I don’t think they do have an app for that

It’s September, so you know what that means? The start of Autumn and the end of bathing suit season.

This past summer I’ve been engaging in the latest fitness scheme in my long line of many. I’ve told you about exercise classes and yoga before, so this summer I decided to try something markedly different–running.

I decided to use technological aids since biology, heredity and sheer will failed to make me a runner to this point in my life, so I bought an app for my phone that promised to ease me from the couch to 5 kilometers in 8 weeks.

At first, it was quite easy. The app, in her sing-song voice set to my “Don’t harsh my mellow” playlist, had me alternating between running and walking every 90 seconds or so. I liked her. The first 3 weeks went by without incident and I was starting to feel as though I really may indeed find my inner jogger.

And then we hit week 6–or as I like to call it–the Weeping Week.

By the end of the fifth week, you find yourself huffing and puffing to a gradual eight minute run. It’s somewhat of a major accomplishment from your initial 90 seconds, so you’re kind of proud of yourself as you queue up week 6 on the old iPhone one unsuspecting morning. As you breeze through your 5 minute brisk warm-up walk, you notice a distinct difference in tone from your robotic friend. She seems testy–she’s playing songs that aren’t from your folk song playlist anymore–they’re from lost tracks of Dick Cheney sings Phantom of the Opera. You consider for a moment that maybe it’s just your imagination–after all you’ve gotten along well together for over a month–but then all of a sudden she says, “Close the pod bay door, Dave,” and thumb tacks and oil start leaking from the treadmill like a Roadrunner cartoon and she tells you to run like your life depends on it for 20 minutes straight.

It will totally harsh your mellow.

If you make it out of week 6 alive, week 7 seems more reasonable. Going from 20 to 22 minutes doesn’t seem so out of left field until she then springs this whole distance thing on you. “Now run for 2.5 miles.” Even at this late day in the workout regimen, that takes me 4 days at my snail’s pace. In my month and a half uphill education my frame of reference for 5 kilometers is equidistant to running to Memphis. Or Albuquerque. I actually have no idea how long that it is, only that Van Morrison sings “Into the Mystic” three times before I get there.

I wish we could end our story now, with our fearless heroine running stealthily all the way down to the finish line of week eight and going on to do marginal at best in local charity and fun runs (an oxymoron, btw) in a size 2 running short. (It’s my dream, leave me alone.)

But alas, I cannot. You see, I am repeating week seven over and over like a girl on a treadmill (mainly because I am) too frightened to move on to the final leg. I don’t feel ready to graduate yet–like my robot app girl has something sinister in mind for my last motivational week. The Acme Road Obstacle Kit is mere child’s play for what’s in store for me on this last week.

My worst fear is she extends bathing suit season another 8 weeks.

And then I’ll need an app to pay me 5K to get me from hiding behind my couch.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Here’s a recipe of protein and carbs you’ll run to in a pinch over and over.

Beef Stroganoff

It looks like a hot mess, but  it's good.
It looks like a hot mess, but it’s good.

(These amounts are the minimums–be generous with all for best results.)

2-3 T. butter
1 T. oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1-1 1/2 lbs. top round steak, sliced into thin strips
1 clove garlic
1-1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup sour cream
1 T. flour
2 T. dijon mustard

1.) In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter and oil over medium high heat–add onion and beef.

2.) Cook until onions are soft and beef is nicely browned. Add garlic, cook for a minute or so, add beef broth, bring to boil then turn down heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

3.) Meanwhile, mix together sour cream, flour and mustard in a small bowl. Add to the pan and cook gently until fully combined and sauce thickens, about 5 more minutes. Do not allow to boil or sour cream will curdle.

4.) Season generously with salt and pepper and serve over hot egg noodles.

Nothing says holiday weekend like moonshine and a Titanic replica

Ah, Labor Day weekend. It’s either the last hurrah of summer or, as we’ve determined earlier, a mid-semester break.

However you refer to it, I hope it means fun, food, friends and family. For us, it means all of those things in a cabin in Galtinburg, Tennessee.

This is a favorite destination of ours for long holiday weekends. If you’ve never been to this eastern Tennessee tourist mecca, it’s a must see attraction if Branson or the TLC network ever close.

I am by no means a historian, but after many trips to this particular fun spot, I’ve pieced together what I think can only be a logical history and a list of things not to miss during your visit.

Robert Ripley–of Ripley’s Believe it or Not Fame–was probably an original settler of the Smoky Mountains. He discovered wax relics of pop culture celebrities as he navigated the foothills in a Go-Kart and airbrushed t-shirt. He also discovered an enormous saltwater aquarium which can still be seen today. (For $38 per adult admission.)

Adding to the unique period architecture of the region which includes a staggering amount of Elvis, King Kong and Marilyn Monroe sculpture, there is an upside down museum next to the curiously beached, landlocked Titanic wreckage complete with a fiberglass iceberg and show tunes. Lest you think that is the extent of the arts in Pigeon Forge, please don’t miss dueling lumberjacks or Hatfield and McCoy dinner theatre.

The original cuisine for East Tennessee natives is pancakes, fudge and chain restaurant food. I assume. You’ll have no trouble finding any. Make sure to wash down your (again, curiously landlocked) Bubba Gump shrimp with some local moonshine, or as I like to call it, “Disqualification from the liver or esophagus transplant donor list.” See if your palate can distinguish the subtle differences between a corn mash and a corn cob pipe accidentally dropped into the still.

And just when you think you can’t stand to see another miniature golf course or a pan for your own gold and gem mine trough, you find the real treasure. Tubing down a crystal clear river with your good friends.  Watching a bear (from a safe distance of course) walk through your backyard for a marshmallow leftover from a roast the night before. Playing “Guess What Left That Scat,” on your cabin balcony. Wine and a sunset on freshly swept said balcony. Stars, lots of them. A place to celebrate something. Or nothing at all.

So I hope this weekend finds you in a spot you can rewrite history. Even if it’s standing alongside of the General Lee at Cooter’s Museum and Fun Park.

Even bears love Party Pasta Salad
Even bears love Party Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe speaks to both my midwestern and fake Italian roots. Perfect for a party.

Party Pasta Salad

Vinaigrette:

3 Tablespoons capers (use the rest of the jar for the salad)
3 garlic cloves
1 T. tomato paste
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (use the rest of the jar for the salad)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Pepper to taste
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
3/4 c. olive oil

Salad:

2 boxes rotelle or spiral pasta cooked al dente
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and rough chopped
1 6 oz. jar kalamata olives, sliced and drained
1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, sliced and drained
1 8 oz block mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 8 oz. block of cheddar, cubed
8 oz. salami, cubed
1 small red onion
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

1.) Pulse first 5 ingredients of vinaigrette in food processor. Add pepper and vinegar, pulse again to blend. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. (It will seem very salty and vinegary at this stage, but it will mellow out.

2.) Cook pasta al dente, drain and place in large bowl. Add dressing to warm pasta, and add the rest of the ingredients and anything else that sounds good. Lots of different flavors and textures makes this salad different but good.

3.) Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but better if overnight.

©2013 Tracey Henry

The first and last time I’ll ever be asked this question

I’ve been asked for my hand in marriage. (Yes.) I’ve been asked if I want fries with that. (No.) I’ve been asked if I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. (No, yes, no, no.)  I’ve been asked what I want to be when I grow up. (Still waiting to grow up.) I’ve been asked for my I.D. (Ok, not in a very long time.) I’ve been asked for my advice, opinion, and counsel. (Stay in school, the one on the left and don’t read Internet comments.) Paper or plastic? (Canvas, please.) I’ve even been questioned as to who wrote the book of love, what’s love got to do with it and what’s eating Gilbert Grape. (I’ve got satellite radio and a Netflix account.)

But in 29 years of combined school grades and teachers, I’ve never been asked to be the Room Mom.

Until today.

The teacher who proposed such an obvious travesty of scholastic volunteerism is new, so I quickly said yes before she Google search me.  (Rookie mistake.) Since I’m new to the Room Mom game, I had some questions of my own. Like, is there a union per diem minimum? (No, in fact you’ll be expected to pay out-of-pocket for countless expenses.) Will my yearbook profile include high res photos or standard? (We don’t exactly feature parents in the yearbook.) When driving to field trips, do I collect gas money from the kids before or after I drop them off? (Wait, what?) Are there any allergies I should notify the caterer of for the class parties? (We don’t use a caterer, maybe we should talk…) My first arts and crafts project is wallpapering my bathroom so I’m going to need 4,288 glue sticks added to their required supply list. (On second thought, we may not need a Room Mom this year.) Your Tuesday Reading Circle is on my preferred spa day, so can I move  in a massage table on those carpet squares? (@#$%^&*) Why is your face so red? Who are you calling? Are handcuffs really necessary?

And now I’ve also been asked if I understand my rights as they’ve been explained to me. (Best. School. Year. Ever.)

©2013 Tracey Henry

 

One of the recipes I get asked about the most–Guacamole.

 

World's Best Guacamole
Guacamole

3 ripe avocados
1 red onion, diced
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and Pepper

Nothing else or you’ll ruin it

I mean it

Mash the avocados with the back of a fork in a medium bowl. Mix the 3–exactly 3–ingredients together. Resist the temptation to make it more complicated than it is–you will thank me later. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy by the handful or use tortilla chips.

Note: The only variation I will allow is the addition of fresh cilantro if you love fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of a fresh lime. Ripe avocados are a must. Buy the nice blackish-skinned ones, but if they aren’t quite ripe yet place in a brown paper bag for a day or so and they’ll ripen quickly and guac-ly.

Signs of Premature Education

As I sit here on the eve of the first day of school, which has crept earlier and earlier each August until it seems as though the 4th of July is closer than Labor Day, it occurs to me that the local School Boards may be suffering from an embarrassing affliction. I know it’s not quite PC or appropriate to discuss outside of AM radio talk show commercials and creepy email spam, but I think there’s a rampant case of premature education going on around here.

It only takes a simple Google clip art image search of the words, “Back to School” with its apple-laden, fall-leaf-wreathed chalkboards and discounted plaid wool skirts with turtlenecks turned up to earlobes covered by fur-lined ski caps to confirm that the web–which is World Wide I remind you–universally accepts the fact that the First Day of School is an autumnal event.

And though I am not Julius Caesar, I maintain that August, and certainly July, land squarely in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, and therefore, by its very position in the space-time continuum, charted latitudes and longitudes, maritime tides, and proximity to the solstices and several Independence Days, both foreign and domestic; are historically, meteorologically, ill-timed months to resume scholastic endeavors.

In other words, you may be pulling the trigger a little too early, Board of Education.

August 7th was our start date this year. This is actually a week later than most of the schools around us, so I guess I should feel lucky. The earth has had seven more days in which to retain summer temperatures approaching triple digits.

Clearly there is some confusion on the Board with regard to an appropriate First Day of School. As the helpful citizen that I am, I would like to provide this brief tutorial to school planners to consider when they prepare next year’s calendar so they are not, once again, subject to this embarrassing and inconvenient problem.

If you start school before your state’s tax-free holiday on school supplies even begins, you may be guilty of premature education.

If playground balls fuse to the blacktop in the blistering heat, it may be a sign of premature education.

If the first holiday off you have after the first day of school is a Christmas in July mattress sale, it just may be evidence of premature education.

If parents are confused on whether the first day is a start date or an end date to the school year, well, it just may be a textbook case of premature education.

If you have to pack zinc oxide and salt tablets in your child’s lunchbox, chances are pretty good you’re prematurely educating.

If your child’s “school bus” has a freezer on board, plays “Pop goes the Weasel” and serves Push-ups from a side window, premature education could be to blame.

If your official school uniform includes flip flops and a panama hat, methinks it clearly is premature education.

If math class is taught in SPF values, you know…

If students have completed all of the material in their textbooks before they’ve chosen a Halloween costume, premature education should be considered.

If your child was born under the zodiacal sign of cancer and has to bring in birthday cupcakes for his classmates, talk to your doctor about premature education.

If your child has ever brought a watermelon for a teacher on the first day instead of an apple because that’s the only fruit in season, education prematurely could be the culprit.

If there has ever been a wave runner in your school carline, there’s no shame in admitting your premature education.

If your child is taught how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and Celsius to Kelvin to record the average temperature during science class; well, just sayin’.

If your child has ever had to write a paper on Bastille Day due on Bastille Day; ahem.

And finally, if as part of their emergency planning your school regularly conducts Sharknado drills; I rest my case.

You’re welcome. Now everyone is satisfied.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Premature education
Premature education

School Night Panko-Crusted Chicken Cutlets

These are simple to make on a weeknight, but can easily be dressed up or down for your family’s tastes.

Chicken cutlets (you can buy the cutlets, or cut boneless skinless breast or fillets in half and pound to a thin cutlet)

Flour
2 eggs (or more)
1 cup Panko (or more)

Olive oil
salt and pepper

1.) Set up a breading station of the flour seasoned with salt and pepper, the eggs beaten with a little water, and a plate of the panko.

2.) Heat a non-stick pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. You may have to re-oil in between batches, so don’t put the bottle away. Preheat the oven to 350°.

3.) Bread each cutlet by first dredging through the seasoned flour, then the egg wash, and finally evenly coating with the panko. Do 3 or 4 cutlets and place them in the pan. Do not overcrowd–do in batches if necessary.

4.) Cook the cutlets about 2-3 minutes per side, just to give a nice brown color. Try to only flip once to preserve the panko crust. When golden brown, remove from pan and place in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven to finish cooking, and while you cook the next batch.

5.) Continue with all the cutlets and bake in the oven another 10 minutes or so until they reach 165° internally and no longer pink. By finishing in the oven, you still get a properly cooked chicken but the crust is still crispy and golden rather than charred.

6.) Serve either as is, or top with a handful of arugula tossed with Dijon-lemon vinaigrette–it gives a nice freshness and bite to the simple cutlet.

Panko-Crusted Cutlets

New Neighbor Bribe

Blueberry muffins: perfect new neighbor graft
Blueberry muffins: perfect new neighbor graft

Dear New Neighbor,

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m your new neighbor. That neighbor.

Oh, I don’t plan any trouble, slights, inadvertent impoliteness, or anything to make you call your insurance company, emergency services or realtor; but chances are pretty good that you will at some point. I apologize in advance and offer these anticipatory peace offering muffins.

We have teenagers who park poorly and will probably impede your driveway access at some point. We have young kids that have cannot keep a ball in their own yard to save their life. We have a dog. Cute, but she’s a runner and a digger with a propensity for your fence line and begonias.

We have parties. And house guests. And a drum set. And inappropriate boundary issues.

But if you’re able to overlook these few flaws–and the tragic paint color experiment on your side of the house–we do have our good points.

Like you know the Bunco group with all of the popular people in the neighborhood? Well, I’m blacklisted from that one but I’ll bring you as my personal guest to the one formed by outcasts in dramatic protest.

And you know that giant nest of rabbits that live under your back porch? They used to live here before I chased them out after eating the biggest patch of basil this side of Tuscany. I’ll make you (and your exterminator) a batch of homemade pesto.

And since we are in a constant state of violation with the homeowner’s association, chances are you can get away with a plethora of infractions with their attention turned our way.  We are responsible for so many of the amendments to the covenants they refer to us as the Continental Congress. You’ll probably be able to skirt a fine for those bottle rocket casings littered all over your roof for at least six more months. (I’m sorry and you’re welcome.)

So while it may not seem like we make the best neighbors, we do make pretty decent friends. Join us for a BBQ this weekend and I’ll show you.

(And how that large bare patch in your lawn in the shape of a giant chicken wing got there.)

 

*******

 

Anticipatory Apology Blueberry Muffins 

Makes a dozen

 

1 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon almond extract

 

1 pint fresh blueberries (They’re your new neighbors, make a good impression and splurge on fresh berries, for goodness sake.)

Turbinado sugar, if desired

 

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 Tablespoon and toss over blueberries in another small bowl. Set both aside.

2.) Whisk together sugar, sour cream, oil, egg and almond extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

3.) Line a muffin tin with papers and fill each with the batter evenly. Sprinkle each with a healthy sprinkle of turbinado sugar before putting in the oven.

4.) Bake for 20-25 minutes. Deliver to new neighbor. No mention of highjacked wifi needed.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry

#SouthernHomeownerProbz

Fire-Roasted Marinated Red Peppers and Olives
Fire-Roasted Marinated Red Peppers and Olives

Although we have settled in nicely into our new home, there are still a couple of aspects of Southern life that I have yet to get used to. Oh, I’ve mastered yelling “UNSWEET” quickly after I order my iced tea. I’ve figured out what a Meat and Three is and I’ve even learned that rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey, as well as making Tennessee cars slow to .4 mph. But even after all of these Southern life lessons, my biggest conundrum remains: how anything gets done around here.

I’ve said before that someone could make a fortune actually providing services that people want and need down here, and yes, I realize that makes me sound like a Yankee carpetbagger. But then at least YOU’D HAVE SOMEONE INSTALLING CARPETS, SOUTH.

Our homeowner troubles began before we even moved in when the landscaper from the previous owner wanted to charge us $5600 for yard work. On the yard that he had been paid to maintain. And then it was the cable company who installed cable in the house, but if I wanted any “non-covered” services like moving the TV or putting batteries in the remote, I could pay them cash on the side.

We hired a carpenter to build some shelves and install a wine cooler. After months of excuses, on the day he was supposed to deliver it his wife emailed to say the cooler had died in an unfortunate car accident on the way to our house along with the receipt and dental records.

I had a repair man come out to fix our gas grill. Before he even rounded the corner to the back yard, he threw up his hands and declared that “on behalf of myself and Sears, I decline to work on this equipment,” as if he was stating his intentions to a hidden NSA agent. He said I didn’t have a “grill,” I had a “De-luxe Bar-B-Cue System,” that required a specialty repair service from a fire and hearth store, despite having bought the stupid thing at Sears the year before.

We’ve had three different trash companies because they just stop picking up, you know, trash?

I’ve been on the phone getting solicited to sign a service contract with an A/C company that I’m already under contract with. When I reminded them that I was due for a service call, I had to wait 2 1/2 months before they could find an opening. And they even had to reschedule that appointment because “it looked like rain.”

When we decided to get an outdoor fireplace built like many of our neighbors, I started calling the numbers from some of the home magazine advertisements. Only one actually came out and then wouldn’t show us a rendering until we paid a deposit so we wouldn’t use anyone else. I went to a store that had outdoor fireplaces on display at its entrance. I filled out a request form in person for a contractor to contact me. Not only did they never call, but I think they blocked my number and put my picture on the wall warning that I was as dumb as, and therefore not to be sold any boxes of rocks.

So when in a last ditch effort for outdoor warmth a postcard addressed to “Resident” which I was beginning to doubt referred to me, arrived with pictures of fire pits and hardscapes I was not only hesitant and skeptical, but perhaps a bit masochistic when I placed the call.

I left a message knowing full well it would only end in ignored heartbreak, but much to my shock and awe, he returned the call. And he came out that same day to take measurements and give me a brochure. And then he emailed me that very night with an actual price quote.

And then if I heard him right over my screams of joy, he said he could start the work on MONDAY.

When the orchestra of angels quieted, I sent a quick note to my Homeowner’s Association letting them know that s’mores were being served at our house next weekend and instead of offering to bring graham crackers, the woman sent back an architectural modification request form and instructions that it would take 45 days for a response.

45 days? South, have you met you?

Because I assume that a Homeowners Association are owners of homes associated with my geographic area and therefore know that the number of obstacles, natural disasters, suspicious fires, and shiny things that can derail a home maintenance project in the South are only outnumbered by the amount of cowboy boots and aspiring country singers at Tootsies on a Saturday night.

And before you think this is only limited my bad northerner luck, our neighborhood clubhouse holds a support group for grief-ridden residents mourning the loss of their deposits and souls to a driveway sealant company every Tuesday.

At the time of this publication, I face a dilemma. Do I listen to the proverbial angel on my shoulder telling me to submit the required paperwork, wait for the inevitable approval a month and half later and based on nothing in my history, experience or common sense hope that the contractor will still be in business, available and/or not incarcerated? Or does the devil’s advice of submitting the paperwork but going ahead with the project before the actual approval comes and risking nasty letters and possible fines from HOA win out?

I hear official stationary makes the best kindling on cool Southern nights.

 

*******

Fire-roasted, Marinated Red Peppers and Olives

(Adapted from the Viking Cooking School) vikingrange.com

2 large red peppers

3 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

5-6 oz. pitted olives such as kalamata

 

Vinaigrette (Use the extra on a salad or a dip for fresh bread)

 

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

!/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

1.) Char the red peppers by placing directly over an open flame such as an illegal outdoor fireplace or your gas stove burner.  Hold with tongs to blacken the entire surface then place into a bowl and tightly wrap with plastic. Let sit in wrapped bowl for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

2.) Peel away all of the skin off the peppers, remove core and seeds, and slice into thin strips. Arrange on small platter.

3.) Mix the first 6 vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Set aside.

4.) Pour half of the marinade over the peppers, rough chop the olives and mix in the remaining marinade. Layer olives over top peppers and sprinkle on capers. Serve at room temperature.

5.) Serve proudly at the next HOA Disciplinary Hearing.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry

I should just walk

The only sandwich you can eat in my car
The only sandwich you can eat in my car

After almost two decades along my journey through motherhood, I finally felt as if I’d grown out of the minivan phase and could log the remaining miles in a vehicle that wasn’t the mom jeans of the automobile industry.

It’s not that the van didn’t serve it’s purpose (of aging me 15 years) for a time when the kids were smaller, but it was time to move on and up to a more age-appropriate and respectable car.

Despite being born and raised in Detroit, purchasing a new vehicle is not one of my favorite things. I certainly like driving a nice car, but the procurement of said automobile is painful and tedious in my opinion. The negotiating process makes me want punch babies, so I have abandoned this task to my conflict-loving husband many years ago.

It’s worked out well until now.

On our recent new car purchase, my husband dutifully chose, negotiated and secured our family roadster. My only request was that it wasn’t a minivan, and all doors must open instead of slide sickeningly along a Cheeto-laden track. All that was left for me to do was drive in the old van for the trade-in assessment (which I had judged to be about 46 cents and a tetanus shot) and pick up the new car. I see now it was here when things took their turn down a dark path.

Conversation with salesperson as I waited an hour for appraisal on trade-in. (I can only assume it took this long to pry an old sippy cup from the dash board covering the VIN number.)

Me: So while I’m waiting, can we look at the car since I haven’t seen it yet?

Salesperson: We have to special order your car, we don’t have it here.

Me: That’s okay, I can look at something similar.

Salesperson: We really don’t have anything close to what you ordered on the lot.

Me: (Confused.) Um, okay. How about if I just look at a brochure?

Salesperson: (Looks nervous. Exits quickly.)

15 minutes later Salesperson returns not making eye contact.

Salesperson: I’m sorry, we have no brochures and I can’t even show you a depiction online because yours is so different that IT WOULD CONFUSE YOU.

At this moment I should have grabbed the keys to my old van, prayed the thimble of gas I left in it would have held me past the dealership driveway and returned immediately to the compound where Moms like me aren’t subjected to confusing things like paint and interior color differences.

But I didn’t. I guess I was indeed confused wondering why my husband had purchased a vehicle enrolled in the witness protection program and why my new car was as embarrassed to drive me as I was of my old one and it hadn’t even seen my jeans yet.

And while this was annoying, insulting, asinine and unacceptable; IT WASN’T A MINIVAN and therefore worth the humiliation.

And ultimately my personal safety, because before I had time to preset my radio to the folk music and NPR stations, I had to make an emergency return to the dealership when I noticed a slight problem with the brakes: I had none.

Driving into the dealership service department:

Me: (Shaking)This brand new car has no brakes. I can’t believe I made it here alive.

Salesperson: You probably have the emergency brake on–new cars take some getting used to and this one’s got a little more power than your van.

Me: The emergency brake is indeed on now because I had to apply it in order not to mow down the customers in your showroom because I HAVE NO BRAKES.

Salesperson: (Condescendingly.) I’m sure it’s user error. Why don’t you go into the lounge and have a glass of sweet tea while the mechanics look at it.

Salesperson returns 15 minutes later. Looks nervous, avoids eye contact.

Salesperson: Well, it looks like there are no brake cylinders in that car of yours. They all have to be replaced.

Me: How does that happen?

Salesperson: Not real sure–should never have passed inspection. Regardless, it’s unsafe to drive.

Me: No shit.

Salesperson: I’ll tell you what I’m going to do–I’m going to set you up in a rental free of charge while we order new parts.

Me: That’s the least you could do…

Salesperson: Let me put you into this nice minivan for the time being….

So it turns out I really wasn’t ready to put the minivan in my rearview mirror after all.

Salesperson: No shit.

**********

 

IMG_1778

 

The Best Roadtrip Steak Sandwich Ever

1 loaf of French Bread
1 nicely-sized flank steak
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 4 oz. package of goat cheese
arugula
olive oil, salt and pepper

1.) Grill flank steak seasoned with garlic salt or salt and pepper on the grill or grill pan on the stove about 6 minutes per side or until medium rare. Set aside to rest at least 15 minutes. Slice steak thinly on an angle against the grain.

2.) Cut French bread in half on an angle and then slice down the middle horizontally so you have two sandwiches. Drizzle the bottom bread slices with olive oil then lay the steak slices all along the bottom.

3.) On top of the steak, layer the peppers, goat cheese, and avocado. Top with arugula, and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Replace top bread slice, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for a couple of hours to let the flavors develop, but not too long so the bread and arugula gets soggy.

4.) Pack in cooler and pass up every fast food joint on the interstate in your new or old car.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry

43 is the New 22. Or Something

There’s a certain inevitability on any given radio dial in the Year of Our Lord 2013, that at some point within a 3 minute time period, you will be subjected to a Taylor Swift song. Whether this entertains or tortures you is your business, but for me, it provided an unexpected birthday gift this year.

With just a little tweaking to her smash hit “22,” Taylor gets me. So, thanks, T-Swizzle for capturing exactly what it’s like to turn 42.

(Obviously sung to the tune of 22 )

It feels like a perfect night to pull up our hipsters
Way past our solar plexes uh uh uh uh
It feels like a perfect night for Pinterest at midnight
Errantly texting strangers uh uh uh uh
Yeahhhhh
We’re savvy spent clever and jaded at the same time
It’s miserable and premenopausal oh yeah
Tonight’s the night we forget about the laugh lines, it’s time uh uh

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 42
everything will be alright if you keep my wineglass full
You don’t know about me and I can’t remember you
but everything will be alright if we just keep Spanxing like we’re 42, 42

It seems like one of those nights
Outback’s too crowded too many school kids
It seems like one of those nights
We ditch the sitter and end up sleeping instead of eating
Yeahhhhhh

We’re savvy spent jaded and clever in the best way
It’s juvenile and geriatrical oh yeah
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the backaches
It’s time

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 42
Everything will be alright if you keep my wineglass full
You don’t know about me and I can’t remember you
Everything will be alright if we just keep Spanxing like we’re 42

After I spent an insane amount of time rewriting this simple song, I realized that I didn’t even turn 42 this year–I’m effing 43 which is such a 42 year old thing to do that I could have added another refrain.

So here’s some damn sugar and chocolate with booze in it.

Happy @#$% birthday to me.

************

22, 42....Tiramisu
22, 42….Tiramisu

 

Tiramisu for 22 at 42

3 eggs, separated
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup strong coffee (because who has a cup of espresso laying around?), divided
1 cup sugar, divided
1 T. brandy
2 T. Kahlua or coffee liqueur

1 1/2 packages of lady fingers
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. cocoa and/or shaved chocolate

(If you’re a normal cook and not a Food Network star, you probably only have 1 hand or stand mixer in your kitchen, so included are some hints for that.)

Beat egg yolks, 1 tablespoon coffee, 1/2 cup sugar until well combined. Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from mixing bowl and give the bowl a wash and final rinse in cold water.

Whip egg whites and a pinch of sugar until fairly stiff; gently fold into your mascarpone mixture, just until combined. Don’t over mix.

Rinse the mixing bowl out in cold water again, dry, and whip the heavy cream with the remaining scant half cup of sugar. (You can adjust the sugar here to taste, and add a teaspoon of vanilla if desired.) Set aside.

Mix the last of the coffee with the Kahlua or brandy in a shallow bowl. Dip a lady finger quickly, and then line the bottom and then the sides of a 13×9 glass dish or trifle bowl with the cookies. Layer half of the mascarpone mixture, sprinkle with cocoa, then repeat with a layer of dipped ladyfingers. After two layers of cookies, cheese and cocoa, top the top with the whipped cream and cocoa. Drizzle with some Kahlua if desired and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill 4-5 hours, but it’s best overnight.

Sing “Happy Birthday” (or any Taylor Swift song) loud and proud.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry