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Month: February 2009

Darla Stories

Darla Stories

A few more things I thought were funny….

Since several of you mentioned that this “needed” to go on the blog, I thought I’d share with you everything leading up to my visit with our vet today.

I should start by giving you the “back story”. It goes like this: Bill and I are not very handy people. My dad is handy, Bill’s dad is handy…but Bill and I, not so much. It’s like the “handy” gene just skipped right over us.

Once, when we attempted to go it on our own for a home repair, it did NOT go well. I had called my dad and told him that our kitchen disposal had stopped working. I could hear the motor TRYING to turn, but it didn’t move.

My dad, Mr. Fix-it himself, told me to take a broom handle and stick it in the drain. He said to try to turn it with the broom handle. (I should point out here that the broom handle was made of wood.)

I then decided it might help to give it a little kick start so I turned the disposal on while turning the blade with the broom handle. It was a BIG… a VERY, VERY BIG mistake. The next thing I know, wood shrapnel was flying everywhere, I was screaming “Oww, Oww, Owww” and Bill came running from another room thinking my entire hand was being eaten by the disposal.

For reasons I cannot explain, I didn’t take my hand off the broom handle to turn off the disposal. It felt (and looked) like the broom and I were in a blender being chopped up. It really kind of looked like I was being electrocuted. Bill flipped the switch off and checked to see if my hand was still attached. Upon seeing that it was, he said….”WHY on earth were you screaming “OWWW” when you weren’t hurt?” I told him very matter of factly that it was because I thought I was hurt…or was about to be anyway.

So now we have a stubby broom that makes me laugh every time I see it. Looks like a beaver got a hold of it.

After the trauma of that little “do-it-ourself” episode, we decided it would be better to hire professionals for our home repairs. And that’d be fine – if we actually needed the repairs. But for the most part, we didn’t really have to have them come.

You see, we:

*Once paid $75 for the air conditioner company to come check out our “broken” a/c only to have them tell us that we just needed to flip the breaker switch.

Lesson learned…or so we thought.

*Because a year or so later we paid another $75 for an electrician to come repair our dryer…only to tell us (AGAIN) that we just needed to flip the breaker.

*And when our disposal was making an awful noise…$60 to a plumber to walk in my house, stick his hand in the drain and pull out a nail.

So all of those experiences of paying people to do our home repairs should have prepared me for what happened this afternoon when I took our dog Looper to the vet. I was quite sure she had a very cancerous tumor on her foot. A large black bubble had been near her toenails for about a month and it looked AWFUL. Like really, really bad.

I put off taking her for weeks because I thought it might be the end of the road for my sweet 14 year old golden retreiver. But it finally got so bad that Bill said I had to take her to the vet. So today I went. I was prepared for whatever he told me, knowing that Bill had said he was not financing any heroic efforts to save the dog.

And when the vet saw the tumor he was shocked. Said it was one of the worst he’d seen. Asked how long it had been there. I turned my head to the wall because I didn’t want to see it as he was squeezing and poking it.

And then he asked somewhat trepidly….”Do any of your kids, by chance, have any sticky, ball-type candy?”

“Uhm, probably. Why?”

“Well, this is not a tumor….your dog has a big black peice of candy stuck between her toes.”

Nice. $51 for a pedicure for my dog.

The vet went on to say that in all of his years of being a vet (and he’s pretty old), he has never seen anything like that. (You should know, the “tumor” was located on her back paw…that is why Looper couldn’t reach it.)

I told the vet I wasn’t surprised – it’s just another Darla story.

Really…I did. Promise.

Really…I did. Promise.

OH Savannah. She kills me. And the truth of it is, she is so much like me it’s frightening.

She keeps forgetting to bring her homework home. She’ll swear up and down she put it in her backpack and when she finds it in her desk the next day at school she’ll go…”oh yeah right…I remember now, I left it here.”

Reminds me of the time Bill asked me, literally for months, if I had gotten my birth certificate since I would need it to get out of Grand Cayman Islands – our honeymoon destination.

I repeatedly assured him I would get it. I was very confident in fact. I just needed to tell my dad to get it out of the bank safety deposit box. How hard could that be?!?

Undoubtedly it was too much for me. Because, I kid you not, as we were driving away from our wedding reception…as we were embarking on our new life, full of optimism and exuberance, hope and love, Bill turned to me and said….”you got your birth certificate didn’t you?”

Have I mentioned before that I’m not detail oriented?

I mean the wedding was detailed enough but to remember the birth certificate on top of all that? And let me tell you…my “no” response did not go over well. Especially seeing how it was a Saturday night and our flight to the Caymans left on Sunday and there was no possibility of the bank opening for my forgetfulness. Great way to start a marriage, huh!

I’m almost surprised Bill didn’t ask for an annulment. And had he known he was signing up for many years of this type of behavior he may have considered it. But he didn’t (and I am VERY glad).

We made it into the Caymans, no problem, but they told us getting out would be next to impossible without a birth certificate. And quite frankly I had no problem extending our honeymoon to like forever in the Cayman Islands so I wasn’t that worried. Bill however probably got an ulcer.

And sure enough, on departure day…I was detained. Bill was “free to board the aircraft” and I, the bride of exactly one week, was told to go to a holding room. It was a no go. No birth certificate, no flight home.

I decided, one last time, to look in my purse….as if the birth certificate would magically appear….and it did not. But as I was laying out all the contents of my purse on the desk (I still can’t believe I somehow thought it would miraculously show up), I laid my Congressional ID badge on the table. I honestly didn’t even know it was in my purse. I had quit my job in DC about a month before but my security clearance had not expired. And I may not have had a birth certificate, but once he saw that ID with that clearance, I was free to fly the friendly skies.

And just as they announced…”last call”… I popped out of detention and told Bill we could go begin our lives…. together. He STILL shakes his head to this day that it just all somehow worked out.

So back to Savannah and her failure to remember to bring home her homework. I’ve called parents to get her spelling words before, but mostly I just let her get a mark because I’ve heard that suffering the consequences is the way they learn.

I do know it’s making an impression although the problem is not entirely resolved.

Today she was SO proud of herself. I asked her about her homework assignment, and with all the gusto and charisma of a polished politician, she began announcing….”OH YES Mama. I brought home my blue folder. I have it in my backpack. I’ll get it right now. I did remember. I brought it home.”

And then as she walked down the hall to get it, I heard her mumble…..”hopefully.”

And I wondered if somehow I’d cloned myself.

As promised…

As promised…

Here you go…this years recipe selections from the Hilltop Honeys. None of these are from me because, well…you all know my cooking stories.

Now this is true….one year I gave the “honeys” my cooking “find of the year” tip involving instant mashed potatoes. They just nodded politely and didn’t write anything down. Then a minute later Michelle exclaims…”My mom LOVES those potatoes”. Those girls couldn’t scribble it down fast enough. Same potatoes. Now granted, Michelle’s mom is a very impressive cook so I can see why they’d go with anything she says, but seriously…every now and again, you gotta trust a girl. And by the way…my tip: Idahoan potatoes. They are in a bag in the grocery store and they are good! I’m a Southern girl who likes real mashed potatoes but these are a pretty darn close substitute.

Just so you know, I did provide some bagels and a 2 pound bag of Twizzlers for the weekend because, well, nothing says girls weekend like a big bag of Twizzlers and some Diet Coke!!

The first thing I found on my bed when I arrived in Hilltop was a cute soup ladle with several soup recipes attached.

I would call it a weekend party favor but it said Merry Christmas on it with a red bow so I can’t. Michelle decided to forgo Christmas cards this year but I guess the guilt was too much for her and she put these Christmas treats together. And it’s all good because I’ve still got a Christmas tree sitting on my bookshelf that somehow escaped the whole Christmas pack up experience, so in a way I’m still celebrating. Anyway…it made for a very cute little gift so you might want to remember that next Christmas when you are looking for some cute teacher gifts (and make them a pot of the soup) or neighbors gifts, etc. She found the ladles at Walmart and I don’t think I’m supposed to tell this, but they were 97 cents. Paired with the cute bow…it’s a cute Christmas treat!

Michelle made the tomato soup for us…served along side one of her delish paninis. And, to steal a line from Rachel Ray, it was “Yum-o”.

Michelle’s Tomato Soup
2 (14-15 oz) cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
One 8 oz light cream cheese, cubed

Add salt (and sugar sometimes) to taste

Heat and blend with an immersion (Ok, my note, but who has one of those besides Michelle?!?) or in a regular (now you’re talking!) blender to desired smoothness. Doubles easily. For the panini’s, she used a sea salt ciabatta bread that was about the width of a slice of bacon. I say that because she added a slice onto the sandwich and it fit oh so nicely. In one of her….I just know all this because I’m a cooking show junkie tips… she said we didn’t need to butter the bread when serving it with the soup because it would make the bread crisper and yummier to dunk in the soup. (I don’t think she used the word dunk either, but you get the idea). She put Light Colby Jack and Provolone cheese on it and added in between the cheese a slice of the precooked microwave bacon, put it in her panini maker and we all declared it “very, very good.”
(Little tip from my mom…if you don’t have a panini maker, you could use your George Foreman grill. If you don’t have one of those…I don’t know, maybe you could just go buy a panini at Panera Bread)

We also snacked on a cake that ohhh, I could dream about. Another one of Michelle’s tips…they now make smaller sized Bundt cake pans so you can split this recipe between 2 pans and keep one for yourself and give another to, oh…I don’t know, maybe … me!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
1 devils food cake mix with pudding in the mix

1 (4 oz) chocolate instant pudding mix

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1 carton (8 oz) sour cream (Michelle says don’t use fat free and I trust any tip she gives!)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the cake mix, pudding mix, and sugar together with a wire whisk to remove lumps. Add oil, water, eggs and sour cream and eat until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour ingredients into a greased and floured bundt pan and cook for one hour at 350. Sprinkle with sugar on top when cool. *** (the recipe actually calls for a yellow cake mix, but Michelle, being the gourmet girl that she is, switched it to Devils food which I thought was masterful!)

And then lastly, for Saturday night dinner, Debra provided enchiladas. Debra is kind of known for her enchiladas so although I did not personally partake of these (remember, I left early), I’m sure they are good.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

1 can cr. chicken soup
1 small onion – finely chopped

10 oz. can cr. mushroom soup
1 bunch green onion tops chopped

7 oz. can chopped green chiles
3/4 lb. mont. jack cheese – grated

12 large flour tortillas
3/4 lb. cheddar cheese – grated

2 cups sour cream
5 chicken breasts

Cook 5 chicken breasts and chop. Combine soups, chiles, sour cream, onion, and portion of green onions. Mix cheese separately and add 1/2 to soup mixture. Measure 1 1/2 cups mixture and set aside. Add chopped chicken to remaining soup/filling mixture. Soften tortillas in microwave. Fill each tortilla with 3 T chicken mixture. Roll tightly and put in greased baking dish. Pour reserved mixture over top of tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, green onions, and a dash of paprika. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 for 30 – 45 minutes.

Now lastly is a recipe from Carol. She didn’t make this while we were there (not only were we stuffed with my Twizzlers and all, but remember she is negotiating a house deal and apparently there is a limit to what that girl can do!) She has given us the recipe in the past and it is really good – kind of her signature dish. We did order banana pudding as one of our (3!) desserts at the Leona General Store and we discussed how it compared with Carol’s. So since it was discussed, it deserves to be included.

2 large boxes instant vanilla pudding
4 cups milk

1 12oz carton Cool Whip (thawed)

3-4 large bananas
1 box vanilla wafers

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup sour cream

1 very large bowl or 2 smaller bowls

Mix pudding with milk. Fold in sour cream, vanilla and half of Cool Whip. Layer vanilla wafers in bowl. Cover wafers with slices of bananas. Add pudding mixture. Top with rest of Cool Whip and vanilla wafer crumbs. Chill . Serves 14-16.

Tune in next year for more recipes from the “Hilltop Honeys”.

Bon appetit everyone!

It’s Good in the Hood…

It’s Good in the Hood…

I have mentioned that our family joined a super nice gym last fall. Indoor soccer field, huge rock climbing wall, more granite (walls, counters, etc.) than you’d see on the Lowe’s display floor. I mean it is really nice. And they are very proud of their services.

So proud in fact, that they charge, what I think is a LOT of money, for anything additional….like a personal trainer for example.

We got one free session with our membership. I thought it was great. It was motivating, inspirational….soreness inducing. And when I asked how much that would cost to do on a regular basis, they told me each session was close to $100.oo.

“How often do people do it?”

“Most do it about 3 times a week.”

THREE times a week?!? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. We’re in a global recession and people are spending $1200 a month, on top of their fairly pricey memberships, to have someone watch them sweat?

“Oh yeah…lots of people do it.”

“Are they feeding (and buying braces for) four kids?”

“Maybe not.”

But still, I know it’s a good thing. They explained to me how they go to college to learn all those exercises with which they torture us. They “encourage” us to push harder. They guarantee results….and they need to be paid.

So after thinking about it for oh, about a second, I determined that personal training is just not in our budget.

But I have not lost hope. Oh no, I came up with a plan.

I refer to it as “ghetto training.”

Now I am no fitness expert, but I am happy to share my secret with you.

Here’s what you do:

You go to the gym and get on the treadmill.

Out of the corner of your eye, you watch the trainers torture the people who are forking over the cash.

Make a mental note and when they move on, you go and do what they just did. (ok, you might want to let just a little time pass so they don’t find you out, but you get the idea).

I’ve watched enough of these sessions to know that they always do 3 sets of 10. So, I go do 3 sets of 10.

I now have favorite trainers, favorite workout moves….I’ve even learned how to use that giant big ball (which I always thought would make for a killer game of kickball). Took a little getting used to balancing on that giant ball…especially with no trainer there to spot me…but I just thought of the money I was saving and pressed on.

Anyway…ghetto training is fun. I like being “undercover”. It’s all good.

I’m planning on continuing this workout routine…at least until I think someone starts to notice what I’m doing.

Then I’ll join a new gym.

Anyone know an agent?

Anyone know an agent?

I mentioned on Friday that I was going on a (for me) Girls “half-a-weekend”. For my friends Carol, Michelle and Debra it was a full weekend, but I came home early to watch Brittany play in her championship basketball game. She didn’t win, but as we told her…at least her team made it to the big game. I’m still trying to convince her dad (the assistant coach) of that though as I think he took the loss harder than she did. Anyway…it’s a trip I take each year with 3 of my very, very dear friends.

They are friends from Baylor and it would take me literally months of posts to explain to you all the ways we are connected. I always think it’s easier just to say we were college roommates although I never lived with any of them. (I do however wish that I had because Carol and Debra….I kid you not….made meatloaf in college. Yep, and homemade pies and stuff. I was over in my apartment having ramen noodles and they were actually using multiple ingredients and turning on the oven. I thought it was VERY impressive.)

Michelle was the one who introduced me to Bill. We say that we met in the back seat of a car but it’s not as racy as it sounds. Michelle was giving me a ride to church because I didn’t have a car. And when I got in the car, there was Bill. Michelle and I bonded our freshman year when we had a painfully boring English class together. To stay awake, we counted how many times our teacher said “uhm” during the hour and then compared notes after class. She is now the Julia Child of the bunch. Each year she brings us a culinary treat that seems to top the one from the year before. (This year it was all about her new panini maker. I’ll post a few recipes from the weekend once they send them to me…which may take a few days seeing as how they were not happy that I left early.)

Debra is the researcher of the group. I swear she knows more stuff about more things. She is super techno-literate. This year she even brought her brand spanking new…she took it right out of the box … Mac computer … and gave herself lessons while we visited. She kept asking me how to do things (since I’ve had my Mac now for over 6 months) and every time I had to say…”you’ll need to ask Caroline.” She has taught me phrases about computers like “migrating the data” which I just like to throw around in conversations to make people think I know a lot of stuff about computers. Really it’s just that I know Debra…and as I said, she just knows a lot about everything. Some of my favorite and most hilarious memories are with Debra and her husband Mark. We once traveled to New York City during the Christmas season. It was very, very fun even though Mark was sick and felt so bad he kept announcing to anyone who would listen….”My coat is SO heavy.” We still laugh about it. They lived just across the parking lot from us when we got married and so we often partook of Debra’s infamous hospitality. Looking back, those were probably some of the best meals Bill had in those days.

Carol is the organizer of the group. She actually helped me make the first meal I ever made for Bill. (And truth be told, I didn’t really make it…Carol made it and then left out the back door when Bill showed up. Carol was shocked to find – when she asked me for a knife to cut the chicken – that the only knife we had in our entire apartment was a regular ole knife that you would use to set the table. But we didn’t cook…so it wasn’t a problem for us. This example is one of the many that Bill cites in his “Darla totally misrepresented herself when we were dating” conversations – but I digress. Carol is a planner and probably accomplishes more in a morning than I do in an entire week. I’m not kidding. This year she and her husband were in the midst of buying a house while we were at Hilltop. A house that she had secured a loan for, made up flyers to help sell hers, printed out loads of contract information and filled them out…I mean seriously, she could teach the Energizer Bunny a thing or two.

We’re actually all very different but have so many threads of the same in us. I seriously LOVE these girls and look forward to any time I get to spend with them.

Michelle’s parents graciously let us use their home in Hilltop Lakes Resort each year. It’s about half way in between Dallas and Houston and since I’m coming from Houston and they are all coming from Dallas it works great! In honor of our trips location, we named ourselves the “Hilltop Honeys.” Sometimes I think that house should go on the list of national registered historic landmarks because it has so many memories for us. At the very least I think some big Hollywood agent should talk to us about a book or movie deal because I think it would make for a great storyline.

We have fallen into kind of a set routine or ritual if you will. We get there and are usually wearing makeup. We wear this on the first day only because we have discovered this fun restaurant in a nearby town called the Leona General Store. It’s where many of the locals go for a good steak on Friday nights, so we want to look nice and all. Plus we take our one (and usually only) picture of the weekend there and we have to look good for that. We may even overdress a little. I heard our waitress (we have the same one every year) telling someone she got new blue and white striped overalls for Valentines so I’m thinking we’re good in pretty much whatever we show up wearing.

We come home and put on our pajamas – which we typically wear most of the next day. Until a few years ago we wore them all the way until Sunday, but then we started feeling all guilty for being such slugs, so we added a walk into our routine. It’s a beautiful place known for having lots of deer, so we enjoy getting out of the house for a look around.

Every year, Bill asks me the same question when I get home. “What did you do?”

“We talked.”

“What else?”

“Just talked.” (I mean we eat, see a movie or two, exchange a recipe or 20, make lists of books we all want to read…but mostly we talk).

It blows Bills mind. He can’t imagine all that sitting and talking. And what kills him more is that the property has it’s own golf course. And to think it is sitting right there and we are just TALKING inside is really more than he can fathom.

It’s fine though. Works for us. A few times we’ve tried something different. When we turned 40 we went to Arizona to a really nice resort – figured we deserved it. Other than replacing the fire alarm battery (which mysteriously seems to go out almost every year WHILE we are there), it’s been pretty much a free ride in Hilltop. Another year we stayed in my parents condominium in Hot Springs, AR. While we were there we visited one of the spas on bathhouse row. My friends did not realize they really bathe you there and still have not fully recovered from the experience. But I know we all look forward to getting back to Hilltop.

We do talk a LOT. We laugh, we cry and we swap as many stories as we do recipes. We share each others joys and sorrows and each year I’m reminded of what good friends I have, what great memories we share and how fortunate I am to be included in their group.

And on our 40th birthday weekend, Carol gave us all shirts that read “What happens with the girlfriends, stays with the girlfriends.”

And when it comes to our Hilltop Honeys reunions that is true…..unless of course that Hollywood agent calls.


Sleep tight…

Sleep tight…

Tonight was Savannah’s weekly violin lesson. She was so excited because she got a new song that she has been chomping at the bit to begin playing.

The song is called “Perpetual Motion.”

I’m starting to think it’s my theme song. Kind of like a metaphor for my life.

It has no rests…no breaks whatsoever. It just goes and goes and goes….and goes. Quickly.

And as I listened I thought about my day. You know the drill….kids up, lunches packed, carpool, teach 75 students how to organize a speech, carpool again, 3 kids to gymnastics, 1 to violin, one to a church youth group function.

I am, what you would call “weary”.

Flat out tired. And right now, I have to keep going. Because just like that song, there isn’t a break in the music. And it’s going quickly.

This weekend there’ll be a girls weekend (which has been shortened for me to one night so it’s technically not a weekend), Brittany has a championship (yes, I said championship…you go girl!) basketball game, a team party, a play (Legally Blonde) downtown with Caroline, a youth retreat wrap up service, a 40th birthday party for a friend.

And yes, I know we are busy because we have made choices that cause us to be busy. And I’m not complaining. Just stating the obvious.

Maybe later tonight I’ll have Savannah play one of her earlier favorites…”Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Because when my kids were younger, that song would put them right to sleep.

And tonight…I’m quite sure it will work on me!!!

L’il Einstein

L’il Einstein

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know I am very proud of my boy. I think he is just like his dad, a “chip off the ole block” if you will. He’s sweet, kind, fun….and I’m adding to the list smart.

Because today I told him he needed to stop playing Webkinz all the time. I told him his brain was going to turn to mush.

A little later I heard him telling Savannah….”I can’t play Webkinz because I don’t want my brain to turn to mush. I want to keep it perfect.”

And then in a little lower voice….”so, uhm …. will you do it for me?”

He’s no dummy!

Big and Bad

Big and Bad

Most everyone has heard of the tragedy that happened in Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s family last Spring. One afternoon, one of his sons accidentally ran over and killed their adopted daughter, Maria. It was heartbreaking not only to read but to hear.

After some time, the Chapman family granted some interviews with the media. They described the situation and how it took place. Maria was life-flighted to Vanderbilt Hospital. Steven Curtis Chapman was backing down the driveway to go to meet his wife and Maria there. When he did, he rolled down the window and yelled at his son who had been driving the car…..his son who was clearly in emotional agony…..”It doesn’t matter what happens….you are still my son and I still love you.”

So many things about that make me want to bawl cry….but two things in particular. One, that in that very moment…one of absolute uncertainty, anxiety, helplessness, etc. he had the presence of mind to make such a wonderful statement to his son. But even more than that, it just seems that his words so clearly echo Christ’s words to us. The words ….”No matter what, you are still my child and I still love you.”

The parallel between what Steven Curtis Chapman said to his son and what Christ is always saying to us is this ….”it’s ok. It’s not too big that I can’t forgive it. It’s not so bad we can’t get through it….and I still love you.”

I know a lot of people who spend years trying to understand God’s grace and forgiveness. Thinking….”oh, this is too bad” or “you don’t know what I’ve done”.

But, just like Steven Curtis Chapman, he is saying..

“You are my child and I still love you.”

Darla Stories

Darla Stories

Well, since I was already highlighting my cooking impaired skills yesterday, I thought I’d share a few more of them today.

So here are…”A few more things I thought were funny….”.

Like the time when Bill and I were newlyweds. I thought it would be romantic to cook an Italian something together. So I bought the ingredients and we began to assemble manicotti. It called for a clove of garlic. I had never cooked with fresh garlic before and later learned the big thing is called a “pod”…..with several “cloves” inside. Not only did we spend an unbelieveable amount of time crushing all those garlic cloves…instead of the ONE the recipe called for, we also couldn’t eat a bite of it. It was AWFUL. And for DAYS, literally days, our hands REEKED of garlic.

Now I think it is so romantic to go to the Olive Garden.

And another time I made enchiladas and rice for some friends. Of course I bought the package of Spanish rice. Followed all the directions (I thought) and served the meal. They commented on the rice and I said…”well, it just seems so bland.” After they left and I was cleaning the kitchen, I found the seasoning packet which had not been added.

I think it’s bad when I can’t even get PACKAGED foods right!

Invited some other friends over and was going to grill burgers and have a hash brown casserole. Problem was, we bought the grill that morning….unassembled. There were only about a million parts for that grill and, we later learned, it needed a million and one because a very important peice was missing. Bill spent ALL day working on that grill only to have to go borrow some little hibachi thing from a neighbor just to cook the burgers.

And the hash brown casserole? I put it in the oven, set the timer for one hour and forgot about it. One hour later when the timer went off….realized I hadn’t turned the oven on.

We had hash browns for dessert that night.

And then…very early in our marriage, Bill’s parents brought one of their best couple friends down from Minnesota to visit us in Dallas. I really wanted to show them a good Texas bar-b-que…make them wish they lived right here in the Lone Star state. My friend gave me her recipe (which I had eaten at her house and it was delicious!). I made it…slow cooked it for 3 hours….thinking it was going to be the best thing any of us had ever put in our mouths.

And when I pulled it out of the oven? Shoe leather. It looked AND tasted like shoe leather. A-W-F-U-L.

When I called my friend to see what I did wrong, she said….”well you did cover it in foil, right?”

“HUH!?” No one said anything about foil.

Her response….”well I thought foil was just a given – everyone knows that”. For some folks maybe, but me….I need VERY specific instructions thankyouverymuch.

I have no idea why we didn’t just bag the meal and go out to eat, but we didn’t. And to my knowledge, our guests have never visited Texas again.

And the worst part … I live on a street with some major high achiever people. I once called my neighbor across the street to borrow some baking powder. She said…”Oh, mine is sitting out right here…we were just using it to build a volcano.” Felt like a total slacker mom that I was just baking some cookies. Granted she has a PhD in micro molecular biology (or some other big word like that) but seriously…they were just making a volcano!?!?

Another neighbor makes the most delicious bread you could ever put in your mouth. All homemade, all the time. I joke that she is probably down there growing and milling her wheat….it is really SO good.

And once I told both my neighbors that we could have a really cool neighborhood co-op. LeeAnn could teach the kids science, Jane could teach cooking (and she also sews great stuff too!) and home ec skills and then I realized….me…I got nothing.

So, I told them I’d love to do a co-op but that I had no valuable skills to really contribute. Nothing their kids would want to learn anyway….but they assured me that I could participate.

Recess at the Baerg house!

What’s for dinner?

What’s for dinner?

Rachel Ray I am not.

Martha Stewart, not her either.

I don’t spend much (ok, any) time watching the Food Network because it only discourages me. I would LOVE to cook like that…and my sister does, but I’m just not the kind that can look at my ingredients and think….what kind of meal would all this make? I think those meals in a bag at the grocery store are pure genius. Warm and serve…it’s all good.

But after some of the weekend food “mishaps”, I might need to step my cooking fare up a notch or twenty.

I really didn’t know how bad it had become until this weekend Jacob asked me….”Mom, could you get the recipe from the school cafeteria for their spaghetti. It is SO good.”

Now spaghetti is one thing I do make. Boil the noodles, open the Ragu…how hard is it? But when the school cafeteria is trumping your efforts….well that’s just humiliating.

I did once tell Savannah that they were having terriyaki chicken bites in the cafeteria and asked if she wanted to buy or bring her lunch. Upon mentioning what the cafeteria was serving she began to rub her stomach, her eyes got really wide and she kept saying…”yummy, YUMMY!” (that should have been my first clue things were going downhill!)

So either the school cafeteria has really improved their fare or I need to start watching the food network. Because that is one of the things you really want to do as a mom, right? Feed your family healthy, warm, delicious meals. It shouldn’t be THAT hard.

Unfortunately last week, I made a meal that looked like this:

Burned to a crisp those pork chops. You know it’s bad when your husband says…”I want to take a picture…I’ve never seen a pan burned like that.”

And later in the week when I was making Brownies for a Valentines party, I had to position Savannah to stand underneath the smoke alarm.

(this picture is not staged, I literally had her stand there every time I opened the oven. I later learned there was so much smoke involved because something had dripped onto the bottom of the oven – which I may have known to check had I been a faithful cooking show follower!)

And then one of the kids…I can’t remember which one (I’ve blocked it from my mind!) muttered this…

“It was perfect until you pulled something out of the oven.”

So, if you are trying to reach me today….I may be too involved in the Food network programming to answer….

Or maybe I’ll just go get a few more of those heat and serve meals…

Cause hey…my family is hungry and seeing how it’s President’s Day, the school cafeteria is closed!