Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank you note

It's tomorrow, gang.  Thanksgiving.

I have no idea if your house is in an uproar, or if you are relaxing on a beach somewhere.  Are you waiting excitedly at the airport for your kid to come home?  Or are you standing in line at the supermarket with a cart full of potatoes and apples and string beans?  Perhaps the in-laws are driving you mad, or you have the wine all picked out to bring to a gathering of friends far from home. Maybe you are at the gym, frantically trying to burn calories ahead of time, or looking helplessly at tail lights on the freeway as you head out of town.

Maybe you are standing on a street corner in Missouri, weeping.  And praying for families everywhere who will have trouble finding ways to be grateful.

Source:  The Atlantic

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I'm thankful for you.

I am in my sister's kitchen.  The fridge is bursting, but we have a plan*. It involves tried-and-true mac n' cheese, award-winning apple pie, and a total experiment in grilled, flattened turkey.  There will be sausage stuffing and mashed potatoes and challah in case that goes terribly wrong.  Even if everything goes awry, it won't matter in the great scheme of things.

We spent the afternoon yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, watching leaves drift down as shots rang out in salute to a newly fallen soldier joining so many others there.

 Then the sun went down and the sky was so stunningly on fire we just sat in the car, gaping**.

Two days ago, my daughter and I had a giggling fit in the National Gallery, and ninjas brought us popcorn in recliners. My niece and husband have started this year's Lego project.

My son is here...giant and loud and perfect.

Soon, we will hold hands over our full plates and take turns awkwardly trying to express aloud the feelings of profound gratitude that fill our hearts.  I will likely not mention the sunset, the giggles, the comfort of my husband's warm feet against my cold ones in the night, my sister's indulgent spoiling of all of us, my niece's shrieks of laughter, or the way my son felt when I hugged him.

I will probably just say, "I'm thankful for my family" and squeeze the hand I'm holding a little tighter.

Here are a few ideas for leftovers you can thank me for later:

For the turkey: Diane's Turkey Enchiladas
For the stuffing and mashed potatoes: Thanksgiving Eggs

And, for the cranberry sauce:  Shortbread Jam Tart

Intriguing, but untested:  Mashed Potato Waffles from Serious Eats and Crispy Stuffing Cakes with Eggs from iamafoodblog.

Virtual thank you's are fine on these, folks. No hand squeezing required.

* It is a ridiculous plan, involving two complete Thanksgiving dinners within 24 hours and hijacking her neighbor's refrigerator. Don't ask.
** There was traffic on the beltway, so we kind of had to slow down anyway. No photo can do this sunset justice, as my stricken daughter wailed at us repeatedly from the back seat.  She was bereft not to be able to blow her Instagram followers away.  Speaking of Instragram, you can follow me there now.  Although, according to my daughter, I'm doing it wrong.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The power of the parental lie

When I was little, like maybe 7 or 8 years old, my parents went away on vacation.

To Hawaii.
Without us.

My sister and I were very confused.  Our family always went places together.  This was beyond mystifying. We pestered them with questions.

Where is Hawaii?  
How are you going to get there? 
How long are you going to be gone?

And most importantly,

Why can't we go, too?

Our parents patiently answered every one.

Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, on the other side of California.
We are going on an airplane.
Seven days.

And then they told the world's greatest whopper.

We're going to go by ourselves first, to make sure Hawaii is fun for kids.

Well, that makes total sense, we agreed contentedly. As children who'd been subjected to many adult-oriented Washington dinner parties and boring work events, we knew all about stuff that was no fun for kids. Mom and Dad were doing us a favor by leaving us behind.  We cheerfully waved good-bye and waited for their report.

A week later, they returned home, literally glowing with happiness.  It turns out that when they landed in Hawaii, beautiful ladies gave them wreaths of flowers.  The beach was right in front of their hotel, they gushed.  The water was as warm as a bathtub, with little colorful fish swimming and swirling around their toes.  There were hula dancers and drinks with umbrellas and a swimming pool with a huge curvy water slide. They ate pineapple every single morning and it was spectacularly delicious.

We stared at them in awe.

Then, they opened up the luggage, and gave each of us a giant lei made entirely of candy bars.

Awe turned to skeptical disbelief*.

Hawaii seems like A LOT of fun for kids.

Our suspicions were well founded. My parents never did take us there**. But when I finally got to go as a grown up, one of the best things about the trip was indeed having pineapple for breakfast every single morning.

It is spectacularly delicious.

Fresh Pineapple with Mint and Tajin | Cheesy Pennies

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Care Packages

I don't know about you, but when I was in college, there was nothing more exciting than seeing a flash of pink peeking through the little window in your PO box.

The slip that meant: YOU HAVE A PACKAGE.

It meant a brown paper box with Mom's neat handwriting on it and stamps clustered in the corner was waiting for you behind the counter.  It would be filled with homemade treats, a clever note, a forgotten special something.  The goodies would be shared, of course, but the feeling of being unexpectedly touched by home was a magically selfish thrill.  Everyone else at the post office would look on enviously, waiting for their own miracle package slip to appear*.

Of course, that was a long time ago.  Before Amazon Prime and drone deliveries.  Before FedEx. Before email and Skype and the Internet.  Before parents and kids could text and talk with unlimited minutes any old time they wanted to.  Times have seriously changed.

I'm all for convenience and online everything, but when this company sent a brochure touting their "automated care package delivery service",  my heart broke just a little.

Then I shredded the damn flyer and started baking.  No kid of mine was going to get a pre-made box of corporate crap.  He was going to get a good, old fashioned, Mom-turned-on-the-oven-and-then-went-to-the-actual-post-office-so-I-could-get-a pink-slip-in-the-mailbox** kind of day.

I sent his favorite chocolate chip cookies*** and waited for the grateful call.
Instead, he posted this tweet.

Upstaged by my daughter's two second strike of the pen.  Hrumph.

Then I sent deep dark chocolate brownies****

Deep dark chocolate brownies | Cheesy Pennies

I got this text:

Not exactly gushing.

I sent brown butter cookie brittle with mini chocolate chips*****

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle | Cheesy Pennies


But when I sent this pre-packaged corporate crap for Halloween?

Assorted Halloween Candy | Cheesy Pennies

I get this:

Too bad, kid.  These are on the way.******

Halloween Candy Oatmeal Cookies | Cheesy Pennies