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…if you and your two mullet-sporting friends go to Walmart just to gather in awe around the shopping cart escalator.

True story.

Let me explain…

I was at Walmart yesterday, and although it’s a well-known fact that Walmart is like the mother-ship for all things redneck, I’ve never witnessed anything like this!

My friendly neighborhood Walmart has lower-level parking, so there are escalators for customers’ easy car-to-store access.  There are also escalators for the shopping carts (or “buggies,” as they are called in the South) that run parallel to the people-escalators, so you can still take your cart with you and roll right up to your car on the lower parking deck.

As I was leaving the store and pushing my cart full of freshly-purchased groceries to the escalators, I see that it’s blocked by three middle-aged men with mullets and shirts with the sleeves cut off.  They were all crouched with their hands resting on their knees, except for one who was on crutches but was doing his best to duck his head, staring down the length of the escalator.  I thought maybe it was broken (it occasionally goes out of service).  But then one of them noticed me standing behind them and in a perfect Jeff-Foxworthy-redneck-accent exclaimed, “Oh! Fellers, git out the way fer this lady.  I’m sorry ma’am, we’re just amazed at the technology, here!”

I did my best to smile without laughing too much, and as I pushed my cart onto the cart-escalator and then stepped onto the people-escalator next to it, I heard him tell his friends, “Ok, now watch this!  She puts the cart on this here thing, and it rides all the way down…by itself!”  Followed by his buddies exclaiming, “Oh, man!”  “I’ll be darned!”

Another lady had just reached the bottom level with her cart, and it must have been her escalator-riding skills the guys were admiring when I approached them.  She glanced up, and we exchanged smiles, but only for a second, so as not to burst out laughing.

All I could think was…”Where is Jeff Foxworthy when you need him???” 🙂

In anticipation of our firstborn’s arrival, I have grown to appreciate the experience that Hubby and I have had in raising two wonderful pets.  Really, they’re like our first “kids” – the sort-of-practice-run for things like keeping another living being alive, establishing routines (sort of), and learning that training and disciplining doesn’t mean creating perfect little soldiers/robots.

Also, if you need to practice patience and grace, offer to dog-sit a puppy that’s in the middle of potty training (I wouldn’t recommend diving right into ownership unless you’re really committed).  You’ll also learn humility, because there’s nothing like cleaning up someone else’s…um, mess…especially when they can’t do it themselves and haven’t really gotten the hang of what else to do about the situation.  All good things to practice for having children…or so I’m told. 🙂

But seriously, we love our doggies!  And I think I should brag on them a little.  Our “oldest” is Baily – she’s a gangly dog with funny-looking ears that flop up and to the side, rather than straight down.  As far as we can tell, she’s a Labrador-Whippet mix…she came from a “whoops” litter and the mama’s owners had no idea where their dog had been before she came home knocked up.

We got Baily when she was only about 6 weeks old and could practically fit in my hand.  Actually, Hubby was the one who went to pick her out before he picked me up from work.  He said there were only two puppies left – one that liked to snuggle and sleep a lot, and one that liked to run and pounce and play.  I like to joke that he picked “the crazy sister.”

Baily can run and jump like nobody’s business (she once cleared a 6-foot privacy fence), loves to wrestle with Hubby, and absolutely ADORES kids and babies.  She turns into a totally docile dog when there’s a baby in the room.  Melts my heart.  In fact, I’m betting that our baby will have her wrapped around his tiny little pinky finger as soon as he comes home from the hospital.  🙂

Baily

Our second dog is Molly.  We adopted her from another family a year and half ago, and she is exactly one year younger than Baily.  She’s a Maltipoo and weighs about 10 pounds right after a good meal.

We never thought of ourselves as small-dog-people.  In fact, we were hoping Baily would be as big as a Lab when we adopted her, and were planning to get something like a Retriever or German Shepherd for our second dog.  However, it turns out that Baily only seems to find puppies and small dogs agreeable.  She’s gotten much better at tolerating other dogs that are her size and bigger, but overall, she’s a small-dog-dog.

Enter Molly!  It was actually love at first sight for these two.  The previous owner brought Molly over to meet Baily, to make sure we were all a good match for each other, and they instantly sniffed nose to nose and took off running circles around the yard together!  They pretty much haven’t stopped, either.  They’re completely inseparable – they freak out if only one of them gets taken somewhere and the other has to stay.  Sometimes they even share Baily’s bed.  Anything Baily does, Molly has to do it too!

Molly is an expert snuggler and is not afraid to play with the big dogs (in fact, we’re pretty sure she thinks she’s huge).  She is also good with children, and is a real trooper when they try to pick her up and carry her, which really turns into putting her in a half-Nelson and dragging her around.  She’s got a go-with-the-flow personality…either that, or she really doesn’t know what’s going on…we can’t tell, but either way, she’s a sweetie! 🙂

Molly

Oh!  And I just realized I never officially announced it, but we are having a baby BOY!  We’re all very excited (of course, we would’ve been excited either way – we’re just happy to know more about him)! 🙂  And it’ll be good for Hubby, too, because with all these girls in the house, he’s been pretty outnumbered for the past few years… 🙂

I came up with this little ditty after my first incident with someone making a comment about how much bigger I’m looking now that I’m pregnant.

Dear God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to not slap people who feel they have the right to openly comment on my pregnant physical appearance.  Amen.

And for the record, it is never ok to refer to another woman’s stomach as a “pooch” – whether or not she’s pregnant!  Just thought I’d throw that one out there, since it’s apparently not common knowledge.  Geez, people…

Those who know me know that I try my very best not to be a wasteful person. Need groceries? I have coupons. Something broke? Let’s figure out how to repair it ourselves. You’re hungry? There are leftovers in the refrigerator.

Ah, leftovers. In a perfect world, I would always be able to turn my leftovers into a new, tasty meal. Alas, this has not always been the case, and has left us (on more than one occasion) eating the same dish for dinner, lunch, dinner, and sometimes lunch again. But not today! Today, I took my leftovers, waved my magic spoon, and transformed them into a different dish. And I didn’t do too bad, if I may say so myself. 🙂

Here’s the low-down… On Thursday, I made Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf (recipe found here) and salmon burgers. Quite tasty. On Friday (yesterday), we had more Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf (note to self…1 cup uncooked brown rice + 1 cup uncooked wild rice = way more rice than two people are capable of eating!). As I pondered my leftover rice (mostly because I wanted to head off any “this again?” comments at our next meal), I remembered my favorite soup of all time: Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup from Panera (insert angelic chorus here). I suspected they wouldn’t share their money-making recipe with little ol’ me, so I started looking through different recipes online. I ended up choosing 2 different recipes and doing what I like to call “Pirate Cooking.”

Side note: “Pirate Cooking” is a nod to the first Pirates of the Carribean movie, where Captain Barbosa explains to Elizabeth Swan that The Pirates’ Code is more like a set of guidelines than rules. This is my usual approach to recipes. I read over them, often comparing several, and then use the general concepts to make something up on my own. It usually works out. I mean, we’re still alive, anyway. 🙂

Ok – back to the recipe. The soup turned out great, although a tad thick (after we ate our first bowlfuls, I went back and added a bit more broth to what was left in the pot). Here’s how I worked my magic (please note most of the measurements are estimates, but it should be more or less accurate :)):

Cream of Chicken & Leftover Wild Rice

3 cups chicken broth (I only used 2 cups tonight, but 3 would’ve been better)

2 chicken breasts, diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 small-medium carrots, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2-3/4 cup (more or less, to taste) leftover wild rice

handful chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 cup half-and-half or cream

In large pot, add broth, chicken, and chopped parsley; bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is cooked, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, mix flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, set aside. In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onion; cook for 5 minutes. Add dried thyme, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; cook 5 more minutes, until veggies are tender. Gradually add flour mixture to veggies, while stirring constantly, to create a roux. (Go ahead and click on the link – I didn’t know what it was until about an hour ago.) Mixture will be soft and thick. Saute for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Add half-and-half or cream, again stirring constantly until smooth. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. While that cooks, add your leftover rice to the chicken and broth and simmer (since the rice is already cooked, you only need it to warm up and let the broth absorb some of the seasoning). When creamy mixture is ready, add it to the chicken, rice and broth, and stir it up. Cook over medium heat for another 15-20 minutes and serve. Makes about 4-5 servings.

This is what my soup looked like (again, mine was a little too thick; I'll use more broth next time).

There you have it! I think even Panera regulars would be happy with the results. I’m thinking this is going to be even tastier tomorrow, after the flavors have all had a chance to marinate together. Yummy! 🙂

P.S. Let me know if you try anything different that you enjoyed (added a spice, used a diferent amount of some ingredient, etc.). I’d love to hear your ideas! Go ahead and throw a parrot on your shoulder, strap on an eye patch and cook up something delicious! 😉

Heeeeey…and we’re back from commercial break!  Sorry for that moment…er…month…of silence.  The thing is, I really only had one thing to talk about, but I couldn’t share anything yet.  What is this big news?

I’M PREGNANT!!! 🙂

Yep, that’s right.  By October, we’re expecting a little bundle of Spanish-American joy. 🙂  Obviously, going through first trimester gloriousness, all I’ve had to talk about is feeling sick, tired, or cravings.  Not the greatest blog material, but I think from here on out we’ll be alright.  Although, I have found some of my cravings amusing, especially when they come on so randomly.  Like the time I woke up and said, “Pancakes!”  That’s all I wanted.  Right away.  Yikes…

And for those of you who might be wondering, no, we weren’t exactly trying.  It actually went something like this, “Wow, things are going really well.  Yeah, maybe in a few months we could…oh, are those two pink lines?  Nevermind!” 🙂  We are SUPER excited, and my husband has already started looking for baby-sized futbol (soccer) jerseys.  My brother texts me about once a week, wondering if we know whether it’s a boy or a girl yet.  And I’m pretty sure none of our parents have stopped grinning since our announcement. 🙂

And here’s baby’s first picture, at 9 weeks:

It's kinda fuzzy, but you can see the head, torso, and a little hand! Baby was a little wiggly, so it was hard to get a clearer pic.

So, other than that, I’m still housewifing, although I have begun a job search, mainly focusing on at-home opportunities.  The flexibility seems to fit well with our current “long term goals.” 😉  I had to take an “assessment” to find out whether I can…I don’t know…follow directions?  We’ll see how it goes, I haven’t gotten the results back yet. 

As for what I’m not doing: jury duty!  I got a letter from my old city, summoning me to yonder East Coast.  But one phone call and an email with a scanned copy of my new driver’s license later, I was excused.  Apparently, they’re not up for reimbursing 10-hour road trips or authorizing Skype in their courtrooms…yet.  The sad thing is, I am one of like 10 other people in the U.S. who would actually enjoy reporting for jury duty!  Call me a nerd, but I think it would be interesting.  So, there’s a bit of pre-Friday irony for you to savor: me, of all people, getting out of jury duty, no hassle! 🙂  Sorry for those of you who will be dragging your feet to the courthouses.  Maybe some day I’ll get to. 🙂

I read over my email for the 5th time in the last 2 days, corrected a word here, added a comma there, and attached my document.  Deep breath.  Ok, check one more time…recipient email? check. Subject line? check.  Should I read it one more ti…no, it’s fine.  Ok, ready, set…  I hold my breath…  Click.

Oh boy.  I did it.  I just applied for my first event-related job. 

Maybe it doesn’t sound like such a big deal to you, Reader, but I guess “firsts” are always the biggest deal to the people closest to them.  Yes, it’s the one I mentioned 2 weeks ago (see my blog post Wanted: More event experience!).  So I was a little nervous and had to rally myself (with some help, of course).  🙂  But I did it!  And whether or not it turns into a new job – or even an email reply – this will be my first career leap in this direction, which makes it worth the while.