Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scars, Burns, and Small Kitchen Fires: Story of my life

Once Danny and I got married, I started cooking. Not all my meals have been worthy of mentioning, but lately I’ve gotten fairly good at making healthy, delicious, innovative meals. Working three nights a week with a husband who works 5-6 days a week, means the cooking is usually up to me. Which is fine, in fact usually I enjoy cooking. The only drawback is I’m a klutz in the kitchen.

I don’t know what it is about a knife or a hot stove, but I will find a way to injure myself. Of course the klutziness doesn’t occur every time I cook, otherwise I would be a queen of take out. Every few months, a scar, burn, or small kitchen fire will likely occur.

My most recent burn is from the oven. We have a ¼ of a grass fed cow in the garage freezer, so it was time to overlook the chicken and make a chuck roast. Yum. Instead of crock potting it up, I decided to broil it almost like I would do a tri tip. Season both sides, 10 minutes on one side, flip, and then 10 on the other. Simple enough. It got a little tricky with the flipping part. I opened the oven door with my tongs ready, I flipped the roast, and shoved the pan back in. Then my knee hit the door, which subsequently hit my arm. This prompted me to say something not so nice.

At first it didn’t hurt too badly, but as time wore on I knew I needed some cool water. The problem was my arms were occupied with a knitting project, which I was enjoying quite a bit, and I didn’t want to put it down. So I soaked some paper towels in cold water and wrapped my arm like a war wound. When my husband came home, he found his poor little cooking solider knitting away, with dinner ready.

I have a fun little scar on my left middle finger from an avocado accident. I just love avocados. I make a pretty good guacamole, if you like it spicy. When we still lived in an apartment in Modesto, the beginnings of my avocado obsession came to be. I was making guacamole for a party …and it turned to disaster.

I enjoy watching some of the Food Network shows, and at times I will use their ideas in the kitchen. The Barefoot Contessa makes getting the seed out of an avocado look so simple. She takes the knife and stabs the seed, so that when she pulls the knife the seed pops out too. Armed with my trusty knife and a delicious avocado, I cut it in half then proceeded to stab the seed like Ina Garten. Only I made the small mistake of holding the avocado in my left hand while stabbing with my right. The not so trusty knife slipped and went through the avocado into my middle finger.

That was a bloody mess. I still have a small scar with a raised edge on that finger. Casie likes to call it my guacamole scar. To prevent any more avocado accidents, I no longer use the stabbing technique. The finger technique works just fine for me.

At about 3 in the afternoon I’ll experience a little bit of hypoglycemia. Especially if I’ve been busy all day and haven’t had time for proper meals. During my hypoglycemic episodes I usually am sleepy, a little cranky (I know hard to believe), and hungry.

On one of these occasions I had been helping out at one of Danny’s wrestling tournaments, which last all day. It was at a ridiculously early time. I had my coffee, then sat all day collecting money from intense parents. The coaches got to have a super nice lunch …a steak and potato lunch. I was hoping for some left over’s. Of course there wasn’t, why would I expect there to be from a bunch of ex wrestlers? So the other coach’s wife and I ate some iceberg lettuce salads and drank our Diet Pepsis…while inside I was dying of starvation.

Once the tournament ended, I rushed home to avoid getting fast food. Of course there was nothing in the fridge besides eggs, so scrambled eggs it was. The eggs came out good. I scarfed them down then sat down at the computer (probably to check my Facebook). After about 15 minutes, I started to smell something…something burning. The dogs were acting funny, sneezing and rubbing their little noses in the carpet. I ran to the kitchen and of course discovered in my hypoglycemic stupor I had forgotten to turn off the stove. The spatula had melted and a fire was burning.

At first I grabbed water…but then I remembered something about not using water on grease fires. I wasn’t quite sure if this was a grease fire or a plastic fire. With no sand to toss on the pan, I decided to go for the cut out the oxygen method. I put a lid on the fire and it went away.

What didn’t go away was the smell or ashes. I think because the plastic melted so much. Little pieces of soot were all over my house. It was ridiculous to clean up. Little black spots covered my white tile counter tops, my window seals, the cabinets, everything. The other day I dusted some obscure part of my window that no one will ever see, but I felt like it needed to be cleaned, and what did I find: Black spatula flecks. This kitchen fire happened a year ago.

So another lesson is learned, make sure to check the burner. And maybe I should grab an apple before I decide to cook anything if I’m feeling light headed. I’m sure my kitchen klutziness will carry on, as I continue to use anything that has the potential for injury. At least my klutziness is fairly limited to the kitchen, I can catch a ball and do a cartwheel…as long as I don’t lose my arms to a cooking battle, I’ll be okay.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mavis Stouffer Park

When I first moved to Ripon, it was for simple reasons, like good schools, low crime, and a hint of charm. Little did I know about the glory of Mavis Stouffer Park.

Mavis Stouffer Park (commonly known as Stouffer Park), looks unassuming from the road. Off of Manley Drive, it appears flat with some gazebos, softball fields, a playground, and a bocce ball court. Once you follow the winding road, it reveals an almost magical area.

Today is quite overcast and cold. Despite this, I rode my bike to the park, on a mission to write a blog about its awesomeness. I chose a good day, because the park was free of sun bathers and dog walkers. It was just me, with my camera, and a group of German Baptists, playing volleyball near the softball fields.

Even though I say from the entrance, Stouffer Park is unassuming, it does have bocce ball. For a while I had a difficult time figuring out what this court was. I thought maybe shuffle board or some type of croquet. I looked it up at the City of Ripon's website, and discovered bocce ball. Danny says he is pretty sure only old Italian men play bocce ball. He is probably correct, but I sure would like to play it someday. Next to the bocce ball court, beyond the fence, is the secretive Swiss club…which is not part of Stouffer Park. I have never been in the Swiss club, nor have I played bocce ball, but I feel cultured when I am in this section of the park.

Beyond one of the softball fields, is the Clarence Smit Museum. I tried to go in today, but it was closed. It is open from some silly hours like 10 am to 12:30 pm on Saturdays only. I peaked in the windows and saw some old silver bowls and an antique looking book. So I continued my museum investigation online. The Clarence Smit Museum is the run by the Ripon Historical Society and has displays of community artifacts. Clarence Smit was the city administrator when the park first opened. One of these Saturdays, after a rip roaring game of bocce ball, I’ll have to check out the museum.

Once the paved road starts to wind down and around the park, to the left is a lower level of grass. There are picnic tables with a view into the golf course, and trees lining one side. Ill often see bounce houses put up in this area during the summer for some child’s birthday party.

The road then turns to the right and you see it. The magical section of Stouffer Park: the river. The Stanislaus River runs right along the park. Hidden by a canopy of trees, you only see glimpses of it. At times you come along a stretch of openness usually blocked off by a small picket fence. It looks picturesque.

Down a ways is the third tier of land. This is probably the most exciting section of Stouffer Park to me. There are wood beam steps surrounded by ivy, leading down to another picket fence, (that surely doesn’t keep the high schoolers from getting past it) with a lovely view of the river. This section of the park feels nice and cool on a hot summer day, the combination of the water and shade from the river and trees create a nice atmosphere. I thought about hopping the fence and getting closer to the river, but then I remembered, I’m an adult now and fences are put in places for a reason.

Past my favorite part is a giant gazebo, which apparently can be reserved for birthday parties. Beyond the gazebo is a sand volley ball court. I followed the dirt path with my bike and came across an Eagle Scout project. It’s an orienteering course. It looks a little complicated to me, but the sign says all you need is a compass to play. “Advanced use of the compass course game includes running instead of walking, which is very useful when training for long orienteering courses.” The Eagle Scout doesn’t have to worry about me running. I would like to play this “game” simply because it’s a puzzle. At the bottom of the sign it says, “This course was built by Eagle Scout ______, add the letters on the course markers to reveal his name.” I don’t know much about Eagle Scouts besides that Danny was about 3 badges away from becoming one and that they like compasses, but whoever this mysterious scout is, I appreciate his addition to the park as I now have something to do after I visit the museum.

Along the dirt path are various entrances to the river. There are two rope swings hanging off a tree. During the summer there are always some kiddos using them. I’ll probably sit out of the rope swing adventure. Can’t get too crazy. On one of the trees is some graffiti. Its looks like a woman in a dress, it sort of resembles the lady on public restroom signs. So the park isn’t perfect, at least it’s not something offensive.

The dirt road comes to a slightly eerie part of the park. The trees connect to make a dark tunnel. It resembles something out of the Wizard of Oz. In fact, if I had my dog in my bike basket, I would have felt like Dorothy.

At the very end of the path is an entrance to the woods. There are small hiking trails beyond the gate that we sometimes take our dogs on, along with a nice bike bridge over the river. This is not part of Stouffer Park, so I’ll have to save my experiences with it for another blog.

As I’m leaving the park, I see an old man walking down to the lower tier. He is wearing a camouflage fishing hat, has a basket in one hand, and a cane in the other. We smile and say hello. I was wondering what he was doing with the basket. Was he going to have lunch? Did he know about some secret fruit tree that I was oblivious to? Then I saw him bend over and pick up a piece of trash. My heart was happy. This old man, perhaps an ex eagle scout, perhaps an Italian bocce ball player, loves the park as much as I do. So now I have one other task after I play bocce ball, visit the museum, and complete the orienteering course, I will pick up some trash and take care of my magical Mavis Stouffer Park.

City of Ripon. Mavis Stouffer Park (n.d.). History of Mavis Stouffer Park. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from http://cityofripon.org/Recreation/Stouffer-Park.html

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I used to be a food critic

In high school I was in journalism. I loved journalism. I could probably write a whole blog about journalism, but I have a feeling I would bore people. Senior year of journalism, two friends and I, “inherited” the Out to Lunch column. Two of my very best friends, Ashley and Lindsey, along with myself titled the column, “The Trio is Out to Lunch.” Once a month we would go to various restaurants around Manteca and order inexpensive meals. We would trade off who wrote the article. We would then critique Manteca lunch spots such as Hob Knob Bobs and Sicily Pizza. We even braved AM PM’s lunch. One of us wrote a good review about Sicily Pizza so they gave us gift certificates and framed the article on the wall. It was fun, mostly it was a chance to hang out with friends while simultaneously completing a homework assignment.

Danny and I went to San Francisco this past weekend. Amongst other entertaining things, we ate. We both enjoy trying new foods and new restaurants. San Francisco is definitely a good place to practice being a foodie.

We started our food quest at La Cumbre. It is a Mexican restaurant Danny saw on one of the Travel Channel food shows…perhaps America’s best chow down places, or some other food show that hasn’t led us astray. Danny said something about how the modern day giant burrito was created here. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m always down for a burrito the size of a football, so off we went. La Cumbre is a short walk from Bart, in the Mission district. We walked in and it looked promising. The meat was made to order in front of our faces. I went with the old standby carne asada burrito. Danny asked the lady which meat she preferred. She said the chicken is more delicious. Of course our burritos were ordered deluxe with sour cream, guacamole and cheese.

From my seat the Virgin Mary was staring at me, as I was about to devour my giant burrito. It was good. Danny had a similar reaction. I was a little disappointed. I wanted great, not good. I think that’s the problem with living in the central valley. Or maybe it’s not a problem. We have simply amazing Mexican food here. I told Danny I like this burrito, but I feel like I have had this burrito a hundred times in Ripon, Modesto, and Manteca.

To my left was a laminated picture of some girl in a Maxim magazine. A small article in the corner said that La Cumbre’s burritos were voted the best in the nation for 2009. I’m pretty sure the girl in the picture has never eaten a deluxe burrito in her life. I didn’t finish my burrito.

After walking around the California Academy of Science all afternoon, we had built up a bit of an appetite. Yelp, an iphone application, has been a great help in our restaurant searches. We wanted something different at a moderate price. Danny found a French restaurant called Rue Lepic. I found one called Fleur de Lys. Both had similar ratings. We ended up at Rue Lepic, because Fleur de Lys was booked for Valentine’s Day.

Rue Lepic was at the top of Nob Hill: quite a feat for my sore feet. We had to wait until it opened at 5:30. We sat down...pretty tired and the man immediately brought us some champagne. Excellent! We were looking at the special Valentine’s Day menu, deciding what to have and then I saw in small print, the price. In a panic I told Danny to look. We had to get out of there! It was too expensive for what was supposed to be a cheap weekend getaway. We were already sipping our champagne and of course we were the only ones in there. Danny reassured my cheap skate ways that it would be okay, besides it was Valentine’s Day.

So our 5 course meal began. To start we both ordered the escargot. Yummy! I’ve never had snails before but I enjoyed them quite a bit. They have sort of a clam texture and just taste like whatever sauce they are in. Luckily the sauce was a creamy garlic butter sauce. The waiter told us the soup was the best in town. I’m not sure about that, but it was delicious. It was tomato basil with some crème fresh in the middle. The salad was a crab salad. The crab was fresh…avocados ripe, nothing to complain about. For the main course we both ordered the seafood dish. it consisted of scallops, shrimp, and a white fish…I forget what kind (some food critic I am!) Anyway, this dish was very good. I was getting very full so I couldn’t finish it all, but not to worry Danny will clean any ones plate.

For dessert we had the option of chocolate ganache, crème brulee, or peach sorbet. Of course I was going for the ganache, so I had to convince Danny to get the crème brulee…so I could try it. I told him I think he would like crème brulee. He didn’t go for it. His reply was, “You know what I say, Go Ganache or Go Home!” His saying soon became the weekend’s mantra. The ganache was heavenly. Super rich, cleverly displayed, and came just in time for us to scarf down and hail a taxi to take us to see Wicked.

Breakfast was planned by Danny. Once again he Yelped in up. He decided upon Dottie’s. It was close to our hotel and close to Betsy Johnson...where I just had to go before we left. When we got to Dottie’s, there was quite a long line. Good sign. The people in front of us didn’t know how long the wait was, they said you just wait. We waited a little less than an hour, and I must say it was worth it. The hour didn’t seem that long, because we quickly became friends with the couple in front. We even ate at the same table as them. As Matt said, “It’s a bromance, we can’t separate now.”

Dottie’s is a small hole in the wall type café, with ridiculously cute chandeliers and has waiters who are strikingly similar to the character Adam Sandler plays in Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Besides the fun atmosphere, the food was wonderful. Both Janey and I ordered chocolate chip French toast. The bread was more the consistency of pound cake, but less sweet. So rich I could only eat half a slice, but it probably didn’t help that I sampled other items. Danny ordered the lamb sausage omelet and a sweet potato cranberry muffin. The omelet was great, if you like lamb, and of course I do! The muffin tasted like fall. No other ways to describe it. I believe Matt ordered some basic egg, bacon, pancake, and country potato breakfast. He enjoyed everything, except the pancakes didn’t compare to some at a restaurant they frequent. Probably the best part was the cornbread with jalapeño jelly, a different taste, but pleasing to the palate.

If people knew that we had only met our new friends an hour ago, they would have been shocked. We were sitting there sharing muffins and cornbread and exchanging phone numbers and facebooks. All three restaurants were good, delicious, yummy… whatever positive adjective you like. It made me think about how even though eating lunch at AM PM with the Trio wasn’t the best culinary experience, it was an experience. And La Cumbre isn’t the best burrito place in nation, but I was eating a decent burrito with the one I love.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lights Out

I used to sleep like a rock. For some time when I was younger my parents would block the top of the stairs with my toy chest so that when I was sleep walking I wouldn’t fall down the stairs. In high school I couldn’t get enough sleep. I would come home from school, open up my books to do homework on the floor (my favorite study place) and find myself drooling on my books. Now sleep is in small spurts. I know there are others who have worse sleep habits than I do, but I must say I’m not the sleeper I used to be. I miss my sleep walking days.

My husband goes to bed pretty much in an instant. I’m jealous. When he wakes up it doesn’t take him 2 hours to actually feel awake. He has his morning cup of coffee…and is off to conquer the world of crazy freshmen, Crossfitters, wrestlers, and shot putters. He always tells me, “Just close your eyes and pretend to sleep.” Ummm no.

My typical sleep habits are to stay up pretty late watching ridiculous television shows like Real Housewives of Orange County and Millionaire Matchmaker. I can feel myself getting less and less intelligent by the minute. Maybe that helps though, because one of my problems is I’m always thinking too much about various things…so much that it keeps me awake.

I’ve recently had the joy of waking up at about 4:30 every morning and staying awake for 2 hours or so. I finally fall back to sleep a while after Danny leaves for work. I then sleep until about 10. I know that sounds late to everyone, but I make up for my day in the evening. The other night my friend texted me asking what I was doing, I replied roasting potatoes. It was 11 pm.

Danny just purchased yet another book from Amazon. It’s called Lights Out. He said it was for me to read. Of course I already know this, but one of its main points is that the bedroom needs to be pitch black. Danny keeps saying we need to buy black out curtains for our screen doors…but then I would have to sew them to the back of my pretty curtains…and that sounds like a lot of work to me.

Perhaps I will come across a sleep revelation after reading Lights Out. If I do I will share with my fellow sleepless friends. I think I’ll start reading Lights Out after we get back from our trip. I’ll need to replace the light bulb in the lamp on my night stand, that way I can see... as I stay up all night reading a book on how I should be sleeping and not reading a book at that moment

Thursday, February 11, 2010

House Hunting

I’ve always loved a good house. A house with charm and character always catches my eye. I often take the long way home just to look at a beautiful neighborhood. Age doesn’t matter, although it helps. Most houses today are giant boxes put up in a hurry, placed closed together, and every third house is the same just flipped with a different color paint or brick. Thankfully many people have a great appreciation for the old and charming. They tend to keep my beloved homes in character so that I can still drive slowly down their street in admiration. So if you frequently find me leaving a little early to get somewhere, randomly turning down a side street, or just gazing out the window, it’s because I’m in house heaven.

Houses are in my blood. Huh? Houses are in my blood. My grandfather whom I never met, Herman Herndon, was a building contractor in Modesto. Apparently he built quality homes that stand the test of time. I believe mostly ranch style, not cookie cutter, made with quality and character. My mom says during its time, a Herndon home was highly sought after.

I first discovered my love of houses when my mom would take me and my brother exploring. At the time Manteca was experiencing a big housing boom. New construction everywhere. My mom would walk with us over to where the model homes were being built, still just the wooden frames, and we would explore. I loved figuring out what room was going to be the kitchen or the living room. The bathrooms were easy. I would picture the house finished. Decorated. A family living in it. They never turned out the way I wanted. My brother and I would pick out scrap wood to bring home and build forts out of. Now there are rent-a-cops arming the model homes to prevent people like us. We weren’t vandalizing, just on an adventure, looking to build a fort with some free lumber that undoubtedly would have ended up in someone’s fireplace.

When my parents bought their house it was new. It was on the edge of town, open fields were just two streets away. I remember there being these three little houses in the middle of the one of the fields. The two on the outside were white, the one in the middle light pink. They were more shack like than house like. But someone lived there and called it home. I imagined them as playhouses. Then Wal-Mart came along and changed Manteca forever. There was a small amount of resistance to Wal-Mart building there, apparently there was an endangered owl species living in this particular field. My dad said he saw tons of those owls out at Livermore lab at night. That made me feel better. I’ll never forget the three little houses being burned down. The fire fighters were there, as it was a controlled burn to make way for Wally World. I was sad. I loved those little shacks, I had ideas on how I would have fixed them up and played house in them. Every once in a while I find myself forced to go to Wal-Mart. Sometimes I’ll think of my houses, how the owls are doing, and how my parents don’t live on the edge of town anymore. Thank goodness for Target.

As we got older and the summers got hotter, my mom would take my brother and I plus a friend each, to my uncle’s house in Riverbank, where his kidney shaped pool awaited us. My uncle was a dentist. He lived in a beautiful neighborhood close to the river. He had a pretty amazing house. After we finished swimming my mom would take us over to the Del Rio neighborhood, where we would oooh and ahhh over the houses. Every one looked like a giant mansion to me. Some so wrongfully modern in this country setting, others picturesque. There was one house that was at the very end of Del Rio. It was lower than the rest of the homes, in sort of a canyon. It had a brick wall surrounding it, its own private pond, its own special road to get to it marked with a tower like building and a gate. One time we went by the gate to look at the house and a guard dog came running up barking. My mom had a huge clunker of a Suburban, so she would park next to the brick wall and we would step on the sides to peak over at the house. The roof was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen. It was shake. But arranged in such a way that the house looked like something out of Disneyland or maybe Alice and Wonderland. Curving up and down, no straight lines. The house was massive had a tower and various other points of architectural interest that made even looking at the roof fun for a 10 year old. Well a 10 year old that loved houses.

Later my mom and I would go on walks to get some exercise. Sometimes we would go to the College area in Modesto for a nice change of scenery. I love the houses there. I decided if I ever moved to Modesto I would live in that neighborhood. I did move to Modesto, and rented an apartment off of Staniford, behind Longs.

I keep changing my dream house. For a while it was the house with the curvy roof, even though I never saw the front of it I knew it was magical. For quite some time it was the Victorian house on the corner of Orangeburg and Tully. It was slightly run down, but I would fix it up. It was a doll house. The back sun porch was completely surrounded by stained glass. Intricate purple flowers all over. There was a little balcony coming off the master bedroom, I would put a small bistro table and chair there and drink my morning coffee. The green awning over the balcony was a great shape, but I would get a white colored one and paint the house a cheerful yellow with white trim. The yellow and the purple flowers would contrast nicely and keep it consistent with its Victorianess. As I got older someone purchased the house and painted it all white with hot pink trim. I was annoyed. Now it looked more like Barbie’s play house. But I could fix it. Then the recession happened. Barbie’s grass was dying and soon a foreclosure sign was up. I was hopeful that the person who purchased the house would restore it to its hay day. He started out by replacing the roof with the common asphalt shingles. Not a good start. For the longest time a piece of trim was hanging halfway off one of the gables. I just wanted to take a hammer and nail and fix it. Soon all the pink trim was gone, cover up with maroon. The Orangeburg side was the test side for paint colors. The white was painted with some tan color. Above the tan were stripes of different trim colors: the maroon, a green, an olive green, maybe another. The owner didn’t bother to strip the paint underneath so the weatherworn wood splintered into the new taupe. The yard is now littered with various clunker cars with for sale signs on them. The stained glass has been shattered. Only about a quarter of it is left. In the window is a sign for the man’s business. His handyman business. Now I just get sad when I drive by.

When Danny and I were in the market to buy a house we chose Ripon. I liked the small town feel. It has good schools and some charm. Although I would love to buy an old home and restore it, neither Danny nor I know the first thing about home restoration, and for our first house I just don’t think that would have been a good idea for our marriage. I loved the house hunting process, every week we would go with our funny realtor Bob looking at houses. I was in house heaven. One day we saw two houses that had the potential to be our first. One was big. Very big. Family room, living room, 5 bedrooms separate dining room. Like new. It was a tract home. In fact it was the same model as some of houses built by the Wal-Mart in Manteca. I didn’t love it, but besides its typical tiny bedrooms and ridiculously large master, it was nice enough. The other house was on the opposite side of Ripon. Close to some very charming homes that I liked to frequent. The house is a semi custom 1989 build. I liked it. It reminded me of an older home. It had, arched windows, a cross gabled roof, and little windows on the two separate garage doors. Inside the mantel made it feel grand for its humble size, the decorative inset in the ceilings were painted a baby blue in the guest bedrooms, the pièce de résistance was the ironing board that was built into the wall. No I don’t love doing laundry, I just thoroughly enjoy little nooks and innovative use of spaces. The carpet throughout the house was a baby blue…not so cute. The roof was shake and was on its last leg. But I loved it. For a moment I was tempted to go for the newer bigger, shinier house. More bedrooms meant we wouldn’t ever have to move again, the roof would last a lifetime, and made sense.

Luckily my heart won. We bought the house with more charm. We are slowly fixing the things we don’t like about it… (Well the things I don’t like about it). It's not perfect, it’s not the curvy Del Rio house, or the once magnificent Victorian, or the French cottage around the corner in the ritzy court (my new dream house), but it’s a piece of my dream. Sometimes I go over to my built in ironing board and open it, not to iron, but to admire, or I lay on my guest bed staring at my ceiling very content. I’m sure I’ll always be on a house hunt gazing out the window dreaming of how I would decorate or what it would be like to live there, but for now I have my piece of a dream.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sorry, you have the wrong number

When we moved to Ripon we had to change our phone number. All the home phone numbers in Ripon begin with the same three digits. The local video store doesn’t have any sort of fancy check out cards or little key chain cards that they scan; you simply give your phone number. In fact you can just give the last four digits, because they already know what the first three are.

Our phone number once belonged to someone named Jacqueline Jackson. Jacqueline’s husband might be named Jermaine…but I’m not quite sure, I could be subconsciously giving Mr. Jackson one of the Jackson 5’s names. Another lady named Jessica Ramirez had my phone number, funny that her name is Jessica, also.

No one calls my house phone besides work, my friend Casie if she can’t get through to my cell phone, and the people looking for the Jacksons.

Every day someone calls looking for the Jacksons. These "someones "are usually debt collectors. Banks, credit card and phone companies, perhaps the IRS… call my house every day. We have caller ID, sometimes I answer, and sometimes I don’t.

In the beginning I was very annoyed. We lived across town, had a different phone and answering machine, which would beep until I listened to the message. This would interrupt my already horrible day time sleep schedule. Not to mention we only had one phone, kept in the kitchen, and I would have to run across the house to answer it. If I chose to answer the phone I would tell them they had the wrong number and ask if they could take us off their calling list. Sometimes the people would just hang up, that would infuriate me. Others would apologize and promise to take us off the list, only to have a different person call from the same company the next day.

One time I was expressing my frustration to my husband, so he answered the next call. He laid it into them. Well laid it into them comparatively. My little child voice probably wasn’t taken as seriously as his loud stern man voice. The man apologized and actually did take us off the calling list for that particular company.

Since moving we have a new phone with new answering machine that doesn’t beep until I listen to the message. It doesn’t annoy me as much anymore. One time one of the local gas stations called looking for a person who had purchased gas there in the morning. I figured it was my husband because he would often fill up with gas before work. I had him call them back. Apparently someone with our telephone number used a bad credit card at the gas station that morning. After talking to the gas station man, they figured out that it was Mr. Jackson. How strange that the reason for my “wrong phone number problem” was in the same spot at roughly the same time as my husband.

Lately a representative for Mr. Lynch has been calling. It’s an automated message that says something like, “Due to the nature of this phone call we cannot disclose what it is about, please call 1-800 blah blah blah to speak with Mr. lynch as soon as possible.” I already know what it is about. I have not called Mr. Lynch back.

One night I was on call for work, so I kept the house phone by my night stand. The phone rang early in the morning, I answered. The lady was looking for Jessica. I said,"This is her." She went on to say how I needed to contact some credit card company … I was confused. I’ve never been late for a bill in my life. After coming to my senses I thought maybe this had something to do with the Jacksons. I asked what was the last name of this “Jessica” it was Ramirez. I explained she had the wrong Jessica she read me some social security number asking if it was mine …its wasn’t , but I still thought it was weird that she was telling me this lady’s social.

I forgot about Ms. Ramirez until about 3 months ago, when a lady called claiming to be Ms. Ramirez’s mother. She said that her daughter had received a collections bill from Verizon with Jessica Ramirez’s name on it, but my phone number. So she called my number to investigate. I explained my name was Jessica and I did in fact use Verizon, but there had been a mistake. I don’t know why I was explaining myself to this lady? It wasn’t my problem.

Later Mrs. Ramirez and Jessica Ramirez called together. Again why I kept talking to them I had no idea. At first Jessica was very accusing. I then started to explain that we hadn’t had the phone number for that long and I explained the Jackson problem. She started to tone it down and said her social security number had been stolen. I felt bad. I told her how I have a job, I pay my bills, and I would NEVER steal someone’s social. She could have chose not to believe me, but she did. She apologized and asked if I could forward any calls I get regarding her credit status and left me her phone number. I told her I would. Again it’s not my problem, but I felt so bad for her, I promised I would.

No one has called about Jessica since our conversation, and to be honest I don’t know what I did with her phone number. The Jacksons and Jessica both have a sad story. The Jacksons can’t pay their bills. Maybe they have the same problem that a lot of Americans do right now, a crazy mortgage, a job loss, and debt up the wazoo? Maybe they made some wrong decisions? Maybe I shouldn't feel bad for them? Perhaps they are the kind of people who buy a plasma TV instead of pay their PG&E bill? I guess it’s sad either way.

Jessica on the other hand has no control over her situation. A horrible thing happened to her. Her identity was stolen. What a mess. Sometimes I wonder if the Jacksons and Jessica are connected…maybe the Jacksons stole Jessica’s social security number? Who knows, it’s not for me to figure out, but I think if Jessica ever calls me again I will disclose my theory.

For now I will just let the phone ring and answer if I feel like it. I guess we could change our number. That would probably be smart, but then what if Jessica calls, what if I can help her catch the Jacksons?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dress to Impress

I have a small problem, but it is ever expanding. Dresses, I love dresses. I can't seem to stop buying them. Last night while I was pondering what I would write my first blog about, I remembered that I ordered a dress on EBay...

EBay dress will be dress number 40. Yes 40. That's not including a couple of pastel bridesmaids dresses, my wedding dress, as well as a pirate and snow white costume. I don't know what the typical twenty- something, married female has in the way of dresses, but this seems like a lot to me.

My problem probably stems from my mother always dressing me up when I was little, which I didn't mind. The dress problem was pushed aside during my tom boy stage, and during high school, when I just wanted to wear what all the other girls were wearing, but it seeped back into my life during college.

Dress-oholism started out slow, like any addiction. Many bridal showers occurred during college. Naturally I needed something to wear, a dress! For each occasion I would buy a separate dress. Not that I won't wear the same dress twice, it just gave me an excuse. So off to JCPennys or Macys I would go. The dresses never hindered the bill paying or savings account, so I figured it was justified.

Then I got my current job and started making money, a lot more money. I didn't buy dresses right away because almost as fast as I started making money, my waist line started to expand. So many potlucks on night shift and little sleep was not good for my rear.

A friend from work had a wedding reception at her house, the perfect occasion to buy a dress. Dress shopping was in the cards. I remember trying on two dresses and just couldn't make up my mind. So I bought them both! I made my husband decide which one was cuter. Promising myself I would return the other. Two years later the other dress is still hanging in my closet, unworn.

This past year dress buying has grown exponentially. I started losing weight, thanks to bike riding, and my workout crazy, paleo eating husband. Of course this meant shopping was more fun. Forever 21 opened up a giant store in the mall, and if you look hard enough you can find a few dresses that don’t resemble a 1980s hooker. They are cheap too, twenty to thirty dollars per dress at most! I have also discovered a website called Modcloth. It has amazing dresses. Unique vintage inspired dresses, some I admit are a little out there, but I continue to check the site every day because I know that the perfect dress will pop up at anytime.

I started buying dresses just to wear for no reason at all. Instead of my usual jeans and a blouse, I would wear a dress. It didn’t help that my friend from San Diego moved back in town and has a similar dress philosophy. Whenever we go shopping, dresses are sure to be purchased.

I must admit there are some dresses that I haven’t got around to wearing. There's the little black dress I found at Gottschalks, on sale for something ridiculous like 70% off. I had to get it, Gottschalks was closing forever, and this was the summer of weddings, so I was bound to wear it! Summer has gone, and I still haven’t worn it. I do love it. Very Audrey Hepburn-esque. The problem is it’s a pencil style bottom, so I can’t just wear that anywhere, it has to be a formal occasion, and one that doesn’t require lots of movement. There’s the polka dot baby doll dress I found online for 8 dollars. I had to buy it. Of course I didn’t get out a measuring tape to make sure it would fit me correctly...too big. But not to fear one day I will be pregnant and it will fit perfectly! There’s the white sundress I purchased at JCPennys, just before our wedding, I had this idea of me and my husband walking on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta on our honeymoon, bare foot, me wearing a gauzy, romantic dress. Instead we were at the buffet eating oodles of guacamole. I have one that I bought when we decided to go to Las Vegas. It's not the typical "Jessie" dress, black on top, tighter throughout the bottom, with small layers of black and white ruffles on the bottom. Very short. Well short for me. It seems like the typical "Vegas" dress. I got home put it on again and realized it's pretty short, plus who wants a bunch of ruffles on their butt? I just kept thinking, “Ruffle butt. I’m a ruffle butt”. Oh well, I’m not sure if the typical "Vegas" look is for me anyways. There are more. They each have their own story, justification, and a plan for the right moment to wear them.

Dresses are perfect for my body shape. Well let me correct myself. A line dresses, cinched at the waist, flowing away from the hips. I feel good in a dress, I don’t have to worry about if my butt looks big, I can wear flip flops or flats and be just as comfortable as the girl next to me wearing jeans and sneakers. Too short? Wear leggings. Want to dress it up? Heels. From casual to formal there is a dress out there for the occasion.

The thing about a dress is its special, even if it's just a simple day dress; it makes a girl feel nice. I wonder if I continue down this path if they won’t be special anymore? Dress after dress...day after day...dress overload. But then again who am I kidding, I still wear jeans and a blouse most often, I don’t like to wear the same dress too often, I do have to put on scrubs 2-3 times a week, and there aren’t enough casual dresses in my closet for me to wear one every day. I know I will continue adding to my dress collection, and I don’t really care. I love them, and there will always be a wedding, a baby shower, a girl’s night out, or just an ordinary day to wear one of my beloved dresses. Besides summer is coming, and I'm sure there are some glorious designs that I must have, lurking around the corner.