Saturday, July 30, 2011

Walmart Potato Salad

There are so many high quality specialty food items available out there these days that we just don't have to make everything ourselves anymore. Some things just aren't worth the hassle.

Like potato salad.

Potato salad is okay. My husband likes it, but our kids don't. It's not something I ever wanted to eat a whole lot of. Two bites is usually enough for me. And making it is kind of obnoxious. (And I know I'm not the only one who thinks so because whenever I mention potato salad, my kids qoute a Spongebob episode where some random fish says, "Nice going, Buddy. It took us three days to make that potato salad. Three days!")
When you make potato salad, you have to cook the potatoes to the perfect state of doneness. I have always found that hard to do. You don't want them undercooked. If you overcook them, you end up with mashed potato salad.  You also have to think about what goes in it. Some people like hard boiled egg, some don't. Celery or no celery? A lot of people think they hate celery. Some people like pickles, but sweet or dill? Will the kids eat it if it has onions in it? My kids won't eat it if it has any of that stuff in it.

My mother's potato salad is really good. She uses perfectly cooked red potatoes, cut up and coated with a tiny amount of vegetable oil, sour cream, green onions, tarragon, dill, salt and pepper. I used to make it once in a while for extended family gatherings, but again, it was so hard to cook the potatoes just right.

So once in a while I buy a small container of ready-made potato salad for Kent. I've tried different brands and varieties. They're always okay. I have my two bites and Kent eats the rest.

But last week I discovered a potato salad that was so good I've been day-dreaming about it ever since. I got it (of all places) from the deli counter at Walmart. It was the Loaded Baked Potato variety. I had way more than my two bites. I think I ate more than Kent did. There was some left over. Throughout the next day I polished it off a spoonful at a time.


So quit boiling potatoes and head to Walmart.  You'll be so glad you did.

Remember - Loaded Baked Potato.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Subtitles - the only way to watch a movie

My son Joel has a friend named Emma. Once in a while over the last couple of years, Emma has come over to watch a movie with Joel. I noticed one time that they had subtitles on.

"Are you trying to earn mastery points for Spanish class?" I asked, assuming the subtitles were in Spanish.

"They're in English, Mom," Joel informed me with an implied "duh."

"I always watch movies with the subtitles," Emma told me.


That might drive me crazy, I thought, but whatever.

Last March I visited my parents in Florida. One evening we decided to watch a movie. After messing with the remote for a minute, my mother managed to turn on the subtitles.

"If we don't have the subtitles on, we don't always get what they're saying," she explained to me.

Oh, great, I thought. I'm going to have to watch this entire movie with words strung out across the bottom of the screen. This is going to be really annoying.

But guess what?

It wasn't annoying.

It was helpful.

I made the realization that I don't always get what they're saying either. Especially if it's an action film. Or a movie with a quirky British dialect.

I realized that when I watch a movie, I'm frequently asking a fellow viewer (usually my husband), "What did he just say?" or "So what's going on?"

And the fellow viewer (Kent) usually responds with something like "Shh. I can't hear what they're saying."

My parents don't seem to have hearing loss. I don't think Joel's friend Emma is hard of hearing. I just think they've figured out something the rest of us haven't thought of:

Movies often have bad sound.

I blame it on the filmmakers.They are familiar with the movie scripts. They know what the actors are going to say before they say it. Think about it. If you already know what words are going to come out of someone's mouth, you will hear those words when they speak them. Even if it's a bit muffled. When the filmmakers preview a film, they know just what's being said because they already know just what's being said. They think it sounds fine.

Excuse me? What did he just say?

One night after I returned home from Florida, Kent and I were going to watch a movie.

"Hey," I asked him. "Do you mind if I turn on the subtitles?"

He wasn't keen on the idea. I could tell he thought it would be really annoying to have words strung out across the bottom of the screen for the entire movie.

"If I can read the subtitles," I reminded him, "I won't always be asking you what's going on.You'll be able to watch the movie uninterrupted."

He agreed to the subtitles.

It took watching a few movies together with the subtitles turned on, but guess what? Now Kent turns them on without my even asking.

Is it because he finds it helpful in understanding the dialogue or is it because it keeps me from disturbing him with my questions while we watch?

I'll have to ask him.

But not during a movie.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jeans Quilts - Thanks for the memories, Joel Craft

I always wanted one of those really cool quilts people make out of their old jeans. Everybody loves a great pair of jeans. We all have our favorites. We break them in and they're soft and comfy. A great pair of jeans can become a dear friend. (Hey, some of us have a harder time making friends than other people do.) And then we can turn them into a quilt and cherish the memories we made while wearing them.

Yes, I always wanted a jeans quilt. Only one problem: I'm not a saver (see March 12, 2010 post Just Get Rid Of It!). When our jeans wear out, I assess their condition and then either throw them away or donate them to Deseret Industries. What I don't do is fold them neatly, stack them in a cardboard box, and tuck the box away in a corner of my basement just in case. Just in case times get really hard and I decide to patch them? Just in case we have a war on the home front and I need to rip them into bandages? Just in case I ever get enough to make one of those really cool quilts? It always seemed to me like it would take way too long to save enough for a whole quilt. And besides, I knew I'd never fold them neatly, stack them in a cardboard box and tuck them away in a corner of my basement. I'd wad them up and stick them under the bed. They'd stay there until it made me crazy to think about their being under there, and then I would get rid of them. So why not get rid of them from the start?

Then one day I was visiting my good friend and neighbor, Laurie Craft, in her garage, as she was preparing for a yard sale. I could tell she was a little stressed out about the whole thing. I've never had a yard sale (because I get rid of stuff as soon as I possibly can), but I've heard that people feel a little funny, when it comes down to it, about having strangers rifle through their personal belongings. And people can get their feelings hurt when someone offers a quarter for that precious little dress that their sweet baby girl wore just a few years ago that still looks like new. Or fifty cents for that candy dish with the pink flowers and gold edging that Aunt Sally gave them when she cleaned out and retired to Arizona. That, after all, could be considered a family heirloom.

Or that cardboard box of neatly folded and stacked jeans that were cherished friends to a family member.

"Jeans!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," Laurie replied. "They're Joel's." Joel is her husband.

She continued.

"I folded them neatly, stacked them in this cardboard box, and tucked them away in a corner of the basement in case there's ever a war on the home front and we need them for bandages. And besides, they were some of his closest friends."

Okay, I admit that I made up that last paragraph.

"Yes," she replied. "They're Joel's."


I was thinking about that jeans quilt I had always wanted to make. But I didn't want to stress her out about her husband's jeans.

So just how weird would my friend think I was if I offered to buy up her husband's old jeans?

On the big day I showed up early.

"I'm here to buy Joel's jeans. I want to make one of those jeans quilts but I've thrown away all our old jeans."

"Oh! How many pairs do you want?" Laurie asked me.

"I'll take them all."

I took them home and before too long I got started. I made a really nice quilt. We keep it folded up in our family room and use it when we watch movies. I can almost hear Joel Craft laughing at the funny parts. We've taken it to ball games and on picnics. I can just imagine Joel Craft cheering or asking someone to please pass the potato chips.

We like Joel Craft a lot. He's a great guy.

It's a good thing, huh?

Our daughter turned twenty-five a few days ago. I wanted to give her something special for her birthday. I still had some of Joel Craft's jeans. (I had actually saved them!) I decided to make her one of those really cool jeans quilts. The kind that will always bring back fond memories for her...of one of our favorite neighbors - Joel Craft!