The night the fire alarm tried to kill me

Sunday night I did not sleep.  At all.

I clearly recall looking despondently over at the clock at half past six 0’clock in the bloody morning and wondering if there was a way to smash time itself into a million little pieces, because I simply could not accept that it was nearly time to get up for work and I had not slept a wink.

Not even half a wink.

I think I may  have even shook my little fist at the clock right then and there, swollen half-closed eyes and all.

Alarm clock on nightstand in bedroom

And how, you may ask, did I find myself in such a grim situation?  Well, to begin, I really must warn you that this is not a tale of my best moment. It’s not even a tale of a sort-of-ok-Jen-moment.  This is a tale of one of those moments for which sitcom writers live for but no one actually thinks could happen to a real live person.

I’m here to tell they do, and I am one of them.

It was already fairly late when I finally crawled into bed that night, and the idea of a good night’s sleep was sort of consuming my mind. The eyes were beginning to close on their own, which I had absolutely no objection to other than the fact that I still needed them in order to actually get to my bed. I happen to be blessed with one of the most delicious beds in the universe, and it normally takes me all but 4 seconds to drift into the sort of sleep that can be disturbed by nothing less than a 6.1 earthquake.

I know this, because I’ve slept through a 6.0.

Anyway, that gives you an idea of how easily sleep normally comes for me and how tired I was this particular night. I fall into my pillow, breathe a deep sigh and..


What the..?

I open one eye and look around for what sounds like a fire alarm before I realize you can’t actually see sounds with your eyes.

Oh yes.

I get up and walk into the hall, one hand on the wall and the other upon Bear’s back, trying to fight the klutz in me and not end up on the floor. I turn on the light and squint up at my fire alarm just as the unpleasant sound tears through the house again.


By now it’s clear to me that the sound I’m hearing is a dying fire alarm, alerting someone to replace it’s batteries, lest it torment every living creature within a five-mile radius of its placement. It’a incredibly sharp, loud, and so obnoxious it makes fingernails on chalkboards seem like child’s play. (I guess that is what you want to get people out of bed during a fire)

It’s also clear that the fire alarm above my head is not the one complaining.

Well crap, I’m in deep doo doo.  (only I don’t say ‘crap’ and I don’t say ‘doo doo’)

I cover bear’s ears and apologize to the wall for my french.

As I make my way back to my bed the thing goes off again


This time it sort of makes me jump, and fortunately I’m close enough to my bed to land in it.  I lie there for a second staring at the ceiling, wondering where it’s coming from and why the *bleep* doesn’t someone fix it.


Then I remember that I recently saw the couple upstairs moving out. It must be their’s, which means it’s in a vacant apartment, which means I’m screwed.  I turn gloomily over in bed, realizing there is nothing I can do about it tonight and will have to figure out a way to sleep through it.


At first it’s the beeping itself that keeps me up, jolting me awake just as I begin to drift off.  After about an hour of this my brain begins to anticipate the dreadful sound, and I find myself lying there waiting for it in horror because it’s even worse having that sound tear through one’s head unexpectedly.  I start to feel like this must be some sort of twisted torture and wonder if I’ll ever escape it.

I try everything I can think of. Cover my head with pillows, blast Civalias on my ipod, I even turn on the bedroom TV to drown out the sound. But tis all for naught, I cannot escape the harrowing, ghastly beep. Not for a minute, not even for a second.

I feel like Pheobe on Friends in that episode with the inescapable fire alarm where she ends up smashing it to smithereens.  I certainly would do likewise if I had thing in my hand.



And thus I spend my night, staring at the ceiling waiting for the next horrid screech to sound out. I start to wonder how cold it is on my back porch and if remember where my sleeping bag is.  My dogs lie next to me, as disturbed as I at this point; wide-eyed, confused, and so tired I think they might be delirious. They start randomly barking and whining at nothing every few minutes or so, turning their heads in a most unnatural fashion.  It doesn’t matter now, we’re all pretty much screwed.

And this is when I turn over and see that it is half past six o’clock. In the morning. I feel very strange knowing that I will soon be expected to get up and go to work.


The thought of this makes me laugh out-loud, the sort of laugh borne of madness which only lends itself to rash, irrational behavior. It is at this moment something inside me sort of breaks, and the fear of the dreaded beep is overridden by an enormously powerful need to sleep. I say one last word to the fire alarm, wherever it may be, text my assistant that I will be late coming in, and drift into an hour of beautiful slumber. I wake up to a return text reminding me that I have an appointment in 30 minutes and jump out of bed to get to work.

God bless my assistant.

I do not need to tell you that this particular Monday does not turn out to be my finest. No, not by a long-shot.  I imagine if someone had followed me around with a video camera all day they would have had themselves some hearty entertainment.  By the end of the day I am utterly spent and I, thinking someone must have reported the fire alarm by now in some adjacent room, step back into my apartment.


Words. Lots of  bad words come out of my mouth.

And then, suddenly, I remember something. Something terrifying.  Did I, at one time, have a second fire alarm? A carbon monoxide detector?  I go over to the hallway where the sound has been coming from and turn my gaze towards the hall closet. I begin pulling out storage boxes and emptying their contents on the floor, half-hoping I won’t find what I’m searching for.  It’s at that moment I see it.

And here is the horrible, awful, really bad part. That alarm that kept me up all last night? Yeah, that was mine.

There before me sits the second fire alarm and it’s wretched beeping. About 6 months ago my complex had replaced the carbon monoxide alarm I had been using plugged into the wall with a newer, regulated one.  Thus I had stashed the old one without knowing it had a battery in it.

Wow Jen, wow. For SHAME.

The only person I am brave enough to tell my story to was my assistant Katie.  Her response was, and I quote, “Bahahahahahahahahaha, this absolutely made my night”
Well, at least someone’s night was made, because that’s one I’ll never get back.

When you give a dog a blanket…

The other day I made the timeless and irrevocable mistake of allowing my Great Dane up on the bed for the first time.  I had been sick in bed most of the day, having come home from work at noon with a stomach that had decided to wage war against me.  It had every reason to, I suppose, I had given it chicken that, as it turns out, was not quite edible.

I told you I should never cook.

In any case, after sleeping for a few hours, I turned over in bed and glanced across the room to find my dog’s big brown droopy eyes staring back at me.  Feeling rather chilly and sorry for myself at this point, and finding his company even more comforting than usual, I had the very ill-advised idea of calling him up on the bed.


At the time, it seemed an entirely sensible thing to do. For one, he’d never been on the bed before because I had taught him it was off limits.

Poor dog.

Secondly, why wouldn’t I allow a warm, cozy 160lb teddy bear up to keep me warm and comfort my soul? And lastly, well, I was sort of  bored and thought it would be cool.

Cool, you say? Yes, well, if cool is having a bed that is now part Great Dane, yes yes, it was a very cooooool idea.

I can’t deny it was rather delightful having him up there with me while I slept. He was warm and cozy, and did clumsy little things with his paws on the bed to make me laugh. He knew he was being allowed to be someplace special, because it took me five minutes to get him to jump up there to begin with, and once he did he just collapsed on his stomach and laid perfectly still for a good ten minutes, all starry-eyed and awestruck.  It was as if he was afraid if he moved he might break the spell.

But now, of course I can’t keep him off. Oh, he won’t dare jump up there when I’m in the room. Oh no, he waits till I leave work and returns to his bed on the floor when he hears my car pull up. It’s become his little forbidden obsession, and he still thinks I don’t know what he’s doing.


I’m sorry my friend, but when I make the bed before I leave only to find blankets pulled off, pillows re-arranged, and a nice warm spot in the center of the bed, you appear about as innocent as a kitten with a milk mustache.


And when I do catch him lying upon the outlawed, delicious place, he sort of freezes and stares at me, as if that somehow makes him invisible.



Why I’m afraid of recipes and how to make a Chimichanga

So you’ve probably figured out by now I’m not much of a cook. I am, in fact, the furthest thing from that term I can think of.  If you look up the word ‘chef’ in the dictionary I imagine ‘Jen’ would be listed as it’s antonym.

Ok, so I’m being a little bit hard on myself here, but in all honestly it really isn’t that far from the truth.  I am good at randomly throwing things together when necessary, making something edible when there is seemingly nothing in the fridge, and tweaking dull dishes to taste better because I am creative and have a perceptive palette.

BUT, when it comes to following a recipe I’m a disaster of immense proportions.  I’ve been known to start kitchens on fire, destroy things as simple as cupcakes, and make casseroles explode while they were minding their own business in my oven.

Ahem, yes, I am definitely not much of a perfectionist, and to my chagrin often attempt to utilize my creativity where creativity is not wanted or needed.  Following a recipe makes me feel constrained and bored, like I’m filling in a paint-by-number.

And so I customize.

The thing is though, the people who create recipes actually know what they’re doing and I don’t. So get over it Jen.

I’m working on it.

So I had a point in saying all this.  In the spirit of developing an appreciation for the process of making meals and a recognition of the few things I have learned to make, I’m going to write about one. This is the very first time I’ve ever shared a recipe, if you even want to call it that. A more accurate expression would be ‘how-jen-tosses-things-randomly-into-a-pot’

I learned this one by default growing up, a combination of my mom’s true gift for cooking and the ‘experimental cooking’ I got from my dad.  I’d drive my poor mom crazy trying to cook with her in the kitchen, while my dad and I would end up laughing in the middle of the mess we’d make ‘experimenting’, which often resulted in no food at all.


For the type-A person reading this, I am sorry. To those who are, in some way like me, cheers!  This one’s for you. (:  I like this one because it gives room for mistakes, has very few ingredients, and you can tweak it without hurting it. You’ve gotta have some time to love on it though.


A bag of dry pinto beans


1 Whole Onion




Ok, so begin with a bag of dry pinto beans. Pour them into a large pot of warm water.  Get your hands in there and clean them, repeating several times until the water runs clear.


Fill the pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let them sit overnight. (Don’t worry, they most likely won’t get into any mischief.)

Wake up the following morning and have a cup of coffee.


(You may think this is an optional part of the process, but for me it really isn’t)

Turn the beans back on at a low simmer and let them cook for an hour or so, added water when needed and stirring occasionally.

When the water begins to look a nice muddy shade of brown, add one peeled onion cut up any way you like, and about a third package of bacon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Common onion - Allium cepa

At this point your beans should look about like this, and should be smelling so delicious you’ll want to taste them.  Don’t though, not just yet.

beans cooking

Put the lid on and keep at a low simmer.  Cook for the next 4-5 hours or so, adding water and stirring once or twice every hour.  I usually keep a glass of water right there next to the pot so I don’t forget.


If you need to leave the house at any point during this time, feel free.  Just turn them off while you’re gone and back on when you return.  Trust me, I’ve done it plenty of times myself and it doesn’t hurt them a bit.

At the end of the 4-5 hours, your beans should be cooked through and through, and there should be loose water in the pot.


Try a spoonful to see how they are and add salt to taste.  I always wait until after adding the bacon since that will add salt of its own.


Now comes the fun part- the smashing and mashing.  Use one of these things and start smushing to your heart’s content.


Ta da! We’re done (:  At least with the beans part of things.  And don’t worry, all the lovin’ you put into them will pay off.  These beans last a lot longer than you’d think and can be used in so many other meals. Enchiladas, Nachos, bean dip, and the list goes on.


Ok, so to make your chimichanga, place a flour tortilla in a warm pan or griddle. No oil or butter needed.

tortilla in pan

Spoon in your beans and a fair amount of cheese.


And by ‘fair amount’ I mean lots and lots, of course.

Fold it up like so

uncooked chimi

and let both sides brown nicely.

A few minutes later you should have something that looks like this:


The beauty of these guys, aside from their deliciousness, is that you have so much room to experiment with them.  You can add your own twist however you fancy and make them your own.  They’re great with grilled chicken or ground beef inside, smothered in cheese and enchilada sauce on top, or simply served with guacamole and sour cream. I very much enjoy them served underneath a fried egg, over-easy.

There you have it.  If I can make these, anyone can. And by anyone I mean anyone.