End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Nice Family Dinner

So I have been in a bit of a dinner rut lately.   I would say going on about.....5 months.  I even had a pj party for the Girl Scout troop over winter break and I completely forgot to have any real food for the adults.  All I served was dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, pancakes, and mimosas.  After my recent post of burned baked cookies (which were made from refrigerated Pillsbury dough) I hit a new low.  Tonight I decided to turn the tide and put forth at least a tiny bit more effort into our evening cuisine.  I bought pork chops, not my husband's favorite, but I figured part of the problem is that we are burned out on dry chicken breasts and mystery ground something in tacos, chili and spaghetti.  All of which appear weekly on the McGurk Menu.

The pork chops were coated in panko Italian breadcrumbs so at least they looked spectacular.  My breading always falls off.  This stuff is like the gorilla glue of breading.  I took the Dale Evans mash potatoes out of their black plastic container and heated for 4 minutes in the microwave in an earthenware dish and they were predictably far more delicious and less messy then me peeling, boiling and creating an inferior if less sodium filled product.  Last but not least, I actually made a salad; from scratch.

I put it all on the table family style.  We sat down at the same time and I felt quite pleased by the Norman Rockwell-esk scene I had created.  Of course this was short lived.  I cut into the chops and there it was, an unmistakable hint of pink.  Shit.  The MacDaddy of all cooking sins.  I could hear Gordon Ramsey in my ear, "These pork chops are RAW!!!!  Close the restaurant before you send all your patrons to the hospital."  These were the very thin chops and there are some that just cook pink.  I had cooked the hell out of these because John is very picky about not eating anything rare.  I waited to see if he would send the plate back.  Whew, it slid by.  Hopefully we will all be alive tomorrow.  Even if we get sick, it will not be blamed on the chops.  It will be blamed on the salad.

I admit, I am lazy about putting utensils in the salad.  Before kids, John and I always grabbed with our fingers straight out of the bowl.  I sort of thought maybe I should look for the prongs but got side-tracked, sat down and promptly forgot.  John got his helping, Lauren got her helping, Helen got hers and finally me.  I just bought some Green Goddess dressing and couldn't wait to enjoy.  I was about 4 or 5 bites in when Helen, who was late to the table because she was taking a dump, says, "I got poo on my hand in the bathroom.  It was so gross."  "Helen," I say, "the time to disclose that information is not after you have taken said hand and rolled it around the entire salad picking out all the bell peppers."  It was then the grand inquisition began.  With eyes burrowing into her skull from both John and I, "DID YOU WASH YOUR HANDS!!!  WITH SOAP!!!  THROUGH THE ALPHABET TWICE!!!!  WE ARE SERIOUS, YOU BETTER NOT BE LYING!!!"  John, big help that he is, "That is exactly why I take my portion first, before anyone contaminates anything."  Thank you honey.  Thank you for that.  I am normally just sitting down to the table when you are halfway done.  You know those rumors about cooks spitting in the food....not that I ever would...but it is not bad to make them wonder occasionally.

Dinner deteriorated after that.  John and I finished and started clearing our portion of the table.  The snails stay at the table picking, with prongs that have magically appeared.  Helen is now feeding herself with the salad prongs and is slithering under the table like her bones are either non-existant or backwards.  Their manners are truly atrocious.  I threaten etiquette school like I always do.  "Noooo, Mom, not that!!!  Anything but that!!!"  John looks at me, "You know, this was my snooty Grandmother's job when I was growing up.  She was in charge of our manners."  "My God John you are right.  Somehow we have to figure out how to resurrect Poochie."  "Yes," says John, "but if that doesn't work, the closest thing we have to a snooty grandma now is your Mom.  She is in charge of their manners."  I start to comment because of course this is brilliant.  But before I can say anything.  Lauren dies laughing and says "Yeah Mom, then when you get old, you will be the snooty Grandma and it will be your job."

And that is where our dinner story ends.  The snails have now turned sufficiently pruney in the tub.  I need to get them out and to bed so I can spend hours pinning marvelous sounding recipes on pintrest, only to serve fish sticks and rice tomorrow night.  The one thing I will change, we won't have left over salad.  I will be serving canned green beans from the pot.  On the stove.  That only a spoon will touch.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Timeless art of creating

Yesterday I went with my Mom to see an exhibit at the Kimbell Art museum.  This is something we have been doing for awhile.  My first visit I was 5 and the building was brand new, probably less then a year old (google it if you must know how ancient I am).  I remember being as tall as the trees they planted in the back, the extraordinarily cool zero edge water falls on either side, the feel of the pea gravel beneath my keds.  And of course the art.  Some of it 4 times larger than I was, with ladies in grand dresses, pipes, guitars and mustaches peeking out of cubes.  Oh and my favorite, Portrait of a Matador. https://www.kimbellart.org/collection-object/portrait-matador-pedro-romero  I was completely smitten.  I still am.

It is for this reason that it feels more like going to visit an old friend who is an hour away rather than a building filled with art.  I am on a first name basis with these guys, I have grown up, they have watched me and thousands of other children.  Of course all friendships have their ups and downs.  We survived the scandal of finding out there was an impostor posing as an ancient temple.  And for years, the collection has been cramped and shuffled out of the way to make space for exhibits.  Not that I am complaining, the Kimball is that friend who has amazing connections and invites you to hobnob with the Impressionist, Expressionist, Post Modernists and great thinkers throughout history.  It was just getting a little tight, so while I hated to see the great expansive lawn disappear out the back, the new kid on the block is a pretty welcome addition.

They did an outstanding job.  The Piano Pavilion completely fits with the style of Louis Kahn's original building.  It feels like a natural extension of the original with today's gallery sensibilities applied.  Every piece has enough space to really see it; to really experience it.  And as Mr. Kandinsky explained to me so eloquently yesterday, art is created by the collaboration between the artist and the viewer.  The artist creates and the viewer experiences.  The artist can never control the experience.  It can be loved, hated, ignored, pondered, written about, forgotten but this part of the creative process is in the viewer's hands to mold.    

I love that idea.  Maybe it was Kandinsky cleverly marketing to the masses to get us into galleries and museums.  Maybe it was what my husband likes to refer to as art babble.  I don't care if it was.  It rings true.  Especially when I see people connecting to pieces of art.  You know what I am talking about, the tilted head and spaced out long stares at oil on canvas.  The amazement as someone walks around a 100lbs of bronze.  The giggles or disgust over Duchamp's Fountain (urinal).  The smile I get when I see the handsome matador staring at me just as he was in the 18th Century.  I love the idea that 200 years from now, with any luck, the Kimbell art museum will still stand, and possibly my great great grandchildren will walk through the pea gravel up the very wide yet impossibly short steps to the museum and continue the partnership.  


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

I have had this story rolling around in my head for a while, not knowing exactly what to do with it.  So in honor of a certain friend and her kimono dragon, I figure I will go ahead and tackle it.

A little over a year ago, my Mother and Father-in-law celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  Our posse headed down to Baton Rouge, and checked into one of those hotels where the breakfast is included in the price of the room.  These work out perfectly when you have lots of people in town for the same event.  The early birds can get up without disturbing the late birds.  The kids sit better longer because when else are they offered sugary cereal, donuts, and muffins all at one pop.  And, if they aren't good, the room, spankings and time out are only a couple of floors away.  

The girls and I, medium birds (because of the time it takes to herd them anywhere, even with the lure of sugar), step off the elevator and join John, his Godfather and wife at the table.  I cannot begin to explain what a treat this is.  I had only met them twice but some people do not conform to the laws of space and time.  They are so full of life that their personalities expand to fill the room.  Their presence leaves an imprint.  Julie and Jeff are those people.

The last time I had seen them, we were packing up the house which had finally sold and John's parents were staying with us because a hurricane was inflicting itself on Louisiana.  Jeff and Julie arrived, instantly bringing some invisible ingredient of happiness.  Jeff had tubes going in and out of weird places.  While he sat in my living room entertaining us and making us laugh, he was busy fighting cancer.  He wanted to pet Moxie, on his lap, with all the tubes.  I look at him dubiously, thinking this was probably a bad idea.  He proceeds to tell about the last time he had a dog on his lap that actually bit through the tubes, he was worried he had poisoned the dog and was then reprimanded by his doctor for compromising his already compromised immune system with dog slobber.  He tells this whole thing with a twinkle in his eye.  But Julie confirms it is all true.  I have been accused of having no sense of humor, which I prove by immediately taking Moxie to her cage.

All his stories are like this; fun, mischievous, full of adventure.  7 decades and terminal cancer cannot keep some people from living life fully. Which is exactly why Julie and Jeff had hopped on a plane to help dear friends commemorate their big 50.  This is how my family got the pleasure of spending each morning at the hotel breakfast with them.  And since they were sans car, we mini-vaned them around to all the events.  Which is how the traveling pants came to be in my car. 

Part of what makes Jeff great, is Julie.  Lets face it, you can never underestimate the value of a good straight man.  Julie does this with wit, love and amazingly good humor.  Some of the things she says and hears without cracking a smile.  I would never be able to keep a joke going so long, I get the giggles and give up the ruse.

The afternoon of the event we head to our rooms, scruffy, smelly, you know, typical Saturday comfortable slobs and reappear, a few hours later looking as if our fairy God Mother had had her way with us.  We emerge from the elevators, full of sparkle.  Seriously, we were literally full of sparkle, the 50th anniversary is the gold one and we were gold right down to our toes.  Jeff and Julie emerge looking fabulous although from the corner of my eye something seems off with Julie’s wrap but I get side-tracked with my daughters who are busy telling anyone who will listen that their Nana bought them these beautiful golden princess dresses and do they want to watch them twirl, and have they ever in their lives seen anything so…..yes, this is when I mercifully drag them to the car. 

Once I get the kids to stop twirling and sit still enough to fasten in, we are off!  Julie and I are having a pleasant conversation when she adjusts her shawl.  She gives it a weird look and starts pulling it to one side.  Before my very eyes, this shawl starts to reveal itself.  It is actually a pair of navy blue polyester pants with elastic waistband.  These are without a doubt, the most unattractive pair of pants on the planet.  Julie pulls it completely off and holds the pants in front of her contemplating them.  In her typical dry fashion and New York accent she says “Oh my, can you imagine if I had wawked into the party wrapped in these?  Everyone would want a pair.” 

And in that moment, my own sisterhood of the traveling pants was created.  We went on to have a wonderful night, had one last breakfast gathering in the morning then drove our posse back to Dallas.  I am not known for having a tidy car, in fact I am sort of known for driving around in a garbage can.  So it took a few weeks for me to discover a dark blob trying to blend in with the carpet. 

I know I need to send Julie her pants but I have this crazy sentimental attachment to them.  Particularly since the funny man left the building only a few months after the party.  They are all the things that I love about life.  Julie was right, she wore them so well, I had to have a pair. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Divorce, marriage laid to rest.

Yesterday I saw a friend who casually, in that there was really nothing casual about it way, said, "Oh, you do know I am going through a divorce."  "No, I didn't, I am so sorry."  "It is fine," she said.  Of course it is not fine.  I suddenly understood why she switched jobs stressing over money and flexibility.  Why she looks exhausted and on the verge of tears when I see her.  Why she is often with her daughter's teachers discussing behavior and grades.  I think divorce is so common place in our society that we tend to forget how difficult it really is.

In my mid-twenties I married someone and within 6 months I knew it was a mistake.  My first real failure as an adult.  I felt miserable and guilty for being so preoccupied with what 1 out of every 3 couples goes through.  Fortunately for me, my wonderfully wise hippy friend Rena looked at me hard one day at work and realized what I was going through.  She slowly exhaled the fragrant cannabis into the crisp hill country air (yes, Wimberley in the early 90's, a great place to be a twenty something) and said, "You are grieving a death; a relationship born full of promise and joy.  When it dies, even if it should die, it is sad.  Let yourself mourn like you would the passing of anything......want a hit?"

That 3 sentence conversation was pivotal.  I finally understood the root of all the crazy feelings I was having.  I have often wanted to share the sentiment but it is hard to motivate words other than sorry to pop out.  Especially knowing the other person can barely get the divorce confession from their own lips.

Thank you Rena for always saying what you were thinking.  I will pass on the hit but oh how I would love to know where you are now.  We could meet up in some higher hill country...maybe Colorado and catch up over coffee and brownies.