The Last Mile or…850 Metres to School

I am a survivor of my childhood.  With all the helmets, and helicopter parenting going on nowadays, it’s a wonder that I am still alive to share any stories of my childhood.  Perhaps I am one of the lucky survivors.  Today I will share with you the terrifying tale of a specific part of my childhood.  Luckily, no child in this day and age in North America, will have to survive this kind of ordeal.

My mother had (and has) a green thumb.  No, not gangrene.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it means she can take any flower or plant (dead or alive) and make it blossom and grow.  When we moved into our new “forever home”, my mother decided that it would be wonderful to have dahlias in front of our house.  My mother loved them.  I dreaded them.  Why?  They were the perfect hiding spot for my sworn insect enemy…the grasshopper.  Foliage and insects were to be my yearly springtime horror story.

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As a child who had just moved into a new neighbourhood, there were already many challenges that I had to deal with.  New school.  New friends (or lack thereof).  New teachers.  Every spring I would walk out my front door, look to my right and see the tall, green, leafy dahlias with their perky red flowers; they were taunting me.  They knew they harboured my repulsive flying insect enemies.  I would take a deep breath and prepare myself for the attack.  My mother would be behind me in the doorway yelling at me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school.  What did she know.  There was going to be a volley of insects flying at my head ready to blind me with every step.  It would take precision and trickery to fool my flying enemies.  My plan of action:  One step forward and two steps back.  I remember taking one step forward and, as I was taking my “two steps back”, IT would fly out of the dahlia bush.  Sure, this took about 5 to 9 minutes to accomplish my trek, but my head would not be permanently scarred by grasshopper kamikaze.  Mission accomplished.

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Oh, the trials and tribulations of walking to school.  Directions were not an issue.  All I had to do was turn right out of my driveway and keep walking until I got to school.  No problem there.  However, there were some challenges I experienced along the way.  Here are but a few:

  • RABID DOG:  I would be walking to school and see a dog.  It was a ferocious dog.  There was no owner walking with that dog.  Its teeth were bared and ready to sink its jaws into my neck and rip me apart.  (Ok, I have a flare for the dramatic.)
    • Usually, I would see the dog and cross the street.  If, perchance, it decided to follow me, I would point my index finger at it and yell loudly, “Go home!” as my mother had taught me to do.  Not sure why it understood me, but it would usually just meander away.
  • UNEVEN SIDEWALK:  I was one of the lucky (unlucky?) kids who didn’t have to eat lunch at school.  I could go home for lunch!  Ok, I’ll be honest, I loved coming home for a yummy hot meal.  However, as attention spans go, I was always a dreamer and it took me longer to get home than most obedient children.  By the time I got home, my mother was fuming and force-feeding me so that I would get back on time.  On parent teacher interview day, I was lectured and pre-reprimanded about being home on time for lunch.  That day I ran home and totally missed seeing the lump of dirt that was suddenly on the sidewalk and WHAM!  Face first into the lovely cement sidewalk.  I made it home on time!  I also made it back to school on time too.  Kudos to me!  My unpopularity became even more pronounced with the appearance of a bandage across my nose.IMG_3082
  • STRANGERS IN CARS:  I remember being lectured about not talking to strangers.  I got in big “doo-doo-ka-ka” when a strange lady in a car stopped beside me as I was walking to school.  Why?  Apparently “stranger lady” was my aunt’s friend coming to visit her and she was trying to ask me for directions.  (Note:  never ask me for directions.  I really have no idea where places are, what streets are called, and basically, I usually don’t know where I am.  There.  You’ve been told.)
  • BULLIES:  When my brother was old enough to attend the same school, he decided that he wanted to tell the local bully off.  My sister job was to protect my younger brother.  One day, it got so bad that Mini-bully-boy picked up a big, gargantuan rock and threw it high up in the air to annihilate my baby bro.  What happened?  I stepped in to block the rock and it landed ungracefully on my big toe.  What happened next?  I limped for several weeks.  My toe nail fell off after turning completely blue / purple / green / yellow.  Oh the rainbow of pain!

Remarkable isn’t it.  I walked through snow, wind, sleet, thunderstorms, humidity, and grasshopper skies.  I walked all the way to school.  Not once, but twice a day!  Oh sure, I had an umbrella.  I had winter boots.  I had a winter coat.  I also walked the last mile…or 850 metres.  Uphill.  Both ways.  And I survived.

Astraphobia…or is God out to get me?

There are many types of fears:  fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of drowning…to name but a few.  They all have their own “phobia” name.  I had this one fear, that some of you might also have had, called astraphobia or the “fear of thunderstorms”.  Allow me to share with you my mind-numbing anxiety and how I finally conquered this phobia.

The first lighting bolt / thunderclap storm that I can recall was when I was 4 years old.  Our family (mom, dad, us four kids) had gone to Croatia for a vacation (meet the relatives trip).  Being so young, I don’t really remember much.  The one thing I clearly recall is a lightning storm.  It was pitch black outside until the firebolt lit up the sky.  I was under an umbrella with someone (found out it was my mother) and we were trying to run quickly through the mud to get home before we got hit by lightning.  It was a terrifying experience and therefore etched in my mind forever.  That was thunderstorm number one.

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The second thunderstorm that I can recall, took place after we had moved into our new family home.  I was 7 years old.  It was early afternoon when suddenly, the sky went from pretty blue to smokey, dark grey.  We had to turn the lights on in the house.  I was standing beside my mother and we were looking out the window.  CRACK!!!  Lightning streaked across the sky!  Seriously, there were probably 5 bolts that went from cloud to cloud.  A few seconds later BOOOOOM!  Thunder shook the house.  My mom held me and informed me that everything was going to be fine.  Then the lights went out.  I was shaking with fear.  Then all of a sudden…ICE PELLETS!!  I had never seen that before.  Ice cubes falling from the sky.  Hail was piling up on the dirt mountain in front of our house.

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I started thinking that God must be mad at us.  (Yes, going to church all the time and listening to the bible stories of the “vengeful destructive God” in the old testament can really get a kid’s imagination going.)  Well, God wasn’t going to strike me dead on this day.  I bolted up to my bedroom and hid under my bed.  I would live!

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old.  Another never-forgotten storm.  I was back in Croatia.  This time it was me with my parents and younger brother.  We had gone to Medjugorje.  It was a pilgrimage for our Catholic family.  My mother wanted us to do the Stations of the Cross.  We were prepping for prayer when all of a sudden, the sky went black, lightning bolts came bearing down from the sky, the thunder shook the ground and I believed God was going to strike me dead.  (Oh yeah…that “fear of God” can really do a number on a catholic girl’s psyche.)  I looked around and my mother was gone.  Maybe HE struck HER dead!  Nope, mom reappeared from behind a statue saying, “I wasn’t even afraid of dying.”  Well good for you!  I had been terrified!

 

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(I wonder if my mother is a descendant of Zeus or Thor.  Why?  Doesn’t it seem odd that when the worst (and my most memorable) storms hit my mother was in the vicinity?  Something to think about, you conspiracy theorists out there.)

Now, into my adulthood I was still not a fan of storms.  I had friends and co-workers tell me that if I learned more about lightning storms I would get rid of my fear.  Oh, I read about them alright.  I read about golfers being struck by lightning.  STRUCK DEAD!  Then there were the articles about water being a conductor of electricity.  So, after all my “helpful” research, not only did I fear the storms even more, I managed to kick my fear into high gear:

  1.  No taking showers or baths if there was a lightning storm.  Why?  Water is a conductor and I would not be struck dead in my tub.fullsizeoutput_21eb
  2. No answering the phone during a storm.  Why?  Well, if water was a conductor, then surely an electrical phone would lead the lightning bolt right through my ear and into my brain and yup…strike me dead.fullsizeoutput_21ec
  3. No touching computer keyboards, screens, photocopiers, fax machines, etc. during a storm.  Why?  Same reason; electricity.  Like begets like.

Then something changed.  Children came into my life.

Now, this is the last memorable storm I can recall.  We were vacationing at the cottage.  Everyone was in bed.  Suddenly, a strange sound came to my ears.  It was rain.  You could hear it moving closer from across the lake.  So pretty.  So relaxing and then…BLINDING LIGHT!!!!  BOOOOOM!!!  I freaked and hid under the covers.  Then we heard a terrified voice yell “Daddy!”  Wiseguy went to comfort the wee 7 year old girl.  I shook underneath my covers and then my brain yelled at me: “What are you DOING?!”  fullsizeoutput_21ef

What was I doing?  What WAS my problem?  I had never perished in any other storm.  What was I so worried about?  I wasn’t a golfer.  So far, it seemed my mortality was not threatened.  My self-created reign of terror was officially over.

Afterward, when storms came around, I was the brave one and was there to hold our little princess.  I would tell her stories, or I would turn the radio on and we would dance.  Distraction…best thing to do during a storm.  After the storm was over, the beautiful rainbow would come out and all would be well again.fullsizeoutput_21ed

Nowadays, I do use electrical equipment AND take showers (not at the same time) when there is a thunderstorm going on.  The kids are all grown up, but I am now the official protector of my 9 year old fur baby, Sir Waldo; the fluffy shi-poo.  (Look at those ears pulled back and the crazy long “freaked-out-by-thunder” tongue.)

 

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Being a descendant of Zeus and/or Thor (yeah, might as well go with it), Waldo and I no longer have to fear the sky storms.  However, I do still wonder sometimes…is it astrophobia or is God out to get me?

P.S.  So far, no damage to me from God storms.  Yay me!

P.P.S.  I did take up golfing…

Mise en place or…buy another cake mix

Once upon a time there was a lovely young woman called Maryann.  She had dark chestnut coloured hair (at that time…although now it’s purply-brown and was at one point very blonde and at times quite auburn) and ka-ka-brown cow eyes.  Her smile was as large as Steven Tyler’s and she was very happy.  There was one thing that Maryann hoped to do one day and that was to bake and decorate a chocolate cake.  On this particularly sunny day, her wish came true.  The ending, however, was not what she had expected.

Maryann was thrilled to finally have a kitchen of her own.  She had moved out of her parental home and was now in an apartment with her sweetheart, Wiseguy.  It was also her sweetie’s birthday soon and she was going to bake him a lovely cake!  Now, she knew that she had to start slow with her new hobby of baking so she decided to play it safe.  She purchased a box of Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix and debated purchasing the sugary, sweet frosting as well, but then decided that she would impress her loved one by topping her gloriously, chocolatey cake with REAL whipped cream.  Yes!  She would buy that 35% whipping cream, and make billowy, thick pillows of creamy goodness.  Maryann also bought some candles and, to make it fun, cake writing gel to write “Happy Birthday” on it!  What a wonderful surprise it would be for her hubby!

“Ok,” she began reading, “preheat oven to 350 degrees”.  She opened the oven door to ensure that there was nothing inside.  Why?  Because one day, at her mother-in-law’s house, she turned on the stove, smelled something funny after a little while and realized that there were pans with oil in the stove.  YIKES!  Lesson learned and etched her happy little brain.

“Next I need to put contents of package into a bowl and add one cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.”  She had heard about this thing called mise en place which in French means something like “everything in it’s place”, but in cooking it means “make sure you have all your ingredients out and ready to go and also your measuring cups and measuring spoons and baking dishes…basically everything you need to make this cake should be right in front of you.”  The pretty Maryann got out her measuring cup.  She poured the oil into the cup (exactly 1/3 cup) and put it into the mixing bowl with the cake mix.  Next, she poured one cup water into the measuring cup.  Perfect!  Into the bowl it went.  She heard the oven ‘beep’ letting her know that the oven was preheated to 350 degrees.  Yay!  Time to get mixing!

She whipped that batter with an electric mixer.   A couple of taste tests to remind her of her childhood.  After a few minutes she stopped the mixing and eased her lovely greased cake pan closer to the bowl.  She emptied the fluid, chocolate contents into the cake pan.  With her spatula she tried to get every last bit out of the bowl into the cake pan to make sure she had a nice, big cake for Wiseguy.  Tap, tap, tap to even it out and then into the oven it went.  She set the timer for 30 minutes (it was a rectangular 9″ x 13″ pan).  She couldn’t wait until it was done!

Time passed.  The timer finally chirped.  Her birthday cake was ready to come out of the oven and cool for a bit.  Oh the excitement!  Oh the pride!  She had done it!  She opened the oven door and…ohhhh….she had done it alright.  Her cake was almost flat!  How could she possibly screw up a boxed cake mix?  Really?  Seriously?  Was she never going to learn to bake anything?  Sadly, with her oven-mitted hands, she pulled out her pancake-style chocolate birthday cake and sighed.  She gently laid rest her unfortunate experiment on the stove top to cool.  Maybe it could be salvaged somehow.  If it tasted good then all was well.  Taste is one thing, but…

After 15 minutes she tried to cut out a piece.  It crumbled in her hands.  Huh?  It tasted fine, but it all fell apart, like cereal out of its box.  The lovely Maryann had to admit that she would never, ever be a baker of anything.  She went back to her kitchen counter to gather up everything to wash when she noticed something odd.

Three large size eggs were sitting on her counter.  Why were there eggs on her counter?  Had she taken them out to make something else?  She HAD put those other 3 eggs into her cake mix right?  She looked at them.  With the suddenness of a swooping eagle going for its prey, Maryann realized, “Oh my!  I forgot the eggs.”  Yes, if you look back to paragraph 4 (it begins with “Next I need to”) you will indeed see that after the ‘ding’ of the oven the eggs were omitted prior to the exuberant mixing.

There you have it.  The story of the lovely Maryann and her first attempt to bake something.  She didn’t give up though.  She now bakes cookies, pies, pretzels, oh and boxed cake mixes.  Maryann learned from her mistake, was grateful to have learned it and is now excited when trying new recipes.  Mise en place is her motto and way of baking and cooking.

Moral of the story:  If at first you don’t succeed, be grateful that you had the mistake to learn from and use it to make greater things in your life.

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If at first you don’t succeed remember “mise en place”, buy another cake mix and ADD THE EGGS FIRST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passion Is In Fashion!

I like to live dangerously!  The thrill of zip-lining, or the rush of rock climbing.  Running a marathon.  Hiking through Europe.  Bike stunts.  Skateboarding tricks.  My goodness there are so many exhilarating moments!  Hot air balloon rides and white water rafting!  Honestly, the list is endless.  I am quite the daredevil and proud of it.  Hopefully, through my brave, adventurous life, you too will find that hidden childhood desire and live an inspiring and fulfilled life like I do.  Oh, by the way, I have never done any of these listed things, but I do find ways to live on the edge.

I ate bacon four times last week.  Yes, yes, I did and I’m not ashamed to brag about it.  Do you know what else?  I had a sunny side up fried egg to go with it.  There was also toast AND, oh yeah, it was buttered.  Booyah!  How do you like me now?  Uh huh.  I know.  I can almost palpably feel your envy at my exploits into endangerment.  Why am I being so foot loose and fancy free?

As a child I remember being unencumbered by my mortality.  I am sure you have seen kidlets jumping on a bed…up and down, and up and down, and…oops…BANG!  Too close to the edge.  Some bawling, either from actually bumping their head or just the shock of being misplaced.  Other than that they learn that they need to stay closer into the middle.  Lesson learned and more fun to be had.  How about the one year old that stands on the couch pulling at the blinds?  Yup, you know where this is going.  What makes them do such dumb things?

Are they dumb?  To us adults we can all become the Amazing Kreskin and foresee what shall happen (due to our own misfortunes and miscalculations), but to them it’s about exploring life.  That couch is their Mount Everest!  That bed is their trampoline!  Nowadays children have be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There is no longer places for them to play alone.   They can’t even go play on the jungle gym at the park without adult supervision.  I actually feel sorry for them.  Sorry that they can’t have that freedom of adventure that we had as children.

I believe my days in the summer went something like this:  wake up and have breakfast.  Out of the house so that my mother could clean.  Meet with kids in the neighbourhood and play until someone’s mother called for them.  Lunchtime!  Rush home.  Eat lunch.  Run out the door again to play.  Someone would hear the holler of dinnertime and again…home to be fed and then out to play.  No adults were with us.  No teenagers were with us.  We got to goof off and do silly things like fall out of trees or go wandering around the forest and be amazed to see a dead rabbit.  (Two little bites in the neck.  We thought there were vampires nearby).  We would come home sweaty, dusty, or muddy… and exhausted.

As we became adults the “fun” goofy things were replaced by order and rules.  School had rules.  Jobs had rules.  Society had rules.  So many rules and so little place to have fun.  We are told, in many different ways, how we should think and what we should believe.  Commercials tell us what will make us happiest.  Buy their product and your life will be full of sunshine, roses, and unicorns.  Ahhhhh…how great our lives will be.

Weird thing is, and you might have noticed this, it seems that this is kind of where we become like children again.  We beg and pine for something and know that our lives will be incredible once we get it.  That “it” could be anything from something expensive like a car or something as simple as a hamburger.  Now, if you really think about it, that lasts for a bit and then suddenly, it’s not good enough.  There is something else you absolutely need in order to make your life the happiest thing ever!  In most cases, the feeling goes away quite quickly.  How can you change this?

Find your inner happiness.  Find your inner love.  Once you find that crazy happy place, the world around you will seem so much better.  It won’t matter what material things you have because the rest of the world will just seem so much more beautiful, colourful, alive.  Those “rose-coloured glasses” of your youth were removed by well-meaning adults, but it’s time for you to put those on again.  The world is a remarkable place, but we tend to look at what is missing in our lives and not what we already have.

Live with passion!  Live with a sense of excitement!  Find out what makes you happy and do it!  Who cares what other people think!  Those who live with a sense of adventure, spirit, and joy are the ones who are finding that gold nugget of excitement in their lives.  PASSION IS IN FASHION!

P.S.  Did I mention that egg was fried in the bacon fat?  Oh yeah…I’m living recklessly.

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Nobody cares…

I’m getting closer to my 50’s.  Yes, I refer to actual my age.  Many women prefer to lie about their age.  I am happy to be alive and well (health-wise) and LOVE telling people how old I am.  Why?  I don’t see why I should be shy or ashamed.  My real life eye wrinkles prove that I am a happy person because they are proof that I smile a lot.  The blue veins in my legs are a showcase of days when I gained waaaaay too much weight.  My whole body presents a story of my life.  To be honest, my absolute favourite parts of my body are: 1) my super-huge toothy smile and  2) my kaka-brown cow-eyes.  Why do I bring these items up?

Growing up in an environment of European descent was not easy.  There were many ways that you could be deemed unacceptable in regular society.  For example, I was diagnosed as near-sighted when I was 8 years old.  I remember going for the eye test and hoping that I wouldn’t “fail” the test because my parents would be disappointed. In the end, it was determined that I needed glasses.  I was actually ecstatic and elated and super pumped!  I even recall my eyeglass case…it was orange and there was the fuzzy head of a teddy bear on it.  I felt special.  That lasted for two days until I returned to school.  I was the only “four-eyes” in my class.  Yes…I could finally read everything on the chalkboard at the front of the room, but I was also a “loser”.  This eyeglass thing didn’t get any easier in other public domains.

My visual impairment made friendships awkward too.  My mother told me that I should not wear my glasses in public.  Why?  Wearing glasses at my young age meant I was somehow disabled.  Silly?  Absolutely, but at the time I believed my mother because she was my parent and she knew best.  At least that is what I was led to believe.

We would go to church every Sunday.  I would take my glasses off before entering.  Going up for communion was about following others so being visually impaired was no big deal.  The problem I encountered was when people thought I was ignoring them.   They would wave to me and I could really only see blobs of colours.  I appeared to be looking right at them, and yet, I myself could not actually see them.

For those who were forward, they would ask me why I ignored them and I’d make up some excuse (not mentioning the glasses).  For those who did not inquire, I became known as a very high and mighty, self-absorbed snob.  I found this out from friends after the fact.  Why do I bring this up?

It seems that our daily lives are always being judged.  Nowadays, they might even be recorded.  You never know when someone will be holding a “smart phone” ready to video or photograph whatever you are doing.  It seems that people are more concerned about recording the next “viral” video instead of thinking about how this could affect a person’s life.  In the end, I wonder…who cares?

No one really cares.  No one really cares about your life or what you are living.   No one really cares if you are happy, sad, disgruntled, ecstatic, etc.  That was generalizing, but in truth, if you are super happy, most people don’t want to share your happy news.  Why?  Most people are focusing on hardships and don’t want to hear about how good your life is.  “Misery loves company” and most would rather share woes.  Our society deals with sarcasm and belittling others to make themselves feel better.  Does this sound like a harsh judgement?  Perhaps, but oftentimes it seems that people would rather rally around those with problems than with those who are having a fantastically great life.

Perhaps I am just noticing this more often than I used to.  It could also be that I have decided to find what is good in my life instead of focusing on what I am missing.  This shift in vision took me a good two years to finally accomplish.  Why?  It’s not as easy as you think.  Here are some examples:

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you think is:  “Crap I have to get up and go to work.”  I would wake up, take a deep breath (which I can happily do) and literally tell myself to think of something positive.  So, I would say, “Wow!  I am so happy to wake up and breathe and enjoy another day of life!”  Corny?  When you start it, it does feel weird, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  How do you re-program your thinking to be positive instead of negative?  It’s a conscious effort of changing what you are thinking.

  • Awwwww, it’s raining again! – NEGATIVE
  • Yay!  The flowers will grow and bloom; my garden will grow! – POSITIVE

Challenge!  Write down your negative thoughts and then try to find the positive.

  • My car is a piece of junk…becomes…I am grateful to have a vehicle to drive.
  • I hate my job…becomes…I have a way to pay my bills and this is only a stepping stone to my new and better job.

You can do it!  You can find something good!  (If you get stuck…look at pictures of puppies and kittens, or any other baby animal.  You can’t be grumpy after that!)   While you are on this journey of discovery and appreciation don’t think about what others are saying about you or thinking about you because you know what?  Nobody cares!

Oh Joy! Oh Bliss?

Spring is finally here!  How do I know?  Besides the fact that it is April, the last snowfall occurred last week.  NO MORE SHOVELING SNOW!  Also, my doorbell has been ringing consistently, signalling visitations from lawn care services.  Uh huh!  And yes…I did hear a few lawn mowers powered up today!  Spring is finally here!  Hurrah!  Joy!  Bliss!  Bzzzzzzzz.  What?  Bzzzzzz!  My yearly dreaded visitors have arrived as well.  Oh joy…oh bliss?

Our beautiful, first warm day was 24 degrees celsius (or a balmy 75F).  The air was warm, the sun was shining, the grass was green, and the birds were singing.  Tulips and daffodils are popping up around the neighbourhood.

IMG_2838Hazzah!  We can open our windows again!  I decided that it was time for me to meander around my backyard and enjoy breathing in non-frigid air.  Spring!  A time of renewal and rebirth.  Spring is also the time that I steel myself to become a Warrior Princess!

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No swords, but many a facial tissue, reliable flat shoe, or any other item that might slay my evil spring foe…the beige house spider.

Ewwww, ewwwww, ewwwwwww!  I’ll be honest, sometimes I will negotiate with the spider, “I will leave this room and come back in ten minutes.  If you are still here, then your life is over.  Your call!”  Crazy?  Maybe, but they really are good at eating little flies (which I also deplore) so it’s more like a negotiation for cohabitation.  Bugs are a fact of life, but the bane of my existence is the diminutive, annoying, buzzing, carnivore…the mosquito!

I consider myself a happy…super happy…ok, Pollyanna-happy type person.  I have consciously decided to find the good in everything; the silver lining, so to speak.  Yet, after that wonderfully, warm, spring day, I discovered something new upon my person that thwarted my normal “happy-go-lucky” days.  Bites!!!  Awful, itchy, little red welts around my ankles.  Yes, both ankles.  I showed Wiseguy my ‘skeeter’ (a.k.a. mosquito) bites and he said, “There are no mosquitos out yet.”  An easy claim for someone who NEVER, EVER, EVER, gets bit by mosquitos!  I am not only his wife, but his mosquito repellent.

My father once told me:  “Once you have been bitten by mosquitos 50 times they will stop biting you because you have so much venom in your body that your blood isn’t appealing anymore.”  Well guess what dad?  I tested that theory one year.  I had 63 bites.  You know what else?  They were still biting me!

I truly believe that I have some super sweet, absolutely amazing blood that attracts these buzzing little vixens to me.  Vixens?  Yes, only female mosquitos bite and suck blood.  You can read all about it, but I’ll summarize it for you:

  1. Females are the vampires
  2. Males prefer fruit juices
  3. Females also go for fruit juice; the blood is to feed eggs – 200 eggs!!!!!  Guess whose kids love me too?
  4. Eggs are jacuzzi-ed; drain every water puddle around you to avoid mosquitos!

Back to my original itchy horror.  Wiseguy said I didn’t get bit by mosquitos.  I have an ankle (oops…two ankles) with lumpy bite marks.  My pups don’t have ticks or fleas.  I have seen flea bites and what I have are not flea bites.  I know what a ‘squito bite looks like and feels like.  Again, I am their main blood donor.  I should just get a t-shirt that says:  Mosquito – Blood donor clinic open.  Yes, I am feeding the mosquito population; not by choice, but by popular demand.

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Did I ever mention that I had this wonderful disease called “West Nile Virus“?  Oh yes, my popular buzzing friends decided that I needed to take some time off work.  So, I received a wonderful bite from my local mosquito friend and it felt different from my usual experiences.  True enough, a couple of days later I started getting a rash.  It spread from my legs to my neck within two days.  I went to one hospital and said, “I think I have West Nile virus.”  I was told (after three hours and no tests) that I probably had a reaction to a strawberry I had devoured.  Note:  I have no food allergies.  They sent me home.

The itchy red splotches did not go away.  After a week, I found that I suddenly could not walk straight.  I was leaning left.  Emergency unit again, but a different hospital.  “You have vertigo,” said the nice doctor.  “I think I have West Nile virus,” I declared when she asked about the rash.  “Probably pesticides on strawberries or blueberries,” she proclaimed.  Hmmmm….why would no one believe me?

So, after two weeks of being off work, I needed a note from my family doctor which would state I was able to return to work.  She looked at all the new notes in my file, “Wow,” she laughed, “you’ve been busy.”  “I think I had West Nile virus,” I declared.  “Did you get tested?” she inquired.  I relayed my requests to be tested and lack of action and so SHE made sure I got tested.  Guess what?  Booyah!!!!  West Nile virus!  I did have it! Okay, it wasn’t good that I had it, but I was so thankful that:

  1. Someone believed me
  2. Someone tested me
  3. I WAS RIGHT!!!  (yes, many exclamation points, but so important after nobody believed me and I had physical proof!)

Moral of the story:  Skeeters, ‘squitos…they are VAMPIRES!

Pollyanna version:

  1.  I did need a break from work – rashes / vertigo are a solution
  2. I have the bestest, sweetest blood around!  Why wouldn’t those blood suckers seek me out.  Oh joy!  Oh bliss?

Diversity and equality…pizza anyone?

I have previously mentioned that I have a slight love of pizza.  Okay, okay, an absolute obsession.  Thick or thin crust.  Don’t care?  White or red sauce?  Either is great!  Types of toppings?  I’m open.  Cheese?  Mozzarella / feta / goat cheese…I ain’t picky.  Meats?  Any kind are fine.  Veggies?  All are welcome!  False, almost all.  I was in Croatia and got a veggie slice.  There was corn on it.  Not so great.  Picked off the corn and the rest was great!  Being a pizza fanatic I have found ways to eat pizza when the craving hits.  Today, I share with you, the diverse ways to satisfy your pizza craving.  As a bonus, I will share my newfound way of getting a pizza hit!

My mother would occasionally make pizza for dinner.  That enchanting smell emanating from the kitchen…yummy!  Pizza night was the best!  Our parents never ordered take out food.  We never went out to restaurants to eat so pizza at home was divine.  As we got older and started going out, the quickest way to satisfy a food craving at 1 a.m. was PIZZA!  We would order a pie and eat this deliciously, hot, and satisfyingly fresh piece of heaven.  Ah, nothing like pizza.  Then one day, my view of this indelible meal drastically changed.

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I was at work and realized I had left my lunch at home on the kitchen counter.  Hungry, I went to the nearby coffee shop and heard people ordering this thing called a “pizza bagel”.  A what?  It smelled like pizza.  It sounded like pizza.  New pizza heaven!  Crunchy bagel, tomato sauce, cheesy topping.  Needless to say, I became the hero at home when I reproduced this delectable feast.  Slice the bagel in half.  Toast it.  Top with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings.  Into the toaster oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  BAM!  Lunch was served.  I shared this tidbit with many a co-worker who were grateful for this wonderful and easy way to make pizza at home for their kids.

Then, one day, there were NO BAGELS!  Trauma!  Drama!  I had promised the kiddies pizza and now…well, I had to think of something quick.  I perused the contents of my fridge and inspiration came:  Greek pitas.  Pita bread pizza is so commonplace now, but I tell you, I invented this recipe!  The reason I like Greek pitas is that they don’t have a pocket.  They have a thin crust pizza thickness too.  That day, I pulled four pitas out of the bag.  I put them side by side on a cookie sheet and preheated my oven to 400 F.  Then I told the kidlets that they could put whatever toppings they wanted on their “very own, personal pizza”.  Who was the hero now?  Woot woot!  Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.

My pizza cravings have never subsided (obviously), but I have found ways to shake things up.  I make my own pizza at home with fresh pizza dough.  I still cheat with the pita bread or the bagel version if I have last minute guests.   Now, for my latest and greatest pizza version.  PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

This idea came to me when the restaurant chain, Kelsey’s, had a summer special of reuben spring rolls.  Yes, they took the reuben sandwich filling and put it in a spring roll, fried it up, cut it in half and there was a mustard dipping sauce on the side.  Incredibly yummy and crunchy.  I took that idea and came up with:

PIZZA EGG ROLLS!

Egg roll wrappers are thicker than spring rolls wraps.  You can purchase egg roll wrappers in the produce section of any grocery store.  The spring roll wrappers are usually only found at Asian markets / grocery stores.  Egg roll wrappers are easier to work with.  They are thicker so not as easy to tear and you don’t need to have a damp cloth over them, like spring rolls, because they won’t dry out while you are filling them.  Genius right?  Thank you.

THE PROCESS:

First you grate up mozzarella and chop up pepperoni into small cubes.

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Next, in a small bowl, make an egg wash  (one egg and a bit of water and with a fork mix, mix, mix).  After that, take an egg roll wrap and put it in front of you so that it is sitting like a diamond.  Put a dollop of pizza sauce in the middle.

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Add some mozzarella and some pepperoni bits on top.

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Take the bottom corner and cover the toppings.  Tuck that corner slightly under the filling.  Then take the left corner and cross over into the middle.  Do the same with the right corner.

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On the top corner, brush some of the egg wash.  This is like licking an envelope closed (for those of you who have ever had to seal an envelope.  I’m showing my age again).  It will seal the egg roll so that it doesn’t open up while you are frying.

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Put that flap into the middle and put your newly rolled pizza egg roll onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (they get kind of sticky so it’s easier to peel them off for frying if they are on paper.

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I have a deep fryer so I fry them in there, but if you are using a pot, make you sure you put in enough oil so that it will cover your egg rolls.  Heat oil to 340 F (170 C).  Put in about 4 egg rolls (in a small pot or 6 in a large pot or deep fryer).  If you put in too many the oil cools off quickly.  Since they float, you might have to flip them to get an even crunch all over so best to have only a few to deal with.

Once they turn a lovely shade of tan / brown remove them with a kitchen spider or a slotted spoon.  Place your wonderful new delectable creations onto a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it.  This helps to let more oil drip off AND the egg rolls aren’t sitting in their own greasiness getting mushy.

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If you are feeling brave, or are not averse to getting your tongue (or the roof of your mouth burnt) take a gloriously, satisfying bite.  The crunch of the egg roll, stretchy mozzarella cheese, the yummy tomato sauce, the bits of pepperoni.  Mmmmmmm.

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Once these cool, you can freeze them for up to three months.  They can be reheated in the oven on 400 F for about 12 minutes.  You can also take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw.  Reheating would only take about 6 to 7 minutes.  The kids get impatient and just microwave them for about 40 seconds.  Not as crunchy, but still satisfying.

With regards to the filling, you can customize it as you would any pizza.  Peppers, onions, olives, pineapple…the pizza egg roll is your oyster.  You can even have a marinara sauce to dunk them in. If serving as bite size appetizers, cut them through the middle on a diagonal once reheated.  They will look colourful and smell absolutely fabulous.

I hope my newest pizza obsession is something you will try.  Very versatile.  Very portable.  Very customizable.  So many great options.  Yes, diversity and equality…found in pizza.