Monday, June 6, 2011

Instant Family NOT Instant Meals

Often our family spends Sunday evenings with my neighbor Caren and her brood.  This is not a planned night like Pizza Night or Kickball Night but I'm beginning to see an expectancy for Sunday Family Fun Night.  Indeed, Caren's family feels like ours and ours, hers.  We are all awed/amused by how quickly we went from being neighbors to friends to family.

I recently watched the Big Love series on Netflix.  It's about a traditional Mormon family who still lives by The Principle even down to having multiple wives.  This particular family chooses not to live on a compound with other polygamists but out in the world.  It's about how they relate to one another and live their lives with this huge secret.  There are all kinds of things that make one think "How could anyone live like that?  Dealing with the pettiness of the other wives and the having to share the most intimate of relationships...."  However, I can also see some practicality in it. 

Women/Mothers have to often be in multiple places at once.  In Big Love the wives often rely on one another to get all the errands ran and the kids where they should be and projects done.  Even with three women some things still get dropped through the cracks but for the most part the show ends with them plopping down at a huge dinner table with the family all gathered round.

Well, Caren and I certainly have no plans to share spouses but we have found a similar reliance in one another as the mothers in Big Love.  I don't know if "reliance" is the right word's more of a safety net.  Many times through out the school year we found ourselves calling one another as we realized that we double booked something or were running behind.

"Could you pick up my Nugget from school today?"

"Shoot!  I forgot to make a treat for this event."  (This scenario would more likely be said by me solved by Caren whipping something up or pulling something out of her freezer that she made for just these sorts of emergencies.)

"Hey, I'm going to the grocery store.  Need anything?"

"I'm going Down Hill to do errands.  Want to come?"

A recent email to Caren from me:

"Hey, Drew has a biography project due tomorrow.  Our printer is not working.  Can I print at your house?"

"Of course."

"Thanks so much!  It's attached above.  It truly takes a village my friend!  Or at least one awesome neighbor."

"Ditto.  Speaking of...can you get my daughters off the bus Thursday?"

There have been times when my sons are upset about something or another and Aaron and I's words would not be received no matter how much sense they made but Caren or Kevin can hold them in their lap and say the same thing and suddenly it all makes sense and the quarrel is over or the boo boos are soothed.  This is vice versa for us with their girls.

It's not quite like having daughters but more like living next door to nieces.  I get to do the things with her girls that I don't with my boys like do hair, take them shopping, and listen to the dramas that girls have with their friends and crushes.

Likewise they have their boy times with my sons.  Kevin has a Helper now when he's stacking firewood or the like.  I don't know if there are any other boy moments that they get from mine.  I can't think of what that could be...  Ha!

Recently I took Caren's daughter to the grocery store with me.  I got her a box of cereal, a watermelon and a jar of jalapenos.  It's making Caren crazy that she has not paid me back yet.

"I really don't even remember how much it was Caren.  Besides, we are over here so often, eating all of your food...I'm sure I owe you more then jalapenos, watermelon and cereal at this point."

She of course laughs this off.  We don't owe them anything for the food and drink we partake of there.  It's how she grew up.  Friends and neighbors were always popping in and her family was ready for it with a fridge full of food.

Last night the boys and I were hanging out with Caren and one of her daughters.  The rest of the family was out and about with other engagements.  Caren and I sat on her deck sipping Sangria and watching my sons and her youngest play. 

"They are The Three Muskateers," she noted.  "I guess they will play like this together all summer!"  They never tire of each other.

It was not long into our visit that Caren brought out several ears of corn.

"I thought I would grill these tonight with my family but they have all dispersed.  Guess I'll have them with my other family!"

She fired up the grill.  When it was hot enough she placed the corn directly onto it.  I have had grilled corn before but we always shucked it, buttered it, salted it, and then wrapped it in foil.  Caren had soaked the corn in water and then put the corn on the grill, husk and all.  When they were done we peeled back the husks, buttered and salted them.  We called the kids up to the deck for their treat.  The kids loved it!

"This is even better then my mom's grilled corn!" Drew raved, "You make the best corn ever Ms. Caren!"

We called Aaron over to join us.  Caren pulled out chicken breasts that she had been marinating in the fridge.  Aaron brought over a baguette and various cheeses.  Seeing the bread and cheese fueled Caren's culinary creativity.  She then had me slice Romain lettuce in half, long ways, while she cut tomatoes in half.  We put all of this on the grill! 

The tomatoes were capped with slices of the goat cheese Aaron had brought.  Aaron sliced the bread and we grilled that as well.  We topped the grilled romaine with dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and crumbled blue cheese.  We drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top.  Our grilled tomatoes with goat cheese were garnished with a dollop of home made pesto that Caren just happens to keep on hand.  The results were amazing!

"I knew if we stayed long enough food would appear," I joked to Caren.  "See, no need to worry about that jar of jalapenos.  I'm sure this was worth more than that!" 

The meal was devoured, wine sipped, and conversation mostly revolved around raving at how Caren improvised a gourmet meal.

"At my house an impromptu meal would be cereal or macaroni and cheese," I told her.

"This is why I always have my freezers stocked," she countered.  I'll never tease her about her crazy stuffed freezer(s) again.

"What's for dessert?"  Drew called out.

What is for dessert when grilling out with Chef Caren? 
Grilled bananas with a knob of Greek yogurt, drizzled with Maple Syrup and sprinkled with chopped pecans.  Bon Apetit! 

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