Fifth Time’s a Charm

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Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays because it is all about food. This year, for the first time in a long time, we will be spending Thanksgiving with family from my husband’s side of the family. I volunteered to bring stuffing (or dressing, whichever you like to call it), and a dessert. For me, those two things are what I look forward to eating the most, so I wanted to make sure that they would be there.

I usually bake my desserts 2-3 days in advance, so I’m not having to do a bunch of cooking either the day before, or the day of Thanksgiving. I decided make pumpkin cheesecake, with a bourbon butterscotch sauce for the dessert this year. I made it last year and both my husband and I loved it. I decided to get even more ahead of the game this year and make the butterscotch sauce the weekend before hand, since it lasts a couple weeks in the fridge.

Now I should probably explain that even though I made this last year, I did not remember to write down my recipe, or even bookmark the websites that inspired it, so I had to figure it out all over again.  I attempted to make a butterscotch sauce the way you make caramel. Meaning you bring the sugar to a boil for awhile, then add the cream. I like the flavor of brown sugar more, but wanted that thick caramel texture, which was something I managed to achieve last year.

I should also point out that I am not someone who can make things up on the fly and have it end up being the best thing you’ve ever tasted. I’m a rule-follower. I like recipes.

So, Esmé went down for her nap and I set myself up. Sugar can burn quickly, so you have to have everything ready, and so I thought I was…

Attempt #1: My first attempt didn’t quite boil up and thicken like I remembered from last year. It was very runny, and the flavor wasn’t as ‘wow’ as last year either. I poured it into a jar anyway to see if it would thicken up after a few hours.  It did not. It also seemed to be separating as well. FAIL.

Attempt #2: As I was standing over it waiting for something to appear different than the first batch, I started to smell burned sugar. ‘Sh*t!’ I said. ‘Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t!’ (Yes Esmé was sleeping, so she wasn’t picking up my bad habits). Not wanting to pour boiling hot syrup liquid into the sink, I poured cool water from the tap into my pot of hot syrup, and the entire thing seized into a crazy sculpture figure inside my pot, with the whisk stuck to it. Brilliant. I thought, just brilliant. Now I have sugar cement in my pot to contend with. I’m pretty sure there were some more choice words muttered as I pried the whisk free, and stuck the pot back onto the heat so I could melt this rock-hard, solid mass off my pot. FAIL.

Attempt #3: This time I got nervous because I was afraid I was going to burn it and have a repeat of attempt #2. I added the cream way too soon, so it didn’t boil up at all. It was even runnier than attempt #1, so instead of wasting more ingredients, I just poured it down the drain. FAIL.

At this point in time I was feeling so horrible about myself and my ability to cook, I felt I simply could not carry on anymore.

‘Husband,’ I said, ‘I just can’t face cooking dinner tonight. You’ll have to figure something out.’ Being the amazing man that he is, he not only threw together dinner, but tried his best to buoy my spirits. Pep talks from him and my sister gave me a tiny little bit of courage to try again.

After we picked up more butter, whipping cream, and brown sugar from the store, I was ready to go again…

Attempt #4: You are going to laugh, but I actually prayed before I started this time, and then I repeated a mantra of ‘please work, please work, please work,’ throughout the entire process. By some miracle of miracles I did not give in to my urge to pour the cream in early so that it wouldn’t burn. The timer went off…I added the cream….and it still did not bubble up furiously. GAH!!!! What the heck?! (Not actually what I said) How did I do this last year with only two tries? I poured it down the drain, again. FAIL.

Attempt #5: My sister had suggested I try adding a little cornstarch to thicken it, so I thought I’ll give it one last shot. But this is seriously the last time that I am going to try this. Again… boil sugar, then add cream…not so much bubbling, but add the rest of the ingredients anyway. It was a little thicker than attempt#1, but the flavor was perfect. I poured it into a jar, because a runny jar of heaven, is better than none. Lo and behold after a few hours in the fridge, it was the perfect consistency! And it did not separate! SUCCESS!!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have had several ‘aha’ moments reading parenting books, because I recognize myself in their descriptions of what not to do. I think it’s so ironic that reading these books about children, and understanding their behavior actually causes me to recognize more of my flaws than my child’s.

I’ve been reading a book recommended by my pediatrician called ‘Positive Discipline,’ in attempts to figure out how best to discipline our child. I’m not very far along, but something that really struck a chord with me was their discussion about making mistakes, or failures. They say that when your child messes up, or fails at something, you should not humiliate them further by trying to assign blame. Instead have a more positive response, and recognize it as an opportunity to learn.

This past weekend really helped me to see just how far I have to go in bettering myself. Instead of seeing my four failures as opportunities to learn, I got angry and lashed out with profanity. In fact after only three tries I decided that I was going to give up, since I couldn’t make the perfect sauce. It was only after some coaching from my husband and sister, that I remembered what I had read before, and worked up the courage to try again.

So what did I learn from all this nonsense? First of all, do not pour cold water into a pan of boiling hot syrup. You will be cursing yourself for a long time as you wait to melt the mangled, solid mass off your pot.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s ok to fail. This is really something that parents should tell themselves on a daily basis, but I really struggle with it. I want to be the perfect mom/wife/sister/daughter/cook, so I really feel defeated when I fail at any of those. This is when it helps to have a support team on hand, a.k.a- husband, sister, mom, dad, friend, etc. They can help shake you out of your funk, bring you back to your senses, and remind you that no one is perfect.

This Thanksgiving Eve marks the one year anniversary of my blog. In addition to being thankful for all of my family and friends, this year I am so grateful to all of you who take the time to read my blog. It really means the world to me.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope that your cooking goes smoother than mine!

 

 

Now and Then

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I had quite a few requests for pictures of Esmé in her Halloween costume this year. My sister suggested I do a picture comparison of last year vs. this year. When I went back to look at last years picture, I realized how much she had grown, and knew that I had to do more than just post a picture comparison. I had to write about a little bit of now and a little bit of then.

Last year for Halloween Esmé was the cutest little pumpkin you ever saw, but we didn’t really get to enjoy the holiday. She was still taking several naps a day, so making a long drive to the pumpkin patch was not an option. No one, besides us, got to see her in her costume because she was far too young to go trick-or-treating, and she was sound asleep for the night by the time trick-or-treaters came to our door.

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This year was completely different. The week before Halloween we decided to take her to a pumpkin patch that had all these different animals and activities for kids to see. We thought it would be perfect for Esmé because she loves to walk around and explore. Lo and behold she did not feel like walking, or standing at all while we were there (we found out later that she had a sprained ankle). Any time we put her down she immediately sat down, stretched her arms up and said ‘up?’ She was not impressed by all the activities.

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She was, however, very excited about the pumpkins, as you can see from the picture above. ‘MUNGIEEEE!!!’ She shouted, (that’s how she says pumpkin by the way). She wasted no time picking out her own little pumpkin and promptly sat down on it. She’s like me when I pick out my Christmas tree…once I’ve got it I’m standing next to it until we carry it out because no one is going to take my tree.

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This year for Halloween, we dressed her up as a monkey to go trick-or-treating with our neighborhood friends. She loves to copy her Papa when he does the Tarzan call, so it seemed very appropriate.

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She and Carson (Darth Vader) were the perfect pair for trick-or-treating. He would take the candy from the bowl that was offered and then Esmé tried to give it back (as she is trying to do in the photo above). If it wasn’t for Carson’s excellent bucket-filling skills I don’t think we would have ended up with much candy. Ha!

In truth she was much more obsessed with everyone’s pumpkins, or ‘mungie’s’ as she calls them. She loved her little pumpkin bucket so much that she walked around the house with it like a purse until I packed it away for the season, (you can see it here).

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Esmé was such a happy little monkey to be climbing stairs, knocking on doors, taking candy, and giving it back with her friend. They really had the best time together, it was so cute to watch.

We did take a video of Esmé before we left for trick-or-treating if you’d like to see (here), and one of her and her partner in crime after they were done trick-or-treating (here).

In short, last year was sweet because it was our first autumn together, but this year was perfect. We had such an amazing time with friends, and an even better time experiencing so many firsts for Esmé as a family, that my heart was full of warm fuzzies by the end of the day. It was one of those days where you wish you could do it over again, just to relive all the fun happy memories.

Growing Pains

I was talking to an old college friend, Dala, after Halloween this year about how this was Esmé’s first year Trick-or-Treating and how she brought in quite the haul.

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I sent her a picture of all of the candy she got, with it all organized into groups of what they were, and all the labels facing up. I mean, isn’t that what everyone does after they go trick-or-treating? Organize their candy so they know what they have?? No?

Before I go on, I have to give you a little backstory… Last month, we went to Arizona so I could visit with my family and friends, and so Esmé could meet several people that she had never met before. While we were there, we stayed with the afore mentioned friend of mine, who happens to be an amazing Interior Designer. As such, her house is spectacular. If West Elm and Restoration Hardware had a baby, it would look like her house.

While Dala showed me her lovely new fridge, she made the mistake of pointing out how every bottle, carton, and container was arranged with labels facing out. I told her ‘OOoooooo! So pretty and organized!!’ but in my head I knew that I now had a secret mission to rearrange them while I was there. And so, while she was doing something on her laptop when Esmé was down for her nap, I turned every single container (yes even the ones in the doors) backwards.

I’m literally shaking with silent (Esmé is sleeping) laughter as I write this, because I still think it’s hilarious. (Sorry not sorry Dali!)

Anyway, it took a long time for her to notice. I actually thought I was going to miss seeing her reaction, but finally I heard an ‘Oh. My. God.’

Ahahahaha!!! I started laughing out loud as she said to me ‘Did you really turn all of these around??!’ She shook her head and repeatedly said ‘That is messed up. That is just so messed up.’ while putting them back in place.

Once she was reminded of the mischievous, conniving person I am, she gave me explicit instructions not to touch her very nice, glass ingredient containers that were all arranged (of course) face forward on her open shelves. Being the good friend that I am, I listened. Then I turned all her spice jars around before we headed down to Tucson.

-End of backstory-

When I sent her a picture of Esmé’s perfectly arranged candy, she responded ‘How would you like it if I came over and mixed it all up, then turned them label faced-down.’ I laughed heartily for two reasons. The first, obviously, because I got to relive my hilarious pranks. The second was that even if she were here to try and get me back for my shenanigans, she needn’t lift a finger. I have a small tornado living with me who does that to me every. single. day.

Esmé actually spent the entirety of last week putting me through the paces, and I failed miserably. She was crankier and needier than usual. I was short on patience and empathy, and we both were missing Daddy, who was out of town.

I screamed and yelled and she gave it right back. I was tired, fighting through a migraine, and frustrated to have such a willful child who wouldn’t listen. Talking to the wall would have yielded better results than I had with her. There were so many times when I wished I could just disappear and have someone else do my job.

I was angry, and frustrated. I felt isolated to be spending the entire week alone with this tiny tyrant. I felt like a failure for not being able to finish anything on my to-do list, and I felt guilty for losing my sh*t for the umpteenth time with my toddler. I thought to myself parenting is ridiculously hard, and I don’t know how I’m going to do this.

It was during this wallowing in misery of the hardship of being a parent that I remembered my talk with Dala. Just a week earlier, I explained to her why it wouldn’t matter to me in the slightest if she came over and messed up our candy. I told her because becoming a parent changes you, and changes your priorities.

It means letting go of so many things that you are OCD about…

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like clean houses, tables, and chairs, because children have to learn how to do things for themselves, and it’s going to be messy. If you don’t, you end up yelling a lot, and then hating yourself afterwards. I told her that it’s the hardest thing in the world, but it makes you the best version of yourself that you never thought you could be.

Parenting is hard work. It is character building, and that comes with growing pains. Literally. You have to think about the kind of person you want your child to be, and try your best to act that way, even when they’re crying/screaming/ whining at you, so they learn from you. You have to be bigger and better than your character flaws. You have to be a grown up, but maintain a sense of humor, and try to see things from a child’s point of view.

When all of that threatens to overwhelm you when you are feeling lowest of the low, remember your own advice and just let it go. Remember that tomorrow is a new day, with a fresh start to do better.

Remember that it’s worth it. For every ‘no’ and/or swath of smeared food on your table, there is a big wet kiss and/or monster hug that will make your heart feel like it can’t possibly fit inside your chest.

Most importantly, remember to be careful showing off carefully organized things if I happen to be your house guest.