Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weekend At Bad Momma's

Watch out Rachel, Paula, Martha & Oprah..... There's a new entertaining/decorating/culinary Diva in town! This weekend I had a chance to test market my skills on my unsuspecting family.
We had my husband's brother come visit with his family on Saturday and hosted a family gathering at our house on Sunday afternoon. My husband's cousin from Ireland was visiting with my mother-in-law for 10 days and was going back home on Monday. This was our chance to showcase our hospitality.

Friday night/Saturday Morning: House Cleaning Olympics

Between Friday night swim practices, television shows and Saturday Morning piano lessons, we were able to make the house presentable and perform a quick grocery store run for Saturday essentials. I stopped at the market with my 3 hungry boys on the way home from swim practice. We filled the cart with various forms of lunch meats, bread, milk, breakfast foods and a nice variety of desserts. It is amazing how much money can be spent so quickly, especially when Dad is left at home to do the yard work.

Let The Games Begin

My brother-in-law called an hour ahead to warn us of their impending arrival and to check if they could pick anything up at the store. They would be popping in briefly for lunch and then off to the football game (Ohio State vs Purdue). I assured them that we had the food under control. We finished up some spot cleaning and hid the cleaning supplies minutes before they rang the bell.

There was just enough time to let the cousins play together, get the luggage of the two boys, that would later spend the night, and provide a quick lunch. The plan was after the game, the visiting family would spend time with my sister-in-law's brood across town before returning to our house.

We had roughly five hours to ourselves. This was plenty of time to engineer a quick room make-over!

Extreme Window Make-Over

Our decorating style (or lack thereof) could be labeled "Minimalist". White walls, beige carpets and roughly half our windows are covered with white sheers . The rest of our windows employ vertical blinds to protect our privacy; BIG, two inch strips of fabric coated vinyl. You won't see these featured in any Architectural Digest issue. Mandated by my husband; he claims there is no dusting or other maintenance required.

The living room was among those with sheers to allow the sun to shine in. The late afternoon sun streaming through the front window can be a bit strong and is not so good for our new, shiny black baby grand piano ( aka the "Family Vacation"). As a temporary measure we had hung a heavy creme-colored flannel sheet as a make-shift window shield. Effective but not so attractive.

Partly due to the ongoing debate of "Drapes versus Vertical Blinds" and partly due to laziness, we had not resolved this issue. With my HUSBAND's family in town, I decided to "Carpe Diem" and win this battle in the name of good taste.

  • Step 1: Rally the Troops: I gathered the boys and we huddled around the laptop so we could agree on the best "look" for the window. One of the first steps in any good business plan is "VISION" and it is important to have a shared vision. I made sure that before we left the house, we were all on the same page - MINE!
  • Step 2: Motivation for Cooperation: In addition to a smart-looking room and happy mommy, I bribed the boys with a trip to Target. They had gift cards to use up and I promised as long as they were helpful, this would be our last stop before home.
  • Step 3: Stick to Pre-Planned Route: After an exhaustive online search, it appeared that Lowes was the most likely store to carry what we were looking for. I made this the 2nd to last stop. The first stop, Macy's, proved futile and Lowes had the best variety of affordable choices. Keeping the last stop to where the "carrot at the end of the stick" resides is key. I shudder to think how terribly wrong our mission would have turned out if I gave out the "rewards" before reaching our goal.
  • Step 4: Enlist the help of a professional: After narrowing the selection, we found a salesperson to guide us. I explained what we were looking for and showed him drawings with measurements. He helped us find the right sizes and product. After a quick vote, we left with 4 panels and a drapery rod.
Note to self: drapery rods can be also used as weapons. Not such a good thing when shopping alone with three boys. It did get us faster service and out the door quickly and onto our final destination - Target. I let the boys each choose one item to buy while I perused the home furnishing area to confirm we had made the right decision at Lowes.

  • Step 5: Getting the Draperies Hung: Once safely at home, I unpacked and ironed each panel. I carefully draped them over the furniture in the living room. This prevented guests from using the room until the drapes were put up, as well as to prevent wrinkles. I also had the boys fetch my husband's power tools which I put in the center of the room to add additional motivation. It worked, the makeover was finished 30 minutes before the entire family arrived on Sunday.
(note: this only works when my husband's family is coming. Also duly noted is the distinct possibility of a payback. Fortunately my family is not expected any time soon.)

Saturday Night - Sunday Morning

I had a chance to see what life might be like with FIVE boys and my 7 year old had a chance to see what it would be like having a younger brother. I found that after 3 boys, an extra one or two is not that much tougher. The ages were stair-stepped: 6, 7, 9, 10, and 11. For the most part the boys got along well with the exception of my "baby" being a bit annoyed with his younger cousin. I think he was jealous of not being the youngest and center of attention. Also, taking care of a kindergarten-age child is a bit more challenging than managing a second-grader!

Sunday Afternoon Party on the Patio

We were blessed with summer-like weather and hosted 9 adults and 10 children for "Luner"(Late Lunch/ Early Dinner) on our patio. I waited until my in-laws arrived to survey the offerings and then go to the grocery store to supplement.

My children and I had a chance to meet my husband's cousin who was here on holiday from Ireland. We had only a few hours to make an impression and I set my fool-proof plan into play.
  • Marinate the guests. I had wine glasses, a cork screw and a few bottles of vino ready. After introductions and hugs hello, corks went flying and glasses were filled. Another helpful tip we discovered by accident is the benefit of sitting your guests in direct sun. Not only will they quickly gain color (beet red if they have fair Irish skin), they will also need to "hydrate" more. A slightly dis-oriented guest will not notice any slight faux pas or imperfections that might tarnish your sterling reputation as the perfect host.
  • Take a few guests with you on your run to the store. This is a great way to abscond with the guest(s) of honor and monopolize their time. It is also a good way to get some input on what additional dishes are needed. The more variety, the better. Less pressure on each individual entree.
  • There is no such thing as too much dessert! Left-overs can be used as bribes for help with cleaning up.
  • Pay attention to labels. Assuming that all the product in a row is the same, may prove to be your undoing. I created a new recipe from making this oversight. A little dish I like to call:
"Couscous-Pilaf tm"(patent-pending)

As you can see these boxes look very similar. More than once I have grabbed two boxes from the same row on the store shelf, only to discover the difference when at home.

This time both boxes made it into the same pot of boiling water. Two very similar-looking products with very different cooking times. Couscous takes 5 minutes while Pilaf needs 25 to 30 minutes to simmer.

I discovered this error as I was stirring the boiling concoction and was surprised at the suddenly thick consistency. As there was no time to go back to the store, I improvised. I added extra olive oil and compromised on cooking time. The couscous was a bit over-cooked and gummy which helped balance the al dente texture of the under-cooked Pilaf. Normally one box serves 5 - 6 guests. Two boxes were more than enough for 19 dinners! Everyone who tried it claimed they liked this mixed-up pasta dish. I think it even tasted better the next day. The third day was the charm! It was if we had a magic, never ending pot of Couscous-Pilaf tm.
Never have I seen a Pilaf dish stretch so far.

I may have found a way to end world hunger!

All Good Things Come To an End

Before we knew it, our guests slowly disbursed. As the last cousin was belted in their car-seat and the cavelcade rolled away, my boys let out a collective sigh.

My youngest son held the back of his hand dramatically against his forehead and exclaimed, "Peace at last!"
My middle son nodded his head in agreement.
I looked at my oldest boy and he sighed, "It feels like we're missing a couple of boys. I think I could handle two more brothers!"
I threw him a bewildered look and he continued. " ....We could adopt!" as if my primary concern was that I was past the age of birthin' babies!

Nice thought but I don't think so!

A Sweet Ending

I surveyed the carnage, focusing on the trail of toys leading down the basement stairs. As I was contemplating cleanup, my boys zeroed in on the plethora of left-over desserts. They begged for another helping and I agreed.
AFTER the basement was picked up.
Which they did.
In record time!

That's what I'm talkin' about!
You can NEVER have too many desserts!


4funboys said...


I know how that goes. Sounds fun... and exhausting... and wonderful.

I've done the same cooking mistake too... so much for trying to save time.

ps... I've learned EVERYTHING can be turned into a weapon with little boys... even if it just means eating a p&J sandwich into the shape of a gun. I'm sure it's somehow written into their DNA...

Cheffie-Mom said...

"Peace at last" -- Too funny! And by the way, I totally understand the rice, couscous incident-- I've done the same thing myself! LOL! I have a delicious couscous recipe on my website- check it out sometime, it's called Wood's Family Tabouli.

Weaselmomma said...

You certainly know how to stretch a dish. They may have eaten more if you had marinated them longer.
That was definitely amazing how quickly you made over the curtains.
Is there any more dessert? I like dessert.

Mrs4444 said...

Kendall is constantly begging me for a baby brother or sister. Of course, she knows it's out of the question, but she still brings it up every week or two; silly girl :) Sounds like you've raised your boys right!