“Grocery Store Diaries”

July 11, 2014 - 2 Responses

     There are things in life that I dislike, and then there are things that I despise. Going to the grocery would have to rank right up there near the top of category number two. I would rather do almost ANYTHING than pull into the parking lot of a grocery… clean the toilet, empty the cat’s litter box, hand wax our floors, you name it! Part of it has to be the procrastination factor. I’ve usually put it off for so long that no standard size grocery cart could ever possibly accommodate my needs. Even a master grocery stacker would need a minimum of two carts, especially when you factor in the broken wheels that are always pulling you in the opposite direction of where you’re trying to go.

      I’ve tried to be more proactive, but let’s face it… there’s nothing simple about a grocery run. You can easily blow a half hour compiling “the list” before you’ve even set foot out of the house. Even after I’ve made out “the list” AND gone to the trouble of arranging it IN ORDER, to match the store layout… I, invariably, find myself at the end, missing 2 to 3 random items that we probably won’t need for another 3 months. While this may sound like a minor inconvenience, let me assure you… it is not.

     I now have so many groceries that I can barely push them anywhere, or stop them, for that matter. Then there’s the added pressure of knowing that I have roughly five minutes to locate these items before 30 dollars-worth of ice cream and pop cycles start to melt. A wise person might just write those items off and head to the check-out. Not me! I’m in the zone. They’re on “the list”. Walking out of the store without them would be a crushing defeat, so this is when I begin frantically zig-zagging the aisles, in search of a box of light bulbs and a bottle of ketchup that USED to be on aisle 2, but has mysteriously been moved to another part of the store.

     In fact, can I just get something off my chest? It’s a TIP, if you will, to the Grocers of America: STOP MOVING CRAP AROUND! Why do you torment us with your incessant rearranging? I mean, let’s think about this rationally. Is the ketchup REALLY going to sell better near the freezer section than it did over by the bread and produce? I mean, I know there are some items in the store that no one is going to buy without a little arm twisting. In those isolated situations, I can understand that management might have to “trick” consumers into buying those items with an end cap or some other kind of creative merchandizing, but I’m going to go out on limb and say that CONDIMENTS ARE NOT AMONG THEM! They’re staples. If I need ketchup, I need ketchup… and I don’t want to have to work for it! Fair enough?

            Probably the only thing I DO like about the grocery is the magazine aisle. In my heart, I know that it’s wrong (if not illegal) to stand in the store for 20 minutes reading an issue of Cosmo cover to cover without paying for it, BUT… I do it anyway. It’s a sickness! I’m a literature thief. Cuff me!

What’s perhaps MOST disturbing about all this, is that I feel no guilt or remorse whatsoever about my behavior. One of my girlfriends says I have an “entitlement issue”. She says I hate the grocery so much that I feel like they owe me, in some small way, for picking them over, say… Whole Foods.

Her logic is sound unless you consider the fact that I could never shop at Whole Foods on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure their uber-wealthy/celebrity clientele would frown upon my idiosyncrasies. Plus, I almost never whip up anything in the kitchen that calls for crushed, organic coriander fresh from India. Pretty much any herb you can’t find nestled alongside the rest of the McCormick’s spices is something I’m probably never going to need.

Anyway, the secret to pulling off the whole magazine thing is to get in a really long check-out line. I’ve discovered that the employees are a lot more forgiving, and/or lenient, when it seems like a customer is being inconvenienced in some way. When you’re in a long line, the employees either overlook your indiscretion out of pity, or they’re too busy to even notice what’s going on.   

In the rare event that someone DOES muster up the courage to confront you or shoot you a look of shame… you can simply throw up your hands in a frustrated gesture, and say something to the effect of– “What? I’m standing in line! What do you expect me to do?” The more indignant you can sound with your delivery, the better. It works every time!

Let me rephrase that. It works ALMOST every time. Occasionally, a store manager or conscientious employee will recognize me from the news and break out in a sweat. It’s like they think I’m working on some undercover investigation on stores with poor customer service. The thought of being CAUGHT by our hidden camera and winding up in a 15 second promo that airs 75 times a day is SO terrifying that they’ll do the unthinkable, and open up another lane!

Fortunately, this ain’t my first rodeo. I never move. Instead, I’ll usually pretend to be selfless, like I have ALL the time in the world, and let the other overwhelmed customers divert to the open lane. I may not get to finish the magazine, but this maneuver usually buys me enough time to at least finish an article. I’m pretty sure it drives the cashiers insane. I can always see them glance nervously at their co-workers with a look that says, “I don’t know what to do! The TV lady won’t budge!” I use the term “TV lady” because 99% of the time no one has a clue who I am or where I work. My face is just vaguely familiar enough to know that I’m on the news SOMEWHERE.

While I’m offering up advice, I might as well just pass this along too. Do NOT under any circumstances, spend an excessive amount of time reading magazines IN the magazine aisle. While that may be fine to do at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million, it is completely inappropriate to do it at the grocery. People don’t go to the grocery to browse. They go there to buy and leave, as quickly as possible.

In fact, whenever I see a “lingerer”, I have to resist the insatiable urge to wheel by them and whisper “They’re watching you!” under my breath. I mean, let’s just be honest, anyone who spends more than 15 minutes in a grocery aisle, is immediately going to be flagged by a security as a potential shoplifter, or at the very least… someone with severe food allergies– neither of which are favorable.

I could go on and on, but we’re out of everything. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you at the grocery!

“The Truth Serum of the Car Ride”

October 2, 2013 - Leave a Response

        Being a parent for the past 12 years has given me a whole new perspective on just about everything I ever believed or thought about life in general.  All the things I said I’d never do or be when I had kids… I’ve already done or said a dozen times over.  It’s as if, once you give birth, some great mystery slowly begins to reveal itself.  Things that once made no sense whatsoever, now seem crystal clear… like the kind of wisdom King Solomon should have written about in the Bible. 

      Let’s take my grandmother for example.  I remember riding in the car with her as a teenager with the radio blaring.  It never failed!  At some point during the drive, she would shout out of frustration, “Turn that thing down!  I can’t see!”  To which, my girlfriends and I would laugh heartily from the back seat, and whisper behind her back about the early on-set case of dementia she was obviously suffering from.  After all, what could the volume of the radio have to do with her incapacity to see?  Now… I get it! 

      One of the things that fascinates me most about the car is how much information is shared there, specifically on the way to school and the way home!  If I’m honest, nearly everything I know about my daughter’s friends, her fears, her dreams, her favorite books, her likes and dislikes… have all been shared from the passenger seat of my car.  I feel certain that, if she killed someone on the soccer field today, she’d tell me where the body was buried… on the way home.     

     I can’t figure out if it’s because she has no access to the internet in the car yet, or maybe she feels like it’s a hostage situation, and she’s being forced to talk.  Who knows?  I guess, now that I think about it, this is where I confess or inadvertently tell her all of my dirty little secrets.  Santa… yep.  Tooth Fairy… yep.  Easter Bunny… you know the answer.  Somehow everything comes out easier in the confines of a car, when you can drop a bomb of information on someone without making eye contact if you don’t want to.  Whatever it is… these are the moments I’ve come to cherish. 

   Believe me though… it didn’t start out this way!  I know this will make me sound like Joan Crawford from the movie “Mommie Dearest”, but I used to despise driving my daughter anywhere!  I hate to admit something so horrible, but it’s true.  When she was too young to ride facing forward, all she did was scream and cry incessantly from the time I put her in her car seat until we reached at our destination.  She was FINE as long as someone was sitting back there with her, but God help me if I had to fly solo for some reason and had no one to throw in the back seat with her.

     True story… one morning she actually cried so hard that she began projectile vomiting into the back window of the car.  As if that weren’t disgusting enough, she then started CHOKING on it!  In a flash, I put on my “supermom” cape, swerved into the turn lane, and saved the day.  People were whizzing by me on both sides of Dickerson Road while I stand there pounding my 3 month-old infant on the back.  “Don’t mind us!”

     I couldn’t wait for her to get big enough to talk!  I had these visions of sipping my Starbucks, while looking at her in the rearview mirror and conversing about the events of our day.  Sadly, that’s not exactly the way things went down.  When she finally DID learn to talk, that’s ALL she did.  I couldn’t get a word in edgewise!  As a neophyte, no one bothered to tell me that the “listening” comes much later!  Sometimes it was so obnoxious I couldn’t even think. 

     When my daughter was younger, I took a break from news to be the Spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.  EVERY SINGLE TIME we had a major crime or statewide crisis that required my attention, I would be driving down the road unable to hear over her incessant chatter from the back seat.  No matter how much I begged and pleaded with her to be quiet for just five minutes while mommy takes an IMPORTANT call, she couldn’t do it. 

     We’d be in the middle of activating a statewide AMBER Alert, and I couldn’t even get an accurate description of the missing kid because mine wouldn’t shut up!  This is no joke.  One night, I was doing a phone interview with Nancy Grace on the drive home.  I had to pull the car over, get out, and lock the doors to prevent the viewers of CNN from hearing whatever Dalton had to say that night.  It was maddening!    

     I finally got over it all one day, when we were driving to school in a blinding snow storm.  Don’t even ask me why school wasn’t cancelled, but it wasn’t.  Traffic was so bad on the main roads that I decided to take a “long cut” through the country, where it wasn’t so congested.  Turns out, there’s a REASON that road was empty.  It was a solid sheet of ice.       

        The few other cars that dared to go back there were creeping along at about two miles an hour.  Finally, we reached this line of cars just sitting still.  As we inched towards the front of the line, I finally realized what was going on.  There was a hairpin turn on a 45 degree slope that drivers were trying to navigate their way down one by one.  About 1 out of every 3 wound up making it down without flying off into a ditch.  It was sheer lunacy to even attempt it, but there was no other choice.  There was no way to turn around, and we were in the middle of nowhere. 

     Basically, drivers would just wait their turn, and when you reached the front of the line… it was your responsibility to wait and see if the car in front of you wrecked or made it to the bottom.  Despite being on the verge of what felt like a disaster, my daughter was just chatting away in the back seat as if nothing in the world was going on.  I humored her until it was my turn at bat, and then I remember screaming, “Dalton!  I need you to say absolutely nothing.  In fact, if you need to say something… PRAY.”  She paused for about two seconds, probably in shock because I had just lost it.  Then she said with the sweetest little voice ever, “Which one, mama?  The eating prayer or the sleeping prayer?”  That’s the moment I finally realize that all that nothing we talk about every day… means a lot.

Skeptics R Us

June 20, 2012 - 9 Responses

When did the world become so jaded?  I know, as a newscaster, I’m at least partially responsible for this.  Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t talking about some new scam, but last week I was stupefied by just how skeptical we’ve become as a society.

A couple of weeks ago, Purity dairy was trying to help raise money for Rocketown.  (For those of you who have been living under a rock, this is a downtown ministry that caters to teens and young adults.)  Anyway, Purity has a fundraiser they offer non-profits where they GIVE the charity about fifteen gallon drums of Moose Tracks ice cream.  Purity will then pay the charity one dollar on top of that for every scoop they hand out in a three-hour period, up to 10-thousand dollars.  Are you following me?  Purity is giving the ice cream away, AND paying the charity a dollar on top of that for every scoop they hand out to people on the street… FOR FREE!

A couple of weeks ago, Rocketown was the beneficiary of this good fortune, and they asked a couple of us here at the station to come down and be “celebrity scoopers”.  I was quite flattered by this, being that I’m only a “D” level celebrity at best, and all of the real celebrities were already in town for CMA week. 

So I’m standing next to Scott Hamilton (yes… the Gold medalist) scooping out ice cream like Lindsay Waggoner on an episode of the bionic woman, when I realize… no one’s biting.  People were literally walking by the tent, REFUSING, to take a free scoop of ice cream.  This should be punishable by a fine in my opinion. 

You would have thought we were luring them to some seedy time share off Nolensville road in exchange for a scoop.  These people looked at us like we were a bunch of carneys trying to steal their money.  No matter how many times we said, “It’s free… take it,” they simply couldn’t process the fact that  we were GIVING them something… FOR ZERO DOLLARS. 

At one point, Scott “the gold medalist” Hamilton had to physically walk out into the street and start begging tourists to take a scoop.  This guy could be busting out a triple toe loop on any ice skating rink in the country, but instead, he’s standing out on lower Broad in 90 degree heat, with moose tracks running down his elbow.  Talk about taking one for the team!  Eventually, people started recognizing him and asking for a photo ops… but still wouldn’t take the free ice cream!      

Finally, I decided… time was money, and we were losing the battle.  I went out to the street corner to work my magic, but I wasn’t nearly as courteous as Scott.  My pitch went something like this, “Do you want some free ice cream?  Ok great!  Thanks for nothing.  You just cost a kid a dollar.  I hope you’re happy with yourself!”  This got their attention!

Unfortunately, it also got the attention of the big wigs at Purity who were less than thrilled about my strong-arm tactics.  I was quickly ushered back to the ice cream scooping chain gang… far out of sight (or earshot) of any potential clients.    

Anyway, the whole ugly episode just made me wonder when and how we became so jaded.  When did we lose all faith in our fellow-man.  Not EVERYTHING that seems to good to be true is.  The next time someone tries to give you a free ice cream cone, just shut up and take it!

If you are what you eat… I’m a Funyun

June 6, 2012 - 7 Responses

    While many of you are probably spending your day thinking about how to stop hunger in Africa or promote world peace, I’m sitting at my cubicle trying to figure out what it is about the Funyun that’s so ridiculously addictive.  If you don’t know what this is, stop reading now.  We have nothing in common.

     Every day for the past week (ok, month) I’ve found myself drawn to the break room where I proceed to mindlessly exchange a dollar for a bag of funyuns… knowing full well that they probably have the nutritional content of a ziplock bag.  Why… why?????

     It’s not like I don’t know any better.  We do stories every single day about what a bind the country is in when it comes to obesity.  The feds have repeatedly called Tennessee one of the fattest states in the nation.  I can’t get through a newscast without reading something about healthier living, yet here I sit… scarfing down a bag of onion flavored air, and washing it down with a diet coke.  What is my problem?

     Last week, we did a story about how the way to eat healthier is to shop around the perimeter of the grocery.  Apparently, that’s where all the healthy food lives.  All of the fat and msg laden items are sandwiched between the aisles.  I actually tried this on my trip to the grocery last week.  Unfortunately, all of it is still neatly stacked in the fridge, untouched. 

     Speaking of which… I need to vent here for a second.  Did you guys know that there are some supermarkets that have no cashiers working at night?  There is literally no other option after a certain hour, but to use the self check-out and bag your own groceries.  This would have worked out fine if I had been picking up a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint on the fly, but unfortunately, I spent the better part of an hour on Sunday night looking up PLU codes for all of this healthy food I bought on the outside perimeter (that I’ll probably never eat.) 

      Anyway, I digress.  My point is, why do we continue doing those things we do not wish to do?  This funyun thing is becoming compulsive, along with my desire to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru every day between shows for a soft serve ice cream cone.  I realized this had become a full-blown obsession yesterday, when the lady at the window said, “Hey girl!  Where have you been?  I ain’t seen you in a minute!”  By minute… she means since yesterday.  Am I being tracked?  Do people, besides me, know that I have a problem?  It looks like I’m going to have to start going to Bobbie’s Dairy dip once a week to mix things up.

      When I dropped my daughter off at sleep away camp last week, a fresh-faced college student proudly told us that they provide a vegan diet for children who don’t eat meat.  Instinctively I said, “Oh we’re on an all junk food diet our house.  I hope you can accommodate that!”  The counselor (who was all of 22) was not amused.  He looked at me as if I had just kicked a Golden Retriever and laughed about it.  After all, what kind of barbaric mother feeds their child JUNK FOOD?!            

     The other thing I can’t get enough of are those Arctic Blasters from Kroger.  It’s a good thing these are only a buck fifty a box or I’d be bankrupt.  My body refuses to shut down at the end of a day without one.  Forget the Ambien and Lunesta.  Just grab a box of Arctic Blasters, and call it a day.  It’s a lot cheaper, and you don’t need a prescription.  Plus, they only have 100 calories per blaster.  I accidentally stumbled across that little factoid one day while throwing the box away.  I was so relieved.  They’re practically health food!

     Why is it that I can’t develop an unhealthy obsession with something like house work or weeding or building houses in Uganda?  Like Paul said in the Bible, it’s always the things I do not wish to do… that manage to capture my attention. 

     I should be writing a blog about how to get rid of the ants that are taking over my kitchen, but I’m starting to wonder if annihilating them with a can of Raid is the right thing to do.  We obviously have a lot in common.  What other creature do you know, besides maybe a racoon, that’s as obsessed with a good snack as the ant?  Are we really that different… me and the ants?  Apparently not.  I just saved myself a trip to the grocery, which we all know is a good thing!

Birds of a Feather

April 17, 2012 - 5 Responses

     It’s always interesting to me to see who people surround themselves with.  You can tell a lot about a person by who they hang out with.  The law of attraction knows no boundaries.  Whoever you are… you will attract.  For me, it’s neurotics. 

     Karl Jung defines this as, “those people who are successfully adjusted by normal societal standards, but who nevertheless have issues with the meaning of life.”  To me… that seems a little harsh.  I like to think of it as more of “a tendency to fixate on things that have no real significance or bearing on the meaning of life.” 

     We’re obsessive compulsive, but not in the way that makes our homes look immaculate or requires medication.  Instead, we go over the deep end quickly over just about everything.  Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when my best friend texted me on a Sunday night.      

Friend:     Clear the deck tomorrow night.  We’re taking a field trip.
Me:              Ooohh!  I love field trips.  Where are we going?
Friend:     Lewisburg
Me:              Not what I had envisioned.  What’s in Lewisburg?
Friend:     Whiter teeth!
Me:              ????????
Friend:     I sold a BMW to a dentist today, and he offered to
                       whiten our teeth!
Me:              What kind of dentist is in the office at 9:30 at night
                       whitening people’s teeth?  Is this guy licensed?         
Friend:     Don’t be ridiculous.  We’re going to his house.  You’ll love
                       him!

            I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I still have a set of whitening trays from the year 2000 that I haven’t seen or even cared to look for in at least five years.  When you consume the volume of coffee and Diet Coke that I do on a daily basis, it’s all pretty much a moot point anyway. 

            My teeth are yellow… so be it!  I’ve got bigger fish to fry, like these sagging eye lids.  I’d Rollerblade to a barn in Kentucky at midnight if someone could help me out in that arena.  They don’t even necessarily have to have a degree, but my teeth… not so much.   

            Nevertheless, his enthusiasm was infectious, and I ended up agreeing to go.  It’s not like I had anything better to do on a Monday night.  Plus, if I’m honest, the idea of meeting a dentist who’s even willing to whiten our teeth in his kitchen was intriguing enough to justify the trip.  I’m such a hypochondriac… most of the doctors and dentists I know have started screening my calls.    

            Monday night, as promised, we pulled up to a home in the middle of nowhere that was fit for an episode of MTV cribs.  The next thing I knew… I was sitting on an expensive bar stool, holding a Papillon in my lap with a wad of that rubbery gel gagging me. 

            While waiting to cure, the dentist and his lovely wife proceeded to tell us how their son got married in the back yard last summer on a reality t.v. show.  Instantly, I knew we were going to be great friends.  This is precisely the kind of off kilter nuance about someone’s personal life that intrigues me.  Normal people don’t agree to such things.  They’re obviously one of our own.            

            On the way out the door, the good dentist offered us a weekend in his lake house on Tim’s Ford and promised to teach me how to get up on a ski chair, something that… until now… I had assumed was an urban legend.  Apparently, these contraptions do exist, and this summer… I’ll likely be mastering the art of the “air” chair.

            Fast forward five days, and this is when things got really interesting.  My friend popped by after work.  We hadn’t really spoken much of the whole whitening episode in days, but when he smiled… I gasped!  His teeth were borderline translucent. 

Me:                 What happened to you!

Friend:        What do you mean what happened?  Do they look good
                          or what?

Me:                 I mean, how?  Outside of the extreme photo shopping
                          done by People magazine I’ve never seen such a
                          transformation.

Friend:        I went for the triple play baby!

Me:                 I’m afraid to ask.

Friend:        Well, I used the ten minute whitening gel and didn’t
                          notice a difference, so then I followed up with the
                          daytime gel, and slept in  
                          the night-time gel.  Pretty cool huh?

Me:                 Pretty… scary!  Have you examined them closely?
                          Is there any enamel left?
               
            After much skepticism on my part, he finally admitted that, in addition to the “triple play”, he had upped the ante by purchasing some device at the tanning bed that holds your mouth open for an even fuller glow!  The last time we talked about it, he was considering 6-thousand dollars worth of porcelain veneers.  See how quickly things can spiral out of control.  I’m just hoping this week he sells a BMW to a plastic surgeon.

I’m a Cheapskate, and I Know It

February 15, 2012 - 2 Responses

      Ask any of my close friends, and they will tell you… I’m cheap; not just a little cheap, but a borderline tight wad.  I’ve gotten slightly better over the years.  There was a time and a day when I wouldn’t set foot in a grocery store without a wad of coupons in hand and a detailed strategy.  I couldn’t fathom the idea of splitting a dinner check with someone, for fear that they might have ordered something slightly more expensive, and I’d be out two extra dollars.  I refused to buy individually wrapped bags of anything because I was convinced this was some ploy by the big shots at the food manufacturing company to get me to spend more for less.

     I no longer have time to do many of the things my former cheap self would like.  At 7:30 in the morning, with the dog barking, my child screaming and the all-important clock ticking… I will sometimes throw a bag of pre-packed Lays into the lunch box instead of buying a 40 lb. bag of Doritos and transferring them into a reusable ziplock, but I don’t like it.  Each time this happens, I feel like I’m giving up a little piece of my soul.    

     I think it must be hereditary.  My parents were both cheapskates.  In fact, I have to keep an eye on my mother, or she’ll pull a money exchange on me like those professionals who go into a store and rip off the clerk.  One day I picked up something for her at a shop near my house.  When we met for dinner that night, she offered to buy, as a way of saying thank you, and gave me a twenty-dollar bill.  It wasn’t until the drive home that I realized I hadn’t even broken even!

     I can barely contain my excitement right now because today, my boss has given me a dream assignment.  He wants me to start doing a segment during our four o’clock show helping people find ways to save money.  If you think about it, I’ll be getting paid to look for ways to cut corners and then share them with you.  I know you’ll think I’m overstating here, but this is like hitting the Powerball jackpot for me.  I will now be afforded the time necessary to let than inner cheapskate thrive again, but I need your help.       

      I’m afraid I’ve become rusty.  The other day I bought Valentine’s candy at a DRUG STORE, of all places, without doing any kind of recon whatsoever of the major discount stores to see what kind of deals were out there.  This is a true sign of weakness.  People who are good at this could never just mindlessly swipe their debit card without knowing, beyond a shadow of the doubt, that it couldn’t be bought somewhere else cheaper.  It’s a complete violation of the code.

     I’m prepared to do battle again, but I desperately need you guys to help me get started.  To make this possible, I’m going to need to enlist an army of the biggest tightwads this city has ever seen.  I want to make Ms. Cheap (who I love by the way) look like a flagrant money spender.  My e-mail is jennifer.johnson@wsmv.com.  Fill up my “IN” box!  This economy is robbing us all blind.  Let’s stick it to the man on this one!

     If there’s a free event for our kids, a way to get access to healthcare without paying, an unprecedented deal being offered around town by a particular business, or just something original you’re doing at home to pinch pennies… I want to know about it.  At the end of each week, the person who gives me the best idea will get… a heaping load of self-satisfaction.  What did you think I was going to give you?  Money  I already told you I’m cheap!  :)

I’m a Cheapskate, and I Know It

February 15, 2012 - Leave a Response

      Ask any of my close friends, and they will tell you… I’m cheap; not just a little cheap, but a borderline tight wad.  I’ve gotten slightly better over the years.  There was a time and a day when I wouldn’t set foot in a grocery store without a wad of coupons in hand and a detailed strategy.  I couldn’t fathom the idea of splitting a dinner check with someone, for fear that they might have ordered something slightly more expensive, and I’d be out two extra dollars.  I refused to buy individually wrapped bags of anything because I was convinced this was some ploy by the big shots at the food manufacturing company to get me to spend more for less.

     I no longer have time to do many of the things my former cheap self would like.  At 7:30 in the morning, with the dog barking, my child screaming and the all-important clock ticking… I will sometimes throw a bag of pre-packed Lays into the lunch box instead of buying a 40 lb. bag of Doritos and transferring them into a reusable ziplock, but I don’t like it.  Each time this happens, I feel like I’m giving up a little piece of my soul.    

     I think it must be hereditary.  My parents were both cheapskates.  In fact, I have to keep an eye on my mother, or she’ll pull a money exchange on me like those professionals who go into a store and rip off the clerk.  One day I picked up something for her at a shop near my house.  When we met for dinner that night, she offered to buy, as a way of saying thank you, and gave me a twenty dollar bill.  It wasn’t until the drive home that I realized I hadn’t even broken even!

     I can barely contain my excitement right now because today, my boss has given me a dream assignment.  He wants me to start doing a segment during our four o’clock show helping people find ways to save money.  If you think about it, I’ll be getting paid to look for ways to cut corners and then share them with you.  I know you’ll think I’m overstating here, but this is like hitting the Powerball jackpot for me.  I will now be afforded the time necessary to let than inner cheapskate thrive again, but I need your help.       

      I’m afraid I’ve become rusty.  The other day I bought Valentine’s candy at a DRUG STORE, of all places, without doing any kind of recon whatsoever of the major discount stores to see what kind of deals were out there.  This is a true sign of weakness.  People who are good at this could never just mindlessly swipe their debit card without knowing, beyond a shadow of the doubt, that it couldn’t be bought somewhere else cheaper.  It’s a complete violation of the code.

     I’m prepared to do battle again, but I desperately need you guys to help me get started.  To make this possible, I’m going to need to enlist an army of the biggest tightwads this city has ever seen.  I want to make Ms. Cheap (who I love by the way) look like a flagrant money spender.  My e-mail is jennifer.johnson@wsmv.com.  Fill up my “in” box!  This economy is robbing us all blind.  Let’s stick it to the man on this one!

     If there’s a free event for our kids, a way to get access to healthcare without paying, an unprecedented deal being offered around town by a particular business, or just something original you’re doing at home to pinch pennies… I want to know about it.  At the end of each week, the person who gives me the best idea will get… a heaping load of self satisfaction.  What did you think I was going to give you?  Money  I already told you I’m cheap!  :)

The Gift of Giving

November 18, 2011 - One Response

     A couple of weeks ago, my bible study group decided to “adopt” a family to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for… a pretty interesting concept, given the fact that only two of us know how to boil an egg.  It’s amazing how something so seemingly simple can spiral out of control.  Once you decide to take on a project like this, there’s a litany of questions to be answered.  Who do we give it to?  What do we make?  When do we deliver it… or do we even need to?  Maybe we should just invite them over?  If we invite them over, should we do it ON Thanksgiving or the day before.  Oh… and who’s going to make this stuff? 

     Before we knew it, we had a good old-fashioned conundrum on our hands.  One wanted to take it to a hospital and give it to people with sick loved ones.  Another wanted to give it to a woman who just moved into a Habitat home.  A third person thought we should find someone who was homeless.  At one point, we actually debated whether one of the families we were considering was “misfortunate” enough since they recently bought a flat screen.  Who knew doing something nice could be so wrought with questions. 

     Eventually, we decided to enlist the help of Aimee Fortney, “Not the Perfect Cook” (since we’re clearly not).  She gave us six idiot-proof recipes.  Instead of cooking the meal, we’re all going on a field trip to Kroger on Sunday night to buy the ingredients.  Hopefully we won’t get into a brawl in the aisles over whether to buy name brand or generic. 

     Once we’ve secured the loot, we’re going back to my house to package up each dish separately with the ingredients and the recipe tucked neatly inside.  I thought I’d share those with you in case you’re feeling altruistic, or you’re just an idiot in the kitchen and need some help figuring out what to take to your sister in-law’s.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

THANKSGIVING TURKEY

10 – 12 pound turkey
1 stick of butter, softened
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon sazón completa (I don’t have the slightest idea what this is… so don’t ask)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
dash of cayenne
pinch of salt 
pinch of pepper
freshly squeezed lime juice
1 lime, cut in half
1½ to 2 cups white wine

Remove neck and giblets from turkey.  Set turkey in roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.  In a small bowl, stir butter to soften completely and add all seasonings and lime juice.  Stir together to make a paste.  Lift the skin from the turkey, and rub underneath the skin with the butter paste, as well as on top of the turkey.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on top of the turkey.  Stuff limes inside turkey.  Pour white wine in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Place in a preheated 325 oven, and baste every 30 minutes.  After about two and a half hours, when turkey is golden brown in color, cover with aluminum foil.  (if it is not golden brown, do not cover with foil yet, wait until the color is there.)  Roast for a total of about 3 ½ hours.  Let turkey rest before carving, to keep it moist.


CORNBREAD DRESSING

1 stick of butter, melted
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced onion
4 cups crumbled cornbread (cornbread that has been prepared prior; either homemade or from a mix)
1 ½ Tablespoons sage
1 teaspoon salt
½ to 1 teaspoon celery salt (use amount to your taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (again, use amount to your taste)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups to 2 cups chicken stock
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and press all ingredients into bottom of dish.  Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.


Mashed sweet potatoes

3 large sweet potatoes
 2 tablespoons of butter
spoonful of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
a couple of splashes milk drizzle of honey

Pierce the potatoes with a fork, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven, peel, then add to a mixing bowl, and mix all ingredients together until it’s creamy. 


Aimee’s Corn casserole

2 cans cream style corn
1 small box ( 8 ½ ounce size) corn muffin mix
1 small container ( 8 ounce ) sour cream
 2 eggs, beaten
3/4 stick butter, melted shredded cheese

Beat all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese, and continue cooking until the cheese melts.


CRANBERRY SALAD

2 cups fresh cranberries; (use the whole bag, actually)
2 packages of red jello; raspberry, strawberry or cherry
2 cups boiling water
2 cups sugar
make jello with the sugar, following package directions
2 oranges, cut into pieces or 1 can of drained mandarin oranges
2 apples cubed
small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup of pecans 

Pulse cranberries in the food processor.  Dissolve jello in hot water, then add sugar.  Mix all ingredients together and let it congeal in the refrigerator.


Broccoli cheese Casserole

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup onions, chopped
3 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli
8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 dash paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together condensed soup, mayonnaise, egg and onions.   Place frozen broccoli into a very large mixing bowl. (I like to use my large stainless steel bowl to mix this recipe thoroughly.) Break up the frozen broccoli. Using a rubber spatula, scrape soup-mayonnaise mixture on top of broccoli, and mix well. Sprinkle on cheese, and mix well. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish, and smooth top of casserole. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.   Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Santa’s on Life Support

November 12, 2011 - 17 Responses

     It’s not like I didn’t know this day was coming.  Sooner or later, those of us who made a decision to reproduce know we’re going to have to answer that burning question our kids have been dying to ask for years, but were afraid to know the answer to.  Last week, it was my turn in the hot seat.  “Mom… (terminally long pause)  Is Santa Claus real?” 

     O… M… G!!!!!  Despite all prep work and studying I had done over the years to answer this very question… I completely froze up.  I pulled a Rick Perry right there in the middle of I-65.  Before the stammering and stuttering became any more awkward than it already was, I did the only thing I knew to do.  I answered her question with a question.  “Gosh!  What would even make you ask such a question.”  Really?  That’s the best I could come up with? 

     When you remove the emotion from the situation and think about it rationally… what self-respecting 10 year-old WOULDN’T be curious as to how a grossly obese man with the gift of omnipotence delivers toys to the entire world in a mere eight hours on a flying sleigh???  I mean it sounds completely plausible… right? 

     In my defense, I may have been still been a little shell-shocked over how the whole Tooth Fairy deal went down.  I loathe to admit this, but my former husband and I were closet smokers.  No lectures!  I know it’s disgusting, but back when I was married… my husband and I would bond at the end of the night by having a cigarette.

     We were so self-conscious about our dastardly deed we were committing that we always smoked outside and were very careful to always flush the evidence afterwards.  Unfortunately, one of the cigarette butts escaped our sewer one night… only to be discovered the next morning by our then five year-old. 

      I can still remember her blood curdling scream from the bathroom.  “Mom!  There’s a CIGARETTE… in our toilet.”  She marched out and looked me square in the eye as if to demand an answer.  I feigned a look of shock and said, “What?  That’s weird!”  About that time her dad walks by and says, “You know… the tooth fairy was here last night.”  (Yes… he did.)  Our daughter had this look of complete horror on her face.  With tears welling up in her eyes she said, “The tooth fairy SMOKES!”     

     Realizing the horrible turn this was taking, he quickly assured her that the Tooth Fairy did NOT smoke!  Clearly, some degenerate had left the cigarette butt out on the sidewalk, and the Tooth Fairy, being the good citizen that she is, merely picked it up and disposed of it for us.  Needless to say, we aren’t exactly experts in the imaginary hero department.  All I could think last week is how I was about to blow it for a second time. 

          I should have seen this coming last year when she refused to sit in the guy at the mall’s lap and called him a “faker” under her breath as we walked by.  I still remember the year I figured it out for myself.  My 5th grade year, I got over ambitious and asked Santa for a horse.  Of course I knew good and well there was no Santa Clause!  This was emotional extortion plain and simple.  My parents had already refused to get me a horse.  In my mind I remember thinking, “Whatcha gonna do now?  Huh?  You gonna blow Christmas for me?” 

     I underestimated my parents.  When confronted with the prospect of purchasing a 300 lb. live animal, they had no problem whatsoever destroying my dreams and telling me the gig was up. 

     I guess I was just hoping we could get a few more years out of it.  I envisioned us having this discussion the summer after high school… as we were getting her things together for college.  Why do we have to cross the Santa Claus bridge a mere six weeks before Christmas? 

     For now, my stall tactics have bought me another week at best, but I know the dreaded question could come at any time, like a thief in the night.  The one thing I am sure about… is that I’m not ready.

Lessons I Learned My 39th Year on Earth

November 4, 2011 - 3 Responses

Lesson 7:  The illusion of happiness and happiness are not the same animal

    Have you ever noticed how fantastic everyone’s life seems on Facebook?  I can hardly get on-line without noticing that someone just got a new car, earned a promotion at work, or received a letter saying their kid got accepted into Mensa.  Some days, it’s enough to make you want to puke. 

    This week, I went to a charity luncheon that reminded me what true happiness really looks like, and let me assure you… it has nothing to do with all this self aggrandized nonsense we all tend to get wrapped up in (myself included).  Happiness is an elusive state of being that most of us have a hard time finding in this chaotic world of ups and downs, but this week, over a plate of chicken cordon blue, I saw it… right there in the flesh.      

     First, let me back up and explain how I even ended up at this shin dig.  A couple of weeks ago, my boss sent me and the other anchors at the station an invite to the Community Foundation’s Humanitarian Award Luncheon.  Candidly, I thought to myself, “Oh great!  Just one more thing to squeeze into my already jam-packed life.  Like I have time for lunch!”  (By the way, this is a fantastic example of how most of us miss the precious moments in life.  We’re too busy!!!!!)

     The honorees this year were Vince Gill and Amy Grant.  No surprise there!  They do stuff for the community all the time.  Good choice!  Let’s get the show on the road.  This is what I was thinking on my way to Lowe’s Vanderbilt.  By the end, I found myself moved to tears by all the lives they’ve helped change, and looking for the nearest hole I might be able to crawl into for not doing more to help my fellow-man. 

      I had no IDEA all the things these two people have done, not only for Nashville, but for people all over the world!  They do more charity work in a month than I have in 40 years combined.  At one point they were saying things so profound I started taking notes on my program, and I decided to share some of those with you in this week’s blog.  They were some good life lessons for all of us.    

     Instead of giving them another award to sit on some shelf, they gave them a quilt, and Amy Grant made one of the most profound statements I’ve heard in a long time… “I always felt like quilting was the original recycling, and just such a picture of all of our lives.  You know, how we all get torn apart, and put back together.  It’s always more beautiful and ALWAYS endlessly more interesting… when it’s put back together.”

     Wow!  What she said is so true.  No matter who you are or what your status… life is filled with a lot of painful moments.  You can sit around and grumble about it, or you can view those situations as something that are producing maturity and adding texture to your life.  The next time I face a challenge, I’m going to consider it just another swatch on that amazing quilt that is my life.          

     When it was Vince’s turn at the mic, he said this about his wife, “She inspires me to be better… be a better person.  I couldn’t ask for a better partner to show me and teach what the art of giving really looks like.”  This statement provided a lesson as well.  Whether it’s a mate or just your circle of friends… surround yourself with people of strong character who make you want to be a better person.  Look closely at the people you’re hanging out with.  If they’re not adding to your life in some way, there’s a good chance they’re taking away from it.      

     Vince also read the words to a song he recently wrote for Amy called “The Red Words”… a reference to the words in the Bible spoken by Jesus.  These are just a few of the lines I jotted down for thought. 

“She’d take a bullet for her children.  She’d give them all her last breath.  Always there and always willing as a mother’s love never rests.”

“I know that black’s her favorite color because without it there’s no depth.”

“Show some kindness for a stranger.  And be grateful for today.  Open up your family bible and read what the red words say.”

     Though all of those lines were great, my favorite was the one about the color black.  Other than my go to LBD, I’ve never really given much thought to the color black.  In fact, if anything, I usually associate it with darkness… something I’m not particularly fond of.  As I thought more about it though, I realized what Amy sees in black.  Without darkness, there is no light.  Without sorrow, there is no joy.

     There was one last statement that I loved, and I hope it gives you all some food for thought.  Amy said, “Your focus in life comes from a combination of your passion and your pain.”  The person who can find that focus is someone who is truly happy indeed.  Have a great weekend!

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