Monday, June 28, 2010

Have You Made Your Bed Today?

My children love the sound of my voice.  They've never said it, but I know.  Five words, in particular, seem to be music to their ears.  Have.  You.  Made.  Your.  Bed.

To be sure, given that I have to ask the question every single day, I’ve had to come up with variations on this melodious combination of words.  There’s “Is your bed made?”  And, “Your bed’s made, right?”  The gentle, “Have you had a chance to make your bed yet?”  And the sly, “I’m sure your bed’s already made.”

It’s so apparent that Son and Darling Daughter like to hear “Have you made your bed?” that I’ll break my own “You can’t answer a question with a question” rule, just so they can hear it.

Them, “Will you take me to Target so I can buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need and a bag of Sour Patch Kids as big as my head?”  Me, “Have you made your bed?”

Honestly.  They’ve each been wholly responsible for making their own beds – every day of the year except their birthday and Christmas (I know, I’m weak) – since they were five years old.  There’s nothing new here.  Yet, no matter how many times I deliver the expected, “Have you made your bed?” the response is always the same:  “What?”

As if.  As if we’ve never met.  As if I were speaking Swahili.  As if I’d asked, “Can you explain the time space continuum to me?  Or why do your sweaty socks smell so much more foul than mine?”

One thing both Son and Darling Daughter do understand, though, is when I say, “We’re having chicken for dinner.”

Between the two of them, only one likes pasta with red sauce.  One likes fish.  One likes scrambled eggs.  One likes steak.  (Go figure.)

Everyone likes chicken.  And this unusual version – marinated in yogurt -- is particularly tangy and moist – and includes a low fat sauce that’s great on steamed broccoli or baked potatoes.

Before the kids sit down to dinner though, I’m sure there’s one thing they’ll want to hear.

“Have you made your bed?”

Grilled Chicken in Yogurt With Curry

4 boneless chicken breasts

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients except chicken, in a gallon-sized, resealable plastic bag.  Squeeze out about half of yogurt sauce, and set aside, to be served later over steamed vegetables or baked potatoes.  Place chicken in bag in remaining yogurt sauce, and refrigerate four to 12 hours.  Grill marinated chicken over indirect heat, just until done.  (Juices will run clear when poked with a toothpick).  When done, remove from grill, allow to rest 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Things Done. Or, You Know, Not.

Uh oh. Didn’t see this one coming.

Mailman Mike has delivered a letter from Darling Daughter in which she announced that she hopes to earn her NC boating license while at summer camp.

In case I didn’t mention it before, uh oh.

Son and I have made any number of plans to earn our boating licenses this summer. However, if DD comes home July 9 with her license, she may not only be the youngest person Chez Wiles with a boating license. She may be the only one.

Son and I need to get in gear.

It’s always this way, though. The kids go off to camp or back to school or away for the weekend, I think: Finally. I’m going to get some stuff done! That chandelier in the dining room? Out of here! That powder room wallpaper? Incinerated! That fence, house paint, sprinkler system? Replaced, refreshed, repaired!

And on top that that, there’s always that pesky boat license.

To be truthful, DD’s been gone about 10 days now. T-E-N days. Ten. You know what all I’ve accomplished to date? Well, I haven’t posted a blog since she left. How’s that for a clue?

So what have I done?

Hmm. Next question, please.

Even Son – self proclaimed slacker and underachiever -- has accomplished more these past 10 days. He’s actually researched what we need to do to get our boating licenses.  He's visited with friends. He’s been to the lake. He’s been out golfing. He’s compiled a playlist for my 30th class reunion. (As an aside, Son’s playlist is AWESOME. I smile every time I think of it. Who knew a 15-year-old knew so much about Van Halen? Or the BeeGees? Or Meatloaf?) He’s even sliced, diced and interpreted the convoluted World Cup standings, and made them digestible for me.

And I have …

Well, what I meant to do was …

Puh-leeze. It’s not as if she’s coming home next week.

Time passes. Heads turn. Intentions slide. However,
the road to hell, as my 11th grade composition teacher pointed out, is paved with good intentions.

OK. I haven’t done anything extraordinary since DD’s been gone. But I have managed to keep up with laundry (True, the laundry is down a third in DD’s absence.) I’ve written a number of letters. And I’ve cooked.

This chicken came about rather haphazardly. I’d intended to make
Beer Butt Chicken. But I had no canned beer. Not even any canned Dr. Pepper (which to be honest, works just as well). So I stuffed some, you know, "stuff," in a chicken and grilled it.

VoilĂ .

But the wallpaper and fence are still up.

Uh oh.
Whole Lemon & Herb Grilled Chicken

One whole chicken
One handful of fresh herbs (I used oregano and chives)
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon, cut in chunks
1 handful kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper'

Tuck chicken wings under the back. Stuff cavity of chicken with herbs, garlic and lemon. Truss chicken legs with twine. Rub exterior of chicken with salt and pepper.

Grill chicken over indirect heat until interior temperature reaches 170, (about 1 hour). Do not overcook.  Let rest 15 minutes. Remove lemon chunks and squeeze over chicken. Carve and serve hot.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Things I Need, In Addition To Laser Hair Removal.

Surely, slowly, and then quickly, my money’s flowing into a big watery hole known as Lake Wylie.

When I bought my little Sea-Ray, my trusty salesman (and I say that without a trace of facetiousness), Matt, told me I wouldn’t need a thing. He gave me a complete boater’s package, including four lifejackets, 100 feet of line, an anchor, a fire extinguisher (I know, right?) and a full tank of gas. With all that – not to mention the boat -- Matt was sure I wouldn’t need a thing.

Huh. Is it possible that Matt's never met me?

In two short weeks of boat ownership, the kids and I have already identified a myriad of necessities, including:

•  Skis, wakeboards, inner tubes
•  A tow line, for all those skis, wakeboards and inner tubes
•  A dry box, for stashing that impressive boat registration -- and those water-sensitive cell phones.)
•  A new cooler, on wheels
•  Coozies, preferably embellished with “Feminine Wiles," and "Accepting Donations"
•  An unsinkable, "unlosable" bottle opener
•  A waterproof camera, ideally one that automatically erases images of 47-year-old women who have the gumption – or poor judgment -- to wear bathing suits
•  Photoshop for Mac, in the event the camera malfunctions, failing to delete images of 47-year-old women in bathing suits
•  Champagne, multiple bottles for christening and consuming
•  Laser hair removal. (Legs are mandatory. Underarms, optional.)
•  A pop-up grill, portable potty and on-deck icemaker.

OK. Just kidding about that last bit. The grill, that is, not the laser hair removal, because there is nothing like the stark light of day, reflected off the shimmering surface of Lake Wylie, to illuminate every spikey follicle of stubble that emerged as the boat was being “splashed.” “Splashed” is boat-speak for “put into the water.” Turns out there's a lot more to being boat-fluent than "starboard" and "port."

Cougar Bait, who actually knows how to drive a boat, has come to our rescue with skis, a tow line and dry box.  But there's no end to the amount of money you can spend on a boat.  Just ask the folks at West Marine.  There is, however, one thing money can't buy -- a name.

Yep, our boat still needs a name.

Apparently, it’s bad luck to have a nameless boat. So here are a few of the ones we’re floating around. (Ha! “Floating"! Not quite boat-speak, but still.)

• Wiles Thing
• Worth Wiles
• Cheri’s Jubilee
• Always Write
• Scratch Pad
• Feminine Wiles
• What's For Dinner?
• Cougar Bait

• The Boat

Honest. It was easier to name Son and Darling Daughter than this 20-and-a-half-foot Sport.

It was also plenty easy to come up with this Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad, which I'll be taking out on The Boat this week. Whatever her name is.

Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad

1 can good quality tuna, packed in olive oil, undrained
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 handful of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
4-5 cups romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped

Stir together all ingredients except lettuce. Season to taste with kosher salt. (May not need, depending on the saltiness of the tuna.) Chill well. Toss with lettuce and serve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hitting The Books. Naming The Boat.

It's exam week Chez Wiles.

So instead of boating –our new favorite pastime -- everybody’s studying.

That doesn’t mean we’re laying low.  Far from it.  Studying Chez Wiles is no quiet, introspective restrained activity.  It’s aggressive, expansive and territorial -- more Alexander the Great than Henry David Thoreau. 

Each kid, naturally, staked out his or her own room first.  Then, Son took over the dining room table.  Daughter claimed the sunroom -- floor, futon and bookshelves -- and set up a whiteboard for math problems.  Son’s study materials sprawled from his bedroom floor, into his bathroom, and onto a corner of the kitchen table.  DD took over some of the stairs and a kitchen counter.  On occasion, she even taped notes to the glass shower door.  At this point, the only household surfaces not yet encrusted with index cards, review sheets, notebooks, textbooks and eraser crumbs are, mysteriously, their desks.  And the cat.

Not that I’m complaining.  To be sure, studying – in whatever form -- is better than the alternative, which in our house is watching Glee, Facebooking, playing the guitar, ripsticking, playing basketball, ripsticking while playing basketball, or putting the cat in the dryer.

Through it all, my role is to grease the track.  Make sure the laundry is done.  Make sure the pantry is stocked.  Make sure each of them gets to their various exams on time (and on the right day, which could be the greater challenge).  And make sure I don’t serve a single meal that could prompt the suspiciously asked, “What’s that?”

So -- no new recipes today.  Instead, we’re all about comfort food – family favorites like Not So Dirty Rice, Waffles of Insane Greatness, and the beloved Sausage Pasta.  Hmm.  Looks as if all three of these meals involve the kids' favorite food group -- sausage.  I'll have to try to do better.  But not this week.

Next week, though, game on.  Fish.  Vegetables.  Anti-oxidants.  Whole fiber.  And very likely, spinach parading as parsley.  Plus, we still have to name the boat.  And maybe, just maybe, learn to drive it!