Sunday, May 29, 2011

Please keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times

When you ride a roller coaster, you have to stand in a long line with plenty of chances along the way to back out, or change your mind.  But once you climb into the car, and that safety bar comes down on your legs and you hear that familiar clicking sound as you climb the first hill to the top, you really have no choice but to scream and hang on for the ride.

Throwing a graduation party in our little area of the upper Midwest is a lot like that.

Our standing-in-line time consisted of choosing a date for the party, then changing the date, then choosing a theme, then modifying that, then preparing the location, then, based on the weather, modifying that.  Keep in mind that along with a couple of my girlfriends, I'm supposed to be the authority on this particular event.  I'm in control... writing the book... so to speak....  But when you have two control freak type-A personality parents, and a headstrong determined graduate setting things up, there are bound to be a few knife fights differences of opinion, and control tends to shift.

So, when this past week drew to a close, and my son's dream of transforming the backyard into a late 1770's Americana picnic ground was threatened by a 60% chance of thunderstorms, we modified once again.  We brought the plan and carefully laid out logistics for serving pie, lemonade and iced tea to roughly 300 guests over a 3-hour period, indoors.  And I was happy with that. No last minute lawn mowing, pool vacuuming, yard sprucing.  Indoors you don't have weather variances.  Indoors you have control.  And then, on Saturday morning, hours before the party, we modified yet again.

Weather forecasts be damned.  20mph winds? Pfffsh! 60% chance of rain? Hah!  The graduate and his father's maniacal combined determination, and their outright defiance of Mother Nature took over.  The party was going to be outside.  Tents went up, chairs and tables were delivered, and all of a sudden I was in that car, and the safety bar slammed down on my legs. I could hear that familiar clicking sound.  All I could do was hold on for the ride.... oh, and scream.  Which I did only a couple of times.

All in all, it was a fabulous party, with a light breeze, minimal rain and a great turnout. Although we were all too busy cutting pies, and greeting guests to take pictures during the festivities, here are a few representative shots after it was all over...

The entrance...

The tents and tables...

The giant version of the Declaration of Independence we made for wellwishers to sign instead of a guestbook

The uber-cool centerpieces with the American University logo...

and finally, the obligatory "shrine to my kid" wall of memorabilia...

I came to the conclusion, as I was in the zen-like state of cutting pies, and monitoring drink levels, busy being busy, that my roller coaster metaphor also applies to the emotions that are inevitable in this life phase. All the hoopla and ballyhoo of the party provides a welcome but temporary distraction, because you know this ride is about to end.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Expect The Unexpected

Usually when I complain about something, the Universe, in it's infinite passive agressive wisdom, shows me someone who is worse off than I am.  Yesterday was no exception. After my whining publicly about the weather, and not knowing if our party would be indoors or out, I got a text late in the afternoon.  It was from my friend MJ, saying her basement had flooded due to a cracked pipe, they needed help emptying everything out so Servicemaster could come and dry out the floors and walls.  You've gotta love social media - 20 minutes after her text, there were 8 adults and 5 teenage boys forming a fire-brigade of sorts, handing boxes, and bins, and furniture up the stairs.  And where do you think they had to stack the contents of the basement?  Why in the garage of course!

The same garage in which MJ and I proudly posed for our article in the newspaper.  The same garage that was to be the venue of her son's Garaguation party this Sunday.  We are all learning to expect the unexpected and to ALWAYS have a Plan B.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some days its just not worth gnawing through the straps....

Seriously, I know there is unfathomable devastation in Missouri, and there are problems with our government, and there are people who are hurt and struggling, and orphan kittens with big sad eyes in dark alleyways - plenty of big important things to worry about.  But I have to come clean here, and admit that I'm stressing to the point of insanity about our upcoming Garaguation party in 3 days!  And while, again, following the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do method, the party will NOT be in the garage, but it will be outside... at least that's the plan.  The weather, though no where near as bad as impending tornadoes, is still not promising for Saturday, in fact it looks like rain.  Which means we'd have to switch to plan B, which again, is NOT the garage, but the house.  And the house, while not quite exploded by 200mph winds, does look a bit like some incendiary device has gone off.  And there are still things to purchase, and order and prepare!  If I didn't fear the devil (and some women's prison) I'd seriously consider a well placed match....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How I Killed Osama Nasty Tree

A rainy day, an affluent weed infested area, and the family's approval--this is the story of how Nasty Tree was discovered and ultimately killed.

An infestation of shallow rooted terrorist weeds, has long held my backyard hostage.  It became apparent that these weeds, which, if left un-pulled, grew into trees, had a complex underground root structure, and it was discovered that they emanated from one all powerful leader – Osama Nasty Tree.  But which tree it was, I could not be sure.  I made it clear that killing or capturing Osama Nasty Tree and the sleeper cells of weeds he spawned was one of my highest priorities - the family agreed.  

According to my initial assessments, Nasty Tree could be hiding in a weed infested area in the northwest corner of my yard. We developed the theory of Nasty Tree’s whereabouts through leads gained from Nasty tree’s inner circle and from rogue weeds we had captured. Finally, I was able to track him down to a sprawling weed infested area in my yard, a relatively affluent enclave favored by weeds of all ilk. The area was massive, and tightly guarded, which raised the initial suspicions that this was more than just an ordinary weed patch.  Many of his weedy associates in other parts of my yard and throughout the region are living in much more dire conditions, you have to be wondering what they’re thinking at this moment when they see that their leader was living, relatively speaking, high on the hog.

Early Saturday morning in my yard, despite the rain, the strike began, but we were doubtful that Nasty Tree would go down without a fight.  We constructed a full-scale mock-up of the weed infested area in The Garage, to practice the most effective ways of breaching its perimeter and assaulting various numbers of defenders. I monitored the operation in real time. In The Garage, the mood was tense.  A stealth raid wasn't the only option I considered.  We had the option of Roundup bombing the weed infested area, but opted in the end for the stealth raid, so that no other flora would be killed in the operation.  A family chainsaw was lost in the operation because of mechanical failure, creating more white-knuckle moments in The Garage.

While the killing of Nasty Tree is a huge milestone in the battle against Nasty trees everywhere, the battle ahead remains difficult. This does not mean we are putting down our guard as far as Nasty tree is concerned.  It may be a mortally wounded tiger that still has some life in it, and it's dangerous. We need to keep up the pressure. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friend Networks, and Recipe Sharing

This past week we had a gathering of what was once the Mighty Moorhead High Theatre Parents.  We meet socially about once a month now, having been thrown together, 120 of us, in 2007 by the happenstance of our kids being cast in a show. We're down to about 30 now, but what remains is the core, the heart and soul of the best, strongest, smartest, most successful parents I have ever been lucky enough to call friends.

Inspired by a recent question posed by Mrs. G. about friend networks, and this morning by Green Girl in Wisconsin's query about where people get their recipes - I decided to share one of my creations.  Disclaimer: I am NOT a food blogger, and I have a crappy camera, what you are about to see is actually WAY more delicious than it looks.

For this impromptu potluck, I was asked to bring a side dish, I decided to share a dish that always goes over well.  My made up Midwestern spoonable version of Elote, the delicious fire roasted corn on the cob sold by street vendors in Mexico and Southern California.

You start with a large bag of frozen corn, 1 bag of grated Mexican cheese blend, Parmesan cheese, mayo, 1 can of chopped green chilies, cayenne pepper, and lime juice.

Spread  the corn out on a cookie sheet, then put it under the broiler until it starts to brown, flip them over so the other side gets a tan as well.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix about a cup of the mayo with about a third of a cup of the lime juice.  Add a can of chopped green chilies - I also add 1 can of chopped jalapenos.  Let the corn cool a bit, then pour it into the bowl with the mayo/lime/chilies and add the grated Mexican cheese along with about a third of a cup of Parmesean.  Fold that all together and sprinkle with cayenne.

Serve with chips, or as a vegetable side dish.  Trust me, this easy peasy dish always goes over well, and is fit to serve your bestest friends (both real and imaginary) in the entire world!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Social Media

I have become a social media/PR/marketing whore maven!

I'm updating social network postings for my high school reunion, for our Garaguation venture, for the Symphony, for the giant healthcare conglomerate a local healthcare corporation, and for me.  I'm stealing plagiarizing learning a lot from the advertising agency hired by the healthcare corporation I work part time for, and its not as difficult or as hectic as it sounds, if you're organized about it.  It does take a fair amount of time, but I've found that most of my time is spent coming up with the ideas - kind of like blog posting. The cool thing is that if you make a schedule, and assign two or three themes or ideas that you can rotate, a lot of the work is already done.  Then you use something like Hootsuite to schedule the postings to appear on specified dates and voila!

OK, maybe I glossed over some of the more tedious parts... like the parts between the schedule and voila. Like coming up with the rotating themes, and oh yeah, wording the actual posts.  Alright, I admit it, I'm mired in collecting the seemingly effortless, lighthearted, brand statements, asking the thought-provoking yet innocuous questions that will inspire responses, hunting down links to newsworthy relevant topics, figuring out who to "Follow" and "Like" for greatest impact!

Thank goodness I have this blog, where there is no pressure and I can relax... now, what to write about tomorrow?  Arrrgh!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Coined A Word!

I'm told that I say clever things quite often.  Sometimes, I post those clever thoughts as my Facebook status. Even more rarely I write them down in a journal or in this blog.  Most of the time though, my cleverness evaporates into the ethos.  But once in a blue moon, the stars are aligned just right, and I happen to be in just the right group of people, and one of those people happens to know a reporter from the local paper....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Settin' The Stage

I need to post this now, because at some point in June I will be complaining about the horrible burden this crazy woman has inflicted upon us, and why-oh-why didn't I just say no in the first place.

Let me start a little closer to the beginning....

Downtown Dad and I bought the house we live in 5 years ago solely because it had a pool and a basement with a large projection screen TV, with room for 60 kids if properly crammed, into either space. We purchased it not for it's aesthetic, but for the main reason that we were "theatre parents" and these would be fabulous spaces for cast parties. The home's prior owners were heirs to a local nursery fortune, but sadly were also do-it-yourselfers who did not know the difference between Oak Veneer, and particleboard, or it's indoor vs outdoor uses.  Nor did they have a sense of style that had evolved much beyond the 1980's.

Last year, as I pulled into my driveway, I was met by an old hopping woman wearing cropped pants, garden gloves and green Crocs.  Let me repeat the important descriptor... Old Hopping Woman.  She was hell-bent on getting me to agree to being one of the homes on the Soroptimist International of Fargo Garden Tour.  I let her Superball bounce slow, and, while backing up toward my front door, explained to her that while this yard may have been Garden-Tour-worthy a few years ago, we had certainly not had time to tend it as it deserved and surely they wouldn't want to include us... surely they wouldn't, surely not....

Two weeks ago, the same Old Hopping Woman appeared at our front door.  Some ne'er do well had brazenly backed out of the tour and since we'd been on the Alternate List, well, surely we'd like to be included... surely we would, surely...

And, the rest is yet to be written history.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Today is my baby sister Vicki's birthday, and frankly, she has me to thank that she is alive today to celebrate it.

Yep, it is no secret in our family that Vicki is a saint.  In fact, through some peoples' eyes, saint ain't even close.  She literally makes a living doing good things for others as a life coach, a purveyor of medicinal herbs and potions, an author, and as caretaker of our mother who suffers from Alzheimers. She pretty much saves peoples' lives every day, but what some people may not know, is that I saved her life, not once, but twice.

I wasn't happy when she came into my life, in fact, I considered her an interloper.  With two older sisters who were already graduated and out of the house before I was even born, I'd savored my 5-year reign as only-child, singular object of my parents' affection, princess of sweetness and light.

But eventually she grew on me. People tried to treat us equally, but somehow I knew they liked her best.  Even though at every turn her cuteness outshone me, I dutifully shouldered the heavy responsibility of being second fiddle the older sister.

The first time I saved her life she was about 4. She couldn't keep anything in her stomach and was about to be hospitalized. As the bitter older sister, I admit, as I sat on the edge of her bed while my mother tended her, I was sizing up the wall space in her room, imagining what my furniture would look like in there after she died. (Shut up, I was 9.) Suddenly, I started singing a silly song but mixed up the words and she started to smile, then giggle, and the more rediculous the song got, the more she laughed.  Finally, as I cavorted around the room, she sat up and started eating her Saltines - it was a miracle.

My next heroic act was a couple of years later.  Our parents had left the house with the admonishment that we could go outside as soon as we finished our chores, but not before.  Vicki's chore was to clean the bathroom, and mine, being the Cinderella of the house was of course to clean the fireplace.  Having always been a bit of a chemist, Vicki closed the bathroom door, put the stopper in the sink, and singing all the while, set about mixing her own cleaning potion which consisted of Clorox, amonia, Ajax, and toothpaste....yeah, pretty much producing toxic fumes immediately. I think she started choking, which is what made me open the bathroom door to check on her.  I dragged her outside, and then bravely went back in to drain the sink and open all the windows in the house.

We've had our moments, as all siblings do, but all in all, I'm mostly glad I was there to snatch her from the jaws of death.

So happy birthday Vick, and you're welcome!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yet Another Reason I Don't Blog

Once upon a time, Long, long ago in 1964, in a land far, far away Goleta California, a school was built...

All the children who went to that school in the first year it was open, were asked to write their name, or draw a picture.  Those names and pictures were placed in a brass time capsule, along with other artifacts, then sealed behind a brick wall and a metal plaque.

Time passed, the children grew up, moved away, and had children of their own, and sadly they forgot about the time capsule.... Until a magical thing happened - Facebook was invented!

One by one, the grown up children began to build their friend lists, and to reconnect with each other, and little by little they shared stories, and they began to remember the old school, and the time capsule.

It just so happened that some of those grown up children had stayed, or gone back to the old neighborhood, and they were able to visit there in person to bribe negotiate with the Principal to let them get the time capsule out from behind the brick wall.....  This week they did just that.

Some of those friends thought that since there was a reunion planned for the high school this summer, it would be a swell idea to gather up all of the others who attended the school, since they would be there anyway, and open that time capsule.  One of them, namely me, was stupid ambitious enough to try to coordinate this event from 900 miles away.

Wish me luck, because this is yet another reason I don't blog!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why I Don't Blog - Part 2

...and then there is food.  I don't blog because who wants to sit in a cold dark basement and write, when you can prepare yummy food?

This past week, my youngest, Bearly, clicked "ACCEPT" on his invitation to attend American University this fall.

We decided to celebrate with a Red White And Blue breakfast...

In addition, last week, one of the Symphony Babes shared a recipe she found - Breakfast Kabobs with Apple Cinnamon Barbeque Sauce, that I was anxious to try, so....

For the sauce:  1 cup barbecue sauce, 3 Tbsp apple jelly, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
For the kebabs:  pork sausage links cut into 1 inch pieces, 6 strips thick sliced bacon, skewers

It helps to line a baking sheet with foil then top with a cooling rack.  Coat the rack with non-stick spray.

Here's where me and the recipe parted ways:  I used 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce, and the ENTIRE JAR of the apple jelly, along with increasing the paltry amount of cinnamon to at least 2 tablespoons.  Stir well, then warm in the microwave until the jelly is melted and the sauce is warm.

Thread sausage pieces, alternately with the bacon, snaking it back and forth onto the skewers. Brush the kebabs with the sauce and lay them on the cooling rack on top of the baking sheet.

Roast the kebabs at 350 to 400 until the meats are browned and cooked through, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Baste and turn the skewers about halfway through to ensure even cooking... even in a crappy oven like mine.  Remove from the oven, roll each skewer in the sauce that has dripped into the bottom of the pan and voila!



THIS is why I don't blog!