Roast or My Boots?

Best thing on the menu, provided by the guests

Posted by Danny

I simply can’t cook.

I woke up this morning knowing that the family was coming over for dinner – 13 and a baby. I was planning on cooking up some Mexican fare but my sister-in-law called and said they were bringing a tomato pie. She then informed me that tomato pie went with ANYTHING. Have you ever seen tomato pie on a menu at Dos Taquitos? I don’t think so…

I knew I could cook a pot roast but I sort of felt like mine was too crock pot and cream of mushroom soupy. My mother-in-law is such a good cook, I sort of thought I should put in a little more effort – less onion soup from a box and more clove of real garlic. By the way, took me twenty minutes and two children to find a clove of garlic in the fresh food section at the Kroger. It was hidden behind the avocado – another thing I’ve never purchased.

I found a recipe on-line – someone’s grandma’s oven baked pot roast. It looked simple.

I got home at 1:30 in a panic. Grandma called for her chuck roast to cook for four to five hours – she must have been retired. Who has time to cook a five-hour meal? That should have been my first clue.

The second should have been a dish that required alcohol. Frozen burritos do require alcohol, but in a glass while you’re eating them. This chuck roast called for searing (had to Google that) followed by a bath in red wine. It killed me to waste a good pino noir like that.

It first called for me to rub salt and pepper all over Chuck.  I found it difficult to believe that I was giving a dead cow a rub down.  I closed my eyes and pictured Meg Ryan.  Didn’t work.  I’m sure her skin would have been softer and warmer.

After searing, chopping, poking, daydreaming, basking and simmering, I finally tossed my new friend into the oven in a big silver pot with an enormous silver lid.  This large kitchen item has not been used since my wife died. And I’m not sure it has ever been used, although it has taken up an entire cabinet since 1995. 

It was 2:15 when I tossed him in the oven – we’d be pushing it, but Stephanie had several new constipation jokes that could entertain the guests for a good 20 minutes.

I set the timer for 5 pm just to check in on Chuck. I pulled him out of the oven and hour before the guest arrived and opened the lid. As I jabbed him with my knife, I realized he was the consistency of myboots. When I took a bite, thoughts of my summer lawn shoes filled my head.

Crap! I’ve ruined yet another meal. I called my mom, as if this woman could tenderize pounds of meat from 90 miles away.  “Is there anything that can be done for a piece of meat that taste like a bike tire?”

She didn’t flinch, “Honey, they have these great chickens in the deli at the Harris Teeter. Why don’t you go buy a couple of those?”

She used to talk me through my cooking failures.  Now she just suggests alternate arrangements. 

As we sat at the table, my oldest daughter critiqued the corn. She then explained to the family how I’d run into the house at 5:30 with a new meat. That was unfortunate since I’d already accepted the compliment of my brother-in-law’s sister who told me the chicken was delicious. I simply said, “Thank you.” Sometimes I’m prone to lying through omission my grief counselor tells me.

So – I ruined another meal. The corn was too creamy. The meat was in the outdoor trash can. The potatoes were mushy. Thank the lord the guests brought a really good salad – and several bottles of wine.

And next time, I’m sticking with Mexican – tomato pie or not.

Sunday Post 37: Teamwork 101

Posted by Danny

When Stephanie was two, we were diligently working to get her to use the potty.  Lisa was tired of the hassle of diapers.  I knew my annual income would increase by $600 when I stopped having to buy Pampers four times a month.

We tried everything:  reason, a sticker chart, the comfort argument, peer pressure.  Nothing seemed to work.  

When October hit, Lisa made her annual trip to the store to purchase candy corn.  Lisa was big on annual traditions, big or small.  Candy corn was a fall staple.

This was Stephanie’s first experience with the delectable sweet and she was hooked immediately.  A new tool!  We’d bribe her with candy corn.

That night we headed to Nana’s house for dinner.  DJ was five and excited to help teach Stephanie about the wonders of the toilet.  She understood the stakes were high for Stephanie.  Potty = candy corn.

About an hour into the evening, the two ran out of the bathroom with exuberance!  “Stephanie peed in the potty!  She gets candy corn!” our oldest reported.

Stephanie was beaming with pride.  We all ran to the bathroom and looked in the miniature commode.  It was full of urine.  Lisa and I began to clap – the accolades flying.

Nana, being a bit more seasoned than we, took a second look.  “That looks like a lot of pee for a two-year old that’s never gone before.  DJ…”

Yes, the candy corn mafia boss and her associate pooled their resources.  DJ would provide the urine and Stephanie would share the loot.  Incredible teamwork!  And we almost bought it, hook, line and sinker.

Tonight I had a work function and was headed out of the house after taking a quick shower.  When I came out of my room, I was amazed.  My three daughters were again teamed up – rather than stress me out with making dinner for another night this week, they decided to take care of themselves.  DJ took charge – scrambling the eggs.  Michelle, without being asked, set the table and got the drinks ready.  Stephanie was in charge of waffles, syrup and butter.  They teamed up and took care of business – just like before.

I wonder if it is a coincidence that we just bought the annual candy corn at DJ’s request this past weekend.  You know, those little sugar pills bring out the best in people.

Dishwasher Loading 101

Posted by Danny

I may get hammered for this post.  So let me start with a disclaimer.  I really don’t think I’m sexist.  I married a very strong woman – I know when she was alive that she was in charge of me.  She was also in charge at work (even though she wasn’t officially the boss), at church (although she wasn’t always the committee chair), and with her brother and sister. 

I work with strong women who I respect immensely.  And I hope and pray my three daughters will grow up to be independent women – kicking men’s butts when necessary.

All that being said…I don’t think women are capable of loading a dish washer effectively.

I watched as Lisa spread the dishes out so far that a slender person could have walked between them.  I see my mother lay bowls down instead of stacking them closely in the upward position. 

On the rare occasion that a child of mine actually puts something in the dishwasher, it’s tossed in with no strategy.  It’s kind of like they’re tossing a pair of socks in the laundry bin.

And who’s left to empty the dishwasher 17 times each week?  Me!

I hate unloading the dishwasher!  Despise it.  I’d much rather unload it twice a week when it’s really full than 4 times a week when it’s only slightly full.  There has to be some economy of scale there.

My theory is to pack the dishwasher with as many dishes as humanly possible.  If you tactically work to place each dish, you can fit 80 or 90 things in there, excluding the silverware.  I know it can be done, I’ve counted.  And we eat out of the same size dishes as you.

There is a shelf that can be pulled down if you put short dishes underneath it.  There are plenty of places for tall things – but every woman in my life puts anything with height right where the shelf could house four bowls and the lid of a water bottle.  Got the coffee mug you purchased from Disney World?  Don’t put that tall booger underneath the shelf!  Put it in the bottom of the washer.  Just because it looks like the lower level is made for plates, doesn’t mean you can’t put something else down there!  There’s no dishwasher police that’s going to arrest you for placing an item in an unsuspecting place.  Be bold!

The bowls can stack very close together and still come out clean.  But my kids and my mother will spread them out like they’re setting a table. 

Some argue that you should rinse all of the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.  I disagree.  That theory means you have to rinse 100% of the dishes.  If you just throw them in, 10, maybe 15% come out dirty.  You rinse them after the wash and you’ve come out 85% better than if you’d rinsed them all from the beginning.

I’m a busy man.  I’m all about saving time.  This is but one tactic to simplify life.  If you need more tips, just let me know.

My House Smells Like Julie

Posted by Danny

My house smells like Julie today.  She is our housekeeper.  She is worth $35,000 per visit.

We’ve had several women help with our housework over the years.  The first we hired was a very good cleaner.  However, one day we came home and she had gotten into a verbal war with our nanny.  Apparently she wanted to vacuum when Stephanie wanted to sleep.  Had she shown up to work on time, this wouldn’t have been a problem.  

I picture the conversation went like this:

Nanny:  “You need to get here on time.  The kids take a nap at 1 and that’s my lunch break.”

Housekeeper:  “You ain’t my boss!  I’ll get here when I can.”

Nanny:  “This isn’t gonna work.”

I’m not sure what happened but I think our nanny fired the maid, she had tenure.  The search was on for someone new.

The second housekeeper was lovely, but she moved after a few month’s work.  She referred us to her sister-in-law, an elderly woman who smoked a pack of cigarettes in her four hours stint at our home each week.  I had to get out the power blower to clear her butts off the driveway.

Unfortunately, this woman was prone to forgetfulness.  We’d find the trashcan in the shower and the water still running when we returned home a 5.  The Softscrub might show up in the refrigerator.  She might change your bed – or…she might change someone else’s bed.  We all just crossed our fingers hoping that we’d be the chosen one.  One time she left the mop in the driveway.  On one visit it was apparent she just didn’t go upstairs – and 3/5th of our family lived up there. 

She had to go.

Then we found Julie – oh sweet Julie.  She cleans DJ’s closet – hanging clothes and organizing shoes.  She dusts the blinds – yes, the blinds.  Once she said, “Can I do your baseboards?”  I think she probably thought we had a moral objection to baseboard cleanliness since ours had clearly never been touched before.

One day she said, “Danny, I want you to help me pull your bed out.  It’s disgusting under there.”  If I ever do it, we might find Amelia Earhart.

When I walk in the house every other Tuesday, the smell of Pine Sol burns my nose hairs.  A tear comes to my eye.  My mother vacuumed every day of my childhood.  You could eat off her kitchen floor.  Week after week, on her hands and her knees she’d wipe urine off the bathroom walls behind three aimless males.  And the same smell, the smell of Julie, would cover up the peculiar odors my brother and I left throughout the house.

If I can’t cover the tuition at my kids’ school, if I can’t buy a new article of clothing, if I have to walk to work because I can’t afford gas, so be it.  As long as I have Julie, I am whole.

Chilean Pastel De Choclo

Chilean Pastel De Choclo, the finished product

Posted by Danny

I really try not to brag about handling my new life and there are a couple of reasons for my humility.  First, there are a lot of people who have tougher situations than I have who do a much better job of holding down their fort.  Second, sometimes it may look good on the outside but what can’t be seen by the naked eye ain’t too pretty.  Tonight I wrote checks for graduation pictures – I’ve had the forms for months and the check was due Friday.  I’ll plead for mercy tomorrow and hope that I didn’t blow this one.

But there was a night a week or so ago that I was pretty proud of what I accomplished.

1.  Picked two kids up at 5 from piano.

2. Showered and dressed the youngest for cotillion, including fashion tips and assistance with hair.

3.  Threw in a critical load of laundry.

4.  Made a spaghetti casserole and threw it in the oven on the way out the door.

5.  Dropped a kid at cotillion.

6.  Spent 45 minutes at the park practicing lacrosse with the other two kids followed by a trip to their favorite convenience store for a cold Gatorade – blue of course.  This was a stretch for me because I don’t like spending money on inconsequential stuff like drinks.  That’s why God made water.  But Lisa would have done the Quick Stop thing and I’m trying to fill that niche.  But $4 for two drinks – geeze.

7.  Picked Michelle up, finished dinner, cleaned up the dishes and helped Stephanie with math and her Wordly Wise spelling  homework.

This was the recipe – I should have known better

8.  Reviewed Cotillion manners – did you know that the napkin goes beside the fork?  “No one should ever have to lift their fork to get to their napkin.”

9.  Was reminded by Stephanie that we had to take a dish to school the following day for the international festival.  She pulled out the recipe:  Chilean Pastel De Choclo.  It included the following ingredients:  milk, corn, basil, sugar (divided, how do you divide sugar?  It’s already pretty small.), chicken broth, onions, red peppers, carrots, pepper, garlic cloves, bay leaves, chicken breast and parsley.  Surprisingly, we had most of the ingredients and the ones we didn’t have did not seem to be that significant.  Went to TOWN, Emeril Lagasse style.

10.  Quizzed DJ on her vocab test.

11.  And finished the load of laundry – all by 9 pm.

Now, if your husband complains about cleaning up the kitchen, tell him to SUCK IT UP.  Let him spend an evening at the Tanner house.  He’ll come crying back to you on his hands and knees.

By the way, I asked Stephanie if her friends like the Chilean Pastel De Choclo.  She said, “I was the only one who tried it.”  I should have sent chips and salsa.

Help Wanted: Sock Wrangler

Suprise, suprise, a sock on DJs floor

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Danny

For two weeks I took pictures of stray socks I found that belonged to various members of our family.  I’ll have to give Jesse credit, I did not find any of his – although I’m not even sure he wears socks so that could be the explanation. 

I have decided to hire a full-time staff member to help wrangle the socks.  This is the ad I’ll be placing in the News and Observer, our local paper, next week. 

Help Wanted:  Sock Wrangler

Under the supervision of the Dad and occasionally the part-time housekeeper and in cooperation with Uncle Jesse, the Sock Wrangler will oversee all hosiery in the Tanner home.  The position requires a baccalaureate undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university in Home Economics, criminology, private I’ing, matchingstuffology, findingstuffology or a related field as well as a minimum of 5 years experience in hunting those little boogers down!  This position requires an understanding of and a commitment to the Tanner Family’s desire to have matching socks seven days per week for each family member.

The position requires that the incumbent be innovative (they could be anywhere!!), diligent in the search and friendly as he/she goes about her work.  He/she must be passionate about finding matches and relentless in the  pursuit of missing apparel.  He/she must be exceedingly organized, be a self-starter and able to work with minimal supervision.  He/she is welcome to yell at family members who leave socks in inappropriate places.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Find socks
  • Find their matches
  • Crawl under stuff, including washers, dryers, sinks, Tupperware cabinets, cars, and the house
  • Fold socks and have an innate ability to determine which ones belong to each child – (because they are all the same size and look identical, but my children have an emotional connection to each pair which means they MUST be returned to the original owner)
  • Make decisions on tossing items that have gigantic holes in them or are stretched out to the point that they could fit Charles Barkley
  • Must know the difference between tights and hose and be able to articulate that difference to all in the house
  • Purchase new socks (never spending over $60)

Must be able to see and distinguish between different colors/styles/patterns or thread count.  Ability to crawl, squat, lift heavy furniture, sift through dust bunnies, stoop, kneel, stand, walk, pull and push a must.  Ability to adapt to change quickly.  Occasional travel (to Target) may be necessary.

The top 10 finds this past week:

Number 1:  The dining room chair – that’s just gross.  At least they weren’t on the table.

 
 
Number 2:  In Uggs of many colors.  And we haven’t worn Uggs for weeks.
 

Number 3:  Under Michelle’s bedroom door. 

Number 4:  Inside out – more work for dad.

Number 5:  On living room furniture – but it’s a matched pair!!!

Number 6:  Bathroom floor – last thing on before the shower?  I bet underwear are close by.

 Number 7:  It’s not just a home thing – even on vacation…sock in DC.

Number 8:  Oh, those are mine.

Number 9:  Isn’t it pretty with the rug?  Maybe she couldn’t see it.

Number 10:  Oh my lord, they’re in a drawer!

The Bailiff

Posted by Danny

This morning we were working to get out of the house early – I had a meeting in Chapel Hill about 40 minutes from Raleigh.  Wednesdays are dance days for the girls after school so they pack their change of clothes and we head to the studio at 4.

I was sipping my coffee and working to wrap a few things up via email when Michelle ran into the den.  She barked out these orders:

Michelle:  “Dad, raise your right hand.”

Me:  “What?”

Michelle:  “I said raise your right hand.”

I comply.

Michelle:  “Now repeat after me.”

Me:  “Ok.”

Michelle:  “I, say your name.”

Me:  “I, daddy.”

Michelle:  “promise to make sure”

Me:  “promise to make sure”

Michelle:  “that Michelle’s leotard”

Me:  “that Michelle’s leotard”

Michelle:  “is clean EVERY Wednesday.”

Me:  “is clean EVERY Wednesday.”

Michelle:  “Thank you.”

That kid.

“I’m Bored”

Posted by Jesse

Being at home with DJ by herself is easy. Basically she’d just prefer you not be seen or heard, but be on hand to drive in case the store calls and her shoes come in. Easy enough. Stephanie likes to hang out, but if I need to watch a basketball game or write something, she can get lost in a book or a TV show or listening to music. Michelle, on the other hand, believes being entertained is her birthright.

She has no concern for your sightline to the television if she wants someone to crawl upon. She is indifferent to the computer she displaces as she slides into your lap. And she does not care what else you have going on when she announces, “I’m bored!” with the expectation that you will make moves to reconcile the situation.

Which is actually a shame, because when she doesn’t have the crutch of someone else to entertain her, the kid does some wildly creative stuff. You’ve already heard about Zelia the fortune teller, who has made multiple appearances.  But the list of characters doesn’t stop there.

Not too long ago, when we were at my mother’s house and I was watching my sister Sallie’s kids along with Michelle and Stephanie, Michelle got bored but realized I had to keep my main focus on the younger kids. So she started an impromptu “talk show” on the back patio furniture. She lined up family members as guests and asked probing questions like, “So, tell us what is up with you!”

Maybe she heard Oprah was retiring.

Recently Michelle asked what the paparazzi was and Danny explained it to her. The next morning she insisted I walk in front of her on our way to the car. I was curious as to why.

“To block the paparazzi, dear.”

She had created a new persona, this one half southern belle, half Hollywood starlet. I recognized this character when I saw her a few days later.

I was mowing Danny’s prize-winning lawn (two weeks in a row, for those of you scoring at home….I know I am) when Michelle comes out in a bathrobe, despite the fact that she had already been dressed for the day earlier. Her hair was also sassily done to the side. If I knew more about hair I could explain it better, and I didn’t have a camera because I was mowing the lawn.

As I finish the back yard, she is motioning for me to cut the mower immediately, and though she’s trying to look steamed, she’s having a hard time suppressing laughter. I finally cut the mower and saunter over. She lays into me.

“I am TRYING to get my beee-auty sleep and I cannot because of all this racket you are making!”

It’s the same character who was hiding from the paparazzi. She follows me as I finish the lawn, standing on the various porches, giving me the evil eye and telling me to shut it down, then giving me the “well, I never!” storm offs when I refuse to yield.

Later that day the whole crew is getting out of the car and Stephanie and DJ both have a few bags to carry in. Michelle doesn’t have anything, but she goes into character once again.

“I’m not really the carrying type, thanks,” she let us know.

We need to come up with names for all of her characters…the talk show host, the southern actress…I’m sure there are more to come. I’m not quite clear how she ever gets bored.

Soft Scrub is Your Friend

Posted by Danny

I think Lisa taught me about Soft Scrb, the all purpose kitchen cleanser, not long after we got married.  We purchased a house that was built in the 1950’s and the tubs were nasty.  She tried everything she could find to clean them and the only two things that seemed to make a dent in the dirt were Comet and Soft Scrub.

We have a housekeeper who cleans for us every other week.  I don’t do very much in between her visits.  Stephanie and Michelle brush their teeth in my bathroom most mornings and don’t know how to wash toothpaste spit down the sink.  About day 5 I get grossed out enough to take a damp cloth and wipe their Crest remnants away.  That’s about the extent of the cleaning in this house by those who inhabit these walls.

But today, I sort of got motivated to do some countertop cleaning in the kitchen.  And I have fallen in LOVE with Soft Scrub!!!

We have a glass top stove.  I never much paid it attention to it until I became the official head of this household last year.  Now, I see how disgusting it gets.  Lisa never cooked that much but when she did, she wasn’t a burner.  I apparently like my food well done because I can burn a boiled egg, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, asperagus, toast – you name it, I can burn it.  My cooking theory memics my outlook on life.  Move on with it – no time to slowly warm things.  On my stove there is really no need for a low or medium setting; I don’t have time for that.  If something needs to get hot, and with virtually everything you cook that’s what you’re aiming for, heat it up as quickly as possisble. 

So, every time I cook on the stove, something invariably overflows onto the burner.  And that leaves a nasty, crispy residue.

I’ve tried glass cleaner.  It is a glass top stove, makes sense doesn’t it?  Doesn’t work.  It does not get spilled, burned on spaghetti sauce off of the burner. 

I’ve tried 409 – when I was growing up, that was like household penicillin.  Not anymore.  Sure it’ll get a fingerprint off a door, but it doesn’t stand a chance to a stainless steel pot stain on a fiberglass sink.

But Soft Scrub – ahh.  The cleaner that keeps on cleaning.

Burned on Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup – no problem.

Pizza pan scrapes on your sink – no problem.

BEFORE...

And AFTER.

Red wine on your white countertops – no problem.

BEFORE...

and AFTER.

I once used it to get steak juice off of my kid’s white shirt.  It works! 

I might try whitening my teeth with it.

When you’re running a household unexpectedly by yourself, it’s good to have help.  Jesse is good.  My parents are helpful.  My in-laws rock.  But Soft Scrub is always there for me.  Day or night – bleaching out the stains of my life.

The Great Clothes Migration, 2010

I’ve learned to loath The Great Clothes Migration at our house. 

Twice each year, we go through all of the drawers and closets in our house.  It’s time to move the winter clothes out and the summer clothes in.  DJ’s hand me downs are shipped to Stephanie’s room.  Stephanie’s to Michelle’s.  Michelle’s go into three piles  1) trash 2) really special items we want to keep so that my attic will have a purpose and 3) the give away pile to a very dear friend who has two daughters a little younger than mine.

Yesterday we attacked DJ’s room.  I think I’m going to have to take a week off from work to recover.

DJ is a beautiful young woman who makes very good grades.  She is self confident and a leader.  She was honor camper at resident camp last summer.  She’s just an outstanding all around kid – I am so proud of her.  And, she’s a slob.

After about 30 minutes in her room, I considered calling Caterpiller to see if I could rent a Backhoe.  I discovered:

*15 unmatched socks throughout her room – four of them in her bathing suit drawer

*Enough fingernail polish to paint the nails of every 13 year old in South  America

*Single Benedryl tablets from the bathroom to the closet  and everywhere in between

*Femine products galore!

*A cup from the kitchen

and to top it off,

*Two of my good spoons under her bathroom sink!!

Is she eating cereal on the toilet?  Why would you have spoons under your bathroom sink?

The pile of clothes that don’t fit any longer mirror the local landfill – they just don’t smell as bad. 

She just drops paper – I think she has a neurological issue that keeps her from being able to throw things in a trash can. 

I’m about to take a nap to build up enough grit to tackle Stephanie’s room next weekend.  I’ve given her the seven day warning – we all need to get mentally and physcially prepared. 

I’d rather have three teeth extracted than to spearhead The Great Clothes Migration of 2010.

By the way, we’re missing one bear slipper. 

If you find one, please return it to me.  How do you lose an item this big?

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