Monday, December 31, 2012

Shrimp Cocktail!

Happy New Year! Good bye 2012! Hello Healthy Eating and Exercise Resolutions.

Okay, hello plans to cut back on the red wine and M&Ms and do more yoga...

But, before the ball drops and we all dive over the fiscal, diet, exercise cliff...its Shrimp Cocktail Time!

That's right. Simultaneously the Swankiest and most often served appetizer in the world. (Allegedly.)*

Here at the Coast of Illinois we have moved past the traditional Shrimp Coctail and now participate in a full blown Shrimp Boil. And not just for New Years. I still have a brief moment of Quaker Frugality when I think of shrimp.

Growing up, shrimp cocktail was a sign of Fancypants Richness. Other signs of Fancypants Richness? Steak for dinner, manicures and pedicures, housekeepers, vacations in hotels...But I guess times have changed. Steak is no longer reserved for birthday dinner and nights out at Ponderosa. I have recovered from my Midwestern Guilt and have my nails done, once in a while. And while I do not have a housekeeper, I almost exclusively vacation in hotels. Although I am hearing a lot of noise about being able to 'camp' in the sailboat once it is completed. To which I counter with 'marble soaking tub'? And he replies 'Gulf breezes'. Then I point out '400 count Egyptian Cotton sheets?' And...


Back to Shrimp Cocktail. I have a very distinct memory of New Years Eve. I was probably four or five. We lived in a tiny house where Mom stayed home and Dad worked and I shared a room with Beanie and Cecil and was in bed as soon as I Love Lucy was over. But this one particular New Years I was allowed to stay up. I recall curling up on the weirdly bumpy couch with Dad as we watched the Orange Bowl parade. (It was a parade, there were palm trees and as I recall many forms of citrus fruit on floats.) A metal TV tray sat in front of us. (Alone a treat. We never ate in the front room.) And then Mom sat a Shrimp Cocktail in front of me. It was served in what looked like a juice glass. The glass held hundreds of teensy, tiny shrimp swimming in horseradish and catchup sauce. The shrimp were soggy and slightly fishy tasting. The sauce was still mostly icy.

It was heaven.

And every New Years Eve I remember that moment when I knew, I had arrived...

Thank heaven Cecil was our Designated Driver...

*I attempted to research the history of the Shrimp Cocktail but due to lack of time and the fact that I didn't start actually researching until this morning, I am taking some liberties with the claim that Shrimp Cocktail is indeed both the Swankiest and Most Served. I will however, go out on a limb and say that it is probably the only appetizer with a Board Game!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Palm Tree Power or the year in review, part two

I have a fetish for Palm Trees. I love the unusual way in which they grow- barely rooted and tall with feathery fronds that cast dappled shade. I planned on making this post a humorous examination of my attempts to acclimate the Palm Tree into my Faux Caribbean lifestyle here on the Coast of Illinois. But life had other plans and today I am not feeling very tropically footloose.

Thanks to a purely selfish act of violence two lives have been forever changed. And by extension, many other lives have been affected. Violence is acted out for one of two reasons. Someone either wants something which is not theirs or they do not want someone else to have what they can not. I don't know the 'why' of the act which has hit too close to home. It will never make sense so it does not matter.

I do know this: you did not just pull a trigger. When you selfishly fired that gun you lit a fire in the hearts of so many people in this world and because of that fire a wave of love and support has been sent out into the universe which will far surpass any small, petty, selfish reason you had.

And that is why I am still calling this post Palm Tree Power. Palm trees grow tall and straight, but they are also shaped by the conditions surrounding them. They may grow bent and crooked but they remain strong. Their fronds are sturdy enough to roof the huts of shipwrecked vacationers and sound enough to carpet the triumphant ride for a Carpenter and his donkey as He returned home. In nearly every faith the Palm symbolizes victory, life and peace.

I have a Palm Tree necklace which I wear to work when I am feeling the need for encouragement from a Much Higher Latitude. And to that end I wish you all Palm Tree Power.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Prosthetics - The Year in Review, part one

I am not one to look for 'signs' but in reviewing this past year I have come to feel a little unbalanced. I blame the legs. Artificial legs to be exact.

Two right, one left.

I feel I must qualify here. This has NOTHING to do with my actual job. I work in a hospital and prosthetic sightings are really not a big deal. Nor is this a comment on people requiring the use of prosthetics. That guy who ran in the Olympics on blades should have finished off any sort of stigma surrounding amputation.

I am talking about unattended artificial legs. Two rights:

which I discovered while helping clean out the clothes closet at a local church. (Insert Miraculous Recovery Story here.)

and a left:

I suppose I should point out that the Left leg belonged to James Crutchfield, a blues piano man, who, for a good part of his life, made St. Louis his home. As a young man, Mr. Crutchfield lost his leg in a railroad accident. He was a regular performer at one of my favorite places: Venice Cafe.

I am unsure where Mr. Crutchfield was laid to rest, but for some reason his LEG continues to hang out at Venice. Not his piano, or his eyeglasses, or handwritten notes on his music. His LEG. The left one.

I mentioned these sightings to a co-worker. She smiled and said she might have something I would like. It was her Uncle's leg.

For purposes of equilibrium, I pray it is a Left.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Because its not the Holidays until Somebody Cries (which in this case may just be me...)

There is a commercial running right now with a group of children, all in PJ's with headlamps on their heads, crowded on a couch waiting for Santa. One of the kids – a little girl with chubby cheeks and curly hair – squeezes her arms close to her chest like she might just explode. In my head I can hear the tiny escape of breath – a high pitched EEEEEEEeeeeee – as she waits.

I can hear that sound because that little girl is me. At some point during every holiday season since I can remember I have struck that pose. It is as if the Holiday Spirit has possessed me and the only way to exorcise it is that high pitched EEEEEeeeeeeee!

The catalyst might be anything:
The long ride to Grandma's after church for the first round of gifts and food (the ride was a whopping fifteen minutes), the year Santa brought the Olympic Barbie with real-live-action foot joints allowing her to skate and do cartwheels all while wearing wiglets from her accessory pack; later it was delight in our first tree as a married couple and then the excitement of seeing our son actually hover off the ground the year Santa brought him a fireman coat and a workbench.

This year the trigger was different. Thanks to some sadly busy work shifts, horrific news stories and incompetent Mayan day-planners I have been obsessing about 'the end of the world'. In the literal sense it is a mute point. Planet blows up, game over. But in the more personal interpretation...suffice it to say, I have lost a little sleep of late. I fretted over our kids travel plans, counting the hours until I got the text: "I'm home :)" Four cars in the driveway and my world was safe for another day.

And with that tiny bit of crazy put to bed, my excitement was free to begin ramping up: holiday shopping-complete, groceries - put away, my husband - stewing about the rambunctiously wrapped, unidentifiable gift with his name on it, poorly hidden in the family room – set the timer. The anticipation of Christmas Eve dinner with my folks and the thrill of hearing from my brother and his family who live half a world away - winding the springs. And finally, last night as our grown children ate and laughed and joked with their also grown cousins in one of our favorite hangouts that excitement ticked its last tick...

And I was once again that little girl on the couch in my Pjs, squeezing myself so tightly I might explode. (and thankfully, it was so noisy in no one could hear the EEEEEEEeeeeee!!)

Here's to YOU and your own exploding moment, from me on the Coast of Illinois. Have a safe and precious Holiday, whatever Holiday you celebrate and may Your World be safe for every single day.

Me and Santa on the Floor Zamboni - because this is how awesome my World is!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Four out of Five Dentists....?

I fear I am developing an unhealthy attachment to Clooney, which is the name I have given my new spinning toothbrush. I went on the cheap and got the store brand. I am not sure if this was a wise choice. In the instructions is a warning: May cause bleeding for first few uses.

I don't know about any of you, but I am not real keen on willingly using a utensil that can cause 'bleeding'. Not even after only ONE use. What they don't warn you about is even more disturbing.

After the mandatory charging period, I plugged my aqua green head onto the wand and pressed the button. Now is a good time to mention that this thing sounds like a Very Large Personal Massager. Or a Ridiculously Tiny Chainsaw. I suppose it all depends on your mood. I swear the bathroom lights dimmed and Barry White songs began drifting from the exhaust fan. By the time my mandatory two minute spin cycle was complete my cheeks were glowing, my husband was pounding on the door asking what was going on in there and the bathroom was covered with minty toothpaste.

Maybe next time I'll breakout the cinnamon gel...

Monday, December 17, 2012


I have written and deleted this post about five times. So, I am going to let someone else do the hard part for me.

"Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations."~Monty Python/Meaning of Life

Be kind, love one another.
 From the Coast of Illinois, I wish you all Peace.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yum! Tastes Like Chicken?

There is a new restaurant in town. My commute takes me past its billboard every day. The food looks  delicious. The problem? Its name.


Ei caras! Spelling it with a 'K' doesn't change the fact that there is 'cat' in your name!

(In all fairness, I have never eaten at this establishment and after checking their website I must say, the restaurant looks very pretty, seems to be filled with beautiful people and the food really does look tasty.)

((Also - the national drink of Brazil is the Caipirinha. This is also the national drink here at the CoastofIllinois, right behind coffee. Which might also come from Brazil...))

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Crazy of the Day and Its Only Five AM

I woke up at 0330 this morning because an alarm went off. I laid in bed for a few minutes trying to figure out what alarm it was. Two nights ago it was the alarm to our sewer system. I could have been dreaming about work. At my job people live and die by alarms. Literally. I wondered if dream work could be billed at time and a half.

I got up and did a house check under the annoyed stare of the cat who was resting on the back of the couch. I got a drink of water; further annoyed the cat by sitting on the couch and petting him then went back to bed where I laid awake wondering if I had just set the alarm incorrectly at bedtime.
The easy fix would have been to take the alarm into the bathroom and double check it.

I scoff at easy.

Instead I pondered the possibilities of mis-set alarms and the probability that the alarm that woke me had just been in my head. I pondered this until my husband's actual alarm woke me up at 0500 at which time I reported this mystery to my husband. His reply?

"Wow. All that crazy going on right next to me and I slept right through it."

I gave him the finger. In my head.

Friday, December 7, 2012

HoHoHoly Ghost of Beaches Past

So sorry I haven't been up-to-date with posting. But, what with being attacked with a vicious stomach hating bacteria and holiday prepping, I have been a little crunched for posts. So, to reward those of you who seem to still check out the Coast on a regular basis, and to pay tribute to Global Warming and the ridiculous fact that I was decorating the house in 70 degree weather,  I give you Dicken's Flamingos:

Forget those fruitcakes, get me some damn shrimp!
See you all real soon!