Finally, I Did Something Romantic (With Video)

It is a running joke here that over 26 years of marriage I have made dinner zero times! Today that would change.

Helaine spent the end of the week in Milwaukee. This morning she flew back. She got to spend Mother’s Day morning with Stef, now back in Los Angeles, and Mother’s Day afternoon with me.

I have an admission. I am not a romantic guy. I love my wife but… well some guys just aren’t very adept at romantic gestures.

None of this is lost on Stef. This year she gave me some advice, “Make dinner for mommy.” It would be our little secret until Helaine saw or smelled what was going on.

It is a running joke here that over 26 years of marriage I have made dinner zero times! Today that would change.

Stef found a recipe on Food Network’s site for Wolfgang Puck’s “Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta..”

“You can do this,” she said.

Friday night after work I headed to Stop and Shop to fill my grocery list. Yes, I needed help. I had no clue where most of the things I needed were located. Not only that, there are shopping nuances I didn’t know.

I was on the phone with my friend Dennis as I shopped. That was a good thing because until he set me straight I thought each head of garlic was a clove. Overly spicy dinner avoided!

I’d also like to thank the nice woman at the self checkout stand who found a way to get me the shopper’s card discount without my having a shopper’s card… and gave me a quick lesson in weighing and pricing produce. The woman knew the four digit code for tomatoes without looking!

You veteran dinner preparers probably know how to do this, but I had no clue how to backtime the meal so it arrived at the same time Helaine did. I started as she landed at Bradley. As it turns out the timing was right, but that was just blind luck.

Within the first minute of prep I realized I was in over my head. I’d never chopped onions or garlic. I didn’t know which pan was a saucepan. I had herbs to remove from their stems.

Actually, it’s possible I have experience in herb/stem removal from my college days, but that’s a story for another time.

Long story short, the pasta came out tasting pretty good. Wolgang’s might taste better, but there’s no way it has as much love in it as mind did.

A home cooked meal is romantic. Stef knew that. Helaine was touched. Stef knew that would be the case too. This is one gift she’ll never forget.

Quiet Mother’s Day

Is there any place where the food is less healthy? I’m not talking ingredients. Cracker Barrel’s weakness is their style of cooking, from an earlier era before we knew some foods could actually kill you!

Stef spent the weekend with us at home. I always laugh when I walk by her room and see her door closed and her lights off at midnight… or earlier. She is nocturnal, like me. This is a very early bedtime. I think she sees home as some form of rehab.

Today was Mother’s Day – time for Stef to get back on campus.

First, we went out for breakfast. Our Mother’s Day plans had changed a number of times, so our choices (on the busiest restaurant day of the year) were limited. We went to “Cracker Barrel,” partially because it’s our inside family joke and partially because it taste’s good.

Is there any place where the food is less healthy? I’m not talking ingredients. Cracker Barrel’s weakness is their style of cooking, from an earlier era before we knew some foods could actually kill you!

Bacon, ham, sausage, eggs… are my arteries hardening yet… grits, biscuits, potatoes. More than a few patrons had bodies which reflected a long running disregard for nutrition.

We had a long wait, which was to be expected today. Quite honestly, Cracker Barrel did an excellent job in handling this crowd. They had free coffee and other beverages, plus small biscuits and muffins.

A hostess wrote our order, so we could just hand it to our waitress as we sat down… an hour after we arrived.

Sin is always tasty. Damn you Cracker Barrel!

The trip to college was uneventful. Sure, our timing for traffic was pretty good, but I attribute a lot of it to E-ZPass. Or maybe I’m missing the bigger picture. Helaine was quick to point out the cost of fuel as we drove by the Turnpike’s service areas. Did I see less traffic because of $4/gal gas?

Helaine and I return to being empty nesters for another few days. Stef is back beginning this Thursday.

She turns 21. She has an internship. This will be an interesting summer.

My 13-Ounce Dilemma

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

This is a story about Mother’s Day… sort of.

My wife Helaine, herself a mother, bought a nice gift for my mom, wrapped it and took the package (really a padded envelope) to our local Post Office where one of the clerks weighed it and affixed the postage. She didn’t mail it.

Helaine planned on mailing the gift when my folks returned from a vacation. That turned out to be Tuesday of last week, when she drove the envelope to the Post Office and dropped it in the box in the parking lot.

It was delivered the next day… back to us, with the sticker you see. Packages over 13 ounces, when mailed using stamps, must be physically presented to a clerk at the Post Office. Period. End of story.

It’s for security, the sticker said. In this post 9/11 world we’re not supposed to question security – but I will.

Here in Connecticut, more than most places, we understand what postal security means. This is where Ottilie Lundgren died. She was poisoned by anthrax that probably passed through the huge Wallingford mail distribution center where three million anthrax spores were later found and removed.

But if the Postal Service is worried about security, why in heaven’s name would they have my carrier bring it back to my house? If it was dangerous, it’s doubtful it would have the proper return address anyway. As I remember, the 2001 anthrax letters all had phony return addresses. The same was true when the Unabomber’s package exploded at Yale, less than a mile from where I’m writing this.

The whole process makes no sense to me. In fact, I’m so confused why the Postal Service is doing this, I asked them to comment.

The rule actually predates 9/11, going back to the mid-90s. The weight limit, recently lowered to 13-ounces, complies with the weight limits for Priority Mail.

In an email response response, Doug Bem from the US Postal Inspection Service included this all purpose line:

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to get into the specifics of those security issues because someone who could misuse that information might be a reader of your blog; all I can say is that the issues still exist today.”

I am not denying that.

All I’m asking is, why send it back to me? It’s either worrisome, and should be treated that way, or it’s not and can go to my mom’s house.

To a certain extent the Postal Service has their hands tied. They can’t open my mail to check what’s inside.

“(E)ven though we are the law enforcement and security officers of the Postal Service, we don’t have the right to open any First Class letter, Priority Mail or Express Mail package without explaining why to a federal judge, who would then give us a federal search warrant. It’s not practical to screen the 320 million or so pieces of those types of mail the Postal Service handles every day.”

So instead, they declare a one size fits all rule which treats all 13 ounce stamped packages as suspicious… and then they just wash their hands of them and drop them off at your house.

If 13-ounce packages pose a threat, dispose of them. If not, deliver them.

If there’s logic in the Postal Service’s madness, it evades me.

Delayed In MKE

I spoke to Helaine this morning. She was due back in Connecticut this evening around 6:30… until Midwest called. Mechanical problems, they said. Flight canceled.

The skeptic in me still looked to see the ‘equipment’ with the mechcanical problems will be flying passengers into Milwaukee before being pulled. I am always suspicious with airlines. Can I cancel my reservation for mechanical problems and suffer no consequences?

Helaine is much more gracious than I am, even when the reservations agent asked if she could fly to Newark (101 miles) or Washington (318 miles) instead of Bradley… where her car is?

Helaine explained the situation, so they booked her Midwest to Cleveland and Continental to Bradley. Neither the Midwest nor Continental flights are actually operated by those actual airlines. Again, can I fly under an assumed name without consequence?

With no Helaine, I have been left to my own devices. The pre-cooked food she left ran out last night. I have become needy with age, but even I can go to the grocery store – and I did.

Exactly who goes to Stop and Shop on Mother’s Day? I can’t say for sure, but it was jammed. I picked up my “Little Red Riding Hood” basket at the door and headed inside.

The losers were lined up in front of the Mother’s Day cards. Yikes! 2:00 PM on Mother’s Day and they still didn’t have a card? I joined them and began to search. I had already gotten Helaine a gift, so the card is more like icing.

Who am I fooling? It’s the card that’s important and the (in this case) peripheral that’s peripheral.

After picking up the cards and food I wanted, I moved over to the Dunkin’ Donuts stand. The girl behind the counter was scratching her arm as if she had psoriasis. Nice. Hope that rash clears. Thanks for sharing.

In a George Bush Sr. moment, I watched the guy in front me use a debit card to pay $1.80 for coffee and marveled. I have a credit card (only one) and no debit card. I’m so last century.

I pushed a $10 bill at “Itchy,” who handed me change and a receipt.

Do we really need receipts for coffee? Is someone going to return their coffee with cream and one Splenda?

At the automated checkout, I realized I don’t have a Stop and Shop card. Without it, everything is priced as if I were buying on Rodeo Drive.

I asked the guy in front of me if he would swipe his on my behalf. “No worries,” he said.

I’m home now. Helaine just called to update her progress. She hasn’t moved through security yet, but she’s confirmed on both flights. In a quirk of interairline weirdness, she’s got a handwritten paper ticket and no boarding pass on the Cleveland to Bradley leg!

Oh… and Midwest Airlines gave her a $75 flight voucher and another $8 for food. It’s little consolation, but as with everything on Mother’s Day, it’s the thought that counts.

A Loser On Mother’s Day

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve just gotten back from the supermarket where I bought Mother’s Day cards for Helaine. That’s right. 2:30 PM on Mother’s Day and I was at Stop and Shop with the other losers.

Helaine has been out-of-town most of the week. There was no rush to get them. Still, this really is leaving it to the last minute… and for the others I saw (judging from the look on their faces) beyond the last minute.

Only guys wait this long. I saw no women buying cards.

As I walked into the store, there was a small display right at the entrance! For those of us who enter the market twice a year – easily found! I decided to venture to the ‘normal’ card section, where there might be a larger selection.

I started looking, flanked by husbands on either side. To my left was a guy with the expression Mary Tyler Moore made famous as she tossed meat into a supermarket cart. To my right, another sad guy was looking through the cards dedicated to mothers who aren’t your mother or your wife, but maybe you have some kids together… sorta.

I assume there are cards for every possible peripheral connection to motherhood. Mr. Hallmark is no fool. Even I know, e-cards may be fine for many occasions, but not Mother’s Day.

When I was a kid, greeting cards were 15&#162. Mr. Hallmark is making up for all his lost Internet revenue directly through me. I was shocked when I saw the prices, but today’s not the day to chince out&#185.

I found my cards and headed to the checkout. Under these circumstances, I didn’t want to be publicly outed, so I headed to the self check. Helaine says these are no faster – but I was after anonymity, not speed.

The cards are now home. Helaine just called from the airport. Soon she will be home.

You might be wondering, ‘why are you writing this?’ After all, without this written proof, it might look like the cards were bought on Thursday… maybe earlier.

Don’t you think my wife knows me well enough to know I never do anything before deadline? Plus, I suspect she knows how much I love her. The cards are a reminder of my love, not the revelation of a new concept.

&#185 – There is no word chince – or so says the dictionary. Since I was a kid, I have used the expression, “chince out,” meaning: the act of being cheap. Maybe I just heard it wrong as a kid, or am spelling it wrong as an adult. Any assistance will be appreciated.

TV Or Not TV – Is That Even A Question?

When I left you early this morning, I had just discovered the TV was a goner. And then the realization that TVs are now shaped differently – 16:9 rather than the old 4:3. That little change is a huge difference because our wall unit was built to accommodate a 4:3 TV.

We headed out to Circuit City to survey the candidates. The first thing we realized was, with the new aspect ratio anything that would fit in the space would have a smaller screen! Sure, we might be able to find a set as wide as the old one, but with 16:9 it wouldn’t be anywhere near as tall.

We searched and searched. Some models were too tall. Some models were to wide. Others were too big in both directions. We weren’t panic stricken, but we were concerned.

Next we headed to Target. I had been to the new Target in North Haven once and remembered it had an electronics section. They did – but no big TVs.

Steffie needed something small, so as she and Helaine checked out, I stood in front of the store watching seagulls fly into today’s howling wind. They weren’t very successful.

My pocket began to vibrate.

There was a call from an unknown number in an unknown location. I answered. It was the central monitoring station. Our burglar alarm had gone off. The police were on their way.

I rounded up Helaine and Stef and headed home. We got there 10-15 minutes later, with the alarm still yelping away. A window in Steffie’s room hadn’t been properly latched. In today’s wind it shifted enough to register a fault.

The police had come, but seeing everything locked up and in good shape, they left. Thank heavens there wasn’t a door ajar. They would have gone upstairs, seen Steffie’s room and called for reinforcements thinking the house had been ransacked!

As it is, I understand we’ll get a warning on the alarm. That means if it happens again, we’ll be fined for calling the police.

We re-measured the TV space and had out again. This time we went to BJ’s.

They don’t have a particularly large collection of big TVs, but unbelievably they had one that fit the bill. It was a Daewoo with a 47″ screen. I think it will fit in the space with less than an inch to spare on top. Even then it will have to be turned sideways and cajoled before it will fit in.

BJ’s doesn’t deliver.

I went to the car only to find the inevitable. It was bigger than the cargo space in the SUV! I couldn’t think of anyone with a pickup, which was what we needed.

I called my friend Kevin. He is truly the solver of all problems. Not this time. He had no access to anything large enough to haul a big TV.

Within the same strip mall as BJ’s is a Home Depot. They have a truck they rent out by the hour. Unfortunately, as I found out, they only rent it if you’re hauling goods of theirs.

Back to the drawing board.

We drove around and pondered. Finally, Helaine came up with a friend we though might have access to a pickup through her business. We called… and then, we hit paydirt.

Tomorrow morning… Mother’s Day morning… Rena and Albert and the kids will come over with their trailer and we’ll all go to BJ’s to get the TV.

Yes, this will leave me with the old one to dispose of. I can deal with that. On the other hand, if I’ve miscalculated… if there isn’t that fraction of an inch to spare… I might go “pfffft” just like the first TV.