Wheels down

Hello friend. It’s been a whirlwind weekend. It kicks off a few weeks of chaos and fun we have coming up. Family. Friends. Food. Fun. *burp* Repeat.
Sorry.
But we have landed back home, for now, and I wanted to share this. I may have already posted about it in the past but I’m too tired to check. So apologies it this is déjà vu!
A couple of years ago a good pal gifted me this 20 cup (yes) thermos. She knew I entertained often and could never keep a coffee pot full. She was a genius. I love this beast. I carry it around to parties. Usually I bring people chai. Not chai tea. Just chai. I’ve gone over multiple state borders with it. I’ve taken it camping. I’ve taken it to parties. I love it.
Know why I love it so much? I made chai this morning at 10am to take with me to visit family. We got back. Had dinner. I yelled at some kids, and then I decided to clean it out. It was 7:45pm. It still had a cup left. A steaming hot cup. Steaming. Hot. Just sayin’.
Ask Santa for it. Or Amazon Prime.
Here’s a pick. It’s call Zojirushi.

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Oh No You Didn’t!

I was a bit distracted today. Last night, as I was falling into a deep deep sleep at 8:45pm, my husband dropped a bomb. A major announcement. Something he knew would send me reeling, so he waited until I was only half concious. He told me my Thanksgiving stuffing “needs work”. Excuse me? I’m sorry what? I felt like someone dumped cold water on me. It needs work? The stuffing I’ve been making for almost two decades? The one that we never have leftovers for?? Really? Then he kept talking. “It’s not clumpy enough.” “The sausage bits are too big.” “Maybe try a new recipe.”

I pretended to continue falling asleep, when in reality I was really seething for almost 10 minutes before actually falling asleep. How dare you sir!!! 

This morning I woke up and decided to ignore everything he said. This is the dude that has been licking his plate clean every Thanksgiving for the past 18 years. All of a sudden he’s on Chopped judging my technique?? Well I would not let him derail me. I mean, really, what am I supposed to do? Test run the stuffing? What am I a newlywed? But I was tortured. Obsessed. Fine! You win husband! I’ll do a trial run.

So I went through my work calls, work emails, work work – and then at 5pm…or maybe 4:59…I went out and bought all the stuff to make test stuffing. AKA dinner.

Here’s how it went down…buy this

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Then grab the entire 8 oz of butter. Yes. All of it. Do it. I also add in some fresh sage.

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Then add in the pre-chopped onions and celery or chop it all yourself if you’re a better person than me.

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Take whatever bread you are using, cut it up into rough pieces while thinking of your husband smack talking your hard work when all he does to prep for major holidays is take a shower. Ahem. Then bake at 200 degrees for an hour to dry out.

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Start another pan and cook the sausage. Here’s a before and after of what it should look like.

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I forget to add an egg to the ingredient photo – but you need an egg. At this point you’ll mix about a 1/3 of the stock with the egg and set it aside. Then generously butter a dish because…well, you know. Because butter.

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By now the onion, celery, sage mix is golden brown and swimming in butter.

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Time to combine the bread, sausage, onion/celery/butter mix and add a generous dose of fresh parsley and sage.

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You’ll note that I don’t add any salt because the butter I use is salted and, although I’ve never actually tasted it, I imagine the sausage to be salty. The only thing you have to add is the egg/turkey stock mixture and about a cup of just the stock.

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Then, for shits and giggles, add more butter.

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Bake for about an hour and done.

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When your husband says,”Sorry I doubted you, you are the best stuffing maker on the planet.” Drop the oven mitt on the floor and walk out of the kitchen.

P.S. – Don’t forget that your family can’t have food until Sunday because of all the calories they’ve consumed on Friday night and you should give your husband a small aspirin because of all the butter intake.

Ch Ch Changes

It’s October 3rd. September has been quite a month – full of surprises and change. Nothing new for us. The end of last year was full of changes for our family too. I quit my job after 8 years and started with a new company right before Christmas. My husband was offered a work-from-home gig and jumped on the chance to not commute after decades of trains, planes and automobiles.

Then January through July were a haze. I was traveling a lot for work, which was perfect because my husband and kids were getting into their new “being home together all the time routine”. I was all, “good luck with that, I’ll be in Newport Coast for the week. It’s you, the kids and Common Core. Bye!” It all worked out – no one died. We made it through the winter and spring and then summer was a lot of fun.

We were just hitting our stride and then boom. This is how our life works. For as long as I’ve known my husband, and well before we had our kids, this is our life works. We like to shake it up – or things get shaken up for us. Every change we’ve ever made has come from a small seed of an idea that we can’t let go of. Wanna get hitched and then have a baby in our 20s? Sure. Wanna move out of the city to a town we’ve never heard of? Why not! Wanna have another baby even though I’ll have to quit my job? Let’s do it!

Some changes were our whacked out decisions, and some changes were out of our control. We just had to roll with it.

For the past decade or so (this is not an exaggeration) – I’ve heard my husband say that he’d love to get out of his profession. That the world of finance isn’t making him happy. But because he’s a workhorse, and because it’s been good for our family, he would never walk away. He went from one stressful job to another and made the best of it. But then September started. And slowly a get-away plan emerged. His group was being shuffled and his position would now be based out of NYC. But the kids and i had gotten used to him being home. And he was loving the freedom of not being in an office. Not spending his life on a train. He was going to karate practices, doing pick-up after band rehearsal – getting to know his kids (and they got to know him) in a completely different way. Good, bad and ugly.

It was very much like my childhood. My parents had actual 9-5 jobs for a very short time, then my dad started his own business and never looked back. My mom was either helping him or home with us – actually they were both home with us. I don’t remember a time when my dad was out of the house for more than a few hours a day. It was unusual and wonderful. They were also risk takers. My dad was a pharmacist who could have made a very safe living his whole life, but he tried something different. He took a chance. The irony is that my entire childhood I thought of them as the most boring, risk-averse people – they drive their cars slow and live their lives quietly. Now I think they were absolutely bohemian (I feel my sister rolling her eyes). But really, they marched by the beat of their own drum. And it wasn’t all good – there were failures along with the successes – but they tried. They moved us around. They uprooted our schooling. Money went up and down – but it wasn’t boring. That’s for sure.

Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of change. It doesn’t really rock my world. Not because I was unhappy before, or looking for the change – but because I know it’s not always bad. Or maybe I’m just dead inside. Just kiddin’.

Because I am my parent’s daughter, I’m constantly thinking of businesses that we can run. After my son was born and I decided to stay at home, I even started one of those businesses. A wedding planning company that did pretty well for three years. I loved it. I only stopped doing it because of another change that came out of nowhere. A phone call from an old colleague who had a job for me. A good job. The only caveat – it was two states away. A job that would force my husband to quit his well paying job if we took the move. Normal people would have laughed and said,”no way”.  But my husband and I,who wouldn’t know what to do in a casino if we tried, took another gamble. We said yes. And it worked out really really well. We loved our new town. The kids loved their new schools. My husband found another job right away, and I was happy with my new job. For a little while. But in the back of my mind, I was always thinking of what “we could start”. Even though my husband is the total opposite of my wandering nature, he got into it too. We would look at empty store fronts and imagine what we could do. We would have hour long discussions about the kinds of things that would work there. Then, like the lunatics we are, we’d even call the renters and ask how much the space cost. You know, normal stuff you do on a Friday night. While you and your husband are out at fancy restaurants and enjoying life, we’re researching franchise options and coming up with company names.

So last month when his job location shifted, we jumped on our chance. Well, I jumped and dragged him along. It was Friday night, we were doing our usual “this is a business that could work” routine – and he left the room to order pizza for the kids. That’s when I pulled the trigger for him and applied for all the legal paperwork for his new company. No joke. He came back into the living room and I said,” it’s done. You just started a company”. Instead of divorcing me like a normal person would do – he sat down and started a business plan. The only thing that saves my crazy is his crazy.

A month later, he’s ready to launch the website and dive in. And I would tell you what it is, but it’s not my gig. It’s his. I’m pretty sure he’ll go postal that I’ve even talked about it at all. But as always, I’ll take the gamble.

Manners, Manners

Manners are a big deal in my house. We use please and thank you so often that it sometimes sounds like a verbal tick. I grew up in a very quiet, polite home. My husband grew up in a very loud, polite home. His family wasn’t soft spoken (and isn’t) but they were always quick with a thank you. When we had kids we weren’t exactly sure what the “rules” of our house were going to be. We kinda just made it up as we went along. When we heard other parents talk about the things that their kids were allowed and not allowed to do – sometimes we felt horrible for the kids living through that regime, and sometimes we stole their ideas and rules. But not a lot of them. The only thing I really worried about was stranger danger and not-so-stranger danger. Other than that – we were open to most things. And unlike my parents house, our house is not quiet. We yell. We scream. We laugh. We cry. The full spectrum of the emotional rollercoaster is experienced on most days. We’re human afterall. 

When my daughter was born and I went back to work, we carefully picked a nanny we thought would follow our small list of rules. When we discovered that she was letting a 1 year gnaw on a hot dog while swinging in the park and then washing that down with a milk shake from an illegal visit to Mickey Ds – we were horrified. Just because we weren’t helicopter parents didn’t mean we wanted our kid eating that crap. We lived in NYC for goodness sake – the park was on the Upper East Side. Other nannies were bringing blenders to puree fresh smoothies in the park. If you’re wondering how she got caught, I’ll give you one word. Wrappers. My husband found the paraphernalia in our garbage of all places. Not only was she breaking our sad little list of rules, but she was a moron to boot. Suffice it to say, we gave her the boot. I was young back then and didn’t enjoy a verbal conflict like I do now, and my husband for all his tough guy demeanor can never be mean to anyone he pays for a service. So we let her go without addressing the problem. That’s how we rolled back then.

As she got older and then we had our boy, we held fast to only a few of those early family laws. I don’t want to alarm anyone but we never once bought a lock for our kitchen cabinets and our corners were never padded. Anywhere. My kids were allowed to play on the street. They were, and are, allowed to ride their bikes pretty freely. My daughter has navigated the public transit system alone – something a few of our adult friends don’t do. My son often rides a skateboard or scooter on busy roads. Do we worry about that stuff and pray for their safety? Yes we do. It’s like a full time job. Praying and worrying. But do we say they are “not allowed” to do that? Nope.

You know what they aren’t allowed to do? Speak rudely and not be polite. Manners are numero uno, followed by kindness, and just ahead of humor in terms of importance in our house. We don’t ask for something without a please before or after. When someone hands you something – anything – it should be followed by a thank you. In our house, if you are in the downstairs room all the way to the right and someone in the upstairs room all the way to the left sneezes, make sure they hear you say bless you. In fact you usually know if someone in the house is mad at you because you’ve sneezed and it was followed by silence. The horror!

I don’t go around expecting everyone to follow the same rules as our family, and I have no doubt that even with our politeness rules – my kids, my husband and I are are rude sometimes. Perfection – incase you haven’t read my blog before – isn’t what I’m aiming for in life. I’d like to just get through the day and maybe laugh a bit. Those are my goals. And to eat carbs with reckless abandon. But that’s another story.

And although I’d like to go on a tirade about how rude the world outside is, the truth is that most people are polite. For example, this morning on the train into work, in a very very packed car – a woman walked in with her two small kids and a big bag. Instead of looking down or staring out the window, no less than 4 people stood up to give them seats and offered to help with the bag. One man even offered to give a woman who’d gotten up for the other woman his own seat! I mean, come on! This is politeness gone wild. I would have happily given up my seat but I was stuck like a sardine next to an older Asian woman. It’s a well-known fact to those who ride a commuter rail that older Asian women do not give up seats. No sir. I don’t care if they are from China or India or Nepal. It’s not a racist observation. It’s a Continental truth. And since I will eventually become one of those older Asian women, I can say that. Although you can argue that if you are older, you deserve the seat. You’ve earned the seat. Asian or not. Fair enough.

I was just so happy to see that this group of strangers on the train took care of this woman. These were probably also the same people who would help a tourist in need without rolling their eyes, or wave when you let their car go first at an interection. These were good people. 

When the woman finally sat down and situated the kids, one of them sneezed, and there was a symphony of bless yous in the train car. I wasn’t surprised at all. 

The Tiger’s Mother

Tomorrow my first born starts her junior year of high school. She’s in her room right now excitedly packing for the morning and humming a happy tune. Ok, not really. But she is getting ready. I cannot believe that at the end of this year she’ll be 1) driving a motor vehicle 2) thinking about which college she wants to go to and 3) be on the edge of 17. Just like the white wing dove.
If you believe in astronomy, and I do, she’s a Scorpio. To a capital T.
I also happen to believe the Chinese calendar, she’s a Tiger in that one. A born leader. Brave and warm-hearted. Sensitive and easily hurt but also fiercely protective of those around them. Yeah, that’s about right. She’s all that. And more. 
But tomorrow she’ll just be my little baby, going off to 11th grade.
I’d like to show you a picture of her leaving the house in the morning, in her uniform, ready to face to world – but I won’t be allowed to take a pic. Tigers and Scorpions aren’t exactly easy to photography. But she can’t stop me from posting these! 
Here’s my world from 1998 to present. In a blink.

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Ganesh is Good!

So…I made it to 31 days of blogging straight. Phew. I’m tired. Now goodbye until December. Ha ha. Just kiddin. It was very appropriate that the day my self-inflicted challenge to “write” every day ended, I went to celebrate the Indian god that you pray to when you start stuff. Typical.
Anyway – I met my family today to celebrate the Hindu god Ganesh. You know, the one with the elephant head. Every year in late August, this god of new beginnings is the central focus of all festivities for 10 days. A huge, I’m talking 20 foot huge, statue is created for the holiday. On the 10th day it’s taken to a body of water and submerged as an offering for a good year. We didn’t see that happen. I’m not even sure where they’d go in New Jersey to do that.The shore? Would we want Ganesh to be with all the other people sleeping with the fishes? I dunno. What I do know is that the festival involves food. Not Indian buffet food – there’s no chicken tikka masala here. This is Indian street food. For Indian street rats like me. We also did some shopping and spent some quality time with my parents, which means we let them buy stuff for us. They love that.
Here’s some pics and here’s to an amazing new year – so says Ganesh.
My mom and dad about to approach the big guy.

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Here’s Ganesh in all his glory.

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And here’s my favorite of all the food – and there was a lot of food – eaten today! It’s a puffed, crispy thin bread stuffed with all kinds of yogurt, potatoes and cilantro chutneys. Then they top it with fried thin noodles. A food for the gods. Or for me. We also found a pickle bar. Indians love a good condiment.

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Wasn’t this just us?

Dear Julie, 

I was driving somewhere yesterday, and saw these two ladies walking in the neighborhood.

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You know what I thought about right? Us, circa 2004, walking our neighborhood in upstate NY with our babies in tow. Thank goodness for those walks and for you. I would have gone crazy. Actually I did go crazy but you were just my kind of crazy, so it all worked out. Our boys rode along as we hiked the ‘hood. They heard us talking and laughing and being totally relieved to be with each other. I hope these gals are doing the same. I hope they are talking about politics and religion and racial/gender equality, because we did. After days and nights spent with kids and husbands, whom we loved, it was so nice not to talk about homework, dinner or family. I imagine these ladies feeling like we did, like we were in college again with our best pal – except with a baby or two in tow. Those were such happy days! 

Now we live in different states and see each other less often – but often enough to stay on the same path. I was a bit jealous when I saw these gals, wishing to have some of this back, but then I realized it’s only gotten better. The boys we pushed around together act like brothers and we can still talk the talk, even though we don’t walk the walk. 

xoxo

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