Remember that scene in Tom Sawyer where Tom, as a punishment for skipping school, is made to whitewash an entire fence alone? Initially bummed, Tom soon figures out that by feigning his love for the project, he can get his buddies to pay him for the "privilege" of partaking in the chore.
Welcome to Thanksgivings-past at my place. Historically, the meal has been my fence and if all goes according to plan, my husband, sisters, sisters-in-law and mom will do all the dull and grueling prep work for me. Sure, I can talk a good game when it comes to chopping onions, but the reality is I have no idea how to use a decent knife, much less a food processor. And while I have been known to "stir the pot" over Turkey Day dinner, it's usually been in the family gossip arena. Stirring a real pot with gravy or cranberries -- not really in my skill set.
But this year I've got a bit of problem on my hands. First, my husband has a slipped disc in his neck and shouldn't be doing any of the heavy lifting, literally, for the holiday. This unfortunately includes the lifting of the raw, dead bird into the empty paint tub he uses annually for brining. There are not enough latex kitchen gloves in the world that could make this a tolerable activity for me.
And I am bummed much of the extended family I have "Sawyered" into dicing, rolling and whisking in years past can't make the trip to Wisconsin. My Madison-based sister is coming, but she plans to do all her cooking at her place -- I sincerely doubt she wants to peel my potatoes over there. And as much as I'd like to assign my brother from Chicago something other than the ingredients for pumpkin pie martinis , I've learned that a 2.5-hour car ride with string bean casserole and two young kids in the backseat rarely ends well.
I'm sure the Butterball hotline can solve a lot of issues for many folks on Thanksgiving. But I'm not sure they can do a darn thing about mine.
There is, though, a light at the end of the culinary tunnel and it comes in the form of a 14-year-old boy. My son, I've discovered this past year, loves to cook. He's taken the title of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, a gift from his foodie aunt last Hanukkah, to heart. From pancakes from scratch (I didn't know it couldn't be done without the help of a mix), to curried sea bass to olive oil cake, which tastes much better than it sounds, he's made just about everything. So I see no reason why he can't just claim Thanksgiving dinner for himself.
I'm pretty sure he can handle pie, and is even game to make homemade crust. He wants to do two kinds of sweet potatoes, the sweet family favorite and something more savory and exotic involving chili peppers. He is even willing, albeit with reservation, to help hoist the turkey into the brining pot and onto the grill.
I just hope his Aunt plans to find out if anyone has written a book called How to Clean Everything"Kitchen Edition. If you've ever seen my son in the kitchen you know we'll need it, and probably well before Hanukkah.
But I am excited to pass the cooking baton, this one in the form of a turkey baster.
And for my son's help -- on this and so many other things -- I will be eternally thankful.
As far as I know, Tom Sawyer never got to say that.comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.