Horror movie quandries

I’ve never really understood a few things about horror movies.

Really.

falling victimI mean, why is it that there is always a stupid girl who tries to run away and then falls? Obviously, it’s because they’re wearing heels while running, but who goes into the woods wearing high-heeled shoes?

Not a smart girl.

We don’t go into the woods. Period.

And why do these stupid girls always make the worst possible decisions when faced with a life threatening situations?

It’s like they are begging to be a victim.

“Oh, wow. I heard a weird noise in this crazy, desolate house we just happened to find on a rainy night… I think I’ll go in the basement and check it out.”

Who actually does that?

No one with a brain, that’s who.

chattanooga choo chooWhen my husband and I got married, we honeymooned across the Southeast. We spent our first night in a bed and breakfast in Lexington, Ky., then hit the Chattanooga Choo Choo to stay in one of their railroad cars. After that, we headed south through Huntsville, Alabama and stopped at Space Camp before hitting the local Piggly Wiggly and to grab something for dinner that night.

After that, we realized that our car’s taillights were out while driving to New Orleans on the Natchez Trace. At that moment, it really made sense to camp out and cook out.

Really.

It wasn’t until after we set up the tent, put our sleeping bag in place and organized all of the camping equipment that we got around to eating our crawfish dinner. It was dark. The sky was filled with stars and no sound. It was heaven.

Until we realized we were the only ones in the campground.

As the campfire started to ebb, I heard weird sounds. Surely, whatever was in the woods right behind us had caught the scent of our crawfish cooked over the open flame and wanted a little taste.

Apparently, the carcasses and shells of the little critters we had flung into the forest weren’t enough for them.

Which led me to announce to my new husband the only thing I knew to say.

“Honey, this is how people die,” I said. “This is the type of setting where the serial killer comes out of the woods and slaughters the unsuspecting couple and they don’t find their body for forever. I don’t want to rot away in a swamp somewhere and have no one finde us for decades ’til some kid decides to take a leak.”

So, we did what any sane couple would do – we up and moved.

I mean, we packed up everything, tent and all, and we got the HELL out of there.

If we hadn’t, we’d have been the anonymous couple in the horror movie that gets killed before the real cast shows up.

Isn’t that what anyone would do?

haunted disposalWhich leads me to my other horror movie question – why do movie producers continue to create this sense of foreboding and terror when people in an obviously haunted house reach into a kitchen drain with a garbage disposal in it?

Usually, up until that point, there hasn’t been a time when the ghosts have done anything physically threatening, but still the scene will cut away from a close-up on the distracted Mom, to a shot of her reaching into the drain to get a spoon or fallen wedding ring or  whatever is making that unnatural sound, and then immediately the scene cuts to an even closer shot of the gears of the disposal ready to spring to life and tear her hand to shreds, ostensibly pulling the her hand and the rest of her body into the great unknown.

Has this ever happened before?

Seriously, is there some supernatural phenomenon that I’m not aware of that helps ghost make disposals spring to life when they can’t even move a chair on command or be in the same room with more than one person?

It’s not a fear I understand completely.

Yesterday, I was quietly washing the dishes while everyone else in the house played video games or watched TV. When it finally came time to clear out the sink, like any other Mom, I shoved everything into the drain, turned on the water and flipped the disposal switch on with my foot (since it’s located under the sink).

For a few seconds, that disposal grinded and cranked and did whatever it is that disposals do.

Then, all of a sudden, it started making this weird clunking noise – like there was a spoon in it or something.

And, of course, I did what any other sane Mom would do, I leaned back and started to lift my foot to turn off the switch and see what was wrong. About that same time, something shot out of the disposal and landed about where my head would have been if I hadn’t.

It was a penny.

A mangled, sharp-edged, chewed up penny that had all the harbingers of death via copper. One cent of shrapnel delivered via electronic gears.

That thing could’ve sliced my ear off, or worse, taken an eye out!

And my house isn’t even haunted!!!

But did I peer into the disposal and see what was wrong? NO! Did I reach into it to investigate? NO? Did I hang around when it was making weird noises and wait for something ominous to happen? Uhm, NO!

I got the hell out of the way!!!

CorrodedGarbageDisposalWikimediaCommonsI’m still not sure how anyone can think of disposals as gears of death via spirits from the great beyond. Heck, they could be deadly without the help of electromagnetic frequencies and Great Aunt Tilda holding a grudge against your redecorating the house.

But just like the camp ground, if that thing starts making noises, I’m getting the heck out of Dodge.

Let the plumber get hacked to pieces for a change.

It’s what a smart girl would do.

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2016

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

Garden hose

It’s time to get the garden in, so naturally I made a beeline for my underwear drawer.

Gardener with Wooden Seedling TrayIt’s the same every year.

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.steep streets

Clearly.

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

zukesOur 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. dead lilyOften, 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.

tying-tomatoes-pantyhoseWhich 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

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

Dear women’s magazines, I give up

Okay, women’s magazines, you win.

can't I give up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop reading you, I’m just not going to succumb to your particular brand of torture anymore.

I’ve read women’s magazines since I was a little girl. I drooled over recipes and wondered what it would be like, as a teenager, to have the freedom to make “Pan-seared Duck with orange confit and a bed of microgreens.”

I’ll admit it, I’ve been a foodie since I was knee high to a Kitchen Aid, but now… I just don’t think I can take this anymore.

You’ve all just gone over the top.

Like any good foodie mom, I read your “How to make a gourmet dinner for your family in less than 30 minutes” and I want to be able to do that.

Making a dinner for my family that would please the palate of Gordon Ramsey in half an hour using only 15 simple ingredients? So doable, I thought.

Gone are the days of salmon patties with buttered egg noodles and corn. Tomorrow, it’s Korean beef lettuce wraps with soba noodles and edamame. I can do this!, I thought.

But now, you’re just being silly. Now, you’re putting in your magazines things no kid who isn’t starving or on a forced diet would eat.

It’s just that, recently, reality has hit me.

I don’t care what your cooks do in your kitchen, no matter how hard I try, there’s no way I’m making a three course dinner for four in less than an hour. I know, I know, you’ve got all those timing things outlined in your directions, but honestly, how you do all that chopping when you’ve got to help with homework and clean the house is beyond me.

And another thing, do you think you could start printing recipes that use ingredients I might actually have in my kitchen?

One recently included mashed parsnips.mashed-parsnips

Parsnips?

Really?

Who the hell buys parnsips on a regular basis?

I’d like to make gourmet meals, really I would.

But I think if I were to serve pomegranate, watercress and roasted macadamia nut salad my guys would look at me like I had stepped off of the pages of Bourgious Kitchen and straight into the world of la-la land.

And as much as I’d like to make a panko and peanut crusted chicken breast with orzo and a side of pan roasted broccolini, I’ve only got stove top stuffing mix, a can of cream of mushroom soup and some french-style green beans in my pantry.

I can’t go out spending $40 on one dish that my family will say “Eh. It was okay” to, when I’ve got another 13 dishes to make and only $300 to spend, over the next two weeks – and that includes money for pizza night!

A quick look at some of my cookbooks proves my point. In the Betty Crocker Family Dinners in a Hurry cookbook, circa 1969 (yes, I’m well aware that some of my cookbooks are just as old as I am – almost), there’s a recipe for Broiled Round Steak with Mustard Butter and Herbed Tomatoes that lists 8 ingredients for the main and side combined – and that’s INCLUDING the round steak! – that takes less than 20 minutes to make and serves 6.

In Southern Living’s May 2014 edition, the recipe for Flank Steak and Cucumber Salad lists 16 ingredients, including Asian chili paste (“such as Huy Fong” it says) and English cucumbers (in my head, I swear I was thinking “I say, are you a regular cucumber, or do you come from across the pond, dear chap?”).

Sixteen ingredients. For a salad. That takes nearly an hour to prepare. And serves 4.

Are you kidding me?

When the boys were younger, I was an industrious chef.

witches fingersI’d make Halloween dinners that looked like witches’ fingers with ghostly shaped mashed potatoes. I made weekday dinners of tuna melts that looked like little boats with American cheese slice sails. I made decorated cupcakes for school birthday parties.

(Just a note – when you make cupcakes in ice cream cones decorated to look like.. well, ice cream cones… uhm, there’s no way you can ever get over the look in your kids’ school friends’ faces when they realize it’s not, in reality, ice cream.)

But today, … uhm… not so much.

Tonight when I went into the kitchen, I had no idea what I was making until I found a freezer bag of the poultry variety, a box of long grain and wild rice mix, some potato chips, shredded cheese and a can of mushroom soup.

Thank God, for cream of mushroom soup.

Throw that together with sauteed onions, pimentos and frozen peas, and viola! Casserole surprise!

Still took an hour though. And that’s not counting the time spent pondering what the hell am I supposed to make tonight.

But it was affordable. I would say I probably spent $7-$10 on the whole meal, and that’s including the meat substance – whatever it was.

And they ate it! They actually ate it and said “Not bad, Mom.”

Running to the store to buy the ingredients of the aforementioned flank steak and I would have easily gone through $40, and that’s not including Huy Fong (whatever the hell that is, and depending entirely on whether my small town Southern grocery store would have actually had anything remotely resembling it).mom in store

It’s just too much.

If I’m honest, I just don’t have the time for that crap. Heck, I don’t even know where I would find pomegranates in my hometown.

I’m all about good cooking and living with nice things, but enough is enough. I’m not ever going to host a party where my friends are going to turn up their noses at my cornbread salad, or homemade guacamole. I like all your stuff, but, damn, it’s just too over the top anymore. Can’t you just print normal recipes?

I want my family to be happy, but not at the cost of spending beyond my means. And I’m not alone. Making a gourmet dinner for my family at the cost of their college funds? Not likely.

You all go ahead and make your spinach infused fish fillets with cous cous and sauteed Italian eggplant.

I’ll be the one making fried chicken in my cast-iron skillet and smiling when my kids actually eat it.

Course, that does cut down on the money I save in eating leftovers though…

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2014

Cooking discovery nights

We’ve reached the moment during the week that I hate the most.

I hate cooking discoveries... really.

I hate cooking discoveries… really.

It’s the cooking discovery moment.

It happens every week, so I should be better prepared for it… maybe even plan for it or something, but I never do and I just assume that each one will be the last one and we won’t fight like this.

Me and my kitchen that is.

I hate my kitchen during cooking discovery moments too.

Right now, it is 6:13 p.m., on Thursday, June 12. It is the first night I’ve had the chance to cook a real home-cooked meal for my family this week… I don’t know that burrito night on Monday counts, since all I did was sauté up some chicken with a packet of seasonings and slice veggies or open cans of stuff. Okay, so it’s a lame home-cooked dinner, but I’ll still take it.

Anyway… every two weeks, I write up a list of what we will eat for the next fourteen days, noting on the schedule any after school/after work activities that might interfere with a normal cooking and eating pattern. For instance, Monday – I had to run to the grocery store and do shopping since we didn’t get a chance to do it this weekend, and then Tuesday, I had to cover the primary election for the Associated Press, and then Wednesday was Working Woman’s Wednesday, which meant margaritas with my BFF and schmoozing.

So Monday was burritos; Tuesday was Hubbie cooking hot dogs and French fries; Wednesday was salmon and noodles.

this or cooking fish... you chose...

this or cooking fish… you chose…

Like I’m going to hurry home to slave in a kitchen to make fish instead of drinking margaritas, right?

But now it’s Thursday. And it’s supposed to be Pepper Steak night.

My steak is defrosting in the microwave and I’m sautéing up some onions and garlic, and my rice is on the boil, and I’m looking for my green pepper, and…of course, there’s no green pepper.

Which is weird because I know I bought a green pepper. In fact, I know I bought two on Saturday when I was making brats, but I only sliced up one because no one ever eats the green pepper and onion stuff I make to go with my brats except me. I know there should be one left.

It’s not like anyone in this house is going to open up the fridge and say to themselves “Hmmmm, you know what I’d really like right now? Some green pepper… with ranch! That’s a good snack!”

Yes, peanut butter and cheezits is a real thing...

Yes, peanut butter and cheezits is a real thing…

No, these are guys who are more likely to say “What can I snack on that does not require an inordinate amount of work to get out and/or put away?… We’ve got fruit loops, but that would require a bowl, finding a spoon and the act of pouring some milk. Jeez, I might as well cook… there’s tortilla chips and salsa, but that would also require a bowl and getting the tortilla chips off the top of the fridge… there’s peanut butter, crackers in a sealed box, cocoa powder, a half-opened box of Cheezits and a microwavable pizza roll snack box … Okay, peanut butter on Cheezits it is!”

SO…I’m half way through making pepper steak, and I discover we have no green pepper. This is cooking discovery time. I’ve discovered I have no green pepper and will have to discover what to make in its place.

Invariably, this happens at least once every other week. I go to the store as soon as I get off work, grab a few mad dash items and come home to start supper only to find that I am missing the one key ingredient that makes the dish whole.

And because I’m too lazy, or tired, or busy to run back to the store, I have two choices – make something else, or get someone else to do it for me.

Hubbie was exhausted from being in the heat all day so there’s no way I’m making him get up. For a few moments, I actually consider giving my 14-year-old son the keys to my Jeep. Then I remember what it was like when we were practice driving, and realized I was too tired to have my face all over the evening news if he drives through a gas station pump or the new sliding doors of the grocery store.

And just as inevitably, while I’m standing here pondering what the heck to do, someone asks – “What are we having for dinner?” To which, the response is, as always, “I have no idea.”

While I stir the rice and pour myself a glass of wine to calm my nerves, I look through the kitchen cabinet… canned carrots, canned chili, canned pineapple, canned mushrooms, some canned clams, a half-empty package of Arborio rice and four different kinds of cereal, none of them with marshmallows in them.

Not only was dinner going to be difficult, but also the lack of marshmallow cereal meant no dessert. Bummer.

Stir fried beef

Stir fried beef

I decided to improvise and make a stir-fried beef with the mushrooms and pineapple, throwing in some oyster sauce and sesame oil from the refrigerator for good measure.

I had just enough time to pop some frozen egg rolls into the oven and finish the rice while the beef was cooking down its sauce. It was going to be a good dinner after all.

It just doesn’t look right. It looks bland. I think that’s why the Chinese put so many vegetables in their stir-fries, to make them look better. Otherwise, it’s just a pile of drab sitting on a pile of white on your table.

When Hubbie comes in to talk to me and grab a beer, I make one last look for a few more veggies to pop into the dish – just to brighten things up – like a carrot or some thing green.

Hubbie goes outside and grabs summer squash from the garden, but just as quickly he forbids me from putting it in the stir fry saying squash doesn’t GO with stir fry…

It’s discovery night, I’m thinking to myself…. Let’s discover if you’re wrong… But no, he’s right. Squash doesn’t sound like it would go all that well with oyster sauce.

Instead, I turn back to the refrigerator. The carrots have seen better days. The radishes don’t look all that edible, and no one wants limp celery in anything.

Then, as I close the vegetable bins and moved aside the tortillas and cheese,something peaks out at me from the bottom refrigerator shelf and I know I could just scream. I’ve just found exactly what I needed to add.

A green pepper.

Stupid cooking discovery moments…

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2014