Handling the Unexpected

So Monday was interesting…

It was the kids’ first day back to real life after the holidays and, much to my surprise, I managed to clear out the cobwebs and get everyone out the door on time. After dropping my son off at school, I was driving my daughter to music class when traffic slowed to a crawl. There was a car accident up ahead, and everyone was slowing down to pass with care.

I resisted the urge to rubberneck when it was my turn to pass the nasty wreck and was happily on my way down the hill when my car started acting a little…funny. Like, wobbly and pulling to one side and is that a weird flupping sound I hear coming from my car? And oh, hey, there’s the tire pressure indicator light on my dashboard! Fantastic.

Before I even finished pulling into a parking lot off the busy road, I called Wes and, when he answered, I said, “Feel like teaching your wife how to change a tire today?”

Wes changing tireWhile I waited for Wes to saddle up his trusty Camry and ride to my rescue, I pulled out ye olde owner’s manual and got as much stuff ready for the tire change as I could. By the time Wes rolled up, I had the tools out and just needed his help undoing a wing bolt so we could liberate the donut spare from its hiding place in the most inaccessible reaches of my rather capacious car.

Now, I should mention that the weather was terrible on Monday. The temperature was in the low 40’s, it was pouring rain, and there were strong, steady winds that blew rain into our faces almost the entire time.

So there we were, two goofballs with a two-year old and a flat tire. It took us about forty-five minutes start to finish, and I dare say we did a darn good job. Good enough to get me to the tire shop less than a mile away, at least, where I had the frustrating honor of shelling out $350 on tires that I’ll only be driving on for three more months until my lease runs out in April. Boo.

The good news is, we had a blast. Sure, we were soaked through practically to the bone by the time we were done, my hands are all scratched up from the cruddy jack lever, and I’m still annoyed at the unanticipated expense, but you guys? We frigging HANDLED that flat tire. And I was able to lift it into the back of my car without help, which I feel pretty proud of.

Maybe next time I’ll manage to pull over to a spot that has a wide awning, space heaters, and a waiter who brings me hot chocolate while I change my tire. That’d be just about perfect.


Pie for Absolutely No Reason

Usually, we’re a two Thanksgiving dinner family. We host a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house for my side of the family, and then have dinner with Wes’s family on Thanksgiving day. We’ve always been quite fortunate that my family is not particular when it comes to which exact date we get together to feast. So long as I save my mom a turkey leg and my step dad brings sweet potato pie, we all get along just fine regardless of what day of the week it is.

This year, however, my mom and step dad are on an RV trip until next May so no pre-Thanksgiving feast for us this year. That means I have a curious excess of holiday energy prior to the big day. Normally, I’m so tired from grocery shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, cleaning dishes, and cleaning the house again I have very little to put into Thanksgiving day proper. Not a big deal, usually, because my mother in law cooks most everything and I just have to show up and wash dishes. Easy peasy.

So here we are, the day before Thanksgiving 2014 and I’m not sick of my kitchen yet. So what do I do? Bake a pie from scratch for absolutely no reason at all. Pumpkin pie, in case you’re curious. Why for no reason? Well, my mother in law, the inarguable Queen of Perfect Pies, is baking a pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. My pie is GUARANTEED to be less delicious than hers, and yet? I felt like baking pie while I baked rolls today so I threw a pie together for no reason.

But then, because no Erika Tries to Cook story would be complete without some kind of failure, this happened:

The last ingredient, by the way? Was sour cream. The pie crust turned out okay in texture, I think, but was extra sticky and difficult to wrestle into the pie tin. And who knows how it’ll taste? But, you know, the pie looks like a pie and I’m sure it’ll taste like a pie. Maybe just a sort of Russian-y hybrid pie because of all the extra sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s wishing you hot food, sober relatives, and non-weird pie!

Heading Out Into the Great Blue Yonder

Posting might be light this week, as Wes and I are strapping the kids into the car for a four-hour drive down to the Oregon coast, a trip during which, hopefully, none of the following will happen:

  • Vehicle breakdown. Not likely, but would definitely be a bummer should it happen. I can think of many things I would rather do than try to help Wes fix the car on the side of the road by fanning his face and answering what would surely be the millions of questions asked by our four-year old son.
  • Multi-state tantrum. Please God, no. Let them sleep. Does Dramamine believe in you if you believe in it?
  • Realizing I forgot something crucial once we’re too far away to turn back.
  • Natural disaster. That’d be kind of a downer on our first-ever family vacation. It happened to my family once when I was growing up, though. We were camping in the middle of BFE, way past nowhere and square in the middle of no-one-can-hear-you-scream. One night, my parents woke me and my brother and told us to hustle everything back in the truck because there was a forest fire coming right toward us. We broke camp and hauled ass out of there, driving the one-lane road back to civilization past burning hillsides while my brother and I scarcely contained our excitement over how cool it was. I think we even stuck our heads out the window to better see the flames as we drove past. We were not smart.
  • Injuries of any kind. We’ve had a rather expensive year when it comes to medical expenses. It’d be really great if all of us could avoid breaking, straining, injuring, and/or scraping anything. Especially given that Wes broke his leg during a trip to the Oregon coast as a kid when he visited with his family.

In making our lists for the trip, Wes and I compared essentials. Can you guess which list is Wes’s and which one is mine?

  • Bacon, steak, Pringles, rum, fruit juice to mix with said rum, beach chairs
  • Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, brownie mix, chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, vodka, lazy beach read books

Wish us luck and fun as we embark on what will hopefully be a fun adventure. My kids have never seen an actual beach with actual waves before. As a former Californian who spent much of her childhood on the beach, getting road rash from wiping out on the beach after boogie boarding and inhaling oodles of sea water from looking the wrong way when a wave came to clobber her, this is inexcusable to me. My children need waves in order to be well-rounded human beings!

See you on the flip side, my friends.

Inchoate Vegetable Sludge

Basically what I served my family for dinner, minus the sodium.

Basically what I served my family for dinner, minus the sodium.

I’ve blogged about my fantastical failures in the cooking arena before. I’m not shy about the fact that, if anyone’s going to find a way to detonate a head of broccoli, it’ll be me. And probably when I’ve got a whole bunch of people coming over, because that’s HANDS DOWN the absolute best time for everything in the kitchen to go spectacularly awry.

Those of you who have come over for a meal and had to help me turn off my smoke detector know what I’m talking about, here.

In the latest episode of the Epic Cooking Fails reality TV show that is my life, I give you…Pot roast. Or, rather, Trader’s Joe’s pot roast. Here’s the story:

I was at Trader Joe’s, shopping for dinner supplies for the week when I noticed some Cabernet Pot Roast. I thought that sounded yummy, so I tossed it into my cart and began wondering what I’d serve with it.

A container of fresh Asian stir fry vegetables caught my eye. I took a look and saw mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots, all cut up, and thought I might be able to add those to the pot roast and baby, I’d have a stew going.

So I get all these things home and, come Tuesday, decide it’s now or never for the pot roast because I’m having dinner with a friend and if I don’t make the food now, it’ll spoil. I remove the pot roast from its package, add the vegetables, and discover there’s, you know, Asian-y stuff in the vegetable mix. Like baby corn, bok choy, bell peppers, and a couple other things I can’t identify.

This comes as a total shock to me despite the fact that the container clearly says ASIAN Stir Fry Vegetables.

Because I am an awesome chef (and because I don’t really care, let’s be honest) I pick out the weirdest stuff and dump the rest into the Crock Pot along with the pot roast. I turn on the Crock Pot, plunk down the lid, and congratulate myself on making dinner for Wes and the kids even though I’ll be gone.

Come dinner time, I give the pot roast a stir and discover that the Asian vegetables have radiation sickness or something because they’ve dissolved into inchoate vegetable sludge, the proverbial ooze from which my overcooked pot roast had to climb.

Wes, peering over my shoulder at this tiny slice of primordial culinary swampland, cocks an eyebrow at me to which I can only reply, “You’re not supposed to eat those. I added them for flavor.”

Now, we both know this is BS. Pure and simple. But the key to a happy marriage is letting your spouse keep what dignity she has left by pretending she didn’t just mercilessly simmer hapless vegetables to death.

And with that, I skipped out the door to go eat pizza with a friend.

I hear from reliable sources that Wes served the pot roast with pancakes (?) to critical acclaim from the tiny humans, and that the carrots were at least somewhat salvageable.


This is Your Brain on Pregnancy

I used to be a dependable, reliable person. I used to be the kind of person who could sit down on Saturday, write out a menu for the week, and then faithfully procure the necessary ingredients for said menu at the store.

And then I got pregnant. And had a baby. And then that baby turned into a toddler. And then I got pregnant again.

Now all that’s left of that stalwart groceries-procuring menu warrior is an exhausted-looking woman shuffling her way through the aisles pushing a cart laden with fruit and maybe some cheese.

For the second time in less than a week, I’ve neglected to include a crucial ingredient on my grocery list. Last week I forgot to buy heavy whipping cream to make a recipe titled…Wait for it….Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms. I bought the chicken and mushrooms, but left out the cream.

Where did I think the cream was going to come from? Who knows!

Then this week I forgot to add pasta sauce to my list. What recipe is going to suffer for this lapse? Spaghetti. I have ground beef, an onion, and noodles. What don’t I have? Spaghetti sauce!

What is the point of spaghetti night without pasta sauce? None. There isn’t one.

I mean, at least I haven’t filled the garage with bubbles or anything. Still, it’d sure be swell to avoid extraneous trips to the grocery store to purchase key ingredients my brain magically erased.

It’d also be nice to be able to see my feet or get off the couch without grunting, but that’s just asking for way too much at this point.