Monday, October 29, 2007

Tastes Like Heaven

"Tastes like heaven". If you told me 12 years ago that my husband would say this to me about my homemade tomato soup and grilled mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwich, I would have laughed in your face and wondered how you could be so cruel.

I was raised in a home where money was tight and sense of culinary adventure was seriously lacking. My mother's idea of a spice rack consisted of salt and pepper. I can't blame her though. The lack of culinary expertise stretches back for generations. My husband's mother, on the other hand, is a professional cake decorator of international fame. I'm not kidding. She knows her way around the kitchen. I have a lot to live up to in this department.

I am not a detail-oriented person and certainly not a perfectionist. This isn't really detrimental to good cooking. It can still be done, if you are lucky. Let me explain myself further. I planned to make sweet potato casserole for dinner the other day. I went to the store and bought all the ingredients. When it came time to start making it, I realized I forgot the sweet potatoes. They weren't even on my list! Now you start to see the problem.

Take, for example, the first time I cooked for my future husband. I made meatloaf- a rather foolproof recipe...until I got my hands on it. Did you know, there is a significant difference between a tablespoon and a cup? There is really no way to fix a mistake of this magnitude, especially when it's a liquid. I was measuring ketchup and thought, "Hmm, this is a lot of ketchup. Oh well," and dumped it in. I proceeded to mix it up and wonder why it wasn't assimilating into the meat. Only then did I double check. Short of making a 10 pound meatloaf, it was beyond repair. I shamefacedly ordered pizza. Strike One.

The next time he came for dinner (brave soul), I decided to keep it ridiculously simple. I threw some fish sticks on a pan and into the oven. 18 minutes later I pulled them out of the oven cooked to perfection- except for the cat hair. It seems my roommates cat had made a home out of the cabinet with the baking sheets. Major league embarrassment and Strike Two.

My darling husband decided to take a chance that he could live despite my cooking, so he married me. Apparently he planned to eat a hearty lunch at work to avoid starving to death at dinner. I don't know what he planned to do for the weekends.

For our wedding we were given beautiful cookware by some well-meaning soul. I briefly considered using them as home decor and mounting them on the mantle rather than continue creating gastronomic disasters. However, I was raised to never say die- I might kill all my dinner guests, but I'd never say die.

The next 9 years were filled with foul-tips, to continue the metaphor in an unappetizing way. There have been countless dinners I've had to start twice and baking adventures where I've had to try to retrieve too much salt from a bowl of flour, baking soda and baking powder. I will tell you that it can be done. I've learned to get it right the second time around, usually not the first. But every once in a while, I hit a grandslam homerun. And the crowd goes wild.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Can you DIGG it?

Like what you see on 3 Turkeys?

Several people have commented on how much they like Mary's stories as a stay-at-home Mom. Some have even suggested that she should try to get her stories published in some way.

Now you can help Mary get 'discovered' by Digging her stories. Digg is a website that tracks the popularity of news and blog articles across the web. Users can increase the popularity of a story by 'digging' the story. If the story gets enough diggs then it eventually makes it to the Front Page on the website. This is a really big deal and usually generates a lot of traffic.

If you like one of Mary's recent stories, simply click onto the "Digg This" button at the bottom of the story. If you are not a member of you will need to sign up for a FREE account. Don't worry, you will not be suffocated with SPAM just for signing up.

Now go get digging!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Day in the Life of....

I was worried about going because it had been raining for two days straight. But the morning news sounded promising, so we decided to take a chance on the farm. I picked Emma up from school, stopped by the library to pick up my books on reserve and get a few books (read: 20) for the kids that they chose (by chose, I mean randomly pulled off the shelves when I was looking up books on the catalog and I, in an effort to pretend it was all part of my plan, couldn't leave them behind). That little errand took longer than expected leaving us a mere 20 minutes to get home, have Emma change out of her uniform and put on play clothes and shoes, and make the kids lunch to eat in the car. I couldn't be late or the group would go in without me and I'd lose the group discount. It's okay, though. That's how I roll.

Belting Emma in the car and opening my Diet Coke, I backed out of the garage while tossing a bag of pb&j sandwiches over my shoulder to Emma to pass out. We high-tailed it to the farm down country roads in time to meet my group and things were going well. The kids were excited because I'd hedged my bets and didn't tell them where we were going in case we were late. Even better, kids under two are admitted free so Renee got in with a 2 day cushion!

It was a beautiful autumn day going exactly as I hoped- until we sat down. Our admission included donuts, apple juice, hay ride and pumpkin. While eating donuts, Renee got stung by a yellow jacket. Emma freaked out in empathy and Renee screamed as loud as her almost two-year old-lungs would scream. The best I could do was ice it down while wondering if ice was contra-indicated in insect stings and considering how much grief would result from an early departure. I mean, we hadn't even made it to the hay slides in the barn. Eventually someone suggested that they may have a more extensive first aid kit in the store. So I left Emma and Andy with relative strangers to lug a screaming toddler with boogies and tears streaming down her face and a sting swollen to the size of a marble to an unsympathetic cashier in the general store. She behaved as though Renee should have known better than to tempt a bee with a donut. Finally I discovered that they had one last sting wipe at the ticket booth. In this place, it's a race against time to collect the last wipe before some other innocent gets stung. So I ran.
Note the giant lump on Renee's fist
When I got back to my other kids, they were ready to move into the highlight of the trip: the hay slide. "This should be fun," I thought. And it was, kinda. Until I noticed that Emma had decided to wear her school shoes to the farm, which were now caked in mud and straw. Renee got stuck at the top of the hay bales and required rescue. Then, walking around the bottom, she sunk up to her arm pits in loose hay.
"That's ok," I thought, "I'll just carry her up to the top and send her down the slide. Never mind the much older unsupervised field trip kids who never heard of waiting your turn and one at a time. I'll go up there and whip them into shape for a second or two- long enough to get my brood one ride on the slide."

So I flung Renee under my arm and navigated through knee-high slippery hay to the top of the highest slide. I worked my way through the mayhem and planted my arm behind my kids to ward off invaders. Field trip kids were squirming around me, oblivious to the fact that there was an adult on the scene. I used my most parental voice, then, when that didn't work, brushed off my stern teacher voice. That seemed to jar their brains long enough to get my three down the slide and safely out of the way at the bottom.

Once we had had enough concentrated allergens, we left the barn and headed out to the pumpkin patch to choose three pumpkins. Of course, nothing but the heaviest pumpkins will do for my kids, so I was so thankful for the hayride that took us halfway back to the parking lot, despite the fact that it deposited us in a pool of mud. On the ride back, a friend of mind cheerfully suggested that I
immediately put the kids in a bath when I get home because, rumor has it, a kid came down with a case of lice after rolling around in the hay barn last season. Oy vey.

Having finally made it to the car, getting everyone situated with back-up snacks for the drive home, I started down the road anticipating the peaceful ride that comes from a car full of exhausted children. The peace was broken with a shriek of terror emanating from my eldest. A renegade yellow jacket had stowed away in our car and was buzzing precariously close to our earlier victim. Rolling down the windows at 65 miles per hour did nothing to rid us of our problem. This country road didn't have a shoulder, so I pulled over into an unsuspecting country dwellers front yard, opened all the doors and windows and began waving my arms wildly. This magical bee charming dance worked and it bumbled out of the car.

We made it home safely and, incredibly, without further incident. The kids were unceremoniously plopped into a bath and scrubbed rigorously for fear of hatching eggs (my head itches just thinking about it)....(Oh, dear). Then rushed to a neighbors house and dropped off in time for me to be one minute late to Emma's parent-teacher conference for kindergarten. (Good report, by the way). I hurried home to pick up the kids and miscounted. I ended up with one extra, who was very well behaved and made up for the one of my own who threw the mother of all temper tantrums because he didn't get to play Honey Bee Tree.

I spent the next hour staring into the refrigerator trying to piece together a meal from odds and ends. I pulled everything out and found leftovers in the deepest part of the fridge that had not quite reached their expiration date. Dinner is served!

My husband left for a meeting immediately after dinner resulting in a pout fest from Emma, who laid enough guilt on him that I wouldn't be surprised if he stayed home from work tomorrow. With him gone, it was left to me to rally the kids for the final put-away of the day. When I say "rally", what I mean is: The Discipline Continuum. It started with announcing the time, "Time to clean up". Followed by a direct order, "Help put away the toys, now." Followed by an if-then statement "If I have to pick up your toys, then I will put them away in the basement". I won't tell you what comes next.

Emma helped clean the kitchen, Andy eventually picked up the toys in the family room. Renee, well, she ran around in delirious, nap-deprived circles the whole time saying, "I'm Cinderella" over and over again.

Now the house is quiet. Kevin is out for the evening, the kids are in bed and I have a date with the tv and a glass of wine. Not a bad day.