Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday #16: Yaaaawn.

Sunday #16 was a very uninspired meal.

I didn't even want to, really. Simon was off tra-la-la-ing at Great Wolf Lodge with a friend, so that just left me and Mark, and Max.

Max was a pretty good sport about missing out on lodged wolfy greatness. Pretty good, in that he didn't collapse into a pile of the quivering boo-hoos.

We took him to Dairy Queen. It was 3pm when we left.

So... dinner? Meh. Who needs it!

Well, I guess I did, if I wanted something to write about.

I figured I'd at least crank something out, and then have it for lunch the rest of the week.
I decided on this: Fusilli Spinach Ricotta

or... something like it. The recipe I used (which I can't find now, but the link looks pretty close) called for arugula and spinach. I decided on that because I'd gotten a giant bunch of arugula in my Full Circle box, and it had been wilting away in the fridge for over a week. I wasn't that excited about it, but was making a real effort to use up all  of my Full Circle Box since I'd let too much of the previous box wilt away into a slime of vegetation sorrow.

To start, I browned onions and garlic in a skillet.

The I piled on something like a pound and a half of chopped spinach and arugula.
Mmmm. Ruffage.

While that was wilting (and while the noodles were boiling) I mixed the ricotta and 1% milk (it called for 1/2&1/2, but milk was what I had) together along with salt, pepper. I skipped the nutmeg, but added in italian seasonings.

Once that was all mixed up, and once the ruffage up there was all wilted down I dumped in the dairy mixture.

And it was as good as it looks
What do you mean "not very"?

That get's brought to a long simmer, then you slap in a pat of butter (for some reason) mix it all togehter, and dump all of that into the noodles. If you time things right, the noodles should still be screaming hot when that happens.

And then you throw in a handful of shredded parmesan.

Stir stir stir and tah-dah!
I think the little spinach splatters orbiting the edge of the plate
really add something to the presentation.

I tossed some pork chops in the skillet and then, after having a little bit each, we packaged everything up into a couple of lunches for the next week. Lunches for me. Hooray.

And then the rest, another 4-6 servings worth, went into a tupperware and into the fridge.

It sat there until later in the week when Mark reserved it for dinner. The noodles were all stuck together but he fixed that by mixing in a jar of alfredo sauce.

So there it was, Thursday night.  My former veggiefied Sunday meal of blandness was almost a week old, tried out, and about half as good as it was Sunday night - and that wasn't so super good to begin with.

Then Mark came along and with the power of pre-processed delicious cheesefat, he made it awesome. Way to go, Mark.

Oh - what was Max eating on Sunday night while Mark and I topped off Dairy Queen with vegetable noodle pile?

Bread square, porkchop, and milk.
Oh yeah, and ketchup.

Haha! Simon totally missed out!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunday #15: It's-a Me, Maxio! My Dad-a Made-a Pizza!

Given the slightest inspiration Max will start talking in Mario-voice. It wears thin after a while. If your name is Simon, the annoyance starts at the first "It's-aH!"

Fun Activity: Read the rest of this blog as if Mario were right in your face, reading it for you. Keep doing it, long after the fun (if there ever was any) wears off.

Then feel sorry for poor, poor Simon and marvel that he doesn't smack Max in the face at every opportunity.

So anyway -

Sunday #15:

The Sunday after Yakima Mark made dinner.

It was pizza!

I've only ever tried making pizza dough twice, and both times it was the recipe out of my bread-machine book. It came out so extremely doughy and chewy and BREAD, that I attempted it twice and then decided never to bother again.

I mean, it was okay and all, but not worth the trouble for the quality. There was nothing about it that said "pizza dough." It was like I took loaf-bread dough and smooshed it around a pizza pan.

I have a suspicion that if that same dough were plopped into a big cast-iron pizza pie pan with a half a cup of oil in the bottom and then rolled through a 425 degree oven on a conveyer belt, that the dough might actually be pretty awesome (this is what I observed happening to "deep dish" pizza at the Pizza Hut, if you wanna know.) But I don't have access to industrial cookware and machines, so basically the bread-machine pizza dough recipe sucks.

So, one day, a day long before Sunday Dinners started happening, we were talking about making our own pizza again. I figured we'd buy a crust mix, or go for insanely overprice Boboli (I'm pretty sure there's a reason those items are stocked in the same isle as the beer at my Safeway) but Mark was all "Back off, Denise, I've got this!"


He said he was going use his... grandfather's recipe? I dunno, some scrap-paper recipe out of out of this Better Homes cookbook his mom gave us when we moved into the homestead.

And, you know, I was afraid. Some of the recipes he's pulled out of there haven't always turned out so awesome. Not like when I try things and everything comes out flawless.

Turns out though, it was pretty fantastic. It was thin and chewy, but not "gnawy," if you know what I mean. It was The Pizza Dough and it's all we've really stuck to since.

I don't know if it's all that magical or uncommon, but behold!

Mark used to mix this by hand, but more recently, he's been using the trusty Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. You may remember that ours died recently, and it was very sad. Very sad.

But! We still have the bread machine (which I really only use to make dough) and I convinced Mark that it would be fine to use it when he prepared the dough Saturday night.

Preparations part I: The Dough

Mark sifted all of the dry ingredients into this bowl (this was before I explained that you just throw everything into the machine and let it go) and substituted, I believe, a quarter cup of flour for the pizza dough flavor featured above. You get that from King Arthur Flour if you're interested.

You should be, by the way. Interested I mean.While I much enjoyed the crusts from before we discovered KAF, this powder really takes the dough to a whole other level. In fact, if you make your own crust very often at all then you should run right out to the Internet and buy some. Today!

Mark also proofed the yeast before adding that and the flour mixture to the machine. I doubt that had very much effect on the end result, but I thought I'd tell you anyway.

The next step, after all the ingredients started whap-whap-whapping away in the machine, is to take your manly self out for a night of No Stupid Family Bugging Me All the Time and Making Me INSANE... or whatever you happen to call it when you go have some "me time."
(and Mark really needs the "me time." He works while they're at school, but otherwise is with them All. The. Time. On top of that he puts up with all of my crap and is also in charge of driving everyone everywhere. Considering he'd spent the previous Saturday in Yakima with me and my family - yeah, it was time for him to get out.)

While Mark was gone it was all on me. I had to stay on top of things to make sure everything turned out okay.

Luckily I was up for the task.
Apologies for any trigger this may have caused amongst you BB addicts.

Once the machine beeped I sprang into action. I turned the dough out into a bowl I'd previously greased up with olive oil - BAM! Then I flopped it over so it was completely oiled and wouldn't dry out - WHIPPOW! Then flung a towel over it - ZING!  And then, exhausted from my exertions, I left it on the counter for a second rise.

When Mark got home from being not-awesome -

Seen here: Better odds than at the
Emerald Queen Casino

he put it in the fridge where it would hang out (and, unfortunately, dry out) until the next day.

The Next Day:

Dough wad:
Trust me, it's pretty crusty on the other side.
Like your mom.

We figured at this point that we probably had enough dough, if stretched very thinly, to make two pizzas. Since it was kinda crusty on the bottom and because we really didn't need two pizzas, we opted for one. It was decided I would stretch the dough out what with all of my pizza making experience.

We scattered a little corn meal on the bottom of our pizza pan (yeah, that's right pizza snobs, a PAN. I've heard having a pizza stone in your oven is awesome and all, but we aren't, so there.) The corn meal helps keep the dough lifted a little above the pan so that it browns better. It also helps it slide off easier, as well as adding a pleasant texture to the finished product.

When it was all stretched out we used a meat tenderizer to dent up the top. This has a similar effect as using a dough docker without having to run out and buy one, or spend three days using the tines of a fork. What's the point? It keeps your dough from rising too much or getting puffy and blistery.

At this point you could make a stuffed crust. Just get 8-10 string cheese sticks and put them around the edge of the pan. Then pull the lip of the dough over the stick and and smoosh down on the other side with your thumb. Repeat this process and inch or so at a time until you've went the whole way around the pan.

I've seen some videos that show them pulling up a whole section, like a slices worth, and folding that over and tucking it somehow. Trust, me, a little bit at a time works better.

And you don't just have to use string cheese. You know what would be awesome with a white pizza? Asparagus - tell me that doesn't sound awesome!?

Or, if you'd like to go completely in the other direction, pepperoni sticks.

I wouldn't recommend anything really loose (like shredded cheese) because then it becomes a big, messy pain. If the dough pulled over the stuffing doesn't reach dough on the other side, then it's not going to stick. Then, as it bakes, it'll likely unstick and your stuffed crust will start looking more like a poorly healed incision line.

Moving on.

Preparations part II: Toppings

(ideally, were we being super fancy, part II would cover sauce preparation, and part III would be toppings. Instead we used squeezy sauce and were happy with it)
We went for your basic Extreme Combo type pizza.

Along with the above we decided to use the Italians sausage we'd bought from Heritage Meats through Full Circle Farm.

It came in natural casing, so the first thing to do was remove that. I've found that using kitchen scissors to snip the casing works best (I actually saw Mark's mom do this first, and it was a big "well duh" moment. Prior to that I never even thought to cut it, I just squooshed everything until it burst out the end, making my hands really disgusting in the process.)

Why Hello!

Snippy Snippy Snip Snip!

Now you just peel the skin off!
Any handy housewife can do it!

Honestly I just included those steps to make any guys out there feel vaguely uneasy. You're welcome!


We kept it in big chunks because we wanted sausage BITES, not sausage sprinkles.

Once that was all done, Mark got to building the pizza.

Some of you might have noticed that a wedge of this pizza was completely
devoid of vegetation. Enablers ho!

The side closest to the camera died a little (the yeast did, anyway) because we left the prepared pan, minus toppings, to rest on top of the oven while it pre-heated. Heat escapes from the lip of our oven door, and killed the dough closest to it. That's why it looks so flat and sad.

Also, when the pizza was almost done Mark slid it off of the pan and onto the rack so the bottom would get extra crisp. He guesses that he left it in there about 90 seconds too long, because while the bottom was fine, the cheese did get a little more brown that we were going for.

However, it still turned out awesome.

That's more of the same salad I've been making up there. I love olives! I love peperoncinis!

Maybe I have a problem...

Nope! I just rule at salad is all!

Evidence of Awesomeness

Dinner was quite the success as far as the boys were concerned. I was pretty happy too.

Yay Mark!

Mark cut the pizza into eighths so that we each had a good sized slice for dinner, and would also have one for lunch the next day.

I ate mine later that night. It was cheesy and awesome and I thought I did it better justice by enjoying it in all of it's awesomeness rather than making it ride a bus for two hours and then nuking it in the workplace microwave or eating it cold.

I made the right call.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday #14: Dinner in Yakima

Sunday #14 was three Sundays ago now.

It involved going to my parents' house about 150 miles away, and ditching my kids there for Spring Break. Oh yeah, I also offered to stay and make Sunday Dinner for everyone. It sounded fun to me.

And it was - I got to see some folks I hadn't seen in years, and my grandma and her boyfriend/husband drove over from Hermiston, Oregon to spend time with us.

Before we even got there I was really excited to write about it, but since then I've been stalling.  Every time I'd think about settling down to write it I found I just didn't want to talk about it. When my loyal fanbase (7!) started to inquire about the drag-assery I had more than enough excuses.

See, the PC is in our bedroom, so holing myself up to write cuts me off from everything.
Also, my work was pulling some real dick-moves a couple weeks back and I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it.
And see, I really didn't wanna and, oh yeah,  I was dead at the time.
Some of these excuses, while true, still don't explain the whole of my reluctance.

So I found better things to do - like sleeping, or watching Babylon 5 (or, B5 being finished and me plummeting towards desperation, Single Female Lawyer.)

So what was my problem?

I hate my grandmother.
And I love her.
And lots of other stupid feelings that mostly keep adding shit to the "hate" column.

And she was there the whole time.

But whatever! This ain't no bitch n' moan about family crap, this is a food blog! To the menu!

Olive Garden Salad type Salad

Since I wasn't cooking in my own kitchen I made sure to bring some tools and ingredients (microplane grater, cider vinegar, spices) so we wouldn't have to guy buy something that we only needed a tablespoon of. After we sorted out what we had and didn't have we went to the store.

Socks were an important ingredient, particularly for those that didn't pack any.
Sorry for the blurriness. Time and
Space are different on the other
side of the mountain.

Once ingredients were purchased we lazed about, because it was Saturday and folks started to show up.

My grandmother showed up with her boyfriend/husband. My nephew Tobin came over so he and Max could be awesome together. All the grown-type folks sat around and talked and mom made Pot Roast. Everything was all right.

Well, as all right as you could reasonably expect, given the company.

We spent that night at a Motel 6 with grandma and her guy. When we got there Mr. Boyfriend/Husband paid for two rooms and didn't let us help, but made sure to say there were only three of us to make sure he didn't get charged an extra 3 bucks. Also, where was his Senior Discount. Also some more, why couldn't we get adjoining rooms on the bottom floor? I'm sure there was a "gall-durn" in there somewhere too. You know, typical Grampa Simpson fare.

There was about 20 minutes of visiting and everyone was sent to bed. We could have saved them 50 bucks by staying at my Mom's but there would have been an issue about it. See, earlier we'd suggested we could share a room with them so we could have more visiting time, because Grandma had been making remarks about it. The remarks encompassed whether or not Mark and I would actually show (we almost always do, gramma) and more subtle remarks about mom not being able to put them up for the night (that one's a long going issue where the old folks don't understand/care that my parents aren't allowed to have big stupid dogs or big stupid camper-trailers on the property.)

The above seems to have wandered off the path for a bit. It was all part of the Yakima Adventure though, and sort of feeds into my whole reluctance to write this thing out.

We left early and got home so I could get with the preparations.
The Filling:
I was basically working from the back of the box of noodle shells but, as has been discussed before, I don't really do recipes.

I started by mixing a double-batch worth of ricotta, egg, mozzarella Parmesan and seasonings together and divided it into two separate bowls. Aside from the spinach manicotti I'd decided to do a sausage and cheese filling so those horrified by vegetables wouldn't be offended.

Once that was done I added freezerland chopped spinach that had been thawed and squeezed to death to one bowl:
Mmmm, right?Let's call it dinner now!

Moving on to filling #2.
Mushrooms, onion and garlic go into a skillet.
Completely unfamiliar!.

I was mincing mushrooms for a long time, so to keep things from burning I'd stir the browner bits to the edges of the pan and add the new stuff to the middle. It worked out okay.

Once that was done I added Italian sausage that I'd pulled from their casings and cooked that until it was cooked.
Behold: Mark cooking sausage

Once that was done I dumped the ricotta mess into the pan to make for easier stirring.
Not completely unfamiliar looking

Time to stuff:
I'd heard you could go ahead and stuff the pasta tubes dry, and that with enough sauce they'd soften up while baking. Alternatively, the package said to completely cook them and then try to stuff floppy noodles. Right.

I opted to cook them 4-5 minutes (the package said 7-9, the time the online instructions gives seems more reasonable) and that seemed to work really well. I laid them all out on a sheet of foil to cool and then got to stuffin'.

It wasn't as hard as I'd worried it would be. In my original plan they were all going to be smooth cheese and I was going to pipe in the filling with a freezer bag. That so wasn't going to happen with stringy spinach and sausage wad fillings though.

What ended up working for me was holding the noodle loosely in my fist, with the opening of the tube even with the top of my hand. Then I piled a blob of filling on the opening and poked a little at a time with my index finger.

Like so:
heh. hehe, heh.

While I was stuffing I cooked even more sausage and then drowned it in three jars of store bought sauce. I think I ended up using a cheese&garlic as well as an olive&basil flavor. It turned out pretty well.

Once everything was ready I spread enough sauce on the bottom of the baking pans to just cover it, and then layered in noodle tubes and covered everything with sauce.

Those look so messy and fingered because I kept trying to figure out how to get them all to fit into to aluminium roasting pans. I made so much I ended having to use a third pan. I apparently thought we were feeding Everyone Ever, rather than six adults and four children.

Mozzarella and Parmesan got sprinkled over both ( that third pan went in the fridge) and into the oven it went. At, oh, we'll say 375. For... some amount of time (befor they were burned, that's for sure!) Who needs specifics?

While that was baking Mom was getting the table set and the kids set up in the living room and I was getting salad and bread together.

I got everything laid out on the table and called folks to dinner.

I don't know how "Olive Gardeny" the salad was this time.
It looked the part in presentation:
This bowl came home with me. Thanks mom!

But the dressing was too tasty, too garlicy, and probably also too fattening to qualify for Olive Garden dressing. I don't know what I did. It was a base of mayo, sour cream, milk and parm; plus seasonings, sugar, vinegar, and a couple cloves of garlic. Everyone liked it but the old people and the children, so I must have done something right. Pity that I completely free-handed it and have no idea how to exactly replicated it.

I served blue-cheese on the side and I think it really made the salad. My Dad said so, so it must be true.

Double Thumbs Up!

Mmm, bread for dinner.

Like his best buddy Max, Tobin would also
opt for a bread-only dinner.
It's okay, handsome. I still love you!

Ayla approved. Sure her plate was still full, but
do you see the THUMB? Approved!

My folks like it, so that's awesome. Not that it's hard to please them. I think, though, that I've made a couple overly ambitious meals that will always leave them a little unsure of my kitchen adventures (thai curry night, anyone?)

Also, I'm leaving my folks' pics out, because I'm nice that way. As predicted, Mom was semi-mortified that I used her toddler-painted pic last blog, and my Dad doesn't want Skynet having any more photo idents of him than it already does.

And what did our other guests think? Who knows. They said they liked it but you can never tell. My grandmother covered everything in ranch and Ken fingered all the olives- not the ones in the salad, the bowl of extras to the side. Because even though they were the first ones at the salad, and even though there was already an entire can on top of it, he had to make sure he got his. Gall Durn and such.

And really, I'm not that interested in what they thought, because...

(You may want to scroll to the end or close out all together here. I'm going to bitch and moan about family stuff and who wants to be bothered with that on a semi-humorous food blog?

So, read on if you want, or pic up at the next row of stars. )

Internet, meet Grandma Freda and her Boyfriend/Husband* Ken.
(*Mark is an Internet minister, and married them in our backyard a few years back. Depending on your beliefs, you can consider that a real marriage or not. My mom doesn't. I don't think Gramma does either, but for mostly hypocritical reasons  she insists that she is.)

You musn't look them directly in the eye.

I've been avoiding writing this blog because of these two, but mostly because of the one on the right.
Because I had some things to say about how she made us feel that whole weekend, and about how she's made all of us feel our whole lives.

I've found in the three weeks since this dinner that my annoyance with her has abated enough that I don't really feel the need to out her hatefulness to the whole of the Internet.

Right now, reading this, my mom is probably getting half-mad because I took the time to make fun of Pot Roast Night on the last blog, but won't take the time to bitch about gramma here. My mom is all about the equal/equal.

I have to point out the difference. Pot Roast blog was all about love. It really was. My mother and I have come a long way in our relationship, I think. My mom was a lot of things when I was growing up, but mostly she was absent, and when she wasn't it was obvious that she wished she was.

She's sorry, though. She genuinely is. Just like any of us who look back on how we were and either laugh or cringe, she has perspective now.

So do I.

I think I now have a better idea of the person she was when I was a kid. It doesn't mean everything was okay. It just means that we've both recognized that it probably wasn't an awesome time for either of us, and we've (mostly) moved on from there.

But with gramma there's no where to go. I can't say "oh, that's my gramma, she was this and that when I was little, but that's okay because she's different now." because she's not.

She doesn't see anything wrong with how she treated her kids back then, how she treated her grandkids later, and she doesn't see anything wrong with how she treats people now. She's just... really a horrible person.

But see - we've all invested YEARS in pretending she's not. It's a game she's convinced us all to play.

So when I was cooking on Sunday, and she had my mom take her to Costco to buy after-dinner dessert, Mom wasn't supposed to act like there was anything weird or wrong with Gramma yelling at Ken in front of a store full of people.

Why the yelling? Because he didn't want her to buy 6 pounds of ground beef and drive it an hour and a half home to 3 freezers literally filled to the brim with food. Much of which hasn't been edible for years.

Sounds like a reasonable request, but not when you're getting in the way of some one's compulsion. My grandmother is a hoarder. But we don't talk about that either. We pretend it's normal for someone who eats about 800 calories a day (and a fistful of oxycontin) to need 20 lbs of tomatoes because they're on sale and nevermind that they'll all be rotted before she gets through a pound.

Because if you don't play the rules of the game then your 78 year old self gets screeched at in the middle of Costco.

And if you're little, and no one is watching, other things happen. It's not so much a lot of physical abuse - mostly she works in humiliation. With her, it's an art.

But, okay, it'd be one thing if she treated everyone like that. If she really just was a horrible person all of the time. She's not though. There are people she adores and who truly can do no wrong and whom she practically breaks herself for.

And I guess that would be okay too, if there's wasn't so much light and dark to her behavior.

When you see someone, and authority figure, treat one kid in particular so horribly for so long - and justify it all the while, it starts to make a sort of sense. Then you're working for her. You're her eyes and ears.

So... baggage man, there's a lot to get over.

But I was going to be damned if I was going to post this blog and talk about what a great time I had with my Grandma.

Don't I look happy, though? And doesn't she look not-evil?

It's easy for me sometimes. I guess I'm lucky I used to be a favorite.

That's the bitch of it. Mostly she treated me great. My brother, not so much.  It's bad enough to see someone you love treated like shit, but it's a whole 'nother mess to try to resolve that dissonance (he must have deserved it, gramma wouldn't treat him like that if he didn't / he didn't deserve it, my gramma is an awful bitch/ I love my grandma, but man do I hate her?)when you're a kid.

Her youngest son visited this same day. He was not a favorite. It's fair to say he was the least favorite. Grandma didn't get too physical with most of the grandkids, but apparently she was a little more exuberant in her younger days. Life was pretty miserable for this particular uncle.

And, surprise surprise, he didn't make the best choices after growing up.
And really, he's kind of a piece of shit in my book.
But - would he have made the same choices if he hadn't spent his whole childhood being the focalpoint of her anger and aggression? Was he also so caught up in playing along with her insanity that he couldn't explain it any other way than to blame himself?

There's no question that parents fuck you up. It's their job. I'm fucking my kids up right now and someday I'm sure they'll tell me all about it.

And it's also your job to transend all that shit and make a life for yourself - your choices are your own, and all that.

But just how much shit can someone be expected to overcome?

So, she lent him some money once. It was pretty generous of her, and totally surprising. He was facing prison though, so maybe she was worried what people would think if she didn't help.

Also, I think it's fair to say he's spent his entire life under the federal poverty line.

While he was visiting (with a girlfriend, her daughters and his son in tow) it came up that he'd gotten his girlfriend a small bauble. Nothing big, just something to tell his girlfriend that he loved her. We're talking may half a days wages here ( FPL wages, mind.)

She took that opportunity to remind him and everyone else that He Owes Her Money, and She Sure Coulda Used It! In front of everyone. You know, in case there was sale on chest freezers since all three of theirs are full.
And while I suppose that's true that he owes her money and that it is her money, everyone knew it wasn't about that. It was about letting the humiliation continue, and making sure that no small amount of happiness be allowed for some people.


I could go on and really, I already have way too much.

Just... Even though she wasn't that bad (she barked at my mom a few times for beign loud, and made the obligitory comments about peoples' weight - mostly she stuck to shitting on Ken and my uncle) during the visit, all of these little things get added to the giant pile of shit that she's done to people in her life. Things she doesn't even acknowledge, isn't sorry for, and fully intends to keep doing.

When it came to write the blog two weeks ago I was stuck between being honest, and continuing to play the Gramma's Great game and acting like everything was great.

I could have simply not said anything, but that's just a different version of the game.

So, sorry for the big delay in posting this blog.
Sorry also for all the gramma drama in it too.

Next time we get back to our regularly scheduled program, promise.

There'll be future visits to Yak, I'm sure. Now that this is all out there though, it won't be so hard to play the game when I blog. It'll be easier because you'll all know that's all it is and I won't have to explain (if this ramblethon can be called an explanation) myself when and if I mention her.
So yes! Dinner was great, everyone loved it. I'd call it one of my best successes. Right up there with the butterflied chicken and the ham dinner.

Grandma had my mom take her to Costco earlier that day and brought back cheesecake and apple pie. Both were really good. You'd think that two giant Costco desserts would have been enough for 10 people, but I hear Grandma had to be talked out of buying a third. I had a slice of cheesecake and took some apple home. Grandma packed up the rest and drove it back to Hermiston.

Shortly after dinner Mark and I left and drove back home to celebrate a childfree week with boredom and monotony.
It gets quiet around this place when there aren't kids to boss around and force homework and room-cleaning on.

It was good to get them back, and good to have them at the table for Sunday #15. 

I love my kids.

I work and commute the better part of my day. I really only get home in time to put the kids to bed. I feel more and more like a weekend parent.

A long time ago I talked about the first Sunday of this year. How unpleasant it was and how bad we all were at just sitting around the table and having dinner together.

What I think I felt back then was that we were in a steady drift towards having a relationship a lot like I had with my mom. Meaning - not a great one. I was beginning to not know my kids.

So, yes, let's keep fixing that.

This Lifetime Movie Moment brought to you by Coca-Cola.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kids: Pot Roast in the Oven - take out in three hours. Love (maybe) Mom

When I was a kid my mother had two specialties - spaghetti and pot roast.

Spaghetti was something she made when she was going to be home for dinner. It required frying up some ground beef, dumping in sauce, and boiling noodles. Sometimes we had iceberg lettuce and tomato to go with it. It would have been a sit down dinner if our kitchen table wasn't always piled with laundry.

We didn't have it very often. At least, that is, until we got old enough (10 is old enough, right) to make it ourselves.

If mom was going to be gone (to work, or B. I. N. G. O.) but wanted to feed that mothering urge that pestered her from time to time, she'd stick a pot roast in the oven.

Invariably, we'd come home from school to find a note taped to the TV telling us to take the roast out in 2-3 hours. Sometimes she'd even tell us to put potatoes or carrots in it. Sometimes.

Since I started this blog I pushed back the impulse to mention my mother's Signature meal. I know she reads, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

But really, it's mostly to poke fun at her and to highlight the fact that my cooking skills, good and bad, are basically all my own. And that's okay. I'm not here to put anyone down for it or anything. It is what it is, and kitchen fires aside, I think it's worked out pretty well for me.

I probably never would have mentioned it, except that Mom made pot roast last time we visited. Awww, yeah! I had to document that!

Pot Roast: Judy Style

Plop raw chunk of roast (whatever's on sale) into a roasting pan.
This one.
Since the beginning of time.

If you're feeling fancy, slice an onion and sprinkle around and on top of roast.
Fill pan with 4-6 cups of water.

Slap that into the oven at about 350 and take off either to work or BINGO. Probably BINGO.

Be sure to leave a note letting your elementary school children they can add carrots and potatoes if they want (Children probably won't read this note until it's jerky.)

Okay, so maybe there was more to it than that. I don't think so, but I was 10-12 at the time, so maybe I was wrong. Nah, we all still make fun of it. I think that's pretty spot on.

So - Saturday before Sunday #14 mom announces she's making pot roast.

I got pictures:
Your typical after school special


Look Closer:
This is not an arid wasteland.
How could it be, it hasn't
even finished cooking!

Because I am completely unfair I have no 'after' pictures. Obviously I wouldn't want to show anything that puts Mom in a positive light. What else would you expect from a daughter.

Oh... right.

Anyway, this was definitely a "company's coming" dinner, so there were potatoes and carrots too!

And it was good. It was everything a meat/tato/carrot bake should be. There was also salad - the famous "with spaghetti" salad! It even had sliced onion.

I wish I had an "at the table" pic to share, but I don't.


Hmm, this post needs bulk. It's not meatloaf so breadcrumbs won't work...

Hey, I know!

Look, babies!

Okay, I guess  when you're three you aren't technically a "baby" but she's the youngest grandkid my mom has, so that makes her the baby.

That's not a marker she's smearing on her lip. It's an ink-stain... never mind that it's totally made like a marker.

Moments before prettying up her lips, Ayla (who is already completely kick-ass. She's going to live out my derby dreams for me, just you wait) was helping Grandma do her pretties.
This was followed by helping her Papa
work on the truck.
Seriously. Kick. Ass. I'm telling you.

When Mom sees this she'll probably drop her head and cover her eyes with her hacd. I'm the same way, I wouldn't want pictures of me all unglorious and toddler-painted being shared on the Internet.

But this is important.

My mom sat there for a half an hour and let Ayla play in the make-up bag, making both of them pretty.
She let this little girl come after her with mascara.

Those of you who know me from the Internet have probably heard a thing or two about my mom. Whatever I've said is also probably true.

But I love my mother.

And this is why. Whatever skills she lacked in motherhood she has more than made up as a grandmother.

Sure she's still insane - she left her eye sight in the hands of a toddler.

I don't always get along with my mother. She's crazy. She knows it. I'm crazy too. I know it.

But, relapses to crazytown aside, she's as devoted a grandmother as you'll find. I love her for that. I love her for taking care of her grandkids with more love and understanding that her own mother managed with her grandkids.

She's never made one of them sit on the toilet for 12 hours for wetting the bed when they were 4.
She's never made another ashamed for being disgusting enough to touch their own genitals when they were a similar age.
She's never put one on a pedestal while she literally clawed marks into another's cheek.

And really, all that bullshit aside, it's not about the shit that you don't do to your kids/grandkids.

It matters that you're there; that you love them; that they can trust you; that you don't cause them unnecessary pain.

So far, she's managed to fulfill all of those obligations.

I know a lot of people who are "all about fambly!" and "blood is thicker than water!" but that's shit.
Too many people use "blood" as an excuse to treat other people, family people, like shit.

I miss family - I wish I could spend more time with the family that I have.

When I do get the chance, usually they make me lonely for what used to be, and sad for what is.

Mostly my mom gets it right though.

And I'm thankful for that.

So there, Mom. Thanks for potroast, and thanks for, you know, being less insane (sort of ) in your older years.

Of course none of this could be possible without:
Bias Alert: That's my Dad. I probably love him best.
Mom says so, so it has to be true.

Right now, my mom is going "figures" and getting mad at my Dad. It's true.

Also, all I do is stir the pot.


The End.

Delicious Milk

You know what's awesome?

If your name is Corina then you probably don't agree. That's because you're dumb.

Even if you do awesome things up with cilantro.

The End.