Here Comes Sketti Boo Boo

I don’t know if you are as trashy as I am, but I love watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC.

Sure, there are ten million reasons not to watch it, but my inner armchair anthropologist can’t help but observe the Southern family in its natural habitat.  I’m a Southern girl.  I know families just like this.  Heck, I’m friends with families like this.  I’m not like this myself, but I get it, and I’m not very judgmental about it because I know that so much of it is influenced by where they live and their socio-economic status.

The episode that got to my amateur chef side is the episode where mama June is making the old family recipe of “Sketti.”  Seriously, watch the clip.  If you don’t,  you’ll have no clue why this post is so amazing.

Her basic recipe for “Sketti” is that she makes spaghetti noodles and makes a sauce for them using equal parts Country Crock and ketchup.

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I kid you not.  She calls this an old family recipe.

Strange, but why not?

I decided to try the recipe and see if it is as gross as it seems that it would be.

Yeah, it totally was.

ImageYeah, my microwave has diabetes now

ImageHad a “tomato soup’s white trash cousin” thing going on, according to my husband

Oh, it was bad indeed. I started to toss it, but then I felt guilty.  I’d be throwing away a legitimate food source that this family regularly eats.

Rather than toss it, I asked myself what I could do to make it taste better.  Tomatoes and butter sound like the beginning of a vodka sauce to me!  I even went the extra authentic step of using dried herbs that most lower socio-economic status homes would have on hand.

Jennifer’s Honey Boo Boo Vodka Sketti-stravaganza

equal parts butter and ketchup, melted

oregano to taste

garlic powder to taste

onion powder to taste

vodka (dunno how much)

basil to taste

grated Parmesan

I put the sauce over medium high heat until it boiled.  I let it reduce by about 25% and then added water because it seemed really gross (lesson here, don’t let it reduce).

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I threw in all the ingredients above and let it boil, whisking constantly until it smelled like the spices were incorporated, and then I removed it from the heat, whisking in the grated Parmesan.

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Staying true to my Honey Boo Boo inspiration, I had to test to see if the noodles were ready.  How do we do this, Alana?  We throw it at the kitchen cabinet!

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The finished product, poured over noodles with additional Parmesan cheese to garnish.

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The verdict?  The end product actually tasted sort of decent, like a very low price jar of grocery store sauce.  You definitely wouldn’t know it was made with ketchup.  It was certainly not delicious, but I think I could pass it off as a homemade sauce if I made it in a slow cooker and tweaked the spice amounts. No, I’m not kidding.

Will I make Sketti again?  Nope.  The mental block was too much for my husband, and I am the only one who ate it at dinner.  He popped open a can of Prego.  My Sketti sauce tasted better, but it was just the idea of it.

He’s so uppity.

Would you try Sketti?

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Best. Wrong. Number. Ever. (or, How I met DJ Sketchy Mike)

Tonight at dinner my mother-in-law asked me if I had any pictures of my husband’s cousin’s new baby.  It’s the South, every drop of common blood means kinship for life.

I looked on my phone to see if my archaic iPhone would pull up Facebook quickly enough to be useful, and alas, it was crapping out.  I asked my husband if he had Mandy’s number, and he looked it up for me, and I sent her a text message.

The oddest conversation emerged… behold the image:

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The first time she mentioned “perks” I assumed it was an autocorrect of “pics,” so I tried to make a lame joke about standard perks (hence the insurance comment, yeah, I’m lame).

I began to get puzzled by her responses, and asked her if she was having a stroke (slurred speech and nonsensical talk are no laughing matter!)

I was showing the chain of messages to my husband who was equally confused when the phone rang.

Here is how the conversation went:

Me:  Hello?

Caller: (lazily, smarmily) Heeeey…

Me:  Who is this?

Caller:  It’s Mike.  You got the perks?

Me:  I have no idea what you’re talking about. I think I have the wrong number.

Sketchy Mike: Perks.  Percocet.  I need some.

Me:  I definitely don’t have Percocet (all of this was beginning to sink in at this point)  I definitely have the wrong number.  This number used to belong to my cousin Mandy, and I was trying to get her to send me a picture of her new baby.

Sketchy Mike:  You don’t have any perks?  You know where I can get some?

Me:  Well, since she just had a baby, she may have some, but I doubt she’ll share.  Sorry.

Sketchy Mike:  So, Jennifer, can I ask you a question?  How old are you?

Me:  Um, I don’t think I want to talk to you anymore.

Sketchy Mike:  (laughing) Ah, alright girl.  Good night.

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Artist’s Rendering of Sketchy Mike

I laughed harder than I have in quite some time… until it occurred to me that there was a darker undercurrent even than the wanton drug use…  I asked, “Are you having a stroke?”

His answer, “Not yet, need perks.”

Uhm…  He was not talking about a blockage in a brain artery…  Oh dear…

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Something tells me he was also not referring to painting techniques…

 I did finally get in touch with real Mandy, and she was quite pleased that the first memory I will have of her son will be attached to such a great story.  Can’t wait to meet this kid.

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I wanna squish his cute face!

Another wonderful side-effect of this rather traumatic conversation is that Matt now has a DJ name, in the event he ever becomes a DJ:  DJ Sketchy Mike.  Since he is still in the market for a job, this may be a possibility.

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Matt is still recovering from the club scene in Blade, so I doubt DJ Sketchy Mike will be making any appearances any time soon.

All in all, a very entertaining moment, and it has taught me to never underestimate the ability of sketchy males to turn anything, including dire physical health issues, into a double entendre.

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Making my own lavender/tea tree laundry detergent

I watched a really interesting documentary last night.  It is called Chemerical and it streams live on Netflix.

The whole purpose of the movie was to point out how many volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are in our homes due to the chemicals that we  use to clean (bleach, ammonia, sulfates, pthalates, etc).

There were several recipes for things that can replace the nasty chemicals in our homes, and I decided to start with the one that I am about to run out of, laundry detergent.

Here is the recipe that I used:

Jennifer’s Lavender Tea Tree Oil Laundry Detergent

1 gallon plus 10 cups of water

1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree soap, grated

2 cups Borax

2 cups Arm and  Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)

20 drops of lavender essential oil

It’s really easy.  You put the 10 cups of water into a sauce pan, dissolve the grated soap by stirring over medium high heat.  Then you add the borax and soda and mix until it is dissolved.  Set off heat.

I used a three gallon bucket from Home Depot.  Into that, you add a gallon of hot water, then pour in the soap mixture and stir.  Fill to the top with water and stir again. Add about 20 drops lavender oil.

Skim the suds off the top.  Let cool.  Once cool, it will be a thin gel, and you can use it a quarter cup at a time in the washing machine, even high efficiency because it’s a low suds formula.

And that’s it.  It smells WONDERFUL.  My whole apartment smells like lavender.  I feel like I’m doing something good for the earth and for my family.  Happy Earth Day!

 

***Edit***

The next morning, I freaked out because it had basically solidified into this weird gelatinous mess, but when I stirred it, it became a thick liquid again.  No worries, I just didn’t want anyone to think they’d messed up!

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Blue Like Jazz: Reviewed

“I have always distrusted memoir. I tend to write my memoirs through my fiction. It’s easier to get to the truth by not claiming that you are speaking it. Some things can be said in fiction that can never be said in memoir.”
Armistead Maupin

Matt and I went to see Blue Like Jazz today.

I must say that as far as movies adapted from memoirs go, this one was excellent.

I suspect that some people will be unsatisfied with this movie because it is not “true” to the stories told in the book, but it is important to note that it is a fictionalized account of true events.  It seems to me that for the purpose of film adaptation, Donald Miller had to condense multiple friends into a few well-rounded characters.  It also seems that for the purpose of making the transition from scene to scene smooth and interesting, he had to play around with the timeline of things and the placement of certain conversations in different circumstances.

I wanted to put that out there, so that no one would be confused as he or she watched it.  One cannot watch it and expect a literal reenactment of the book, as the book was not written in complete narrative form.

As far as the production quality goes, I found the movie to be well done.  There were some interesting nods to the book.  A scene where the reflection of a bridge in car windows called to mind the image on the cover of the book.  The cinematography was well done, and the party scenes were as close to an actual party scene as I have ever seen in a movie about faith.  Most “Christian” movies get this as wrong as a “Hell House” does.

The actors all seemed real, and the fact that I didn’t know who any of them were gave them some credibility as the actual  people I had envisioned in my mind.

Blue Like Jazz the book came to me at a time in my life about eight years ago when I desperately needed to feel less alone.  I needed to know that there were other freaks like me who had questions and needed validation that I was not floating out in space all by myself.  There are elements of the book that I have revisited and changed my mind or approach about since that time.  The interesting part is that it seems that Miller may have done the same thing.

The main example of this is the confessional booth.  I will not post any spoilers, but I must say that shifting the focus from “they” to “I” seems to be a reflection of an additional ten years of maturity and wisdom on the part of the writer.  It also rang true with me.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie.  I left the theater with my husband and we commenced an excellent discussion about where we both were when we read it and where we are now.  Incidentally, we were in similar places spiritually and situationally to the protagonist and Penny.

This book and the movie will always have a special place in my heart, and I highly recommend seeing it.  I think it will leave you with more questions than answers, and that is probably the point.

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A Plea for Politeness Regarding Asking about a Couple’s Intentions for a Second Child

This is very non-Valentine related (for which, I’m sure some of you are grateful). It does have a lot to do with love, though, so it’s relevant.

At this point in my life, most of my married friends are producing their second offspring.  I keep getting asked by many people (family, friends, complete strangers at Target) when we are having another one.  The polite answer is, “we are considering only having one.”  This elicits looks that range from shock to scorn.  To be frank, this annoys the hell out of me.

Just like the dreaded, “When are you guys having kids?” question which, to be honest, is not really anyone’s business but our own.  Please allow me to give you a non-exhaustive list of situations where this unsolicited request for information and prying may be offensive:

  • If the couple in question is having financial problems, but they would like to have a child, and they feel it is irresponsible at the time.
  • If the couple wants another child, but there are health or fertility issues at play.  This one is especially bad because it is really emotionally painful and terribly sensitive to the person in the couple with the issue.  When your body fails you, you have horrible guilt about it sometimes, and it will wreck you emotionally.  Adding in random strangers figuratively probing your gonads to see if they are working does not help.  (Shout out to all my friends who have this issue.  I’m saying this on your behalf because I love you and respect your privacy).
  • If the couple is planning to adopt, but they don’t feel like telling you about it because they are not sure it will happen for them, or because people get all weird about adoption (that is a story for an entirely different post).
  • If the couple is having marital problems.
  • If the couple’s first child is having expensive health issues.
  • If the couple’s first child has developmental issues that you are not privy to.
  • If the couple is secretly brother and sister and they are just happy their first baby doesn’t have two heads (ok, that one is a stretch, but I don’t want to seem too angry, so there’s your humor for the post).
  • If the couple really only wants one child for their own set of reasons that you are not privy to because, let’s be honest, it’s none of your freaking business to begin with, and if they want you to know, they’ll tell you about it.
  • If the couple has considered the fact that not all siblings get along, and just having them around is no guarantee  of their kid not being lonely.

I get the negative sides to raising an only child:  my kid could be lonely, my kid may wish he had siblings in the future, my kid may want someone to share memories with in the future when we are gone, my kid may be self-absorbed and/or anti-social, etc.

Allow me to inform you of some of the benefits:  my kid gets 100% of our attention when we are with him, which is working wonders on his social skills and learning, my kid gets the benefit of all of our limited resources, we can potentially become debt free earlier on (securing the funds to place him in a good school in the future), my kid won’t have to worry about student loans, my kid already has a decent amount of savings because we can afford it, etc.  I could go on, but I won’t.

I’m not saying having more than one child is bad.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love my sister, and she is awesome, and I’m glad she’s around.  I get it.  I just don’t find it to be the best plan for our family.  I know a lot of siblings who don’t even speak.  I know that inheritance issues get iffy.  I also know that as we get older, we do need those important people in our lives, but you know who is under-appreciated in that equation?  Cousins.  Hello, I have awesome cousins, as well as a sister, with whom I share rich childhood memories and memories of my parents during that time.

This post doesn’t mean that we won’t have another child.  It also does not disclose which reason applies to my husband, son, and me.  That is none of your business –unless I choose to share it with you. I love my husband and son in a fiercely loyal way that will cut you if you mess with them.  I am, after all, pretty gangsta.

I say this not out of rudeness, but out of a desire to help myself and others set boundaries and make certain that you know your place in the scheme of my ovaries.  They are, of course, mine and not yours.  If we are close, it is likely that I will share this with you at some point because it is not a secret; it is simply my information to share and not yours to request unless we have a very close friendship or family relationship.  Even then, it could be touchy for some of the reasons listed above.

The point of all of this is to remind people to be respectful of other people’s decisions.  Just because you chose something else does not mean that a different choice is bad.  It is simply different.  It may work better for the people involved.  Perhaps they will regret it one day, cry to you, and you can cross your arms, shake your head, judge them, and condescendingly tell them that you were right.  Somehow, though, that seems counterproductive to friendship and love for others;  if you like that type of thing, you’re probably not a person I would share my plans with anyway.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I’m as Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Gonna Take this Anymore

The title is a little dramatic, but I certainly channeled Howard Beale earlier this week in an interaction with my bank.  I don’t care if I name names or not, because I have no reason not to.  I pay for my own webspace, and I don’t owe them anything.  Regions, you can sit on it and rotate.  Nationstar, you can do something to yourself that I’m far too much of a lady to say on the internets.

I am not normal when it comes to money.  My husband and I like Dave Ramsey.  We use cash in an envelope system to keep from overspending.  We live on a tight budget because we would like to one day not owe anyone anything.

That said, I don’t do direct deposit.  I go in and cash my check.  Been doing it for a few years now at the Thompson Bridge Regions.  They’re good people.  I’ve even done it a few times at the Dawsonville Highway branch.

Monday, the Dawsonville Highway branch caused Regions to lose a customer.

I went in with my check which, while not giant, is certainly not small.  I asked to cash the check.  I was told that I could not.

Here is the play by play:

Teller:  I’m sorry, ma’am, we can’t cash this check.

Me:  (wide eyed and confused)  Excuse me?

Teller:  You have to have at least as much money as the check is written for in the bank in order for us to cash it.

Me:  Excuse me?  I have an account.  That is my name right there on your screen.  I’ve been a customer here for seven years.  What in the world?

Teller:  It’s our policy.

Me:  You  have cashed it before.  My regular branch cashes it every month.  I’m not getting the reasoning.

Teller:  Perhaps they are more familiar with the check.

Me:  It’s from the school.  Where I work.  It’s a hundred years old.  It’s kind of an institution here in town.  What in the world?

Teller:  You could always go cash it at BB&T or I could charge you a fee to cash it.

Me:  A FEE?!  You charge me a fee to have an account.  You charge me all kinds of fees.  You want me to PAY to cash a check at MY bank?

Teller:  It’s our policy.

Other teller:  I could call the other branch and verify who you are.

Me:  MY NAME IS ON THE SCREEN.  I have an account.  I shouldn’t have to verify anything except the amount of money you give me when you cash my check.

Teller:  It’s our policy.

Me:  You don’t make the policy, so I’m going to be nice to you, but your bank sucks.  The whole bank sucks.  This is why I’m closing my account.  I don’t want to do business with people who won’t even cash a check for a customer.

Other Teller:  I really can make a phone call

Me:  (Walking out the door) No thanks.  I’m going to a credit union.  They will be happy to help me.  Have a wonderful day.  Your bank sucks.

Yeah, so that was an awesome “make me feel like white trash” moment.  I thought seriously about smoking a menthol and wearing some cut off jeans, but eh, that’s not healthy and cut offs look bad on most people.

Anyway, we are leaving that bank and moving our money somewhere local.  We had planned to anyway, but that was the final nail in the coffin.  Buh Bye Now.

I’ve been reading about the move your money project, and it seems pretty rad.  It’s a grassroots effort to remove the power from the huge banks and put it back into the communities.  It’s also about not standing for being treated the way that large corporations seem to feel entitled to treat their customers.

There is even a date that they have set aside as an official Move Your Money day.  It’s November 5th.  Guy Fawkes’ day seems appropriate for a subversive move en masse.

So we’re moving our money.  You should give it some thought, but only if you are dissatisfied with what is going on.  If it’s not bothering you, please, don’t let my righteous indignation bug you.

Anyway, I figure this is as good a time as any to give you a nice recipe for the day.  It’s based on whole foods, and it’s rather delicious.  Comfort food, for the win!

Old-Time Beef Stew

1 lb stew beef (they now sell grass fed, hormone free beef at Publix!)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pint of the beer of your choice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1   clove garlic, peeled
1 or 2   bay leaves
1   large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
dash ground allspice or ground cloves
1/2 bag of baby carrots, chopped (they’re sweeter)
4   red potatoes, quartered
Brown meat in hot oil. Add beer (and a little water if you need to), Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, and allspice. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add carrots and potatoes. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes longer. To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly.

 

I will leave you with a video clip that reminds me of why I am doing what I’m doing.  It seems timely.

 

 

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Home is where the mortgage statement is sent, and other lies I’ve believed

I have returned. Let me give you a funtastic recap of the last several months.

As many of you know from previous posts, about a year ago our life had a dramatic change. We had a very painful and residually harmful break from our church. That went on in one form or another for about eight months or so, including half truths and untruths being said about us from mainly one source.

That was, of course, very stressful and trying, but we were starting to bounce back when, out of the blue, my wonderful husband was laid off from his teaching job one contract shy of Georgia’s version of tenure.

I found out soon after that I would not be able to go to full-time teaching, and I was no longer going to have a position at the school I had been at for five years.

Super fun times!

In the wake of all of this we have chosen to remove any sliver of victim mentality by making some choices. I feel quite sure that some of them are controversial at best, but just deal with it, mmkay?

I got a really REALLY rad job at a private military school as a learning specialist. It basically rocks. It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, but also one of the most rewarding. I’m constantly busy, and I have a lot of plates spinning at the same time, but I like it. It’s the first time I’ve really liked a job since my first two years teaching. Kind of amazing.

Also, with our newly found single income budget, we have chosen to put our house on the market for short sale. Feel free to buy it. It’s really cheap.

We don’t even care at this point if the mortgage company decides to foreclose on us or anything. We were at the point of living on beans and rice (and NOT in a cool vegan way) if we kept the house (potentially not even affording it then). Oh, and did I mention that this is all due to the fact that we are too broke to refi and too well-off to modify. Yay, middle class! Thank you Nationstar. You are amazing. Not. (1990s humor there).

So we have mentally let go of it and all our pride at this point. It’s ok, though, because we really feel free for the first time in a while. We know that we are making the right decision.

I would typically be pretty tight lipped about all this, but there is something liberating in bearing it all publicly. It’s as if I strip everyone from having any power over me in the form of gossip or knowledge. If I wear it all on the outside, it makes me not a victim. No one can whisper and pity me. No one can talk about how sad our situation is. I mean, hey, I’ll take all the pity I can get. Please donate to my Paypal account (jennifergainer@gmail.com) if you feel the need.

Honestly, though, we don’t need it. Because we have sold off a heavy portion of our belongings and are downsizing our living space to a still very roomy place to live, we have made it work for us.

The bonus to that is that I’m feeling very detached from the material for now. Also, Matt is getting to spend all day teaching and hanging out with our amazing son. Side note, he is a boy genius. He can say more than half of his alphabet, recognizes the letters, and says the sounds that they make.

Silver lining.

What is not so silver is that the stress that we were under caused me to make some poor decisions about health. We chose price and convenience over health, and I am carrying about twenty five or so more pounds that I was before all this happened.

Boo hoo, right?

So I am trying to turn that around, and I’m trying to make some really good changes in my life both physically and spiritually, thus the still relevant title of Whole Food/Soul Food.

Meditation for the day: John 12: 24-25
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

That’s what I really care about. I want to be able to give things up and not hold on too tightly to what I feel I have earned or that I deserve. Those things are far from important in the grand scheme of things. It’s no wonder that Matt and I felt a sudden relief and lightness when we understood that the way to gain back our lives was to give up those things that were tying us down the most. The church we were in and the sense of loss and loneliness, our home.

At the end of the day, when I snuggle my sweet boy, and I look at my beloved, I can honestly say that I have what I love right there with me, whether we are in a beautiful 3 bed 2 bath cape-cod with a full daylight basement in a nice neighborhood with a half acre lot in a great school district (seriously buy my house!) or in a cardboard box. I will hold on to my duty to be a strong and faithful wife and a wise and loving mother. Their souls are what matter to me.

And that is the story we find ourselves in for the time being.

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