of all the useless info that people post on fb, how is it that I never see any of the following...? "Nasty traffic jam on I-20 W this morning. Avoid at all costs!", "Torrential downpour coming down in Trussville, headed East. Not a good time to go running.", "Publix has Fiber One bars for $1.75. Stock up!"

*Freaks on the streets. We (most of you reading this) live in Alabama. There are some SERIOUS characters here. I can speak from personal experience. I live in Moody, Alabama. I am confident that most of the individuals in the "People of Wal-mart" photos were captured, in fact, in MY Wal-mart. We REALLY need to do a better job of documenting the ignorance/inappropriateness of those around us. I guess I, myself, am also guilty of this. I am usually so dumbfounded by the unspeakable things that I witness, that I don't even know how to go about broadcasting it. This is an injustice. So, to make up for are some noteworthy moments I recently observed...

-personalized tag I saw leaving work recently:
(Yes, I realize this is someone's first and last initial, followed by "for" and then an indication of their support of the University of Alabama football program. However, from a looks like it says "SHARTR", or in other words "sharter." I don't care who you are...that crap's funny. Pun completely intended.)

-name I saw painted (in puffy paint, nonetheless) on the back of a preteen girl's shirt in a department store:
(That's right. Her parent's took it one step further. They didn't just resort to addressing their daughter Sarah by our redneck mispronunciation. They actually made it official and NAMED her that.)

*Yeah, that's about it. I'm sure there are other useful purposes for facebook, but other than putting yourself out there via status updates, just to see if anyone responds...I can't think of many. But, as always...I'm open to suggestions!

Things I don't need to see in my facebook news feed:

My first list! I always think of lists I'd like to post, but hate to break away from my usual Q&A format. However, this topic is timely and relative enough to make me deviate a bit. This list is sparked by what I feel is a pretty common frustration among fb users. Personally, I consider myself a recreational user. I check fb at least once every 2 days, update my status maybe once a week, check on my close friends fairly often... Having an iphone makes participating in fb much easier. Especially since I see it as somewhat of an obligation. I have this fear that something major will happen to one of my friends, and that'll be the one week that I don't check facebook at all. I'll then talk to the friend, having no idea of this major event, and of course NOT MENTION IT AT ALL. Consequently, I try to at least scroll through all of my news feed or status updates daily. Just to make sure nothing gets by me. However, it's usually the opposite that happens. Because when you're on fb me...NOTHING will get by you. Some people really have a lot to learn. So, on with the list!

Warning: I do not aim to offend. This post is meant relieve myself of a little frustration. However, it's also meant to be educational for anyone who doesn't have quite the firm grasp on facebook etiquette. For the rest of you, here's a good laugh...

Oh, and these are in no particular order. The numbers are arbitrary, so...hmmm, I'll just make up numbers.

Things I don't need to see in my facebook news feed:

1.) A play-by-play of your day. Sure. I realize that many fb users lead fascinating lives. However, not ALL fb users have anything interesting to report. So, here's a good rule of thumb: if you, yourself, would not be impressed, entertained, or at the very least...slightly amused by your own post, DON'T POST IT! I don't need to know every. single. thing. you. did. today. Go join Twitter! Some examples of this offense (names changed to protect the...guilty?): "Jimmy is eating pizza.", "Jimmy is so full...ate too much.", "Jimmy just wants to lie around.", "Jimmy is going to bed." Enough already!

14.) A play-by-play of your child's day. I am more than happy to share in the excitement of my fb friends' children's milestones. However, we probably need to work on our definition of that term. See rule of thumb above. More examples: "Carson just had a stinky diaper.", "Carson just went down for a nap.", "Uh, oh. Carson's waking up already.", "Carson's fussy because he didn't nap long enough."

47.) That you're tired, sick (especially if you're really only building your case to your co-workers and/or boss for calling in tomorrow), sick and tired, sick and tired of being sick and tired, glad it's Friday, bummed that it's Monday, etc. We all get sick and tired. We all love Fridays and hate Mondays. It's not really newsworthy or statusworthy. Move on. Not to mention, the LAST thing I need in my day is someone else's negativity messing up my chi. Some typical offenses: "Katie is not feeling it this morning.", "Katie is TGIF!", "Katie wishes this headache would go away."

63.) Details about your escapades. Reading about how late you were out last night, how many hotties you ran into, or how much you wish you had a man/woman really annoys me. Please reserve that junk for MySpace. Particularly revolting specimens: "Ben wishes he could get lucky.", "Ben got in from the club at 2 a.m.! Not gonna make it to work today.", "Ben had a heck of a night last night with some foxy ladies!"

64.) Your vague, inquiry-provoking status. Not many things annoy me more than reading a status posted by someone who desperately wants people to post comments asking what they're talking about. This is narcissism to the nth degree. My personal faves: "Candy is waiting...", "Candy wishes things were different.", "Candy is wondering..."

104.) Your farm, mafia, sorority, etc. There, I said it. I understand that some people find these games amusing. More power to you. That doesn't mean that I want to read about them. From what I understand, it's optional for you to actually publish these activities. So, you need more panels for your greenhouse...fine. Go ahead and ask. But posting the mere fact that you're just playing these games?! No. Not okay. No examples. You all get what I'm saying.

157.) Your dirty laundry. Ok, no, wait. I actually love this. Forget I mentioned it. When people have marital spats, family feuds, and other various disputes via facebook...I'm all over it. Do me a favor. Please, don't anyone tell these people that you can delete that stuff. I need fb drama ON DEMAND! Awesomeness: "SOME PEOPLE just don't know how to act.", "I hate when people say one thing to your face and then something else behind your back...", "I'm glad I at least have a few TRUE friends."

249.) What shoe/historic figure/80's song most fits your personality. See #104. If you have the time to take these quizzes, be my guest. I don't really need to know.

274.) Rrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyyyy llllllllllloooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggg status updates that make me click "more" just because I'm wondering what on earth could have been so detailed that you couldn't possibly fit it into one entry. Geez. Brevity, people!

318.) "Goodnight, facebook!" Enough said.

Alright, I'm out. Goodnight, blogosphere!