Oh, what we must go through to buy some groceries

Deep thinkers throughout the ages have devoted themselves to solving the mysteries of life.  Where are these guys when you are trying to find your car keys?

Anxious moments are spent looking on top of the fridge and in drawers (stopping to put the cap on the toothpaste and straightening pictures on the wall) then finally all hopes exhausted, there they lay…inside a sweaty tennis shoe, under a pile of wet towels in the the laundry basket.

As usual I was in my typical morning panic.  There was nothing in the pantry to make a decent kid’s lunch.  So I had to cleverly create with the half-wrapped saltines way in the back.  I slapped them together with honey.  I sequestered all the loose grapes in the bottom of the fruit bowl and threw them in a baggy.  Thank goodness there was a string cheese stuck in the corner of the fridge light bulb and a lone pickle in the pickle jar.  No drink.  Do you think she will mind?

Who am I kidding?  I will hear about this rotten lunch for days.  There is no more dragging my feet.  I have got to buy some groceries.

It was of no comfort to me whatsoever knowing that I had found my car keys only to have misplaced the grocery store coupon book.  Without it, I knew the consequences: looking around each isle cautiously, as an on-slaught of little red tags attached to all the items I need that day wag their tongues at me chanting, “What a dim bulb you are for missing all these exceptional savings.”

I dropped everything and took a deep breath and tore through the house.  I couldn’t leave without it.

Twenty minutes later I finally arrive at the store.  Grabbing a cart (which by the fourth aisle is a third full of groceries)the wheel wobbles and squeaks.  (Why me?  I always get the bent fork at dinner, too.)  I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered what a luxury it was to shop without children.

It is downright expensive to grocery shop with that toddler strapped to the front of the cart.

Your mind is trying to decipher a mathematical equation “Is the two for $5 a good deal?” when out yells, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom. Now.”

After three turns down the isle you have noticed 17 items, “sticky fingers” has flung in the cart, a headache and a broken vinegar bottle you left in the last aisle.  You spend more time picking them up and putting them back in the cart than shopping.  You end the whining and get the cookie, only to have them take one bite and fling it.

It was bad enough that they insisted on wearing the Halloween cape they have had on every day for 40 days and nights and the Burger King crown. By the time you get to the check-out stand, your hair is standing on end and you have spend the entire month’s budget.

Call it woman’s intuition, but I’ve never trusted the grocery clerk who is chewing gum and wants to talk about everything you’re buying.

“Hmmm, I see were having pork chops tonight,”they say knowingly.  They tilt their head and accusingly ask if you’re going to have those canned cherries for dessert, too.  Or, they hand you the candy bar with a little wink and say, “Bet you want this now.”

‘Ohhh, nooo,”you say, “Throw it in the sack.”  Even though it is the only thing you have thought clearly about all day- but the heck if you’re going to let this squirrely guy know that.

Or the box boy who thinks he can stuff your $100 groceries all into one bag, and is proud of it.

But my personal favorite is the guy who picks up the perfect peach you spent 10 minutes checking for bruises, and rolls it down the counter as you watch it bang against the wall.  Then the box boy picks it up, throws it in the air and slam dunks it into the grocery sack and whole time they are talking to each other about that lousy clerk who takes too many breaks.

You know life is out of control when your only form of entertainment is to find the longest line and speed read every magazine in sight, hoping the clerk doesn’t pick you to start a new line so you can finish that article on Jean Claude Van Damme.  Or when you see a magazine you would love to have and suddenly realize that you do and it has been sitting on the coffee table for a week and you have never opened it.

For a reason I can never understand, I always get the box boy who walks out behind me pushing my loaded cart, and when I reach my car I turn around and he is across the parking lot following another woman.

But I know we agree, the best part is getting them home and finding someone else to take them out of the car!

Oh, by the way, since school is out early tomorrow, maybe when the kids come home we should have an extra special lunch, considering…

A GREAT KIDS LUNCH

This crunchy stir-fry is easy to put together.

1-1/2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

1 -10-oz package frozen stir-fry vegetables

1/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1  3-oz can chow mein noodles

Mix in saucepan chicken, vegetables, water and ginger.  Stir.

Set pan on medium-high heat.  Cook till bubbly.  Cover. Turn to low heat cook five minutes.

In bowl, put orange juice and cornstarch.  Stir.  Stir juice mixture into chicken mixture.  Cook and stir till thick and bubbly.  Then cook and stir for two minutes more.

For each serving, arrange one quarter of the chow mein noodles on each plate.  Spoon the chicken mixture over the noodles.  Makes four servings.

 

Remodeling project can complicate life in kitchen

My shoulders sagged, my mouth was drawn and tears filled my eyes. I sat cowering in the corner of my airline seat.  I would be gone only three days visiting a relative, but the car was barely out of the driveway when my husband announced his plans.

“What are you going to do with yourself?” I lovingly asked my husband, as he drove the car.

Coughing slightly, he whispered. “Move the washer and dryer out of the kitchen.”

My head jerked up and my eyes flashed widely. “What!  Oh no, don’t start any remodeling projects while I’m gone,” I pleaded.

But I knew it was too late.  The look was there.  As I sat in my airline seat I envision what was going to happen.

I suppose I have myself to blame.  If I hadn’t been so vocal about the fact that some fool who designed the house put the most used appliance (the washer and dryer) in a 58 3/4-inch space inside a closet!  In the kitchen?

May that person be cursed with a bread board on top of their silverware drawer.

You see, for years I had struggled with this dilemma.  Dragging the dirty laundry down the hall, squeezing it into the washer with naturally no place to put it after the dryer cycle but on the kitchen table.

Did this architect just assume that the kitchen table would be empty? Architect, you are either naive on the subject of living space or think that games, toys, bills, mails, keys and fondue forks have drawers with their names on them.

Naturally, on my busiest of laundry days the doorbell rings.  I tiptoe to the curtain, peek through, and there stands Aunt Mable and Aunt Violet who have never been to my home and I haven’t seen in two years.

You know darn well that they won’t stop at ringing the bell, they will be turning the door knob next.  Of course, they will give you the obligatory “Don’t worry about your messy house, dear, we just came to see you”as their eyes roam wildly about in fright.

Desperately I swooped the laundry off the table after kicking the table contents under the floor mat.  I race down the hall and fling the laundry onto my bed.

They don’t leave until 11:30 p.m that night.  Somehow, managing to keep them out of the bedroom, exhausted I collapse.  Too tired to fold the laundry I gently roll them on to the floor where they mingle and mate with dirty clothes and I realized the next day to my dismay I have to start the entire process again.

But now the problem had worsened.  My husband, the world’s handiest handyman- Not!- was tired of hearing the whining and had decided to do his favorite project – FORMICA.  This man learned how to apply Formica on toilet partitions during a part-time job in college.  He has had the fever ever since.  We have in a lovely array of colors, a Formica coffee table, sewing table, chest of drawers, closet door and TV trays.  I have no idea what wood looks like.

I had an inkling that by removing the washer and dryer would leave a large (well 58 3/4- inch gap) in our kitchen.  What does this mean? I will tell you what it means.  A total kitchen remodel!

Lucky you say? Huh.  I don’t think I will be seeing Granite counters and oak cabinets.  Oh no, it will be FORMICA.

CROCKPOT DINNER  Cooks all day while your husband destroys your kitchen into no-man’s land. You need a Crockpot.  Remodeling?  Get one soon.

2 lbs. stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup flour

1 – 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1-1/2 cups beef broth

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leave

1 tsp. paprika

4 carrots, sliced

3 potatoes, diced

2 onions, chopped

1 stalk celery, sliced

Place stew meat in Crockpot.  Mix flour, salt and pepper, pour over meat; stir to coat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Cover and cook on low 10 to 12 hours

Merry Christmas!

     ‘Twas the night before Christmas,

When wrapping gifts in the spare bedroom,

Mom and Dad were sitting in a puddle of ribbon, paper, and warranties.

By midnight it was plain to see, that they were getting cranky.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

 In hopes that Santa would soon be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

With flashlights and blueprint’s to catch Santa, danced in their sleepy heads.

And Mommy in her bathrobe, tape stuck on her nose and I in my ski jacket, raced out into the cold.

The easy-to-assemble dinosaur diorama (with 99 parts and one -soon to find out-missing) in the car I went to pluck.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I hit my head on the trunk, like to see, what was the matter.

Away to the street I flew like a flash.

Tore open my jogging pants and fell across the grass.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a luster of midday to our roof’s clogged gutter.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleight and eight tiny reindeer,

With a lump in my throat and noticing a beaming light in the kid’s room I ran like crazy and tumbled into the living room.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!  To the top of the porch!  To the top of the wall! Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

I gasped for air and calmed my jitters,

By laying under the Christmas tree glitter.

It was a shiny silver aluminum tree,

With red and green strobe lights sitting below, that twirled and danced and splashed all over me.

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof.

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew out my head, from under the tree,

Down the chimney, Santa came to greet me.

Tarnished with ashes and soot, he was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf.

With a bundle of toys, he had flung on his back, he gave me a lecture on yearly chimney cleaning, sighting a danger, that was sitting there brewing.

We talked of life and what the last year had brought,

I told him we paid off the freezer and tried to be good.

He paused and drank the glass of milk,

And ate the plateful of cookies the children had left.

He went straight to his work,

Filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.

With a wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,

He spotted the bowl sitting by the fireplace ledge.

I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

My wife’s homemade carmel corn had glistened from the bowl.

One bite and with a shout of glee,

He asked for the recipe, please.

7 quarts popped corn

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white Karo syrup

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

l teaspoon vanilla

Boil the brown sugar, Karo, butter and salt for five minutes.  Remove from heat and add soda and vanilla.  Pour over the popcorn and mix well.  Pour into cookie sheets and bake in a 250 degree oven for one hour.  Stir several times during baking.  Delicious!

 

Search for the perfect tree for Christmas

It’s a pleasant, wet and rainy day, and I am standing in a semicircle of approximately 133 “you cut ’em” Christmas trees.

My husband is running with a sawblade in his left hand, a blue tarp in his right hand, and a translucent look in his eyes.  Evidently, he has spotted yet another tree that might meet his specific conditions.

My 7-year old daughter is lying on the ground at my feet, moaning deliriously that she is “tree sick.”  Her tiny limp body is lying quietly as she explains that after rows and rows of trees she can no long muster the energy to walk another step.

I don’t know about you, but when I go to ‘cut’em” I don’t waste a lot of time. I stride briskly to the most attractive tree standing and shout, “Here!”

Your professional Christmas tree cutter (husband), on the other hand, does not even think about cutting until he has conducted a complete tree study of the site-circling the selected tree warily, as though it were an alien space-ship, checking it out from every possible angle, squatting and squinting, finger in the air checking the wind, feeling the needles, analyzing the distance from the road to the truck, back to the tree…

And so, amid an atmosphere of unbearable tension, comparable to not being able to find your car keys when you are already late to that very important meeting, my daughter and I wait, and wait, and wait.

By now our daughter is trying to make snow angels in the mud and I am unbelievably letting her.  I see other families in the tree farm.  They’re staring intently at trees way off in the distance, but I think they’re staring at us.  We have been here so long.

I think about grabbing my daughter’s hand and pulling her up to her feet and taking her down the hill for our third cup of hot cider and her second candy cane, but too late, she has been entertaining the crowds by holding her breath as she runs up and down the tree rows.

The more time that passed with virtually nothing happening, the more excited I got about that cider.  I started down the hill when suddenly I heard a loud, long, whopping yelp that I recognized as my husband.

I turned to see him stand up, wipe tree pitch off his hands, and in a voice that would have made a gold digger stop, announced, “This …is the tree.”

There it stood in all of its glory-all 14 feet of it.

“That’s too big,” I said.

“Not so,” he said. “I will trim off the bottom.  You’ll see.”

“Don’t you remember last year?” I asked.  “It was too big, you did not trim enough.”

“Did so.”

“Did not.”

“Did so.

“Did not.”

“Did.”

“Not!”

Like anything else, success depends on the proper tools, so in the back of our truck is an assortment of many saws, blue tarps, gloves, rope and any necessity to fall Paul Bunyan’s tree.

“Quick, run back to the truck and pick out the yellowed handled two blade milliliter saw.  Oh, and by the way, grab me a cider,” he says with a big smile.

Rolling my eyes back in my head and shrugging my shoulders, I approached the tree surgeon punched him in the arm where he pretended to be knocked into the fir tree, and I headed to the car trying to consider the many, many complex factors involved in the “you cut ’em tree man.

This is, after all, a once a year experience.  And this tree-prepare to experience a heart tremor- was home cut.  How were we going to get it in the truck, let alone through the front door?  At least when I finally do get home I can make a nice hot cup of:

HOT SPICY APPLE CIDER

6 cups apple cider, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 1 can (2-1/2 cups) unsweetened pineapple juice.

Heat cider and cinnamon stick in a large pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered 5 minutes longer.

SIMPLY DELICIOUS EGGNOG

1 egg, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup chilled milk, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat egg and sugar together.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Serve cold in a tall glass sprinkled lightly with nutmeg.  Serve immediately

Note:  This column was published in Sandra Haldeman Martz of Papier-Mache Press, anthology “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”.  Where I was welcomed by two different Barnes & Noble bookstores that held a booksigning and reading. 

 

 

 

 

Hello world!

Back before microwaves and MTV (remember records?) there was a newlywed who thought she knew the whole kit and kaboodle of life.  She lived in Georgia surrounded by strange places and new faces. Her job at the local paper was to write obituaries, weather and TV highlights.

When the Family page editor’s pregnancy left an opening, she found herself writing a daily food column, which she crowned “Overdone and Undercooked,” the title coming from her unique newlywed cooking skills.

Back before yuppies (where did earthshoes and psychedelic painted vans go?), there was a married woman.  Motivated by the curriculum of her new college town, she surrounded herself in exams, parties, philosophy, parties and midnight snacks. The local paper was thrilled to run the new, “Overdone and Undercooked” that had recipes for beer bread and advice on how to feed a crowd of 50.

That is when she ran into an incredible phenomenon-sell all your wordly possessions and travel till your money runs out.

Back before “state of the art” and “Let’s do lunch,” there was a wife who ate her way through Mexico, half the U.S. and 18 European countries.  By Venice when the gondola started to tip precariously, and all the swimwear had shrunk in Mexico, she returned home and ventured that wearing all the culinary classics on one’s hips would never start a new trend.

But it did turn “Overdone and Undercooked” into a gastronomical gourmet event. (And she became addicted to eating and showed no signs of breaking the habit.)

After a decade of marriage, she was used to him being messy and he was used to her being chunky. Next came pregnancy and motherhood.

Before motherhood, she had told her best friend that the friend was raising her three sons all wrong.  She would never ever feed her kids Lucky Charms, or give ’em a nuki (pacifier), use plastic diapers, or forget to pick them up at school.  Now, tears welled in her eyes as the new mom fell to her knees and grabbed her best friend by the ankles, begging for forgiveness.

Back before our little town became a city, she was still living in her bathrobe, no makeup and picking up last year’s tinsel, when something life-changing happen.  The door slammed. It was 8 a.m. Silence. Her daughter started grade school. “Now,” her husband patted her shoulder, “you can come work for me.”  So, for the first time in six years, she grew fingernails, shaved her legs and finished a complete sentence uninterrupted.  The first client that was rude, she told them she was going to count to three.

Back before our town had a six lane freeway, the wife/mom/head chef/bottle washer saw her little baby had turned into a pre-adolescent, with a very busy social life and a request- that Mom’s name not appear on any more volunteer lists.  As she watched her child learn basketball and the tuba, she realized that there was a happy, healthy child and it was time…

She went to her closet and pulled out the special trunk, and in there she dusted off her ole friend. She realized that she knew squat about the kit and kaboodle of life, but she had become a better cook!  And she had something she hadn’t had in a while-time.  And tremendous energy and enthusiasm,for a desire to share with the world the joys and enjoyment of the pleasures of the table.

“Overdone and Undercooked” is a joy to share with you, my new friends.  Old columns, new thoughts and a recipe or two.

And since you always remember that sweet little baby this is a great recipe for new mom’s.  The women of today is an inteligent consumer.  She is concerned with value and nutrition and many have shunned the preservative ingredients of canned baby food.  That’s why I always enjoyed easy to make and serve Food Cubes.  Don’t laugh! These are the best way to serve your baby fresh food.  You heat and eat. And just need a blender.

Try this great recipe today:

Meal in One Food Cube      1 cup cooked poultry, meat or fish; 2/3 cup vegetables or fruit, raw or cooked; 1/2 cup cooked rice, noodles or cereal; 1 cup (or less) liquid cooking water from vegetables or fruit juice.

Place liquid in blender.  Add other ingredients. Puree to desired consistency.  Freeze in food cubes (ice cube tray) at once. Can be kept frozen for 1-4 months. Equals three cups, 15 food cubes or 4-5 meals.