Sunday, November 20, 2011

Now: The Good Earth Lends Itself to Asian Day in Lynchburg

I could not bring myself to read Danielle Steele's favorite reads from the standard November version of Woman's Day (there was the standard and Holiday edition) because she mentioned Jane Eyre (I have to be honest--I have no idea what it's about but I think my subconscious has picked up enough to say,"No."), The Bible (I'm fine with the Bible but I can't read the entire thing in a month), and one of Joel Osteen's books (I don't care for him) so I was hoping Debbie Macomber would offer something a little more of interest to a cynical, literary snob such as myself.

I was happier with her picks, which included A Christmas Carol, my second favorite Christmas movie of all time (my first, and favorite movie period, is It's a Wonderful Life), and Christy (do you remember that tv show from back in the day?). I also used to watch Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman which  is kind of embarrassing.

I had never heard of her pick, The Good Earth, so I picked it up at Campbell County Library (they don't have a lot of Woman's Day picks, unfortunately).

I posted my review on Goodreads and I will repeat it here:

I'm sure that others have written an accurate, commending review of this book so I'll just document my reaction to the book.

Around an eighth of the way through I thought to myself,"Man I really like this book."

I would contribute my affinity for the book to my voyeuristic taste (I really enjoyed the movie,"The Death of Mr. Lazarescu") but it's well written, interesting, and it was awarded a Pulizter Prize so I don't really feel like I should have to explain myself or defend myself, especially if the best piece of literature you've read in a long time is The Twilight Saga. 

That said (with sprinkling of elitist garble noted), I was ashamed of myself when I eagerly researched the author only to learn she attended college in the city I was born and raised in (and still live here). 

I watched the movie and it was just wrong. 

I plan to read more about Pearl S. Buck because she seems to be the kind of woman who falls under the category of  personal heroine. It's kind of a shame that Randolph College doesn't have a lot available in her honor and what little it says on the web site is so muddled and overlapping you can't hardly read it. The "Where is Pearl?" program sounds really cool but it's hard to understand how to participate or if it's still something they have kept going.

In honor of this book I would like to discuss what you can do if you would like to read the book and declare an "Asian Day" in Lynchburg. I have categorize suggestions according to cost:

The Chopstick Package (under $20):

You can start your Saturday morning by attending a glorious Tai Chi class at Mind Body Studio. Tai Chi is beneficial on many levels (balance, relaxation, joints and muscles) and the classes are free, with donations welcome. You may also take classes on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Then mosey on over to King House so that you may ruin your work out with cheap, yet tasty Asian cuisine. There are easily items that range in price from $1-$3 and the portions are large AND they bring it to your table on real plates. You could totally eat well (well...) here for $5.

Then to re-rejuvenate your body. Walk over to the Korean Market and buy a bottle of Aloe Juice. It's like edible lotion for your gizzards.

The Karate Kid Package ($25-$50)

The first thing you want to do is enjoy sushi at King's Island restaurant on Old Forest Road. I recommend the Eastern Roll and the Sake Roll with hot tea.

Then head on over to The Jamerson YMCA where Andy Henson and his staff will set up your 3 free appointments of Shaolin Kempo. I suggest waiting until your fish settles because this routine is no joke and nowhere near the lower impact Tai Chi. This is a workout that could result in any number of bodily functions ranging from sweat to tears (blood is also a distinct possibility when you've become a seasoned veteran) but can result in a long life of health, fitness, and self discipline.

After that, you'll need down time so drive all the way across Lynchburg to enjoy a pedicure at Zen salon. A classic manicure is only $25.

The Jade Pacakge ($60 and up)

My recommendation for lunch on the "and up" package is Thai 99, one of my favorite restaurants. Start off with chicken satay, then progress to any number of dishes, served at your request either, mild, medium, hot, or Thai hot. I suggest having dessert as well, either the Thai custard or fried banana.

Following lunch you can get a shiatsu massage at A Matter of Touch spa. Shiatsu is Japanese for "finger pressure" and it considered a type of alternative medicine.

Another recommendation is acupuncture. Acupuncture originated in China and has been known to help alleviate pain and aid people in quitting smoking. East West Acupuncture boasts testimonials from some of Lynchburg's most tenured doctors and may be a last resort for people with constant pain or other continual issues.

Acupuncture requires more than one visit and can be expensive. This is why it's under the "and up" heading. But you can try it one time and the experience is worth it.

Advertisement: What's Wrong with this Picture?

I found my first photo shop disaster in Woman's Day's November edition. I was proud. Erik takes great joy in finding his own but I have never been able to do it.

But thanks to American Tourister, I can now feel proud of my poor photo shop skills. I took the time to submit it to

Bet you can't spot it.

Advertisement: The Andy Warhol Diet

I've been seeing a lot of Campbell Soup ads lately, in Woman's Day and otherwise. Since I'm always looking for interesting diets (and waiting for the miracle) I wondered how many calories you could save if, instead of eating out, you chose to take Campbell's soup as a meal. I selected their Healthy Choice line for the comparison. For the fast food, I chose what might pass as low fat options:

Campbell's Healthy Request Cheddar Cheese Soup



Wendy's Grilled Chicken Go Wrap



McDonald's Cheeseburger



Subway 6" Steak and Cheese Standard Toppings



Campbell's Healthy Request Mexican-Style Chicken Tortilla Soup



Taco Bell's Crunchy Taco (2)



Taco Bell's Gordita Nacho Cheese-Chicken



Taco Bell's Cheesy Nachos



Campbell's Healthy Request Italian-Style Wedding Soup



Pizza Hut Thin and Crispy Cheese Pizza Medium (1 Slice) 



Subway's 6" Chicken Marinara Melt



KFC Grilled Chicken Breast



Other advantages to buying Campbell's Soup:

1. You can cook with it.

2. There are frequently coupons for it.

3. You can use the cans for target practice.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Advertisement: Election Day, Veterans Day, Make Your Own Head Day

In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I decided to dig a little deeper into the Levi's ad I noticed in November's Edition of Woman's Day (I had never heard of "National Denim Day").

It's great to know that Levi's participates in raising money for breast cancer research and that they share details about where your donations go (especially since the recent Marie Clair article).

These thoughts, in the natural progression of ADHD, led me to research the other extraneous holidays that we could be celebrating this month:

National Aviation Month

What you can do to celebrate if...

1. You have the kind of money I will never see in my life:

Freedom Aviation will provide the lessons so that you may procure your pilot's license. If you're not feeling that froggy (or birdy, as the case may be) you may also be interested in their helicopter tours of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Smith Mountain Lake, or Lynchburg City for $350 an hour. You've seen the guys on Millionare Matchmaker do it--why not you?

2. You have the kind of money that partners itself with sheer insanity:

No Limits Sky Diving will gladly take your couple hundred dollars and throw you out of a plane, less than 100 miles from Lynchburg. Their drop zone (sounding very close to Stephen King's "The Dead Zone") is in Victoria, Virginia, a beautiful rural area better observed from the ground for people like myself who are terrified of heights.

3. You is po:

You can go to St. Steven's Church in Forest, VA and greet a parishioner who met Amelia Earheart. You'll hear a lovely sermon, there will more than likely be refreshments, and you may take a lovely photo. This is what I opted to do.

National Child Safety Month

What you can do to celebrate if...

1. You want to strap your child into a harness:

Get them involved in a sport that doesn't involve full body contact or competition and will make them seem way cooler to all the other second graders. Rise Up Climbing trains children as young as six and will patiently instruct them concerning safety, equipment, and climbing. It's an tremendous alternative to a gym membership because you're learning a skill that will also enable you to eventually join other groups for trips and excursions.

2. You want to strap your child into a harness:

The Monster Spider jump at River Ridge Mall is thankfully not just for children. This bungee trampoline is fun for adults too and I've never heard any horror stories about children getting injured (something you can't say about Crocs). Not a bad idea for a birthday or mother-daughter day, or losing-your-dignity-day.

3. You want to strap your child into a harness:

You can go to your local fire department to learn how to appropriately strap your child into their car seat. In my day, we sat on the arm rest in the middle of our family car that was completely constructed of steel and lead paint, but my understanding is, times have changed. We kept my friend's son off and on for a few years and that's when I learned it's also a great way to meet firemen. I don't know if they still do this or not, but they gave us a new car seat in exchange for our old one. Maybe it was just because I was totally passing out digits.

Good Nutrition Month

What to do to celebrate if...

1. You can't give up meat:

Learn about the concept of eating less and enjoying quality food, like organic-raised beef, pork, and chicken. Bedford Avenue Meat Shop offers a butcher service and a delivery service for orders over $30. They also offer local cheese and sides. Eating less meat and paying for quality meat is honestly a stellar path to good nutrition.

2. You really know nothing about good food:

Anywhere you live you can generally find local farms that are willing to show you where your food is grown, how it's grown, and how to maintain a healthy life style on a budget. Locally, Our Father's Farm provides a hand's-on approach to nutrition and organic farming. They also sell a number of products from eggs to Thanksgiving turkeys.

3. If you aren't scared of hippies:

Usually the owners of health food stores are just as valuable as their wares. I don't know the owner of Health Nut Nutrition, but I know his brother and he's definitely a hippy. A dirty hippy at that. But we love Charlie and I've heard stories about his brother, mostly good although some I probably shouldn't share in a public blog. A few years ago, my boyfriend learned that the cause of his sinus issues (nose bleeds and congestion) was a wheat allergy. People who own local health food stores (besides being hippies) are usually very educated, patient, and concerned people who have a passion for what they do. Another local example would be Vital Edge Nutritional Center. Megan is great, but don't drink the Bob Marley Tea unless you really do want to pass out.

International Drum Month

What to do to celebrate if...

1. You are open culturally:

If you want to remain in the city to learn about Monacan culture, take your child (or borrow one so you don't look like freak--it's what I do) to Amazement Square where you both may learn about their life and culture in the recreated village.

If you don't mind traveling out through the breath-taking countryside (currently underneath a tee-pee of autumn leaves) visit the Monacan Museum, Amherst County, Virginia. Here you will learn about their history and culture which of course includes the drums used in their dance and ceremonies.

2. If you are open religiously:

Whether you realize it or not, pagans are all around us. You may not agree with the practice, but it exists, probably closer to home than you imagine (and I won't even bring the history of Easter and Christmas into this). 

Drum circles are a fairly common occurrence in paganism, especially during the summer and winter solstices. During winter solstice there will be any number of drum circles as there are celebrations, festivals, and rituals. Personally, I have never involved myself in such a thing but I am never leery of learning about anyone's religion or the person. If you're not comfortable attending such a celebration, never hesitate to approach someone who doesn't, er, march to the tune of your drum!

3. If you are open to drunkenness:

And now we've come full (drum) circle. If you've never taken a wine tour, do. Some of the grooviest drum barrels in the area are Hickory Hill, Lovingston Winery, and Horton Vineyards. You don't beat these drums (maybe I should clarify "shouldn't") but you sure do enjoy what comes out of them. Think outside the wine box. 

Here's a list of special November days you may use as an excuse to do something different or illegal all conveniently linked to something to do in or around the area:

November 9th--Parade Day

November 11th--Veteran's Day

November 17th--Take a Hike Day
                       --Homemade Bread Day
                       --National Young Reader's Day

November 18th--Willam Tell Day

November 20th--Mexican Revolution Day

November 22nd--Stop the Violence Day

November 26th--National Cake Day

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now: 2011 Best Old Toys

From time to time (actually it's pretty much a constant) the area of my brain that regurgitates conscious thought spits out an idea wrapped in the trappings of random.

So while on the porch playing with my terrier a distinct picture arrived in the foyer of this brain area, dressed as a glowing yellow ball. 

"I wonder if they still make those blow-up, yellow balls you stick the light wand into?" Then a ghost me stood in the back yard of the house watching four-year-old me playing with one in 1983. 

If anyone remembers what this thing was called, do tell. It was a rectangular, yellow ball you stuck a glow wand into to play at night. I loved that thing. We had, like, 3 of them for some reason.

The November special issue of Woman's Day has a 2011 Toy Insider section including games, dolls, and trends. I recognized some and pondered the point of others.

I was content with my G.I. Joes and dolls that didn't require batteries. I think a few games and toys are still classically enjoyed by children. So here's my list:

1. Lite Brite

Turn out the lights and watch it glow. There's just something about putting the colored pegs into those holes. Check out this guy, my hero of the moment.

2. Glow Worm

Y'all know you had a Glow Worm and some of you carried that raggedy thing around well into school age. You can still find these for babies but I say give it to your five year old and demand they allow you to live vicariously through them.

3. Silly Putty

Let's call it a stocking stuffer. All I know is, I used this for a Sunday School object lesson and when I picked up an image on newspaper, I swear to god (excuse my emphasized blasphemy), the kids accused me of being a witch. Not one of them had ever seen Silly Putty and the oldest was 11. 

The most fun thing about Silly Putty is getting hair in it and endlessly pulling them out. There's just something slightly obscene about the entire experience.

4. Operation

You get to take out the organs of some poor sap or in later years, some unsuspecting Disney character. If you fail, you hear a buzzing sound that, although expected, causes you to fly several feet into the air, knocking over the other folk hovering over you, wishing you all manner of bad omens. You can also scare small children into actually thinking you've gotten electrocuted and that's the very best thing of all.  

5. Moon Shoes

I never had these. I just really want them now. Not to be confused with Moon Boots which I would also wear if I had an outfit to match. 

6. G.I. Joes

Anything you can tie to a handkerchief and throw out the window equates awesome. Unless it's a younger sibling. Except in the case they survive without injury and then it's just a really funny story. You may refer to my uncle for this brand of jovial tale (but don't ask dad). 

7. Legos

This one explains itself. Legos don't just build cool stuff. They build up engineers. And people who have nothing better to do with their time than create uselessness

I still collect the ones that have some meaning for me (like Irish Barbie or Still-Unmarried-Past-30-Barbie). Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I learned that a lot of little girls didn't play with her because she caused bad self image, but then I discovered when I grew up that King James and Hasbro had some sort of pact going so it was all just a conspiracy theory after all. Real bad self esteem comes from reading Cosmo and I learned that from the NIV version of the Bible (they have a partnership with Mattel so it's totally ok). 

9. Connect Four

Nothing will make you more angry when you lose.

If you don't believe me, watch Stand by Me. Stephen King and Rob Reiner should know what they're talking about. 

Eat Well: Dinner: Yellow and Green Cuisine

I am enamored with the idea of eclectic, shabby-chic entertaining for less. One day, I will acclimate my skill level of entertaining to a suitable state--if never to Martha Stewart than at least to Rachel Ray.  

Right now, my heart is in the right place and my nose is ahead of the heart, sniffing itself all over town to find a bargain. If Martha Stewart style don't come natural, finding a bargain is in my blood. My grandmother paid for my entire college wardrobe--jackets, suits, skirts, dresses (all name brand)--for under $150 because she knew how to shop at department stores, with coupons, out of season. 

And I am not hesitant to venture into any part of town and poke forward with the afore mentioned nose, to see what I may find. 

Kemper Street Flea Market is a perfect place to find all sorts of things, especially if you are specifically looking for particular items. This Saturday afternoon my "to find" list consisted of ramekins for baking macaroni and cheese for guests--so I could, of course, look like a suitable host with some degree of style.

This is a facility I will be frequenting. Small items for crafts and gewgaws for hosting are in abundance and CHEAP. If you are on a budget, but have a smattering of creativity and still want to entertain and look pulled together, there is absolutely no reason not to patronize this warehouse-size Flea Market to stock up on any number of things from candles to dinner ware, from vases to furniture. 

This particular day I walked away with a 6 piece Mikasa vintage 1960's-70's set for only $3--no chips or defects. It was a perfect background for the spinach macaroni and cheese I would serve later that evening. This particular Mikasa set sells on the internet at anywhere from $9-$29.99 a piece

Cheesy Shells and Greens Recipe

Recipe Ingredients

  • 12 oz medium pasta shells
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used more butter, as I'm a Paula Deen fan)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne (optional)
  • 6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch spinach, thick stems discarded, leaves roughly chopped

Recipe Preparation

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. I like to use Dreamfield Pasta because it's low carb and high fiber. You can follow the link above to get a coupon.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes; whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the mustard, nutmeg, cayenne (if using), 1 cup Cheddar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the pasta and spinach and toss to combine. If you don't have Dijon mustard do yourself a huge favor and follow the hyper link above to print out a coupon for mustard then double it at Kroger. Stock up on hot sauce and honey mustard too.
  4. Heat broiler. Transfer the mixture to a 1 1/2-qt broiler-proof baking dish or four 12-oz ramekins. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar and broil until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Prep Tip: Add a crispy bread crumb topping to this dish: Pulse 4 slices bread in a food processor to form coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle over the pasta before broiling.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Now: The Christmas Box(es)

This is another review of a book that will probably incite people to violence against me.

I read "The Christmas Box" this week, a "Top 5 Reads" from Debbie Macomber. It's a best selling book by a Christian man who created the story for his children then stumbled upon a national best seller.

I'm sorry, I know it's a touching and heartfelt story but it reads like the winning short story of a ninth grade High School student. My expectation of a book that sells successfully across the nation is at least an interesting and well written story. It was almost appalling to learn how popular it was years back.

I know, I know--children, the elderly, death, tragedy--I have no right disparaging the book. So be it. You read it for yourself. It will take all of 15 minutes and then you can tell me how terrible I am for writing such a thing.

Nevertheless, I thought the Christmas Box was a good idea very literally--a beautifully crafted container for special ornaments, a Bible, letters from a spouse over seas from years past. I think it would be a lovely idea for a Christmas gift. Here are my top picks:

Heirloom Ornament Box, Etsy, $275

Nativity Box, Woodworkers Fretwork, $29.95

Catholic Christmas Card Holder, Etsy, $45

Thursday, November 3, 2011

5 Ingredients or Less: Sprite Scones

You can make these with chives and cheddar if you want to get all Red Lobster with the recipe. These scones come out to $0.50 a piece if you buy the ingredients at Walmart. 

The proper way to enjoy these is with Devonshire clotted cream and lemon curd. 

Recipe Ingredients

  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Recipe Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork, gently stir in the soda and cream, mixing until incorporated (do not overmix).
  3. Drop 8 large spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with raw or granulated sugar, if desired, and bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Advertisement: Hopey Meals

It was late into the summer when we learned that Andreas had been admitted to the hospital with a mysterious illness. He was the boy in my Sunday School class I had hoped to watch from the football stands some day--the football stands surrounding a professional foot ball arena. Active and curious, protective of his grandmother, hyper active, and the very definition of "swagger."

It's the call you get and feel a bit of concern. The call that prompts you to request prayer, although a few days of school missed will more than likely be the biggest outcome.

Weeks later, I sat with my brother in the waiting room at the University of Virginia, expecting to say our last goodbyes. Andreas and his family had been friends for decades and his condition rapidly declined. His kidneys were failing, his little body swollen. We were expecting the worst, hoping for small change.

They still don't know what illness caused the stroke that resulted in a double amputation.

This is the reason that I first visited a Ronald Mcdonald House.

Andreas's mother, whose insurance didn't begin to cover all the medical expenses, was able to stay by her son's side for the months required for recovery at little to no cost because of the Ronald Mcdonald House charity that enables parents to stay close by their sick children.

After my trip to the gym the other night, I picked up a Happy Meal. I ordered a hamburger, and "apple fries" along with chocolate milk (I hear it's good for your muscles after a work out). Skimming through Woman's Day I discovered for the first time the purchase of a Happy Meal generates proceeds going toward charities like the Ronald Mcdonald House.

So I used it as a good excuse to indulge. And I thought about Andreas, who just received a special bicycle from the good folks at Wheels on the James this year.

And for all you factual folks I did the research. They donate one penny for each Happy Meal purchase.

Sometimes it takes small change for the hope of small change.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eat Well: Chicky Meat Poof Pie

When I was a kid we called exposed flesh "chicky meat." If you bent over and your shirt came up in the back, that was chicky meat. If you wore short shorts in the summer time and your thighs were exposed, that was chicky meat. Chicky meat was all the rage and you better believe if yours was out, someone was gonna get it. Someone was going to get your chicky meat. 

I sat in the living room with a bowl of hot steamy chicky meat stew, amused that I had brought wine into the house right under grandma's teetotaling nose and she had said nary a word. 

This recipe calls for dry white wine, but I prefer Sweet Sophia wine from Rebec Vineyard because of the herb base and unique flavor. It's also a marvelous way to make stuffing for your bird this Thanksgiving and I find it quite drinkable. 

I think it might get your chicky meat. 


 Recipe Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dry Sweet Sophia wine, Rebec Vineyards
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 11/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-in. pieces
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 Tbsp fresh dill sprigs

What I learned:

You can't find puff pastries at Walmart. I bought the turnover kit sans apple. If you do that you need to fold the squares.

By the way my eggs were past the expiration date. If they float, I'd say toss them, if they sink, they're probably good. My first egg was as floater. I threw it at the neighbor's house. True story.

Who I shared it with:

Grandma, who got mad at me for not sharing it with the dog. 

That dog sure do got a lot of chicky meat...