Friday, September 11, 2015

SYNC is Sunk - A Mac and Cheese Challenge?

I am sorry to report that there is something General Motors has that I want installed in my Ford Escape: 


Right now, my boys and I are in the Escape, traveling to Bradenton for a special martial arts event. This is my new baby's first long trip since coming into my care, and I wanted to be prepared, so Rob signed her up with SYNC, Ford's answer to GM's OnStar. And what a wrong answer it turned out to be!

With OnStar, you get a live person who helps you with any number of travel-related issues.  This was particularly helpful when our Chevy Sonic was hit by a deer with a death wish while we were headed north on I-75 on the way to another martial arts event in Perry.  It was dark and deserted and we could not find a sign or landmark to pass on to AAA so we could be located.  Once we called OnStar, the operator located us by GPS, connected us on a 3-way to AAA, explained the situation to AAA and made sure the tow truck operator knew where to pick us up.

With SYNC, you get a computer-generated voice. The computer is hearing-impaired, and can only pick up voices from the driver's side of the car. When I am wearing my navigator's hat, I am usually sitting in the front passenger seat, so this may be a problem.  Voices with a New York accent seem to confuse it. Fortunately Cory was raised in Florida and sounds it, but I can't shlep him along every time I think I might need to use the system. Overall, it is a clumsy system to use, almost as hopeless as our old TomTom unit, code name "Mandy." You may recall that Mandy tried to send us into the Arkansas River, and refused to learn our preference for John Young Parkway over South Orange Blossom Trail, and had otherwise made a number of spectacularly poor navigating choices.  Mandy is in a drawer somewhere, but if we ever make it back to Little Rock I am going to take her along, and throw her into the Arkansas River.

We do get 20 operator assisted calls with our SYNC subscription, but I did not want to blow even one of them on an easy trip going one way on I-4 and then another way on I-75.  Next time we are headed somewhere new or distant, I'll try the operator service; if it is good, I'll look into possibly expanding the services under our subscription, which is currently quite a bit less expensive than OnStar.  Until then, in my opinion, SYNC is sunk.                   

I am not going to be cooking this evening as I expect to get home fairly late, which is to say, past my bedtime.  I do have to finish baking the hermit cookies (what you saw in the photo was the first and only batch, hurriedly baked just in time to take a picture before tumbling into the car for a long ride which is beginning to hurt my back) but that is as far as my plans go.  I got clam cakes and crab claws; what else could I possibly need? The boys are in even better shape with meatloaf, manicotti, mock choux and chicken.  Leftovers are cool.

I did come across a cooking opportunity which piqued my interest, however, and I may take it seriously. On September 26, Vintage Vino is sponsoring a macaroni and cheese challenge.  In all the years I've been cooking, and talking about cooking, and writing about cooking, I have never entered a cooking contest.  It is very local - Vintage Vino is tucked between Three Sisters and Savion's Place on Dakin Avenue, which means they are next to the parking garage for my (former) office building. Very very VERY local.  Part of the proceeds go to a local children's charity - I like that.    

The down side is that participants must prepare enough food for 100 tasters. That requires filling two large chafing dish trays, which is the equivalent of four of the aluminum baking dishes I always use, with macaroni and cheese.  That's a lot of food, but even more, it's a lot of cooking, a lot of time, and a lot of standing on my feet.  Which is why I have to give this a lot of thought.  I've got the perfect recipe, but do I have the energy and fortitude to carry it through?  

In the meantime, despite SYNC's best efforts to route us to Tampa by way of Sea World, we have landed at Dojo Martial Arts in Bradenton, and my boys are already involved in the seminar.  Grown men smacking at and blocking each other, oy.  They enjoy it, and Robert has taken a number of sparring awards over the years at ATA competitions, including 2007 World Champion in his age category.  I despise sparring -  I do like taekwando forms (poomsae)  and don't mind weapons, but I hate sparring and ground fighting with a passion.

First, I dislike rolling around on the floor with anyone I'm not married to, men or women.  I've never liked anyone invading my personal space or touching me; I am inordinately modest and overly self-conscious. I don't like other people's sweat dripping on me, and I certainly do not want to offend them with bodily fluids of my own. Before class I always took the time to clean up and deodorize, but
some people are not so considerate, and I had enough of bad breath and body odor while riding the subways to last me a lifetime.  I know, I'm a bit of a diva, but even more than that, I don't like to be hit. Getting struck with hands brings back bad memories.  Neither Robert nor Cory share my hang-ups, so they are happily hitting and being hit.  Me, I'm just along for the ride, and I've had some awesome rides in the last 10 years - lots of road trips to cities I would not have otherwise seen, so that the boys could compete.  Time for lots of knitting - so many pairs of socks knit on the road to Little Rock, Atlanta, Perry, Miami, Panama City and even Dallas.  Discovering new places to eat, the best part of road trips. Good times, good times.

This dojo is not ATA (American Taekwando Association) but part of the World Warrior Alliance: "Many Arts, One Goal, Many Paths". In addition to being high-ranking black belts, Rob and Cory also happen to be studying jiu jitsu, and their instructor is here as well. I'm curious as to how many martial art disciplines are represented here.  It's an interesting approach, one that is becoming more popular.

"Get his eyes, his eyes - show me how to break his elbow - break his jaw - cut him down." Interesting instructions. "This is how you break his neck and rip out his esophagus at the same time." Oof - these guys don't kid around!

While the men are working on their ground fighting skills, I have a table to sit at and no one is crowding me, and if I had a cup of Wawa pumpkin spice coffee and one of those Lady Hermit cookies, life would be good.  I like what the instructor is saying - "martial arts is physical, mental and spiritual."   It's true - trust me, I'm a black belt in taekwando. No, really I am. Please stop laughing.        

Here's my advice to all you parents - send your kids for martial arts training. It's a cold, cruel world out there. Women, too - I can defend myself if I have to. I may have fibromyalgia, but I've got two thumbs and a cane and I know how to use them.

At the end of the seminar, Rob and Cory are inducted into the WWA. Very nice.

So we finally started back home and I finally got my one-for-the-road pumpkin spice coffee at Wawa. None of my Lady Hermit cookies are available but I did snag a bag of hummus chips and a mini Chips Ahoy. For me, that's a fine dinner indeed.


  1. This is great. Wish I had been there. And I do not mind rolling around with sweaty guys. It is definitely not exciting in the way most might. I just love the fight. Fun fun. Hugs. Feel better. Getting old is definitely not for babies!

  2. Hi, Ms. West, glad you stopped by. I think you would have enjoyed this seminar too,