When I was a kid I had a friend, who for purposes that she remain my friend now, I will call Q, who was an absolute perfectionist. When I would go over to her house to play after school we never actually got to play because we had to do our homework first. I had plenty of time to play because I would whip through my homework as fast as I could. But not Q. She agonized over every assignment. She used multiple colored pencils to do her math. Just the picking up and putting down of the color she was looking for made ten fifth grade math assignments take four times as long as it should have. I was never really sure what the different colors meant, but it was something very important to her.
Now Q grew up to be an accountant and I have to say I wish our accountant was as persnickety as she is. The other thing about Q was her bedroom was always immaculate and her clothes never stained or wrinkled and her hair the perfect Farrah Fawcet flip, even though it was naturally straight. I was amazed that she would even be friends with me, with my clothes piled up on my closet floor as I would search my room for my hair brush and eventually give up and go out with my rats nest hairdo.
Since today is cyber Monday and apparently I am the only person not shopping online for my Christmas gifts, I saw an article espousing the old adage, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.” Apparently the perfectionism trait is making shopping a terrible chore for those who are afflicted with it. There are people who spend hours upon hours reading reviews and comparing prices, which is bad enough, but then they compare shipping rates and how far items will come from and before you know it they have wasted five hours to save three dollars and only bought one thing.
The same article that talked about the “perfectionism problem” went on to say that people who are happy with good enough are actually happier with everything. Finally, my lifetime of feeling inferior to Q because my book covers did not look brand new come June, or that my white converse sneakers were grey one week after purchase means I might actually have been OK because I was just fine with good enough.
I may never had been a perfectionist at anything, but I have the opposite issue in that I figured I could do almost anything even without instruction. This was much harder back in the pre-Internet/YouTube days. Of course that was also before anyone could really check up on my claims. This is how I got to be a caterer. One day I cooked food for a party and the next day I called myself a caterer. Of course once I got business cards it was really official. Now I have never gone so far as to try and conduct surgery on anyone, but then again if I was in a jungle with no other medical help I might try.
For today I am celebrating my “good enough” personality and no longer worrying about not being close to perfect. It has gotten me this far and I am very happy.
Nobody much likes having different food on Thanksgiving. My proof is unless you are a vegetarian, I bet you have almost always have a turkey. Now, you may also have a ham, but you still have a turkey, and probably stuffing.
I like familiar foods on Thanksgiving, but don’t mind a few new ones thrown in for variety. This year my dad was cooking all the white and brown food; turkey, stuffings, mashed potatoes, gravy and creamed onions. I was in charge of cooking all the colorful foods; cranberry sauce, green beans, stewed tomatoes, pies and these Brussels Sprouts.
Since Brussels are not the number one item on most people’s craving list I felt like I could take some liberties with my recipe. I think this one was a hit, at least with me.
Big bag of fresh Brussels Sprouts- ends trimmed and halved
30 cloves of garlic- peeled
2 T. Olive oil
2T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 T. Sugar
Take the peeled garlic cloves and put them in a small sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a simmer and cook for three minutes. Drain the garlic and pat dry. Put the garlic back in the sauce pan and add the olive oil and put on a medium heat and cook for five minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and half the sugar and five tablespoons of water. Simmer for about fifteen minute until the liquid has turned into a syrup. Stir it every so often so the garlic does not stick to the pan. You can do this up to three days in advance refrigerated.
Cut the peel off the lemons trying to get as little pith as possible. Then cut the peel into thin strips. Squeeze all the juice out of the lemons. Place the peels and juice in a small sauce pan. Add the other half of the sugar and 6 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat and cook for ten minutes- stirring to make sure the peel does not stick. Pour the peel and any remaining liquid in a small container. You can do this up to a week in advance if you keep the peel in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with Pam. Place the Brussels sprout cut side down on the pan and place in the oven and cook for twenty minutes until the cut side gets brown.
To serve, mix the garlic and any syrup with the lemon peel and it’s syrup. Salt and pepper.
Don’t worry that this is so much garlic, caramelizing it makes it mild as can be.
Enjoy any day of the year, not just Thanksgiving .
No, I did not run anywhere. If I did try and do a marathon it probably would take me twelve hours. No today was the put the tree up day and it took me twelve hours with only a few breaks, and that includes ornaments. Although I was up and down the twelve foot ladder many times and I was lifting and walking all day my Apple Watch did not register one minute of exercise today. What a bunch of Scrooges out there in Cupertino. They have no idea that putting up a 14 foot tree with over 9,000 lights and thousands and thousands of ornament is the biggest workout there is. There needs to be a Christmas Decorating workout setting.
I also got the needlepoint garlands up today, but that was such a pleasure it hardly felt like exercise. Only a step ladder was required so it was not as much climbing. I still have another whole days worth of decorating tomorrow before before Christmas will officially begin iPad our house. Sadly, I am the only family member who really cares, at least that is the story I get from the other people who don’t help decorate. Russ of course has to help me out the tree together, but decorating is all my doing.
The cleaning up after the decorating is almost the worst part. You can see the mess I make. So now I am going to retire early tonight to rest up for snow village building tomorrow.
Seven years ago, when Carter first went to Camp Cheerio she quickly discovered it was her favorite place on earth. Her love grew each year. In order to spend more time on the mountain that made her heart sing she would ask me to let her go to more and more sessions and I let her.
After her second year she set her sights on getting a CIT position when she finished being a camper. It was a very long range plan for a kid in single digits. Carter would study the qualities of the CIT’s and counselors she loved, which quite frankly were most of them. Their love of children made them great role models and I could not have been happier about Carter wanting to emulate such kind, thoughtful and fun people.
In Carter’s last year as a senior camper she and her large group of camp friends from all the sessions she attended discussed ad nauseum the CIT application processes and wondered how many of them would get the coveted positions. I have to say I was quite amazed at the length of the application and the depth and number of recommendations they needed. It seemed liked we waited an eternity to hear if she got into the CIT class last year.
When Russ and I took Carter to camp as a CIT we were blown away by the camp director’s remarks in the parent meeting. He talked about how hard being a CIT was going to be and that the kids would learn quickly if they liked making the transition from being a camper, having the time of their life, to a counselor who is there to ensure that the campers are happy and safe. He was right. Carter would tell us in the one hour a week she got to have her phone that it was the hardest job, but that she loved it.
In that same meeting the director told the parents and the 50 CIT’s that this six week period was one big job interview and that only about seven to ten of them would be offered jobs as Junior Counselors the next year. I looked around the room at so many of Carter’s cute friends I had met through the years. I could see that almost all of them would make great counselors if that was what they wanted to do. I looked at Carter who was nervous, but excited. A six week job interview was harder than anything I have ever had to do in my life.
At the end of camp last year Carter left not knowing what the future would hold. She had no idea if that was her last summer. Camp had gone great, she worked as hard as she could, but the odds were very tough. Some friends decided that even though they loved camp, being a counselor was not for them, but most applied for the job for next year. As CIT’s they started a big group chat that they have kept in touch through the year.
They were told that they would hear before Thanksgiving and the angst really picked up on Wednesday. One of Carter’s friends, when he did not get a letter, went out and hunted down the postman in his neighborhood to see if by chance he had miss delivered it. Another boy video taped himself going to look in the mailbox a second time after he had already gotten the mail to see if by chance the letter was stuck in the back of the box. Only one girl actually got her letter on Wednesday and it was not good news.
That let everyone know the decisions were out and now they had to wait through no mail delivery on Thanksgiving and another day. Carter had a friend who was going to visit relatives for the long weekend so she was paying someone to go look at her mail. The anxiety was killing all these kids who love Cheerio as much as Carter.
Today the group chat was going crazy as people got their mail. Carter was sadly reporting to us as people were finding out that they had not gotten the job. I had told Carter that we have notoriously slow mail at our house so she was not sure her letter would be at our house when we got home from the farm. The one thing she had learned from the group chat was that if you got a small letter it was a rejection, but an acceptance was a big envelope.
As we pulled into the neighborhood I asked her if she wanted to look in the mailbox or wanted me to do it. She said, “You please look.” Carter was sitting behind me on the passenger side and Russ pulled the car up to the mailbox. I was so scared as I opened the door and of course the box was packed with a package, catalogues and there in the middle was one big white envelope wrapped around the rest of the regular letters. I pulled it out and saw the Camp Cheerio logo on the return address. “It’s a big one!” I yelled, as I handed it back to Carter. She burst into to tears as she read the letter. They were tears of happiness as well as sadness for her friends who were not coming back.
I know she worked her hardest to get that job. I am proud as I can be that she made it. She gives all of her heart to Camp Cheerio and it is her happy place, but our hearts go out to the families who tonight are realizing that they won’t be at camp next summer. Seems like real life starts so young.
Well happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope that none of you needed to break out the Adele Hello song at the dinner table. We have more than survived a happy day thanks in no small part to our South African friends the Ushpols — Mark, Kelly, Cait and Adam who are great sports at my parents Thanksgiving table.
This is the second year we have these friends come for lunch so they had a fairly good idea of what life on the farm is like. The good news is we had very little political discussion despite the potential mind fields all the candidates have provided us.
Rudely, we arrived later than the Ushpols at my own parents home. Luckily my father wasted no time getting everyone drinks and we gathered in the living room where my mother had cleared away enough needlepoint pillows so we could all sit in one place. When the last drink was poured my father finally joined us where he started the conversation by saying, “I’m worried about the turkey.” This does not seem like the best thing to say to all your guests at Thanksgiving.
Knowing his perfectionism about cooking I asked him if he had a turkey and when he said, “yes,” to then explain his worry. Just as I expected, his fears were unfounded. He followed my favorite Alton Brown brined turkey recipe and it cooked faster than he expected. There was no real problem, we just moved up the eating time by forty five minutes, no turkey was over cooked, or burned, or was still frozen, no disaster, as my father had tried to lead us to believe.
After a big feast of what my mother called an unnecessary number of vegetables. We took a break from the table to take a walk and enjoy the practically perfect weather. The best part about the farm is that where ever we walk if there is anyone else around they are probably related to me. I got to see all my cousins and all their children. The best line of the day came from eight year old Sam who asked who Russ was, and his ten year old cousin Eva said, “Carter’s dad.” Carter as the oldest cousin of her generation is like a celebrity so Sam nodded that Russ was fine as long as he was with Carter.
Our walk was not long enough to counteract the dessert damage we went back to the table to do. Kelly made a pastry chef quality white chocolate cheese cake and Carter had made Pecan crack pies. Only my father did not indulge. So while the rest of us were in a sugar coma my father started to question Adam about the recent school fall formal. Adam was a very good sport about taking my father’s dating advice, not that he is actually taking it, but he listened intently while all the parents of teenagers at the table worried what he might suggest next.
In the end it was a fun day and the best part for me is I missed the only bad thing that happened when my father dropped pan of leftover creamed onions on the floor. If that is the only disaster at a family Thanksgiving then I consider it a success. I hope yours was too and we all have a lot to be thankful for.
One of my favorite things to watch on TV are home renovation shows when they take old houses and redo them. A common phrase you here over and over again when the decorating experts are looking at horrible looking houses is, “Yes, but it has nice bones.” When Russ and I first looked at our house I was video taping us walking around the house because we thought we might buy it and wanted to show our parents. When we got to the furnace room and Russ, an electrical engineer by training, opened the door, I caught him on tape mumbling to himself, “nice panel” as he checked out the electric system. I just got our old furniture recovered and was happy that I had bought good upholstered furniture twenty years ago because it has, “nice frames” and could be recovered well.
Today I took Carter to the oral surgeon for a consult on her getting her wisdom teeth out. They took a 360 degree X-ray of her head so we could look at all her teeth. One of the shots they showed us was of her jaw line and cheek bones. We were very interested in seeing what was under her skin and the nurse said, “beautiful chin, mouth and cheek bones.”
It gave me an appreciation for good bones that are the super structure of what everything else is hung on. We can change the outside or superficial stuff, but we can’t change the bones, at least not easily. Looking at the X-rays in all the various angles is like looking at the potential. Everything else can be changed.
The hardest thing for most people is seeing the possibilities. This is why so many realtors make people paint their houses neutral colors when they put it on the market. Most people can’t see past someone’s Victorian wall paper that is not their taste to the bones of a room and see how they can make it their own.
I have a friend who gained a little weight a few years ago and said to me recently that she is resigned that now she will always be this heavy, even though she is unhappy about it. I am the first person to say that what you are on the outside is no way what you have to be forever. I know this from both the up and the down direction. I wish I had a full body X-ray for my friend to show her what her bones look like because that is the limit of what her body can be. The outside drape is up to her.
I am not suggesting that any of us should, get close to our skeletal selves, that is another kind of scary. Just that we all start with the nice bones we are born with and can build from there. It is not all about what people can see either. Like Russ admiring the electrical panel, it is the works that make us go and having a good internal system makes life easier.
So I appreciate all my insides I can not see and take for granted. The outside that I obsess about can be changed, both for the better and the worse if I am not careful. Like my furniture I can be recovered as long as the super structure is in good shape. In this season of gratitude I am thankful for “nice bones” and keeping them healthy.
Four weeks ago my decorator asked me why I did not have any needlepoint pillows that I had done. I could not use the need for Christmas ornaments as a real excuse given that I probably have many multiples of a thousand ornaments. Since I was going to be needing a bunch of new pillows on my redone sofas I decided I would park needlepointing tiny Santas and sparkly snowmen and work on a big pillow.
I chose a bold bunny head as my first big project. The last time I had done a needlepoint project this big I was in middle school and I think it took me half a year to complete. I was unsure about how long it would really take me to do a 13 inch square canvas, but I did know that I did not want to look at the same thing for six months. One of the reasons I liked doing ornaments is that I could finish them before I tired of them.
I also am a person who likes to work toward a goal, so I decided I wanted to finish my bunny canvas in four weeks. I had no idea how unrealistic a goal it was. I started stitching and thanks to lots of basketball games and some rainy weekends I kept up a good pace. It was looking doubtful when I ran out of white yarn on Sunday night and the needlepoint store is closed on Sunday and Monday. But then a miracle happened when I found another skein of the exact yarn in my stash. Thanks to miracles I finished my bunny this morning right on the four week dot.
Looking back I did not forgo any real work, like cooking dinner or doing the laundry in order to needlepoint. I just worked at every available moment and I met my goal. Now I need to use the same discipline for making a pillow to other goals in my life. If I could stick to my diet as well as I can needlepoint or exercise with the same gusto I would be very happy. I guess the difference is that I can do almost anything for four weeks, after that I need a break. For now it’s back to ornaments, it is almost Christmas after all and it is the only time that people don’t ask me why I am working on an ornament so early.