Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Chronicle

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I've been reading various blogs and I've read some lovely accounts of how people spent the holiday. Extraordinary food. Lovely tables. Beautiful homes. Family and friends. Very pleasant reading indeed. Not exactly how I'd describe the day around here though.

As is the custom, we had Thanksgiving at my house. My parents came and all of my girls were there, along with one of the boyfriends. So the family and friend thing? Definitely had that covered. The rest of the trappings? Maybe not so much.

Wednesday I was fortunate to spend a lovely afternoon with Clarice and Angie , both unbelievable hostesses and cooks. An afternoon that in hindsight I probably should have forgone given the amount of work that I left for myself that night and the next day. Honestly though? I can't imagine any instance that I would choose not to go to Angie's on any given Wednesday. That visit truly lifts my spirits week in and week out. Besides, had I not gone I would never have tried Angie's Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and never had the brilliant idea to make them for our own dinner.

Huh. You know, now that I think of it, had I not gone to Angie's and tasted those scrumptious rolls, that would have shaved nearly 5 hours of Thanksgiving dinner prep time. Note to self: If planning to spend the afternoon before a major holiday visiting with dear friends, do not be tempted by new recipes that will take hours to accomplish no matter how tasty. (yeah, like Self will ever listen)

And that's generally the problem around here. I love to make holidays special. I really do enjoy cooking, decorating and all the various and sundry activities that go along with celebrating. What I struggle with is doing it in a timely manner. Some of that's pure food snobbery. I don't often do many shortcuts (although I have to admit that over the past 10 years I don't do my own stock much anymore. I still feel horribly guilty every time I used that boxed stuff though. Clearly I'm not only a food snob, I'm a food hypocrite. Nice.) and I worry that the flavor and integrity of the food might be damaged by too much "make ahead" prep. Part of it, it pains me to say, is simply procrastinationitis. In other words? Pure, unadulterated laziness.

When things run smoothly, even with a late start, everything ultimately works out fairly well. When they don't? Like this year's Thanksgiving?

Pure panic sets in.

The biggest horror (and the casualty of the dinner roll prep the night before) was the pumpkin pie. I've made pie crusts for over 20 years. Good pie crusts. I can do them with my eyes closed. That's why I was beyond puzzled by the failure of three successive pie crusts. I mean those babies simply crumbled right in my hand. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I went through all the stages of Pie Panic. Confusion. Annoyance. Alarm. Terror. Not only did I have the pumpkin, I had two custard pies (chocolate and butterscotch) to make as well. I simply couldn't give in to Resignation. Eventually after a heated argument with my husband over what flour he'd purchased when last at the market, I simply opened a brand new bag and within minutes had all three of my crusts done and ready to go. I knew it was all his fault.

All that time spent making crust, after crust, after blasted crust set me way back, giving me next to no wiggle room. A person like me needs serious wiggle room. Big time. Between the pies, "my" sausage cornbread stuffing that Caroline insisted I make even though my mother was also making stuffing, and the rolls, by the time my guests arrived, I was truly spent. Which is why it makes next to no sense that Rebecca was the one who conked out after dinner. Out cold, I tell you.

There apparently is no justice in the land of holidays and their preparation.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gadget Challenged

Picture if you will this scene.

Husband and myself sitting companionably side by side and enjoying yet another viewing of Notting Hill. Controllers necessary for said viewing are placed somewhat haphazardly on the arm of the sofa. As is likely to happen in such an instance, the controllers get pushed off the arm of the sofa and end up somewhere under the sofa. Thankfully husband has long arms as well as total disdain of the spiders that I'm sure lurk under the sofa biding their time waiting for an unsuspecting appendage to present itself and retrieves the controller so we can pause the film and make some popcorn. That's when things went horribly wrong.

Controller before epic journey:

Controller after rescuing:

(Sorry about the quality of the photo. Terror will do this to you)

Honestly I had no idea what he'd pushed, but I was convinced that one or all of the following would, or had, happen/ed:

1. We would immediately be charged for every single option available via pay-per-view.
2. The controller would intone a message and say that it was planning to self-destruct, taking most of Western WA with it.
3. The spiders had enacted revenge for every one of their kind that I'd captured and put outside during the winter, utilizing the controller as a method for implementing their nefarious plan.
4. We would forever be doomed to watch "My Big Redneck Wedding" and "Mythbusters" for all eternity. (Fare you well my beloved HGTV)

So, okay, I know. Common sense says: "Wow. That's interesting. Lighted keys so you can see in total darkness." Honestly though? Our initial reaction truly was a "What the HELL is going on with this thing?!" I kid you not. You know, we're really not dolts, but the last thing either of us thought was that the stupid controller would light up. I mean, who thinks of these things? And who decides on RED as the color?? Green is so much more soothing and non-scary. Red's just so, well, RED.

I'm sure we'll eventually adapt to all these newfangled gadgets, but in the meantime, just in case, check to make sure yours aren't glowing red in solidarity with mine, signaling an unpleasant future for us all.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Musical Memories

Despite not being at all musical or even caring all that much about music (I can hear Rebecca gasp from here) I've been thinking a lot about the memories certain songs or bands evoke. I know I've spoken a bit about how the Beach Boys conjure all sorts of summertime images the minute you hear them, but they're nothing compared to the images and sheer thrill this guy prompts the minute you hear him - well, at least for anyone near my age.
Yes, the Norelco Santa. The very guy. The one who heralded the holiday season by hawking razors. This ad is a bit older than the ones I remember, but the feeling is the same. I don't know what it is about this ad, but when I saw it just a couple of days ago, I was seized by the exact same feeling I had when I was 6 or so and nearly hysterical with anticipation of the big day. That giddy thrill. That absolute certainty that life just couldn't get any better than life during the holiday season. Who couldn't use a bit of that joy, expectation and excitement? So it comes in the form of a razor ridin' Santa. Big deal.

Oh wow. Not that I really think about it, that's fairly pathetic. It's clear that my Empty, Consumer Driven childhood has warped my sense of what is right and good in the world.

. . .

Whatever. Give me a Norelco Ridin' Santa any day of the week.

Not all songs bring such nice memories. Not only is our next selection another trip down memory lane, it's cheesy to boot. It's even a song that my old high school boyfriend used to sing in a soulful voice to me before he headed back to college. Bad enough, but what's worse is that he apparently teared up when he heard it at a concert. Not so terribly odd given the ridiculousness of teenage boys, you say? Ahh, but a crucial bit of info is missing for you. You see he was at the concert with another girl.

Given this song's history and the bad blood associated with it, when it came on the radio tonight on the way home from a dinner with my parents, I immediately switched the channel. Only to be met with howls of protest from my husband. Okay, so I know the guy likes some goofy stuff. Stuff that I wouldn't be caught dead listening to. But this?? This, without a doubt, is a low point in our relationship. I'm not sure we can recover. I'm willing to try, but if more of this type of thing happens again . . .

Without further ado, so you can be as disgusted as I was tonight, here you go:

And finally, in the "This is ABSOLUTELY CRIMINAL" category, I have some truly upsetting news to report. Like most areas of the country, we have a radio station that plays "oldies". Not "classic rock" like Zeppelin, Petty, AC/DC, etc. No. We're talking Chubby Checker, Buddy Holly (who, it has to be admitted, is seriously amazing, no matter the era), and Frankie Valley. That kind of oldies. Well, at least I thought it was that kind of oldies station. Since this isn't music that I listen to often, I haven't heard the station in a while. Twice now, twice I tell you, I've been flipping through stations and heard this guy. Twice. This an oldie?

Surely not? Really?

Yes, I'm aware it's from the early '80s, that still doesn't mean that it belongs on the OLDIES station!

Please. Show Mr. Mellencamp some respect. He has had a heart attack, you know.

Dear God, he does belong on the oldies station. I'm not going to think about what that means about me.

Not tonight anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

It's been a long, tough slog through the muck, hasn't it? My mother, the erstwhile politics junkie (as long as it's all about the Democrats, of course) was overheard sighing at dinner Sunday and saying, "You know what I'm looking forward to? It being all over!" I think it's a sentiment that many of us could wholeheartedly agree with.

While it's been disheartening to be so frustrated, and occasionally disgusted, by the machinations of the parties and their candidates, I still find myself feeling deeply connected to the system and to my country, as flawed as I may find it and its government at times. From something as simple as watching John Adams and being moved, to something more profound like the thrill I still have when casting my own vote, it's clear that despite my often cynical and disappointed harping, I'm still bound to my country and the ideals that drove its creation.

I hope we all take a moment tomorrow and make our voices heard. Not only is our country worth that effort, so are we.

(Okay, so maybe a '40's pinup girl isn't the first thing we think about when exercising our right to vote, but you've got to admit she was probably effective. Besides, you try to find vintage, interesting "vote!" clip art when you have zero patience wading through the morass that is Google.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Growing Up Fast

I've never been the type of parent who mourns the lost babyhood of her progeny. While it's true that I love children of all ages, and each stage of their growth has its own unique pleasure, it's always been with teenagers that I've felt most comfortable. They're so bright, interesting and full of opinions. Granted, not all opinions held by the teenagers who have frequented my domain have been equally welcome, but it remains true that they are all pretty interesting. So, while it's fun going through each stage with my children, I've always awaited the next stage with eagerness.

As I've mentioned before, my youngest daughter will be twelve very soon.


This hardly seems possible. My eldest daughter just turned 24, my middle 19, and while it's true that I find myself marveling the fact that they are indeed adults, this last one . . . well, it's just different. She seems so much younger at this age than my other girls, although in reality she's clearly much older. More precocious. More worldly. I have a friend who has taught elementary aged children for over 20 years now. She says that she can tell the moment a child enters her classroom whether that child is an eldest or a youngest. The eldest child of a family often is just as a child should be. Naive, unaware and childlike. Those children born last? The babies of the family? Well, let's just say if they swept into their first grade classroom wearing a smoking jacket, swilling a martini, and magnanimously offering dating advice gained from watching elder siblings, no one would be surprised.

I know all of this. I also know my daughter. That's why it's a bit of a puzzle how thrown I was by my "baby" this weekend.

Scene: Local fire station. A birthday party. One that, after having received the invitation, my daughter declared would probably be lame. The party that she thought she might be a bit "too old" for at the ripe old age of nearly 12. I expected my daughter to be excited when we picked her up since we were headed to a close friend's house to play with their new puppy. What I didn't expect was her mile-a-minute chatter about the party at the fire station. Thrilled that she was able to transcend her blase' attitude, be a child and enjoy the party, I started to ask questions about what they'd seen and done. Sure she had a detail or two about the fire trucks, the work the firefighters did, etc. but would you like to know what most of her animated discussion was about?

Well, let's just say that while she was definitely interested in and admiring of the work firefighters do, she was equally enamored of how they looked doing it. (Not to mention trying to figure out a way to set one up with either of her older sisters). As I said earlier, I was a bit thrown. Why I was is beyond me. This is the girl who at 4, looking a gift given (not by me or my husband) to her oldest sister (then 16), a calendar entitled"The Men of Hawaii", casually declared how "hot" several men were. After stern looks at her older sister for not being a bit more careful with her dialogue around her baby sister, I corrected my 4 year old told her that the men should more correctly be termed "attractive", "happy", "healthy" and "handsome". She nodded solemnly and said "You're right, mommy. They are certainly handsome." She then paused for a long moment before adding matter of factly "And they're hot too." Apparently that logic applies not only to the men of Hawaii, but also to firefighters.

Growing up a bit too fast? Yeah, maybe.

But then again . . .
Who can argue with her?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Excess? You Decide

Most of the time I'm pretty content with the stage of life that I'm at. Fairly comfortable with being a woman of a "certain age" with the responsibilities I've maintained for over 20 years. Sure, there's a pang or two of nostalgia when the older girls (24 and 19) discuss exciting early adulthood experiences, but nothing terribly painful.

Most of the time.

The other day my middle daughter was chatting with me while folding her laundry. She mentioned that it had been a while since she'd done laundry, giving a completely logical reason as to why she was folding TWENTY-FIVE pairs of underwear.

TWENTY-FIVE. Nice pairs. Not an "emergency" pair in the bunch. Adorable, lacy little nothings. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. (As a visual aid, I've added a representative photo from Victoria's Secret) Now many of you might be saying: "Twenty-five pairs? Big deal. I've got fifty in the drawer at home." To those of you saying this, I say "Pfft! I have nothing to say to you other than turn in your Mother Martyr card immediately."
But wait. There's more.

She came home from work (she works at an upscale-ish department store) on Friday with TEN. More. Pairs!

Seriously. I'm so not kidding.

Now, I know I'm from New England, am thrifty, practical, pragmatic and all that, but honestly? It's clearly time to go shopping.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unknown Perils of Online Viewing

So, here it is, Sunday night. I'm alone (everyone in the house is either in bed or being churlish). I'm bored. Nothing to do. Super Text Twist works for a minute until I realize that I might as well have someone sit next to me with a sign that says "Verbal Dullard" since I can't seem to get words like "sierra" and "disdains". Obviously Text Twist isn't exactly a self esteem booster tonight. Not only that, but I've eaten far too many of the chocolate/vanilla swirl marshmallows my mother bought me. Mom, I love you and you were a sweetheart to pick up a bag for me when you bought one for yourself, but since it's clear I have no willpower at all against them, I think it's best to eschew them all together in the future since they are clearly tools of the devil.

Normally, since I'm an American and all that, I would generally pick this time to turn on the television instead of doing something productive like work on the baby sweater. Sadly though, since we ditched cable and pretty much turned off the television to "regular" viewing when my oldest (now 24) was around 8 or 9, all those fun new shows are unavailable to me until they come out on DVD. (Full Disclosure Notice: Well, that was then, this is almost now - we're getting cable again in a couple of weeks. Price for the phone/cable internet/tv bundle was too good to pass up) So, I decide to see which new shows are available to watch online. I particularly wanted to see Life on Mars and Fringe.

Life on Mars wasn't bad, lots of fun music and appealing actors. but it's Fringe that I really wanted to check out. I'm definitely not much of a police procedural person, but Fringe still interests me because of J. J. Abrams and my Lost addiction. Off I go to the Fox Network.

I click on the "Watch Full Episode" tab, then "Fringe" and . . .

I get this:

A blank page with the ominous words "FATAL ERROR" and lots of intimidating code at the top.


Fatal Error?

What exactly does this mean? My fatal error? The computer? The network? I don't know about you, but if I hear the words "fatal error" after an attempt at anything, I think it's likely that I'm pretty much, sorry there's just not a delicate way to put this, screwed. I quickly hit the "back" button (like that's really going to help in a true "fatal error" situation) and closed out the entire browser. Since I'm here and able to write this post, I think it might be safe to assume that I luckily got out in time.

While it's clear there are obvious benefits to an existence without "real" TV, there appear to be significant perils too. To avoid any potential Fatal Errors in the future, I think I'll just be patient until the cable's hooked up to the television instead of just the computer.

I guess it's back to Text Twist and more humiliation.