Theatre of Your Mind

I like to read.  Truth be told, reading to me is like taking a mini-vacation.  I immerse myself in the stories being told and vicariously live the lives of the characters.  I can picture their faces, their stature, their posture.  I can picture their expressions and their actions.  All of this I can see through the power of the words written on the pages.  As I sit in my reading chair, and sip my latte, I flip page after page, voraciously consuming the unfolding drama.  For those of you who prefer to watch movies over reading books, let me describe to you the euphoric feeling you can get while burying yourself in a good novel.

I was one of 4 children in our humble family abode.  Being of European descent, our house was always boisterous and loud; very loud.  There was only one television set in the house.  Trying to find a program that everyone agreed upon was a challenge.  If my father was home then you could forget about any kid show or fantasy show.  We were lucky on Sunday afternoons because we could watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, but other than that, my father commandeered the tv and watched the news, or some war movie or…yawn…documentary.  It was at this time that books entered into my entertainment sphere and my world changed forever.

It was my sister who introduced me to my first novel.  She was working at the local library.  One day I was in the children’s section looking through the “baby” books as she called them.  My sister came over and handed me a large hard cover book and said, “You’re old enough now.  Read this.”  The book was The Little Witch.  At first I was intimidated.  There were 128 pages!  It would take me FOREVER to read this.  I sat down on the bean bag seat in the reading circle (I was in the kid’s section after all) and I began to read, “Chapter 1.”  It was the beginning of a new life for me.

This book introduced me to many new words.  It introduced me to other people (though make believe) who were like me and felt things the same way I felt them.  I had someone that I could identify with.  There were mean people and nice people, just like in real life.  Once I finished reading that book I knew I could read others.  I moved on to mystery books.  I loved the twisted plots.  I enjoyed trying to figure out “who done it” and congratulated myself if I had guessed correctly.  Even if I read a book that I didn’t like, it taught me the types of stories I preferred.  My vocabulary increased exponentially.  I even started writing my own stories.  I would bring them to school and have my teacher mark them.  (Yeah, did I mention I was the lonely brainer child in school?)  I even asked my grade 4 teacher if I could write a play and have it preformed for the class.  She said yes.  My classroom play was a success and I made friends because classmates wanted to be part of the show.  Using me?  Maybe…but at least my circle of “friends” grew from the solo me of daily life.  All of this because of reading.

I continued to read all types of books:  fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, Pulitzer Prize winners, old English, modern English, translated books.  People who became my friends would tell me how they thought I was a snob because I would sit in a room full of people and just read.  The noise never bothered me.  Growing up in a loud family home I learned to block all noise by immersing myself in my books and stories.  That was the ultimate escape.  It still is.

Reading is my way of taking a break from my daily life.  When I read, I live the life of the characters.  Sometimes reading about other people’s problems makes your own problems seem so insignificant.  Solving mystery novels gets your brain working trying to figure out the ending.  My imagination goes wild picturing all these things in my head. It’s like my brain has become a movie screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love movies and tv shows, but there is something about words and how, depending on how they are put together, you can see everything so clearly.  The stories being told can introduce you to things you yourself have never experienced.  It provides knowledge without you having to live through it.  It lets you be someone else without ever having to leave your own body.  How incredible is that?

Reading blogs and magazines, those short snippets of entertainment, are enjoyable in their own way, but grasping a book and flipping those pages (old school style), let’s you immerse yourself in an alternate life.  A good book will leave you wanting to flip to the next page.  It will leave you anxious and restless as you try to figure out how it will end.  A good book leads you into that other universe where you wander around trying to find the grand finale where you walk off into the sunset.  You wander along picking up information and storing it for later.  It might be needed.  You keep going and going, flipping pages, absorbing the thoughts and words, and when you get to the end you are sated.  The story is done.  You are euphoric if the writer was talented enough to give you a satisfying ending.  If not, you are still happy because you did it.  You finished it.  You close the book, lean back, close your eyes and replay the images and storylines.  No channel surfing necessary.  No need to connect to WiFi.  It’s all there for you to recall whenever you want.

Seek out a good page turner and escape your daily life for awhile.  Take a turn from the ordinary and enter the theatre of the mind.

 

And Nobody Lost an Eye…

Wiseguy and I are happy grandparents (who refuse to grow up).  We are lucky grandparents to five beautiful grandchildren.  None of them are into the double digit birthdays yet, so shopping for birthdays and Christmas can oftentimes be done in advance.  When I extricate myself from my humble home to go on a shopping spree, I will oftentimes pick up “future” gifts for the grandkids.  If I am in the midst of a clearance sale extravaganza I become quite a neanderthal; hunting and fishing for the best deals.  It was with grandchildren in mind that I purchased an interesting little toy that has left me with an indelible memory forever.

On this particular trek to the store, I ventured into the children’s area and found a toy on clearance called the Penguin Popper.  It looked kind of fun.  In my head I was already debating who would be the lucky recipient of this unique gift.  The eldest (a girl of 8 years) is more into the “tweening” phase of her life and is more likely to appreciate articles of clothing for her “American Girl” doll (or clothing for herself).  Then next in line would the 4 year olds; one boy, one girl.  Now, if I gave it to the boy, who is into wrestling and fake fighting, I  could see his excitement with the toy turning into devastation as one of the other kids would lose an eye.  How about the 4 year old girl?  Well, she does have great tomboy moments.  I could see her getting a kick out of it.  Then I thought, well her cousin (the 4 year old boy) would probably wish he had it (even though someone would lose and eye) and there would be sadness and loss of joy so I couldn’t bring myself to create that kind of drama in our lives.  So…no to both 4 year olds.  The last two were way too young for it.  A two year old and a one year old.  The toy’s packaging stated this as well:  Ages 4 +.  Hmmmm, what to do.  I expanded my search.

I thought about my niece’s kids.  Little dude of 8 months was waaaaay too young.  How about his big sister?  She would love something like this!  She is 3 1/2 years old.  Almost 4.  And she laughs hysterically when people get…injured.  Hmmm, like a mini ball in the eye from 20 paces would be hilarious.  My competent adult brain finally decided that this actually wasn’t such a great kid’s toy to introduce into our family.  I did the only plausible thing.

No I didn’t return it!   Remember the adults who refuse to grow up?  Well, I was so excited about my decision to keep said toy that I couldn’t wait to see Wiseguy’s face light up when he saw our new play thing.  I could picture us popping that ball out of the penguin’s mouth and having the kidlets go chasing after it to see who would get it first.  Then they could ALL take turns playing with it and no one would lose an eye and no one could keep it because it belonged at the grandparent’s house.  WIN WIN!  Right?

When I gave hubby the rundown on how we were now the proud owners of a Penguin Popper, he rolled his eyes in helpless defeat.  Not sure, but I believe (assume) these were the thoughts running around in his brain:

  • Not more junk!
  • Another toy?
  • Someone is going to lose an eye!

The comment that actually emerged was, “Waldo is going to steal the ball, choke on it, and die.”  (Note:  Waldo is our 10 year old super cute and fluffy thief dog.)IMG_3861

Well, I didn’t see that comment coming.  So, me being me, I had to prove that THIS was the coolest toy ever and he would be the most fun grandfather in the history of grandfathers!  Wiseguy turned and started to walk away.  I had to prove my point so I grasped the Penguin Popper in both hands, holding it directly in front of me, and I squeeeeeeezed his stomach.  (I’m assuming it’s a “him” Popper because there is no pretty bow on his head.  If it was a girl Popper they would’ve put a pretty bow.  Also, the inventors probably figured that girls wouldn’t do fun (vicious) things like this, but boys would and so the Penguin is definitely a boy.  Ahhhh, classic stereotyping at its best.)

Here is what happened after the stomach squeeeeeeeeze:

  • Loud POP! sound
  • My eyes opened wide, in a bit of disbelief actually, when I saw the velocity of this little once-inch ball catapult away from me
  • Wiseguy turned to me when he heard the POP!
  • The ball hit him on the side of the head
  • “Are you kidding me?!” emanated in an exasperated tone from my husband’s general direction
  • I laughed…hysterically!

I was in stitches!  I couldn’t breathe.  Tears were streaming out of the corner’s of my eyes.  I doubled-over to hold my stomach.  I couldn’t believe it actually hit him!  Oh, I had read the box while I stood in line to purchase the product.  It contained the usual words of warning:  “Never aim at anyone”.  It also said it could shoot up to 20 feet away.  Yeah, best case scenario maybe, I thought.  And yet, here I was in utter shock as the ball had ejected far, far away and NAILED Wiseguy!  My next thought was quite simple:  I’m dead.

Wiseguy was at my side in two strides (he has long legs and can cover 20 feet in two steps).  He confiscated the Penguin Popper from my hands.  I pivoted and ran.  I ran for my life.  I heard POP! and I turned around.

(Sidenote:  Why is it that when you hear a noise you look toward the direction of the sound instead of running away from it?)

Like a slow-motion movie I saw the ball (mini ball?  ball-ette?) wing by my head.  Wiseguy had missed.  Wiseguy NEVER misses!  He is Super Sportsman extraordinaire!

I am unsure why this next thing happened, but I believe it was from the confusion of NOT being hit.  I doubled over laughing uncontrollably….again.

POP!  Woooooosh!

He missed me…AGAIN!  Saint’s preserve us, I was lucky (or unlucky?).  Wiseguy then unceremoniously deposited the Penguin on the kitchen counter and meandered away.

My next thought:  Best day ever!  So many good things happened to me in that short amount of time:

  • I got a fun new toy since Wiseguy didn’t want it.  Mine…all mine!
  • I actually beat Wiseguy at a (non)sport
  • I laughed and laughed and laughed – my core muscles got quite the workout and all my tension of the day washed away

IMG_5673I am so grateful that I found this toy.  I am grateful that I decided to keep it.  I am grateful that I got to play with this toy.  I am grateful for the once in a lifetime experience I had using it.  I am grateful that Wiseguy finds this story as amusing as I do and doesn’t mind that I have shared this.  I am grateful that he isn’t really considering payback.  Right?  Right????!!!

 

EPILOGUE:  

Waldo got the ball.

He is still alive.

As of yet, nobody has lost an eye.

Who’s the genius now?

I am a smart woman.  I have lived almost a half century and there is much wisdom stored in my grey matter.  Truly, I am a competent adult.  I function well in society with knowledge gained through schooling and book learning.  I have experienced many things in everyday life that have led me to believe that I am a bright individual; resourceful even.  So, why is it that when I try to figure out stuff on my iPhone my brain cells seem to pack up and go on permanent vacation.  Why is this so hard?

I never liked computers, rather, I never understood computers and hence my dislike of them.  Right from the good ol’ PET Computer and my inability to do any kind of sophisticated programming…or any kind of programming for that matter.  Sure, I use a computer now.  I am typing on one as we speak.  However, there are many things I am sure it can do besides letting me click, click, click on its keyboard.  I tell myself, “It’s a learning process.”  I tell myself, “I can always Google it.”  Oh yes, even dear Google can’t educate me on the basics on these newfangled programs.  There were signs telling me that I was slowly losing my “hip” persona on the ways of the world.  Old lady brain was just around the corner.

I realized my technological brain was fizzling when I couldn’t figure out the TV and cable remotes.  So many buttons to try to turn on one screen.  I had finally mastered that high-techiness (new dictionary word) when Wiseguy presented his fantastic new projection screen TV!  Gulp.  Was that another remote?  No wait…two remotes?  Did I see a third one?  After installing everything, including surround sound speakers, my wonderful husband scurried off to work and jealously left me to play with our new toy.  After managing to scare myself half to death (and deaf) with surround sound static from my “Poltergeist” TV screen, I hit every OFF button on every remote and proceeded to read a book.  So much for my introduction to technology and being a modern woman.

Now, when it came to the most profound new technology of my generation, I would say the cell phone.  Music lovers would probably say the Sony Walkman, but I was a bookworm so my vote was for the cell phone.  I had pined for it, begged for it, and finally got it.  This was actually not too complicated.  It reminded me of my high school calculator.  I remember using numbers to spell words.  We were so cool (lame…in 80’s speak).  I learned how to program phone numbers.  I could now call people while I was away from home!  Coolest device ever…until the phone’s battery died on me.  Besides not having an active phone I also realized my inability to recall phone numbers.  After that I made sure to memorize at least two numbers in case of emergencies.  Smart right?  Not as smart as the creative minds out there expounding their computer geniusness (new dictionary word) on the world.

Technology grew in leaps and bounds.  Suddenly simple things became super complicated things.  Most horrifically, the flip cell phones transmogrified into a … AHHHHHHH … A COMPUTER!  The thing I could never understand!  These TV-screen-typewriters that used to sit on a desk were now in people’s pockets!  When the kids showed me what they could do I was stunned.  Literally, dumbfounded.  My jaw dropped.  I couldn’t believe that this “phone” could take pictures and show videos and play music and provide instant information!  No more need to store information in your brain.  All you had to do was “Google” for the answer.  (Yeah…first time I heard THAT word I needed a kid to ‘splain to me what a “Google” was).  I was happy living in my flip phone world until that universe expired.

My phone battery died yet again so I went to get a new battery for my exquisitely ancient (7 year old) flip phone.  To my horror I was informed that my phone was obsolete which meant its battery was also extinct.  **funeral dirge**  There were other antique (5 year old) phone styles I could pick from, but Death of a Battery was not something I wanted to relieve again and again.  It was time to move into the future.  I bought an iPhone 4.

The very first thing I did was open the box and survey the instructions.   Then I promptly made sure all the kids would be home for a fancy dinner.  After our fancy dinner I would have them program my phone, show me some of the basics, and ply them with educated questions.  Three hours later I had numbers programmed and had learned how to turn my phone off and on.  I had managed to take fantastic pictures…of my thumb.  With the basics memorized, I followed up with my usual modus operandi…trial and error (mostly error).  I have learned lots via this intense and elaborate technique.  There is no real manual for using this computer…ahem… “smart” phone.  I rely on overhearing conversations, or watching others do stuff and then follow up with the excited “how did you do that?”

I’m on the iPhone 6 now.  I wait for the grandkids to show up for the fancy dinner.  They show me stuff on YouTube and how to download stuff.  Yeah…they’re smart.  Technologically smart.  They know how to use TV remotes too.

But just wait…my time is coming.  One day they will come over for the perfunctory fancy dinner and I will show THEM something they have never seen before.  I can write cursive.  Hah!  Who’s the genius now?

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The Adventure of the Special Cold-Pressed, Exotically Flavoured, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I don’t know how these things happen.  Well, maybe I do.  I am talking about what occurred this past weekend.  I can’t believe it happened again.   Hmmm, actually, I can.  I LOVE TO SHOP!  The worst part is now I have Wiseguy accompanying me on my superfluous treks to the world of eternal shopping damnation.  Is it good to be bad?  Well, let’s analyze this shall we?

This past weekend I had the most difficult decision to make.  It really was a challenge and I thought long and hard about it.  Should I stay home and vacuum, dust, mop, wash bedding, prep my meals for the week, or should I walk away, closing the door to my eternal list of chores, and head out to the far away mall to spend coinage that I should not be spending?  After a heart wrenching debate, I came to the conclusion that life is short and the winter clearance deals won’t be around for long.  Besides, I was in need of my special cold-pressed exotically flavoured extra virgin olive oil and the mall was mere minutes away so best to leave my spring cleaning for when spring arrives in a couple of weeks.  Sometimes it is best to put off until later what you planned on doing today.  Yes, I have a very unique brain function.  So…off to the mall it was!

Wiseguy, not working that day, actually decided to accompany me.  Shock!  Surprise!  (Actually I think this was in the hopes of averting a major shopping spree and bags of blessed goodies to be added to the overstuffed closets at our humble abode.  There we were at 9:30 a.m. pumped up and ready for our trek.  We got to the mall and found the parking lot quite empty.  Beautiful!  Nice close parking so that when we ambled back to the car on tired feet, knees, hips, we wouldn’t have far to venture.  BEEP BEEP!  Car locked and off we went!

As I have professed before, shopping is not just about acquisition.  It’s not just about the bargain hunt.  There are actually many benefits to a day of shopping.

HEALTH BENEFITS:  You spend that day wandering from store to store.  That’s walking.  Walking for three hours is a good work out.  The particular mall we went to was actually a series of connected stores, but to get into each store you had to go outside.  So, we got to be in the great outdoors AND breathe the nice cool winter air as well.  The biggest workout was trying on jeans. That’s a pretzel challenge in itself!  The mobility you need to climb in out of denim while keeping your balance works your core muscles.  Quite the workout.

ENCOURAGE HEALTHY EATING:  After climbing in and out of a variety of clothes you realize that if you just ate more fruit and vegetables and less chips and pizza you could probably pull on those jeans without having to lie down on the bed to make yourself lanky as a piece of cooked spaghetti.  While you’re at it…throw in some exercise!  Nice shapely muscles would look wonderful in those sleeveless tops you just purchased.

SELF-APPRECIATION/LOVE a.k.a. SELF-ESTEEM:  Then again why think about diet and exercise when you know you are a remarkably beautiful person!  You don’t need to lose weight.  You are perfect the way you are.  Nice little love handles and a pudgy little belly are awesome for hugging.  Nice and soft and cuddly.  So, forgo the clothes and shop enthusiastically for shoes.  Shoes are safe.  Whether your body is pleasantly plump or wispily thin, your body size doesn’t matter, but your footsies will feel so spoiled and you will look MAAAARVELOUS!

ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDIES:  Out of school?  Well, never stop learning as your shopping excursion will lead you to become a student of anthropology.  With enough treks to the malls of the world, you could technically become an expert people watcher and understander (yup, my new word for my very own dictionary) of the ways of humankind’s behaviour.  

DISCOVERER:   Consider yourself to be like Christopher Columbus or Leif Erikson on a journey to discover new worlds…shopping worlds, that is.  New retail outlets are popping up all the time.  Perhaps it will be a gizmo/gadget store.  Kitchen supplies, hunting regalia, artisan foods, new inventions, the [shopping] world is your oyster!  Imagine how popular you will be with friends and family when you tell them about the 70% off sales!  You will become the most knowledgeable and reliable go-to person for anything that people might be in need of.  You will become, not only a famous explorer, but a hero as well.

UP TO DATE WITH COMMUNITY EVENTS:  With all the driving you will be doing, you will be “in the know” of what’s going on in your neighbourhood and other cities too.  You will see the signs for road closures and upcoming construction.  You will see high-rise condos being built and new houses springing up where there was just sparse land a few weeks ago.  Houses for sale, garage sales, grand openings…you will see it all and share this vital information.  You will be the divine Knower AND Seer .

RESTAURANT REVIEWER:  After an arduous day of trekking around from store to store you will have worked up an appetite.  Why not have a nibble at a nearby restaurant or café where you have never been before?  Adventure and full belly all in one shot!

So, as you can see, there are many virtuous reasons for my locking up the house and venturing out into the Shopping-sphere.  It’s educational, full of health benefits, wisdom building, adventure seeking, jolly good fun!

We return now to MY…ahem…OUR excursion to THE outlet mall.  Wiseguy’s hopes of a few simple items were dashed quite quickly (and painfully).  The hop, skip, and a jump for deliciously special olive oil and a pair of gym-worthy running shoes became the WINTER CLEARANCE EXTRAVAGANZA OF 2018!

Oh, I forgot to mention the mental marathon of all the math that is done while shopping. For example, check our these mathematical tabulations:

  • 3.5 hours of meandering from store to store.
  • 4.81 miles (7.741 km) of distance covered
  • 1001 calories burned walking and 800 calories burned trying on jeans
  • 6 billion calories after eating pizza / wings / bread at the local authentic Italian restaurant
  • Infinity smiles after a super successful day of purchasing really neat-o stuff
  • Overload – what your brain does when trying to calculate how much you ACTUALLY spent after all of your 70% off savings.  Yikes!

FINAL COUNT:  4 blouses, 3 dresses, 1 pair skinny jeans, 2 sweaters, 2 slinky spaghetti strap tops, 1 pair running shoes for gym, 1 pair high heeled peep toe shoes, 3 different flavoured herbal teas, gym clothing gear and for Wiseguy 6 Shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair Wiseguy-size (14) comfy running shoes.  One fantastically yummy lunch at Café Amoré with my handsome man.

GRAND TOTAL:  Happy wife = happy life

EPILOGUE:   Almost, but not forgotten, I did get my special cold-pressed exotically flavoured extra virgin olive oil  

Follow that runaway train…of thought?

I used to believe that I spoke and had thought processes like other people.  I would ruminate something, I would say it out loud, the other person would reply and there you have it!  Conversation.  So imagine, to my chagrin, when suddenly my friends and (most) family members could not understand me.  They would tilt their head to one side and stare at me, quite perplexed.  It was like I was speaking a foreign language.  I would then continue to explain my thought process, step by step, and then they would open their mouths slightly and melodiously say, “ohhhhhh,” whilst nodding their heads.  What had happened to my talent for great conversation?

As I said before, I can hold conversations with anybody of any age, any gender, on any topic.  So it befuddled me when it appeared that I was babbling incoherently.  It occurred to me one day that there were certain people who completely understood me and what I was saying.  My sister was top of the list.  My mother too.  My dad, most of the time.  My niece, however, gave me THAT look one day.  I gave her a questioning look back.  She calmly asked, whilst politely puzzled:  “What does Baba (grandma in Croatian) have to do with a glass of water?”  At first, this bewildered me.  Then the AH-HA moment hit!  Get ready for this doozy.

First, let me ask if you have ever seen the show Gilmore Girls?  I LOVE watching this show!  Why?  The amount of fast-talking conversation is incredible.  They jump from topic to topic in seconds flat.  Basically, they talk like I do.  There is no desire to scrimp on words and get to the point quickly.  It’s about conversation and language and using all kinds of words and comparisons and leaping from one idea to the next.  That was what my AH-HA was about.  I was speaking quickly, and as I spoke a new idea would pop into my head.  However, I might not say anything aloud about it, but then my next thought would be spoken out loud leaving a possible gap in the logical conclusion.  Get it?  No?  Ok, here is the train of thought explanation of the “Baba and the glass of water story”:

Me out loud:  Baba is in so much pain with her hip, but she just won’t let anyone help her.  She has to do it all by herself because she doesn’t want to bother anyone.

Niece out loud:  I know, even when I invite them over for lunch she says it’s too much work for me and that I have so many other responsibilities so why don’t we just come over to her place for a meal.

Me in my head:  She has always been like that.  So stubborn.  That’s why we never learned to cook because she had to do everything.  Even her brother-in-law told me that she won’t even have a glass of water in his home, but she expects them to come to her place for elaborate meals.

Me out loud:  Not even a glass of water!

Niece:  *dumbfounded look

Ok…now you are caught up with how my brain works.  There are the inner thoughts that are constantly in motion.  It’s like there are trigger words people say to me and my mind grabs it like a football and starts running for the end zone.  With every yard I pass, a new thought gets attached to it.  By the time I get to the end zone I have left the football field and ended up on the soccer field.  See what I mean?

I decided to do some quick research about this special phenomenon of mine.  With my Google prowess I typed:  the difference between male and female thought patterns.  DING!  There is quite a variance between the gender brain functions and thought patterns.  I will summarize it quickly if you don’t feel like reading about it.  Scientists study four primary areas of the brain:  processing, chemistry, structure, and activity.  With processing, it appears that males use more gray matter than white matter and with females it’s the opposite.  The gray areas are localized and lead to those gents having more of a tunnel vision so they focus on one thing until complete.  The ladies, with their white brain, basically have their brain networking with the gray parts.  Thus, women are able to multi-task fantastically.  Both are good in their own ways.  The rest of the article was interesting, but being a multi-tasker, let’s get back to the story.

I then explained to my niece how my brain works…as you now also know.  I still continue to speak in this way.  One day at my parent’s place my mother was telling me and my sister about this lady in the village.  The story continued about some surgery.  Then it went to some doctor.  Then something about pills.  Then how awful THAT man is.  She was shaking her head in anger and the rest of us just looked at each other.  My father asked, “What man?”  My sister and I burst out laughing.  We were prodigies!  After a few precise questions we finally figured out who she had been talking about.  Her whole story had involved words like “her” “that lady” “that neighbour” and “him”.  Once names were attached to the pronouns we had the final answer.  Way more fun than Jeopardy, but just as challenging!

Fast forward a few months.  I was visiting my niece again.  I was regaling her with some fantastic story and when I stopped she smiled and slyly said, “I actually followed that train of thought almost all the way to the end.”  Kudos to her!  I am bequeathing her with the gift of pursuing that runaway train…of thought!

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“Chopped” Chef or…Chef Chopped?

Although I don’t write about it much, I am a foodie.  I loved the Food Network…when it first came out.  It was great watching chefs showing you how to prepare meals.  I learned a lot.  What do I see now on the foodie stations?  Competitions.  I believe I have come up with a new concept that I want to pitch to the “foodie” networks.  (Note:  I should probably copyright this as someone is going to read this and steal my idea.)  A new cooking show that involves:  COMPETITION!  (I know, right?  A very novel and inspiringly new idea).

Before I reveal my superb revelation, think about all the competitive cooking shows on tv right now.  It’s the same trifecta:  1) Judges 2) Chefs 3) Time limit.  Who can bake the greatest cupcake in the shortest time?  Who can use the weirdest ingredients to make meals (again, clock is ticking)?

IMG_3306Which child can create exotic meals and desserts.  As time passes, I see that there are more and more cutthroat culinary shows being created.  I figured, why not jump on the bandwagon and create another show?  My genius idea came to me suddenly while I was watching Chopped

The gem of an idea began brewing in my grey matter whilst observing my toddler grandchildren eat.  An absolutely brilliant idea for a new show.  It follows along the same lines of the other challenging cooking shows so it should be accepted into the fold.  It’s dastardly and degrading and demeaning (the dream “D” formula for television shows).

Here is my idea:  You want belittling?  You want chefs to be tortured?  You want to watch failure to the umpteenth degree?  I give you Chefs Chopped!  Yes the new and exciting show where trained chefs prepare meals for a panel of toddlers.  You want a challenge?  I am throwing down the gauntlet.

Have you ever tried to feed a toddler?  Yes, there are many of you who have.  You know what it’s like.  Well, in the “olden” days it was basically like this:

Parent:  (*Puts pot of grub on table)

Children:  (*snarf / yum / gobble)

Conclusion:  Lack of food makes you eat everything without complaint.

AFTER DEPRESSION / WWI / WWII:

Parent:  (*Puts food in front of child)

Child:  (*through tears) I don’t like it!

Parent:  Whack!  Eat it or I’ll hit you again!

(Ahhh…the fond memories of my childhood)

After the beating era of life, came the more educated era where there were books and papers and magazines and shows FULL of information on how to raise the perfect child.  This included healthy recipes for feeding your perfect child.  After creating one of these wonderful masterpieces, the food would be placed in front of said model child.  After much begging and pleading, ketchup would be doused all over the nifty, fancy food so that Perfect Child would eat SOMETHING…ANYTHING!

Nowadays, it is even more difficult to feed your child.  Allergies, preservatives, organic or non-organic, pesticides, hormones, cholesterol, saturated fats, etc.  What can you feed your child?  Well, if you listen to ALL the stories out there in web-world, your child should eat…nothing.  Yes, it’s true.  There is no good food out there.  Well, there is good food this week…but next week it will be bad so best not to tempt fate.

“Fruits and vegetables are good right?”  Nope.  Fruit is full of pesticides and many children are allergic to certain fruits.  “What about the frozen ones?”  Yeah…well welcome to E Coli.  “My children are vegetarian (or vegan).”  Good for them!  They won’t survive the food devastation either.  I have done the research.  Between E coli, parasites, viruses, bacterias, hormones, pesticides, etc. there will be nothing nutritious left to consume.

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I, so far, am very blessed and lucky with the kids and grandkids.  I have a few recipes that seem to generate happy smiles and full bellies:

  •  My homemade soup (with homemade noodles) has not killed or maimed any of them.  It is actually requested.  I get disappointed groans if it’s not on the menu.
  • Crépes – to be filled with whatever they choose (Nutella is winning this week)
  • Broccoli – this brassica appears to be a steamed vegetable they all agree on
  • Green beans – that, surprisingly, made the short list
  • Mozzarella – Sliced (not grated) however it must be made by Salerno
  • ANY pasta – lasagne, macaroni, fusilli, orzo…any pasta!

Now…meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, preferences vary as they get older (or basically, every 2 minutes).  Each week they decide what they like and don’t like.  It goes from the initial “YAY” whoop of joy to the “BOO” 10 minutes later when it’s on their plate.  Example:  “Can I have that apple?”  After two bites:  “I don’t want it,” and the subsequent attempt to put bitten fruit back into fruit bowl.  Next is the obvious grab for a different piece of fruit which eventually leads to cries of woe when they are informed that they must eat the two-bite-scarred apple first and THEN they can try something else.  Ahhhhh…the great adventures of toddler palate.

So, dear foodie channels, think about how fantastic this show would be!  Children smiling, waiting for their food.  Chefs cook and present their culinary masterpieces.  Suddenly, [camera zooms in] child starts deconstructing the plate.  Toddler Rule #1:  Thou shalt not let one type of food toucheth another.

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Example of carrot invasion into broccoli territory

That’s why many children’s plates are subdivided.

Next:  Food allergies.  Must remove all fruit(s) that child is allergic to.  The eating finally begins and then the contorted faces of disgust and the “Ewwwwws” and “Yucks” start to be heard.  The Chef with the least amount of ewws and yucks wins!  The others?  Well if they haven’t run away or started convulsively crying…then they get chopped (like a karate chop hand coming down on their picture…haha!)  What an amazing show!  All done in the name of fun and supreme competition!  Yes, I give you Chef Chopped!

P.S.  Dear foodie networks, I am available evenings and weekends for a meeting to discuss my future in the television industry.  You’re welcome!

 

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.