Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cooking up a culinary contest of sorts

My son-in-law is getting on my nerves. Sure, we all love him to pieces. He is perfect for First Born and he has many admirable qualities. Recently, however, he has been showing off his once dormant passion for cooking on social media with photos of delectable meals he’s been preparing. His bride has also had a hand at conjuring up some enticing items, but she has busy been taking classes and concentrating on her studies, so she’s happily letting him take the helm.

These aren’t simple little recipes. The Love couple has been tossing around words like birayani and shakshuka. From goat cheese to Gruyรจre and berry compote to Smore’s bread pudding, they leave our mouths watering and our eyes glued to the photos.
The Groom's Gruyere & Parmesan
Mac & Cheese. Showoff.

In our little part of the world The Groom’s reawakened flare with fare for is causing Spouse to drool with envy and vow to start experimenting with new recipes.
I’ve seen this before. In the past he hasn’t wanted to take this venture on alone – he wants company to help with his culinary experiments. That company would undoubtedly be yours truly.

Hey, I like trying new recipes as much as the next person working full (and a half) time and trying to ease around whatever project her wonderful husband is constructing or deconstructing in at least one room at all times.  I decided a little experiment was in order to find out just how much my partner in crime would be willing to wing it on his own.

Once a week Spouse and Second Born (when she is home) take over for dinner so that I can write my column and other pieces (and so what I write makes sense). Last night I presented him with the challenge of a meatless dinner. It wasn’t quite Top Chef or Chopped but he was working in somewhat unfamiliar territory.

Since the sweet potatoes sitting in the hanging basket were winding their way into a giant beanstalk, I asked Spouse to grill them. After the initial queries – “So what else should I do with them?” (I suggested a couple of seasonings but he quickly had it under control)- he was in charge.

Quinoa was next on the menu. A while back we went through a period of claiming we would start making healthier recipes. It just so happens that healthier often means finding new recipes or using some edible ingenuity, which neither of us had yet made the effort to do. Fortunately, that meant the quinoa was still waiting for its purpose in life. He got it started in a saucepan and I threw in some seasonings before it was done.  A yummy summer salad rounded out our meal.

Not only was I impressed at how well everything turned out, I felt so much better than I do after eating a heavy meal in the evening.  I was proud of my better half for his willingness to do something a little different. I’m also always excited when I don’t have to do one bit of the cleaning up, since Second Born was “voluntold” to help out. That’s really not the only reason we love having a college kid home for the summer, but it doesn’t hurt.

While searching for chicken broth for the quinoa, Second Born discovered more expired items on our pantry-ish shelf. I think it’s a matter of not getting ahead of ourselves and loading up on things that look ‘interesting’ and that we ‘might’ make sometime.  I have since made a vow to our shelves that they will no longer be treated like a museum rather than a library.

We’ve already made it clear that during our next visit with The Love Couple we expect to be treated to at least one or two of their savory samples. In the meantime, I’ll keep encouraging Spouse to experiment here while I graciously volunteer to enjoy the fruits - and vegetables - of his labor.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fridge frenzy & closet decluttering were worth a reward

A couple of weeks ago Second Born decided it was time to show just how brave and fearless she could be in the face of danger. She volunteered to clean out our refrigerator.

My first text message from her went something like this.

“Just so you know, I’m about halfway through the fridge and I’ve already found one thing that definitely expired in 2009 and another that may or may not have been best before some time in 2001.”

Have you ever investigated what’s been hiding in your fridge only to find what used to be identifiable items, along with at least a dozen different types of miniature mustard and jelly jars crammed into every spare space? I don’t know how we accumulate them or why we don’t use them. Our intentions are good but somehow these items, with enticing names such as pineapple blackberry jam or buffalo mango marinade, never make it to the point of consumption.

As my courageous offspring plunged her way through the fruit and vegetable bins, even venturing toward the stuff behind other stuff (you know, the stuff that gets tipped over and ‘lost’ against the back wall), I wondered if she should be wearing a hazmat suit. She continued with her fridge free-for-all for well over an hour, purging several items that should have been consumed when she was in middle school (she’s a college senior). But she didn’t stop there. She was on a roll.

She headed toward the bathroom closet.

By the time you finish reading, I’m thinking at least a few of you will be wandering into your own cabinets and maybe taking a look at some of those lesser used items, such as the seven tubes of anti-itch cream that have managed to gather on one shelf.  What the heck was itching that badly? Or how about the cans of hair spray that dried up or the curlers that were used once in 1995 by your then six-year-old who is now married and living in Atlanta?

Second Born’s bathroom closet texts were a cross between wonder and wisecracks.

“I’ve already found two things that expired in the 90s… it’s like a time machine in here.”

Almost an hour later she resurfaced, still alive and feeling victorious. It cost us an order from Domino’s that night but it was worth it to have a willing volunteer for this sort of thing.

Here’s the real mystery - we moved to our house in 1999. Why did these things follow us? I can only imagine that I was too overwhelmed with the move itself to worry about a few items that may have been close (or a tad past) their expiration date. Besides, we were moving to a bigger place with more room. Who would even notice?

That’s the problem. Nobody did. We just kept shoving more Band-Aid boxes and toothbrushes and old shavers into that dang closet until things started falling off the shelves every time we opened the door. At the moment there is no door because Spouse plans on building a replacement door (I don’t dare complain – I have a new floor, working sink, toilet and tub – life is perfect), so our medicinal mess is out there for everyone to see.

I’m extremely grateful for my kid’s cleaning (mostly dumping) spree - I’d hate for someone to think the Benadryl from 2006 would still do the trick. In fact, I’d be terrified to see what tricks it may do.

There are a couple more trouble spots in our house but I’ll give it a little time before I think about bribing Second Born to pick a closet or drawer (or room) and work her way through it. Every house has at least one area that could use a good going over, right?

For now we’ll just keep going around.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I need a long nap after L.A. for the weekend

There were a lot of songs in my head last weekend with lyrics mentioning Los Angeles, or L.A. as the cool kids call it. I even jotted down a few lines like “L.A. proved too much for the man,” and “I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.” Why, you ask? I know, I know – just pretend you asked. It was because Spouse and I did something I never imagined doing. We flew out to L.A. for the weekend. That’s a line in a country song, by the way.

We took this crazy trip so I could receive an award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists at their annual conference.  The experience of meeting others in the field of column writing and connecting with some pretty heavy hitters in the business was like a dream. I even got to hang out with Dear Abby after she spoke at the conference. Yes, That Dear Abby.

Despite our extensive travels this past year, Spouse and I are not worldly travelers by any stretch of the imagination. We are closer to an east coast version of The Beverly Hillbillies. Our packing consisted of one large suitcase borrowed from Second Born (the only one with new luggage, of course) and a Wal-Mart carry-on. Our idea of traveling high-class is convincing the flight attendant to provide a second bag of pretzels.

For anyone foolish enough to seek advice from me about travel, here are a few tips I picked up on our L.A. trip.

1. Pretend to know your surroundings. Because of the three-hour time difference we arrived in L.A. before noon on the west coast. Deciding to venture out, we asked the hotel’s front desk clerk about nearby attractions. He called a taxi service to bring us to Westwood, home of UCLA and several shops and restaurants. A short while later the driver pulled into a small plaza and announced we were at our destination. As soon as I got out of the van I knew we were in Brentwood, not Westwood - I am that L.A. savvy. And there was a sign in the parking lot that read something about Brentwood Village.

This had to be the first time in history that a taxi driver gave his cab fare back to the passenger – at least until he got us to the right place where we paid close to double what it cost for the ride to Brentwood, which - by the way - also had several shops and restaurants. Why did we insist on Westwood again? Hmm.

2. It is not wise to use the facilities on an airplane as it is coming in for a landing. I did not experience this firsthand but the woman who decided to try her luck with the lavatory as we were beginning our final descent looked quite pale by the time she shoved her way back out of the stall while the plane was at a slant.

3) Nothing is louder than eating a potato chip around hungry people. We were famished after our six-hour flight, so Spouse and I had grabbed lunch to go before we boarded the shuttle from the airport to our hotel. Apparently, none of the other passengers on the shuttle thought to do so. Do you know what your tendency is when something you’re eating is noisy? It is to eat slower. Chips when eaten slowly emit a noise akin to an explosion in your mouth. Try it.

4) You can use jetlag as an excuse to nap. I’m not saying that I’m faking fatigue, but there’s more weight to it when you tell someone you flew to the other side of the country over a weekend.

We’ve been home for two days now and I think we’re getting past our weekend whirlwind adventure. It was an exciting trip and a tremendous honor to be recognized among my writing peers. Next year the conference will be on the east coast and that will make attending much easier.

It also means I have a year to come up with a new excuse for needing a nap.

Now here's a little L.A. quiz - see how many of these you're familiar with and let me know how you did:

(starting from the top of this blog post)
1) L.A. proved too much for the man.
2) I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
3) This ain't no disco. This ain't no country club either. This is L.A.
4) L.A. is a great big freeway... put a hundred down and buy a car.