The opposite of anonymous

The opposite of anonymous: distinctive, named, known.

I like known.

Being known.

For me, the hardest part about moving across country is leaving the place you are known.

In your home town, friends honk when they see you and wave when they run by.

It might not be true, but it feels like an extra set of eyes are watching your children at school, because the principal knows your name.

The clerk at the laundromat has your dry cleaning pulled and ready to go when she sees your car pull into the parking lot.

Your running group never leaves at 1 minute after your designated meet time because they know you might show up in 5.

When you are sick, or recovering from surgery, you never know which friend or neighbor will show up at the door with dinner, or offer to take your children to play so you can have a quiet house.

And maybe, the waiter at your favorite restaurant will keep your glasses in his front pocket for 3 weeks until you return again, because he just knew you would be back soon.

But then all that knowing gets a little overwhelming.

The more people you know, the more people you have to say good-bye too when you leave.

Sometimes the right words don’t come.

You have to say good-bye to your family, your friends and even people you don’t know very well.

How do you say thank you for the organizational help when you were preparing to show the house, because your friend knows that organizing is really not your “thing?” Or to another that invited the neighborhood and everyone you have ever known in the city to a wonderful goodbye party? And then to your parents that came to every one of their 3 grandchildren’s soccer games, dance recitals, and swim meets not out of obligation but because they really wanted to be there.

The packing and planning and partying and packing and planning and… it all becomes so chaotic, there is a huge crescendo and then you are gone!

You move. And, after you unpack the boxes, and get the kids enrolled in school… it stops.

You become anonymous.

Someone hands you a clean slate.

AFter the craziness that moving can bring the silence of anonymity is nice.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do because you have no obligation.

Want to try a new church? Do it.

Want to be a faceless parent in the PTA, you can try.

Grown tired of the traditional furnishings in your house? Get rid of them. Your new town is full of contemporary furniture stores, why don’t you give it a go?

How about a belly dancing class at the gym? No risk someone you know will see that your hips don’t move like the rest of the class because you don’t know anyone!

Ever wondered if blondes really DO have more fun? Of if it is the red color, not part of their personality that give your sweet carrot topped friends their extra spunk? Why don’t you check it out?

Adding a little adventure to my life has helped ease the pain of leaving home. It has been fun! Thursday I entered La Bella Salon in Coral Gables a brunette and left like this:

Do reds have more fun?

And I have to tell you, I am feeling a little feisty! With this new color, I need to be careful. It might be hard to remain anonymous with my new flaming head.

The land mass between Louisiana and Alabama

My landlord really rubbed me the wrong way on Sunday morning and it is still bothering me. I need to vent.

I called her because we were unsure if we needed to install the custom fit hurricane shutters on our Miami home. Our lease specified that we were responsible for putting the shutters “up” and I had made it clear that I wanted her to make the call as to when that would happen. I did not want to be held responsible for making the decision if the shutters were necessary or not.

The conversation went something like this:

Landlord: “I’ve been watching the weather and I don’t think it is necessary to cover the windows today.”
Me: (always feeling the need to over explain myself) “Great. You know my parents lived through Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi and naively, I considered myself a hurricane expert. I realized, as we prepared for Issac here in Miami, how ridiculous that is- I actually know absolutely nothing and appreciate your insight.” (It never hurts to kiss-up to the land lord right? Never know when you might need something?)
Landlord: Well, with Katrina, it really wasn’t the hurricane that was the problem, but the after math. After the hurricane rolled through we all breathed a sigh of relief that a bullet had been dodged. Then the levees broke and that is when all the problems started.
Me: That might be true in New Orleans but there was quite a bit of damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Quite a bit of damage? Kallaher (that’s me), is that all you’ve got? Are you kidding me? I can’t tell you how many awesome come backs I’ve had in my mirror. Sometimes would have, should have, could have is the story of my life.

Anyway…after Katrina savaged the Gulf Coast my beloved Gulfport, Mississippi will never look the same I don’t have to look at the statistics to tell you that 75% of the homes were completely destroyed. I don’t have to look because I can use my mom’s bridge club as a gauge. 9 of the 12 women in her card group had homes that were leveled to the ground. I mean leveled, nothing left but a concrete slab and side-walk.

We had friends that put on life jackets and were holding onto the gutters on their roof as the storm passed through town. The lucky ones were able to crawl into their attics and pray as all of their material belongings were sloshed around in their homes below.

The gorgeous Southern homes that lined Highway 90 on the beach, including Jefferson Davis’s home in Biloxi, were leveled to the ground. But even crazier than that, homes in our old neighborhood, Bayou Oaks, about 2 miles south of Interstate 10, 3 miles north of the beach were razed. Katrina had no mercy.

After Issac passed through my new home town, I breathed a quick sigh of relief that his bite was not as big as his bark. I woke up yesterday morning and turned on the TV hoping the weather man would have news that Issac would not gain more muscle as he approached the Gulf Coast.

The forecast gave me nothing. because there was no information on Mississippi. Every time I turned on the news the weather man was reporting on New Orleans, Mobile, Apalachicola and Tampa.

Do you know how many people live in Apalachicola? Well, I do because I looked it up! 2, 248 as of July, 2011 according to google.

And do you know how many live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast? Almost 200,000! Google says there were almost 70,000 people in the city of Gulfport in 2011 and these numbers I am quoting you do not even include people outside of the city limits. And by the way, I am only a tiny bit biased. Yes, my parents moved to Gulfport when I was 14 and I had the best highschool experience any American girl could hope for, BUT I also have family in Apalachicola. Dear Aunt Beverly lives in this tiny fishing village and has a flight booked to visit us this Friday. We talked to her and she is fine… but does this tiny town really need the national news spotlight?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was a little annoyed by the lack of information on the “landmass between Louisiana and Alabama.” Last night my Facebook page blew up with complaints from my Gulfport High School and Ole Miss friends that the media was not covering the area as they should. Some natives waved a few white flags. They told their friends that they were growing tired of the complaints and the “landmass” references… but I wasn’t. I did not blame them for their anger and frankly I waned more information. I needed to know what was going on Mississippi!

I think someone got the memo, or maybe saw the swell of complaints. I do not know what the weather man Jim Cantore did during hurricane Katrina but I know it was not good because people do not like him. Mr. Cantore I think you need to give it up and go report on the rains in Seattle or something because you are not welcome.

This morning, when I turned on the news I was happy to see a Good Morning America reporter standing on the Mississippi beach. Robin Roberts probably had a lot to do with it. She is from the neighboring town of Gulfport that was once so architecturally beautiful, pre-Katrina, Pass Christian, Mississippi. But the Mississippi Gulf Coast coverage was not limited to GMA. Consistently today on the Weather Channel I received reports from my old home town.

My parents had to leave Gulfport after Katrina left her mark. My dad’s office was destroyed and the company’s investors would not support a rebuild on the beach. My mom says she sometimes feels guilty because so many of their friends lost so much in that storm and she felt almost blessed. The company relocated to Dallas and they moved to the city where we lived the following March, the day their second grandchild was born.

So tonight, I go to bad happy that I have updated information on the weather channel but worried about the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Thank you for letting me say my peace. And if you wouldn’t mind, please include the Mississippi Gulf Coast, along with New Orleans in your prayers tonight. Tomorrow August 29th marks the 7 year anniversary of the date that Hurricane Katrina ravaged our Gulf Coast and no one wants a repeat.

See the unbelievable Mississippi Gulf Coast before and after Katrina pictures on the linked website below:

Party tricks

Last week I wrote a bit about the Back to School Party we had at our house but I didn’t give you many of the deets (How do you feel about that word?).

Today I thought I would share a few of my favorite party tricks because I was real pleased with how the whole night turned-out. As I looked over the pictures I realized most of these ideas were stolen from two of the best hostesses that I know in Dallas- JM and the Other Meredith. If there is a team party, teacher appreciation, birthday celebration or even if there is no particular good reason at all, friends of these ladies ALWAYS look to them to host a gathering. I can not think of one time that either of them has not only agreed but been up for a party and opened up their beautiful homes.

Let me give you the skinny!

Both of my friends’ parties always have a theme and are kept as simple as possible. For my back to school party I used apples, books, globes and glasses to establish my theme and pre-prepared almost all of the food so no one was stuck in the kitchen. We used these baskets with liners, like I have seen the Other do many times (but not always of course, some occasions demand china!). The baskets are cute, cheap (the liners were from Amazon Prime and the baskets were already on hand), easy to eat from while standing or sitting AND make for an easy clean-up. LOVE THEM!

Memphis barbecue on the menu

The menu was in honor of my husband’s heritage- doesn’t that sound fancy? In other words, he’s from Memphis and we had barbecue- pork, not beef, that’s a Memphis thing! We tried a new pulled pork recipe done in the oven and it turned out great. Check it out (if the link is not working please scroll down to previous post below)

We served the adults, wine beer a signature drink which you will always find at the Other’s house. Not the same drink, a signature for each party that is a surprise at every event..

I stuck with my theme and served an apple mojito and it was AWESOME. You have to try this recipe (click ).

apple mojito

What is that you see written on the wall? It is chalk from a chalkboard pen! Have you ever heard of it? I had not until JM told me about them and I LOVE them. I bought a pack of 3 at Michael’s over a year ago for about $12 and they work great. I wrote directions so that guests could make their own drink and then labeled the containers of the ingredients (OK the mint was obvious, but the simple syrup might not have been)! I also used this pen to explain that the bright red punch was ‘kid friendly” but I should have written on that pitcher: liquid apple/cherry sugar… i thought it turned out gross, and the floated apples did not look so appetizing, but of course, the kids loved it and the candy-striped paper straws were also a big hit.

JM’s decor is always superb. She is a high-end make-up artist by trade but everything she touches, not just the faces of Dallas high society, should be called art because she is SO talented. Centerpieces scare me but I remembered the advice JM had given me (1) if you think it is too big, it isn’t and (2) it is almost impossible to mess-up a monocolor scheme. These photographs aren’t great because my dining room has no furnishings (the tables are portable and were just moved there for party) and the serving bowls are empty. Please ignore the naked walls and check out the tables.

And finally, like the Other I love to find favors that the kids are excited to take home and can be used to take great party pictures during the party. The globe beach balls and “nerd” glasses did just the trick. I ordered both from the Oriental Trading Company.
Back to school party
Back to School Party

How about you? Do you have any go to party tricks that help make your events a success?

Guy Fieri’s Double Apple Mojito

This is the recipe for the signature drink I served to the adults at our Back to School Party.

Small handful fresh mint, about 10 leaves
1 cup ice cubes
Splash simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves; cool)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup vodka
2 red apple slices, for garnish
2 green apple slices, for garnish
In a tall glass, crush mint leaves with a muddler. Top with ice, simple syrup, apple juice and vodka. Garnish with red and green apples slices and serve.

* At my party I forgot to make the simple syrup, so I substituted with Agave nectar and it turned out great!
apple mojito

Tyler Florence’s pulled pork sandwich recipe

I have had great luck with Tyler Florence’s recipes. I can’t think of one that did not turn out great, and this slow cooked pork shoulder in the oven did not disapoint. I made this recipe for a large group of 12 adults and 8 children and plan to make it again from my Memphis native in-laws, which should tell you it is good because I would not serve these barbecue experts a shoulder that wasn’t spectacular.

We did not use Tyler’s barbecue sauce recipe below because my husband likes to make his own and he says he will not share his secret recipe (I think because he doesn’t know what it is… his sauce is great, but always turns out different, so I think he just wings it!). I’m sure Tyler’s is great though!

Finally, putting the cole slaw on the sandwich really makes it perfect. I did not take the time to make homemade dressing but used fresh cabbage and Marie’s Cole Slaw dressing found in the refrigerated aisle of most grocery stores that I have been too, and it was great.

Dry Rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) pork roast, preferably shoulder or Boston butt
Cider Vinegar Barbecue Sauce:
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow or brown mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 hamburger buns
1 recipe Spicy Slaw, recipe follows
Pickle spears
Mix the paprika, garlic power, brown sugar, dry mustard, and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork and marinate for as long as you have time for, as little as 1 hour or up to overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Put the pork in a roasting pan and bake for about 6 hours. Basically, roast the pork until it’s falling apart and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170 degrees F.

To make the barbecue sauce: combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves.

Remove the pork roast from the oven and transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks and “pull” the meat to form shreds. Using 2 forks, shred the pork by steadying the meat with 1 fork and pulling it away with the other. Put the shredded pork in a bowl. Pour 1/2 of the sauce on the shredded pork and mix well to coat.

To serve, spoon the pulled pork mixture onto the bottom 1/2 of the hamburger bun, and top with the spicy slaw. Serve with pickle spears and the remaining sauce on the side.

Pillow talk comedy

Six-year-old: Why does AK’s stomach hurt?
Mom: Well apparently she swallowed part of her granola bar wrapper.
Six-year-old: She did not.
Four-year-old: Yes I did (then in a whisper), and I think it is stuck in my throat.
Six-year-old: If it was you would be coughing like there was a frog in your throat.
Four-year-old: Ribbit, ribbit.

6 and 4

Uninvited guests showed-up at our party

It has been a hectic week.

All 3 of my children started school and for my 6-year-old that meant she started her 6th NEW school and I was a little bit nervous about it.

If God did in fact create shy bones, then Chloe is the only one in our family of five that has one, or maybe ten, in her body. Not only that but she is very cautious. She has had many “starts” in her short life where she has reported “yes, I did have fun today, but I think I won’t go back tomorrow.” She would rather stay home and skip day two rather than risk that the first day was a false start of fun.

I felt bad. Another new school? I had not done a very good job of explaining why we hadn’t seen her kindergarten friends since the last day of that school in May. It was a very small class, and the three other girl moms and I did not click… but I did try. Denise’s mom only spoke Spanish, Sarah’s mom kept her only child on a super busy schedule and could not seem to fit us in and the African twins’ turban-wearing, missionary mom was super sweet, but they moved away in July to take a year-long sabbatical.

I really hoped, or rather still hope, that at her new school both Chloe AND I will meet some first grade families with whom we can become friends. SO, I decided to have a back to school party to get that friendship ball rolling.

Monday, Chloe joined her brother, who started the third grade, at a wonderful elementary school that did not have room for her when we moved to Miami last January. My Back to School invitees included 7 of my son’s favorite 3rd grade friends and their families and 8 first grade families whom I had never met before. I did a little research in the school’s online directory and was so happy to find that 8 of the 60 incoming first graders were girls that lived in our zip code!

The party happened last Saturday night. I sent an evite two weeks prior and then on the Thursday before I phoned those that had not responded (note to self: evite etiquette good topic for future post). A day before the event I was counting on 5 families attendance, which was great. Yes, I would have been happy if a few more could have come, but 13 adults (my mom was in town) plus kids would make a nice size gathering.

The party was great: the food was yummy, the decor turned out just as I had pictured it would and all aged guests seemed to have fun.

Ready to hit the books
Memphis barbecue on the menu
Back to School Party
Back to school party

That night my new Floridian family went to bed with a clean kitchen (my mom’s head never hits the pillow until the dishes are done, no matter what time the last guest leaves) and the satisfaction that it had been a succesful Saturday night.

At 3 a.m. I woke to the familiar sound of my 4-year old daughter’s voice asking…” Mommy, can I get in bed with you?” Always afraid that I might not be able to fall back asleep, I let one eye flutter half-way open. “Is everything, OK?” I barely got the question out before both eyes popped to full attention as my daughter scratched at her head like a dog with fleas. “Sure, I’m fine my head just itches a little bit.”

OH NO!! I KNEW WHAT THAT SCRATCHING MEANT. They were back. But how did those nasty varmints find us here in paradise? I thought we left those lousy lice back in Texas… this could not be happening.

I pulled my daughter close to me hoping if we both closed our eyes we might wake-up from this nightmare. We did in fact fall asleep but it didn’t work, the lice were still there and I had to suffer through 4 hours of dreams involving giant insects eating our new house with us inside.

At 7 am I jumped out of bed and shouted to my husband. The lice are back we’ve got to get to work! You see, the first and last time these annoying little creatures set-up camp on my children’s’ heads it took me SIX WEEKS TO GET RID OF THEM. I swore the next time they paid us a visit I would be super vigilant. I was sure I had just not worked hard enough to get rid of these uninvited guests, so I formulated an evacuation plan (not too dissimilar from the plan we just formulated to deal with Isaac. A guest from the sea who is also NOT invited to my home but might show up anyway).

By the time both of my feet hit the floor I was running, with AK at my heels, scratching her head as we went. “Honey, I’m headed to the store,” I yelled to my husband “you grab the sheets… anything soft or furry needs to be sealed up in a bag and if we can’t remove it, we’ll put a trash bag over it.”

Now Vince is not one of those husbands that responds to barking orders (you know there are those that do… and when we meet him my husband and I usually share a good eye roll or a sympathetic glance, depending on the degree of tongue lashing he is receiving from his wife). But at this moment, we were dealing with an enemy invasion and I needed a little kowtowing. I continued to let the orders fly and pretended that they were not falling on deaf ears as my husband rolled-over in bed and my son turned up the TV.

When I returned from CVS I was pleased to see Vince had bagged up most of the linens in the house and was working on the sofas. He remembers our recent Hundrerd Year War on the lice and was not going to fight a loosing battle again.

My mom was also out of bed and armed with trash bags. I had not bothered waking her because I wasn’t sure how she would react and didn’t have time to drive her to the airport if she decided she did not want to hang around my insect infested home. She has come along way from her first encounter with lice. I will never forget shivering naked in a bathtub with my mother looking down on me in horror as she tried to gauge how far back she could stand and still get a squirt of the lice shampoo on my head. She is a good shot, but the bathroom was small. She had to stand much closer to those animals than she would have liked (the look in her eyes told me she saw these lice as giant beasts).

I grabbed my $100 worth of lice fighting over-the-counter medicine and went straight to ground zero… my four-year olds’ head.

As I shampood and rinsed and nit-picked the kids’ hair (lice eggs are called “nits” YES, that is where the saying came from) a thought landed on my shoulders like a ton of bricks. We just exposed 8 children (some guests didn’t show-up) to LICE and I think I have to call their parents to give them fair warning.

I asked my mom for her thoughts…. “do I have to?”

“Well, I don’t think I would tell that Joanie, she WILL DIE! She seems very particular.”

“But are you sure? If they shampoo tomorrow they can prevent further lice procreation on their children’s’ heads.”

I texted a friend: “Do I have too?”

“Yes,” she said. I did. So with a red face that I just knew they could see through the phone, I explained. “It was so nice to meet you last night. I’m calling this morning because I’ve got some bad news… Sally might have BUGS CRAWLING ALL OVER HER HEAD RIGHT NOW been exposed to lice.”

So much for new friends.

Honestly, we were lucky and everyone was nice and very calm, even Joanie.

I am happy to report after nit-picking, lice shampoo, a homemade concoction that included vaseline and 3 days of peanut butter scrubbing and then a trip to the salon to remove the vaseline, we have won the war. The lice are gone. The vaseline still lingers, but the lice have disappeared. And I haven’t had any reports from parents that their child contracted lice in our home.
Lice, lice go away

But this wasn’t our only victory. Tuesday I asked my sweet shy child, “Did you talk to anyone at school today?” First, I got an adamant head shake “NO.”

“Really, no one?” I persisted.

“Well, I did talk to Laura for a minute… you know the girl I met at our party. She is nice.”
First and Third Grade