Category Archives: Uncategorized

Buying a Car 2013 Style


Now that my husband has retired, we decided to take a lot of car trips around the Western United States. The only problem was our car situation. I drive a two-door RAV4 that’s wonderful around town since I can easily park it in any postage stamp-sized space. It’s not a road car, however. My husband’s sedan-sized Honda was just a little too low for either of us to get into comfortably considering we’re both starting to get stiffness and a little pain in our knees. So it was definitely time to get a newer, higher car for those road trips we’re anticipating.

Since we’re Consumer Reports subscribers, we got out the magazines and the hunt was on. We quickly decided on four cars that seemed to meet our needs, all of them small SUVs. Since there’s an auto mall about ten miles away with dealerships for all four makes, we set out thinking we would take two days to find out more about the cars and test drive each one. We started at the Honda dealership.

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Sometimes I Just Don’t Get It

I’ve known for a long, long time that humor is in the eye of the beholder. How many times have I seen or read something that I thought was howlingly funny only to find out that it was meant seriously or that others thought was really stupid? Oh, there aren’t enough fingers to count all the times.

So the advent of computers hasn’t helped my sense of humor at all. In fact, I’m continually baffled by what someone emails as a joke (ha ha?) or a YouTube link someone sends with the line “You’re going to love this!” (Love? What’s to love?).

The latest round of bafflement surrounds Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” I’d never heard the song before, nor did I know that it was controversial. To say that my musical taste stopped somewhere in the latter stages of the late century would be pretty accurate. So “Blurred Lines” missed my radar by decades.

I was alerted to the song and later saw the video that was done by Mod Carousel, a gay comedy group out of Seattle that I find wonderfully inventive and totally hysterical. (See their Swan Lake in minutes at Swan Tease: 12 Minutes Max from Paris Original on Vimeo.) Okay, so knowing nothing about Thicke or the original “Blurred Lines,” I thought the Mod Carousel version was the original–and I absolutely loved it. It stuck in my head for weeks.

Then after commenting to someone about how much I liked the song, I found out it was a parody. What? Parody of what? Huh? So I went back to YouTube and looked for Thicke’s version of the song. What? Yuck! Whoa! Horrible. Suddenly this song that I’d been humming for days and that had me bopping around the house was transformed into a nasty little misogynistic piece of near music. And just as suddenly I got the joke! Mod Carousel had turned something ugly into something beautiful, all in the name of silliness.

Finally, I felt the same sense of uplift that I did when I first heard Lana Del Ray’s “Hunger Games.” I never read the books (although I did sample them on Amazon and decided they weren’t for me), but I loved Del Ray’s song. Just like then, I got the joke.

Are you one of the ones lost in the back of the bus like me? Or are you one of the people who gets it, really gets it?

– Pat AAR

Summer Recipe: Pat’s Yellow Potato Salad

Elsie Callahan PhillipsThis has been a mainstay of summer eating since I can remember. I grew up in Nebraska where summer meals were pretty standard: Steak, potato salad, corn on the cob. Usually there was strawberry shortcake, ice cream, or cobbler for dessert, but other than those choices the meals were fairly uniform.

This recipe was passed down to me from my paternal grandmother (seen in the photo), and I in turn passed the potato salad habit onto our daughters, the older of whom has carried it with her wherever she is in the world. She served it for her birthday while she was in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and now makes it in Rome where she’s living with her husband and twins. (Our younger daughter, despite living in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the foodie capitals of the world, refuses to cook, so only eats potato salad when I make it.) Continue reading

New Chewing Gum Flavors = Yum!

gumDo you chew gum? For the last 40-some years I would have answered “no way” I was reared to think that chewing gum was unladylike, bad manners, bad for your teeth, and just an ugly habit (think cows chewing cud). It never seemed like I was missing anything, because in my experience, gum came in just a few flavors, mint of some kind, fruit of some kind, and pink. And I remember the days when gum only came in foil packs and the sticks would fall out and come unwrapped in your purse, get sticky all over everything and collect lint and dirt. And used gum disposal is gross. But a new medication makes my mouth dry sometimes and recently I’ve been exploring what’s new in the world of gum. Continue reading

Call The Midwife on PBS

[youtube][/youtube]Have you been watching Call The Midwife on PBS? Season Two just ended and those of us addicted to the show are bereft. Its the adaptation of a series of books by British nurse Jennifer Worth which chronicle her years working as a midwife in the East End of London. Set in the 50s, each episode is a vignette detailing issues of the time, such as racism, the lack of reliable birth control, prostitution, separation of the classes, and changing rules of propriety. Continue reading

Consumerism at its worst

ddDo you watch AMC’s The Walking Dead? I do and adore it, along with my husband, siblings, and a lot of my friends. Great show! But that’s not what I want to blog about. The topic I want to discuss is the little six or seven inch action figures that AMC is marketing. I gave the Daryl Dixon figure to my girlfriend for Christmas a couple years ago because we both like Norman Reedus. It cost around sixteen dollars. I later found two more, one each for my husband and myself, and we started collecting the entire set

Our set is incomplete now, even with the extras we bought, because we’re selling those suckers off! Have you looked at prices for them on Ebay? Daryl Dixon goes for up to Three Hundred Dollars! We just sold one for two hundred and sixty. The other main characters sell for up to two hundred and the zombies for up to one hundred. If we sell off the entire first series we’re looking at a profit of around a thousand dollars.

So my question is: Are people insane?

Stop freaking me out, please!

freakoutMy kids keep freaking me out. They read things on the internet and then tell me about them. An example – “Mom, did you know that in The Lion King, when Simba became king, they had to eat the hyenas?” Gross, right? This is something I never considered, never wanted to consider, but unfortunately sounded true.

My mind keeps going back to a recent conversation. I’d gotten up from the couch and walked purposefully into my bedroom. But when I got there I looked around, confused as to my purpose for being there. When I almost walked into my daughter on the way back to the living room and laughingly explained the incident, she said “Oh, you just went to have a conversation with someone who no longer exists”.

Apparently she’d read on the internet that due to the liquidity of timelines its possible for us to exist concurrently with other incarnations of ourselves. Sometimes things happen to people we know in the other timelines (dimensions, whatever) that cause them to cease to exist in our own, but our brain knows something is missing and causes us to occasionally act upon the presence that should be there. I’m no physicist, but what that tells me is that for every one of the uncountable times I’ve walked into a room without knowing why, I’ve experienced a loss. Agh! Freaky.

Does anyone else’s kids or friends freak them out the way my kids do me?

– Wendy AAR

Interesting Skin Care Regimen

moisturizerI had an interesting run-in while grocery shopping the other day. I was walking by one of those sample give-away booth setups and saw that the featured product was Jergen’s lotion. My hands were dry, so I stopped and was hijacked into a long uncomfortable conversation with the woman running the thing. I don’t know if she was manic or bipolar or just very, very lonely, but I couldn’t break away without being rude. Thankfully, I stayed to listen because she gave me some great skin care advice. Continue reading

Cookies (and more) for those who hate to cook

Years ago, in holidays past, I enjoyed cooking. ┬áNow, four kids and a two decades later, it’s not my thing. In fact, I go to great lengths to avoid actually making food. My family survives on grocery pre-made goodies, a host of frozen main dishes from Trader Joe’s, and their wits. So, when the AAR staff decided to share their favorite holiday cookie┬árecipes, I was sure I’d have nothing to contribute. But, as Blythe pointed out, I’m probably not the only non-cooker in our readership. And, upon occasion, even those of us who avoid the kitchen do have to produce “home made” baked goods.

So, for those whom home-made treats are something other people do, here are few easy short cuts.

1) Buy slice and bake gingerbread cookies, roll them into little balls and dunk them into colored sugar. Cook them for 2/3 the time on the label. They’ll be soft, sweet, and mildly festive.

2) Make boxed brownies but add a bag of chocolate fudge pudding, a cup of chocolate chips, and a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture. Bake according to what it says on the box. Let cool completely before cutting. You’ll have deeply fudgy brownies the chocoholics in your life will love.

3) Dump a bag of frozen berries into a rectangular baking pan. Add in a package of vanilla pudding and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix thoroughly. In another bowl, melt a stick of butter. Add a cup of granola, a cup of quick oats, and a cup of brown sugar. Mix together and put on top of berry mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice-cream and tell your kids it’s a “healthy” dessert because it has fruit and fiber.

4) Get to know the best frozen desserts at your grocery store. I–and my family–will vouch for almost anything in the Trader Joe’s cake and pie section. In fact, it’s hard to beat TJ’s frozen New York Cheesecake (the one in the blue box) or their Chocolate Ganache Torte. Both vanish the minute I put them on our kitchen counter.

5) Instead of bringing baked goods to the party, show up with a good but inexpensive bottle of bubbly. Your hosts won’t mind a bit!

Happy holidays!

Dabney AAR

A New Look at a Childhood Favorite: Pimento Cheese

Growing up one of my mother’s favorite snacks was pimento cheese. Perhaps it’s because we lived in the north (I’ve since learned it’s a longtime southern favorite), but she never made her own. Instead, she bought this small jarred version of pimento cheese. For a special treat for all of us, she’d put tiny squares of rye bread topped with pimento cheese on a plate. I thought they were okay, but as a girl, would have preferred another snack.

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