So Bruce wants to be Caitlyn… So what?

This morning, like practically everyone else on the planet, I awoke to the news that Bruce Jenner now wanted to be called Caitlyn and was gorgeous.

The only thing I could think to myself was … So?

I remember Bruce Jenner as the athlete of my youth. And I vaguely connected him to the Kardashians about a year after they squirmed out from whatever ooze they had been living in and thought “Surely, that can’t be the same guy.” And I read something one day in the grocery check-out line about him wanting to become a woman.

I thought then, as I do now, so what?

Honestly, it’s a pretty good name, Caitlyn… I guess if I wanted to be a guy, I’d go with something totally unlike my name, like Jackson or James or Todd. And she is really attractive, as any woman photographed by Annie Leibowitz with enough make-up on likely would be.

But I still don’t think any of that is news.

Whether a person identifies themselves as a man, a woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual or whatever, just really isn’t news. It’s not something anyone chooses to be, it’s who they are. Since when is being who one really is newsworthy?

Maybe it’s because of the way I grew up, or the people I was around, or the beliefs I’ve come to hold dear, but I just don’t think that a person’s sexuality, sexual orientation or sexual preference is worthy of a cover spread on an international magazine.

When I was in my 20s, I spent a good deal of time at a pretty out there bar in Cincinnati called The Warehouse. My then boyfriend, and now husband, was a bouncer; the owner was a good friend and frankly, it was among the coolest places to be in the Tri-state area. Mummies hung from the ceilings. Girls danced in cages. Sofas lined the back wall. The bar from “A Rage in Harlem” ran the length of one part of the dance floor. It was loud with technopop blaring from 9 at night until 3 in the morning, and as the crowd surged with the pulsing beats, everyone got to know each other well.

There were hipsters, and emos, and preppies. There were gay men, lesbians and drag queens. And there were girls like me – non-descript blondes with a tendency toward shyness and a few wild hairs up her sleeve now and then.

So when I went in one night in a fitted black dress with a big skirt and a fake white lace collar, it wasn’t really that much of a shock to me that the person who said I looked like Lara Ingels was a drag queen.

Shirocco was a 6-foot tall, black drag queen with legs like Tina Turner and a face like Diana Ross. She was beautiful. She danced in cages with reckless abandon. She wore short skirts and figure hugging tops. She had a quick wit and even quicker tongue. She had men buying her drinks and women asking for beauty tips. She was your typical drag queen in the middle of 1990s Cincinnati.

And she nailed it. I looked like someone had picked me up out of my Little Home in the Prairie and deposited me in the Land of Oz. She just happened to point it out to me.

Did it bother me that she was prettier than me? Heck no. I hated make up back then. Did it bother me that she was built better than me? Not so much. I knew mine were real. Was it any of my business that she was anatomically a he? No. None at all.

And more to the point, was the fact that she was a drag queen newsworthy? Was it something that as a young reporter I felt compelled to share with the world? “Drag queen seduces young men in local bar – film at 11!”

No. It wasn’t.

It was her choice to be who she wanted to be. It was her choice how far she wanted to go to be a woman. And it was her choice how far she could go and still be a man. It wasn’t up to me to tell anyone who didn’t need to know. It’s just who she was.

The same is true of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. It’s his, now her, life. It has nothing to do with us. And it’s nothing that should be blasted all over the headlines – unless, of course, that’s what she wants to happen.

I watched as some of the comments about the Vogue magazine spread riddled across the Internet this morning. It really made me stop and think. What business is it of ours?

If Bruce Jenner had stayed a man and decided to finally smack the stupid out of his daughters and tell them all to grow up and get real jobs, would that be newsworthy? No, that would be his choice… and a damn good one too. And that certainly wouldn’t keep the tabloids from making a buck off of it. If he decided to put on lime and orange colored pants and challenge John Daly to a game of golf, would that be news? Not really. Might be a bad life decision if he put money on it, but still…

And this is no different. A person’s LGBT status shouldn’t be any more important to anyone than my hetero status. It’s just who I am.

One little twit – a washed up, has-been teen star who never really made it off Nickelodeon fandom – decided to make a name for himself by saying he’d still call her Bruce. Really? How disrespectful and rude. As if a celebrity like Jenner would ever come calling on him for anything… and as if any of the rest of us cared. Granted, a few thousand people did care enough to give him crap about it on Twitter, but still…. Jenner’s decision has nothing to do with any of us and none of us have any right to say diddly poop about any of it.

In today’s news, Lindsey Graham dubbed social security an “entitlement program,” while saying it supported him and his sister when they needed it; researchers believe they may have found a way to unlock the body’s immune system to fight cancer; reports surfaced that the TSA missed 95% of the explosives they were supposed to find in a drill and in my hometown, a bear was spotted roaming around an elementary school…

Do we not have more important things to worry about than whether Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a man or a woman? Do we really have so little going on in our lives that we need to voice our opinions about someone else’s life, especially someone we don’t even know?

One thing I do have an opinion on though is about Vogue – they certainly got a few million people to do their advertising for them today, didn’t they?

And for that privilege, the choice was all ours.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

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Car repair for girls

Woman-Broken-Car-1969081There’s nothing more frustrating than being a girl and trying to fix your car.

This past month, my 2007 Jeep Commander had a bumper that needed to be fixed… and by fixed I mean, reattached to the rest of the car with anything that does not resemble Duct Tape.

In complete girl logic, I just assumed that if I put off fixing it, it would stay the same until I got around to it.

Wrong! What happens to you, when you’re a girl trying to keep things together with fingernail polish and bobby pins, is that men look at you and laugh.

If you don’t take the time to put in that rear wheel well (which actually fell off last year during a traumatic tire explosion on the way home from the beach with a car full of teenagers), what happens is that bumper/fender assembly pulls away from the rest of the car and decides to flap dangerously in the wind, like a really stiff champagne-colored shirt in a 40-mile an hour gale ready to come undone and blow onto someone else’s car at any second.

And when that happens, many men would rather do it for you instead of watching you do it on your own.

This, of course, is what happened to me when I was driving back from Greenville and was traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. That bumper looked like it was going to break off like a piece of the Apollo 13 space craft.

Houston, we have a problem.

duct tape carWhen I looked into my rearview mirror and saw what was going on, I stopped at an auto parts store for help.

That’s where I met Mr. Johnson, whose initial solution was to take some Gorilla tape and attach the bumper to the rest of the car.

(Okay, not to be too picky, but let’s review here – champagne SUV, black gorilla tape, wildly swinging back bumper… can you say redneck?).

After several minutes of back and forth between a plastic parts aisle and my car, Mr. Johnson determined they didn’t have the part I needed and that I should go to Low Ray’s, an auto parts store down the street, to ask for the right rivets.

I asked him what part I should ask for. He just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, honey, if you tell them where it needs to go, they’ll know what it is.”

So I went to Low Ray’s two days later and found, much to my surprise, that the auto parts of was filled with enough toy pedal cars and hobby horse airplanes to start a toy museum, which, you know, seemed odd to me as it was an auto parts place.

But that’s where Mr. Johnson said to go, right? As I walked in, I saw a fence behind all the toys and asked if they had the part I was looking for. I told them Mr. Johnson sent me.

car parts storeThe guy I was talking to abruptly disappeared into this auto parts cave for a few minutes. He never really looked at the car, never asked what I actually needed outside of my vague “I need the things that hold my rear bumper on to my car.”

Believe it or not, they didn’t have my part. He recommended the Internet.

So, I went home and got online. For more than an hour I searched for the parts I needed. I even chatted for help.

HC-chat-rep-620x344Auto parts website chatbot: Hello, my name is Brett. What can I help you with?

Me: (not answering because being on chat hold for 18 minutes tends to make me diddle around on Facebook)

Auto parts website chatbot: Hello? Is there anyone there? I haven’t heard from you in a while.

Me: Yes, I’m here. I was on hold for so long I went to another website.

Auto parts website chatbot: Great! We’re glad you’re back. My name is Brett. What can I help you with.

Me: Hi, Brett. I’m looking for a part for my 2007 Jeep Commander. I need the things that hold the bumper into the frame and the wheel well into the body of the car. Do you have a those?

Brett: Great. Let me check on that for you. Do you have the part number?

Me: No. I looked on your website, but I couldn’t find anything that looked anything like the little plastic doohickies I need.

Brett: That’s okay, I can look them up for you. While we’re waiting, Liz, would you like for me to sign you up for our email list?

Me: Well, honestly, Brett, since I was on chatbot death hold for 18 minutes, I’d really just like to get the part I was looking for.

Brett: I understand. To speed up the process, why don’t I just use the email address you entered when we started this chat, Liz?

Me: Brett, why don’t you just look up the part for me so I can order it and \ will no longer be driving around with duct tape holding my car together?

Brett: I can do that. Do you know what the part is called?

Me: If I knew what it was called, I probably wouldn’t have watched “All of our representatives are currently helping other customers. Someone will be with you shortly” repeat on my screen for nearly 20 minutes.

Brett: Okay, let’s see. We have the rear passenger-side bumper assembly package here for just $137.11. Can I place that order for you, Liz?

Me: Brett, I have the bumper. I just don’t have what I need to attach the bumper to the car. Don’t you just have those little thingamabobs that you stick up into the car to hold it on to the metal part?

Brett: That’s what the rear bumper assembly will do.

Mfrustrated on computere: That’s crazy. Why do I need to buy the whole kit, when all I need is those little spindly thingies? Whatever. Will it fit my 2007 Jeep Commander?

Brett: Uhm, no. We don’t really carry a lot of parts for the Commander.

Me: Seriously? Couldn’t you have just told me that to begin with?

Brett suggested I go to a dealer.

Which, of course, I did.

I dressed up in my best “Yes, I’m a girl but I can use a screwdriver” look and hoped they would take pity on me and help me find the right parts for my car for less than $50.

They didn’t.

In fact, they nearly smirked when I drove the car to the dealership and they showed me the drawing of what it was supposed to look like and how difficult it would be to install.

But I would not be daunted. I ordered the parts, picked them up a day later and took them to a friend’s garage to work on the car. My friend said “You know, I can do this for you, so you don’t have to lay down on the ground and get dirty.”

Sigh.

I’m not that kind of a girl.

When we figured out the parts guys hadn’t given me the right rivets, it wasn’t until I went back and dropped my friend’s name that the parts guys took me seriously. When they came back with the wrong part three times in as many days, it wasn’t until I started to cry in frustration that they found the right part. When I asked them how much it would cost to fix a shorting fuse in the lift gate, it wasn’t until I told them I had already done my research that they came down from their $600 estimate to a $200 part.

mechanic girl_car repairAnd it wasn’t until the female parts assistant came in to help me that I got treated like an actual person without being talked down to. She was the one who told me I needed a rivet gun and she was the one who helped me get the right pieces to use.

And after that, I did it. I fixed the bumper. I reattached the wheel well. I put the flair back on. I learned how to use a rivet gun. I laid down in the dirt and didn’t even get upset when mud and oil from under the car fell into my face and hair.

I didn’t cry when I broke a nail.

Sure, I didn’t do it ALL by myself – I had help from my husband and my friend, who showed me what to do and how things went together. But I did the work.

And for that, you gotta give a girl credit. Even if I don’t know all the parts’ names, or how to use all the tools, I can still do it.

I am not helpless.

I’m just a girl who likes fixing her own car.

That, gentlemen, is nothing to laugh at.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Veggie Time

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.

Beef Pho
Beef Pho

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!

You want me to do what with it?
You want me to do what with it?

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.

There's plenty of vegetables on there for two...
There’s plenty of vegetables on there for two…

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, cows-in-field2but 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

White Girl Chic… at 40+

The other day my son told me I looked like a “white girl.”

I’m sure he meant that as a compliment.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.

leggings and scarfHere, 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?

Ghetto mom?

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?

pajamasBut 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?

mom and kidSo 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?

At least one I can think of.winking mom

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

23 things only a child of the 70s will know

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…

  1. Han shot firsthan shot first
  2. Time travel required the Libyans
  3. Barney was the devilBarney+731895
  4. The coolest alternative music came from the British Isles and Athens, Georgia and was best heard on “97X… BAM! The future of Rock and Roll”
  5. Fonzie should never have jumped that shark. And no one cared whether or not Joanie loved Chachi

    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
    Seriously, who water skis in a leather jacket????
  6. Rutger Hauer was the most badass, scariest villain ever
  7. Rocks make good petsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Mainstream rap started in new wave/punk rock with the insane tracks of Debbie Harry
  9. Conversations were just more intense when you stepped around the corner and wrapped yourself in the phone cord
  10. Hours spent in front of the radio with your tape recorder making a mix tape meant true love
  11. Bionics just can’t beat the Alien Bigfoot Alliance. And by the way, that cave was just damn scarythe-six-million-dollar-man-Bigfoot
  12. Before he was Joe Cool, Snoopy was a World War II flying ace
  13. Blue M&Ms used to be tanOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  14. Video games meant more when they cost one of your hard earned quarters
  15. Musicians just sang, actors just acted and everyone left politics to the politicians
  16. School lunches of pizza, corn and fruit with boxed milk were the bomb!pizza
  17. McGee always made Dr. Banner angry, cars could talk and Southern Sheriffs were always stupid. Oh, and no one ever got sued for portraying anyone as stupidrosco(1)
  18. Trapper Keepers and a new lunch box were necessary elements of going back to school.
  19. Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer, Bob Geldhof, Phil Collins and George Harrison were in bands. Some made it big with solo careers, I hear.
  20. A car horn that played Dixie was THE cool thing to have
  21. Recipes came in cook books and on hand written note cards, snide remarks were made to one person at a time and comments on news stories required letters to the editor
  22. Weekday afternoons meant the Brady Bunch, Thunderbirds, and Gilligan’s Island reruns. Friday nights meant videos. Saturday mornings meant cartoons. And summer days meant being outside until Mom turned on the porch lights.gilligan
  23. Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Bosom Buddies and Facts of Life/Return of the Killer Tomato were all proof that embarrassing career moves CAN be overcome.

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

Tasting memories

Since Friday, I’ve been thinking about the premiere of Downton Abbey.

As Masterpiece Theater classic television goes, it is the best of high period drama. It is also one of my guilty indulgences.DOWNTONABBEY_SEASON5_TT_hires-scale-690x390

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. full-english-breakfast035Took 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…Nigel-Slaters-classic-bub-006

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.

welsh-rarebitAt 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. Raymond-Briggs-The-SnowmanLittle 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

Eight ways you know the holiday honeymoon is over

I’m pretty sure I am all Christmas’d out.

Seriously.

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… christmaseveprobably 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.

  1. smoking-credit-cardYour credit card is no longer smoldering and your mailbox is busting at the seams with with bills.
  2. The desire for rich foods like turkey with all the fixings, crown roast of pork and prime rib has been replaced by an urgent need for salad, soup and sandwiches or a plain baked potato.
  3. No one in the house wants to eat any of the goodies you’ve painstakingly made over the past month. Christmas cookies and peanut butter fudge go uneaten, while jelly beans and Doritos disappear by the handful.christmas-tree-dry-211x300
  4. The sight of Christmas trees and the not-so-green-anymore greenery around the house brings less feelings of nostalgia and holiday spirit and more thoughts of kindling and the growing concern over how long into Spring you’ll still be sweeping up pine needles.
  5. The pangs of guilt over things you didn’t get accomplished – including not knitting your grand niece and nephew matching glove and hat sets because you ran out of time and not mailing out handmade Christmas cards because you forgot they were in your glove compartment – have dissipated and been replaced by nagging thoughts of “I should probably still try to do that sometime before Valentine’s Day.”
  6. ragincajungatorsYou’d rather watch “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators” on Syfy than suffer through yet another showing of “Elf,” “Shrek the Halls,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “A Christmas Story.”
  7. The long list of holiday engagements has been replaced by long afternoon naps and curling up with a good book for hours on end.
  8. As temperatures here in South Carolina reach up into the 50s, planning holidayspring_vegetable_garden_guide_when_to_plant travel schedules is replaced with an urgent desire to plant a garden.

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