Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NOT Julia

I had this terrible dream where the newspaper I work for put on a cooking show and even though I said over and over (and over) that I can’t cook, I mean it!!! I showed up and was told:

Oh, you’ll be cooking….
In front of a live audience….
of 700 people…
right now.

…a task that apparently makes me look like I ride the short bus.

“Isn’t a cooking show more of a watch-it-on-TV-kind of thing?” I asked, trying to get out of participating.
“No, it’s a big, live event,” I was told. “People are very excited. We need you to volunteer on stage.”

“Ok, but I can’t cook,” I said. “Really.”
“All you’ll have to do is pick up dirty dishes,” my co-worker said.

That was a lie. When I arrived before the show wearing all black, (as requested) the on-air chef threw me an apron.

“Are you my helper?” the chef asked.
“Um, I think so.”
“Here is your pre-show checklist.” (I was also given a mid-show AND post-show checklist.)
I gave the list a nervous glance, since my culinary skills are limited to the microwave and toaster oven.
The first task? “Browning” maple sausage.

“What about the dirty dishes???” I pleaded.
The chef ignored me.

In addition to “browning” sausage AND chicken, I had to melt chocolate and butter (“don’t let the butter start to smoke!!!”) and “zest an orange” which I still don’t know how to do. The list was starting to give me a headache.

Thankfully, another “helper” (who was a high school senior and aspiring culinary student) looked very capable. He was wearing a chef coat. I made him zest.

I’ve seen Emeril Live on TV and I’m a big fan of Top Chef, so the cooking show itself was pretty interesting. There was a female chef who cooked TEN dishes on stage live in front of the crowd.

She does 40 shows a year all over the country and has been doing it for the past 8 years. She’s a pro, and she knows how to cleverly plug Velveeta cheese (a sponsor) while making the dishes.

(“Don’t you hate when Velveeta cheese sticks to your knife? No problem! Just spray your knife with cooking spray first! There! Slather up that creamy goodness!”)

The crowd, mostly women excited about the raffle prizes, laughed and clapped and were genuinely amused by the chef’s banter.

“I always watch what I eat,” she said as she mixed ingredients for a pie. “I never close my eyes.”
We politely laughed. The crowd roared.

Us "helpers" were on our feet for three hours running around backstage, changing the temperatures on the stoves, getting more food out of the fridge and I even cleaned up dirty dishes. ONCE. I was very good at it.

Clearing dishes. Easy.

But, really, the whole thing made me panicky and sweaty.

Intensely waiting with the "checklist." P.S. Cute orange zester huh?

As a “thank you” we were given one of the on-air dishes to eat backstage, which happened to be the chicken pot pie (I BROWNED THAT CHICKEN Y’ALL!).

Afterwards, I told the chef that it was the best chicken pot pie I had ever eaten. (Which is pretty much hers vs. Stouffers).

She suggested I make the pot pie at home on my own, but I reassured her that THAT was a bad idea.
The last time I decided to cook something all by myself was spinach lasagna and I didn’t realize that I needed to cook the noodles before layering it.

I spent $30 at the grocery store and a half-hour stressfully preparing each layer, when my friend (and avid cook) Lauren stopped by to see how the dinner preparations were coming along.
She surveyed the scene.
“You know that you have to cook the noodles, right?” she asked.
I looked at the hard noodles and slapped my spinach-stained hand on my forehead.
I got so annoyed at my slip-up that I had Lauren take over the dish while I drank a beer and played on the Internet.

About two months ago, I cooked homemade pot roast — 4 minutes in the microwave.
My friend April (also an avid cook) was equal parts amused and mortified when I presented her with the pre-cooked roast with a chewy brown Minute Rice accompaniment.

April routinely cooks homemade meals for her boyfriend, which includes things like “stuffing a pork chop with apples” and “finishing it off in the oven.” That’s what she said!

“That’s so funny how you put something in the microwave and call it cooking!” April told me, pouring another glass of wine from the industrial-sized bottle.

“Well, at least it wasn’t frozen first, so that’s a step in the right direction,” I said.

We agreed that the pot roast was actually quite delicious ThankYouVeryMuch, but she still teased me about my cooking heating skills.

April has yet to witness a true Jenny disaster in the kitchen. Some of the highlights include:

1.) Pesto mashed potatoes. A seemingly good idea until you start mashing in the pesto and realize that no one (including you) wants to eat green mush.

2.) Fried chicken. Hot and crispy on the outside….raw on the inside. And it leaves such a pleasant lingering smell, too.

3.) Dill sandwiches.A delicious recipe from my dear friend Tatiana that is basically cream cheese and butter and dill and cucumbers spread on thin white bread. I made a big batch for a work party, but left it on the counter overnight and it spoiled. Probably had the measurements wrong anyway.

4.) Boxed Birthday cake. This was supposed to be something cute for my boyfriend last Christmas but I apparently didn’t put enough oil on the baking pan so half of it refused to come out and it looked like a sad, deformed cake that a crazy person would have cooked. My mom even tried chopping off the offending side but it just looked worse.

5.) Stir fry.Turns out, there is such a thing as too much soy sauce.

So no, I will not be attempting homemade pot pie, no matter how much Velveeta cheese is in it. But, if anyone wants to make it for me, I’d be happy to be a “helper.” I look pretty good in black, too.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Things dad does best

I still maintain that my dad is the smartest person I know.

Go ahead, ask him how boats float. Or how TVs work.
He’s also a mathematician, so you can ask him any numbers question, too, but who cares about math?? Math makes me nauseous.

Today is my dad’s birthday, and I decided to remember all the things my dad does best.

He certainly is the best boat driver I know, which means I don’t fear for my life when going over waves.
Our family used to go on vacation every year to Percy Quin State Park in Mississippi and they have a very nice lake and we looked forward to boating everyday, skiing and tubing.

Last year, I was out on a boat tubing in South Carolina with a young male driver and when we drove through waves, I told him that he drives his boat just like my dad.

Um, OK,” he said.
“No, that’s a good thing,” I said. “That’s a compliment.”

My dad was a teacher at a high school in New Orleans and taught a lot of my friends, who all loved him and are interested in hearing more about what he’s up to than what I’m up to.

The most recent example of this was when I traveled home for Jazz Fest, and a friend of mine and his former student who I haven’t seen in years, asked first and foremost, “how’s your dad doing?”

Maybe they all like him because he only gave two detentions in two years, didn’t care about backless shoes or nametags. He also tells us funny jokes that make us crack up and my mother huff and puff.

A little-known fact is that he used to own a hair salon and he’s a hair color specialist. This came in handy when I decided to dye my hair “fire engine red” from a box in high school and promptly got a detention.

“You will get an additional detention for every day your hair is red!” said the scary assistant principal at the Catholic High School whose name was ironically Ms. Heller.

“But, it doesn’t say anything in the handbook about hair color!” I protested, a pink lock of hair falling in my face.
“See there?” she responded, pointing to the fine print. “It says ‘administration has discretion for all hair styles.’ I think it’s ugly.”

When I told my dad the bad news, we spent the evening at the kitchen table in New Orleans and he stripped my hair of its red color and re-dyed it blonde to a Ms. Heller-accepted color.

My dad is also a really great dancer (when he decides to leave the living room and his high-def TV) and his dancing skills landed me and him FIRST PLACE at my high school’s father-daughter dance contest.

We made it through three elimination rounds, and as a sophomore, my dad and I beat every other father-daughter pair in the whole school.
I think my mom still has the VHS of that somewhere.

My mom said that when she told my dad she was having twins, he turned blue and couldn’t eat his lunch that day.

We have an older brother, and I hear boys are much easier to raise, so twin girls was probably the worst thing ever to hear. Total bad news.

And we didn’t disappoint. By the time we went to college, my twin sister, Joy, and I had worn out the clutch in his manual transmission car (within two months of driving it) made him kill about 50 roaches (and we would not stop screaming until he did) and had to wake us up five times every morning until we groggily climbed out of bed.

He also was stuck coaching our little league girls softball team, and had to deal with a batter who started crying at the plate because she was scared.

In college, my dad helped foster my newspaper career, since he was a newspaper reporter and photographer himself, and even got me a brand new laptop computer for college graduation so I could write freelance articles for the small community newspaper that hired me. It was the nicest present I’ve ever gotten.

Like the post I wrote about my mom, my dad has helped me, my twin sister, Joy, and brother Franklin with our life choices every step of the way.

He helped me write my cover letter for jobs. He edits the text of Joy’s graphic designs at work. He drove with my brother, Franklin, from Austin, Texas to Los Angeles in a large truck with all of my brother’s belongings.

Now that we are older, my dad is brimming with advice. He works sometimes as a motivational speaker (related to the hair salon industry) and routinely tells us that anything is possible with old-fashioned hard work.

“Do what you love and the money will follow,” he would say. We’d get frustrated with such a simple approach to life, but it’s kind of true.

(He is also a very practical person and rather than letting us wail and cry about stupid ex-boyfriends, his advice was: “If you spend more than 20 minutes crying over this, you’re wasting your time. Give yourself 20 minutes and that’s it.”)

He’s also an excellent racquetball player and can hang on the court with my 30-something former co-worker when he visits me and Joy in South Carolina.
“Dad, you didn’t let Sarah win?” I asked him when he came back grinning from ear to ear.
“NO, I DIDN’T LET HER WIN!” he said.

My friend, April, has only known my dad for the past five years, but she always talks about how his advice about life and work has helped her get through tough job decisions.

(He also brought her home from a Mardi Gras parade when she got a terrible sinus infection one year and bought her medicine and made sure she was OK. April noted that her father would never have done that for her, let alone one of her friends. On a side note, my dad also thinks Coca Cola will cure most ailments.)

Other things my dad knows? He has a formula to get rid of headaches that involves sitting down and envisioning something. He can peel 20 shrimp in the time it takes me to peel five.
He knows how to navigate the waters of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and is an expert fisherman.
He does not mind baiting our fishing poles with LIVE crickets and UGH DADDY MINE FELL OFF AND NOW IT’S HOPPING AROUND THE BOAT!!!

Speaking of fishing, and boating and general fun, my dad is great with kids. When he sees them, he’ll wave or smile or make a funny face or joke. My aunt’s boyfriend has a young son who is completely taken with my dad.

Seeing my dad show him how to cook hamburgers and be polite at restaurants and tell G-rated jokes to him makes me excited to have kids one day.
It will certainly come in handy when my child asks me how boats float, or how TVs work.
“Ask your grandfather,” I’ll say. “He knows everything.”


Friday, May 21, 2010

I don’t care how fast you can crabwalk

Being a slow walker isn’t a problem when I’m alone.

However, when I’m with a group of people, it’s a huge problem. My friends don’t slow down to walk with me, and walking faster makes my legs hurt and then I start to sweat.

I’d like to say I walk slow because I have short legs, but my twin sister, Joy, whose legs are the same length as mine, walks fast.
Actually, she is usually the one huffing and puffing because I’m ten paces back and everyone has to stop walking until I catch up.

When I studied abroad in Spain, the American students would travel in groups, and my slow walking became a talking point. I used to make up excuses.

“I mean, sorry that I’m looking at the architecture!” I would say. “I didn’t realize I’d be forced to sprint through town!

Those excuses lasted about a week until everyone realized that I was just a painfully slow walker.
“Just go ahead!” I finally shouted at the group. “I’m fine!”

“I bet I could crab walk faster than you!” one of the boys said.
“Oh, very funny. Haha.”

He wasn’t kidding. He actually got onto his hands and feet and crab walked on the cobblestone street faster than I walked normally.
“Congratulations.” I said.

My slow walking wasn’t tolerated when I lived in New York for a summer. I was routinely plowed over by much bigger, faster people and I adapted by walking very close to the buildings almost touching them, so I'd be out of the sidewalk thoroughfare.
My slow walking also regularly resulted in me being late and missing subways and trains.

There was one incident where my slow walking almost got me into actual trouble.

A would-be mugger zeroed in on me when he saw me strolling alone, BY MYSELF about ten paces behind my friends (thanks, y’all) and he lurched at me and tried to grab my purse.

It was as if walking slowly made me the injured zebra that the lion tries to eat. The man had asked my group of friends for money but did not lurch at them. He lurched at me.

Thankfully, I run much faster than I walk and once my friends heard me yelp they got involved and the lion became uninterested in fighting ALL the zebras.

I didn’t talk to Joy for a full half-hour after that.

Yesterday, my roommate, Katy, developed a fun game that involved halting completely and counting to five slowly, because that’s how long it took for me to catch up.
She had to do that twice before we got to our destination. Joy didn’t like that game at all.

Thankfully, there are nice people who slow down to walk with me. My mom, for one, has slowed down and even pointed out that there’s no problem with "strolling."

My cute boyfriend also slows his pace down so he can walk with his arm around me.
He’s never even said anything about how slow I walk even though I’m sure it drives him crazy because he’s tall and probably hates taking baby steps down the street.

But he puts up with it so he can walk right next to me, and I’m very grateful.

It’s also helpful in keeping the lions away.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free therapy

Sometimes, I’m jealous of boys. They aren’t scared of roaches, their pants come in the exact length and waist size and they know how to properly work the DVR.
They somehow grill meat better, too.

However, this past weekend, I was not jealous of boys at all. Not even for even a minute. I was too busy enjoying my girlfriends and the beach for that.

See, I absolutely love the beach (love the beach so much there should be another word for it) and in my experience, boys at the beach are no fun.

They get extreme ADD and are incapable of sitting still.

They are overactive, overstimulated creatures, and laying on the beach reading a magazine is not their idea of enjoyment.
They want to throw around a football or a Frisbee or go swimming or surfing and no, I am not done with my US Weekly so I don’t want to play soccer. No, I don’t care if you think the magazine is crap. Suri needs help!

Girls, however, can totally take a chill pill and enjoy sitting quietly, soaking up the sun on an oversized towel with oversized sunglasses.
Which is exactly what I did last weekend during girls’ weekend at the beach.

I was never a member of a sorority, since I pretty much went to a sorority in high school, but I have joined an honorary sorority called Kappa Schnappa, which is as hilarious at it sounds. There are nine very exclusive members and we don’t share our strawberry moonshine with just anyone.

Denise, one of the founding members of Kappa Schnappa, has the great fortune of having a beach house in her family, and every year we make the two-hour trip up the South Carolina coast to play on the beach. No boys allowed.

This year’s trip was most excellent, helped by the fact that we all had particularly taxing week days leading up to it. (I, for one, had after-work commitments and didn’t get home before 9:30 p.m. all week. This is why I don’t have a dog.)

The minute I walked into the cozy, yellow beach house with my twin sister, Joy, on Friday, all was at peace.
(We were the last to arrive, and were greeted by a large spread of tacos and fajitas. Boys would never have prepared that. They probably would have served bacon, or fried bacon. Or bacon bits.)

We played catch-up on the screened in porch, with hilarious stories of dating, outings and gossip.
We played cards, we made a list of things we wanted to do that weekend (which was a whole lotta nothing) and no one talked about work. It was glorious.

The girls of Kappa Schnappa are also really happy with life at the moment (see: cool ass bitches) and the weekend was never once riddled with boy drama. We actually hardly ever talked about boys unless it was to point out the cute ones on the beach. (Playing football, of course.)

It may be hard to understand why Joy and I drove two hours away to another beach to relax when we live 15 minutes away from one.

It’s because there was refreshingly nothing. to. do. Nothing to worry about, except what to eat for dinner.
No answering the phone, no checking the mail, no working out a plan for the weekend. There wasn't even a thought as to the horrible state of our garden at home.

Our loose agenda for Saturday

It didn’t matter than some of us stayed on the beach longer in the afternoon to finish reading our trashy magazines (Poor Heidi, y’all!) or others ate an early lunch, or took an early nap, or went kayaking in the little marsh/pond out front.
We didn’t care what we looked like, no one was embarrassed to be in a bikini all weekend and we showered outdoors.
We didn’t even have to drive anywhere. The beach house is within walking distance of the ocean.

Do we go to the beach house because we are happy or are we happy because we go to the beach house?
I think we should go back immediately and ponder this.

Now, I know this sounds like an excerpt from the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or that weird Traveling Pants book I've never read, so I'll sass it up a bit: We also drank a lot of a moonshine and some of us maybe kissed some beach boys (I’ll never tell) and most of us got heavily burned by the sun in the rear end area.

But no one played with a football.

Kappa Schnappa 2010!!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Prom season

High school prom was last weekend, but I was too lazy busy last week to blog about it.
It reminds me of how in high school I was too lazy busy to go prom dress shopping until the day before.

My friend April’s little brother went to prom last weekend, which is weird because in my mind he’s still 10 years old.
He had a nice time with his date, eating at a fancy restaurant beforehand (Italian of course) but had a terrible time at the dance because his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend were kissing all night in the corner.

But, that’s neither here nor there.
Let’s talk about MY prom.

The three most interesting things about my prom (and any other dance at our school for that matter) are:

1.) We rode to the dance in a rented Greyhound Bus.
2.) I was the junior sweetheart and got to wear a crown. That’s right, bitches!!!
3.) My twin sister, Joy, got me all my dates.

For girls in high school, dances are a big deal. For girls at a Catholic all-girls high school, dances are a HUGE deal, because they focus on two things not normally seen everyday: boys and dresses.

Boys were the trickiest part of prom, since there weren’t any at our school, and we relied on friends who knew boys to set us up, or someone’s cute brother, or that one guy from the all-boys school who was supposed to recruit dates for us.

This turned out a very dysfunctional cycle of repeat dates. More than once, the same guy would attend dance after dance, bouncing from date to date.
Who’s Jay going with this time? We’d wonder. It was always someone new. Sometimes it was a problem, but most often not. As long as everybody had a guy to pose with in pictures, everything was OK.

I relied on my twin sister, Joy, to get me dates. She transferred to a co-ed school after freshman year at our Catholic School, and she totally saved my social life.
She found good-looking, nice guys for me to go dances with. She would recruit them at lunchtime and come up to them as they ate their sandwiches.

“Hey, do you want to go with my identical twin sister to her Catholic High School prom this weekend?”

Turns out, everyone wanted to go. Joy was even asked by other guys why she didn't consider them for the task.
She ended up setting several of her male friends up with us.

“So, what do I do?” the boys would ask Joy.
“You come to my house at 6:30.”
“Um, Ok.”
“Don’t be late.”

People say getting a date for prom is super terrifying and awkward. I say get a twin and have them do the dirty work for you.

Before Joy transferred, however, I was stuck getting my own dates. The best I could do was a foreign exchange student that I met at the coffee shop where I did my homework.

His name was Borja (“Bor-HA”) and he had a unibrow and I’m pretty sure he had a terrible time at the Valentine's Day dance.
He definitely didn’t understand how to do the tootsie roll.

Channeling Frida Kahlo. $10 to anyone who can guess which is me and which is Joy.

Things improved greatly when Joy transferred schools and got me dates that spoke English.

We had a lot of dances at our school. There was the prom, a Christmas dance, homecoming dance, sweetheart dance, and a short-lived Mardi Gras dance that was no fun because it was in the stinky gym and not at a fancy venue.

The best dance and date EVER was the Christmas dance my junior year of high school.
At the Christmas dance, someone in each grade is named the class “sweetheart," kind of like prom queen. Only, Christmas queen. Haha Catholic High Schools love their religious holidays.

I was somehow in the running for junior sweetheart, after nominating myself.
There were far more popular girls on the ballot, so I didn’t think I’d win.
As such, I didn’t tell my date that I was even nominated.

When all the nominees were called together at the dance, I casually said to him, “Oh, yea, it’s this sweetheart thing, no big deal. Whatever.”

I didn’t realize that we both had to walk down a winding staircase slowly with a spotlight on us as everyone stared. It could have been traumatizing. I asked him to please not let me fall.

As it turns out, my best friend Angela (she's the one in the zebra cowboy hat in the picture above) had bullied everyone in our grade into voting for me during homeroom.
Her hard work paid off. I totally won.
So hot.

And, my date totally embraced being “Mr. junior sweetheart.”

Sorry ladies, he’s married now. The nerve!

So, yea, we had a great time. He even told Joy on Monday at lunch how much fun he had.
(So much fun, in fact, that he recruited his best friend for Angela for prom, but she was unimpressed by his friend's spiky blonde hair like a Backstreet Boy.)

Getting to prom was the most fun, thanks to a forward-thinking and highly-organized member of our grade.
Jessica decided to arrange for a GREYHOUND BUS to pick us all up and bring us to the dance.

“Do ya’ll want in on it?” she asked our lunch table one day. “It’s $45 for a couple. There are going to be 25 girls plus dates, so that’s 50 people on the bus total.”
We signed up immediately.

In organizational skills well above my level (even now), Jessica somehow managed to coordinate money, attendance and reserve the Greyhound bus several times throughout high school.

I wasn’t close with her in high school to be super involved with the planning, but I do think there was some —“Ugh, me and Liz totally got into a fight and now she’s not coming on the bus” and “Jason and I broke up and now I want half my money back”— going on. Haha.

What do you suppose the driver thought as he hissed the bus to a stop outside the house where we all met? Tour group? Church group? No! Catholic girls with hand grenades.

Yes, hand grenades.

They are a frozen, green, DELICIOUS, very alcoholic beverages sold in the French Quarter and I wanted some for senior prom.

So, after school on Friday, I drove to the French Quarter, took off my plaid Catholic High School skirt so I was just wearing gym shorts, and bought four frozen hand grenades to go.

No one bothered me when I bought the crazy alcoholic drinks, or even when I carried all four cups to my car. I think I carried one in my teeth.

I put the drinks into every cup holder, messily, since they were rapidly melting and getting my hands sticky, and drove home to put them in the freezer before getting ready for the big dance.

“What are you doing? What is that?” my mom asked when she saw me re-arranging frozen shrimp to fit the drinks in the freezer. “Where did you get that?”

“It’s a hand grenade mom!” I said. “I got it in the French Quarter.”
“You bought alcohol in your school uniform?” she asked. “That’s ridiculous! They sold that to you? I thought you had to be 21!”

It’s New Orleans, ma! I smiled and walked upstairs.

The hand grenades were a hit on the Greyhound bus. Everyone wanted some. We danced in the aisles hooting and hollering, kissing our dates, possibly even doing the tootsie roll.

(The actual prom was pretty lame since the Archdiocese in New Orleans started “cracking down” on inappropriateness and we had to wear dresses with straps and had to dance “a balloon sized” distance away from our dates. You are representing Catholics as a whole! We were told.)

After the dance, we drove around the city and then went to another friend’s house at 2 a.m. because her mom had cooked us a massive breakfast.
Kind of reminds me of the Waffle House I went to late-night a few months ago, after dancing with my friends all night.

You know, now that I think about it, prom was loud and drunken and…just like my life now. Only, I had a better metabolism and lived in New Orleans.

Prom season is now wedding season for people my age. It’s a big, fat social gathering where you get all dressed up and MUST BRING a date and you dance your face off. Will being the bride feel like winning junior sweetheart? God, I hope so.

Maybe I’ll serve hand grenades.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm a big dork and I love Harry Potter

I saw a commercial the other day that got me excited.
“Am I a big dork that I really want to go to the Harry Potter theme park?” I asked my twin sister, Joy.
“Yes,” she replied.

Perhaps Joy isn't the best person to ask about Harry Potter. She doesn't get the wizarding appeal in general, so an entire theme park (opening in JUNE y’all!!!) is the last place she'd go in her free time.

Joy did not scramble to read each Harry Potter book like I did, staying up late to read just one more chapter to see if Harry was able to escape the dementors. Yes, dementors.

Harry Potter books read like a movie, with drama and suspense and humor and characters that are consistent throughout (as a writer, I understand how hard this is to accomplish).

I often tell people who haven’t read a book in awhile to start by reading a Harry Potter book. It's easy to get hooked.

I was so hooked that I pre-ordered the final two books and actually considered going to the store at midnight to get my copy.
When (spoiler alert!!!) Dumbeldore died, I was actually depressed for the rest of the day.
“Dork,” Joy said.

It was quite the disaster when I took Joy to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix on opening night.
I had bought two tickets thinking a friend/Harry Potter enthusiast would want to go with me, but no one could make it.
The tickets were non-refundable and really expensive because they were for the 3-D IMAX screening.
“Joy, you have to come with me!” I told her.
“No. It’s going to be a bunch of losers going on opening night.”
“But, I got tickets on opening night.”

After much convincing and a promise that we would eat at her favorite vegetarian restaurant downtown before heading to the movie, Joy reluctantly agreed to go with me.

(Joy and I are each other’s “go-to” dates for events, work functions, weddings, etc. She really had no choice).

Dinner was delicious, and we split a bottle of wine before heading to the IMAX.
When we arrived 15 minutes early, we saw a line snaking around the building.

“Oh, GAWD, really?” Joy said aloud. “People are in LINE?? HONEY, LET'S NOT BE LATE TO HARRY POTTER!!” she mocked.

Shhhhhhh! I told her. You are embarrassing me!

“Oh, I’M embarrassing YOU?” she asked.

We walked up to the line and Joy kept on making fun of everything, which ended up being hilarious, and ridiculous, and we got into a giggling fit right there in front of everyone. I'm pretty sure the wine had something to do with it.

Joy's incessant bitching about Harry Potter was very funny, along with her eye rolling and gesturing to those in line that were dressed up as wizards for the occasion.

The velvet ropes were unhooked and we all spilled into the theater, 3-D glasses in hand. Then, almost as if it was planned for Joy specifically, a man tapped her on the shoulder.

“Excuse me….but, did you cut me?” the grown man asked. He was a mouth breather.
“Um, no.”
“Are you with that large group over there?”
”Well, then you cut me,” he said. “Only that group was in front of me.”
Joy and I started giggling again.
OH MY GOD, it’s just Harry Potter,” Joy said. “Don’t freak out.”

We took our seats in the center of the theater, still laughing and avoiding the man, and I gave up defending Harry Potter fans.

Things got worse when, in the middle of the movie, SOMEONE STOOD UP AND STARTED CLAPPING. (Even I will call “dork” on that one.)

What happened was Dumbledore turned into a phoenix (a bird whose tears can heal all wounds!) and he disappears in a cloud of smoke, leaving a group of wizards behind, their mouths open in amazement.

“Say what you will about Dumbledore, but the man’s got style!” one of the wizards said.

That’s when the person in the theater started clapping. Because of Dumbledore’s “style.”

Other people joined in the clapping, too, and I swear Joy looked like she was about to lose it. She started to say something but I shushed her.

That was the last time I've brought Joy to see Harry Potter opening night. Or, ever.

I do have friends that appreciate Harry Potter, and the opening night for the most recent Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this past summer was a much smoother experience.

No one was bitching in my ear about how we were surrounded by dorks. (Although, even if people had been, I wouldn’t have heard them because my friend and I spent the movie comparing it to the book.) Joy would have been mortified.

The best part of the Harry Potter books is that it’s easy to get lost in the magical world and the magical school where ghosts and dragons and time travel and unicorns and evil men in dark black robes feel very real.

When I studied abroad in Spain in college, I brought along and re-read Harry Potter books as an escape. Sometimes the wizarding world made more sense than Espanola. It was comforting.

The theme park is the closest ever I'll get to being in that world. They've got rides on a hippografff (half horse, half eagle)! You can pick out your very own broomstick! They serve butterbeer!!!!

My friend, April, is visiting Orlando next weekend with her mom and brother.
“Ya'll should wait until June 18, so you can go to the Harry Potter theme park!” I told her. “They have dragon rides!”

“Dork,” she said.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jenny’s amazing mother

There’s a children’s book called “Hazel’s Amazing Mother” about this small raccoon that always ends up in a pickle and right when it looks like there’s no hope, her mother swoops in and saves the day at the last minute.

Even though the daughter raccoon is far from home, she would cry, "Mother, I need you," and mother would be there.

Hazel’s Amazing Mother was my amazing mother’s favorite children’s book to read to us, and for very good reason: she is Hazel’s amazing mother. I’d like to say that after 27 years, I wouldn’t need to cry “Mother, I need you!” anymore — I mean, most of my classmates from high school are mothers themselves — but I do.

And My Amazing Mother still swoops in to save the day. Her amazing feats used to be physical things. Somehow, even though her office was on the other side of the Mississippi River, she would find a way to leave work and come home to deliver homework and school projects to us that we had left sprawled out on the living room floor.

She would drag my brother, Franklin, and our father to support our gymnastics and jump rope careers. She even took off work to be the school mom chaperone at the Louisiana state fair, a field trip our class looked forward to every year.

The fair was a blast; you could eat your weight in elephant ears, listen to authentic Cajun music and see the world’s ugliest dog.
They also had a hula-hoop contest.
My mom, a teacher, was stuck chaperoning the token “bad kids” in the grade. As if putting them all together in a group would make them behave or something.
“Oh, you’re a teacher?” my mom was asked when she showed up for chaperone mom duty.
“You can have this group.”

So, there was my mom, chaperoning a group of kids that her daughters weren’t even in, and they were the bad kids and they were acting up at the fair.

“Just sit down and watch the hula hoop contest!” my mother told them. “Sit down and behave!”

Right then, they asked for kid volunteers to enter the contest. My mother urged them to all enter, because then she could keep an eye on them all at the same time.
“Enter the contest everyone!” she said. “If they had an adult group competing, I’d definitely enter!”

“CALLING ALL ADULTS NOW!” the announcer said, as the kid group finished.
All the bad kids pointed at my mom and said, “You said you’d do it!”
Without blinking an eye, My Amazing Mother said “Yes! I’m going!” and all the kids kept their eyes on her and she WON. THE. CONTEST. !!!!!!!

My twin sister, Joy, and I were not in the bad group and we stumbled upon the stage and looked up and there was our mom, out-hula hoping the rest of the adults and all the bad kids clapping and cheering. We felt so cool. Jenny’s Amazing Mother.

Other amazing feats during elementary school? Mom would tirelessly drive us around New Orleans, because our friends always lived in other parts of town, and she would have no problem picking everyone up for a Friday night sleepover.

One time, Jenny’s amazing mother became our friend’s amazing mother, and, not to be dramatic or anything, but kind of saved her life.

She was our childhood friend, one of the handful of 20+ year friends we still keep in touch with, and my mom remembers when she would drop us off for tea parties at her house when we were in elementary school.

She was asthmatic and always had an inhaler with her just in case. (We used to all use it and pass it around; I didn’t see what the big fuss was about. It just felt like cold air.)

So, her mom went out of town when we were in high school and she was spending the week at our other longtime friend’s house, and that friend lived all the way uptown and lived with her not-so-amazing-father.

That rainy Wednesday night, our friend had an asthma attack and found her inhaler empty. She panicked.
She was all the way in uptown New Orleans, a good half hour away from my house and it was pouring down rain, like New Orleans pouring down rain.

Who did she call for help?
Jenny’s Amazing mother.
My mother ran to the K&B down the street (awww I miss K&B) and pleaded with the pharmacist, who she knew.

My daughter’s friend is having an asthma attack, and her inhaler is empty and her mother is out of town. Can you fill it?

Because he knew my mom so well, and because it was New Orleans, and in New Orleans, you always help people’s mamma and dem, he filled it.

My mother drove all the way uptown with prescription in hand to deliver the medicine to our friend in the pouring rain. It was amazing.

Now that I’m older, my mom provides more advice-type amazement. She and my dad navigated through the complicated college application and student loan process and has used her influence to land her children jobs.

She flew me back from Spain for a job interview when I studied abroad and has used frequent flier miles to fly me back to New Orleans countless times.

My Amazing Mother has been quite the miracle worker at airports, now that I mention it.
I was plagued by a missing bag fairy, and when my bag got lost from New York to South Carolina, my mother spent hours on the phone and even drove to the airport to track it down. Ask her about the process of missing baggage at airports, I dare you. (All the unclaimed or lost bags go to a big warehouse in Atlanta.)
She saved my favorite blue jeans. Jenny’s Amazing Mother.

The most adult help was when she helped me and Joy buy a house. And then spent hours on the phone with our sleazy broker to get us re-financed.
Jenny’s Amazing mother.

What I find the most amazing about My Amazing Mother is that her life continues to surprise me and Joy.
(Oh, yea, she’s also Joy’s amazing mother. And my brother Franklin’s amazing mother. But enough about them.)

Joy and I lived with my mom's best friend from childhood for a wonderful summer in New York, and heard all kinds of stories about our mom from her former life.
She lived in the French quarter and would meet sailors at bars and take them home to teach them how to juggle with fruit.
She single-handedly got rid of the curfew in the dorms at Syracuse University. She used to sleep in caves in Ibiza, Spain for crying out loud!

My mom has twin brothers, so it’s not surprising that she has twins of her own. She said she used to paint my toenails when we were little to tell us apart.

And she subscribed to Twins Magazine (Yes! Twins Magazine! I told someone pregnant with twins at brunch about it!) and she recalls all these tips from the magazine about being the parent of a “multiple.”

One really cute twins tip — that I tell people who ask about me about being a twin — is to teach an older sibling (in this case, Franklin, who is a “single” and 18 months older than us) to tell people how old we are.

It’s a common question, you see, after the aww look twins! is How old are they?? And then Franklin can come in and say in his high-pitched two-year-old voice, “They are six months!” even though he has no idea what six months means.

“Oh, and aren’t you just the cutest little boy!!!” people would then say, and BOOM! Instant attention for Franklin. It’s genius.

One of my recent blog entries was about being a twin, and all the silly twin questions we get and how people confuse us and how it’s an integral part of our beings.
(Seriously, when I hear about twins not being friends, I feel bad for them.)

My Amazing Mother read the blog entry, and being the supportive mother and friend she is, submitted it to Twins Magazine. I do some freelance writing, but this is a national magazine! Big time!

I got an email from the editor saying they would love to print it and it came out this month, and I have added it to my resume.
It never would have happened without my Amazing Mother.
I am thankful everyday.
Happy Mother’s day mom!!!!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day dream

It’s easy to dream of a “perfect day” where time, money and transportation aren’t factors.
(If that were that case, I would be lounging on a beach in Morocco or zip lining through the Amazon. Or buying clothes in Tokyo---I wouldn’t have to get pants hemmed there!!!)

But, as far as thinking of a dream “average” day?

Howard Stern would be just starting to interview a celebrity when I'd get in the car, and I’d have the whole 40-minute drive to work to hear it, uninterrupted.
I wouldn’t forget my cell phone on my bed.

18-wheelers wouldn’t drive up my ass or wave to me through their tall, tiny window on the long stretch of interstate I drive everyday.
(Have you ever looked in your rearview mirror and seen a MACK truck inches from your bumper? Imagine Dionne in Clueless, and Murray’s face.)

My office would send out a mass email: “Hello, wonderful workers. We have decided to switch out our coffee maker with a Chai tea pot. Take as much as you want.”

My email inbox at work would be filled with “thank you” emails: “Thanks for taking the time to write that article,” people would say. “I’m sure you stayed up very, very late before deadline to get that in and I appreciate it. You’re a star!”

(This hardly ever happens. People only email me when they are mad about something printed in the paper. Such as, “For the record, you got about 50 percent of what said accurate. At least the quote was correct and not taken out of context.”)

Lunchtime would be at my favorite soup place near my work. When I arrive, they would not have run out of any of their soup specials (it’s a crapshoot) and the servers would be on task and I’d eat within a reasonable amount of time (another crapshoot).

I wouldn’t get stuck waiting on a train to get through town. I’d get to read the daily newspaper without sections missing…ahem ad reps.
I wouldn’t have crazy people coming to the office to talk to me about government conspiracies.

Sir, raising taxes is unfortunate, but I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy. You would? Ok, well, I’ll look into this right away.

No one would email me at work for one full hour. My inbox is always stuck at 40 unread messages no matter how many I read and respond to. (They never stop. Sometimes I have nightmares about drowning in them.)

I’d go to the gym and not have to watch FOX News when I’m on the treadmill. Someone would say, one time, that they aren’t watching both TVs, and I’d get to switch one to the Food Network.

I’d come home to find the house clean, the lawn mowed and the fridge stocked with imported beer. There would be no bills in the mail.

I thought about this “dream day” as I drove to work this morning. And you know what? I wasn’t harassed by 18-wheelers! In fact, everyone was driving very, very well (a shocker in South Carolina.)

Howard Stern was interviewing Michelle "Bombshell" McGee of swastika homewrecker fame right as I got into the car. (She said she didn’t realize Jesse James was married to Sandra Bullock when they had an affair. And what about that swastika tattoo? "It's just a small one." She nuts.)

When I got to work today, I was floored by an actual thank you email. It was even more meaningful because it was about something that was a huge pain to get in the paper. You’d think sending a press release and photo by email would be easy.

“Ma’am, you need to send us a photo with a larger resolution ….you don’t know what that means? Ask your grandson.” The article was finally printed in today's paper.

The morning email from her said,

“Hey Jenny precious girl....THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH! I fully expect to sell all our tickets as the result of that article.”

Precious girl! I like it. I forwarded the email to my boyfriend, so he’d know how cute people think I am. Haha.
No, really, I did.

It’s not even noon, but I feel like Ice Cube: “Today was a good day.”

Maybe I’ll give the soup place another try.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Barbie and the LBD

My twin sister, Joy, and I used to buy Barbie comic books.

Yes! Barbie! She had her own series! (Lots of pink ink).
Her superpowers?

Oh, just being able to accessorize a little black dress to several different events throughout the day so she's perfectly appropriate.
Oh, I’m serious. It was fascinating.

Barbie — tall, thin, perfect blonde hair— wakes up in her dream mansion and looks at her day planner in the morning.

She had “work 9 – 5” all day (where does she work? No one knows. But it is a fancy office.) And then she had a “business lunch – 12:30” (About what? No one knows.) and a “dinner date with Ken – 7”.
That Barbie is busy!!
What am I supposed to wear to do all those things in one day? Barbie questions. It was quite the crisis. She looked in her large closet for ideas.

She pulls out a classic little black dress and hangs it up in front of her.
Maybe I can wear this dress all day and accessorize it! Barbie reasons. More digging in the closet.

All I need is a scarf, a fitted blazer and a pearl necklace! (The necklace was the accessory for her date with Ken. Hahahaha. Mom, don’t ask.)

So then you see Barbie at her different events and see how perfect the scarf, blazer and necklace work.
The cartoon ended with Barbie and Ken at dinner at a fancy restaurant and Ken compliments Barbie on her outfit.

“Oh, you have NO IDEA!” Barbie laughs and Ken doesn’t get it, but that’s OK. Barbie’s major stress in life is how to accessorize her LBD (little black dress).
And Ken is perfect.

However, other times, Barbie has to solve a problem, like WHY SHE WAS NOT PLAYING WELL IN A TENNIS TOURNAMENT.

Barbie is playing against a nemesis (it’s always a brunette…hehehe nice) and Barbie suspects her of rigging the tournament. Barbie, the sleuth!
I’m not playing right! Barbie told Ken, in her cute tennis outfit during a break. Something doesn’t feel right!
She kept missing all the balls hit to her. That wasn’t like Barbie at all.

Ken scratches his head and shrugs, and Barbie says she has to go to the bathroom. As she walks into the locker room, at that exact moment, she sees the nemesis brunette placing a small magnet inside the tennis ball.

“This way, the ball will always go towards Barbie’s ankle tennis bracelet!” The brunette said and her friends all laugh.

My tennis bracelet! Barbie looks down at her delicate, shiny bling. I’ll show her!

Barbie promptly removes her tennis bracelet and goes out to win the tournament!
“Good job, Barbie!” Ken says, as the brunette nemesis scowls nearby. “How did you do it?”
“Oh, I took something off that was weighing me down!” Barbie said, or something perfect like that.

See, girls, it’s not always about accessories!

Yesterday was national comic book day. The comic book store owner that we interviewed for our paper never mentioned Barbie comics. I’m actually not even sure if they still make them.

The interview was all about “Superman” and “Archie” and…Shrek (shrek??) comic books. That's all people want to hear about.

Is it because saving Gotham City is more interesting than planning out the fastest route through the mall?

My dad and brother used to buy and collect comic books regularly and some are still sitting in boxes in my parents’ house in New Orleans.

When Joy and I went with them to the comic book store, we would always run to the Barbie comic book section, flipping through any we hadn’t read already. We bought them with our allowance.

“You know when you read them, the value goes down!” our brother said. He kept his in a nice, sealed plastic sleeve.
“But, how would we know what it’s about?” we said. “How would we know how it ends?”

Would Barbie find her friends after being separated in a haunted house?
Will she have a successful BBQ?
And what about that missing poodle?

These are things we needed to know.

Barbie didn’t go around saving people (only cats in trees) and she didn’t rid the world of nuclear annihilation.
Her feats were very ordinary, very realistic know, I actually do think that having a successful BBQ is a talent. Superman would never have made lemonade.


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