Making Ninjabreadmen

When my boys were younger, near the middle of December you’d find them gathered around the kitchen table, their fingers and lips covered in multiple hues of icing, hovered over a plate of sugar cookies.

But as they got older, I had to resort to some really sneaky tricks to get them interested in spending time decorating cookies with their old men.

For years, every Christmas, my sons and I decorated Christmas cookies. I’d bake up a batch of sugar cookies and we’d make a day of it, always somehow eating our mistakes. Sometimes, they’d even invite their friends over to help cover Santas and angles and reindeer in frosting.

One year, in our little house on the Little Miami River, all of the neighbor kids came to the house and we had a gingerbread house decorating contest. Everything was going along great until one of the kids decided his house was a black reindeer shed, and all of the kids decided to follow suit and turn their cute little houses into the most disgusting thing they could think of.

Kids are gross. Just saying.

But as the years went by, the boys lost interest in spending time in the kitchen with mom. There was basketball practice to go to and video games that were begging to be played. Mom’s love of family bonding kind of fell by the wayside. And the idea of making cookies, that was definitely a girl thing to do, and not exactly at the top of their to do list.

I found though, that if I let them eat the cookies as we decorated them, they found that particular holiday tradition a little easier to swallow. Also, it seemed, withholding holiday peanut butter fudge was a perfectly acceptable way to “encourage” participation.

It wasn’t until they had girlfriends that I was able to pique their interest again. I asked them to bring over the girls so I could meet them, promising to serve cookies and hot cocoa.

It was the girls, then, that would see me with all the cookies laid out, and all the decorations waiting to go on the cookies who would decide that decorating was a cool idea.

The girls would come around the table and ooh and ahh, and the boys, noting an opportunity to look cool and do something fun with their girlfriends, would join them.

It didn’t seem fair though to force them to do something they didn’t want to do. I felt like I needed to find a way for them to be interested in cookie decorating for Christmas on their own accord. Enter ninjabread men and ugly sweaters. Along with the traditional cookies, I cut out a few flying ninjas in mid-karate kick, and a few sweaters.

Like I always had, I lined the tables with wax paper, put out bowls of icing and several different kinds of sprinkles, and baked up a batch of cookies. Then I made five ninjas with different colored belts, and two of the ugliest Christmas sweaters I could devise.

When the four of them arrived, I was in full decorating mode – something neither girl had ever done before. Just seeing the ninjabreadmen and ugly sweaters was enough to reel the boys in with or without the girls. They couldn’t wait to try their hand at decorating. Within minutes, the boys and their dates were busy creating some pretty ugly sweaters and decorating ninjas for stealthy combat.

This year, when I asked if they wanted to decorate cookies with them, it didn’t take any time at all for them to say yes. There was no eye rolling. There were no deep sighs or protests. There was just “Sure, mom. We’d love to.” My youngest and I will head in the kitchen later on tonight, and we’ll have a blast until its time to watch some holiday television.

For a while, I didn’t think I’d be able to get the boys back to the decorating table. I knew they were growing out of love with stuff that was too mom-ish, and not action-filled enough. But now, it’s a tradition that we all treasure – ugly sweaters, flying karate kicks and all.

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The 12 Days Before Christmas

Years ago, my then-husband and I were coming home from some holiday gathering and we started making up words to Christmas carols, as one does when faced with the stress of the season. Clearly, our version of the classic Christmas carol isn’t exactly as uplifting, but it still gives one a little chuckle, and that’s more of a present than a lump of coal, right? 

And because the holidays are just as filled with stress as they are with joy, we came up with our own version of a holiday classic  – as well as one song that will never see the light of day during these days of un-offensiveness.

The 12 Days Before Christmas
(sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas)

On the twelfth day before Christmas, my true love said to me
“I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the eleventh day before Christmas, my true love said to me
“All the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the tenth day before Christmas, my true love said to me 
“I hate this season, 
All the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the ninth day before Christmas, my true love said to me,
“Prices are outrageous,
I hate this season, 
All the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the eighth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the mall are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the seventh day before Christmas, my true love said to me,
“The Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the sixth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Payroll lost my paycheck, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the fifth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“The cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full,
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

This santa just wants to party.Vintage film style processing.

On the fourth day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the third day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“My family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the second day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“We got another fruit cake, 
my family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

On the last day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 
“I have to work tomorrow, 
we got another fruit cake, 
my family’s coming over, 
Santa smells like whiskey, 
the cards were returned for postage, 
payroll lost my pay check, 
the Christmas tree caught fire, 
nobody has your size, 
prices are outrageous, 
I hate this season, 
all the malls are full, 
and I haven’t got any shopping done yet.”

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Copyright 2018 (C) Liz Carey LLC

Staying safe in Dangerous Times:  A Primer for boys and sexual assault

kavanaugh trumpPresident Trump put it all too well – “It’s a very scary time for young men in America.”

And he’s right. He’s so right. How frightening it must be to know that you could be sitting there at a party, chilling with your best buds, having a large time, and then, the next thing you know, some 20 or 30 years later, that errant hug, friendly wrestling match or slipping kiss will turn out to have offended someone.

Go figure.

And it is a scary thing to know that you could be on the top of your game and have something innocuous take you down, just like the President said. “”You could be somebody that was perfect your entire life and somebody could accuse you of something.” You know… like Brett Kavanaugh.

We women fell for you. Honestly, we know where you’re coming from… we’ve been there. And now that all of our sexual assault worries are over, we thought we’d give you a few tips on how to survive these dangerous times.

  1. guys drinking beerBe careful how much you drink. You know, we know that EVERYONE drinks in high school and college, but really, when you put yourself in a situation and you have more than a drink or, at the outset, two, you put yourself at risk of making it look like you were asking for it. If you’re not completely in control of yourself, then you probably deserved whatever you got.
  2. popped collarsThink about what you’re wearing. Do you really need to look THAT cool? Would it hurt you to maybe not look so cute? You really don’t want anyone to notice you, let alone think you’re attractive. They might remember you and even step over to talk to you. That’s step one in identifying someone as a possible sexual assault perpetrator.
  3. signs-hes-flirtingDon’t flirt too much. Again, you don’t want anyone to think that you might even have been thinking about sex. Flirting with women is like putting a target on your back that says “I’m a sexual predator!”
  4. Make sure someone knows where you are; travel in twos and threes; don’t go to the bathroom alone. If you’re alone, a woman can just pop out of nowhere and say you were somewhere doing something you shouldn’t have been doing. saults happen in private. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you don’t have someone else there to have your back or protect you.
  5. guys group of threePay close attention to your surroundings. Look around you. Is someone paying too much attention to you? Could that person potentially have not so innocent thoughts about you? Better not risk embarrassment years from now. Ensure you know who you’re with and whether or not you’re safe.
  6. Designate a party dad or a sober party goer. When you go out in a group, take turns being the designated party dad. Someone really needs to be sober, so they can keep everyone else out of trouble, or come up with the alibi that will stand up in court.
  7. Carry your cell phone with you always, and make sure you can contact your friends in case of an emergency. If you’re ever faced with a situation where you don’t trust yourself, or the person you’re with, make sure you can call a friend to come help you. Whether it’s getting you out of potentially assault-y type scenario, or you just don’t feel like you’re with someone you can trust, have someone who’s got your back on speed dial.
  8. partyStay away from those parties in the first place. Let’s be honest. Nice guys don’t really go to parties like that in the first place. The kind of guys who aren’t going to get accused of sexual assault are the kind of guys who aren’t putting themselves in harm’s way by going to those types of parties. You really can do yourself a huge favor by just keeping yourself out of those kinds of get-togethers. It’s just safer for you, you know?

It may seem like a lot to think about just to protect yourself from being accused of sexual assault, but an ounce of prevention goes a long way in ensuring your credibility and preventing anyone from being able to permanently damage your reputation. We know. We’ve been doing these same things for decades, all in the name of protecting ourselves.

But enough about us. It’s a dangerous time out there for guys. We women have literally hundreds of thousands of stories we’ve stored up about men behaving badly, and all because those guys didn’t take the time to protect themselves. What were we thinking, being so narrow minded and obtuse? It’s time we step up and do what we can to protect men. We’re glad to help.

If it will keep just one guy safe from a decades old accusation someday in the future, well… then… it’s worth it, isn’t it?

 

Copyright Liz Carey, LLC 2018

You can go home again

Years ago – a lifetime ago really – I left Versailles, KY with the idea that I’d never look back.

In fact, I swore, I would never come back to a high school reunion until I was rich, skinny and successful. I guess one out of three ain’t too bad…

As I drove away, I saw myself living in a city, in the middle of the action, scurrying about from one important meeting to the next being a busy, busy boss lady.

Versailles was slow. Versailles was country. Versailles meant horses and hardware stores and home cookin’.

Not that I didn’t love all of that, but I had spent much of my time growing up in our local library reading books about how magical everywhere else was. It made Versailles seem so much “less” than everywhere else.

So I left. And I lived in the city. And I made new friends. And I rushed around like my hair was on fire doing everything I could to squeeze in all that life had to offer me.

But when I needed a rest, or I wanted some peace, I came back home. I came back to the place where crickets sang me to sleep, and the moon set like a glowing flashlight over horse fields, and the most beautiful site to see was the view from my mom’s back porch.

When I got married, we moved to South Carolina where we could raise our boys in a smaller city that still had that hometown feel. Our kids thrived and grew into adventurous, kind and loving young men who held doors open for their girlfriends (and their mom), and said “yes, sir” and “no, sir” and “Thank you, ma’am”.

But still, when I wanted to feel at ease, we went to Versailles. When the stress got too much, or the pressures of work were overwhelming, or when I wanted to feel grounded, I went back home to the small town where people knew my name, where strangers smiled on the street corners, and where one of the best lunches in the county came from a drug store counter.

In South Carolina, we learned how to eat and talk Southern; how Kentucky wasn’t really part of the South; how hot is “really hot,” and what 3-5 inches of snow in the South really looks like. There were ups and downs transitioning into the Deep South. As a blue dog Democrat, I didn’t really fit into a solidly red state, but somehow I managed. And as a Kentucky girl educated in Ohio, I was placed solidly in that “You’re not from around here, are you?” category from the moment I crossed into the Carolinas.

But recently, I needed a soft place to land when things began to fall apart around me. I came back to the safest place I knew – my mom’s house in Versailles. And although it has been 30 years since I lived here, while nothing seems the same, everything seems familiar. The lightning bugs in June. The smell of fresh mowed hay. The sun that sets across the street from my Mom’s front door.

For a while, it felt like I didn’t I fit in – like I didn’t really belong to anywhere. I didn’t fit in in Cincinnati anymore. I wasn’t a part of South Carolina anymore. I wasn’t sure I’d ever fit in with all these familiar strangers in Versailles.

It wasn’t until I confided in a friend about how out of place I felt that I realized what home really means. She helped me see what a true blessing growing up in a small town like Versailles really is. When I said “I feel like I don’t belong here, like I don’t really fit in anymore,” she replied “You’ll always fit in here. You’re from here. It never left you, you just left it for a while.”

Maybe that’s why it always feels so safe – Versailles never left me. It was always here, waiting for me to come back.

And now, it seems, Versailles is so much “more” than all those places I ran away to.

It’s comforting to me, while my life is in such upheaval. It’s supportive of me. It’s empowering to me. It’s so much more than any place else I’ve ever lived.

And that’s a powerful thing to know, for me. That my hometown is here. That my family and friends are here. That my life as I once knew it is here. That, in truth, my home is here, and never left me, even as I wandered off to find myself in places I’d never been before. It was always here. It never left me.

And, in a way, I guess I never really left it either. It was always with me, no matter how far away I ran. And it always will be here – inside of me.

Damn, it’s good to be home.

Things no Southern cook will ever say

There are some words and phrases you’ll just never hear come out of certain peoples’ mouth.

Like, you’ll never hear from a UK basketball fan “Wow, that was a close game. I like it when the teams are evenly matched like that.” No, what you’ll hear a Kentucky basketball fan say is “What the heck is going on!? They only won by 10! They’re just not the powerhouse team they were back in the day…”

And you’ll never hear them say “Gee, I really miss the Eddie Sutton days.” Or “I totally understand why Rick Patino would want to coach at Louisville, and I totally supported his decision.” And “I didn’t even put UK in my March Madness bracket this year.”

Similarly, you’ll never hear a Cincinnati Bengals fan say “Nah, my Bengals have never let me down.” Or “I’m really surprised they lost that game in the last 10 minutes – never saw THAT coming!” Or “That game had some great refs! They really played like crap, but the refs were spot on when it came to making those calls!”

In that vein, there are things you’ll never hear a Southern cook say either…

  • Honey, I think this has too much bacon in it.
  • Oh, Lord, don’t put so much barbecue sauce on it, you’ll cover up the flavor of the meat.
  • Nah, I don’t have any particular recipe for making collards… I just throw them in the pot and go.Collard-Greens-with-Smoked-Turkey-Wings-Recipe
  • Hmmmm… this probably has too many calories in it already, I’ll just use this low-fat margarine instead of butter.
  • Honestly, there’s really no difference between store bought, homegrown and hothouse tomatoes.
  • You mean people make biscuits that don’t come out of a can?
  • Of course it’s vegan!
  • My mother never cooked that well when we were growing up to be honest.
  • BOILED peanuts? Ewwww.

    boiled peanuts
    So much ewwww.
  • Absolutely, I use measuring cups and measuring spoons! How on earth are you supposed to get the recipe right without them?
  • I think I’ll make steamed veggies tonight.
  • Rats, I’m out of Cajun seasoning…. I guess I’ll just switch to Greek.
  • I think this tea has too much sugar in it… Where’s the mint?
  • I always put cinnamon and cocoa in my chili for a really hip taste.
  • I think we’ll just have sub sandwiches at the tailgate party this weekend.

    Tailgating-19-595
    You know why they don’t have anyone at their tailgate? Because they’re serving subs and they don’t know how to play cornhole, that’s why. Sheesh…
  • I don’t even think I HAVE a recipe that calls for cooking anything more than two hours.
  • Lord, yes, I love my instapot!
  • There’s no art to barbecue, you just throw it on the grill and walk away for a few hours. Easy as pie.
  • You’ve just got to try my new recipe for quinoa flavored with jicama and harissa. It’s just to DIE for….
  • You can’t fry everything…

Skillet-Fried-Chicken_30_frying
To which every good Southern cook says, “The hell you can’t!”

Okay – your turn!

Are there things YOU think no good Southern cook would ever say?

Leave them in the comments below!

Copyright Liz Carey, LLC 2018

Anderson’s Blue Laws

As anyone from Anderson, SC, knows, if you want to throw back a cold one watching the game on Sunday, you better buy your beverage of choice the night before.Blue Laws 1.12.17

Anderson’s “Blue Laws,” prohibiting liquor sales on Sunday, are a throwback to a time when properly observing the Sabbath meant Sunday was a day of rest – for businesses as well as residents.

But did you know that Anderson’s Blue Laws once forbid the sale of another “intoxicating” beverage – Coca Cola?

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An accidental pussy grabber

So, I was on my way to a meeting the other day, when I inadvertently kidnapped a neighbors’ cat.

Really… it wasn’t my fault.

louisSee, we have this big black cat named Oliver. And Oliver has gotten it into his head lately that he should be able to roam about his domain, namely everything he can see from the window behind my work chair, any time he wants.

Sometimes, the boys let him out in the morning.

And sometimes, he slips out when no one is looking.

Acat-on-a-keyboardnd there are those days when he sits on someone’s keyboard or climbs on the back of their chair in order to attack their hair while they’re typing forcing someone to decide to actually throw him out… but, I digress.

Any who, I was just driving down the street, sort of patting myself on the back for being on time for a change, when I see a couple of guys in a state vehicle, standing on the side of the street with this black cat.

Immediately, it registered with me that it looked like Oliver.

Almost simultaneously, it registered that even government employees don’t deserve that kind of torture.

When I was three blocks away it also registered – “Holy monkey pee, they might actually take the cat with them!”

I mean, it is my youngest son Max’s cat, and for some bizarre reason he actually likes the furry little asshole, despite his tendency to attack Max when he’s trying to sleep.

So, I doubled back and pulled up behind their truck.

“Did I see y’all with a black cat earlier?” I asked them. “I think that’s ours. He likes to get out in the morning and terrorize the neighborhood.”

black-cat-pink-collarThey pointed to the other side of their truck where a black cat with a pink ribbon around its neck was standing.

Naturally, since I was now running late, I grabbed the cat, threw it in the van, thanked the guys for their help and took off.

It wasn’t until I was halfway to the highway that I realized…Oliver doesn’t have a collar.

Looking a little closer at the cat, I realized Oliver doesn’t have as round of a face or such a small body.

Then it hit me – I’d grabbed the wrong cat!

Apparently, you really CAN just grab ‘em, even if you’re not a celebrity. Some of them really do just let you.

There were other indications this wasn’t Oliver, as well… for instance, this cat was nice.

This cat would let you pet it more than three times in a row without feeling the need to attack your hand like it was a mouse bathed in tuna juice.

This cat looked up at you with eyes that said “Love me please!” instead of glaring “Are you planning on feeding me anytime soon, or do you get the claws again?”

This cat was also a girl.

Clearly, I’d made a huge mistake.

I decided to name her LaLa Land.

img_0356-1Barreling down the highway, late to my appointment and talking to LaLa, I tried to figure out what I to do. In response, LaLa decided to curl up in my lap, rest her head on my arm and fall asleep.

Who can resist that?

I briefly considered taking off the collar, putting it on Oliver and switching them out when no one was looking. Hey, if it worked for Patty Duke…

For the next four hours, I talked to LaLa as we ran errands and ate lunch. She curled up in my arm while I was driving and wandered the car when I wasn’t. I shared a bit of my chicken caesar salad with her, and poured her a cupful of water. She purred in contentment and never once nipped at my fingers to protest anything.

Finally, I stopped in front where I’d snatched her from and put her back where she belonged. She alternately clung to me and scrabbled to get away as I took put her on the sidewalk.

I swear she looked back at me with the melancholy gaze of a hostage with Stockholm syndrome.

cat-tongue-catAnd although I briefly thought about grabbing her back up and whisking her away to our house where she could live as my special cuddle cat for the rest of our days… I resisted. Two cats are enough, my husband says. Anything more than that borders on hoarding.

Or so I’m told.

I’m not sure I believe that.

LaLa was a pretty good listener, despite being a catnapping victim, and she was much nicer than Oliver ever had been. She didn’t even mind being in a minivan – which is more than I can say for my other son.

But still, kidnapping someone else’s cat, no matter how nice and accommodating the cat is, is no way to acquire a new pet.

Again, I’ve heard this, but I’m not quite sure I believe it.  Surely there are exceptions … like when a cat really likes you, right?

And even though she was in my life for only a short time, I like to think she was happy… and that she taught me a life lesson I’m not soon to forget – namely, that I am seriously just one bad relationship away from becoming a crazy cat lady…

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2017

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