The Joy of Pets

By: Stacy Thompson

I’ve been a rescue mom for many years now, and I have brought into my family too many dogs, cats, hermit crabs, fish, gerbils, etc to count. Anyone who has ever had a pet may have multiple reasons for sharing their space with something other than a plant or a human, but know that there are many more reasons to get a pet, beyond the obvious:

  • Pre-wash—No need to rinse a plate when a slobbering tongue can take care of it!
  • Electric blanket—Mounds of fur much warmer and cuddlier than anything requiring a plug!
  • An ear…but no mouth—Pour your heart out with no judgment and no talking back!
  • Alarm clock — Best way to wake up in the morning!
  • Alarm system — To secure the perimeter and warn of impending doom (real or imagined!)
  • Foul weather warning—Retreat to the walk-in closet when the clouds appear!
  • A reminder to take naps—We all should take naps, multiple naps…
  • Validation that sometimes just walking back into a room is an event—Even if you just left two minutes ago.
  • Knowledge that there is pure joy in simply running around a yard…not to reach a destination, but because it’s there.
  • Reminder that even though that squirrel may never be caught, it can still be chased— or, although some goals may never be realized, they can still be chased.
  • Unconditional love

Tailgate Withdrawal

By: Stacy Thompson

For those that may be concerned about my lack of recent posts and a lack of sports-related themes…fear not!! I am merely a victim of TWS (Tailgate Withdrawal Syndrome) — a very real affliction that will likely play itself out in 120 days (or so). If you think someone you know may suffer from this same illness, read the warning signs below and have them contact me to assist in my endeavor to form a meaningful support group…

  1. You watch the sun come up over Williams-Brice Stadium from your tailgating spot and wonder why your friends are running so late…in May.
  1. You sit in your fold-out chair under your Gamecock tent on Saturday morning drinking a cold one and eating chili…at 8:00 a.m.
  1. You begin purchasing family-sized bags of Tostitos scoops during the week…and large quantities of mayo…and jumbo-sized bags of shredded cheese…
  1. You begin to tear up and jump up and down when you hear Sandstorm or cry like a baby and break out in goose-bumps when you hear 2001.
  1. You obsessively troll the food.com, recipes.com and cook.com websites for new ideas to fit with your tailgate theme menus for the upcoming season (which you already have marked on your calendar with the preceding day off to execute your masterpiece of a menu).
  1. You view utensils, food receptacles and serving ware at Target only for their value in terms of tailgate utility and aesthetic.
  1. You pack and unpack your car with tailgate gear, with the same rhythm and grace as a Nascar pit crew…while timing yourself to achieve maximum efficiency and speed.
  1. Your ears perk instantly when you hear the words “tail” and “gate”…even when used in a derogatory fashion to describe your rear-end’s inability to pass through an entryway (you may have to talk this one through, but eventually you’ll get it).
  1. You make large quantities of appetizers and sweets…just because.
  1. You watch and re-watch most every game from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 football seasons…remembering not only the grandeur that is college football but the amazing food and camaraderie that was had by all.

See you all soon!

A Letter from USC Gamecock Fans

By: Stacy Thompson

As I sit here only a few hours removed from an impulsive trip to Madison Square Garden and only a few minutes removed from watching Dawn Staley lead our Gamecock women’s basketball team to another Final Four, I can’t help but think of Frank Martin’s open letter to South Carolina fans following an improbable win over legendary Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. The letter (if you haven’t seen it, please take the time to read it as it is everything that is good about college athletics) was heartfelt and heart wrenching, as it paid homage to long-suffering Gamecock fans and gave insight on the soul of a winner.  As soon as I read it, and because I’m a lawyer, I immediately thought of counter-points and arguments to convince Frank that he should not be thanking us, but instead, we should be thanking him.  And Frank is not the only one who earned our appreciation, but the missive below pertains to Frank, Dawn, Coach Tanner, Dr. Pastides and the other generally nameless, but vital, cogs in the wheel of Gamecock athletics.

Dear Frank and Dawn:

How’s everybody feeling?

Yeah, we’re feeling pretty darn good too. In the past 30 hours, much of the nation learned what I have known since moving here 39 years ago—what we have here in Columbia is very special. And recently, we happen to play some pretty good basketball (ask Duke, and Florida, and Florida State, and, well, I could go on…)

This didn’t just happen, and South Carolina basketball hasn’t always been so good. Frank, when you said this I thought back to the years of watching really good teams lose out in the first round to Coppin State, to days when the women’s team was only an afterthought, and to days when the best entertainment to be found was Cocky precariously hanging from a rope in the rafters to complete a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen dunk. Time and time again we were given hope that this year would be our “Wait ‘Till Next Year”-year only to fall short and be overjoyed with 2 NIT titles. Not to say that those titles were not hard-fought and earned, but falling short as a Gamecock fan became too much of the norm and reduced our dreams to little more than being satisfied with a win over that team from the Upstate and avoiding a forty point loss to the cellar-dweller of the SEC.

Yes, we are special for many reasons — we are 13th in the nation for attendance at the men’s games and 1st (2 years running) in attendance at the women’s games — not a fluke that this has happened given the outstanding product on the floor you both provide to all that enter Colonial Life Arena.

Frank, in your letter you cite three things you want from your fans — our time, our money and our passion. From a fan perspective, let me say that all we want are the same three things from you and your teams —

1) Your time — I have played collegiate ball and know the commitment and dedication it takes, so thank you for your time and thank your teams for the time they spend not only in practice, but in the weight room and study hall as well as the time not spent with family and friends in the pursuit of excellence on the court.

2) Your money — Let’s be honest, Frank and Dawn (as well as Ray, Dr. Pastides and scores of others within the athletic department) could make more elsewhere, and are worth more than they are actually paid. We are lucky to have them and should continue the trend of making sure that Gamecock Nation makes not only the best choice from the heart, but the wallet as well.

3) Your passion — Having been a fan all these years, and having received three degrees from this university, there is no doubt as to where my loyalty and passion lie. But you, Frank and Dawn, came here with no known ties, no reason to support us and without any inkling of the challenges that were ahead of you in basically building programs from the ground up. The fact that you both have embraced, encouraged and relished in the passion of our fan base is not lost on Gamecock Nation. We love you for it and we will continue to support you because of it.

Frank, you said you told your players the following: “If you want to get better, if you’re willing to listen and if you’re honest and fearless about how hard you want to work and how good you want to be, then playing for me will be a whole lot of fun.”

Frank, Dawn, Ray, Dr. Pastides et al: We want to get better, we are so willing to listen and we are absolutely fearless about hard we want to work. The past few weeks have been a whole lot of fun…here is hoping that the next weekend is as well. Good luck in Dallas and Phoenix!

Netflix Binge, Anyone?

By: Stacy Thompson

every-woman-blog-favorite-tv-shows

So while our weather in the Midlands is pretty awesome, and I’ll be the first to encourage everyone to make the most of our trails and parks, I’ll also admit that in the event of inclement weather, the tube may be a fun way to pass the time and relive or discover some TV gems.

I love a good list — and I love a good sitcom and family drama — so, if you’re looking for something to entertain your family, or just pass the time, consider the following shows…

  1. The Wonder Years: Watching kids dealing with real-life issues based in a time when I was just beginning my life (literally) made for must-see-TV for my parents and my brothers. Kevin, Winnie, Paul…you handled the bullies, the heartbreak and the triumphs that we all felt or wished we had.
  2. Arrested Development: Nothing like a completely dysfunctional family to make you feel a little more functional. There are too many quotable lines and subtle jokes to name, just enjoy!
  3. Roseanne: Speaking of dysfunctional…
  4. The West Wing: Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett and company were witty, quippy, fast-paced, big-hearted and ethical. An entertaining leader of the free world with problems solved in an hour long episode? May not be realistic, but it’s certainly appealing!
  5. Cheers: An entire show set in a bar? Never leaving the bar? Only an engaging cast and the rollercoaster romance of Sam and Diane could keep us coming back to the place where everyone knows our name.
  6. The Office: Anyone who has ever worked in an office, or been in an office, or dealt with a boss can totally relate to the world of Dunder Mifflin — and to the desire to smack Pam upside the head to tell her to “just kiss Jim already!!” and to encase a co-worker’s stapler in jello.
  7. The Andy Griffith Show:  No explanation needed.
  8. Friday Night Lights: Family drama built around one of my favorite things — football — with incredible acting and true-to-life plots.
  9. Friends: One of my all-time favorites — and as an aside, don’t ever challenge me to a trivia contest when it comes to my Central Perk buddies, Lincoln High survivors, former Janice-lovin’, “The List”-makin’ folks who lived, laughed and loved for a decade. “I’ll Be There For You” still gets me going!

What are your favorite shows?

Superbowl Snacks

By: Stacy Thompson

Football

At the writing of this blog, I may be really, really happy about the competitors involved in Super Bowl LI (if it’s the Packers/Patriots) or just looking forward to a good game. But for many people, the biggest game in the National Football League doesn’t signify the game between the two best teams, but something much greater, much more lasting. Not just the commercials, my friends, but the food served before, during and after the big event!

Ideal Super Bowl commercials generally include a monkey, kid or Clydesdales (Career Builder/Monkey Office, The Force/Mean Joe Green/Like a Girl, and pretty much every Budweiser commercial ever, most of all the post-911 tribute). The commercials keep us in our seats through the breaks in play and sometimes are more entertaining than the game itself. Regardless, the food can bring a good game home or take minds off of the fact that the next football competition is many, many Sundays away…

So, without further ado, here are some suggestions for your Super Bowl menu:

CRISP AND SPICY SNACK MIX

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crisscross of corn and rice cereal (such as Crispix)
  • 1 cup tiny pretzel twists or sticks
  • 1/2 cup wheat crackers (such as Wheat Thins)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar crackers (such as Cheez-It)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon ginger stir-fry sauce (such as Lawry’s)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250º.
  2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Combine butter, stir-fry sauce, powder, cumin, and salt; drizzle over cereal mixture, tossing to coat. Spread mixture into a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250º for 30 minutes or until crisp, stirring twice.

HOT ARTICHOKE – CHILI DIP

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chili peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Triscuit crackers or tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl stir together artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise and chopped chili peppers. Transfer artichoke mixture to a casserole dish.
  2. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven about 20 minutes. Top with shredded parmesan cheese and broil until browned.
  3. Serve warm with crackers or tortilla chips.

CHILI RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (season with salt/pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 large green pepper diced
  • 1/2 large red pepper diced
  • 1 can rotel – Mexican flavored diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can dark beer
  • 4 tablespoons ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 square Bakers unsweetend chocolate
  • Garnish—sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions
  • Serve with or without rice

Directions:

  1. Brown beef, peppers, and onion. Drain off any grease.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Add the beans last.
  3. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to VERY low.
  4. Cook with the lid off for an hour. Then cook 1 hour with the lid on. Can be cooked in a slow cooker on low heat for 2 hours.

Want That Last-Minute Gift?

By: Stacy Thompson

So if you are anything like me, you have absolutely no time and no inclination to visit a mall, store or shopping venue at this time of year — but you want more than anything to give a perfect gift or something useful to those you love. Well, I can’t promise the perfect gift, but I can give you a guide to making, yes, making, a personalized, comfy and cozy present for anyone on your list. I give you…the No Sew Throw.

no sew throwThere are many videos on YouTube that can help you on your quest (and I recommend searching them before you start) but here are some tips to get you started:

  • Buy 2 yards each of patterned and solid fleece (or 1 1/2 if you want a smaller throw) from your local craft store (Michael’s, Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.).
  • Pick out your patterned fleece first and buy the solid to match. I had a great time with this and took some really wild patterned fleece and toned it down with solids. You could also use two solids, but with different types of fleece — ultra-soft and heavier fleece may work well together.
  • Trim the fleece and pin together, right sides out. Make sure the fabric matches up and pin together to keep it from bunching or overlapping.
  • Cut out corners — Usually 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 squares on each corner. (See the photo.)
  • Cut 1-inch-wide strips.
  • Then, there are a few different ways to go with the ties.
    • Knotted ties
      • Cut 4 x 4 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 4 inch long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Tie the two fabrics together, twice – make sure the knots are secure
    • Threaded tie
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips near the top of the strip, on each strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip. (You can feed through one more time if you want to—it depends on how you want your throw to look.)
    • Braided tie.
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips in the middle of the strip, on each strip.
      • Starting in the middle of one side, feed the right side strips through the left side strips. Continue to feed the right side through the left side until completion.

Finish your throw with either knots or by sewing in buttons or other ties — and then, sit back and enjoy the smiles! Free to contact me (stacyt11@hotmail.com) if you need some help.

Happy Holidays everyone — and I look forward to seeing you all in 2017!!

Cheering On the Underdogs

By: Stacy Thompson

chicago-cubs

Once a year this Gamecock fan goes on a local radio program with an equally-passionate female Clemson fan to talk about the year ahead for our respective football teams. My cohort and I don’t speak of uniform colors, discuss what to wear to games or swap tailgate recipes (though I love a good dip or three!), but instead tout the strength of our lines, critique coaching staffs and herald our playmakers on either side of the ball. We relish the opportunity to give guidance to our non-football-lovin’ (male or female) listeners as we pass along phrases to repeat during the game that will convince all armchair Monday-morning quarterbacks that you know your stuff, including:

“The game is won or lost at the line of scrimmage.”

“The coach should utilize the tight ends more.”

“That player (after an astounding catch or run) just has incredible vision and a motor that won’t quit.”

“The ref clearly swallowed the whistle” (on a big play by the other team) or “good non-call” (if the play goes your way).

I love football, and frankly, all sports and sporting competitions. For this reason, although I am not a dedicated enthusiast of Major League Baseball (or even much of a casual fan beyond the World Series), I was immersed in the battle between two long-suffering franchises, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. Part of me was rooting for Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn and Willie Mayes Hayes (see the movie ‘Major League’ to get the reference) to appear for the Indians, but mostly I was holding my breath with countless long-suffering Cubbies to end the 108 year drought and win a title.

In sports, we always love an underdog–a David vs. Goliath face off, nerd vs. popular jock showdown, a lovable loser. We root for the little guy not because we don’t want to see one overwhelming and dominating force, but because we feel like, hey, if that team/competitor with a clear disadvantage can overcome the odds to win, so can we. This year the Cubs were the best in baseball, both during the season and ultimately in the post-season, but they still had to overcome a supposed ‘curse’ to prevail–a curse that was, by most accounts, uttered by a slighted tavern owner who was turned away at the gate because he couldn’t bring his smelly goat into the ballpark. Yes, you read that right–a dude couldn’t bring an odorous farm animal into a public place and the end result was a team that could not win the final prize for 108 years. Whether the story was truth or fiction, it was the scapegoat (pun intended) for many near-misses and missed opportunities. Well, regardless, the curse is done and now most fans are now seeking out that next ‘best-to-never-win-it-all’ to cheer on.

The best and the worst thing about sports competition is that there has to be a winner, which naturally means there also has to be a loser. Learning to do either gracefully is the real takeaway in life, but watching the battle unfold can be reality TV at its best. Seeing players giving “110 percent” and “leaving it all on the field” may be cliche, but reminds us all that efforts don’t go unrewarded–even with the curse of a rejected smelly goat.

Congrats Chicago, and congrats Cleveland–you guys provided entertainment and hope for all us long-suffering fans of the underdog!