Cookie Mom: Tour II

“Perhaps it was because I had never been a Girl Scout. I guess we couldn’t afford the fancy Brownie uniform so my mom enrolled us into the lesser-known, knock-off Campfire Girls. Instead of selling the famous cookie, our fundraiser came in the form of kindling and matches. It wasn’t nearly as successful, especially in the dry season. But that was back in the wild 70’s when our palm oil wasn’t sustainable.”

—Me, a year ago after being asked to be the Girl Scout Cookie Mom

This year, I am that haggard woman at the end of a bar telling cookie war stories over a full ashtray and an empty glass. I begin each tale with a dismissive scoff at the newbie moms who just saddled up gushing on about their huge troop order and how many booth sale locations they were able to secure.

“Heh. Good luck with that store. The manager says you can be inside but really makes you set up on the edge of the parking lot and won’t make change,” I say as I lean back on my barstool which is decorated with a personalized SitUpon.

They smile nervously. “We were told that was one of the best locations.” They order wine-spritzers.

“Ha!” I rasp. “They tell all the greenhorns that. I bet you over-ordered your Trefoils, too.”

“Three cases—the suggested amount from the manual.”

“Manual? I should have known. I hope you like shortbread because you’re going to be dunking those in your tapioca pudding at the old folks home.”

Rattled, they press on. “What about the other varieties? What about the Thank U Berry Munch number?”

“Let me give you some advice, Sister. Never call them by their full names. They’re Tags, Sams, DSD’s. Only rookies call them by their Christian names.”

“No one has told us this before.”

“Yeah, and they won’t. See this patch? It’s for running a booth in a freak snowstorm. This one here? Getting out all of my scouts unharmed when there was a run on milk and bread in said snowstorm.”

“Wow, that is impressive. Did your sales increase?”

Taking a long drag off my whiskey glass. “I told everyone going in that a Thin Mint had as much potassium as a bunch of bananas.” I wave away a flashback. “I’m not proud of that.”

Quietly, their gaze falls upon my left hand. “Is that where you got that scar?”

“This one? Nah. Posterboard cut in a particularly competitive sign year.”

They shudder. “We’re hoping to really kill them with our sign. I saw on Pin—”

“If you finish that sentence with anything other than, ‘guide for proper sash placement’, we are going to fight.”

They do not speak for several minutes. “Sounds like you’ve seen it all. Mind if I ask how long you’ve been the Cookie Mom?”

I set down my drink on a woven potholder that now serves as a coaster. “This is my second year.”

Visibly shaken, they exchange horrified glances. They see my unkempt hair, crazy eye and involuntary twitching. No doubt they hear my incoherent mumbling about the net weight of a box of Savannah Smiles and wonder if they too, are on this same sad path. As they throw a bill down on the bar, I call after them pointing to my well-decorated adult vest, “You see this patch here? That’s a badge for being tough.”

I drain the last of my whiskey. “I haven’t earned the Smart Cookie patch, yet.”

Smiling an exhausted grin I hoarsely whisper to the empty room. “But you just did when you didn’t look back after walking out that door.”

©2014 Tracey Henry

For a cooking with cookies recipe, see Dulce le leche and strawberry ice cream cake.

And if you need any cookies this year and buy from someone else, we are going to have to fight.

Redneck Rink of Dreams

Last week armed only with a garden hose, an expired bug fogger and a Polar Vortex, my husband constructed the Redneck Rink of Dreams.

I readily admit that I was the Flo to his Andy Capp the night he came home and decided to flood our back patio to make an ice rink for the kids. I didn’t think that the retention wall made out of old logs and bean bags from the corn hole game would work. I didn’t think the pebble-studded aggregate was a particularly conducive surface in which to make a smooth base for a sheet of ice. I didn’t think his choice of equipment—a can of Off! spray attached a garden hose would create the effect he was going for. And I certainly had my doubts when we didn’t have a hot showers for three days and his “ice crew” consisted of the dog and a Swiffer.

Backyard ice crew

But I think he, too, doubted his plans at times. Perhaps at 2 am when the Titanic iceberg formed as the outside spigot froze. Or maybe again at 6 am when he decided to use the closest thawed water source—the hot water heater—to run the hose from through the house out the back door creating a cold front in our basement so bitter that Jim Cantore named it Elsa. And maybe he wavered again 20 minutes later when he heard rushing water after the hose had melted off the hot water heater valve. And perhaps the panicked text, “Buy 100 ft hose on your way home. And salve. Don’t ask,” was also a sign that things weren’t going as planned. And maybe second thoughts creeped in after he emptied the wet vac in his suit outside that his tie stood at 90 degree angle with frozen cobwebs and dust bunnies attached.

Wrist guards required

His confidence certainly wouldn’t have been buoyed when he stenciled an NHL logo with permanent paint that may or may not have bled slightly into the actual patio beneath promising a new level of spring cleanup. Or when instructing the boys on how to layer the ice in his absence included a screw driver, an oven mitt, and a Don’t Tell Your Mother speech. And when the local news stations ran story after story about the unseasonably frigid temperatures and how to stay safe and warm in the dangerous weather conditions, his habit of standing outside in his pajamas and flap hat like Cousin Eddie couldn’t have been reassuring. And certainly the complaints stuffing our mailbox from neighbors, the Homeowner’s Association and our insurance agent could not have been misconstrued as letters of support.

But Mother Nature must have had her curiosity piqued because she gave us a window just long and cold enough to make it work. And so for two nights last week a bunch of Southern kids got to do what we northerners do every weekend from November to March: play hockey outside. They strapped on their skates, picked up their sticks, and played. Neighbors came. Friends stopped by. They slid, slipped and slopped along the smoothest sheet of glass this side of the Mason-Dixon complete with graphics and overhead lighting so the game could go on all night.

And just like the movie, “If you build it, they will come.”

Even if instead of old baseball players it’s the water authority and higher homeowner’s insurance premiums.

Tennessee Outdoor Classic

©2014 Tracey Henry

2014

My one and only post for January, 2014 is a revision of my New Year’s resolutions since the year is off to a shaky start.

1.) Post daily. Post weekly. Turn on the computer.

2.) Be the best Room Mom ever. Try not to piss off the whole class. Try not to piss of the whole school. Get out alive.

3.) Be the best Cookie Mom ever. Try to make the initial orders with no errors. Try to make the initial orders with as few errors as possible. Try not to be the cause of the biggest Thin Mint drought in Middle Tennessee history. Get out alive.

4.) Lose 10 pounds. Lose 5 pounds. Don’t gain 20 pounds from screwing up Girl Scout Cookie order and having to hide excess inventory.

5.) Get better at letting the birds fly a little farther from the nest. Stop freaking out when the birds fly farther from the nest. Build a bigger nest.

There, I feel better now. How’s the year treating you so far?

 

©2014 Tracey Henry

A holiday with a Twist

This is a post from way back in 2006 on what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

My sister called me early last Saturday morning.

“What’s up, Sister Diva?” I asked.

She heaved a sigh before answering.

“It’s German Twist Day.”

We both genuflected.

I spoke quickly, knowing we didn’t have much time.

“Do you have all of your supplies? Your equipment, ingredients, Thermos of coffee and Red Bull? Did you get a sitter arranged? What about bodily function needs? I.V.’s? Catheters? Have you cross-checked your astrological charts? Tea leaves? Is the humidity level okay up there for baking? Barometric pressure? Have all the planets aligned? Are you sure this is German Twist Day??”

She assured me of her adequate preparations; we wept together, I wished her Godspeed, and then she hung up to continue the marathon day of baking. I haven’t heard from her since.

“German Twists” are my family’s culinary legacy. Not just a Christmas cookie, but an epicurean DNA test. You must successfully bake these yuletide morsels in order for our last name to be included on your birth certificate.

The German Twist is no ordinary drop cookie. It is made with yeast; so it is a living, breathing organism, and one does not “bake” it; one gives birth to it. Or at least that’s what it feels like after 14 hours of laborious work it takes to create a batch. And the dough is quite colic-y–it must be coddled, tended and loved incessantly. It must be gently rocked to sleep after its bottom has been powdered with flour.

The other challenge to the German Twist is not only must you be an executive pastry chef to execute it, but you must also be a mind reader and a translator fluent in little old lady because this is the recipe from my great-grandmother that you have to work from:

Not exactly copy written by Bon Appetit. It’s like listing instructions for open heart surgery as: 1 patient, 1 scalpel, a needle and thread; Anesthetize and pray for the best.

I almost decided not to bake the cookies this year. I justified it by telling myself I was pregnant and supposed to be taking it easy, so maybe a 4 day vigil in front of the oven with a Petri dish of chemicals and lead gloves wasn’t prudent. Slice and bakes would have to be on the dessert menu this Christmas.

But then I got a call from my 90 year old Grandfather. For the first time in 20 years, we will be spending Christmas Day together, something that we did every single one of my childhood. He and my grandmother, my Aunt and Uncle, my sister and parents would gather for Christmas Day and after opening too many presents, we would sit down to a feast. My Mom would have made a roast beef–something she was particularly good at–and my Gram and Aunt would have brought their obligatory dishes so that every course was filled with meaning and tradition. We even made some new ones along the way. But no matter what, a plate of German Twists would be there, as well as a colorful commentary on how this year’s batch turned out. Gram would laugh that we all still poured over that yellowing index card like the Rosetta Stone trying to decipher her mother’s handwriting, and we’d laugh that hers looked exactly like it. Over the years, we tried to perfect our technique, but after decades of rising, kneading, and rising again, we determined that the German Twist–like life–is not a science but an art and recipes are merely guidelines, not insurance for what comes out of the oven. The secret is always in the spices.

Some year’s efforts were better than others, but they were always something I looked forward to making with my family and then serving proudly on a poinsettia plate that my Grandmother made in a ceramics class with “1956” scrawled in that same illegible handwriting on the back.

When the alarm went off this morning at 4am and I crawled from beneath the pile of children and dogs that were my blankets this December morning, my husband asked, “SD, what are you doing up? It’s not even close to 11 yet.”

“German Twist Day,” I answered groggily.

“Godspeed,” he said, understanding.

And that’s what makes Christmas–and life–so delicious. Feasting on memories while serving up new ones.

©2006 Tracey Henry

Detailed recipe to follow….

The rest of the tree story

Please read Part 1 of this sad story to fully grasp the significance of the attached report.

Nashville, TN–After an unclear series of tragic events, Leroy “Tree” Brown–family Christmas tree of Suburban Diva–took its own life in the early hours of December 3rd, sources confirm today.

While not described as “beloved,” (berated, beguiled and belittled perhaps) the tree was a short-lived resident of the Diva home. Neighbors say they assumed it had arrived the previous weekend when the family returned from an outing in a flurry of pine needles and some sort of flying insect mass. That was the last they heard from the family until authorities arrived Tuesday.

“They were always a strange family during the holidays,” said Gladys Kravitz, who owns the house next door. “Lots of tacky lights, inflatable Jesus’, that sort of thing. So we really didn’t think much when they moved in the White House Christmas Tree into their living room. The bug thing was odd, but for Easter last year they petitioned to dye the community pool red for a redneck-Moses to part the seas, so I just figured the plague of locusts were cast members to a live manger or something.” She added, “We really don’t question their odd holiday decorating habits anymore.”

Mrs. Kravitz went on to explain the events of that fateful night.

“Abner and I were dead asleep when all of a sudden we heard a tremendous crash followed by some foul language from next door. We ran outside and saw in their window the tree that was there just a few hours before had fallen and a few dozen woodland creatures were running out the front door. Mr. Diva was in his pajamas shouting something about that was the last time he bought a bleeping Christmas tree from a bleeping hippie hemp farm and that they were just lucky it didn’t fall in the other direction because it would have been a tragedy if his bleeping beer pallet Bethlehem diorama had broken. Mrs. Diva just said the only tragedy was his pajamas and poured herself another glass of wine. It was kind of a normal Tuesday night around there.”

The family could not be reached for comment.

Go home, Tree, you're drunk.
Go home, Tree, you’re drunk.

Authorities confirm that suicide was the apparent cause of death, but defensive wounds on Mrs. Diva, their children and dog were noted in the police report. The tree stand also met its demise in the incident, but has been exonerated. No charges are expected with the exception of a Visa bill for the purchase of a replacement tree, six strands of multi-colored lights, and a dozen or so new ornaments. Unfortunately, an autopsy was not performed before the wood chipper dealt with the remains. They were scattered in a bed of pansies on consecrated ground, property records show.

Private funeral services were already held in the driveway–a sort of “happy dance” and a ritualistic house cleansing performed by a shaman of unknown origin. A family spokesperson said in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to the Terminex trust fund and a nice bottle of Scotch for the Kravitz’.

©2013 Tracey Henry

O (No) Christmas Tree

This year we had it in our minds that we would forego the corner Christmas tree lot, and make a trip out to a tree farm where we would make some yuletide family memories with a chainsaw and some rope.

We packed up the kids, headed northwest a couple of hours until we found a tree farm that promised some sort of forestry-approved, reasonably environmentally-responsible trees.

Upon pulling in, we noticed the trees didn’t resemble the ones we typically spent way too much on for being cut sometime around Labor Day and bundled in cold storage until their branches petrified–these were of a softer, gentler needle. Sort of like feather dusters. Or deadly anemones.

We were greeted by the owner of the farm who explained their practices and the way things were done–4 fields of different varieties of trees that would be cut by their staff when we chose one, replaced by more several more when it left. She handed us a color-coded price sheet which my husband and I exchanged looks of shock–the largest tree was literally hundreds less than what we have paid in years past.

This is when things started heading south–much as where we should have gone to the nearest Target for an artificial tree.

Because they were an organic farm, no pesticides were used. (Good!) Instead, they relied on more “natural” methods. (Also good.) She held out a small brown ball that looked like a cross between a pine cone and a hazelnut. It was an egg sack from the praying mantises that lived here and they were all over the trees doing what they do. (Good, I guess.) They would be removed from the tree when we bought it, but in case any were missed we should remove them ourselves. (Wait, what?) And if we all missed any egg sacks, not to worry, they would hatch and die after about two days. (Oh, hell no.) But not to worry still, “they don’t bite.”

The kids were thrilled, we were horrified, but trudged on nonetheless. The trees were of a much different variety than what would be considered “traditional Christmas.” They were of varying sizes–from 6 inches to 600 feet. We tried to find something in the middle that wasn’t already decorated with squirrels, birds’ nests, bee hives and of course, large egg sacks–but those naturally unadorned trees were tough to come by. “I think we have to switch up our standards this year,” I said to my husband after about an hour. “How about just picking the least likely to kill us in our sleep,” he replied as the Lorax ran across our path.

Perhaps it was as simple as when choosing your own lobster from a tank and dinner seems less appetizing once you see it with rubber bands on its claws. Or maybe the tree just objected to being relocated from some sort of burial ground. Or maybe it was a curse from some very pissed off elves who couldn’t bake cookies there anymore; but some metaphysical phenomena happened on the way home with the Christmas tree.

I don’t know if much of the tree blew off the top of the car (along with dozens of bug larvae I hope) or if we bought it that way, but by the time we got it home and up half of the absolutely gigantic tree was gone. Literally 50% of the branches no longer had any needles on them. There was no “wall side” of the tree, there was “Oh God, what closet is big enough to hide that log pile in?” sides. Charlie Brown tree? This was the Buster Brown tree–it looked like someone had walked all over it in bad shoes. Or the Bobbi Brown tree that no amount of make-up could hide its hideousness. And perhaps more identifiable with Leroy Brown–it looked like a jigsaw puzzle with more than a couple of pieces gone.

I tried to polish the tur..ahem, tree, by putting lights on it. A lot more lights. Enough to blind on-lookers so they wouldn’t turn to stone. The good news was that the thing was still ginormous–plenty big enough for Santa to leave lots of presents under, like an industrial drum of sap remover and stronger eyeglass prescriptions. But I fear no amount of decorations are helping to disguise the tree’s physical and maybe even spiritual deficiencies. So far the reactions of the few that have lived to see it have been, “Your tree terrifies me.” And “It makes me sad,” “Bless your heart,” and “Mommy, did the tree just move by itself?” accompanied by tears. What started out as Yuletide fun has quickly deteriorated into a “Yule be sooorrryyy,” from a little ghost girl’s voice from inside the tree.

I pen this not only as a cautionary tale to I don’t know exactly what, but mostly because I’m home alone with the tree right now and want some written record of my existence. It’s already sucked up a few gallons of holy water, but I’m not sure that will prevent the spontaneous combustion that will most likely occur. I ask not for your pity or worry, just a request that if you are so inclined, please pray for me.

As I know the thousands of mantises I hear hatching in my living room are at this very minute.

Merry Chrissssssss…………..knsld’kfh’owefh’owIf……….

©2013 Tracey Henry

I'm surprised it allowed its image to be captured on film.
I’m surprised it allowed its image to be captured on film.

The Real Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner

As you complete your last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shopping today, you might find yourself in bewilderment over the recent released statistic that the average cost of the Thanksgiving meal for ten people is $49.04.

You may have some trouble reconciling your 8 foot long grocery receipt for a much larger amount with that very misleading number.

So for clarification for you and my husband, here is what the folks at the American Farm Bureau Federation say it costs compared to actual reality on the planet earth.

These 3 ingredients cost more than $49.04.
These 3 ingredients cost more than $49.04.

AFBF claim the average turkey cost: $21.76

Real Cost:

Turkey………$21.76
Peanut oil….$68
ER co-pay…$50
Replacement sod from under the fryer….$60
New Turkey cooked in oven….$38

Average potato cost: $2.99 per 5 lb bag (*Not listed on the survey because the AFBF is going low-carb this Thanksgiving I guess)

Real cost:

Potatoes……$2.99
extra peeler…$4.99
Band-Aids…..$1.99

Average cranberry sauce: .99

Real cost:

Can of jellied cranberries…. .99
Can of chunky………………… .99
Fresh cranberries……………. $2.42
Serving bowls for 8 different kinds of cranberries…… $58

Average cost of a box of stuffing: $2.67

Real cost:

Bread, sausage, onions, celery……$10
Therapy after public shaming for using boxed stuffing….$14,000

Average cost of 3 lbs of sweet potatoes: $3.36

Real cost:

Sweet potatoes……$3.36
Butter…………..$2.00
Sugar…………. .50
Marshmallows…..$1.50
Gym membership……..$39 per month

Average cost of 12 “Brown and Serve Rolls”: $2.18

Real Cost: $2.18 x 10 people because after product re-sizing the average size of 1 dinner roll is the same net weight as a crouton….$218.00

Average cost of 1/2 pint of whipping cream: $1.85

Real cost of whipping cream at gas station at 3:00 on Thanksgiving Day…$6.00

Average cost of a pound of green peas: $1.54

Real cost:

No one on the continental U.S. can get fresh peas in late November, so the cost of some other green vegetable like asparagus…..$4.99 per pound

Official Inquiry by Taxpayers as to what bizarre things the Farm Bureau eats on Thanksgiving with all of these peas and no mashed potatoes: $28 per household

Miscellaneous items not listed in the survey but real costs this Thursday nonetheless:

Pot of coffee………………$1.00
Pot of decaf……………….$1.00
Pot of “special 21+” brew……$3.50
Pepto-Bismol after eating boxed stuffing…………..$4.50
Dish soap to wash Thanksgiving dinner for 10….$1.69
Stain stick for Uncle Murray’s side of the tablecloth….$2.00
Extra batteries for the remote control to rewind the parade 10 times so everyone has had a chance to see the Snoopy float….$7
Antibiotics because that green-nosed nephew did in fact have Strep…$10 + Minute Clinic visit Thursday night

Total Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner for 10 in 2013….$14,710.23*

*Does not include my legal fees or retaliatory price-gouging for Thanksgiving 2014.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Thanksgiving Primer

With the big holiday only a mere week away, I present to you this friendly, albeit no-so-helpful, Thanksgiving Dinner Primer.

Turkey

This is the most over-thought protein in the world. There are built-in thermometers, specifically-crafted deep-fryers, brining bags the size of Samsonites and special 1-800 hotlines to cook the easiest part of the entire Thanksgiving meal. If you find yourself calling a hotline to tell you how to throw a bird in the oven and cook it until it’s 180 degrees, you’ve got bigger problems than Butterball can solve.

Gravy

Here’s where a hotline is actually needed because it’s the most complex component on the menu. Caller: Hello? My gravy is filled with lumps and the color of a cotton ball. Gravy expert: Sounds like you have enough flour in there to make about a dozen Parker House rolls. Please hold while I transfer you to the yeast hotline.

Potatoes

No matter how many pounds you bought, it’s not enough. Double, triple, square the amount you think is too much. Become Idaho. I’m talking enough starch to stiffen all the collars in Vatican City during Advent. Enough for all the sheets on Martha Stewart’s estates. So much that Dr. Atkins returns from the grave to make you a steak dinner. You must make all of the potatoes.

Relish tray

This is an often over-looked dish on the Thanksgiving table. That wonderful separated spread of gherkins, dill pickles and roasted peppers. You may be tempted to skip this item when you realize how many extra items you actually have to buy, but if someone isn’t trying to eat a turkey leg with ten black olives stuck on their fingers, it’s not really a family holiday.

Cranberry Sauce

I’m guessing that cranberry sauce has become an American Thanksgiving staple not insomuch from culinary tradition, but more to stave off bladder infections for women standing 12 hours in front of their stoves perfecting lump-less gravy with no bathroom breaks.

Stuffing

Now I don’t get all Chief Judging Judge and Miles StanJudgish on what people put in their Thanksgiving stuffing. Cornbread, white bread, apples, oysters–whatever you want is good by me. I can’t promise that I won’t get all Sally Salmonella on you if you cook it inside the bird instead of safely along side of it, however.

Sweet potatoes

You may not think that sweet potatoes are needed if you already have mashed potatoes, but you would be wrong. Again, it just wouldn’t be a proper family holiday without a bad Popeye “I yam what I yam” impression and a fist fight over marshmallows.

Root Vegetables

This is where the meal gets dicey, and I don’t mean how to cut the carrots. There are those among us that insist on weird objects like turnips, rutabaga and creamed onions. I have no frame of reference for these things. For me, they are not just foreign items on my holiday table, but from a different century. But I assume they pair nicely with mincemeat pie and aspics.

Pies

Speaking of pies, yes to all of them. Apple, pumpkin, pecan. It’s a little known historic fact that Native Americans gave the Pilgrims diabetes on the first Thanksgiving in return for that small pox favor.

Wine and other adult beverages

I like a nice Pinot Noir with my turkey, but by the time I get a meal cooked for 18 people with 77 different @#$#% side dishes to accommodate every guest’s personal Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, peeled my weight in potatoes, and snuck in six calls to the turkey hotline; I will drink white, red, or the moonshine I accidentally made when I tried to Sous-vide the creamed corn to save oven space.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

For Scott Garrett, a loving man who loved to laugh. We’ll miss you, Hazel.

Hazel

©2013 Tracey Henry

What a crock

Admittedly, my biggest kitchen failures usually come from a Crock pot.

If you forget about the first time I made Tiramisu without sugar or my passive-aggressive relationship with yeast, the Crock-pot is my next greatest culinary nemesis.

Oh, I do fine with chili, soups or beans because that’s what slow-cookers are made for–heating things together that love to hang out all day without any hopes of self-transformation from what goes in to begin with. It’s when I stray from this intended purpose and expect a hunk of meat, a can of soup and a tube of refrigerated biscuits to become Beef Wellington after 8 hours on my counter that I run into difficulty.

Such was the case this week when I saw a Crock-pot recipe for a cider-braised pork tenderloin in which I had all of the ingredients and didn’t have to go to the grocery store which already was a victory for me.

It called for a slather of honey mustard on the pork, then apple cider and cut fresh apples on top. I knew it was an incongruous and incomplete combination as I placed it all in there but I was so hopeful that I just replaced the lid and like Jane Jetson, waited for a complete and delicious meal to magically emerge even though utter crap just went in.

When we returned that evening, the house was supposed to smell all roasty, porky, and fall-y, but instead the aroma was more baby-foody with a hint of wet dog at a state fair. When I removed the lid, it looked pretty much like it did that morning except it was all one color and texture–wet, sad, beige and defeated.

Before calling for pizza, I tried a small bite to confirm what I already suspected by sight and smell.

Dry, flavorless, a little chewy with a fermented aftertaste; the familiar taste of another Crock-pot catastrophe.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is–other people cook fish in dishwashers and chicken in microwaves and maybe even bake bread in popcorn poppers for all I know–but for me cooking much in a slow cooker is Crock full of disaster.

©2013 Tracey Henry

A tree falls in Nashville

Last weekend in our backyard…

Me: The tree guy came and took down most of the dead trees in the backyard except for one. He said he would have to come back for that one with different equipment because it was too big.

My Husband: That one by the fence line? That’s no big deal, I can take that down myself.

Me: Uh, I’m pretty sure that the tree expert said it was a particularly difficult removal, so maybe we should leave it to him.

Him: And have him charge us a grand for something I can do with my car and a $5 towrope in an afternoon? No thanks.

Me: But we aren’t allowed to remove any trees without HOA approval that are over six inches in diameter.

Him: That’s close to six inches.

Me: That’s what all men say. Anyway, I really think it’s bigger than you think and too close to the fence.

2 hours later…

Him: I’ve got all of the equipment set.

Me: (Looking at the meager and inadequate supplies.) You have a reciprocating saw, a leather belt and a clothesline. You could probably take down a bonsai tree by Thanksgiving or dry a beach towel with that.

Him: Whatever. You obviously don’t know physics. If I cut it on this side, and anchor it here, and attach a come-along this way, it should fall right into this clearing, missing all structures.

Me: Come-along with me to county jail because if it falls a foot in any other direction it will take out the Opry radio tower. It’s seriously a big tree.

Him: Video killed the radio star, not an old tree with Dutch Elm disease. Let’s get started while no one is working in the community office, mkay?

Me: Fine, but only because you’ve already chipped away at both sides of this trunk like a cartoon beaver and we can’t leave it like that or it will come down on the next jogger with too loud of an iPod that comes down that walking path.

Him: Hopefully, they’ll be biking instead so they’ll be wearing helmets.

A few minutes later, my husband, son and a wide-eyed intern are pulling on different ropes on a tree so large that if it were non-deciduous would be in Rockefeller Center with Rockettes hanging from it. It teeters, shakes, and rocks back and forth until it finally falls at a 90 degree angle away from the intended spot, hitting the swing set before landing against another tree right in front of the new fireplace and patio.

Him: (Emerging from a dust cloud of sawdust, leaves and stray branches) WOOOHOOO! Did I break anything?

Me: (Surveying the impossibly lucky angle that the stupid tree fell against the steel bar of the play set and cradled against another tree while sparing the neighbors fence, the porch, my son’s head, and the Intern’s spirit) Just 46 HOA covenants.

Him: (High-fiving the boys.) 7 less than last weekend!

Me: And my writer’s block.

©2013 Tracey Henry