Posts Tagged ‘Kids’

Wow, remember recess in the ’70s? That was crazy. As a kid who hadn’t reached double digits yet, I was dying to get out of my classroom and run around. Thinking back, there sure were lots of hazards out on that playground – a blank canvas of concrete for us to skin our knees and elbows on. In fact, I remember one specific recess in the spring of 1971 when I skinned my elbow righteously (not sure how) and some random school employee led me back to my classroom door where I had to wait, literally dripping blood, until the teacher came back from break. Nobody rushed me to the school nurse, or a hospital, and I certainly don’t remember any ambulances showing up. She just slapped some mercurochrome and a bandage on it and made me go in and finish my spelling lesson.

Sure, nowadays I imagine there are all kinds of safety measures set in place to protect little children from the horrors of the elementary school experience. But when I was a kid? Not so much. Oh, I’m not saying we didn’t look forward to those precious 15 minutes of respite from learning our ABC’s and smelling chalk dust. But there were certainly a million ways for us to maim ourselves out there.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Dodge Ball. As a bona fide shrimp of a kid, this was not my favorite recess activity. Not only was I always picked last, but I was also knocked out first … usually catching at least five feet of air in the process.

Next, the monkey bars. It wasn’t so much the monkey bars that were the problem; it was the HARD concrete below them that didn’t necessarily cushion your fall when you missed a rung. Last time I saw monkey bars at a school, I think they had those fancy cushion-y black puzzle-like pads under them. Today, I think they have feather-bed mattresses below them … or spotters from the US Olympic Team.

Let’s move on to that crazy spherical metal-climbing thing. You know the one. Kids would climb all over that thing, and at least one would fall through it, tumble over it, or get strangled in it … usually resulting in a lost front tooth. Or how about the merry-go-round? That was only fun until some kid puked on it … which was always within the first five minutes.

The slides always promised a little excitement, only our slides in the ’70s were glistening steel; on a hot, sunny day, you could get third-degree burns on those things – that was if you actually sled down the thing instead of running down it full speed.

Tetherball was fun. I played that all the time. Well, I stood there all the time while my taller opponent wrapped that ball around the pole again and again, often bopping the side of my head while they did.

If you didn’t care for the fancy playground equipment, you could always get a jump-rope, lasso some kid smaller than you, and make them be your “horse” so you could gallop around like an idiot.

Whatever Hunger Games-type of adventure we decided upon during recess, it was usually fun until the bell rang … signaling you only had about two minutes to get your ass back in your chair in your classroom. So you either had to choose to pee (and if you were a girl, get freaked out by crazy fourth-grade girls staring in the mirror and reciting that “Mary Worth, Mary Worth, I Believe in Mary Worth” creepy game) OR try to get some hydration at the water fountain. Usually I tried to get a drink of water. However, our elementary school drinking fountain had a protocol: it had four spickets, and they were unofficially designated as: Coffee, Tea, Soda Pop and Pee. Oh man, by the time recess was coming to a close, those lines were deep: Coffee had at least three kids – Tea had about four. And the Soda Pop line was a mile long … so, sometimes you went without water.


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My four-year-old niece, Addi, is a genius. She came up with a great new tagline for Friday Night Casserole. She didn’t realize it at the time, but nonetheless, I’m using it.

Her mom filmed her eating a piece of sour candy. Now, understand the munchkin likes sour candy … her Mom didn’t make her eat it. So here’s what happened … watch this video to see how she created my fancy new tagline:


Friday Night Casserole:  “Pretty Tasty … Kinda Sour”

I’ll add this one to my list of other taglines, or more specifically, to the only other tagline I’ve created so far: “Make It Fancy.” The catchy little phrases just might show up on t-shirts someday. People will come from miles around to get one.  For reasons they can’t even fathom. Oh … people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

So I’m close to hitting 10,000 visits to the blog. Yes, I realize many of those are repeaters, and probably 5,000 of them are my own visits, but who cares? In honor of the 10K visits, I’m giving away a cool prize.

Get one entry into this awesome contest by doing any (or all) of the following:

  • Like “Friday Night Casserole” on Facebook.
  • Subscribe to this fancy Friday Night Casserole blog.
  • (If you follow via RSS, send me an email, too (messmaker7@yahoo.com), as I won’t get a notification of who you are!).
  • Share an FNC post on Facebook.
  • Like a post from FNC on Facebook.
  • Add a comment on an FNC Facebook post.
  • Add a comment here on Friday Night Casserole.

You’ll get an entry for each of these you do.

Then, after all the FNC pimping, I’ll have Jay randomly pick a name from the group of entries, and the big winner will be announced when the blog hits, oh, say 10,113 … which could be soon. The lucky winner will receive a cool prize. Maybe it’ll be sour candy. Maybe it’ll be a tasty can of Spam. Maybe it’ll be my used VHS copy of “Field of Dreams.” But, it might be a fun gift card of actual value. Whatever it is, I’ll remember to make it fancy.

Thanks to all my supporters for a fun 2-1/2 years so far!

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I think I’ve mentioned our childhood chore lists before. Mom had us washing dishes as soon as we could stand on chairs and reach the faucet. This may sound like child endangerment, but if you recall, Macaulay Culkin’s character “Miles” stood on a chair to wash dishes in the movie “Uncle Buck.” Of course he made it look fun—and probably had 13 stunt guys and stage hands around in case he began to fall off the chair.

Our dishwasher is currently broken, so I’ve been washing dishes by hand. Brings back fond memories of that nightly chore. Two of us girls were put in charge of dish duty: one to wash, one to dry. After years of dishwashing, we had to think of a way to entertain ourselves while we scrubbed and dried. I don’t know who started it, but we’d take turns playing “Bride.” (This is much safer than playing “Neighbor” which you may recall from my post a few weeks back.) One of us would grab a plate, put it on our head and place the cloth dish towel over it. Then we’d walk ‘gracefully’ across the floor pretending to be walking down the aisle. Apparently this thrilled us enough to do every night; well, with the exception of a few soap bubble fights.

Sometimes we’d be gliding around in our plate-towel veil and catch a glimpse of Dad leaning against the kitchen wall and staring at us with his arms crossed. Busted. He got sick of our time-wasting shenanigans, so he began setting the kitchen egg timer to 30 minutes. We had to be done within that time, or else. I can’t remember what “or else” was … I think we lost our Friday Night “Partridge Family” viewing rights. Well, those old egg timers were quite easy to manipulate. We must’ve re-set that thing at least another half hour every night. In fact, one night it took us almost three hours to do the dishes. I don’t know how Dad outsmarted us after that. Oh, I remember–that’s when we got our dishwasher.

Back to Mom’s chores list. She posted it up on the dining room wall. We had plenty of chores to keep us busy on a daily basis.

If you think I’m exaggerating, look at this note I found. It’s circa 1975, I think. So that would mean my sisters and I were ages 13, 12, 9 and 5.

I don’t remember why we didn’t have hot water; we weren’t that poor. Maybe the water heater was on the fritz. And Mom apparently had to emphasize my dish chore. Hmm. Maybe I was having trouble staying on task. She continues …

When Mom said to clean our room from top to bottom, she meant vacuuming, dusting, changing sheets and putting every shred of kid evidence away. Her note concludes…

Yeah, we had to take the bus. That’s a story for another time.

Well, I made out fairly well as far as the amount of chores went. Coleen certainly got the worst of it that day. On top of every other chore for this nine-year-old, she had to make dinner and prepare all the fancy weekly drinks. That’s right, the note said “fix milk” … I refer you to one of my original posts “Got Powdered Milk?” Poor Coleen.

Well, that was a busy summer day for us. Dad was enjoying himself at work and I guess Mom was going out for a spa day. Actually, I think she had just started a new job after being out of the work force for a while and apparently didn’t have time to update our usual chore list on the wall. I just wish I could remember what Coleen pulled together for dinner that night. Oh yeah … Friday Night Casserole.

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There always comes a time when you’re at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service, and the conversation turns to childhood injuries. I don’t know how it happens, but it does. I’ll say to someone, “Hey, have you seen the new gift shop on 6th Street?” and the person next to me will say “Hey, I fell down on the sidewalk when I was six and sliced my knee open … see this scar?” Then someone else will add, “Hey, see THIS scar?” and they’ll show you where they had six stitches on their arm from getting a little too close to a rusty nail somewhere. It’s like the “You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine Scar Game.”

It is kind of fun, comparing scars. Except seeing other people’s scars makes me nervous. In fact, it makes me hurt. But talking about my own scars doesn’t bother me at all. Have I ever told you about the time my older sister, Tracy, and I were playing “Neighbor” one stormy night when I was four? Dad was at work on the graveyard shift, Mom was probably making Hot Dog Surprise in the kitchen and baby Coleen was fast asleep in her crib. So Tracy and I were playing “Neighbor” which is, one of us goes in the bedroom closet to play the neighbor, while the other plays the role of the other neighbor who will knock on the closet door to ask for a cup of sugar. It’s pretty exciting. Well, Tracy had me go in the closet so she could knock on the door, then I was supposed to open it all surprised, and she’d say “Hi Neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?” Well, that was the plan. Instead, as she closed me in the closet, I brilliantly stuck my finger in the door jam, and WHAM!! She heard my blood-curdling scream, whipped open the door and instead of a cup of sugar, she got a cup of blood–dripping down what used to be my finger. Only now my finger was in two pieces—the tip hanging on by a thread.

That’s probably my earliest memory–seems like your earliest memory is always something traumatic. Like getting lost, or chased by a dog, or getting your finger sliced in half in the door jam while playing “Neighbor.” Well, Mom wrapped my finger in a wet cloth and ran next door to grab the actual “Neighbor” to rush us to the hospital. See Dad had our fancy ’63 Grand Prix because he was at work. Most families didn’t have two cars back in the late ‘60s. Well, maybe yours did if you were fancy, but we didn’t have two cars until about 1970 when Dad got a cool light blue ’55 Ford truck. Anyway, our neighbor was the Pastor of the Church of Christ which was across the street from our house. His wife stayed with Tracy and Coleen while my Mom, the Pastor and me and my severed finger sprinted in his four-door sedan to the hospital.

Apparently poor Tracy thought she’d killed me—thought I’d die right there at the hospital emergency room. I remember that emergency room. Smelled like rubbing alcohol. There were old people in the beds next to me. Dad showed up and replaced Mom at my side. See, the emergency room doctor actually asked me (four years old) which parent I wanted to stay with me while they sewed up my finger. I said both. He said only one can stay. I thought about this real hard and decided my poor Mom shouldn’t have to witness the carnage of sewing my finger back on, so I excused her. And you can imagine how she felt.  If I saw that doctor today, I’d kick him straight in the ass. And my poor Dad. How did he survive that emergency room–we weren’t even allowed to talk about blood at the dinner table. Well, Dad kept me focused … every time my eyes wandered over to the insensitive doctor sewing my finger, Dad told me to look at him instead. Somehow I survived and made it home where Tracy covered me with hugs and kisses; relieved she wasn’t going to kid jail for killing me. I was happy because I had a fancy new syringe to show off. It was something the nurses gave me. I could fill it with water like a mini water gun. Good times.

Except for getting the stitches out. I had to go in a dimly lit room with a young intern who was going to cut those stitches off. I remember him sitting me up on the table and telling me he was “tying me to the stake.” Then he started prancing around in some weird Cowboys and Indians dance. Even at four I remember thinking, “What the bleep is this dumb-ass doing?” That hospital really should’ve done more background checks back then, me thinks.

So yeah, I have a one-inch diagonal scar on my finger to remember that night. I’ll show it to you if we’re ever together at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service.

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There’s nothing like a good road trip. Well, I’m talking about the kind where you grab your friends, some food, some party CD’s, lots of alcohol and take off for a fun destination. Road trips with young children, on the other hand, aren’t the same. I don’t know how my parents survived a trip in the car with the four of us. Oh, wait—we were well-behaved; for the most part. We knew my Dad would open a can of whoop ass if necessary. Of course he wasn’t the one who usually served up the whoop ass. That was Mom’s specialty. She could step out of our car gracefully at 15 MPH, open the back door on the right side of the wood-paneled station wagon, spank a few of us, then glide around to the left side, open that door and smack the rest of us; then trot back to her passenger door and hop in; that way we didn’t lose any time on our trip. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but I’m pretty certain she was the one who opened up the back door of that station wagon to serve up our spankings on the way to Utah one summer. I may have told you this story—after too many shenanigans in the back seat, Dad pulled over and Mom hopped out to deliver the whoop ass to us via the back door of that station wagon. A highway patrol pulled up to see what all the commotion was about, and asked my Mom, “What seems to be the problem here?” She replied (without stopping the whoop ass session), “I’m just disciplining my children, Officer.” To which he responded, “Carry on, Ma’am.” To which I said in my head, “Get that toothpick out of your mouth and call CPS, you beer-bellied bastard.” Well that’s what would happen today. Back in the ‘70s … not so much.

But really, how much could our parents take of “SHE’S TOUCHING ME!” and “ARE WE THERE YET?” and “I HAVE TO PEE!” and “I’M THIRSTY!” and “I HATE YOU!” … all of this accompanied by the constant sounds of us smacking each other with the seat belts we weren’t wearing.

Actually, Mom didn’t have to break out the whoop ass too often. For the most part, we were pretty well-behaved. We had plenty of food, drinks and fun to keep us occupied. This consisted of:

  • A metal cooler neatly packed with deviled egg sandwiches (or PBJ’s if we were lucky), a pound of green grapes and a few bottles of store-brand lemon-lime soda (or cola if we were lucky)
  • A grocery bag with one large bag of store-brand barbeque chips and some Styrofoam cups
  • If we were REALLY lucky, there’d be a stash of homemade brownies … or disgusting Neapolitan wafer cookies
  • Oh, and these:

A good ol’ game of Auto Bingo would last at least two hours; depending on where we were, it could be pretty hard to find the fruit stand, or the fountain. I wonder if kids these days play Auto Bingo on their smart phones? Nah, they’re probably too busy listening to music on their iPods, watching movies on their portable DVD players or killing zombies on their handheld Nintendos.

Once we were sick of Auto Bingo, we’d start playing Beaver, which is the old school version of Slug Bug. We’d yell out BEAVER every time we saw a Volkswagen Bug on the highway. But we didn’t punch each other like kids do in the current version of Slug Bug. Instead, we’d punch each other for other reasons—maybe because one of us looked at the other one too long. Oh eventually we’d settle down. We’d all try to figure out the best way to lie down. We no longer had my Dad’s ‘63 Pontiac Grand Prix once the Station Wagon came along, so we didn’t have a back window ledge to throw Melissa up on. She’d usually climb over the front seat to sleep on my Mom’s lap. If the back of the station wagon wasn’t piled with luggage, me and Coleen would climb back there and sleep. And of course, Tracy would stretch out on the back seat. Once we were asleep, my parents could change the radio station back to their oldies. Yeah, they let us listen to our rock station on road trips. We were pretty lucky.

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When I was a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees during windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. Okay, I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I would get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for me and Tracy:

                             ” Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”

In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a blue-light special. Little girls in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. I liked those little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s box. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.

When I was a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a ‘bum’ costume I designed … complete with a pair of my Dad’s old pants I stuffed with pillows to look fat. I guess homeless people were fat back in the day. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”

When I was just starting elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose (maybe you’ve heard of him). During those Zodiac rampage years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in the greater Vallejo area. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand the awful truth about the Zodiac — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday and all of us were banned to school cafeterias and community centers to celebrate our Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real outdoor festivities, especially when that nasty warm corn smell was still lingering in the air from lunch time.

We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, Hello Hepatitis! What the bleep? What were those adults thinking? Hey gang, let’s grab a huge rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then for kicks, let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have ‘em bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!

Even as a kid I knew something was terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were more dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the non-Zodiac years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to check A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.

One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture about eating candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag into my room right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here.

These days, Halloween has somewhat lost its’ magic. We have a ton of cool Halloween decorations, but never decorate because no one trick-or-treats in our neighborhood. Our neighbors have a light that illuminates the entire cul-de-sac, but strangely enough, they forget to turn it on Halloween night. So we usually go to where the nieces and nephews are to see all their darling ladybug, Thomas the Train and Tinkerbell costumes. And Jay makes sure to check all their trick-or-treat candy for dangerous items.

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“Ewww Mommy” is a phrase that played over and over in my head as a child while sitting at the dinner table. Usually this was due to a dish that contained cream of mushroom soup, or hot dogs, or bell peppers. However, later in life I learned of a word that sounded exactly the same: “umami.” It’s a Japanese word that describes the phenomenon known as “deliciousness.”

For you foodies out there who have never heard of umami before, let me enlighten you. Wait a minute – as if foodies would actually read this blog, I don’t think there are any recipes here that a true foodie would be interested in … well, maybe the Gourmet Top Ramen. Perhaps they’d prepare it with a little truffle oil to make it fancy.

In the late ‘90s I worked in Marketing for Robert Mondavi in the Napa Valley. It was a great place — we’d have Wine Tasting meetings at 9:00 in the morning. Of course after we tasted each wine, we were supposed to spit it out. I can’t speak for everyone, but I did because I’m not fond of wine (remember, beer snob). I will say it gave me an appreciation for wine, and when confronted with only wine choices, I will lean towards a lovely Sangiovese. Our Marketing Team once had to attend a training hosted by Mondavi’s Sommelier at the time (that’s fancy for Wine Wizard). Essentially, he wanted to teach us that it wasn’t necessary to limit wine choices with food — that we weren’t required to have red wine only with beef and white wine only with chicken or fish. Oh yes, it’s true. He reviewed the four taste components: salt, sour, bitter and sweet. Then we were served various meat dishes with red or white wine. Then he’d have us add salt to the dish and then have us drink the opposing red or white wine to show us that one wine was just as lovely as the other. It was very educational. During the training, he introduced us to the fifth, and mostly unknown, taste: “umami.” He defined it as deliciousness. Imagine your favorite food … the one that makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and the one that makes you close your eyes and say “MMMMMM” when you’re eating it. That’s umami baby.

Perhaps you’re now all curious of what I consider umami. This is a small list:

Malfatti (watch for this post in the future)
Chocolate Mousse
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Orange Chicken
Eggs Benedict
The first ripe tomato from my garden

And this is a very small list of my “Ewww Mommy” foods:

Bell Peppers
Garbanzo Beans
Kidney Beans
Pineapple Juice
Prune Juice
Lima Beans

There are about a thousand foods I don’t like. I’m a very discriminating eater. But if I like something, I REALLY like it. Take crab for instance. If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing, it would be crab. Then again, I did see “Castaway.” So maybe not. But for now, it’s still my number one umami food. I don’t remember the first time I had crab. It certainly wasn’t as a child — the only seafood my Dad could handle on the table was fish sticks. My only memory of crab is this:

That’s one of my favorite books from childhood. It’s lasted all these years.

Every time I fix crab legs now, Jay will actually wait to eat so he can watch me take that first bite. It’s always a spiritual experience and I “ooh” and “aah” like an audience member on “Wheel of Fortune”. When John-boy was home with us and I’d make crab, I’d ration out the crab legs (always giving him just a little more, because that’s how unselfish I am). We would scarf them down blissfully and then we’d fight over any tiny little pieces that we could find hiding on the serving plate.

Last week my sister, Tracy, and I treated our nephew, Logan, to the Family Fun Center for the go-carts and kid-gambling (video games that spit out tickets). Forty-something dollars later after he cashed in 745 tickets for a squeezey ball, a light-up spinning top and five pieces of candy, we headed over to Red Lobster. Logan wanted to try crab because he liked some ‘crab’ puffs he tried at a Chinese restaurant earlier in the month, and because he had heard me rave about crab. He’s a great eater and will try (and like) just about everything. I wasn’t sure he’d like crab, especially since I didn’t have a lot of faith in the crab that might be served up at Red Lobster (no offense Red Lobster, I’m just a snob). Logan and I shared a big plate of shrimp scampi, salmon and snow crab. Here’s the verdict on the crab:

(For the record, that isn’t a beer bottle next to Logan’s plate—it’s an IBC root beer. Though a beer bottle was in front of my plate. Yes, Tracy was driving.)

I was able to salvage about one measly crab leg for myself, as Logan was devouring them, and having fun cracking the shells. But I was thrilled — thrilled that he loved crab as much as I do, and thrilled that I was able to see him enjoy crab for the first time. I can’t wait to get some Alaskan king crab legs and prepare them for him with some clarified butter. Oooo Mommy!!!

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