The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: family traditions

I’m learning to love and/or fear my Elf.

The Elf on the Shelf. You either love it or you hate it.

I’m not sure where I fit on that spectrum yet.

My kids pestered me for one of these things for YEARS and I said no, no way, forget it, I don’t care what everyone else has, and aw hayle no. I knew my limits. I had heard all the stories at the bus stop about these things and all the messes they make.

Like I need MORE messes. Bitch, please. I have three kids, two pets, and the hairiest husband in North America. We’re all set, thanks.

I had read about the moms who sprinkle glitter all over their homes in a trail-like formation so the kids can track down the Elf by following the glittery trail around their otherwise immaculate open floor plan. Shoot, I don’t vacuum enough as it is. Last thing I need to do is intentionally add to the funk on my floors.

In my home, I was certain the Elf would get lost in a dog-hair-tumbleweed and we’d never see him again. Or with our luck, the dog would find him first, eat him, and poop out his mangled head for the kids to find in the yard one day, scarring them for life. No thanks.

And then there were all the overwhelming rules and tips I kept hearing. “You can’t touch them.” “They eat cookies and hot cocoa.” “You can catch one in a lollipop trap!” “They love to make snow angels in powdered sugar!”

You’re effin’ kidding me, right? Lord only knows what I’d wake up to if I intentionally spread powdered sugar on my kitchen floor overnight. Nothing says Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus like a swarm of disease-ridden vermin.

My friends tried to get me to drink the Elf Kool-Aid by espousing the incredible disciplinary value. One of my stepsisters even said she wished she could keep the Elf out all year! “Clean your rooms or the Elf will tell Santa and you’ll get coal in your stocking!”

Oh come on now. Really? My kids clean their rooms in exchange for the best prize of all: the opportunity to continue living here. This is what is wrong with kids today. They need to be bribed to do everything! I don’t need no stinkin’ Elf for this. I just tell them what my crazed single working mother shouted to me and my brother numerous times: “I swear to GOD…I will call Santa and tell him not to come. Is that what you want? Is it?! ANSWER ME!”

Hey, it worked. Santa always came.

But then last year Grandma “discovered” The Elf on the Shelf and mailed my kids one right after Thanksgiving. She was so darn excited about it that I just didn’t have the heart to say no anymore.

And when I saw how grateful the kids were for Grandma saving the day and providing for them what their mean old hag of a mother refused to do for years, I totally caved.

The kids named him Dobbie. (Original, I know. They wanted to name our Black Lab “Blackie” too.) And it was pretty cute to see them bound out of bed every morning last December to search for him.

I have to admit, seeing the excitement on their faces made me totally want to come up with more and better ways of cracking them up everyday. When I remembered to do it, that is. There were definitely more than a few mornings when the kids heard that “Dobbie must be really tired today. Poor guy!”

By far, their favorite memory of Dobbie last year was the morning they found him hanging from the ceiling fan, spinning around and around. Minimal effort. No mess. Laughing kids. That’s my kind of Elf action.

Dobbie’s been back at the North Pole all year, but he reappeared yesterday, ready for action.

Apparently, Santa runs a pretty tight ship. When Dobbie got here last night, he obviously needed to blow off some steam. Kinda reminded me of my Uncle Jeb when he first got outta the joint.

Turns out, Dobbie likes to party.

This is how I found Dobbie this morning. I was afraid of the kids telling their friends and teachers about Dobbie’s drinking problem, so I told Dobbie to do like I do and hide the evidence.

He didn’t like that idea at all. Apparently Dobbie had crossed the line from Happy Drunk to Belligerent Drunk.

I told him to get his shit together before the kids woke up and when I turned back around to see if he was cooperating, I saw this:

 

I’m a little scared of Dobbie now. But the kids thought it was hysterical. Even little Bucket Head was making jokes and speaking in a demonic voice saying “Who wants Dobbie to butter their toast? HA HA HA!”

Thanks Dobbie. Thank you for giving me a reason to slow down a little and have a moment of fun with my kids every day. I admit it, I used to hate you, but now I think you’re pretty cool. Just put that big knife away, m’kay?

warmly,

-Iris

It’s all gravy.

My turkey gravy rocks. Ask anyone.

Follow this recipe and yours will too.*

May I present, The Art of Making Perfect Turkey Gravy, in four parts:

1.) The Turkey Stock

Sure, you could use store bought stock, but why would you when it is so easy to make it at home for pennies?

Early Thanksgiving morning, as soon as you are done chasing your little brother around while pretending the turkey’s neck is a big floppy penis, get out an 8 quart saucepan and fill it with the following ingredients:

  • the turkey’s neck and giblets
  • a halved yellow onion with the skin still on
  • a celery heart (keep the leaves!)
  • 1 scrubbed carrot (not peeled)
  • about 12 whole cracked black peppercorns
  • one clove
  • about 6 cups of water (you may need to add more)

Put it on the back burner and slowly simmer that mofo all day. Just before the turkey’s done, remove all the stuff out of the stock with a slotted-spoon and taste the stock for seasoning. Add some salt, to taste. Keep it warm on the stove near the burner where you are going to make the gravy.

If you like a meaty gravy, like I do, pick the meat off that turkey neck and chop it finely. Or, for funsies, hand it to your Mother-in-Law and watch her suck the meat off it while you and your sisters crack all kinds of inappropriate jokes. Chop up the giblets too. You can add all of that nastiness to the gravy and it will make it taste even more turkeyriffic.

2.) Preparation G

Now that your stock is simmering, get the rest of the gravy ingredients measured into separate lidded prep bowls. The French call this cooking technique mise en place. You see TV chefs doing it all the time because it is easier to chit chat while you toss premeasured ingredients into the pot. Trust me, when your kitchen is a flurry of chaos 30 minutes before dinner is served, you’ll be so glad you don’t have to stop, think, and measure the ingredients for your roux, which are:

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. dry sherry

If you are serving a huge crowd like my family (22+ people), you will want to double this. Trust me. Better to have too much than not enough.

Next, assemble all the special gravy making tools you’ll need (see below) and just put them on the counter until gravy time. You may need your anal-retentive husband to sign a waiver indicating that he supports the new temporary pile of gadgets in plain view and that he promises not to put everything away where it really belongs the minute you leave the kitchen to do a shot of Sambuca.

3.) Harvest the Drippings

As soon as the turkey is done, pour all the drippings from the roasting pan into your handy-dandy fat separator (keep the spout stopper IN while you do this…it will keep the fat at the top so you can pour off the good juices from the hole in the bottom). Don’t have a fat separator? Sorry, you’re fucked. Kidding. Just skim off as much fat as you can. But seriously, buy a fat separator for next year, m’kay?

Now pour the defatted drippings back into the empty roasting pan and add 3/4 cup of water. Heat it up on top of your stove over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the roasting pan. Then transfer that juicy brown awesomesauce to a bowl. You’ll need it in a few minutes.

4.) Roux, roux, roux your boat.

Now’s the time you will need those premeasured ingredients I mentioned above. Hopefully you took my advice and they are all sitting in their own little lidded prep bowls, patiently waiting for you. If not, pray you’re not too drunk by now to measure things correctly.

Slowly melt your butter in your saucier or sauce pan. Pay attention and don’t let it burn, Missy! Now add your flour. Stir rapidly with a whisk to cook the gumminess out of the flour. Do this for a couple of minutes until the roux is golden and bubbly.

Rapidly whisk in your reserved juicy awesomesauce and about two cups of your homemade turkey stock (or 4 cups if you doubled the recipe).

Now cook and whisk until the gravy is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes or so…I have no sense of time while I’m whisking…or buzzed).

Stir in the dry sherry and season with salt and pepper. Add in the chopped giblet and neck meat if desired.

Pour the gravy into a warmed sauceboat. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups (4-5 cups if doubled). And don’t be surprised if you catch your Uncle Cleofus licking the gravy boat at some point in the evening.

Now, even if your cousin Earline clogs your toilet and Aunt Patty teaches your kids new racial slurs, you’ll still have the best gravy in town. And after all, it’s all gravy.

*Disclaimer: I totally stole this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen years ago, so you can trust it. But listen, beeyotch, I’m a comedy writer, not a chef. This is how I make my gravy every damn year. If it doesn’t work for you, I will not be held personally responsible. Follow this recipe and my tips at your own risk. 

Oh, like you’ve never chased someone with a turkey neck,

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

My Mental Health Journey (Part 1): A Halloween Retrospective

Looking back on old Halloween pictures has me feeling a little nostalgic today. Time sure flies when you’re herding a litter of babies.

I’ve always loved Halloween. Now, as a mother, I love it even more. (Most of the time.) Some years are better than others. It all kind of depends how I’m managing the crazy. 

This was a really good year:

Iris and Nature Boy as A Farmer and her Prize Eggplant, Halloween 2000, Oakland California

That was back in the day when I had only one child. Things were simpler back then. Hard to believe my big hulking 12 year old Nature Boy was ever *that* little (or ticklish).

The next two years are a blur…

Cowboy, Halloween 2001, Winston-Salem, NC

Dinosaur, Halloween 2002, Winston-Salem, NC

We moved from California to North Carolina so I could take a big fancy executive job. It was not what we thought it would be. Less than a year later, I got pregnant with Mini-Me and quit that horrid job. Then we sold our new home at a loss and moved to Georgia. Soon after, I would be diagnosed with clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Good times.

Our first Halloween in suburban North Georgia, I didn’t have a job or any friends yet so I kept busy nursing the baby, sewing things, and crying.

Little Miss Muffet and The Spider, Halloween 2003, Metro Atlanta, Georgia

So proud of his eight legs.

Damn, that was a rough time. Several months later, we lost one of our young nephews to a tragic car crash and my only brother was nearly killed in a freak sledding accident. Most of 2004 is a fog to me.

Yet life goes on.

The older the kids got, the less ambitious I became with their Halloween costumes. Not unrelated, this was around the same time I started developing a taste for wine.

Kitty and Spiderman, October 2004.

Then we got new neighbors who would become our BFFs. The next year was a good year…

Princess and Vampire, Halloween 2005.

So good in fact, that I went and got myself knocked up again like a dumb ass.

And that’s why the following year I was way too tired to do anything but borrow a plushy unicorn costume from a neighbor and rip up some of Nature Boy’s clothes to turn him into a zombie at the 11th hour:

Gestating Iris performs last minute zombification, Halloween 2006.

Zombie and Unicorn, Halloween 2006. The socks kill me.

Not my favorite Halloween. Hard to keep up with the big trick-or-treaters who want to run from house to house when there’s a bowling ball on your bladder. I may or may not have publicly urinated that year. I’ve blocked it out.

So that was our first six Halloweens…some bitter, some sweet, but all part of the journey. Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of My Mental Health Journey: A Halloween Retrospective and see the one and only time my husband dressed in a costume. Spoiler alert – there’s lots of skin. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned…

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved.

Inspired

And speaking of special keepsakes from baptisms

(If you can call a formerly poop-encrusted magnetic stone swallowed by an older sibling of the baptized baby a keepsake, like I obviously do.)

One of my lovely readers, Mary Lou of San Antonio, Texas, recently shared some pictures on Facebook of the baptism gown she made with her own two hands for her beautiful new granddaughter, Emma. All baptism gowns are special by their very nature, but the thing that caught my eye about this one in particular is that Mary Lou made it from her vintage 1974 wedding dress. 

The craftsmanship is simply stunning. But I was particularly drawn to the history and sentimentality of the fabric and trim. I asked Mary Lou for more details and this is what she told me:

I wasn’t able to use the satin because it had yellowed.  Besides, it was too stiff for a baby, in my opinion.  I used the sheer overlay from my dress and underlined it with new broadcloth.  I also trimmed Emma’s gown with the lace from my dress to which my mom, my four sisters, and I had sewn hundreds of translucent sequins 37 years ago. The tiny buttons on the back of Emma’s gown were from an old sewing box that belonged to my husband’s Aunt Emmie.

I am so deeply touched by Mary Lou’s story and her longstanding family traditions.

If I had found this on Pinterest, I probably would have pinned it onto my “Damn, I suck” pinboard, which is what I do when I find yet another thing I never did or probably never will do with/for/about/in honor of my clearly neglected children. But my love/hate relationship with Pinterest is a post for another day.

No, because I discovered this little gem on Facebook, handmade and posted by one of my Facebook friends, I was able to bypass the guilt and go right to appreciation mode.

I mean, really! A vintage wedding dress, hand-beaded decades earlier by her own family, repurposed into a baptism gown for the next generation? It’s so creative, sentimental, spiritually rich, and environmentally friendly!  Being a crafty, God-loving, and somewhat green girl myself, I have a special place in my heart for Mary Lou’s gorgeous creation and felt compelled to share it with you all.

Now before you go beating yourself up for having never done something fabulous like this your own self, you should know that Mary Lou has been sewing since she was a little girl. It’s always been her passion. She used to sew clothes for herself, her sisters, and even her Barbie Doll. Eventually, she became a homemaking teacher so she could share her passion with others.

That there is a picture of four generations of Mary Lou’s family. Pictured from left to right: Meemaw, Amanda, Mary Lou, and baby Emma. That bonnet Mary Lou is holding was made for little Emma by one of Mary Lou’s sisters out of Meemaw’s vintage 1953 wedding gown.

Stay with me, people.

Sentimental sewing is a longstanding tradition in Mary Lou’s family:

I think each of the women in our family have sewn our grandmother’s wedding lace to our wedding petticoats, in addition to wedding rings and hankies from various family members.

Mary Lou also handmade a lace hanky years ago that has since made the rounds in various sacraments through the generations as baptism bonnets, handkerchiefs, and wedding bouquet ribbons. Who knew a hanky could be so versatile?! Not me, I tells ya.

That same hanky, pictured above on Mary Lou’s daughter Amanda’s wedding bouquet, was recently tucked into Amanda’s son Dylan’s pocket at his baptism. Mary Lou hopes that he’ll one day give it to his bride and that his children will have it with them at their baptisms as well.

Mary Lou is obviously a gifted seamstress. But I just love how thoughtful and sentimental she is about so many little details. That is truly a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. What an inspiration!

I had my wedding dress “preserved” (or so I thought) back in 1997 right after my big day. I took it to a dry cleaner who supposedly specialized in wedding dress preservation and paid the big bucks so that one day I’d be able to hand it down to my daughter or granddaughter like I guessed I was supposed to do. Sadly, the process they used totally removed the white color from the overlay, turning my once beautiful white dress into a tarnished beige color. (Oh hold your snickering, Evelyn… I know you always thought it was wrong for me to be married in white in the first place! Bitch.)

Anyhooo…I have kept my tarnished dress in that ginormous acid-free cardboard “Wedding Chest” for all these years, never knowing what I’d do with it. Mini-Me is not going to want a brown wedding dress…even if it does complement the poop-tainted magnet pendant I’ll be making for her one day.

And now that I’m on a mission to clear the clutter from my life and get organized, I’m thinking about that damaged wedding dress and all the cool things I could make out of it for family heirlooms. All because of Mary Lou!

Baby Emma and her “MimiLou.”

Yes indeedy! You best believe that my kids and grandkids will be sporting little bits of my tarnished vintage wedding gown someday in everything from ring bearer pillows, to hankies, to fancy heirloom bibs and burp cloths. Shoot, with the size of my train, people are going to get mighty sick of all the heirloom hand sewn items soon to be coming their way. Can’t you just hear me now: “Sweetie, you be careful with that custom Trapper Keeper Science Binder Cover! Grandma made that ‘specially for you out of my vintage wedding gown.” Or “Make sure you have those kitchen towels dry cleaned, they’re handmade from my wedding dress, you know.” Or, “Hon, did your poker buddies like the coasters I made?” 

Hey, a girl can dream.

I am linking this to Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing series because I am so motivated by Mary Lou to someday repurpose old, unused or damaged, sentimental “clutter” into new family heirlooms my family will treasure for generations to come. I hope this post can inspire other crafty friends on the decluttering and organizing journey to do the same!

with love, admiration, and inspiration,

-Iris

 

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© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

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