Monthly Archives: April 2010

At the Art Museum

Heather called me Tuesday with a plan for us to get out of the house disguised as an educational opportunity for the children.  She suggested that we take them to the NC Museum of Art and after I hyperventilated about corralling seven children running amok amidst priceless works of art, I decided the worst that could happen would be that we’d get kicked out and since I’m sure the paintings were highly insured admission was free, no big deal.

I informed the boys that we would be going to see cool stuff like a real! live! sarcophagus! and they scrunched their noses because apparently I was interrupting their scheduled time to play Club Penguin with friends with whom they had spent the previous seven hours at school.  I may or may not have threatened to torch their computer given a little lecture about the decline of cultural literacy and my speech must have been effective because they assured me they were on board with the whole plan so off we went to the museum.

We were met at the entrance by a security guard and I’d like to think he was just being polite to hold the door open for me instead of passing judgement on the children who may or may not have been sporting some wet feet because they were playing in the shooting water garden near the outdoor bronze reproduction of The Thinker. I’m thinking it wasn’t such a great idea for them to have a feature which allows kids to get soaking wet before walking into a building, but, hey, that’s just me.

The kids loved the museum with its white shiny walls and tall ceilings that helped create wonderful echo effects.  They loved the Pop Art section’s painting of a vortex and grabbed a floating wall to avoid being sucked into the black hole.  The security guard loved to be of service to show them how the floating wall could, indeed, float and that it might not be a good idea to do that.

We sailed right along into Ancient Egypt where the kids oohed and aahed over the sarcophagus and the security guard choked and gurgled and looked like she was about to have a heart attack from the pressure of having to protect King Whatshisname from the ravages of feral children.  I wanted to tell her that there was a box conveniently waiting for her right there under glass, but she didn’t look like the type of person who would appreciate my brand of humor so we moved on.

There were so many beautiful things to see inside and I’m sure we would have gotten to them had not the kids spied an outdoor body of water with room to run around it.  By this point, Heather and I felt we’d hissed whispered “Don’t touch that!” one too many times so we just sat outside and let them play to their heart’s content while we let our adrenaline levels normalize.

We decided the security guards kids had experienced enough for the day and we celebrated not landing on the eleven o’clock news by heading to Loco Pops and I got a  pomegranate-tangerine and a mango-chile popsicle that may have changed my life.

And then I went home and collapsed.

Have a nice day.

Letters from the home front

Dear Husband,

Please do not be alarmed when you walk into the house this evening and find the kitchen counters scrubbed and the bathrooms sparkling clean.  Apparently, this is normal in other homes.


Your loving wife


Dear Exterminator Man,

Thank you for not calling me until an hour past your scheduled appointment time.  I needed the external motivation to get the house picked up.  I’m sorry to inform you, however, that it will most likely not stay that way until you return.


Your customer who is currently passed out in the corner from Clorox fumes


Dear Grandmother,

You would be pleased to hear that I used your gravy ladle today.  You would not be pleased to hear that it was to scoop the frogs out of the tank.


Your multi-tasking granddaughter


Dear JJ,

Upon closer inspection, that little gray mouse in the corner turned out to be your gray Bakugan ball.  I’ll take you to Target later to replace it.


Your mother who screamed her head off while frantically stomping on a piece of inanimate plastic

Have a nice day.

Let’s Talk Turkey

My father was driving around somewhere on the dark side of the moon in the backwoods of Guatemala dodging potholes big enough to sink his vehicle when he happened upon a turkey.  When I say “happened upon”, I truly mean “upon” because Dad accidentally ran over the turkey, killing it deader than a doornail.

This constituted An Event in the smattering of shacks that made up the village and all the folks gathered ’round to bemoan the recently departed bird and Dad participated in the discussion and the hand-wringing and the offering of condolences to the owner of said fowl.  After a good twenty minutes of discussing how valuable the turkey was to the family, it became apparent that they expected to be compensated for the bird.  It seemed very reasonable and my father is nothing if not reasonable, so a more than fair price was agreed to for the turkey and Dad handsomely recompensed the farmer and everything was sunshine and roses.


Dad walked in front of the car, picked up the lifeless carcass, and threw it in the back seat.  This set off all kinds of uproar and the farmer demanded that the turkey remain with him since, after all, it was his to begin with and he had been harmed in the event.  My father explained that he had just paid for the turkey (and most likely two or three additional turkeys  plus a small goat) and he wasn’t going to be deprived of what had been rightfully purchased.  I don’t really remember the details of the subsequent discussion, but I do know that at the end of the day, my dad prevailed and he proudly walked into our house with a ginormous dead fully feathered turkey, ready for the pot.

Our house helper busily began plucking, scraping, boiling water and preparing the turkey for caldo, a popular national soup dish, and Mom stood hovering in the kitchen asking, “Is the turkey going to be tender?”

Um, I think being steamrolled by a Land Rover would go a long way towards making it that way, Mom.

The maid just shrugged and said, “We’ll see.”

Being the kind of woman who reads the last chapter of the book first to see if it ends well, my mother asked again, “Do you think the turkey will be tender?”

Again, the maid replied, “I’m not sure.  We’ll have to wait and see.”

Mom left the kitchen and returned a little while later, opened the lid and poked around and asked a third time, “Do you think the turkey will be tender?”

Margarita stopped what she was doing, turned around and looked at my mom and in a very clear, distinctive tone said, “If it’s an old turkey, it’ll be tough.  If it’s a young turkey, it’ll be tender.”

Little did she know that her momentary reply to my mother would resonate with me for a lifetime.

I can suffocate in fear about potential paths my life will take.

I can stew over possibilities that are out of my control.

I can camp out in middle of that paralyzing vortex of “What If”.

But none of that changes the outcome.

Life is full of good and bad, famine and harvest, and it is in acknowledging that truth that helps me release the grip of fear that can keep me from embracing what God has ordained for me.

Jobs lost, jobs gained.

Fractured relationships, mended fences.

Sickness, health.

Hope, despair.

Laughter, tears.

And through it all, a God who never changes and who wants to give me a full life of balance, not just benefit, so that I can grow in my own character and in knowledge of Him.

“….Be content with what you have. Never will I leave you and never will I forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5

Have a nice day.

I tried

1.  I tried cooking with tofu this weekend.

The verdict?  Not bad.  The kids tried a bite of what I had and they didn’t throw up at the table.

Unlike their first response to Honey Baked Ham.

2.  I tried chopping with my newly sharpened knife last night.

It did a great job mincing the cilantro and mint into the tiniest of flakes.

It also perfectly cut off 1/8th of my left index finger.

3.  I tried not to swear a blue streak cry.

I managed to keep my lips pursed but in the process contorted my face enough to require Botox.

Is that a medical deduction?

4.  I tried to avoid downloading the Words With Friends app.

I’m not a bandwagon sort of person but curiosity got the best of me, and I’m sure within a week Mr. CPQ will be scouting out the nearest 12 Step program for me to attend.

Oh, and my username is cpqsusan.


5.  I tried switching up some of the pieces in my closet for a new clothing combination.

Let’s just not try that again.

What did you try this weekend?

Have a nice day.

How I didn’t get mugged by the blog lurker who invited me to her house

Alternatively titled: It’s a small world


She lives five minutes from me.

We have the same sunny soft yellow painted on our walls.

We shop at the same Kroger.

We go to the same library.

She knows where I buy my falaffel and turnip sandwich because it’s not far from her house.

And the kicker?

Lurker Rachel and I go to the same church.

At a bloggy meetup last fall when I heard that one of the other bloggers also attended my church (it’s very large), I asked her, “So, whose Sunday School class are you in?”

She replied, “Yours.”









Rachel’s and my path have intersected for many years, and we had so much fun asking, “Do you know…” questions and laughing when we realized how much we had in common, except for when it came to our gardens.

Because mine is nothing like hers.

She has no fear of the wavy lines and asymmetry in her garden, and I am so bound by straight and balanced.  She had hydrangeas by the boatload, and azaleas and gardenias and these purple things that she told me the name of and I can’t remember.

And she had tons of pansies which were still very much alive because she, gasp, waters them, and all mine are dead and I’m not jealous about that one bit, no ma’am.

Pansies are one of my favorite flowers because they’re a great way to get color in the yard early in the season when it’s still cool.  Every time I see a pansy I remember our wedding day.

To get to the church where we were married, one had to drive by a nursery and that morning they had set out their first pansies of the season with a ginormous sign out front that said, “The pansies are in!”.  While we were standing on the platform during that part of the ceremony where you’re supposed to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes while someone sings a song, I started to get a little misty.

Mr. CPQ was highly concerned that I would turn into one of the women on America’s Funniest Home Videos that simply collapses from the overwhelming emotion of the day, and so he was trying to distract me and whispered to me, “Guess what?  The pansies are in.”


The most romantic day of our life together and he’s talking about pansies?

I got tickled that he pulled something so random out of thin air that I stopped crying and started laughing and the crisis was averted.

I didn’t have time to tell Lurker Rachel that story because we started talking about on-line dating (she wants her sons to sign up for it – this is a woman who is READY for grandchildren) and antique shopping.  As I was getting ready to leave, I asked if I could take her picture for the blog and she preferred to not plaster her picture all over the Internet and remain anonymous, but she did let me shoot this picture of her dragonfly necklace which she said was not like Kristin’s shoes, but it spoke to her personality.

Did she know I also liked dragonflies?

It is a small world after all.

Have a nice day.

Why you don’t want me on your team

My friends Cheryl and Karen were at my house last night for our once a month Scrabble Poker Night.  As usual, it was mainly an excuse to get together and have dessert too close to bedtime, but we did manage to get one game in before calling it a night. Both Cheryl and Karen are competitive when it comes to whatever it is we’re playing and they do things like STRATEGIZE while I just sit there and wonder if it’s been too soon for me to refill my plate with snacks.

My mother and my brother Jonathan LOVED to play games when I was growing up, and they were always asking me to come join them in Canasta, Rook, or Monopoly, but that required time away from whichever book I preferred to keep my nose in and as such, I was a killjoy on a regular basis.

Cheryl mentioned to Mr. CPQ that I’m never competitive when we play, and he laughed and said I was highly competitive, but I think it’s only when I play with him.  On most days, he’s the sharper tool in the shed and nothing delights me more than besting him at anything.

I’m sure a marriage counselor would have a field day with that.

I ended up losing the game last night, but it doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that my friends were at my table, the talking was free-flowing, and the hazelnut pudding and strawberry cake were close at hand.

I venture to say that makes me a winner, every time.

Do you have a favorite game?  Are you competitive?

Have a nice day.

Domestic Bliss

I’m at Panera typing on my iPhone waiting for my Yarn Whisperer to show up and help me get over a particularly vexing set of instructions for a current project I’m working on. I bet she’s all kinds of wishing she’d never taught me how to knit in the first place. On the bright side, I’m buying coffee, so maybe that’ll soften the blow of having to deal with my incompetence.

Picking up my knitting needles today is a reward for having done six loads of laundry and vacuuming out my onion drawer yesterday.

Those are words I never thought I’d type.

I keep garlic, shallots, and onions in one of my cabinet drawers and over time the skins fall off and before you know it, I’m digging through two inches of dried peely paper just looking for a clove of garlic for my supper.

I hauled out the vacuum cleaner to suck everything up and ended up spending twenty minutes unclogging the hose with the pointy end of a shish kebab skewer because apparently there were rogue cloves hiding in the paper skins and they got stuck halfway down the tube.

I’m sure there’s a moral to this story, but Amy is pulling up in the parking lot and I’ve got to go.

I hope your day holds more excitement than vacuuming your drawers.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  I made a new recipe last night called Creamy Paprika Chicken.  It had potential, Kit Deluca, with the cup of sour cream added in at the end, but turns out the spicing was a little flat.  The kids gave it a thumbs down, and I’m back to the drawing board.

Teach me to wait two weeks between grocery store visits and have to resort to freezer-burned chicken.

2. I found a lizard tail on the carpet this morning.  Have not found the lizard.

3.  I’m glad y’all all told me not to freak out if they called me back for a repeat squish and squash.

They did.

And I freaked out.

And then I remembered y’all said not to.

So I put on cute shoes and went about my day.

4.  I’m going to go see Rachel the Lurker’s garden later this week.  She sent me an email talking smack about how pretty it was so I’m going over to take a look and I will report back to you later.

Assuming she’s not an axe murderer.

5.   You know.  5.

Have a nice day.

In which I ramble with no clear purpose about gardening

My grandfather loved his vegetable gardens.  He had two; one in the back yard and the other one beyond the gate and on a strip of land between the fence and the edge of the hill that sloped down to the highway below.

I don’t know if that strip of land belonged to him or not.  Granddaddy wasn’t the kind of man who’d let a little title dispute stand between him and a crop of sweet corn.

When I could tear myself away from reruns of Captain Kangaroo, I’d head out to the garden and watch him work in his blue and white overalls and floppy hat that kept him shaded from the hot Texas sun.  He would talk to me about the importance of chopping the weeds out and making sure the plants were well-watered.  I’d nod and sit on the grass and complain about the heat and generally be flighty and unhelpful.

When my grandfather died, I felt the need pick up the garden mantle and thus directed Mr. CPQ to dig up a patch of grass in the back yard and plant some seeds for me.

I’m all about outsourcing whenever possible.

We had a great little garden for several years that grew carrots, peppers, squash, tomatoes and herbs and then we moved to our current house which is unfenced and resides smack in the middle of a deer migration path.  Sadly, I have been unable to plant a thing in the yard that hasn’t been munched within twenty minutes of sticking it in the dirt.

Undeterred, I’ve moved to planting annuals in pots on the back deck and since the weather has just warmed up enough to get past freeze warnings, this weekend Mr. CPQ and I went to Lowes for the our annual Selecting Of The Flowers Day.

While we were there, I met Rachel who recognized Mr. CPQ’s distinctive white head of hair and my pink jacket from last week’s post about my Starbucks’s clown encounter and she came over to introduce herself as a blog lurker.  She was beautifully dressed with perfect hair and she could not have been more gracious and I was so discombobulated that I forgot to ask her if she also was a blogger because I would have loved to link to her blog if I could.

And by the way, Rachel, I’m glad I ran into you right after church and not three hours later when I was wearing planting clothes and had dirt in my hair.

And you created a monster because there’s no living with Mr. CPQ now that he’s been recognized.

After she left, I was kicking myself that I didn’t ask her for gardening advice because while I may stick a few seeds in the ground and call myself a gardener, let’s face it, I’m no Mr. Green Jeans.  We ended up bringing a variety of flowers home and the only two I know by name are geraniums and marigolds.  The rest we’re just calling “that purple one” or “the yellow wavy thing”.

My grandfather would be so proud.

Have a nice day.

Arabs, Russians, and a Hookah Bar

It only took me three stores and a possible cultural faux pas to get them, but the pickled turnips have been acquired and I’m well on my way toward making my own Middle Eastern food at home.

It took more than a little coaxing to get Mr. CPQ to try them, and he choked, sputtered, gagged, said something about this is how terrorists are made let’s just say that he didn’t appreciate them as much as I did, but this is also the man who thinks Spam is a delicacy so please take his reaction with a grain of sodium nitrate.

The store that had them was near NC State’s campus in a shopping center that also contained an Ethiopian restaurant and a hookah bar, so let’s just say my lily white English-speaking self might have been a little conspicuous, but I was on a mission and didn’t let a little minority status stand in the way of food nirvana.

After about .6 seconds in the store I realized that my two years of high school French weren’t going to get me very far with the monolingual Arabic man behind the counter who seemed concerned to see me with an uncovered head and unaccompanied by a male, but this is America and I had fresh highlights that I paid too much for to hide so I just flashed a winning smile and kept saying “turnips” slowly, loudly and repeatedly until  we managed to find a jar.

It was not unlike when I was living in Little Rock right out of college and my friend Robin and I saved our money and drove to Memphis for a girl’s weekend and on the spur of the moment decided to get a massage at the spa in the hotel where we were staying.  The therapist was Russian and the only word I knew in Russian was “Perestroika” and all he could say was “Reagan” which he said over and over and loudly and that has absolutely nothing to do with this story except for it just flashed in my head as I was typing and, wow, did I think I had arrived at the ripe old age of 22 by getting a massage in a strip mall Howard Johnson’s Hotel with a stunning view of the interstate.

The shop keeper asked me what I was going to eat with the turnips and when I told him, his eyes lit up and he proceeded to tell me about the right kind of chickpeas to use and how long to boil them and between his broken English and a little translation help from another customer, he managed to give me a recipe that sounds delicious and also invited me to come back sometime to taste their lamb.

It was a beautiful sight; an American girl and a Muslim man, bonding over food.

Our own little perestroika moment.

Peace. Love. Falaffel.

Have a nice day.