Thursday, October 30, 2008

Doing My Part For Consumer Confidence (And Somewhere In Here Is A Pun On Dogs)

Things have been so tense here at the Dept. lately. It's nonstop Politics--mainly because we're a Battleground State and we are inundated with ads from every media outlet, but also because it's all we talk about and our televisions are constantly tuned to CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC. It's also nonstop Economic Gloom and Doom for the same reason because those same channels watch the Dow forecast our Fiscal Armageddon even before our statements arrive in the mail. Rick and I just grind our jaws and madly press buttons on the remote, and when I can't take it anymore, I do two things: watch dog shows and go shopping!

Let me be clear--I do not own a dog, nor do I ever want to. Dogs are way worky: you have to train them, walk them, play with them, take them out even when it's cold and rainy and snowy. Forget all that. Plus, they are hairy/furry. I have finally rid my home of extraneous cat hair left by the Late Dept. Cats, Travis and Emily, and they've been gone since September '07 and July '08, respectively. In all reality, dogs are pretty much just furry toddlers who never quite grow up. Major style-crampers. Watching dog shows, however, gives me all the enjoyment of appreciating the really neat breeds without all the labor-intensive bullshit that goes along with Dog Ownership. As a result, I can identify the vast majority of AKC breeds by sight and know their proclivities and standards. And because I am a religious Dog Show Viewer, I even know some repeat entrants by name. I know, how sad.

So, I'm watching a dog show--I think it was a Eukanuba; which one it is never matters to me unless it is Cruft's or Westminster, which are the only two that really matter to anyone anyway--and I come to a few realizations about a few breeds that I just don't have any tolerance for anymore, and here they are:

*Brussels Griffon: Hideous bat-faced dog. The commentator says, "this breed is not suitable as an outdoor dog." No kidding! This dog is just too damn ugly to be taken out in public, really. I think that if the dog is in dog shows, it should at least be so ugly that it's cute, like a shar-pei. Not like this. Ugh.
*Chihuahua: I'm sorry, but these dogs are just spastic crack dogs. They're always shaky and always look like they're scared and/or hiding their stash from the cops.
*Shih-Tzu: This thing is not a dog, it's a hobby. For shut-ins. Please.

Finally, I was going to file a Viewer Protest because the winner of Best In Show was a pug named...Boo. Please. I wanted to throw up. What the hell kind of name is that for a dog? And a pug? I can think of eleventy billion better names... for any animal. IN THE WORLD.
On to shoes. Which was my shopping part.

On Sunday I decided I couldn't wait any longer to buy the Shoes I Had Been Coveting For Ages. And I really needed a Shopping Fix. I couldn't remember the last time I had bought shoes, but I think it was actually summer. So I zipped out and came back with The Shoes (on sale!), a second pair (half price!), and a purse (also half price!) in a Major Shopping Tour de Force. Allow me to share them with you now:

Holy crap, are these the cutest shoes or what? These are The Shoes I Had Been Coveting For Ages. I wore them on Wednesday with grey and black teeny-houndstooth pants and a long grey coat sweater, and it was major. The black is patent leather, including on the heel. Don't you just love styling details like that? Next up:

I got these because the second pair was automatically half off, and there was no way I was walking out of there and leaving a deal like that on the table. So I found these. I don't know if you can tell, but they are a gorgeous plum color. I have a knit dress that they will match, not to mention any number of grey and black things that these can accent nicely.

And, somehow, I was able to avoid the usual Purse Agony when, by a stroke of luck, I found the exact purse in black that I had bought in buttercup yellow for spring, thereby saving me at least six grueling hours of foraging through Handbag Hell and practicing the various moves I execute daily with my leather appendage: the one-handed wallet grab, the blind key-search, the strap-flip, the no-look lipstick rummage, etc.

Sweet victory. And at 50% off.

I really feel like I'm doing my part for the economy. My own little Stimulus Package for Ohio. When the economy gets tough, Nance goes shopping. Just not for a dog.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Say Skip It And Go Directly To The Next Real Holiday On The List

I hate Halloween. I just absolutely hate it. I've kvetched about it before here at the Dept., so I won't get all in a lather again, but really, when on Earth will this little holiday go back to being just that--a Little Holiday and stop being some bigass Extravaganza Of Retail, Adult Idiocy, And Overall Bad Taste?

Let me take those 3 areas one at a time:

1. Retail. Just browse through the Walgreens advertisement and you can meet up with some incredibly horrific items that defy not only basic sales logic but plain judgment. Only at Halloween time would anyone dare to market things called Hulk Cakes: chocolate cupcakes frosted in an alarming lime green. Those, however, pale in comparison to the Blood Tablecloth, Gory Wound Sleeve, and something called the Lighted Window Leecher. WTF is a "leecher?" Try looking it up in a dictionary. Lord help us if Walgreens made a typo and it was supposed to be "lecher." But those are just small potatoes compared to the animated guillotine you can get for your front yard! This festive decoration "features a talking prisoner with lighted eyes and a working guillotine!" Finally, for those Holiday Addicts, there is actually a Two-Season Lite Set: "Go from Halloween to Christmas with the press of a button!" In reality, in my Walgreens, all I have to do is walk 10 feet. The aisle directly in front of the Halloween aisle is already stocked with Christmas wrap, artificial wreaths, ribbon, tags, stockings, and all sorts of red-and-green crap. I almost wept.

2. Adult Idiocy. Remember when Halloween used to be all about little kids going out in costumes and trick-or-treating? And they had little parties and their parents helped them carve basic jack-o-lantern faces? Now, Halloween has turned into women wearing soft-porn costumes, "grownups" decorating their houses to look like the set of a bad B horror flick, and otherwise sane individuals thinking up ways to scare the hell out of kids who come up to their houses for a free Snickers bar. Specialty Halloween shops crop up in empty storefronts overnight, and pundits try to predict the outcome of the presidential race by which mask sells the most. I always get several parents at my house for trick-or-treat pushing strollers with children who are far too young to ingest any sort of candy. They're not trick-or-treating, they're begging. For themselves. How tacky.

3. Overall Bad Taste. Halloween has become such an over-the-top celebration of...what, now? Death? What is the explanation for the house on the corner (not far from my street) which has the inflatable hearse complete with coffin, the dead body hanging in the tree, the tombstones, and the gigantic black widow spider on the roof and all the webs? What--exactly--is being celebrated here? What parallel do we draw here between death and...what? I'm just wondering how it all got so...overblown and tasteless.

Or is it just me?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Don't Look At It As Wine; I Look At It As A Foreign Investment

So! How is it that we ended up with yet more wine? I'd like to quote the famous reason for scaling the peaks of Everest: because it's there! Or, to loosely paraphrase the iconic quote from Field of Dreams, "if I taste it, I will buy."

We took a drive up to The Bench area again to pick up some mead and some wine for my roomie Andrew, as well as to revisit Cornerstone Estates to try their port, which was not available in July. The port was lovely, tawny and warm--perfect for taking the chill off a cold afternoon or relaxing after a long day at The Rock. On our way back to the Q.E.W. (Queen Elizabeth Way highway), we stopped at a winery called Vineland Estates. As soon as we entered, I was a bit put off; it was very large and commercial. I prefer smaller wineries, and this one gave off a very corporate air. But, we were there, so we went up to the tasting bar and a young man named Hayden began to take care of us. He introduced us to the winery and then our tasting began. He was incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating, and at one point he said, "How much do you want to taste? Because I have an idea where I want to take you, but I need to know how to get you there." Oh, that was all I needed to hear! "Hayden," I said, "I'm good for several...oh, quite a few more varieties!"

Basically, I lost count. And it was all gorgeous. Here are the standouts:

Vineland 2007 Dry Riesling: Like biting into a snappy, cool Granny Smith apple. Very young, very drinkable, almost no mineral taste and a perfect acidity. If I had not already bought so much wine in July, I would have bought at least a case of this. A steal at $13.

Vineland 2006 Cabernet-Merlot: Smoky and cedary with just a hint of plum and berry jam in the back and in the bouquet. This is almost like a good Meritage in that it would be a terrific red meat wine. I'm serving it with steak. I was disappointed with all the Meritages I tried after I forgot to pick up another one at Rosewood. This one was a major bargain at $15.

2006 Syrah Reserve: Oh God. I don't drink red often, and when I do, I don't drink the trendy Syrah/Shiraz. But this wine is lovely. The bouquet is of berries and spice, and the wine is velvety but not heavy in the mouth. There is a brisk finish that is fruit-forward, reminiscent of bing cherries, and there is almost no tannic feel. If you're used to Napa or Australian Syrah/Shiraz wines, this one is not so leggy and chewy even though it is 12% alcohol. I cannot believe I spent $40 on it. But actually, Rick did. Holy crap. I know. I know!

(But those prices are in Canadian Money. And the exchange rate is favorable now. So, I'm good!)

The next day we confined ourselves to the NotL wineries: we visited our favorite ones to say hello to friends and finished our friends' (and a certain son's) shopping lists, and then we had to scope out the newest winery in town that had mystified and intrigued the locals and sparked a ton of gossip. That winery was Southbrook, also known as The Wall.

Southbrook looks pretty avant garde for NotL--it resides within a massive purple wall that stretches well past both ends of its building proper. No one can figure out if it has a real purpose, but as far as I can tell, it's basically there for "art." By the time we rolled up on Southbrook, Rick and I had both had plenty of wine, but we had to satisfy our curiosity. So, we decided to get a good look at The Wall and limit ourselves to their specialty, the fruit wines. Southbrook makes four of them, cassis (blackcurrant), blueberry, blackberry, and framboise (raspberry). These wines are so concentrated in flavor and so pungent that they are almost more like liqueurs, except that they are not syrupy or cloyingly sweet. Of the four, we bought the blackberry and the framboise, which I found to be the most flavorful and to have the most fruit at the finish. The cassis--and I love blackcurrant--was disappointing at the end. The flavor simply faded away after the swallow. No punch. I am no fan of blueberries, but that variety had the same failing. Each elegant looking bottle is $15.75.

Don't those wines all sound tempting and gorgeous? And with the U.S. dollar doing so much better now, really, I was smart to buy more wine at this time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oh Canada! Without You, We Would Have More Room In The Cellar For Non-Alcoholic Things

Que un weekend merveilleux!
For those of you who do not read The Tie Report, where I made mention of it, (really, how could you not? It is a fashion tour de force! But, I forgive.) you may not have known that I was away on a three-day jaunt with Rick and just arrived back at the Dept. We gave in to the siren call of Niagara-on-the-Lake yet again and had another relaxing time seeing terrific theater, meeting lovely people, and discovering yet more gorgeous and tempting wines to share with you here.

Give me a day or two for re-entry into my Real Life (sigh!), and I'll introduce you to a new Niagara-on-the-Lake winery known for its commanding structural oddity as well as its line of fruit wines, and I'll take you back out to The Bench for a taste of some rieslings and reds that almost melted the Dept.'s VISA card. How on earth did we end up, after bringing back almost five cases only three months ago, bringing back another case of wine? We're hopeless.

Be back soon. And don't judge!

Monday, October 13, 2008

...And Now, This Public Service Announcement

It's important to note that The Hostage Crisis That Is The Bush #43 Presidency entered an important phase today. No longer do triple digits mark the remaining days of The Worst Administration In History.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Things Currently Drawing My Ire That Are Not republicans (Although You Know I Can Link Each One Back To Them Very Easily)

*Warning: This post may contain strong language. I'm feeling snarky and I'm not in the mood to self-edit. I just might "go there." Okay.

I'm feeling real frustrated. (I'm not gonna lie; it is That Time, and that probably has a lot to do with it. Sorry if there are a few of you that feel I'm oversharing, but guess what. My blog, okay?) I've spent the entire school day giving a major test to my students that I totally prepared them for. I told them what was going to be on it. And as one class was taking it, I was grading the previous class's "efforts."


They are sucking big fat rocks on it and I am pissed. So I am now locked into a downward Snark Spiral that is, for now, boundless. Basically, I'm IRKED AT/ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Allow me:

1. My hair: I did not share with you that right before my Hideous Surgery, I had a Major Life-Altering Haircut. Three times. I had it cut. Then recut. Then re-recut. And recently, I had it cut again in a very short, choppy style that, apparently, my hair hates. Consequently, my hair looks different every single day. This is...difficult for a control maven such as myself. Do not attempt to recommend a Hair Product to me. It will work one day and not the next. Trust me. Today, I had a Good Hair Day. Yesterday, not. Tomorrow...who the hell knows?

2. Rick: The laundry is piling up. This is traditionally his job, which he cheerfully took on a few years ago and has, apparently without warning, decided to wantonly abandon every so often. There have been days when I am forced to wear my third-string underwear. You know what I mean: the stuff that is Emergency Level DefCon 1. One step above maternity underwear. Okay.

3. Mysterious Animal Inhabiting Garage: Why? There is no food in there. What is it? Raccoon? Skunk? Feral Cat? Something is in there and we cannot get rid of it. We are fastidious re: garage and garbage cans, yet Pig Pen People next door never put lids on garbage cans and have used grill utensils on their deck at all times, yet have no animal in garage. It is getting in because the door needs to be lowered. Rick is aware of this, yet has not yet done anything about it. See #2, and add this to it.

4. Right Foot: Intermittently, my right foot sprouts an almost-bunion for no reason, making some of my adorable shoes painful. Then, it will go away. WTF is up with this bullshit? Shoes are part of my Fashion Image. Come on!

5. Pen Theft: Pens on my desk in my flamingo coffee mug are disappearing. Roommate Andrew is NOT a suspect, but our aides and ill-prepared and lightfingered students are. This is unnecessary and unacceptable, especially since I keep a container of "rental" utensils at the ready in the room. I hate thieves.

6. Newspaper Delivery Guy: This a-hole has one mission in life and this it is: to take out my Boston fern. At least twice a week I find the Cleveland Plain Dealer lying amid the fronds and dirt of my now supine fern and fern stand on my porch because this moron has to launch the newspaper from his car window like he's up for the Cy Young award. Someday, I'm going to take the day off and lie in wait with my BB gun and take out this guy's windshield. Bet me.

7. House: As in the TV show. Which used to be excellent and now basically sucks. This show went totally downhill when House fired his team and then began the quest for the new team. Actually, come to think of it, it really started its downhill trend when they did that stupid show with the cop who got all over his case about the drugs and then went after Wilson and the hospital and tried to get House fired. At any rate, it's now become a very mediocre show that I watch for two reasons only: Hugh Laurie who I have a major crush on, and Jesse Spencer whom I have become almost unhealthily obsessed with lately. Yikes.

8. Project Runway: This season is terrible. I hate every single person on it. But I reserve a special hatred for Kenley, who really, really irritates me. She is socially autistic, rude, obnoxious, breathtakingly overconfident, untalented, and really, really needs to have her adenoids removed. Wow. I am such a bitch about someone I don't even know and will never meet. Okay.
But she was rude to Tim Gunn, and that, in my book, means war.

9. The Ongoing Dinner Drama at The Dept.: Oh My God, how much do I hate this? It was bad enough when other people lived here, but now that it's just Rick and I, it's even worse. He is just as ambivalent about dinner as I am half the time, and there is nothing Grown Up about eating potato chips or Nutella for dinner. And nothing ever "sounds good." It's just so fricking hideous and terrible. I'm sure we are both so vitamin and mineral deficient now at the age of 49 that we are going to have osteoporosis and die bent-over at the age of 55. The only good thing about that is that IT MEANS MANY MANY LESS YEARS OF FIGURING OUT A GODDAMN DINNER MENU.

10. Stupid Errors in Student Papers That Are, Apparently, Never Going To Stop Despite My Endless Efforts: High school students are completely unaware that there is a singular noun meaning "one adult female person." To them, "women" is both plural and singular. There is, and never has been, any such word as woman. The germane event in Massachusetts of 1692 was the Salem Witch Trails, which, I imagine, were the paths followed by the convicted spellcasters to the gallows. I could go on and on and on, but then I would have to shoot myself.

The way I feel right now, I might anyway.

Friday, October 03, 2008

No Child Left Behind At My School

My colleague Dawn and I were busily working in the lounge the other morning, she at the computer and I at one of the round tables. She was fretting over her attendance, getting ready to make yet another parent phone call. She spun her chair around and fixed me with a frustrated grimace. "So my armed robbery suspect finally shows up after being out three weeks!" she says, aggravated. "I don't know where the hell he's been. Is he in jail? Has he even had his trial, or what? What? What!" she says to me, clearly annoyed now, because I'm laughing.

Yes, laughing. Because I lost it after "my armed robbery suspect." I mean, come on. She led with that. She teaches tenth grade. Quite the attention getter at 8 AM, right?

(Oh, I know. It is a tragedy; it is. But that's life at my school. We all have them: armed robbery suspects, petty thieves, drug dealers, grand theft autos, statutory rapists, B & E's, assault and batteries, gang-bangers, you name it. I've had kids taken out of my class in cuffs. We just don't dwell on it. It's part of our demographic; it goes with the territory. And it's not like they do it in our class. )

Dawn sighed. So did I. She said, "You know, it's like: what on earth are we doing with these kids? I'm teaching pronouns, for God's sake. And he's going to go to jail."

"Well," I said, "I know what you mean. Some of these kids are out there doing God-knows-what, and we're teaching theme and symbolism. It seems ridiculous. But I like to think that we're giving them a view on the world that they wouldn't get anywhere else. A glimpse at something better than just living and surviving. A bit of beauty and perspective. You know? They have such basic, narrow lives."

"You're not kidding, " she said. "Last Friday was sustained silent reading day, so I brought in a bunch of magazines. Some of them tore into them and left them all over the place. So I said, 'Hey! Get back here and clean these up. You're not animals! Do I need to get Cesar Millan in here, or what?' They all said Huh? Who's that? I had to explain who he was. No one had heard of him. NO ONE."

I nodded sympathetically. "They probably thought he was a fashion designer, salad dressing inventor, or at least the guy who got stabbed in Rome."

"Get serious," she said. "Maybe if we were reading Shakespeare's play at the time they would. They had NO IDEAS at all. I'm telling you. NONE."

Today, Dawn and I related this story to another friend of ours, Sue, who has a few years experience on me. "Oh, dear," she said to Dawn, "an armed robbery suspect is nothing. Talk to us when you've had a murderer."

"Oh yeah! That's right!" I said.

"Get out," Dawn said warily. "You guys have not both had a murderer."

Both Sue and I raised our hands. Sadly, we've both had more than one.

But guess who had to get fingerprinted and have an FBI background check--at their own expense--last year due to a new state law? All Ohio teachers. Gotta protect the kids.
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