Monday, November 28, 2011

Tiny Town or Bust!

It looks like the famous Wild West showman, Buffalo Bill Cody, is enjoying a ride on the back of this vehicle. Note the miniature vehicle in the foreground.

In 1915, a man named George Turner decided to build a wonderland for his daughter on a steep hillside near their home on the site of the Denver-Leadville Stage Coach line . Christening it "Turnerville," George chose the embankment above the small channel of water called Turkey Creek to construct child-sized replicas of the buildings one would find in an Old West Town such as a barbershop, hotel, bank, saloon, and a grocery store.

Seemingly taken with this new hobby, George continued to add buildings to his small metropolis until 1920, at which time public interest grew so keen that he decided to open his budding city to the community and he renamed it, "Tiny Town." Families looking for a pleasant mountain outing were able to park alongside the dirt road after an adventurous trek up the mountain to walk and picnic amongst the miniature structures.

With 125 buildings to see and growing, more than 20,000 visitors per year drove up from Denver to view the intricate "play houses" until the popularity of the site became a bit too much for George and he sold it to an interested buyer in 1927 who continued to add sporadically to the now famous site.

Floods damaged some of the buildings in 1929 and 1932 and, in 1935, a fire destroyed much of George's most important pieces while leaving many of the houses and businesses standing. In 1948, car traffic had grown to the point that the state decided to reroute U.S. Highway 285 above the blissful little metropolis, and Tiny Town started to fall into disrepair.

Then, in 1965, two families purchased Tiny Town and renovated the remaining structures. However, the work was for naught and the site is put up for sale. There aren't any interested buyers this time.

In 1969 a massive flood wiped out the restored buildings and Tiny Town is devastated.

Enter Lyle Fulkerson in 1972 who, along with his family, lovingly resurrected and improved the tiny city until his death in 1977.

Once again the buildings of Tiny Town suffered the onslaught of time, opening in 1980, closing in 1983, and finally in 1987, the Northern Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management assumed the dilapidated buildings as a civic project. Plots of land where the once beautiful "play houses" stood were leased to the community and, under the IREM policy and codes, Tiny Town once again rose on the shore of little Turkey Creek.

The grand opening was held on July 4, 1988 with 150 new structures with over 10,000 people visiting the new and improved town.  

Tiny Town is reborn. Again.

As a child, I remember visiting Tiny Town many times, walking around and crawling into the tiny houses and businesses, pretending I was the mayor of the buildings whose roofs stretched as far as I could see. I so enjoyed the stage coach rides with the prancing horses and I took deep breaths to capture the smell of the coal as the miniature train took me on a tour of the grounds.

                                                                               This Stanley Hotel is not haunted. At least I don't think so...

They were joyful times, as I claimed each discovered structure as my own play land with the infamous Stanley Hotel as my throne.
And, over the ensuing years I have brought my children, my step-children, and my grandchildren to Tiny Town so they, too, could claim it as their own.

  May Tiny Town thrive for all the future childhoods to come!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Dual in the Swamp

The night was crackling with excitement. Manny "Longlegs" Bribbet was settling to go head to head with Aloysius Croke-McGee in what many thought would be the event of the season.

A line of the expectant formed on the hardened dirt road leading up to the veranda of the only watering hole this side of the Mississippi - that is until you got to Padooka Springs, which was a good one-mile walk away. It's a fact that once the fire-water got into you, a one-mile walk was more like a hundred miles full of gators and such, not to mention the danger of meeting up with one of the rare speeding vehicles that dusted up the fields on it's way to somewhere else. Too many drivers just don't watch where they're going, you know. Take, for example, the tale of when Old Georgie Batrachian was hit - no, it was closer to mashed (so sorry for those with the weak stomach) on his way home from The Swamp in Padooka Springs one moonless night a few years back. His poor lifeless body was found the next morning by a search party when he hadn't returned for his breakfast of soft boiled cajun eggs. The Missus was so worried she rounded up all the males around with the promise of all the soft-boiled cajun eggs they could eat if they found the varmint, but when they came back she got a little emotional, and holed up somewhere for a few days until she took up with that other feller, Sal LeEnchen.

But that's another story.

Anyways, by the time the sun was hitting the water behind the cypress trees, Manny and Aloysius were a glaring at each other like there was no tomorrow and, since one of them was due to lose, tomorrow wouldn't be too high on one of their lists.
The crowd had started to get restless with anticipation by the time Thad Poole came out onto the veranda carrying something.

A ripple of excitement went through the crowd as he brought a worn wooden box over to the table where the combatants were sitting, and gently (nearly reverently if truth be told) placed it in the center of the table.

Aloysius was the first to move and ran his wrinkled finger along the side of the inlaid mahogany chest before he opened it up and took out his first five tiles. Manny, not wanting Aloysius to get all the good ones, grabbed for his tiles a little too greedily for Aloysius' taste and an altercation broke out. There was much fist thumping and hollerin' so loud that many thought those in Padooka Springs could hear, but of course, Padooka Springs, beings its over a mile away, slumbered quietly on.

The two settled down though, when the lightbulb finally went off in Manny's addled head that this here night just might be the most important night of his entire life and fighting was contrary to what was at hand. After some coaching they both sat back down and then quickly commenced to glare over the table at each other again until the signal to start was announced.

It took darn near all night for those two to concede a winner, but as the sun was coming up over the knobby hills to the east, with the score just about even somewhere in the hundreds (that was after the best three-out-of-five went to the best-five-out-of-seven and on up) Aloysius just keeled over and fell into the swamp. And Manny, tickled pink that he was the last one standing, jumped up into the air with all the aplomb of a duck taking off from a blind.

It was what happened after Manny's jubilant leap that had the crowd talking, however. Beings that Manny hadn't had a morsel of food the entire evening, when he saw that grasshopper a scooting down the road behind the old magnolia tree, his leap turned into a ravenous bound towards the escaping insect. Many say that once Manny had that crunchy little thing in his mouth, it was like some great magical net swooped out of the sky and took Manny off.

So's, there wasn't exactly a winner that night when those two stacked them dominoes up against each other, but then again, it sure was fun to watch while it lasted!

Please note that I actually spotted these two fellows in an antique store while shopping with my sister. I was sorely tempted to purchase this unique item but, I suppose for good reason, my sister talked me out of it. Instead, I snapped a photo of it with my cell phone to show my hubby that he had a rational and level-headed sister-in-law and a very whimsical wife!

Sadly, the next time we went into the antique store, the duo was gone...

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Finally Put a Tiger in my Tank


For those of you who are - er - "seasoned" enough, you may remember the little ditty about putting a tiger in your tank from our friends at Esso/Exxon. You may even share my fascination with 1960's commercials (if one were to watch more than an afternoon of cartoons which often spread into evenings with "monkees," genies, and suburban witches, one could - and would - become quite an expert on such intellectually stimulating offers as "put a tiger in your tank," "take it off, take it all off," and "I can't believe I ate the whole thing.")

It was during those long forays into whimsical situations and shows about spies, wild animals, and beauty pageants that I learned a thing or two about " real life." (You do realize that if it was/is on TV, it must be true!)

 As a wee lass (you believe me, right?), I vaguely remember some of those catchy phrases from my halcyon days of yesteryear. And, one day not too long ago, I finally understood that if I wanted to get my "get up and go" I needed to put an undoubtedly less-than-happy large striped feline into my "gas" tank. (Images of Harry Potter Band-Aids are filling my head at the moment. And not for the feline, in case you were wondering.) (But bless your heart for being concerned about the monster cat and not me.) (Really, it's ok.) (Sniff)


Ideas have been stacking up, waiting for an appointment in my head and my grey matter, and my life, are finally open for business! Stay tuned! 

Shall we all celebrate? RIght now I am raising my glass of Dom Perignon to you! Thanks for waiting for me!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Sometimes We Have to be Pushed Off Our Perch

Some say change is permanent. Others add that security is fleeting. I am finding that the older I get, the more I agree with both.

Approximately one month ago, I was let go from my job at a local community college. Shock and grief immediately set in, and I spent the next week curled up on my couch watching movies and regularly refilling the trash can with tissues. Oh Woe was Me.

Fortunately, I had a splendid support net, and like any faltering trapeze artist, I fell, bounced a few times, and then I crawled out.

Looking back over these past weeks of re-evaluating what was/is really important to me, I have finally admitted to myself that no matter how many times I said, "At least I have a job," my position there had become an exercise of fitting my oval shape into a square mold. Expectations of clericalocity (<-- my new word for the regular pencil pushers of the technology age) left little room for what drove my own passions, and I was left feeling smothered, under-appreciated, and, well, just darned unhappy.

People have often commented on how tranquil I seem to be under stress, and how pleasant I always come across to others. Characteristics that are certainly a plus, no doubt. However, back seat driving those very same traits is the tendency to become complacent while letting things roll off my back. Thus, it was easier to just internalize the challenges I faced (yes, I occasionally had to vent to my most trusted supporters, like any seemingly dormant volcano), than it was to charge head-long into a coup for change. Alas, no rebel am I.

Through this all, I am truly fortunate that my husband has been, and is, my staunchest supporter. Pulling no punches on the present job market, he has offered me quite a tempting proposition. He has suggested that I, at least, take the summer off to regroup, explore some creative ideas I have had rumbling around in my head for years, investigate alternative forms of income (nothing illegal or immoral, of course), and then, if necessary, take a part-time job to cushion our joint income.

This would, unfortunately, mean that we will need to move out of our house and sell it (we are looking at ways we can quickly and efficiently do this) which, in retrospect, isn't a bad thing since he has strongly admitted that he hates being a home-owner, with all of the snow-shoveling/lawn-mowing/unplugging-the-plumbing/etc. et al. With the advent of both of his daughters growing to an age where they no longer live with us part-time, this house has become much too opulent for the two of us.

Gone will be rooms of un-needed furniture, mementos, knick-knacks and general clutter. Sadly, it would also mean that he will be selling his vehicle (which he loved) as well as finding superb homes for our wonderful dogs. One canine has been warmly received at my husband's ex-wife's home, where his youngest daughter lives, and the other is poised to find happiness with a large yard, a cat, and two small children tomorrow.

Achingly, that seems to be the most distressing choice of all. Three months ago we traveled 10 hours to/10 hours back to rescue the dog of our dreams. And, always preferring a cat over a dog, I was surprised at the bond I have formed with my gentle giant these past three months, and will be heart-broken when she leaves.

However, we will be embarking on a new, and exciting adventure. I have always been fascinated with my own downtown, and have always dreamed of living in a loft in the heart of the city. Close to just about anything and everything (except maybe a grocery store, but the lure of having my groceries delivered instead of enduring the mauling I always seem to encounter whilst trolling the aisles of my own market here), the clincher was the mere five-minute walk to work for my husband, instead of the 40 minute commute (plus costs).

Change is, indeed, constant, and getting used to having no discernable schedule each day has been both a pleasure and a pain. I am still struggling with which direction I really want to take, since my mind and my passions, once encumbered by bureaucratic say-so, have been released. I have been given a marvelous opportunity to grow, once again, into the person I have always wanted to be. And how many adults get to explore so many youth-planned paths in their lives?

Being pushed off my perch, while stressful to the "nth degree," has been my liberation too.

Sie la Vie!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stuart in the Sky With Diamonds (or How Minnie Got Her Groove Back)

The scuffling woke me up at 4:00 am. Already curled up like a well-cooked shrimp I tried to hunker up more - well as much as my stiff knees would let me. “What could that racket over my head be,” I wondered as my phenomenal dream faded, and the annoying noise continued to crescendo. Was it a mouse?

Indeed, I had been aware of some errant scratching within the walls a time or two, and on more than one occasion had even discovered some suspicious globs of fabric under the sink, the tell tale crumbs beneath a sheared off corner of a box of cereal in the cupboard, and later a few small remnants of that meal.

However, my two Amazon felines had always been able to keep any type of rodent infestation down to a minimum, and in fact had often been busted bringing home neighborhood contraband critters still wriggling in their mouths (to that extent I am certain my neighbors had been grateful of my frequent collared prowlers.)

Still, one of said Amazons who nightly snoozed on my feet continued to remain in cat dreamland and I was apparently stuck being the sentry for that particular morning shift.

So, barely breathing I concentrated on the noise. With audio effects being difficult to translate into words my best attempt, sadly, will be far from the actual sound but it sounded much like “scritch scritchscritch” and then the sawing of a tiny little hand saw (I swear that’s what it sounded like).

“Yes, that sure sounds like a mouse,” the voice in my head remarked. And then a board groaned overhead. “Uh no, mice aren’t that big” my inner voice squeaked and I felt my breathing pick up in tandem with the increased beating of my heart. I quietly straightened my posture out in the bed, and the scuffing immediately ceased. Whatever it was had Six Million Dollar Man hearing AND was bigger than a mouse.

My mind started working overtime. I envisioned a bloated Jabba-the-Rat wiggling in a corner, with her army of little rat minions bringing her trash scraps to feed all of the little baby Jabba-the-Rats.

I pictured a more than likely vicious Mama Raccoon nesting about and redecorating the attic in anticipation for her upcoming dating, mating and then blessed event of octuplets.

I saw a surplus of squirrels creating quite a bachelor pad for sleepovers and the subsequent squirrelettes.

And even worse, I pictured all of the above.

Sleep finally came to me at 4:45 when the nestling stopped, and I tossed and turned until the alarm clock went off at six. I woke up knowing that I had several hours of daylight to figure out what to do next. I also knew I needed to at least walk around the house and look for the Studio 54 entranceway and then go from there.

So, after a week of walking around the house peering and looking and gazing from every angle I could from the safety of my yard, I finally went to the official website of the State Division of Wildlife to reaffirm my fear. I found out that squirrels are definitely not nocturnal but rats, mice and raccoons are. Yikes.

Now convinced that I most certainly had a ferocious mother raccoon inhabiting my attic, I commenced to tell everyone I knew of my wild life, and how inconvenient it would be to have a nest of raccoon adolescents padding about overhead throughout the spring and into the summer. How it would be far too dangerous to even attempt to interrupt the upbringing of these youngsters as everyone surely knew it was a certain reorganization of one's face to come between a raccoon mother and her children. I dramatically regaled how miserable my sleep was surely to be for the foreseeable future, and apologized profusely for the expected bags under my eyes. I firmly stated that the wild life had taken over and I was at its mercy.

And therein was my downfall.

After borrowing an extension ladder, my very best friend and hubby cat walked about the rooftop. He tottered like an acrobat across every inch of the roof trying to ascertain just where a wide-bodied raccoon would be able to gain access. I expectantly watched him, again from the safety of the ground. finally, after finding not even a shingle loose, he came down. As did I.

Still, not willing to give up my argument that there was danger to be found in the top story of the house, I insisted that he take the ladder into the house and venture into the very abyss of peril. Grudgingly he did so. With cautious steps up the metal rungs of the extension ladder and firmly clutching a flashlight – nay, a heavy flashlight - in his hand, he unceremoniously poked his head, hair by hair, into the darkness of the void.

Hearing and seeing nothing he dared to go further. I stood at the bottom of the ladder, sighing that I had a knight in shining armor to ward off the beasts of the wood and waited. His body disappeared into the attic and I held my breath.

Hubby's face suddenly popped above the hole in the ceiling and he smiled. “There isn’t anything up here but mice, hon.” And I let out my breath somewhat indignantly but secretly relieved. “How do you know?”

He quickly climbed down the ladder and instructed me to take a look for myself. I’ll tell you it took all of my courage and then some to mount those rungs and peer about the dusty innards of the creaky house. But I did, and discovered a maze of little mouse corridors crisscrossing everywhere through the insulation like rodent superhighways, complete with bridges and blockades.

So that’s what had been keeping me from sleeping!

As I climbed down the ladder the thought struck me how similar the hallways of those little, albeit heavy, mice were to the mazes of just about any office building.

And then I stopped as a thought struck me - and then shook my head.

“Naw, we are all more than mice in a maze – we are here to learn and discover what life has to offer. We crisscross our own hallways in pursuit of happiness, to gain enough money to live on, and to enjoy that pursuit."

I nodded in agreement with myself, because the next day I had documents to type, and emails to send, and people to smile and greet as I passed them in the hallways. I had money to make, for heavens sake!

And even better, I was sure I was going to get a really good night’s sleep that night knowing that I didn’t have the beast from “Alien," or even a furry little Monty Pythonesque bunny over my head.

However, before I climbed into bed I knew I would need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion with those darned Amazonian cats. They would surely be a bit petulant, being caught sleeping on the job and all. I was sure that, abashed, they would probably slink off to find a dark alley, where they could hone their rodent-hunting skills a little bit better.

Well, it's off to bed because work awaits!

Say “Cheese!"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 13, 2011

Inside Trading

I don’t think I will ever forget it – the phrase a friend of mine said to me several years ago. And I distinctly remember the day she said it to me. I was in a rush when she called and asked if she could drop by to tell me about a new endeavor she had become interested in. I hurriedly said ok but instantly remembered that I had a long list of other very important things to do that evening. I almost retracted my invitation but after a quick thought I was sure it wouldn’t take too long to listen to what she wanted to tell me about, especially when she realized just how busy I was, so I hastily said goodbye. As I hung up the phone, I put down the bills I had been looking at while I had been talking to her. Dinner needed to be cooked, the house definitely needed to be picked up before she got there, I needed to make sure the kids had their homework done and dammit, my feet were hurting from the high heels I had worn to work that day. And I knew once those things had been taken care of there was so much to do after that.

I raced through my first set of chores and was almost finished when the doorbell rang. I ran to the door, opened it up and there my friend stood, broadly smiling at me. That’s the thing. She always smiled at me - so positive and supportive and wonderful to be around. As I invited her in, the question briefly crossed my mind about why I had waited so long to see her. But then it was gone as I ushered her into the office. As I sat down next to her on the settee she asked me what I had been doing. I rolled my eyes and sighed and told her I had been so busy I had little time to think. And the worst of it was, I admitted, that I really hated my job. I dramatically recounted to her the day I had just had, of all the people I had to deal with, of all the things I was expected to get done and how I was unappreciated and how little I was being paid for all of my hard work. She looked at me, blinked her eyes twice and that’s when she said it. Yes – The Phrase. “What are you trading your life for?” My mouth hung open without words to fill it. I mentally backpedaled. “What?” was the only thing I could utter. She smiled at me again. “What are you trading your life for?” Those seven words hit me like a ton of bricks. Indeed. What WAS I trading my life for?

Seven simple words but words that meant so much – I took her question to heart.

Since then I have mentally tried to change my life. I’ve tried to make it simpler, tried to brush away the little things and to enjoy them as much as the big things. I’ve learned that en error isn’t a mistake, it’s just a harder lesson. Tried to think about how quickly life disappears and how easy it is to make it do so. Tried to know who I am inside and out and to accept, without judging, who people are outside and in. Tried to tell the people I love how much they mean to me and tried to appreciate the days I have left with them.

Sure, I often forget that I am trading my life for something. But when I remember, I hope now that I am trading it for things far better and happier and grander than those days when my house needed to be spotless for a guest, and my kids needed to get their homework done before dinner. If I’m trading it for a goal, that’s a good thing. But if it’s just biding time, it’s not. I know that there are priorities to enjoy, people to love, and life to live.
So - What are you trading YOUR life for?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Lighter Shade of Pale

While scrutinizing some important merchandise in the aisles of a very popular discount store a few years ago, I overheard one woman whisper to another ”Do you think she dies?” Startled, I snapped my head around and, after quickly and inadvertently meeting the green eyes of the speaker, and then noting her red-haired female companion, I abruptly looked away. They sure didn’t look upset, I thought as I bent my head down to peer more closely at the box I had been reading. “Oh I really can’t say for sure. But just to be absolutely certain I think we’d better look again” I heard her companion whisper back. Oddly transfixed, I stood where I was.

"What were they talking about?" I wondered as I turned the box over in my hands and blearily stared at the writing on the back. For some unknown and peculiar reason I found myself curious with their conversation. It was certainly more interesting than trying to decipher the index of ingredients listed on the box I was holding. Were they mulling over the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives,” I pondered as the smiling woman on the front of the box brightly looked up at me. If so, I felt an affirmative response bubbling to my lips but I quickly bit it back, chagrined at my own cheeky eavesdropping. The green-eyed woman moved behind me and then stopped at the end of the aisle. Without turning around she quietly sniffed.

“Oh, I definitely think she does die” she murmured ominously. Her companion sidled up next to her effectively blocking the entrance and exit of the aisle. “I think you very well may be right," the redhead replied quietly. Sneaking a furtive peek at them both I noticed that they were watching a very blonde woman who was perusing the greeting cards.

Worried now, I observed the card woman myself for any signs of trouble. “What’s going on here - Am I in an episode of “Desperate Housewives?” I fretted as the box trembled in my hands. I certainly didn’t know the two women in my aisle and for all I knew they were plotting something nefarious just like one of the characters on the show had been a few nights before.

Just as I was about to blurt out a warning to the very blonde lady, she moved to leave the profusion of cards she had been looking at. My two aisle companions quickly turned their backs and huddled together. “Oh yes, yes, yes she definitely does die – no one naturally has that color of hair” I heard the two wicked women chortle as I dropped the box of Clairol I had been holding and fell on my knees to the floor.

Okay – so that really didn’t actually happen but I have been the recipient of inadvertently overhearing conversations regarding the shade of someone’s hair. The truth is, even my own hair has been a few unnatural shades of the hair-color rainbow. I have had my hair, somewhat embarrassingly, almost a platinum blonde, an orange-red, a dark, rich mahogany color (quite a shock, I might add, immediately on the heels of the blonde) and even a pale color that resembled the young green branch of an ash tree. Colors I certainly would not have chosen on purpose as my wild streak never actually made it all the way up to my scalp. While some daring souls aren't afraid to shout out their own forays into "counter-culturalsim," mine have been more akin to trips to the corner convenience store. Or, perhaps, I have a covert wild streak.

No matter, as it is my own opinion from years of experience that it is incredibly difficult to get any “natural” shade from a box of store-bought hair dye.

For all of you budget-conscience color consumers who know what I mean, it sure would be nice not to have to worry about all of that. I mean really, it sometimes takes hours of being yanked at, poked at and being placed under double clipped caps in desperate attempts to obtain those “natural” hair colors. That’s if you can find a friend good enough and willing enough to give up a perfectly good block of their time to fiddle with your hair. And if I could, I certainly would forego sitting for too many timed minutes at my kitchen table with the smell of malodorous concoctions wafting down and making my eyes water and hoping that no one, absolutely no one, rings the doorbell. Yikes! When they say “Process” on the box – they aren’t kidding!

But for many of the box-buyers, the alternative is – shall I say it? Grey? Never! Ever! Ever? (dot dot dot).

Be that as it may, I envy both the younger and the older generations in ways. There are the pastel-hairs, with blue, lavender and rose on one side, and the florescent-hairs, with hot pink, midnight blue and blazing green on the other. Each seems so – er – at home in their colors. And none of which are “natural” hair colors at all.

So, since I must admit that I am a tad older than the younger generation these days, I know my hair will never take on any shade of truly vibrant color. At least not on purpose anyway.

But to join the ranks of the blue, lavender or rose-hairs that drive the Buicks and Cadillacs and Lincolns of the world would mean that I have hoisted the white (or grey) flag of surrender, right? Right?

Astonishingly,that day actually came a few years ago when, after the gentle prodding of my older sister, and the somewhat more persistent pushing of my husband who had taken up the "colorist" banner and whose passion (if there had been any) for the perfect color had waned considerably, took a leap of faith and let the boxes of “Candleglow”, “Crème Brulee” and Caramel Kiss” moulder in my linen closet. I had finally decided that they really weren't to dye for anymore, and I wished to embrace the "real" me.

And I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the result, after awaiting months with nail-biting trepidation for all the colors to meld together. In fact, I have been very fortunate to have a light gold-platinum as my locks and have actually received compliments (yes! On grey hair no less!) as to the color from perfect strangers and family alike.

As for those few who ask me, in all earnestness, "Is that your real hair color?" I can now proudly say, "why yes, it is!"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2011

Something's A Fowl.... surprises me just how long it takes to thaw out a whole chicken!

Ah. Pardon me for my lack of manners. Perhaps I should explain myself first, eh?  Drumroll…some background information for you, if you please!

For the last several months I have been intent on eating better and learning how to cook. “What,” you might ask yourself, “does she mean learn how to cook? Doesn’t everyone know how to do that?” Well, yes and no. Having grown up under the tutelage of a “farmer’s daughter,” cooking in my childhood home consisted of the rudimentary cold cereal in the mornings, school lunches during the school year or cold cuts on the off-times, and the fairly basic meat and potatoes for dinner.

And, as in any other family of siblings, length of noses, height, personality traits and extraneous talents were divvied up at birth between four girls. Somewhere along the line, my sisters received the latent “cooking gene” in varying degrees, whereby I received the artistic, and storytelling gene, as well as my mom’s chest gene (much to the chagrin of my lovely siblings).

Thus, when I became an adult, married my first husband and had my children, cooking, to me, was pretty much a sustenance-only affair with the basics; spaghetti, baked potatoes and steak, hamburgers, burritos, with the occasional tuna noodle casserole thrown in (ad nauseum).


This mode of operandi had been sufficient for most of my life, with a brief (ok, nearly a complete) stop when I got divorced from my first husband.  That is up until the moment last fall when it occurred to me that the art of cooking just may be in my grasp after all. That “ah hah” moment was spurred by my realization that the dreaded “middle-aged spread” with the heinous “peri-menopausal” scourge had been stealthily creeping up on me - I eagerly (i.e. desperately) started to research healthy recipes. To my complete surprise, I noticed they were easy. Perhaps not all made with the normal pantry stock of items they still looked so…do-able. Had they always been this way, I wondered?

I dove in, and have been quite pleased with the results of my culinary skills to this day, as is the rest of my family. In fact, my grown daughter nearly fainted when she found out about my new-found skill and has been broadcasting the news “Hey, guess what? My mom can cook!”

Accordingly, I have been discovering quite a few eye-opening facts, such as fresh garlic is used in almost everything, and my fingers have been consistently christened with gooey garlic juice to prove it. Another nugget is using a soft round loaf of bread instead of the suggested sourdough or peasant loaf for a muffaletta sandwich is asking for BF Oil sized trouble. I also learned that it is also probably better to peel the lemons in the” Roasted Lemon and Chicken” recipe unless your pucker partner is ready for a peck.

In fact, just this morning I realized another significant actuality after my husband had left for work. After a promise last night that I would briefly return to the afore-made, semi-healthy, and easy stand-by “BBQ’d Chicken in the Crock Pot” for this evening’s dinner, I noticed that I had forgotten to take the whole chicken out of the freezer to thaw. I actually knew I needed to at least get the neck and innards out of the cavity before I popped it into the crock pot for the easy meal.

So, after defrosting it for 10 minutes in the microwave, I still couldn't pull the pieces out so I stood the chicken body up in the sink, and dribbled hot water up the...well, the bottom and let the water pool in the sink and into the bag to help thaw it out. In between, I curled my hair and then checked the chicken again. And grunted. No go.

I continued to let the water dribble into the....bottom and gathered up my lunch for the next 10 minutes.

With that pre-work chore completed, I opened the pantry to get a plastic bag out to put my lunch in, and the mop attacked me trying to escape (along with its buddy, the feather duster). I wrangled the two of them back into their stocks and then relegated them back into dungeon time -I have the bump on the head to prove their daring breakout!
Then I checked the chicken again.

After joisting the neck back and forth several times, I was able to pull it away from the inside and then I rooted around for the....innards. I found two (is that right? only two? I think I actually got two and a half of something but I'm not sure...) innard parts. Then, wondering if I needed to pull anything away from the neck (this chicken most definitely was a body builder as it has some mega that right? You know - the muscle from the neck to the shoulders.

Ah, whatever. In this case, I can say that it had big shoulders and pathetic little wings.) Anyway, I put the chicken back on a plastic plate, and nuked it another 15 minutes in the miscrowave because the neck hole-ish area was still rather rigid with ice.

In the meantime I went and put my make up on (which, as most women know, can take a very long time.)

After I pulled the chicken out of the microwave, the neck hole-ish part was still a little icy, so I sat the bird up on the plate in the sink. But then I started to feel sorry for it, sitting there, forlornly with water dribbling into its headless neck (by this time, the chicken and I had spent the morning getting to know each other pretty well, you know), so I gently rooted around a little more, and let the bird have some peace as I laid it into the crock pot, gave it a wee massage, covered it completely with BBQ sauce, and then turned the pot on to warm its birdy-body (I won't admit to stabbing it in its side in order to pour sauce in under it - once) (ok - maybe I did do that. So what?)

Suffice to say, when I got home tonight, the house was a haven of BBQ chicken aroma, and the Schwarzenegger-shaped poultry was appropriately tender as it fell apart on same-said fork.

I am telling you this because I feel it is one of my civic duties to all of those “who-would-have-known” cooks out there…for stresses-sake, make sure you give yourself ample time to thaw your bird before you cook it!