Monthly Archives: November 2010

It’s My First Thanksgiving Charlie Brown!

Standard

Yup, that was what we had in our fridge Thanksgiving 1990

My first Thanksgiving on my own was memorable. Not for the gorgeous bird or the huge table of family and friends. But because I was 17, living with my best friend in Houston, Texas. And she was a vegetarian. But I was determined to make us a turkey. After all, we were grown ups!! Her boyfriend was coming but not until the next day with one of his pals. I just couldn’t let Thanksgiving pass without a celebration. My mother was coming also but not arriving until 2 days after the holiday.

I had no idea what I was doing. Not one clue as to how to begin. So, I called my dad. He got me started. First, buy a turkey. Ok, that was priceless info because I  thought that turkeys just showed up in the kitchen. Put the bird in a pan and turn on the oven (my dad was a gourmet cook who didn’t hold out much hope for my traditional thanksgiving being that I was 17 and didn’t realize I had to actually go and buy the turkey). Got it. Bird, pan….wait… was I supposed to take off the wrapping? Ok, hot wrapping off the bird. So far so good. I made real, undercooked, lumpy, mashed potatoes and stuffing out of a box (the best kind). My best friend made her green bean casserole and some other gross tofu/veggie dishes that I would never eat because gross.

My favorite part of the meal is the gravy. It always has been and always will be. I could drink gravy. I love gravy. Now, how do I make gravy? I had no idea. Hello Dad? Ok, I needed flour. Or cornstarch. Yeah, we were 17 years old….I didn’t even know what cornstarch was. I thought it was what you used on shirt collars. The grocery stores were closed by this time, so I went to my across the way neighbors. They were a couple who were, um, 17 years old!!! No, they didn’t have any flour or cornstarch (don’t you use that for keeping collars stiff?). I tried some of the other neighbors. Most were gone to friends or families for dinner. And the rest didn’t have flour or cornstarch. But Terry was home. He was the super special guy that lived below us and he was already half in the bag. He assured me I could make gravy with the coarsely ground cornmeal he had in the cupboard, as long as I invited him up for the festivities. Excellent!!

And off I went to make my fav part of thanksgiving, confident that coarsely ground cornmeal would do the trick! How exciting to be so grown up and independent and making our very first thanksgiving dinner!!! My best friend and I set our tiny table with what we considered our best china. She had bought some cool plates at Pier One….yep, we were all grown up!! I stirred that coarsely ground cornmeal into the gravy for about an hour trying to thicken the drippings. No luck. Come ON!!! It’s cornmeal you really can’t get more traditional than that!!

2 hours later Terry showed up ready for some yummy thanksgiving dishes. Instead, he got lumpy mashed potatoes, turkey broth with what resembled saw dust shavings in it and some tofu sweet potato disaster (it very well may have been delish but it had tofu in it so it was just simply nasty in my book). The turkey itself was not bad. Except for the bag of salmonella that no one told me to take out before I cooked it. What kind of a joke is that? A whole bag filled with the grossest parts of the bird!!! And I was supposed to TOUCH that thing???

Despite it all we had a lovely dinner, all grown up like. Since then, I have been fortunate to have some of the best thanksgiving dinners with some of the most wonderful people. But I will never forget that very first one, which despite the food fiasco, was filled with good friends. I have since grown up to make the most incredible gravy anyone has ever tasted, I know anyone who tried to down that first gravy experiment would agree!!

And so begins the tradition of M&M’s, Honey roasted peanuts and cat in a glass…

Spencer Says Happy Thanksgiving!

Standard

World Class Food Thief

It’s no secret that I am a HUGE Martha Stewart fan. I love her show and I strive to be like her in every way. But, alas, I fail miserably. Martha loves her dogs. She actually cooks for them. Inadvertently, I cook for my dogs too. I mean, Spencer thinks the dinners I make are specifically for him and helps himself. Martha uses only the best ingredients when she bakes, even for her dogs. I admire that. I also, like to start from scratch. If I am making a recipe that calls for applesauce, I like to make homemade applesauce from my own apple tree. I like to use the hoity-toity cheeses, and fancy shmancy spices. I wish I was Martha.

But, I am not. Not even close. But I try and that is what counts. So, last Thanksgiving I was invited over to my best friend’s house for dessert. I offered to bring a pumpkin cheesecake. I was so excited to make the pumpkin cheesecake I found on Martha’s website. It was a 144 step process. I made the crust from scratch (of course). The filling was from pie pumpkins,that I cooked down and pureed, the spices were from actual whole spices that I ground with my pestle and mortar. I baked at a higher degree then lowered it. I used a water bath, just like Martha insisted I do so the top wouldn’t crack. I felt so accomplished. And when the baking was done, Martha said I should allow the cheesecakes to cool on a wire rack with tin foil over them. Brilliant!

I pop them out of the oven and onto the wire racks. I had made two, one smaller for us to keep at home. They were picture perfect. The kids and I stood back to admire my superior baking skills. I wish I had taken a picture, they were that unbelievable looking and obviously a fluke as every other baked item I had made in my life has been edible, but looked like roadkill.

And upstairs we troop to get ready to go over the river and through the woods to Aunt Aubry’s house. The girls looked so pretty, I was looking not too bad. And the highlight of course is the the pumpkin cheesecake. All of the sudden, I hear something in the kitchen. But, I ignore it, I keep getting ready. I hear another something, but my denial is so strong at this point, I convince myself I am not hearing anything. We’re ready, let’s go!!

As I walk into the kitchen, I notice there is ONE cheesecake on the counter and ONE tented piece of tinfoil. NO!! NO he didn’t!!!! As I come around the island, I see the empty springform pan and some crumbs. I don’t see Spencer. I am stunned. I can’t believe the betrayal, the absolute disregard for the 4 hours I had spent making these beautiful cheesecakes. Didn’t he see me scooping out pumpkins, grinding spices, checking and rechecking the baking process? How could he? But he did. And he knew he did. He was hiding under the diningroom table. I just slowly turned towards him, and he burped.

But here’s the thing, he carefully lifted the tinfoil off of each cheesecake and decided which one was the biggest and he ate that one. Because the other one had the tinfoil a bit pushed off, but was otherwise untouched. He actually chose to eat the biggest one. I was so angry, I don’t think I said another word until we got to Aubry’s. He knew I would be home sooner or later and then he’d have to pay for his Thanksgiving treat. On the way home, I thought about the time, effort and expense of the cheesecake, the beauty of the cheesecake and the theft and murder of the cheesecake. I then thought about Spencer and all he had lived through in his short 10 years. And the fact that he may not be around for much longer…not because I was going to kill him, but because he is an unhealthy, big old mutt. Although, if killing him were an option at the time….

And I came to the conclusion that he enjoyed the cheesecake as much as I did. And it wasn’t all bad as I still had one to bring to the party. And now I didn’t have to feed him, as he’d already eaten. Ya know, the freakin positives to the dog scarfing down a 200 dollar cheesecake (if you add in my cost of labor). So, by the time I got home, I was OK with it all. I was actually kind of laughing about it and wondering at how smart Spencer is to actually have looked at both cheesecakes and chosen the biggest one….what a smart dog!!

But as I opened the door I was hit with the overwhelming smell of dog diarrhea. I almost threw up my own pumpkin cheesecake. Spencer flew by me, out the door and into the neighbor’s yard where he had more explosive diarrhea. About an hour later, after I had cleaned up what he had left in the house and he had stopped pooping in the neighbor’s yard, we all settled down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and reflect on the lessons of The Pumpkin CheeseCake. What did we learn? That sometimes everyone needs a very fancy cheesecake and sometimes the dog eats it. Yup, stupid ass dog. Lesson learned.

Happy National Adoption Day

Standard

Nope, Santa didn't bring me....or did he?

It’s actually National Adoption Month, but today is the day. I was adopted when I was 5 months old. This is a fact I was always aware of and never allowed to forget. Being adopted in my family meant that I was extra special as I was planned for and waited for and my parents had to jump through hoops to get me and I came with directions. It also meant that I could legally marry my cousins. Ha ha.

As a kid, being adopted wasn’t a big deal. I mean, some kids in elementary school made fun of me, but then again, they also made fun of kids who weren’t adopted so, no harm no foul. But being adopted lends to some great fantasies. Like when an adopted kid is punished, we can truly believe that someday our “real” parents will come save us. And when we are really mad we can say “you’re not my REAL mom” which generally gets us some sort of reaction that distracts from the bad deed done. A non-adopted kid can’t say those things with any amount of seriousness. Nor can they check out people at the grocery store and wonder if they might be related.We have a whole other side to ourselves that we don’t know but are free to create. That is the main difference between us and non adopted kids. There is no mystery to being a non adoptee.

The pros and cons of being adopted balance each other out. My mother always acknowledged my personal “adoption day” with a present. That was fun because my birthday is on a major holiday so to get a present on a day that was half way to my birthday was fun. I was unique within my family. I knew I was wanted. On the flip side, I knew that I was unwanted by my birth family, I was unique within my family and sometimes being reminded once a year that I was not blood related to my mother was a double edge sword.

When I was younger, finding my birth family seemed like a very important issue. As I got older, it became less of an issue. Until I gave birth to my first child. Then I knew that for her sake I needed to get some information on where I came from. I registered with the NYS Adoption registry. This is a registry put in place for those of us in closed adoptions. At the time of my adoption in 1973, my birth mother put down some very simple facts for me to someday know. The height, weight, hair color of both her and my birth father, the circumstances of their life at the time of their decision to give me up and any health issues they knew of.

The day I received this information in the mail, I ripped open the envelope and said to my brother-in-law “well, I’m not black!” And we laughed for about a half an hour. The info was very short and to the point. Not enough for me to be able to fill in the health history that everyone has to fill out at the doctor’s office. Again, not having a health history is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t know what I need to be scared of, and I don’t know what I need to be scared of….see? I can choose to focus on that as a positive or a negative. I chose positive.

Adopted kids even get to eat the bow!!!!

We adopted kids are generally very protective of our parents feelings surrounding us searching for our birth parents. I know one of the major reasons why I don’t actively search is because I would never want to hurt my mother’s feelings. My dad was a little miffed when I told him about getting my non identifying information. My dad simply forgot I was adopted. To him, I was just his kid. After all, whenever we went anywhere together everyone always said how much we looked alike and that goes double  when we went out with my kids. Dad would always just accept the compliment without pointing out that it was actually impossible for me to look like him.

I had some friends who were also adopted. One friend didn’t find out until she was 16 and she was searching through her mother’s drawers for a lighter and came across the finalizing paper work for her adoption. She came to terms with the lies she had been raised with but she never fully trusted her parents again. Another friend was adopted and so was his sister. I was always jealous of them because I wanted a sister or brother…I had another friend who was adopted into an extended branch of my family. My mother’s friend adopted a baby and mom and I made a big deal out of welcoming her into a very special club.

Adoption is one of the most incredibly selfless, unconditional ways of becoming a parent. Those of us who have biological children will never understand. To desire a child so much, a child that does not share your own DNA and to know beyond all doubt that you will love that child because of these differences is, well, it’s love. Especially in the world today, a world where people can undergo treatments to get pregnant despite their own bodies being unwilling. A world where infertility is looked at as a disorder to be fixed or treated, a person in this world who decides to adopt is pretty incredible.

I didn’t have to pass any tests or undergo any interviews before I was allowed to have kids, like adoptive parents do. I can’t tell you if that is a good or bad thing…. They go through rounds of social workers, therapy sessions, background checks so through the agency will KNOW if they were the kid picking on me in elementary school for being adopted. On top of that, there is generally a large fee involved. I have to say, I got pregnant for free, been paying for it ever since though :).

 I was adopted through Catholic Charities so I was free (but my parents have been paying for it ever since 🙂 ). Today, many people adopt from over seas which involves tens of thousands of dollars and time commitments that go above and beyond my measly 13 hours of hard labor. And the pain when a birth family backs out at the last-minute would be far greater than any labor pains I experienced.

Today, on National Adoption Day, please give an adoptive parent a hug or send a letter to your legislature for gay adoption or maybe consider taking a child into your home. If you have the love to give, then give it. So many children need good homes, they need to be part of a family. Who wouldn’t want to make a difference? I know that kid sitting in a foster home or in an overseas orphanage is ready and willing to make a difference in some lucky family’s life.

Spencer and the Dog Wash

Standard

A new dog wash opened in a town a few miles from where I live. I was so excited when I saw this!! It is a dog/car wash. This sounds like the perfect solution to all of my dog washing issues. Neither Emma nor Spencer fit in the stand up shower, and it costs me 150 bucks to have them shaved. So, off to the dog wash we go!

I pile Emma and Spencer into the car and which sounds like the easy part. Emma has to walk around the car at least 3 times before attempting the jump into the back seat. Sometimes she can’t decide which side of the backseat she wants to sit. I don’t see how it matters at all as she always ends up on the floor. I try the driver’s side back door…no go. The passenger side…nope. Back to the driver’s side…uh, no. Back to the passenger side…maybe….um…ok. And she’s in. Spencer gets his front paws onto the door jam and waits for one of us to lift his hind end into the car. It took me a few minutes to catch on to the fact that he was actually waiting for the rear end lift. He’s too proud to ask outright. I boost his butt into the car and he gets up on the seat waiting for me to roll down the window.

Emma is laying on the floor and Spencer is swaying with every turn of the car, knocking his head against the sides of the window. Every so often he falls on top of Emma and then steps all over her getting back up onto the seat. It’s just loads of fun.

We get there, to the dog wash, and unload. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I walk into the small room, I am so impressed!! It’s like what the real dog groomers use!!! A ramp, to a shallow tray that is waist-high, a hose that is connected to a machine that will do shampoo (oatmeal, flea and tick, or tearless) conditioner, fragrance and rinse. Then there is another hose that is a blow dryer!!! And yet another hose that is a vacuum with a comb attached so that you can actually vacuum the hair and water off the dog!!! So far, I am thinking that whoever devised this ingenious set up should be running the country!

I have seen the dogs on tv do this sort of thing….the run right up the ramp and then stand patiently as they are suds up and hosed down. Spencer immediately knows I am up to no good. He turns right around and stands patiently waiting for someone to open the door and let him out of this insanity. I turn him back around and try to encourage him to go up the ramp. Yeah, that’s not happening. Ramp walking is some sort of special skill that Spencer does not have. So, I help him. I put his front paws onto the ramp,and his backend immediately falls down. This is going to be a two person job, just getting him into the bath area. I grab the front, my kid grabs the back and we lift him onto the bath table. Spencer was amazed. He though for sure he was going to get out of this without getting bathed.

Let the bathing begin! I even heard of a cool new trick where if you hold a dog’s snout they won’t shake!! I am totally feeling like a professional now!

And on to the rinse….he is enjoying this, really…this is his happy face.

The best part in my opinion (not necessarily Spencer’s) is the blow dry! Imagine, no wet dog smell!!!

He is looking so handsome! And the best part is all of this washing and drying takes 8 minutes and costs 5 dollars!!!! Oh happy day! No more stinky mutts!!!

I think he looks devine…he thinks he has been through hell and he is NOT in the mood for pictures

Now, Emma has been watching this entire process. You would think she would have understood that she would also have to climb the ramp and get suds up, rinsed off and blown dry. Alas, Emma was simply enjoying watching the entertainment that is Spencer. Giggling quietly to herself….

As we lift Emma up to the bath, I realize that maybe there is some merit to agility training. Time to get soapy Em! How come I always get stuck with the undercarriage?

And a rinse…

And the blow dry….

Over all, it was a good day at the dog wash.