More Branching Out with New To-Do Lists…

Alternative titles for this post included the following: “How to Survive Teenagers in the House,” “Keeping Your Sanity with Teens,” “If you thought my nagging is annoying, kid, wait until you experience yo mama’s supernagging!” and “Help Me, I Have a Teenaged Son.”

Honestly, I can’t really use any of the above alternates because The Boy is a growing into a fabulous young man. If I could harness a fraction of his drive and (hyper-)focus there is no telling WHAT I could accomplish.

So, the boring, non-antagonistic title will have to stay for now.

My strategy for success (my own, not the The Boy’s- he shall have his own) is to keep discovering new… everything: restaurants, recipes, cocktails, hikes, sports, books, friends, music, etc. Hopefully I will keep my sanity by continuing to grow myself as I watch my two teens grow.

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Scratch Lab’s cookbooks- for feeding those athletes you love
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The Main Man, The Bard, Wm Shakespeare

The Short List for 2017

  • Piano lessons for me (or online tutorial… anyone have any suggestions?)
  • Complete OpenCulture.com’s Survey of Shakespeare’s Plays
  • Complete a 15 mile mountain bike race this June while The Husband makes short work of the longer race
  • Tear through some fab recipes in my Scratch Labs cookbook. Because I don’t want to be eating icky bars or energy gels on the above mentioned ride.
  • Finally watch Downton Abbey (because I have to do something about this Sherlock hangover. Moffat and Gatiss- can we have more than three episodes per series? Pretty Please?)
  • And probably the most important on this list, give The Boy enough rope to learn, grow and thrive- and trust that he wont hang himself. And try to shut my mouth shut. Because he is one heck of an awesome guy.

 

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Did you know that if you wear a green Christmas Sweater, the camera will add at least 15 pounds in a photo? Beware. Or it could just be the stress of raising a teenager. Either way, beware.

Good Old Friends and Complete Silliness

What happens when you put a family of five into an SUV for thirty hours of nearly straight-through driving to visit their old friends and attend the Rose Bowl? They have fun. We helped our old friends get their wiggles out by putting them through our Tourist Treatment, specially constructed for Hoosiers.

You get some terribly centered selfies…

Some Christmas Card worthy photos…

 

A whole LOT of drinking…

 

And pics that were as much fun to see and share as the whole day.

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Seven years ago we were all canoeing on Sugar Creek in central Indiana:

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And this is the ridiculousness into which we have degraded:

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“Look, Mrs. J! I bet she’s not wearing any undies!”

 

 

 

 

Worthwhile Things I’ve learned- Personally or Vicariously

1.  Own a cast iron skillet. Or several. And learn how to properly use and care for them.

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2a.  Life is too short for mediocre coffee and poor wine. Buy the best you can afford.

2b. Even if it is just for you.

2c. Especially if it is just for you!

2d. Sometimes a $2.99 bottle of wine can surprise you ( in a good way). Don’t be a snot- more $$ does not necessarily equal better.

3.  If you aren’t just collecting friends like a teenager seeking validation, Facebook is really awesome.

4.  Temperature is relative- move from California to a colder clime and you’ll make fun of family for wearing sweaters when the mercury drops to 60 there. Return, and you’ll go right back to doing the same thing.

5.  A hybrid car is sooooo worth it.

6.  If you can make spaghetti sauce, baked chicken, and muffins from scratch you will never hunger and save big bucks.

7.  Real friends stay with you until the tow truck arrives (inebriated or not), or until your parents/spouse/friend can get there with spare car keys.

8.  Everyone should own at least one Hawaiian shirt. You never know when a party might break out.IMG_5604_2

9.  Electric kettles are the best!

10. So is plain, black tea. And freshly brewed iced tea.

11. Screen time is overrated. People are underrated.

12. Mom Advice that is everywhere, but we don’t appreciate until later: “The days are long but the years are short.”

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Be This Person!

13. You need a community- humans are social creatures. Join and meet regularly with at least one spiritually/socially edifying group be it a church, synagog, club, society, etc.

14. Stop being so offended by everything, people . It offends me.

15. Spend time with people who lift you up and make you want to be a better person- spiritually, mentally, emotionally. And in turn, BE that person with everyone who spends time with YOU.

16. Pop your own popcorn in a heavy pot. It’s an entirely different species than microwaved stuff.

17. Everyone thinks they are the most interesting person in the world on Pinterest. They are all wrong. I am. I can prove it:  https://www.pinterest.com/DDWJ/

18. A trick I learned from a dear and darn near holy woman: carry candy in your purse to always have on hand to share with your friends’ little ones. Guaranteed favorite adult status!

19. If you want to try something new every day (need to get yourself out of a rut? Overcome anxiety? Or just looking for some good, clean fun?) but don’t know where to start, start small. Pick one small project- a new book, decorate an area you have neglected, try a new cuisine. Don’t start with large or grandiose projects (Re-landscape front yard! Read the complete works of Shakespeare!). I guarantee you will be surprised how uplifting it can be to simply repaint your front door.

 

New Things to NOT Do Again…

#1 Take The Boy to an R Rated movie.
#2 Gain five pounds from all the new foods tried.
#3 Try to cram too much stuff into each month (a book, a project, a play, a tourist attraction, four new restaurants, four new menus, a date night, a couple of random acts of kindness, including moving one kid out of state and moving a new kid into our home… August was a bit… much).

New Recipe-Hasselback Potatoes Gratin à la Serious Eat’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I intended to look up a scalloped potato recipe for tonight’s dinner with the whole fam-bamily, but got sidetracked by Facebook… Uh oh? No! The first things I came across was a New York Times Food link to one of one of my favorite food site people- J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from SeriousEats.com.

Hasselback Potato Gratin (“These Might Be the Best Potatoes Ever”)
Look at this glorious photo and click on it to link to theSeriousEats.com recipe (or click here: SeriousEats.comHasselbackPotatoGratin)

These were easy to put together with the cheese grating delegated to The Girl and potato peeling to The Husband. All I needed was my super-sharp chef’s knife (recently sharpened by my dad, thanks, dad!) to get super thin slices from my russets. Then I tossed them in the cream, salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic.

Here they are, half cooked at 400 degrees for thirty minutes, before they got shoved in a box and carted up to one of the in-law’s house:

(pretend that this is a picture of the half baked potatoes, use your imagination)

And here’s the nearly gone and mostly empty dish, the only pic I could snap of the potatoes that could net the least amount of ridicule from extended family:


These were DELICIOUS! These were unbelievably easy to prepare, travelled well half-cooked (unlike my extended family, LOLOLOL!!) and were gluten-free for the family members with Celiac to whom we wanted to show some kitchen love.

Put this recipe for Hasselback Potato Gratin on you list of new things to try next year.

The Force Awakens… Thirty-Eight-Year-Old Memories

 

When I was ten, my brother and I went to the movies to see the first Star Wars. We weren’t big theater-goers in our family, so this was a great treat. We were completely blown away, having never seen anything like that before on the big screen. Plus, I was only ten and hadn’t racked up too many “wow” moments… so relatively speaking, this was definitely a wow-able moment.

I’ll never forget a couple years later, sitting with junior high friends at lunch while a friend mentioned that there were two more Star Wars movies coming out! I can’t speak for the average kid, but this was huge news to the super-awkward completely clueless types like me. She probably didn’t realize how big a deal it was to tell us that (spoiler here, people) not only was Darth Vader Luke Skywalker’s father, but Leia is his sister. Put this into perspective- 1979 was a dark time for the casual fan- with no constant barrage of trivial information available to us via the intertubes. Either you read original Star Wars books or you had inside information. And when pressed, this pretty humble lunch mate admitted to us how she had such awesome inside info… Mark Hamill was a family friend. Luke Skywalker was her source. Talk about instant Cool Points!

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(from PopCultcha.com)

I still don’t go to the movies very often. Thirty-Eight years later… can you imagine how much fun it was to sit in the movie theater with not only The Husband, but The Boy, The Girl, and The Boyfriend and watch another big screen Star Wars movie?

It was All That And A Tub of Popcorn.

Star Wars- Listening Doesn’t Count

Ever take long family trips in a car? Remember when those in-car screen systems became available? I’ve heard the stories from friends about listening to princess movies ad nauseam while driving across the country; anyone in the car measuring an age in double digits had to tough it out or suffer sharing that space with crabby kids.

We came late to the vehicle video party. We arrived there, finally, when our friend with a car dealership found a used SUV that had every option we wanted … and one we didn’t. I really didn’t want that DVD player, but the deal on the car was too good to pass up. In the end, we told the kids that they could watch shows only on long drives, and that system worked pretty well.

The Husband and I would load up on DVDs that we could stomach hearing since the headphones were perpetually broken or missing. Best of Bugs Bunny, Guys and Dolls, and Princess Bride, were part of our on-board entertainment… great shows that were already burned into my mind’s eye. And the Star Wars movies. All of them, memorized, too. Or so I thought.

With the latest Star Wars movie release, The Boy was completely happy to oblige his mamma in a six movie marathon to lead up to our Force Awakens matinee tickets. Two minutes into watching the first prequel and I realized that I had never actually seen any one of these new movies- I’ve only heard them all. From the front seats of that SUV. I had next to no idea what these stories involved.

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So this weekend, for the first time, I watched all the first three stories- the second set of three movies released, for those of us who remember the original trio of movies as the real first three Star Wars movies. Not bad! I hope the seventh movie lives up to all the hype surrounding it.

 

IMG_9846We still have the SUV and the old DVD player still works. I think the last time it was used was several years ago. The Boy and his friends watched a bunch of original, black and white Three Stooges shows- slapstick and pre-adolescent boys are a great match. I wonder if we will ever find or fix the headphones? Probably not, I want to hear the shows, too.