Friday, September 22, 2017

Heads Up: Fly on the Wall

Welcome to a monthly Fly on the Wall group post. Today 7 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 | | #MyGraphics

PurDude and some friends went to Vegas for 4 days last month to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of the boys. They flew in from different places (PurDude was still working in Cleveland) and stayed in a cool big Airbnb house with a pool. When he got back I asked him to call, I wanted to hear all about his trip.

Me: Did you have a great time?
PurDude: Yes, so much to see and do, didn't get everywhere we wanted to but we did as much as we could.
Me: Did you sleep in at the house?
PurDude: Yes, we slept in and spent a lot of the day at the pool then went out at night.
Me: So . . . did you gamble?
PurDude: Yes, some.
Me: Just some.
PurDude: Yes.
Me: Did you do a lot of drinking?
PurDude: Yes, some.
Me: Are you lying?
PurDude: Yes, some.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Apparently it's well known that I'm a genius.

I made these Angry Owl snacks for Halloween a few years ago, but thought they'd be fun for back to school too. 

Angry Owl snacks | Recipe developed by | #recipe #snack

So I tweeted them. And look who answered.

Pretzel Crisps tweet about my Angry Owls snacks | | #twitter

So it's a snack genius. And the title came from a pretzel company. I'll take it!

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

PurDude moved out of his frat and into a house with a few friends. He called me one day to say that he'd gotten an email from the leasing company and it turns out he has until the end of the day to get renter's insurance or the leasing company will put him on their plan and bill him monthly. I called our homeowner's insurance company to see if what they would charge is any better than what the leasing company would charge.

Of course I got an automated call answering system. The worst one I'd ever had so far.

Automated System: What are you looking for? Say "auto, homeowners . . ."
Me: Renter's insurance.
Automated System: You said "condo". Is that correct?
Me: No, renter's insurance.
Automated SystemYou said "condo". Is that correct?
Me: Operator.
Automated System: What are you looking for? Say "auto, homeowners . . ."
Me: Renter's insurance.
Service: You said "condo". Is that correct?
Me: Fine.
Service: Do you currently have a policy with us?
Me: Yes.
Service: Please state the phone number associated with your policy.
Me: {{stated my phone number}}
Automated System: We do not have a record of that number. Please state the last 4 digits of your social security number.
Me: Gave Husband's last 4 digits, which I actually gave in the wrong order.
Automated System: OK, if you are an agent, press 1. If you are a customer, press 2.
Me: {{presses 2}}.
Automated System: For agents . . .
Me: Dude, I'm too old for this shit.
Automated System: For agents . . .
Me: {{disconnect}}.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

While he was away, PurDude and I were talking on the phone about a few situations he was going to have to deal with once back at school. I hate trying to have serious conversations in bits and pieces through phone calls and texts. 

I sat down one day and decided to tell him how I felt about him, his coming senior year, and our relationship in an email. It was a page and a half long, honest and heartfelt. I actually had to text him to tell him to look for my email or he'd find it in a year.

He never did answer me so who knows if he ever got it? I hoped so.

About a week later he called and we talked. He didn't mention the email. Just before we hung up:

Me: Did you find the email I sent you?
PurDude: Yes.

Well OK then, so much for pouring my heart out.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I was in the kitchen trying out a new quick bread recipe idea when College Boy walks in the house.

College Boy: What are you making?
Me: It's a new recipe idea.
College Boy: What is it?
Me: Apricot Almond Quick Bread.
College Boy: I don't like apricots.
Me: I know.
College Boy: I don't like almonds either.
Me: I know, I wasn't expecting you.
College Boy: You should always expect me.
Me: Duly noted.

Apricot Almond Quick Bread, chopped apricots, nectar, and sliced almonds featured in a fall flavored quick bread. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #bread
Apricot Almond Quick Bread
Apricot Almond Quick Bread, chopped apricots, nectar, and sliced almonds featured in a fall flavored quick bread. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #bread

I was watching a show on one of my favorite channels, ID. They mostly show true stories of murder, going through the crime, an investigation and ultimately a trial. Dateline or 20/20 type shows.

College Boy: Are you watching true murder stories again?
Me: I've always been a mystery lover, you know I like trying to figure out who did it.
College Boy: When your who-done-its turn into how-to-do-its, give me fair warning.
Me: Just because you eat all my food, get your laundry done and do nothing I ask you think I'm plotting?
College Boy: Well, you sure do watch a lot of those murder mysteries. If you're doing research I'd just like a "heads up".
Me: Will do.
College Boy walks away.
Me (whispered under my breath): Heads up. 

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

The next day was Saturday. I wanted to use the grill for dinner but I thought the propane was running low. In fact, I'd been mentioning it to Hubs for a few weeks. Hubs walked into the kitchen and I asked him about it. Again.

Me: Did you have the propane tank for the grill filled yet?
Hubs: No, not yet.
Me: But I keep asking you, this is the third weekend in a row. That's so not like you.
Hubs: I know, I forgot.
Me: Why don't you go now?
Hubs (heading down to the man-cave): Not now, the game's on.
Me: That's the same excuse you gave last weekend.
Hubs: I'll do it later.
Me: You said that last weekend too.
Hubs (halfway down the stairs): Right after the game.
Me (whispered under my breath): Heads up.

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

I still have a house phone. I have it because any time I'm in a situation where I have to give a number I give the home number, keeping almost all telemarketers from my cell.

But that phone rings non-stop with telemarketers. I get about 10 calls a day. I turned the ringer all the way down and never answer it unless caller ID shows it's someone I know or we're having work done around the house and I'm expecting a call from a tradesman.

Early one evening the home phone rings and it's an area code I don't recognize so I don't answer. The same number calls back a second and third time so I turn on the answering machine and google the area code. It's coming from the area in Ohio where PurDude is. Crap. What if something happened to him and someone is trying to contact me. 

The phone rings again and I hear PurDude's voice on the answering machine. I pick up.

Me: Are you OK?
PurDude: I'm fine.
Me: This isn't your cell, what number are you calling from? 
PurDude: There's a land line in this apartment the company rented for me.
Me: I don't answer the land line. Why didn't you call my cell like you always do?
PurDude: I was just calling to say hello to you and dad, thought I'd call the land line and talk to you both. 
Me: Well now I know your number in case I need it.
PurDude: Don't call it, I don't answer it, it's never for me.
Me: So you used a number you don't answer to call a number I don't answer?
PurDude: Pretty much.

 Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

College Boy had just walked in the front door. I was sitting in the den fully concentrating on writing a blog post when I heard beeps. Still preoccupied with the post, I stood up, went to the microwave, opened it and found nothing inside.

College Boy: What are you doing?
Me: I thought I heard the microwave. 
College Boy: That was the washing machine. You know, Mom, there are homes for people who tend to get confused. 
Me: I was just preoccupied.
College Boy: But you also sometimes forget why you've walked into a room.
Me: Everyone does that now and then.
College Boy: And that time you put dinner in the oven and forgot to turn it on.
Me: Once. Jeez, that was once.
College Boy: I'm just saying that we should look into it. It's really just for your protection.
Me (whispered under my breath): Heads up.
College Boy: What?

Fly on the Wall, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

Yeah, plotting murder is one way to get rid of my stress, but I'm not sure I'm willing to live with the consequences. What would happen if I ended up in jail? I can't pee on a bedpan in the hospital, no way I'm going to be able to go while on display in a big cage.

I was trying to work through my options when, stopped at a red light, the answer came to me. There it was, right on the side of the road. Way less messy than murder, for a measly $68 I can just have someone come and get those stressors and cart them off.

Junk removal is in the eye of the beholder | | #humor #funny #laugh

'Cause you know what they say . . . "junk is in the eye of the beholder." Or something like that.

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

Menopausal Mother 
Searching for Sanity
Spatulas on Parade 
Never Ever Give Up Hope 
Bookworm in the Kitchen 
The Blogging 911

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Apricot Almond Quick Bread
1/2 cup apricot nectar
1/3 cup apricot jam
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract

3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 TBSP apricot nectar
1/4 cup sliced almonds

*Grease a loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Whisk together 1/2 cup apricot nectar with the apricot jam. Mixed in the dried apricots. Set aside.
*Whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Mix in 1/2 cup of the sliced almonds.
*Mix the oil, eggs, almond extract and the apricot mixture into the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Pour evenly into prepared pan.
*Bake for 55 - 58 minutes, until the center of the top springs back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
*Run a knife along the edges of the bread and remove from the pan. Cool completely.
*Mix together the powdered sugar and the remaining apricot nectar. Drizzle over the cooled bread. Sprinkle with the additional 1/4 cup sliced almonds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Skin Deep. Chapter One: Secrets

A few times a year I am lucky enough to share a Progressive Story Project. It's a collaboration, a challenge, and to me personally, it's a gift.

A number of bloggers, each with their own personal focus, their own voice and individual style of writing, come together to craft one story, one cohesive piece of fiction that I then get to share.  

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Presented by | #blogging #collaboration #MyGraphics

The way it works is that one person writes a piece of a story then each subsequent writer adds their contribution and passes it on to the next. In this way everyone impacts but no one controls the piece. Where the story goes is up to us all. The challenge is to write a cohesive story.  

This is the sixth time we've collaborated on this project. Be sure to check them all out:

Our first story was a holiday fantasy called A Holiday Story.
Next came a darker piece, Storm Past.
For our third project we chose to revisit A Holiday Story and added four more chapters.
Sincerely Sarah was a story of personal strength.
And Take Aim was about compassion, standing up for yourself and for others.

Which brings us to today, and Chapter One of our newest story, Skin Deep. 

Skin Deep, a Progressive Story Project. One piece of fiction written by multiple bloggers | Presented by | #fiction #writers

Skin Deep
Chapter One, Secrets

Karen of Baking In A Tornado (that's me!) :

It wasn't until her stomach rumbled, and not for the first time, that she looked up from her desk. Dusk. How did that happen? She loves her job, that's how. Kathryn, her boss, probably stopped in and told her to go home multiple times, but it hasn't pierced her consciousness. There was always so much to do and she often got so caught up in her work that the whole day would pass by in an instant. There is great satisfaction in knowing you're making a contribution and that it's appreciated.

But there's also satisfaction in not starving to death. Time to go home. Eat, rest, spend time with family, make plans with friends, recharge. Tomorrow's another day.

Lydia of Cluttered Genius:

She gathered her bag and purse and retrieved her lunch thermal from the office fridge. Frank, the janitor, was slowly mopping the kitchen floor.

"Hey Frank," she said. "Don't work too hard tonight, ok?"

"Oh heya there, Isabelle. Not to worry, not to worry. I won't be workin' hard, but I'll probably be hardly workin'", and he chuckled as he turned to move toward the office lounge.

Isabelle grinned to herself, closed the fridge door and started toward the office exit. She stumbled as her left bright red high heel caught the corner of the floor mat, and all of her bags fell out of her hands. She caught herself before landing face flat on the floor and instead landed on her knees. It hurt, and she knew there would be a bruise, but she also knew she'd handled it with way more dignity and poise than normal.

"You ok?" asked a low, grumbling voice. Isabelle turned her eyes and head up and was speechless.

 Jack??? What were the odds? After all those years?

Her mind wandered back to the summer she was temping as a bartender on that cruise ship out of Miami.

Of course there were rules for crew members, and probably the number one rule was not to engage socially with passengers, not beyond friendly chitchat, that is.

Of course over the weeks and months pretty much every one of her coworkers broke that rule. First it was accepting a drink from an exceptionally nice customer, then it was taking a walk on deck to gaze at the stars . . .

However, to her knowledge, she was the only one discovering she was pregnant upon returning to college.

She couldn't believe her eyes as she looked into his, eyes so familiar she felt her heart skip. She looked into a carbon copy of those very same eyes every single day for the last 4.5 years. She never got Jack's last name, wasn't even sure if Jack was his real first name. She just knew that the night they spent together created something so precious to her.

"Ja . . . Jack?" she stammered, still lost in her shock.

"Isabelle . . . it's great to see you," Jack replied, smiling as he knelt down to help her pick up the spilled contents of her purse. Her breath caught in her throat as he handed her the photo album dedicated to her daughter Catherine.

She took it and stood up, still not sure if this was a dream or not.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

Diane of On the Border:

But Jack was looking down at the book in her hand. Catherine's smiling, impish face was gazing out at the world from between her fingers. "Cute kid," he said. He lifted his amazing eyes back to her face. "How old is she?"

"Erm - five. Cat is five." Isabelle winced mentally at the lie. Well, she was nearly five, right?

"Five." He was still looking at her.

Was he turning the time over in his mind? Counting the months. The years?

Did he know?

"Yes." Isabelle jammed the book into her purse along with a handful of other things and snapped the bag shut. She took a calming breath and pasted on her most business-like expression. "So, Jack, it's been a while. What have you been doing with yourself?"

He smiled and her heart did another uncharacteristic flip. "Well, actually, I've been buying up businesses. You know. creating my own little empire."


He laughed. "It's really still in its infancy, but I do have seven or eight in the family now." He looked around. "And I'm really interested in what this company does." He turned back to her. "I'm considering buying it."

"I didn't know it was for sale."

"Oh, the businesses I buy usually aren't. At first. But I make them see reason." He tipped his head to one side and gave her another slow smile. "And I've suddenly decided I'd like this business. Very much."

~~~~~~~ Before you go, check out today's recipe. Be sure to stop by next week for the next chapter of Skin Deep ~~~~~~~
One Pan Chicken with Vegetables, a quick dinner. Chicken and vegetables drizzled with a vinaigrette and oven baked. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner
One Pan Chicken with Vegetables

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

One Pan Chicken with Vegetables        

Printable Recipe

1 yellow squash, sliced
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets 
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 onion, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup raspberry walnut vinaigrette salad dressing
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
1/4 cup bacon bits
2 TBSP raspberry walnut vinaigrette salad dressing
salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika
sliced almonds

OPT: Serve over brown rice

*Place the squash, broccoli, tomato, onion and pepper into a bowl with the garlic and 1/3 cup raspberry vinaigrette. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to overnight. Mix now and then.
*Cover a sheet pan with tin foil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
*Place the chicken strips on one side of the sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 TBSP raspberry vinaigrette, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Mix with your hands so all of the chicken is coated.
*Spread the vegetables onto the rest of the pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and bacon bits. 
*Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
*Serve over brown rice. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Expectorant Expectant: Use Your Words

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

Use Your Words, a multiblogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I'm using: calendar ~ expectant ~ interjection ~ prevention ~ unearthly
They were submitted by Rena of The Blogging 911.

The calendar tells me that Fall is on the way. How I dread cold and flu season. If only there were an injection that assured prevention from the unearthly suffering from these common fall and winter afflictions. Sadly, it seems, an expectorant is in our near future. And isn't that a pretty picture?

Wait, my word is interjection not injection? And expectant not expectorant? Oh. OK. Sorry. Never mind.

But as long as I'm complaining, may as well get a few issues off of my chest. 

1) The calendar does in fact say that fall is coming fast. In one week actually. Fall is a favorite season of so many people I love, my mom and College Boy are two of them, but I'm a summer lover and I hate that summer seems to be gone in a minute. Strict schedules, no flip flops, less daylight, slippery roads, turning on the heat, colds and flu . . . stop me when I get to something worth looking forward to . . .

Chipotle Ranch Corn Chip Chicken, chicken breasts marinated in chipotle ranch dressing, coated in corn chips and baked until crispy. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner #chicken
Chipotle Ranch Corn Chip Chicken
Chipotle Ranch Corn Chip Chicken, chicken breasts marinated in chipotle ranch dressing, coated in corn chips and baked until crispy. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #dinner #chicken

OK, cold weather meals are really satisfying, I'll give you that.

The whole cold and flu season leads me to my next issue:
2) Prevention. This is an ongoing pet peeve of mine and it speaks to the whole "it's all about me" culture. Our ability to prevent illness, our right to protect ourselves is greatly undermined. This was a huge issue for me when College Boy was in elementary school. Parents based their decision to send their kids to school on their own schedules, not the health of their children or the best interest of their children's classmates. I can't tell you how many times kids came to class coughing, sneezing, even with a fever. And every time it was my kid who suffered, ended up on a nebulizer for a week.

It never ceases to amaze me how many school aged kids are in the grocery store coughing and sneezing at all the other patrons. You know the parents kept them home from school, at least one step in the right direction, but then took them to the grocery store to spread their germs on the parents. Great.

3) Expectant isn't just about babies any more. Seems everyone these days is living their lives in a constant state of expectation. If we are all takers, who's going to be left to give? Work ethic is a thing, everyone. Making goals, striving towards them, reaping what you sew, any of that sound familiar? Expectation can be a dangerous. So can needing an expectorant, but that may be another story for another day.

4) Interjection can be as painful as an injection. Conversation is a thing of the past. No one really seems to have the time to listen to each other any more. You know, exchange ideas? Other than in 140 character blasts. People more and more seem to be talking at each other not with each other. Interjection is the death of conversation, it shows you're not listening. Wait, hear the other person out, react to them, then make your point. 

5) What is this unearthly attitude of companies to whom we pay our money that they have no obligation to provide customer service? We all know if we need something from a company we'll spend hours in the automated voice service loop and if we ever do get anyone on the line there's a good chance they will be more indignant than accommodating. Yes, cable company, I'm looking at you. I'm about done with you.

End of rant? Not hardly. I'm sure I'll have more by the end of the day. Lucky for you, you won't have to hear about it. Anyone who sits down at my dinner table on the other hand . . .

Here are links to all the other Use Your Words posts:

Chipotle Ranch Corn Chip Chicken        

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup Chipotle Ranch salad dressing
3/4 cup crushed Chili Cheese flavored Fritos
3/4 cup crushed Spicy Nacho flavored Doritos
3/4 cup crushed Tostitos
1/2 stick butter, melted

*Trim the chicken and cut each breast half into 3 pieces of similar thickness. Place into a sealable plastic bag.
*Add the salad dressing to the bag, make sure all of the chicken pieces are completely coated and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to a day.
*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 baking pan.
*Place the crushed Fritos, Doritos and Tostitos onto a large plate. One  at a time, remove the chicken pieces from the bag and press all sides into the chip mixture until well coated. Place into the prepared pan.
*Drizzle the melted butter over the chicken. Place in the oven and cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked through.