Six Degrees of Separation: A Sad Song

It’s such a small world in so many ways.

My girlfriend’s sister lived on the same street as my aunt. Now her kids go to the same school as my godson. One of my godson’s best friends is my other girlfriend’s son.

I sang karaoke with a dude who went to high school with my friend…and was married to a girl who’s best friend married another one of my friends.

I run into people I haven’t seen since high school or college on the train or at a restaurant.

We’re only as far away from one another as we are distanced by Facebook friends. Which often isn’t very far.

We find out where someone went to school, grew up, lives, works. Our first question is often, “Do you know ________?”

We seek out these connections. And we’re all surrounded by them. Six degrees of separation. Who needs Kevin Bacon when our world is this small?
image

And then there’s you. Impossible. Unreachable. You.

With the hundreds of connections I have on Facebook. The social media sites I’m active on, galore. The fact that you live no more than 20 miles from me (and that’s generous). But you’re invisible.

I realize I’m of another generation. But not by much. Most people of your world must have flocked to Facebook.

I say that, assuming you have people. Do you? Have people, I mean? Of course, I know you’re married. And I know you have a child (I think two). The internet is a beautiful thing. But do you have people? Friends? Family? Co-workers? People who beg you to be more active on Facebook?

Are you happy?

Have you made a life that makes up for what’s missing? For what you left behind?

Did you forget about us? Me? Your little sister who went and grew up without you. Who never forgot you. Who thinks about you more that she probably should. Who remembers every joke. Every story. Every song. With every fiber of my being.

Does it matter?

Blog friends, are you thinking about someone in your life that you haven’t seen in years? Do you have weird family stuff? Do you have an “six degrees of separation” stories? Tell me your story.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

You Pray And You Pray And You Don’t Realize Your Prayer Was Already Answered…

This post was recognized at BlogU as Term Paper of the Year in Women’s Studies. My BlogU roommate was kind enough to capture the video of my reading. Enjoy.

When you’re nine years old, the Grade School Powers That Be separate the girls and boys into different classrooms and begin an annual ritual of education that continues for several years. Girls learn all about getting their first periods, weird hair growth, and unusual body odor. Boys, I can only assume based on my experience, learn about making fun of girls, making fun of each other, and how to change a tire. I think.

After watching an embarrassingly long video about a girl who played Little Orphan Annie on Broadway and her first period, we were given all sorts of pamphlets to bring home to our mothers, including an order form for a giant box o’ lady things…you know, like a period sampler pack. Obviously, I shoved these papers into the depths of my cluttered locker, never to be seen again (until locker clean out day).

Of course, the mom-network message arrived via telephone a few days later, when my mother called me down to lecture me and cry about how I didn’t talk to her about this very important day at school. “You never tell me anything,” she complained.

In my head, all I could think of was my dad’s favorite line, Telephone, telegraph, tell-a-Nudd. Nudd being the collective whole of my mother, her sisters and her mother. As soon as one of them knew something, the world knew. Mass communication that ran faster than I could possibly imagine—probably faster than the internet. I knew that the minute I told my mom anything, the world would know. And this whole period nonsense? Totally embarrassing. I wanted nothing to do with it…until I was in middle school.


For months, I prayed to get my first period. I begged God to let me be like the other girls. This is the crazy thing that happened when he answered my prayer.

When I was eleven, I was already among the very unpopular, invisible kids in middle school, but my best friend in the whole world was a cool kid. And I wanted to be just like her. I distinctly remember when all of my childhood friends started to get their periods. They talked about it like it was a special club that only girls who had been visited by Aunt Flo could be a part of.

And so I prayed. Like the good little Catholic girl that I was, I said my prayers every night. And I prayed to God, begging and pleading with everything I had to bargain, to get my period and be just like the other girls. Every night a relatively similar prayer would follow the common prayers I learned as a toddler. God, I know you’re a pretty busy guy and all, but if you could please let me get my period, I would really, really be thankful. Also send my love to Grandma and Grandpa…Thanks. Of course, this is reminiscent of a strikingly similar prayer that I would eventually repeat several times throughout the course of college and some time afterward…but that’s another story for another day.

I had, in fact shat myself overnight

Even though we ran in different social circles at school, my friend and I still spent lots of summers together hanging out. Of course, on the nights when I slept at my friend’s house unexpectedly, I found myself sleeping in an old t-shirt, without an extra pair of clothes for the next day. On one particular morning, I woke up and went to the bathroom to discover that I had, in fact, shat myself overnight. I had felt stomach pains the night before, but still I was painfully ashamed of my little mishap. I checked the fold out bed and was thankful that nothing had stained that. What baffled me, of course was how my poop managed to make it to the front of my underwear and hardly touched the ass-end of my panties. I worried for the cleanliness of my lady bits, so I wet some toilet paper and wiped them clean.

Embarrassed and afraid to say anything to my friend or anyone in her family, I wiped my underwear with toilet paper, rinsed them as best as I could, dried them with more toilet paper, and put them on backwards. My thought process? The poop needs to stay on the poop side.

I put the rest of my clothes on and feigned illness to get my mom to pick me up and take me home. For the next few days, I continued to discover that somehow I was crapping my pants with some frequency, without even realizing it. Being the quiet and shy, embarrassed little girl that I was, I did everything I could to hide the evidence. I threw at least 3 pairs of underwear away, spent a lot of time in the bathroom wiping myself and wondering what the fuck was going on with my body.

Eventually, the problem resolved itself, and I went back to life as a pre-teen. We weren’t called tweens back then. I continued to pray to God that I would get my period like the other girls and wonder what it would be like when I finally did get my first period.

A few weeks later, though…it happened again. I crapped my pants. Again. And somehow it kept sliding to the front of my underwear. I couldn’t understand it. Was I sleeping on my stomach? This has got to be really bad for me, right? Of course, a normal kid may have gone to their parents for help…but me? I just kept throwing away underwear and spending a ridiculous amount of time in the bathroom.

The third time it happened, the brown spots were less brown…and more red. And all of a sudden, I knew what the problem was. Apparently, God had already answered my prayers three months prior, and I was cursed with Aunt Flo for all eternity. It was awful.

First, I had to tell my mom. I dreaded this. I dreaded this more than anything in the world. Not because my mom isn’t wonderful…but more so because I was incredibly embarrassed. And ashamed to talk about anything personal. Everything embarrassed me. I didn’t want to talk about things, I didn’t want to know about things…I just wanted to exist, hidden.

When I finally got out of the bathroom to tell my mom that I think I got my period…I failed to mention the last two months of pant-crapping horror. Seriously. She didn’t even know until she read this story.

I mean…No one TELLS you that it might come out brown the first few times. They just say you’re going to bleed from your lady bits. And that’s that. I saw the movie, Carrie. I knew what I was supposed to expect. This was not that.

You Pray

So of course, when I whispered to her, “I think I got my period…” she practically jumped for joy. Of course, for someone who was anxiously awaiting my period the way some moms await their daughter’s first dance recital…you’d think she would have been prepared. I mean sure, I didn’t ask her to order the period sampler pack when I was nine, but maybe a box of pads under the sink just in case? I was eleven, and quite frankly, the thought of shoving something up my lady bits frightened the crap out of me. Just not the period crap. That was different.

My mom hadn’t had a period in years, so she didn’t have to deal with pads or tampons or bleeding like a stuck pig sixty fucking days of the year. So she had to run out to the store to get the things I would need. Before she left, I begged her not to tell anyone. I begged her especially not to tell my dad. Within hours, the entire family network knew that I had become a woman. Including my father.

Eventually, I came to accept the horrors of this monthly curse that I had prayed so hard for. I wanted to be a part of the club, but I realized that the other girls just wanted everyone else to be as miserable as they were once a month. These days, I’m not praying to get my period. Instead, I find myself asking, how long until menopause?

Was your first period even remotely as embarrassing as mine? On a scale of one to awkward, where does this fall? Tell me something painfully embarrassing about your childhood, my friends.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

My Brother’s Menagerie: In Which my Little Brother Flexes his Creative Muscles (and Something About Pets that aren’t Dogs or Cats)

My brother is a crafty, creative genius. Long before Etsy was a thing, my brother was hand-making jewelry, whipping up delicious creations in the kitchen and helping me build the most elaborate indoor forts known to man.

Most recently, he’s been found hand-making hamster cages.

Hamstervision: Homemade Hamster Cages and Other Pet Palaces

My hamster spent his entire life trying to create his own condo in my dresser. My brother turned an old television into a hamster apartment so his didn’t have to. He called it “Hamstervision.”

We grew up with hamsters. We started with a gerbil named Axel Rose, followed by a hamster named Jon Bon Jovi. The string of hamsters in our lives ended with my little furry lover, Romeo, who ironically ended his own life by trying to escape his cage, Houdini-style.

My brother’s menagerie was always a little more exotic than mine, though.

  • The chameleon that I may have terrified into losing it’s tail… (Seriously, this was the most horrifying thing on the planet. My brother told me to hold the damn thing by its tail…so I did…and the next thing I knew, I was holding a tail…but no chameleon).
  • The sickly turtle that couldn’t get used to living in a terrarium, even under a heat lamp. It was part rescue mission/part lost cause.
  • The hamster that we mated with our cousin Rachel’s hamster…who proceeded to eat all of the babies (Rachel’s hamster, not my brother’s hamster…or Rachel.)
  • The cannibalistic snail that ate my snail…and my replacement snail – jerk.
  • The pair of hermit crabs that lived in various seashells in the short time we had them.
  • The spunky dalmatian that was born in a thunderstorm and captured all of our hearts (including the old-man dog and old-man cat that dominated our household zoo).
  • The frogs that I apparently have zero recollection of whatsoever (but my brother assures me that they existed).

You can see, he’s always been quite the animal lover. Me?

Okay, fine. I loved animals too.

I haven’t had my own pet since Sammy Fish (my finned college bestie, who hated car-travel but had to suck it up at least four times a year). And according to Brian, I won’t have one for quite some time. Sad face Although we have discussed our very own exotic menagerie…and maybe a bunny named Bunnicula.

My brother, on the other hand, has had a string of delightful pets, including several hamsters and my newest little furry nephew, Biscuit the Hedgehog.

Biscuit the Hedgehog

Biscuit the Hedgehog – My spiky nephew currently lives in a cage built out of storage cubes

Whenever my brother gets a new pet, he feels the need to really create a home for it. But those store-bought cages just don’t do it for him. So he BUILDS HIS OWN PET PALACES. He builds cool toys for them to play with. He basically does some crazy juju magic to create these genius inspired homes for his fur babies. I absolutely adore him.

homemade hamster cages

Roxxi the Hamster lives in this china-cabinet-turned-hamster-palace. Note the details…like the cork cabin and the cork bridge.

So there you have it, my friends.

My brother is a creative genius and has the coolest pets around. With the coolest pet palaces around.

Would you build unique homes for your pets? Do you have any cool pets? Do you have any ridiculously crazy pet stories? Am I the only person in the world who de-tailed a chameleon?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Londonberry Lane

My mom wrote this story 13 years ago. It was published in local newspapers and came quite close to being published in Chicken Soup for the American Soul. This is her story; not mine. But on today, a day of remembrance, I think that it’s important for everyone to share their stories. 

Londonberry Lane

by Patricia M. Wojdyla

The sky is blue with pale yellow clouds, slowly turning pink. As the sun sets, there is no sound. The date is September 12, 2001. One day after the Attack on America. One cannot express the mortification we all feel.
 
At forty-three years of age, I am a typical American suburban wife and mother. My husband of nineteen years, Larry, owns and operates our family business. It has been the local bar and grill on Main Street for the past twenty-two years. Our children are typical suburban teens. Chrissy, a freshman, attends Bradley University. She has always been involved in school functions, cheerleading, and civic volunteer work. Brian is a senior at Glenbard East High School. He, too, actively participates in football, wrestling, and he has volunteered with church. We work hard, and are parishioners of Christ the King Church. We care about our community. 
 
Our neighborhood is a very diverse one. Many people from many nations live on Londonberry Lane. We are White, Black, Hispanic and many new Americans. They have come to the United States from India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. Our faiths include Christian, Islamic, Mormon, Hindu — whatever we want. This is America. Each day, our street bustles with the sounds of children laughing, screaming, playing, riding bikes, and rollerskating. People walk around the block daily. The teen boys playing basketball is a common sight.
 
Not today.
 
Not yesterday.
 
The sky is empty. No planes. What an eerie feeling. Having lived within a few miles of O’Hare International Airport my entire life, I have never known this phenomenon. Airplanes are a part of life. Through all sunsets, sunrises, blue skies and cloudy days, planes fly unconsciously by. 
 
Televisions blare endlessly on, airing the latest accounts. We see horrific images again and again. More buildings are falling as countless lives are lost. War is a real threat. It is beyond belief. This is the United States of America. New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. So far away from our house. But it is our American family that has been killed. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, kids, friends, lovers. Altering the lives of millions of people forever. Entire companies wiped out. The whole scenario is completely mind boggling.
 
We will continue to go to work, our children to school. Our prayers will take a little more effort and time. 
 
As the sun sets on the American flag, it brightens our house on Londonberry Lane. 
 
So quiet, one could hear a pin drop.
 
No children playing.
 
No women walking.
 
No laughter.
 
No planes. 
 

We remember.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

10 Things That Made My Childhood Different Because My Parents Owned a Bar

I’m pretty sure childhood in the late 80’s was vastly different than it is today. There are so many things that were okay in school, social circles of parents, and overall society that just aren’t the same. I also have this very unique view on alcohol and bars and children. Not because my parents were alcoholics, because they weren’t. Instead, it was because they owned a bar. My childhood memories often involve the deep-fried, kiddie-cocktail, quarters-for-pinball experiences that are often reserved for comedy movies with a quick jab about kids in country bars.

Flaherty's Bar

You have a baby! In a bar!

Except that I was a baby in a bar. And it wasn’t a bad thing. It gave me some insight into the world that most kids don’t get.

10 things my 80’s childhood wouldn’t have been complete without

1. Bottle caps were a thing

On Day 100, all the kids in the younger grades were charged with bringing in 100…somethings. some kids brought buttons or toothpicks or pennies. I brought in beer bottle caps. (I mean they were washed and shit! No biggie.) This was in the late 80’s, and no one seemed to mind as much back then.

2. My parents knew my teachers…and what they liked to drink

This started in kindergarten and didn’t end until my teachers were professors in Peoria at Bradley. I’ll never forget St. Patrick’s Day my junior year of high school. I was bussing tables and washing dishes to earn my keep, when I looked up and saw my chemistry teacher, his Bud Light and a caramel-colored liquid in a shot glass.  across the bar, a mere two feet from my face. We made eye contact and it was all awkward from there. “Hi Mr. Johnson.” Long pause “Hi Chrissy.” The following day at school was no less weird. It’s not like he didn’t know my parents owned the bar…he just wasn’t expecting to see me behind it.

3. St. Patrick’s Day was like Christmas

We woke up on St. Patrick’s Day morning, and there were often little green presents on the dining room table for us. Little trinkets and fun beer-logoed freebies from the bar so we could blink, sparkle and shine at work. Back then, no one cared in there was a beer advertised on my blinking buttons. By the time I was in high school, everyone and their mother cared. Times, they did a change.

4. We played Bartender instead of House and dreamed of the day we could be waitresses

My best friends and I used to play bartender at the home bar we had in our living room. And we’d practice our mad skills with trays full of drinks while on roller skates for the day we would become Flaherty’s waitresses and roller skates would become a thing. We were mini marketing geniuses. Tell me you wouldn’t want to hang out in a bar with roller skating waitresses. Just try.

5. Quarters were king. And they came for free

There’s something about an adorable gaggle of kids trouncing around a bar that makes grown ups want to give them money. We cashed in on this as much as we could. Sometimes, it was our parents. Sometimes, it was one of the many “aunts” or “uncles.”  And other times, it was a random stranger with a few quarters to spare. They’d play a game of pinball as we watched with awe and admiration…and then they’d leave the remaining credits in the machine, telling us to each take a turn.

6. Few things in life were more exciting than a stolen shopping cart

When you’re a kid at a bar, you can convince patrons to do almost anything your little mind could dream up. We managed to get shopping carts from the grocery store across the street on a somewhat regular basis. We’d race each other around the back alley or the empty part of the parking lot with a freedom that a lot of kids don’t get these days.

7. I learned to hustle grown ups at pool

When I was about 9, my brother and I received our very own pool cues. We’d bet quarters and dollars with some of the local patrons and then pull out our special cues. We’d surprise the hell out of them and kick their butts. I’m pretty sure my pool skills peaked at age 11.

8. I created my own drink and named it. After myself. Obviously.

By the time I was tall enough to reach the pop gun, I was behind the bar mixing my own kiddie cocktails. My favorite concotion was the Chrissy Cocktail:

  • 1 part grenadine
  • 1 part Squirt
  • 2 parts 7up
  • 2parts pineapple juice
    *Add ice and 5 straws; then stir

(Yes, that was a lot of grenadine. I was a kid in control of the cherry juice. Duh.)

(Yes, in college I added 6 parts vodka and the original drink became the Virgin Chrissy Cocktail.)

9. I mastered the jukebox like a boss

Not only was I a pinball wizard and a pool hustler…I was a jukebox hero. We were often given dollars for the jukebox too. We rocked out to Bon Jovi, Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith, Ugly Kid Joe, Nirvana and more. There were patrons we need would get up and be foolish during certain songs and we owned the shit out of it. We were mini DJs on the dance floor.

10. I learned not to become an alcoholic.

This is the serious part of the list, but I feel it’s important to be said. Because I was able to witness so many different people over the years, I learned the difference between social drinking and alcoholism. I’ve been to more wakes/funerals and known more people who died from alcohol-related diseases than many typical 29(okay fine…31) year olds. My old boss (the one with no filter) once told me “you sure go to a lot of funerals” after a particularly depressing few months of deaths.

I enjoy cocktailing, but I try to avoid drinking to excess.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was never in the bar past 10pm (and that was ONLY on non-school nights after one of my dad’s softball games). My parents didn’t get drunk and drive us home. Usually, Mom was working behind the bar or waiting tables and Dad was holding court (this is what bar owners and their children do when they hang out in their bar. It’s a thing) or vice versa. When things started getting rowdy, we were hustled out of the bar and didn’t witness anything too inappropriate for our young eyes. Nothing your parents and their friends wouldn’t have done at home with a few cocktails, really.

What was your childhood like? Do you think parents were more lax in the 80’s and 90’s than they are now?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Things I Think in Church – Easter Sunday Edition

You guys, I don’t want to sound like a heathen, because I’m totally not…I just don’t find myself frequenting the house of God. So on Sunday, when I showed up and made my mom cry (with joy) because I’m such a good daughter pretty much the best daughter ever, it wasn’t like a regular thing. Especially considering our move on Saturday (more on that later)…and our now living 35 minutes from my parents (and the church) instead of 15 from the parents and 10 from church.

Anyways, I started thinking (as I tend to do), and I couldn’t stop. So I figured you’d appreciate (if not commiserate) with me.

  • I think I’m having a panic attack. Okay, so to be fair, I did eventually figure out the problem…Before heading to church, I stopped at Walgreen’s for Easter basket treats for my favorite tiny humans. This means very little, except that as I was walking to my car, I started feeling that faint, OMG I’m dying and can’t seem to stop shaking thing. Of course, I realized quickly it was some type of caffeine spike or coming down from one…because (Whoops!) I used my Brew Over Ice coffee (highly concentrated) instead of regular Keurig coffee-without ice. So I slammed two of the chocolate-covered Peeps that were supposed to go in Easter baskets (I would have just had one, but you can’t give one kid a Peep and not the other…) and made my way into mass. I was shaking for the first 20 minutes.
  • I wish I had an Easter hat. Remember when you were a kid and you really actually got an Easter bonnet to wear each year? I’m going to start doing that.
  • Why didn’t I bring my phone in with me? I suppose it’s better this way…but when I finally started wondering what time it was-you know…15 minutes in, I had to scan the pews for a watch I could read.
  • Do you think Father is trying to punish the Chreasters or have a larger audience to talk about himself? After a 40-minute sermon, I was getting antsy. So I verbalized this question to my mom. Who looked at me funny. And asked what I meant by “Chreaster.” I explained (in a humored whisper) that a Chreaster is someone who shows up to church on Christmas and Easter. She chuckled and said, “Well, SOME people put Mother’s Day into that list.” Yeah Mom, I get the hint. I told her we call those CME’s. And she shushed me again. She never did answer my question though.
  • What TIME is it? I realized we hadn’t even gotten to the consecration (of course, when I whispered this to my mom, I called it “the kneeling part”) and I found a watch relatively close by….it was almost 1 o’clock already!
  • That kid is too old to be fucking around. There was a kid, probably 8 or 9 years old, laying down across the pew, sprawling himself out and just behaving like a very small child. I understand that there are many non-verbal things that could be going on with the child that I wouldn’t know about, but based on the fact that Mom kept picking him up and he kept laying himself back down, he likely just wasn’t listening to her. If that had been me? I’d have been taken outside and spanked…then brought back in and expected to sit quietly and behave for the rest of mass.
  • That guy’s pants are way. too. tight. Okay, so my mom was actually the one to verbalize this, but she was totally right. Don’t let your man wear tighter pants than you. That’s what I always say!
  • I really hope that people can’t hear what I’m thinking. I pretty much think this all the time, no matter where I am. Sometimes my thoughts are inappropriate as fuck and other times they’re just plain weird.

Unfortunately for my mom, I verbalized most of my thoughts, but whatever. There’s nothing more fun than making your mom cry and then laugh. But only if she’s crying the happy cry. Don’t be an asshole. Duh.

Did you go to church this weekend? Do you go to church? Do you think weird things when you’re supposed to be pensive and reflective?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Easy Peasy Ice Cream Cake for the Lazy and Crazy Like Me

I know. That title is terrible. But this ice cream cake? SO. NOT. TERRIBLE.

Make your own ice cream cake using ice cream sandwiches, chocolate sauce, caramel and cool whip for an easy, delicious treat | Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

So last week, Brian sent me an animated gif with ice cream sandwiches becoming a cake. With Brian’s birthday this past Saturday, and the fact that he NEVER requests things like that…I knew I had to make this cake. Of course, there was no how to on the gif, so I made it up as I went.

Yesterday, we celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday, Brian’s birthday and sort of my brother’s birthday (he’s 30 this year, so we’ve got another party for him next week). I got all the ingredients to make this sweet little cake and dropped them off at Mom’s.

After dinner, I pulled out the ingredients and quickly whipped this cake into shape. It was seriously the easiest thing ever. And the 15 minutes? Totally included picture taking.

15-Minute Ice Cream Cake (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

  • 9 ice cream sandwiches
  • chocolate syrup
  • caramel syrup
  • Cool Whip

Steps

  1. Lay 3 ice cream sandwiches next to each other
  2. Drizzle chocolate and caramel over the sandwiches (this keeps the layers all stuck together-I also considered using real frosting or fruit)
  3. Lay 3 ice cream sandwiches in the opposite direction
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3
  5. Cover the entire cake with Cool Whip
  6. Decorate as much or as little as you like
  7. Slice lengthwise for ice cream cake joy

BOOM.

Also, don’t you dare judge my super awesome chocolate caramel heart on the top of the Cool Whip. I forgot to bring maraschino cherries.

You guys, this was seriously delicious. Everyone enjoyed it. It got a little messy near the end–definitely more difficult to cut than I thought it would be. Just make sure you slice all the way through the cookie layers, and you’ll be good to go.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I was an Irish Princess

For the first 25 years of my life, my parents owned a bar. Not just any bar. To us, it was THE bar. All of our important coming of age shit was celebrated in the bar. First communions, graduations, birthdays, even some holidays…and most especially, St. Patrick’s Day.

You learn a lot when your parents own a bar. You learn how to mix drinks, of course, non alcoholic drinks…like the Chrissy Cocktail I invented when I was 9–seven up, squirt, grenadine, pineapple juice and orange juice (when I grew up, I added vodka). You tell your kindergarten teacher that you want to be a bartender when you grow up. You play waitress in your best friends’ basement (but you add roller skates, because when you own the bar, everyone is going to wear roller skates). You go to a lot of wakes and funerals because you know a lot of people (and a lot of alcoholic). You decide that you DON’T want to be an alcoholic, because you spent your impressionable years watching them. But you drink like a fucking fish in your twenties, anyway.

And then, one day, the bar is gone. And all you have are these AMAZING memories. And that’s okay. It brought you to where you are. It shaped your existence. It gave you all those AMAZING memories.

You try for a few years to go out to other Irish bars on St. Patrick’s Day. You run around town like the Eurotrash of the suburban town where you once held court. Fallen royalty without a kingdom. And then you realize that a bottle of Jamo, a bottle of Bailey’s, and a 6-pack of Guinness are way cheaper than a few shots and a couple of warm green beers at an overcrowded pub. And your dad taught you to make the best corned beef and cabbage on the planet anyway.

But you still deck yourself out like a motherfucking leprechaun and roll into work. Because that’s just what you do. And you wear a green jacket with the name of the bar and the year of your birth like a boss. And you live every day. With your memories and your plans for the future.

Because THAT is what makes life happen.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Holy Wicked Good Seafood, Batman!

You guys!

When Gorton’s Seafood asked me to review their product (which they provided me with coupons to purchase whatever sea fare my little heart desired), I was all, heck yes! I love seafood. Unfortunately, BRIAN does not love seafood. So what’s a little culinary genius like myself supposed to do? Cook a delightful meal just for me? That just didn’t seem fair. So I enlisted the help of my parents. And by help, I mean, I sent my mom an e-mail saying, “Don’t eat tomorrow. I’m coming over after work and cooking you dinner.”

Apparently, my mom had made quasi plans with her best friend for dinner that same evening, so when I arrived at their house the other night, I was pleasantly surprised that we’d have an extra guest for dinner.

Dinner for 4 in 40 minutes or less

I had originally planned to get all creative, since Gorton’s provided me with a variety of recipe ideas and such, but I thought it would be an excellent test of the product to see how quickly (and more importantly, EASILY) I could prepare a meal on a weeknight.

I purchased 2 different Gorton’s seafood products for this particular meal, Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi (since Dad loooooves garlic) and Simply Bake Tilapia. I also brought a mixed greens salad, and poached the rest of the meal from my mom’s garden/freezer.

Gorton's Wicked Good Seafood

When I was en route, I had asked my mom to prep the oven to 350 degrees, so everything would be ready to go. I arrived, did a quick prep of cutting potatoes, tomatoes and red pepper strips, mixed the potatoes with a smidge of olive oil and some salt and was ready to go.

Now for the tilapia. I pulled those babies out of the box, placed the oven safe bags on two baking sheets (after realizing that one baking sheet PROBABLY wasn’t enough…) and popped them in the oven…

Gorton's Simply Bake TilapiaThat’s it.

No really.

That’s. All. I Did.

Then I poured myself a glass of wine and joined the parentals out on the veranda (the backyard patio) for an appetizer of Mom’s homemade salsa with chips.

I took a quick break from chatting to start the scampi, which I set out in single layer across the frying pan.

Gorton's Shrimp ScampiAt the same time I poured frozen green beans into another pan with sliced peppers, a little olive oil and some season salt. I returned to the wine shortly thereafter.

A few minutes later, I went and checked on the scampi, and oh-man! They were lookin’ and smellin’ WICKED GOOD. So I flipped them and let ’em simmer some more. I did add some water so the sauce didn’t boil out.

Gorton's Garlic Shrimp Scampi10 minutes later, I was ready to plate up the meal. A grand total of 40 minutes went by from prep to completion. I call that a definite dinner win for something amazing.

How do I know it was amazing?

Check out the pictures. If you’re not hungry after this…well…you get the picture.

Simple Salad

A simple salad with grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, parmesan cheese and Mom’s homemade Italian dressing (OK, I took the picture before adding cheese and dressing. I was hungry!!

Wicked Good Seafood from Gorton's

Yes,the sauce came out of the bag with the fish. Yes, the two seafood dishes combined well together. Yes, they all partnered up nicely with the potatoes and veggies.

A few extra things to note: You know how I have a tendency to hurt myself in the kitchen? It’s almost impossible with this stuff. The bag opens easily enough that I didn’t need to use a knife and I let the fish sit for 5 minutes before I served it (And it stayed warm in the bag, but was safe to touch on the outside!) The flavor? Phenom. I preferred the tilapia to the shrimp, but both were AWESOME.

Weight Watchers friendly meal

As I’m back on the Weight Watchers wagon (after a whole lot of on and off), I wanted to make sure that I got something that was healthy and delicious. The tilapia? 3 points plus. The shrimp scampi? 2 points plus for the serving size we made. A standard serving is 3 points plus, but we divided the box between 4 of us instead of 3.

Everyone was thoroughly impressed with the meal, and both of my parents made separate calls to me the next day to thank me for the wonderful dinner. None of them would have purchase Gorton’s before our dinner, but all 3 said they would eat it again in a heartbeat.

Tell me Blog Friends, have you tried Gorton’s? What are your favorite seafood dishes?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Let Me Tell You a Little Something About Beer and Working at a Bar

Happy Monday, Blog friends!

OK. I revoke my statement. I’m exhausted. And you probably are too. Weekends just sort of…take it out of us, don’t they? Especially when it feels like you’re trying to cram a week’s worth of life into 2 days. BUT…I had a great weekend. I hope you did too.

One of my many adventures this weekend was a pub crawl with a couple of my cousins. 4 bars. 4 bars that progressively got a little trashier, and I felt like we were in a college town (which we weren’t). The first bar was pretty nice. A tiny Irish pub with decent food and cold beer. But, being tiny, it got crowded. Fast.

So our plan was to stay one step ahead of the bar crawl. Which worked out mostly well. As the rest of the people showed up, we got our stamps and moseyed on out of there…on to the next bar… Except we had problems at every. Single. Bar. And not like normal problems.

The first bar was the most normal of issues…we ordered food and it took almost an hour for fried cheese curds, a reuben, and a BLT. And they ran out of the cider Brian and I were drinking.

The second bar…Oh the second bar. After enjoying a couple of 20oz Guinness’ at the first bar, my cousin wanted a smaller size glass of Guinness, so he ordered a small Guinness. I asked what they had on draft and she made it seem like the list went on forever. Then I asked if there was a beer list…Nope. I wanted something dark and devious, so I asked our waitress what she had that was dark. Her first suggestion was ciders. *cringe* OK. No. How about a porter? Just…bring me a porter. So she comes back to the table with a “Baby Guinness” shot for my cousin (Kahlua and Bailey’s) and Newcastle Brown for me. I’m sorry. What?

A Twitter response summed it up pretty succinctly…

Brown Ale is not PorterSo on top of our flighty, bitchy (and soon to be non-existent) waitress, the Heineken girls were wandering the patio in the most ridiculous dresses on the planet. I had to say this because. Gross. Tight white dresses that barely cover women’s asses just don’t do it for me. Especially when you can see every crevice and every line. I Googled it and apparently there are much better costumes out there for these sample girls…even the same dress in black looked better. The white was just…Gross. Guys, does that really do it for you? Seriously.

Obviously, we moved on.

So the next bar, the waitress was nicer, but she didn’t know what Leinenkugel was. She tried to repeat the name back and said it all wrong. Even though of the 4 tappers behind the bar, there was a Summer Shandy (by Leiny) she had no idea.

At the last bar, they finally had a beer menu posted. They had Adult Rootbeer (OMG, go drink this now) and Left Hand Milk Stout and a slew of other delicious beers. And I knew it because they had a freakin’ menu. They also apparently had pizzas, but weren’t serving them because the bar crawl was bringing food in. And I was starving. And had to wait another hour before the food.

Bar crawl

We managed to keep our spirits

So what did I learn? Bar crawls probably aren’t my favorite pastime. Not since college anyway.

Oh and if you’re going to work in a bar…Know the difference between a brown ale and a porter.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!