Lately when something doesn't go right at school with T.'s friends, or when her feelings have been hurt by her brother, she'll disappear into a room and play with her "imaginary friends." Sometimes she does this even when things just haven't gone her way, and then I'll feel badly--like she needs to turn to these perfect friends, the ones who don't let her down, because she feels unliked. On Saturday she accidentally spilled a huge pitcher of the stickiest liquid possible all over the kitchen floor (more on that later) and although in an incredible display of parental control and understanding we didn't really admonish her at all, the furor the spill created made her feel terrible. She retreated to the family room, where I could hear her playing with her imaginary friends.
After the spill had been cleaned I asked T. to help me make another batch and she weepily climbed up onto the counter again.
"My imaginary friends all moved away," she told me, lip trembling.
At which my heart instantly shattered (how many times can a Mama's heart shatter and repair itself over the course of their children's childhoods and beyond?). Did she feel so badly about herself that not even her imaginary friends wanted to stay?
"Oh, T., you don't need imaginary friends," I told her. "You have enough real friends to fill up this whole room!"
I think she felt better, and later that day I overheard her telling an imaginary friend something, so maybe they moved back into town after things calmed down.
We have friends we've watched the Kentucky Derby with for a few years now. This year the Derby weekend approached and they hadn't called us, and we hadn't called them. At first I thought, they didn't call us! but then Scott, The Voice of Reason, pointed out that we could have called them as well. But it was a crazy week last week, and this weekend we were both buried under an avalanche of grading, and having people over for Kentucky Derby Day would have meant cleaning the house, and keeping the kids up late, and just extra work on top of all the work we already have. Still, a piece of me wanted to have a Derby Day gathering, and another small piece of me wanted to retreat into the family room with T., and hold a pretend Derby Day party with some imaginary friends, in an imaginary clean house, NOT filled with very real ungraded research papers.
I decided we'd have Derby Day party for just the four of us. T. and I made virgin mint juleps, which we dubbed T.'s Derby Day Juleps (more on that later with the recipes), and I baked an amazingly divine and gooey Chocolate-Pecan Derby Day Pie, which we ate in front of the television while we watched Mine That Bird come from behind and take the whole race.
T.'s Derby Day Juleps
1 bottle Trader Joe's sparkling mojito drink
2-3 sprigs fresh mint (thanks to my herb garden), clean and remove stems
1 cup orange or mango or orange-mango juice
Lots of ice
Mix it all together. Leave the room to check on Derby race start time and come back in time to find that your daughter has upset the entire jug, while stirring, and the whole kitchen is awash in sticky liquid.
Spend 30 minutes with husband cleaning the floors, the counters, the camera, while daughter plays with imaginary friends in the family room.
After you mix the second batch, let the mint steep in the jug for at least 30 minutes. Strain the mint leaves out and serve over crushed or whole ice. We named the drink after T. because she was so sad about the spill, and the thought that she had ruined Derby Day. I told her maybe the recipe would end up in a cookbook somewhere, someday (maybe that one I've always wanted to write?).
When I was googling Derby pies, I came across this "Eighth Race Pie" and it sounded perfect. I love pecan pie, and chocolate, so mixing chocolate into a pecan pie sounded too good to be true. I adapted the recipe slightly, and the results were absolutely amazing--gooey, warm chocolate, interspersed with crunchy pecans, and a creamy, pudding-like layer underneath it all.
Derby Day Pie (adapted from here)
1/4 cup butter or margarine (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie (I like to use Trader Joe's frozen pie crusts--thaw, unroll, and perfect pie pastry, every time)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and margarine together until light and fluffy. Beat eggs, and add to mixture. Add corn syrup, salt, and vanilla and beat well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour filling into crust.
Place pie on lowest rack in oven. Bake for 45 minutes.