Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Called "Eclectic" If Anyone Asks

Perhaps you're looking to spruce things up a bit At Home. Or, now that Autumn is here, you are feeling that Nesting Instinct--the desire to prepare your cold-weather cocoon. Lucky for you, I can assist you with that.

And it doesn't even matter if you're redoing say, your bathroom, and it might look like this one:

or if you're finally remodeling your entire kitchen, and your taste is more along the lines of, say, this:

Let's imagine, even, that you are redecorating your bedroom (or guest room) and have opted for a style more in keeping with this:

Did you pack off the last tyke to college or into a home of his/her own? Are you finally getting the living room of your dreams, one For Guests Only?

I have just the little accessory for any of those scenarios. It will slide right in seamlessly and add not only functionality, but the stylish finishing touch you will appreciate. It says so right on the package. Here, let me show you:


Hey.  You're welcome.

(All images via, except living room from; bass switchplate via Amazon, mine.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Driving Story In Which We Discuss Irony, Connotation, And Simile (And Any Other English Class Vocabulary You'd Like)

It was one of those rare times when I was zipping along on Rt. 58, driving admittedly well above the speed limit and with no one ahead of me for miles. Foolishly, I dared hope--no--believe that I was going to, as St. Patsy likes to say, Make Good Time for once on this damned road that is usually full of dawdlers, slowpokes, and Sunday Drivers.

Then I crested a hill and there it was, a boxy red car going Nowhere. I had to apply my brakes. On the highway. The speed limit is 55 on that particular stretch, and this car was travelling at a leisurely 42 mph. As is always the case with my fortunes, the double yellow line had appeared on the road as it became more hilly and winding, and I was stuck.

Irritated, I poked at the buttons of the radio and looked for some music or some interesting talk. Traffic coming the other way had begun to pick up a little, and I sighed loudly. It figured. Even when it was legal to pass this guy, opposing traffic might make it impossible.

I also found it annoying that the car was called a Nitro, according to the chrome plate on it. There was absolutely nothing about this vehicle that remotely suggested "Nitro" to me, which evokes in my mind explosions or speed or power or that one American Gladiator--remember him? Certainly not a square, stodgy car like this poky thing.


As I fumed and fussed, I noticed the offending car rocking just a little. It was then that I became aware of a huge dark mass moving around inside it. It was large enough to obscure the rear window a bit, and completely block the rearview mirror at times. "Holy crap," I said aloud. "What the hell is in there?"

Route 58 goes directly through a hamlet which is almost entirely a school zone, and trust me, this almost kills me. It also has two train crossings and a ton of construction. As I followed Red Nitro and approached this mess, I watched with growing curiosity the shape-shifter inside the car. Once we cleared the first train tracks and orange barrels, things became suddenly clearer.

The driver must have put all the windows down from a central control because as soon as we started moseying through town, an enormous dog head appeared through the rear passenger window and began barking. Loudly and a lot. At everything. Then the dog turned around, and its head appeared in another window to do the same on the other side. This went on--from all four windows in random succession--all the way through the small town, and it may well have gone on for the rest of his ride, however long it took. I will never know.

Because coming out of that village, I took advantage of the broken white line and passed Red Nitro. But before I did, I had ample time to notice a decal I had missed until we meandered through that maddening, tiny burgh. It was this one:

The story doesn't end there. A few days later, Rick and I dropped in on my brother at his lakehouse, and he was recounting an adventure he had just had while mowing his three lots with his riding mower. "It was terrible," he was telling St. Patsy. "I stopped the mower and sat there with my legs drawn up. That thing charged me with its teeth bared, barking like hell. It was the biggest German Shepherd I ever saw. And all the guy did was stand way over in his yard and keep calling to it. That dog didn't even hear him, or act like it did. I finally yelled, 'Can you just come over and get it?' And the guy comes over with the leash, gets the dog, and doesn't say a word to me. Not one."

Guess what was parked two doors down?

I think that his decal is maybe overselling it.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Death, Be Not Proud, But At Least Be As Dignified As Possible

No matter where you live, I know you've all seen them. Even if you haven't seen one in actuality, you've at least seen them on television during reports of tragic deaths either by gun violence, traffic accidents, or even acts of terrorism. They're often spontaneous, many times poignant, and always well-meaning.

I'm talking about the makeshift memorials that appear at the site of a terrible and sad death. They are very common in Cleveland, for example, these displays of stuffed animals, candles, balloons, and flowers intermingled with hand-lettered posters and cards and notes and photos, even some paintings and sketches of the deceased or murdered. Along two of the highways I drive frequently are faded wreaths, their significance unknown to me. I have no idea who they mourn, and now they look dirty and bedraggled. I find myself feeling worse about the condition of the memorial than what could have happened there.

Then I feel guilty for being shallow. Then I feel resentful about the way our culture deals with death. Then I berate myself for being so complex in my own feelings about death. Then I push a bunch of buttons on the radio and try to think about something else.

Today, however, I saw an entirely different sort of Memorial. I was absolutely amazed, and you know that word is not one that I use lightly. Here it is; tell me what you think:

It suddenly appeared before me in traffic, and thank heaven I had enough time to snap a photo.  The back window is painted, for those of you who cannot make it out clearly, with the words "Rest In Heaven Angy Anne' 11-25-98  8-29-15."  

Never before in my life have I seen this sort of Mobile Memorial.  I have seen cars painted to announce softball championships, high school senior jubilation, graduation joy, wedding elation, birthday announcement, driver's license success, the fact that a certain team is bound for state competition, and to inform me that "Lordy, Lordy, Someone Is Forty", but never that someone is dead and that the driver wishes her to be at peace in the afterlife.

Let me add this to the List Of Things No One Should Do When He Or She Hears That I Am Dead.  Driving around with a back-window announcement of my passing is, to me, actually worse than posting it on PinTwitFace.  It is actually more undignified, if that is possible.  It is worse than passing it in a note during study hall or class or, if you go, church.  I would absolutely rather it be announced during, oh, almost any event except perhaps a Toby Keith or Miley Cyrus concert.  I would rather have it be a singing telegram sent to someone and performed in a gorilla suit--no!--a gorilla in a tutu--than have anyone drive around with the news of my passing shoe-polished on the back window of his Chevrolet.  Or Honda.  Or even her Nissan Leaf, as environmentally friendly as that car is.

Please, in Comments, tell me I am Not Alone.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Final Top Ten List: Ten Television Shows I Miss

I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I feel as if I watch far less television than I used to. Not only fewer hours of television, but far fewer shows. I'm sure some of it is due to no longer subscribing to cable, but I think some of it is also due to what's being offered as well as my own changing taste. A great many shows I liked are gone, or they degenerated into a big mess, or they simply wandered off into the vagaries and obscurity of The Capricious Television Schedule, which I can't, for the life of me figure out anymore.

For my last List Of Ten Things to celebrate my tenth anniversary of writing here at the Dept. here's my

Ten Television Shows I Miss, For Whatever Reason

1. House
2. Mad Men
3. thirtysomething
4. Downton Abbey
5. The West Wing
6. NYPD Blue
7. Two And A Half Men
8. St. Elsewhere
9. ER
10. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

It's a certainty that there are scads of others, but let's deal with these before I concur with your choices in Comments.

1. I miss seeing Hugh Laurie. In any incarnation, and every single day. House got terrible there at the end, but again, worth it to see Hugh Laurie. Where in the hell is he? Won't someone put him in something that I can go and see? Immediately?

2. Netflix is on my Smack List since they did that stupid thing of breaking up the final season of Mad Men into two 6-episode segments and forcing its subscribers to wait for it. SO DON'T MENTION ANY SPOILERS; I AM WAITING. And then, when it is over, I will miss it even more terribly.

3. This show was on such a long time ago, but I still remember thirtysomething and its characters vividly. It was talky and real to me, even though some critics said it was all "yuppie whining."  I didn't feel that way at all.  It naturally declined in its final seasons, but it was still terrific. Hey! Is it on Netflix?

4. I know Downton Abbey isn't over yet, but this year is its final season, and I am already In Mourning. It's the best highbrow soap opera around, and so sumptuous to look at.

5. Rick and I watched The West Wing in its entirety the moment Jared shared his Netflix with us. It was wonderful. So smart and so much talent on that show. Surprisingly, it does not seem dated at all, and you can do worse than to look at Jimmy Smits and Rob Lowe, not to mention the lovely women in the cast.

6. Speaking of Jimmy Smits, he was in NYPD Blue also, but I always enjoyed the character of Andy Sipowicz, played by Dennis Franz, the most. He was so endearing and so human. The dialog in that show was tremendous and tough. I still use the phrase "get out in front of it" all the time to mean "admit something at the outset."

7. When the comedy Two and a Half Men first aired, I loved it. It was funny, fresh, and original. After the second season, it became tawdry and awful and relied solely on sexual innuendo and then outright sex for its comedy. I'm no prude, but I need something more intelligent. So sad, an opportunity and cast wasted.

8. St. Elswhere was another very human drama with comedic moments and a hugely talented cast which included, if you recall, Howie Mandel, among the others like Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, and Christina Pickles. (He was really very good.)   Another one to look for on The Netflix!

9. ER was stocked with breakout stars like George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, William H Macy, and Goran Visnjic, oh, too many to name. I cried so many times while watching this show. And laughed. And got angry. It was just that good.

10. The absurd and hilarious soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was one of the funniest things I ever saw in my life. I was only 17 when it first aired, and I can remember my father laughing and laughing while he watched it.  Mary Kay Place was incredible in that cast.

Which shows do you miss and why?  Let's reminisce in Comments.

Thanks for celebrating Ten Years of My Blog with me.  I hope we'll celebrate Ten More.  And I hope you'll continue chatting away on this and other posts in the series.


Exposing The Big Lie: Updating Ten Random Nance Facts

Without any further ado, here are the Ten Random Nance Facts again, with the explanations following, exposing The Big Lie.

Ten Random Nance Facts

1. I don't wear my wedding or engagement ring.
2. I have only mowed the lawn once.
3. I once referred to Mike Tyson as a rapist right in front of him.
4. I was almost kicked out of Monticello at the age of 43.
5. I am allergic to rum.
6. I sprained my wrist opening a multi-pack of Cracker Jacks.
7. I always signal my turns, even when backing out of my driveway.
8. I was called "an excellent writer" by Conan O'Brien on his TV show.
9. I have never seen a Star Wars movie.
10. I have never tried marijuana.

Let's see how you did.

1. True. Because my skin is so highly acidic as well as allergic to the nickel in yellow gold, I had to get white gold rings. The rhodium wears off rather quickly, so it's just easier not to wear them at all. I don't wear any jewelry anymore.

2. True. Mowing is Rick's department, but I did it one time in order to say that I did it. I was not excited.

3. True. We were coming out of a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game, and Mike Tyson had attended. He was drawing a crowd outside on the steps of the arena, which irritated me. As my family and I passed by, I loudly stated, while looking straight at him, "I have no idea why anyone would make such a fuss over a convicted rapist."

4. True. Turns out that, back then, asking about and making reference to Sally Hemings was not entirely appreciated. It was suggested to me that I might enjoy cider by the fireplace outside at one of the outbuildings.

5. True. I have drunk it both knowingly and unknowingly, and each time it has caused me to break out in hives, flush, and itch, and it makes my face swell up. It's the only booze to do so. (Thank goodness.)

6. True. Pathetically, this happened when I was about twelve, and I had to actually go to the emergency room. Can you imagine the embarrassment. Of everyone?

7. True. I like to feel that I am overcompensating for all of the jerks who never, ever use theirs.

8. True. In the heyday of my other blog, The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives, which enjoyed a lot of fame and international press, Brian Williams was interviewed by Conan O'Brien and he brought up my blog. He actually read several entries aloud and asked Williams about it. In the course of discussion, O'Brien said, among other nice things, that I was an excellent writer.

9. False. I've seen the first one. Wasn't Harrison Ford so adorable back then?

10. True. I was never even tempted, to be honest. Back in highschool, I was downright terrified, mainly because my dad's best friend was the Chief of Police in our city. And I simply had no desire. Still don't. Not a judgement, just a personal preference.

So there you are. Surprised?


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Favourite Summertime Dishes
Even though I love to cook, I don't do a whole lot of it in the Summertime. Yes, it's often too hot to heat up the kitchen, but Summertime is for easy living and lighter cooking. I also like to take advantage of seasonal foods when I can and my own herb garden as much as possible.

Here, then, are

Ten Favourite Summer Dishes At the Dept. of Nance

1. Strawberry Pie with Cream Cheese
2. Beer Can Chicken with Garlic and Herbs
3. Cold Tuna Pasta with Peas, Lemon, and Fresh Dill
4. Grilled Louisiana Shrimp Skewers
5. Grilled Flatbread Pizzas
6. BLTs on Toast
7. Corn on the Cob
8. Corn and Tomato Salad
9. Vegetable and Pesto Pasta
10. French Potato Salad with Tarragon

Every single one of these foods screams out Summer to me and my family.

1. June is Strawberry Time in NEO, and while I refuse to pick my own (too worky), I'm happy to pay for lovely farm berries at a stand. I make my own pie, my own glaze (not that fake blood stuff), and on the bottom crust, I smear lightly sweetened cream cheese. It makes a heavenly contrast and keeps the pie from getting soggy. So good.

2. Even though it has a decidedly Hillbilly Connotation, a whole fryer cooked this way is incredibly moist and flavourful. I stuff the half-full beer can with fresh herbs and five or six whole garlic cloves. Make sure to plug up the hole from the neck with an onion or potato and enjoy terrific chicken.

3. Such a nice meal on a hot day. I use small shell pasta, white albacore tuna, real mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, a whole bag of frozen peas (don't cook them, just drain the pasta over them), and a ton of fresh, fragrant dill. You can go lightly with the mayo. There is plenty of flavour from the rest of the ingredients. Dash a little Old Bay in there. I do.

4. I love this marinade recipe I found and tweaked--whether it's "Louisiana" or not--and shrimp is so quick. It's got Red Hot, lemon, oregano, Old Bay...and it only needs an hour and a half to marinade and moments to grill.

5. This is our Saturday night supper almost every Summer. Grilled flatbreads topped with my basil pesto, diced fresh tomatoes marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and fresh mozzarella. Period. I'd get more fancy, but why mess with what works and what Rick loves?

6. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. I cannot get enough of them in Summer. When they peak, we eat BLTs. We'd eat them every day if we could, but that's not healthy. I insist on toast; Rick prefers not. We both agree that there has to be Miracle Whip. No lettuce on hand? Not a dealbreaker.

7. There have been many, many times that Rick and I have made corn on the cob our meal. And then gone out later for ice cream. Hey, we are grownups now and we can do that if we want. There will only be Real Butter on the corn at the Dept. Ever. I always get a dozen. We never eat it all at once, but I use the leftovers for...

8. Corn and Tomato Salad is also an entire meal for us sometimes and a favourite leftover for both the boys if they happen to drop in. Fresh, rough-diced tomatoes and cut-off leftover sweet corn with a red wine vinaigrette. Period. Salt and pepper to taste. So Good.

9. Vegetable Pasta with Pesto is another use for leftover corn on the cob. And every other farmstand vegetable you cannot resist. I just made it for a big family dinner. You can saute or grill small zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, green beans--anything. Boil up your pasta (I used spaghetti). Toss the vegetables in the pasta, add fresh grated asiago or parmesan, and mix in basil pesto and a glug of good olive oil. At the last minute, add fresh halved cherry tomatoes and kalamata or ripe olives and leftover corn off the cob, and toss.

10. Tiny new red potatoes are wonderful for a potato salad. I boil them, then make a dressing with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and garlic with my hand blender. I chop up some fresh tarragon and add it. The only other thing I add is sliced scallions. (Salt and pepper are a given for everything.)

Don't those all sound Summery? What do you always make when Summertime rolls around?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Random Nance Facts--Spot The Lie

You and I have been together for quite some time now, some of us ten whole years. In many cases I have shared a great deal of my life, yet I remain a stranger to you. I'm sure some of you feel as if you know me quite well, and probably you do. Well enough, anyway. Today, I'm going to toss out some bits of trivia about myself, and hidden amongst the ten is One Falsehood. See if you can spot it.

Ten Random Nance Facts

1. I don't wear my wedding or engagement ring.
2. I have only mowed the lawn once.
3. I once referred to Mike Tyson as a rapist right in front of him.
4. I was almost kicked out of Monticello at the age of 43.
5. I am allergic to rum.
6. I sprained my wrist opening a multi-pack of Cracker Jacks.
7. I always signal my turns, even when backing out of my driveway.
8. I was called "an excellent writer" by Conan O'Brien on his TV show.
9. I have never seen a Star Wars movie.
10. I have never tried marijuana.

Alrighty! You have your mission. Find the One False Fact up there, and let me know in Comments. I'm interested to know why you think it's The One, too.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Things I'm Not Doing Anymore

Life is short, and let's face it: mine is probably more than half over. I'm not going to waste any more of the time I have left on things I don't like if I can possibly help it. 

Here, then, is my abridged list of

Ten Things I'm Not Doing Anymore If I Can Help It

1. Attend Kid Parties
2. Send Cards
3. Drink Bad Wine
4. Attend Baby or Bridal Showers
5. Clothes Shop for Myself at Macy's
6. Get a Haircut
7. Eat at Mediocre Restaurants
8. Be Uncomfortable in My Own Home
9. Use Any Electric Hairstyling Tool
10. The Dreadmill

1. Kid parties are loud and chaotic affairs which are, by definition, full of children. This is a stage of my life that I am thrilled to be done with and have zero interest in revisiting. And allow me to say that the amount of Actual Parenting that takes place in general Anywhere by the current generation of "Parents" is approximately a teensy weensy bit. If any. I think you understand my position here.

2. I hate all cards. I don't get the point. They are ridiculously expensive, and once you get them and look at them, then what do you do? I do not save cards. It's a terrific waste of money. Send me an e-card. Send me a text message. For a death, I write a lovely letter in which I share a remembrance of the departed and offer comfort and a specific service if I can. And do not get me started on Christmas Cards, which have become ridiculous in many cases.(My next-door neighbor used to mail a card to me. Why?)

3. As you all know, I am a collector, appreciator, and enthusiastic drinker of wine. I don't really think I am a Wine Snob. But I'm not going to drink any more crappy wine just because It Is Wine and people know that is what I drink. "I'll get you a glass of wine," someone says at an event. And I am sitting there with a glass of awful chablis or red something, gamely choking it down. Never again.

4. All gift showers are tedious, trying events at which the women are marking time until they can safely leave without hurting anyone's feelings. Now they are huge, catered events in some cases, held at halls and arenas with ice sculptures and dancers. No, we don't want to play little games or win candles and pot holders and picture frames. We just want our cookies and a chance to leave. I will just be sending a gift to the house.

5. I used to shop at Macy's in my hometown all the time. Then, seemingly, it was taken over by aliens from the planet Sad-N-Dowdy. Last year, I walked in, and after a half hour of wandering all over the female clothing departments, I finally found a salesperson. I said to her, "What happened to this store? Where would I find clothes that are...I don't know...not this?" I'll spare you the rest, but suffice it to say that she could not help me and I have not been back.

6. Last year at this time, I got a short, choppy pixie, which after a week or so, I regretted steadily until about last week, when I finally liked my hair again. Then I went to get A TRIM. But the stylist did not do that, and she gave me A HAIRCUT instead. From now on, I am cutting my own bangs, and that is the only haircut I am getting for the rest of my life.

7. There is a lot of bad food served at restaurants, and it's depressing. I'd rather eat out a lot less often and pay more for a truly excellent meal. Most restaurants in our area are putting out food that is nowhere near as good as what I can make in my own kitchen, and with fresher ingredients. I'll save up and go to a pricier place, or get good Chinese takeout.

8. In the winter I don't mind wearing a sweater or snuggling up in a blanket if I'm on the couch in my jammies in the evening. In the summer I don't mind having the ceiling fan on. But I am not going to be shivering or sweating in my own home in the winter or summer, either. This is Civilization, and we work(ed) hard to have money to be able to have heat and airconditioning. Especially heat. I am not going to suffer in my own home.

9. From highschool through more than half of my teaching career, I was a slave to either hot rollers or a curling iron. I even had a curling iron with the metal hot roller bristle thingies! It's like my hair was my hobby or a Lifestyle Choice. Now, if it can't be accomplished with a blowdryer and a round brush at the most, tough.

10. I'm over it. Period. Dr. B., my neurologist, was horrified that I was even using a treadmill to begin with. And I hate it with a passion. (Hence my name for it, dreadmill.) It's no wonder that it used to be a prison device for hard labour punishment. I'd rather bundle up in the winter and risk a fall on icy sidewalks. I'm not kidding.

I can't wait to hear what you all are ready to cut loose and say "Never Again" to.


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