It’s time to get the garden in, so naturally I made a beeline for my underwear drawer.
Well, okay, not every year.
There were those three or four years when the kids were younger and we lived on the river. A general disregard by my kids for anything that could be construed as a vegetable and the fact that floods don’t pay much attention to fencing, sort of made planting a garden a bad idea.
Not that we didn’t want to… we just didn’t have the time or money for that kind of failure.
This whole garden craze started when my dear husband and I were first married and moved into a house on a street in Cincinnati that easily could have been built in San Francisco. Clearly, the fact that our house was on land that could have been better described as vertical made it the perfect spot to build a raised bed garden.
With railroad ties and a truck full of dirt, we put in a little garden that held all the foods we would eat over the winter – tomatoes, corn, green peppers, eggplant and Brussels sprouts. And we put in a bed of herbs – basil, oregano, chives, peppermint and dill.
Let’s just say, I THOUGHT growing eggplant would be great, but I was wrong because once you grow them, you have to actually eat them. And I THOUGHT that two Brussels sprouts plants would produce enough buds to adequately feed two people, but I was wrong because it only produces enough Brussels sprouts to contemplate the correct spelling of “Brussels sprouts” on search engines when it becomes clear that bugs are eating more of them than you are.
And herbs? Here’s a tip – unless you really, really, really like the smell of dill, or the flavor of peppermint, don’t ever, EVER plant them directly into the ground because they will take over every available inch of ground they can find, from your garden well into the neighboring football field, if you let them. Even if you don’t let them, they will still do it and mock you for your feeble attempts to control them.
On the other hand, we had tomatoes and green peppers and corn!
I was so excited to go out and grab food that I had grown. I couldn’t wait to grab the tomatoes straight off the vine and plop a few ears of corn off the plants and into a big pot of boiling water.
But by the time I got around to it, they were gone.
I went outside and our harvest was no longer on the plants waiting for me to pick it. In fact, it was thumping along the back wall in a plastic bag, trailing two kids from our neighborhood who had come into our little backyard for a little vegetable buffet.
I suspect their mom sent them. Seriously, what kid steals vegetables?
Those little set backs didn’t stop us though. Most everywhere we went – from a row house in Newport, Ky., to a three-story mansion in the middle of Cincinnati, and here in our home in Anderson, SC – we planted a garden.
We were like the Johnny Appleseed of green vegetables and overgrown herb beds….
This past year, we had heirloom tomatoes, squash, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, carrots, radishes, basil, oregano, sage, parsley and even a few okra plants.
Our tomatoes were great, as were the squash, but honestly, we just gave up on harvesting them after a while because we got tired of eating them. Do you have any idea how much an average zucchini plant produces? I would estimate it at about 728 bushels based on the number of plastic bags of zucchini I had in my freezer one year when I got the idea that if I harvested them and grated them, I could make something like zucchini bread with them later.
That was a teacher Christmas gift that went over well, I’m sure.
So, instead, we just left them there. The birds ate holes in the tomatoes. The squirrels ate the green peppers. Some other unknown entity ate the lettuce and carrots. After eating our fill, we left the rest for nature to consume. It was just too much work to worry with.
And then, there was the whole watering thing. Also, a lot like work.
We just not the type to water plants. I’m sure that our peace lilies, who have been with us for more than 16 years, tremble in fear every time we get the Christmas decorations out because they know that is the sign they’ll be coming inside, into the desert of our living room, until it gets warm outside. Often, between December and February, I will walk by them and say to myself “Jeez, I really should water the plants,” but never actually do. It’s a wonder they haven’t gotten together and grown legs so they could strangle us in our sleep for forcing them through the torture of neglect.
When it came to the garden though, I wasn’t ever going to spend a fortune to end up with another failure. And what’s the point of spending a small fortune on a garden, if your desired result is to get something for almost nothing?
So, we came up with alternatives.
Need mulch? We use old clean cardboard boxes and newspapers.
Want an irrigation system? We poke holes in the bottoms of empty two-liter bottles and bury them in the ground near your most neediest plants to regulate a water supply that lasts for a few days.
Need plant supports? Well, … here’s where the underwear drawer comes in.
Our tomato plants are planted in front of an old trellis that I have had for more than 15 years. Tomato plants don’t generally take to being trained up a trellis and they’re pretty fragile, so tying them up can be problematic. Sometimes, even string can cut into the tender vines and leave you with nothing but a stem that’s beautiful on the bottom, but withered and bare on the top. The Solution? Old panty hose. They have just enough give in them to be supportive for the tomatoes while holding them in place.
Which means one of my first stops when setting out the garden is to rummage through my underwear drawer to find hose with runs and rips and tears in them. Since no pair seems to last for more than 378 seconds, happily, they aren’t hard to find.
I’ll be out buying plants and seeds this week. And I’ll be going through my underwear drawer.
But I’m pretty sure the kids next door won’t be stealing my tomatoes this year. They have a chicken coop.
Maybe we can trade veggies for eggs.
One more thing to store in old panty hose, I’m sure…
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015
Even though my sons are 16 and 15, the Easter bunny still visits my house.
This year, there was none of the plastic grass that clings to every living thing in the house, and it lacked its usual bevy of toys. But each one did include an envelope full of money, which is all my sons really wanted in the first place.
The solid chocolate break apart bunny was just a bonus.
After all, they’re teenagers and toys, candy, colored eggs and plastic doo dahs don’t do it for them as much as cold hard cash-ola.
Ever since they were born, they’ve been the recipients of gifts brought to them by anonymous mythical creatures who wish to buy their love through sweets and trinkets.
At the same time, we’ve spent their formative years telling them to beware of evil men in cars with lollipops and missing puppies who are waiting for the opportunity to kidnap them and of “stranger danger.”
No wonder this generation is completely screwed up.
Throughout their childhood, from the tooth fairy to the Big Guy himself (you know – Mr. Claus) to the Birthday Monsters, there seemed to be no end to the parade of mystical creatures bestowing gifts on my kids.
Spoiler alert kids – Some of them are completely made up.
Take for instance, the Birthday Monsters.
When my guys were very little, every year on the night before their birthday, I read to them Sandra Boynton’s “The Birthday Monsters.”
In the story, a group of monsters comes to visit you and proceeds to celebrate your birthday by wrecking your house, opening your gifts and eating your cake, only to make it all perfect again before they leave.
Somewhere along the way, in our house, this turned into a tradition of waking up on one’s birthday morning to find presents on the kitchen table and eating birthday cake for breakfast.
All these early morning discoveries, of course, required a lot of late night basket decorating, stocking stuffing, quarter leaving and present wrapping on the part of one particular person in our household.
I remember one year talking online with a friend and asking them if they thought it would be okay if I left the boys alone in the house, since they were asleep upstairs, and ran to the store to grab more Easter candy for their baskets. They weren’t particularly enamored with the idea. I ended up filling some plastic eggs with spare change that year instead.
More spoiler alerts kids – now might be a good time to go watch a YouTube video or something.
My oldest son, Mason, figured it all out when he was 8 years old. He came to me and said “You’re the birthday monsters, aren’t you?”
I admitted that I was.
“That makes you the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny too, doesn’t it?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
“Oh… then that means,… hmmm,” he said. He knew it all.
“Just don’t tell your brother,” I said.
When my youngest son, Max, found out he was nearly 13. For years, he had been a believer, even to the point of ringing a Christmas bell around us (while we had to act like it was broken) to prove that the magic in it still worked.
Once the realization the Big Guy was just me, all the other night visitors fell into their appropriate places in history for Max. His belief suspended, he realized the myths for what they were.
“My whole life has been a lie,” he lamented.
I guess it never occurred to him before then that it was a little strange that every few months supernatural beings were breaking into our house, not to mention stalking us and keeping tabs on our behavior.
Of course, these mythical entities were great discipline tools. Mom had Santa’s cell phone number. She would let the tooth fairy know if one of those bicuspids didn’t exactly fall out on its own. And no one wanted to see what the Easter bunny would leave if he got an email telling him they weren’t picking up their room.
But now, those tricks don’t work. They know there will be an Easter basket on the kitchen table even if they fail to change their sheets and that their Christmas stockings will always be full of the little joys they never expect.
So why do these gifts keep appearing?
Maybe it’s because I want them to be my kids always. I want them to know that they are loved. I want there to be one moment every once in a while where I can still surprise them to make up for the all the times I’ve yelled at them about grades and jobs and dirty laundry.
Maybe it’s a chance to spoil them when I’m so hard on them the rest of the year.
Maybe it’s because I like carrying on a tradition we started and which will one day be carried down to their kids.
Maybe it’s because the gifts are so appreciated. Today, when they got up at the crack of noon, they both got their Easter baskets and began to immediately make plans for the cash. Soon thereafter, Max came in the living room and hugged me. Mason, in turn, got out of bed and kissed me on the forehead.
They liked the baskets, even if they’re not full of jellybeans and Reese’s pieces and Peeps.
Those are the parts of the basket the Easter bunny kept for herself…
Copyright (c) 2015 Liz Carey
I’m sorry, I have to say it. I really dislike some vegetarians.
I don’t dislike the fact that they are vegetarians – heck, I think everyone has the right to decide what they want to eat. And honestly, if someone would rather eat spinach, cannellini beans and quinoa instead of bacon double cheeseburger, that’s none of my business.
No, the ones I have a problem with are the vegetarians who think that because THEY are vegetarians, you want to be one, or should be one too.
For instance, this afternoon, I picked up a soup cookbook at the library. I have to say I was really excited because a quick look at the back cover included a reference to “pho” one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.
Pho is known for being one of the great Vietnamese street foods, and you won’t see an Anthony Bourdain Vietnam episode without some mention of it. It’s a soy sauce based broth on noodles called bahn pho, with herbs, spices and meat – usually either beef or chicken. It’s just amazing comfort food, give or take the “slurp slurp” noise that sometimes accompanies eating it.
So, I was really excited to get the recipe home and try it our, right? Of course right!
Imagine my surprise then when I open the book to the right page and there, in little words before the recipe, was a disclaimer saying while the original recipe was “redolent with beef” they had made theirs a vegetarian version.
WHAT?!?! I didn’t want a vegetarian version of a meat and noodles soup! I didn’t want faux pho, I want pro pho!
And then I realized all of the soups were vegetarian versions with little notes about how, if you gave it as a gift, the recipient could add their own meat later after you left.
Yeah, that’s TOTALLY going to make your friend happy to have to get a gift that makes you work…
It reminded me of a friend a few years ago who was getting married. A guest of one of the invited guests requested that not only did she want a vegetarian dish that the hostess hadn’t planned on providing, but that no meat be served at her table during the reception. I’m not making this up. I was stunned too.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t want to eat meat, that’s cool, just don’t expect me to forego meat with you or for your comfort.
If someone wants to delude themselves into believing that tofu and mung beans taste better than ribs and brisket, that’s fine for them. But please don’t expect me to order a salad and cornbread at the Big Pig BBQ because I’m sitting at a table with vegetarian.
You know; if you can’t take the meat, stay out of the smokehouse.
Some vegetarians I know talk about the poor animals who are murdered for our carnivorous needs and it makes them sad or sick to even see them on a plate.
Or that the animals are poor sweet creatures slaughtered for our benefit.
Uhm, let’s take cows for instance. I’ve worked with cows. A) they stink. B) they poop in their food. And c) they are dumber than rocks.
Not that any of them does anything to deserve being hit in the head with a sledgehammer, but still … they don’t all look like Bessie on the milk carton or the cute cows you see on Chick-Fil-A billboards. And none of them talk. Honest. They are big, dumb creatures that taste really good roasted over a charcoal pit.
A good steak, medium rare with a nice garlic butter? Awesome. Man, oh man, it doesn’t get any better. Add a baked potato and a good Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. Heaven in dishware.
I don’t think anyone will ever say that about bean sprouts or edamame. I just can’t picture anyone getting worked up about a carrot raisin salad and a side of fried tofu covered in tomato sauce with a glass of sauvignon blanc.
There’s no point in arguing that one way of eating is better than another. It won’t make enough of a difference to a meat eater to give up sausage, and it won’t make a vegetarian choke down some bacon. People should be able to choose to eat what they want. But no one should assume that others should share in their eating habits, just because they happen to be around them and don’t like the smell of what they might order.
You think beef smells bad? Get a whiff of tamarind paste or falafel soaking once in a while.
Stinks worse than the damn cows, if you ask me.
But then again, if you’re a vegetarian sitting next to me, I’m not going to assume you will eat up a big bowl of beef stew just because I’m next to you either.
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015
The other day my son told me I looked like a “white girl.”
There I was in my oversized sweatshirt, leggings and Uggs, and my son was stunned.
“Yeah, you look really fresh,” he said. “You look like a white girl.”
The thing is, this is not a new look for me.
The leggings are somewhat permanent.
I typically spend all of my off time in my Momm-iform (Mom Uniform) which consists of leggings of some sort and a big shirt. Or a pair of jeans and a big shirt. Or leggings and a tank top and a big shirt. Or just a big shirt over a bathing suit…in the summer, of course.
I mean, seriously, I spend a lot of time in really big shirts.
But for some reason, now he thought I looked different. Maybe it was the Uggs. Maybe it was the haircut I’d just recently gotten, or the fact that my hair was back to blonde instead of whatever other color laced with grey that it used to be. Maybe it was because I had lost a few pounds.
For some reason, he thought I looked like a girl. Specifically, a white girl.
And here I was worried that my biggest fear growing older was to know when I slipped into the ever-feared aging blonde category…
Now picture this for a minute… we live in the South and the only time ANY girls around here put on Uggs is when the temperature bottoms out at 60. We pull out the sweatshirts when the temperatures hover around 50.
It was in the 40s. We were heading to the grocery store. And it was a Saturday. I was in my comfort element. I really wasn’t going for any style other than Mom-irrific.
Here, on a typical day in the South, the momm-iform is more capris and a camp shirt over a tank top with flip flops or those $5 sneakers you buy at KMart, or even walking shorts and a twin sweater set. Well, March through November anyway… But this was February and the typical Momm-iform then is to throw on leggings, a turtleneck, thigh high boots, one terrific scarf and one of the three heavy sweater you actually own.
Face it, Northern ladies, we may suck at colder weather, but we’re just like you… only prettier… and better dressed.
Still, I don’t think most people look at me and immediately say “Oh, look! There’s someone who spent a year as PTA president! You can tell by her sweater set and perfectly groomed toenails!”
I’ve read other suburban moms saying that yoga pants and a tank top are their momm-iform. I don’t buy it, as many of these women look at if they are at the gym on an hourly basis, and at their hairdresser’s when they’re not, but… if that’s what they want us to believe, so be it.
Honestly though, my look hasn’t changed much since college – whether I was a mom or not.
Of course, what this all means is that when my son said that I looked like a “white girl,” the first thing that popped into my head was not that I looked any different, but .. what the
heck did he think that I looked like before?
White trash professional?
The Goodwill wife?
By day, it’s true, I’m a mild mannered executive who tries diligently to marry comfort and style, but I usually fail miserably – mostly because I am not a fashionista at all. Heck, it’s kind of hard to be fashionable when you’re an overweight mother of two pushing the waning edge of your 40s.
Is there one of those Facebook posts out there that tells you what not to wear when you’re pushing 50 and don’t want to look like a high school trollop?
But by night, I am a grime fighting super mom who regularly wears clothing inappropriate for stepping out of Cinderella’s basement, let alone picking up one’s kids in church parking lots. Which, of course, is what I usually wear when I pick my kids up in church parking lots.
I never actually get OUT of the car, but still… I’m pretty sure I’m the only one there at the mega church on a Wednesday evening in pajamas.
Even as I write this, I am in black and red plaid pajama bottoms, a black three-quarter sleeve shirt and a red hoodie sweatshirt. It’s a nice ensemble to go with my awesome fuzzy grey slippers. I might also add that it’s 7:30 and I probably won’t go to bed for another four hours.
But this is my comfort zone and this is where I get to wear what I want and be who want in whatever I want right?
So maybe I did used to look like something else to him. He sees me at my best and at my worst. He sees me when I’m getting ready for work. Usually, since he has better taste than me, he’s the one I ask whether or not I’ve been able to successfully pull an outfit together. And he’s seen me at my worst, which usually involves sagging gardening shorts and dirt-covered tank tops when I work in the yard.
Now he thinks I look like a girl.
This is a big change from a few years ago when I told him I could help him talk to his latest girlfriend and he responded, “What do you know about girls? You’re a mom!”
I guess, though, what I should take away from this is not what I used to look like, or what I look like now, but what I look to him.
Regardless of how whether it’s good or bad, how many 40++++ women can say their sons think they look like a girl?
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015
Do you love your mother????
CALLING ALL WRITERS, ASPIRING WRITERS, OR PEOPLE WITH A STORY OF MOTHERHOOD TO SHARE to read their own words about motherhood at The Alverson Community Theater for the first LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER scheduled for 3:00 pm May 2, 2105
All ages, genders, ethnicities, variety of writers invited to audition—NON-MOTHERS WELCOME. Bring your own original humorous, poignant, and soulful words about the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested that is motherhood (or about your mother/person who raised you)
Auditions are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY Saturday March 17, 18 ad 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce Conference Rooms B & C, 907 N. Main Street, Anderson, SC.
TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT send an email to Liz Carey at email@example.com with the word “AUDITION” in the subject line. Please include your name and availability. Appointments will be first-come/first-serve until all slots are filled. AUDITION PIECES SHOULD NOT EXCEED 5 MINUTES. Please time yourself reading aloud before auditioning.
Shorter is fine. Shorter is great!
Many LTYM Alumni had no professional writing or stage experience, some had never spoken in public—all will tell you of the amazing experience of sharing their story before their community on Mother’s Day. Join the national series of live readings giving Mother’s Day a Microphone! The 2015 Season includes local productions in Austin, Chicago, Madison, New York City, Northwest Arkansas,
Northwest Indiana, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Spokane, and Washington D.C
I was talking to a friend the other day about Star Wars.
All he knew was the remake.
For him, Greedo shot first and Han was just defending himself.
WRONG!!!! That’s not the way it ORIGINALLY went down.
The conversation reminded me that cultural differences can span just a few years.
The first time I realized this I was in my first summer of college working at a fast food joint. During a heated debate, I piped up “Jane, you ignorant slut.” You would have thought I had actually meant to insult one of the girls in the room, despite the fact I was only talking to boys.
Another time, a friend of mine and I went to our first U2 concert. It was the Rattle and Hum tour and we were in floor seats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. As was their tradition, U2 played Beatles music during the warm up. My friend and I were having the time of our lives singing the hits, when the girls in front of us asked us who the warm up music was.
“It’s the Beatles… you know? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison?” we said.
This was about the time that George Harrison had a hit single “I’ve got my mind set on you” on the charts.
Stellar lyrics there, “I’ve got my mind set on you” repeated about seven million times. A little less thrilling than “Norwegian Wood” if you ask me.
“Oh! My! God!” the girls shrieked. “George Harrison was in a band? We have GOT to check them out.”
I’d never felt so old.
And that was 30 years ago.
Later, as the oldest woman (at the ripe old age of 28) working at a local ISP (remember ISPs?), I was talking to one of the teen-ish guys working there who was excited to be seeing Star Wars in the movie theater for the first time during its re-release in the 90s. I didn’t get his excitement. I saw it in the movie theaters when I was 12… I think I sprouted my first grey hairs that day.
There are just some things a child of the 70s, knows that others just can’t begin to understand…
First things first…
My kids will never understand. Half of the people that I talk to everyday will never understand. But those of us who grew up on less than 10 television stations, Saturday Night Live, and a life without DVDs, OnDemand or email will get it.
And seriously, let’s get one thing straight.
Han definitely shot first.
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015
Everyone knows that there are secret life hacks that can make their lives easier.
As parents, we know all the little tips and tricks learned over years of housework. There are just some things that make life all the much more livable.
But, spend few minutes living with any teen and you’ll realize, if it comes out of a parent’s mouth, it can’t be true, it has to be on the Internet for that.
So, here it is, the top 8 life hacks every teen must know – on the internet no less!
1 – Clean hair dye from a white bathroom sink using just bleach and an old rag! Pour bleach on stained area, wipe down with old rag and cover stain with bleach a second time. Let stand for 5 minutes, or more depending on the darkness of stain. Wash off bleach with water and rag. BONUS HACK: Use a white rag and allow the bleach to clean stains out of the rag as well.
2 – Writing assignments and their due dates on a calendar, the day they are assigned, prevents forgetting them until the last minute or missing them entirely. Result? Less stress and better days!
3 – Use a relatively new invention – the trash can – to store all of your old candy wrappers and empty soda bottles. When full, carry trash receptacle to the garbage can outside to dispose of all of your garbage in one trip! You’ll be able to tell when the can is full when pieces of garbage start falling out of it. Being ahead of the game and taking the garbage out before being asked can save you from being interrupted during a great run of Call of Duty by Mom yelling to get to your chores.
4 – Folding your laundry and putting it away immediately after it is finished in the dryer helps to prevent the need for ironing clothes as well as keeps your mom from yelling at you that you look like a street urchin or homeless man. As an added bonus, this saves countless hours of looking through your clothes for what to wear that day, or confusing clean clothes with dirty clothes, requiring you to wash all of them over again.
5 – Shave minutes off chore time by simply putting dishes IN THE DISHWASHER instead of in the sink five feet to the side of it. This is an even more effective hack instead of leaving dishes in your room.
6 – Rub a toothpaste tube along the side of the sink and bathroom countertops from the bottom of the tube up, in order to move all of the toothpaste up into the useable part of the tube. Hint: This only works if you remember to put the cap back on.
7 – If you smell the cat litter box when you come in the back door of the house, chances are, it’s time to change it. Doing something simple like this can save up to 20 minutes of nagging per WEEK!
8 – Using Kleenex or toilet paper to blow your nose, instead of picking it and wiping it on your gaming chair or your jeans will not only save time cleaning your chair, but also help to make you look like less of a loser in your friends and families eyes – they do see you do it, you know.
9 – When it’s your turn to clean the bathroom, make sure you take a long hot shower first. Then, after drying off with your towel, use the moist towel to clean loosened dirt on the countertops and sink. Wet towel with a little water from the now clean sink, and use the towel to “mop” the floor. After you get dressed, throw away the garbage and clean out the toilet and you’re done!
With just a little planning and a few extra steps, you’ll be on your way to a calmer, more grown-up way of life. In many ways,
And now, it’s on the internet, so it HAS to be true…
Since Friday, I’ve been thinking about the premiere of Downton Abbey.
When I watch it, I sometimes think of what it would be like to be Elizabeth McGovern’s character and live out my days leisurely with servants to do all of the things I scream at my kids to do. I imagine dressing for a dinner that someone else cooks, on dishes I’ll never have to wash and going to sleep in a bed I’ll never have to make or wash the sheets of.
Of course, that’s all just a dream.
But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to bring a little English culture to our home. As a lifelong slight anglophile, I have admired English culture since I was first introduced to it through Camelot and Robin Hood.
When I was graduated from high school, my mother took me to England, Scotland and Wales. It was a dream come true. We traveled to London, where she took some classes while I walked through the streets of the town, looking at the sites. After going out on a date with one of the servers from the restaurant of our hotel, Mom and I traveled to Scotland, through the Dales and into the British and Welch countryside.
As we traveled, our plan was simple – eat the hotel’s continental breakfast (hard “toast”, one croissant, jam, butter and tea), then have high tea instead of lunch because it was cheaper. Took a while to figure out that biscuits were crackers. When we were in bed and breakfasts, we’d eat their rather sumptuous breakfasts (which shocked the heck out of me because it was the first time anyone had ever served me baked beans and tomato slices along side bacon, eggs and toast), have high tea and then go for a light supper. That was a rasher of bacon was the meaty bit of a bacon slice and the streaky was the fatty bit.
And yes, it really is true that when you’re a stranger in a small town, walking into a pub will result in everyone stopping in the middle of their conversations and looking at you, which doesn’t even stop when you order what ever it is they are serving for supper.
Today, as I was waiting for the return of Downton Abbey’s fifth season, those memories came flooding back to me; Mom and I walking through churches built before America was even discovered, watching the changing of the guard, hitting Edinburgh and touring the castle just as 40,000 David Bowie fans stormed the city, many of whom serenaded us under our hotel window after the concert was over at 1 a.m.
I loved the castles. I loved the history. I loved the smell of the Scottish heather perfume that I bought there.
I hated the food though.
Steak and kidney pie? Bleck. Bubble and Squeak? Basically leftover potatoes and cabbage and Brussels sprouts with beef and gravy. Right. And let’s not even get started on Haggis, black pudding or jellied eel…
Still, the memories of all those afternoons spent with my mom over tea and scones with clotted cream and jam made we want to relive some of my real memories before I embarked on my fantasy memories later tonight.
I decided to make Welsh rarebit, or Welsh rabbit, depending on how you decide you want to pronounce it.
The American version of Welsh rarebit is basically, a cheesy bechamel sauce on toast. But the English version is more of a cheese and beer paste that is spread on buttered toast and broiled for a late Sunday “what do make when the pantry is empty” supper.
Of course, I had to make my own version. Just a little here, and a substitution there, and next thing you know, Bob’s your uncle and all that.
First, I started with three slices of honey wheat bread, spread with butter and toasted lightly in the broiler. At the same time, I fried up about six slices of bacon. Once those were done, I put them both to the side and started on the cheese sauce.
Most British recipes call for dry mustard and stout. I don’t have either. I had Dijon and Thomas Creek’s Red Ale. So that’s what I used. Combining about a tablespoon of ale and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a small saucepan, I whisked them together until they were smooth. Then I added another two tablespoons of ale, a tablespoon of butter, about a teaspoon of Worcestershire, some paprika and a dash of red pepper. Then I heated those until the butter melted, stirring frequently.
Once the mixture came to a boil, I added half a cup of shredded Colby jack cheese, half a cup of shredded cheddar and about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and whisked them all together until the cheeses melted and the mixture was smooth. You’ll see that this turns into a nice sauce that just coats the fork or whisk that you are using.
To this, I added one egg yolk. I pierced the egg yolk with a fork and added to a warm, but not hot, cheese mixture. So that the egg yolk doesn’t scramble in the heated mix, I whisked it really quickly until it began to thicken. You’ll see that the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and starts to form more of a paste like consistency.
At this point, I started to assemble the sandwich. I sliced a tomato into three slim slices and put them on a paper towel to dry out a bit. On a cookie sheet, I put each piece of toast and topped each piece with a tomato slice. I topped that with two pieces of bacon, cut in half. From there, I spooned the cheese mixture on top of the sandwich until it covered the bacon, tomato and bread. After sprinkling the completed sandwich with parsley, I put the cookie sheet into the broiler and broiled the sandwich until it was bubbling and browning a little.
In all, the sandwich took about 15 minutes to make. It was a great easy lunch to make for a grey and raining afternoon.
But more than that, it helped me reconnect with my Mom. And with my kids. Little Mason thought it was pretty good, but Max wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t tea at a little shop in the middle of Oxford, but it was my way of introducing them to the culture I love. Max is already reading the five-book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (yeah, that’s correct) and I’ve made them watch Raymond Briggs illustrated cartoons and Tin Tin since before it was cool to do that.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to take the to England or Ireland or Scotland, but for now I’m sure they’ll indulge their old Mom on a few of the finer points of English cooking… at least the palatable ones.
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015
I’m pretty sure I am all Christmas’d out.
As I sit here on my couch on a rainy 60 degree Sunday, some of my friends are celebrating their fourth and fifth family holiday today. Heck, some of them have had more than eight holiday celebrations in the course of the last month.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as the next person… probably more than some in fact. I love the secrets, the smells, the sights… even the sappy Christmas specials where the evil shopkeeper realizes there is more to the season than commercialism and peace returns to Happyville and little Timmy gets his dog back.
Yeah, I know, I’m a bit sentimental, but life can’t be all sarcasm, moonshine and zombies now, can it?
So, after countless batches of Christmas candy, a seemingly endless stream of holiday engagements and a month-long marathon of shopping or making gifts, I think I’m done for a while.
How can I tell? The signs are all around us… Here’s the top 8 ways to tell you’re done with Christmas.
So, let’s take a few minutes and say goodbye to 2014’s holiday season. It’s been one to put in the record books… well, the keepsake books anyway, if indeed we keep any of those. And remember, there’s just 363 shopping days left to find the perfect gifts for Christmas 2015.
Copyright Liz Carey (c) 2014
I want to tell Bob Geldof, no.
No, no, no, no, no. It was bad when you did it in 1984, it remains bad, bad, bad, bad, bad when you do it now.
Look, it’s not like we’re not all KEENLY aware of the fact that “Do they know it’s Christmas” is the most annoying and condescending song we hear every hour from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. Even “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “The Christmas Shoes” pale in comparison to the 1984 version of “prove your love and compassion via donations.”
But now, you’ve gone and made ANOTHER one, equally as condescending, sappily sweet and just smacking of that “white messiah complex” stuff you Brits seem to have perfected.
Released November 17, 2014, the NEW and IMPROVED version of “Do they know it’s Christmas” features One Direction, instead of Boy George, and Sam Smith, instead of George Michael, and lots of other British musicians I don’t recognize. Which is kind of like the first one, except that I recognized a lot more of them back then cause back then it was a new concept and I, like it, was cool.
Oh! And Chris Martin is in it – which of course makes everything cooler, and Bono is in it – which used to make everything very cool, but now makes whatever he’s in very serious and political. And Sinead O’Connor is in it, which makes it weird cause she’s the only person there that is my age and still doing the same thing she was then, only with MORE hair.
But, essentially, it’s the same song… trying to raise money for the same cause – Africa.
This time, however, it’s about West Africa and Ebola. I guess Band Aid spent the last 30 years curing famine and drought in Africa and decided it was time to focus on ebola.
According to Bob Geldof, he was asked to help out. And he has, sort of… in the first 24 hours, industry reports say sales of the single raised more than $1.7 million – but… let’s just say, it’s really unclear at this point where all that money is going to…
But none of that is reason enough to hate the song. All you have to do is watch the video.
Sure, some of the lyrics have been changed; sure, the players are all new and hipper and grungier… but it’s the actual message of the song that just bites me in the wrong places.
So, here goes the first part of the song from 1984…
George Michael “But say a prayer, pray for the other ones, at Christmas-time”
Simon le Bon “It’s hard, but when you’re having fun, there’s a world outside your window and it’s a world of dread and fear”
Sting “Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears”
Sting, Bono, Simon “And the Christmas bells that ring, there are the clanging chimes of doom”
Bono (and this is the line that gets me) “Tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you.”
After a Phil Collins drum spot, we get “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime, The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life. Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow. Do they know it’s Christmas-time at all?”
See? I just want to smack people when I hear that.
First, uhm, yeah… THERE IS SNOW IN AFRICA! Ever heard of Mt. Kilimanjaro – or the ski slope open in winter in Morocco? And by the way, many of the countries located in Africa – especially the ones hit by Ebola – are predominantly CHRISTIAN. And more than that, characterizing the ENTIRE CONTINENT by the famine in ONE COUNTRY is a pretty demeaning generalization of a continent that has rich and culturally diverse climates, cultures and citizens. Ditto for a killer disease.
Even Geldof admits it’s one of the two worst songs of all-time – both of which were written by him. The other one is “We are the World.”
And despite the fact that many in Africa don’t want his help because of its demeaning nature and the stigma the song has given the entire continent as being full of people who are more looking for a hand-out from foreign countries than help to achieve more in their live, Bob Geldof went ahead and re-released it anyway.
And the demeaning images in the video are enough to prove Africa’s point. It’s a little startling to see people in hazmat suits tending to impoverished patients clinging to survival, then be swept away to images of rock stars exiting their limos in designer suits and jewels? There’s just an overwhelming picture painted of men in white coming to save the day for the poor dying African man.
And even more than that – of the rock stars lined up in the new video, only 4 of them are black, as opposed to the original’s ONE. Not that I’m saying there’s not some good in making a few progressive changes, but seriously?
I guess he was doing enough of a good thing by changing the lyrics up a bit.
Now instead of “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” Bono sings “Tonight, we’re reaching out and touching you?”
Did Bob NOT know when he wrote that, that that is the number one fear of white people EVERYWHERE (thanks to Fox News and CNN) that they will actually be TOUCHED by one of those ebola patients and then it’s only a hop, skip and shamble to the full-on zombie apocalypse?
I mean, COME ON! As if guilting us into handing over cash wasn’t bad enough, now you’re trying to scare the bejesus out of us into giving you money?
And why, again, does it have to be OUR money? Why can’t it be his? or theirs, even?
After all, Bob is worth more than $150 million. Would it really be too much skin off of his nose to fork over a paltry $1 million to help out?
If Bob really wanted to help, why didn’t he ask his friends, the millionaires who are singing, to donate a little cashola to be a part of the song, instead of letting them donate their “time.”
I mean, seriously, what else have these people got to do? Go around “consciously
coupling” with models, starlets and celebutantes?
If you look at it from an analytical position, it makes more sense for them to contribute a few buckaroonies, than for us to.
Let’s face it, if Bono, who is estimated to be worth $600 million, and the rest of U2 can move to the Netherlands to avoid paying Irish taxes, surely they can toss a few million to ebola to avoid paying taxes by making a charitable donation, right? Surely, they could have hired Two Guys and a Truck instead of paying Atlas Moving Company thousands and saved enough money to throw at a worthy cause.
Chris Martin is the frontman of Coldplay, which is estimated to be worth $64 million… One Direction? worth an estimated $42 million. If JUST those two groups donated a measly 3% of their combine net worth, it would double the single’s first day sales and still leave them with …$62 and $40.7 million and change, respectively. Really? Is Coldplay really so bad off they can’t survive on ONLY $62 million? Maybe One Direction’s hair products for men cost a bit more than they did when I was a kid and into that whole pop boy band thingy…
Maybe the members of Cold Play and One Direction should talk about their woes to their fans and tell them why they can’t afford to give up $3 million of the combined $106 MILLION they are worth, because they won’t be able to shop on GOOP anymore or buy goop for their hair.
Maybe, just maybe, they should tell that to the people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia waiting for treatment for Ebola and watching their family members die for want of hydration and sanitation… Maybe, I think just maybe, they should do that in person… maybe it’s time for them to reach out and touch someone else tonight…
(c) copyright Liz Carey 2014
Every year my sons and dear husband ask me what I want for Christmas.
“Oh, honey, you don’t have to get me anything. I already have everything I want. I have you all.”
Of course, in reality, we all know that if I didn’t get anything for Christmas, there would be many tears, many days of silent resentment and a lot of pink socks for the rest of the year.
It’s just that I have a hard time asking my family to spend some of our limited holiday budget on me when I know that it could go to them instead.
Motherhood martyrdom at its best.
And the truth of it is that I don’t want to tell them what to buy or how much to spend. I want them to somehow telepathically figure out what it is that would make me happy.
This, of course, from three guys who didn’t notice that I was wearing two different socks this weekend.
I’m not talking like a navy blue sock and a black sock. I’m talking one over the knee green leprechaun sock, complete with belt buckle print, and the other a sock that looked like a Chuck Taylor high-top canvas sneaker.
Yeah, I know… I was tired and didn’t feel like going through all of the laundry piled up on my chair in the bedroom. So sue me. My feet were cold.
Anyway, it occurs to me that I’m expecting miracles from three men who only notice whether or not I’m happy or sad, and react accordingly.
My youngest son, Max, looks at me when I’m happy and dancing in the kitchen in my mismatched sock feet and wonders why he must suffer through the torture of being born into such a weird family and leaves the room.
My oldest son, Mason, sees me in a bad mood (that can come about because of anything from an errant email to a bad day at work), comes up, puts his chin on the top of my head, hugs me and… leaves the room.
I’m sensing a trend here.
They don’t know why I feel the way I do, and most times they don’t ask. They just leave.
Or ask for money.
In the past, without asking for anything, I’ve gotten some really great things – some really beautiful teapots for my collection, some antique salt and pepper shakers for my collection and some enamel boxes for my collection. I’ve gotten a wine opener, hand-painted wine glasses, a Pyrex baking dish and some wonderful bamboo cutting boards.
I’ve never been one of the moms who gets presents they don’t like. I love the “Queen Mom” coffee cup one of my sons gave me one year (still use it) and the rhinestone angel necklace I got another year (still in my jewelry box). When they look at me with that expectant half-worried look on their faces about whether or not I actually WILL like it, it makes me like it all that much more.
I mean, it’s worked out really well for me to not say anything. I still end up really happy.
This year, the requests have come early. Like, starting in Labor Day, when the Christmas decorations came out in stores, they wanted to know what I wanted Santa to bring me.
And since they told me that they’re sick of buying salt and pepper shakers, cooking equipment, tea pots and painted wine glasses, I guess I need to help them out a bit.
So… here goes… my Christmas list.
Max: What I really want is a replacement for my skillet. I don’t want a set of teflon coated skillets from Target or Kmart, I want an exact duplicate of the one that I have. I bought the one I have at our grocery store. It’s about $20 and they are located near the candy aisle – which would be a great place to pick up one of those Lindt chocolate reindeer sets that I’ve always wanted to find in my stocking… not in replacement of anything, but in addition to… just saying.
Little Mason: Now that you’re a working man, and clearly have better taste in clothing than I do, what I would really like is something from your store that you think I would look good in… age appropriate please (I’m not 14… but I’m not 124 either… think 34) … And no “cougar” t-shirts, no matter how funny you think that might be. And remember our shopping motto “use discounts and shop from clearance.”
Big Mason: Now truth be told, I really feel guilty about asking you for anything. Just this last weekend you bought me two antique salt and pepper sets (one was a mini Schlitz beer bottle set – SWEET! – and the other antique silver cowboy boots – SUPER SWEET! wait, am I gushing a bit? yeah… deal with it) and then you went and got me 52 bottles of wine in a raffle at the Furball for the Anderson County Humane Society. I’ve literally got my wine advent calendar set and still have bottles left over for the rest of the year.
So, what do I ask you for? I don’t know. I really don’t know…. can I get back to you on that? Slippers are good… a nice robe? Matching socks?
Really, what can you give me that you haven’t already given me seven fold before?
Mom: I want some really nice Christmas towels for the bathroom and the kitchen. I think the ones I have are more than 300 years old, and more than likely, ones that I’ve stolen from your house over the years. I’d just like to have a set that I can bring out the day after Thanksgiving and enjoy the rest of the year. Last year, you sent me to the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer’s Workshop, so you’re off the hook for anything big for years since you crossed something off my bucket list.
I guess, speaking of bucket lists, what I really want is something that would let me cross another one of those things off of it. What I really, really want … what I think this year is my Red Ryder BB Gun this year, is to have someone fund an indiegogo.com campaign for “The Campground” (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/roman-jossart-s-the-campground-varsin-s-vengeance) in my name so I can be killed off in a horror movie, with my friend Harry McCane doing the make up to make me look good and dead.
I realize that watching me being killed may, in fact, be the Christmas dream of a few people out there, but think about it… buy this and we’re both happy!
Mason, my dear husband, always says “Why can’t you want anything normal for Christmas?”
And I kind of agree… I probably should like normal things like normal people.
But … in the partially altered words of Lina Lamont “I ain’t normal people… I’m Liz Carey!”
But in a pinch, I’m pretty sure chocolate and wine would suffice.
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2014
It’s been a rough week.
My hip hurts. And even though the doctors say it’s arthritis, I’m way too young to hear that come out of any professional’s mouth.
One of my cats died Sunday morning. But he was 417 years old, so it was time.
My house is not the kind of clean I would like it to be, but we’ll blame that on the aforementioned hip, and ignore the fact that I tend to have piles of clean laundry in my bedroom always.
My shoes are strewn about my bedroom in the pattern of a mad woman looking for golden slippers in the bottom of a stack of casual canvas boots, but that, too, is somewhat normal.
I’ve had to say “Good-bye” to someone who hated me with the class and debonair air that would have made my Dad proud, and “Hello” to someone who doesn’t know me with a restrained giddiness. Neither of these things is easy for me.
My kid got a job, but his grades are wanting and after a round of going toe-to-toe with one of his teachers for her inane rules, I can’t seem to get him to realize that doing well at school and adhering to those stupid rules is more important than skateboarding.
My other kid can’t understand why I’m not jumping at the bit to chauffeur him off to Hickory, NC to see his online girlfriend and leave him there alone with her for a couple of hours. Did I mention that Hickory is “only” five hours away? Did I mention he’s only 14?
I’ve wrapped up one fund-raising event, but am settling in the realization that I still have several more to go, and the illusion of having a break between them is a pipe dream.
I’m a little homesick for Cincinnati, my friends there and its never-ending buffet of arts and culture, all the while ignoring, of course, its crappy football team, crazy politics and pollution.
There’s a part of me that wants to cross off everything on my “to do” list and replace it with “stay in pajamas, retire to bed and pull covers over head.”
There is an end in sight though.
It’s only four days after Halloween and Christmas is upon us.
Since Saturday, November 1 by my calendar, I’ve received more than 12 holiday emails from retailers, avoided no less than six holiday specials on Lifetime and listened to zero holiday tunes on a local radio station, even though they are now playing them non-stop.
Usually, this is where I go into a holiday rant about giving me a break and allowing me to revel in one holiday before we go into another. Mostly, I think this is based on the guilt of not having even so much as looked at a single purchase in that “Oh, this would make a great present for someone” mindset or having knit a single stitch for that “oh so perfect handmade present.”
Usually, I get upset about the idea of Christmas decorations going up in stores on October 30 and how we ought to at least get through the Day of the Dead and Veterans Day before we start thinking about Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas. Usually, I’m already bemoaning what disasters will befall us THIS Thanksgiving day (and there are disasters) even without the sister-in-law from Hell in the house, and railing against how oppressive the Christmas holidays are.
But this year, it’s different.
This year, I think I need a little Christmas cheer. Maybe not 54 days of it, but still…
This year, I think I’m ready to start putting up lights and bringing out the Santas early.
In September, we put out the Halloween decorations in the yard. The inflatable “Pop Goes the Evil” maniacal clown Jack-in-the-Box with it’s creepy music has been playing in my yard and in my psyche for a month alongside the inflatable black cat, the inflatable overgrown spider and the inflatable “Witch meets Pumpkin.” Zombie corpses dot our graveyard front yard and a new skeleton dog has joined the troop. Tombstones line the top of my tea pot cabinet and Jack o’Lanterns loom from every surface of our living room, bathroom and kitchen. Wicked witches and ghostly pictures hang where we see them every day.
And I didn’t even get all the Halloween decorations out.
But now, I’m ready to put them away. I think I kind of want some joy.
I want to replace our black glittered roses in the bathroom with holly and evergreens. I want to see Santa and the promise of a happy Christmas morning instead of macabre faces and grimacing skeletons. I want to hold a season in childlike wonder instead of feigned fear.
Maybe I am getting old.
I miss the days when our kids looked forward to advent calendars filled with candy and presents under the tree and trips to the mall Santa who only mildly wreaked of cigarette smoke and bourbon. I miss the days when they counted down the “sleeps” ’til Christmas like the days ’til summer vacation.
I miss the days of my kitchen smelling of cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg and sugar cookies instead of barbeque and pumpkin spice.
I miss the days of happy embraces and red noses and long lingering hugs on the front steps, instead of the creepy movies on TV designed to scare the bejesus out of us.
That’s not to say we don’t have those feelings and expectations of happy anymore despite the season, but I want the most perfect of them now.
I want to feel that happy giddiness that comes with the expectation of a joyous morning and the coma-induced aftermath of present opening and unexpected surprises. I have plans for a few of those awe-inspiring surprises in store for the people who mean so much to me. I want to see them now. I want to linger on their expressions when they rip away the wrapping paper.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I love the feeling of having the people I care about close to me and eating with me the food that I’ve cooked. I love lounging on the couch and watching parades and football while the world’s most perfect turkey cooks in the oven. I love the lazy happiness that comes after a great party of mismatched dishes and more food than a family and friends could ever possibly eat.
Heck, I even like the bliss of a perfect Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, complete with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
But I think this year, after all the hardships and all the stress and all the turmoil, I need to just be happy for a while. Maybe even 54 days worth.
There’s a carefree attitude that comes with Christmas that brings out the happy in those who let it infect them. And they tend to spread it amongst their friends and companions.
It’s the ebola of holidays.
So, for once, I’m ready to forego the whining and moaning about “One holiday at a time, please.” I’m ready to give up my pretense that I want to have breaks between my holidays and actually enjoy creating a warm, comforting environment. I’m ready to stop pretending that I don’t like it and I’m not looking forward to it. I’m ready to start seeing circles in the “Toys R Us” catalogue and turned down pages of “Wireless.” I’m ready to know that what I do over the next 54 days will bring some joy to someone.
I need some happy.
It’s been a really tough week.
Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2014