How My Husband Won My Heart and My Kids’ Stomachs

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davis-cooking

Andrew and our oldest, Davis (now 19) in 1999.

Originally published June 10, 2014 over at the fabulous TueNight.

On our third date, Andrew cooked me an incredible dinner: leg of lamb, roasted asparagus and crispy potatoes. It was truly impressive.

Years later, he told me that he learned to cook because it was a good dating move. I might have felt played, but I like eating well just a tad too much. So, I not only let him cook for me regularly, I married him.

Fast forward to when our first son was 3 ½ years old. He went to a preschool friend’s house for a play date and stayed for dinner. (If you’re thinking woo hoo, what a break for Wendy, think again. We had a 1 ½ year old and an infant at home.)

I picked Davis, my oldest son, up at about 7:00 pm and, as always, he was full of stories! What a great reporter he was. So, chat, chat, chat… and then, “Mom. Guess what? It was so weird at Daniel’s house.”

“Really, what was weird?” (You can only imagine where my thoughts were headed.)

“When we had dinner, it was weird. The mom cooked.”

It’s a true gift that my three sons have a father who has taught them some really important life lessons:

  • There’s no substitute for a good knife
  • It is loving to make good food with care
  • Fresh ingredients make better food
  • Do what you do, and do it well
  • Presentation counts
  • Doing it right takes time – don’t take short cuts on the stuff that matters (example: a good ragu!)

Andrew cooks almost every night. It’s true that I get the honor about twice a quarter (and gripe about it on Facebook), and I humbly submit that I’m improving. But I don’t enjoy cooking. And he does. I call that a good partnership. Don’t you?

But more than that, I’m grateful that our three sons have a dad who expresses pride and love through food.

Our sons are 15, 17 and 19 now. Last week, they cooked dinner for Andrew’s birthday. They read cookbooks. They searched online for hours and hours. They agonized over the ingredients. They shopped for the ingredients. They prepped and planned and strategized.

The menu? Hold onto your hat:

Andalusian green salad
Chorizo and shrimp paella
Citrus-olive oil cake with sorbet
It’s exciting to see the delicious life skills they’ll take into adulthood, thanks to Andrew. Bon appétit!

How Working in Fast Food Prepared Me for Life on a Slippery Floor

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ginos

Originally published May 27, 2014 over at the fabulous TueNight.

I have worked as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to pull dandelions for my mom at a penny a piece (I only realized as an adult that my parents were paying us to stay out of the house), and I swept the floors and stamped coin envelopes at my family’s magnet factory. It was awesome growing up around all those magnets, but the highlight was the huge piles of flattened packing boxes my brother, sister and I used to climb onto and lounge on. So, maybe we played a little more than we worked.

My first real job was in fast food. I worked at Gino’s and for those of you outside the mid-Atlantic region, Gino’s was a regional chain co-owned and named for Gino Marchetti of Baltimore Colts fame. They had the Kentucky Fried Chicken rights around here so (close your eyes and imagine this), KFC and burgers in one place. I know. Dreamy.

At 17 years old, when I retired from my Gino’s career, I had already acquired some important life lessons that prepared me for the future:

Do not define people by their outward appearance

I had an elegant brown polyester uniform. The good news was that it never actually looked dirty. From this, I learned that clothes do not define us. Because seriously — I was not the brown man-made fabric type. Did I mention the hairnet?

Just because it’s free (or cheap) doesn’t mean it’s a good decision

We had a meal allowance (see pay stub!) and I ordered a Gino Giant on every shift that cost just a couple cents. Gino Giant’s were just like Big Macs, but the special sauce was just a little more special. While I never tired of these yumtastic sandwiches, I came to realize that the elastic waist of those beautiful brown pants only stretched so far.

Choose the right shoes

Adding to the caché of our uniforms were the requisite white shoes. It was the ‘70s, after all. I had a pair of platform nursing shoes. In the world of nursing shoes, I thought they were the least awful. But with no tread, I was constantly sliding across the KFC oil-coated floor. This lesson has served me well while hiking (no flip flops), and shoveling snow (no sneakers).

Don’t tolerate bullies

One of the girls I worked with was the worst kind of mean. I was able to ignore her — until the day I saw her spit into a customer’s soda. I marched into the manager’s office and turned her in. She threatened to beat me up and actually waited by my car when I got off shift. Luckily, she only hissed at me. But, she never again spit in another person’s soda at Gino’s.

Trusting is good; gullible is not so good

Truth is, I haven’t found the perfect balance here. And when I first started this job and they sent me out to water the fake plants and then sent me outside to turn the light off on the huge bucket-of-chicken sign and laughed when I struggled to find the non-existent switch, I complied. You’d think the humiliation would have taught me to be more suspicious, but in fact, I’m still pretty darn trusting.

Respect your fellow workers and suck it up

When we were on duty, we were on duty until our relief showed up. Sometimes they were late and we couldn’t leave. Not cool. Respect your co-workers and do what you say you’re going to do. People count on you. And someone has to do the crap work. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned to do what it takes to get the job done – both the glamorous and the not so glamorous.

Most importantly, I learned how to be professional and courteous when faced with extreme rudeness. Can you be cordial when a grown man throws a crispy chicken thigh at you? I can. How valuable a skill is that?

If I asked you…

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Image credit from sxc: cieleke

Image credit from sxc: cieleke


I have a serious question for you.

Ladies: If I asked you to describe your best friend, what would you say?

She’s the best listener.
She is an incredible mother.
She’d do anything for me.
She’s brilliant.
She’s the kindest person I know.
She’s hysterical.
She always there for me.
She’s an incredible athlete.
She can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
She’s the most beautiful person I know.
I don’t know what I’d do without her.
She always knows the right thing to say.
She gives so much.
She’s kind and sensitive.
She’s incredible.

Now, what would you say if I asked you to describe yourself? Would you say any of those things?

Maybe you should.

Dresses. Boots.

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This post was sponsored by the nice folks at Country Outfitters. Compensation covered the amazing Frye boots in these photos. If you know me at all or have ever read this blog, you know my love for boots did not start here and you know that my opinions are, and have always been, my own. This is also a great time to tell you that the photos were taken, edited and arranged by the fabulous Megan Evans, to whom I am very grateful for this and lots of other things. Love you, Megan!

I don’t consider myself particularly beautiful.

Nor do I consider myself particularly trendy.

I’m not saying this so you’ll comment that I’m beautiful and always look great. Seriously. Don’t. I love how I look and dress. Because, you know what? I look like me and no one else. wendy boots blue

 

When I was a teen, my brother (who was a year ahead of me in school) told my mother that I created trends. It may have been the most flattering thing I’d ever heard about myself. I did put things together a little differently. I did wear feather earrings before they were cool. (Were they ever cool?) I did make choices based on what made me feel good rather than what everyone was wearing.

And I wore boots.

Always boots.

If you want to see my 2006 boot collection, here you go. Just saying that my love of boots is not new. Not new, at all.

Last year, for Valentines’ Day, Andrew bought me the vintage red boots I’d been dreaming about. And I’ve worn them with jeans, skirts, slacks, and yes, with dresses. This is my favorite match-up.

red boots wendy And because I love this so darn much, here’s a little more of that goodness: 2014-07-10_0033

Let me talk about confidence and bare my soul. I was not a confident teen. I was scared and insecure. Maybe all girls feel that way. I don’t know. How would I know? But I remember like it was yesterday walking down the hallway and feeling conspicuous. And I remember my mom telling me I was special and that what I had was different and I should embrace it. And I tried. I tried to

    feel

special and different and stand out. Because it isn’t something anyone can give you.

And my brother (the one who said I started trends) told me way back then some of the wisest words I ever heard: act like it’s true and it will be true. (Years later, I’ve always attributed “fake it ’til you make it” to my bro.)

Boots. They made me stand out. They were different. I wore them with jeans. And with dresses. It was a little radical. At least where I lived in the suburbs.

I was the one who reached for the boots even in summer. Even if I’d never seen them worn quite like that.

Since and still, there is nothing that makes me feel as confident and as special as a fabulous pair of boots with a dress. A short dress. A long dress. A frilly dress.

 

2014-07-10_0014

Disclosure

Road trip: Old School.

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trash bag and maps
I love technology. I marvel at the immense conveniences and benefits of our time. Take Waze, for instance. How amazing is it to enter your destination and not only be given verbal instructions, but to be routed around traffic and warned of stopped cars, police, speed camera and more. Truly unbelievable. And now, Waze talks in terms of time, not distance. So instead of, drive 30 miles and then keep right, it says drive 37 minutes and then, keep right. Now if that isn’t thinking about the way the user thinks, I don’t know what is. Very, very cool.

But you know what? I miss spreading out my maps and plotting my path. I miss seeing what is along the way – or not – and thinking about where I’ll stop and what I’ll do. I miss visualizing my path ahead of time and while I’m on the way to where I’m going. And I miss pulling out the map on the side of the road and figuring out where I am when I get lost. The getting lost part – that was part of the adventure.

I never get lost anymore.

Is that a good thing? I’m not so sure.

My AAA membership expires tomorrow. I’ve been a member for as long as I can remember.

Back in the day, it was hard to find someone to help you if you had car trouble 10 miles outside Duluth and didn’t know anyone west of Ohio. It was impossible to know if stumbling upon Sam at Sharky’s Garage was a stroke of luck or a nightmare waiting to happen. But today? Yelp. Today? Google. Today? Easy.

Sure, it’s an option to self-insure a tow by joining AAA. But the thing is, I’ve been a member for 20+ years at $50-75 per year and have been towed once. Now, the tow was free. But add it up, and not so much free. Yes, they have lots of discounts and offerings but I don’t use them. The AAA hotel discount? I can find that rate a hundred different ways, or frankly just by asking.

So, I’m not renewing my AAA membership. It isn’t a decision I came to lightly. But I’ve been thinking about maps a lot lately and have regretted not having good street maps in the car. Sure, I could go out and buy them but since they’re a part of my membership, I scurried over to pick some up before the end of the month. I got 12 maps.

Assuming I’ve been a member 25 years and the average cost per year was $62.50, that’s $1,562.60. Let’s take out the tow back in 2003 (I’ll call that $150) and the average cost per map I just got is $117.71. Just saying, they weren’t really free. However, as Andrew always says, “Sunk costs are sunk,” and now I have some new maps.

The main reason I’m posting, though, is that awesome trashbag they threw in with the maps. Now, I have a trashbag in my car, already. But this one? This one brings back some great memories. And it made me laugh out loud.

Do you remember these? The bag hangs on the window crank. See that round hole? Now tell me, how would you hang it in your car? There’s no place in mine, for sure. (You might say the lighter/power source, but there’s not enough room UNDER it to let the bag hang. At least not in our cars.)

So, so retro.

Magnutties & Happy Fathers’ Day

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Back in February 2012, I wrote about working for my family magnet business from the tender young age of 10. I wrote about how I stamped the coin envelopes (not particularly well) for magnutties. And what were magnutties? They were rubber magnetic strip scored so that you could break them into 100 pieces and they were fun to stack and play with. I wasn’t sure if it was 100 pieces at the time I wrote, but I am now.

Why is that? Why am I sure now?

I’m sure because I got an email just the other day that confirmed it.

The author of said email, sent me this photo:

magnutties

and I can’t tell you how much it made me smile. We’ve written back and forth a bit and here’s what I learned. He found this pack of magnutties stuck to the bottom of an old metal fishing tray of an old tackle box (they are magnetic after all) and he googled it. And the only thing of substance he found was my blog post.

And he reached out.

I explained that B&G was the company my dad started when I was little and that its name changed a long time ago. And that magnutties haven’t been around for quite some time.

And I told him that my dad would think this was really neat. I thought that I’d create this great Fathers’ Day post about this. And then I realized that my dad doesn’t use a computer.

So I’m posting it a little early for Fathers’ Day because I can show him at breakfast today. (I’m taking my mom to the train & will hang around in Baltimore for a bite to eat.)

(Thank you, kind stranger!)