Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So long and Good night...

This past week was a long one that ended in us saying good bye to an old friend.  Oddly enough, Halloween came to live with me when I lost a girl cat that looked just like her.  When I saw her, I couldn't turn her down thinking that she would fill that space up that hurt so much when Ms. Callie died unexpectedly when in quarantine in Hawaii.  That was a hard few days many moons ago.  Who knew the cat afraid of garbage trucks would become an old friend.  She managed to keep on going even at 12 and a half when her body just started to disagree with the decision.  I knew she was sick so it gave us all a chance to discuss it but when she decided she wanted to get up and walk to where I stood on Friday but couldn't make it, I felt so much guilt for letting her stick around that long.  Despite her steady weight loss over the past few months, she had a spirit that wanted to keep going.  She never complained, she was never grumpy.  If there was chicken or fish to be had, she was quick to get in the middle of where ever it was being served.  Her old age did not diminish her desire to put her foot in my cereal bowl EVERY SINGLE TIME in case she would win that tug of war and a bowl for herself.  She was vocal every morning, insisting that she was always first in line and thus should always get her treats first.  Every morning at 5:30 AM, she waited at the bedroom door because the alarm went off and in case I hit snooze, she began to meow and remind me that we have a routine, we must get up. 

Some of those things were pretty annoying coming from a cat, I am  not going to lie.  Some how each of those things became a piece and part of our lives any way.  All these years later, now no one is crying at the door, I can't bear to get up at 5:30.  No one is knocking over the trash looking for pieces of dinner.  I eat my cereal in such a quiet peace that its almost too much to bear.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are making me feel like hiding behind the dryer on impulse, every time I hear the garbage trucks.

I miss you Halloween.  A lot more than I could have imagined I would.  I appreciate all the years you took care of me when I needed it.   You were a damn fine cat.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eat Dinner

Sounds simple right?  I guess I am just a different kind of parent but its seems a no brainer.  How will you know much about your kids or partner if you aren't sitting down with them for a meal at least occasionally?  I am not unrealistic, people are busy, but when companies start movements to encourage family dinner, I have to ask, what the hell?  Everyone is stressed, rushing, texting while driving, hurrying around like their heads are on fire.  Is all that stuff that important?  What are you teaching your kids if you are in a mode of constant rushing and stress?  SIT DOWN.

A common complaint is "I can't cook."  I don't believe that anyone has zero skills, but that can happen.  Stop at the grocery store, pick up a rotisserie chicken, a bagged salad, a package of Hawaiian rolls and a gallon of ice tea/lemonade/milk.  Go home, put it all on the table except the salad which does require opening all the packages and dumping in a bowl and mixing with tongs or a wooden spoon.  Poof.  Good food that took more time to pick up than put on the table.  Certainly you can add to this by picking up a great bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers for a vase and cut fruit for dessert but I don't want to confuse you.

Have a few skills?  If you are looking for the proper way to bake or cook something always go to Martha.  While I have stacks and stacks of cookbooks and magazines, recipes printed and on cards, if I ever need to know the proper way to do something, Martha always has the answer.  The difference between her instructions and just about everyone elses is that she explains the proper way to do it.  She doesn't say "cook this"  she gives you specific steps to follow.  For anyone that is trying to learn skills, she is the best teacher.  If you can boil water and will tolerate semi-homemade, this is one of my kids favorite things:

Chicken and Rice

1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups of cooked rice (you can use any variety)
2 chopped, boiled chicken breasts or 2 cans of cooked chicken (found near the tuna)
1 Tablespoon of Lemon and Pepper seasoning

1.  in the pot of cooked rice while hot, dump the soup, chicken, seasoning and stir until mixed through out

2.  eat
Don't like Lemon Pepper?  Easily you can just use ground pepper, or dill or even rosemary.  This is where you can impress yourself when you gain confidence and switch stuff up.  I keep boiled chicken breasts in the fridge because these can be used in a multitude of ways.  Buy a bag in the grocery store frozen section, skinless boneless breasts are best but the boneless skinless chicken tender strips work as well if they are on sale.  At home, heat a pot of water to almost boiling and put all the chicken in it.  Once it starts boiling again, set your timer to 20 minutes.  At the end of 20 minutes, drain and pack these in a container for your fridge.  (This can help with time during the week if you do this on Sundays.)  Add this dish with the above mentioned salad and rolls, or get crazy and nuke a can of green beans and corn to go with this and you have another meal ready in less than 20 minutes.  (tip for canned veggies:  rinse these well before cooking and it will improve the taste, add butter pats, salt and pepper with them in a bowl and nuke for two minutes.  Yes, that easy)

Feeling like cooking more or learning more while doing that?  Get a great book, definitely one or more by Martha but my current favorite is by Katie Lee and her book The Comfort Table.  This book has great menus done for different occasions and are quick easy ways to have a great meal.  I just made her after Thanksgiving menu and it was AWESOME.  Oh, and why do you save the "nice stuff" for other people?  You and your family are worth it.  Take it out, celebrate your life, use cotton napkins and champagne flutes for sparkling water.  It will make you smile.  Trust me.

Take this time to be proud of what you do for one another.  Give everyone a job so its done even quicker.  TALK to one another.  One of my favorite things to ask at the table is what was the best and worst thing that happened to you today?  You will share in small victories and be able to talk through uncomfortable situations with your family, building their confidence and providing everyone with comfort and love.  Who can't use that?  A new question I have incorporated is one I just heard from Diana Sawyer, what interesting questions did you ask today?   You will be surprised how much your kids and/or partner will tell you if you only ask.  You may discover things you didn't know!

I am thankful that there is a movement to bring people back to the table, don't get me wrong, I just don't think we should ever have left.  It is a rule in my house that we eat a minimum of one meal a day at the table with each other.  Period.  On days when everyone will be out in the afternoon/evening, that is breakfast, otherwise its always dinner.  On family movie night, we may order a pizza to eat while we watch a movie but we do it together, hanging in the living room.  Its just the way it is.  It doesn't matter if there are after school activities and friends, we work around that and plan for eating together. 

And no phones turned on or at the table.  Period.

Slow down, stop the spinning out of control and see what it can do for your life.  Eat dinner together.