Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Democrats, Republicans and Athletes

It started with a post I put up on my Facebook page. I said:

"All of these athletes, the ones who clap for their teammates despite their own disappointments, the ones who've finished the race but stand at the finish line to welcome those who came in last, the ones who hug athletes from other countries when they win, and also when they lose, the ones who understand that the Olympic village is a microcosm of our planet, the ones who give positive interviews in their most disappointed moments. These athletes who, on the world stage and under extraordinary pressure remember their manners and their sportsmanship, show kindness and compassion and hope, my wish is that they all go back to their countries and run for office.

I'm sad to say that it seems this generation has set a course to destroy morals and values and even the planet. 

But these athletes, these athletes give me hope. "

A three party system, Democrats, Republicans and Athletes, lessons learned at the Olympics | www.BakingInATornado.com| #MyGraphics #Olympics #politics

From what I've witnessed over the years but has truly come to the forefront in this past year is that we need another political party in this country. Yes, I know there's the Independent party, the Green party, sadly all they have done is split one of the parties we already have, they're not a viable alternative. Bernie Sanders knew that, it's why he ran as a democrat.

I believe that both major parties in the United States are broken. Not just fractured, truly broken. Way more people hold their nose and vote for candidates from one of our two viable party options than truly support them.  

You know I believe that foods can provide comfort, leave us feeling satisfied. Exercising our right to vote should do the same, provide comfort, give us a sense of satisfaction. Not so. Not for most of us. Not with the party options currently on the table.

Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli, a hearty dinner for a cold winter night. Made easily in the slow cooker, served over brown rice.

Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli
Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli, a hearty dinner for a cold winter night. Made easily in the slow cooker, served over brown rice.

In these recent days of watching the Olympics, both for the joy of a global representation in sports, but to take an emotional break from politics, I have come to a realization. What I want in a politician is what I see in these athletes. 

I know that any party, any candidate needs to (well, should) have a platform, a well thought out stance on a multitude of issues both domestically and internationally. And you know what, I'm not going to tell you that what specific positions these athletes might have is all that matters. There have been administrations, many in fact, whose politics did not gel with mine. And although I did not support their agenda, I trusted that it was one adopted after thought, research and discussion. It was one born of a vision for cementing our place in the world, nurturing our relationships with other countries and moving us all forward socially and economically. Not all athletes will have the same vision for our (or their) countries. and that's OK. It's not about wanting only candidates who reflect my views, it's about those who offer whatever their varied viewpoints may be with thought and compassion and respect.

  Because I've witnessed that what athletes do have is an ability to follow rules, to get along, to be respectful both to and in other countries, to lose with grace, to win with grace, to fight for their own dreams but live good sportsmanship by support others on their team or just in their sport, to not give up, to get along with others, to be mindful that they are representing and to do so with positivity and pride, to comport themselves on the world stage with dignity. 

I have learned, over this past difficult year, that character does matter. It matters in sports, it matters in life and it matters in politics. No matter what your politics may be.

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Crockpot French Onion Beef with Broccoli        

1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, slices
1 can condensed French Onion soup
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup water
2# stir fry beef, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBSP cornstarch

1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups brown rice
1/4 cup pignolis

*Place the chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms, soup, ketchup, white wine and water into the crockpot on low heat. Cook for one hour. Stir.
*Season the stir fry beef with salt and pepper. Place into a sealable bag. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, seal the bag and manipulate until all of the beef is coated. Stir into the crockpot. Cook on low for 4 hours.
*Add the broccoli florets and cook one more hour.
*Cook the rice according to package directions. Serve the beef over the rice, sprinkle with pignolis.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bootleggers and Bootlickers: Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 5 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house. At the end of my post you’ll find links to this month’s other participants’ posts.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

College Boy is a grown man, and he's certainly not a picky eater like he was growing up. But he still really does not like fruits or vegetables and he's not a fan of soups or stews. He was home the other day at dinner time (coincidence? I think not) and wanted to know what I was serving.

College Boy: What ya making for dinner tonight Mom?
Me: I'm trying out a new recipe.
College Boy: Well aren't you lucky, your favorite taste tester is here. What are you making?
College Boy: Vegetable?
Me: Yes.
College Boy: Soup?
Me: Yes.
College Boy: You hate me.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

We were talking over dinner about alcohol (don't ask me why) and prohibition.

College Boy (to me): If you'd been around then you'd have been brewing your own moonshine.
Me: I'm sure I would have.
Hubs: Well, it runs in Mom's family.
College Boy: Oh yeah, your grandmother made moonshine.
Me: No, my Great Grandmother did.
Hubs: Yeah, she was a bootlicker.
Me: Excuse me?
Hubs: You know, she was a bootlicker. What do you call it?
Me: Bootlegger.
Hubs: Oh yeah, that. 

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

You've heard those jokes about how many (insert group of people here) does it take to change a light bulb, right?

Here's a new one: how many Blessings does it take to turn on a TV?

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap, typing. College Boy was standing at the kitchen counter in the room behind me.

College Boy: Can you turn on the TV?
Me (reaching towards but not touching the coffee table beside me): Can you get me the remote?
College Boy: You're closer.

Neither of us move. Just then Hubs comes up from the basement.

Me (to Hubs, just as he gets to the coffee table): Can you hand me the remote?

Hubs picks up the remote and holds it out towards me but just out of my reach.

Me (to College Boy): Can you get the remote from Dad?
College Boy: You're closer.

Hubs hands me the remote and I turn on the TV. So how many Blessings does it take to turn on a TV? Three. And it's a damn good thing the answer wasn't 4, because PurDude won't be here until May.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Contrary to popular belief, I don't bake every day. When there were gaggles of hungry teenagers hanging out here every day, I could have. Now, though, I bake once or twice a week. I try to have something home baked in the house most days for dessert or for when we have company, expected or not. But it's not a law or anything, having to have fresh baked goods at all times.

College Boy walked in the other day in the middle of the afternoon.

College Boy (looking around): What did you bake today?
Me: Nothing.
College Boy: Should I call an ambulance?

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Second verse, same as the first . . .

Same day, after dinner:

Hubs: What did you bake today?
Me: Nothing.
Hubs (laughing, checking the counter): No, really.
Me: Nothing.
Hubs (looking in the pantry): OK, I'll find it.
Me: {{blink, blink}}
Hubs (opening the fridge): Is this, like, a game or something?
Me (spoken only in my head}}: He'll figure it out.
Hubs: Nothing? Really? Are you OK? Should I call the doctor?

Toffee S’more Refrigerator Bars, chocolate, whipped marshmallow, caramel and toffee crunch blend together in the refrigerator to make these easy and delicious dessert bars. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dessert
Toffee S'more Refrigerator Bars

PurDude has always been a man of few words, but last month I couldn't blame him. He was sick. Really, really sick. I think he had the flu and I was terrified, that flu has killed many kids and he was too far away for me to really know what was going on with him. I told him what signs not to ignore, when to get immediately to a hospital. I did want to keep on top of what was happening but couldn't call him, not wanting to wake him and he really could not talk.

Each day I sent him a text "better, same or worse" and I would get a one word answer. At first, day after day it was "same". Finally, I started getting "better".

Once he was well enough to go to class, I texted him:

Me: How are you feeling today?
PurDude: Better.Me: Most of the issues with this flu were when people started to get better and then relapse. If you start feeling worse again, get help.
PurDude: Alright.
Me: If you're better, you can stop answering in just one word.
PurDude: OK.
Me: Seriously?
PurDude: Yup.
Me: I'm getting less worried and more pissed off.
PurDude: Sorry.
Me: Is there a "middle finger" emoji? Asking for a friend.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

When the boys are home they raid my pantry and food disappears. No problem, I expect it and there's plenty. Sometimes, though, they hit up some of my other supplies.

One morning I went to do a load of laundry but couldn't. Went to take a shower so I could go buy more detergent and couldn't do that either. Frustrated, I texted College Boy.

Me: Do you need any laundry detergent?
College Boy: No.
Me: Need any soap?
College Boy: No, are you going to the store?
Me: No. What I am going to do is change the locks and write you out of my will.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Hubs: There's no beer in the basement fridge, I see you have a few up here, OK if I drink them.
Me: I need them, they go into the Crockpot Beef Chili I'm making for dinner.
Hubs: Well, I'll just drink the beer, then you don't have to put it in the chili, it'll mix up in my stomach.

I don't say a work, walk over to the liquor cabinet and pour a shot of Patron.

Hubs: What are you doing?
Me: I think the chili needs some tequila to mix with in my stomach.

 Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Along those same lines, a few weekends ago there were some pretty big sports events going on. Not only was it Super Bowl Sunday, but the day before Purdue basketball was going for a record 19th win in a row.

Often, for sports weekends I make a batch of my Caramel Corn for snacking. I had made a big batch that Friday. Saturday, at around lunch time, Hubs came into the kitchen and I was eating it out of the container.

Hubs: Leave some for me.
Me: I can't. I can't stop. It's addicting.
Hubs: I'm going to have to hide it.
Me (handing him the tin): Yes, please hide it.

Hubs sits down at the counter with the tin and starts eating.

Me: What are you doing?
Hubs: Hiding it. In my stomach.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

We had to buy a new washing machine, ours was leaking. I had a load of laundry in the new machine and it was finishing just as College Boy walked into the house.

College Boy: Choco-Taco.
Me: Huh?
College Boy: What's that music?
Me: That's our new washing machine. It plays music when the laundry's done.
College Boy: Oh, I thought you'd bought an ice cream truck.

Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:

Menopausal Mother 
Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Bookworm in the Kitchen 
Spatulas on Parade 
Go Mama O

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Toffee S'more Refrigerator Bars

1 box chocolate graham crackers
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup toffee baking chips

OPT: whipped cream for serving

*Beat the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add the marshmallow creme and beat until stiff peaks hold. Mix in the mini chocolate chips.
*Heat the corn syrup, butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes. Stir and set aside.
*Place a single layer of chocolate graham crackers into the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. Break the cookies into whatever size pieces you need to cover the bottom of the dish.
*Spread 1/2 of the whipped cream mixture onto the graham crackers. Follow with another layer of chocolate graham crackers, the remaining whipped cream mixture, then a final layer of chocolate graham crackers.
*Pour the corn syrup mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the toffee chips. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
*OPT: top with whipped cream for serving.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It Doesn't Cost Half if you Charge Three Times

I don't think I have to tell you that customer service is a thing of the past. I bet each and every one of you reading this post has a story of your own. This is hardly my first, but it is to date the longest ongoing and most frustrating experience I've had.

This situation has been going on for weeks. And it just continually seems to get worse and worse. I don't like the word "hate", but I really think I hate Amazon. To put both me and my son through this much over their mistake is beyond absurd.

Let me set the stage for you. PurDude has Amazon Student Prime. It's the exact same services as "regular" Amazon Prime but, for students, at half the cost. He gets many things through Amazon, including his school books. Since I'm financing his education, he has used both his own credit card in his account, and mine for school related items.  He always lets me know when to expect a charge on my account.

In November his Student Prime was up for renewal. Amazon, without me or my son knowing, just took my credit card information from his account and charged me. I saw the charge for $51.70 on my credit card and thought it was either a mistake or fraud. I was going to stop the payment but contacted Amazon and was able to piece together what the charge was for. I wasn't happy that they had charged my card without my permission, but . . . whatever. Truth is, I have access to my son's debit account because I transfer money in there for his bills and would have ended up paying for it one way or another so I just let it go.

In January I saw in my son's bank account, a "recurring charge" from Amazon for $11.59, and questioned him about it. He says that he went to use his Student Prime and was told he didn't have it, that it hadn't been renewed, so he approved them charging his account in increments. I guess I hadn't told him I'd been charged and his Prime had been paid for. 

OK, no problem, it's just a mistake. 

I went to Amazon's website and scoured it looking for a phone number for customer service but couldn't find one. There was a "contact us" email section so I explained my story. I included PurDude's name, account number, date I'd been charged, date he'd been charged and the amounts. Their response, in stilted English, was that it's not my Amazon account so they wouldn't discuss it with me. I responded that they had to talk to me because I have the right to question charges to my credit card.

A huge issue with Amazon customer service is that there is no continuity. When I respond to their email, it does not go to the person with whom I'd been talking, it goes to someone else. Ten days and multiple emails with a myriad of people with varying familiarity with English vacillated between some who wouldn't talk to me because it's not my account, others who needed me to repeat the story (but then didn't get my response) and still others who did not understand the issue. I asked multiple times to be contacted by a supervisor but each request was ignored.

Let's just say that if baking relieves stress for me, and it does, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen these past few weeks. 
Peanut Butter Lover’s Sandwich Cookies, peanut butter flavored cookies sandwiched with fluffy peanut butter filling. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #cookies #peanutbutter
Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies

I noticed that at the bottom of one of their useless emails, there was a survey to fill out about my experience. Oh hell yeah, I'll tell you about my experience. Apparently when you give them a poor rating, they respond with a request for your phone number so they can call you. I put in my phone number and the phone rang. 

Finally. I can talk to someone.

The first person wanted to know how she could help me with my Kindle. The second person deals with Amazon Prime but not Student Prime. The third person told me my son was charged because he's switched from Student Prime to regular Prime. No, of course he didn't, it makes no sense at all to pay double for the same service, but they weren't going to take that from me, falling back on the old "it's not your account".

It Doesn't Cost Half if you Charge Three Times, a Customer Service nightmare. | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

During this time PurDude had the flu. I was really worried about him and it's one of the reasons I was trying to settle this myself. Frustrated and temporarily defeated, I let him know that when he felt better he needed to call Amazon and tell them that he had not switched to Prime from Student Prime and they needed to refund him the $11.59 as the full amount was paid by me in November.

He did call and checking his debit account a few days later I saw that there was a credit for $11.59. Success! 

Not so fast, Grasshopper. There was also a "recurring payment" charge for $51.70. So now we have BOTH paid for his Student Prime. Great.

I emailed them again. Once again I couldn't speak to the same person twice and once again they told me it wasn't my account. My stance was that it doesn't matter whose account it is, no one should have to tell them that you cannot double charge a customer. Another week of back and forth and incredible frustration and I FINALLY got someone to agree to credit PurDude's account for the $51.70. Success!

Not so fast, Grasshopper. Within minutes I got a private message from PurDude on FB. "Mom, I just got an email from Amazon that my Student Prime has been canceled." 

Seriously? So now I've paid for a Prime account that he doesn't even have. 

I went back to the email I received from the representative who'd agreed to refund PurDude's double payment and explained AGAIN, that the Prime was paid for in November and she was supposed to be refunding the double payment, not canceling his Prime.

Can you guess what happened next? Bet you can. An email from yet another representative telling me they won't discuss it with me, it's not my account. 

At this point PurDude had given up: "they're just not going to let me have Prime, Mom", he said to me on FB. "Well, I'm not throwing my $50 bucks out the window" was my answer. Meanwhile, despite the cancellation, there was no credit for $51.70 to his account. So we're right back to we've both paid for Prime and he doesn't have it. 


This is war. Any mama bear will not allow you to take advantage of her child. This mama bear isn't going to let you take advantage of her checkbook. Amazon has done both.

I called them again and got Jose. I was furious and I think you could hear my teeth clenching as I told Jose the story. I told him that it was my son's account, that he was very sick and that I felt I had the right to discuss the situation because my card was charged. Jose asked me for PurDude's Amazon account number, the email address and the home address associated with the account, ending digits of my card that was charged (same last name and address as my son). He had enough verifiable information to be willing to talk to me about the account. A-frikken-men.

I first asked him to confirm the November 15th charge to see that I'd paid for the year. He found it. I went through the 2 weeks of emails and phone calls, the $11.59 charge and credit, the $51.70 charge and promise of credit that did not materialize, and the cancellation. He got it. All of it. 

Here's what he's going to do. He's going to reinstate the account. He'll do that by charging PurDude another $51.70. Oh holy mother of all that is holy you have got to be kidding. No frikken way. Now you want us to pay for it THREE times. Hold on, I think my head just exploded.

He was patient with me, I'll give Jose that. He said that he had to charge for the Prime to reinstate it. Once it was active again and the charge went through he would return the fee.

Listen, fool me once, shame on you, fool me 50 times, shame on me. No way I was trusting him to do that. We haven't even gotten the $51.70 credit that resulted in the account being canceled. Jose assured me that he could see the credit on his end. I asked him over and over again, verifying that we would now get one charge and two credits and the account would remain active, that the second credit would not cancel the account again. He confirmed it all. I asked, based on all that had happened, how I could talk to him again when that didn't happen. You can't call a specific customer service rep, of course, but he said that he would call me back in 24 to 48 hours. Yeah, right. And I suppose pigs would fly too.

Guess what happened 24 hours later? 

He called. Yes, he did. He said that PurDude's debit card had been charged (it hadn't posted to the account yet so I wasn't able to see it) and asked me to hold while he put through the credit to PurDude's account. I think while he had me on hold I may have cried a little.

When Jose came back on I made it clear how skittish I was in believing this was actually handled. What if the two credits don't come through? Or they cancel his account again? I asked Jose if he could call me one more time at the end of this week to verify that everything went through. He agreed.

Within minutes PurDude forwarded me two emails, both from Jose. One said that the Amazon Student Prime account had been reactivated. The other said that he would be calling me on Friday to confirm receipt of a refund.

I hate you, Amazon. But Happy Valentine's Day, Jose, I just might love you.

Not so fast, Grasshopper. I'm withholding judgement. We'll see what this week brings . . .

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies         

Printable Recipe

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 stick margarine, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
up to 3 TBSP milk 

*Beat 1/2 stick butter, 1/2 stick margarine, 1/2 cuup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt.
*Roll into plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
*Roll dough into 20 balls. Place onto prepared cookie sheets, gently flatten with the heel of your hand and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, remove and cool completely before filling.
*Beat the remaining butter and crunchy peanut butter. Staring on low speed, carefully beat in the powdered sugar. 1 TBSP at a time, beat in the milk until filling reaches piping consistency.
*Pipe the filling (you will need a wide piping tip as you are using crunchy peanut butter) onto the bottom of half of the cookies. Top each with another cookie to form a sandwich.