Aug 20, 2007

You can never have too much sugar

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d never have to buy sugar again. But there I was in the grocery store last night pulling a name brand box of sugar packets off the shelf and placing it in the basket with a rueful smile on my face.

My mother was obsessed with sugar for two reasons: she loved stealing sugar packets from the nursing home to give me and unfortunately over time developed a crack-like addiction to using the artificial sweetener Equal in her coffee. (I’ll save the Equal story for another time.)

While living in the nursing home, she’d get the standard (2) white packets of sugar with every meal and since she never used real sugar in her coffee, she strangely started saving the sugar for me because she knew that I used it in my morning coffee. She proudly told me on more than one occasion, “You’ll never have to buy sugar again.”

I can’t recall how it all started, but it became our routine every Tuesday and Thursday that she’d secretly hand me a little plastic trash bag filled with sugar along with an occasional package of cheese crackers. The contents of the bag grew overtime to include various flavors of jelly for my breakfast toast along with peanut butter, miniature packs of Oreo cookies (a special commodity indeed) and eventually the little plastic dosage cups that held her daily medicine.

She continued to gather. I think in her mind she felt this was her way of giving back to me because she couldn’t offer me anything tangible other than her love and the condiments she stole from the nursing home. The funny thing with my mom’s obsession with sugar is she didn’t see any harm in taking something that the nursing home wasn’t going to miss. “Those bastards just throw it away if no one uses it. What a waste! Why can’t I just give it to you?”

Yet she would rant and rave if one of the poor afflicted elderly folk cursed with Alzheimer’s took more than their fair share of snacks to store in their nightstand. She’d vigilantly keep watch for known offenders and promptly report them to the nursing staff if she saw them coming out of the kitchen area with bulging pockets and boxes of Mott’s apple juice in each hand. She’d complain, “That’s meant for everyone!” while at the same time taking four sleeves of chocolate chip cookies to give to me later when no one was looking.

Eventually she started seizing other resident’s leftover condiments and what was once a small trash bag grew to a CVS-sized plastic bag filled with wonders. In time her friends would give her theirs and my sweet bounty grew. I absolutely detested receiving the bag of goodies every time I visited the nursing home because it meant that I’d have to take the bag home and sort through everything to find a place for it. In time my kitchen cupboards became engorged with sugar and jelly packets. I had so much of the stuff that I swore I’d never have to buy sugar again. (I secretly feared that someone would think me a hoarder were they ever to open a cabinet and see just how many sugar packets I had.) It got so bad that I found myself storing the sugar packets in the most unusual of places such as my blessedly deep unused lobster pot in the basement.

You might wonder why I never just threw the bags of sugar and jelly away? If you knew my mother, the thought would never cross your mind. Somehow had that motherly knack of catching me in a lie. She had the keen ability to inquire after a gift she’d given me some five years ago and there would be hell to pay if I couldn’t reproduce said gift immediately. She dealt out guilt as easily as she gave me sugar packets and it was never a line I wanted to cross with her.

The worse bag sorting were the times when my mother grew lazy and I’d become complacent. She’s place empty soda cans inside the bag without having first washed them so that the liquid spilled out and collected in the bottom of the bag. She’d sometimes put slightly opened packs of jelly in the bag which would attach itself to the white sugar packets to become a sticky mess. There were more times than I care to admit that sticky hands got the best of me because I forgot to look inside the bag before I reached in to begin sorting.

Because I took on the responsibility of doing her laundry, she’d sometimes forget and throw a dirty bra of hers in the bag alongside the sugar and jelly packets. At times sorting through the bag was so overwhelmingly irritating that I’d just leave it in a basement corner to deal with later. It was only when my mother complained that someone was stealing her bras that I’d think to look in one of those discarded bags to find the missing bra soaked with grape jelly and remnants of Coca-Cola.

I tried to explain to my mom without hurting her feelings that I didn’t need anymore sugar. She’d stop for a few weeks in sullen protest and I’d have a reprieve, but eventually she’d start collecting again because she must have reasoned my sugar supply was getting dangerously low.

By sheer coincidence I found an outlet for the ever-accumulating dosage cups in the most unlikely of places-my mother’s hair stylist. During one visit, I was teasing my mother about my black trash bag filled with cups when her hairdresser offered to take them for her daughter’s classroom because they were the ideal size to hold paint for art class projects. I was delighted.

But the glow of usefulness quickly turned to irritation because I would catch hell from my mother on the rare occasion that I would forget to bring the accumulated bag of dosage cups to her hair appointment. And I must admit that sometimes I forgot on purpose because I could clearly see that my mother’s growing collection of pill cups was slowly overwhelming the Leicester school system. Our kindly stylist just couldn’t bring herself to say, “Gloria, enough is enough.”

My mother-in-law also helped by bringing the sugar packets and jelly to a local women’s shelter. She raved about how useful these things would be for the battered women, but I was doubtful that a little raspberry jelly would ease their distress. It did, however, free up a few containers in my kitchen and to my mind was the most important gift of all.

After my mother died and I began the painful process of sorting through her possessions, I began to get a leg up on my inventory of sugar packets. I ended deciding to just let go and found myself heaving shopping bags filled with sugar packets, jelly and cups into the trash feeling guilty for throwing away something perfectly useful, but knowing perfectly well that I still had more than enough to last me for quite a long while—or so I thought.

It wasn’t until two months ago when I went searching for another stash of sugar packets that I realized I had finally run out. It was inevitable that I dealt with the expected sadness and grief in knowing that once again my mother was right: “You Can Never Have Too Much Sugar.”

Aug 19, 2007


Link to video of Insane Wave Pool

I just had to tell you about this video of a gazillion Tokyoites stuffed into a wave pool like sardines. Michael Keferl of CScout Japan posted a photo saying the wave pool was broken until 3pm and upon hearing the announcement that it was fixed, all these crazy people jumped into the pool for some fun.

Are you kidding me?

If you ever want to torture me, send me to Summerland.

Sandwich Art

Got some time on your hands? Forget carving watermelons into smiley faces and don't even think about looking for Jesus in your burnt toast.

Click Here to see more amazing sandwich concoctions. These are stunning stunning works of art.

Who Said Vegans Are Wimpy?

Till Nowak has created a masterpiece “Salad”, a fantastic digital image of Alien made out of vegetables. His tribute to HR Giger and Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Aug 17, 2007

Personal Ads for the Home

There should be personal ads for home appliances, don’t you think? Mine would go something like this:

MWF seeks vacuum with a sexy Dyson-like canister and the suction of a Shop-Vac. Attachments helpful, but not necessary. Enjoys full range of motion, Berber carpeting, Pet hair and a carpet-fresh feeling. Email if you can handle our potentially whirlwind OCD relationship mixed with dander, cobwebs and an occasional thumb tack. Bag optional. No Roombas!!

MWF seeks black refrigerator with double doors, ice-making capabilities and adjustable shelving. Must be 33” in width and can handle Lean Cuisine meals, pints of Ben & Jerry’s and the occasional frost-bitten pork chop. Alphabet Magnets and grocery lists welcome.

MWF seeks front-loading washer/dryer that can handle the love of a denim comforter and go with The Tide. I’m not fussy-white and colors OK. Must be able to handle plastic lingerie holders, lint ball devices and the occasional smelly footwear. Wide Loads welcome.

Well, you get the point.

Review: Charlotte's Web

In lieu of having any romantic movies available to watch Thursday night (currently pining for a re-viewing of The Painted Veil as I’m reading the book right now), I pulled Charlotte’s Web off my bookshelf knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be a nice way to ease into day’s end.

The movie is based on E.B. White’s story about a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved from the axe at birth by the farmer’s daughter Fern. But even the adoration of a little girl with a heart of gold may not be able to save Wilbur from his fate as he eventually discovers that it’s not exactly the best thing to be known as the Spring pig.

Wilbur attempts to make friends with the other barnyard animals, but his gestures towards friendship aren’t successful because the animals aren’t interested in forming a lasting friendship with a pig who is destined for the smokehouse.

Eventually Wilbur is befriended by a kindly spider known as Charlotte A. Cavatica who herself is shunned by the other barnyard inhabitants due to her displeasing appearance and well-tuned method of capturing daily meals. When Templeton the Rat gleefully tells Wilbur that his fate as a Spring pig is to become the main course for Christmas dinner, Charlotte make a fateful promise to help save the life of her friend Wilbur the pig.

I never do well with watching movies involving animals dying nor can I handle the concept of adorable creatures being slaughtered for food. However, I make no pretense of the indisputable fact that I can eat a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese without hesitation and nor feel the slightest bit of guilt while doing so because I never have to witness how the delicious beef patties ended up between the sesame seed buns.

The CGI effects in Charlotte’s Web were subtle yet stunning. Their effects made me pause to marvel at just how adorable a young piglet could be. It’s easy to see why Fern saved Wilbur from the chopping block and granted him a spot on her pillow every night until her parent’s protests eventually landed this pet pig a spot across the street to live at Fern's uncle’s farm. Wilbur’s flat nostril nose and button eyes were the central point of his cuteness and the animators did a fine job manipulating his fuzzy, floppy ears to express a palette of emotions.

An enjoyable feature of Charlotte’s Web were the barnyard animals voiced by an all-star cast including Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, John Cleese, Kathy Bates, etc. Their performances were entertaining and really brought out the nuances of each character.

Highlights included Templeton the Rat (voiced by Steve Buscemi). He was a study in selfishness and hearty gluttony. He seemed to delight in disappointing others while looking out for himself (and his fine stomach), but by the end of the story became a worthy member of the barn.

Julia Roberts was the perfect choice to voice Charlotte the spider in that her manner was soothing, calm and even-tempered as Wilbur’s mounting anxiety over becoming Christmas dinner became evident. Her final good-bye to Wilbur at the State Fair will definitely tug at your heartstrings and bring on the waterworks.

My personal favorite was Thomas Haden Church and Andre Benjamin who lent their voices to the pair of tortured black crows Brooks and Elwyn. Each brought their own style to their respective crow: Church as the blustery, frustrated crow Brooks who only wants CORN, but is terrified to fly into the cornfields because of a lonesome scarecrow and Benjamin as the sly Southern Elwyn whose vanity is tainted when Templeton the Rat manages to douse them both in blue paint during a hectic chase through the local dump. I loved these characters the best and I wish the movie featured more of their talents.

I found myself crying with great heaving sobs by movie’s end which wasn’t unexpected, but the journey was worth the tissues. This movie was an honorable adaptation to E.B. White’s story.

Even though I don’t have any little ones, I’d recommend this movie as an opportunity to gently introduce your child to the concept of death and the circle of life.