Tag Archives: Random thoughts

On this day

1 Jun

Today is an important day. It was today, 37 years ago, that my parents got married. To each other. And they’re still married!

Since I can’t provide you with a better anniversary present than me (I was born 3 years and 4 days later) and I’m not quite sure what alabaster is, my gift to you is a walk down memory lane. So now, I present your gift, entitled “Other things that happened on June 1, 1974”:

  • “My Girl Bill” by Jim Stafford hits #12
  • Ray Stevens’ “The Streak” was the #1 song
  •  Bundy victim Brenda Ball disappears from Burien, Wash
  • Chemical plant explodes in Flixborough Lincs kills 29 in UK
  •  The Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choking victims is published in the journal Emergency Medicine
  • Alanis Morisette and Mark Paul Gosselaar (Zach Morris) were born
  • The Mets were in 4th place in the NL East. The Yankees were in last place in the AL East

That’s all I could find.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! We all love you so much and we hope you have another 37 years!




Exiled Care Bears

9 May

My 4-year-old daughter has recently discovered the Care Bears. I couldn’t be happier. I love the Care Bears! They’re cute, come in multiple colors, and one of them has a cupcake as his tummy symbol!

Not as sweet as they seem

Unfortunately, my brain has gone where it shouldn’t go. While reading the books and watching the DVDs, I could not help but start to think of all the poor, rejected Care Bears  that so very badly want to live in Care-a-Lot but the Care Bears, wanting to keep the seedy element in another part of town and having  a lengthy list of rules for acceptable Care Bear behavior, have exiled these wannabes to neighboring island of the Land of Misfit Toys:

Convict Bear–the local criminal element. The original exiled Care Bear. Known for assaulting others with unwanted Care Bear stares and stealing clouds. He is black and white striped and his tummy sign is jail bars.

Porn Star Bear and her cousin, Stripper Bear–exiled for corrupting the minds and bodies of the male (and some female) Care Bears and violating the morality clause in the home owners association of Care-a-Lot. Porn Star bear is off-white and her tummy symbol is a bed; Stripper Bear is gold and her tummy symbol is (obviously) a pole.

Glam Bear–a true 80s throwback, Glam Bear loves hair band music, especially Poison and Motley Crüe. Known for driving an unnecessarily flashy car, he was exiled for dress code violations, specifically wearing spandex and way too much eyeliner. Glam Bear is blue with black zebra strips and his tummy symbol is star-shaped sunglasses.

Mullet Bear–Glam Bear’s sworn enemy. He was also exiled for dress code violations, except he prefers sleeveless flannel shirts and rocking a really awful Dee Snider mullet. Mullet Bear is mud brown and his tummy symbol is a Trans Am.

Spinster Bear–lives alone in a dark, creepy house surrounded by 1400 cats. She was exiled for never marrying or having Care Bear offspring, an essential tenet of the Care Bear Code. She is gray and her tummy symbol is a cat.

Jersey Bear–idolizes Snooki (an exileable offense in its own right). In fact, she looks like Snooki. She was exiled, like Glam Bear and Mullet Bear, for dress code violations. Instead of a regulation tuft of hair, Jersey Bear has coiffed her hair into a poof. She was originally beige but after applying way too much tanner, she is now more of an orange. Her tummy symbol is the state of New Jersey.

Smart Ass Bear–exiled for violating the cheery and sweet manner in which Care Bears are required to speak. Loves the Michael Scott phrase “That’s what she said”.  Smart Ass Bear is red and his tummy symbol is a set of rolling eyes.

Midlife Crisis Bear–this poor guy was living the perfect Care Bear life until one day, he realized that he wanted a younger Care Bear wife, a sports car and his hair was falling out. He started frequenting Stripper Bear’s workplace and was exiled for violating the Care Bear morality clause, as well as the penguin clause stating that each Care Bear will mate with only one other Care Bear. Midlife Crisis Bear is light gray, has a comb-over, and his tummy symbol is a Porsche.

Thrifty Bear–the only bear to be exiled for his financial status. Thrifty Bear loves a good bargain, manages his money and is completely debt free. This made the other Care Bears jealous and they threw him out. He has appealed the sentence and is currently awaiting his reinstatement hearing. Thrifty Bear is green and his tummy symbol is a dollar sign intertwined with a coupon.

Those the names of the exiled Care Bears that the President of Care-a-Lot will make public. I have submitted a FOIA request for the others.

The one thing that struck me was how often they were exiled for dress code violations. Kind of strange for a bunch of bears that walk around naked…

Couponing crazy or Crazy couponer?

3 May

Like so many others, I have been watching the new TLC series “Extreme Couponing” with both fascination and disgust. I was originally inspired by the one hour special to try a now failed coupon experiment but now I’m just…well, I don’t know what I am. I think I’m just confused.

I get the allure of coupons, I really do. If you use them properly you really can save a ton of money. But the amount of time, energy and space that these women waste  spend on their coupons is insane! Yet for some reason, I keep watching.

When I’m done with each episode, I dissect it in my head (and sometimes out loud, with my husband), going over the merits and downfalls of each couponer (and, for the record, the word is pronounced “coo-pon”. This “cue-pon” nonsense drives me batty) and her strategy. There are some who I’ve decided are coupon crazy for a valid reason, like the woman who has a husband that only works seasonally and then there are some–most, really–who I’ve decided are just straight-up crazy. I’m also failing to realize the difference between some of these couponers and some of the featured guests on another favorite show of mine, “Hoarders”. So, I’ve invented a little list to help me differentiate:

  • If you buy 62 bottles of mustard even though no one in your house eats mustard but you have a coupon, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If an entire shower stall is filled to the ceiling with toilet paper and your family of 7 only has 1 functional shower, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you’ve had to build an entire room for toothpaste, you’re  probably a hoarder
  • If you’ve spent money installing a specialized storage shelf in your garage to house all of your canned goods, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you rummage through garbage or steal from other people’s driveways just to get more coupons, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If your coupon binder weighs more than you do, not only are you probably a hoarder but you also need to eat a sandwich
  • If your husband breaks into a sweat hauling your purchases into the house because you went into coupon overdrive, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If you buy 3 years worth of diapers for a child you have not even conceived, you’re probably a hoarder
  • If your stockpile can take you through the year 2485, you’re probably a hoarder (on separate yet similar note, a stockpile that  is organized, meticulous and “beautiful” does not mean it is not akin to hoarding).

    This is not normal. This is hoarding.


Please don’t get me wrong. I am all for having a stockpile and using coupons. It does help save money and get you through when times are tough. I also understand that many of these couponers donate their items, and that’s a great thing. But what this show is doing is detrimental to people who, quite frankly, use coupons like normal, sane people. It’s putting out there a misconception of those who are frugal and are careful to plan their shopping trips around sale prices and match coupons to those prices and purchase a reasonable quantity of food/hygiene items (I don’t care what anyone says, 800 packages of hot dogs is not a reasonable quantity. Unless you are feeding every player in Major League Baseball at once).

I realize that TLC is purposefully sensationalizing the people on this show. I realize that TLC is trying to make a point about using coupons and how, if you’re meticulous enough, you can save mad money with coupons. I also realize that the featured couponers on the show are edited to look crazier than they are. But the stockpiles speak for themselves. And what they say to me is “I’m one shopping trip away from Hoarders”.

That is not healthy.

Maslow and Swanson: A pairing of pyramids

26 Apr

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his groundbreaking theory on the hierarchy of needs. This theory described human motivations, starting from the most basic and moving up to the more advanced. As you satisfy the bottom needs, you will work your way up the pyramid towards satisfying the more advanced. The ultimate goal was to get to the top of the pyramid, self-actualization, or the desire to realize one’s full creative potential.  

In 2011, Ron Swanson, the greatest boss on TV,  debuted the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. This pyramid is a set of life  instructions and qualities with each level built on the other designed to help one reach the top of the pyramid–Honor.

Originally, I thought I had to figure out which pyramid was more relevant in today’s world. But it’s hard to put these two in a battle against each other. They each offer valid points and provide insight into our lives. Rather than competing, I think they can go hand in hand in perfect harmony, like Ebony and Ivory or peanut butter and chocolate or unicorns and glitter (thanks, Flo!), and provide us with a comprehensive way of looking at life. It’s nice to have guidelines, like speed limits and daily caloric intake.

Plus, Swanson’s kind of funny.

Books, part 2

19 Apr

Several weeks ago, I posted about my problem finding good books to read. I got some great recommendations and assembled quite a queue. I’m pleased to report that since that post, the number of good books I’ve read has grown exponentially (thankfully). I am also extremely excited for the next few books I have in waiting. I will be sharing those with you, but first, I’ll discuss the books I did finish.

In my previous post, I said that I was in the middle of Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. I couldn’t finish it. I found it boring and way too difficult to get through. I have made the decision that the time I do have to read is too precious to waste on books I don’t like, so that one went right back to the library. Next came Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Awesome, amazing, wonderful, easy to read, great story. I can not say enough good things about this book. In fact, I think everyone should read it.

After that, I read Susan Wilson’s One Good Dog. I picked this book because, ever since I read The Art of Racing in the Rain, I love books with dogs as main characters. I had never heard of this book, saw it on sale in Target, bought it, took it home and read it in a weekend. It’s a terrific, modern and relevant story paralleling the lives of a man and a stray pit bull–I’m beyond glad I read this book. Then was Jodi Picoult’s new book, Sing You Home. It was a book in true Jodi Picoult fashion and while the story was interesting, I felt that it was told at a rather frenetic pace.  It was not her best but certainly not her worst (that honor is reserved for The Tenth Circle). I am now in the middle of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I’ll get back to you about it when I’m done.

So what’s next? Yesterday I went on a book buying/book reserving spree. A quick note about when I buy versus reserve. Whenever possible, I try to get books from the library. However, there are times when books I want to read are not in any library in my entire state (to be fair, I live in a small state). It is in those instances, and I want to really, really read a book, that I will buy a book. OK, having cleared that up, here’s what I reserved/bought yesterday:

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt by Jon Acuff
  • The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp (you can also follow her blog)
  • Stray Dogs, Saints and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America’s Toughest High School by Alexander Russo

I like to read a combination of fiction and nonfiction books. While this list is a little nonfiction heavy, it’s a nice balance to the fiction books that I’ve just finished.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Fantastic Product Friday: Bradley Cooper

18 Mar

Today’s fantastic product is:

Bradley Cooper!

Please don’t tell me he’s not a product. Because he is–he is a fantastic product of genetics.  And as far as the qualifier that Fantastic Product Friday is supposed to be about things I would use around the house? Let’s just say that, if given the chance, I’d absolutely use him around my house (as my mom and dad read this blog, let’s leave the how i’d use him part alone).

Kitchen Table Talk: A few things I’m sick of besides Charlie Sheen

9 Mar

Are you sick of Charlie Sheen? I am.

I used to like the guy. Major League is one of my all time favorite movies. But now…well, now I just think he’s an overexposed loon. I wish that every news outlet would stop putting him on the front page. Every. Single. Day. The coverage is what is stoking his lunatic fire. If we stop caring, then maybe he’ll go away and actually focusing on recovering. I’m not sure how soon that’ll happen because crazy sells. And right now, he is Captain Crazy.

Fortunately for me, I’m good at spreading my hatred annoyance around. And there are also plenty of other topics/people/items I’m tired of  besides Charlie Sheen:

  • Remaking/revamping everything good. Not to be limited to movies (yes Footloose, I’m talking to you), the abundance of bringing back toys, cartoons, TV shows, etc from the past has my panties in a bunch.  It’s as if all of the good ideas were exhausted circa 1990 and ever since, we’ve just been served the same recycled stuff. Recycling is good for the environment but it’s not so good in entertainment. If Hotdoggers and Skidz make a comeback, I’m retreating to a cave.

Nothing says elegance and class like a pair of Skidz. Except maybe Hammer Pants.

  • Turning every great book into a movie. This is a subset of #1. Ultimately, the movies is going to ruin the book. That’s just a given. There are a host of great books I’ve read that are movies. I refuse to see those movies. I learned my lesson after The General’s Daughter, Sleepers and The Virgin Suicides (just to name a few disappointments). Using the law of opposites, shouldn’t the bad books be made into good movies? Having said that, I will be seeing The Art of Racing in the Rain when it comes out. I don’t care that Patrick Dempsey is the main character (this is most likely due to the fact that I don’t view him as some good-looking doctor. I view him as the guy performing the African Anteater Ritual in Can’t Buy Me Love). See for yourself:
  • Nirvana. Not the religious tenet, the band. Don’t misunderstand me. I get it. I was a teenager when grunge was popular. Nirvana was influential and changed music, blah blah blah. But radio stations fail to realize that Nirvana recorded more than 4 songs (really! It’s true! Lithium, Rape Me, Smells Like Teen Spirit and their cover of Man Who Sold the World are not the only songs they recorded. I promise!) . And I really don’t want to hear those songs any more. Ever. This is not just limited to Nirvana. You can also substitute Guns N’ Roses (before Axl went batty), U2, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.
  • New Jersey. I’m not necessarily sick of the whole state.The state itself is actually quite useful as it links the state I currently live in to my home state.  I am, however, opposed to the obnoxious, overexposed reality stars that are coming out of New Jersey at an alarming rate. If I were from New Jersey, I would be pissed that when people think of my home state, they now think of Snooki, JWoww or one of the girls from Jerseylicious rather than Samuel Alito, Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Smith or the scores of others who are from New Jersey. Also, what’s the deal with the jughandles? Those things are a pain.
  • Sarah Palin. Why is this woman still relevant? How can we get her to stop speaking? Is it even possible?

That’s just a few of the things that I’m tired of. There’s a whole list more (just ask anyone who knows me. I can seriously go on for hours about this stuff, especially when I get going on a topic I’m really passionate about like the Mommy Wars). But mainly, I just have one question–why does Lady Gaga call her fans “Little Monsters”?

Kitchen Table Talk: This song changed my life

26 Jan

Today I’m starting a new feature at The Empty Kitchen. As one of my readers pointed out a few weeks ago, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s not only where we share meals but it’s where we can sit around and talk about anything. This new feature, Kitchen Table Talk, is where I will talk about anything that’s on my mind, whether it’s food related, family related, current events related or just plain random.

Everyone has something different that motivates her or speaks to her or gets her through a hard or sad or difficult time. For some, it’s the Bible  or another type of  book. For others, it’s inspirational sayings or quotes. For me, it’s song lyrics.

There is nothing that speaks to my emotions and feelings more than song lyrics. I relate so many moments in my life to different songs, and I associate almost every phase of my life to music. It’s as if my life has a soundtrack that no one else knows about; it’s my little personal secret. But I’m going to share one of those secrets with you.

This Friday is my  last day at my current job. This is very welcomed and long overdue (more overdue than I care to admit). It took me quite awhile to get to the point where I even considered looking for a new job. I would talk to friends and family about making a change but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Then, about 3 months ago, while driving to pick up my daughter from daycare, I heard the song “Maybe” by Sick Puppies on the radio. More than any other song I’d heard in a long, long time, this song spoke to me on levels that I cannot even begin to describe. It was as if everything I had been thinking and feeling was all rolled into one amazing song. And, as cheesy as it may sound, it inspired me to finally make the decision to move on from the toxic environment where I was spending 40 hours a week.

What’s even more incredible is that, when you listen to the lyrics the first few times, it sounds like a song about a breakup. But when I watched the video, I knew that this song was sent to me to change my life:

What inspires you?

Categorical menu planning

5 Jan

It is common knowledge among my family and friends that I hate my job. I want nothing more than to be able to submit my two-week notice and walk away, free and clear from the gray-hued, fluorescent-lighted pit of despair that holds me hostage 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, my family is not in a financial position to allow that to happen. We’re working our way towards that place, but it’s a really long walk. Kind of like the Oregon Trail.

If you’re familiar with the Oregon Trail (the game, not the real thing), you know that in addition to staving off dysentery, mending broken bones, forging rivers and hunting buffalo, you need to stop and buy supplies. For me, buying those supplies is what happens at the grocery store. And I never, ever go into the grocery store without a list. I’ve tried shopping without a list and it has been nothing short of a disaster (like trying to trade your bullets for oxen, only to find out your oxen have asthma and an attitude problem).

Just like the pioneers learned the hard way that it’s difficult to forge the river without a proper raft, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s difficult to make a grocery list without a menu plan.  In an effort to learn from my mistakes,  that’s what I do. I make a menu plan. For a while, I was just browsing my cookbooks and websites, trying to find new and old favorites. This method was not working. It was an abysmal disaster in every. Conceivable. Way.

So, I started doing some research on how women in the 1950s made menu plans (I have an obsession with anything 1950s kitchen related. We’ll discuss that another day). What I found was that they broke their meals into categories: casseroles, meatloaf (which will never, ever happen at my house), pasta, etc. I totally fell in love with this idea. It was also how my sleep-away camp fed us (Friday pizza bagels!) but I don’t think that’s why I loved the idea. I love the idea because it’s just so simple and makes complete financial sense.

In an effort to not make a totally unilateral decision, I talked to my husband about this new method. To my amazement, he liked it! But not before he made his mandatory suggestions. However, unlike most of his mandatory suggestions, these actually made sense. He suggested that we have 14 categories written down on little pieces of paper; each of those categories is assigned a number and each week, we pull a number out of a hat. This way, he rationalized, we still have the simplicity of menu planning by category but we keep some variety.

I thought about it. And I agreed. And so far, this method has worked out splendidly.  We’re trying a ton of new recipes, we’re saving money and time, and having a menu lottery is kind of fun.

Now, if I can just figure out how to shoot buffalo instead of those annoying rabbits…

Celebrating one year

30 Dec

Approximately one year ago, I launched The Empty Kitchen. It was originally born out of an idea to combine two of my favorite hobbies: writing and cooking. It was also born out the desire to make people more comfortable with the idea of cooking, especially if the budget is tight. But this blog has become much more than that.

It’s become a place where I can be my weird self. It’s become an outlet for my creative side. It’s become a forum for me to talk about my shopping habits, my family, my likes and dislikes. It’s become a springboard for me to learn from many other amateur cooks like The Pajama Chef and The Budget-Friendly Chef. Most of all, it’s just become fun.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how well my blog has been received. Sure, for some of the big time bloggers, my daily traffic is what those blogs get in 15 minutes but for me, I’m content. I’m happy that strangers (and friends and family) enjoy what I have to say. And that you enjoy it enough to keep coming back is enough for me to keep writing.

As 2011 approaches, I’ve been thinking about the direction I want to go with this blog. Quite frankly, I’m not sure. I have an experiment that is being planned. I have recipes to share. And I have stories to tell. But I’m not sure how I want to tie them all to an umbrella purpose.

All of the really good blogs that I read have one larger focus and the authors of those blogs are outstanding at sticking to their focus. However, I’m like the kid in right field who pays attention to the game just long enough–until a butterfly floats by and then I’m busy with the butterfly. I need someone to bring me back into the game and just focus.

So, I’m turning to you for help. As The Empty Kitchen progresses, what would you like to see emerge as an overall focus?

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