Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Dude!

Back in the early 1990s, when my sister Faith and I were at our very most awkward (I fervently hope that is the most awkward I will ever be!!) we displayed our intrinsic hipness by going from calling our Dad "Dad" to calling him "Dude" (keep in mind this was long before the Big Lebowski, although in my opinion, David Brainerd could give The Dude a run for his money in straight up coolness).  I remember feeling a bit of excitement whenever I'd yell "I love you Dude!" in a crowd, like I was a secret badass.

Here are the facts:
  1. My Dad is cooler than yours
  2. My Dad has the best hair, and had no problem letting us style his tight curls into "Bozo the Clown" (even when we didn't have a clue who Bozo was)
  3. Even though he hasn't had a mustache since I was a teenager, any time I see a man with a mustache, I immediately feel a bit of fondness toward him because of my Dad's old 'stache
  4. The same goes for men smoking pipes 
  5. Dad wore flannel shirts before they were cool in the nineties, and still wears them today (actually, they're the exact same shirts, and the elbows have pretty much disintegrated)
I have an amazing relationship with everyone in my family; we're a close bunch, and genuinely like each other (okay, I can only speak for myself, maybe there's an "I hate Jessy" club going on behind my back, but if there is - they're very good actors when we're hanging out).  

Some of my best memories are of doing regular old stuff with Dad/Dude.  I remember a particular trip to the dump (probably around 1987/1988), and Mom giving the usual warning of not bringing anything home.  Sure, I remember it smelling pretty bad at first, but I got used to it - and then I discovered all the treasures! I remember being baffled at what kind of person would throw away perfectly good furniture, books with the covers missing, wood that could be made into something, and more!  *I am pretty sure that we did not come home with less than we brought to the dump, but hopefully it was so super cool that Mom didn't mind.

Recently, my daughter asked me "Do you know what my favorite memory is?" I said "No," and she proceeded to reminisce about an awesome day at Dad's cabin a few years ago.  We drove up for the day, went for a walk in the woods, and Dad did his usual foraging for chives and other woodsy snacks that I would have walked right past.  I cooked up some chicken in the fire pit in his dooryard (this was before he had the chickens in the dooryard, so it wasn't a creepy thing to do), and we created art with our chicken - it was just a super chill, fun day - beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, all of that.

Three generations of cool

Dad showing off his creation, and his information source

It's memories like hers, and mine of the dump, that make me thankful I didn't grow up wealthy.  While I'm sure that folks with plenty of money have plenty of great experiences, I don't know if they are as capable of finding beauty in the little things.  Maybe that's way too judgey, I don't know.

The reason for all of my Dude-based-memories is that it's the big guy's birthday today!! He's a whopping sixty-one and seems to be improving with age.  Some day, I look forward to hearing my grandchildren talk about their fun times out in the woods with the Dude, too.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Christmas Comes Early (every year)

If I were to make a list of my favorite things, I can assure you that sleeping would be right up there with awesome things like cotton candy, butterflies, and the smell of my sister's Peaches and Cream Barbie back in 1987 - I LOVE sleeping.

Sadly, I suffer from an inability to shut my brain off when it comes time to get to sleep, so often am still wide awake and thinking really cool thoughts in the wee hours of the morning.

This causes me some problems most of the time when I need to wake up and go to work in the morning.  I use several alarms (the best thing I discovered recently is an android app that makes you do math problems in order to snooze your alarm), but still it takes a heaping helping of "you're going to be late and get fired" to get me out of my nice, warm bed in the morning. I have drawn a really terrible illustration of me, before I am forced to leave my down filled sanctuary.

HOWEVER - a magical thing happens every year - all of a sudden, I'm not awake as late as I thought I was, and I get to sleep in EVERY morning! I do happy dances throughout the day (preferably when no one is looking, but honestly, I'm not that self-conscious), and notice that the big black circles under my eyes seem to have shrunken.

Every day is a little more magical than the last. Example: on Monday night, I was ASLEEP before 11:30 pm!!!

I don't much appreciate the fact that it's dark out when I leave my office in the afternoon, but I LOVE the sleeping late.

Unfortunately, this magical period doesn't last too long (I like to put off changing the clock in my car for as long as possible to feel just a bit naughty pulling up to work at almost 9:00 am).  And I'm back to staying up too late, and forcing myself to brush my teeth in the bathroom at work because I just don't have time at home.

I know that in the spring I will look back on this blissful period and laugh, knowing there's no way that it's worth it, as I pry my red, salty eyes open, and arrive at work only to discover that I am, in fact, half an hour late, and my hair isn't brushed, and I hate everyone.

But for now, I continue with my happy dances in the shadows!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saving a "Life"

I believe in Karma - not in the I've studied Eastern Philosophies for years kind of way - but in the tit-for-tat - do good and good will be done to you sort of way.  To me, it just makes sense - the more positive I am, the more positive the people and things around me are.  I'm not going to try to indoctrinate people in some sort of "The Secret" type of belief system (yes, I read the book, and while I agree with a lot of it - parts of it make me want to look up the woman who wrote on it and shake a finger in her face).

As it is November, the month of being thankful (note to readers: you should practice being thankful all year round - it's pretty dang sweet), I am thankful for a really great experience I had this weekend.

I was pulling into the Walgreen's parking lot (in search of discount halloween candy, if you really need to know), and as I pulled into my chosen space, I noticed this blue wallet-y purse thing on the ground next to the car - spilling all sorts of credit cards and such. I have tried to draw it here, sadly, my scanner only does black and white (same with my pen).
I put extra effort into showing that it was quilted!

I reached down, and started putting all of the cards back inside, figuring I would bring it into the store, and see if anyone had reported losing their wallet.  While making it all fit, I saw that there was quite a big wad o' cash in there (and yes, I felt a moment of jealousy for this mystery wallet owner!).

Just then - there was a screech of tires, and a woman's voice said "Oh my GOD!" - she was stopped just behind my car, a middle-age woman, I'd guess in her sixties, and she looked at me, obviously holding tears back and said "You found it! My life is in there!"

Surprising Fact: I never went to art school

She proceeded to tell me that she must have dropped it when she got into her car, and had just come from the bank, where she had realized that she didn't have it.  She repeated that her "whole life is in there," and I nodded understandingly, because, while I do believe there's a lot more to life than credit cards, cash, and your ID, not having those things makes life feel quite impossible at times.  

She offered me a reward, and I declined, because, really, just having made her that happy was seriously quite enough of a reward for me!  

I went in and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Cadbury is doing the mini-egg style red and green candies this year (the Universe's way of rewarding me?).  

I've thought about it a lot in the past couple of days. I like to imagine that I am a pretty significant player in this woman's life for the time being - I'm the good Samaritan.  I'm sure she had terrible ideas of someone stealing her money, and her identity, and then it all worked out beautifully.  

That's my nice story - I'm thankful for that woman, she made me feel all kinds of rainbows & unicorns. I have drawn a rainbow and a unicorn, both are pretty lackluster, but hopefully they convey a bit of my joy at having saved her "life."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fifteen Years

It's that time of year again.  My Halloween costume is almost perfect, I've successfully resisted the urge to eat too much candy (okay, let's say that my teeth are still in my head so I must not have eaten too much, right?), the heat has finally kicked on, and my arm is still a wee bit sore from my flu shot.

It must be my daughter's birthday.

She's fifteen this year, and I can't fathom where all the years have gone.  I can remember, quite clearly, the anxiousness waiting for her to make her arrival (scheduled two weeks before she showed up), and then the effort to bring her around (and the resulting promises that I would NEVER do that again).  She was perfect - her hair was (and still is) the brightest shade of red - shiny like copper - and every nurse in the wing of the hospital had to come see the little red-headed baby.

Life isn't a perfect thing, and being responsible for an entire new human being at the ripe old age of nineteen wasn't a smooth process.  Within days of coming home from the hospital, she had jaundice severe enough to require a nurse to come to the house, and for her to be a "suitcase baby" (the 1998 home version of the incubator my sister Faith stayed in at the hospital in the 1970s).  I will never forget the helplessness I felt when doctors were explaining that one of the possible outcomes of severe jaundice is brain damage.

Through the toddler years, she had chronic ear infections.  We've battled bronchiolitis, with its companion nebulizer.  Over the years there's been pneumonia, asthma, ankle sprains, ankle surgery, and strep throat countless times, nevermind the time she fell on a broken mason jar in a pond, and I spent the most terrifying twenty minute car ride to the Emergency Room with her assuring her that "No, you aren't going to die," all the while regaining my ability to pray and asking God to make that be true.
There is nothing that can prepare a nineteen year old (or a thirty-nine year old, or a ninety-nine year old) for the complete transformation from a woman to a mother.  It is, without question, the scariest, funniest, saddest, and most fulfilling thing that I've ever done.

Fifteen years in, I've heard "I love you" more times than I can count, and "I hate you" more times than I'd like to remember.  We've had long, enlightening conversations about politics, and short, angry conversations about school clothes.

I'm not sure when it was that she went from being a little combination of her Dad and me (with some of our extended family thrown into the mix) to being a completely separate person.  Yes, I know that she's always been her own person - but I can't remember when I realized that!

The crux of it all is that I love her more than would have ever imagined I'd be capable of loving.  I am proud of everything she accomplishes, she's one of the most intelligent people I know, creative, eloquent, and with fantastic taste in entertainment.

Here she is, on the day we met.
At nineteen, I certainly didn't have a clue what I was in for - but oh, it's the sweetest and most unpredictable ride of my life, and we've got decades more to go!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why I love Netflix

Back in May, I ran into a problem with  my Netflix account - a mysterious problem where I couldn't watch any movies.  Obviously, this made me very sad, so I used the chat option for customer service (cell reception in my house is awful, I suspect it would be a very effective bomb shelter - as the walls must be WICKED thick).

Our chat was pretty normal, until there was a bit of down time, as "Joel," the Netflix customer service rep, was waiting for information on what was up with my account.

Because I like you so much, I am just going to post this portion of the transcript here for your enjoyment:

Netflix Joel
Thank you for all your patience you are awesome, Jessica!
Thanks, I appreciate what you're doing!
Netflix Joel
Awww, that makes me feel good, a fuzzy and stuff!
Netflix Joel
I can't do a smiley but if I could it would be one of those big wacky smiley ones.
Ha ha - excellent!
Netflix Joel
Lol, your great, I'm on hold with my research team, but we are almost there.
Netflix Joel
It's all good in the neighbor hood.
Netflix Joel
I'm on it like ugly on a warthog.
Hmmm - trying to think of a good analogy - like a teenage girl on a sale at Hollister
Netflix Joel
Hehe, like saddles on a surfer.
Or compound interest on a credit card
Netflix Joel
Haha, that's a good one....ummm okay, like cheese on a burrito.
Netflix Joel
Jessica, I found out what is going on here.
Perhaps I should hold off on Hoorays until I know it's something easily fixed
Netflix Joel
I was telling you before that we were trying to manually verify your account right, so it looks like we ran in to an issue with your email on fix. It is an easy fix. You are able to stream now, but we need you to do three things. 1 is to change your email address on the account. 2 change your password on your Gmail account and 3 to reset your netflix password. Just to make sure everything is secure and safe, and you have no more problems, okie doke?
Sounds good to me!! Did my account get compromised or something?
Netflix Joel
No it didn't, but something happen to raise a flag, so just to make sure it doesn't we want you to do those three things.
All right - will do - thanks for all your assistance!
Netflix Joel
No, problem is there anything else I can help you with today, Jessica?
Nope, that was it!
Netflix Joel
Awesome, it was so great chatting with you, you made my day! Remember if you need anything we are here 24/7, have an AWESOME day! And one more thing if you wouldn't mind, please stay on the line for a one questions survey!

The moral of this (super awesome) story is that Netflix is definitely doing something right in the customer service department. I was motivated to post this after seeing another great example of good chat CS online.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Most Amazing Ad on Craigslist

Not just a 1997 Subaru Legacy L AWD Automatic - A Dream Come True! - $800 (Bangor, ME)

One fine looking car

1997 Subaru Legacy L Wagon, Silver, Automatic Transmission, AWD

This is the opportunity of a lifetime. This isn't just a car, it's a lifestyle. Not only has this car driven over 225,000 miles, but it is also a piece of marriage equality history, if you take a look at the rear of the car, you'll see a bumper sticker from the most recent (and SUCCESSFUL!) campaign for marriage equality in Maine. Above that is a rainbow lobster, this sticker was given to me for making the most calls during one of my shifts making phone calls for marriage equality the previous time it was on the ballot. The car also has an old timey sticker that says: "Pirate Girls kick butt" a belief shared by the majority of hip Americans. The rear window is graced with a sticker from my Alma Mater, University of Maine at Machias - even if you never went there, know it's an awesome school.

Now, this is not just a bumper sticker sale - there's a car here! This is my beloved 1997 Subaru Legacy L Wagon. Her name, since 2005, has been Shelly, but you can feel free to rename her. I recently had to buy a newer car, and I felt like a tiny part of me died a little bit, because I've been a Subaru Pirate girl for eight years, but it was time. 

It's YOUR turn to be a Subaru Pirate Girl (or boy, whichever the case may be). I'm not going to lie to you and say that she's in perfect condition - there are quirks, that's what you get with a car with so much experience. Right now, she needs a new alternator (which means you will either need to tow her, or replace the alternator in my driveway before you take her away). This just happened a couple of weeks ago, and when it did, I couldn't get her to the dealership as my trade in.

There are a few other issues: there is a crack in the windshield, she needs some new brakes, the rear windshield wiper motor died (I had a bike rack on and accidentally turned the rear wiper on, which burned it out). The "check engine" light has been on since 2006. If you're at all familiar with older Subarus, you know that this can easily be fixed by putting a piece of duct tape over the check engine light. The air conditioner works GREAT - however, the button won't stay in by itself, so I jam a piece of folded paper in and it works fine.

Yes, I know - those are some serious issues, but let's look at the positives!!!

Everything you could possibly need!
- The body is in fantastic condition. Every year, I have faithfully checked for any rust, and then sanded, treated for rust, primed and painted, I will give you all of my supplies so you can keep up on the maintenance, although it has been done for this year. *Yes - that is a dent on the door in the picture - but it's a rust-free dent. I've just added a photo of all of the great supplies you'll receive: Primer, Paint, Putty, Sandpaper, Rust Treatment. There have been times in my life when I felt a little out of touch, like I didn't have a lot of useful skills - in stepped my mechanic with some lessons on doing body work. I'm passing this torch to YOU.

- She comes with a full size spare - not just a donut!

- All of the windows, lights, cruise control, mirrors, etc. work great. 

Oooh! Aaah!
- Functional Cassette player (and am/fm radio) - I would even be willing to throw in my copy of The Police's Synchronicity if you want, and, if you're REALLY cool, my collection of audiobooks.

- Free bike rack with the car (if you want it) - this is the reason the rear wiper motor died, it is also super handy - you can carry two bikes with it! I haven't used the bike rack in ages, so there might be some spiders on it, but I'm pretty sure you can handle that.

- If you decide to replace the alternator in the driveway, I would be happy to stand behind you with a flashlight, and say encouraging things while you work on it.

- I'd be happy to provide you with the name and number of my mechanic, if you're local. He specializes in Subarus and is just about the nicest guy you'll ever meet (he's also a clown! Not the scary kind, the kind that charges really reasonable rates on car repairs).

I could fill a dozen craigslist ads with stories about this fantastic car, and all you have to do is give her a chance!

Lessons my Subaru taught me:
- Cup holders are not meant for ice cream cones (the ice cream will melt in your cruise control button and you'll have to jam a piece of paper in there to keep it on)
- All silver subaru legacy wagons are not the same - so, if your key won't turn in the lock, make sure it's actually your car (note: the presence of a car seat is a pretty good indicator)
- Always carry newspapers or towels with you, that way, when you and your passengers are all dressed as zombies, you won't feel the need to explain the blood splatters to everyone at work

Please email with any questions, offers, etc. In case you can't tell, the car is being sold as is.
Sorry folks, no license plate included

Yes, this is my car ad, and yes, I am making an attempt to get you, or your friends to buy my car!!! In my defense - this is a truly incredible car!!!!

Because I keep thinking of more great things to tell you about my car, you should visit the Craig's List link directly.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Winning Things vs. Dating

I love to win things.  It's definitely my number one hobby.  I'm not a fan of doing drugs - but I am pretty sure there is not a single chemical on the market that can make me feel more exhilarated than I do when I find out I won something awesome.

I don't really love to date.  My last *relationship* relationship was when the year started with a two and two zeros, I'd count, but I think it might make me question my choices about adopting more cats.

One of my beloved sisters has recently started online dating, and, being her younger sister, I was immediately jealous.  I decided to dust off my old online profile (and by dust off, I mean posting a more current picture, because there's not much lamer than using old, more attractive pictures of yourself when you're doing online dating - it will only lead to worry and disappointment. I make sure there's at least one full body picture of me, so no one can argue that there was false advertising of any sort).

I'm not sure if it's a spring thing, or if I did something different, but I received a flurry of messages from eligible bachelors in my local vicinity.  Yes, there were the requests for sexual favors that I immediately deleted, and blocked, but there were also messages from a few fellows who didn't seem like complete and total losers.

I had a date scheduled for last night, but ended up canceling it because I decided that dating someone who is serious about their religion is not going to work for me.  I 100% support people being as into their religion as they want to, but I know that would equal a serious incompatibility, as I am a lapsed non-Catholic, which is about as un-religious as you can get, while still saying "Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus" when someone runs a stop sign and almost hits you.

I decided I need to be more choosey before blindly saying "yes" to a date, and then feeling like a jerk when I cancel.  So, I've started a list of pros and cons - I'll use these to evaluate the profiles of my gentleman callers, and that should help.

It's not that I equate racism and misuse of certain words - it's just that both are totally unacceptable to me.

I've yet to get the high from any of this dating nonsense that comes from winning a trip to California, or a big ol' wad of cash, but it just might happen.

Until then, I have my sweepstakes and my cats.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Jessy

I hope to keep my "Dear Jessy" Advice column as a regular blog feature, and this is where you can find all of the posts!  If you'd like to send me a question/letter - just cue up your email and send it to

3/15/2103:  My New Pope

3/11/2013: Zombie Apocalypse

Dear Jessy - My New Pope

The newest addition to my "Dear Jessy" faux-advice column.  The advice isn't faux, the letters are.

Dear Jessy,

With all the scandal and ridiculousness in the Catholic Church over the past few decades, what's the big deal over the new Pope?

Losing My Religion in America

Artist's Interpretation

Dear LMR,

I totally get how you're feeling, even if I have a different response to it.  The Catholic Church has been less than stellar lately.  From the epidemic of child abuse, to the marginalization of the nuns, things have been pretty cruddy in Catholicland of late.

While I would have jumped at the opportunity to be the new Pope, I was sadly never even approached by a single Cardinal.  I'm totally over it, although the illustration above should give you an idea of how very awesome I would be (FYI - the scanner only does black and white, but the shoes are highlighter orange).

I'm actually pretty excited about a new Pope.  Some things about Francis I that make me happy are his devotion to the poor, and that he studied Chemistry in college - those are both great things!  Of course, I disagree heartily with his take on gay rights, but were we really expecting anything different?  My hope is that he will look in his heart, maybe spend some time praying, and will realize that bigotry has no place in a faith that professes loving one another as one of its main tenets.  I'm an optimistic gal, so I will keep on hoping!

The newest piece of information that leads me to believe the Pope can change his tune, and by changing his tune, potentially change the tune of millions of Catholics around the world, is the op-ed piece written by GOP US Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Senator Portman was previously anti-gay marriage, but when his son came out in 2011, it caused him to question his beliefs.  My very favorite quote from the commentary is:

"I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage." 

I highly recommend you read the entire piece at The Columbus Dispatch.

So, after all of that, I say YES - it is a big deal that we have a new Pope, even for lapsed non-Catholics like me.  Try to see the world through my rose-colored glasses; there is so much potential for positive change!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Jessy - Zombie Apocalypse

Have I ever mentioned that I'd like to be an advice columnist? It sounds like the best job ever.  People ask questions, and then you give your opinion, and it's just your opinion, so it's not like there's a right or wrong answer.  Unless someone asks for the square root of X, I am comfortable in my abilities to cobble together some sort of answer.

Because I am not an advice columnist, but have so very much wisdom to share with the world, I decided I'll just make my own advice column - ask myself questions.  If you decide you would like to ask a question - just do it in a comment, and I'll answer as best I can!

Dear Jessy,

Do you think that a zombie apocalypse is coming, and if so, what should people do to get ready for it?

Not-Yet-Undead in Cincinnati

Dear Not-Yet-Undead,

What a loaded question!  I know that zombies have been in the media a lot - primarily in movies, TV shows, etc., with the exception of the face eating that happened down in Florida last summer.  I don't *REALLY* think that a zombie apocalypse is going to happen any time soon - but I'm not one to say never.  Just think about all the money that is being spent on "Scientific Research" in the US - according to NBC News, roughly 2% of our taxes are going to scientific research - at least a little bit of that research is probably being done by shady men with suspicious moustaches, and women with diabolical heels, right?

Let's put it this way:  Think of 100 people you went to high school with (or maybe summer camp, work, something - some population of 100 people that you had at least a moderate familiarity with).  Now, think about the evil person(s) in that group.  There had to be at least one person who was just plain bad news - the kid/kids your Mom warned you not to spend too much time with.  Now imagine that person is some government funded scientist in an underground bunker somewhere; they are a scientific researcher, what do you think they're looking into?  Probably turning people into zombies.

If there is a zombie outbreak, I'm predicting it will start from one of four sources:

  1. Evil Scientist trying to reanimate their lost love
  2. Meteor (I'm looking at you, Russia)
  3. Side-effect of genetically modified foods
  4. Voodoo
Sure, there are lots of other causes, but I don't have the time or imagination for it today.  To prepare for the (extremely unlikely) disaster, here are my suggestions:
  1. Head for the hills - literally - it's better to be at the top of a hill, that way you'll be able to see all the zombies and marauders coming your way
  2. Invest in shutters now; glass is going to be zero help 
  3. Don't bother with guns - in pretty much every zombie scenario EVER - their ears are not only still functional, but are extra awesome - you want to use baseball bats, sledge hammers, etc.  Flame throwers would probably be cool - until you had a flaming zombie running around lighting your house on fire
  4. Stock up on the candy/cookies you like.  Imagine the apocalypse - pretty crappy, right? Now imagine the apocalypse with zero Peanut Butter M&Ms - way worse.
That's it for today.  

Just remember - if your loved ones are looking grey-faced, and try to bite you - don't just assume they're zombified and hit them with a hammer - take the time to see if they're hungover or something.

Until Tomorrow,

If your relatives look like this - it might not be a bad idea to run away as fast as you can.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chowder Love

Are you sad, lonely, depressed? Are you terribly unlovable?  Luckily for you - you happened across this post.  I have the cure for that.  I am quite comfortable diagnosing you with a tendency toward looking for love in all the wrong spices (yep, I went there).  The pot of deliciousness you will have as a result of using this recipe will make anyone (who is not lactose intolerant) love you (or they're stupid and don't deserve your love).

As the youngest of five, having grown up in a family where dinner was the meal preceded by my sister Faith, and I banging our spoons on our glasses and shrieking "Ding-a-ling-ding-ding time for DINNER" at the top of our lungs.  The food was never anything fancy - stews, meatloaf, quiche, hotdogs and beans, boiled dinners (we are true New Englanders at heart); more often than not the vegetables were canned (50/50 home grown and canned or grocery store stuff), and what could be, was purchased in bulk.

One of my FAVORITE meals growing up was fish chowder, and a few years ago, I realized I'd never made it for my daughter.  I emailed Mom and Faith, and both were surprised that I would ask - because chowder is so EASY.  Regardless of the easiness, neither was able to provide me with a workable recipe.

I did some googling, and all the recipes I found were baffling, and didn't sound remotely like the stuff we ate growing up.  The worst was when I came across recipes for Manhattan chowder which is RED (FYI - chowder should be a creamy color with little spots of golden buttery goodness on top).

Luckily, I found a publication at work - Recipe Ideas for Thrifty Families - I got the printed copy - but if you click on that link - you get the whole thing as a PDF for free.  The recipes are all good new england stuff - simple and delicious - and, yes, thrifty :)

Page 15 has the fish chowder recipe I used.  The first couple of times, I used that recipe exactly, but since it has evolved into my own recipe, which I will try to get down right for you:

  • 1 - Medium Onion
  • 2 tbsp - Butter 
  • 4-5 decent size (a fist?) good potatoes - I prefer Yukon Gold, but you can go with whatever you want
  • 1 lb fish (I go to the grocery store and get "chowder mix" - which usually includes only haddock, but sometimes there's some salmon in there too) - you can use more fish if you want.  The original recipe calls for Cod or something like that - but if you ask me it's nowhere near as good
  • 4 cups water 
  • 2 12 oz cans of evaporated milk - the original recipe calls for 2 cups of water, and fresh milk - but  chowder is WAY better if you use the evaporated stuff - much creamier
  • 1 can of corn - anything other than creamed corn - I like the niblets
  • Salt - a pinch, and then a decent amount to taste when it's finished
  • Pepper - to taste
  • Mince up your onions teeny tiny, and throw them in a saute pan with your butter until they reach that gorgeous translucent stage - you will most likely start drooling before they hit perfection.  
  • Peel your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces - 3/4 inch cube-ish - you can leave the skin on - but keep in mind that, unless your potatoes are organic, they do generally retain a lot of the toxins from any pesticides in their skin
  • Throw the potatoes & butter/onion mix in to a decent size pot with the water, and a pinch of salt (a pinch of salt is literally that - stick your fingers in and pull out a pinch - otherwise, maybe 1/4 tsp?  Not much - just enough to get it boiling faster) - sometimes I'll pop just a few small bits of fish in the water when I first mix it all together, I have no idea if it makes any difference to the recipe - but probably no more than an ounce of the smaller bits of fish
  • Bring the mixture to a boil - and simmer on medium/low for about 15 minutes
  • Throw in the can of corn (be sure to include the water from the can)
  • While this mix simmers together, cut your fish up into 1-inch-ish size pieces - Be sure to scrape off any pesky skin that might be stuck to it, and keep your eyes/fingers on the alert for any bones that might be hiding
  • Check that your potatoes are cooked all the way through (super easy to check - pull the biggest piece of potato you see out with a spoon, then poke it with a fork, if the fork slides right through it - the potatoes are fully cooked.  If needed, repeat until you are positive they're all cooked through, and you've got a good idea of how delicious they will be.  This is a good chance to add a bit more salt, if you're of a mind to - it all depends on taste.
  • When the potatoes are cooked through - throw all of your fish in - bring it back up to a boil, and cook on medium for about five minutes - your fish is done when it's gone from a semi-transparent gross raw look to a beautiful solid fully cooked look.  If you aren't sure what I mean - google it. The fish will also turn flaky when it's cooked, so try whomping some of it with a fork in the pot.
  • When the fish is finished, throw in your cans of evaporated milk, and that's it! 
Your chowder is going to be okay; chowder is always fine the day you make it.  I suggest having fresh biscuits or rolls (with real butter) with it.  I PROMISE  you that it will be better the next day (unless you forget to put it in the fridge, then avoid it). The flavors will mingle, and your tongue and stomach will be so very happy.

Some other things you can do:
  • Add carrots
  • Leave out the fish and just have corn chowder (which is one of the best last minute meals a parent can have in their arsenal
  • Add clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, lobster, etc. pretty much any seafood will be a great addition to this.
The next time I make chowder I'll try to get a picture of the perfect onions, and when fish is cooked to add to this, so you don't have to resort to googling.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Luggage Has Arrived!

I created a Facebook page for the January 12 - 15, 2013 Marlboro Chill Off the Grid Winners - and have been reading, with plenty of excitement, about other travelers receiving their luggage.  

Despite my characteristic desire to be surprised with gifts and things, as soon as I found out about the trip, I started googling what "gifts" I would be receiving, so I knew it was VERY likely that we would get luggage.  The mystery, of course, was what that luggage would look like!

I was really surprised when the box arrived today at work, because the woman I spoke to at Marlboro had said it would be sent to my house.  It appears that our box has been through some times; it received a second set of tape at some point between Southaven, MS and here.  Don't tell my sister, but she's getting the bag that has a couple of little mud splotches on it.

When the box arrived, I was PRETTY sure it was the luggage, even though, as I said, I wasn't expecting it to come to me at work.  Because I win a lot of things (see my Incredibly Lucky 2012), I wasn't 100%.

Here is what arrived:

I'm impressed with my restraint - taking a picture before opening it!!

Inside the box was our luggage - two rolling "Vertex" Duffels, and two baseball caps.  

Sadly, I generally do NOT look very nice in hats, but, am totally excited about wearing this one when we're at the airport (specifically our Chicago to Bozeman flight, which will have a number of other travelers on it!!).

Here I am, rocking my hat (which, thankfully doesn't scream Marlboro - which would be okay, but not as classy looking):

Yes - that is a paisley shirt - that's how I roll
I'm not sure if I'll have time to blog anymore about my pre-trip excitement before it's actually Trip time!!!  We leave at 5:39 am on Saturday, and then arrive in Bozeman a little after 2:00 pm.  I can PROMISE that I will post PLENTY of pictures when I return!

To read all posts related to this win - go to my Marlboro Ranch Page!

Ticket Time!

I have been neglectful of the world wide everyone with my Marlboro Ranch Trip updates!!!

Back on Wednesday, January 2nd, I received our Airline tickets, in addition to information on what we need to bring, a $25 Visa card for myself, and for my sister, for us to check our luggage (which you can read all about in my next post).

Our Information was in these cool little folders

The letter was filled with great info on what to bring, as well as contact info for the ranch.  In the ticket folders are little handouts for folks back home - emergency contact info for us at the Ranch.

The most FUN thing (yes, I know, the plane tickets are super fun, and definitely added an element of reality to this dreamlike vacation) was the "Activity Confirmation." If you read my post "Paperwork II: The Fun Stuff" then you saw the form we got to fill out rating our preference for different activity choices.  The Activity Confirmation has our schedule of activities for days 2 & 3 of our trip!  Check it out!

I used my incredible office skills to remove our last names

I'm beyond thrilled at the Zip Line Adventure, and the Dog Sledding.  I am really interested in the Archery Adventure, and I'm actually kind of glad we got wait listed for the snowmobile; I was nervous that the posture you maintain on a snowmobile might not be beneficial for someone who had spinal surgery less than six months ago.  

All in all - this is, as usual, a total win!! 

Luggage arrived today, but I decided to make that a separate post!

To read all posts related to this win - go to my Marlboro Ranch Page!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Incredibly Lucky 2012

2012 has really been a banner year for me.  Outside of all the amazing things I've won (over $15,000 worth of prizes), I had back surgery back in July, and feel better than I have since my mid-twenties.

I would say that on the average evening, I spend about 2 - 3 hours entering sweepstakes while I watch movies or TV (technically, I guess I'm pretty much listening to the shows, since I am looking at the laptop screen).  I enter on blogs, facebook, instant wins, some twitter giveaways, etc.  I use the tool Roboform (it's an add-on for Chrome and Firefox that remembers all my passwords, and enters my info into a page, so I don't have to type it out every time).

There's a program out there called Sweepstakes Ninja that just enters contests for you, but to me, that's cheating, and I would think it would be against the rules of pretty much every giveaway out there.

But, you're probably more interested in hearing what I actually won!! The two biggest deals to me were the trips - way back in January, I won a trip through TNT - round trip to Huntington Beach, California - and back this fall, I found out about my BIGGEST win yet - a trip to the Marlboro ranch.  My goal for next year is to win either a large cash prize, or a new car.  I suppose that's my new year's resolution :)

Jessy's 2012 Wins:
90210 Season 4 – DVD
Ace Bottle Opener
Blog Prize Pack
Amazon Gift Cards – Total of $210
AMC Movie Tickets & Drinks – 2
Custom Lambskin Journal
Aveda Relief Kit (both full and travel sizes)
Avengers Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack
$25 GC to Babeland
Babycakes Cookbook
Meat Thermometer
One Year of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine
Betty Crocker Muffin Mixes, Apron, and Other Goodies
Bible Verses Book
Bluapple – Fridge freshener
Blue Wooden Bead Bracelet
Body by Vi Products
Thirty-One Bag
Mark by Avon Skincare Set
Another Book
Bresh Toothbrushes
Cassandra Clare collection of books
ChuChi Night Light/Toy
Coconut Oil for Pets
Copy Kids DVD
Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce
$18 of Walmart Coupons
Crochet Patterns
Custom nail Solutions
Custom Apron
Daris Howard Book
Death of a Schoolgirl Book
Digital Precision Bathroom Scale
Fit Moms for Life Book
Doubletree Cookies
Ear Buds
Election Night Party Kit
$5 ELF Gift Card
ET Blu-Ray & DVD Combo
Eyebrow Brush
Facial Cloths
$15 Family Dollar GC
Book – First Grave on the Right
Set of 10 Flirt Cosmetics Lip Glosses
Food Should Taste Good Chips
Fredrick’s of Hollywood items
Book – Gabriel’s Woman
Garnier Product Collection (21 full size products – ARV $224)
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Book
GoGoSqueez Treats & Perfume/Lotion items
Greenleaf Potpourri
Haywire Signed Poster
iPad Speaker Dock
Hope Springs Prize Pack
10 New Horror DVDs
House at the End of the Street signed poster, and other movie items
$25 HSN Gift Card
Huggable Curious George
Hunger Games DVD
iPod Shuffle
$25 iTunes GC
JCP Gift Certificates - $315 Total
Jessica Inclan Book
Chinese Jewelry
Yoga Mat Bag
Gourmet Chocolates
K2 Book from
2 Festival passes to KahBang
2 Karen Kane Scarves
2 Bottles of Krill Oil Pills
Little Tikes & MGA Prize Pack
Lovable Labels Camp Pack
Artisan Coffee Beans
Lysse Leggings
Marlboro Ranch Trip (leaving in 10 Days!!)
$50 Mastercard GC
Meaningful Jewelry Bracelet
2 Mirabella Lip Glosses
Mondelo Blank Canvas Custom Sneakers
Monkey Balm
$13 Movie Cash
Ski Passes
My memories Suite Software
Natural House Cleaners
Natural Insect Repellant
Nature-Cide Inside Spray
New Era Cap
Several Blog Gift Packs
Northface Boots – my Choice
Ottlite Table Lamp
$200 Lingerie
Pantene Whip Hair Product
Custom Made Photo Nightlight
Pillowtex Triple Core Pillow
Pledge Multi Surface Wipes
$10 Plum District GC
Premium Mod Strap
FitBit Fitness Tracker
CD & DVD Set
Queen of America Book
Ratchet Set
Redbox Movie Code
Autographed book – Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
2 – Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler
Samsun Focus S Smart Phone – Pro – 1 Year
Schlage Home Security Kit
Penguin 8 Best Sellers
$100 ShanaLogic Gift Card
ShaToBu Shaper – 2 Aprons, 2 Glovettes, and Oven Mitt Set
Sing4 – The Hits Edition for Wii
Sinky, Trashy, Flush – 2 month supply
$200 GC
Snapsac Super Tote
Snow White & the Huntsman DVD/Blu Ray
$100 Prepaid Visa
Sportline Pulse Monitor
St. Ives Body Lotion – 8 large bottles
Stila Lip Trio
The Big Year DVD
The Gaia Wars & Battle for Cascadia – Autographed books
The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting ebook
The New Fox Tuesday Prizes
Partyworks Complete Party Pack
They Stood Alone – autographed book
$50 Thirty-One GC
Thirty-One Duffel
Time Dog Subscription
Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook
Treasure Me Paperback
All Expenses Paid trip to Huntington Beach, CA
We Bought a Zoo DVD
$15 Wendy’s GC
Werewolf Blu Ray
Woozie Wine Accessories
$25 Christmas Tree Shop GC
Yankee Candle Full Size
Yes to Carrots Color Balm
Yonanas Maker & $52 free Bananas Coupons
Zuvo Water Filter
Faber Watercolors
2 - 20 oz Coca Cola Products
2 - Movie Passes
Chicago Christmas CD
Lady Antebellum Christmas CD
German Facial Products