Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Snippets: New Year Edition

For the purposes of this snippet, you need to know that I have been making fresh bread with olive oil. Yum. For the most recent loaf, I ran out of my usual butter-infused extra virgin and used instead a blend infused with Tuscan herbs. It added an Italian flavor to the loaf. Boy has opined that it would be best served with an oil dipping sauce rather than butter. Thus, these texts.

BOY: Get some olive oil for the bread.
ME: You like the Tuscan?
BOY: With some olive oil.
BOY: And you want to make another loaf.
ME: I guess you like it. Is there any left?
BOY: Very little.
ME: So... crumbs then.
BOY: Nope, a couple slices, but get some olive oil.
ME: Olive to serve.
BOY: Get some milk too.
ME: A terrific pun like that and I get nothing?
BOY: Yep.

ME: If the boy thinks he's getting the jumbo bag of Oreo-flavored popcorn from Chef Shoppe for his birthday, he is high.
MAN: Do I want to know?
ME: That little bag you're holding is $11.99.
MAN: How much is the jumbo?
ME: $129.
MAN: Yeah, no.
ME: I'd figure you would say popcorn is worth any price, Popcorn Monster.
MAN: Look, I love popcorn. I love popcorn more than peanut butter.
ME: Wow. More than Godzilla?
MAN: Close second.
ME: Did I break you with Godzilla?
MAN: Yes. Close second.
ME: More than me?
MAN: ... of course not.
ME: You hesitated. I saw it.
MAN: I was checking my answer to make sure I'm not about to get in trouble.

ME: You have to be at the Y at 5:30 with the other volunteers for Last Night.
BOY: Then get home so we can start with games and movies.
ME: I'm at Walmart for YOUR underwear, smarty no-pants.
BOY: Are you coming home anytime soon?
ME: Ask the people in line in front of me.
BOY: Shove them out of the way and tell them it's an emergency.
ME: What's the emergency?
BOY: I'm hungry and want to play games and watch movies.
ME: That truly sounds dire. Eat leftovers please.

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

2017 so far

They say you'll probably spend your whole year mostly doing what you do on New Year's Day. If so, I'm going to spend 2017 snuggled with my family, napping, cooking experimental dishes, drinking tasty-yet-cheap wine, and ignoring the internet for the most part.

That is just fine by me.

As I write this, Boy has come home from work, rested, and is now going for a jog at dusk because he is a space alien. (Actually, because he had to miss the Resolution Run this morning in order to work at McDonald's, and I think he regrets it.) Man is running to the store for a few ingredients I somehow forgot, which boggles the mind considering how full the fridge is. We just finished watching Spotlight, which Jim had not seen despite the two (2) formal events I've hosted featuring it. More movies pending as the lasagna bakes!

And I am contemplating my year. I do an extensive list of New Year's Resolutions, because I don't see them as flighty wishes for the new year; I like goals. I like lists, preferably color-coded and categorized. And I'm a word-based human: it isn't real until it's written down. Making a list of goals for my new year is how I set my brain to accomplish those goals.

I may decide to share them. I may not. For the moment, I'm not. Suffice to say I have goals for work, for the other work, for the other other work, for my home, for my health. That latter is often a problem beyond my ability to solve, but I'm working on the parts that I can. This will be the year I cook almost all of our meals, so as to save money and health, but especially money, as Boy is turning 18 and going to college - i.e. big rise in expenses with a big loss of income. Working on that math. (Buy books.) This will hopefully be the year I figure out how to rein in my schedule and get more writing done, both of the fictional and nonfictional variety. I would like to say this will be the year that I finally figure out how to stop overworking and relax, but I don't think that's in the cards for anyone in my profession, even if they aren't me.

These are vague goals; resolutions are specific, planned, with desired outcomes and schedules. Of course, to quote the inimitable Jayne: "What you plan and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar."

Which is why today has been so lovely, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. Couch. Movies. Snuggles. Noshes. Games. More snuggles. These work-free days have been exceedingly rare of late, and I need to fix that. No one ever said at the end of life that they wished they'd spent more time at work, right?

Happy new year, denizens. May yours be as pleasant as mine (so far).

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cross-post: A year in memoriam

CultureGeek post: A Year in Memoriam, remembering those we've lost in 2016. This took a while to compile.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Snippets: Christmas edition

Background: I have a tendency to overuse the word "suddenly." I seriously am going to have to do a find/replace on the next book to kill that word throughout the manuscript once I'm done with the rewrite.

ME: Suddenly! Again!
WRITER1: Have you considered the use of a thesaurus?
ME: Grrrr.
WRITER2: I have a Lionel Richie song running through my head now thank you!
ME: That's what you get. My pain is your pain.
WRITER2: And you wonder why I brought wine.



ME: Merry Christmas kiddo!
BOY: Merry Christmas mom
ME: We opened all your presents and are playing with your toys.

I no longer have him fooled, dangit.

ME: What do you call an elf who sings?
ME: A wrapper!
ME: What do you call a kid who doesn't believe in Santa?
ME: A rebel without a Claus!
ME: ...
ME: Nothing? Wow, tough room.
BOY: Yeah.
ME: I got lots more.
BOY: ...

BOY: *sends third attempt at texting game*
ME: I give up. This thing does not work.
BOY: Maybe it's ur phone, get it fixed
ME: *your
BOY: ...

ME: Chef Shoppe is a madhouse.
MAN: I bet.
ME: Ian is getting an IOU for Oreo popcorn. The line is insane. Clerk says yesterday popcorn line alone was to the door of the shop.
MAN: Shit.
ME: Repeating mantra: It is never too early.
MAN: Yes. I can do more to help.
ME: Noted and logged. :)
MAN: Just get ready for man-wrapped gifts.
ME: Just wrap like Stephen.*
MAN: Impossible. Stephen is an alien.

* My friend Stephen has worked the gift-wrap counter at Dillard's for many years. His wrapping puts all others to shame. :)

Background: Jim is not a normal human. Normal humans set their phones to make a beep sound or maybe some brief sound effect from a movie when they get texts. Jim's phone plays the entire military march from the Godzilla movie series. For. Every. Text. (Except my texts: for that he gets Yoda: "Do. Or do not. There is no try." I do not know how to feel about this.) At this moment, Jim's phone was on the charger in the bedroom.

JIM'S PHONE: *Godzilla march*
JIM'S PHONE: *Godzilla march*
JIM'S PHONE: *Godzilla march*
ME: Would you please go see who is blowing up your phone and maybe turn off the ringer?
JIM: It's your mother.
ME: Is something wrong? Why is she texting?
JIM: Nothing's wrong. She's just letting me know that she and Pop were getting ready for bed and saw that Godzilla was on.
ME: I had two people tell me this morning that there was a Godzilla marathon going on.
JIM: I know. It was on Elrey.
ME: Which we don't get, so I didn't wake you for it, because I'm nice like that.
JIM: *sigh*
ME: And it proves that whenever anything Godzilla happens, everyone will tell you AND me. I understand half of that.
JIM: Because I am king of all things Godzilla.
ME: Fine, but what does it matter if there's a Godzilla movie on TV - WE HAVE ALL OF THEM! *gestures to giant rack of obscure Japanese cinema behind Jim's chair*
JIM: Not quite all!
ME: ALL! And so we don't have to wait for it to come around on TV: If I want to watch Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster I can just pull the DVD off -
JIM: Hedorah.
ME: What.
JIM: His name was Hedorah, and it was only in the Americanized releases that they called him the Smog Monster. I'd appreciate it if you're going to discuss my religion that you use the proper terms.
ME: ...
ME: I was making that up. I didn't think there was actually a Smog Monster.
JIM: *pulls the appropriate DVD*
ME: *facepalm* 
JIM'S PHONE: *Godzilla march*
JIM'S PHONE: *Godzilla march*

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Snow Day Bake-a-palooza

In case you hadn't noticed, we got shellacked by an ice storm this weekend. Friday was bad enough that we aborted a trip to Wal-mart after it took half an hour to go four blocks.

We ventured out on Saturday, as I had a signing and Boy had a job interview. The interview went okay, but the signing was canceled two hours in due to encroaching bad weather. Then church was canceled for Sunday, so we snuggled in for the remainder of the weekend.

That means baking!

Our annual tradition of gingerbread cookies incorporates Man and Boy playing with the cookie cutters. My collection is a mix of my own acquisitions, my mother's donations from three decades ago, and her own grandmother's hand-me-downs that could be a century old by now. One of them always sculpts something unusual - this year, Boy created a snowman, held together by icing.

Boy also demonstrated a natural talent for decoration, and I believe I may retire permanently. I have zero skill with the icing bag, and Jim's creations always look scary.

The current yield includes ginger snaps, cinnamon pecans, the gingerbread cutouts, death by chocolate (mint) cookies, sugared vanilla cookies, and turtles.

The pecans, sadly, were a misfire. I've never done them before, and while I know I followed the recipe to the letter,  I ended up with a lot of extra hardened goop. An extra cup of pecans in the mixture, perhaps, or reducing the various mixture ingredients. Or maybe I just need a new recipe. Pecans are way too expensive to waste! Fortunately, the menfolk will eat anything except tomatoes.

Still pending: many loaves of cranberry nut bread and banana bread, plus something for the SPJ holiday happy hour on Tuesday and some goodies for Jim's night crew on Thursday. I might need to make more turtles and/or sugar cookies. And actually get the tins out in time. Heh.

And now begins the annual picketing: "Why can't we eat the cookies?" I see the gingersnaps have been somewhat reduced when I wasn't looking. I suspect shenanigans.

In the meantime, the holiday movie marathon has begun. So far: Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged, While You Were Sleeping, A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott), The Family Man, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Story. As I write this, we're on The Bishop's Wife, one of my dad's favorites that was a regular part of our family's traditions each Christmas.

I am not a huge fan of The Family Man; I found it diverting but not really essential, but Boy loves it. Boy protested While You Were Sleeping, but changed his mind once he actually saw it.

Still pending: the holy trinity of Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch; A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Patrick Stewart Christmas Carol, and my personal favorite, It's a Wonderful Life.

On Facebook, I'm now up to more than 50 votes on the best version of A Christmas Carol. I'd like the thank everyone in advance for giving me my Christmas column...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Sock Snippets

Overheard in the newsroom, among the talented, smart, young people who have recently joined us...

COPY EDITOR 1: I found a gray hair once.
COPY EDITOR 2: No way.
ME: I don't want to hear it from either of you!
BOTH: *laughter)
COPY EDITOR 1: Seriously! I found this gray hair while I was working at (other newspaper) and I thought, "What have you done to me?"
ME: Welcome to journalism.
BOTH: *laughter*
COPY EDITOR 1: I knew she would say something.
ME: Please. I have socks older than the both of you.

As evidenced by the gentle streaks of silver growing at my temples...

The sock line is absolutely true. I have two pair of black socks remaining from the set I bought when I was hired at McDonald's in 1992. They aren't in the best of shape, but they have survived. Our wonderful young copy editors were born in 1993 and 1994 respectively, as I discovered when I was showing them the darkroom, that museum relic from an earlier age of less convenience and smelly chemicals.

And I had me a little flashback at the same time, as I remembered the exact same line fired at me from Jayne Matthews, may she rest in peace. Jayne was an acerbic older reporter who came from the 1970s era and let no one get in the way of her steamroller of stories - she was from Tennessee and a long line of old country talkers.

Jayne sat across the aisle from my cubicle from the time I was hired at Ye Olde Newspaper until her retirement, and I remember she used to say the same thing: "I have socks older than you." It may have been true for her as well, or it may have been Jayne hyperbole, which would not be a stretch.

The wheel keeps on turning....

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Post-Election* Snippets

MAN: Some of our friends need to be more careful. These highly attractive women wanting to be my friend have mutual friends with me.
ME: The highly attractive woman looking for a good man?
MAN: Yes. I get these friend requests from these gorgeous supermodels who are all about friending me and I'm all, "Delete."
ME: Now now, hon. Who's to say an attractive woman would not be falling all over herself for you?
MAN: *eyebrow of skepticism* Not these women, hon.
ME: So you're saying there's no way an attractive woman would be attracted to you?
MAN: That's right.
ME: So you're saying I'm not attractive?
MAN: ...
MAN: ...
ME: *wide grin*
MAN: Woman!
ME: *guffaw* Oh honey. It's right in front of you, a giant pit, and you go and just jump on in.


BOY: What's for dinner?
ME: Food.
BOY: There are mashed potatoes on the counter, but no other food.
ME: Yes there is. There's a roast in the oven.
BOY: *makes face* Roast?
ME: Yes. A carefully seasoned-from-scratch beef roast simmering in my own gravy recipe, ungrateful one.
BOY: *makes face again*
ME: For what do I get face? You got a problem with roast?
BOY: Yes. Make burgers or pasta with sauce, please. *wide grin*
ME: Get outta my office.

(He had two helpings.)


Boy wanders in drinking from a dark brown bottle.

ME: ...What are you drinking?
BOY: Beer.
ME: Very funny. Are you drinking my very last diet root beer?
BOY: ... I didn't know it was yours.
ME: Spawn!
BOY: Sorry.


MAN: Can I borrow a little cash so I can get a soda to go with my lunch that I packed?
ME: Wow, subtle. Yes, I bought you lunchstuff. Yes, you can swipe a buck. It's in the change bowl.
MAN: *goes to petty cash bowl Sarah Sanford made for me*
MAN: *swipes a fiver*
ME: HEY! I said a buck, not five! You shouldn't drink that much soda!
MAN: Muahahahaha. *puts money in wallet*
ME: Hey! I've been robbed! Gimme your wallet.
MAN: No!
ME: If you're gonna drown yourself in caffeine you're not supposed to have, buy it yourself! *grabs at wallet*
MAN: *dances away* Bye now! *kisses*
ME: You taste like coffee. Did you make coffee?
MAN: *whistles*
ME: Or did you drink the last of the coffee and now you're leaving me coffee-less?
MAN: Gotta go!


ME: You have violated the Book of Hebrews.
ME: Fortunately I had one DoubleShot left. But there shall be retribution.
MAN: Strange that we are going over that in class today.
ME: You can share with them my interpretation.
MAN: I will.

* Man, it sure took a while to build up enough household snark to fill a blog entry... 

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