After Hours Excitement

I was up in the wee hours both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Not because I was out partying and living it up.  Not by choice.  In fact, I’m almost certain I was in bed by 11 PM both evenings.  By choice.  I had been up earlier that preferred several times last week and was looking forward to some much needed restorative sleep.

About 3 AM on Saturday, I was in a deep sleep, dreaming of wonderful things.  Suddenly, I was accosted by a blaring alarm.  At first I thought it was the house alarm, but then remembered I hadn’t set that.  I then realized it was the smoke alarm about 10 feet from my head.  I was familiar with these things chirping if the battery was dying or sounding if I had burnt something in the kitchen, but never had one caused temporary deafness for no apparent reason. 

I tried the reset button and a new battery, but that only resulted in a few minutes of relief until I was again jarred out of my sleep and sure my heart rate would never return to normal.  Thankfully my parents were in town so I went to get my dad to see if he could get the alarm to stop.  I felt bad that I had to wake him up (somehow my parents had slept through the alarm blaring…) but he was able to take down the defective alarm so I could sleep in peace for the next few hours.

Last evening, I went to bed on the early side because I was tired from the previous night’s excitement.  Around 4 AM, I wake up to some sort of ruckus coming from the other room.  I turn on the lights and walk down the hall toward the noise.  It seems to be coming from the family room.  I come into the family room and find Miss Scarlett with her back to me in the far corner.  Upon closer inspection, I see that she has a mouse cornered, on his back, with his arms up in the air as if surrendering and pleading for his life.  No exaggeration. 

He tries to get away a few times and she smacks him back into the corner with her big, furry paws.  I moved to go get a box or some vehicle for escorting the mouse out of the house and must have distracted Scarlett in doing so.  Little mousy made a run for it.  Scarlett and mousy made dozens of laps around the coffee table until Scarlett was able to force him into another corner where I had several bags of fabric samples.  Trying to escape the furry beast, the mouse backed up the side of one of the bags and fell in.  Somehow Scarlett seemed to miss this development and proceeded to nearly hyperventilate as she furiously sniffed all of the other bags and the space between them.  Meanwhile, I crossed the handles of mousy’s bag so he couldn’t jump out as I took the bag downstairs and out to the porch.  I opened the bag and leaned it over.  Mousy scurried out into the darkness.  Back upstairs, Scarlett looked confused as to where the new toy had gone. 

After reenacting the last thirty minute’s sequence of events to each my mom and dad, my head hit the pillow pretty hard.  Scarlett slept off the excitement all day on the sofa. 

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Today, I bought some not so cheap restorative moisturizer that has extract of every plant known to man that will hopefully erase my newly acquired wrinkles, age spots and bags under my eyes.

Hopefully I will make it through the night undisturbed. 

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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2 Cinnamon Rolls a Day…

I have a new confectionery addiction: homemade cinnamon rolls.

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I’ve made the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe several times now.  It makes 45-50 rolls per batch.  Somehow, my family and I have plowed through dozens of cinnamon rolls since Christmas.  And I think I ate most of them.  How did that happen? They are just so stinking good, especially when I remember all of the ingredients (I was so caught up in the active yeast rising process that I forgot the leavening agents my first go-round, but was able to salvage them).  Most cinnamon rolls don’t have enough icing and develop a hard exterior.  These are swimming in icing.  They’re moist and spongy and perfect.  Every bite is like that coveted bite in the center of your regular old cinnamon roll.

In the last few weeks, my addiction has really taken an alarming turn and I’ve found myself having two cinnamon rolls a day for an unmentionable number of days in a row.  But hey, two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor away, no?

…no?

Two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor employed?

Well, I’ve been working out more (successfully) in recent weeks, too, so I’m sure it kind of cancels out.  Kind of.  I am happy to report that I’ve found a new class that’s slightly less lethal than circuit blast called “sculpt.” The only part that made my arms feel like straws was the diamond push-up sequence after 45 sets of arm weight exercises.  Other than that, the group exercise approach has been going well.

Last week, however, I suffered a minor setback in the midst of a cinnamon roll binge.  I pulled my groin putting on my yoga pants to go to sculpt. For real. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of my flexibility, coordination, physical fitness level, or an indication that my pants are too tight.  Maybe all of the above? Maybe a sign from God to lay off the cinnamon rolls?

I just went to hot yoga and feel like I’ve been wrung out like a sponge.  In a really good way.

I think I’ll have a cinnamon roll since I’m already wearing my yoga pants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Circuit Blast is Not a Blast

I joined the local YMCA a few months back and have been lightly salting my schedule with yoga classes.  The classes have ranged in level of difficulty, but none was more than I can handle.

Last evening, I decided to add a “circuit blast” class to my rigorous exercise routine as it promised an hour of cardio, weight-lifting, and “limited to no choreography.”  Perfect.  The last bit of the description really sealed the deal.  To understand why, please visit my “about me” page.   I got to the gym a little bit early so I hopped on the treadmill for 5 minutes at a fairly good clip to get my heart-rate up since all this bone-chilling weather makes me want to do is swaddle myself in blankets on the sofa. I was feeling nice and warm when it was time for the class to start.  I got my mat, my step, and my 3 sets of weights all set up.  I was ready to kill it.  There were people my age and people twice my age in the class so I imagined I would at least fall somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of fitness.

Well, we started off with a lot of cardio that required more coordination than I could muster.  But that was ok; I flailed my way through it.  After all, I wasn’t trying out for a dance competition.  Clearly.  About 15 minutes in, I had about reached my limit of kicking, punching, jumping, hopping on one foot and balancing at the same time.   Then we started with the weights.

I started to feel faint.  My ears were ringing, my face was hot but my sweat felt cold.

I plowed through 478 squats with weights.  My yoga breathing really helped with this.  I was audibly huffing and puffing.  Too bad my breathing skills don’t help with coordination.

Towards the end of the class, I had to do every other exercise so I didn’t pass out.  It was a serious concern.  Every lunge-jump from the floor to the step while swinging weights over my head was a struggle.  It seemed my two poached eggs on toast that I had for lunch had ditched me hours ago and I was running on fumes and electrolyte and fluoride-infused water that I had purchased just before class.

With 10 minutes left in the class, I was genuinely concerned that I might lose consciousness.  I put away my torture equipment and headed to the locker room to collect myself and splash water on my face.  I looked as white as a ghost.  Time to call it a day.  I walked over to the stairs and as I started down the first step my leg almost gave out.  I clutched the railing to save any dignity that wasn’t left behind in my class.  Each step was a near-death-experience.  I somehow managed to get to the bottom of the stairs using mostly my arms and feeling like Gumby.

As I got to the car, I was fiercely craving salt.  I guess I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.  Continuing my healthy choices for the day, I came home and ate some cheddar and sour cream Ruffles potato chips and felt markedly better.  And my legs were sore already.

This is not good.

I’m afraid to go back.

But I need to face my fears.

I just need a few more handfuls of chips first.

Y’all stay active,

Sugarlump

Chicken Pot Pie

I’m back on a food network kick and it seems everyone is making chicken pot pie these days.  This dish has never held much appeal for me but the more I watched Barefoot Contessa, The Pioneer Woman and Trisha Yearwood prepare it, the more I wanted to make it.  It just seems like a hug in a dish.  A highly-caloric hug.

I reviewed a couple of recipes and made up a hybrid of sorts.  I pulled out some chicken breasts from the freezer, an onion, the remaining celery from some lentils I had made early in the week, white wine, half and half, and some butter.  I needed only a couple of things from the store: fresh thyme, carrots, chicken bouillon cubes and refrigerated pie dough.  I didn’t make my own crust because I couldn’t stand to think about all of the shortening and butter atop this already cream-based dish and I didn’t feel like pulling out and cleaning my 49lb food processor.   If I don’t have to measure out the fat, it doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned.

Now, as I was thinking about making this dish, I realized that I didn’t have any ramekins or personal-sized soufflé dishes.  I decided to swing by the home section at Marshalls to see if they had anything inexpensive.  All they had were miniature Le Crueset square baking dishes in red.  While they were reasonably priced, I have mustard-colored Le Crueset and my OCD self would not let me purchase a non-matching color.

I headed over to Big Lots.  On my way into the store, I caught a renegade shopping cart that started careening down the parking lot and towards an unassuming parked vehicle.  I stopped the cart about a foot shy of a big old dent in the side of this car.  As I neared the door to the store, a man waiting in a truck rolled down his window and yelled, “Nice save!”  For my good Samaritan efforts, I thought maybe the baking dish gods would reward me by having the right ramekins in this store.  Nope.  At least I worked off a few calories in the high-speed cart chase.

I recalled Kroger had a nice selection of well-priced baking pans and dishes so I ran in there quickly.  Sold out in the size I needed.  Of course!  I was about to bite the bullet and hit up William Sonoma when I remembered Pier 1.  They had just the thing at just the right price.  Success!

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I primarily used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe from her first cookbook, substituting half and half for heavy cream and fresh thyme for dried.  I also added in peas because they’re cute and tasty and a little cayenne pepper for a kick.  I was pleased with the result but I might consider adding a little bit of dry mustard next time or perhaps some curry powder.  I might also consider a smaller ramekin next time because I feel like I just ate a rock.  Back to Pier 1!

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I did use some smaller disposable pans so I could stick the rest of the recipe in the freezer. Aren’t they precious?

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Y’all eat up,

Sugarlump

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P.S. I sprinkled these dough scraps with cinnamon and sugar and put them in the oven to bake with my pot pie.  It was a sweet little snack!

It’s kind of not so great…

I recently purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, “It’s All Good,” intrigued by the idea of healthier and cleaner eating.  The book offers a lot of great information and recipes about eating diary-free and gluten-free.  It also discusses healthier choices for fats and non-meat proteins.  As someone with a sensitive stomach, I thought I might try out some of these ideas with my meals.  Don’t get me wrong though, you won’t catch me eating tofu lettuce wraps any time soon/ever.  Except that one time I made them for dinner at my parents’ house.  I tried hard to sell them to my dad as a delightfully healthy alternative to beef tacos and he just wasn’t buying it.  And neither was I.  So I decided to apply my new way of thinking about eating to a fairly familiar food: pizza.

I headed to Dominos one evening a few weeks back.  I went in and ordered a medium gluten-free pizza thinking that was the smallest size.

Dominos guy: “Oh we only have the gluten-free in a small.”

Me: “Ok perfect.  How much will that be?”

Dominos guy: “11.99?”

Me: “Wow that seems expensive for a small…”

Dominos guy: “Well you can get a medium for 7.99!”

Me: “I thought you said the gluten-free crust only came in a small.”

Dominos guy: “Well it’s not really gluten free.”

Me: “What do you mean? Your gluten-free crust isn’t really gluten-free?”

Dominos guy: “Well if you ordered a medium it wouldn’t be.  The medium is a better deal unless you need the gluten-free for health reasons.”

(DUH?  Why else would I order gluten-free?)

Me: “I’ll take the small gluten-free, please.”

Verdict: The pizza was pretty terrible and expensive.  I think I’ll stick to the real stuff and just eat it infrequently.

My next venture was speckled lima beans.  I must admit that I usually make these with bacon grease and on this occasion I fully intended to make them that way; however, there was no bacon or bacon grease to be found in my refrigerator.  Having carefully studied all of the critical pantry items for a dairy-free and gluten-free household, I had thought it was worthwhile to purchase a TUB of coconut oil at the wholesale club.  Never mind that I only cook a few nights per week, I hate coconut, and I am the only one in the household that will be using the coconut oil.  The 54oz tub was just the ticket.

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Seeing the tub of coconut oil sitting on the counter, I decided to throw a few healthy spoonfuls in as my fat for the beans.

Boy was that a misstep.

I thought it would be a subtle taste, but no.

I threw in a halved onion and 2 cloves of garlic to try to mitigate the undesirable coconut flavor.  It helped, but the coconut was still there in a big bad way.  Bacon grease and coconut oil are not similar flavor profiles in case you were wondering.

Verdict:  Good thing you can use this stuff as moisturizer.  I’ll be smelling pretty tropical for the next 23.4 years or however long it takes me to saturate my skin with that tub of coconut oil.

Having failed miserably with savory options, I thought I might have better luck with something sweet.

Nope.

I found this recipe that sounded great for a gluten-free fudgy chocolate cake.  How bad could that be?

BAD.

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It looked so pretty, but underneath that icing lay a very strange tangy, cleaning solution-like aftertaste and a chewy texture much like an actual dish sponge (not to be confused with the lovely texture of sponge-cake).

It nearly ruined chocolate cake for me.

In an effort to stay positive and salvage the situation, I have been scraping off the naturally gluten-free chocolate icing and eating it by the spoonful.  I now have a scalped cake in my refrigerator.

Verdict:  There’s a reason people bake with wheat flour.

I’m hungry.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

A Very Costly 46 Cents

I’d like to start by saying that I pay most of my bills online as this is my preference for the sake of efficiency, peace of mind and instant gratification.  Two of my utility companies, however, are stuck in the previous century and charge a fee of roughly 10% of my bill to accept payment electronically.  I refuse to pay this outrageous fee given it is significantly higher than the cost of a stamp (even though postage has gone up).

As I went to pay my two paper bills by check (quick poll: how long do you think before checks are obsolete?), I realized I only had one stamp.  No problem, I would stop at the mail center store just down the road from my apartment when I was out running errands.

I pulled into the parking lot for the mail center store toward the end of the day only to find that the store had gone out of business in the month since I had been there last.  If only I had to pay more bills by mail so I could have kept them in business.  It sure was a handy location.

The bills sat in my car for the next few days as a reminder to buy stamps at a less convenient location.

On my lunch break a few days ago, I headed out to McDonald’s for some McNuggets.  I’d had McDonald’s on the brain ever since one of my coworkers ate a sausage biscuit in front of me as my stomach growled, unsatisfied with the oatmeal and blueberries I’d had for breakfast.  Feeling slightly guilty for straying from my healthy choices, I asked if anyone else wanted anything from McDonald’s.  My pregnant boss asked for a medium order of fries.

I went through the drive-thru and headed back toward the office.  When I was almost there, I happened to glance down and notice my bills in the center console.  I figured I might as well stop off and get some stamps while I was out, so I made a U-turn and drove to Fedex Kinko’s.  I waited at the counter for about 5 minutes as the 3 employees decided not to pay attention to me.  When one finally came over, he told me that they don’t sell stamps but the Walgreens across the street does.  So I hopped back in the car and drove over to Walgreens.

I arrived at Walgreens to utter chaos. There were two checkout lines, both manned by people who seemed to have the opposite of a sense of urgency despite the fact that there were about 10 people in line.  I waited in line for nearly 10 minutes as the cashier studied each of the purchases of the people ahead of me.  I was delighted to wait in line on this dreary, raw day as the young boy in front of me, wearing basketball shorts and no coat, proceeded to cough up a lung.

I finally made it through the line and asked the cashier where the nearest mailbox was.  The woman behind me in line suggested I take my bills to Fedex Kinko’s just across the street.

So I headed BACK to Fedex Kinko’s.  A line had formed and the staff seemed flustered.   Seeing a box that said “outgoing packages,” I walked up to the desk and asked one of the employees if she would kindly just toss my bills in the “outgoing packages” box.  She proceeded to tell me that they don’t take regular mail, but there is a mailbox in the shopping center down the road.  Just fabulous.

I headed down the road to the mailbox and dropped off my very irritating bills. I probably wasted at least a gallon of gas and 30 minutes on this adventure for a stamp.  And by the time I got back to work, I had only room temperature French fries to present to a pregnant lady.  It might have been worth that online fee after all.

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Continuing my brilliant success at life, yesterday, I vacuumed up my phone charger.

Y’all be smart,

Sugarlump

Cause for Alarm

This week has been full of surprises.  Tuesday evening, I went to ladies’ night at a shooting range and got second place in our bullseye competition.  Everybody watch out.

Early the next morning, at approximately 3:00AM, I awoke to tornado sirens.  This was the first time I had heard them in person since moving to Tennessee so it took me a minute to figure out what was going on.  My weather channel alerts on my phone confirmed that we were under a tornado warning and needed to take cover immediately.  I grabbed my phone, the cats, two cushions from the sofa, and my laptop and closed us in the bathroom as I set up a little fort with my cushions in the bathtub.  I then decided I needed a flashlight and a bottle of water.  Maybe I should have thought through my tornado plan a little bit more.  In my defense, it was JANUARY(!) and tornado season doesn’t usually start until spring.

Anyway, as we waited out the very strong winds and tracked the radar on my laptop, the cats could not have been more confused/annoyed.  They kept looking at me like I was crazy and tried to dig a hole under the door to get out of the bathroom.  Apparently tornado safety does not apply to them.

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Thankfully, other than some seriously violent winds, we were alright.  There were, however, a few tornadoes within 50 miles of us that damaged several buildings and pulled roofs off of homes.

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Less than 48 hours later, the temperature had dropped nearly sixty degrees from the low seventies into the teens and it was snowing.

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day here as long as you’re indoors.  It’s a whopping 17 degrees at the moment and with the wind chill, it feels like single digits.

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There is still snow on most roofs and school was canceled, which I thought this was pretty silly, given that we got about 2 inches of snow.  New Englanders wouldn’t bat an eye at that kind of snowfall.  But then I discovered that there was still some dangerous ice lurking around as I tried to speed out of the gate at my apartment complex earlier this morning.  I spun in place for about 10 seconds until my Jeep finally slid forward, narrowly avoiding the gates as they began to close.

Like the weather, my garbage disposal has been acting backwards this week.  The other day, as I ran the water and turned on the disposal, instead of the water easing the food down the drain as the disposal ground it up, all of the food and water spun violently up and out of the drain and onto me and the counter.  The maintenance man just found a metal spear approximately the size of a chopstick jammed in the pipes, courtesy of the previous tenant.

It’s been a strange couple of days.

In other (likely related) news, I’m back to drinking coffee, but just a small cup.  Hopefully, things will now return to normal.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

No More Coffee

I have eliminated coffee from my diet.  It’s a dark time in my life.  Mostly because I can’t keep my eyelids open.

I’m thinking of substituting green tea so I will have something hot and caffeinated to drink in the morning even though I don’t really like tea, even sweet iced tea (gasp), the drink of the South.

I’ll report back on my java-less journey in the near future.

On the bright side, the sun finally came out this weekend after a week of cold, raw gloom and doom.

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I took this picture in the fall, but the weather was much like this today and yesterday.  Not a cloud in the sky and warm enough to go out without a coat.

This little fur coat here spends the majority of his days as pictured.  He does not, however, empathize with my coffee-less existence and therefore does not understand why I don’t want to get up at 6:30AM to feed him, no matter how loudly and pitifully he meows or how many times he punches me in the face.

It’s been a rude adjustment, but I think it’s for the best (yawn).

Y’all hold ‘er in the road,

Sugarlump

Lemon Hummus

I like lemon hummus.   My mom got me hooked on it years back.  No other hummus seems to measure up to the fresh, savory taste of lemon hummus.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all.  Since moving to the South, I have been unable to find lemon hummus available for purchase.   Not that I’ve been able to find it unavailable for purchase.  I haven’t been able to find it at all.

So I got the bright idea to make my own lemon hummus.  I looked up several recipes for a basic hummus and realized that I would need to get myself some tahini paste, which all recipes assured me was available at any grocery store these days.  I headed out to Kroger on my lunch break and placed my bet on the international food isle.  No tahini paste to be found among the other 439 pastes/sauces, some of which were made from a) things I had never heard of and/or b) things I would not like a paste/sauce made out of.  But that’s another discussion for another time/never.

I must have looked perplexed because a nice man who worked at Kroger came over to see if he could help me.  I asked him for tahini paste.  He thought about it for a minute and then remembered that another lady had been in earlier that day looking for the same thing.  He motioned for me to follow him to the organic food isle, where he presented me two tahini paste options, which I had no way of discerning a difference in as they were the same size and price.  I thanked him, picked up the jar that had cuter packaging and walked to the register.

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The cashier scanned the jar and said, “That will be $9.67,” and held up the jar in disbelief.  Tahini paste will set you back a pretty penny, let me tell you.  I said to him, “Yeah that stuff isn’t cheap.  I guess it’s so high because it’s organic.”  He said, “Did you want the organic specifically? Because there are two or three other options in isle 2 and isle 5.”  Now you tell me.  I decided that if I were making my own hummus, which is about as granola crunchy as I get, it might as well be organic.  So I sucked it up and spent a month’s pay on that silly tahini paste.  Feeling a little too natural, I went straight to Chick-fil-a for a 6 count nugget kids’ meal.  It really hit the spot.

After work, I came home and turned on the Alabama -Notre Dame game.  What a nailbiter. About 10 minutes into the game, I determined it was probably safe for me to go get started on my hummus.  I pulled out my food processer, which weighs more than a small child and has more attachments than I can find space for in my cabinets.

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Here’s what you will need for the hummus:

·         1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

·         2-3 cloves Garlic, chopped

·         1 lemon, zested and juiced

·         2 tbsp. Tahini paste

·         Salt to taste

·         ½ tbsp. Olive oil

·         1-2 tbsp. water

·         You might add a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a little kick.  I haven’t verified yet whether or not that’s a good move.

Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.  Chop up several cloves of garlic.  I would go for 3, but I really like garlic. I also happen to dislike vampires, so that works out really well for me.

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Throw the chick peas, garlic, tahini paste,  juice and zest of a lemon, a few dashes of salt and 1 tablespoon of water into the food processor.  Pulse until the ingredients are combined and fairly smooth, adding more water as needed to help the ingredients blend.  Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing at the end.

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Now, do yourself a favor and start spreading this hummus on wheat bread with honey maple turkey, a few slices of red onion and lettuce.  You don’t know what you’re missing.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

An Exciting Morning

This morning started out much more exciting than I like mornings to be.   And I’m not talking about the giddy type of excitement typical of Christmas mornings, because I’m all about that.  No, this morning was more of a panicked excitement type of morning.

You see, the problem is that my alarm clock is too smart for its own good.  It automatically adjusts for Daylight Savings; however, it neglected to consult with the calendar to determine that the date to set the clocks back this year is next Sunday morning, not this Saturday morning.

My alarm went off at 8:00AM and I stretched and groaned and patted Gus on that head as I reached for my phone to check my messages.  Imagine my surprise to discover that an hour had passed in what had felt like seconds.  I stared at my phone in disbelief as I read 9:01AM.  I then looked at my watch and discovered that my phone ain’t no liar.

Chaos ensued shortly thereafter as I needed to be at work at 9:00AM, as in one minute before I realized that I was already late to work.  I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, brushed my hair and my teeth as I served Gus his breakfast, stuffed my makeup bag, a yogurt and a granola bar in my purse and dashed out the door.  I arrived at work at 9:16AM.

Until about noon today, my brain felt as organized as my linens in this picture.

I wanted to crawl up in a pile of comfort and start the day over again, preferable on time.

Let the record show that my alarm clock is not too smart for Gus.  He was all up in my grill at 6:30AM, meowing for attention/food/the heck of it.

Maybe I’ll listen to him next time and get my rear end out of bed.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m convinced that Scarlett was behind the alarm clock scandal of October 27, 2012.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump