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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Beast

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for chair and whip

When the five-year-old came home and said his class was having a Thanksgiving Feast, I thought he said Thanksgiving Beast. After attending the luncheon, I think we were both right. It was a Thanksgiving Feast for the Beasts.

I arrived early to help decorate the gym at the local church where the feast/beast was being held. The decorations were quite clever, hand prints of the children cut from construction paper and attached to birch branches stuck in a tin can weighted down with rocks. The tin can was then placed inside a paper sack with ribbon and raffia bows tied around it, straight out of Martha Stewart. Thanks goodness I wasn't asked to execute that design. Mine would have looked like sticks stuck in a can and no amount of ribbon or raffia would make it look cute or clever.

Each family brought a side dish or dessert for the feast. The super clever turkey cupcakes mentioned in my last blog took center stage on the dessert table even though I had shoved them over to the side as far as I could. I'm surprised the icing didn't melt considering all the flash cameras that were going off. Did I mention no one was taking pictures of my sombrero/pilgrim hat cookies?

At 11:30 the children arrived and practiced their songs in their "quiet practice" voice before all the parents arrived. When four more parents showed up they sang in their "loud performance" voice which wasn't any different from their "quiet" voice as far as I could tell. The window panes rattled both times.

After the song, the children in Pilgrim and Indian hats were released to their parents and the feasting began. I must say there are some very good cooks among the parents and grandparents of this kindergarten bunch; I'm not one of them but others are. The adults ate until they resembled the stuffed paper sack center pieces; the children pretended to eat until it was time to attack the dessert table.

The turkey cupcakes were gone in a flash and I noticed several of my pilgrim hats were gone. I was pleased until I noticed the kids who took them were gobbling down the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and tossing the cookie part.

Exactly fourteen minutes and ten seconds after the dessert onslaught, the sugar high hit and transformed the Pilgrim and Indian hat-wearing children into the Beasts. A re-enactment of Custer's Last Stand and every John Wayne Indian movie plus the entire Star Wars anthology was being staged on the gym floor. Pre-dessert sedate little Pilgrim girls were attempting to scalp Indians who were frantically making another pass at the now crownless Pilgrim hat cookies and any other dessert left on the table.

As the Thanksgiving Feast quickly morphed into the Thanksgiving Beast of Play, I sought out his teacher to see if I could take my beast home. Silly question! What kindergarten teacher in what's left of her right mind at this point would want to take a fructose supercharged five-year-old back to school and try to have class? "May I take my child home now?" I foolishly asked. His teacher stared at me blankly, and from somewhere deep in the abyss where an intelligent mind once thrived and actually took classes to become a kindergarten teacher came a raspy "Pleeeeeeease!" "Do I have to sign him out?" I queried. "Nooooooo, just goooooooo!" she whispered glassy eyed.

I loaded my "beast" into the car situating him in the back seat where I could utilize two seatbelt buckles to try and keep him from becoming airborne during the ride home. When we arrived home, I sent him immediately out to the trampoline with the hope that he didn't launch himself onto the roof. "How did you like our Thanksgiving Feast?" he yelled on the way up…or down…or both. "Well, I sure heard a lot of thanks being given as we left." I honestly said. "Yeah, it was a great Thanksgiving Feast," he bounced.

I would have sworn I heard him say "Yeah, I was great Thanksgiving beast." Either way, it was and he is!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Objects on Cookie Sheet are Worse than they Appear

cObjects on Cookie Sheet are Worse than They Appear

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved to purchase paper goods

My five-year-old is going to a new school so my reputation as a non-cook had not gotten there yet. That is the only logical reason I can think of for his teacher to ask me to make a dessert for their Thanksgiving Feast instead of asking me to bring paper plates and plastic forks.

It has been four years since the now nine-year-old's kindergarten Gingerbread House fiasco so I mistakenly thought I might have improved over time. I remembered some darling pilgrim's hat cookies a friend of mine had made for a school party so I asked her how she made them.

"Oh, they are so easy," she said which should have been my first clue that this was going to be a disaster. "Remember, I don't cook," I reminded her. "No problem, these cookies are already made so all you have to do is decorate them." That phrase "all you have to do" should have been my second clue.

I bought the fake cheap Keebler knock-off grasshopper cookies that were coated with chocolate icing on the back. That would be the brim of the pilgrim hat. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups would form the crown of the hat only she didn't tell me what size so I bought a package of the regular size and the snack size. Turns out it was the snack size so I ate the package of the regular size to keep my children from getting a sugar overload when they got home from school.

"Now to decorate, use your narrow icing tip, you've probably got that already, with white icing to form the headband around the hat. Use your narrow tip to form the buckle in white icing; then use the yellow to form the buckle. See soooo simple," she said as she was putting the finishing touches on the darling turkey cupcakes she was making for her daughter's class.

First, the only tips I have around the house are 1) Remember turn on the oven before cooking the frozen pizza, 2) Tuesday is 99 cent leg and thigh day at Popeye's, and 3) TV dinners are in the big freezer. I bought the white squirt icing with the attached tips and the Easy Squeeze yellow icing and began to assemble the hats.

Now, she never said to put the cookies and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the freezer first. Maybe she just assumed I would know that so by the time I had everything laid out on the cookie sheet the chocolate on the cookies and the peanut butter cups were starting to melt. By the time I glued the peanut butter cups (yes, I used icing) to the brim, the chocolate was sticking to my hands leaving bald spots on the hat crown.

I assembled the tip for the squirt white frosting and aimed it at the spot where the crown meets the brim and twirled the sticky cookie. That was supposed to look like a narrow white band according to my friend. My icing kind of exploded from the tube and resembled a white avalanche completely obliterating the crown. The next one resembled the south of the border influence if the Pilgrims had landed in Galveston. After several attempts, any good milliner would swear whoever put the hat bands on those hats was intoxicated. I wish!

"Just use a quick touch with your flat tip to form the buckle" was rattling in my brain as I steadied my hand for the super easy buckle decoration. My buckle was more of a blob. I gave up on the decorating tip and found a toothpick and sort of drug the extra icing from the headband up to form…something. I couldn't even come close to putting the yellow in the center of the buckle so I resorted to separating out the tiny yellow squares from the candy confetti I had thrown on some birthday cake sometime in the past.

After two hours I had twenty pilgrim hat cookies, sort of. I thought about telling my five-year-old's class that these hats were made by the Indians in their first attempt to assemble English fashion into their culture using native materials…leather, straw, rocks. I'm not sure they would buy it. I'm sure there will be a quick stop at Wal-Mart for already-decorated-cupcakes on my way to school tomorrow.

At least next year, I know I will be asked to supply the paper plates and plastic forks for any school party. I've already got a closet full!

I bough

Monday, November 15, 2010

Miranda L-a-a-a-a-mbert!

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for hearing aid


Admittedly, I have not attended many concerts. Ok, I've attended one, Ray Charles Live, when he was alive. My knowledge of country western music dates to the time when there was country music and there was western music. Dolly Partin and Porter Wagoner, in sequined costumes that would have made Liberace and Elton John opt for darker sunglasses, twanged their acoustic guitars and sang about Mama crying over her coffee while listening to the train taking her son to Folsom Prison. Not my favorite music genre.

However, when my nine-year-old promises to keep her room clean for a month, clean the kitchen every night, and do her homework without complaining if I would just take her to the Miranda Lambert Concert, it was a deal I couldn't refuse. The price of the tickets would have taken care of a full time housekeeper for a month, but it couldn't buy complaint free homework.

I know that country has crossed over to western but I didn't know they had both leaped to rock and roll. Guitars have become electrified, drums have expanded to the point where a trained octopus would have trouble keeping the beat(s), and fiddles were non-existent. A banjo and an electric slide guitar did make a brief appearance. As near as I could tell, with cotton in my ears, the lyrics still dealt with beer, whiskey, broken relationships, daddy's little girl, and friends.

What I wasn't expecting was that country/western/rock and roll had gone so high tech. There were at least four eighteen wheelers in the rear coliseum parking lot parked next to three motorhomes and about a dozen assorted trucks, vans, and cars. On stage first were four sixteen foot tall light towers, six platforms with speakers, and about eight banks of robotic lights with strobes. On either side of the stage was a rack holding six to ten electric guitars. What? Do the strings get hot with all that wattage flowing through it so they have to get a new guitar after every song? They don't know how to tune the one they have? They are sponsored by several guitar makers? For me, watching the roadies breakdown all that equipment, load it on to a hydraulic lift, and roll it down the alley way of the coliseum without crushing somebody was as entertaining as the pre-show singers.

The stage was essentially bare for Miranda Lambert except for a drum set, assorted guitars and four panels for projections. I wondered if there was a correlation between talent and the amount of special effects equipment needed. I did notice that on some songs the cell phones came out in force. Either they were videotaping the song, taking pictures, looking for the dropped package of corn nuts, or catching up on their e-mails. So I couldn't tell if they liked the song or not.

At 10:30 after noticing the nine-year-old had dozed off to sleep, we left. I told her the concert was just about over. No singer could keep up that pace for much longer. I learned later the concert lasted until midnight.

On the way home I asked what she thought about her first concert. "Well, it was long and loud. I think I would rather have the CD. Then I could listen to the songs I really liked over and over."

I got my kitchen cleaned, her bedroom cleaned for a month, complaint-free homework, and no desire to attend another concert. All in all, not a bad investment of time and money. Thanks, Miranda!



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Up and Decorated

By Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for annex tree

There are those who would say putting up your Christmas tree before December 1 is a no no. I, however, think no tree should go up before Halloween; the orange is just not a Christmasy color. November 1st is Christmas-Tree-Putting-up-Day at our house. It helps that now we have an artificial tree; before we had to keep watering the thing and sweeping up the needles. By Christmas Day our tree often looked like the one Charlie Brown and Snoopy had.

Tree-putting-up-day now starts with a family discussion on where the tree should be located this year. Placing the tree in different rooms and different places in the room helps us remember what year it was. When the children were younger you could tell the year by the placement and kinds of decorations. If we had a toddler in the house, all the decorations began about two feet up the tree. The next year, as the toddler would then be in the terrible-twos, the decorations moved up the tree two more feet. Later as the children grew and wanted to help, most of the decorations on the seven foot tree were concentrated in the middle with none at the top and only a few on the bottom (to allow for more presents).

This year with no toddlers, the tree will be in the living room between the two sofas. That decided the hunt was on as to where the tree was stored last year so it could be retrieved for this year's placement. I used to store everything in the hall closet. When Christmas decorations exceeded the size of the storage space, I stored everything in the upstairs bedroom; however, the rickety attic stairs made it difficult getting the bins and tree box down. Since my knees were more rickety than the stairs, last year some of the decorations were moved to the barn, some made it back to the hall closet, and others migrated up the rickety stairs again. It may be February before we find everything.

At first it was easy to put the artificial branches into the tree pole. Everything was color coded and there was a diagram as to where each color went. After a many years, the colors began to wear off the ends of the branches and the color coded diagram somehow got separated from most of the tree.

One year we fortified ourselves with plenty of eggnog before attempting to assemble what was basically a jigsaw puzzle tree. That year was easy to remember because our tree resembled one of those biological cross pollinated experiments gone bad, sort of a Bonsai topiary.

The next year we decided to forego the liquid refreshment and assemble the tree first. We measured each branch, retaped each with the appropriate color of tape and made several diagrams of the colored coded branches in order to assemble it into some semblance of a Christmas tree. Now we can actually start assembling the tree on November l and have it finished by November l… of the same year and have it look like a Christmas tree.

Putting our tree ornaments on the tree for us is more a trip down memory lane than any kind of thought out well planned HGTV Design-on-a-nickel aesthetically pleasing design statement. Fifty years of tree ornament collecting and eight children's school made ornaments have left no branch tip unadorned. Once I tried to cull some of the faded construction paper Santas, the Popsicle stick reindeers, and the plastic/paper mache apples, but the creators of said decorations declared it wouldn't really be Christmas without them on the tree.

Some of our adult children have set out on their own life's journey that doesn't always allow them to be home for Christmas so when I look at the tree and see their ornaments, I think of them and wish them a Merry Christmas across the miles. As the five-year-old and the nine-year-old continue to add their decorations, I'll just have to add an annex tree. No way will I leave off those memories for the future.