Friday, April 29, 2011

Lentil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Vegetable Loaf...

Hey, that looks pretty good!

My sister has been pestering me to send her a delicious lentil loaf recipe that my wife and I prepared several weeks ago.  Actually, I had nothing to do with making it, but I did clean up the dishes.

We kinda have that arrangement.

Before giving up meat, traditional meat loaf was one of my favorite dishes ever.  Aside from tasting delicious right out of the oven, the leftovers always made fantastic cold meat loaf sandwiches.  Just slather some grainy mustard on two pieces of whole wheat bread, slice off a few hunks of loaf, and slap that firm, luscious meat between the bread.

Now that meals made from mammals are in our past, we've been looking for a suitable dish to fill the 'meat loaf void'.  This vegetable loaf recipe from Woman's Day Magazine is just the ticket.

Yes, I did say Woman's Day Magazine.

It was a bit surprising to me that this delicious recipe would come from such a publication.  As far as culinary guidance, I was always under the assumption that Woman's Day might instruct me on how to boil water for pasta, or how to reseal that pesky Hamburger Helper bag of spices, if you only made half the recipe.

I suppose I need to be more open-minded about such things.

As I said, my sister has been bugging me about this recipe for almost a month.

     "Dave, when are you going to send me that recipe?"

     "Soon...  I'll send it soon."

Why won't she leave me alone?  Probably because I still haven't sent it to her.  This morning, I was all set to email her the link to the recipe at Woman's Day's website.  But then I decided that this is a meal which would be right at home on this blog.

Hey Sis'!

If you want this recipe, you're gonna have to read my blog to get it!


On to the recipe...

Lentil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Vegetable Loaf

    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 15-oz can lentils, rinsed
    • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped (about 2 oz)
    • 1 jarred roasted red pepper, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
    • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
    • 1 6-oz package falafel mix (we used Near East)  (So did we...  )


  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and 2 Tbsp water. Add the lentils, red onion, spinach and roasted red pepper and mix to combine; fold in the cheese.
  3. Add the falafel mix and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a 9 x 3½-in. loaf. Bake until the internal temperature registers 150°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Here's a link to a printable version.

If you're not doing dairy, you can easily cut out the feta cheese.  We left it in the first time we made it, but I have a feeling that we'll be leaving it out the next time.

A funny thing happens when you don't eat dairy for a week or two, and then you try to have just a little bit of cheese with a meal.  Your guts and innards reject the dairy, get pissed off at you, and you end up spending most of your weekend in the bathroom, doubled over in discomfort, and, um...

Never mind.

And for all of you copyright Nazis out there...  No, I didn't get permission from Woman's Day to lift the recipe from their website and plagiarize it directly into my blog.  Here's the bibliographical information...

  • Day Kitchen, Woman's.  "Lentil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Vegetable Loaf Recipe" Woman's Day Magazine 1 April 2011.
Still not happy?

People like you never are.

Yes, I did consider simply providing the link to the recipe instead of shamelessly copying and pasting it into my blog.  However, when I visited Woman's Day's website to find the recipe, there were too many ads, I was pressured to take a worthless online survey, the search engine was piss-poor, and the page was too slow and didn't load correctly.

The entire experience was miserable.

Rather than put my three (3) readers through hell, I've just decided to just copy and paste the entire recipe here, without permission.  Besides, it's not like I'm not giving Woman's Day the props for this delicious recipe.  So far, I've mentioned Woman's Day eight (8) separate times.

That's really good word-of-mouth marketing, which is not costing Woman's Day a single dime.

Furthermore, Woman's Day magazine is my go-to source for all sorts of feminine products and gadgets.  I mean, anytime I want to read about the latest shampoos, hairsprays, or rubber spatulas on the market, I go straight to Woman's Day...  no questions asked.

And anytime I'm in the mood to create a Mums and Limes Topiary, I head on over to Woman's Day for guidance.

There...  Happy!?

GOOD!  Now stop pestering me.

By the way, if you'd like to subscribe to Woman's Day, click HERE.

I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful photograph
of Lentil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Vegetable Loaf
was taken by photographer Con Poulos, also of
Woman's Day fame, apparently.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Morning Commute: Part I...

To read my earlier post about what led me to this crazy idea, click HERE:

Nothing brightens up a morning commute like an ornery Canadian goose.  Can you spot the steaming goose turds on the sidewalk?

Have you ever realized that you're being watched?

One moment, you're alone with your thoughts, and the next you're suddenly aware of mysterious eyes checking you out, settling in upon your every movement.

This is not the best feeling to have if you're wandering through a dark alley.

Fortunately, I was in no such position.  Instead, I was still within the boundaries of our property.  I had just left the house with my backpack, all bundled up in several layers to keep warm, preparing to embark on the 7-mile walk to the office.

I wasn't even halfway down the driveway when I sensed their eyes.

I looked up.

Eight deer were gathered in our neighbors' yard across the street, watching me intently, studying my every move with their curious eyes.  I counted six large doe and two spotted fawn.  It was 6:15 in the morning.  The sun wouldn't be up for another forty-five minutes, but it was light enough to notice the thin rings of fog, floating like halos around the summits of the tallest evergreens.

As I turned right onto the sidewalk, I remained quiet and tried communicating with the deer through their eyes.  I simply nodded my head before turning to look down the sidewalk ahead of me.  I don't know if they understood me, but somehow I wanted them to know that I had no intentions of disturbing their peaceful, early-morning gathering.

The neighborhood deer will brave the
rush hour traffic for a cool drink. 
The group of houses across the street backs up to a fairly large stream.  It's not uncommon to see a dozen or more deer during the early morning hours, making their way through our yards, across the street, and down to the water's edge.

In the four years since we've lived here, we've had three separate incidents where deer have been hit struck by cars in front of our house during the darker hours of the day.  The posted speed limit is 35 MPH, but motorists regularly speed by at 45 or 50 MPH, when the traffic is sparse, and they don't anticipate any obstacles.

I turned back and glanced at our next door neighbor's place.  Only the kitchen light was on.  Two nights earlier, my wife and I had spent an evening around their table, enjoying nachos, beer, and multiple games of cards.  In a few minutes, their son would be standing at the bottom of the driveway, waiting for the bus.

All of the other houses looked the same...  mostly dark, save for a few lights on in the kitchen or entryway areas.  The rest of the neighborhood was just waking up.

I'd been up since 5:00 and was just over a quarter mile into my 7-mile walk to work.

When I went to bed the night before, I thought that I'd wake up feeling tired and groggy.  I hadn't woken up this early on a workday since the previous October.

Instead, I felt fresh and invigorated when I stepped out of bed.  As I was brewing a small thermos of coffee, I even felt some excitement rippling through my veins, knowing I'd be spending two hours outside in the crisp, early morning air.

I turned around and took one last look at our mailbox, almost five hundred yards away.

What was I doing?  What was I thinking?  Why on earth would anybody take almost two hours out of their day to walk seven miles to work in sub-freezing temperatures, when they could make the drive in about twelve minutes?

If i really wanted to run home, wouldn't it make more sense to have somebody at work pick me up and give me a ride to the office?  After all, three of my co-workers live within minutes of my front door.

I'd pondered these questions several times in the weeks leading up to today's inaugural journey.

Sunrise is one of the best times
for a walk, mainly because there
aren't any other humans around. 
My biggest reason has to do with where we've been heading (or hot heading) as a society, in regards to satisfying our lavish energy demands.

During the past year, I've become increasingly agitated with our nation's unhealthy lust for oil.  The United States make up less than 5% of the world's population, and yet, we consume around 25% of our planet's oil supply. 

Of course, this gluttonous energy consumption is not limited to oil.  Our nation's demand for all sources of energy has skyrocketed, as we struggle to fund our fast-paced, high-powered lifestyles of gas-guzzling street tanks, electronic gadgets, and over-sized McMansions.

It seems that we're not the least bit hesitant to buy the latest electronic gadget or luxury SUV, just as soon as we can squeeze the payments into our already overstretched monthly budgets.

Nowadays, everybody has to have a 40-inch HDTV in their own bedroom, along with the two to three others that are scattered throughout the common areas of the house.  And let's not forget the TV and DVD player in each of the three family SUVs.  We wouldn't want little Billy to get bored during the 8-minute trip to the mall, especially if he's already drained the battery on his iPad.

Of course, when I was growing up, a vehicle equipped with a full audio-visual entertainment system was almost unheard of.  The only television in my life was a 19-inch Sears model that sat in our family room.  It had an 'on/off/volume' knob, as well as a panel of buttons labeled '0' through '9' to change the channel.  For almost twenty years, my sister and I learned to share a single television with each other, as well as with our parents.

In 1968, my dad first visited Mt. Desert
Campground with my mom and her family.
He still visits every year, along with my
wife and I, my sister and her husband,
and their two kids.
As for getting from point A to point B, there was nary a Chevy Tahoe or Cadillac Escalade to be found in our driveway.  Every summer, we piled into our baby blue Dodge Omni, with the clothes jammed into the trunk and the tent, tarp, and other supplies strapped to the roof, and headed off to Maine for a week of camping, swimming, and hiking at beautiful Mt. Desert Campground, near Acadia National Park.

One summer, my sister wanted to bring along her friend Jessica.  After packing the car, there wasn't enough room in the back seat, so my dad strapped Jessica to the roof as well.  She didn't have any complaints.  She was sedated on motion sickness pills for the entire twelve-hour drive, completely unaware that it rained during the three-hour stint across Massachusetts.

Today, it seems that many of us can't function without two large vehicles sitting in our driveways.

And why?  Well, here are some of the different reasons I've heard over the years.  Please keep in mind that I'm not making any of these up.

     "I don't feel safe in a car..."

     "I need to be up higher..."

     "We have grandchildren..."

     "My husband is large..."

     "It's uncomfortable getting in and out of a car..."

     "I can't see..."

     "The passenger seat is too low, and my wife farts every time she gets out of the car..."

     "I have a bad back..."

     "Both of the baby's cribs won't fit in a regular trunk..."

     "There are lots of hills where we live..."

     "I'm afraid of trucks..."

     "I need to be able to transport my portable toilet..."

     "It's hard to reach the child seat..."

     "My legs are too long.  I'm almost 5'8''..."

     "My wife can't see..."

     "Cars don't handle well in the winter..."

     "Now that we have a baby, we need an SUV..."

     "I've always wanted a Lexus..."

     "Cars are death traps..."

     "I don't like bending over to get the groceries out of the trunk..."

     "I need my space..."

     "We both have arthritic knees..."

Hmmmm...  seems like many of the above problems could be remedied if we exercised, watched our diets, practiced some deep breathing now and then, and took better care of ourselves.

I'm saying that there's no reason whatsoever to ever own an SUV.  If one or more of the following conditions are met within a family unit, then that family unit is permitted to ONE (1) gas-guzzling behemoth:
  • You have at least three (3) children.
  • You're required to haul large 'stuff' around, as part of your job.
  • You're at least 6'8'', and you absolutely cannot fit in a smaller vehicle.
  • You own a boat.
  • You go camping at least four (4) times a year.
  • You're a mom, and your offspring play soccer.

Unfortunately, many have convinced themselves that an enormous vehicle is necessary to safely transport their obese children to McDonald's several days a week, for regular servings of Big Macs, milkshakes, and Frumpy Pubis Meals.

But these people have chosen to ignore the fact that we're still powering most of our monster trucks with regular unleaded gasoline.

Our addiction to oil is not sustainable.

We cannot continue to destroy and decimate our environment, compromise our safety, and damage our health in search of oil, without considering the consequences to our planet, as well as to future generations.

The technology to produce vehicles that run on alternate sources of energy has been around for years, but most of us are still stopping at the gas station at least once a week.

This guy lives alone, but he might
want to consider a larger vehicle.
Unfortunately, the trend towards cleaner, alternative sources of energy to power our transportation will continue to move forward at a snail's pace, as long as our greedy politicians and biased news networks continue to be bought and held hostage by high-powered executives and lobbyists within the oil industry.

Eventually, we're going to have to scale back our reliance on oil...  all oil.

But we do have a choice.  We can voluntarily make the transition over an extended period of time, while we pursue other avenues for our energy needs.  Or, we can continue to use up what's left at a breakneck pace, and force ourselves to give it up overnight.

Which way is it going to go?  That's still up in the air.

A lot depends on whether or not we're willing to change our attitudes and priorities during the next ten to twenty years.

I obviously have no control whatsoever over the driving habits of others, but I can make a difference within my own little world by driving just a bit less now and then, cutting my oil usage, and saving some gas money.

That's why I wanted to prove to myself that I could get to work without a car.  Not just my car...  any car.

Several of my co-workers who live nearby have repeatedly asked if they could give me a ride to work.  I certainly appreciate their generous offer.  But I've told them I prefer to walk.  I'd like to do it all by myself, for now.

Up ahead, I was approaching the neighborhood park on the right, complete with tennis and basketball courts, along with a playground.  All of a sudden, six more deer galloped across the road, about fifty feet up ahead.  I stopped to watch as they disappeared into the evergreens along the sidewalk.

Just as I noticed two cars approaching from the opposite direction, two more deer stopped by the other side, waiting to cross.  A doe standing on the curb gingerly placed her hoof down into the road.  She looked carefully in both directions, but she was clearly oblivious to the oncoming vehicles.  She began to cross slowly, as her young, spotted fawn followed close behind, galloping along at a clumsy clip.

Mother and her dotted little one...  absolutely adorable.

Waving my arms, I stepped from the sidewalk towards the side of the road until I was illuminated by the headlights of the oncoming vehicle.  Seeing the silhouette of the two animals, along with my bright yellow windbreaker, the leading vehicle came to an abrupt halt to allow the two deer to finish crossing.  Once they had disappeared safely into the evergreens, I returned to the sidewalk and kept moving.

Um, that's not really our old car,
but...  that might be our old car.
I'd barely been walking for ten minutes, but I was getting the itch to move a bit faster.  I had allotted myself plenty of time to make the trip with over half an hour to spare, but I was still getting slightly impatient, yearning for faster progress.  Of course, I wouldn't have minded running the whole way, but we don't have shower facilities at the office.  If I arrived at my cubicle all sweaty and nasty, I'd have to answer to nine other co-workers with sensitive noses.

     "Oh, what the hell," I said out loud, as I began to jog at a slow clip.

If I'd been wearing my regular running shoes, I probably would have picked up the pace and started sweating almost immediately.  Today I was wearing my new Vibram Five Fingers Bikila barefoot running shoes.  I'd been wearing them everywhere to walk around, but I'd only run in them a handful of times.  They worked in my favor, preventing me from picking up the pace to 'sweating level'.  Instead, I scampered along comfortably, taking short, quick steps, feeling the rock-solid concrete of the sidewalk below the balls of my feet.

When I first started reading about barefoot running, I came across repeated reminders about the importance of contacting the ground with the midsection or ball of the foot, instead of the heel.  When running in heavily-cushioned shoes, it's almost impossible not to land on your heel.  But heel-striking in barefoot shoes can potentially lead to injury almost immediately, without the extra protection of traditional shoes.

Before I bought the Vibrams, I was worried about making the transition from 'heel-strike' to 'mid-foot/ball strike'.  However, once I squeezed them on for my first run, I realized that the design of the shoes automatically corrects your stride.  Without the thick heel padding to get in the way, my stride was shorter, and the balls and midsection of my feet struck the ground naturally.

As an experiment after one of my runs, I had intentionally attempted to heel-strike in the Vibrams, just to see what would happen.  After a few strides, I realized that this was not only awkward, but that I'd probably injure myself if I continued running this way for more than about fifty yards.

I continued jogging along down the street.  I was moving fairly slowly, but I was taking short, quick steps.  It felt great to let go and open up just a bit.  I was actually accomplishing something...  making progress...  I was getting somewhere were I needed to be, and I was doing it without a car.

In the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome, Abebe Bikila
of Ethiopia ran the entire race barefoot...  and won.

Believe it or not, this was probably the first time since the days of my childhood that I was running to get somewhere...  to a destination...  and not just for fitness.  I needed to be at the office by 8:30, and dammit, I was going to get there by running.

After rounding a bend, I approached the first intersection of my journey and made a left at the stoplight onto the sidewalk.  I slowed down to a walk, not wanting to let any rogue perspiration get the best of me.  The traffic along the main road was busier.  It wasn't rush hour traffic by any means, but it had definitely picked up since I'd left the house.

I passed a Sunoco station on my left and a Burger King and Tim Horton's on my right.  Gasoline was currently $4.06 per gallon, and there were six cars waiting in line at each of the drive-thrus.  Ten of the twelve drivers in both lines were on their cell phones...  talking or texting.

I felt like an outsider as I observed my fellow members of society in their element...  necks craned forward, heads down, focus narrowed onto their lighted, 2-inch screens that blinked and beeped.  All of these people were probably headed somewhere in their cars, trucks, and minivans, to destinations that they probably needed to reach.  But from my perspective along the sidewalk, they were all completely oblivious to the journey.

Even when I was out for one of my regular runs, I didn't feel this isolated from society.  Aside from its cars and trucks, every neighborhood street and main route has its bikers, recreational runners, dog-walkers, and other miscellaneous pedestrians.  All of these people are players and roles in the system...  all having their place in the machine that we've created.

But a crazy dude in an obnoxiously bright windbreaker, weird shoes with wiggly toes, and an orange backpack, walking and jogging for over 7 miles to get to work?

I have to admit, I wasn't really sure exactly where, or how, I fit in.

But I didn't care.  I absolutely loved it.

I actually felt a bit sorry for the twelve drivers in line, waiting for their watered-down coffee and  lifeless muffins made from Yellow no. 5 and decompressed trans fat.  They had no idea what they were missing.

One of the drivers who wasn't glued to a phone looked to be in his mid-20s.  He was seated in the driver's seat, staring ahead with a stoic expression.  In a few minutes, he'd pull forward to the Tim Horton's take-out window and take his bag of chronic disease from the employee.  I doubted that his sugary, highly-caffeinated breakfast would make him feel any more inspired.

I didn't know the young man, but the message he conveyed in his body language seemed vaguely familiar.

I'd actually been there myself, almost ten years ago.  After graduating from college, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and she died just over fifteen months later.  For the next two years, I coasted through the days, weeks, and months as a zombie, miserable and bereft of all life and self-confidence.  I'd stop for coffee and a sugar-laden breakfast bomb at least four out of five weekday mornings on my way to work.

%#cking bastard...
When lunch hour rolled around, I'd struggle into Wegmans and drop over twelve dollars on a premium takeout meal and a large cafe mocha topped with a mountain of whipped cream.  On some days, I'd get a 12-inch Italian sub or two slices of meat-lovers pizza.  On other days, a trip to the $6.99/lb Asian takeout bar would be just the ticket.  If I was feeling really frisky, I'd stroll over to the 'gourmet takeout line' and get a lunch meal that came with a heavily-fried main course, and two 'healthy' sides...  deep-fried potatoes and a mayonnaise salad, perhaps.

My gluttonous lunch would satisfy me for all of three minutes.  Eventually, I'd descend back into the depths of my self-imposed hopelessness for the rest of the afternoon.

Part of me wanted to cross the street, tap on this young man's driver's side window, and let him know that things would eventually get better .  But then, I wasn't exactly sure whether or not he was unhappy in the first place.  Perhaps he was simply embroiled in a fleeting moment of passive reflection between text messages.  Or maybe--


I jerked my head around, startled by the menacing hissing sound.  About fifteen feet ahead, a lone Canadian goose stood guard in the middle of the sidewalk, letting me know that I'd entered its territory.

     "KhhhhhhhhiiisssssssSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH," it hissed again.

I paused for a moment before inching forward carefully, not wanting to further disturb the agitated bird.  The goose continued to stand its ground, glaring at me with beady, black eyes.  I stepped off the sidewalk and tiptoed along in the grass, hoping to avoid a confrontation.

As I passed it by, the goose craned its neck forward, flattened his head, and began waddling towards me swiftly.


The goose flattened its neck even lower to the ground and picked up the pace.

I jumped back onto the sidewalk and began move along swiftly, wanting to avoid being eaten by the ornery creature.  I turned around for one last look.  After staring me down for a few more moments, the goose retreated down the embankment and plunged into the retaining pond in front of the office park to the left.

Once I was sure that the threat had dissipated, I resumed my journey and headed towards the next intersection.

Traffic was still fairly sparse, so I jogged across the street and turned right down the next road.

To be continued...

Have a great day, ya miserable old bastard!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pure Evil...

"Tell me, Mr. Crow. What's the best time of day
to go pecking through the compost pile?"

     "Dave...  it's not a big deal."

I didn't say a word as I tensely gripped the steering wheel and tried to focus on the road.  We were moving along steadily in the left lane of bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

     "Honey, everything will be OK.  It will all work out."

I was vaguely aware of the cars whizzing by on our right, but my mind was befuddled in a state of agitated disconnect.

     "Dave, everybody goes through this.  Honey...  "

I glanced down at the stereo display several times, but I was so upset that I wouldn't have been able to tell what time it was, or which radio station was playing.  I probably shouldn't have even been driving, but we were only two miles from home.

     "Dave, my mom has a ton of them.  I mean, she's got a whole purse full.  This makes, what...  TWO for you?"

My wife was trying as best she could to make me feel better about my irresponsible behavior.

     "Is this really bothering you that much?"

     "Yes...  yes it is."

My wife sighed as she took another sip of coffee from her paper cup. 

     "Honey, I'm sorry," I said, slowing to a halt as the Lincoln Navigator in front of me stopped at the red light.  "I know that I shouldn't let it get to me, but...  I can't help it.  It really upsets me...  ya know?"

     "Yes, I know how you don't like to do that," my wife said, trying to console me.  "But you know, you didn't have to do it if you didn't want to.  I wish...  Damn it.  I KNEW I should have brought my license with me...  This is all my fault."

     "Honey, it's not your fault," I said, releasing the clutch and tapping the gas pedal.

The parking lot on our left passed us by, giving way to a Home Depot, followed by Target and Staples.

     "You can't blame yourself," I continued.  "I knew exactly what I was doing at the time...  I just didn't think it would bother me so much.  But, whatever...  it's no big deal.  I mean, we'll use it."

     "Yeah, we will."

     "And...  I mean, we DID save almost thirty-five dollars."

     "Mmm-hmm," my wife agreed, nodding.

     "And I did need the belt...  AND the pants...  "

I was trying as best I could to justify my careless actions.

     "...and the shirt.  Well, the shirt I guess I didn't need...  but it was on sale sooooooo..."

I trailed off, waiting for my wife to reassure me again, but she only took another sip from her cup and remained silent.

As we passed under the Interstate, the knot in my stomach grew even larger.

     "Honey...  Oh my God...  are you sweating AGAIN!?"

     "I know, I KNOW," I said, wiping the dribble of sweat away from my forehead.

The decision that I'd made an hour earlier was one that I swore I'd never entertain...  ever again.  I had done so once before over eight years ago, and the results had been disastrous.  For years after that, I'd remained strong and resisted the urge to succumb to temptation.

But today, I'd been caught completely off guard in a fleeting moment of weakness.  As hard as I tried, I was ultimately unable to resist the urge to relenquish my unsuspecting soul to absolute evil.

I had done it.  Right there in the Kohl's checkout line, I had made the decision to apply for a Kohl's credit card.

What was I thinking?

There's no other way I can say it.  Department store credit cards are the embodiment of unadulterated evil.

On their 'Integrated Scale of Absolute Evil', officials at the Wiener-Hardenburg Institute have currently ranked department store credit cards fourth, just behind Fox News, Monsanto, and Adolf Hitler.  (See Figure 1 down below)

When you carry a department store credit card in your wallet, you're basically trying to give yourself an excuse to spend money...  money that you probably don't have.

There's no justifiable reason whatsoever that anybody should need a separate credit card for a single store...  not one.

You go shopping...  you find something you like...  and you pay for it with cash, a check, or a major credit or debit card.  It should be as simple as that.

Figure 1:  Weiner-Hardenburg Integrated Scale of Absolute Evil

Unfortunately, major department stores have sucked in consumers, giving them reasons to have their store credit cards.

Free shipping...  double rewards points...  all cardholders take an extra 10% off your purchase...  spend over $100 on your store card and get fifteen extra bonus dollars to use on third Tuesdays of the month during the year 2016.

I've managed to stay free of these 'special offers' for most of my adult life, knowing full well that these gimmicks don't save you money.  Instead, they actually get you to spend more money in the long run.

For example, JC Penny may run a special in which I can get $20 off a future purchase by spending at least $100 today on my JC Penny card.  They'll say that by using my card, I'll be saving $20 down the road.

However, I'm smart enough to know that if I just spend $17 on something that I need, instead of $100 on stuff that I may want, but don't really need, I'll be saving $83 in the long run.

This is called common sense.  Unfortunately, many of today's consumers lack common sense.  Instead, they're easily wooed by coupons, sales, special deals, and rewards points.

The other problem with store credit cards is the balances which can all add up really fast.  It's easy to be walking around a department store, see something that you really like, and just put it on that store's credit card without giving it a second thought.

     "Wow...  look at those pre-shredded, scarlet pink, custom-painted, boot-cut, sun-faded jeans.  They're really nice, they're on sale, and they make my left butt cheek look hot and toned.  I don't really need them, but...  oh, what the hell!  I'll just put them on my JC Penny card.  They're only $79.99, right?"

Emperor Palpatine wasn't too happy
about missing the Top 10...  again.
The above incident may seem fairly harmless by itself.  But for shoppers who have ten department store credit cards, these incidents rarely occur in isolation.

After entering ten different department stores on a Saturday afternoon and making ten different purchases of 'only $79.99', these shoppers will have spent well over $800 in less than three hours.  As you can see, the situation can get out of hand very easily.

The only card new card that I've opened up recently is a Sears Card, and that's just so we can take advantage of 'No-Interest Financing' whenever we need to buy a new appliance.

I've been extremely persistant and mostly successful in my efforts to steer clear of store credit cards.

Kohl's presented me with my first serious challenge in about five or six years...  a challenge which I would ultimately fail miserably.

What makes Kohl's different from other department stores where I buy clothes is that they don't typically offer additional sales and specials for non-cardholders.  The clothes and other merchandise in the store might be marked on sale now and then, but you have to use a Kohl's credit card if you want to take advantage of any additional coupons or sales that they advertise in their weekly ads.

Unfortunately, this was the dealbreaker that would make me the shameful carrier of a Kohl's store credit card.

I had no intentions of selling my soul.  I simply needed to make a quick shopping trip to shore up a few minor wardrobe malfunctions.

At the end of March, the hem on the left leg of my black dress pants had started coming apart.  I'd continued to wear them to work, but my wife let me know that I looked slightly sloppy.  I nodded thoughtfully, making note of her observation.

The drama continued into April, when my co-worker Abby pointed out that I might be in the market for a new belt.  I didn't think that there was anything wrong with my current belt, but Abby was adamant that it was a fairly urgent matter.

Fair enough...  I have no problems trusting women when it comes to fashion advice.

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes this past Sunday morning, my wife and I jumped in the car and headed over to Kohl's to look for a new belt and some black dress pants.  I typically get all of my work clothes at JC Penny, but I had seen some pants at Kohl's just a few days earlier that were on sale for a great price.  Plus, we'd have to contend with mall traffic, mall parking, and mall drama if we went to JC Penny.  Kohl's was actually in a stand-alone plaza several miles down the road from the mall, so we wouldn't be dealing with endless networks of mall parking lots, mall traffic lights, and clueless drivers.

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Click HERE to watch this story.  Sounds Fair and Balanced to me...

The shopping part of the trip went without a hitch.  It took me less than five minutes to try on the pants and belt, along with a gray dress shirt that I had pulled off the rack, just to model with the pants.  My wife and I liked the shirt so much that I decided to add it to the purchase pile.  It was one of those shirts that would wear well with a pair of jeans for a casual night out.  Plus, it was marked down to $24.99, from $55.99.  Oh boy!

As we headed towards the front of the store with clothes in hand, I was feeling really good about myself.  But the trouble started when we got to the checkout line.  A sales associate had just opened up another cash register, and he'd called us over to check out.

     "Hey, how are you guys doing today?"

     "We're doing well," my wife replied.  "How 'bout you?"

     "Oh, I'm good.  Did you find everything you needed today?"

     "Yes, we did," I replied.  "Thanks for asking."

Our cashier was pleasant and engaging.  He appeared to be around twenty...  maybe a sophomore in college?  He rang up the shirt and pants and then folded them carefully before placing them in a big Kohl's bag.  Finally, he rang up the belt.

     "Your total today is $93.27," he said, stuffing the belt inside the bag with the pants and shirt.  "Will you be putting this on your Kohl's card today?"

     "Um, I was just going to use my Discover Card, but..."  I trailed off as I studied the price on the computer display.  That seemed like a lot of money for a shirt, pants, and a belt...  especially when two of the three items were allegedly on sale.  But the math added up.

My wife said I needed a new belt.
Frankly, I'm still not sure what
was wrong with the old one.
I was about to reach for my Discover Card when I noticed the alternate figure on the electronic display.  This was the total price of the purchase if we used a Kohl's credit card.  I turned to my wife and uttered the now famous last words.

     "Honey," I said, pointing to the screen.  "This would only cost us $60.88 if we used a Kohl's card.  You have a Kohl's card, don't you?"

     "I actually don't have one," she replied.  "But I've been meaning to get one."

     "You...  don't have a Kohl's card?"  My mouth dropped open.  "How is that possible?"

     "I just...  don't."

I was absolutely stunned.  This particular Kohl's store had just opened over a year ago.  I was under the impression that all women within a fifty mile radius of a new department store automatically received that store's credit card, within days of the grand opening.  How else does one explain women who carry around a purse full of forty or more store credit cards.  Could this actually be by choice?  There was no other possible explanation.

I looked from my wife back to my wallet.  I paused for a moment before foolishly making eye contact with the young cashier.

     "Ya know," he began, tenting his fingers at sternum level.  "You could apply for a Kohl's card and receive over thirty-five dollars off today's purchase..."

     "I, uh..."

     "...receive your card in the mail within ten days, you'd be eligible to begin all sorts of great Kohl's benefits..."

     "Wait, please let me..."

     "...all sort of coupons to take advantage as one of our valued cardholders..."

     "Honey, help me out he--"

     "...can add your wife to the account anytime."

"Why didn't I make the Top 10!?" 
I felt like I had been punched in the face.  I turned to my wife for assistance, but she wasn't offering any on this particular day.  I looked over my shoulder and noticed that the line behind us was growing.

     "Wait," I blurted out frantically, trying desperately to avoid applying for credit.  "I, um...  have a question."

     "Certainly, sir," an ominous voice replied.

I gasped in horror as I turned back towards the cash register.  Standing behind the checkout counter was a red demon with glistening eyes, a pair of horns, and a row of razor-sharp fangs.  A seedy smile tugged visciously at the corners of his mouth.  He wore a charcoal-colored cloak which shrouded the rest of his body, save for his bony, red hands and a long, pointy tail, which he waved back and forth above his head.  He carried a long, slender trident in his left hand.

     "I...  I, uh...  Even if we don't have a Kohl's card, we can still take advantage of the sales and specials that you have in your weekly flyer...  right?"

     "Unfortunately, most of the weekly deals that we advertise are only valid...  IF...  you use your Kohl's card."  The demon growled at me, gesturing towards the Kohl's credit display with his gleaming trident.

I threw up in my mouth.  He had already referred to it as your Kohl's card, even though he knew damn well that we didn't yet have a Kohl's card.  I knew that our souls had been compromised.  I turned to my wife and relented.  I was frightened for my life.  I just wanted to get out of there.

     "OK, Honey...  Go ahead...  Apply for a Kohl's card."  I sighed, as I felt my shoulders slump forward.  I began toeing the floor listlessly with the end of my shoe.

     "Dave...  I don't have any identification with me," she responded calmly...  almost too calmly.  "You said... that I could just leave it at home since you were driving...  Remember?"

My lower jaw started moving up and down, but no words came out.  Slowly, I looked up from the ends of my shoes, to the my hands resting on the checkout counter, and finally back up to the demon who stood before me.  His eyes were glowing in a nauseating shade of scarlet red.

     "Sir," he hissed.  "Do you have any...  identification...  with you today?"

I gulped, as I nodded my head up and down.

     "Out--STANDing...  All we'll need is a credit or debit card from your bank...  to verify your personal information..."  He paused to wipe the drool from his fangs.  "...and electronically ruin, er--  PULL your credit."

I looked at my wife one last time.

     "It's OK...  Dave," she said, nodding her head up and down in a sickening, robotic fashion.  "Go ahead...  We'll use it...  all the time...  Everything is...  going to be...  alright."

     "OK," I said, trying my best to compose myself.  I took a deep breath.  "Alright...  "

     "Good...  Gooooooood...  We're ready to begin," the demon cackled, rubbing his hands together.  "Now...  hand over your Driver's License...  and a credit card from your bank."

I fumbled through my wallet for my license and credit card and set them on the counter in front of the demon.  He snatched them up and began typing at the keyboard.

     "Type your Social Security Number into the keypad in front of you and press 'Enter'...  Do it now."

I did as I was told.  After pressing 'Enter', a prompt flashed across the screen asking me to confirm what I'd typed.  I verified that the number that I'd keyed in was correct.  As I pressed 'Enter' a second time, I noticed that two other Kohl's employees had started stacking old boxes and other paper scraps in a pile behind the demon.  Their eyes were green and filled with mucous, and they spoke to each other in gibberish.

     "Type your total household income into the keypad and press 'Enter'...  Do it now.

Really, I have nothing else to add. 
Again, I obeyed the demon's command.  The two employees were still adding scraps to the pile of garbage, which was now almost four feet high.  After adding a large, crumpled up wad of packing paper, one of the employees struck a match and lit the crumpled wad on fire.

As the flames spread slowly throughout the pile, the demon continued to lead me through the application, prompting me to enter my personal information into the keypad in front of me while he processed the application on his checkout computer.  I was alarmed at how easy it was for a credit application to be processed with just a valid Driver's License and a few taps of 'Enter' at the keypad.

     "SOON, YOU'LL BE MINE, er--  we're almost finished," croaked the demon, as he waved his pointed, red tail back and forth in menacing fashion.  "I just need you to sign on the electronic display above the keypad...  right now."

I grasped the electronic pen between my shaking fingers and turned to look at my wife one last time.

      "Go ahead, Darling...  Sign it...  It's for the best..."  She pointed towards the electronic display above the keypad.  "Sign it, Darling...  You'll be glad you did..."

     "SIGN THE BLOODY APPLICATION, MISERABLE WORM!" roared the demon.  He spat at me and hissed, baring his pointy fangs.

I shrieked like a five year-old girl and hastily scribbled my name on the small display.  As I clicked 'Enter', I noticed another Kohl's employee approaching from the Men's Department.  She was dragging a fully-clothed male mannequin towards the towering inferno, which was raging behind the demon.  The mannequin was adorned with a tight black t-shirt with the web address printed across the front.

     "Burn it," ordered the demon, as he raised his scarlet, bony finger towards the fire.  "BURN IT NOW!"

     "Burn it now," my wife echoed in a distant voice, nodding her head.  "Burn it now...  burn it now...  burn it now...  burn it now..."

I watched in horror as the the female employee hoisted the unfortunate mannequin above her head and heaved it into the roaring flames.

The demon cackled madly as the mannequin began to burn.  All of the other cashiers had gathered around the fire and started to chant.  After a few moments, they began dancing in a circle around the flames.


     "Um, I..."  I pressed my palms to the side of my head, as the room began to spin.

     "SIR, DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS!?" the demon roared again.

     "Ohhhhhhhhhhh...  It burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrns!" I wailed, as the heat from the roaring fire began melting my skin.  "It...  BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNS!"



     "SWEETHEART!" roared my wife, slapping me hard across the face.  "THE DEMON ASKED YOU A QUESTION!"  She slapped me again with a nasty backhand.


     "HIT HIM AGAIN!" roared the demon.

     "SWEETHEART, YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!" my wife screamed.  She slapped me a third time, sending me to the floor in a crumpled heap.

     "TAKE IT BACK!" I wailed, doubled over in agony.  "PLEASE...  I WANT MY CREDIT BACK!"

     "QUESTIONS...   NO QUESTIONS...  ANY QUESTIONS...  --any questions.  Sir, do you have any questions?"

     "Honey, are you OK?  Do you have any questions?  Honey...  "

I opened my eyes and stared down at the checkout counter for several moments.  My head was cradled between my hands.  I look up and turned to my right towards the sound of my wife's voice.

     "Honey, are you all set?"

     "Sir, your card will arrive in the mail in about a week.  Here's a packet of information about your new Kohl's card.  Did you have any questions?"

I looked up at the young man who was standing behind the counter.  He was holding out a packet with my new account information.

     "Um...  no," I said, taking the packet from him.  "I think I'm all set.  Thanks a lot."

     "No problem," said the young man, as he gestured towards the next customer in line.  "Thanks for shopping at Kohl's.  Have a great day."

     "You too," said my wife, as she grabbed my arm and lead me briskly out of the store.

Out in the parking lot, my legs felt slightly woozy.  I had to slow down just a bit.

     "Are you OK?  You looked like you were about to pass out in there."

     "Yeah, I'm fine," I said, taking a deep breath.  "I was just trying to think of any other way we could use their coupons without getting another credit card."

     "Honey, it's just a store credit card.  Sheesh, you act like it's the end of the world."

     "I just don't like store credit cards," I said.  "Not one bit.  Nothing good can come from them...  ever."

My wife continued to chuckle until we were both in the car with our seatbelts fastened.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I felt a sudden chill radiate from the back of my neck all the way down my spine.  I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the red demon in the charcoal-colored cloak standing by the entrance to the store, waving his trident back and forth.

After a few moments, a crowd of Kohl's employees poured out of the store and surrounded the demon on both sides.  They all began to wave...  in unison.  My heart jumped, as I quickly shifted my view back to the road in front of me.

     "Honey...  are you sweating?"

OMG the only evil I smell around here is
all this damn rain we've been having MOL!