Thoughts on this Saturday

First, I’d like to thank a number of neighbors who have rose bushes planted near the sidewalk in front of their homes. I stop to smell everyone’s roses each day when I walk the dogs. I am a cliche.

At least one pair of  large, handsome blue jays have claimed my yard as part of their territory. On the one hand, they are magnificent to see – bright sapphire with black and white markings. On the other hand, they are the meanest birds around. I’m afraid that they’re chasing away the nice birds. I actually found a dead cardinal floating in my little pond last week, if you can believe that. I’m not blaming the blue jays. But it was very sad.

And my last comment on birds: where are the hummingbirds? I have had my feeder up for two weeks, but no hummers have appeared. I changed the nectar Thursday because I didn’t want one to finally show up and go, “Eeuw! Stale nectar! I’m out of here!” I hope they will discover my feeder soon. I also hope the blue jays don’t scare them away.

Rich groomed Feb 2015

My sweet Richie. A Morkie? Maybe so!

I found a great Groupon deal for window washing, inside and out. Yesterday the young man who owns the company, Don, came to the front door and almost immediately asked what kind of dog Richie is. I explained that he’s a rescue and is some kind of terrier mix. Don said, well, my dog looks exactly like that! And his dog is a registered “Morkie.” This is not an AKC-recognized breed, but a mix of a Yorkie and Maltese that is recognized by some other organization that keeps track of specific mixed breeds, like Cockapoos and Goldendoodles, I suppose. I certainly see both breeds in Little Richard so, henceforth, he shall be known as a probable Morkie. He’s feeling fancier now, no doubt.

It was about 5:30 when Don and his helper arrived. These hard-working guys work twelve- to sixteen-hour days when weather permits! So, I took the boys with me and sat in one of my Adirondack chairs by the pond to read while they tackled the job on the house.

I thought I’d sprayed myself pretty thoroughly with mosquito repellent before heading out back, but as often happens, the little bastards found patches of skin I’d missed. By bedtime I was scratching furiously at four or five spots where I’d been bitten. Mosquitoes love me. Maybe I should eat more garlic in the summer? If anyone can suggest an effective spray that doesn’t smell horrible, I need to buy something new. And if anyone has a suggestion for making the itching go away, I’m willing to try just about anything. I tend to scratch until I’ve removed a layer of skin and end up with scabs and scars and red marks that last all summer. Yuck.

I’d also like to know how to kill weeds. I really do try to stay away from Roundup (which isn’t foolproof, anyway), but by this time of year, there are weeds that are so disgusting and grow so quickly, I just can’t keep up. The previous owners of the house put in a lovely shade garden with a variety of hostas and other plants that is now being overrun by hateful weeds. When the weather is just a bit cooler, I need to slather myself in what will hopefully be a new, more effective mosquito repellent and get out there and yank that crap out. My poor back. Gardening really is not my thing.

orange-is-the-new-black-netflix

Some of the cast members from “Orange is the New Black.” I love this show. Photo from Den of Geek.

So last night, safely back inside and in front of the TV, I finished watching this season’s “Orange is the New Black.”  Man. What a powerful season! The actors are great, but what I’d really like to do is write a love letter to the writers and tell them how brilliant they are. I think I will.

And those are my Saturday thoughts.

Happy Father’s Day to the dads out there. If you still have yours, give him an extra hug from me. I miss mine. Love you, Bob.

 

I’m a little teapot

That’s right. Short and stout.

teapotNow, a chubby little teapot conjures up sweet images, does it not? A pastel-flowered, porcelain vessel with matching, delicate cups and saucers, accompanied by warm scones with jam and cream. An old-fashioned nursery song acted out by precious preschoolers. A Neti pot when you . . . oh, never mind.

However, the mental snapshot of a height-challenged, overweight middle-aged (oh, fine, OLD) woman shaped like a teapot isn’t quite so charming.

Let’s call a spade, a spade. I have been a short, fat woman most of my adult life. Oh, there were periods when I starved and exercised myself into a more marketable size, but it was a constant battle to stay that way. Wait. “Marketable size?” Yes, that’s right. And every woman who has ever been out there looking for love, whether in all the wrong or right places, knows exactly what I’m talking about.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

Today I am focusing on the SHORT element of the description. Being “stout” is always an issue when you’re shopping for new clothes. Add “short” to the mix and the complications multiply exponentially.

Well, just buy petite clothes, you say? Oh, gosh. I certainly would – if a decent supply of petite fat clothes existed. Oh, they’re out there. But it’s not like walking into the Petite section at Dillard’s where a plethora of adorable outfits are on offer for, well, petite women. That’s short women who fit into a size zero to maybe ten or twelve. I am not petite. I’m just short, okay?

Yes, there are some plus-size “petite” or “short” sizes (I prefer short; let’s not be coy), but I think most manufacturers think if you’re fat, just buy the fat pants or dress or whatever, and hem it.

I do plenty of that, but . . . . When you’re short, you also have a shorter rise. I’m sure you know the “rise” is the distance from your waist to your hooha. There’s no doubt some kind of standard ratio at work here that assumes if you have fifty-inch hips, then it only makes sense that the rise must be, say, fifteen inches. If, however, you are a shortie with fifty-inch hips, your rise may only be, say, ten inches. Get the picture? So that means with the pants buttoned at the waist, the crotch is dipping down somewhere between your hooha and your knees.

You can walk around all baggy-crotch like a gangsta, or you might try rolling the waistband over. Now, this frequently results in a pleated, ballooning effect that makes it look like you’re wearing a mini crinoline to emphasize your hips. The next step is to search for a top that reaches just below your crotch to camouflage the bunched up fabric pouch.

Or, wait – how about buying a tunic top?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahha!

spongebob-squarepants-ss4Oh, my short, stout friends – the tunic is not your friend. Once again, the 2X tunic is designed for a hefty gal who’s five-six or taller (that’s four inches above me). When something hangs a few inches below the hip on a taller woman, she still has a nice, long expanse of leg to balance the tunic’s length, as intended by the designers. That same tunic on me nearly skims my knees, then the chunky little calves and feet poke out below making me resemble SpongeRoberta SquarePants. SpongeBob has skinny little legs but, let’s face it, the over-sized, boxy sponge is not a flattering look for him, either.

Earlier this spring I bought two nice tee-shirts online. They have square necklines and elbow-length sleeves (another critical factor for those of us sporting exceptionally meaty upper arms). I tried one on quickly when the weather was still pretty chilly, then washed and hung them in the closet, ready for summer.

When it hit 90 degrees this weekend, I finally pulled one out to wear and realized that it doesn’t fit at all. Yes, it’s big enough. No, it’s not actually too big. Somehow, the proportions are seriously off.

The problem is that there’s maybe a four-inch expanse between the top of my shoulder, down to where my breasts begin. The square is modest enough so I’m not giving cleavage, but for this shirt to fit, someone would have to stand behind me and pull the whole damn thing up a couple of inches from the shoulders so the armpits more or less fit where my armpits are actually situated. Instead, the bottom of the shirt’s armpit is hanging somewhere around my lower rib cage.

I look okay if I stand still with my arms at my sides. I look quite nice, in fact. But when I wore this shirt to the grocery store, I discovered this weird effect where the whole front of my shirt is elevated when I reach for the Quaker Oat Squares on a higher shelf.

This was not the top shelf, by the way. It was the second shelf down. I can’t reach the top shelf unless the item I want is already teetering toward the edge.

Tyrannosaurus_Rex_colored

So much like me. Tiny arms. Chubby thighs. Big mouth. Oh, yeah. More to come another day.

I was going to write this whole, other part about my freakishly short arms, and my thoughts on fat arms and big boobs and ladies’ golf, but I’ll save that for another time.

But on the plus side, I can buy the currently fashionable (I think?) ankle-length cropped pants and just wear them as regular pants.

I also was going to write more about the plus side, but after considerable thought, I honestly can’t come up with anything else.

Quit bitching and lose some weight, you may be thinking.

Are you?

Oh, go fuck yourself.

No, you’re not. Never mind.

So you may wonder, would I rather be thinner? Or taller? The answer, of course, is BOTH. Duh. In the meantime, if you run into a short and stout woman at Giant Eagle with balloon-y pants, holding her arms tightly to her sides, that could be me. Or one of my height- and weight-challenged sisters.

Be a doll and ask if we need anything on the top shelf, hmm?

 

 

 

Me and Tolstoy

My son Chris called earlier this morning. I told him I was just about to start writing and had penned more than a thousand words on my novel yesterday. He congratulated me on my work ethic (or something) and I thought, why don’t I do that every day?

Indeed. Why don’t I do that every day? If I had done that since beginning this work months ago, I would now have content comparable to War and Peace in length, if not in quality.

How did Tolstoy do it?

I  wondered about the distractions that Tolstoy might have faced in his day. No temptation to check social media, of course, which is where I went to spend twenty minutes or so reading about his life. I learned that after partying too much in college and having a number of jobs and escapades, he finally got married and settled down to run the family estate. His dad had been a prince and with all of this being before the Russian revolution, the Tolstoys were living pretty high.

When Leo became disillusioned with farming and tired of badgering his serfs, he decided to focus on his writing. He retired to his study and relied on his wife, ten-or-so children, and a staff of (indentured?) servants to manage the estate. Tolstoy didn’t have any domestic chores or other pressing business matters to hinder his powers of concentration. I must admit, though, that even without having to personally look after their needs, having ten kids must have been disruptive at times.

Tolstoy chess

A grumpy Tolstoy is distracted from writing when one of his many sons wants to play chess.

I would rather mow my own grass than have ten kids.

So we’ve established that I’m no Tolstoy, in more ways than we can begin to enumerate.

But what about those contemporary writers who are so prolific? Mary Higgins Clark, for example, has written thirty-seven best selling suspense novels, four collections of short stories, one historical novel, a couple of children’s books, and has co-authored several more books with her daughter Carol and others.

Now, Mary’s not Tolstoy, either. But I have great respect for her hard work and success.

Stephen King is another remarkably fertile writer. He’s a marvel! King has written so many books, short stories, poems, scripts, etc., it’s hard to get an accurate count. I could venture a guess as I write this today, but it’s just as likely to be incorrect five minutes after I hit “publish” when he releases another story. On one website I counted about one hundred books, plus another seven under the pen name of Richard Bachman, and then I gave up when the site started listing short stories and poems and such.

Stephen King guitar

Sometimes Stephen King stops writing long enough to play in a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan and other writers.

In fact, King makes Higgins Clark look like a slacker, which makes me look like, oh, a fourth grader trying to scribble her first book report?

But Stephen King isn’t Tolstoy either. Even Dostoevsky isn’t Tolstoy, although people do occasionally get them mixed up.

While we’re at it, I’m also not David Sedaris or Pearl S. Buck or Jane Austen or Ann Patchett or Jess Walter or Gina Barreca or James Herriott or Domingo Martinez or Alice Munro or Sue Monk Kidd or Thrity Umrigar or Anthony Doerr or Paul Theroux or . . . .

Well, the list of writers whose work I love and admire is endless. Those are just a few. A tiny taste.

Rich and Stripy

And I get distracted when Little Richard wants me to play with him and his Stripey.

Does it stand to reason that someone who LOVES LOVES LOVES to read, inevitably dreams of becoming a writer? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but it’s true for me. I never imagined myself writing fiction, but I’m giving it a shot. I think my book is pretty funny, so far. And if I ever knuckle down and finish it, I hope people will like it and – wonder of wonders! – that it could actually be published.

Just like a real writer. Wowser.

It won’t be Tolstoy. It won’t be King or Higgins Clark or Austen or Martinez or Theroux or any of those remarkably talented story-tellers. But I guess just being me might end up being okay, too.

 

Wonder Woman from the rear view mirror

Some of my favorite people are all excited about the new “Wonder Woman” movie.

Lori is a lawyer, judge, mother of teenagers, and hilarious author. She actually makes Wonder Woman look like a slacker, in my book. Beautiful Alyssa not only resembles Wonder Woman, but after putting in a very busy week in management for the area YMCA, she teaches and takes yoga classes, trains for triathlons – and loves the Yankees and a good craft beer.

My friend Fran is most likely planning on popcorn for lunch at Diamond Cinema’s matinee tomorrow, if she hasn’t already paid full price to see the movie on the day it opened. Fran has her own impressive history as Wonder Woman and continues to volunteer for several organizations, plays in a couple of golf leagues, is on the board of her condo association, and travels alone to Europe whenever her budget permits. Oh, and she is a self-proclaimed super hero movie geek.

As for me, hell. I packed away my costume and wrist cuffs years ago.

The thing is, there are so many Wonder Women out there and honestly, I think most women embrace the role primarily because we don’t have a fucking choice. Did I elect to become a single parent, working full time, bringing home the bacon, frying those sodium-packed heart attack snacks up in a pan while overseeing homework and running a quick load of laundry and whipping up cupcakes for tomorrow’s PTA bake sale and . . . ? No. I did not. That was not the plan. Man.

But I did it. And I mostly stayed pretty positive. My son was a smart, funny little cutie pie and now and then when I made time to go out and kiss some frogs, I was occasionally rewarded with some pretty great sex. True love evaded me. Alas.

My little cutie pie grew into a challenging teenager who I put through college. Gave up on my quest for Prince Charming and worked longer hours to pay the bills. Started my own business (it will be twenty years in September!) and my challenging boy became a handsome, accomplished, kind, sweet, funny man. I am so proud. Pinch me!

Wonder WomanNow I’m tired. I don’t want to be Wonder Woman anymore. Even the wrist cuffs don’t fit these days. If I tried to squeeze into the costume, you’d want to poke your eyes out.

I’m glad I was Wonder Woman instead of a princess, though. Princess isn’t really my style. But it feels good to amble away with nary a backward glance at the dragon-slaying, villain-bashing and ass-kicking activities that feature in Wonder Woman’s days.

You can have it, WW. For me, it’s all about easing into a kinder, gentler future. Preferably with a Democratic Congress and maybe a young, female Bernie Sanders in the White House.

I don’t think that’s asking for too much.

I’m just a girl who can’t say no

This post is, most of all, a message to friends and family:  I no longer will answer the phone unless I recognize the number. Please leave a message. Don’t ever assume I’ll call you back because I won’t, unless I’ve known that was your number since the fifth grade.

crazy phone princessThe biggest problem is, I hate saying no. Hate it! All those people who call who want me to donate money for worthy organizations and charities? It truly pains me to say no. I have my list of groups I contribute to each year. I do add to it occasionally, but I’m getting to the point where I’ll soon have to pick up a second job welcoming people to Wal-Mart to cover my donations. It’s not that I’m such a wonderful person or anything. There are just so many, many, MANY organizations that need help.

I also hate saying no to PACs (I guess?) supporting candidates running in states that desperately need to take steps toward becoming a kinder, gentler place. I completely understand that having good people in Iowa or Michigan or wherever is just as important as having representatives I believe in here in Ohio. It all adds up. But all I can do is support my local senator and two political organizations I won’t name here. I wish I had the Koch brothers’ bankroll, but I’m not even on the same planet as those guys, let alone ballpark, when it comes to discretionary cash.

Now, it’s easy to say no to Rachel from Card Services or to anyone else who tells me not to worry, but they have important information about my credit card. Go to hell, Rachel. You’ve been calling me for years and getting NOWHERE. Knock it off, already.

It’s also easy to say no to the guy who claims to be calling from Windows because they detected a problem with my computer. My language gets a bit salty with that guy, calling him a liar who should be ashamed of himself, among other things. Sometimes he hangs up on me before I can hang up on him. I realize, of course, that it isn’t the same guy calling every time. I have yet to receive that call from a woman, however. I guess the gals are employed by Rachel, rather than Fake Windows.

Between getting riled up over the scams and feeling guilty about the worthy causes I can’t afford to help, answering the phone has become a crap shoot. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Will I be apologizing or yelling obscenities or just acknowledging that my prescription is ready for pick up at Rite Aid? I can’t take the pressure any more.

So if I don’t answer, please – leave a message.

You, I’ll call back.

Writers’ prompts and sugar cream pie

I just got home from a writers’ retreat in Indiana. Because the internet was pretty much nonexistent at the state park inn where we stayed, I’m just now posting the blog I wrote (and wrote . . . and wrote) during a couple of rainy days and sleepless nights in the Indiana woods. Think “stream of consciousness” and bear with me, if you will . . .

Howdy from the Hoosier State!

I have driven through Indiana a few times on my way to Chicago, but I don’t think I’ve ever even stopped the car in this state, other than to pause to pay a toll. I was going to say I’ve never eaten a meal here or slept here, but I just this very minute remembered that I was in Indianapolis to work on a Revco Health & Beauty Expo sometime in the early 90’s.

Remembering that might cause a better writer to scrap that first, pointless paragraph, but I don’t know when “pointless” has ever stopped me from nattering on about something or other. Look through the backlog of my blog posts. You’ll agree with me, I’m certain.

I’m going to rationalize calling this my “first trip to Indiana” by saying that all big cities are so much like other big cities, and whether we stayed in a Hilton or Marriott or Hyatt more than twenty years ago in downtown Indianapolis, all Hiltons and Marriotts and Hyatts are about the same. For many travelers, that’s one of their virtues, like always knowing you’ll get basically the same cheeseburger at every McDonald’s on the planet, if a McDonald’s cheeseburger is, indeed, what you’re hoping to eat.

Consequently, staying at a name hotel in Indianapolis and spending most of my time at the adjoining convention center (again, a convention center is a convention center is pretty much just another convention center), then THIS is my first trip to Unique Indiana. Indiana in the countryside. The Indiana of small town Angola and the Pokegon State Park.

And I’m not sleeping at a chain hotel. I’m staying at the Potawatomi Inn at Pokegon State Park. Believe me (did I just sound like Trump there?) when I tell you it in no way resembles any cookie cutter chain hotel, from the most basic Motel 6 to the predictably fabulous Four Seasons. If the internet connection in my room wasn’t so unreliable (in fact, almost impossible to access for more than a minute at a time), I’d immediately hook up some hyperlinks here and maybe lift some info from the website, but . . . I can’t, so we’ll have to forego the history of the Potawatomi and/or Pokegon tribes, Indiana history, geography, what year the inn was built, and so on. (links added later)

Most importantly, I am here for an informal writers’ weekend. Yes! Me! There are ten other women here, some of whom are published authors and others, like me, in various stages of writing and wondering if we’ll ever be publisher-worthy. Last night we all went out to dinner at the nearby Timbers Steak House. It was the best meal I’ve had here yet, though I should warn any foodie friends that iceberg lettuce seems to be the star of every salad bar in this neck of the woods. In fact, going to the salad bar as opposed to being served a salad (which I prefer) is the standard, and also, you have to go up and pay the bill at a hostess desk after each meal, rather than have your waitress collect your credit card at the table.

Since I am tossing out unwarranted generalizations everywhere in this story, I will venture to say that perhaps this is an Indiana custom. Maybe they simply want nothing to do with the little padded folders where the bill is tucked inside and there’s credit card-sized plastic sleeve so just the tip of your Visa can peek demurely above the folder. Cash is to be hidden completely inside. That’s the norm in Ohio, anyway.

Potawatami princesses

Listening to Ellen’s story.

Anyway, after dinner we returned to the inn and commandeered the library to read some of our work to the group. Most of the other people staying in the inn were busy at a wedding in the ballroom, complete with flashing disco lights. Some of us wanted to crash the reception to hit the cupcake display after dinner, but we hadn’t had enough to drink at Timbers’ to be brash enough to actually do it. A rowdy little gang of middle-aged (and old) women crashing a wedding reception might have added an element of levity and surprise to the happy couple’s special evening, but it’s a crap shoot. And no one wants to piss off a bride, right?

Since this is, as always, all about ME (and don’t you forget it), I will tell you that I read the first couple of pages of the novel I’ve been writing for the last year or so. (We took turns reading out loud to the group.) I had never read or shared any of the story with anyone but my son Chris and his sister Grace, so I was pretty nervous about it. People said it was funny and that they liked it. They even laughed out loud! I felt like Sally Field when she won her first Oscar and sobbed, ”I can’t believe you like me! You really like me!”

I had stopped writing about six months ago. I’m not sure why. Lost heart? Lost confidence? I can’t say for sure, but I just couldn’t seem to get back into writing. After sharing and seeing that complete strangers apparently think it doesn’t suck, I’m ready to get back to it. I still feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to determine where the story goes next, but I’m going to stop being a wimp and go for it.

Meet the writers . . .

The ladies I met here for the weekend are an amazing group. I knew Pam, one of the organizers, from briefly chatting at last year’s Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop in Dayton. I’m not sure if Teri and I crossed paths in Dayton or not, but through mutual Erma Facebook friends, we became Facebook friends as well, and that’s the extent of my relationship to Pam and Teri. I’m not sure what possessed me to say, “Hell yeah, I’ll drive to Indiana for a long weekend to meet a bunch of people I don’t really know and spend most of the time alone in my room writing! Why not?”

It’s weird, right? But boy, am I glad I decided to come.

Most of the women know each other from a Cincinnati writing program called Women Writing for Change. Or for A change? I’m not completely sure, but it sounds like a wonderful thing for a writer to do. So there’s this whole contingency of Cincinnati women and not only are they interesting and nice and funny, but man, they can WRITE! Some women are writing novels or memoirs. Some are poets and Teri is an accomplished playwright who has a piece being staged in Chicago this summer. Listening to their work last night was humbling, and I felt so grateful to be a part of the group.

Pam is from Michigan and is in the final editing stages of her first novel. From what she read last night, I can’t wait to hear how the rest of her story unfolds. Suzanne, a college professor and a member of the Cincinnati gang, is writing a book about a young girl named Georgia and I really want to know how that story unfolds, as well. I need to mention Sandy (hilarious blogger), Ruthanne (spiritual and inspiring), Becky (won an Erma prize!), Claudia, Ellen, Suz (the fabulous poets) and finally, Lori.

Lori Duff, who flew in from Atlanta to join us, has written three books, is an attorney, a mother of two teenagers, a ghost writer, a blogger. I don’t know how she does it, but before I post this I’ll put in a link to her website. Lori’s humor is priceless and you’ll thank me for pointing you in her direction if you want a good laugh. She brought along her Frida Kahlo finger puppet, who I was happy to photograph frowning at a piece of pie. More to come on that.

I know I’m all over the place with this blog, but let me circle back to my impression of northeastern Indiana before I save this piece and run down to the Potawatomi dining room to meet the ladies for lunch.

First, it has rained most of the time we’ve been here. I’m not anti-rain, but undoubtedly Lake James – a gray, choppy body of water lurking outside the inn’s many windows – and the surrounding woods have significantly greater appeal when the sun is shining. It would be heaven to plop down in one of the Adirondack chairs near the water’s edge to savor a good book on a fine day, pages fluttering with the lake breeze. Sadly, that’s not happening on this trip.

And my rant on coffee . . .

Another thing that’s not happening on this trip is getting a good cup of coffee.

Uh, huh. You heard me. Indiana can’t make a decent cup of joe.

Potawatami breakfast

My first Potawatomi breakfast

Whoa, you say? How can you make a generalization like that, Kate? Well, I can because this is my blog, not yours, and it amuses me to make rash proclamations sometimes. First, the coffee in my room sucks. I finally made a pot using both a regular and a decaf pouch and it wasn’t awful. One pouch, as directed, produces a beige cup of blah. I couldn’t get into the dining room at the inn for breakfast yesterday because they were short-staffed and had a long list of boisterous families waiting for tables. The cup of blah and some Ritz crackers were my breakfast. Yum. And thanks, Indiana.

I thought I’d stop by the hotel’s little café, which finally opened at 11:00, counting on finally finding a decent cup of coffee.  Well, first, I had to make my own, choosing from a small selection of Keurig-type pods. I opted for the Robust Italian to counteract the effects of the Cup of Blah, but that was so freaking strong, I had to add water to it when I got back to my room. And it was not lovely Italian-type strong, either.

Oh, and the café had no creamer. Not even the powdered stuff that’s available in my room and at the coffee machine near the front desk (semi-drinkable). When I asked for cream, the young girl behind the desk acted confused and said all she had was some milk. I said, well, I’ll have some of that, please. She handed me a gallon jug of two percent and I managed to splash some into the pseudo-Italian sludge without slopping all over the counter, but it didn’t help much.

So this morning I decided to look for a local restaurant in nearby Angola (isn’t that an African country?) to treat myself to breakfast.

I went to the Village Kitchen, recommended (I guess) on Google Maps. It had a string of stars and claimed to be popular with the residents. I could have stopped at Bob Evans or even Tom’s Donuts along the way, but no. I passed them by to make a special trip to the worst family restaurant in Angola.

But who knew that the Village Kitchen would not only have yet more dishwater-inspired coffee, but also serve the saddest excuse for “hot cakes” that I’ve ever eaten? I really didn’t think it was possible to screw up pancakes, but these were so dry, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the cook decided to get ahead of the game on a dull Friday afternoon by frying up a huge stack of pancakes to have on hand for a busy Sunday morning. Or maybe they made too many on Saturday?

What was served to me were two dry, lukewarm hot cakes with a slightly melted ball of bright yellow margarine sinking in the center. I do believe the cook grabbed some old pancakes, plopped on the disgusting wannabe butter, threw the mess in the microwave for fifteen seconds, and told the waitress to give ‘em to that old fat lady who drove up in the car with Ohio plates. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. Needless to say, I didn’t each much. The bacon was good, though. Nice and crispy, as requested. Maybe the cook felt bad about the pancakes and made decent bacon to compensate. Sadly, it just didn’t have the gravitas to shore up the terrible hot cakes and coffee.

And Indiana’s State Pie . . .

I returned to the inn, worked on this again for a while, then it was time to meet the writers for lunch in the Potawatomi dining room. As it turned out, the only option on Sunday is the $15 brunch buffet.  Call me picky, but I didn’t want a damned buffet, either. I don’t eat eggs, so the omelet station held no appeal to me. There were chafing dishes with deep-fried, breaded blobs of things, some grayish Brussels sprouts, fried chicken, dried ham, etc. There was the ubiquitous salad bar with iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese and some scary pale pink pudding. Yogurt, maybe? The ladies liked a vegetable soup that looked suspiciously to me like the leftover veggie medley from last night’s wedding buffet drowned in a mystery broth.

After nibbling on a few  entree-type offerings I decided to head to the dessert table. There wasn’t much left so I chose what looked like a piece of custard pie. I then learned from the omelet chef that it was actually Indiana’s State Pie – Sugar Cream Pie. I had never heard of a “state pie,” so I was excited to try it. I’ve been disappointed by pie in the past, but it’s a rare occurrence. Pie usually delivers.

Potawatami pie

Frida Kahlo (courtesy of Lori Duff) gazes at the Indiana State Pie,   sugar cream pie, in disgust.

And wouldn’t you know it – sugar cream pie is one of those odd pies out. It was not at all custard-y. It is dense, bland, and extraordinarily sweet. It tastes like nothing more than solidified milk and sugar. Not even a hint of vanilla. Everybody had to try a bite, of course, and my favorite comments came from Lori who called it, “Diabetes on a crust.” She also said, “That is such a white person’s pie.” You can’t argue with that. I’ll bet it’s Mike Pence’s favorite dessert.

So there you go. As disjointed as this piece is, I do hope that I’ve amused someone. If not, I can assure you that at least I amused myself. Don’t take any Indiana criticisms to heart. It just looks like more Ohio to me, except, thank heavens, we don’t have Mike Pence. If forced to make a choice, I’ll reluctantly take John Kasich any day.

Watch for Sugar Cream Pie on the White House menu. Coming soon – whether we want it or not.

Potawatami group shot

The sun finally came out Sunday afternoon and we found these remnants of silk flowers left behind by the wedding party on the inn’s patio. And here we are – the Watomi Writers Group. Or maybe the Potawatomi Princesses. Fabulous, right?

To Blue Apron, or not to Blue Apron – Conclusion

If you’re new to the party, let me briefly explain that Blue Apron is one of several companies that delivers pre-measured ingredients and step-by-step recipe directions in a kit delivered to your home for easy meal preparation. I’ve been writing about a one-week trial period where I’d try out three meals and decide whether to choose Blue Apron, or not. Here’s my conclusion:

The quick answer is Not to Blue Apron. If you’d like to know why, read on.

I finally cooked the last supper (no religious comparisons, if you please) on Tuesday night, Roasted Pork & Mustard Pan Sauce. It was the least successful instructions-wise, I’d say.

Blue Apron browning pork

First you brown the little boneless pork roast in a frying pan.

To make the meals super-quick and easy, Blue Apron likes to bake meats at excessively high temperatures for a short period of time. I followed the directions, browning the little pork roast in a frying pan for some color, and to capture the drippings to make the mustard sauce later.

I put the roast into the 475 degree oven and set the timer for sixteen minutes. Directions said fourteen to sixteen, but I found that hard to believe. And I was right. Blue Apron said the roast should register 145 degrees with an instant-read thermometer, and mine had just reached 120. I plopped it back in the oven for another five minutes and soon I had smoke alarms going off (and sweat dripping down my face) even though there wasn’t any smoke – just way too much heat in my tiny kitchen. It didn’t help that the day I finally decided to cook this, the outside temperature soared to 88 degrees (most unusual in Northeastern Ohio in May).

The little chunk of pork finally reached the right temperature (total twenty-one minutes) and I set it aside to rest for five minutes, as directed, while finishing up the rest of the meal (well, kind of – there wasn’t much to do because I was on schedule to be finished by then).

Blue Apron cooking veg

Sliced fingerling potatoes (so cute!), green beans, and shallots are stir-fried to golden perfection!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I hate asparagus. Strong words, yes. But I really do hate it. Yuck. I tried to palm it off on my mother, but she wasn’t enthused enough to take me up on the offer. Anyway, I bought some beautiful, fresh green beans to substitute and have to say, the veggie part of this meal with the sliced fingerling potatoes, my beans, and sliced shallots, was delicious. I’ll make that again for myself in the future (just slice the little potatoes into about quarter inch slices and stir fry with salt and pepper in a little olive oil for maybe five minutes; add the beans and thinly sliced shallots and a little more oil and salt and pepper and cook for another maybe four minutes until the beans are just cooked. That’s it!).

The pork, on the other hand, was overcooked and tough. Maybe my thermometer is off? It’s possible. It might not be Blue Apron’s fault. But I’m not a fan of the fast, super-high heat cooking method (although it worked very nicely for the chicken, I must admit). The mustard sauce was quite good – a very grainy mustard mixed with the pork pan drippings, a little water, butter, and fresh, chopped tarragon.

Blue Apron pork dinner

Kinda sorta like the photo?

I’d say, overall, the meal was pretty good. Pork would have been much better if I hadn’t overcooked it (no matter whose fault it is).

To wrap up the meal evaluations – I liked the catfish dinner best of all, but it needed a starch; a little skimpy for two people. The Indian tandoori-style chicken was okay, but I’m still not a convert to Indian spices. And the French-inspired pork roast with mustard sauce and potatoes and asparagus (or beans) would have been lovely if the meat hadn’t been overcooked.

I think that for people who are really busy, but don’t mind doing a little food prep for dinner, Blue Apron is a great option. The price is reasonable. The ingredients I received were fresh and of very good quality. Preparation takes at least twenty minutes or so. It’s more involved than I expected. I have two friends, Christine and Cindy, who do this with their families and enjoy sharing the prep and spending a little time in the kitchen together before sitting down to dinner. I can see that and think that’s nice! But being alone? It’s not really all that much easier or faster than starting from scratch.

The time it took to prepare the food was one of the negatives for me. As I’ve said before, I really am tired of cooking. It was fun having meals that were totally different from anything I usually cook, but it was still time screwing around, cleaning, chopping, cooking food. I just don’t want to do that anymore. Or not as often as Blue Apron shows up.

Which brings me to the next negative – the minimum I could order would be meals for two people, three times a week. That worked out fine with the catfish, which I loved. I had it for dinner one night, then heated up the second filet and put it on a bun for a fish sandwich for lunch the next day. The chicken and the pork I just threw out because I didn’t like either one enough to eat them again.

Unfortunately, with Blue Apron you have very little say over what your meal choices will be. I did try to change one of the nights before I got that first order and it gave me an alternative – and that was it. No multiple choices. Having said that, perhaps I wasn’t approaching it correctly on the website? It seemed odd. But, that was my experience – too few choices. I’m not the most adventurous eater, so I can see it becoming an issue down the road.

While I’m not going to continue with Blue Apron, I have begun exploring other ways to find healthy meals that I don’t have to cook. I’m as sick of eating fast good and stupid things like popcorn or cereal for supper as I am of cooking! Many might say I could do with skipping a few meals – and they’d be right. But that ain’t gonna happen.

I was talking to an old acquaintance who asked me if I’d tried a local caterer that has individual meals to go in their shop, not that far from where I live. What?! I checked their website and sure enough, this place offers all kinds of meals for take-out every day but Sunday. I’ll definitely give them a try. Then I thought, what about just plain, old family style restaurants? I’m thinking Italian, in particular. Usually the portions are so big, one meal can split into two; add a salad and there’s two nights taken care of!

This will certainly be more expensive than fast food or even Blue Apron, but if the alternative is eating junk . . . I think my health is worth it.

I sincerely hope I will not be writing any more blog series about food, but if you want to know how my new approach unfolds, let me know. In the meantime, thanks for joining me on my Blue Apron adventure and bon appetit!