Sunday, October 24, 2010

The way to a (wo)man's heart

The Hubs can cook. Like, really cook. He has that innate ability to throw a bunch of ingredients together and come up with a masterpiece. I'm not gonna lie, his culinary skills definitely earned him some major points when we were first dating. One of our first dates, he invited me over to his apartment and made me Rachel Ray's You Won't Be Single For Long vodka cream pasta -- yes, that's really the name. I guess it worked!

This morning, to mark our last Sunday morning living with my parents, he made us all banana crumb muffins, the highest rated recipe ever on I committed a major faux pas by whining that I didn't really like bananas in the first place. But oh. my. god. These muffins were awesome! I may have to rethink my stance on that mushy yellow fruit... (Oh, and not only does he cook for me, but for my parents too. Double points!).

Unfortunately for the Hubs, I'm a little culinarily challenged. Okay, a lot challenged. I hid it well, until he broke his leg two years ago, and I ended up having to do all the cooking. Throwing together ingredients and trying to make something yummy usually resulted in some kind of brown, tasteless mush. I even tried following recipes and was underwhelmed by the results. I finally managed to pull together a few good meals I could handle, like tacos. I make a mean taco. But, despite my mad taco skills, he was back in the kitchen as soon as he could hobble around on one leg.

Actually, there is one meal I can consistently make and it's always good, and it's homemade mac and cheese. I know what you're thinking: "Um, hello, melted cheese and pasta -- an eight-year-old could manage that." But trust me when I tell you this is the best mac and cheese you've ever had. Yes, I'm that cocky about it.

It's from the Pillsbury Kitchens' Family Cookbook, copyright 1979, and I learned how to make it from my mom in the way she cooks, which means kind of making it up. I loosely follow the recipe, but when it comes to the cheese, I have my own little mixture that includes 3/4 of a block of Hannaford medium sharp cheddar cheese, some Kraft American cheese and whatever else I have in the house -- mozzarella, taco cheese, colby jack. I don't really measure, but throw it in until it looks and tastes right. It never tastes the same twice, but it's always yummy. I made another recipe once with fancy Gruyere cheese and lobster, and the Hubs admitted he liked the Pillsbury one better. Which is good, 'cause Gruyere ain't cheap!

The real secret? Topping it with buttered pieces of regular white bread, cut up into little pieces, before baking it. I scoff at those silly bread crumbs!

I don't know if I won the Hubs over with my mac and cheese, but I don't think it hurt. I'm looking forward to doing some cooking together in our brandy new (to us) kitchen in only one week! Maybe we'll celebrate it with more of that magic vodka sauce.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A little more about marriage...

So, last time I shared some things I'd learned about marriage from living with my parents for nine months. Let's continue that, now, with number 3:

3. People don't really change (see #2), but they can still surprise you.

After 29 years, I'm pretty sure there are things about each other my parents still don't get. Despite how well they know each other, they are always learning something new about the other person. The key to this is not taking your husband for granted, and not pigeon-holing him into some pre-defined box. And it means not falling into a rut -- it means trying new things, as a couple and as an individual, and expanding both your horizons and your ideas about the other person.

Case in point: Our honeymoon was The Hubs' and my first real trip together -- our first time on a plane together! -- and I discovered something new about him. He's a generally reserved person around people he doesn't know, but he surprised me by chatting up our cab driver, asking him if he was from Aruba, what restaurants he recommended, how the tourism season had been this year. It made me love him even more!

4. It's about the bad times. I cringe when I hear or read people talking about their relationship and saying, "95% of the time, things are great, but that other 5% makes me want to end it...". Nothing is rainbows and puppies 100% of the time, but the tough times shouldn't make you want to run every time. In reality, it's the lows that define you as a couple. No matter how bad things get, you should always have each other's backs. And realizing that the tough times are just as important as the happy times in building your relationship makes them easier to bear and makes you less apt to want to throw in the towel at every little bump in the road. I can honestly say that, even when The Hubs and I have hit a rough patch, I never think it's lacking. Our relationship is great 100% of the time, even when it's not, because we're always a team and we're committed to making it work. And I know my parents have had tough times too, but how they've navigated those challenges has made their marriage last for 29 years.

You might notice these marriage lessons aren't super idealistic or romantic. What can I say? I guess I'm a realist at heart. But seriously, it's not all butterflies, people!

Anyways, enough lecturing. In only a short ten days, we'll be closing on our first house and reentering the grown-up population, at least in theory. While I did say I've enjoyed living with my parents, I'm more than ready to leave. It was nice being taken care of, but after a while I started to feel like I was losing the adult part of my identity. Come home from work, watch TV until mom says it's dinner time, eat dinner, watch some more TV... yeah, it sounds fun in theory, but after a few months, the grown-up part of you starts to feel guilty and a little unfulfilled. Who knew I'd miss dishes? I think we're more than ready for the adult responsibility headed our way!

P.S. This blog has a semi-new design and some new pages on design and decor ideas for our new house. What do you think? Soon this blog will feature more of our trials and tribulations in home ownership, like remodeling, decorating and figuring out how to use a riding lawnmower. Yes, apparently I have to learn how to mow a lawn. There are some adult responsibilities I'd rather leave to my imagination...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paying it forward

I'm not gonna lie -- I've really liked living with my parents. Maybe it's because my mom cooks me dinner and insists on cleaning up. Maybe it's because my dad rents movies I want to see and lets me watch them. Or maybe it's because they're saving us a boatload of money through their generosity.

In any case, the situation has been a lot easier than I expected. I've always gotten along really well with my parents, and it's good to see them getting along with The Hubs and getting to know him more.

Granted, there are downsides to co-habitation: lack of privacy, and not just for what you think. We always have a mediator for our arguments, whether we want one or not -- and someone who can tell me after-the-fact, "You know, you were kinda bitchy." (My parents don't always pick my side!) Plus, as the only one who's lived with all of them, I sometimes feel like the middle man, working to make sure my husband isn't driving my parents nuts and vice versa, and explaining each other's quirks ("I don't know why The Hubs slams cupboard doors, Mom"; "I don't know why my dad likes spaghetti but not elbow macaroni, Hubs." Etc.) Even though everyone seems to be getting along perfectly fine, my constant worry over little wrinkles has left me feeling a little drained.

We've learned some lessons from my parents about what it means to make a marriage work. And now, I'll share them some of them with you!

(Note: I'm going to use male pronouns here when referring to a spouse, because I'm married to a man, and the linguistic gymnastics required by the English language to make it gender-neutral would make me give up writing this half-way through. This is not some kind of some heteronormative gesture -- it's a gripe with grammar!)

1. Marriage is work. I kind of already knew this, but it's always a good reminder that the romantic comedy ending -- the realization that they belong together, a sappy speech and then smooth sailing -- only exists in the movies. The marriage is not the ending, but the beginning of a lifetime of new experiences, happiness, challenges and yes, work. The Hubs and I both acknowledged that things wouldn't always be easy, and hopefully anyone else who's gotten as far as the altar (or the birch arbor, in our case) has figured this out.

2. People don't really change. Again, romantic comedies -- not on the mark. Sure, it seems awfully sweet when the notorious ladies' man suddenly decides he wants a wife, two kids and a place in the 'burbs, but in reality, a complete 180 rarely happens (I won't say never because, well, I don't have that kind of authority on the world). That doesn't mean people's attitudes and reactions won't change as they get older, because our experiences do shape how we view ourselves and the world. And anyone in a happy relationship wants to make the other person happy too. A messy person may become less messy with lots of coaxing, and an impatient person might ease up once kids enter the picture. But a messy person will never become a neatfreak, and an impatient person will never become the picture of patience.

It sounds obvious, but so many people stay in a relationship waiting for the other person to become what they want instead of accepting the person they are. Marriage won't make a person grow up, want to clean a bathroom, like jazz music or care about politics. If you're marrying someone wishing he were different or, worse, expecting him to become different, then you might as well get your divorce lawyer ready.

Check back later for more marriage lessons!

In the meantime, The Hubs and I will be busy packing to move into our new house at the end of the month. Despite how nice it's been living with my parents, The Hubs and I are ready to move on to our first home -- and a whole new set of lessons to learn. Like how to paint.