Thursday, December 24, 2009

Turkey Tribulations and Other Obstacles, Part I

I just don't get it. Turkeys and I haven't been getting along lately.

Originally, I was going to roast my turkey yesterday, thereby freeing up today and tomorrow with a leftover love-fest. Things naturally got in the way, including a desperate attempt to get Kryptonite's (now known as "Her Nibs") picture with Santa for her first Christmas.

Let's visit that problem for a minute (or several). My older kids are/were pretty much afraid of Santa, so the only pictures I have with him are their very first Christmases. Oh, wait. Not true. When Mighty B. and Precious Daughter were one and three respectively, we did get a Santa picture. They wouldn't sit on his lap, choosing instead to sit on the bench in front of his chair.

Anyway, being the youngest of three kids, I acutely feel the lack of pictures documenting my babyhood. My eldest sister was photographed every thirty seconds or so. When my sister, V, arrived, our parents came to their senses and took photos every few days. By the time I came along, my parents had their hands full with three children under four, and I was lucky if they remembered to bring the camera for special occasions.

Well, Her Nibs is the youngest, and she's already suffering the pains of youngest-sibling syndrome. Her baby book has little more than her footprints (B also shares this particular neglect), and if it weren't for the extended family present at Her Nibs' baptism, I'd have no photographs at all.

Getting that first-Christmas photo with Santa is a downright need, damnit.

I went to the dreaded mall, where they have what may be the best-looking Santa on the east coast. Her Nibs and I arrived at roughly 10:30. Santa isn't scheduled to arrive until 11:00, and, dagnabbit, I have to pick up the kids from school at noon. Oh well. Precious Daughter needs something dressy for Christmas Eve mass anyway (she's singing with the choir), so I take care of that instead.

(Oh. I'm picking them up because the school district, in its infinite greed and stupidity, decided that they weren't going to give the parochial schools buses for more than four early dismissals. What kind of crap is that? This *[censored]* school collects thousands of tax dollars from us every year, and they can't give my kids a bus ride? I suspect my kids' ride to school doesn't cost them that much every year. What are they doing with the change?)

Five years ago, when I last endured this nonsense, they used to take your name and dish out those clunky pager things like they use at popular restaurants. It was terrific. You could wander the mall and shop, get a snack, whatever, until it was close to your turn. When your pager went off, you returned to Santa and joined the line for only a fifteen- to twenty-minute wait. Not bad, really. It was just enough time to clean the spots off the kids' clothes and faces, change diapers, and comb their hair.

I returned to the mall at 3:30, got in line, and learned that THIS year, there are no pagers. The mall decided that they weren't going to waste money on a new set of pagers for their patrons, so if you wanted to see Santa, you got in line and waited. And waited. And waited. Waiting instead of mall-crawling and spending money in their stores. (I wonder how much money they lost in sales revenue over a $2,500 batch of pagers? I hope it's ten times that.) Her Nibs was as good as gold. She'd been wearing her itchy Christmas clothes since 9:30 that morning, and she didn't complain a bit. She sat in that stroller for the better part of an hour before getting squirmy and cranky, and once I picked her up she was as happy as a clam. Being held and having her butt kissed is Her Nibs' favorite thing to do.
At 5:00, I surrender. I've moved maybe thirty feet in line, and according to the order-taking lady, I'm still an hour from Santa's lap. The Oracle's train, running ten minutes late, is scheduled to arrive at 5:30, and it's going to take at least that long to get to the car and out of the mall parking lot. I reluctantly leave the line. Her Nibs, once again strapped into the stroller, starts squawking.

The Oracle texts that he's now on a later train. Drat. I could've stayed in line and perhaps gotten the picture after all, but it's too late. I'm too far away to go back and reclaim my spot in line (my line neighbors may have allowed that). Instead, I remembered that my FIL asked me to pick up a pair of gloves for my MIL, and I handled that instead. I also took a quick peek around at the kids' clothes, because Precious Daughter decided she did not like what I picked for her to wear, and the only stuff I'm finding is gorgeous but horribly overpriced. At this stage of the Christmas season, I'm suffering a serious case of The Cheaps. The dress is gorgeous and even has a matching dress for her American Girl, but the bugger is on sale for $60, and I'm not spending that on a one- or two-time wear.

I pick up the Oracle and relieve my in-laws. While I was gone, my FIL did my dishes and straightened up my front and back porches. He saved me a buttload of work, and I'm thankful. It makes me feel guilty, too. Isn't it enough that he's here keeping my kids from killing one another, and he does housework too?

I whine about my day to The Oracle, and I half beg him to go to the local overpriced nursery to see their Santa. This Santa is free, too. You take your own picture. All of my pictures, despite the red-eye setting, come up with red-eye anyway, but it's better than nothing. I must get a Santa picture for Her Nibs' first Christmas.

We stuff our guts at Bob Evans (love that pot roast sandwich!) for dinner and head over to the nursery. The place is gorgeous. Every year their decorations are mind-blowingly (is that a word?) beautiful, and they also have a small nativity set up in their outdoor section with live animals. (This year, Mary and Joseph were conspicuously absent from theHer Nibs was enthralled. She loved all the twinkling lights and the fountains and shiny ornaments. (Ah, yes. Part of this trip's purpose was to find a Baby's First Christmas ornament as well as a stocking for Her Nibs.) The Oracle gets in line with Her Nibs and waits while the older two and I go poking about the store.

Our shopping efforts didn't yield much, but the Oracle called a short while later to let us know it was almost our turn for Santa. Over all it was quick and painless, and PD and B joined the picture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Straight No Chaser - The Christmas Can-Can

Vee at Juggling Scarves posted this first, and I finally listened to it this morning. I loved it so much I had to be a copycat.

Thank you, Vee!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Annoying Myself

I have a lot to do today, and I have accomplished nearly nothing. A congested, boogery Kryptonite drifted into a nap over an hour ago, and I spent the bulk of my time wearing a fruitless path throughout our house.

With Kryptonite asleep and the kids at school, I have an opportunity to handle some Christmas paperwork in the basement. The problem is I can't find the Scotch tape. Precious Daughter had it Friday night when she sequestered herself in her bedroom to wrap and tag her Christmas Bazaar loot. I remember seeing the dispenser in the bag with the wrapping paper and bows, but it is no longer there.

So I wander about the house, looking for the tape. On my way, I check the tree (purchased last night in the pouring rain) to make sure it still has water, and I begin sifting through the clutter (hastily thrown on the dining room table) from the bookcase I moved to make room for the tree.

My eye flickers to my coffee cup on the kitchen table. Just what I need! I pick it up for a sip and it's empty. Ugh. I turn to the coffee pot for a refill, take a sip, and -- Blech -- my coffee is cold. (We brew it and turn off the burner because scorched coffee is nasty. I'd rather reheat it as I go.)

On my way to the microwave, my eyes make a guilty pass across the sink full of dishes. Oh, all right, I'd better get this out of the way. I put my coffee on the kitchen table and turn back toward the sink.

Hey. The basement door is open. The light is on, too. Why did I -- Oh, that's right. I need the Scotch tape...

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Should Be Sleeping

But a certain German Shedder isn't feeling well. Knucklehead has a chronic sinus issue which, quite frankly, we currently don't have the resources to pursue. Whatever it is, it doesn't respond to typical antihistamines or antibiotics. Her nose is an ever-flowing stream of thick, nasty snot. (Regretting your visit today?)

She's having a rough night with it tonight, pacing about the room and nudging me to be let outside. I guess the night air feels good, but it's well below freezing out there. Even with a fur coat, she can't be out there too long.

Kryptonite is also congested. She just woke up a few minutes ago because she can't breathe, so we're on the couch with her upper body elevated to ease her miseries. She's complaining about things with little whimpers and moans every time she exhales.


Tomorrow is the kids' Christmas bazaar at school. They're very excited. I can hardly wait to see what they'll pick this year. Las year, B. gave me a squishy clear plastic T-Rex with multicolored lights that flash wheb you squeeze its belly. Precious daughter blessed me with hot pink chenille gloves. It took a bit, but I got used to the near-blinding pink shade, and now when I wave to someone from the crowd, I'm easily spotted.


Look at what Kryptonite can do!

I've often said that my favorite fruit on earth is strawberries, with peaches holding second place by just a few points. My third favorite, then, must be these.

To say that The Oracle is a happy boy is an understatement. We ordered these lovely Texas Ruby grapefruit and oranges from Crockett Farms. The grapefruit season is short. Get 'em while you can!


Finally, many thanks to my sister and BIL for their visit on Sunday. I confess I wasn't all that enamored with the notion of a Sunday morning visit, but I'm oh-so glad that they came.

Kryptonite loves her monkey! (My very-photogenic sister dodged the camera because -- get this -- she wasn't wearing makeup. I strongly suspect that she'd STILL look terrific on camera. She probably hasn't taken a so-so photo since her teens. Brat.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Trials

Wowie-wow-wow. December already?

I'm sorry for not posting a blip in over two weeks. Wanna hear a story?

Way too long ago I took a deposition, probably one of my longest ever, involving liability issues surrounding a piece of decades-old industrial equipment that had the audacity to mangle somebody's limb. The actual subject matter was kind of dry, but the lawsuit surrounding the incident intrigues me. Who's to blame? The buyer, the seller, the used-equipment broker, or the employee for sticking an extremity where it doesn't belong?

I digress. This case came with the lovely sound of "cha-CHING!" because it was a nice job for this freelance court-reporter, an hours-long deposition with several bickering attorneys present and ordering. (Wheeeee!!!)

(Why, yes, I DO hate bickering attorneys, but bickering attorneys are generally not inclined to help each other by engaging in the unethical practice of sharing transcripts among themselves. This puts the copy sale where it belongs - in my kids' bellies.)

Of course, bickering means the job was awful to scope, and it took me much longer than it should have. Have you ever noticed that when a deadline looms, it seems like everything suddenly needs your attention? The kids brought home some horrible germ which infected me and Kryptonite. And Thanksgiving was coming, of course.

I had to get the job turned in, however, if I wanted to get paid. I was determined to get the thing done before Thanksgiving so I could stuff myself silly without unfinished business hanging over my head. After three sleepless nights, I finished that job and two other small transcripts by the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Phew!

Now I could handle Thanksgiving preparations without guilt. Our plans this year shifted from cooking for my in-laws to dinner with E. and her family, a shift that left me feeling rather guilty. I'd asked my FIL if he'd like to have dinner with us, and he accepted. It was the first time in ten years that we'd have Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. My in-laws have made it an annual tradition of dining at their favorite restaurant with a group of friends, so I was pretty excited when they decided to join us instead.

Last year, we had dinner with E., and we had a terrific time. She invited us again this year. I told her that I'd already offered to cook for my in-laws, and she generously offered to serve them as well at her house. I told her my FIL probably wouldn't go for it, but I promised I'd ask.
I asked and got a bit of a shock in return. Not only did my FIL decline E's offer, he bowed out of my initial offer as well. I was stunned. I fully expected and anticipated cooking a turkey dinner for my in-laws. I was actually pretty excited about it despite the work involved, so I was floored. I feel rather guilty too. I finally got my in-laws to come to Thanksgiving dinner, and I sent them running the other way because I extended an invitation that I didn't expect them to accept. Aaagh.

Hmmm... That previous bit makes it sound like my in-laws and I don't get along or something. That's not the case at all. As in-laws go, I got a set that I not only love but genuinely like and get along with, and if they don't feel the same way they've done a wonderful job of keeping it to themselves for 20 years.

Getting back to my Turkey-Day "tail," we may have been traveling to E's for dinner, but that doesn't mean I get to rest on my laurels. Every person afflicted with Thanksgiving nostalgia has certain things that, if done without, will invalidate the most lovely dinner laid on a table. For The Oracle, these dishes include my mother's turkey stuffing and the sweet-potato casserole we discovered in Cooks Illustrated magazine in 2005.

(If you haven't heard of it, I highly recommend the Cooks Illustrated website. CI offers a two-week online-membership trial. They take a credit card number up front, though, so make sure you cancel if you don't want it or you're automatically charged the annual fee when the trial period is up. The message board is always free. I'm a huge CI junkie for their recipes as well as product reviews that are truly unbiased. CI magazine contains NO advertising except for their own publications.)

In addition to The Oracle's favorites, he wanted what we call "corn thing," which is a baked casserole made from dried corn. We were also bringing rice pudding and a cake for dessert.

I assembled the basic ingredients for stuffing and started preparing the bird. The Oracle suggested, because of sleep deprivation, that I wait until morning to roast the turkey (the only way to get good stuffing is to cook it in the bird), but I felt we were going to need the oven in the morning, so getting the turkey out of the way would be a better idea. I also knew that letting the turkey cool completely would help it retain more moisture than carving it warm.

The turkey went into the oven at 10:30 p.m., and I cursed myself for not remembering to buy a cheese cloth or boy's tee shirt to cover the bird the way my mom did. Drat. Instead, I loosely draped a sheet of foil over the breast to keep it from getting too brown. The turkey is roasting, an I'm puttering about with one thing or another, occasionally basting the turkey between tasks.

By 2:30, my feet and calves are sore from all the standing, so I park in The Oracle's chair to channel surf a bit. With my cell phone alarm as backup, I'm up and down every half hour or so to baste the turkey. At 4:30, the house smells divine, and I figure the turkey will be done in a half hour or so. I remove the foil to let the pallid turkey skin brown up a bit, and I return to channel surfing.

At 6:30 I'm jolted from dreams of turkey to wakefulness. I'm not even sure what woke me up. It certainly wasn't my cell phone. I rush to check the turkey, but the light coming in the windows tells me I'm already too late. My once-pallid turkey skin is two shades away from black, the exposed stuffing is burnt to a crisp, and my pan juices are a solid mass of blackened gunk cemented to the bottom of the pan. Damn.

Once again, I should've listened to The Oracle. I don't openly admit this to him, of course, because as soon as he woke up and smelled the now-Cajun turkey, he was compelled to remind me that he told me to wait. Grrrr. Does he not think I know that?

As the turkey cools, the meat pulls away from the breastbone. I can see that the browned breast meat beneath the skin, and I'm reminded of the Griswold turkey in Christmas Vacation. This turkey is inedible. I don't mourn the loss of the turkey meat, really, because I could take or leave turkey. I'm crushed that I'll have no gravy. I love home-made turkey gravy, which is what makes the turkey worthwhile and elevates the stuffing to a whole new level.

The stuffing, once I picked off the burned surface, is heavenly, thank God. I don't think my sleep-deprived, gravy-deprived psyche could have handled the resulting hailstorm of "I told you so" if The Oracle had no stuffing with his turkey dinner. It would've ended badly for one of us. I was suddenly glad that I wasn't feeding my in-laws, because this was my worst turkey ever.

By the time we finish getting our stuff together (including an overpriced convenience-store run for butter), we're an hour late for E's, and once we arrive it takes me almost another hour to shake off the morning's disappointment and aggravation. Here is where E's easygoing nature is a blessing.

E is having her own hassles. Her turkey is running an hour behind schedule. If I look at it sideways, this means we're sort of on time after all.

(Yes, it's flawed logic, but it's the only logic I have.)

E's cooking away: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls, asparagus, turkey stuffing, pineapple stuffing (yep), gravy, cranberry-fruit mold, and extra turkey legs. I think I'm missing something. All I know is that every square inch of her dining room table was occupied.

E's husband usually handles mashed-potato duty, and he and The Oracle were in a bit of a dither because E decided to try the dreaded something new. On Thanksgiving of all days. Said something was Pioneer Woman's "creamy mashed potatoes" which involve much of the same ingredients as regular mashies with the addition of cream cheese. They were quite good. You would have thought, however, that we were asking our men to eat sauteed grasshoppers when introduced to the idea. Change can be so difficult.

Our kids had a blast playing with one another. Kryptonite was cuddled and coddled as usual, and when dinner was served I THEN reazlied that I forgot the portable high chair, so she had to sit in my lap during dinner. She didn't mind one bit.

By the time we finished dinner, coffee, and desserts (lots of dessert. E made pumpkin and pecan pies on top of all the dishes complementing her turkey), I basked in some much-needed conversation with E. We weren't on our way home until midnight. The kids were all asleep in the car within minutes, and traffic was light. We sailed home in under 50 minutes.

Best of all, when we got home I could sleep. I hadn't really slept in days, and it felt marvelous. I woke a smidge before 9:00 on Friday morning and remembered that we were supposed to meet Aunt J. at the bowling alley at 10:00. Ha. We were an hour late for that too, but the kids had a great time. I'm sorry that The Oracle had to work. It would've been fun to have him along.

And, wow, this post has gone on long enough. I should've broken it up over a few days.