Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween lessons

Our second Halloween in this 'hood and the lessons I've learned:

1.) I need to buy double the amount of doubled-amount of candy that I bought twice as much as last year.

2.) People love Halloween here. There aren't enough aisles of inflatable ghosts, cats and other general spooks at Lowe's to fulfill the demand in Middle Tennessee.

3.) Trick-or-Treating at large, stately, popular country music singing stars homes doesn't suck.

4.) I need to seek professional help for the lengths I go to theme this meal.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween was a little hollow in 1979

More and more frequently, I'll recall a warm childhood memory and as I'm regarding now it in my parental mind's eye, I can't help but stop and think, "What the hell?"

We didn't grow up in a bad area of town. On the contrary--it was a nice suburban Michigan home in a subdivision filled with large sprawling yards and growing families. It was a particularly good neighborhood to Trick-Or-Treat in because there was always a porch light on at every house, and easy- to-navigate streets.

I remember going out with my Dad and sister and we'd hit as many houses as possible in our unknown costumes buried under a parka since October in Michigan meant it was 3 degrees outside. My Mom would stay at home passing out the candy and when we returned we'd dump out our pillowcases filled with sugar treasures, and the mad sorting would begin.

Or should I say, my mother would begin the 3 day long inspection process and clinical drug trials.

You must put into context that the idyllic neighborhood I described was set in the late seventies which is when all urban legends were born. I have no idea if there was any concrete evidence or actual events to support the extraordinary means my mother would go through to make sure our candy wasn't tainted, but I imagine some fuzzy-screened news anchor with a wide tie informing the good citizens of Oakland County that Charles Manson was on the loose in the Hershey factory inserting razor blades and Tylenol laced with cyanide into fun size Snickers bars.

Even before one M got stuffed into my mouth, she'd immediately start the torture.

All apples (yeah, that lady lived in my hood, too) were tossed into the trash. "Hello, ever hear of Snow White?" Popcorn balls or anything homemade? "I'm not sure if it's poisoned but you don't know what kind of kitchen that came from. You could get trichinosis."

All loose candy was pitched. Anything in a wrapper that was torn, wrinkled or compromised in any way was an immediate discard. And all Milky Ways were automatically confiscated, but I think it was just because she liked those.

We were then allowed to choose one piece of candy from our bags, but only after Mom chopped it up like a sushi chef to make sure there was nothing hidden inside or any powdery residue on the blade of the cleaver.

After the intense visual inspection and biopsy, you'd think you were in the clear, but you were obviously not aware of the cornucopia of dangers lurking in a Bit o' Honey in 1979. No, then all of the level 1 cleared candy was bundled back up into the pillowcase with the firm declaration, "You can have this back in a few days after your Uncle has had a chance to X-ray it."

Yes. X-Ray.

This was an annual ritual that I thought was just our curse having an Uncle as a radiologist, but one year we had to take it to the local McDonald's for a mobile screening so this must have been a widespread concern in our zip code. I guess irradiation was deemed less dangerous than the possible lockjaw we'd get from biting down on a rusty nail.

By the time the candy would come back well into November, it lost much of its appeal. Still wearing its hospital bracelet and reeking of antiseptic, the bag sat on the kitchen table looking a little lighter and glowing unnaturally. I couldn't help but lose my confectionary appetite a little.

And again, looking back at it through my parental mind's eye, maybe it was all by design.

Trick on my Treats after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A cry for help with my mouth full

At least I can admit I have a problem.

And I fully acknowledge that I am the Queen of the Theme cooking.

I will take any holiday, sporting event, television program, news item, or even an overheard sentence uttered by a stranger in the grocery store and turn it into a themed meal.

It's just kind of what I do--an inside culinary joke I have with myself four nights a week.

This month alone we've had paella and burgers for Columbus Day, Nathan's hot dogs for the playoffs and apple pie for the presidential debates. But the creme de la creme of my kooky cookery, my celebratory savories, festive foodstuffs, and motif meals is Halloween.

Our usual dinner is a pot of chili and the obligatory mummy dogs and cupcakes, but I think I've found a new freakish fare for the table: Mummy Meatloaf.

Use this guide from and this 1770 House meatloaf recipe from Food Network Magazine (which is by far the best meatloaf I've ever eaten, family confirms) and you'll become a permanent member of my themed cook support group.

P.S. Our next meeting is November 1st for All Saint's Day.  Bring divinity, angel food cake, and St. Louis style ribs.

P.S.S. Imagine pairing this with graveyard ghost mashed potatoes? Ok, I'll stop now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My one and only political post--read at your own risk

Fair warning: this is my one and only political post of this season, so if you want to skip this one and return tomorrow for more of the usual, please feel free. I won’t be offended.

So you stayed. Thanks. And to reward you, this will not be about bashing the other guy or opposing positions. This is simply my opportunity to let you know who I am--and who I am not--as a voter.

I am a proud Democrat. 

What I am not is naive.

I believe in social justice, Civil Rights and religious freedom. I am not fiscally irresponsible, a moocher, and or easily dismissed.

I believe my grandmothers fought for my right to vote, go to college, earn equal wages and make my own healthcare decisions. 

I am a wife and proud mother of four beautiful and loved children. I am not a baby killer. Perhaps this makes me a feminist, but I’d like to think I’m more humanist.

I do not see affordable healthcare as an affront. I am relieved that we finally value humans as much as we do our cars, houses and motorcycles. I am grateful that my son will be able to provide for his family someday without fear of his pre-existing condition. I’m happy that no other parent will have to make a medical decision based on whether or not they will be eligible for insurance.

I believe in a social safety net--one that was woven by my grandparents’ generation who lived through the Great Depression and decided a country as great as ours should never be without one again.

I also don’t see my grandparents as a voting bloc or a drain to the economy with their care after working their entire lives contributing to the system. I see them as brilliant architects of a society that allows us to grow and follow our dreams without fear of losing everything if we get sick or retire.

I am a person of faith. But I have no interest in my government making policy decisions based on any one church’s tenants, beliefs or interpretations.

I am an American. I believe one of the many sources of this nation’s strength is our free education system, and the more educated the population, the better off we are as a society. I believe that’s an investment that pays off in every facet of civilization.

Admittedly, I am also sometimes the token liberal. In our school, neighborhood, workplace and church, I have become used to it. What I am not is ashamed of anything other than the parents and teachers who suggest to my middleschooler that overturning Roe v. Wade is an age-appropriate topic, or the only factor in voting for president. I believe a pro-life agenda goes much further than this single issue that has no business being taught to children as a partisan talking point. 

I am a realist. I know that social programs and defense cost money and that money comes from taxes which I don’t like to pay anymore than anyone else. But I can’t imagine living in a nation without schools, libraries, parks, police and a military that makes these things possible and I’m willing to pay for it.

I am a tree-hugger, but in genuine disbelief that no matter how you think the planet was made, that we can’t all agree to keep it clean. I think If bureaucracy is a pejorative term for agencies that keep our medicines and food supply safe and our air and water clean, then I suppose I’m a blasphemer, too.

I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a niece and a granddaughter. I am an equal. 

As are you. And whomever you choose to love.

And I am frightened. Because I believe all of the things I am is at risk this election unlike most others. I see unprecedented intolerance, anger, bigotry and ignorance and it scares me to my core that we can’t have an adult conversation about any political subject without name-calling and suppression of ideas different from our own.

But most of all, I am one of millions of natural-born caretakers this election that would like to see a return to people over positions, individuals over issues and family over fanaticism.

And finally, I’m a lifelong student and another lesson I’ve learned from my grandparents is that neither party can stop time from marching relentlessly forward. I’m determined to continue to progress so I’m not left behind.

And I am now stepping off my soapbox and returning you to our regularly scheduled election.

Please vote.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween is so big here...

...Even the mailboxes dress up.

I'm exporting this custom to all points North and South. I like it.

Curiously, they we only dress up our mailboxes for autumn and Christmas. I'm not quite sure the reason for this abridged calendar--I think they would look fetching in Easter bonnets or Fourth of July ribbons--but sometimes it's best not to ask.

Two flags up for me, Roger.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Safe again

After living here for the almost two full years now, I really had come to the conclusion that the only thing I was in danger of here in the state of Tennessee was perhaps developing heart disease from living so close to the Loveless Cafe or only being able to get our news from Fox.

But despite the relative safety of the area, we somehow decided to install a home security system nonetheless.

Our last run with this wasn't exactly successful. All of the doors and windows in our Florida home were wired with a very menacing voice that would alert us every bloody time someone would crack a window, but neglected the big security breaches like Jingle running away every single day. It also helpfully notified us to a low battery in the smoke alarm for the last 3 years we lived there despite it having been changed repeatedly. When we finally moved it felt like a prison break that I imagine the new owners are alerted to every six minutes to this day.

But this security system was going to be different. We got the premium package that included all of the bells and whistles.

Which doesn't do much if those bells and whistles are of the silent variety.

About 9:00 in the morning last week, a very nice police officer showed up on our doorstep with his hand on his holster to let us know that our new system was indeed working according to plan as it is apparently not-so-silent in the Sheriff's department. After a brief ID check and confirmation that Jingle was not exactly the world's best watch dog as she fell asleep on the feet of a stranger bearing a gun in our living room, the officer determined the perpetrator of the breach.

His interrogation of the suspect was swift yet thorough--the five year-old female confessed not only immediately, but proudly and unapologetically stating she pressed that little red button on the unit she was told never to press, "On purpose just to see what would happen."

The officer, whose heart visibly melted all over the dog at his feet, didn't even cite her for stealing his heart. Instead, he took her outside and showed her all of the bells and whistles in his squad car.

We learned many lessons this day. Stevie came away with that this would probably not be the last time Jessie saw the inside of a police car and Sean determined that the alarm keypad should maybe go up one shelf higher.

As for me, I realize that two years was much longer than I would have thought it would take us to become that family, and I wish the Loveless served tequila.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall what?

We just returned from Fall Break, which is Nashville's way of saying, "By the first week of October, we realize what a colossally bad idea it is to send the kids back to school closer to the Fourth of July than Labor Day, so here's the week that you could have had in August with the rest of the country so you can completely destroy all semblance of a routine you finally had going. Oh, and we're still going ahead with your child's sports schedule because we also realize the rest of the world continues as planned so good luck planning a trip or anything that doesn't revolve around an out-of-town game."

So we went to Louisville for a hockey tournament.

I'm not complaining--I don't hate Fall Break until this Monday after when we all have to go back after 10 days of sleeping at odd times and alternating meals between pizza and lukewarm powdered eggs out of chafing dishes at the Homewood Suites. I feel like I've woken up hungover from a night of huffing airplane glue from an EPA case study on how not to ventilate an ice arena.

Oh wait, we did.

But we made fun anyway. When we weren't hallucinating or vomiting from the lingering Zamboni fumes, we managed to take in a movie, do some shopping and even go to the Louisville Slugger museum and factory which I highly recommend if you're ever out that way. Before we left, the kids had a couple of sleepovers and homemade baked goods were consumed, so it was a fine week no matter how you slice it.

Even if it's a big ole slice of warm pumpkin pie instead of a refreshing Key Lime.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

No more whining for me

From the owner's manual: "Keep wines that you plan to use for EVERYDAY drinking and entertaining on the front half..."

Finally an appliance that gets me.

This might be the most remarkable machine even despite its impressive instruction manual.

You see, this simple appliance was surprisingly complicated to purchase and install. If we are to believe the first installer, it was backordered, then crafted by hand or carved from a single lump of stainless steel which took four months despite being a stock item at the local store. Once it did finally arrive from Napa or Bordeaux or Mars, and after said-installer was in three car accidents (none his fault) one employee accident (first time ever), a shoulder injury, and a week delay for paint to dry (???); on the morning of the delivery date on the way to its bought and paid for location, it was completely and tragically destroyed in a fiery car crash, with all backordered, hand-forged remains vaporized before the insurance adjusters could even arrive, along with the receipts of the order that the store since lost or misplaced.

We didn't buy that either.

Turns out it takes less than a week to be ordered and delivered when you just go ahead and do it yourself.

So we've unwittingly become more DIYer's since moving here but at least we can now reward ourselves with a glass of Merlot served at a perfect 58 degrees.