Happy Birthday…

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Celebrating Last Year (2011)

To the Most Patient

Nicest

Super Supportive (especially when it Only Makes Sense In My (Julia’s) Head)

Bestest Husband EVER!

I Love You!

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Celebrating 2009

(We have upgraded from backyard BBQ/ canned beers to Classy Girly restaurant/ fruity martinis in the past five years. I feel we have reached our pinnacle, though, and expect we have maxed out the classy factor.)
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Yay! Cake for Daddy's Birthday!

Aunt Judye Cake, AKA The Best Birthday EVER

My favorite meal is cake and champagne. (Marie Antoinette might have been on to something.) More specifically, Birthday Cake and champagne.  Birthday Cake is one of those universally uniting foods, like ice cream (outside of a lactose issue, if you don’t like ice cream I suspect you are a Communist) and Chardonnay (especially at family holidays). At birthday parties, the cake is the most exciting part, especially if the crowd is under five (having attended three birthday parties this weekend, I am well versed on this).  Even those who refuse a piece of cake inevitably sneak a bite or two.  I can’t think of another food that will send one into diabetic shock as quickly as the marriage of empty, sweet carbs (cake) and sugar glue (frosting). This, of course, is a main part of the appeal of birthday cake.

mail Aunt Judye Cake, AKA The Best Birthday EVER

At some point during our dating days (I remember those days—words like spontaneous, sleeping in, out to dinner, and well rested come to mind), I attended a birthday party for a relative of my husband.  The birthday cake BLEW MY MIND.  This cake reminded me of birthday cakes that were served at my birthday parties growing up. I have found that memories can grow better with time, sometimes becoming even better than the actual event.  This birthday cake lived up to the hype of long remembered cake from my youth. As this was early in our relationship, I drew upon my inner reserves of dignity, decorum, and cotillion manners so as to not cram that cake into my mouth as fast as possible and go back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths. It was difficult, and I give all the credit entirely to my mother. Try as I might, I could not get this cake out of my mind.  I worked up my courage, and I approached his mother to inquire about the recipe.  While she was thrilled I liked it, she said it was Aunt Judye’s recipe and she did not have access to that information. I eventually had to marry into the family to get the recipe (and you were so worth it, honey!). Aunt Judye even made a wedding cake for us using her top secret recipe.

 

alena cake Aunt Judye Cake, AKA The Best Birthday EVERArmed with the recipe, I set out to make new converts.  It wasn’t hard.  My girlfriends and I have a tradition of celebrating birthdays by having “lunch” at ridiculously cute and trendy girly cafes.  Every birthday girl got a birthday cake.  One of my best friends, who is a birthday cake connoisseur (if such thing exists. Outside of the under-five set at birthday parties, I have never seen anyone get so excited. It’s awesome!) She has declared mine “almost as good as Aunt Judye’s!” Naturally, every family birthday party we have, I make sure to cut a piece for Alena and stick it in the freezer. Last time my father came to visit, he saw the “Alena Stash” and demanded to get in on the action. (Daddy and Alena: please come visit. My freezer is full!)

 

Mike Bday Aunt Judye Cake, AKA The Best Birthday EVERWhile I have gotten the cake part down, I struggle with the frosting. (Frosting goes on cakes. Icing is a glaze.)  OF COURSE Aunt Judye is amazing at frosting.  Roses? Amateur Hour. Fancy script? Of course.  Multiple tiers with fancy pants decorations on the side? She’s got that. I, however, am the proud creator of the World’s Ugliest Cakes.  Even sprinkles, sparkles, and multiple attempts at script in multiple colors cannot distract from the leaning, frosting-mixed-with-crumbles, and uneven cakes I produce. Thank Goodness they live up to the taste, even the honor, of the title “Aunt Judye Birthday Cake”.

Emma candles aunt judye Aunt Judye Cake, AKA The Best Birthday EVER

Packing: Why I Always Have the Largest Bag at the Baggage Claim

Packing.  Oh how I HATE YOU.  The worst part of any vacation—even worse than the pile of crap that is inevitably waiting for you on your desk—is still better than packing (not to mention its ugly sister, Unpacking). I recently tagged along with my husband to Barbados for a few days (Thank you honey! Sometimes there are SOME perks to an otherwise ‘challenging’ job!)).  If you had seen my luggage, you would have guessed that I was leaving the country for several WEEKS, not DAYS.  (I was prepared for fancy dinners, causal lunches, pool side/beach lounging (drinking fruity drinks) and day adventures into town. I also had lounging clothes, gym clothes, PJs, and beach wear. And some backups in case I hated what I had packed for each activity. Hey, I was a Girl Scout!) In a rare case of “beating the system,” I avoided baggage fees by volunteering my husband to transport my suitcase on the airplane he was flying. As you might imagine, I was thrilled. It did however cause a lot of confusion for TSA and customs. (“Ma’am did you forget your luggage?” No, thank you.  “Are you sure?” Yes, I would remember if I had a bag. Really? AGHH!) He also was volunteered for the snacks, wine, beer, and straw hat that I had packed. He wasn’t complaining later when he was drinking free beer, though, I promise you that!) My husband was also volunteered to bring his co-pilot’s girlfriend’s luggage, as she lives much closer to us than to her boyfriend.  After we got back, she called to thank my husband for schlepping her bag. (I love you! You Are The Best!), She apologized for packing so much (she had twelve pairs of shoes. Even I think that is ridiculous) but she also apologized for me packing too much. Say what? I wasn’t sorry at all! In fact, I would do it again because I Was Prepared (although, I did wish I had packed another pair of shorts, and a couple of different sundresses.)

The packing process is very painful for me. I labor for days, trying to figure out the perfect combination of outfits: casual yet sassy, comfortable yet not homeless chic.  Yet I always always get it wrong.  Ironically, I have professional status when it comes to traveling.  There was a time in my life I was on an airplane at least once a month. Conservatively, I flew one hundred and fifty round trips from 1998-2008 (oh pre 9/11 travel, how I miss you!). So, it’s not like I don’t have any practice packing. This should be quick and easy.

I remember when (and why) I assumed the job of packing for myself.  As both sets of my grandparents lived out of town, our vacations were spent visiting them in Knoxville, TN or WashingtonDC.  (I am now beginning to understand what heroes my parents were for traveling with my sisters and me. Back in the day, my sisters and I got along as well as Iraq and Iran.  On a good day. I have since sat down with my parents and explained to them that for all its wonderful parts, St Louis is not and never will be a vacation destination and if they want to see their favorite (only) (she is still totally their favorite, though) granddaughter, they need to make Atlanta THEIR vacation destination.) My packing karma was forever changed on a trip to DC when I was eight. My parents weren’t stupid (just macho sadist) and they knew three active daughters plus one tiny hotel room plus grandparents and a house full of non-kid friendly items equals DISASTER. As a result, our trips were always methodically planned out. When we were in Washington, we took full advantage of the museums on the National Mall.  (Which is not a mall, as a friend of mine learned in the 8th grade on a visit to DC when she demanded that we leave the park and go to the mall.  Sad day for her!) When in Knoxville, we shopped the local Big Lots. (If we were good, we were given five dollars to spend on anything we wanted in the store. Even candy!) On the first day of our trip, I excitedly laid out my clothes for my full day of museums and sightseeing…but…I didn’t find any socks. Anywhere.  This wasn’t good. My mother had forgotten to pack socks.  In fact there were no socks, for anyone. For an entire week of hot, sweaty, summer vacation.  I don’t remember a lot about that trip, but I do remember stinky gross feet. (Not as bad as my sister’s feet. When she came to visit once, I thought we had a dead dog. Remember those squiggly lines that came off of Pigpen in Charlie Brown? That’s what was coming from that room.  Yep, we had gym shoes festering in my guest room. IF SHE WOULD JUST WEAR SOCKS…) I have packed for myself ever since.

I cannot pack for trips in a way that would maximize space and limit unnecessary items.  I do all the right things- I make lists, I plan ahead, I query my host about what clothing would be appropriate.  I always wind up packing with the mentality that More Is More; and one might conclude that my ultimate goal is to be a well stocked Super Target (Super instead of regular because I always pack my own breakfast, snacks, and wine).  If I get a headache, a stuffy nose, the sniffles, a stomach issue, even a sore muscle, I am prepared.  I won’t be hungry (or sober).  And, I can guarantee I will be well dressed (with a couple of changes of clothes.)

My husband is a pilot, and a natural consequence of his career is a lot of time away from home living out of a suitcase. While the man can pack quickly (a week trip in under five minutes), and efficiently (small carry on suitcase), he too suffers from Can’t-pack-itis.  I can count on one hand the number of trips he has successfully completed by the criteria of 1. Remembering to bring everything he needs, and 2. Remembering to bring HOME everything he needs.  That man has left Blackberry chargers in hotel rooms all over the world. (Literally. And, there is nothing more annoying that needing a charger and the only one you can find is for a European plug. So Frustrating!)  If you found one in your hotel room, you can send us a check. The poor man always forgets something. I remember a trip with a suit but no shoes (for a funeral).  Pants with no belt (for a wedding).  A trip north, in winter and he forgets a coat… the list could go on. (For a couple of years he had a nasty habit of “accidently” losing his Oakley Sunglasses every time we went somewhere.  That got expensive and really old really quickly. The only part more annoying than buying new sunglasses every time we turned around was listening to the WHINING about sun in his eyes (to be fair, the sun might possibly be a little brighter at 35,000 ft.)

I am definitely the girl you want with you when you travel.   One of my sisters has a policy of not packing  anything when she travels with me because she knows not only will I have whatever they need, I will have several choices.  If anyone is planning a trip, I am available! And, as an added bonus, I have gotten the airport security line down to a science (see Airport Security: How I Learned To Stop Judging Others).

Happy Packing!

Paint: A Family History

Is there anything a fresh coat of paint can’t fix?  A coat of paint makes all the difference in the world. It can freshen and brighten up a room. It can totally change that room’s appearance- a mini remodel! Paint isn’t so expensive that your husband has a stroke when you come home, full of ideas, and announce A Project (he still might have a stroke when he understands the amount of paint needed to do said project, or even what said project is, but that stroke won’t be over the cost!) Stop me, I sound like a commercial for Home Depot! (Another way I know I am getting old is that I so heart you, Home Depot! I could spend hours cruising your aisles, much the way I used to at the beauty counters at Nordstrom- is it coincidental that both involve colors and paint?!…)
I am lucky in that I have always lived in nicely decorated spaces. (As soon as my parents finished their home, they would restart everything from the beginning again. It was an endless loop of paint, wallpaper, and fabric. The only thing that would prevent them from restarting the existing home was to move into a new one.)  Except for an unwavering devotion to the St. Louis Cardinals, my parents are not sports nuts. They will gamely tune into the St. Louis Rams and watch them lose every Sunday (they both watch the team and watch them lose as the Rams don’t see winning as a desired outcome of a game.).  To fill the void, they decorate.  Let’s face it- everyone has to be fanatical about something, right? The only arguments I can remember my parents having were over decorating issues. These fights were not of the knock-down, drag out variety; my parents are way too sophisticated for that.  The tactics they used were sly and cunning- I learned my guerilla warfare attacks from the best! (The most memorable one was over what I can only call legwarmers on the chain that held up the chandelier in the dining room. They looked stupid in the 80s over leggings, they look stupid now over jeans and they looked especially stupid in my parents’ dining room. The chandelier was a beautiful, antique frosted glass dome that hung from the ceiling on gold chains.   The chains evidently got chilly (from the frosted glass?!) and needed to be kept warm.  ‘What would be better than legwarmers?’ my father asked himself.  He must have had some weird, thankfully briefly lived, obsession with girly accessories. My father went through a phase of tying stupid silken ropes with tassels (that bore an uncanny resemblance to BELTS) on everything he possibly could.  Loafers wear tassels well; lamps- not so much. My mother would wait for my father to go out of town for business (which was very frequently) and she would untie and hide every rope.  Perhaps she wasn’t very good at hiding places because as soon as my father would come home, the stupid ropes were back on all of the lamps. And possibly even the cat.) This love of decorating meant walls, trim, doors, etc were constantly being painted. The smell of paint is linked to my childhood, and therefore very comforting to me. (As a toddler, I was hospitalized for high lead levels. My parents were stripping lead based paint in their house and had put me to work. Kidding! But I really was over exposed to the stuff, even though they were careful. Hire a pro and go on a vacation if you are so tempted..)
When my husband and l bought our first house together, the first thing on The List was to paint all the disgusting ‘natural’ colored trim white.  (My husband performed one of the Miracles referenced in the Bible- he painted for fourteen hours a day for five days.  Thank you honey!) Once that was done, we got to select wall colors (way more exciting for me than for him, shockingly). I knew I wanted something that would bring out the best in our furniture, while complimenting the colors in the house.  Armed with no fewer than forty-two paint samples from the ‘local’ Home Depot, I headed home. (Being new to the areaI didn’t know we had a Home Depot less than a mile from our house, so we were driving twenty minutes the wrong way through traffic each time we needed something, which was approximately every five minutes.)  I picked out my colors using the proven scientific method of holding the sample up to the wall in BOTH natural and lamp light.  Satisfied, I had the paint department mix my colors, and hurried home to start the job… The dining room color I loved.  The living room color was too pale, so back to Home Depot. I instructed the paint department lady to “make it a smidge darker”.  She very politely (really, she was super nice) asked for some clarification as to how much pigment to add to achieve a ‘smidge’. Whatever she ended up adding was perfect.  (I did learn an important lesson this winter when I went to touch up the walls in living room- make sure you document the ‘custom color’ as it will be impossible to replicate it. Impossible.)  Next, we tackled our bedroom.   I selected a lovely, restful blue grey that accented our all white bed linens (I loved those linens. One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was to change our linens to TAN. More on that later…). As it happened, a deep purple was on the same color card.  I experienced a Brilliant Idea- I would paint the office off of the same color card! So, it turns out that deep purple isn’t really very pretty, nor is it a Brilliant Idea when it is all the eye can see… (I also learned a few lessons in the office. When painting, a thicker coat doesn’t take the place of two coats. It will look drippy and stupid.  ‘Cutting’, especially a ceiling, is harder than it looks. While I had mastered the makeup brush (please see ‘On the Job Training’), the paint brush is a different beast.  Also- make sure that the tape you use to protect wood work is on in a straight line.) Four coats of ‘bleached almond’ later, we were back in business…. We painted the guest bathroom twice. (I found a way cuter shower curtain, which changed the color of the towels, which changed the color of the walls…duh.)
As you could guess, my husband was definitely Over It. This was a problem because I could not do the painting by myself.   There is something this Super Woman cannot do- paint the walls all the way up to ceiling! (This is ‘cutting’ a ceiling.)  Also, some of the colors I had chosen weren’t really working for me (they were so ugly the cat refused to even go into the room)… so to get around his declaration of “NO more painting ever,” I employed another tricky tactic that totally took advantage of his job (you will recall I used this same tactic to clean boxes when we first moved in together).  When Thomas was on a trip, I would paint the entire room the new color… the entire room minus the four inches under the ceiling! Ha! Genius! The room would have to be finished, and since I had proven my total ineptness at cutting a ceiling, Needless to say, Thomas wasn’t as impressed with my guerilla tactics as I was.
So, the office and the guest bathroom now fixed, I moved on to the most important room in the house- the Kitchen (in my family, we consider eating to be the family sport).  The kitchen looked OK, but it needed some color to break up the bleached almond walls (it was one giant beige box).  Inspiration struck- one of the walls needed to be orange! I went and visited my good friends at the Home Depot paint department; I had the perfect (albeit custom) shade.  I know this idea was divinely inspired because I was able to A) paint the wall B) cut the ceilings and the corners C) not spill the paint and D) apply tape in a straight line against the opposite wall.  I stood back, admired my work… and heard the door open.  Thomas was home early from his trip! I was so excited to show off my decorator (and painting) skills! He took one look at the wall, turned to me, and asked me Why The Fuck Had I Painted The Wall Halloween ORANGE?!  Excuse me? I had never (OK maybe once with the purple office) turned him in the wrong direction when it came to color, and who was he to judge, Mr. All-Beige-All-The-Time? And did he not SEE the perfectly cut ceiling and corners?! I told him to not speak to me until the paint had dried and he was ready to say he was sorry.  In the morning, the paint had dried and he apologized. And the kitchen looked amazing.
The next game of Fun with Painting started about three years ago, when I found out I was pregnant. Naturally, we needed to repaint several rooms, as we had to convert one into a nursery (Emma’s room is a beautiful rose color- ‘Dusty Rose’ by Ralph Lauren.  I learned my lesson about custom mixed paints and went straight from the color card! Did you know that all Ralph Lauren paints have been discontinued and the formulas are no longer on file at Home Depot?! I cannot make this up.) I also wanted to update our bedroom, as I had a feeling the white bed linens weren’t the best choice going forward. I found a beautiful, silky duvet set that was sand colored, with a beautiful blue border. Most of the time. The fabric was beautiful, and it changed colors depending on the light and the folds in the fabric.  I took the sham into my friends at Home Depot, and we color matched the fabric.  Of course, I needed a custom color to match this one of a kind color.  It looked wonderful when I compared the fabric to the custom paint; I was so excited! Once on the wall, the two matched perfectly. And by matched perfectly, I mean by a blind person.  It was awful. On to custom paint #2.  The same blind person showed up for work that day.  We had the same results with #3, #4, and #5.  After #5, my husband asked me, in all seriousness, if I wanted a divorce and was too chicken to just ask for it. Because, he explained, at that point, I could have it- and I could have the house, the checking account, the cars- whatever I wanted, just please God let him stop painting! Finally, we got the color right. (I returned the unmatchable duvet and picked out a different, solid colored one.)
The good news is that the bedroom walls compliment the bedspread, the kitchen walls look fantastic, and Emma loves her pink room.  The bad news is that I have no way of touching up the various marks from picture frames, Christmas trees, toddlers, and furniture (Fun With Furniture is similar to Fun With Painting, and I suspect I enjoy this game more that my husband does too.)  I have no more painting projects in the works (depending on whom you ask this is good news (Thomas) or bad news (me).) In more good news, we are still (happily) married, despite what my husband might have suspected.  I hope my life lessons will make someone else’s life easier, and more peaceful. As I reflect on how far we have come, from the country dirty blue wallpaper disaster to the modern, clean colors that surround us, I realize and understand how lucky I am (not only to have a home that is happy, but to have one that isn’t filled with boxes and remodeling crap everywhere). Please remember, as you make changes to your living space, that it is not underhanded or mean or sneaky to use guerrilla tactics to ensure you get the desired outcome- be it paint, lamp legwarmers, or emptying out boxes.

Why I Believe OCD is an OC-Do

OCD- the word (name? description? behavior?) (way of life?)  brings to mind vacuuming your rugs three times a day or turning off and on the light switch exactly seven times before you can leave a room (remember that True Life: I have OCD?!! MTV did have some fine quality programming to redeem itself from some of the current excuses that pass for shows. Or is that me being old again?).  I take the position that a little OCD isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How many OCD people have messy houses? Or pass germs around? That’s right, NONE.
I am a tidy person.  Granted, I was more tidy prior to the arrival of my bundle of joy, but I am still tidy, none the less. I don’t think it’s abnormal to lint roll my lampshades and curtains.  I love sorting and organizing and purging things, like sock drawers.  Refolding all my shirts? Love it! Matching all of my socks? Yes, please! Cleaning out the medicine cabinet? My pleasure! As a child, it was not punishment to send me to my room to clean it (now, as a teenager, maybe… I remember packing my room when we moved my freshman year of high school. My preferred method was to scoop piles up off the floor and dump them into boxes… which made unpacking sort of like a mini Christmas- I had no idea what was in each box.) My favorite store is The Container Store- ooh the possibilities! That store makes me want to start hobbies just so that I can organize them.
Even at my untidiest, I have been a purger.  I get it from my father.  He used to throw away anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down. Oddly enough though, this doesn’t extend to food.  My father is Captain Just-Cut-The-Mold-Off-The-Rest-Of-It-Is-Fine.  (To be fair, he possibly got it from his parents who remembered the Great Depression. When we cleaned out their house after their deaths, the stash was impressive.  The freezer was an advanced work of the art of packing. We could have eaten for a month, all three of us, on the reserves from that small freezer. Also, they had a habit of stashing packs of peanut butter crackers around the house. They were both diabetic so the crackers were an answer to the threat of hypoglycemia.  We found 64½ packs of crackers…in a house that was 1000 sq feet! ) It doesn’t matter to my Dad what food it is, either…cheese, bread, hummus, salsa… It has gotten so bad that my mother will wait until he is out of the house on trash day to throw things away (Sorry for outing you, Mom!)   I can remember many a night, armed with a flashlight, going through trash bags to rescue math homework. It had been thrown away because I had neglected to put it where it belonged, or, more importantly, out of the way of the garage express. (My father, after I told him about this post, informed me that the trash is where he puts all important documents that he wants to make sure my mother sees. So, I guess I didn’t have a chance either way- thanks Mom and Daddy!) I belong to the party of Throw It Away.  If you don’t use something within two weeks, it’s gone.  Extra buttons on shirts? Gone. Instruction manuals (once item is fully functional) Buh-bye!  (I do understand that some of my items-to-be-tossed are a bit excessive; however, my husband has a penchant to hang on to an item’s packaging. Yes, the empty card board boxes (and the packing materials) would be piled up in our attic, and closets, and spare room, and office, and work room if he had his way. I have seen him do it! When we first lived together, I would wait until he left for a trip and I would purge the boxes o’ crap with militaristic efficiency. When he got home, I would tell him that I was able to combine the boxes. I would leave out the part that I junked almost everything. Before you get all shouty at me, I ask you—does one really need: a broken alarm clock (no radio), a broken blue desk lamp, dried up highlighters, unsticky post-its, and carbon checks from a checking account that has been closed for more than five years? No, one does not.)
To my husband’s credit, he has seen the light and is now a very tidy person.  On a few occasions, he has returned from his parents’ house armed with old crap that his mother dug out of the basement… and he puts it directly into the trash can outside of the house! It never even enters our home! That, my friends, is progress! I am not sure if he is really a tidy man at heart, or if it is just easier to do it my way. Either way, I am happy. Also to my husband’s great credit, he is usually willing to do things the right way (the
Julia Way

).  However, the few times he has stuck to his guns, he is usually right.  You think I would remember this, and yet, I have found myself donning a hazmat suit to recover items from the trash that I thought he was finished with (i.e., that I was sick of looking at).  I don’t know if I should be very proud, or very ashamed, but my daughter is a card carrying member of the OCD Clean and Organize Club.  She is two and a half… At daycare, she routinely helps (yells) at other children who throw things on the floor, suggesting (chastising) that they throw whatever it is away. She thinks the bottles of 409 and Windex mean game time. I have found her emptying her drawers, only to be able to put everything back, neat and tidy.  The only behavior that I find a little troubling is the constant hand washing (I do attribute this to the newly found skill of using the potty and washing hands afterwards. Also, she got to pick out her own pink Cherry Blossom soap. Who wouldn’t want to use it all day?!)

In the future, I will continue to embrace my OCD, as I do believe it makes my world a better, cleaner, less cluttered place.  Although it might not be that socially acceptable, you do it, too. And you know it. (Whether you disinfect every square inch around yourself and your children in public, or you re-sort all food items into matching Tupperware before you put them away in your cabinets, or you have a special good luck routine prior to flying on a airplane that may have up to 18 steps and include multiple family members, or wearing the same underpants and socks for game day to ensure your team’s victory even though you don’t play on the team, your life (and everyone else around you) is better.) Carry on friend, carry on.  And know that the world would be a better, safer, cleaner place if there were more like you.
 
Please note that my blog is intended for entertainment purposes only. Those suffering from OCD should seek medical council from a professional.

Green Beans- Its what’s for dinner

 I recently outed myself—that I am in fact willing to lie to my kid. It turns out I am also totally OK with tomfoolery…. Steamed green beans are one my favorite things to eat. Not super exciting, but less fattening and more socially acceptable on the job than some of my other favorites, namely Chardonnay (as I have a company car, Chardonnay consumption is generally frowned upon during working hours). Also, quit hating.  I grew up in the Midwest, the daughter of parents from the East Coast, where vegetables taste like vegetables… What a surprise I had in store for me when I moved to the South (or God’s Country as my Georgia-born and raised husband claims)…. I knew I wasn’t in Kansas (Missouri) anymore when I attended my first F (for our last name, not anything else!) family Holiday Gathering (my in-laws have ‘gatherings’, my parents have ‘parties’. Guess who is better behaved?!) I did not recognize any of the dishes on the table, except maybe for the rolls.  Not one thing.  (I won’t go into detail here but just know that apparently it is acceptable for gravy to have HARD BOILED EGGS IN IT).  I made my way down the food table, with my then-boyfriend-now-husband whispering descriptions of what each dish was.  This system worked until we got to the green beans. Or should I say grey beans.  These beans were so cooked that the green had been cooked off of them.  Also? They were flavored with MEAT! I ask you—what is the point of eating a vegetable if it tastes like meat? If you want meat, eat meat. If you want a vegetable, eat a vegetable! Unbeknownst to me, cooking green (grey) beans like that is standard. Order green (grey) beans at any Southern style restaurant and that is what you get.  When we have my in-laws over for dinner, I call my Mother-In-Law at least a week in advance and let her know that I have started to cook her green (grey) beans.  (To be fair, they are just as horrified at my version of green beans as I am with theirs.  The crunchiness is not really a selling point to them. The first time I served green beans Julia Style, she very politely pulled me aside and expressed some concern that the green beans hadn’t been cooked enough.)
Since I love green beans. I had high hopes my 2 year-old daughter would embrace the correct way to eat a green bean (crunchy, with a little salt and garlic).   Out of the gate, things went well. She loved it when we mixed pureed green beans in her baby cereal. (Baby cereal, it turns out, is its own food, and not super soggy rice crispies as I had suspected.  Yes, I thought that is what everyone was talking about when they referenced baby cereal. One day, I asked another mother for clarification on this ‘baby cereal’, explaining that I thought it meant super super soggy grown up cereal.  Care to guess whom I asked?  My boss. That was super comfortable, let me tell you!) Back to Emma and the pureed green beans- she gobbled them up! As she moved to table food, I just knew she would love them as much as Mommy does… As it happened…not so much.  If by ‘liking’ something, one pitches a fit complete with Broadway style theatrics and emotions, then Emma LOVED THEM. So she wasn’t really digging Mommy’s favorite. (I would have settled for “Southern” green (grey) beans at that point).  One night, I was desperate. It was becoming a Battle of The Wills (anyone who knows me knows I am COMPETITIVE), so clearly I wasn’t going to lose this battle.  I thought long and hard, and then I enlisted that secret weapon that Mommies have in their arsenal—SUGAR. Yes, I did. I rolled those damn green beans in sugar and SHE ATE THEM AS FAST AS SHE COULD CRAM THEM IN. AND THEN LICKED THE PLATE. My husband was out of town, and at first didn’t believe me when I triumphantly relayed the news of my victory.  (I did come clean. He was impressed with my resourcefulness!)