Category Archives: entertaining

God Hates Me

And frankly, right now, the feeling is mutual.

Picture 5Ugh. Even Sons Of Anarchy aren’t dulling the panic. I’m going to bed. Where I will finally not have to contemplate the prospect of two months of work wasted when we get rained out on Saturday.

I’ve got nothing else. Pray for a miracle. I know I am.

Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.

To Done, 10-15-13

Ah, Tuesday. My half day “off.”

  • Dropped MJ at school.
  • Went to car wash.
  • Returned a phone call while waiting for car to be cleaned. Counseled a girlfriend on boy troubles.
  • Drove to Target, still on phone. Continued talking to friend while  looking for stuff for MJ’s space-themed birthday party on Sunday. Uttered phrases like “some mens’ brains really are in their dicks” while perusing the kids’ paper products. Found nothing. Left with cotton balls, candy for the pinata I hadn’t yet purchased, and streamers.
  • Went to Michael’s to return a huge bag of wrong stuff Mike bought for the party. Planned on buying more wrong stuff, but the clerk wouldnt let me return because I didn’t have Mike’s Amex. Spoke angrily to her. Told her I would never shop there again. Knew I was lying. Still, to save face had to leave without making any purchases. Decided to send Mike tomorrow.
  • Dropped suit at dry cleaners.
  • Did a shop at Fresh and Easy, worried the whole time about pinata candy melting in car.  Noticed giant lumpy pumpkins for sale. Got one for MJ. Also bought four bags of groceries, several cases of juice boxes for party, toilet paper, and various kiddie snacks.
  • Raced everything home, unloaded car. Put groceries in fridge. Put candy in fridge. Put toilet paper in bathroom. Lugged lumpy pumpkin to front steps. Worried it would die in the sun. Wondered if it was actually alive. Left it.
  • Changed sheets on our bed
  • Changed sheets on MJ’s bed.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Raced back down hill to nail appointment.
  • Read entire September 3rd edition of New Yorker while getting mani pedi.
  • Went with still-wet nails to bakery to order MJ’s birthday cake. Tried to find solar-system-themed decoration. No luck. Ended up ordering a Transformers cake without the action figures. All that will remain is a partial, fuzzy picture of an unnamed planet. I will supply additional decorations myself. From where, I don’t know. Probably Michael’s.
  • Drove to party supply store to reserve tables. Far more expensive than last year. For a “low key” gathering, this thing is starting to break the bank. Looked for a rocket ship pinata. Nothing close. Sales clerk suggested I buy an R2D2  and cut the legs off. WTF? Left.
  • Went to another party store. It had tons of pinatas, all of them star-shaped with media characters on sides. Contemplated the saturation of corporate branding in kids’ products. Contemplated painting over a Barbie face to make a plain star. Contemplated suicide. Left empty-handed.
  • Picked up MJ, who was grouchy and tired.
  • Brought her home, showed her new pumpkin. Was informed it was the “wrong kind.”
  • Wondered if pumpkins are returnable.
  • Walked dog.
  • Brought in trash bins.
  • Switched laundry.
  • Fed animals.
  • Made dinner.
  • Got MJ ready for bed. Consoled her when she found out I have to work tomorrow and cried for half an hour.
  • Put her down.
  • Straightened house.
  • Wrote post.
  • Considered going back to work full-time.

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Loaf Lost

If we were a restaurant, we’d have been shut down by the health department today.

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Yes, it’s a meatloaf. Don’t laugh.

That’s the final version. There was an earlier incarnation, which tasted mystifyingly raw inside, even though it had cooked for an hour and a half. I ate a small slice, and got so freaked out I fed the rest to the dog. It was creamy, like polenta. I don’t know much, but I know meatloaf isn’t supposed to have the “mouth feel” of creme brulee.

So I put the remaining half back in the oven. Because Mike would need dinner, too, when he got home. And I was not feeding him turkey pap.

An hour later I remembered to get it out.

“What did you do to it?” Mike said, when he saw it.

I shook my head. “I don’t know, exactly.”

“Oh, well. I’m sure it’ll taste great,” he said, in that game way people do when they know they are about to step off of a culinary cliff.

Later, after he’d eaten all of it–good man!–we talked about what had gone wrong.

“It just wouldn’t cook,” I insisted. “It was in there forever. It tasted like oatmeal. And then it got burnt.”

“Was the oven temperature right?” Mike asked.

“Yes.”

He shook his head. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.” There was a pause. “Did you follow the recipe?”

“Yes,” I snapped, rolling my eyes exasperatedly. Then I thought about it. I’d used a bit more ketchup than was called for. And a bit less meat.

I mentioned this.

“How much more ketchup?”

I counted in my head. “Maybe four times?”

His eyes widened.

“It was a mistake!” I stammered. “I read the recipe wrong. And then I forgot–and I had to–anyway. Maybe five times. Do you think that could’ve been the problem?”

“It’s a lot of extra liquid.”

I cocked my head. “Ketchup is a liquid?”

He ignored this. “Of course it tasted creamy. It was soaked.”

Whatever. What’s done is done. But I’m renewing my vow–first made after the Mark Bittman chicken debacle two years ago–to never again cook a recipe that calls for a meat thermometer. It’s not worth the pain, the humiliation, or the attendant mild nausea.

As for our home-restaurant? The one Myra-Jean is now calling “Food?” We will simply go vegetarian. Or vegan. Or better yet, raw. I suspect I have a knack for that.

Reservations, anyone?

Stabbed In the Book

To add insult to injury, I’ve been betrayed by my book club.

After months of reading excellent choices, all of which resulted in at least slightly substantive conversations–OK, when we weren’t talking about dolphin rape, sea sponge tampons, and the like–we’re now reading something so dim, unappealing and insipid I’m  embarrassed to admit what it is.

A hint: Annie Hall.

Yes, it’s the Diane Keaton biography. I can’t even remember the name. “This Is It?” “What Have You?” “Nevermind?” No, that’s the Nirvana album. Honestly. Am I going to have to lug myself out of this chair to go get it? Is the name really that forgettable?

Sigh. I’ll be right back.

“Then Again.”

Look, I don’t mean to be unkind. I’m aware of google alerts, and I don’t want Ms. Keaton to be offended if she stumbles upon this post. But on the other hand? I think she’ll have to be. Because I so don’t want to read this thing. Here’s how much: I happen to own a copy, because my mother read it a year or two ago and insisted on leaving it with me when she flew home. I told her the only thing I would use it for was kindling. That I’d rather be cut up with a pizza roller than read a single page. That if it was the last book in the world I’d gouge my eyes out rather than–

“Read it,” she interrupted. “It’s about her mother. It’s cute.”

Cute is something I like in my bunnies, not my books. I’m not going to cuddle with the thing. I’m not going to tickle it under the chin. I’m going to read it.

Sadly.

Because I am reading it. I read everything my book club chooses. It’s Pavlovian at this point. But man, am I pissed about it. Every time I pick it up and see Keaton lying there on the cover, her legs up the wall like some yogi on her cycle, I just want to puke. Instead I curse and curse.

This is not what book clubs are for. Give me Catherine the Great. Give me Cleopatra. Give me Henrietta Lacks, even, who was only heroic by virtue of how sick she was. Just please. Don’t give me kindling.

We may need it if the gas gets switched off.

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Along Party Lines

Note to self: tres leches cake? Not a good choice for a three-year old birthday party. The kids will pick at it, lick one piece tentatively, and walk away disconsolately. You will feel like a selfish beast for choosing a confection that the adults find delectable, but the children think is repugnant.

Other that that? I’d have to say that MJ’s do was a great success. Thank God for friends who are crafty, kind and willing to show up indecently early on a Sunday morning to help set up. Thank God for their husbands, who have even less reason than they do to be so generous. Thank God for weather forecasts that don’t come true. Thank God for public parks. Because kid’s birthday parties? Expensive. Even if you do nothing but serve homemade food, have a grocery store cake the kids hate, and offer a silly craft from Michael’s. Thank God for ebay, where you can buy new/old Beanie Babies, (which — musty or not —  turned out to be the best idea ever for a party favor), insanely cheaply. Thank God for my mom, without whose extra helping hands Mike and I might’ve ended up in divorce court before the weekend was out. Just kidding, honey. Kind of…

And thank God for the day after the birthday party. Thank God for sleeping ’til 8, keeping your kid home from school, going to the Audubon Center with your mom and daughter to listen to the hawks, and feeling 100% satisfied with the celebration that is now, blissfully, receding in the rear view mirror of your life.