I’ll take one. No, better make that 200.

“Cure for an obsession: Get another one.” ~Mason Cooley

I have a weirdness. It popped up in a conversation between Jason and I the other day. For a bit of a backstory, it began innocently enough, as it always does.

I was in the plant section, more specifically, the CLEARANCE (clear-ron-say, as I love to pronounce it) section of Lowe’s. Three sad and mostly dead African violets caught my eye. They were a whopping dollar each. And now let’s hit the backstory to my backstory: Ten years ago, I got an African violet. I don’t remember where I got it. It started innocently enough. A single plant, right? Then, as I started researched African violets, they have things called “suckers” which are little baby plants trying to come up from the base of the mother plant. This is not a good thing for your normal violet, because they will stop blooming. So, being the good plant stewardess that I was, I painstakingly removed each tiny embryonic baby from the mama with tweezers and a Xacto knife (sterilized, of course) and put them with gentle, loving care in a Jiffy greenhouse. You know, the giant ones with like 40 cells.

Then I discovered that there are things called “trailing” African violets, which, LONG AND VERY BORING STORY SHORT, suckers are NOT a bad thing and that’s just the ways trailers grow. Well, crud. So now I had approximately 41 trailing African violets. I will spare you the horror of the boring details, but I ended up doing hours and hours of research on how to BEST raise African violets, what they needed, what they hated, the Latin name, and heck, I may have joined the African Violet Society of America. I even gave a presentation (seriously) to our local garden club on African violet care.

Because you see, when I get fixated on something, I get FIXATED. I have to know all about it. I want you to ask me questions, because I am READY and PREPARED with an endless array of information and documentation and if I had been on Jeopardy and African violets were a subject, I would have stomped a mudhole in everyone else’s behind. Back to present-day Lowe’s:

I thought about my violet that I had ten years ago. I still miss “her”. (Yes, it was a ‘her’, and she had a name, though I can’t remember it) Here she was in her full glory. Be still my heart:

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And the worst part was that I have no idea what happened to her. I am sure that, in the course of us moving and my subsequent obsessions, she suffered a terrible, neglectful death. But anyway, I got the violets at Lowe’s. I have babied them (one did die), pampered them, fertilized them, and given them the quarter-turn each and every day in their sunny, south-facing window. They have rewarded my patience and persistence by thriving and blooming:

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But enter my weirdness. I don’t want just two African violets anymore. I want a hundred. I want a greenhouse full of African violets. I want so many that people can’t come into my house without falling over some Saintpaulia (if you don’t get it, don’t feel bad…it’s the nerd in me). I want so many that people will call me “that crazy violet lady”.

So naturally, a few weeks later I was in Lowe’s again and there was a FULL FLAT of sad, neglected AVs. Be still my heart. But they weren’t yet marked down and I’ll be danged if I pay more than a dollar each for a flowerless AV from Lowe’s when I know that’s what they mark them down to. Enter my DLS (dear long-suffering) husband. A week later, he has to go to Lowe’s. I beg him to go check on the flat. When he returns, it’s like Christmas. He scores fifteen violets…for a dollar a piece. I am giddy. It was better than getting a pony.

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So later that night, he says, “Why is it that you can’t just have ONE of something?”

Me: I don’t know what you mean.

He (looking at me like I have lost it): You can’t just have one. Why do you have to get multiples of everything?

Me (puzzled look): I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He: We have six dogs, more chickens than anyone we know, like 10 parrots….(voice trails off)

Me: shrugs

Of COURSE I know what he means! It’s the same reason I couldn’t have a pair of zebra finches. I had to have 15. I couldn’t have one gerbil; I had to have every color so that I could, quite literally, be able to recreate ANY AND ALL possible color variations in the gerbil breeding world. I couldn’t have just one orchid; I had to save them all from Lowe’s and my kitchen window looked like a Brazilian rainforest minus the monkeys. I couldn’t just have “three or four” chickens, but instead I needed one (okay…more) of each breed known to mankind. One roll of washi tape? NO! I must have one representing each holiday, each possible vacation destination, and every color in the full Pantone color library.

But I have good news! I am older and I am tireder. Yes, tireder. And I am tired of having multiples of anything! Minimalism and my obsession to have a full set of 200 gel pens to go with my new coloring book do not mesh. So, I have been clearing out my past obsessions, and not putting anything else in their place.

Except African violets. Which I can justify because they do not poop nor do they shed. Those are some of my new requirements to come into my house.

Also, if you know where I could get a plant like my original AV, you are my new friend…I really do miss it and I will always make enough window space for one more!

Cheers!

Texas: Hotter’n a pot of collards

It’s no secret that in Texas, if you want the weather to change, just wait two minutes. Honestly, it’s a real mixed bag around here. You can walk out in shorts and a tank top that morning, and come back a few hours later in need of a pair of woolen underwear, four layers of clothing, and a full-body zip-up sleeping bag with arm and legholes. But that’s just fall.

In the summer, it is hot. Like…deathly hot. Like…walk into a steaming hot blanket kind of hot. You will hear us say all of the time, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s both, and it’s horrible. And hint, hint, it gets worse the older you get. I have learned that I need to be inside from about 10:30am until just before sunset. If I can’t do that (and let’s face it, I can’t), then when I AM outside, I’m hugging the treeline to stay in the shadows. It is on days like today that I dream of moving to Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine….pretty much anywhere where my shoes aren’t melting on the pavement and where snow is not a rarity.

Fortunately, there are only a few months that are pretty gross, and our winters are mild. Starting mid-July through September, however, I am ready to live in an igloo and hunt caribou. Or whatever igloo-dwelling people do. I don’t care. I no longer wonder why people take mid-day naps around here and siestas in Mexico. It’s because it is too hot to even manage a decent conversation without wanting to kill or seriously hurt someone. You want to see mayhem? Go check out a line of people waiting for ANYTHING in Texas come July. It ain’t pretty.

BUT, at least earlier this year, we got rain. A ton of rain. Enough to scare you kind of rain. And with a lot of rain, you get a lot of wildflowers. And this year, the crepe myrtle were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes…I swear I saw a double rainbow and white doves and the American flag in the background as I was taking photos. Really.

So please feel free to live vicariously through my happy photos during the month of May and June. Sadly, everything in my front yard now looks like it has been hit with a blowtorch.

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I found the recipe, but I died of hunger

 

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Yes, I am about to hit you with a first-world problem. Yes, it is petty and silly but I just wanted to throw this out in the world and see what you think. Let’s create the scenario:

You look at the clock and it’s close to 5pm. “Crap! I haven’t EVEN thought about supper. Better find a recipe,” you say to yourself. You have chicken thawed in the fridge (miraculously…I know this never really happens, but play along), and you are hormonal, so you want something creamy, full of cheese, and at least 7,000 calories per serving. Your Google search brings up several pages of yummy sounding dishes, and you click on one that sounds tasty: “Maw Maw’s Secret Never-Fail Creamy Cheesy Crunchy Super-Easy Baked Chicken”.

It is on a “mommy blog” kind of a blog site, which all great, but as soon as the page loads, you realize you have a problem. The title of the page may be “Maw Maw’s Secret Never-Fail Creamy Cheesy Crunchy Super-Easy Baked Chicken”, but directly below the title, there is no recipe. Just words. A lot of words.

In fact, it is a ten chapter story about how Great-great-great-great-great grandmother Maw Maw created this recipe in the latter part of Colonial times and fed it to the early settlers where it was supposed to have saved an entire village following an outbreak of smallpox.  She then passed it on to Great-great-great-great grandmother Mildred, who brought it to a potluck after the signing of the Constitution, where Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin both declared that it was the best thing they had ever eaten. Some years later, Great-great-great grandmother Maypearl was able to save the famous recipe from the hands of the Union soldiers by smuggling it in a secret compartment in her hatpin. Later, the recipe was served at various family functions, saved lives, and was sworn to secrecy and only released upon Grandmother Minnie’s death in 1987.

Interestingly enough, the recipe includes 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, a “99 cent bag of Doritos”,  a box of Velveeta (cubed), and a brick of cream cheese. But who am I to be asking these kinds of questions?

It all started for me after reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog years ago. At first, I looked forward to her close-up photos of melting butter, cheesy strands of deliciousness as it was being served, and gooey, creamy dessert goodness. But after a while, the number of photos increased. The story grew in length, and suddenly EVERYONE in the blog world was standing two inches from their cast iron skillets with their Rebel DSLR camera to grab that perfect macro shot of a stick of butter dissolving into a lovely yellow pool. Look, I’m not knocking the woman, after all, she made a mint off of her posts, but enough is enough and I’m certainly not picking on dear Ree. But sheesh. Recipe novellas just need to die. It’s five o’clock, I’m hangry and hormonal, and if I don’t find that recipe (and after reading all of that you had BETTER put it into a print-friendly format!), I am gonna throw this laptop between two sliced of (heavily buttered) bread and eat it.

Something else of note is that I’m sorry, but Paula Deen and the like didn’t pull these recipes out of thin air. They have made a fortune on reprinting the exact same recipes that I can get out of my Junior League of Fussybottom/Possum Holler Full Gospel Baptist Church/Coonlick County Electric Co-op fundraising cookbooks.

Now I’m off to my cookbooks to find something that calls for Doritos, a cream soup, and 2 sticks of butter. See ya!

 

 

Lipstick & Gizzards

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We were watching Jerry Clower one night, and the late and great Mississippi-bred comedian was talking about times when people in the South got together. Oh, there are pea-shellins, corn-huskins, and taffy-pullins, sure. But no one really gets excited about chicken-pluckins. Here’s why:

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Broiler chickens are nasty.

I love animals, but broilers AKA meat birds AKA Cornish crosses are just….gross. They can hardly help it, I know, because they were bred to make one thing: chicken nuggets. (Well, other things, too, but “nuggets” is just a funny word.) They eat and then they poop. Continuously. And then they laid in said poop. If you are familiar with chicken poop, it’s obviously gross, but there is no poop like broiler poop. Imagine Old Faithful. Need I say more? Yes, it really is THAT bad. Please see above photo for reference.

Anyway, last fall, my dear friend Big Rig and her husband, PeeDee, brought over a passel of meat birds to send to chicken Jesus in the sky. Big Rig was to the point where so many of us find ourselves with farming: either the chickens had to go or she was moving to a new place where you never had to move a chicken tractor much less see a chicken ever again.

So, because we have chicken processing equipment, they came to our farm and we got everything set up. Now, Big Rig and I haven’t ever done a ‘chicken-pluckin’ together, so this was a whole new experience. You have your cages full of ‘pre-nugget’ AKA live chickens, your ‘killing cones’, a giant pot of boiling water, and then a processing table. Obviously, chickens go in the cones first and that’s where it’s “off with their heads”. But anyway.

Big Rig volunteered to put the first chicken in a cone. They go upside down and their little heads stick out of the bottom of the cone, and their feet out of the top. Ideally, they don’t wriggle around too much, but, this isn’t always the case. As Big Rig went to put the wildly thrashing nugget with legs in the first cone, something terrible happened. Remember the visual of Old Faithful? Yes friends, at the very moment chicken was going IN, something else was coming OUT in a steady stream RIGHT ACROSS BIG RIG’S MOUTH. As I looked up, there was a weird strangling noise and she was wildly gesticulating with her hands, eyes as wide as a turkey platter.  Her lips were so pursed, I thought that maybe she had lost them permanently. With arms flailing and loudly throat-screaming, “MMMMMMMGGGGGGGDDDDDKKKKKKKKMMMMMM”, I grabbed a roll of paper towels and threw it at her. PeeDee and Jason had a horrified look on their faces which quickly dissolved into a fit of doubled-over laughter.

It was a day to remember, that’s for sure.

Revenge of the Nuggets.

Then, as if I didn’t get enough of fecal-laced lip balm, when my friend Dubyacee called and said she would have about twenty more nuggets to process, I immediately said, “Yes! Bring them over!” At least I had given myself 6 months to recover.

This day went without any face-painting incidents, but I did learn that I never want to skin a chicken ever again. It was a long, gross, wet, and feathery day, but in the end we had twenty or so little birds in the coolers. The only issue was, I hadn’t bought enough ice. When you are butchering birds, you really need to live next door to an ice factory. I don’t care how much ice you buy, it isn’t enough. You will always, ALWAYS be short by 2 or 3 bags.

So, I got in our truck and drove down to the little general store down the street. Before I got out, I took a look at myself. My mud boots were soaking wet and covered in things we won’t discuss, but that did include feathers. My freebie t-shirt and shorts were sprayed with who-even-knows what. My hair was sweaty and in a tall bun that looked like I had slept in it for two days, not to mention looking like I had grabbed a hold of a bare electrical wire in my sleep. Make-up free, I was the perfect advertisement of how NOT to go out in public. I grabbed my purse and fumbled around in my side pocket. Grabbing my candy red lipstick, I smeared it across my lips. Because,  I may be a grubby old chicken processor, but I’ll be danged if I’m going out without my lipstick.

Lipstick & gizzards. Welcome to my life. chicken2