Cooking Game: Thanksgiving Dinner

I was 31-years-old and still eating at the kids table for Thanksgiving. So I staged a rebellion and now we get to host Thanksgiving for Jennifer’s extended family, which is fine. It’s actually my favorite holiday, it’s like Christmas without being shot in the wallet. Anyway, historically I’m the better cook – Jennifer had near zero cooking skills when we first married – but she is great now. Though I’m a little more creative still. That being said, once Thanksgiving was moved to our house, Jennifer has a DNA sequence that kicked in and made her totally responsible for the perfection that shall be Thanksgiving Dinner for everyone. Which is a polite way of saying she became Batshit Crazy on a short term basis related to this one meal.

Normally I advise medication or running when faced with a Batshit Crazy wife, in this case though, I recommend assistance and letting it all wash over you.

Some basic tips about the meal itself:

(1)  Arrange whatever seating pattern to enable both you and her to sit together, closest to the kitchen. This is so either one of you can get up and get something. Also it means you can put one hand on her thigh to direct her not to get up yet again.

(2)  It’s your job to Alpha her into at some point sitting the hell down and actually eating dinner.

(3) If she’s still in motion, serve food onto her plate as well as yours.

(4) You carve the turkey.

(5) If it’s a big gathering, have multiple bottles of the same wine open. Stops people preferring one over the other and “missing out” yada yada yada. Drink your wine and be quiet lol.

(6)  Prep as much as possible ahead of time.

(7)  House cleaning happens the day before Thanksgiving. Direct everyone in the family to help with this.

(8)  Thanksgiving morning, the turkey goes in the oven…. and you both go get some exercise.

(9)  Heat up the plates. Seriously, what is the point of cooking hot food for HOURS and then everyone putting it on COLD PLATES.

(10) Before the meal. Nuts, cheese, crackers, spicy salami and shrimp. Leave it out, watch the hordes come.

Anyway, some brain dead easy, minimal cooking skill required ideas to help out.  Jennifer: Intended for those of you out there who are NOT master chefs.  I’m sure there are many who cook a fabulous gourmet Thanksgiving…this is not for you :-)

Fried Corn – Open as many cans of sweetcorn as you need. Drain off the liquid in the cans and rinse in a colander. Dump all the corn in a fry pan and heat it up with fairly generous helping of butter, a small dollop of minced garlic, and a pinch of salt. There’s a side dish right there. Takes about 6-8 minutes of heating up and people freaking love it.  Jennifer: Somehow magically better than just dumping the corn into a bowl and heating it in the microwave.  Butter and garlic, a nice hot pan, and voila- yummy.

Grilled Vegetables – Choose whatever vegetables you want. Suggest yellow, orange or red peppers. Onions. Squash. Chop into medium sized pieces. Mix all up together in a bowl with just a little olive oil and a seasoning (Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb, we also love a Red Curry mix too). Thread the vegetables onto long metal skewers and head out to the grill. Grill them all up good right before serving.  This works great with any BBQ dinner, and is also doubly great for Thanksgiving in that oven and stovetop space is always at a premium on Thanksgiving. It also gets you outside and away from the relatives with some fresh air.

Mashed Potatoes – Peel the potatoes, chop them up and boil them for 20 minutes. Drain the water off. Pro Tip…. return the pot with no water to the stove for another 20-30 seconds and let the boiled potatoes dehydrate a little more. Water has no flavor. Remove from the heat, sprinkle a ton of seasoning in there of your choice, casually mash the potato with some milk and the secret ingredient to make it creamy and evil… some cream cheese. Shush don’t tell anyone. I do mean casually mash it too. Don’t pound the crap out of it and for all that is holy and good do not whip it in a blender or use a power tool of any kind in there. Damn you savages. Just cover it and it keeps nice and warm for ages.

Cream Cheese and Chutney – Oh this is before the meal and served with crackers. Plate, slab of room temperature cream cheese, surround cream cheese with a moat of chutney right from the bottle. Cream cheese and chutney is amazingly good on a cracker. Total prep time… 30 seconds. Damn straight.  Jennifer: Mango chutney from Harry and David.  To die for.  Sweet and spicy at the same time.

Turkey: I swear by Alton Brown, the God of Turkey, and his brining method.  Alton Brown’s whole spiel is here.  It requires brining the turkey a day ahead of time, but it’s a fabulous way to keep from drying out the meat.  I use a nice clean cooler to brine the turkey in.  The brine requires a lot of ice, and really will stay cold.  If you’re worried, freeze water in plastic bags or bottles to add into the brine- it will keep it cold but not dilute the brine.  The other trick is to not overcook the turkey.  I don’t stuff my turkey, I cook the stuffing/dressing on the side, so what I’m about to say is for an UN-stuffed turkey. (Putting the stuffing inside the turkey makes cooking time longer)  Alton’s recipe starts at a hotter temp for half an hour and gives a cooking time of no more than 3 hours for a 14-16 lb bird.  If you cook a turkey at 325F, you should be cooking it for 15 minutes per pound. Put a double thickness of aluminum foil over the breast after the first half hour to prevent it from drying out.  Once you do that, DO NOT KEEP OPENING THE OVEN!  The more you open and close the oven, the more the temperature fluctuates, and the more of a guessing game the total cooking time becomes.

Stuffing: There are hundreds of recipes for stuffing out there.  For the basics, buy a bag of dried, cubed stuffing bread.  Follow the directions on the back for how much stock to moisten it with.  The stuff that makes it taste good…brown a “roll” of loose sausage (chopped into little yummy bits).  Into that browned sausage and its drippings add: a good sized diced onion, four or five stalks of diced celery, and some fresh sage and rosemary chopped up.  Once the veggies and spices are cooked add them into the bread and stock mixture and pop it into the oven.  My stuffing is cooking for the half hour that the turkey is resting.

Gravy: I suck (really, truly) at making gravy from the pan drippings.  Like disastrously suck.  Like, mommy, what is the black stuff floating in the grease in that gravy boat kind of suck. So I make the gravy while the turkey is cooking and treat it like a separate dish.  Ingredients:  Smoked turkey legs (my store only carries them during the holidays), turkey or chicken stock, big hunks of celery (4ish stalks) and a big onion chopped into big hunks, fresh thyme and a couple of bay leaves.  Put everything but the stock into a nice big skillet and brown them all, then sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour over everything and stir it up for a few minutes (cooking out the flour taste).  Then add the stock slowly while stirring the whole mess, with the goal being to get the flour mixed in without turning it into big gobs of goo.  I usually end up using about four cups of stock total.  Let the whole thing simmer until it’s half the volume you started with, then pick out the big bits and strain the rest into a gravy boat (or in our house at our first Thanksgiving…oops break out the Pyrex measuring cup because we don’t own a gravy boat!).

Desert… I am legally required to cook my famous Bread Pudding of Ovulation every year. You can make it the day before, and just heat up again 350F for twenty minutes.

Ice cream, coffee, whatever.

Anyway the most important thing about cleaning up… get a set of new plastic containers and just load them up with the leftovers and make sure everyone one on the way out. Otherwise you’ll be eating  turkey leftovers for the next nine days. I know kids are starving in Africa and all that, but damn.

The next morning….

Use the leftover stuffing to make omelettes with. Sounds weird I know… just try it.

Jennifer: Mmmmm stuffing omelettes. So good.

The “Stay” Plan and the “Leave” Plan Are The Same Thing

I had a looooooong email with so many identifying marks that I’m not going to post it or edit it, just give you the TL;DR version.

She has a prescription drug issue affecting her employment and is going through the process of keeping her license. He’s gotten depressed, messed up his job and schooling five years back, had an EA he broke off. Sex life is non-existent.  Fifteen year relationship total, no kids. He wants to leave, but can’t afford to… “what do I do?”

Or to be quite blunt. It’s a a quagmire of issues all layering on each other.

So… my reply…

Athol: It sounds like neither one of you are totally stable, self-supporting, functional adults. I don’t mean that as an insult, just as a bland statement of reality. So when you have two people like that trying to have a relationship, it’s not going to go well. You’re both making mistakes here.

My advice would be for both of you to figure out a course of action to self-improve and fix the structural issues in your lives as individuals. So you do/finish school and start working again. She needs to get drug free and find a life balance at work.

For both of you, the “leave the marriage” plan and the “stay in the marriage” plan…. are the same thing.

You need to do school and get working again no matter what. If you stay married, then you have a job and something to do. If you leave the marriage, you’re in a better place to self-support and find someone new.

She needs to get drug free and find a work balance no matter what. If she stays married, it’s good, if she leaves (or you leave) it’s good for her too.

Right now all that divorcing would do is give you both…. one more problem to solve. So you’re better off “ignoring” the marriage issue and focusing on fixing the personal issues. Once you have a better handle on those personal issues, maybe the marriage issues will self-resolve… or maybe they won’t. But either way, you’ll both be better off.

Make sense?


Basically I told them to both do the MAP.

The great thing is once you figure out a course of action that is going to have you better off whether or not the marriage survives, it’s like having a coin that has  “heads” on both sides. You can flip the coin and call “heads” and you’ll always be a winner. You can detach from the outcome and just get into action. The “stay” plan and the “leave” plan are the same thing.

They can even support each other in their plan. After all for him, either he’s married to a drug-free professional who will contribute to the marriage… or he’ll be divorced from a drug-free professional who isn’t going to be an alimony risk (maybe even pay him alimony). So that’s win-win. For her, either she’s married to a guy who finished school and has a decent job, or she’ll be divorced from a guy who is self-supporting. Win-win. Given a choice between having a dysfunctional ex-spouse, or a functional ex-spouse… I’d take the functional one every time.

There’s just something about getting into action, getting your energy level up, getting your act together and becoming an attractive in control person…. that makes your spouse want to be with you. And if not… someone else will step in and take their place.


I Feel An Extreme Sensation In My Head

I’ve never had such an extreme day of reader email and forum stuff to wade through. Let’s just recap some of the very basics shall we….

(1)  You can’t fix Batshit Crazy. Only medicate it, or run.

(2)  If you are being beaten by your spouse, or they are smashing up the house… film it and dial 911.

(3)  You aren’t a doctor. Don’t start, stop, change, or throw away any medication.

(4)  If there was no sex at the beginning of the marriage… don’t expect any now.

(5)  If you take a cheater back, do it only once. Otherwise you’ll just be cheated on forever.

(6)  Don’t fuck other women behind your wife’s back. Don’t send dirty texts to other women. Don’t send pictures to them. Shit tends to come back around.

(7)  Stop getting drunk.

(8)  Start working out.

(9)  If your wife disappears all weekend and comes back “with a UTI”… she cheated.

(10)  If they move all their shit out of the house without telling you why… change the locks and don’t let them come back.

Athol sleepy now….

Shields Up

Way back in the day I was at my best friend’s then girlfriend’s (now wife) house fairly often. Her sister J would give me a hard time every single time I was there. Looking back I think she was somewhat interested me, but just Fitness Tested me into the ground as a form of enjoyment. I was quite attracted to her, but the regular bitch-hazing she gave just ruled her out on that level. Plus she smoked so ewww.


One time I visit and completely out of character, before J could even say anything to me, I just unloaded on her a fairly roughly spoken one liner. The words leaving my mouth before I fully realized I was saying them.

“So J, are we speaking to each other today?”

Not terribly imaginative was it, but apparently it did the trick as J was stunned into silence and gave me no trouble whatsoever that whole day. I heard after the fact that my short sharp bitchslap was discussed and referred to for some time afterwards and while J still teased me, it was never again unpleasant.

Looking back, that day I didn’t even pass a Fitness Test, I just assumed one was coming and threw up some Shields. Today was don’t-fuck-with-Athol-day. Any other day, sure, pick on me, but today I’m coming in with my Shields up and weapons charged with pent up pissed off.


Half the trouble Nice Guys have in their marriages, is that they are mentally trapped into being so nice to everyone, all the time, that they are in reality always somewhat annoyed at something. That annoyance is often never expressed until it’s really too late to do anything constructive about what’s bothering them, and it all just comes out in a giant Victim Puke of incoherent rage. Instead, they keep up the Nice Guy Care Bear routine and mask it all and pretend everything is just… fine.

If you’ve had a truly shitty day at work, are mentally exhausted and can’t really take anymore of anything… walking through the front door of your house like nothing much is wrong and immediately falling into a Nice Guy routine with your wife, simply invites her to add one more demand to your day. If that’s a Fitness Test she throws at you – an unreasonable request and/or unreasonable tone – then you mentally toss up between exploding on her (which you can’t do because you’re terrified of her leaving you), or simply folding and complying with her demands. You’ve got no defense you can muster up. So you fold.

What is vastly better to do, is actually release some of that annoyance / anger / rage, into useful defensive Shields. If your expressing moderate bad temper because your personal boundaries have already been crossed today, your wife is much less likely to decide to cross your person boundaries that day too. After all, she doesn’t want to unleash all your pent up pissed off about other things, onto her as well.

What is very important to understand though, is this is not an aggressive tactic. You aren’t angry at her, you are simply angry and not in the mood to be messed with. You are in fact trying to calm down and relax. You’re taking space. You aren’t seeking conflict. You’re grabbing your boxing gloves and heading down into the basement and going smack-smack-smack-SMACK smack-smack-smack-SMACK SMACK! SMACK! while listening to some bad-ass testosterone music. She’s not coming down there to ask you to re-hang curtains tonight.

Now you can’t run this routine every single day because it gets old fairly quickly. But you can certainly stop bundling up all your rage into a tiny ball and trying to give yourself cancer somewhere. Relax a little, let some of it out. The most likely thing to happen is that by acting as a stereotypical testosterone fueled male… she’ll actually be more sexually responsive than usual. Women can quite enjoy being on the receiving end of a man who is a bit worked up, it’s a close cousin to dominance.

And just repeating this one more time in case someone doesn’t get it. If she’s not the cause of the anger, don’t direct the anger at her. You’re consciously trying to express the anger, but direct it away from her. If she wants to get in there and offer ways to help calm you down, then that’s fine, but generally you’re suggesting she backs off a bit.

It’s also doesn’t have to be all dramatic either. See how far looking annoyed and frowning a bit gets you first.


Five Steps Forward, Nuked For One Step Back

I’ve noticed a pattern happening a number of times now in my email…

Wife finds MMSL, turns husband onto it, he makes decent progress, everything going better… then stumbles somehow… gives a display of weakness… and she goes nuclear on him.

It’s like having had a taste of Alpha… having FINALLY had a taste of Alpha… her expectation for him, is to be like this all the time.

The trouble is that no one can be like that 24/7. Not even Batman. Not even Ironman. Not even CaptainThorIronBatman. Even Gandalf would rather have a wee sit down and pretend he can’t remember the Elvish word for “friend” instead of marching into the Mines of Moria.

The source of the trouble is fairly simple though. After running on an Alpha deficit for so long, the wife doesn’t have her tank filled on that particular need yet. So when it seems like it gets suddenly stopped again, that’s alarming to her. It’s like losing power to your house for a week and then finally having it come back online again… only to shut off again after an hour. It’s actually more tolerable to have the power off for eight days and come back on, than to have it out for six days and be punked with it on and off repeatedly on the seventh.

In time as her tank fills up more, little stumbles here and there won’t be nearly as serious. Eventually it turns into Vulnerability Game where those little soft spots actually engages her to you… just not yet.

The solution is to breathe. Reset. See the big pattern of things getting better. Several steps forward, one step back. Rinse and repeat. You can also bump back on it like a Fitness Test. Not too hard, more of a calm-the-hell-down pushback.


…how to use your Guy Shields to stop her getting in your face so much.

Y’all know about Guy Shields right?