Friday, December 12, 2008

We Don't Drink Much...

So I am in the kitchen putting away the breakfast dishes with my daughter, Sabrina (age 6), and I hear her say, "Merry Christmas on the rocks!".

Huh? Can you repeat that please?

Yep, turns out I heard right. I asked her where she heard such a crazy thing (as I move the Coors Light bottles to the back of the fridge to make room for the jug of orange juice).

"I didn't hear it, I saw it!" and then she points to the kitchen windowsill...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Say Disaster, He Says Delicious

Well. For those of you who don’t know, I am considered a pretty good cook. Not in a Julia Child or Martha Stewart kind of way, but you know, my meats are always tender and flavorful, my pancakes are light and fluffy, and my veggies are always steamed just right. For the last ten years or so, in my family and friends realm, any holiday or special event that involves food has been given to me to plan and prepare. I am the one that bakes like 20 pies for the church fundraiser and teacher appreciation day. I am the one that sends baskets full of fudge and muffins at Christmas time. I have special platters for Deviled Eggs, special tins for tiny little muffins, and more pots and pans than I have shoes (gasp!). I really like this about me and always look forward to a party where I can feed people.

But this Thanksgiving was going to be different. This Thanksgiving I had no family in hollering distance, except for our small little nuclear unit of four, to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for. I thought that maybe we would completely buck the system and order Chinese food or pizza and use the day to get a head start on Christmas decorating. But then our next door neighbors came up with this great idea. See, they have a large family and each year there has been this dilemma on where to entertain guests before the meal, since an additional table needed to be set up in their living room to accommodate the crowd. So, they asked if we could host a “social hour” (in Texas this is called “drinks and dip”) at our house for everyone, then we would be welcome to come to their house for the main meal. I was thrilled (no really, I was) because even though I had never met 13 of these people that were going to descend on our house at noon, but they had never met me either! So I was really looking forward to preparing some pre-meal goodies for a fresh audience.

Since I didn’t want the appetizers to fill everyone up before we sat down for turkey, I decided to go with a very simple and fool-proof menu. Veggie trays with carrot sticks, celery, and broccoli with ranch dip. A platter with a few different cheeses and summer sausage (you would not believe how hard that was to find up here – it involved the assistance of the grocery manager and a scavenger hunt through the wine and fine cheese section. For real!!). Deviled eggs, of course. Fudge with and without walnuts. Mini Banana Nut muffins. And then a few little dishes here and there that involved various nuts and chocolate (my favorite combination). Simple – right? But see, I also agreed to make a pecan pie (or as they say up here, pee-can pie) so that I could offer a taste of the South. And this is where my Thanksgiving preparations went to Hell in the proverbial hand basket.

I had my mom ship me pecans from Texas and I scouted out the best vanilla and eggs I could find. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just after I got the kids on the school bus, I began baking. On my list for the day was to do a few batches of fudge, the pecan pie, and a pumpkin pie for my son. See, my son Dalton absolutely loves pumpkin pie. Well, I really don’t think it is the pie, but more like he adores my Aunt Dawn who always makes him his very own pumpkin pie. From the essay he wrote earlier in the week for school, I knew that my sweet little third grader was also missing our family and I wanted to make sure he had his pie (He was asked to write about his best Thanksgiving memory, and he wrote about Auntie Dawn always making him his own pie).

So. I set out all of my ingredients, turned on the ipod and got to work. But see, while I was stirring the fudge, my Dad’s favorite song came on (Wasted Time – Eagles) and I started to cry. So then I had to stop stirring and go blow my nose and wash my hands and by the time I got back to the fudge, well, it was ruined. It looked a lot like this:

That my friends, is tree bark. Not what silky smooth fudge that you’ve made at least 954 times is supposed to look like. But I added in some nuts and said the hell with it.

I put on some happier music and started on the pecan pie. But you know what happened? Ten minutes after I put it in the oven, the pie swelled up like something I have never seen before! I swear, it was like a score of blackbirds were going to come bursting out the top at any minute! The poofiness went down by the time it finished the 50 minutes of cooking time, but it still looked like baked dog vomit! At this point I really lost it. I had used all of my Texas pecans sent from mom and the last of the good eggs on this pie! It was supposed to be my masterpiece! I called my mom. I called my aunt. I called my husband. And you know what I said to each of them? Can you guess? I said, “I WANT TO GO HOME!! THIS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BACK HOME!” But nobody gave me ruby slippers to click three times, so instead I went to the store and bought pecans that originated from God only knows where and more brown sugar and more eggs and went home to try again.

Since I needed the pie dish the barf-o-rama pie was sitting in for my next attempt, I dumped the pie on a plate. Just then the kids walked in from school and said “Ewww! What’s that?” A really ugly pecan pie I told them. “Can we eat it?” they asked in unison. Umm sure why not? Here is what it looked like:

And here is what it looked like after the kids ate their fill:

My sweet son says to me, “Mom. You should so totally open a restaurant. Yeah. You could call it ‘Ugly Food’ because some of the stuff you make looks like really really gross, but tastes really good.”
Gee. Thanks.

But after that? You know what? Everything turned out perfectly.

Turkey Day was terrific. I guess maybe I needed a small moment to truly and deeply miss my family so that I could appreciate the kindness and generosity of another family including us in their holiday. We met some really great and wonderful people. And, you know what?? They LOVED my pecan pie!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Um, hi.

Okay. So. Here I am approximately 1,987 miles from where I was born and raised (the great state of Texas). The hubby's job moved us across the country and life has become suddenly much more funny. So funny, in fact, that I decided to blog about it.

Some background - aside from my super wonderful husband, I share my life with two beautiful and brilliant children (you'll hear LOTS about them I am sure), and a small, but sturdy, dog. Life was great in Texas, but I am keeping an open mind on our new adventures here in the northeast.

Back in August, when it became apparent that my husband would accept the job offer and we would have approximately 20 days to find a house, pack our crap, register for school, etc..., I started prepping my kids (ages 6 and 8) on some of the lingual differences between Massachusetts and Texas. We all made a conscious effort to eliminate "fixin' to" from our vocabulary (as in, "I'm fixin' to make supper"), we really worked hard on enunciating the "g" at the ends of our words (we are working, not workin'; cooking, not cookin'),and started to substitute "ya'll" with "you guys." So instead of yelling, "I'm fixin' to start spankin' butts if ya'll don't start cleanin' this room quicker than a dog chews dropped meatloaf." I practiced saying, "Children. Clean this mess up. NOW." See, shortly into our practicing our more refined language skills, I found that really I did much better if I just kept my normal ranting and raving down to short, succinct commands.

And then of course, I prepared my children for the northeastern phenomenon of misplacing the letter "r" in most words. You know, the whole "pahk the cah" (park the car) and whatnot. We watched Good Will Hunting (a most excellent movie) and paused it whenever there was a demonstration of this type of thing. My kids, being so so brilliant, caught on in the first five minutes and finally told me to stop pausing the movie already.

SO. We did the big move and it was a pain, but manageable. I somehow managed to get the kids into a really neat school and boxes unpacked in record time. By week three I was able to find the school, the grocery store, the gas station, and the Old Navy without the assistance of my GPS system. Fast forward five weeks and it is time for the first "parent/teacher conference" with my daughter's first grade teacher. After going though all the reading and math assessment results (all glowing), we started talking about how my sweet little girl was getting along with her new friends. The teacher gave a little chuckle and states that my sweetie was making friends just fine, but there was a teasing incident because of some speech differences. Darn! I thought we had the "ya'll" thing dealt with!! But surprise, it wasn't the "ya'll" that was causing the teasing. It was the word "the." Apparently during read-out-loud time, my child said "the" (as in rhymes with "we") and the kids laughed! The teacher informed me that here in Massachusetts, the word is pronounced "the" (as in rhymes with "duh"). Somehow in all of our preparation, we missed the word "the." The teacher said she had a talk with the class about how people say words differently in different parts of the country and she would not hold it against my daughter. Go figure! After that I figured that our family, ok, really just me, should accept the fact that we are different from those around us and people are going to laugh and maybe even tease us right in front of our faces. But that is okay because we can laugh back at the silly things they do here (like oh my gosh there are Dunkin Donuts and pizza places EVERYWHERE!!! ).

In fact, I find that when I am in a prolonged conversation with anyone (and this includes the grocery checker guy), it makes things more interesting if I really play up the southern accent. I think it is kind of funny to watch the expressions on their faces when I say something like, "My God, it's colder here than a dog's balls in belly-high snow!"