What’s for supper? Vol. 298: Pack of goons

It’s summer! Today is officially the first full day of summer vacation. The feeling I felt when I turned off the alarm before going to bed last night . . . well, it was a good feeling. 

We had a pretty hectic (although not as hectic as last week, which was HECCIN hectic) final week of school, with a field day, a birthday party invite, a trip to Six Flags, a graduation, and then a half day with a beach trip, so if you’re looking for elaborate recipes, turn back! We had a few decent warm-weather meals, though. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Baseball!

Damien took the kids to a colleague summer league baseball game

where I believe they had burgers, fries, popcorn, and Crackerjacks (not to mention balloon animals, glitter tattoos, slime with little treasures in it, pencils, stickers, and so on!).  Everyone at home (including me) just scrounged for dinner. I think I had restaurant leftovers. And very good they are, restaurant leftovers.

SUNDAY
Pizza

I spent most of Sunday decolonizing the front yard. There are two or three rhododendrons that have slowly been getting swallowed up by invasive oriental bittersweet, and I worry about it every time I see it, which is 426 times a day. So I finally snipped and chopped and dug and tore it all up, and the paid the girls to carry it all away on tarps and dump it in a part of the property I don’t care about. Gonna have to do it all again in a month or so, but the rhododendrons are looking around blearily, blinking in the sunlight, straightening their backs, and even gingerly putting out some new leaves at this late date, so I feel pretty good. 

Damien made some gorgeous pizzas while I worked. One pepperoni, one olive, one sausage and mushroom

and one fennel, onion, feta, and anchovy

If I remember correctly. Magnificent.

MONDAY
Strawberry chicken salad

One of my favorites. I broiled the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then cut it in to chunks. Served over mixed greens with toasted almonds, feta cheese, diced red onion, and sliced strawberries. 

I bought a special strawberry poppyseed dressing, but nobody could open the bottle, so I just had wine vinegar. 

TUESDAY
Chicken “enchilada” “bowls”

Some people start out with a vague idea for a meal and then, under the wizardry of their expert, uh, spatula, it blossoms into something ingeniously delectable. (I deliberately said “blossoms” even though we’re talking about food because that’s just how magical these people are.)
I, on the other hand, groaningly open up the supermarket website, see that chicken is on sale, and say to myself, “So . . . I guess. . . chicken, um, um, um . . . .chicken enchiladuuuuuhhhhhhhh . . .. . uh, chicken enchilada BOWL!” And I write that down, because it sounds like a thing. 

Then actual dinner time comes around, and I have nooo idea. I ended up de-boning some chicken breast and pan frying it in olive oil with lots of chili powder, cumin, and salt, and then kind of squonching it with a wooden spoon. So far so good. Then I diced up a shit ton of onions and fried them in the chicken pan. Also fine.

Then I got involved in this project where I am attaching hardware cloth to the inside of a garbage enclosure I built out of pallets to keep the raccoons away, and I was getting all sweaty, and there were a lot of flies, and I ran out of nails, and some of that wood is really hard, and I was thinking about the price of heating oil, and how my metabolism is changing, and other cheerful thoughts, and next thing you know, it was after 5:00. So I zip-zip made a pot of rice, re-heated the chicken and onions, opened up a couple of cans of tomatoes, found some sour cream that wasn’t frozen, dug out some bags of shredded cheese, chopped up some cilantro, and hurled it all in the direction of the dining room table.

It was then that I realized I had never even taken the cans of enchilada sauce out of the cabinet, much less combined the sauce with the chicken in any way. Hence: “enchilada” “bowls.”

My husband complimented this meal so repeatedly and earnestly that I’m afraid it must have been pretty bad. I was hungry, though (see: garbage enclosure raccoon pallets hammering), so it was fine. Kinda salty, though. 

WEDNESDAY
8th grade graduation!

Kids at home had chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs, and Damien and Lucy and I went to her 8th grade graduation, and then to Local Burger

which is as advertised. They certainly give you plenty of fries. We ate outside and saw a pretty good dog show on the sidewalk.

We also had ice cream at a place I suggested, which I variously called Boondoggle’s, Hasenpfeffer’s,  Hammacher Schlemmer, and Hamantaschen before they acknowledged they knew I was talking about Humdinger’s. I guess Boondoggle’s was semantically the closest, but it wasn’t very close. I think all ice cream places should just be called “That Ice Cream Place, You Know, The One With the Wooden Horse” or “That Ice Cream Place Where We Hit That Crazy Lady’s Car.” Just for clarity. My brain is not getting any more elastic, here. 

And so now we have SEVEN children who are high school aged or higher. Good grief.  When Irene was five, she told me, “You know, you go into my kindergarten cwass and fink, ‘What a wovewy bunch of kids.’ But you get to know them better, and they’re just a big pack of goons.”

 
I think about that a lot. Just a big pack of goons, all the way down. 
 

THURSDAY
Burgers, chips, carrots

Damien took the pack of goons to the beach and then made supper.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t even figure out how to make the photo above into a gif without exceeding the upload size of this site. I honestly don’t even know what it is I do around here. Just look pretty, I guess. 

FRIDAY
Spaghetti?

Damien is making supper. I must go curl my eyelashes now. 

Oh, speaking of pretty, here’s one final photo from that awards dinner last week. Don’t we look nice? That’s because we are nice! For a couple of goons. 

My dear graduates . . .

Graduates, as I look out over your bright, eager faces, my heart wells with emotion and a single phrase springs into my mind: Better you than me.

Gee, I would give anything to not be you right now. What a horrible time this is for you. I mean, think about it: You’re on the verge of starting a new life. The possibilities are endless—what the future holds is bounded only by the limits of your imagination. You can be anything you want to be, if you only believe in yourself. You can shoot for the stars!

I’m so, so sorry.

Because that’s what people have been telling you, right? Isn’t that what your guidance counselor said—that there are no limits to what you can achieve?

You know that’s crazy talk, right?

I mean that literally: Only people with a mental illness would truly believe that you can achieve anything. People who actually get things done are the people who look at themselves and say, “Okey-doke. There are some things I’m good at, and many thousands more things that I am and always will be utterly unqualified to do. Starting tomorrow, my job is do the least amount of thrashing around and wasting of my parent’s tuition money as possible, while I figure out the difference between my very few strengths and my billions of weaknesses.

“Then, I need to figure out if there’s any possible way I can do what it turns out I’m good at, and also be a decent human being. If possible, it would be wonderful if the things I’m good at, and which allow me to be decent, are also things which will earn me a salary.”

And after you have that conversation with yourself, and preferably after you come up with a better plan than scrawling “FIX LIFE” on your memo pad, then you can go out drinking with your buddies.

Because here’s the deal, you poor deluded masses of inchoate ambition: Freedom is for something. Freedom is so that you can get something done. Yes, it’s valuable and precious in itself—but it’s not a resting place. Having potential is like being hungry: You want to resolve that in some definite way. All the best things in life come when you tie yourself down in one way or another, when you accept some limitations.

Think about all the things that make life worth living—all the things that people you admire are proud of. A huge project achieved? They neglected other things—fun things!—to get it done.  A happy marriage? They forsook all others to remain faithful. A vocation of any kind? Saying Yes to one thing always means saying No to a dozen more. It doesn’t mean that all the rejected opportunities are bad. It just means that you’re only one person, and are here to do one person’s work.

This doesn’t mean you have to rush into it. There’s nothing especially admirable about going whole hog for the wrong thing (just ask the guy with the Betty Boop tattoo on his forehead). So take your time, look around, and don’t be rash. But for the love of mike, remember that this stage of your life is supposed to come to an end some day. Even if you never end up with a career at all, you will eventually have some huge choices to make.

Or you know what? You might not even get to make a choice: You might find yourself faced with some horrible situation, and guess who’s the only one who can fix it? That’s right, the guy in the mirror, the one who fell asleep in a trash can and his friend drew cat whiskers on his face with permanent markers. The lives of others may someday depend on you, Mr. Fluffy. Try to make at least some of your current behavior reflect that fact.

So congratulations, graduates! You did it. Some of you worked moderately hard to be here today, and I applaud you. Now go forth, act decent, call your mother from time to time. And remember, nobody’s life ever got better after drinking Jägermeister.

***

(A version of this post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011.)

Photo by beltramistudios via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My Dear Graduates

Akademische_Feier_accadis_Bad_Homburg

For some reason, nobody ever asks me to give the commencement address at their local high school or college. This despite the fact that I promised to wear pantyhose and everything, and to leave the bottle at home. Bunch of anti-Semites.

Anyway, I’m not one to be bitter. I’m not going to let this snubbing gnaw away at me. I’m just going to go ahead and write that speech anyway, and print out several copies of it, and keep them in the diaper bag in the car, next to the Luger PO8 and the farewell note. Because you never, never know!

Here’s what I have to say. Graduates, as I look out over your bright, eager faces, my heart wells with emotion and a single phrase springs into my mind: Better you than me.

Gee, I would give anything to not be you right now. What a horrible time this is for you. I mean, think about it: You’re on the verge of starting a new life. The possibilities are endless—what the future holds is bounded only by the limits of your imagination. You can be anything you want to be, if you only believe in yourself. You can shoot for the stars!

I’m so, so sorry.

Because that’s what people have been telling you, right? Isn’t that what your guidance counselor said—that there are no limits to what you can achieve?

You know that’s crazy talk, right?

I mean that literally: Only people with a mental illness would truly believe that you can achieve anything. People who actually get things done are the people who look at themselves and say, “Okey-doke. There are some things I’m good at, and many thousands more things that I am and always will be utterly unqualified to do. Starting tomorrow, my job is do the least amount of thrashing around and wasting of my parent’s tuition money as possible, while I figure out the difference between my very few strengths and my billions of weaknesses.

“Then, I need to figure out if there’s any possible way I can do what it turns out I’m good at, and also be a decent human being. If possible, it would be wonderful if the things I’m good at, and which allow me to be decent, are also things which will earn me a salary.”

And after you have that conversation with yourself, and preferably after you come up with a better plan than scrawling “FIX LIFE” on your memo pad, then you can go out drinking with your buddies.

Because here’s the deal, you poor deluded masses of inchoate ambition: Freedom is for something. Freedom is so that you can get something done. Yes, it’s valuable and precious in itself—but it’s not a resting place. Having potential is like being hungry: You want to resolve that in some definite way. All the best things in life come when you tie yourself down in one way or another, when you accept some limitations.

Think about all the things that make life worth living—all the things that people you admire are proud of. A huge project achieved? They neglected other things—fun things!—to get it done.  A happy marriage? They forsook all others to remain faithful. A vocation of any kind? Saying Yes to one thing always means saying No to a dozen more. It doesn’t mean that all the rejected opportunities are bad. It just means that you’re only one person, and are here to do one person’s work.

This doesn’t mean you have to rush into it. There’s nothing especially admirable about going whole hog for the wrong thing (just ask the guy with the Betty Boop tattoo on his forehead). So take your time, look around, and don’t be rash. But for the love of mike, remember that this stage of your life is supposed to come to an end some day. Even if you never end up with a career at all, you will eventually have some huge choices to make.

Or you know what? You might not even get to make a choice: You might find yourself faced with some horrible situation, and guess who’s the only one who can fix it? That’s right, the guy in the mirror, the one who fell asleep in a trash can and his friend drew cat whiskers on his face with permanent markers. The lives of others may someday depend on you, Mr. Fluffy. Try to make at least some of your current behavior reflect that fact.

So congratulations, graduates! You did it. Some of you worked moderately hard to be here today, and I applaud you. Now go forth, act decent, call your mother from time to time. And remember, nobody’s life ever got better after drinking a rum and Coke.

***

(This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011.)

Giveaway! The perfect gift for your graduate

Time for a little giveaway! My dear husband cleaned off the top of the refrigerator, and found five magnets like this:

 

go forth magnet

 

These sell pretty well around graduation time, so I thought I’d share my stock. To enter, use the Rafflecopter entry form below. The contest will be open until midnight on Saturday, or possibly Sunday. Well, just enter ASAP, I guess. Good luck! And call your mother!